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Mmm, what's that I smell? No, it isn't money, darn it.

December 16th, 2009 at 10:17 am

Too bad it isn't money but it is baking chicken and a pot of split pea soup. Mmmm! Neither of those are on the menu for this week but one of the nice things about my kind of menu planning is the flexibility it provides. I'm off today and it's cold outside and that put me in a cooking mood so rather than make Swiss Steak, which is what I had in mind for tonight's dinner and doesn't take much effort or create a great smelling house, I put a highly seasoned whole chicken in the countertop convection oven and started a pot of soup in one of the slow cookers.

The man person isn't too fond of split pea soup but will eat mine once in awhile. Instead of cooking the peas until they're mushy or running them through a blender, ending up with a pot of green gunk, I cook them in a pot of broth with seasonings, vegetables, and meat. The resulting soup is ambrosia on a cold day! Today's version is made with beef broth, one small red potato, carrot, onion, green beans, plenty of garlic and the meat from a smoked turkey leg. Oh man, it smalls so good and tastes better!

And to keep this on the topic of personal finance, having the soup and chicken ready to go will keep us from eating lunch or dinner out, saving us about $20 for each of those meals. Okay, that's a tenuous tie to personal finance but it works. Wink

Happy eating, all!

Another almost no spend day & a surprise treat!

December 11th, 2009 at 03:55 pm

So close! When I left for work this afternoon, my van didn't warm up well and when I got to work I was very cold so I spent $1.84 on an Americano. The heat problem at work is still going on but I resisted the urge to buy iced tea and drank water the rest of my shift so that's all I spent today. Between yesterday and today I had two really, really low spend days. Maybe I need a category for those and should pat myself on the back a little when I have them. Wink

I got in this evening and got the chicken breasts cooking. When I opened the package of chicken, I saw that the breasts were huge and there are five of them! So, I'm cooking three with the Memphis style barbecue spice and the other two will be used plain. I don't think we'll be able to eat all of the three I'm cooking tonight so I'll take some with me tomorrow for my lunch. If I do it right, I might be able to have a no spend day yet.

A girl can dream!

As an aside, a patient brought in a special dessert for us today. Last year it was Christmas Stollen and this year it's this incredible pumpkin cream cheese roll thing. I don't know what its called but wow, is it a special treat! I took one bite and realized it's dangerous to have around so the man person gave a good portion of it to people in the offices around ours and the rest is going to work with me tomorrow to be given to my workmates. Really, it must go! And quickly!

Credit Reports - not great but not as bad as I thought!

December 8th, 2009 at 03:39 pm

For a little back story, see this entry.

Since we don't use credit cards and don't have a mortgage (and hope not to have one i the future) I'm not overly concerned about credit reports but since I hadn't checked mine in a couple years I did so this afternoon. I was only able to get two of them;Experian and TransUnion but neither had the slew of stuff on them that was present when I checked it in 2007.

They each have four things listed under "Accounts in Good Standing" and two things listed as negative. One of those things is the home foreclosure from 2007 and there's nothing I can do about that. But the other is a $340 electric bill in collections from last year that I knew nothing about. Now that I know about it I'm going to deal with that one.

DH checked his reports, too. There's a small medical bill we don't recognize and are going to call about tomorrow and an old cable bill from when he was working in another part of the state.

The total of things that need to be paid on both reports is a little less than $1000. Hey, not bad from $16,000 eighteen months ago, huh? Of course, the one report I couldn't get might have a lot more on it but I don't think so. I'm going to send them the request form tomorrow and should get a printed copy of that before too long.

I don't plan to need credit anytime soon but it's good to know that the report isn't the disaster it was the last time I looked. Yaaay for paying off debts and getting them off credit reports and for old debts rolling off credit reports. Smile

But we mustn't get too terribly excited - DH's heart procedure a month ago is costing us $52,000, all from our pocket. We've worked out a payment plan for the physician's $5,000 but not the remainder. Ahhh well, life's a bitch.....wear a helmet, right?

Spendy weekend. Ouch!

December 6th, 2009 at 06:51 pm

We went to Natchitoches, Louisiana this weekend for the Festival of Lights. For those who don't know, Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-A-Tish) is where the movie, Steel Magnolias, was filmed. It's also the man person's home town. We don't celebrate Christmas in any way but this festival is a big deal in Natchitoches and we like the fireworks display and enjoy seeing his family so we decided to take the three youngest kids, 19, 18, and almost 17 for the weekend.

We stayed with the man person's aunt and cousin which negated the expense of a hotel room. Thank goodness! We managed to find a free parking spot with a walk of a few blocks to the festivities. The last time we went to the festival there was no entrance fee but apparently, in an effort to keep out the riffraff, they've implemented a paid armband system. Just to get in to see the parade on Front Street cost $48 for the 6 of us!

Unfortunately, the parade was quite a disappointment. It was very slow and the participants lacked enthusiasm. The marching bands didn't perform much and the ones who played their instruments appeared to not enjoy it and in my opinion, marching bands should be energetic and excited! Of course, the weather was cold and they walked at least three miles, literally, to the spot where they started marching. Maybe they were just exhausted by the time we saw them and the fun had worn off. Regardless, the parade was one of the worst I've ever seen.

After the parade we hung out on the hill across from the stage and listened to Ronnie McDowell, the singer. We'd hoped to catch the several different bands until the fireworks display a couple of hours later but the cold finally got to us and we wimped out after being at the festival for only 6 hours. But between armband fees, food, hot chocolate and coffee we spent a little over $100! Ouch! $100 for a festival we didn't even enjoy much!

The kids may go back on their own some time in the future but the man person and I probably won't. Each time we go it's less impressive than the last time we went and it's simply not worth the money anymore. However, if you're in that area any weekend between November 21st and the first weekend of January, you might want to check it out. Just make sure you bring layers of clothes and plenty of money!

It might as well be a 578(h) account!

December 2nd, 2009 at 03:36 pm

The Primerica rep we met with recently is coming back tonight and is bringing his manager along.

No, we aren't looking at joining Primerica's MLM force and more than likely won't partner up with them in investments but it can't hurt to pick their brains, I think.

I found the paperwork for the 401(k) through my employer and logged into the website trying to understand just what's being done with my 500 some odd dollar balance. For all that I've read about 401(k) accounts, it might as well be a 578(h) account for the good it does me. Oh, I understand its a shell for investments but I don't understand just what those investments are. Here's some of what the website shows me:

Your Current Asset Allocation
This graph shows you have 51% in Lifecycle/Pre-Mix, and 49% in Company Stock.

Well, that's just hunky dory but what is Lifecycle/Pre-Mix?? Apparently, 51% of the money is in LifePath 2025 Index (yeah, like I know what that is) and the other 49% is in company stock. I googled "Lifepath 2025 Index" and its apparently a fund (mutual fund??) of mixed investments designed for risk reduction as retirement age gets nearer.

The financial engine says that to reduce risk I need to increase the percentage of non-company stock and decrease the company stock amount to 20%. Alrighty, let me just hop on that! They're talking to someone who is just about clueless on this stuff but I'm trying to learn. I know that the LifePath 2025 index is managed by Barclays Global Investors and is a passive fund. Quite a bit of what I've read about them says they're inferior and not recommended but I found a lot of biggies who use the LifePath funds. Perhaps I'd be better off doing something else through Vanguard or another entity but with my lack of knowledge that's very scary to consider.

Grrr, I think I need to talk to the HR person at work. Maybe he can help me make heads and tails of this. If not, he probably knows who can, right? Right???

What if I have money I want to add to this 401(k)? Can I do that? So many questions, so little time! But maybe I can pick the brains of the Primerica guys tonight and see what our Financial Needs Analysis turns up, eh?

Input appreciated, as always. Smile

"What can you do for me?"

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:27 am

That's what my 19 year old stepdaughter asked the salesman of a furniture store recently. She'd told her dad she'd found a living room set she wanted and it cost $2000. He cautioned her about getting in over her head and she insisted she could pay for it. She gets a lot of overtime and makes very nice money for someone her age. We were concerned about this large expense since she's on her own, has a car payment, insurance, etc. but she's of age and will spend her money as she sees fit.

However, after her talk with him she got to thinking about his words (and presumably the wisdom of them, lol), went to another store and found a set she liked just as much that was $1600. She told the salesman she'd pay $1000 cash for it and he agreed! Then she said something to the effect of, "Okay, I'm giving you a thousand dollars of my money for this set. What can you do for me?" He apparently was a little surprised and hesitant but threw in an extended warranty and arranged for free delivery. A few days later she found out her overtime was cut way back and her paychecks are substantially smaller, though still very good.

I still think she spent too much but how wonderful that she considered her dad's words, rethought her plan, came up with a better one, and seems to be learning.

We're giving her Dave's Total Money Makeover book and an envelope system. Certainly that will be money well spent!

Thoughts on "kids" and money

November 29th, 2009 at 08:45 am

My "kids" are 26 and 25. The oldest is married and the youngest lives with the married couple in Austin, Tx. I've talked to them about Dave Ramsey and they seem interested so I ordered a copy of Your Total Money Makeover and 2 starter envelope systems, one for each son. I don't know that my daughter in love would use the envelopes but I figure if she falls in love with her husband's system I can get her one, too.

Both young men have had their share of financial problems in their young adult lives. The oldest put himself through college with just a little help now and then from Mom and Dad and now he has a job he likes for the most part and he makes good money. His wife also has a good job but they have money issues too often and admit they blow too much money. The youngest son has struggled with college and jobs but is doing well at the local community college there and is trying to find a decent job. He's gotten a little help from Mom and Dad, too, but has also taken the loan route to help finance his education.

They're both very intelligent, gifted (and handsome!) young men but they had lousy financial role models growing up. Truly. Their Dad and I didn't know how to save, accrued a lot of credit card debt, and just generally sucked at money matters. I so regret raising my sons in that manner and hope they each find a better way to live. I think my mother has had some of these same thoughts about me over the years. Maybe Your Total Money Makeover and the envelope system will get their feet set on the right path, maybe not. I should have done this many years ago but I didn't. Here's hoping it isn't too late but hey, it wasn't too late for me!

Good thing I'm not a hair puller....

November 27th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

or I'd be bald! Today was so incredibly busy at work! I clocked out a little after 1 this afternoon and I hurt so bad it's ridiculous. I guess because I spent almost 9 hours basically hunched over making drinks. I got a break and a 30 minute lunch but they didn't help much. At any rate, I think I still have most of my hair and for that I'm thankful. Wink But if I hear one more screaming child, I might crack!

We're going to head out in awhile to do a little shopping. Yeah, the great deals are gone but we aren't after those, anyway. We just like to go out to eat and do some minor shopping in the evening on Black Friday when the crowds are gone or at least greatly diminished. There are still good deals around and those are good enough for us.

Happy Black Friday!?!?

November 27th, 2009 at 01:09 am

I woke up at 2 this morning because I have to clock in at work at 4 AM. Yes, its true, 4 AM! I detest Black Friday and the Christmas season but they're something I have to put up with since I work retail.

To wake up at 2 AM with sufficient sleep behind me I had to be asleep by 6:30 last night. I managed that with the help of 2 Advil PMs and a little night time cold medicine. By 6:15 or so I was sound asleep and this morning I feel refreshed. I'm not thrilled with the why of it all but hey, its one of the evils of my chosen field.

At any rate, I work 4 AM til 1 PM then will spend the afternoon/evening with my sons. We'll probably all go out for dinner and just enjoy each other's company and I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, happy black friday to you all! Enjoy the deals if you get them but be careful...its nuts out there!

The last eighteen months in a nutshell & Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2009 at 07:29 am

I'm still working retail at the same place and the man person still has his business. It's grown quite a bit and although its a one man operation it pays the bills and then some. We left the envelope system behind some time ago but still have an emergency fund and some extra money saved. However, we still don't have any investments. Honestly, we don't know where or how to start and are afraid of making the wrong move so we've done nothing in that regard. Well, we did do something....

A Primerica rep visited with us last night and hopefully we'll have our financial needs analysis before too long. I've read good and bad about Primerica and although neither of us wants to be a rep/advisor/whatever they're called, their products might be good for us. I think we can do most of it on our own but again, we simply don't know where or how to start.

We need to change that but inertia seems to have us in its clutches. And I think we saved more and just felt better about money when we used the envelope system. Its simply too easy to overspend when we don't use it and we need to give serious consideration to going back to it. We've talked about it and agreed that we should do it but haven't actually done it.

We still don't have health insurance. DH had a heart procedure done recently and we got the bill last week. $47,000! Yep, $47,000 and that's just for the hospital. We haven't received the physician's bill yet. I haven't a clue what we're going to do about this new expense but we'll come up with something. I've already started putting pennies in a jar for it. Ha!

DH got a small life insurance policy on himself. It's only $15,000 but its a start and better than nothing. We're looking into larger policies but with his health history the premiums are outrageous. No insurance on me yet but that's coming soon, I think.

Last week I got a call to clean a house someone had bought and I earned some extra moolah. The job took a little longer than I'd expected but I did it on a day off the regular job and I made about $25 an hour which beats the $8 and 40 some odd cents an hour I make at my regular job. I really do need to concentrate on growing the house cleaning business. I don't know that I could do that only but two cleaning jobs a month would give me an extra $200 to $300 and that's nothing to sneeze at. Every little bit helps...

I'm still working on 2010 goals. I have a few cemented in my mind but most are still up in the air. I'll post about those when they're a little clearer.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and don't overeat. Oh heck, go ahead and overeat. But get to the gym tomorrow! Wink

Has it really been eighteen months??

November 25th, 2009 at 07:38 pm

My last entry was in May of 2008. I really am one of the worst bloggers on the planet, I think! At any rate, its hard to believe its been that long but apparently it has been. Please forgive me...again. If it will help any, you can give me 40 lashings with a wet noodle!

A lot has changed in the last year and a half, mostly for the better. I'll post more about that within the next couple of days. In the meantime, though, how does one go about finding a reputable financial advisor? No, I didn't win the lottery and don't have tons of money but it's past time I started thinking ahead and I'm kind of lost. And if anyone knows how to proceed, it would be you guys. Maybe I don't even need a financial advisor. Perhaps I can figure this out on my own. But I don't know where to start.

Thoughts? Input? Thanks!

A month has passed...& a stupid mistake!

May 20th, 2008 at 08:38 am

since I posted an entry here. Life has been crazy hectic but I wanted to take a few minutes to post and then spend some time catching up on other blogs.

Let's see..what's new with me? My oldest son graduated from University of Texas in Austin this last Friday. Woohooo! He's going to work a year or so then go back to school to work for his Ph.D. My mother, sister, other son's girlfriend and I rented a great little cabin near Austin and had a wonderful time. We had a nice party for the graduate at the clubhouse where we rented the cabin and had a marvelous day of it. We spent too much money but how often does one's oldest son graduate from college? Wink This is the same son who is getting married in August so I'll spend a lot more soon.

On the job front, things are okay but very soon I have to make a major job related decision and am afraid I'll have to quit the job and find another. I don't look forward to that and am waiting to hear from the head of HR. In the meantime, I'm applying at other stores..just in case.

We completed Financial Peace University. It was a great course and we learned so much. I miss the classes now, though!

Oh yes, on the drive back from Austin my mom asked if I'd gotten my 'rebate' yet. I told her no, I hadn't filed. She asked why and I told her because I only worked about 3 weeks in 2007 and wasn't required. She then told me that I should have filed anyway so I could get the stimulus rebate. Duh! I didn't even think of doing that..I just knew I didn't need to file. Well damn, I missed that boat! Stupid tax on me, huh?

I just checked the IRS website and one of the qualifications is $3,000 of income so that disqualifies me. But at least my 'stupid mistake' wasn't!

That's about it for me right now. I'll post again later after I catch up with others. Smile