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Major Overhaul

November 25th, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Time just seems to get away from me. I know what I need to do, but I just haven't done it. So, I am going to put a plan in writing and follow it no matter what. No more excuses!

In the plus column, I have quit caffeine and am sleeping longer and deeper. In the minus, I have not started exercising or addressing my weight.

Since I can't seem to self motivate, I am going to join a gym. I am not keen on the expense but they have yoga and I really want to take yoga. I can take 4 classes a week if I want for about $40 a month. They also offer other classes but my choices are limited because I'm overweight and out of shape. No high impact for me.

The diet is harder but necessary. I know what I need to do. Little by little I am cutting out foods I need to avoid, but I need portion control. I may have to join weight watcher to get motivated and started. I've been so out of control I may need an accountability partner or something like that in addition to Weight Watcher.

I grew up in a family where we were taught to suppress our emotions. I learned to stuff them (eating). Sometimes you just can't eat enough and the feelings can't be stuffed. I need to learn a new way. A healthful way. I don't want to stop the food and become a shopaholic like a friend of mine did. Or an alcoholic, or a drug user.

While I still have health insurance I might go to counseling. Overeating, lack of exercise, alcohol, drugs, gambling, ect all seem like a slow form of suicide to me. I left my ex so I could have a real life, one with peace and excitement, home and adventure. And, I am floundering badly. Maybe this is normal, or not, after a divorce. I definitely do not regret the divorce. But I am determined to suceed, so maybe that is the first step.

Considering my food expenses, home, work and restaurant, I will probably break even, even with a copay, weight watchers and a gym.

Tasty Cheap Casserole

November 21st, 2008 at 03:44 pm

On page 151 of "The Tightwad Gazette II" is a contributors recipe for a very tasty casserole. Its easy and fast to make. I love this casserole right from the oven or slow cooker.

Lentil-Rice Casserole

3c chicken broth, or use water and 1
tbsp vegetable seasoning (taste good
with beef broth also)
3/4 c lentils, uncooked
1/2 c brown rice, uncooked
3/4 c chopped fresh onion
1/2 tsp sweet basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 c cheddar cheese, if desired

Blend all together in a casserole dish. Bake, covered, for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. During the last 20 minutes, you may top with 1/2 c grated cheddar cheese, if desired.

I like it best with cheese, its less expensive without the cheese. Even so it cost less than $2.50 to make and serves 5-6.

I use the oven if I'm cooking other things like sweet potatoes and the slow cooker otherwise.

Choosing a Car

July 8th, 2008 at 01:08 am

A trip to get my oil changed turned into a lesson on carefully researching and picking a car and how choices can come back to haunt you.

When I went looking at cars with my ex (husband at the time) we were actually looking to replace our minivan with another minivan. The prices just about floored me. My minivan was 13 years old and was on its last legs. As we started test driving, I realized I would be alright without a minivan and I decided on a smaller car. My ex was fine with whatever I chose.

I should have gone home and done more research. I looked at Consumer Reports but I should have looked into it further. As my mechanic told me today, I should have looked at who really makes the car not the label on it. I bought a Ford Focus SE 2002. He said its made by Mazda and in his words it is made cheaply (he did not mean cheap in a good way), quickly and the replacement parts are the same so you pay for a cheap goods and they wear out quickly. Example, I now replace my brakes and rotors about once every 12-15 months. So, I have now spent $600 a year just to replace brakes, plus I am without my car for the day. This will be the 3rd time.

He said if you want to avoid this get a Honda or Toyota next time. As the conversation went on I asked about the Chev. Aveo and he said that it is basically a Toyota. Remember the label comment. I asked if that was just the engine and he said sometimes. You have to check the manf. plant to be sure. Interesting.

I have decided to just repair the car and I am hoping that now that I am the only driver I will cut my mileage enough to replace the brakes once every 2 years. Since I plan to get a new vehicle in 2 years(2010/11), maybe I won't have to replace the brakes again. But you can bet I will research, research, research the next time around. I'll probably ask him what cars are dependable, low maintenance and who makes it.

In addition to the minivan we had a Toyota Camry, from Japan (1987), and it was incredible. I can't say enough about how nice it was and the low cost of maintenance over the 15 years we owned it. It finally wore out at 348,000 miles.
It still ran when we gave it to charity.

I am still considering a motor scooter. There is a nice wide bike lane all the way to my work attached to the main road (not separate). I only have to go .7 miles to get to it. A regular bicycle wouldn't work well for me at this point. It is 12 miles to work and to ride I would be in the dark/dusk most of the year in the morning. That would not be safe. If I do that I might consider holding off on a new car for an extra year or two(2012/13).

Saving Money Using an RSS Feed

July 1st, 2008 at 02:55 pm

I really like slickdeals.net. But its hit or miss for me. But I was reading a blog I really like call thesimpledollar.com and the June 30, 2008 entry tells how to search Amazon and Google using an RSS feed in a really simple way. Its worth a try and seems really easy. My computer skills are very basic so I'll also get to feel sophisticated LOL. With Xmas and several birthday gifts around the corner, I'll write on how successful I am.

He also did a recent interview with the author of The Tightwad Gazette, catching up with her life, if anyone is interested.

Different Approach

July 1st, 2008 at 01:50 am

I am not a fan of herbicides. But, I have crabgrass. It has taken over the front flower bed of my new home. So I decided to go the herbicide route, hello Weed-be-Gone! I never use it so I asked my brother while he was a Home Depot to pick up the smallest bottle they have, 8oz to 16oz. He picked up a gallon container. Whoa! Talk about overkill. As my dad and I were discussing how to protect the yew bushes from the weed killer, my brother said who cares. If they die we'll just get new ones. The bushes just need to be cut back and shaped. Its maybe a 3 hour job with an electric hedge trimmer and hand cutters.

I'm sure he meant "don't worry if they die, I'm just glad something is being done about them." They are mature, attractive bushes. They should be saved and cared for.

So today, my dad and I trimmed most of the bushes and tomorrow we will finish. I don't work in the heat of the day and in direct sun. I avoid direct sun from 11am-3pm. The front of the house is in shade until about 11am, so that is when we stopped. We got a late start today, so we only worked 1 1/2 hours. This is not the right time of the year to do a drastic cut back so that will have to wait.

Tomorrow I can spray the weed killer. I have to read the directions. But hopefully I can plant, next week. I'm seriously considering planters for this year.

I put an ad in our local Pennysaver to sell the John Deere commercial walk behind lawn mower that was part of my divorce settlement. I was very pleased with myself. I placed the add using the internet saving myself $.42 postage plus an envelope. I'm hoping it makes this weeks mailer. I'm asking $900 but I'd probably take $700-750. The market is tough now so who knows. If it doesn't sell I'll try an add on Craigslist when I get back from Florida or ask my dad to sell for me and try the Pennysaver again. Wish me luck!

Gift Cards for Prescriptions

June 30th, 2008 at 12:30 am

My mom takes over 30 pills a day. A few are vitamins, but most are prescriptions. She has 15 prescriptions! Luckily she only has to pay a copay of $8 for each one. And most are issued for 90 days at a time. I tease her from time to time that I've read articles about people like her and she laughs and says thats what her Doctors says to.

So, we are playing the prescription gift card game. Its not really a game I just think of it that way, positive outlook. We are taking new prescriptions to pharmacies that offer GC for new prescriptions and transferring others to pharmacies offering GC for tranferring. So far its just one GC for $25 but this week the amount will jump to another $110. We have enough pharmacies and she has enough prescriptions to really help her out. We will set up a system tomorrow to help keep tract of where everything is and when we do it so we don't break any rules, example Riteaid's coupon said you can't have done it in the last 6 months.

We then take the GC, combine it with sales and rebates and coupons to see how much stuff she can get for free (after GC, coupons, rebates and sales). She's having a fun time and it keeps her mind active and focused on something other than the pain. Some of it she keeps and some of it she gives to soldiers in Afghanistan. So she gets to feel good saving money for herself and giving to others, a good deal.

Eating My Words

June 26th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

So I'm eating my words. My DS can drive my ex's vehicle since he is insured with me. I called and double checked today. Obviously, my memory of what the agent said last time is in error.

I had a fantastic money saving day. Somedays are just like that and this was one of them.

First, my mom invited to have lunch with her and my dad. Yum, just what I shouldn't eat, fried chicken and potato salad. I should have said no thank you. But, its free and I like to eat with them. However, its not the kind of foods I should be eating to meet my goal of losing 40lbs by October.

I stopped at RiteAid to do a deal, RiteAid SPF45 Spray for Kids at 7.99 BOGO - (2) $2 RA Q = $3.99 and then at home I enter the receipt for a mail rebate from RiteAid for $5. A one dollar profit. RiteAid had the product so I purchased them. Yeah!

The gas station had gas for $3.91 a gallon. Best price in weeks, so I filled up. Last night it was $4.01. I heard on the news the Republicans are looking for a ways to lower (oil)gas prices in an attempt to win the election in November, possibly opening the strategic petroleum reserve.

I went to the VerizonWireless store and took off an extra phone on my cell phone plan (ex's phone) for a $10 a month savings. I get a 15% discount for being a State/County employee, every little bit helps ($13.50 savings).

Next was the bank to get my 1/2 of the escrow account. That went off without any problems. Although I do need to open another account with another bank because I am over the FDIC insurance amount. That is my goal for next week.

My next stop was supposed to be Safeway but instead of turning I went straight so I thought, okay I'll go to the used book store. Jackpot. The two books I would have paid 20% off at Borders were 50% off at the used book store. Plus, I don't have to drive 40mins to the nearest Borders, so gas saved. The gas savings ($8)is more than the book savings($3). Yahoo! The only downside is I use GC's from point programs to buy books from Borders and this required cash. I guess the GCs will be used for other books or Christmas gifts.

Safeway was next and I got 4 cans of solid white albacore tuna for $.66 each. And, I got a box of Rice-a-Roni for free with coupon and sale price. Love sales!

Then I got home and Lowes had sent me a 10 off 50 purchase, so I gave it to my dad, the handyman around here. He was thrilled.

A great day for savings.

Driving Without Insurance

June 25th, 2008 at 11:05 pm

One of the things my ex and I fought about was that he would let our 15yr old DS without a license and insurance drive our cars on the roads and not just any roads but the Washington DC beltway and I-95 in Northern Virginia. Initially it was so he could drink while DS drove. He would also tell me that it was because DS needs driving experience. Baloney! He can get experience like every other teenager, when they get their learners.

Well, DS is on my insurance and I have warned ex that if he doesn't add DS to his policy then DS is not covered. Until he is 18yrs we are financially responsible for DS's financial mistakes! Ex is letting DS drive his Jeep Cherokee since the gas mileage is better than DS's truck and has not added DS to his policy.

I try to make the right choices legally and financially and I hate it when my ex ignores good sense/the law and does stuff like this. And, he won't listen to me. This is one of many reasons why I fought for custodial custody.

Now, I will have to worry for the next 36 days that something could happen. Obviously my first concern will be for DS's health but I can't ignore the fact that an accident by my DS as an uninsured minor driver could wipe me out financially.

Refund Checks

June 24th, 2008 at 07:29 pm

Comcast has sent me the $68+ they owed me for a refund. It took them 24 days. The statement took about 5 days. So, that's good news. It can go in the Money Market account until I decide what to do with it. Its also another closure in the sale and moving from the house.

I have one check left from Countrywide. I called them yesterday and a service representative explained that although the check was sent June 11 it could take 14 business days to reach me. Call on the 15 business day. What a load of stuff! It certainly never took the post office more than 5 days to deliver my payment to them. So, either my ex is lying and holding the check or Countrywide is holding the check and collecting interest on my money until the last minute.

In the mail was also a rebate check for $26.26 from Riteaid. That goes back into my checking account to pay for more items on the Riteaid Rebate program. Its less this month because I don't get to Riteaid as often as before because to the move. This month looks to be even less.

Someone wrote that for their $20 challenge they put in their savings from coupons. I am really impressed. The only way I can buy those items is by combining coupons and sales. Its how I make my spending plan (budget) work. Guess I'll have to think on this.

Crown Me

June 23rd, 2008 at 10:38 pm

On Friday, the crown on the third tooth from the back decided to break apart. My dentist doesn't work on Fridays but the office is open 1/2 day so I made an appointment for Monday, today.

Lucky me the crown is 15 years old so insurance will cover the replacement. I was afraid I would have to dip into my emergency fund. I know thats what its for but that doesn't mean I want to use it.

I had the old crown removed and the mold for the new one taken. It should be ready to put in on July 8. The day I leave for Florida. There was a 9:50 appt available so I will have to leave later in the day than planned. Otherwise I have to wait until sometime in August as the doctor is on vacation when I get back from Florida until the beginning of August. I'm supposed to leave for a week of Theatre in South Virginia on August 4th so I'm glad he squeezed me in on the July 8th. My dentist is wonderful!


LOC & Other Updates

June 22nd, 2008 at 04:33 pm

LOC - I stopped at the bank on Friday evening and they had processed the Line of Credit closing and now I just have to wait for the County to process, which takes 4-6 weeks. I was worried about the bank not the County so this is welcome information.

Escrow Refund - I contacted Countrywide to see when the escrow refund check went out. They said it was mailed June 9 which is almost two weeks ago. No response from my ex regarding the check. He knows we both need to sign it. My share is around $775 so I would like to have it deposited in my bank. I'll try again today.

Frog/Tadpole Pond - The tadpoles continue to grow and more than 18 have back legs now. Everyday a couple more sprout back legs. My niece's 8 month old kitten, Brook, was caught last night eating the frog(ugh) who has been contributing new young to the frog pond so until some other frog takes its place no new brother or sisters.

Garden - I didn't water the garden Fri/Sat and it did not rain. I watered this morning, so I'm sure there will be rain today/nite. LOL

Soda Withdrawal - It seems to be going well. The headache is manageable and I might even go out with my SIL to Sam's Club and then to Chevy's for dinner.

Quitting Soda & CVSing

June 21st, 2008 at 01:38 am

I stopped at CVS first thing:

(2) CrossAction Power TB @ 5.99
(1) Zantac 150 8pk @ 4.99
(6) cans of Salmon @1.50
(1) filler @ 1.00
Total before tax $26.99
(1) BIGI free MQ for TB -8.99
(1) Zantac MQ 4.99
(1) 5 off 25 purchase
(1) ecbs 7.99

=0.00 oop, got back 6 ecbs

The CVS clerk said "You always get the best deals." Little did she know how hard I worked on that deal and another I will do tomorrow. It took probably 30mins to get the orders to end up on -1 ecb's and .50 oop. I've been trying to find a way to get the salmon for free or almost free. I was waiting on contractors at my brothers house with time to kill and doing this is like solving a puzzle to me.

I'm quitting diet soda today, so I probably won't use the zantac as much. I'll have a headache until my body breaks the caffeine addiction(48-72hrs). I don't want the cost financially & physically. It costs me a minimum of $2.50 a day and thats if I don't go to a restaurant. I can drink a gallon of diet soda a day. It is a terrible addiction for me.

Also, I want fatty foods instead of salads and fruits, which is also a big expense weight and healthwise. Sodas are acidic and now that I'm older the acid gives me acid reflux and builds up in my joints and makes me ache and walk like a woman 30 or more years older. Then I don't want to exercise. It also causes me to sleep lighter and less. Dark colored soda contains phosphorus and that blocks the absorption of calcium. Calcium is needed for muscles and bone and at 47 that puts me at a higher risk for osteophorosis, plus my family history makes it a no-no. You can tell that soda is a big problem for me. I know some people can drink just 1 soda now and then but I can't seem to do that. It is all or nothing. So, I have to accept what is and just quit.

Improving my health with diet and exercise is one of my goals. I want to lose 35-40lbs by the second week in October. With exercise and a good diet, I know I can do it. This is my first step.

And, the financial savings will be substantial directly and indirectly. It will be at least $75 a month plus no more living on tylenol and advil for achy pains. Even using generics adds up over time. The zantac I was getting for free, but that may not have lasted forever. I won't crave fatty fast foods and chocolate, in fact fast foods don't taste good to me without soda.

So quitting is easy but painful. Staying soda free is the hard part.

Friends and Vegetable Gardens

June 19th, 2008 at 09:28 pm

I finally got around to planting the tomato, squash, zucchini, yellow and green bell pepper plants a couple of days ago. They seem happy to be in the soil. Everyday since I have watered them and we got unexpected rain several hours later. As soon as I stop watering them it will stop raining in the evening. It only rains for 30-60 minutes, but it would be enough for me not to water. Such is life.

Several have flowers and a couple have veggies on them. So, we won't have long to wait.

Some friends you don't see alot or talk to alot but when you do see them it seems like no time has passed and you just pick up where you left off. I love those friendships. There is never or very rarely any awkwardness. The friendship just clicks. I am lucky enough to have 3 friends like that. We're just so busy with children, family and spouses (well, not me anymore), that we don't get together as often as we would like.

I had lunch with one of those friends yesterday. It is so uplifting and we both walked away energized to meet lifes next challenges.

The last time we had lunch 5 months ago, I called her afterwards with some websites we had talked about and her husband said "I don't know what you and J. talked about but J. came back in a great mood." I just smiled because we lift each other up and isn't that what friendship is about.

I can't wait until my apartment is ready because I want to invite her and her hubby over with a few others we mutually know for a meal. It will be so much fun with loads of laughter.



Simple Summer Pleasures

June 18th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

My sister has a small pond on the side of her house. You know one of those landscape ones, about 4ft by 6ft. She has had goldfish in it for years. Last year a blue heron discovered an easy meal. This year, due to being busy the pond just sat unused and untreated. Well, life will find a way. Frogs and toads have found a perfect place to leave their eggs. There must be 1000 tadpoles in there. They are all shapes and sizes. Its very cool.

Years ago, something similar happened to my sons child pool while we were on vacation. We came home to toad/frog eggs. We looked at a book described the lifecycle and he decided that instead of having a pool he would watch the eggs become frogs or toads. He loved it and had the best summer. Everyday he would go out and feed the tadpoles leftover goldfish food (the fish died). We eventually had baby toads.

Well, there is plenty of leftover goldfish food so I am feeding the tadpoles and I noticed yesterday that the larger ones, probably older, have gotten their hind legs. And, just like goldfish they come to the surface to be fed whereas when I first started they went to the bottom of the pool. Cheap entertainment with existing resources.

Its amazing how people, family and company, adults and children, like to go watch them and check out the different levels of growth from 1/4 inch to 2 inches with hind legs.

Closing My Vonage Account

June 17th, 2008 at 06:55 pm

I contacted Vonage to close out the account I had with them. All I can say is they don't make it easy. I must have been asked a dozen times and given 5-6 options for keeping it open before I finally got them to close the account. I was using my cell phone to call them so I wasn't overjoyed to use my minutes to listen to their sales pitches. I know it was the guys job but, Yuck!

At the end of the call I asked for a confirmation number and he said it would come in the form of an email. I check my email 15 minutes later and there it was. Now, I will just have to monitor my charge account to ensure there are no billing mistakes as I owe them nothing and they owe me nothing. But, as I have learned over the years, mistakes are made and its up to me to catch them quickly and correct them.

So, one more step on the road to my next stage in life. Its like that saying "As one door closes, another opens" of course sometimes its a window or doggie door but it keeps life interesting. LOL

Closing a Line of Credit

June 14th, 2008 at 04:08 pm

While married, we had a line of credit (home equity) with a national bank. It was for a large sum of money. When we separated, I requested a freeze on the line of credit. A freeze means neither one of us can get any money or use the line of credit. This protected us both. The bank did it immediately. They were very responsive.

My ex has bought me out of the house and my name is being removed from the title. However, when I spoke to the bank with the line of credit I found that it had not been closed nor had they had a request to close it. Closing was almost a month ago. It is still frozen. I guess it was because the balance was zero and it was just an oversight.

There are two problems. One, I don't want my credit used to get loans on the house and be responsible for repayment. Two, I don't want my credit tied up. I know it is frozen but stuff happens, better to protect myself now.

So, I asked a bank manager to close it and she said she couldn't without a letter from my ex. That was two weeks ago. Today, I stopped at another branch closer to where I was shopping and the assistant bank manager didn't have a problem with it at all. She said it would take $30 in court filing fees and 3 days. She said only one of us has to request the line be closed. So, I paid the $30 and I have my fingers crossed it will go through.

In the meantime, I have a call in to my ex asking him to give them a letter requesting the account be closed, but who knows if he will do it. My best hope is the closure just going through.

Telephone Provider Decisions- Help!

June 12th, 2008 at 12:14 am

It is all so complex. Alot of options and ways to do it. But I need to consider carefully to get what I need without over paying.

I am open to all thoughts, suggestions and experiences readers want to share.

I have Verizon Wireless as my cellphone service. My son is on my plan. He, being a teenager, lives for, with and on his cellphone. I have agreed to continue service and cover his cellphone until his 18th birthday at the end of July. My contract is already up, so I have the freedom to decide what I want to do in August. I pay $115 a month (15% discount for being a County employee)for 3 phones and unlimited text and pics in and out of plan and Verizon. Of course, I don't text, but I am going to learn how. I could take off one of the phones, for a $10 savings and cancel the insurance ($5) on my son's cell. This would save me $15 a month. So, my bill would be around $100 with taxes and fees. I'm not willing to continue this service if I have to pay $100 a month.

When I move into my apartment at my brothers, it will come with Directv. But, for a house phone I will have to get my own with Verizon (pay to install a second line). Also, heaven forbid, he has dial-up internet service and I am spoiled both at home and work with highspeed internet.

He has expressed a willingness to switch to Verizon for fios TV and highspeed internet as he already uses them for a home phone. However, I will have to be willing to pay part of the cost for high speed that exceeds what he already puts out. He pays in the 50's for his home phone + more for the Directv cost. I don't know the cost of his Directv.

I'm hoping to get a deal that gives all 3 for what he pays now for the two. If I have high speed internet I can get MagicJack for my phone service. It will only cost me $20 a year and a one time fee of $20 for the hardware. I would avoid a monthly phone bill.

But alot of people are cutting out home phones altogether and only having a cellphone. My cellphone reception in all parts of my apartment is great. Do I really need a home phone? Am I getting one because I grew up with one and thats just what you do? I hate sales calls disturbing my evening. Anybody out there rely only on there cellphone, how's it working for you?

At one point, my brother was going to use Verizon high speed internet but they were too time consuming a project for installation when he is rarely home. So, he decided the slower dialup service is sufficient and allows him to stop and get a drink from the fridge while downloading. LOL.

I keep hearing how expensive prepaid cellphones are between minutes and monthly fees and taxes. I use less than 150 minutes going out of plan, but a lot talking in plan to family and friends. Anyone have any thoughts or experience?

If I can restructure the house services to include highspeed, phone and FiosTv at the same price they pay now, then I wouldn't have to pay anything for that.

Good thing I have this blog as my way to think these things through. Having to write it out makes me consider the possibilities in a way that can be written and understood. Am I making sense yet? LOL. My head is still spinning.

Relaxed Faces

June 10th, 2008 at 03:13 am

This year we are losing about 20% of our staff. 10% are retiring. 10% are leaving for less expensive parts of the country and one wants to work closer to home. Hey, in case no ones noticed, LOL, gas has gotten prohibitively expensive.

I've notice that those who are retiring have started to look younger. Thats right, some look 10 or more years younger. I've decided its because their faces are relaxed. When day-to-day irritations come their way, they just smile or shrug it off. Nothing seems to bother them the closer they get to day zero or is that the first day of the rest of their lives.

Perhaps thats the secret to life, live like you are to retire/reach financial freedom in the next couple of months or weeks. No worries. Keep everything in perspective.

Comcast is irritating

June 8th, 2008 at 09:19 pm

I returned my HD box and modem to Comcast and informed them I was moving and would not be using their services. The new owner already has Comcast in the house. Smooth transition.

I asked what I owed for the final bill. I was informed that I had a credit of $64+. Yahoo! So I waited for my check. Did I get a check? No, I got a statement that says Final Bill, Credit $64+. I want a check darn it.

Helloooooooo! I already know that and told you I will not be using Comcast. I want a check. Now I have to call customer service tomorrow and get them to send me a check. Last time I called (two weeks ago) they had a recording that made me wait on hold for 10 minutes and then a recording said we're to busy call back later and hung up on me.

Comcast is rude and not customer oriented. Pooh on them!

Shopping

June 8th, 2008 at 01:05 am

I don't normally get to go to a Walgreens and now that I've moved I will probably add Riteaid to that list. I will miss the free after rebate items. Oh well! Those are the breaks.

Today, I agreed to provide child care for a coworker from 12-5:30pm for a 5 and 8 yr old. This put me in the area of the Riteaid, Walgreens and the Mall.

Riteaid - Pantene Shampoo $3.00 - 1.50mfq - 1.50 RA rebate= FAR (tax was .16) and a raincheck for spray sunscreen for kids 45spf BOGO (eventually that too will be FAR)

Walgreens out of product and register rewards won't print out next week so I am out of luck.

Mall:

Borders - 2 books @ 6.99ea with a coupon for 30% of list price of one item if you spend $10. Well, the bill came to $5.19. I thought it must be because I finally got some Border rewards or something. No, 15mins drive later I look at the receipt and realize he only charged me for one book and the cash register still took the 30% off coupon. Oops!

Remember When - A beloved coworker is moving to Florida. So I wanted to give her a keepsake. We are always smiling about people who live in a snowglobe, their own little world. LOL. So, when I saw a snowglobe that had inside of it in large blue letters the word "FRIENDS" I thought thats it, the perfect remembrance gift. Even on the sale, it cost $47 with tax and engraving. Engraving was almost as much as the gift. It was more than I budgeted but so perfect and I did save in other areas today so I can live with the extra expense. See, I can rationalize with the best of them.

Gas - I drove by stations that cost 3.98 and finally drove by one that cost 3.89. Yeah! It was cash only and that was why they charge .06 less than the closest cost other stations. Makes you wonder about the true cost of a cashless, debit/credit society.

Housing

June 7th, 2008 at 12:18 am

When I first separated from my ex, my beloved, generous, social sister said "Come live with me and we'll be the Golden Girls." So what if we are both brunette and in our 40's. We both laughed. I decided since I wanted the support and companionship of my family that I would take her up on her offer. We discussed that I would pay rent/contribute to household expenses. She said don't worry about money but that seems leachlike to me so I insisted.

As I was preparing to sell and move out my brother invited me over to his home and offered to finish his basement off into an in-law apartment. The offer was totally out of the blue, completely unexpected. He told me to take a couple of days to think it over.

You have to understand that I live in an ex-urban area. We are about 25 minutes away from Washington, DC at the closest point. The county is a penninsula surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River. There are only 4 high schools but all of them made Newsweeks top 5% for High Schools and 2 made the top 2% for all HS in the USA. It is an excellent school system and housing prices and incomes match. I remember the fight for public water in a town center area that the citizens fought tooth and nail in an effort to keep out apartments, condos, townhouses, ect (you know, low income folks, their opinion not mine). They won the battle. So, what you find are in-law apartment housing in huge homes on 1-5(or more) acres.

My brother and sister-in-law work in the travel industry and are away from home for 3-6 days at a time every week. My nephew is away from home at college and does internships during the summer. They also own a home in South Baltimore near the Inner Harbour. So they are away from home alot.

Since I am home evenings and during the summers even more, I would live there and also sort of house sit. Although, its not part of the deal, my SIL loves to have a garden but doesn't have the time to devote and she knows I love to garden and will turn the area around her home into a colorful flower garden and probably sneak in a few vegetables. She told me to just give her the bills for any plants, supplies, ect I purchase for the landscaping and she will reimburse. I even get my hobby paid for, is that to much or what.

So, there are advantages to both of us. I get an apartment to rent and they get a more secure house plus gardener. They offered to rent me the apartment for $500 a month and that would include utilities except phone. I would have Directv, electric and water included in that price. That is an excellent deal for me expecially in this area. Usually, rents for in-law apartments run $850 for a studio, utilities include except phone.

I have to decide on and pay for phone service. This is a bigger decision than it seems, so I will discuss it in my next post.

Jobs

June 5th, 2008 at 08:42 pm

I like to think of myself as Lisa,Inc. I am my own corporation. I take on jobs/contracts. They have to fit my values, financial needs, and long term goals. When I was married, we made decisions based on our married life, values and goals.

I'm alone now. So, I get to make all the decisions. It is different in that I am alone with no partner to face things with and it is good in that I don't have to compromise with a partner.

I work in the school system as a paraeducator, teacher assistant, teachers aide or whatever title they want to give me. I have a Bachelors in Business Administration and an Associate in Nursing.

I worked as a licensed RN for several years. The benefits as a nurse were terrible and the hours and respect just as terrible. Only the pay was good. I left because to many times I would work a shift and not have anyone scheduled to work the 3-11 shift after mine(nurse shortage) requiring me to stay until someone could be found. To leave would be considered desertion and had criminal penalties(felony). It wasn't that I wanted to abandon my patients, it was that I had an 7/8 year old in a daycare that closed at 6pm and at 6:30p they were within their rights to call social services to pickup my child as abandoned if I didn't get him. It was a no win situation, so I quit. I have no regrets.

A family situation required that I be flexible in my work situation so I started substitute teaching. They liked me and I liked them, so when a permanent assistant position came open they offered it to me. After discussing it with my then spouse I took it. The health benefits were/are fantastic, I would be off summers with our son, and our schedules mixed perfectly. The pay wasn't great but we wanted some income, retirement(comes with COLA) and healthcare in case something happened with his job. We set up our finances to be able to live barebones on my income if necessary. Stuff happens!

I was encouraged(principal/teachers) to go back to school and get a masters in education to allow me to teach. Unfortunately, that did not fit with my home situation. I needed to be home in the evenings, on weekends and during summers. Financially, it wasn't necessary, so I chose not to get a masters. I could go back now that my son has graduated(yesterday), but it would take 2/3 years at least going 2 nights a week and summers. I would work as a provisional teacher, eventually get licensed and then retire about 3/4 years later at 55. I don't want to devote my time exclusively to getting a masters for 3 years. I want to live now.

So that leaves me with a job that pays about $25,000 a year. Next time I will write about my plan for housing. Its a challenge as I live in one of the richest areas in the USA (my nephew said we are in the top 5, but last I read it was the top 10, picky, picky). Bottom line is this is an expensive area.

Budget Planning for Minimal Taxes

June 4th, 2008 at 01:13 pm

I always have a budget. Sometimes things happen to cause me to tweak it (new things learned or experienced) and sometimes even completely rewrite it (divorce). Always, I ask myself how I could spend less yet maintain an abundant, pleasurable lifestyle. And, I've come to realize that spending according to my values helps me stay on budget.

You need to make a minimum to live but I still maintain its not what you make its what you keep from your income that is most important.

So, with that in mind, I always try to structure my budget to pay $0 taxes. Not entirely possible with taxes on gasoline, sales tax, phone taxes, FICA ect (unfortunately the list goes on and on). But I can control consumption, look for legal ways around a tax and plan my finances to use the tax laws (legally) to pay $0 federal income tax and something close on Maryland income tax which is much harder to do.

I contribute to my 403b7 to take my income down and set up my living expenses to allow me to live comfortably on about $18,000. If my adjusted gross income is 17,999 and I have contributed at least $2,000 to a retirement account the retirement tax credit takes my income tax down to $0. The $18,000 is not my income just the amount I live on.

Years ago, I read somewhere that tax planning is an important part of budgeting and that statement has been an important part of my ability to save money for a long time. It works. Even when I was married and our income was close to $100,000 a year we paid very little in taxes because to tax planning.

Never did we do anything illegal or shady, we just structured our budget starting from January 1st of every year to pay the minimum allowable under the law.

I still feel I contribute my fair share. I pay taxes (sales, gasoline, excise, FICA ect) and donate to charity. I just try to do it consciously and with deliberation. Its part of living my values.

In my next few posts I will write about how I am structuring myself to live well on !8,000 a year.






Finally Moved

June 3rd, 2008 at 09:45 pm

Wow! I've finally moved out of my home of 7 years. Its had its moments of exhileration, anxiety, fear and excitement.

I can wake up 15 minutes later because I'm that much closer to work.

I feel free to come and go as I please. I've always been the primary caregiver, even though I also worked fulltime. I've never had that luxury. My ex is now responsible for the day to day responsibility of our son who is now 17yr 10+mos. So far, I still talk to my DS everyday.

It was scary knowing that the home I'd had for 7+ years was no longer mine.

It was exhilerating (and scary) knowing that I'm starting a new phase in my life.

Sometime in the beginning of July, I'm going to Florida for a week, two weeks, three weeks, as long as I want or until mid-August when I have to get ready for school to restart. Excitement! Free at last!

I'm staying with my sister until my apartment is completed. I hate to impose and yet she is a very social, welcoming person, so the feeling is really all on my side.

Right now it feels like the world is my oyster and that is both exhilerating and scary, but mostly just wonderful.



Its Starting to Feel Real

May 30th, 2008 at 02:17 am

I stopped at the lawyers office and picked up my payoff for the house. Of course, I immediately went to the bank to open a money market account and deposit the check. It made it all seem so real.

I also stopped by my insurance agent's office to cancel the umbrella policy. I really like my agent, but I am seriously considering shopping around for a better price. That also feels weird since I've been with this company for 27 years.

I feel like I'm living the poem by Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken". So many possible roads. I want to live deliberately.

At the gas station, I looked down and there was a credit card. No, not mine. I deliberated on what to do and decided to just call the 800 number on the back and report it lost or is that found. They told me they would notify the card holder and would I please use scissors to cut the card up. I went one better and put it through the shredder.

The plan is to be completely moved out on Saturday, but it might take til Sunday. That will drive the ex crazy. The agreement gives me until midnight Sunday. He told me he's moving all his stuff in on Friday(before I'm out), I said no way. Give the man an inch and he goes several miles. I should never have told him he could move a few boxes into an empty room when he asked two weeks ago.

Saturday is going to be a long day.




Sneering at Coupons

May 29th, 2008 at 01:49 am

A long time ago I realized its not just how much you make, but how much of what you make that you keep. Obviously, there is a minimum amount necessary and that varies by where you live. But, regardless, if you make $75,000 and spend $75,000 or more you will have problems sooner or later.

I take advantage of offers by businesses to maximize my savings. I try to use coupons and sales to get the best deal. A recent example is a local gas station with really good pizza offered a free cheese pizza with a coupon from Valpak, no purchase necessary. I thought it would be a personal size, but no, it was at least a 12". Delicious!

I have been getting alot of things free or close to it with a combination of coupons and CVS ecbs. A couple of times in the last month indivduals have all but accused me of stealing from the stores/restaurants. In both cases, the people have been men. Is this a coincidence, I don't know, I suppose it doesn't matter, just an observation.

The first person was listening in on a conversation I was having with someone else. We were discussing using the gift certificates at Restaurant.com. He sneered, stating that we were cheating the restaurant. The discussion was about which restaurants we had used in the program. The second time I was talking to my exhusband, so the sneer wasn't a total surprise but he used to love my saving money with coupons, so it was a little surprising. With my ex, I mentioned that I was using a coupon to get a $25 gift card at CVS for filling a new prescription with them.

Why would someone think that using coupons within the rules of the business or manufacturer is stealing? And, to be honest, what right does someone have to accuse me/us of stealing? I was shocked by the first person, because I thought he liked both of us. My ex wasn't a big surprise because when in a mood, anything can spew out of his mouth.

If others choose not to use coupons or take advantage of special offers by businesses, thats fine. But, I don't want to be accused of stealing or taking advantage of a business because I use a coupon or look for a sale. I usually don't discuss my coupon use with alot of other people, just family and a few others I know who use coupon/sales.

Has anyone else had an experience like this?

An Unexpected Pay Raise

May 26th, 2008 at 02:02 pm

Next fall I will get two raises in pay. One is a step increase. The second is a cost of living. The two amount to about 6%. This is a surprise to me. The way the county and state are posturing I though they would not only not give out the COL but maybe even freeze the step increase. Every school is going to lose teachers, the question is how many. Class size is expected to rise quite a bit. No one should lose their job due to the huge number of teachers retiring. A few might have to transfer, but thats it(but that happens every year).

The step and COL raises plus moving closer to work might make up for the inflation thats hitting so hard. Soon I have to make some decisions that will impact my monthly costs.

I am going to have to choose between landline and cell. For the internet: no home service, dail-up service or high speed service. I could use the library high speed for one hour a day or library wifi unlimited if I purchase a laptop with wifi. No wifi at home just in the community.

It makes my head spin round and round. For now I am going to just use my cell phone and when school gets out for summer, switch to the library for internet until I decide.

Shopping at CVS & Misc.

May 25th, 2008 at 07:18 pm

Whine, whine, whine! I hate when I plan carefully and things don't work out as planned. Part of it is my fault. I decided to change the plan and buy 2 diet pepsi get 2 diet pepsi free. Then I get to the register and the young lady who is either still in HS or just out doesn't understand coupons and messes the deal up. The order has to be cancelled and rerung with a manager. I was patient but I could tell the folks behind me where losing theirs. The manager opened a new line for everyone else and helped the clerk through the order.

The manager was patient, courteous and respectful of customers and clerk alike. When 3 of my coupons that should have worked didn't she said you've been so patient with us we can wait if you want to go to your car to get the other coupons to try. Well, I had to say thanks and yes. So off I went out to my car and got the new coupons. Usually, I bring them all in the store with me, but not today (of course). So it was a frustrating visit, but productive. Even though I couldn't use the $2 off and had to use the $1 off, I still got $31 worth of items for $2.86 including tax. The other part that irritated me believe it or not was that I should have given the clerk an ECB for $1 and I didn't because I was off-balance.

(3) Revlon Nail Polish
(4) 2L Diet Pepsi
(1) Excedrin PM
(2) Addidas deodorant
= 31.10 + tax
mfQ 4.99+4.99+1+1+1+1.99=14.97
CVS +5/25
B1G1F 1.79+1.79
=3.99ecb+$2.86oop
ecbs earned $18.98

Still a good deal but if I had used the 1 ecb then my oop would have been $1.75. I bought 2 All of You magazines at Walmart last week for a cost of 4.50 to get the Addidas coupons. There are alot of other coupons in there so they will bring the cost down even more but I basically spent 4.50 to get 9.98 ecbs.

I am moving my outdoor furniture and 14 boxes today. I'm thinking 2 pick-up truck loads. All I will have left is the kitchen and my bedroom furniture and some items in the shed. I'm thinking 12 more boxes will do the kitchen, maybe less. I will move all of that a little at a time next week.

Its an incredibly beautiful day here. Across the street, the neighbors are set up for a garden wedding for 60-70 people. Everyone looks wonderful in their casual but elegant clothing. Even the guy who showed up on his motorcycle in a suit. LOL.

If I wasn't moving I'd be out in the hammock enjoying the weather and view. I think I won't move the hammock today and get in it when I finish moving.

Housing Update

May 24th, 2008 at 04:57 pm

My ex went to settlement to refinance for the buy out and on Thursday, May 29, I can pick up my check and LOL his check. Some things never change. I called to ask if the settlement had actually happened and he said "Yes, and when you get your check would you pick up mine and give it to me later? No sense in us both driving over there." I'm surprised he didn't ask me to stop by his bank and deposit it for him also. We both still bank at the same bank. Good thing he doesn't read this blog or he would ask me. I don't mind picking up the check, but the sad thing is he would never do the same for me. Such is life, there are givers and takers. I had become so conditioned to giving and trying to make things right for him that when he would call me at work wanting something, my co-workers would mouth or say "stop giving", it was a reminder that I'm not married to him anymore and that I need to protect and look after my own interests as they are no longer the same as his.

Habits are hard to break.

Next week, I have to take my name off the electric bill, cancel cable, cancel vonage, and pack the kitchen up. My apartment will not be ready until after June 14. I also have to decide what to do with the money from settlement. I think I will leave it in money market accounts until sometime in July. There is to much going on to make any decisions right now.

To top it off I have picked up bronchitis and some kind of viral asthma. I can't breathe in and I can't breathe out. Very inconvenient and sometimes scary. My mom says its the result of stress and she is probably right. The doctor gave me an albuterol inhaler but it was only working for 2-2.5 hrs so the doctor put me on prednisone also. Of course, as soon as I feel the medicine working I pack a box or two and then I am exhausted and rest for an hour or so, only to do it all over again after resting. Stupid, considering my family has offered to come over and pack for me. I guess I just feel they are already doing so much for me.

I am blessed with the best, most supportive family in the world.

Routine In Times of Stress

May 19th, 2008 at 01:30 pm

Well, its official. The teacher I work with is moving. Her husband starts his new job in 3 weeks. She will start interviewing for a job on June 12, the release date for available jobs. She probably won't have a problem because her teaching specialty is special education. They have put in a contract on a house. I truly want this for her. Yet, it is stressful for me on top of my move.

My ex called to say that since the appraisal was done 3-4 months ago, even though it was done by an appraiser the bank uses, it is to old. How do you spell RIP OFF? According to Zillow, houses in my area have actually gone up in the last month. This area actually went up 7% last year in a down market. I don't know how my ex can settle on May 23 if the appraiser is coming today to look at the house. For me this is not as big a deal because my apartment won't be ready for another month. I am going to have to live around the construction. But my ex has already given notice. He has said his land lady is flexible, but I bet she won't be when her next tenant wants to move in. My ex is trying to pressure me to move out before settlement. Since he hasn't abided by the terms he agreed to in the divorce, I certainly don't trust him to follow thru now and no way will I let him move in here with me while the paperwork is being done.

I seem to have alot of the major stressors going right now. Moving, child leaving the nest, dealing with my ex (who showed up on my doorstep at 6:38am yesterday to see our son without prior arrangement, he was in the neighborhood, he lives 20-25 minutes away and I live 2.5 miles out on a dead end road), and now I will have to break in a new teacher next year or be broken in myself. I just want to hide my head in the sand.

I can feel myself wanting to cling to a routine. Routine makes me feel sane in an insane world. I suppose it is a rebellion against to much change to fast.


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