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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Day 13 and Staying out of Wal-Mart

Well, I'm snowed under with homework today. I've got two papers due tomorrow in one class that I'm not finished with yet and another assignment in my other class due tomorrow. I've been at it for hours, and am slowly making progress, but now I'm taking a break.

I took the $50 that was deposited into our savings from Tom's paycheck yesterday and added it to the baby EF, so it's up to $240! Yay! We are 24% of the way there!

Last night, I went grocery shopping, which is also when I usually go to Wal-Mart. Since I can't seem to come out of Wal-Mart without spending $80-$100 and I didn't need much anyway, I decided to avoid Wal-Mart and just go to Dollar General to get the few things that I needed. Well, Tasha wanted to go in and look at something, and we had called in a refill to Tom's prescriptions over a week ago, so we went in anyway. After standing in line for 20 minutes, I get told by the little girl behind the counter "It looks like we haven't heard back from the Dr. yet". I pointed out that we had called those in over a week ago, couldn't someone have called us and let us know? She shrugged her shoulders at me!!!!! So I just took a deep breath, rolled my eyes and left. So after that I didn't have any trouble leaving Wal-Mart and doing my shopping at Dollar General. LOL.

You know, it's very hard for me to post stuff like I did yesterday. I don't want people that I care about to think less of me. But part of what I'm trying to do is change my life, and to do that, I have to be totally honest, both with myself and others.

Ok, back to my school work now...wish me luck!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 12 and More True Confessions

Well, I promised, I'd total our eating out numbers for the last few months and I did. Here's the rundown:

October: $391.50
November: $296.52
December: $306.53
January: $121.71
For a staggering total of: $1116.26!!!!!!!

This was strictly from our checkbook, it doesn't count anything we might have bought with cash. It does include the Sonic drinks that were listed in the checkbook. Now these weren't gourmet meals, most of them were fast food. Downright depressing! However, we must look forward and not dwell too much on past mistakes, except to learn from them.

Another sobering confession. I looked at our final December bank statement to find out how much we paid in "courtesy pay fees" for 2007. Courtesy pay fees are what our credit union charges when you bounce a check and they go ahead and pay it. It was $1170!!!! We also had $90 in NSF fees (where the bank returned the checks) from last spring when I really screwed up our checkbook bad. Most of the courtesy pay fees were from the first 5 months of the year ($1057.50+ the $90 in NSF fees), when we were doing really badly with our finances. In June, we started trying to straighten ourselves out, but we still screwed up a few times over the course of the rest of the year. For 2008, my goal is to have NO MORE of those. Unfortunately, we've already had 2 earlier this month (before we started FPU up again), but I plan to make sure that doesn't happen again.

The lesson here is we must always be mindful of where our money is going. I won't say that we'll never eat out again, but we are going to be much more careful about it and once again, we just have to learn from our mistakes and move on.

Now, on to GOOD NEWS! Here's the updated debt list with what got paid today from Tom's paycheck:

DLO: $14.40-PAID!
DLO: $34.11-PAID!
Radiology: $37-PAID!
Urgent care clinic: $46
Dr. Office: $79
ER Doctor: $97
dentist: $145-paid $25; balance $120
Auto parts store: $161.37-paid $25, balance $136.37
Josten's (Josh's Sr. Stuff) $252.12 (this has to be paid by March 1st)-paid $84.04, balance $168.08
Hospital: $261.16
Credit card #1: $2970
Credit card #2: $1104
Credit card #3: $990
Credit card #4: $899
Credit card #5: $908
Credit card #6: $2509
Car loan: $3563-paid $276.47, balance $3307
My student loan: $12, 913
DH student loan: $53, 248

As of January 25th: $496.02 paid on our debt just since starting FPU less than two weeks ago!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day 11 and the Weekend's Coming!

Well, we went to another ballgame last night, and once again only spent the fee to get in and that was it. Even though it meant getting home and eating supper at the ridiculous hour of 9:30. I think when I get groceries this weekend, I'm going to get some sandwich stuff for quicker meals on ballgame nights. We've gone 3 days with no drinks from Sonic! YAY! With the ballgames and homework, I haven't had much time to find more stuff to sell for the EF, but it's still on my list of stuff to work on.

I got the papers from the bank for the Christmas Club account, but the guy didn't send any information on the actual account (interest rates, maturity dates, etc.) so I'm going to have to call or go down there to ask about it. The forms also have to be notarized if we mail them back in, so it's a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. So, I'm moving my self-imposed deadline on that to next Friday (February 1st). Hopefully, I can find a time to go to the bank or call the bank before then. (It's hard to make important phone calls during the day when the kids are here, if you can imagine that. LOL).

Tomorrow, Tom gets paid so I will be posting updates on what bills I paid on with updated totals.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 10 and Giving

Well, first off, a success! We went to the ballgames last night and only spent the money to get in the games, then came straight home and ate the chili and baked potatoes I had ready for supper. Did you know you can bake potatoes in the slow cooker or crockpot? More on that in a minute. We have another ballgame tonight. Our goal is once again to only spend the money it costs to get into the game.

An important component of many financial plans is giving or tithing. Dave Ramsey and Mary Hunt (author of Dumping Debt and other books) both suggest giving 10%. With us being in as much debt as we are, it's hard to give that much, but we have started giving off the top before we do anything else. We have become true believers in doing this, as we have been blessed beyond belief by doing it. Last summer, when we first recommitted ourselves to trying to follow Dave Ramsey's plan, we had our "zero budget" almost too well. We didn't know how we were going to have enough $'s to put gas in Tom's car. But I went ahead and gave and a couple of days later, we got a rebate check from our car insurance that was just enough to put gas in Tom's car to make it to the next payday. I have been able to get enough grants and scholarships to pay all of my tuition and fees and even been blessed with enough extra to help pay for my books. That means I'm going to school this time without acquiring any debt! There are many other ways too numerous to mention. So, to paraphrase one person in our FPU class "Tithing is something that doesn't make mathematical sense, but you'll be very blessed if you do it".

Now, back to the baked potatoes. Wash the potatoes, and cover them in foil. Then put them in the crockpot or slow cooker on low for several hours (how long it takes will really depend on how hot your cooker gets). This makes for a great quick meal on a night when you're pressed for time.

Thanks to all of my friends for their help and support and for listening to me!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 9 and Other Ways to Save Money

Last week, I discussed some of the ways I try to save money on groceries (shopping sales, clearance sales, menu planning, etc.). Today, I would like to brainstorm other ways to save money. Some of our expenses are pretty fixed (house payment, car payment, insurance payments), so that pretty much leaves utilities and groceries to work with. Some of the ways I can or could save money on utilities:

1. Hang our clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer all the time. Last summer, when our dryer was on the fritz, I was in the habit of doing this. I'd just do a load every night and hang it up to dry with a fan pointing on it and most of the time it would be dry by morning. Of course, some things are harder to hang inside, such as bedding, and we don't have a clothesline outside. I want to try to get myself back in the habit of doing this.

2. We use almost all compact fluorescent bulbs. They cost more initially, but last quite a long time. We have even found them for our living room lights.

3. We need to cover our back door with plastic. The sliding glass door won't open (except with brute strength) and there is a crack where it won't close all the way either. That is a huge money waster. My goal is to have that covered by the end of this next weekend.

4. Make sure that all lights are turned off when not in use.

Any other ideas that anyone wants to share?

Another true confession time: In addition to liking Sonic drinks, our family likes to eat out (too much). At some point, I'll go through our checkbook and add it up just to give you an idea of how much we like it. This is why menu planning is so important. With my job, sometimes at the end of the day, I'm just wiped. If I have something already planned (and started in the crockpot when possible), then I'm not near as tempted to eat out. So my goal there is to continue to menu plan (right now I've got until Thursday night planned). I'll need to get a weekend menu planned and a grocery list done by Thursday. Tom gets paid on Friday so this is my big grocery shopping weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 8 and Feeling Down Today

I am feeling so down today! I'm overwhelmed with homework for my online college courses and feel way in over my head, and even though I only had two kids today, it was a rough day with them so I'm drained.

Anyway, on to other things. Today, I'd like to share a favorite crockpot recipe for roast.

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 box Lipton (or whatever store brand you normally buy) onion soup mix
potatoes (peeled and whole or cut in half, depending on size)

Pour the cream of mushroom soup in the bottom of the crockpot. Set the roast on top of it and sprinkle one package of the soup mix. Let the roast cook for a while, then later add the carrots and potatoes and sprinkle the other package of soup mix on top of the vegetables. This is easy and very good. The mushroom soup makes a yummy gravy.

Now for some true confessions. Tom and I LOVE Sonic drinks! Since Tom works in Enid, we have a bad habit of getting drinks from Sonic more often than we should. So my goal for this week is NO Sonic drinks! Another problem is money spent at ballgames. It's hard to go set through ballgames and not buy anything at all to eat or drink. Friday night, we ended up spending $19 at the game ($11 to get in, $8 on drinks and snacks). We have a basketball game tomorrow night. I'm determined to only pay the entry fee and not buy any snacks or drinks in the game.

So goals for the next few days:
1. No Sonic drinks
2. No concession stand money at bb games
3. Find more items to sell for baby EF

Updates on other goals: I've got a menu planned for Monday-Thursday so far this week. I don't have the forms from the bank yet for the Christmas club. I did get some pre-authorized checking account withdrawals set up for Tom's payday this Friday.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 7 and Some of my Favorite Frugal Sites

Wow! It's already at the end of the first week! My goodness, time flies! Today I would like to share some of my favorite frugal websites.

The first one is Living on a Dime. I have their cookbooks, Not Just Beans (the original) and Dining on a Dime (the updated version). I love the cookbooks because they are real recipes using real ingredients with real tasty, down home cooked foods. There is nothing that annoys me more than a cookbook with weird recipes and ingredients I've never heard of.

Another favorite is The Hillbilly Housewife. There are some more wonderful and what I call "real" recipes on there.

Another great site is the Dollar Stretcher site. It's full of articles and information.

Pat Veretto has a great Frugal Living blog:

So does Mary Hunt:

One of my favorite books is called "The Complete Tightwad Gazette". It is a compilation of the Dacyzyn family's Tightwad Gazette newsletters, a little over 6 years worth. Whenever I'm feeling like I need a "frugal" boost, I love to pull out that book and start reading.

Tonight is week 2 of our Financial Peace University class. I can't wait!