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 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 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!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shout out to Mysti

Does anyone know what happened to Mysti from "Digging out from our Mess" blog? I noticed that no new posts showed up in my feed the past several days and she usually writes quite often. Now I see her blog is now private and needs an invitation. So, if you happen to read this Mysti - I'd like to keep reading your blog and hope all is well!

Hurry up and wait

It was a long day yesterday. At around 2:20 our IT guy asked me if it was ok if he updated the accounting software program we use, as a new version had come. Sure, I said - thinking he'd probably be done in 20 minutes and most of the updating he would do at the server and not at my desk.  Well.......almost 2 hours later I finally got to leave work! I leave at 3pm, but ended up stuck at work until after 4pm. He was having issues getting the program to work in "multi-user" mode, so that my boss could also open the program from  her desk. I was a good sport about it all, though, but with the extra traffic leaving at 4:10 I didn't get home until 5:30. It wasn't as bad as I thought. I have left work at 5pm before (back when I was training the first 2 weeks of my job) and wouldn't get home until 6:30 or 7! No thank you! If I had to be at the office until 5pm I wouldn't have taken the job. No way I'm spending 90-120 minutes trying to get home every day and same in the morning. 60 minutes is more than long enough and I only have to do that 3 days a week. Good thing I had a good book on CD I was listening to.

I got home and quickly made some eggs and bacon for dinner. It was tempting to stop and get fast food, but I figured we hadn't had eggs and bacon for a couple of weeks and since it's so quick to make we wouldn't be waiting an hour for a casserole or something.  DD didn't get home from class until almost 8pm and she was starving so I made her some scrambled eggs with diced ham. She had a senior picture session in the afternoon and then went straight to school without time to eat dinner. She had received an 80 on her first chemistry test last week. The teacher gave back the tests so the students could review the answers they got wrong. So, as she's figuring out why she got so many wrong, she's sitting at the table saying "hey, I think I had the right answer". After about 4 problems where she felt she had answered correctly, she emailed another student, who said she was experiencing the same thing. She emailed the teacher Monday and he emailed back yesterday that the tests had been graded wrong on some questions and he would be correcting!  So, more than likely that will bring her up to an A grade.

DH has been in a better, happier mood the last few days, but I don't hold my breath on that. It never lasts very long, so I just enjoy it when it comes. I found out he hadn't been eating breakfast the past couple of weeks, which probably explains the extra crummy feeling days he has been having. Got him eating the past several days, so I think that had a lot to do with it. The neighbors and their renters have been pretty quiet, so that is helping his tolerance level. I guess the county finally sent neighbor a cease and desist letter to stop operating a (noisy) business on property zoned residential. Neighbor's new renters down at the end of the street (he owns that lot too) have been pretty quiet. No big semi-truck going in and out - which probably means he lost his job or went to work for someone else. Like I told DH - I'm sure they won't be renting there very long.....most renters (especially of their "caliber") don't stay long and they seem pretty flakey as far as jobs, money, etc. One son already crashed their car and totaled it, which was probably why the dad was bringing the semi-truck home every day. The younger teenage son must have been kicked out of school (again, from what the dad has said) as he has not been walking down the street every morning to the bus and DH has seen him around during the day. The 18 year old son is apparently being pushed towards going into some sort of job corp program and didn't finish school. The mom is a current drug addict and the dad is a recovering one, apparently. Ya, just super new wonder DH wants a security system.

I guess my $1000 inheritance is on its way in the mail, so I will be watching for that. Seems like quite a few things to watch for coming in the mail soon....DS is expecting a $450 check for some remote computer work he did for a local guy he has done work for in the past.  When it comes, I'm just going to go deposit it into his bank account. I'm sure he can use the money!  With his work visa taking so long and not being able to start work until he has it, he took Grandma up on her offer to loan him some money and he can pay her back as soon as he starts working.  DD is waiting for her college acceptance letter - but who knows when that will come. She knows of some kids who are getting their letters from one of the other state colleges, but not the one she has applied to.

I'm 8 days from my next paycheck and so far am only $30 off my budget for this pay period. I am trying so hard to stick to it and praying those dang "unexpected" expenses don't come up. I really want to have some extra to transfer to savings. Per my budget I was supposed to  have $190 left over.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I tried to make it a productive day. I spent some time on the internet looking over coupon deals first thing this morning and found a few things worth getting at RiteAid. Then I cleaned and wiped down the fronts of the stainless steel appliances. They sure do get fingerprints and such easy! Then I made the cheesecake I was going to make last weekend. Not sure it turned out the greatest (I haven't tried it yet!) but I'm sure it will be edible. It kind of cracked and sunk in a bit in the middle.  I've only ever made a cheesecake once, years before, but it was a different recipe than the one I tried today. The first one I made was an oreo cheesecake that turned out really good. This was a New York style.....guess we'll see a little later how it tastes. I'm still too full from dinner to have any dessert yet.

Then DD and I went and got a newspaper and after coupons and UP Rewards I got 5 cans of Campbell's soup, Speedstick deodorant, Finesse shampoo and 4 Snicker's bars for about 4 bucks. Not bad. Also picked up a new battery for the garage door remote.

I cleaned the bird cage, took out the garbage and then vacuumed the house. By then my back was aching, so I took a nap for about an hour. Naps around here are hit and miss - if DH is at his desk (or taking a nap himself) I can get in a decent nap. If not. he's banging around the house and going in and out, slamming cupboards and doors. He seriously has no concept to be quiet when someone else is sleeping. I gave up trying to complain about it years ago. Deaf ears...

DD is giving itchy dog another bath right now with his medicated shampoo. Yesterday I spent $136 at Petsmart! Ouch. Needed dog food for said dog ($50 for a bag on sale) and also some more fish oil capsules, which we have been giving him for almost a year for his itchy skin (and has been working until a couple of weeks ago). Last time I bought the fish oil I got a different kind because we were at Petco - so maybe it wasn't working after a month or so of giving him these. Now, Petsmart didn't have brand I had been giving him, so I bought an expensive GNC brand (it was almost $30) - but it was on a good sale and I only have to give him 2 pills, instead of 3 that the other kind required. Plus this GNC fish oil is alot higher in Omega3, so maybe he'll stop itching soon.  We also got each dog some good deer antler bones. Not cheap either, but they last so long.

Another birthday present found

DD (who loves jewelry) mentioned she'd like an infinity ring. Ahh...good idea for a birthday gift! I've had my eye on a couple. One on Penney's website and one on Kohl's, both priced at $100. For the past 3 weeks the cheapest JCP has had their ring was $80. Kohl's had theirs down to $70 the first week I looked, then the next week it was buy one get one half off (which I didn't need, nor did I want to spend even more on another piece). Plus, I knew I'd probably have better luck getting a better price at Kohl's, as they usually have better sales and good % off coupons.

Finally, yesterday I hit the jackpot! I was reading a deal blog and it listed some Kohls coupon codes, one for 30% off and one for free shipping and apparently you can use 2 codes with Kohls online purchases - they just have to be different kinds of codes, like $ off, or % off, or free shipping. I had to use my Kohl's charge card to get the 30% off, but I'll just pay it off when the bill comes.

The ring was priced down to $32.93. Ok, time to strike! I put in in my shopping bag and it then showed up priced at $27.99. Apparently there was some deal going on "buy one get an additional 15% off. I added my 30% off code and the free shipping code and for $20 and some change I got DD this cute ring!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Where was my blood?

I went to get my blood drawn today for a cholesterol check. I got there a few minutes after they opened. A half hour later they finally call me back. I always have my left arm drawn and it's hard to find good veins in right arm. She pokes my left arm 2 or 3 time (and it hurt!) and then tried my right arm a couple of pokes, which of course did nothing. So, she had to take it out of the top of my hand.. and 2 pokes there! Good Grief! After she was done and my 2 arms and hand were all wrapped in gauze and tape I looked like I had been beat up or something.

I ordered the wrong shop vac filter from Sears and if I didn't want to have to pay return shipping my other option was to return it directly to the store. I figured 10 miles in gas was cheaper than shipping it back and having to wait to get a refund. Plus, the store had the one I need in stock, so I was able to pick up that and not pay shipping on re-ordering a new filter.

Ten days ago I got the rest of the wall board trim for our kitchen and laundry flooring picked up and ordered. They had to order the wall base board, but I was able to get the 1/4 round trim and transition piece while I was there. The rest came in yesterday so I took a bit of a detour on my way home from work. By the time I did that, worked my way through terrible traffic, stopped and got DH his Thursday burger and fries dinner, it was almost a 2 hour trip trying go get home. Ugh.

DD has been looking at senior prom dresses online (pinterest and elsewhere) and found one she fell in love with, so she gave herself a few days to think about it and then ordered it last night. It was $170, which I didn't think was too bad, considering I know DS's ex-girlfriend and her younger sister spent over $300 on their dresses. I told DD I'll pay her back for it - but it will have to be after the first of the year. We've got her birthday coming up and Christmas gifts to spend on and that takes up the extra money available until then.

Apparently, I'm getting some inheritance from my biological father's "estate". I use that term "estate" in the loosest sense possible. He had 2 small insurance policies - one for $3000 to cover his cremation and service (plus VA added $500) and another one for $2000 that his next of kin receive. My half sister is handling all this and she told me about it a few weeks ago, that the insurance company was sending her the $2000 directly and she has received the money yesterday. The funeral home owner tried to pull a fast one on her. Initially, he told her the funeral would be $3500 (for a cremation and small service!) but he apparently was the one who went into dad's house (very small town) and found the policies and then realized there was another for $2000. He never showed my half-sis the policy doc's, just made it sound like they were both to cover the cremation/service. After she left the state (or country in her case) he called her and said he forgot to get her signature for the insurance company claim, so he was just going to have his wife forge her signature, ok? She said no way, got mean with him and asked for the documents to be sent to her so she could review and sign. Well, of course he said he sent them and of course they never came. In the meantime, he suddenly has the funeral costs up to $5200! He did finally fax her a copy of a letter to his funeral home from the insurance company asking for death cert, etc so they could close the claims and send him payment. From that she got the insurance company name and phone number and called them and explained what is going on. Turns out the extra $2000 policy was not for the funeral costs, but for her.

I don't know if he listed her as beneficiary, or both of us (I'm sure just her) but she wants to split the money between the 2 of us. I told her to take out her expenses for having to take time off work and to drive there to deal with it all, but she won't do it. She said she got all the pictures, some of grandma's jewelry and is hoping to get her dining table when she goes back down there soon to finalize everything (which basically is her taking his 2 old vehicles to junk yard to be scrapped out). I did do quite a bit of online research for legal type questions she had over all this, so I guess I have helped out some. I got her the VA info and who to contact. Got her the info that insurance money is not considered part of dad's estate, so it can't be used to pay off his debts. We get to keep it. So, I guess I have $1000 coming to me. I honestly feel like taking it and blowing it on a fun weekend for me and my mom! She went through hell with that man and he certainly never took care of me while growing up. In 18 years all she got to help support me was $100, one time. But, most likely I'll put in it savings and not even say anything to DH about it. He'd have it spent before it even gets here, if he knew about it. This way I'll have a nice chunk to get my savings/EF fund back where it should be.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My "savings"

At this time in our financial lives, about the only way we are increasing our net worth is by my 401k (contributions and the matching portion and the pension portion from my company) and by the gradually increasing value on our home. My measly $35 addition to savings/EF sure isn't doing it!

My 401k has had a nice increase this year, so far sitting at a 17.73% gain as of my 9/30 statement, plus employer contribution of $2275 and my re-started contributions of $100/mo (re-started after a 3+ year lapse, stopped when DH had to stop working). In total, almost $7,000 more then my balance was at the beginning of the year.  Now that I am contributing again, my company will also put in a 50% match. Within the next 12 months my 401k will increase $1200 by my contributions, $600 by company matching and another $2468 by my company's pension contribution. Hopefully, I'll also see some gains on top of that. Come this time next year I could potentially be up to $40k in my 401k. Not near where we should be at this time in our lives, but I keep telling myself at least it's something and it's growing every year. Of course I realize that the stock market is as flaky as can be, but I also have close to 20 years on my side of saving until I retire, so hopefully time is on my side to ride the ups and downs and still come out with a nice return rate.

I've been tracking our home value on zillow. I'm not sure how accurate this is, but I guess it is at least a gauge for the percentage the value is going up or down. I started tracking on 6/1 and the value was at about $136k. From then on every time I checked the value every few weeks it was going up quite substantially, by 9/1 it was up to $143k. But 6 weeks later, as of today, it is back down to $136k. Hmphffff.....It does say that my area should expect to see a 7% increase in home value this year. So, with that portion of our net worth hard to track, I can at least know that I am reducing my mortgage principal balance by approximately $6,000 a year, and thereby increasing my net worth by that much (assuming my home value doesn't decline any).

We are 7 years into a 20 year mortgage (not including our HELOC loan). 13 more years and it will be paid off. In the meantime, more and more of our payment will be going towards principal and not so much interest, gradually increasing our net worth. Hopefully at some point our home value will rise enough to meet our principal going down and we will get out of being in a hole with our home value.

I guess I'm just trying to find a bright spot in our otherwise bleak financial existence~
I don't think I helped myself much......

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

iGoogle alternative

I use iGoogle and it's going away in a couple of weeks. I have searched for a similar alternative and one suggestion was Yahoo's "My Yahoo" page. I imported all my iGoogle settings, but Facebook does not come through. I am not finding any way to add Facebook, and that is one of the main things I want to see on my "page"...along with blogs I regularly read, the weather, etc.  When I search for an answer on how to add the content to My Yahoo, it says Facebook should come up or just type in the URL, but it always comes up as search cannot be found.  Frustrating.

If anyone knows of a good alternative to the iGoogle page, let me know!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Update

Ahhh - payday. Good thing, because I only had $10.92 left in my checking. I took that and the $25 check I get every month from work to reimburse me for 1/2 of my internet and put into savings. I'm trying to put whatever is left from each payday into savings, since I have been writing my budget for each payperiod without carrying forward any leftovers from the previous pay period. It was always getting me in trouble! I would budget out several pay periods and carryforward the "extra", but of course most times there is no extra because it gets used up on all the "unexpecteds", but I wasn't really updating my totals to reflect that there was no extra and it was making me think I had more money than I really did. So....a whopping $35 into savings, but better than nothing.

I'm working from home today - nice treat and saves on gas for the 78 mile round trip. My boss emailed to work at home today, if I wanted. I think she felt I deserved a treat for holding down the fort at work last week while she was out all week from being super sick. I'm a bit glad of the day at my home desk. I woke up with a terrible occipital headache and also spent the morning since 5am listening to one of the dogs stomach gurgling so loud. I don't know if that woke me up or the headache but his stomach was so loud. He seems a bit quieter this morning, but he ate breakfast ok, so I guess he's alright. But, then I caught him trying to eat a tissue!

I have my prescription refills from my doctor visit last Friday, just for this type of headache, but I hadn't gone and gotten them filled yet. Guess I will be doing that today, so I can take the muscle relaxer tonight. My doctor mentioned there are other types of medication for the occipital headaches, but all are basically muscle relaxers that make you drowsy, so if I wake up with it, I am stuck with the headache all day until I can take the medication in the evening, because it makes me so drowsy. Thankfully, I don't get these headaches too often anymore. Now I think they are just DH caused/related - haha!

I had ordered a new filter and hose from Sears for our old wet/dry shop vac, but I guess DH gave me the wrong filter....well, for some reason he sent me 2 links to filters - one right and one wrong and of course I ordered the wrong one. Apparently, if I don't want to have to pay shipping back, I'll have to return it at the Sears store. I'll just go tomorrow - maybe the store carries the filters and I can just pick it up there without having to order another one.  We debated whether to replace the filter and hose or just buy a new shop vac, but decided to go with the replacement parts. We've had this shop vac forever and might as well spend $45 on new parts rather than $100+ for a new machine. I'm sure it will last us quite a few more years.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday chit-chat

A week or so ago DD bought some clothes at Target as a birthday gift to send up to her brother. The next day a new ad came out that I was looking over and noticed everything she bought him was now on sale. She went back the next day with her receipt and got back $12! Almost enough to cover what she had to pay in postage to mail the package out of the country.   Today we are heading to Kohl's. Last time we were there we bought some things and in order to use the 30% off coupon we had to put it on my charge card. Most of the items (or maybe all of them, I can't remember now) were her purchases to reimburse me, but she also got a $10 Kohl's cash and earned a $5 cash from her Kohl's rewards card. She has a 20% off coupon she got via an email, so wants to go use those up to score something for free or close to it.

I found a local grocery store is now carrying the Sunday newspaper for $1 (instead of $2). Walmart used to do this, but haven't for awhile. My mom is basically living at her boyfriends (as she is now in month 3 of taking care of him since his surgery.) and has decided to stop getting her newspaper delivery. I don't mind spending $1 for a newspaper to get the coupons, but $2 just seems too much.

Speaking of my mom - good grief - the lady might have well of been a nurse! All's she does is take care of people and doesn't get to do anything she likes to do the past 10 years. First it was my dad, then my grandma at the same time. Then my dad passed away, but she still had my grandma. She finally got a little break while my grandma was in the care home (but she still spent 4 or 5 days a week going to see her) and literally 2 weeks after my grandma passes away her boyfriend had to have back surgery and is still not recovered very well. He says he's going to take her on a cruise when he's all better to thank her for all her help, but I know it won't happen. They have been going to take several trips (all her idea - she loves to travel) over the past 2 years and none of them ended up happening as he always has an excuse to change his mind. I'm just sad that she feels like she has to spend her life, while she's still very active and healthy, always tied down taking care of people.  While her boyfriend is a very nice man and I do like him, there is nothing that she likes to do that he does and they spend all their time together at his home and none at her home.

She is having Thanksgiving this year, so I hope that means she is actually going to cook the meal, rather than order it from the grocery store, as she has been doing the past quite a few years. Of course, I will offer to help cook - so hopefully she will take me up on it. She makes a great Thanksgiving meal, much better than store bought. I will have to make a turkey at home anyway, probably the day after. DH loves having turkey sandwiches, so I will end up making a full Thanksgiving meal on Friday, so that we have lots of leftovers. We'll probably invite our neighbor over to eat with us.

The dogs are itchy! First it was the younger dog (who has long black hair and sheds like crazy). He has always had skin problems but it's been pretty managed the past year. We changed his food (high priced stuff!), give him fish oil supplements and he's done well.........until a couple of weeks ago. He scratches and scratches. I re-read his fish oil jar and see that with his adult weight I can give him3 pills, instead of 2, so I have upped that. A few days ago I gave him his flea treatment (though that usually isn't what's causing his itchiness) but a few days ago our older dog started scratching some too. So, I picked up some more flea medicine and treated him yesterday too. Usually if there are fleas I know about it right away - fleas love to eat me and since the dogs sleep on the bed I would get flea bites right away. We also have some medicated shampoo we got at the vet last year when pup was having so much trouble, so DD and I are going to give him a bath today. Not fun, but gotta be done. I even took his collar off a few days ago, because the constant jingling of his tags every time he scratched was getting on my nerves.

I'm going to make a taco soup for dinner tonight. YUM! Add fritos scoops and sour cream and so yummy. I think this recipe calls for just about every type of bean there is, plus corn, rotel, taco seasoning and hamburger. And it makes lots, and this is one of the few leftovers DH will eat and it's great for me to take to work for lunch.

Yesterday we finally got to go see my Grandma's urn with the plaque on it, that is now placed with Grandpa's. The cemetery has a nice abbey where urns are placed behind glass doors and a little vase on the front. My uncle from out of state came and we all met there, along with one of my cousin's, who lives nearby, and the lady who took care of Grandma. Then we all went to lunch. It was a nice little time to remember her and recount some memories of her.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Friday

I welcomed in the weekend by taking off work a bit early and going in for my annual physical. Was expecting to have to get comfortable in those stirrups and doc said they only need to do a pap every 3 years now. Works for me! I got a flu shot and my heart medicine prescription for another year and refills on the occasional meds I take for pain if my back goes out or when I have occipital headaches. Both are pretty rare now, but when they happen I have to have something stronger than ibuprofen. Otherwise I'm laying there in bed, can't move, with tears streaming down my face from the pain. I'll have to go back in after fasting for a cholesterol check and make an appt at the radiologist for a mammogram. Those don't bug me too much - I'd rather have a mammogram than an gyn exam! Though I must admit - after the first time I had a mammogram I did not ever want to have another one! It hurt so bad. I waited another 2 years before I made myself go do it again. But, this time I went to a different doctor who referred me to a different mammogram place and what a difference! I was literally out of there in 10 minutes (that included checking in, putting on gown, etc) and barely hurt at all. I made a comment to the lady doing the mammogram and she asked me where I had it done before.  It was apparently a very old place with old, outdated equipment and they weren't even in business anymore. So, it pays to go to a better place with the latest equipment - my insurance covered the same, either way.

DD has a birthday coming up (18!) and for the first time in her life she doesn't have a list made up of what she wants for birthday and Christmas. What do I do??!! LOL. I've never had to come up with ideas all on my own, I always have her list.  She did finally give me a suggestion this morning. She wants a women's Carhartt jacket for when she has to work outside in the cold and damp on Dad's outdoor yard maintenance and projects. A local store carries Carhartt, but I know they'll be $90+ and their coupons always exclude Carhartt.  I had gotten DH's jacket last Christmas for a really good price online so I did some quick looking around and found a dark brown jacket with a hood for $48.76 (regularly $60.95 and "compare" at $100 elsewhere). That sounded like a good price. And then I did my search for coupon codes and found one for 30% off! With shipping the total came to $40. Perfect. One gift down.  Another thing she had her eye on was an "infinity" ring. I have one I'm watching the price on at Penney's, but if they don't offer a better price than $80, I'll check Kohl's or somewhere else. Kohl's always has such good % off coupons and sales, I'm sure I could find one I like there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Budget progress

I'm getting some things paid off or close to it and that feels good. DH's almost $1000 MRI bill from last year (that went all to deductible) is down to $96. I have been paying $75 a month and at the end of this month I will just pay it off in full.  The Lowe's credit card that I got for $300 and charged (part) of the new washing machine on last February was paid off at the end of August (6 months no interest promotion). One of my dental work visits (the fun root canal portion of the work) that I charged on the Care Credit card was paid off in August. There is still part of the vet bill and the dentist bill (for the crown) I charged, but I have until next May and August to pay those off with no interest.

I also canceled the pet wellness plan we had our younger dog on the past year. I don't want to keep paying $36/mo when he'll probably only need one visit a year now for a check up/update vaccinations. I took our older dog into his vet earlier this year for a check up and it was only like $120 for everything to get updated.

It will be nice to have the $204/mo that I have been paying the radiologist, Care Credit, Banfield and Lowe's freed up, especially since health insurance is going up in January.

I got an email last night from my auto insurance company. My 6 month renewal is coming up and my rate went down again - this time another $25 per month! And just as I make progress I get my Comcast bill and apparently my promotional period has expired and my bill has gone up $20/mo. Guess I will be putting in my annual call to them to ask for a better price or downgrade a bit. So, far they have always given me another promotional deal, so it pays to call and ask. A few years ago, when my bill went up after we had been on Comcast for a year,  I got put on a package that was the same price I had been paying - but it included Starz and Encore channels. Each year, when my promotional period ends, I call to switch back to the next lower plan (that doesn't offer those channels) and they end up keeping me on the same plan at same price I have been paying. In the past I wouldn't have been willing to pay extra for those channels, but DH has been watching those channels quite a bit the past year, so they might be worth keeping, as other than being on the internet, watching tv is about his only other form of entertainment.

I also need to get in to have an eye exam done and new glasses. My bifocal vision is getting worse and I realize it has been 3 years since I last had an exam/got these glasses. I thought it was 2 years. Even with insurance it will probably cost me a $300 out of pocket, since I need progressive lenses. I won't be going to Walmart, that's for sure. I really don't want to go to the eye doctor that I went to 3 years ago (and the same one I ended up having DH get his glasses through). They are very expensive and really don't have a very large selection of frames.  There is an eye doctor in the same building where our family doctors are at. They have quite a large optical shoppe, it looks like, and they can't be anymore expensive than the other place.  My insurance is contracted with them and from their website I see they also accept the Care Credit card for payment. I was waiting until after the first of the year, when I could get $300 or so set aside for my costs, but my vision is getting worse and bothering me to do my all day computer work, so if I can put it on the card (and get no interest again for 6-12 months) that will work out good. I don't want to wait another couple of months to see better.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

DD: the saver

In Mid August I posted that DD had saved up $3000 from her job between her savings and checking account. Well, as of yesterday she has $4800! After her next paycheck she will be over $5000. That is so awesome. She buys herself things....she bought most of her school clothes and some shoes/boots, though she didn't go crazy, maybe $200.  She bought herself a nice $150 North Face jacket and just recently a nice rain jacket that was half off, so cost her $45. Apparently the brighter green colored one I bought her last spring (she picked it out) is just too bright so she hardly wears it. So, I'll wear it and switch on and off with my black rain jacket. She buys her own gas and pays for $20 a month of her $33 a month cell phone plan. She buys herself jewelry (she just found a really cute necklace at Kohl's that was regularly $100 on sale for $40 plus we had a 30% off coupon, the pantyhose she needs for work, and occasional stops at Starbucks.

She changed her work schedule from weekends to weekday mornings, so while the tips aren't as good weekday mornings, she does get 2-3 more days in per week on her paycheck. She has also gotten to be a server 2 times in the past week and a half. Once during a weekday morning and she made $70 in tips and she got to work yesterday to fill in for a server and made $120 in tips (and that was after tipping out the hostesses and busboys). She also gets to serve again Monday night (they keep changing her schedule around, which she isn't too thrilled about), but it's very slow on weeknights, so she probably won't make much at all. As soon as she got home yesterday we headed for the bank, as it was still open. She had a paycheck of $400 for half the month and $295 in tips to deposit. Crazy! I'm not sure if this is the case everywhere but in our state restaurant workers make full minimum wage plus tips, so they aren't making like $2-3/hr plus tips.  So, between her regular hourly wage and tips she made almost $31/hr yesterday. Needless to say she is loving it and she really likes where she works, so that is great. It kind of sounds like she will probably get moved into a server position soon. Usually they won't do it until you are 18, but apparently they have been impressed with her and she'll be 18 soon, anyway.

She should have quite a bit saved by the time she goes off to college next September.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Better put more ibuprofen on the grocery list

Figuring out this healthcare insurance mess is really giving me a headache.  It took 3 days for my state's exchange website to actually function like it is supposed to. So, now I can see all the plans available.  Funny, I seem to remember hearing The President say, back when he was trying to get Obamacare passed, that this would open up states to be able to offer many more plans and generate more competition. Well, all the insurance companies (with the exception of one name I don't recognize) are the same that have always offered insurance here in my state for those who buy insurance direct. Nothing new - they just all have different, more expensive plans they offer now. One big noticeable difference? Regence Blue Shield (one of the biggest insurer's in my state) isn't on the exchange. What the heck? Regence is currently who I have DH and the kids covered through. If I want their new comparable plan (compared to what I have them on now) it will cost me $700 a month - $429 a month more than what I have them on now to buy it through them direct. If I buy a plan through the exchange I can get the cheapest plan for $605 a month - which I think is a price with no subsidies.

I'm getting confusing info on whether, as a family of 4, we currently qualify for any subsidy. I have read that if income is under $94,200 for a family of 4, you qualify for at least some break. But, I only need coverage for DH and the kids, as I have coverage paid for myself by my employer. There is no where on the "view plans and quotes" area of the website where I put in both the number of people in the household and income. It just asks for income and info on who would be insured. So, I am making the assumption that the quote of $605/mo does not contain any subsidies. I'm also getting conflicting info on what income I include, but it appears I also have to add in my daughter's part time income from her job, as she lives in the household and I am claiming her as a dependent. While that still keeps us a tad under the $94,200, we might get some bit of subsidy.

I know my annual salary, BUT, there is the possibility that my company will give out bonus's again next year. So, as a precaution, I am adding 10% to my salary for 2014 estimate and then I am estimating DD to work until September, when she goes off to college and won't be working at that time, other than summers.

My biggest "unknown" is what to do about DS.....he still is technically our dependent as he hasn't received his work visa and started his out of the country job yet. The 4 week estimate of getting his work visa processed has now turned into 6-7 weeks. It has now been 5 weeks since he applied. Once he starts his job he said he is not eligible for his company insurance/benefits until he has worked there 3 months. So, come January I am probably looking at him still needing to be covered by insurance for at least a month or two more. If I have to cover him for a couple of months,  he will at least be working and earning money, so he can reimburse me for the couple of months insurance until his employer insurance kicks in. If the kid will be making more money than me, he can pay me back for his insurance!

With these 2 different scenarios I have been trying to get estimates on what this will cost. With just DH and DD, it will cost about $476 (for a Bronze plan). If I have to sign DS up for a month or two, I guess I can then go back to the exchange at any time during the year and change our income/family size status. For sure, once DS has started his new job, I will not be claiming him as a dependent (he won't be living here for sure then, anyway) and that moves us to the household size of 3 and then, based on my and DD's income, we definitely do not qualify for any subsidies.

Plus, I keep finding little articles referencing if my employer offers coverage for my family. They are vague and confusing as to whether I can even get them insurance on the exchange (without subsidy) or I have to put them on employer's plan. The rule that your cost of your employer's insurance can't cost THE EMPLOYEE more than 9.5% of their income does nothing to reference what the limit, if any, may be, if I have to pay my employer to insure my family. One article I read said that was a glitch in the law.

Well, I can guarantee you THAT is not going to happen. To have DH and even one child on my employer plan will cost me $1139/mo - that is almost 20% of our income. There is no way I can afford that. Either they get on a still expensive exchange plan or I guess they go without insurance and we just pay the fine.

I think I'm just going to ignore this all for a month or two. We have until mid December or so to sign up and by then I should hopefully know more what exactly our family size/income status will be for 2014. Regardless, it's all going to cost me a lot more money than I am paying now and I don't feel like thinking about it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

So disappointed!

Oh Darn!!!! I was so excited for it to be October 1st and I could log into my state's Obamacare exchange website and sign up for an insurance plan that was over $400 more a month than I was paying.  But, it's not working..........oh darn..........