Saturday, February 28, 2009

Net Worth-- February 2008

It's that time again. Time to take a look out our bank account and find out what we've done this month. Things have likely gone down a bit considering the job situation, but we're no worse for wear. With both of us working this next month, I anticipate a good beating to our liability (the car).

Checking: 1800
Savings: 2000


Car: 4500

Budget Results:

Income This Month:

Substitute teaching: 216
Plasma donation: 100
Return of deposit from other apartment: 175
Random check from prev. employer: 13
MySurvey check: 60
Gifts: 200

Difference-- checking: 200

Net worth: -700

Yikes! However, never fear! We made it through the month with less trauma than originally thought, and work income for March has already exceeded that of February. (I only counted income actually received in February, not work that has been done but will pay in March).

I'm pleased to see our gas expenditures have been reasonable. That is even with a way-overpriced oil change and a trip out of state. We're still new to the area, so I want to track this for a few months, but I hope that perhaps we can adjust this budget down a little bit. Although, in a few months gas may be over $3/gallon again. If it is, I'm buying a scooter.

We went overboard on eating out this month-- nearly $100 worth of fast food. I worry about this next month because we will have more freedom with more cash. Lubby and I will have a talk to determine our goals for this month and see if we can come up with a game plan for curbing spending in that area and attacking our car payment again. Everything else has been terrific.

Looks like next month we will get free Internet as well (they screwed up our order so they overcharged us last month). One less thing to pay for.

All-in-all, I am pleased with this month's report even though we're in the red. We've done well with what little we've had and stand a more-than-promising chance of making twice what we made this past month. I expect a huge chunk out of the 'liability' column next month and a positive net worth.

For January's states, click here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to save on your energy bill

Got a couple of bills today, electric among them. It was actually very exciting!

Budget for energy for February: $150
Spent in February: $90 (aprox)

That's a difference of about $60! Here's what we did that seems to have contributed:

  • Turn off the heater. It's been pretty warm-- even close to eighty some days. However, our apartment stays cold, so it has been a sacrifice. No heat and a high of 39 is cold, but blankets, some fire wood, and more blankets keep the chill at bay. We do use it if it is going to be cold for a good while, like when we had an ice storm a few weeks ago.
  • Limit lightbulb use. We try not to use the lights during daylight hours.
  • Unplug stuff. We're actually not very good at this, but we try to turn off our surge protectors and unplug many of our appliances/computers/etc. when they are not in use. "Ghosting" electricity can really drain your wallet... apparently... (Note: Do not unplug your refrigerator! I do not want to be responsible for that!)

I know it's not a list of 35 things-- that may be coming at a later date. The point is that you don't have to do a million drastic things to see a difference in your bill. Our first bill was about $70, and it was only for about 10 days! From people I've talked to around here, average monthly bills are about $150.

I hope we can keep this up through the summer months as well. Of course, you'll know when we know.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rebate Fun!-- good for newbies

We're up visiting my family for the weekend, and yesterday my mom and I just happened to have to go by Walgreens to pick up a prescription...

Mom has been following my couponing adventures through my blog and phone calls, and she was really excited to get all of her free stuff! We are both get in, get out, no extras kind of people, so there wasn't any danger of us picking up extra stuff just because it was nearby on the shelf. Following is a play-by-play, so if you're new to rebates this should be helpful.

As we came in the store, I picked up my papers, the circular, and the rebate book. Flipped through the circular; there were no fantastic deals that lined up with the rebates this week. (I knew this because I already knew what the rebates were. If you are a newbie you will likely want to go home and check it out, or resign yourself to only getting things for free and not getting two or making money this month).

Opened the rebate book to the center yellow pages and pointed out the first few that had the giant, red FREE next to them. We then went on a scavenger hunt for the items listed, making sure the size and price matched up. (Note: Found out from a cashier that at this particular Walgreens they had their rebate items in shelf-displays. I did not see where it said 'free after rebate' or anything, but knowing they were on displays makes them easier to find. Also, if you check out a display, it may behoove you to check the rebate book to see if it's on special.)

Checked out. She got $10 lip gloss, $10 foundation, $2 contact solution, $4 hair-spray-type-stuff, and 4 papers ($6). One $1 coupon (provided by the cashier who clips her coupons and brings them to work-- Thanks!) made the total after tax $32.98.

With the rebates, she'll get the full purchase price with a 10% bonus for getting it on a Wags GC. The rebate will come out to 28.56. I gave her $3 for my two papers. So, her total was/will be $1.43-- She didn't even have to pay for one of her papers if you look at it that way.

We came home and I had her log on to, find the EasySaver Rebate section (which took some finding, but we got it), create an account (it's free), and enter her rebates.

She's very excited and looking forward to adding coupons to the mix as well. She keeps saying, "I'll never have to pay for milk again!" I like that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Revised budget for February and March

Things change. We didn't get jobs as fast as we could have hoped in this economy. So, our budget for the next few months is going to take a hit. Here's what February looked/looks like:

425 Rent (had 1/2 off, but finished out our pet deposit)
150 Electric
200 Groceries
300 Gas (cars)
20 Water
35 Internet
1130 Total

March looks like this:

430 Rent (we got $20 off for participating in a community event)
150 Electric
150 Groceries
300 Gas
20 Water
35 Internet
1085 Total

Thankfully we've been able to stop paying our car until we get our feet under us. We had been paying about double to quadruple the payment, so we don't technically have to make another payment until April. Now, if we don't make another payment until April I will be very sad. We've lost a lot of ground already in intrest.

All the reading about frugal living and couponing has me inspired to cut my grocery bill in half. Since we were able to comfortably get what we need this month for about $200-- including a lot of convenience foods like frozen waffles, granola bars, etc.-- I am confident that with coupons and watching for deals I should be able to take us down even one more notch.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unemployed no more!

My husband just walked in. The first thing he said to me was "I have a job."

There are no sweeter words to a wife's ears.

CrackerBarrel... Yum. Neither of us have ever worked in food services before, so it will be a new experience. There's a temptation to feel dejected because, after all, he has a college degree! However, we're just happy to have a promise of a source of income. He was really mostly looking for something part-time, and they can likely give him close to 40 hours. He also might be leading music very part time at a church for a pretty decent amount of money. I'm very optimistic about having a full-time teaching position of $40,000+ by the fall, so by then his income will be gravy.

I have it worked out so that if I continue to do the things I've been doing (subbing, plasma, voice lessons), I should make enough money to pay for March's bills by the time they arrive. I've also applied to work at Kaplan as a teacher (I had insanely good test scores in my day). Plus, I really need to get going on my jewelry business that I've been letting slide for the past two months.

Now that Lubby (my nickname for my husband-- Lover+Hubby) will be working, we can get back to living more of our normal life without dipping into our cash reserves and start paying on our car again.

Oh, and by the way, I gave the plasma thing another shot. Everything worked out this time and I made $40. I plan to go tomorrow and make another $60. (They're running a special; next week and the weeks after it will be $20 and $40).

Coming later, either tonight or tomorrow, is a revised, bare-bones budget for February and March. We have a lot to cut out, and a lot of catching up to do if we want the car paid off by June or July.

Couponing lesson learned

I guess you could chalk this up to a rookie mistake...

There are not coupons in every Sunday paper. I am fairly certain I knew that, but I got carried away in the couponing-mania of it all. So, on Sunday we bought two papers and, after extracting the Walgreens and CVS ads from one of them, threw them away. Disappointing? Yes. Lesson learned? Yes.

Next week I am confident there will be coupons again. I will, however, check my sources (currently to be sure there are new coupons available BEFORE I spend 3 dollars.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taking Care of Business

Wow! This week has been exhausting! My personal goal of posting once a day has (obviously) taken a back burner the past five days. Made a little money and focused on the more important things in life.

Wednesday-Friday I substituted again for a friend in my discipline. It was a blast in a lot of ways-- much easier than just walking into a classroom without really knowing what's being covered-- but it was also totally exhausting. I pretty much came home, collapsed into a puddle, and went to bed early. Made about $240 gross and will get paid in late march.

Wednesday and Thursday we went to donate plasma. Didn't get to either day. Long story. Unfortunately my husband will never get to donate. I probably could if I'm not dead next time I go (long story-- I'm fairly sure the blood pressure machine was broken), and if I can swallow my indignation and frustration well enough to sit through that again.

Friday evening through this afternoon my husband and I attended a marriage conference. We enjoyed it very much and loved getting to spend the time focusing on each other and our relationship. I know I would have gotten more out of it if I had a little bit more sleep the past few days, but it was important to have that time anyway.

Things can get ugly out there, ladies and gentlemen. There were over 400 people there who attended for free because they gave it to anyone who had lost their job in the last 6 months. Money is the number one cause of fights in marriage-- I'm sure you've all heard that statistic. If you can't support and cling to your mate in these times, the prognosis isn't good, folks. Take care of your relationship with each other before anything else right now.

If you've lost one or both jobs, a lay-off is looming, or if you're just worried about what could happen, talk about it. Hug, cry together, reassure each other that you still love each other and you're in it for the long haul. Then make a plan. Cut everything that's not vital to existence. Go donate plasma together. Make sure your man knows that you are proud of him for delivering pizzas so that you can have a roof over your head. A man who will swallow his pride to provide for his family is a hero, not a failure. If you are that man, I am proud of you. There isn't a better gift you could give to your wife than to provide for her.

Where we live it's pretty warm, so we haven't had the heat on for weeks. My fingers are pretty cold right now, but it's not miserable with a blanket and a warm laptop in my lap. My first student for my private lessons comes tomorrow. I can donate plasma and take sub jobs (as much as I'd like to avoid that some days). My husband is going to do his best to have a job by the end of the week, even if it's delivering pizzas for Domino's. We bought a couple of papers again tonight so that I can continue clipping coupons for next month's groceries. We're taking care of business so that we don't have to live in fear, shame or guilt. We're in this together-- for better or worse, richer or poorer.

Coming up-- our budget may be changing. A revised plan until we get our feet under us. Hopefully we'll get to eat more than peanut butter and ramen noodles, but we'll see what we can do.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More thoughts on the trillion-dollar package

Came across this video on the Dual Income No Kids blog ( The video gives details about just what 'one trillion' is. Interesting points such as 1 trillion one dollar bills stacked would reach 1/3 of the way to the moon, and if you started spending 1 million dollars a day from the day Jesus was born to today, you *still* would not have spent one trillion dollars.

And, as an update to the previous post, I said that the national debt was over 1 trillion dollars. That's true. It's over 10 trillion dollars. Which, I guess, would reach the moon three times and more.

Economic stimulus or just spending money?

I just read breaking news from the AP about an economic stimulus package passage. Here's a link.

click to read

Some thoughts on the article...

I am pretty good at reading political-ese. I spent a huge majority of my time in high school reading senate bills, contacting senators, helping campaigns, talking to law makers at the state capital building, etc. (Oh, the things you can do when you're home schooled and don't have to waste 8 hours a day sitting through classes you could pass without taking...) However, I guess being so out of the loop during college has cost me, because the article doesn't make much sense to me.

I'm somewhat surprised by the Republicans' nay-saying, for the most part. It seems to me that a large number of politicians sway in the wind. Perhaps the complete and total failure of the first two bail-outs has sobered up some of the former conservatives. Or, perhaps they are simply paying attention to what's in the bill.

Which brings me to another thought-- this looks suspiciously like a spending bill rather than a stimulus package (although the difference is quite debatable at this point). Reading to the bottom of the article, I find that:

"The Senate proposed $450 million for NASA for exploration, for example, $50 million less than the House. It also eliminated the House's call for money to combat a potential flu pandemic."

DO WHAT??? What the crap does NASA have to do with it??? Pardon my French, but half a billion dollars on space exploration is not the same as public works projects!!! What flu pandemic? What if there isn't a flu pandemic? Can't we spend money on that when it happens, not before???

I'm very passionate about this, people! The government owns huge parts of our major banks, for crying out loud! We have well over a trillion dollars in national debt, yet we want to throw money at imaginary disease outbreaks and space exploration??? What if our national creditors do what some of the banks did to citizens and call our loans early? Think of post WWI Germany (this is not Nazi Germany, although it may have led to it)... Look it up, if you have to. Find a very general description

I think I'm going to actually read these bills. I haven't because some of these things are multiple hundreds of pages long with a lot of politicalese. I urge you to try to read these, too. I have a feeling you will say to yourself, "I don't know a lot about this stuff, but what does NASA have to do with helping laid-off Starbucks workers?" You can find the most current version of the bill by visiting the office of the clerk of the House of Representatives. Read it from the bottom up and you can see everything that happened in the House that day. Thomas is another great resource for looking up legislation, but you have to be careful to figure out which one is the most recently amended.

After that, Republican and Democrat alike, call your representatives and ask them to demand that the extra junk be eliminated and if it's not to vote 'no.' I know Democrats probably feel like they really need to support the president and that if we don't pass this thing by Friday a million babies are going to starve to death by Tuesday morning, or some similar tragedy. That is simply not true.

The more likely scenario is that we will pass bail-out after stimulus package after bail-out after spending plan, the value of our money will (eventually) plummet and we will be standing in line for bread because even those who have jobs can't feed their families. How much did the first stimulus help? Answer: none. The Obama administration's own projections say that the recession will continue for another five years or so and only be slightly prolonged if no action is taken. If that's the case, ask yourself why it's so urgent that we give NASA $500 million dollars before Friday, or else.

Perhaps a public-works deal could be beneficial. I know that my friends and family just hit their jaws on their desks. I'm generally pretty conservative (read: very conservative), but I'm open to suggestions. This could get ugly, and I'm willing to read any legislation that has a precise plan with obvious economic benefits, a strategy for turning over the project to the private sector with a timeline, and a decent sunset. (A sunset is when the bill is set to expire unless law-makers renew the bill). If I can feel fairly confident the government won't be involved forever, I would consider supporting it.

I will not support legislation that involves throwing money at special interest groups-- I don't care which ones-- or the government buying huge assets (or any assets, really) in privately owned companies. Companies fail-- that's what capitalism is. You screw up your business plan and mismanage your money, you go out of business. If those banks had failed completely, people would lose money in the stock market and some people would lose their jobs. Another bank would have bought them (which, ironically, is what actually happened before we started giving them money). Even if not, people still have up to $100,000 each in FDIC insured money (which is now $250k).

After all that, please don't panic, people. Don't let yourself get bullied into making a poor decision because of some artificial deadline. Don't clamor for the passage of the PATRIOT act then get outraged because people get jailed without charges or bail. Call your representatives and insist that they take more time. Cut all but the essentials and bring it back to us after you have a plan, transparency, oversight, and only essentials. Not before.

And the results are...

I have the most wonderful husband in the world. Who else would take me to Walgreens at 9:30 at night because I had finally gotten my coupons and list together and didn't want to go alone?!

That said, I went to Walgreens last night to try out my couponing strategy. I chose Walgreens over CVS this time because some of the deals were slightly better (although they were pretty close to having the same ones...) and because the register rewards (RRs) at Walgreens do not expire whereas CVS ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs) must be used within 30 days. My list was composed of deals I found at and various blogs that list coupon deals.

I didn't come out with as much free stuff as I originally thought. This is in large part due to the fact that I left my list in the car! Here's what I did get, though.

Garnier Fructis mousse. Brought the wrong coupon, or I would have made a dollar off the deal.
free after rebate.

Revlon Creme Gloss. Had a $2 coupon from Sunday's paper, and the product is free after rebate.
$2 profit after rebate.

Glade Sense & Spray (two total). 8.99 each. A printable BOGO free coupon plus a $4 coupon from Sunday's paper, $3 rebate for each one.
free after rebate (or $.01 profit?).

Progresso Soup. 4/$5 in-ad coupon, plus two bricks printable coupons for $1.10 (you can print each coupon up to twice. If we had another computer that could print, I would have printed a coupon for each can).
$.70 each after coupons. Originally $3.19 each.

I will probably go back in a few days to pick up the other things that were on my list that I didn't get. They include free-after-rebate contact lens solution, F-A-R Themacare trial-size heat wraps, and a razor that has a $2 profit after RRs and coupon (the store didn't have any).

It looks like I pretty much broke even on my purchases last night. I entered my rebates online after I got home, so they are saved and even if I forget to submit them at the end of the month, Walgreens will do it for me. Very good for a procrastinator like me. They will send me a Walgreens gift card and the gift-card option has a 10% bonus.

So, even though we spent about $20 out-of-pocket (which I don't like), we will be getting about the same back, and gift-cards don't expire. Next month I'll be able to do it all again without any out-of-pocket expense.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A couponing test

So, I've finally bitten the bullet. After years of subscribing to various 'coupon-maximizing' sites, I went to the store today and bought two Sunday papers. I've devised a plan to visit the local drug stores and buy a few things I need for next to nothing and a few things I don't (but will eventually use) because they will actually *make* me money in store credits. I don't want to give too many details yet, but rest assured that I will keep you posted on my deals and steals!

In other news, my husband and I are contemplating donating plasma for a little extra cash this month. I don't know how I feel about it-- selling your blood for profit seems almost demeaning. However, I am a firm believer in doing what you have to to provide for your family (provided it's legal and on the moral up-and-up, of course). If we both do it twice a week, we can make enough to pay March's rent. That's nothing to sneeze at, especially since the work I do next week as a sub won't pay until March 23rd.

Any thoughts on the above? What do you do in a financial crunch?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How to determine how much money you need to retire

Although I've already laid out a huge picture of our money situation and short-term goals, I have yet to get to the 'millionaire' part of the story. So, I thought I'd lay out for our readers how to determine how much money *you* need to retire, then plug in some real numbers for *my* situation.

This is a little math-heavy, but I'll break it down for all our sakes.
  1. Determine how much money you think you need (annually) in order to retire in today's terms.
  2. Calculate what that amounts to in future dollars. (Here's how I do this: find a good savings/investment calculator online, enter the aforementioned dollar amount in the initial investment field, make sure future deposits equal $0, enter an estimated inflation rate in the APY/interest rate section ((I use 3-4%)), make sure the compounding rate is annual, enter the number of years until you want to retire, and hit submit.)
  3. Whew! Now that that's done, you know what your annual income needs to be to keep your standard of living in x number of years. Now take that number and divide it by the percentage of interest on your nest egg you want to live on. This instruction will be more clear in the example, so keep reading.
  4. Arrive at the amount you need to have invested by the time you retire.

How to accumulate that amount of money is for a future post. For now it's just good to know what we're aiming for.

Our future nest egg-- a real life example

Of course, this number is very much subject to change, but here goes. First, you need to know that as part of our future financial plan we will have already paid off our house by the time we retire and plan to have no consumer debts whatsoever.

  1. We've set a tentative goal for our income at $40k/year. Without a house payment, car payment, or anything else, this should give us plenty of fun money and give-away money to use as we wish. Whatever vacations we want, etc.
  2. I've plugged this number into a 'savings calculator' and come up with these figures: if we were to retire in 30 years (that will put us at 50-ish), today's $40k will be worth $100-130k. So, really, our income goal is actually 100-130k if we want the standard of living 40k will get us now.
  3. Now the fun begins. If we want this money to last until we die, even if we're 300 years old when we do, we need to live on the interest. Plus, we want this money to keep growing so that we stay ahead of inflation. If we invest in growth-stock mutual funds averaging 12% and inflation is calculated at 4%, we need to live off of the interest minus inflation (12-4), or 8% of our total nest egg. 100k is a nice, round number, so taking 100,000/.08=1.25million. This approach will have the added benefit of leaving a nice big inheritance to our children or beneficiaries in addition to our house, etc.
  4. We need to accumulate $1,250,000 over the next 30 years to acheive our retirement goal.

So there you have it. Yes, I know that this formula is highly simplified, but for those of you who don't know where to start it should at least give you a point of reference. I'm interested in knowing what kind of numbers you have come up with. Comment and let me know!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A pleasant surprise!

Honestly, I never had any intentions of promoting services through this blog. However, the service I have gotten today has really knocked my socks off. When you take this kind of care for your members, you deserve to be promoted!

Today I got a very pleasant suprise!

I have an account with My Survey. I take surveys periodically, and each survey is worth a certain number of points. When you stockpile enough points, you can redeem them for cash, prizes, or donate to charities. So, here's the story...

Last Novemeber (or some time around there) I cashed in my points for $60. I had gotten a check from them before, so I already know it was legit. I waited, and after I had waited more than the 6-8 weeks delivery time, I checked to see what was up. Everything said it was mailed, so I chalked it up 'just another one of those survey things' and resigned myself to never getting the check. Or, at least waiting a good 90 days and calling to see if the check had cleared and possibly getting a re-issue.

Today, I received an email from My Survey letting me know that the check was returned undeliverable and I should update my info and try again. WOW! They could have just kept the money, but instead they credited my account without me even asking and let me know about the problem!

My Survey has been a pretty good service for me.
  • It is NOT a get-rich site.
  • It is NOT a part-time income. I've been stockpiling these points for quite a while. Most surveys are 10-20 points and 1000 points equals $10, if you're redeeming for cash (which is what I do, since the prizes are cheaper if you cash out and buy it at WalMart...) it comes out to about a dime per survey.
  • It is NOT a service that will spam you with unending emails. They email me when I have a survey available (maybe once every week or 2, sometimes more often).
  • It is NOT a site that sends you to surveys where you first have to purchase a product or sign up for a 'free' trial (I cannot stand these. I recently joined a survey site like this. I don't care if they'll pay me $10, I don't want to pay $3.88 to do it! I now delete their emails without reading them.)
So, if you are interested in taking surveys in your sparest of spare times and mostly for the fun of it, with nominal monetary reward, I must recommend And, if you want to say a little 'thank you' to me for telling you about it, comment and I'll send you a referral email.

Anyone else know about good survey sites that don't spam and have a good pay-out system?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Substituting-- All in a day's work

To date I have performed two substituting jobs: one in high school speech and one in first grade. I must say, substitutes do not get paid enough. More have been available, I just haven't taken them.

To those of you who may think otherwise-- substituting is *hard* work! In my opinion, it is easier to be the regular teacher than a sub. This is not what I originally thought. I thought subbing would be great:
  • no grading
  • no planning
  • no pressure to produce

However, I have found that sometimes the lesson plans are difficult to understand (or even read!), or the students are openly defiant and disrespectful. I had one tell me to my face that he was going to "tell them it was the crazy sub. You'd be suprised how often that works." Geez!

But, as many people start to feel the crunch of 'recession' and are looking for work, I can tell you from experience and from all of the teachers around me who keep telling me, they are always looking for substitutes. If you have a degree, you'll get paid better, but even without you could be paid about $60/day. That's the going rate around here, anyway. Degreed/certified teachers are paid up to $80/day (that's the highest I've found) and up to $110/day if you're in a long-term position. Hourly it doesn't break down to much, but it's better than nothing!

I don't want to give up on substituting, since I think spending time in a classroom regularly will keep me sharp and give me an edge on the job search. Plus, hopefully the more I do it the better I will be.

So, for all of you job searchers and stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) out there, you might give substituting a try. Just don't take my jobs, please! :)