I was discussing two weeks ago with the SG girlfriend about my credit card bonuses, and mentioned that I had earned one I that I did the required purchases, but never redeemed because the bank's web site made it hard to register online (and I had already closed the bank account, but kept the credit card). She looked surprised that I would let something like this go, as that wasn't how I would normally do it.
Well, on Monday I got a letter from the bank promoting the benefits of using the card, and that finally got me off of my duff to take care of it yesterday. About 10 minutes of online work, and now I should be getting a $100 gas gift card in the mail. Hopefully it will arrive before my departure date for our Florida trip as it would be nice to keep the expenses down further. If not, we'll live; the gift card can always be used locally as well.
Sometimes you need someone else to give you that push to get things done. Geeze, 10 minutes to get $100, why did I delay?
Viewing the 'Frugality' Category
I was discussing two weeks ago with the SG girlfriend about my credit card bonuses, and mentioned that I had earned one I that I did the required purchases, but never redeemed because the bank's web site made it hard to register online (and I had already closed the bank account, but kept the credit card). She looked surprised that I would let something like this go, as that wasn't how I would normally do it.
Using small savings adds up over time. I believe I previously commented that I had enough soap to last me until I retired. Well... for over the past year I have done even better as my cleaning supplies have actually increased for no cost at all.
Due to gifts of excess soap stocks from my girlfriend (saved from work related travel stays), as well as free soap I get at yard sales (I even picked up 4 bars for free at an estate sale on Saturday) my collection of soap and shampoo has actually increased in the past 15 months. And even my dish detergent supplies have increased, as I have been able to get deals from stores like CVS where I got this past week (using coupons and other deals) the following for $2 (2 bags of snickers, large bottle of dish detergent, bag of honey pretzels - my favorite pretzels, and 2 bottles of skin lotion). And then I went back with more coupons on Sunday night and picked up a bottle of clothes detergent, 2 more bottles of dish detergent (as well as a can of shaving cream and a bottle of mouthwash) for only $0.63. This doesn't save much in a week, but over time it really starts to add up.
On other financial news...
My trash savings (I recycle and compost most everything) have been plowed into a DRIP for the past 6 years - its now over $3,000 and growing. The latest dividend was over $22 and it grows about $1 / quarter.
My yearly trip to Florida is paid for ... well that is other than the gas to get there, and the tickets for the parks while we are there. It will also be nice to leave and come back to a paycheck awaiting me.
On day to day finances I'm not sure what to say. Everything is on autopilot right now. I made two apple pies this week - given the free apples I have, the rest of the ingredients cost maybe $1. My monthly food comes in around $100 - maybe $125 if I am honest (too many pizzas!).
Looking back 3 years, my salary less taxes and deductions (insurance & pension basically) I estimate at around $225k. Now in those same three years my net worth excluding the house went up near $200k. But if you include the house, where I paid off the last $26k on my house, that would total around $225k, the same as what I obtained to cover living expenses and savings. And this includes a time where I bought my low mileage used car, had vacation trips to Florida each year, travelled lots to be with (and do things with) my girlfriend, and had other experiences (that I am not itemizing here!). So I am very, very pleased, even with a job with no raises, life is working out oh so well.
Yes, the slog of putting money in my work 457 retirement plan is finally coming to an end for this year. My next paycheck is the last with retirement deductions - I will be hitting the $23,000 max I can contribute this year. Woohoo.... 4 months (Sep - Dec) with no retirement deductions, no mortgage and no expenses (almost!). I won't know how to react to all this extra money showing up in my paycheck! (I'll figure out something!)
Some other financial news & notes (year to date updates mostly):
In my retirement accounts I am up $80,000 year to date. I have put in ~ $26,000, so the remaining $54,000 is the current increase in value (of course I think it lost $1,500 today alone!!!)
This year my electric has totalled $240 for 7 months (less than $35/mo). However, my electric co. stock dividends are currently about $105/ qtr, or $35/mo. - Hey they match! Of course I pay taxes on the dividends, but still that's great for this point in the year.
My CC rewards have only added up to about $700 this year so far - maybe I can pick it up later?
As for dividends... For the first 6 months, the Roth IRA had $860, the DRIPs returned $350, and the brokerage has had a single quarterly dividend of $73. Take those together out to a full year, and you have about $2600. Not enough to retire on yet, but its about $900 more than last year, so I'm happy about it.
I made maybe $400 profit from online sales so far this year, which is pretty pitiful, but that has slowed as I have other things ongoing in my life taking up my time. Hopefully I can pick up the pace - I currently have a dozen items for sale, 3 with bids ($120 there)
Finally I earned about $40 in Amazon gift cards (gave those to my great GF)
Some fun holidays and larger paychecks for the remainder of the year. Yeehaw!
You may remember (or not?) that a number of years ago many of the credit card banks would send out free "checks" for $15 - $25. Probably in the 2007 - 2009 time frame. The catch to the checks was if you cashed the checks you would be automatically enrolled in a job loss protection plan that would allow you to not pay while unemployed. The additional catch was whatever your monthly ending balance was you would be charged something (usually 0.89%) That comes out to a yearly rate of 10%, and it didn't even pay off the card, only allowed you to wait to pay until you had a job!!! I did this for credit cards I never used, that way I got the money, but never got charged.
With that in mind, about two years ago (March 2011 to be exact), I got 4 postcards saying there was a class action suit dealing with this now long-disbanded "service". (One postcard for each check I cashed.) Apparently some people banded together saying the service was confusing (well duh!) and were setting up a class action suit to get some relief. OK, I filed online for the 4 cards, figuring I might get $10 at most. But hey, free money is free money, right?
Fast forward to this past week and an letter appears and it says it was a payment dealing with that suit. I see there is a check, and on it is over $150. Oh my my. Well that sure wasn't expected. Free money works for me, especially at levels like that.
On the food front, the mulberry tree has started producing fruit like crazy. To wit, I have collected the berries, and already made over 2 gallons of jam, and there is plenty more on the tree, and plenty more in the fridge yet! I had stocked up on jars last year, but already I am starting to wonder (not if but) when I am going to run out!
As for the garden, this year is an experiment year. The girlfriend's potting soil certainly helped - I should have known to do that! So far the garden looks so-so, with the string beans, peas, tomatoes, and cucumber plants looking OK. The carrots, watermelon, and lettuce... we'll have to see if they survive. Based on the results... I will adjust my garden going forward. I did go out and get some Miracle Gro, so maybe that'll do the trick.
Finally, on the financial front, I have already put in over $21,000 in the 457 & Roth accounts, and they have risen about $60,000 since the beginning of the year. This savings rate is hard at times, as I have taken home only $12,000 so far this year (and put $6,000 of that into the Roth IRA!) - not having a mortgage sure helps. Oh well, it'll do me well in the long run I'm sure.
First let me start with freebies I picked up recently. The best was from a single Craigslist listing. I had been looking on the free listings for items I could use with a (hopefully) to be built raised garden. I found someone with yard fencing I though could work well and on the way home from work. No one asked for their items, so I could get whatever I wanted, so I went there and found lots more than just fencing for free. I got over a gallon of "simple green" cleaner, a gallon of bathtub cleaner, a large pick-axe, two fence mouted flower baskets, an electric corner sander (works great), an electric sidewalk edger, a hardwood floor cleaner set (new in the box), and some painting supplies. ... and I had to leave some interesting items behind!
Then I picked up 2x8's from an old deck for free just down the street to make the raised garden.
I already have excess deck screws out in my shed, and I know where to get some free dirt, so if only I could get free seeds I would be able to have a totally free garden.
Well... the first quarter of 2013 is over so perhaps its a good time to review the financial year (so far).
First I used up the remaining medical flex spending account money from 2012 (I have lots of bandages & thermacare to last for years now!).
On the hobby collectables front, I've picked up lots of classic kitchenware in these 3 months - the girlfriend keeps saying she can't break up with me, as she won't want to lose access to my kitchenware. Ah, there is a method to my madness We've been selling some of my excess things and some of my girlfriends excess scrapbooking items this quarter - we have brought in ... oh I don't know... maybe $700 so far? We still have lots more to go through! Maybe I should keep track (probably won't bother), but I hope we can hit $2,000 in sales by year end.
My investments this quarter have done well. My 457 & Roth IRA combo has gone from 279k to 319k (up $40,000), and when you add in my (savings / brokerage / DRIPs / saving bonds) the overall total has increased $46,000. Since I had an increase of $60,000 for all of 2012, I'm not expecting great results from here on out (the market can't keep going up like this). Even so, you can't complain when your investments are earning this type of money.
I've also been helping the girlfriend with her investments. So far so good, but hopefully when there is a correction (and there probably will be) she will understand this comes with the territory.
(Not financial but...) I've been able to keep up my exercise regimen. My girlfriend says she can see the difference from even 3 months ago. Some days I wake up sore and tired, but its a good tired. I also saw doctors to use up my FSA money, and got some lingering issues taken care of, so now I'm ... not new, but improved!
On a good deed front, I sent out to someone on Craigslist some baby formula coupons I have gotten in the mail for some reason ($35 worth). They did send the stamped envelopes, so its not like I
spent money to do it. Oh well, hope its used well.
OK, where to start. First, I survived the power outages here on the East Coast - thankfully I was without power for *only* 30 hours. In 100 degree temps - ugh! Couldn't this have happened on a weekday? If it had, at least I could have gone in to work and enjoyed the A/C there! I did go to the mall, and every available outlet was filled with someone's phone charger!
My plum jam experiments have been interesting. One batch came out with a sweet/tart flavor, the others were fairly sweet. My girlfriend tried making plum bread (so/so to my taste), so I modified it in the past week and did two more loaves. The first one was great, the last one not as good. But in any case, doing this has kept my food costs down, as I haven't been buying as much at the grocery store. There are still more plums in the fridge - I'm not sure if I want to experiment more at this point, or toss out what's left. Hmmmm....
=== Frugality Items ===
Yard sales have been interesting. I haven't gotten as many things this year, but I *have* gotten some great items for me, my girlfriend, some relatives, and for resale. Two weeks ago I bought a small lot of ViewMaster reels for $1. So far I've listed about half on ebay for minimum bids of $30. From prior yard sale finds I sold a DVD set I got for $1.25 for $12 on Half.com as well as a few other books (for a few dollars). My online sales have been paying for everthing I have gotten at yard sales so far - gotta love it.
For myself I've been finding various classic Pyrex dishes lately. Not that I am into cooking (my jam experiements not counting), but I like the retro look, and go with my "retro" (so to speak) hobbies. It's funny, my girlfriend jokes that she won't be able to ever break up with me because it would be a shock to her system to lose access to all the great cookware I have. There *IS* a method to my madness .
Also last weekend I found some classic toy trains (one of my hobbies) at a great price (yeah I was shocked). I am selling the pieces I don't want for what I paid, which will allow me to keep what I want and pay $0. Yep, that'll work!
Yesterday I went to CVS and got 4 2-liter Coke bottles for $2.20 (sale & coupon). I then got more coupons on my receipt, so with a little online research to find more coupons I was able to put together the following purchase...
For a grand total of $10.09 today I got:
* Large Crest Toothpaste
* 4 bottles of Coke
* 2 bottles of Physician Formula Anti Wrinkle creme (ok, maybe not that important for a guy, but if I can get it for free... why not?)
* 2 Old Spice Deodorant
* Bottle of Dawn dish detergent
* $10 gas gift card
Basically I got everything except the gift card for free. Hey, its Independence Day - this will help me towards my financial independence.
=== On the financial front ===
Speaking of independence, my Roth IRA is now up over $50,000 which I think is great. While not everything in it are dividend producers, I checked this quarter and the annual dividend rate is now running at about $1,100 in the Roth. While I won't be able to retire off of what my Roth will be producing, if I can get it to produce $2,500 by the time I *do* retire that will be a nice tax free cash flow.
I went to the dentist office last week and they agreed with my calculations and are supposed to be sending me a $300 refund from overpayments. I live a mile away and no check has appeared though. Ugh. If it doesn't show up soon I may need to make another trip there. Grrr...
=== Lastly --- For My Health ===
My daily workouts have continued. The girlfriend thinks I am losing weight, but really I am just redistributing it. It is nice to feel healthy, though I do have some aches from the weightlifting.
June has been a month of contrasts for me so far.
In the good category, yards sales are going "pedal to the metal" now. I generally don't buy too much as I have so little I need, but I still find some nice bits and pieces every week. In the last few weeks I have been able to pick up more DVDs (and Blue Rays!) to sell ($0.25 each), books to sell (including one that was $0.25 - sold 3 days later for $25), bicycle hangers for my garage (they work great!), storage bins for my hobbies (@ about 25% of store price), some classic Pyrex for the girlfriend (cleaned up & look like new - unfortunately they're not pink which are her favorites), and other bric-a-brac. As for the good finances my Roth has lots of dividend producers, however they mostly pay in the 3rd month of the quarter. Well its the 3rd month, and the dividends are pouring in (happy - happy).
For my ugly, I had a dentist bill me for almost $600 for some work (based on their estimate of insurance (end of May). Ok, that amount will be reimbursed by the FSA, but the sucky part (besides the large expense) is that the insurance paid much more than the dentist office was saying (try $300 more). So now its off to the dentist office and see if I can get them to straighten this out (they'll probably give me some song and dance saying I need to come back another time because its "not in their system" or some such). They always insist they know how much the insurance pays, but every time they're not even close. They're lucky I like them (and are close), otherwise I wouldn't put up with this. And then I have had other expenses with paying for upcoming vacations, so this month has taken all my free money - no additions to investments for me this month (Boooo).
Finally for the "I hope it ain't ugly" part, I am getting lots of small plums from a tree out back. I'm hoping to make something from them (butter, bread, oh I don't know...). With my girlfriend coming this coming weekend and enthusiatic about trying some things, this should be interesting! If we can make something I like, this will be a great home made food year (mulberry jam came in at over a gallon for this year).
Its hard to write anything when you're in a (good) groove, but I have two recent items that are now sorta free.
First, I got my latest electricity bill. I went and added that to the prior two bills. Admittedly these are the lowest usage months of the year, but the total was $94.15 for the last 3 months. And then I checked the dividend I got for the last quarter from my stock in the company - $94.35. It was more than my bills for the last three months! Of course Uncle Sugar is taking a 15% skim from my dividend, but still... its nice to see that my dividend "covered" my electricity usage (sorta - you know what I mean).
The past week the mulberry tree at the corner of the property has started to produce quite a bit of fruit. Unfortunately this fruit can't be kept fresh for long (maybe a week or two max). It always bothered me that it mostly went to waste, so I decided to try making jam and canning it. I've made two batches of jam (using that fruit pectin thickener you can buy) so far, making 2.5 quarts of the stuff. It tastes excellent, though I think I will grow tired of it long before I run out. To do this I had to buy jars, lids, sugar, and the thickener. Its costing me about $1 per jar, but if I had the jars it should be half of that. Quite the learning experience, and relatively easy to do. I already gave a jar to a coworker (he's into organic everything, so this is up his alley). The GF is ready to try it this weekend.
And on a financial note, I just put in $300 for more Heinz stock (one of my DRIPs). With no major expenses now my savings / DRIPs / brokerage should start to grow, though with the market going south lately my retirement accounts are sagging badly.
Just a few money saving techniques I have used this week that have my costs way down this past month.
The cook top on my stove literally crumbled through last weekend. What I had though was cracking of the enamel on my 14 yr old stove top turned out to be rusting from underneath (booooooo). After some researching online and seeing they don't make the "prescribed" cook top any more, I found another one that the part number was off by one digit and looked like a match. I used my ebay proceeds (from sales of items I found for free at a "take anything you like" house remodel) to get the top and it was delivered in 2 days. It was a perfect match, and now I have a nearly new stove again for little money.
Last month I called a local hospital and asked for my money back (that I should need to do that.... grrrr.... anyway) and I now see it has shown up as a credit card credit. Not as good as a check, but darn close. I guess I paid the bill this way, so that's how I am getting it back. Still... nice to see some money show up.
The local newspaper did its usual increase on my rate after the "special" rate ended, so another call had to be made. At first they were going to give me the new rate after the 8 weeks I paid for expired (paid - as in they automatically took it outta my credit card). Errrmmm... I think not. Either change it now or I'm walking and getting my money back, and they did. So now I am paid until the end of September (about 40% of their normal rate)
All of this, and lots more... and with no mortgage, cool weather (low utils), using gift cards I bought months back, etc.... my expenses for last month were crazy low. Credit card bill was $130, gas & electric was ~$55, food was ~$100, and maybe $40 for yard sale finds. No other outgoing expenses for the month. It'll go up in May with a car insurance payment, but oh well... a month with total expenses under $350, yeah that'll work for me.
Previously in Ham Wars, (which can be read about here - near the bottom) I was able to pick up a great spiral ham for $5, as well as another picked up by my girlfriend. That ham was great for me, feeding my lunches (and some breakfasts and dinners) for at least 2 months. That was a great hit.
In episode 2 today I was at Aldi's picking up some items for a visit by the girlfriend this weekend, and there were the same hams again. I had seen them discounted for the last 2 weeks. Well now they were getting close to the day they needed to sell them, so I guess (maybe today?) they lowered the price to $5. So I decided to pick up one again and enjoy ham for another 2 months. Then things got wild. After waiting in a 15 minute line I got to watch the checker check me out. The ham she had to manually price into the register. I saw her put in a value that wasn't $5 (lots more). As I pointed it out, she said something about $5. I assumed she was saying the full price was put in, and she was putting in a negative of the price (less the $5), so I didn't question it.
After bagging the items I check the receipt, and sure enough I was charged way too much for the ham (she took $5 off instead). Not to take this sitting down, I put the food in the car, and returned to the store to verify the price (I was right), so I went to another checker (who happened to be the manager). At first he tried to tell me the ham was selling for $5/lb (what???) and after I pointed out that was crazy, he said would check it (once he emptied out the line). After waiting a few more minutes he saw I was right.
After all of this I was expecting my overpayment back. Not quite. Instead he gave me the full price I paid back and said "enjoy your ham". OK, the price for the ham now dropped to $0. Oh yeah - "Triple word score" for me . (BTW, is it an Aldi's policy to give you the item when incorrect prices are charged?) More free food - I can dig it.
Well ... the end of my debts arrives tomorrow. Admittedly I've had enough free cash to pay it off for a few months now, but tomorrow its official - my last outstanding debt balance goes buh-bye. My free cash has been dropping slowly the past few months as I've paid this off before the 0% promotion runs out, but next month its going to start building back up. Debt burning par-tay anyone?
On other financial news and notes, this past month I went and swapped my homeowner's insurance. The difference was amazing, the change saved me 50% with no change in coverage. They had been raising the rate the last few years, but I had enough this go-around. I guess they figure people don't want to change, so they up it whenever you renew. Ugh.
I have here a letter from Bank of America for one of my (many) credit cards. Apparently they felt that sending me all of these "offers" where they send "courtesy" checks wasn't enough. Now they sent a four page letter where they itemize every single offer previously sent, each listing the promotion codes, start and end dates, and APRs involved before and after the end dates. I guess my cutting up these checks and burning them wasn't good enough to indicate my feelings about them. Oh, and how many offers do they show? Try 17. Hey guys - here's a thought - if you're not making enough money on me, how about stop wasting your money on these mailings. No wonder these banks aren't making money - .
Oh, and lastly - yard sales are starting up. I didn't get much for me last weekend. A pair of sneakers that once I steam cleaned at home look like new was my main purchase at $2 - Amazon has them for $50. I did make a better score for the girlfriend. She asked about finding a reel mower a few weeks back. I found one used once (yes it was dusty and looks brand new) for $20 - Amazon price is $140 - so she's a happy camper now.
Enjoy the summer (once this cold front moves out of the area!)
On the way home tonight I realized its now been over a year using the Magicjack for my phone service, saving me a little over $200 for the past year on phone charges. The last time I made that type of an ongoing savings (dropping my unneeded trash pickup a number of years ago...) I decided I needed to start investing the saved money.
Now with the phone savings, I decided its time to add it to the trash pickup savings. Tonight I've changed my monthly DRIP amount to account for the phone savings. It will now be titled the Phone-Trash DRIP account (aka, the PTDRIP). With this extra money, it should start growing at a nice clip.
Also a few days ago I got to see my 457 plan amount cross the $200k barrier, though now its dropped down below it again.
And finally, this is it - the month will be the last payment to wipe out the credit card balance that was used for the car purchase. When that's done, no more debts, unofficial or otherwise.
Now its time to go celebrate, or at least check out this week's yard sales.
This might sound like a silly question, but it is what came to mind as I drove about one night a few weeks ago. Once you have your home paid for, as well as having a decent amount of retirement savings, (and assuming you're single) then - at least for me - the urgency of working just seems to go to the wayside.
Now I spend more time looking at what I am working on and thinking about how much sense this makes (or often *doesn't), instead of just doing the work. And often it feels like I am there for just the paycheck (which is true - well that plus the health insurance).
So far this year I have gotten a combination of statement credits, bonuses, and gift cards (from credit card sign ups, brokerage sign ups, and banking sign ups) of a little over $1,000. Add to that ebay profits of about $250 to this point. When I compare that to my recurring expenses (house gas, electric, water, phone, internet, food, car gas) of about $800 so far - my bonuses are paying for all my basic expenses. The ongoing expenses the bonuses haven't covered are insurance (car & home), property taxes. If I stopped working I could cut the car insurance down by 1/3, as well 1/3 of my current gas bill - saving maybe $100 / mo. The only thing the above doesn't cover is health insurance that is mostly paid by my employer. OK, it would be a spartan life (just living off freebie bonuses), and I'm not going to go that route, but I'm just saying it could be done. It makes 'ya wonder.
If I could get my insurance free or cheap.... then I would really have to start asking myself just why am I working. I don't know... I know I have expenses coming up (replace floor in house, cut down a tree or two, replace driveway, maybe even replace the furnace), but once those are paid... its going to be hard to justify to myself why I go to work some days. I think for now the structure of getting up every day, and working out at lunch time is something I need, but long term I may start questioning this rationale.
I still have $100 in unused gift certificates and $125 in unused CC statement credits, and at the rate I am buying things (about $0 outside of the grocery store) this could take a while to burn off.
*** Random thought ***
I got a CC statement from CITI (I've since stopped using it since I did enough for my latest $100 bonus) and on the payment coupon it has the credit card showing in the format "****-***-9999". It shows they are concious of security, right??? Well right above it on the coupon is a long line of numbers used to scan the coupon in by their computer - and in the middle is the complete CC number. They call this security???? I am not surprised they needed gov't money to stay afloat if this is their idea of security (what idiots). Oh well, I've already made $200 from them this winter, perhaps they'll be kind enough to send me another offer.
Living life for no expense would be great, but sure, its just fantasy, at least for most people. Still, in the past week I've gotten freebees of all types. (A non-coordinated list follows - you've been warned!)
I think it started last week when I was going to pick up some almond milk at BJ's. I waited in the dark parking lot for 5 minutes while I listened to the end of a "Marketplace" daily show. No one came or went the whole time. Then I went out to get a cart, and there I found a lonely (and big!) bag of munster cheese. Obviously no one was coming for it (after 5 minutes no one had shown up), so I added it to my almond milk purchase for the trip home.
Then this weekend with my girlfriend visiting, she got the urge to keep searching the "Free" listings on Craigslist (I don't usually bother), and she found one about 4 miles away that was a "stop by and take anything" listing. Normally I wouldn't bother, but I knew she would enjoy the trip, so away we went. Arriving we found that someone was remodeling a house, and the stuff they were pulling out was really junk. .... Oh, wait a minute, there is some tupperware, including a few peices she was looking for. Then I spotted an old dirty Barbie doll case. Then a matching original 1961 doll box with fabulous graphics. Then a rusty lunch box I knew was worth good money when in decent shape - hmmm... would it sell for anything? After we arrived home we found inside the doll case: 2 original dolls, over a dozen original clothes, and some accessories. She had a blast cleaning the dolls up, and we listed them Monday. Hard to say how much they'll go for, but the total minimum bids are over $50, and we tried to price them low so they should sell. Oh, and the lunch box has multiple bids already.
My girlfriend had been talking about buying flowering bulbs for the house where she lives, so I told her not to spend money on that, she can take them from my yard (as I have some I don't want). I provided perfect plant containers for them (they were left from the prior owner), and we spent some time out on a warm day digging up ones I didn't want. She loved them, and they're now waiting to be planted at her house.
Now tonight I was able to get free furnace filters on Freecycle. They match my furnace's size, and are much better than the ones I have (these are HEPA type filters). After stopping to get the filters I decided to go to a store that had soda on sale (last day!). (BTW - yes, I only bought diet soda.) On the way out to my car there is a new bottle of vegtable oil on the road in front of the store that cars are going around and no one wants to pick up. No sense in having a (vegetable) oil slick, so I take it. I find its perfect and brand name too.
Even buying things in stores has been good. We went to pick up my latest glasses purchase (used free gift cards and will be reimbursed from my flexible spending account). Afterwards we decided to go to the mall next door (though we didn't plan on spending any money). There I found the 2012 art calendar I usually buy every year (but didn't find at all this year). It normally goes for $15, here I find it for $1. Super score.
On the way home we stop at Aldi's one or two things. What do you know - they have large spiral sliced hams for $5 (jackpot). We ended up getting two, one for each of us, each one over 10 lbs. We cooked mine, and now I have meat to last me for weeks. Not free, but a dang good price.
Oh, and lastly I stopped over at M&T bank and made my initial deposit so I can get a free $100.
Yep, free is nice - I hope I can keep this streak up.
Prologue) Previously on Single Guy (SG) - SG finally decides he needs to upgrade his falling apart 12 year old ride, and comes up with the money and finds a nice low milage car that is a very basic model, but does what he wants for a good price. Little does he realize the car comes with only one key - no duplicates are provided. As he drives away from the dealer he thinks "No problem, I'll get a spare when I have time. Its a basic key, nothing special about it."
Act 1) Months after his purchase, we find SG stopping at another hardware store. "Can you make a copy of this key?" Book is pulled out. Shuffle, shuffle. "Hmmmm, let see if we have it." Looks all through the stock of keys. "Sorry, it looks like we don't have that key blank in stock." SG heads out of the store with a familiar refrain in his head. "How can no one have this key blank? I sure don't want to spend $30/key at a dealership." Grumbling, he heads off for his car, still with his lone car key.
Act 2) That evening SG tells his girlfriend he's stuck out getting a key again. "Looks like the dealer is my only option." "For $30??? There's got to be a way to do this. Hey have you tried buying the key blanks yourself?" "I never thought of that." And sure enough, key blanks are available, 2 for $10 delivered. And we pull away as he makes his online purchase of key blanks.
Act 3) Key blanks in hand, we see SG driving toward a hardware store he rarely goes to as it is out of his way a few miles. However this time he has decided that he will try this store as it is a small hardware store that could use his patronage. He then pulls up to the store and walks in and is quickly greeted by the lone salesman in the store.
"Can I help you?" "Yes, I'd like to make a copy of my key here. I've had trouble finding any place that carries this key." "Here I'll do that, I'm doing most everything here tonight." With that they arrive at the key cutter. Book out, shuffle, shuffle, page with the needed info is found. A look to the board with tons of keys on it, looks at a blank spot where the key would be. "Nope, no key here sorry. You know the easy solution would be not to lose the key." SG does a double take at that comment. "Well this was a used car purchase and it came with only one key, so I didn't have a choice in the matter."
He then pulls out two key blanks. "Can you make copies with these blanks?" The person looks incredulously at the blanks. "You have blanks?" "Yeah, it seemed like it was the only way I was ever going to get keys made." "Where did you get them?" "Online, I had them sent to my house." "I've never had anyone bring in their own blanks before." Sort of in shock at this change to his routine the salesman starts to work on one key, only to realize he has no idea if he should do this, or if so how much to charge. After a few calls to management explaining the situation, he is told to make the keys and what to charge.
After a quick 2 minutes both keys are made and ready to go. As the salesman walks with SG towards the registers SG comments "Looks like we learned something new today." "You?" "No you, you know how much to charge someone that has their own blanks."
"Well I think bringing blanks is like taking a steak to a restaurant." Non-plussed, SG replies - "I was going to buy the keys from you if you had them in stock." "You couldn't get them at the dealer?" "For $30 per key, I don't think so."
The salesman stops. "Too many prople right away go to a store to get a key. They should go to the dealer or a locksmith." Surprised where this is heading SG tries to keep a non-commital face, waiting to see where this is goes. "There's this whole industry, locksmiths, yet no one will go to them to get their keys made. Its a real problem today." With that he heads off into the bowels of the store. We pull away as we hear SG thinking "Locksmith???? Really? I should go to a locksmith when all I want is a copy of a key? WTF???"
Epilogue) SG is seen heading out of the store, newly paid keys in hand. He starts to open the door with his old key, then realizes he should be using a new key to test it. It smoothly works the door lock, then once inside the ignition behaves like this key has always been used with this car. Driving away we hear this thoughts as he reviews what just happened. "I go out of my way to give this store some patronage. After a few minutes of work they earn a few dollars, yet the salesman behaves like getting the key done there was the worst thing in the world. I guess that saying is true, no good deed ever goes unpunished."
... hazelnuts that is. Visiting girlfriend asked to get a tour of the back yard, which is mostly fruit trees, and when I pointed out the lone hazelnut bush I saw strange growths on it. After further inspection I see it is finally producing nuts (its 6 years old). Woohoo, more food coming from the back yard - gotta like that.
I can go online now and see that as of Friday, the mortgage balance is now $0. For course they had to tack on some type of documentation fee of $65. Errrr, really??? Someone always has their hand grabbing for your money, don't they?
On my mystery medical bill, the doctor's billing person said it wasn't done right, and they will fix that, after I fax them the bill (which I did). Hmmmm, I suspect I'll have to contact them again - it never goes away that easy.
Today was nice weather, yet yard sales were sparse, to put it mildly. Is there a holiday I wasn't told about? I spent $2, yet I found a dollar bill near my car, so total outlay was $1. Yeah, I can afford that.
Went to the car dealership today, but they didn't have the cars they said they had in stock online. Almost felt like a bait & switch. Seriously, the lot out front looked half empty. I went to do a test drive on a used car, and as the saleman got the car to the side of the showroom for me to get in, another saleman comes out and says that car was just sold. WTF??!! Is this the new reality with car sales? BTW, this was a Hyundai dealership, so I'm not sure the Japanese problems should have any effect on them.
The $40 gas gift card arrived today. Unfortunately I needed gas yesterday (I was on fumes), so this will have to wait to be used for a week or two.
Oh well, if this is the worst of my complaints on life, I should be happy. Right?
CVS has not been the best place to get the super deals the past year or so, but every once in a while they come through. Today I spotted a $5 off coupon in the paper, and I was able to pick another one up off the recycling heap before leaving work, so I was ready to research the deals when I got home.
After some research, cutting out coupons, and making a quick trip, here was the haul using some strategic buying:
* 4 boxes Raisin Bran
* 3 Boxes Fiber One
* 6 2-Liter bottles of Diet Pepsi
* Hydro 5 Razor (Yard sale item)
* Motrin 20 Ct. (Maybe yard sale)
* Zyrtec 5 Ct. (Maybe yard sale)
* Bayer Advanced 20 Ct. (Maybe yard sale)
* Digiorno Pizza
* $10 Gas Gift card
All total it cost me $3 in cash back coupons and $12.15 cash. If you net out the gas gift card of $10, everything else cost me about $5. And the items I have marked as Yard Sale will probably sell for $7 total. Soooo... happy, happy days.
... and not for what I found. This was the first time I had my girlfriend along, and she loves yard sale-ing like I do. I found very little for me (booo), but she found some nice items she had wanted, so that made up for me not getting very much. I did get a Pyrex cobalt blue pie plate and a Pyrex 1 quart measuring cup (all for $3). I had no idea measuring cups got that big.
After making me dinner, my girlfriend said how great that measuring/mixing cup was. She could measure and then mix in the same bowl. Very convenient.
On the finance front, I just got my first paycheck after (almost) paying off my mortgage. Its cool looking at the checking balance, and not wondering if I will have enough for my next payment. Of course now my retirement accounts dropped more than my paycheck - I guess I need to realize its just a temporary pullback.
Don't know how long this will be out there, but....
If you have a Discover card, and have cash back just sitting there, here is a great deal. You can get a $40 Shell gas gift card for each $20 of your Discover cash back balance. I only had $35 in my balance, so I could only get one. This is of course limited availability, so get them while the gettin's good.
Last weekend had to have been the first weekend where the weather was good for yard sales. I spent $5.50 for a number of good items, including one book for $0.50. Listed it on Half.com for $6 and it sold in one day. I should net about $5 for the sale. Got an accessory to go with my drill press for $.50, retails at $35-$60. And a box full of expensive cleaning supplies for the house & car for $2 - cool. Hopefully this weekend will be good as well.
And just a few more days for my mortgage. Early next week I put in my last mortgage payment (extra large, but still...). OMG, what am I going to do without the mortgage in the months ahead? (heh, heh, heh Ok, so the next few months will be to replace my 200,000+ mileage car. And then there is the insurance, and property taxes, and plane tickets for my son, and funding my Roth IRA for this year, and on and on it goes . Oh well, probably by the end of the year I may hit the end of these extra expenses. Still, its better than the alternative, right?
Sorry, the two subject items are not related (certainly would be interesting if they were).
I may as well start with the mystery. Its not medical, in that I am not sick, but the more common one now a days. That is: What the F*** is this bill I got from a hospital I never went to? Seriously, what is someone to think when they get a bill from a hospital they didn't go to, for a service that comes under the name of "Pathol/Hystol"? Actually, I have an idea what this is about, though it really is a surprise. On the "day of service", I had a cyst removed at a doctor's office about 30 miles away from the hospital. Could this be some test of what was removed? Perhaps, but the doctor didn't tell me that was going to be done, they never informed me of any results from this mystery test, and the hospital never informed me of any results of this mystery test. I won't get into my opinion of having these mystery providers bill you seperately instead of through who you went to see in the first place. I have a number to call if I have questions (and I *WILL* be calling).
Assuming what I am guessing above is correct, would I be out of line to insist getting a copy of the results otherwise not paying? This is why I want to stay in the best shape possible - crazy F bills appearing out of nowhere for who the F*** knows what. GRRRRrrrr.
I can afford it, but thats not the point. Are people supposed to pay every crazy bill that appears when there is no explanation for the bill? Sorry, but my brain doesn't work like that.
As for the garage door, I can't open it right now. I don't know about you, but I see that as a bit of a problem. (Thankfully my car was outside the garage when this happened) My door has these extra large springs to give an assist when opening - well one broke this week. It was probably the 1960 issue door spring that came with the door. The door is solid wood and super heavy. Oh boy. I know they sell replacements (I should go tonight and get it), but raising and keeping the door up by myself is going to be a challenge (I know - I had to repair the pulley system 2 years ago)
Another house payment is in the books. Now the total in my savings (not CDs, just savings and checking) is a match to my mortgage balance. I would pay it off, but I have car insurance payment this month, then a property tax payment in July, so its better if I keep some money liquid for a few more months. Still, its crazy to my mind when I compare my savings to my mortgage. Its like there is a mistake, it can't be right.
Participated at a local church / community yard sale today. It was very disappointing - I probably brought in $60 for the day. I've done better doing it in my own driveway, and the prep work was much less. At least it was a wonderful day weather wise.
And last (and in no way least) my relationship is still going great (ergo the change in my personal info). There have been a few rough spots, but each time we seem to work it out and make things even better. This is the part that is truly encouraging. The communication has been great, both of us have been trying to not let anything slide, but instead we let each other know what we're thinking about absolutely anything. That was something I never could get out of my ex, and it is really refreshing. We don't always agree, but we make sure to resolve it by communicating.
Hmmmm, I should go get that garage spring (and use my coupons that expire today at the grocery store). OK, gotta go!
I never knew it was so hard to blog when things were going well. Nothing to complain about, no struggles, I kinda like this. Having nothing to struggle with makes any post boring. Sorry.
With that said, what has happened in the past month?
I have scheduled another large mortgage payment for the end of April. After this one my balance will dive under $10,000, and my savings after that payment will be a close match. It'll be so weird without that taking a huge chunk of my earnings every month.
Yard sales have finally started. Last Saturday I was going to go buy a lawn mower after my rounds, instead I found a nice walk-behind mower. A couple of years old, it was a bit of a mess when I got it home. I needed to tighten all the bolts holding the wheels (they were wobbling awful) and the handle was at a height for someone under 5 ft. tall (really, what was the deal with that?). Once I figured out that reinstalling the handle backwards would fix this, it was a 5 minute fix. Self propelled craftsman model (not that I care), runs nice, all for $30. Nice score.
I got another $5 gift card (for Burger King) from the local phone company. All I had to do was call and listen to them for 5 minutes. I love easy free money.
Two of my stocks in my Roth IRA had huge jumps (~40% each) this past month after earnings were reported. Super cool! Of course the others are basically flat (but nice dividends!), at least overall they're going up.
And my biggest (and nicest) shock is I reconnected with an old flame from college, and we've gone from just talking to a relationship that is way better now than it was then. I'm trying to keep my expectations in check, but this had made me believe in life again.
And not that this is my ultimate goal, but I've increased my daily workouts and I'm down to "fighting weight", if you will. Basically a match to what I weighed in HS, only now there is lots more muscle. I don't cringe when I look in the mirror any more.
Life ain't perfect I suppose, but it almost feels that way right now. I really have nothing to complain about (ok, I need a new car, but I can survive my current one for a little while longer). And spring is here.
Life is good.
... of the telephone. Not literally (of course), but since for the past two months I have had MajicJack on my computer I've used it the few times I wanted to call anyone, and I've had the land line phone unplugged for that time, sooooooooo..... I called and of course they could now offer me a promotional rate of 25% off. I could get upset at that (why didn't they do that before?), but I know the game, so it didn't bother me in the least. So no more phone service. I'm going to miss the phone number most of all, but I'll get over it.
Now what to do with the $25 saved each month? Go out to eat once a month (nah)? Use it to pay my rising gas expenses (boo)? Buy more dividend producing stock (yay)? Use it at yard sales (great!)? Now if only the weather would get warm enough for yard sales....
Made a quickie trip to the local CVS & Walgreens. Making strategic use of coupons, cash back, register rewards, etc...I got the following:
- 15 2-liter Coke (diet) bottles
- 9 bubble wrap mailers (the right size for mailing books with Half.com - normally sell for $1 each)
- 3 Irish Spring body wash bottles
- 1 Irish spring deodarant
- 2 Reese cup packs
- 1 gellatin package
- 2 bags of honey wheat pretzels (I love that stuff)
- 1 bottle Crest Prohealth mouthwash
- 1 tube Crest ProHealth toothpaste
- 1 Neosporin paste (I neededthis already)
- 1 Specialized active wear bandages
Whew. The total out of pocket came to about $11, at least half of that was taxes I couldn't avoid. A few items I figure to sell for $6 or so, and keep the rest. Nice haul - I suppose I could do this more if I put the effort into it, but why get greedy?
Well it finally came - the federal tax return - so the end of this month I am putting in an even larger mortgage payment. Years ago I would have kept the money in savings - when the rate of interest in savings isn't that far off of the mortgage interest rate, why force the paydown? But today, getting such miserable savings rates, I may as well push forward and get it all paid off, and save some money in the process.
On the frugal front, nice weather can't come soon enough. Paying less to heat the house will be nice, but being able to start yard sale-ing again will be nicer!
This could be subtitled: Is the American man willing to do anything for himself any more?
WARNING: Sorta frugality / sorta rant ahead...
During a discussion a few days ago I mentioned how I had built from scratch / built from kits / refinished most of the furniture in my house. During this I remembered how it had been many years since I bought a solid wood kit to build (probably 6-7 years). I figured there would be more kits out there available now. I mean, there is the internet now, everything is more available if you search for it, right? But just about every link to a place selling kits was out of business, sold their items on Amazon at crazy expensive prices (they're kits for crying out loud!), or they sold only a few kits any more and now sold mostly finished items
Now I don't think the companies have changed their focus on selling fully built items just because of higher markups. I'm sure its because so few people want to build their own items, while saving money in the process. When I was putting together my first collection of furniture, this is what I did. I refused to buy fiberboard junk. Now you can't do it, even if you wanted.
Sorry, it just bothers me you can't even get kits of good furniture any more. Considering how the economy is rough right now, I figured more people would want to do what I did to get good furniture for decent prices. But nope, it looks like the "I want it now, I don't want to have to do any work for it" philosophy is still going strong. Ugh
Maybe this is common, but if so I must live an isolated life (could be - I don't go out shopping much at all).
Tonight I stopped at an intersection and a neon light in a store window across the street caught my eye. I thought it said "gold". I looked again. Sure enough it was "Sell your gold here". Odd, I don't remember a pawn shop there. The light turned green and the truck next to me moved out of the way and I see I was right - its the laundromat that has always been there. Laundromats are now buying gold? Are people really taking gold to a place like that to get money? ????
Of course the real solution is to not waste money on stuff like gold when you could have more pressing needs, but really, why would you sell your valuables there? I guess thats where the economy is today though. Ugh.
People make resolutions every year it seems. I can't say I have anything I would call a resolution, just areas I want to work on. One is cutting down the few bills I still have (and getting extra money whenever possible). Towards that end I already have done a couple tasks these first two weeks of the year.
First I was going to cut down my newpaper bill. I think it was coming in at $3.50 or so a week. I really didn't need anything but the Sunday paper, but I had let this ride for at least half a year (boooo), and today I finally dealt with it. I called, and of course they tried to convince me to keep my service for 7 days a week. After I couldn't be convinced, all of a sudden they had a great sign-up offer that they would let me in on. Now, my last payment which was only good for 2 months (into March), now has me paid until mid-July (6 months)! Of course I'll have to go through this again, but at least I got the lower price now for just making a phone call. Savings of about $25 a month.
Next I signed up for a $25 from a Bank of America credit card I got in the mail. I need to spend $250 in the coming 3 months to get it. I then paid my online phone and cable bills, as well as made two online purchases of my nutrition drinks. That combined to over $200, so not much to go. I will keep track of the purchases, writing them on the paper offer that was sent to me, then when I have enough, off the CC goes back into storage.
Next I started with the install with MagicJack, a replacement phone service over IP. If this works well, I will cut off my land line service saving $25 / mo. If I need emergency service, I can use my pay as you go cell phone for that use.
And last night I went and bought 20 lbs of chicken leg quarters for $10 yesterday (nice sale price) and spent the evening removing skin/fat (yuck) and freezing them. Now I have enough meat (and high in protein) for my after workout lunches for a few months at least!
And as a final goal for the year (no, not a resolution), its a big one. I am trying to pay off my mortgage by the end of the year. This means taking about 60% of the money I take home after taxes, health insurance, and deferred compensation and paying that amount monthly. I don't know if I will be able to keep up this pace or not. The remaining money will cover my other expected expenses without a lot extra left over. This is going to be a challenge. 2010 taxes are the first year where I don't get any benefit from having a mortgage, so now is the time to put the pedal to the metal and get it over with.
So here's to 2011. Financial freedom is in sight (Total zero debts). Its going to be hard to make it to the finish line this year, but whenever I get there (this year or next) its going to be strange having extra money.
Wasn't that the Exxon marketing pitch way back to show how great their gas was? 1980s or 90s???
Anyway, for quite a few years I have been brand agnostic when it comes to gas for my vehicles. I have kept track of my MPGs and I never really saw a difference in MPG I couldn't attribute to some effect (long distance driving, cold weather, or some such). That is until this past month. I ended up buying gas at a regional convenince mart / gas location that I hadn't gone by in years (I just happened to be in the area). The gas cost about 8% less than other stations in the area, so I quickly filled up. After that fill up I noticed the fuel guage going down quicker than usual. I was concerned I had a problem with the car, but then I remembered I had bought gas at an unusual location.
After the next fill up at a brand name location, I checked the MPG from the prior fillup, and saw the MPGs had dropped 10%. After using up this next full tank, the MPGs went back up to where they had been previously. And have held steady since.
I guess this shows gas is not a universal commodity, there is some difference to the brands, and getting cheaper gas may not be the deal you think it is.
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