Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

I got a couple of errands ran this morning. I ended up with 2 toasters for Christmas. My uncle mailed me his receipt and I returned that one to Walmart. I haven't decided what to get myself with the cash yet ($25 plus tax), but I'm leaning toward a new pair of jeans (I need more in my new size) and will probably check Ross again to see if they have any more of the brand I really like (Jones New York). I also had to return some computer hardware that I had purchased almost 3 months ago online from Walmart. DS thought we would need it to extend our internet range out to the garage for the security camera's, but they ended up hard wiring an ethernet cable out to the garage and we don't need the repeater/router. I looked at their return policy online and it said computer hardware needed to be returned within 15 days (I bought it mid-October and it just sat at my desk here for 2 months until DS got home to help install). But, I figured it was worth a shot - if they told me it was too late, then I was just going to take it back another day without the receipt and say it was a Christmas gift and I didn't have a receipt and they'd just give me the money on a gift card. But, I worried for nothing. The girl didn't even question how long ago I purchased it, so now I have $109 back in my checking - woo!

I also got good news yesterday of another bonus.  $500 from my part time side job! I got online yesterday morning to check my work emails and the owner's wife (she works there too) had sent me an email titled "OH NO" and I thought - oh great, something is wrong that we need to fix. But it was an email of her saying she was talking to her hubby and mentioned she had sent me a Christmas card (a personal one from their family, not business) and he said "oh no, I usually give her a Christmas bonus and I forgot" and to tell me to add $500 to my next invoice to them, for a bonus. Nice! Last year I got $300 and I think last year was the first year he did that for me, so I wasn't sure if he'd remember or not. I'm definitely not telling DH about this one and it's going straight into savings, which will bring me up to $2046. Another woo! And that's not counting the $1200 I still have (that DH knows about) left from my other work bonus.

We are all enjoying our new blu-ray player and Netflix. We're hooked on Sons of Anarchy, but DH is way ahead of me now on watching episodes because he watches for hours after I go to bed. I'm only on the beginning of season 3 and he's probably well into season 4 after last night. I guess the next good series to watch is Breaking Bad, from what I'm told. I'm sure DH will like that too and gives him something to do when he can't sleep, plus all the movies to choose from.

DS flies out this evening back to his home away from home. Sad to see him go, but all in all it was a nice visit. He still hasn't received his work visa yet, but we are hoping it's getting close to being finalized now. We will take him to the airport this evening and then come home and most likely just watch tv for the evening. I doubt I'll make it up to midnight to ring in the New Year. DD has to work early in the morning, so she'll probably be in bed by 10 or so, too. Hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

DIY pays

I just found us some savings of $42 a month. We have a pest control company come monthly to spray around our house for kitchen/sugar ants at a cost of $43.67 every month. This morning I was looking at the bill to pay it and was looking at the detail, which shows which pesticide they use, even the EPA# associated with it and how much they use and at what % strength.  I googled the pesticide and found we can buy it ourselves online. The exact same stuff and mixed with water at the same ratio they are using the quart size would give us 32 monthly applications for $37.....TOTAL! That's almost 3 years of ant spray for less than I have been paying monthly now, for at least a couple of years.

DH has the same kind of sprayer type bottles they use to spray around the perimeter of our house (we used one when we sprayed for spider mites on our trees). So, I'm hiring DH to be our ant sprayer! We can save over $500 per year doing it ourselves.  This is one bill I have been wishing there was a way to gt rid of (and still keep the ants away) and I'm thrilled that I decided to do a little online search and found a way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Post Christmas days

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! We had a nice, quiet, pretty relaxing holiday. I was pretty busy up through Monday, getting the last minute food and stocking stuffers, but by Tuesday all was calm again. It was just the 4 of us Christmas Eve. We watched a movie in the afternoon, then had a delicious dinner of King crab legs. I had been planning to just make us a pizza, but when DD and I were picking up the Christmas ham I noticed the crab legs were on sale and decided that would be a great meal for us, instead. Then we opened our gifts after dinner. Growing up my family always opened our gifts Christmas Eve (and so did DH's) but when our kids were little we did change to Christmas morning for quite a few years. After they got older we ended up shifting back to opening them Christmas Eve and then we do our stockings on Christmas morning. I've always liked it better that way.......speads out the gift giving and opening fun over 2 days :-)

I got WAY too much stuff! Nothing extravagant, but lots of things. PJ's, slippers, a sweater and 2 tops, some gold and diamond hoop earrings, new 4-slice toaster, coffee, chocolates (everyone went a little overboard on the chocolates this year), Starbucks gift cards, calendars, candles...We take turns opening gifts and I ended up having like 5 more to open at the end. I make DH a list of ideas of what I want and he ends up getting me all of it, LOL. Plus, DD got me quite a few things, including a cute Etsy made rice pack to heat up and put on my neck - it feels great and the heat lasts a long time.

We gave DH a new smart phone (and cheaper plan). He doesn't really use a phone much and I've been paying $43 a month for basically nothing with a dumb phone. With DS home, I finally was able to get him the new phone and plan changed. I wanted DS to handle the switching of the phone number and showing DH how to use it. The one he's on is $32 a month (with tax) and I'm using the savings to pay for the Netflix subscription that will cost $8/mo.  He/we really do need at least one smart phone between us, so that he can get email camera security notifications if we are all gone from the house. If the cameras sense a motion they will snap a picture and email it to us and we can know within a minute or two if someone was breaking into our house or garage,  plus have a picture of them.

Christmas Day my mom and uncle came over and we had a nice ham dinner. I've never "made" ham before. It's not DH's favorite, but I was tired of turkey, since we had it twice on Thanksgiving weekend. I bought an expensive ham from the grocery store meat department. It was $32 for a 4 pound boneless spiral ham, but they had a $5 off coupon. I just had to heat it up and it was really nice that it was already pre-sliced. Made the dinner pretty easy, but it was really good. My mom is feeling somewhat better, but did end up canceling the pre-Christmas party she was to host with my step-siblings and cousin. Funny....DD and DS were at her house a couple of days before Christmas helping her with something and she make the comment "I was so happy when your Mom offered to have Christmas dinner at your house this year...I didn't even hesitate to say yes".  DD said her mouth just dropped....that wasn't the reaction we got when I asked her to come over to our house for Christmas Day, LOL.

DH and DS have spent a couple of days getting the rest of the security camera's (we hadn't done the garage yet) installed and we tried a wireless connection for the system's dvr out in the garage, but even with a booster/repeater out there the signal wasn't consistent enough. I ended up getting a really long ethernet cable and they ran that from under the house and through some underground piping that was already there, out to the garage. It's all working good now, though DH is pretty exhausted - it was quite a job, even with DS's help.  Even our good neighbor installed a couple of wireless cameras at his place. He bought the same brand as ours and DS figured out how to link his cameras to our monitoring system and now DH can see his camera's too. Neighbor is very happy because he is going on a long vacation for most of the month of January and now feels better that his place will be watched too.

I am so enjoying my time off work and still get all next week off. I don't really get to sleep in - the dogs are my 7:30 am alarm, but the relaxing days have been so nice. We gave DH a blu-ray player for Christmas and have been watching a lot of movies. Last night we watched "The Kings Speech" and enjoyed that movie. I didn't realize Netflix streaming doesn't have new releases, so I was kind of bummed about that, but we'll definitely watch it a lot and get our monies worth. Plus DD will be able to watch Netflix movies and tv shows on her laptop when she goes to college.

We are going to enjoy DS for 5 more days and just hang out at home. DH will end up spending as much of my bonus as possible....at the beginning of December DS had asked if we could buy him some snow tires for $400 and I told DH that we could - as soon as I got my bonus from work. Then DS decided not to get the snow tires and when I got my bonus I didn't say anymore to DH about it...but then a few days ago he asked how I was able to afford getting him the home defense shot gun he bought, spend $100 for us all to go shooting again last week, xmas gifts, etc.  So, I reminded him that I had gotten the bonus and then he wanted to know how much.......so now of course his head is spinning with spending it.......he's into guns now, so he wants a hand gun now...and then of course he needs a gun safe....BIG SIGH..........

Friday, December 20, 2013

Still getting ready for it all

I'm still trying to get ready for Christmas. Seems like my son got home and I totally got de-railed! And I've been trying to get everything I need to get done for work, since I have the next 2 weeks off.  I think I remembered to do and pay everything that needs to get done before my return on Jan 6th.  This evening is our company party and family gets to come with, so that should be fun for us all...and good food and a live band.

My mom is not feeling too well.  I think a combination of the root canal from hell she's been going through (worse than mine!) and the medication change. She called last night and said she was thinking of canceling our family Christmas party that is on Sunday at her house. She just hasn't felt well all week and when I talked to her last night I said I'm no one will have a problem if she wants to wait until Saturday to see how she is doing and cancel then, if she has to. I was going to give her a call early this afternoon and see how she was feeling today and also let her know that everyone would understand if she wants to cancel. She doesn't need to stress herself out about it.  Then she called me a little while ago and said she decided to cancel and I told her that I was just going to call and tell her that too. This is an annual get together we have with my step siblings, cousin, and their families. I feel bad for mom - not the time of year you want to feel bad and be messing with medications and such.  Hopefully we can give her a nice relaxing Christmas day/dinner with just us and my uncle.

Good to have the boy home and the time is going by too fast, already. He must be growing up - he even remembered that I had told him about my company party to go to and he packed some dress clothes :-)  Good job!  Had to go buy DH a new pair of khaki's....the couple pair he has are years and years old and way too tight. I put on my black dress pants I bought a few years ago and haven't worn for probably a year or more and they are snug too, but still fit.

My boss gave me a couple of nice gift cards for Christmas. One to Red Robin and one to a movie theater. DD is already making plans to go eat and go to a movie, LOL.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mom and Christmas

Well, I think I now have an idea of what might be going on with my mom and my surprise at her strange reaction to my Christmas Day invite.  She has been on some sort of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med for a good 10 years now. She went on it when she was feeling overwhelmed trying to take care of both my disabled dad and elderly grandma full time and her doctor put her on a medication. I'm not really sure which medication...she gets flustered with words all the time or forgets what word she wants to use and flits around her conversations from one thing to the next that I honestly don't know for sure. She had mentioned Paxil once years ago, so that might have been it. Usually she just refers to it as her "anti-anxiety medication".

I know this medication has had alot of side effects for her over the years. She put on a LOT of weight. She was always about 140 pounds or so and now she is quite heavy. She has always been pretty small her whole life, so I'm sure it's from the medication (and I think her doctor told her before it probably was). She also has been very scatterbrained these past 10 years and trying to have a conversation with her for very long is hard. She's always been a chatterbox, but the past years she jumps from topic to topic and it's hard to keep up or she doesn't finish the topic before she's jumping to the next and my head is spinning. She's always forgetting a word she wants to use. Another side effect over the last few years is she gets very overheated and starts sweating alot if she does any sort of activity - like cleaning house or mowing her small yard.  She's just been putting up with it, but she finally asked her doctor about it and of course he said it's most likely from the medication and that she should really try to go off of it anyway, as it wasn't meant for her to take long term.

I guess she went off it recently, but felt she was feeling over emotional about everything and decided she'd rather put up with the hot flashes than be emotional. Now he has her trying a different medication the past couple of weeks, but she said she felt it's not doing anything, so now he has her trying a higher dosage. So, I guess we'll see.  I had kind of tried to ask her if she felt she still needed it (when she was complaining about her weight and sweating), as now she hasn't had to deal with the stresses she had before.  But, it kind of sounds like she feels she needs something or she feels too emotional over things.   She did loose about 7 pounds already, when she went off it it, but will probably gain it back if she has to go back on it or stay on something else. Hopefully the doctor will find a good medication that works for her and maybe less of the side effects she has had.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I did it!

DS got home last night and I managed to keep it a secret for almost the past month! Whew - so glad that is over. It all went perfect. He had a friend drop him off (down the street a bit, so she didn't have to come down our driveway). DD and I were sitting in the living room and DH was back in the family room at his desk. He rang the doorbell and then opened the door right away. DD was in shock for a second and then said "oh my god" and flew into his arms. She was bawling and hugging him and then she pulled back to look and make sure it was really him and started crying and hugging him some more. By that time DH came around the corner to see what the commotion was and was very surprised. Lot's of happiness at our little home last night :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ok, that was weird...

My mom called and we were chatting and she mentioned my uncle is only coming for Christmas Day (he lives about a 2 1/2 hour drive away) and that she was planning on making a ham and then I said "I was going to ask you which day Uncle was coming....would you guys like to come to my house this year instead? And she goes "oh......big long pause....I guess we could.....another big long pause....if you want to go to the trouble of making dinner...."(then I said it would be no big deal to make a ham, as that's what I was thinking of having, too) and then she says "well, I just thought you'd be busy with work before and after" and I said no, I have 2 weeks off. (I always take off between Christmas and New Years).

So, I guess I am having her and my uncle over on Christmas! I was just so surprised she was so hesitant about it. I figured she'd love to not cook a big dinner as she just had to cook Thanksgiving (and kind of botched some of it - her age is starting to catch up with her, I think)....The only reason I haven't had them over in the past few years was because of my Grandma. I just knew it was easier on her being at my mom's. Usually my mom kept her for a few days and she was more comfortable there in her own recliner than having to get her in the car and then try to be comfortable at my house, with dogs, etc. Now that she's passed and not with us this year, I thought it would be no big deal for my mom and uncle to come over to our place and figured she'd jump at the idea.  Seems to me it would be easier for 2 of them to come to my house then the 4 of us to have to go somewhere. Guess I was wrong!

Friday, December 13, 2013


DS called and said he checked his work visa status online and it has now changed (from in process, I believe) to "open" and is also showing "no additional documents required". SO - he thinks it's getting close to finally being approved! He was very excited and his hoping it finalizes in the next couple of weeks (while he is home) and then he can go back and start his new job after the first of the year. We are all praying for this, that is for sure.

He is super excited to be coming home in 2 days and having it be a surprise. A friend is picking him up from the airport, so that means I don't have to come up with an excuse to be gone on a Sunday evening for 2 hours. It will be so good to see him. It's been 3 1/2 months since we saw him last.

I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but hopefully by April I will be able to put back a little breathing room in my monthly budget. I think he has to wait 90 day for his benefits to kick in. At that point I can drop him from the health insurance, which will save $200 a month. As soon as he starts his job I can have him start paying me for the insurance on the vehicle he has, which is about $50 a month.  That $250 a month exiting the monthly budget will make the extra that health insurance will cost (over what I'm paying now) *only* a $150 hit to the budget. Much better.

While he is home I told him he has to help me get DH a new phone and plan. I think I'm going to switch him to the $32 (with tax) per month plan with T-Mobile, like DD is on.  Unlimited web and text and 100 minutes per month talk. That will save $11 a month over what I am paying now - for a dumb phone plan, very limited talk and message and no internet. We need a phone that has internet so we can leave the house, turn on our camera system and would get a notification if one of the cameras sensed motion. It would snap a pic and email it to us and we could check it.....and then hopefully see "oh it's just one of the cats!"

I've got to try and whittle away at this $400 a month cut in disposable income. $400 a month for NOTHING! The new insurance is not going to save us a dime in out of pocket costs, that's for sure and is giving us nothing in added benefits - unless I can meet the huge deductible first.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Health insurance mess averted

I've decided I'm not participating in this health insurance exchange nightmare. I'm just going to purchase the plan outside of the exchange that our current insurance company is offering. I gave the exchange a shot....but it's so F'd up...I'm staying away from it to save my sanity.

Here's what I've been through and didn't even sign up for a plan! The website was down 4 days last week, though over the weekend I was able to get online while it was up for a short time to review the plans offered again and really dig into the details of the plans. I realized I had not been actually "adding" DH's doctor, so I was thinking since his name showed up, he was on the plans, but what I actually had to do was click on him, then he'd be added and would show on each plan if he was participating. Turns out he was not participating on any of the plans I had chosen. Then I needed a plan that covers DS being out of the state or out of the county. The plans that covered that didn't cover DH's doctor or vice versa. Wonderful.

So, I emailed a friend of a friend who is a "navigator" for this mess and she told me I could pick different plans for DH and the kids, no problem. I had not actually registered for an account yet, but when she told me that I thought, ok, I'm good to go now to sign them all up. Finally yesterday the website was up and running and I sign up for an account. Get to the page to choose plans and it only lets me put them all on one plan! Plus, now the plan I wanted to put DH on was showing his doctor was not participating.ARGHH! Then it tells me that because DD is under 19 I also have to choose a dental plan for her - another $32 a month (if I want a plan w/our dentist) added, that I wasn't expecting. BUT, I already have dental insurance for her (and DS). Why am I forced to take their lesser plan? I saw no way to opt out of it with proof of other coverage. So, now my cost is up to $665 a month, but I can drop the kids from dental insurance (DS will just have to without until his new job insurance kicks in) and save $50 a month, so I'm down to $615 a month out of pocket. But I made a mess of the account trying to delete DH and thinking I'd put him on the non-exchange plan, instead. I called the plan directly that had over the weekend said DH's doctor was on, but now wasn't. She said he was on all their 3 plan levels being offered and not sure why the state exchange was showing him as not.

I emailed the navigator lady back to see if I could set up a time to talk with her and just have her get them all set up for me. She wants me to drive 30 miles to where she is (no thanks), but she also mentioned that the non-exchange plan I'm being offered by our current insurance company would also include dental for DD in the cost. I didn't realize that! I went back online and saw where pediatric dental is included in the $671 a month quoted for the 3 of them. So, back out the $50 a month I'm currently paying for dental and that brings my total montly cost down to $621......just a few dollars more than the exchange plan. I'm just putting them on that plan. They are already set up to automatically switch to that plan (unless I notify them to cancel), I'll only have to deal with one insurance company and NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE EXCHANGE MESS!.  From what I am reading actually signing up for a plan (which I didn't get that far) is still being frought with error messages and peoples accounts are being debited now for their premiums, when they set up to come out later this month, so peoples bank accounts are being overdrawn, because they weren't expecting the withdrawals until after their next paycheck. People are enrolled, but it's all still being processed by the insurance companies, so while the exchange is saying they are covered, they really aren't set up yet.  Or they are being told a price when they sign up and then get a letter saying a  mistake was made, and this is what they are really going to pay.

I'm glad to cross this headache off my to-do list! Now I can focus on Christmas, shopping and DS being home in 4 days!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Another quick weekend

Weekends go by way too fast. But I also just realized I only have to work 9 more days this month and then I don't go back until January 6th! I am so looking forward to that time off, especially since DS will be home for most of it. The surprise visit home is still a surprise and only one more week to keep it.

DD and I got up early yesterday and were out of the house by 8:20 am. It's so cold here - in the teens during the night and 20's during the day. Looks like we have a couple more days of it and then we will be back in the 30's and 40's. I'm just glad I'm not in Montana or somewhere where it's 30 below right now. No Thank You.

We went and had breakfast first and she didn't want to go where she works this time, so we went to the little diner at the small airfield. It's always good, but something must not have agreed with me because an hour later, into our Christmas shopping, I got a bad stomach ache and had to find some restroom facilities....I felt better after that, but it was still a bit "off" the rest of the day. We got some gifts for DH and DS. We did pretty well at Kohl's again. I had a $15 Kohl's cash to use and DD had a $5 Kohl's rewards to use, plus I had a 20% off coupon...and they were giving out $10 in Kohl's cash again for $50 spent. She got her brother 3 shirts and her dad a new leather wallet. After coupons and discounts she was just under $50, so she found a pair of panties on clearance for a couple of dollars. I got DS some socks and underwear (not something I usually buy as a Christmas gift - but, hey, he asked for them!). Dang socks and underwear are expensive. I also was just a bit under $50, so got another pair of clearance panties for DD. I also want to get him a pair of jeans, but his size is so hard to find. We found a pair that was a tan color, that DD really thought he might like, but we weren't sure, so she texted him a pic and asked! He said yes. I decided to go back on Tuesday and use my $10 towards them. They are Levi's brand, so a bit pricey. When we got home I was checking my emails (my email address for coupons, online shopping etc). I guess I hadn't checked it in a few days and found a $10 Kohl's reward! Now I have $20 in Kohl's cash towards the jeans. Nice.

Then we went to Target, mostly to just do some regular shopping, but we got the dogs some new collars for their stockings. I found a belt (I had none that fit me!), so now I can wear the new jeans I got online that are a little loose in the waist. We shopped some deals to get some $5 Target gift cards and I ended up with 3 of them (and had one from last week that I used towards my total yesterday). When we went grocery shopping during my lunch break on Friday I stopped and got our mail on the way and there was some nice coupons from the grocery store we were headed to. $10 off $50 - 2 coupons, one for this week and one for next. That was a nice surprise to get those good coupons.

The vet bill ended up being a little more than the $200 I budgeted. Turns out the pup has/ or had fleas, apparently and he's allergic to them. That's probably what was causing the yelping out - the bites hurt. She didn't actually find any fleas on him, but "flea dirt". He got his annual vaccinations needed, a pill to pretty much instantly get rid of the fleas and an injection to help with the itching. He has hardly scratched since. Then she told me the flea treatment I had bought a couple of months ago to try was NOT good - stay away from it and use either Frontline or Advantage. My bill with the vet was $168. We went to Petsmart after and got 2 months dosage for both dogs and that added another $62 to my total. But, pup is much better now and I haven't even had to give him the benadryl I had been giving him every morning.

Today we are off to do a little more shopping. Still some things I need at Walmart (that are just way cheaper then the grocery store) and we want to go check out this little bird feed store. Might find something DH would like for our yard and maybe a little gift for my mom's boyfriend. He really enjoys the birds in his yard. Plus in the mail was a coupon for 20% off a regular priced item and a free sample bag of bird seed. I also want to go to Joann's to see if they have more of the garland I had bought. Two strings were just not quite enough for the area I did up high above the shelf. I have a 20% off any total purchase, including sale price. Usually the only Joann's coupons I ever find are off one regularly priced item.

I still can't get on my state's healthcare exchange website. Down for maintenance every time I try to log on. What a joke. They sure do a lot of "scheduled maintenance"....during the day. You'd think they could do "scheduled maintenance" during the middle of the night.  That's how we do it where I work...just sayin...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday - feeling rich

Yesterday was our company employee meeting and our bonus checks were handed out. Mine was $3630 gross, $2445 net after the high tax rate taken out. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of that back on my tax return, since I'm not at a 25% tax rate. For now it's going straight into my savings account. I did tell DH that I was getting a bonus, but never said how much or when exactly....that way it can sit there as long as possible :) I did think I was going to use about $400 of it to transfer to DS so he could get some snow tires for the truck (probably a necessity in the Great White North) but now he says he changed his mind. He does have a loaner car, an older Mazda he is using, so that should get him where he needs to go, especially as he's not working yet.

I also took advantage of Capital One's offer for a $75 bonus for opening a savings and a $125 bonus for opening a checking (and using their debit card 5 times). So, in about 50 days or so I will be $200 richer. It's really nice to be able to have the extra money to be able to put $500 in a savings I can't touch for a month or so. DD opened the savings too, and will get the $75 bonus. They didn't approve her for the checking account. Even though she obviously has a checking account to transfer the money from, she apparently doesn't have the credit history yet. Last month we tried applying for a Kohl's and Target store cards for her, but she wasn't approved, so guess she's just going to have to wait awhile and try again.

I'm taking young pup into the vet today. He needs some annual vaccinations and I need them to figure out his itching problem and his occasional yelping in pain problem. I'm budgeting a couple hundred for this, since he has issues to deal with. I was able to route some other earmarked money towards this vet visit. DH still drinks that "diet shake" mix almost every day for lunch, so I'm still spending $55 a month for that. Well, my  mom had tried it - went on it then off then back on then off (she was driving me nuts because I was the one who had to keep going online and changing it for her). She called the other day and said she had a full unopened bag to see if we wanted. We were just due in a couple of days to have another bag shipped so I quickly got online and suspended it for a month. Then I realized that over time we probably have and extra half a bag more ourselves (as there are occasional days DH doesn't drink it), so I went back online and changed my new monthly ship date for 2 weeks even later. Now, I don't have to pay it again until January, and it will start coming out of my mid-month paycheck, instead of my first of month paycheck.

ok.........off to try to sign up for Obamacare......again.........

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Too much to do

It's that month out of the year where my brain starts to overload from all the extra things to do and remember. I don't usually need to make "to-do" lists but I did yesterday! Last night, just as I was about to go to bed, I suddenly remembered I was supposed to be emailed $15 in Kohl's cash from my Black Friday online purchase. I went through my emails and sure enough I had moved it to trash, along with the other tons of store ads emails I get every day in my "coupon/online shopping" email address.  Good thing I remembered - it's only good through next Monday.

I had also added on my to-do list to check today with the Crestor manufacturer patient assistance program on DH's medication. We had to re-apply for assistance and though I did it over 3 weeks before his prescription was to run out, I hadn't heard anything yet and he only has a week of pills left. I was happy to stop and get my mail when I got home yesterday and find the bottle of pills had been delivered.

I got signed up for the flexible spending account yesterday, a few days before the deadline, so that is now taken care of.  I also just took care of making a vet appointment for our younger dog. I decided to no longer stick with the Banfield wellness plan and to also start taking pup to the local vet we take our older dog to. He's due for some annual vaccines and I need to have a couple of other issues checked out. He's still itching a lot and the past week he has been intermittently, every couple of days, (usually in the evening) whimpering or yelping out in pain if he as to get up from laying down or gets up on the couch. But next morning, he's fine and raring to go. I have an appointment for him on Friday afternoon.

So, the only thing (right now) left on  my to-do list is get signed up for new health insurance. Ya'll know how excited about that I've been..........

I also had to make myself a list of "rewards" I am waiting on, to make sure I get them all (and hopefully before Christmas). I just got my $10 Walmart gift card from Energizer battery purchase in the mail yesterday (will be used for stocking stuffers). All my Swagbucks gift cards have come through and have been loaded to Amazon and Starbucks. I also remembered I have a Plink account that I had forgotten about. Well, sure enough - I had enough for a $10 Amazon gift card!  I'm currently waiting on a $25 Kohl's gift card (a gift for DD) and a few mail in rebates that total about $10. I haven't decided what to use the Kohl's $15 on - probably socks and underwear DS needs or a sweater for DD.

Ok.....off to see if I can figure out which health insurance plan to pick and hope I can get signed up.......

Update - 2 mintues later: My states healthcare exchange is down......imagine that! Freakin' Obamacare...insert Sluggy's repeated bad words from her rant yesterday on Windows8!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Last day of the long weekend

We had a very nice Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house. Her boyfriend came, along with his daughter and her husband. They were nice and easy to talk to, along with my funny uncle and his even funnier friend he brought along, we all had a good time.  Friday I made a turkey dinner, mostly so we would be able to have leftovers for turkey sandwiches all week.

While the turkey was cooking, I got out the Christmas decorations and got about half of it up before DD got home from work. Since she was the first host to start at 6am, she got off first and was home by noon....which gave us just enough time to get over to Kohl's and use the $10 coupon I had that was good until 1pm. She used it on 2 picture frames she got for her dad for Christmas. After $10 coupon and another 15% off, she only had to pay $2, as the frames were already 60% off. We had to stand in this ridiculously long line that ran to almost the back of the store, but it moved along fairly quickly and half hour later we were out of there. She felt it was worth the 1/2 hour wait to only pay $2 for 2 gifts.  Then we went over to Target to see if they had any of the Bissell Little Green cleaners for $50. Of course they didn't, but the store was not busy at all, no lines by then.

We went back home and finished up the inside decorations (except the tree). She had to work again yesterday morning and we went and got the grocery shopping done after she got home. I didn't really need much, since I had kind of doubled up on shopping last week, to spend $150 and get the free turkey. I only spent $60 on food, plus $22 on dog food and also purchased 2 poinsettia's for $5 each. They look really nice sitting on the floor on each side of the black piano and piano bench, along with all the other decorations on top of the piano. I inherited this piano and while none of us play, I just love the look of it and it's small size
This is my new addition to decorating the house for Christmas. I haven't added much in a very long time and wanted to do something with this ledge. All year I have greenery and knickknacks on it and have never changed it for Christmas. I bought these items pretty cheap at Ross and today will add some garland I got at JoAnn's to cover up the stenciled area. It's not the greatest picture due to the angle but I like how the decorations turned out
Last night at 5:30 DH went outside for a few minutes and realized it was pretty warm out and decided to get the lights put up outside, so DD and I helped....yes, in the dark!....but with the flood lights on the outside of the garage it wasn't too bad. We got it all done in an hour and a half. We had the garage door opened and the garage stereo tuned to Christmas music and the dogs played outside while we put them up. It was really nice........except for the renter neighbors burning their garbage...again. Our other neighbor between us and them noticed last week they were burning garbage at night and he said if he caught them doing it again he was calling the fire dept. We got outside last night to start our lights and could see the fire going. It then got put right out (probably because they realized we were outside and could see it) where we could see it....they obviously moved it back into their property because the whole time we were outside we could smell the toxic nasty smell of the burning garbage. They do not have weekly garbage service and when I was going to work last week I noticed about 10 bags of garbage piled on a little car trailer they have (ya, cuz that doesn't attract rats and racoons, etc)

So, after having to have our noses and throats irritated from the smell while we were having our nice lighting evening, I went in and called the fire dept. They came right out and were down there awhile and then stopped and talked to DH, who was fiddling with some lights along our fence. They told DH that the guy lied and said he didn't have any fire going at all. They told him they could see where he had ashes, so then he lied and said he was just burning cardboard. The firemen told him they could still smell it and it was garbage being burned. They couldn't fine him because they didn't catch the fire going, but consider this a warning and even if he was "just" burning cardboard, no fires are allowed right now due to air quality. The firemen advised us to call the health dept...they'd deal with the garbage piling up, which then should take care of the burning issue. They said the county has just hired 10 more people to deal with this issue of burning garbage, so that is good.  Plus, then junyard/slumlord property owner had to go down to the renters place and deal with it - haha!

Today we are putting the tree up and doing a little shopping - just weekly stuff we need at Target, along with some good coupon deals that start today. I am still managing to keep it a secret that DS is coming home in 2 weeks, but it hasn't been easy - believe me! Especially after we went shopping the other afternoon for a couple of hours and when we got home DH said he had been wishing we were going to the airport to pick up DS!...soon...soon..:-)



Friday, November 29, 2013

Shopping in my pj's

Let the shopping and decorating begin! DD and I tried to go to Kohl's last night when they opened at 8pm. It's only a mile from my house. We pulled into the parking lot and it was FULL and overflowing into the other (closed) stores lots. Hundreds of people were standing in a line that went on forever. We turned around, went back home, and I ordered the stuff online. All that insanity there wasn't worth being able to use the $10 in-store coupon I had got in the mail.

I felt I did well with the 2 things I wanted to get.  Another twin sized down alternative comforter. We have these comforters on all our beds and love them and DD wants one to take to college next fall. It's not to be a gift, I just want to get it now because of the price offered. Twin regular price is $100. They were on black friday sale for $24.99 plus I had a 15% off code, making it $21.24 - a 79% savings. The other item I wanted was a pair of nice earrings for my mom. We had gone to Kohl's the day before to find what we wanted and found 3 we liked and DD snapped pictures on her phone. I couldn't find the one I liked best for sale online, but did find my 2nd choice.  They were regularly $100, on sale for $39.99 plus all fine jewelry was another 20% off, plus the 15% coupon code. Got those for $27.19. I was a couple dollars short of my $50 goal....for free shipping and $15 in Kohl's cash, so I threw in a clearance lingerie item for $2.55. So, for basically $35.98 (including getting the Kohl's cash) I got 2 nice things, including one Christmas gift off the list.

I really want to get myself the Bissell Little Green machine spot cleaner, but there was no way I was going to Target last night and it's not available online. I can't seem to figure out if Target's door busters end at a certain time today or go all day. I don't like to go to big shopping crowds by myself and DD probably won't be home from work until this afternoon. She had to start at 6am this morning, as they figured they would need a host earlier than normal (8am) with all the shoppers out and about coming for breakfast. I checked prices for it at other stores, but no one has it on sale. Walmart is $90, but Target is offering it as a BF deal for $50.  So, I might not end up with that deal.

Target also has a Sony Blu-Ray player I want to get DH on sale for $55 (reg. $120), but again - not available online and most likely they are already sold out in store by the time I'd get there today. But, I did an online search and see Sears and Walmart are also offering at that price and can be purchased online. I decided to purchase through Sears.com and got 9 points per dollar in MyPoints and when I was checking out I realized I had some "shop your way rewards" to use. $5.54 that I didn't remember I had. Must have gotten them from when we purchased the filter and hose for our old shop vac. That brought the price of the blu-ray player to $49.45 and I choose pick up at store, for free shipping. The store isn't too far away and easily stopped at on my way home from work one day.

Wednesday I ordered DD a cute macbook sleeve she wants from Amazon. It was $13 and I was able to use my giftcards from Swagbucks on that, so it didn't cost me anything. I have a $25 Kohl's gift card on the way and will probably give that to DD as a gift, and that didn't cost me anything either.

I'm also really liking the new "app" from MyPoints where it automatically pops up that I am shopping in a store they offer points for and how much.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where'd my payment go?

DH had a doctor's office visit last summer. His new insurance (that I changed them to last spring) denied it as pre-existing condition. Well, first they denied it because they wanted to know if there was other coverage. Once that was cleared up, then they denied it as a pre-existing condition. In the past, when I had changed insurance companies, all you had to do was provide proof of your continuous prior coverage and they would waive the pre-existing. So, I thought that's what would take care of it this time, but no, now they say since the previous plan was a "catastrophic plan" (that's all I've ever had them on) they will not waive it. Ok, so I owe the $95 doctor bill. I paid 1/2 of it online 2 weeks ago. I get a bill in the mail yesterday that I still owe the $95.  I called and told her I made an online payment of $50 and it came out of my bank account right then and she say's well sometimes it takes a few days to get on your account. Two weeks? She still didn't act like she was worried about it and then I said - maybe it went to my account? Sure enough- there was a credit sitting on my account. I asked her how that happens when I was logged into HIS account to pay HIS bill?  Well, at least it's fixed now and I'll pay the balance when I get paid on Friday.

DH is due for his 6 month medication check/re-fill appointment the last week of December, but I'm going to schedule it for January and since I'd have to pay for the visit either way (current plan due to pre-existing and the new Obamacare plan will be high deductible) I'd rather have it go towards next years deductible and be able to claim it as part of my FSA. I still haven't signed DH and the kids up for a new plan yet.  One reason is I was waiting for the mess of it all to get fixed so I actually could sign up and another reason was I'm still waiting to find out what is going to be DS's status. He is STILL waiting on his work visa! He finally got to talk with someone who at least was able to tell him that Canada has approved his application, but apparently they send it on to the U.S for approval.....so now that's the hold up and who knows how long that will take. It's been 3 months now. Ridiculous. I'll just put DS on the insurance plan for now and can cancel him if he ever does get to start work.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Good and bad

I picked up my new glasses from Costco yesterday. No problems with them and I really like them, so I'm happy I decided to give them a try and really happy that I saved so much money. Hopefully, I'll get my $100 reimbursement from my vision insurance soon. It's nice to be able to read better again!

I had to stop back in Costco on my way home today to pick up DH's prescription..the last 2 months I filled it at another store that price matched Costco, but when I went to get it last month it was a Sunday and Costco was closed and they couldn't call to check their price. The lady told me she would call the next day and get back to me. She never did and when I went to pick it up, they said the best they could do was $66 (Walmart price) because Costco's price was below their cost. Ok....so this month I took the prescription (a low dose narcotic) back to Costco...and it rings up 3 times higher than what I had been paying there for months and months! Geez - I give up! Why would the price triple, up from $26 to $75 just for a generic type medicine? I had to pay it, of course, but sure makes it tough to budget when you can't rely on a similar cost each month.

Then I stopped back in their optical dept and had my new glasses adjusted. It was pressing in too much behind my ear and really hurting all day. Seems better now.  

Only 1/2 more day of work and then a nice 4 1/2 day weekend....though I'll probably end up spending my Wednesday afternoon off doing some work for my side job. The owners have another meeting with their CPA in mid December and want November financials done by then. That's going to be a little tough for me to do. Their office manager hasn't even sent me November's deposit info yet. I might just have to do a little estimating and it will be close enough for what they are trying to estimate as income/expenses for the year.

I haven't done FSA deductions from my paycheck in quite a few years. I did it the year DD had braces and one other year, but for the most part I found it to be a pain in the you know what compared to what I saved in taxes. Apparently now you can't pay for OTC medicines and stuff with it anymore, unless you have a dr's prescription for it. I always had a hard time estimating, so I would end up way underestimating, because there was no way I was going to lose any money if I didn't use it all. Doing payroll I have seen people loose hundreds of dollars because they over estimated. That's just dumb. In reviewing our paperwork on it for enrolling for the new year I see a new rule in place for next year - we'll be able to carryover up to $500 if we over estimate. That makes me feel better to give it a try again. But I'm still having trouble estimating....especially if pharmacy prices are going to fluctuate so much. Plus, being the only income earner in the family, along with itemized deductions, I don't end up paying much of my income in federal income tax - about 4% plus 7.65% for social security, so approximately 12% of what I would have withheld for FSA really would only save me about $160 a year. I've never thought it worth the hassle it always was before.

But that's about $13 a month that I could save in payroll taxes by using it and I guess that is better than nothing, right? We get a debit type card that I can use to pay for most of the medical things, rather than having to go through the hassle of submitting claims and waiting to get reimbursed. I might even estimate a little higher (in earlier years I used it I was always way under) and then just carry it forward into the next year, if I need to. DH takes an OTC laxative, and would be covered if the dr actually writes a prescription. Doc is the one who told him to take it, so I'm sure he wouldn't have a problem writing a prescription I can submit to the FSA administrator company. I spend about $150 a year, just on that medicine, alone, so I might as well include it and take advantage of every dollar of savings I can.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A good Target run today

I did pretty good on my Target shopping trip today. Thanks to www.totallytarget.com for always posting all the deals.  I had a $10 off $50 food/beverage purchase coupon and was able to get the following for $27.65 after stacking coupons and 5% discount:

(6) cans Del Monte vegetables
(5) cans Campbells condensed soups
(2) bags Market Pantry noodles
(1) cake mix
(3) bags M&M's (saving for xmas stockings)
(2) bags of Hershey's "bells"
(1) small jar Skippy peanut butter
(3) small bottles of Coffee Mate liquid creamer
(4) Heinz gravy
(1) Stove Top stuffing
(2) large boxes of Cap'n Crunch and PB Crunch cereal
(1) box donuts (no coupon - we just wanted them!)

Total came to $50.14, less $18.10 in coupons, $2.98 in Target Cartwheel savings, $1.58 in 5% red card savings = $27.65.

Cashing in some points

This year I decided to try and save up my points from various sources all year and cash in now for some extra Christmas "money". I don't get a ton of points, for a couple of reasons. I don't have referrals to add to my points and I don't buy very much online (and half the time I do, I forget to go through the points portal first!). But, I at least try to get the minimum by opening the emails and doing the searches.

This year I was able to get $40 in gift cards (I chose $25 in Amazon and $15 in Target) from Swagbucks.  (If you aren't familiar with Swagbucks - you can check them out from my link on the right). I have a search toolbar and every day I do several searches until I hit upon some points. Then I answer the daily poll, good for one point. Just doing this every day you can easily earn enough points for $30 in Amazon gift cards (450 point for $5). I also occasionally remember to check out www.sbcodez.com, which lists any current codes available for more points.

The other points site I use is MyPoints. This year I was able to get a $25 Kohl's gift card. I didn't get near as many points as I could have this year. There were weeks at a time where I didn't open my yahoo email, so that I could click on the emails and earn the 5 points (if offered - not all the emails offer points just by clicking on the offer), so I lost out on quite a bit I could have earned, but hey - I'll take the $25 gift card :-).  MyPoints also just added a new tool, that I downloaded, which automatically credits you the points if you shop in one of their partner stores and forget to open the MyPoints portal first. I see they now offer points for Amazon (probably the place I shop online the most), and I don't think they offered that before.

Every little bit helps and I only spend a few minutes a day "working my points". I'm going to try and be more diligent about opening my yahoo email (the email address I use specifically for coupons, online shopping and such) and getting the MyPoints taken care of.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Just another Friday

I've been trying to make up a grocery list that comes up to $150, so I can get a free turkey. Most weeks I spend about $100 at this store, with other things bought at Target or Walmart.  It's been hard making sure I have enough on my list for $150. I've been writing prices that I know next to it, or my closest estimate of what it will be. As of right now I still need about $11. I just don't want to add something on there, and pay more than I normally would, that would kind of defeat the purpose of getting the free turkey.

I'm also working on a shopping list to take advantage of the $10 off $50 food purchase at Target. Unlike the grocery store you can apply the $10 off before coupons are taken off and I have lots of coupons to use, so I'll probably end up spending about $25 for $50 worth of food. The coupon expires tomorrow, so I plan to get over there tomorrow morning.

This morning I went and had my annual mammogram done. Appointment at 8 am (I almost forgot this morning that I needed to get up early and get to it!) - back in my car at 8:09 am. Quick and easy.

DD went over to my mom's and helped her get her Christmas lights and decorations down from her storage in her garage. She sent home a couple more lighted displays, a Santa and some bells. She's been putting less and less up each year, as she gets older and it's so much work. For years her little place was lit up everywhere, and then some, on the outside. It was very festive. But, now she tries to whittle her collection down a little and passes it on to me.

Three weeks and one day until DS gets home. He said he's just going to try to have a friend pick him up at the aiport and drop him off here and then just walk in the house and be like "hey Dad...." LOL

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Home sweet home

I got DS's plane ticket paid for yesterday morning. I'm so excited that we'll get to see him for a couple of weeks and I'm also happy because 1) it's paid for in cash, not charged (not that I could anyway) and 2) that I had enough money in savings that I didn't actually have to wait until I get my work bonus to buy the ticket. Then the price probably would have been higher, if I had had to wait longer. Not being in debt and having a savings can save money because I could take advantage of a lower price now. The airlines does offer a price guarantee so if I do see it go lower, I guess they will credit. So, I'll watch every day, just in case it goes lower. It's taking everything I have NOT to tell DH and DD that he is coming home for Christmas!

Tonight DH and I went and took a gun safety class and then a friend who is really into guns met us there and we tried shooting several different ones. What a strange experience! I have never shot a gun before (except for a bb gun) and a semi automatic handgun is loud and scary. Towards the end I was feeling a little less nervous about it. I was too much of a weeny for the last gun we tried though. I'm petite and very tiny and just didn't have enough of a strong grip so it would jam on the second shot. Most likely though, we'll end up getting a shotgun for our home defense.

That's all that's going on this week so far.  My blog was acting weird yesterday, but it seems back to normal now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday update

I feel like all I have been doing lately is sitting in traffic! I had to work at the office on Friday. I was going to leave at 3pm (my normal time I leave when I am in the office) but my boss came over to me at 2:15 and said I could leave, because everyone else was going to be told they could leave at 3:30 (nice bosses!). I was all excited thinking I was getting out of the city early and would be home before 3:30. Um no..didn't get home until 4:05. Today's drive home took me an hour and 35 minutes. Ugh.  Thank goodness for my books on CD to listen to.

The weekend was ok.  DD spent time with friends. Some new ones from work on Friday night and an old friend on Saturday night. DH woke up on the wrong side of the bed Saturday and complained about everything under the sun for the 11 hours I was him until I went to bed! At least he didn't get up until 11am. Then Sunday.......I think I made a mistake on his medication Sunday morning! His pill box goes through Saturday and then I usually fill it up for the week sometime Sunday. So, I always wake him up to take his 8am pills (he usually goes to bed like 3am or whenever and gets up around 10 or so) and he goes back to sleep.  He takes 4 different medications in the morning and I was getting them out of the bottles and remembered his cholesterol bottle was on my desk because I had ordered a refill on it the day before and left it on my desk. Also on my desk was an old bottle of my flexeril muscle relaxer. I had put it in my purse when I went to the dr to remind myself to ask her for a refill and took it out and left on my desk. I went over to my desk to grab his cholesterol bottle and I have a feeling I grabbed the muscle relaxer and gave him one of those instead of his cholesterol! A couple hours later when I went to fill up his whole weeks worth I realized the cholesterol wasn't w/all the rest...it was still on my desk...and the flexeril was with his pills on the counter! The pills even look kind of similar. I don't even keep our pills together. Mine are in the bathroom and his are in the kitchen. He slept around 11:30, which isn't all that unusual.  Then he was only up for about 45 minutes and went and fell asleep on the couch - until 4pm! By then I was pretty sure I had accidentally given him the wrong pill. He woke up and said he just slept the best he has had in years! I still never told him what I think I did. Even though it was a one time fluke thing, he'd ask me every single time if his pills were right.  I don't feel like spending the next 20 years going through that!

I emailed DS this morning and asked him if he'd like to come home for Christmas for a couple of weeks and I'd buy him a plane ticket. He was excited for the news and I'm going to book the flights tomorrow morning. It will cost $436, but worth it to me! He was in Australia last Christmas and we don't want to miss him again 2nd year in a row.  He and I are going to do our best to make this a surprise for DH and DD! He'll be home about 16 days. He still hasn't been able to get his work visa. He checked again on it today and finally at least got more info on what is the hold up - it's the U.S.! Figures. I didn't realize the U.S. also had to approve it and the Canadian immigration person told him it was approved on their end, and the U.S. is being super slow getting the applications back to them.  What you do want to bet as soon as I book the plane ticket (figured me might as well come home awhile if he's not working yet) that his visa will come through and he'll need to start his job? I figured I ended up saving probably at least $250 by getting my new glasses at Costco from what I originally budgeted, so that and a little of my upcoming bonus can buy the plane ticket.

He'll fly in on a Sunday evening and so far the only plan I can come up with to keep it a surprise and leave the house at that time for a couple of hours is to get DD to go to a movie with me. Then we'll just keep on driving to the airport. She'll figure it out as we get there, LOL, and DH will be surprised when we show back up from our "movie" with DS! I can't wait.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Well so much for that!

Well, within hours of President Obama announcing we could now keep our 2013 plans (for 2014) my state's insurance commissioner has already announced he will NOT be allowing the insurance companies to offer the same plans. So, so much for Obama's change to "help" American's like me out. Amazing! What a screwed up mess this country is in!

Two good news today

I just got the (still secret to rest of company) news that we made our sales goal for 2013. That means another 5% of our annual salaries will be paid out in a bonus by the end of the year!!!  After taxes that will be a nice check of $2,444 for me.  Plus, since they have to withhold 25% in income taxes, so I'll probably end up getting some more of it back on my tax return.

I also just listened to the news and the president's "fix" to now allow those of us who already had healthcare plan we liked to keep it....at least for 2014.  From the way I am understanding this, it would be up to the individual state's insurance commissioner's to allow the old plans to be put back into effect. Let's hope my state does the right thing! Being able to keep the plan I was on will save me $4000 in insurance premiums for 2014. I'm glad I haven't spent any time trying to register and apply for a new plan on the exchange.  It took me a couple of weeks before I could even get the info on what plans and prices were being offered. Once I saw the huge increase in price, I didn't bother trying to apply (not that I probably would have gotten my application through the awful website anyway). I figured I'd wait until the beginning of December to worry about it. Maybe now I won't have to at all, thank God!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Took the plunge


These will be my new glasses! I went ahead and got them from Costco - so keeping my fingers crossed that the progressive lenses won't be any problem. The frames were $60 and the lenses were $170. I don't know what the lenses would cost at the optometry place where I had my eye exam, but just the few frames I looked at while there were $200 and I'm sure their lenses would have probably been double what I just paid at Costco. I paid about $500 for DH's frames and lenses at a different private optometry practice. I looked the frames up online and most places that listed a price for them was in the $160-$180 range. I tried on several frames and nothing jumped out at me or DD and then I saw these ones and we both instantly said they were the ones for my face.

I'll have to submit a claim to my vision insurance company and will get back $100 of what I just spent. Hopefully, I won't be on here in 10-14 days saying "oh I wish I hadn't done that"!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New specs

I went to the eye doctor this morning for an eye exam. I've had these current glasses for almost 3 years now and have been noticing a change in my eyesight - getting harder to read again and some general blurriness in my left eye. I need my eye glasses prescription tweaked a bit, as expected. I went out to their optometry department out in the front to look at new frames, but I ended up leaving because my eyes had been dilated, so everything was a bit blurry, and because to try on frames, I have to take my glasses off and then I am basically blind! I have to get my nose 6 inches from the mirror to even see anything! Doesn't quite make for a good view of what a new pair of glasses look like. So, I decided to go back another time. I still have a couple of pair of contacts leftover from those days, that I could at least pop in to wear to try on glasses....and take DD with me as an "advisor" of what looks good.

Now, I'm sitting here, with my printed out prescription, trying to decide if I should just give Costco a try for getting the glasses prescription. The eye doctor place I went to is a nice place, good quality doctors and optometrists, and expensive frames and lenses.  But, since I need progressive lenses I'm really scared to try someplace like Costco. DH had so much trouble with getting his progressives at Walmart. He could never see right out of them, so I finally took him to a private eye doctor (not where I just went) and his new glasses they made for him worked perfect....because they use a much better quality of lenses....you get what you pay for....

Just a peek at the pricing on a couple of the frames I tried on was almost $200. My insurance only covers $100 towards frames/lenses, plus 20% discount on the balance. I'm sure the lenses will be similar in cost to what I had to pay for the ones I have now and DH's (both gotten from same place), so probably another $250-$300 on top of that. I also have to get all the "extras" for lenses because I have such bad eyesight, I get the rolled and polished lenses to they aren't so thick looking. More than likely I will save money by getting my glasses at Costco....BUT, will I be happy with the quality? I'm trying to decide if I want to take a chance and hope I get a good quality of progressive lenses at Costco.

I think I might at least go look at Costco frames and see what selection they have. Either way, even though Costco isn't part of my vision insurance, I get a $100 allowance towards frames/lenses. I might just have to pay upfront and get reimbursed, if I go the Costco route.  Anyone have any experience with progressive lenses from Costco?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A shopping weekend

Spent the weekend shopping with DD. She wanted to spend a little bit of all the money she has been saving! Saturday morning we went out to breakfast that cost me a whopping $8 plus tip. DD had a coupon for a free breakfast when one is purchased, plus she got her 20% employee discount and our server didn't charge us for our drinks (perks of being a friend/employee, I guess). I ended up tipping her almost as much as the whole bill was - haha! I always tip on what the bill would have been, if we had had to pay full price. Then we went to Kohl's to look around. DD found a cute little wall plaque on clearance with piano keys on it, so she got that for her piano playing best friend as a gift. It was regularly $22, on clearance for $4.39, plus we had a 30% off coupon.  Then she decided to look for some nice earrings for herself. What a deal on those! Pretty, small hoops with diamonds. They were regular priced at $275, on sale for $96.25. She had $10 Kohl's cash to apply towards it, plus another 30% off (she put it in my Kohl's card to get the 30% off and then paid me back). Total price on the earrings: $60.35 and they are so pretty - I want to borrow them! Oh, and she got another $10 in Kohl's cash back.

Then yesterday afternoon a friend asked her to go shopping, so she got some jeans and a sweatshirt.  Today, we went out to a bigger mall in the next city from us. First we stopped at Harbor Freight Tools, since it was out in the same general area and picked up a couple of things DH wanted from there.  The only thing I wanted to buy today was a covered cake plate. I've always wanted one. I have a tupperware cake plate/cover but it is not tall enough so the lid always gets into the frosting. The Harbor Freight was right next door to a Goodwill store so we stopped in hoping to find a cake stand with cover. No luck. Then we looked at Penney's at the mall....they had one...on clearance for $60 - regularly $150! For a cake stand!! Are you freaking kidding me?! Even $60 was way more than I was willing to pay. Then we went to Macy's and they had one on sale for $25, but I was still not sure I wanted to pay that much for something I wouldn't use too often. We left to go have lunch (our annual or sometimes every other year treat when we go to this mall) at the Bistro inside Nordstrom. Pricey ($26 for the 2 of us and I didn't even have a beverage). DD looked online using her phone to see what Target and Walmart sell the cake stands w/lids for. Both were $40, so I decided to get the one at Macy's. I put it on my Macy's card and got another 15% off, so I am happy with a nice glass cake stand w/dome lid for $21.  DD found 2 sweaters and another pair of jeans at JC Penney and another cardigan type sweater at Nordstrom and we were done for the day. I came home and took a nap with the dogs.

Dinner is in the oven, a little later than normal. DH went with our neighbor. He was buying something off Craigslist and was to meet up with the guy, so DH offered to go with him so he wasn't doing it alone and after dark. Hopefully, I've timed dinner for about when they get back. It should take them about a half hour each way.

I have tomorrow off work, so DD and I are going to go with my mom to a casino where DD can play bingo, now that she's an "old" 18 year old now. Should be a fun morning and we'll have lunch too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Neighborbood update and credit scores

Just doing my check I do every month or so on our credit score via CreditKarma and our property value via Zillow. I've checked our credit scores 3 times since mid July. DH went up from 691 to 693. Mine Has gone up from 677 to 692. Getting close to 700! Our property value continues to decline since the beginning of September. Between June 1st and Sept 1st it steadily increased almost $8k. Since Sept 1st it has decreased to below $1k what it was on June 1st.  Not good news.

I also noticed on Zillow that the piece of property for sale, kitty corner behind our good neighbor has drastically dropped in asking price. The lady was initially asking $75K. She had a pending sale, but it fell through. Apparently because most of the 1.25 acres is unusable wet/swamp land. We are up on higher ground, so no issues with that, but as you go farther and farther behind our property it gets worse and worse. Now, I see the asking price is $45k. She'll probably be lucky to get that. In looking at other acreage in the area, you can get that same size in much nicer, non-drug dealer infested neighborhoods for the same price.

Our junkyard neighbor wants to buy it (even the realtor trying to sell it told my DH that when he called to let them know someone was on the property cutting trees down). But, I really don't see that happening. Thank God - he already owns 2 pieces of property that us and our other good neighbor are sandwiched between - we don't need another junk yard added to the neighborhood. And I don't see him coming up with the money to buy the property......the electric company showed up last week and turned their power off and sealed off the meter! It appears to be back on now, but how much do you have to be behind to get to that point? Plus his other dump he rents down at the end of the street - when the new tenants moved in the husband told DH he tried to call the power company to see about getting the billing in his name and was told no, it had to be left in the property owner's name because he owed $2000, so obviously, he's way delinquent on both his properties power bills.

I have a feeling most of the issues we are dealing with regarding this neighbor are going to implode on him soon. He's already been told by the county he can no longer operate a firewood business in a residentially zoned neighborhood. They also have to remove all the stacks of firewood, which his meth addicted 36 yr old son is gradually doing. But he spends most of his time sitting inside an open ended container getting high......along with the wife of the renters from the other property. And for some reason a drug dealer who used to always hang out at another place back behind us has moved in with these new renters, apparently living in a shed they all just built (with no permit). Probably because he supplies the wife with her drugs. The husband has now lost his job, so the annoyance of him driving a semi truck in and out of our private street is no longer an issue. They'll probably be gone soon, as they won't be able to pay junkyard/slum lord property owner rent, especially as the wife seems to spend it all on drugs.

We can't sell, as our property values are too low to get out of it, but we are now considering renting this place out to get out of here. We could actually rent a very nice house in a nice neighborhood for less than we are paying in mortgage here (mortgage high because we have that home equity loan we took out, when we thought DH was still going to be able to work), so even if we can't get in rent what we pay in mortgage here, we might come out close, with renting or buying another place less than we are paying now. Guess we'll wait and see over the next 6 months or so what is still going on. Junkyard owner's drug addicted son will most likely end up in jail again soon as his drug use appears to be escalating - it's his regular pattern with his life, and as he is causing most of the problems, that issue would be gone. I also see the renters as short term. The place is a dump and not even livable, really. Slumlord's ex daughter in law (who used to live there but finally got herself out of the mess) said that legally only junkyard/slumlord is allowed to live there, it is not up to code for renting. If someone wants to live there, I guess that is up to them, as long as they are quiet neighbors not causing problems, but these people are not. Their 3 teenage kids and the drug dealer that moved in walk and drive up and down our quiet little private road 24/hrs a day.....going down to the corner to meet their drug buyers or going to see drug addict on the other property. One of our security cameras points out toward our gate/street area and you should see how many times someone is walking up and down at 2...3...4am. Our motion light on our shop goes off constantly.

Meanwhile, we keep trying to make our little rectangle in this area as nice as possible. Those little privacy trees we planted around us can't grow fast enough!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Missing payment

A year or two ago our garbage service updated their website bill paying program. We are billed every 2 months and I get the billing via email and then the due date isn't for almost 2 months. So, as soon as I get the bill I go online and set it up for a scheduled payment on the due date. Usually a day or two before it's due I go back online to make sure I did indeed set it up for payment. Twice now, since they have implemented this new billing payment program, I have scheduled a payment and then when the due date comes my payment is not done and the next day it's showing as unpaid/late.

I went online 10/30, the day before the due date and verified it was still scheduled for the next day (pay day and due date) and it was. Today I noticed it hadn't come out of my checking account so I went back online and nothing was there. Frustrating! I paid it right away and sent an email saying that this is now the 2nd time this has happened to me and to please adjust off any late fee.  I guess I just need to go online and set it up as a recurring payment. I don't know why, but I have always preferred to set the payments up myself when they are due, not have it come out automatically.  I guess it goes back to the days when I might actually have to pay it a few days late, because DH's self employment income didn't come in when expected, so the money might not be in the account to cover it.

But, we don't have that money issue anymore and since my garbage bill is the same exact amount every 2 months, I guess I'll just automate it and hope that helps solve the problem of the occasional mystery of the disappearing scheduled payment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2, 4, 6, 8

It's time to face reality............I am no longer a size 6. I've fought it as long as I can, but tight jeans and a muffin top are not working for me. Turning 50 blows! I wear jeans every day and have about 4 pair that are size 6 (I finally got rid of my size 4's last year that were in my drawer for years). Now, I have 2 size 6 jeans that I just don't even try to wear anymore, they are just too tight and not comfortable. The other 2 pair aren't too bad, but tight enough that they make me look like I now have a muffin top.  Up until about 8 years ago I was around a size 2 or 4 - since I was a teenager. I had a rock hard stomach. Then I got in the car accident and I think between that and hitting my 40's the weight has gradually added on. After the car accident I didn't do any exercising at all - it just hurt my back and neck too much. So, I went up to a size 6. I've been ok with that, being in my late 40's.

But, last week I finally faced the truth - I need a size 8. Crap. I went to Ross and found a pair of size 8 in the brand I like. They fit nice, my stomach doesn't hang over the sides anymore. I guess I'm a size 8 now.....

Monday, November 4, 2013

She's in!

DD got her acceptance letter from the university she wants to attend! She was so excited Friday evening when she got an email to her phone that said "You're In". Then in Saturday's mail came the "fat packet" with more info.  She only applied to one college - it's the only place she really really wants to go. Not that I had any doubt she would get accepted, it's "just" one of the state universities, not like she's trying to apply to Harvard or something. But, I didn't realize she really only had not much better than a one in four shot at getting accepted. The congratulations letter with the packet said they have 2800 freshman spots and get approximately 10,000 freshman applications.

She applied the first day she could and with getting her acceptance on the first day they went out, she should also have a good shot at getting into the dorm of her preference. At least I've got until next September before I have to start crying :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Still calculating

As DD is sitting at the dining room table doing her accounting homework I saw her using the TI scientific/graphing calculator and realized, boy, we sure got our use out of that purchase! We bought it when DS was in junior high. I think it was around $130, probably purchased around 9 years ago. He used it for several years and then passed it on to DS and she's used it ever since...and just said it's going to college with her too. I'm glad there are at least some things that are still useful and don't always need to be replaced or upgraded.

Too bad I couldn't say the same thing about my 4 slice toaster.......that is now only toasting 2 slices....

Payday Payoff

Today I finally made my last payment to pay off the MRI DH had last year (that went to deductible). It was almost $1000 in total. It felt so good to call and make that last payment! When I originally called to ask if I could set up a payment plan I had $75/mo as my request. She set me up at $25/mo with no interest ("just in case you have month's where you can't pay $75"). Most months I stuck to my $75 payment. Once I think I paid $50 and then the next month paid $100.  So, now I have an extra $75 in the budget to put towards our soon to be increased health insurance (I'm not even going to go there again, on how mad I am about that........)

I called Comcast the other day to see about getting our bill cut back down after they upped it $20/mo. I got it lowered for another year.......but I had to agree to a 2 year contract. I really don't like committing to contracts, but we have been with Comcast at least 4 years now for our phone/tv/internet and I see no reason we would change. Certainly not back to that slower internet the phone company provides. I like Comcast for our tv and we are all happy with it and enjoy the "on demand" feature. So, I said ok. I do have 30 days to change my mind.

I am still in hope that I might get a company bonus at the end of next month. Sales have been just short a few months during this half of the year, but we made it over our goal this month. If we can make it the next 2 months I will get a bonus of $3630 at the end of the year or first of January. As we are all celebrating the email news that we made our sales goal for October, my boss emails me that while we got the orders pushed through, there are hardly any future orders on the books waiting for release. That is not good. That means that we won't be having many sales in the coming 6 months. I wonder if the owners are going to give out Christmas bonus's this year -  They have the last 3-4 years and I just realized yesterday that the nice Christmas bonus ($1500 net) started after they stopped our bonus program in 2009....so I would doubt they will be giving us a Christmas bonus, if we are getting the regular sales bonus. Would be nice to have both though!  The owners had also told us last year that if we made our goal and received our 10% bonus for this year that they will up the bonus to 20% next year (back to what it used to be before economy crash). I could use an extra $1200 a month!! haha!

This is also my DD's birthday month. I have gotten her 2 gifts. A Carhartt jacket. I paid for it through Bill Me Later. I have received the jacket and just went back into my Bill Me Later account so I could write in my budget for next month how much I owe for it ($40-ish was sticking in my mind) and it is still shows it as a "pending" transaction, but for $56.71!! What?! My email from the company I ordered it from confirming my order was $42.08. I now have an email into their customer service asking what is going on.

I also got her a nice ring that was $30 and some chocolates for $6. I'm going to give her an additional $25 cash and we are going to go to the bingo area of the casino, where 18 year olds can get in, and they also have some new type of bingo/slots that 18 year olds can do. Grandma is going with us and we'll have lunch (most likely grandma will buy lunch). So, I'll be into her gifts for a little over $100.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dental insurance

With the looming increase in our health insurance premiums just around the corner I am looking for ways to cut. One thing I am considering is the dental insurance I am currently paying for the kids. I pay $50 per month to cover the both of them through my dental insurance at work.  It cost $50 whether it's one kid or more.  DS will at some point (is it ever going to happen?!) soon be having his own dental insurance (or paying for it out of his pocket) and even if I left him on my insurance, I doubt he'll be using it anytime soon. He's out of the country and if he gets to come home for short few day visits I doubt I'd get him to spend the time to see a dentist!

So, basically I am paying $600 a year in dental insurance for one kid. The insurance we have has a $50 deductible (but not for cleanings). I looked up DD's last few cleaning appointments. For 2 visits this year, the charges totaled $393. She did have a sealant done one time (it had worn off a tooth I guess), but that is not the norm on her visits. That was $82. So if I had paid out of pocket this year, with no insurance, it would have cost me $475 instead of $600 in dental premiums. DS never made it to the dentist this year. He was in Australia the first 4 months and then the 2 months he was home he didn't get himself into see the dentist.

The insurance also covers a max of $2000 each year, so that is something to take in to consideration. I don't know, but it is also possible our dentist would take off a discount for a cash paying customer, so the out of pocket could be a bit less.

I'm not sure what to do. I haven't pulled the plug yet on the insurance. I do at least want to wait until DS has his ducks in a row and is covered through an employer plan. If he gets covered that way, I think I may drop the insurance on DD and just pay out of pocket for twice a year cleanings. If DS doesn't end up with his own plan, then I will keep both he and DD on my plan and just make DS reimburse me for $25/mo of it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cost cutters

We've been doing some small things the past few months, that I hope are at least helping our budget a little bit.  It always feels like just when I get a savings in one area of our budget another area increases.

Ice cream:  Throughout summer and into September DH got into a very bad Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait habit. Like a couple of times a week, in the evening he's say "is it DQ night?" and of course who can say no to soft ice cream? It isn't often that I can! So, off DD and I would go to pick some up. And many times we'd get something for ourselves too....usually a small hot fudge sundae for me and a blizzard for DD...and I'd be about $10-12  poorer (sometimes I'd have a coupon or they'd have a special). Looking back on Mint.com I see that July was $36.52, August was $48.42, and September was $41.51.  All just for ice cream! September I didn't even have it very often, as I was also seeing my waistline increasing. DH was having it like 3 times a week by then.

So, a few weeks ago, I bought a cheap carton of vanilla ice cream and some root beer. I have been buying it regularly since and we have not had an expensive soft ice cream from DQ. The 1/2 gallon of ice cream (thought I don't think it's a half gallon size anymore, looks smaller) and 2 liter of root beer costs less than $3.  That's less than one peanut buster parfait.  And it makes about 9 root beer floats.

Pizza: I don't know the stats for sure, but over the years we probably have pizza at least once a month, probably more like every 3 weeks. It was usually pizza delivered and occasionally we'd go out to eat at the local pizza place, which also added DH and DD getting salad bar. While sitting there eating one night we saw someone at the salad bar with a take out box filling up their box. I asked one of the staff and found out you could come in and get salad bar to go! That was really the only reason we'd go out and eat pizza vs. delivery - DH wanted their good salad bar.

About the same time this happened, I had come across a recipe in a magazine ad for homemade pizza, which I had probably made once in my life years ago, with not much success. This looked so yummy in the picture and so easy, since the dough was made from frozen dinner rolls. The pizza was a smashing hit with everyone in my family. Everyone likes it better than our favorite delivery pizza. So, I invested in a $5 pizza pan from Target, I already had a pizza cutter, and have been making homemade pizza ever since. Usually every 2 weeks, because we like it so much. After I get the pizza made and ready for the oven, DD and I run over to the pizza restaurant and get two salad bars to go. Cost for those $15. Cost for the home made pizza: under $5. Plus we always eat all the leftovers for lunch the next day or two. Sometimes we don't go get salad bars to go and sometimes we just get one for DH only. When we used to all go eat at the pizza place and get 2 salad bars it was usually about $40 for the bill.  Delivery pizza usually ended up being $22 with tip.  So, instead of spending $40 eating pizza out or $20+ dollars eating take out we eat a delicious $5 pizza, with an occasional $7-15 spent for take out salad. I have tried to duplicate their salads, but DH is so picky. It's mostly their salad dressing he likes, but even when I got some extra to bring home in little cups and put it on a salad I made a few days later, he didn't like it much.

Parakeets: I read somewhere to just use paper towels for the bottom lining of their bird cage. So, instead of the expensive bird cage liner paper, now when I clean their cage out, I just grab 2 sheets off the roll and put that down in their cage. Cheap!

Friday, October 25, 2013

What does it take?

The recent post/discussion on Mysti and her blog/financial life really resonates with me. I think because I see myself (for many years) in her posts, in so many ways. We struggled to get a grip on finances and life for so long. It was stressful and draining.  We spent so many years trying to pay down debt and as soon as we'd make a little headway, something would happen to put us right back where we were or in reality - gradually getting higher and higher in debt. Over and over again. Most of it (except for the health problems) was our own doing. When you are stressed and just trying to keep yourself afloat you don't make very good decisions, which in turn lead to more stress and more bad decisions. Suddenly faced with a big bill you weren't expecting? Not prepared and no time or money to make arrangements, what do you do? Well, put in on a credit card, of course...or get another loan..and now you have another payment to add to your already over extended budget, which ends up being mostly interest and very little principal getting paid down. It's a viscous cycle.

I admire those people I have read about in blogs or financial success stories - those that were able to "wake up" and make the real sacrifices necessary to really get out of debt. That takes a lot of will power and for those that are married, it took a big commitment from BOTH parties to work together. The ones that succeeded in getting rid of high debt in a few years seem to have things in common. Most of them were willing to downsize their homes and lives! Not many of us are willing to do that. In my case, I would have done it in a heartbeat, if DH had been willing, but he wasn't on the same page as me. But, by the time we had to file bankruptcy that really wouldn't have helped us much in the end. The most we could have downsized our mortgage payment (or a rent payment) for a decent place to house a family of 4 in this same school neighborhood, would have saved us about $4-500 a month. With DH loosing his business (that is why we had to file) the $200,000+ of debt. we barely would have been able to make a dent. Just his equipment payments totaled over $5000 a month - there is no way the finance company would have accepted $500/mo payments from us.  But for some, downsizing might be the tough way they need to reduce their personal credit cards and debt.

Cars are such a necessary evil for most. For the most part DH and I are on the same page when it comes to cars - we both feel it very important to have a reliable car for commuting to work. Though the first year we had one car and we carpooled every day. In the early years he was caught up in having brand new cars or pick ups with high monthly payments. About the time I was staying home with child #2 we bought a Suburban brand new for like $30k (this was back in 1996. We paid it off in 4 years  and it had low miles (because I wasn't working and just used it for errands) and was in excellent condition (DH is a stickler about keeping cars nice). When I went back to work when child #2 started kindergarten (for 2 reasons - we weren't making it on DH's business income and he had also just started getting sick) I got a job 6 miles from home. DH was basically not working much and had to hire a person to replace what he had been doing before he got sick and then couldn't take a salary for himself anymore. We were basically living off my small salary. We finally made a good decision in our financial lives......we would sell the Suburban and I could drive our old 1986 car (our very first car purchase) back and forth to work. It was old and had a lot of miles on it, but I was only going 6 miles each way. We got about $15,000 for our 6 year old Suburban and paid down credit cards (business debts) with it. That was probably one of the smartest things we ever did. It kept us afloat with his struggling business and health for awhile longer and we reduced our debt by a nice chunk all at once.  Another thing DH did at that time downsize his company some and called all his credit card companies and did some tough negotiating with them. He told them he had $15,000 to pay between them and what would they be willing to take. It's not something I could have done and he got half of his debt written off. Then we made the big $15,000 payment. We were almost out of most of the debt and getting by on my small $35k a year salary.  Dh was down to one employee for a couple of years.  Then that guy quit and DH decided to just suck it up and try working again. He didn't work every day because of his health, but he did most days and felt he was doing ok. Then big mistake made - he decided to finance some new equipment. Big payment (over $5k/mo) but he was getting by and doing ok and all of a sudden the economy crashed and his little niche in the construction industry disappeared. No work at all coming in. by the first of 2009.......followed by a change in his condition - chronic daily severe pain, followed by a personal bankruptcy filed in 2010.

The old car was getting me back and forth to work for almost 2 years, but it wasn't the most reliable. One time my clutch broke right in front of a gas station. I was able to coast into the parking lot and called my FIL (DH was working) and he came and luckily across the street was a repair shop, so he pushed me over there with his bumper! Then a few months later something else broke, I can't remember what. I really did need something more reliable, especially as alot of time I had my kids in the car with me when running errands. DH's parents (knowing our credit was shot) offered us a loan to get a new car. Now why we still, at the time, thought we needed a brand new car is beyond me. DH had just never been the type to trust buying used. (the one time we did in the early 90's turned out to be the car from repair hell!). But, at least this time DH wasn't thinking we needed a $30k car. We bought a new car that cost $16,000 and paid his parents back every dime over the next 4 years.

By 2005 I had the job where I work now and was commuting 240 miles a week. I drove that car for 7 years and put over 120,000 miles on it.  W knew it was getting close to time that either we were going to have to start putting money into it on a regular basis, but we were also going through our bankruptcy and were just kind of waiting to make a decision (nothing had broke on it yet).  Then my mom offered to loan us money (knowing our credit was shot, again) to get me a new car. We didn't take her up on it right away, but then DH started looking at newer used cars and we both agreed this would be a smart move. We figured we could get at least $5k out of my car (the interior was still like new) and then only have to borrow $5k from mom - very doable for our budget. Because we weren't in a hurry to buy a car we had time to look and find a good deal. In fact, we found a great deal. A 2011 model that had been a rental car, with less than $5k miles on it. It had been damaged a bit (but repaired, we couldn't tell) on the front bumper and so apparently the rental car company put it out to auction when it was only 4 or 5 months old. We got it for $12,600. It was like brand new - still had the plastic over the mats and smelled like brand new....new it cost $25k. So we borrowed the money from my mom and bought it and then proceeded to put my old car up for sale. I think DH was asking too much, so we weren't having any luck, but he was being stubborn and wouldn't come down in price. In the meantime DS had gotten a job where he needed a car to travel around to different locations so we decided to keep the car and let him drive it. We felt with my salary and raise at the time we could afford to make payments to my mom on the full $12k borrowed and DS could pay for the insurance now. He put another 20k miles on it, but that car still held out good and no major repair problems. We did put new tires on it and fixed a turn signal problem. We just sold it for $4500, so pretty close to what Dh had wanted 2 years earlier.

Currently, with our only debt being the loan to my mom and our home we are able to plan ahead some now and that makes all the difference in the world. We don't have a credit card to fall back on and that makes all the difference too. We both know that we don't want to get caught up in that trap again. I do now have some store card and a gas credit card, but I pay them off each month, if I use them. We know we need to have some savings in case we need a new water heater or something like that. We just can't put it on a credit card...well, I guess we could put $300 (our limit) on our Lowe's card now if we needed a new one.....

For many that are in serious debt, I think it does take some form of extreme changes to get rid of the debt. Whether it's finding a cheaper place to live or in our case, bankruptcy. I recently was reading an article (don't recall where now) of a recently divorced mom of a teenager. They lived in high priced, high status, Orange County and she was struggling to make ends meet. She still had the big fancy house from the divorce, teenager wanted a car and how was she going to afford that, insurance and college in a year or two. Most of the replies to her said "move to something/somewhere you can afford". Her constant reply was that she couldn't - she didn't want son to have to change schools. My reply was "you really can't find something cheaper to rent (or buy) in your same neighborhood? There aren't any rentals in the same school district?" I just don't think she really wanted to make the changes. It sounds like she was more about keeping up status and appearances then getting her finances in order.

Another thing that many of those successful in getting out of debt seem to do is add a part time job to earn more money to pay towards the debt. I feel bad for Mysti and her DH that they seem to need his 2nd job job just to get by every month and not able to use it strictly to tackle debt. At least those that get that extra job to tackle debt know there is an end in sight to having to work extra and take time away from spouse/family. I feel like in Mysti's dh's case, he has no choice. One of the decisions I made that also really helped turn our situation around was making the decision to leave my job and get a better paying job. I had worked at the same place for 3 years (after going back to work from being a SAHM for 5 1/2 yrs) and while I was only making $39k/yr (when I left) I was 2 miles from home. My commute was literally 4 minutes. But, while it was an easy job as far as my skills go and close to home, I also knew deep down that I was capable of a job with more responsibility and therefore, pay. In 2005 I made the decision to change jobs and work where I am now. The "cons" of taking the position was 1) the commute 3 days a week. An hour (or sometimes more if bad traffic) each waay and 240 miles a week, compared to 20 miles a week and home in a few minutes and 2) I would have longer days and more time away from my kids (who were still young) with the added commute.  But, the pro's were that my starting salary would be $50k a year. Even with the extra cost in gas and wear/tear on my car, I would still be making a lot more. It was kind of hard to leave where I was comfortable, but I did and it has made the world of difference in our financial lives. I received decent steady raises (most times yearly). In 2007 and 2008 I received a bonus each year of 20% of my salary. After now 8 years of employment my salary is now up to $72,600 and currently this year we have received a bonus of 10% of salary. Through this job I was also able to acquire my part-time side job and from that I make another $9000 a year. While I don't know how long the company will keep using me (vs. hiring an in house accountant), so far it's been 3 years and I hope I get to do it awhile longer. One of my friends at the old job still works there...very small raises over the years and several years with no raises. If I had stayed there I'd probably be making half of what I make a year right now.

While we are out of consumer debt and have stayed out of debt the past 3 years, getting a good savings account built up is still a struggle, and partly why I still blog. I try to be as frugal as possible in order to work toward growing the savings and retirement accounts. I still need to conquer saving money!