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a little stressed out lately...

January 19th, 2006 at 12:46 pm

...so much so, that I've started wearing my night guard (for my teeth) to bed because I've been clenching my jaw. I catch myself doing it while awake, so no doubt I'm doing it while I sleep, too. My jaw hurts.

So what's all the fuss? Well, we may be moving. The current Boston job market is not kind to J's line of work. Also I am putting out a lot of money for "professional education." Yep, it might be time for me to change careers. Then there are tiny stressors like work issues, some home repair we got done this week, rescheduling appointments...even an upset dog.

I'll post more when I'm happier. Just checking in now.

relatively cheap 3-day weekend ahead

January 13th, 2006 at 09:17 am

I’ve been kind of bad this week about not bringing my lunch. I just haven’t felt like cooking at all, and have been eating pb&j sandwiches and cereal for dinner. (I could live on pb&j.) Good thing we don’t have kids. Wink I’ve only spent $15 this week, at least. Still, I need to start cooking big batches and getting the freezer stocked up for when I have weeks like this. I remember I went through a similar period several months ago, though at the time I wasn’t labeling my freezer containers so sometimes I didn’t know what I was bringing for lunch. Once, what I thought was pureed squash soup turned out to be curry sauce—oops! I started using freezer labels after that.

Not much in the way of plans for this 3-day weekend. Tomorrow, a local charity is coming to pick up some old furniture that’s been hanging out in the basement. I’ve been waiting to get rid of it so that I can give the basement a good cleaning. It will cost $25 to have that furniture picked up.

Then, I’m taking the dog to the vet to get his nails clipped for another $15. I hate paying someone to do it, but not as much as I hate doing it myself. I get so nervous about hurting him that my hands start shaking and I start sweating; meanwhile, he’s trying to pull his paw away with a look on his face like, “You don’t know what you’re doing, lady!” which only makes it worse…

whee--on with the new year

January 12th, 2006 at 09:25 am

Well, it's finally feeling back to normal around here, so I thought I'd check in with an update. It's been a largely no-spend week except for lunch today and yesterday (around $10 total) because I just haven't felt like cooking the last couple of nights. Been a little under the weather; I think I caught a mild version of J's cold.

I've made progress toward my goal of moving 2 months' worth of living expenses to an account with a higher interest rate (leaving one month's worth in our local bank)--the other night I changed my ING account into a joint account and moved $9000 there.

I paid $300 toward my credit card, so the balance is now $6070. I think I'll send in another hundred soon just to get it below $6000, simply for the psychological boost.

not a bad spending week

January 7th, 2006 at 05:07 am

I did pretty well this week--I brought my lunch every day, and spent money mainly on necessities--groceries, gas, $10 dog license fee...my only superfluous spending was a $3.03 latte at Dunkin Donuts, and that was because we'd run out of our favorite coffee at home and I was tired of drinking the other chicory-flavored stuff. Thursday and Friday I didn't spend anything at all.

Now the week BEFORE...I went wild, spending Christmas money. A new electric throw because my darling dog (DD? heh) chewed up the other one, a 3-year subscription to Money Magazine for $29.85 (that seemed like a good deal), a new terry robe, some essential and fragrance oils to make soaps and bath salts, some new makeup/skin care stuff...I don't regret any of it at all, though. I don't always have this kind of guilt-free spending, but this time I felt good about treating myself (especially since someone else footed the bill). Smile

Goals, This and that

January 6th, 2006 at 12:40 pm

I tried out The Grocery Game, but cancelled my membership before the trial ran out. We don't spend that much on groceries to begin with (at most, $50/week), so I don't think we'd get much use out of it, really--I'm only shopping for 2, and I don't buy a lot of convenience foods. Also it relies kind of heavily on Sunday paper coupons, and I don't get the Sunday paper. I can see where it might work out for larger families who DO get a Sunday paper, but I don't think I would have gotten my money's worth. If I need something I buy it, and if I spot something on sale that I can use now or later, I buy it. That works well enough for me.

This is my first attempt at creating goals for 2006. I still need to talk some of them over with J, whereupon they may be tweaked:

Concrete goals:

1) Draw up will or trust
2) Save 3 months of living expenses for a total of $16,500 (currently at $13,134)
3) Move bulk of savings to an account with a higher interest rate
4) Figure out household net worth
5) Change cell phone provider--I want a better deal, so technically it's a financial goal, albeit a small one (nevertheless, I've been putting it off for months)
6) Review insurance policies to ensure best deal

Less concrete goals:

1) Continue learning about investing and personal finance
2) PAY OFF CREDIT CARD DEBT (currently $6370)
3) Continue contributing at least $140/week to 403b

i-bond question for the i-bond queen, baselle!

January 5th, 2006 at 08:52 am

Hi Baselle, and anyone else who might be reading this!

I bought an I-Bond in late October, for $400. The value hasn't changed--that is, I can't see that any interest has been added to it, though I thought it was supposed to be applied monthly. Can you explain why this might be happening. (In other words, is something wrong?)

Thanks!

Hoooome

December 29th, 2005 at 11:04 am

Oh, we are FINALLY home. It was a long 7 days. It was actually a better trip than I imagined it would be--I would even say it was nice--but nothing beats being in your own space again. Only the dog was happier to be home. We sprung him from the kennel last night. Our plane was late, and I called the kennel and asked if we could arrange for an after-hours pickup, and told the owner I'd be happy to pay the fee ($30). However, when we got there she told us not to worry about it--I thought that was really nice. Definitely going to have to send a thank-you note.

I'm feeling a little lazy today; too lazy even to read all of my favorite personal finance blogs which I normally love doing. I've gone to get milk and the mail and cleaned up a little, but that's probably all I'll do today. I go to work tomorrow and then we have a three-day weekend. Maybe by the end of it I'll be back to my normal self and can finalize my 2006 financial goals.

I tried to pay for as much as possible with cash this trip, but I know J put about $600 worth of expenses (hotel, car) on his credit card. Going to have to nag him to pay $600 above what he'd normally put towards the credit card when we do bills.

ING still hadn't closed out my Roth when I checked this a.m., so I called. They said they should be able to close it today. Still feel silly about my mistake, but oh well.

December 20th, 2005 at 03:20 pm

Well, I did something pretty stupid. Remember that Roth IRA I opened? Well, it turns out I'm ineligible for it. Depending on how you file and--if filing married/jointly--how much you and your spouse make combined, you may be ineligible for a Roth. I remember reading that a while back, but I'd forgotten. Also I didn't know for certain how much my husband was making these days. It turns out--and this is a little depressing--he makes four times what I do, and because of how we file, I am ineligible for a Roth, my paltry salary notwithstanding.

Guess my relaxed work atmosphere and 35-hour workweek come at a price.

To be honest, though, I'm a little relieved. I jumped into it without checking it out fully, and I wasn't maxing out my 403b (which would have been almost half my salary!). I think I just liked the idea of having a little batch of tax-free money waiting for me when I retire. Maybe the tax laws will change, or maybe we'll find that we should change how we file anyway for other reasons. I think I'll look into the latter, though I have my doubts we'll do anything differently.

Anyway, I called ING and told them what I'd done. Apparently it happens all the time, which made me feel better. I'm getting the money moved to my savings account. Sadly, however, my Roth account had gone down $10.00. Feh!

Better money day, Money Magazine

December 18th, 2005 at 05:19 pm

I went to Brooks to pick up my beloved KASHI cereal, which was on sale for 2/$5. Good thing I was watching the register, because they rang up at the regular price of $3.49. I was buying some other items, and since I'm not terribly quick with adding things up in my head on the spot, I might not have noticed if I hadn't been paying attention. (A few years ago I probably wouldn't even have thought to pay attention.)

I picked up Money magazine, which wiped out my cereal savings. A new subscription goes for $10/year, and I'm thinking of ordering it after the new year. Several financial bloggers recommend it, and the few times I've read it it's had generally useful info (though I might not use it to pick stocks). Anyone here read it or have anything else to recommend?

I had four no-spend days last week before my spree at CVS yesterday. (At least none of the items were impulse purchases--believe it or not, everything I bought was on a list!) Smile

spent a good deal of money today

December 17th, 2005 at 05:23 pm

...at CVS, of all places. I bought:

*a ceramic straightening iron--sometimes I like to straighten my hair and my old one doesn't get very hot anymore
*little gloves to wear with moisturizer to bed--will probably creep J out
*eyebrow groomers--I have "substantial" eyebrows
*bitter-tasting stuff to put on my nails so I don't bite them--yes, it's a nasty habit; it grosses me out and they're my nails!
*red lipstick--I used to wear it in college, and still sometimes get in the mood for it

I had a $10 coupon, but I still spent a little over $70. Then I went to Starbucks and got a pumpkin spice latte, and an iced latte to bring home to J. Another $7 or so. It's all out of my system now.

good meals for hard times

December 15th, 2005 at 07:50 am

I can't recall who was looking for this book online, but I'd been intrigued by their description and checked it out from the library. I really like it! The author has an amusing writing style, and the recipes are actually pretty creative (especially for the 70s). I made a bean and potato curry dish last night that was good. The nutritional info is a little out of date, and of course the prices she quotes, but I believe most of the recipes are still considered "healthy." I checked online for prices for this book; unfortunately they're still high.

I had three no-spend days in a row this week. This a.m. I had to ship out a box and buy stamps and spent a little over $12. I was going to take my chances with parcel post, but priority was only .70 more.

I'm feeling less irritated by the holiday spending situation. I'm going to make a point of paying for as much of the trip as possible with cash vs. using a credit card. We've already paid for the airline tickets which were the costliest items.

cheap weekend at home

December 12th, 2005 at 08:08 am

We were pretty much holed up at home from Friday on. Friday we got slammed with snow. I shoveled three times and my back still hurts. I try not to use my back but somehow it happens.

It was a spend-little weekend. Saturday I went grocery shopping. That evening I made a baked ziti dish and froze 6 servings of leftovers. We watched a movie from Netflix (Ring 2--I don't recommend it). Sunday I cleaned, and went out only to buy dog food and treat myself to another holiday latte from Starbucks (eggnog flavored, pretty yummy; will try pumpkin spice next).

J's open enrollment ends this Friday. I'm going to push him to get Long Term Disability insurance. I have it, but he's the "breadwinner" so he definitely needs it. Surprisingly enough, the cost of my LTD insurance is .72 per 100 dollars, and his is .28 per 100 dollars, so the difference in what we'll pay per year is less than $100, and I make about a third of what he makes. I had no idea the insurance cost could vary so widely between employers.

Regarding my last entry, Baselle's comment made me think that perhaps Forbes is a "lifestyle" magazine and therefore isn't in the business of giving good financial advice. I'm actually not all that familiar with Forbes, so I don't know if that's the case--it's still scary that some folks might not know the difference, though. Anyway, it reminded me of another financial tidbit I read in Real Simple, a magazine I actually like. Around December of last year, an article advised that a good rule of thumb for holiday spending on GIFTS ALONE* was 1.5% of the GROSS HOUSEHOLD income. I did the math, and laughed uproariously at the result.

*Edit: I searched around online for this advice elsewhere, and see that other folks are recommending the 1.5% gross income figure for TOTAL holiday spending. There's a chance I got it wrong about Real Simple recommending it for gifts alone, but that's honestly how I remember it because it seemed so ridiculous. 1.5% of GROSS income still strikes me as a hefty amount. We're spending a little over that for travel expenses and gifts, and it burns me up.

how to live well--well beyond your means, that is

December 7th, 2005 at 12:38 pm

I found this "special edition" article by Forbes.com really disturbing:

http://biz.yahoo.com/special/live05.html

These fictional families drive expensive cars, have two homes, and send their children in private schools--but yet they're not portrayed as living beyond their means, even though they save only 1% of their income. The authors admit that "this may not be the most fiscally prudent way to behave, but it is the norm in this country," but I feel that portraying these folks as "living well" is irresponsible. Especially when the article ends with, "So, are you ahead of the game or are you behind?"

I'm sure there are some people who would read that article and feel they're doing something wrong because they don't live like those families.

not a bad start to the month

December 7th, 2005 at 09:31 am

J did bills before he left for NYC, and we had more money left over than we usually do. It was the same last month. We don't budget--I tend to agree with David Bach that budgets aren't the answer--I think we're just spending less on ourselves lately. It's a nice feeling.

It's almost been a no-spend week; however on Monday I paid the deposit down for our new windows and door ($1400), and yesterday I bought a book from Amazon Marketplace ($12.40, Nice Girls Don't Get Rich). So far, I've brought my lunch every day this week. I'm going grocery shopping tonight so I should be able to manage tomorrow and Friday, too.

I tried making some financial goals but didn't come up with anything earth-shattering. I did realize I likely won't be able to pay off my Chase card ($6550) next year unless we have some sort of windfall. I think I'll try to transfer it to another 0% APR card when my year runs out in March. Sigh...

I'd like to continue putting about $700/month towards retirement, which includes my employer's contribution. Not sure how much I'll contribute to my new Roth.

just me and the dog

December 5th, 2005 at 05:24 pm

J is on a business trip in NYC until Friday, so I'm living the bachelorette lifestyle. Not that it's terribly exciting, I was hardly a Sex and the City type in my single days. About the only thing I do that I don't do when he's here is eat lots of garlic and onions. Mmmmm...

Tonight I had pasta with roasted sweet potatoes and onions, with some olive oil, rosemary and parmesan. It's my favorite meal these days; I'll be sad when sweet potatoes go out of season. As usual, I made enough so that I have lunch for tomorrow. I'm going to try to be good and bring my lunch every day, even if it's just pb&j (as it was today).

Not much going on on the money front. I'm continuing to fight off gloomy feelings about the impact of the holiday season on our finances. I will be glad when it's January 2 and things are back to normal. Maybe I'd feel better if I made some goals for the next year--I'll try that.

opened a Roth IRA

November 29th, 2005 at 07:06 am

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 03:57 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 05:43 am

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 08:22 am

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 12:38 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 08:31 am

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 09:04 am

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 12:15 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 02:47 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 05:02 am

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 09:09 am

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 03:47 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 01:37 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 2nd, 2005 at 05:28 pm

...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.

Financial snapshot, 10/31/05

October 31st, 2005 at 08:06 am

Kind of a boring post, but it's good for me to get this all down, and what better place than here?

Recent events:
I bought an I-Bond!

Savings vehicles:
I-Bond: $400
Emigrant Direct: $322.21
ING Direct: $30.01
Joint savings: $11939.96
SMB’s savings: $69.23
SMB’s checking (really just another “parking lot” for other savings vehicles): $74.07

Debts:
Chase MC (0% APR): $7000.00

Goals:
Need to find a better place for joint savings—currently getting


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