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Archive for November, 2005

opened a Roth IRA

November 29th, 2005 at 03:06 pm

I finally got around to opening a Roth IRA, with $250.00. I went with ING Direct. I'm still not quite sure I know what I'm doing, but I've been in this place for some time now and decided it was now or never, though I'm waiting to set up automatic investing until I feel more comfortable. Now I'm having second thoughts and wondering if I should have gone with TDWaterhouse. I wonder if it'd be easy to switch banks in the future?

Hey, thanks for the 5 stars!

November 26th, 2005 at 11:57 pm

Someone was kind to give my journal five stars. Thank you!

Black Friday was sort of a non-event for us. J never went out; I went out with the intention to go only to the framers and perhaps Starbucks. I can report that Starbucks' gingerbread latte is pretty tasty (though probably not worth the >$4 I spent on it).

On the way home I noticed that K-Mart's parking lot wasn't terribly crowded, so I zipped in to see if Martha's towels were on sale. Indeed they were, at 33% off. So, I picked up a few of those and an apple corer for J and left. I can report that no one got trampled or wrestled to the ground, at least while I was there.

Other than that, there is little to report. I made another scarf (gotta love those big needles and chunky wool), and finished "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream" by Barbara Ehrenreich. It was good but weird and depressing, and it made me thankful for my job in an academic library (where I'm told, anyway, that it's very difficult to get fired or laid off), despite the meager pay. J has a corporate job that seems quite secure, but reading this book might result in my taking an extra effort to get our emergency savings account balance up.

knitted ALL DAY yesterday

November 25th, 2005 at 01:43 pm

We weren't doing anything for Thanksgiving, so I spent the day knitting. I'd stopped at the yarn store on Wednesday and bought some beautiful light teal alpaca yarn, and from it I made a hat and a pull-through scarf. The hat turned out well, the scarf looks like a goofy cravat. Ah well.

We're not venturing out for Black Friday madness. I do need to pick up a picture at the framers, and while I'm out I may just treat myself to Starbucks. Their holiday drinks are back, and I've been thinking about them for days. Odd, that trips to the coffee shop have become "treats" for me, when they used to be a near-daily thing.

well, so much for that

November 23rd, 2005 at 04:22 pm

Yesterday wasn't a no-spend day after all. (Thanks, btw, to DivaJen and Baselle for their comments--I agree with both of them!) I stopped by CVS on the way home from the library to look for a memo-sized 3-ring binder to make a grocery price book with. I didn't find that, but I did find Q-Tips on sale, lens cleaning spray (for cleaning DVDs--our cheap DVD player is really picky about dirt) and earplugs, all of which I truly needed--though I now suspect lens cleaning spray is really overpriced alcohol in a spray bottle and will keep that in mind in the future.

THEN, J told me about a 20% off sale Banana Republic is having on outerwear. My winter coat is on its 5th year and is looking a little shabby, and the liner which is torn in several places (the pockets are unusable for this reason). We'd gotten 20% coupons from them earlier in the month, and they could be used in conjunction with this sale. However, they were having an even better promotion online--$50 off $200. I ended up with a coat and two long-sleeved t-shirts for $158.00 and free shipping. I liked the picture of the coat, but if it's not absolutely perfect I'm going to return it. I'm learning that it ain't a bargain unless you're thrilled with it. (I don't completely agree that it's not a bargain unless you'd have paid full price for it--one, I hate paying full price for anything, which dampens my enthusiasm for the item to begin with, and two, I've found that I can learn to love something that I got a good deal on, even if it's not as beautiful or luxurious as I'd initially wanted.)

Today I didn't have time to make my lunch, so I ponied up $4.12 at the salad bar at the student center.

I don't really regret anything except the $4.12, at least.

Thoughts about no-spend days

November 22nd, 2005 at 08:38 pm

I'm really trying to have a no-spend day, and I think I'll make it. Sometimes I wonder if striving for no-spend days really makes sense. On the one hand, does it really matter if I lump all my purchases into a few days rather than scatter them throughout the month? In a way it reminds me of a dieter who eats well on some days but not on others. Like eating well, one must just learn to spend money well, whether one spends money three days a month or all thirty. On the other hand, I suppose trying not to spend any money on a particular day doesn't harm anyone and can only help matters...

Anyway...

My AMEX bill this month is going to be huge. We put the plane tickets for Christmas on it because I'd rather see some cash go out the door this month than see this purchase on our credit cards for months to come. Ugh. I don't even want to go.

Monday check-in

November 21st, 2005 at 04:31 pm

This a.m. a coworker called my extension and asked if I'd like to accompany him to the student center for some coffee. They have some nice organic/free trade coffees there for relatively cheap. I'd already had coffee at home, but in the spirit of sociability I said yes. I had to get some money from the ATM and discovered the fee had gone up to $2. Ridiculous! Normally I try to avoid getting money from anything but a no-fee ATM: http://www.sum-atm.com/index.asp

Cost: $4--$1.50 for lg. coffee, .50 tip for cute student, $2 ATM fee

I brought my lunch today, at least.

I asked J to finish the Christmas shopping. I got all of my family and most of his, but I'm just weary of it. The good thing is that I've kept under the $50 average for each person. J likely won't, but I'm not going to dwell on that. Also, plane tickets were more expensive than we imagined, and I think we're going to get a hotel room. I'm not getting a good vibe about staying at my parents' place.

Money spent recently:

BJ's wholesale club: 78.46
Christmas gifts (4 people): 116



End of workweek

November 18th, 2005 at 05:04 pm

I'm so ready for the short week and long weekend that are coming up. At least J and I will have a nice quiet holiday together before the Christmas frenzy begins in earnest.

I was very good about bringing my lunch this week, saving myself at least $25.00. But, it was hardly a no-spend week:

muffin from Tuesday 1.42
soaps for J 5.20
slippers for J 14.45
gas 19.00 (cheapest it's been in a while!)
parking .05 (12 mins.)
Balance due for new iron railing 230.00
vet 57.60
lawn company 100.00 (for leaves--at first I wondered about the wisdom of this expense, but then I did my "life hours" calculation that I learned from "Your Money and Your Life," and discovered it probably would have taken me longer to rake them myself, and then I would have had a terrible backache to boot)
Ebay earnings (+5.20)

Total: 422.52. WOW!

Thanks for the comments

November 15th, 2005 at 08:15 pm

Thanks to the folks who commented on my last post. It’s nice to know I’m not alone! I felt better after I vented to a) you folks b) my husband, c) a friend, and d) my sister. My husband and I decided to take one person off the list, go “cheap” on two others, and postpone another (after speaking with my sister, we decided that rather than get my niece yet another toy I’d contribute to her college savings account, which I’ll do after the holidays).

Jodi_M, you asked if my family would consider a change in the Christmas tradition. My sisters and I have been working on my mom for years, but I’m still holding out hope that we can rein her in a little. Baby steps! My sisters and I haven’t exchanged gifts in a few years now in an attempt to curb spending. For a couple (good) reasons, my husband is more reluctant to change some of his family’s traditions, but we did do the cutting from the list of his recipients. I agree with baselle--I still think the holiday is a huge affront to the frugal folk, but maybe with some planning and more work on my mom, next year will be better. We’ve also decided on a “one year on, one year off” travel schedule—I need to break that to my mom, though (after the holidays, I think). We spent nearly $1300 on plane tickets, rather than the ~1000 I was expecting. Frown

Jorge, it’s so funny that you recommended that book. I actually have it, as it’s been recommended to me twice before as a tool to help my relationship with my parents! I haven’t read it yet—I really think I need to, though; if three people have recommended it to me for the same reason, that’s saying something!

After yesterday, you’d think I’d have a spree of no-spend days, but the muffins in the library café were calling to me…at least I brought my lunch today and yesterday.

Muffin $1.42

the season of spending is upon us

November 14th, 2005 at 10:47 pm

I'm already getting depressed about Christmas shopping. I've spent nearly $170 so far and feel as though I've barely made a dent. We have 11 people to buy for, and I calculated that even if we spend what sounds like a reasonable amount on each of them--$50--that it adds up to $550, which just seems ridiculous. I'm really trying to be a smart shopper, too--I'm buying books from Amazon Marketplace folks, and looking for sales and specials, but it's not doing much good.

Then there are plane tickets (appx. $1000), rental car, and possibly a hotel because we're not sure we want to stay at my parents' house, where it's noisy and crowded and the T.V. is ALWAYS going, despite the fact that we live halfway across the country and they never see us.

Then there's the way my mom shops for Christmas gifts. She sets a limit for each of us and then just buys "stuff" until she reaches that limit. If she goes over on one of us she raises the limits on the others of us. She honestly thinks we compare and care about how much stuff we get. Talk about reducing the holiday season to a purely pecuniary event (and reducing her daughters to preteens, maturity-wise). We have tried to talk her into toning things down for years now. I don't think it'll ever happen.

I've really begun to hate this holiday.

I should probably delete this post.

Bah.

strange case of buyer's remorse

November 12th, 2005 at 01:02 pm

I had yesterday off. Earlier in the week I'd had a great idea about how I could spend the day, and I promptly forgot what it was. It was maddening! I ended up running errands instead--I took J's monoprint to the framers, and then went to TJ Maxx for some new gloves. I stopped by the hardware store on the way home just to browse, because I am weird and love walking through hardware stores. I bought a 2-pack of store brand Latex gloves, and a $5 magazine. I didn't realize it was $5 until after I'd paid for it, and then I was so angry at myself! On the way home I kept thinking about it and how I'd never get that $5 back. Strange, the way buyer's remorse strikes hard, fast and inappropriately sometimes. I don't think I've ever regretted blowing almost that much on a latte. Why do we attach value to some things and not others when they're more or less equal?

J's been in D.C. on a business trip; he arrives home today. We have a 5 p.m. appointment with a door and window company to get some of our windows replaced. Just in time, too--we had a hard frost last night. During this morning's walk I could see the dog's breath on the air.

addicted to personal finance blogs

November 9th, 2005 at 05:09 pm

I seem to have developed an addiction to personal finance blogs. I have a list of about 20 that I cruise through on my lunch hour, and then there are all the ones here. I first began reading them for the money-saving tips, but I found that the personal tidbits kept me coming back. Thanks to all of you for sharing!

Meanwhile, I've been spending too much money. I've bought lunch all this week so far. Then there was the $15 spent at Penzey's, the $29 to renew my subscription to Everyday Food for 2 years, stamps and gas here, an appraisal fee there (we're trying to get rid of our PMI); compact fluorescent bulbs here, a dog toy there...bah. Also, last week I bought myself a cashmere sweater. I've been wanting one for years. My swimming lessons, which had been my birthday gift to myself, got cancelled, so I spent the money I got back on the sweater. I found them priced for as low as $40 (Issac Mizrahi brand, at Target), but I can't imagine the quality could be very good at that price. I went with an $88 long-sleeved t-shirt styled sweater at Land's End.

Oh, Chase Bank called me last night to see if I wanted to take advantage of one of their "benefits" (for a fee, of course). With this "benefit," I could skip one payment a year, and if I became hospitalized I could skip payments for a full year. I interrupted the salesman and said I wasn't interested. Ugh. Who actually thinks this sort of thing is a good deal?

This weekend will be low-key. My husband will be on a business trip, so I'll have lots of quality time with the dog. I have three ridiculously cheesy movies coming from Netflix to enjoy.

IKEA has opened a store here--it opens today, in fact--I'm avoiding it like the plague. I don't need to spend any more money!

money-saving beauty coups!

November 3rd, 2005 at 11:47 pm

Due to my divulging that I spend $150 (with tip) getting my hair cut and highlighted, I may have given the impression that I spend a lot of money maintaining my appearance. That's actually not the truth--while I do like to look as good as possible, I like bargain even better! In the spirit of this website, I thought I'd share some money-saving beauty practices that have worked for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

*Having long hair: When we first moved to the Boston area, I felt compelled to get a trendy, choppy, shoulder-length haircut. It made me feel very hip for about a month, and then it started looking shabby. It wasn't cheap to begin with, either. Now my hair is just past my shoulder blades, with very long layers only in the front. It needs to be cut about once a quarter.

*Toning down the bleach: I used to lighten all of my hair, and had gone much lighter than my natural dark blonde color. Roots were a BIG problem. Now, I get highlights, and I need touch-ups only as often as I get my hair cut.

*Washing my hair 3 times a week, and not blowdrying when possible: This practice started during a less happy time--I'd gone through a very stressful period and was losing a lot of hair. It was too depressing to see my hair go down the drain and fly away when blowdrying, so I did it as little as possible. Then, I realized it made what was left of my hair look better, and my stylist talked about how healthy it looked every time I saw him! By shampooing less, I save money and time, and my hair is happier for it.

*Buying Paula Begoun's books and a subscription to her "Cosmetics Counter Update" newsletter: This woman has saved me SO much money. I also like many, though not all, of her products. Many people feel she's got something against expensive lines, but she consistently gives very high marks to Chanel products, for example. http://www.cosmeticscop.com/

*Buying from the drugstores, not department stores or salons: This is mainly due to Paula--I like to think I'm no sucker, but if I hadn't read her books I'd probably be buying from expensive hair, makeup and skincare lines today. Now, I use primarily Olay products for skincare. Most of my makeup comprises drugstore brands, except for a couple of Paula's Choice products and a Sue Devitt powder. I mainly use Suave shampoo and Dove conditioner, though I also spring for Rusk's $13 "sea kelp" conditioner.

*Painting my own toenails: I know this will deduct some points from my girlie-girl street cred, but I find getting pedicures really boring. I'd much rather get a massage, or something. Plus, nail salons are stinky.

*Removing hair at home: While I might not advise at-home bikini waxes--I'd be too scared to try it, myself--I do remove the hair from my arms with a little device called a Silk-Epil. It hurt quite a bit at first, but I've gotten used to it. I use Sally Hanson wax to clean up my hairline a bit (no sideburns for me!). I also take care of my eyebrows at home but that's really because they require daily maintenance!

*Home teeth bleaching: I did spring for custom-made trays at the dentist, but I've found the same bleach online for MUCH less than what he charged me for refills. If I hadn't done this I'd probably use some of the drugstore tooth whiteners--I've heard good things about them.

I think those are my biggies. Now I'd be really interested in hearing what some of the ladies--and gentlemen!--on this forum have done to save money on maintaining their appearances!

a "gift" from Emigrant Direct

November 3rd, 2005 at 09:37 pm

When I got home from work, there was a small box waiting for me from Emigrant Direct. Inside was a white baseball cap with their website address on the front and "More Money For Your Money" on the back. Oh, and a little American flag, despite the fact that the cap was made in China...

It seems to be made well enough, but I'm so not going to wear this thing. I'd have preferred they put the money it took to produce it into my account, or at the very least, towards redesigning their website. Ah well, I'll put it in the breakroom at work, where it seems nothing ever goes to waste...

In more exciting (to me) financial news, I was able to get my flu shot at my allergist's office. I still thought I'd have to pay something for it, but apparently insurance covers it. Maybe everyone knows that already, but it was news to me!

No-spend Wednesday

November 3rd, 2005 at 01:28 am

...I need more days like this.

I've been thinking about our mortgage. I've been trying to pay a little extra on the principal each month (basically making one extra mortgage payment a year, divided by 12). However, I read recently that it doesn't make as much sense to do this if you're not going to be in your house for very long. While I'm quite happy with this house, it's always been J's agenda to move out after 5 years to a house that's more in line with what we've always wanted (read: more land, large front porch, better storage space). Also, our mortgage moves from a fixed rate to an adjustable one after five years--we've already been here a little over two.

Basically I was paying more on principal to get rid of the blasted PMI--grrr--but chances are we won't be rid of it in three more years anyway. I tried to get rid of it earlier this year, based on the current value I got from domania.com (I'll try anything!), but was told we'd either need to get our loan balance down to $232,000, or that our house would need to appraise at almost $372,000. Even with the improvements we've made I'm not sure if it would appraise that high. I'd have to spend $275 on an appraiser--selected by the mortgage company--just to find out.

The five-year move-out date isn't set in stone, but I guess I still need to consider whether it's worth putting more money against the principal that could be used instead to PAY DOWN DEBT.

Given how many things there are to consider when it comes to your money (pay down principal or pay down other debts? Save or invest? Lease or buy?), it's not surprising to me that so many people choose just to not deal with it. Even though I usually like to think about these sorts of things, there are days when I wish I could just turn everything over to someone else who would do exactly what I would do if only I knew what I was doing.

I pledged $1000 for my Flexible Spending Plan for next year. My allergy treatments alone will carry me much of the way. I can't believe the limit went up to $5000 the year after I got LASIK--I could have paid for the whole operation through my FSA instead of putting some of it on my credit card. Grrr, again.