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Archive for March, 2008

So... you want a Tall/Grande/Venti what's the point...

March 22nd, 2008 at 08:42 pm

That's pretty much what I say when someone comes in and orders a decaf, non-fat, sugar free whatever. Whether it's a vanilla latte, a mocha, or a jazzed up coffee of the week, when I hear the words "decaf", "non-fat", and "sugar free" in the same sentence, my eyes glaze over, my tongue feels a little fuzzy, and the first thing that comes to mind is...what's the point?

If you're pregnant I can see it, maybe, but even that's pushing it. Apparently the common obstetric advice now is that pregnant women should go decaf. Okay, so order a decaf. But why order it non-fat and sugar free, too? Why not just drink water with splenda in it? Oh, it wouldn't taste the same, I know, but still...

No really, I don't mind that people order that...I just can't help but think of it as a "what's the point" and then call it that. The customers think it's funny which is a good thing. I doubt that the muckety mucks would like it, though. Huh...

And what does this have to do with personal finance? Not much, though water with splenda would be a hell of a lot cheaper, but I wanted to share my thoughts on it with yall. Wink

Hoping everyone has a great Sunday!

Consumerism running amok

March 20th, 2008 at 07:32 am

When did Easter become the disgusting display of commercialism that it is?

Yesterday I cashiered and somewhere along the line lost track of how many people spent over $300 on their purchases. I start conversations with customers and at some point they generally tell me why they're buying what they're buying. What I heard all day yesterday was comments like, "Easter is so fun! I just love wrapping presents for my two kids!" as she swiped that Discover card to the tune of $384. And "Next year I'll have to be more prepared. The kids asked for a lot of things for Easter this year." as he plunked down four $100 bills.

I've worked in retail off and on for years but my last experience with it this time of year was 3 years ago. Granted, I worked at a store that wasn't quite as classy as where I work now but the customers didn't spend like they are now. Ehhh, okay..it was a dollar store! Wink

For the retailers, it's all about money and they're turning the holiday into another Christmas. But why on earth do the adults buy into this? I suppose for the same reason people buy into the commercialism of Christmas.

I celebrate neither holiday but loved them both once upon a time and I didn't go into debt for either one. Easter had some commercialism but it didn't seem to be so intense as now. When my kids were young they got a grass-filled basket with some candy and maybe a very small toy or two in it. That's it. No bathing suits, no electronics, no tapes, no jewelry. I spent less than $20 for two kids most years. And yes that was awhile ago but not so long ago that that $20 is now equal to $300 or more!

Is it just me or do y'all see this, too? I might be a stick in the mud but what I see going on is ridiculous and I can't help but wonder...what are the parents teaching these kids? The kids whine and cry through the store, screaming for "a Starbucks" (oh, don't get me started on that tangent!) and this candy and that toy, throwing tantrums because they want blue grass in their basket, not green, and they don't want a little chocolate bunny, they want a big one.

I don't know..maybe I'm just too old fashioned but something is very wrong here. Very, very wrong. And it has me deeply concerned.

Okay, I'm off to brood over it now.... ha!

March Update....

March 19th, 2008 at 07:46 pm

Well, let's see. Financial Peace University is going very well. This week we had the "Buyer Beware" lesson. I enjoyed it a lot but that's really only because I'm such a Daviac. We also talked about our March budgets and cash flow sheets and how we're all doing on saving vs. spending.

DH and I have most of the money ready for the next round of bills. We're short on one or two but have time before the payments are due so we aren't sweating it too much.

On the work front, things are going pretty well. Most of my hours are spent at the java joint but I have some hours as cashier, too. I enjoy cashiering sometimes - it makes for a nice break from the other. This week and next week I'm working close to 40 hours so my next check should be fairly good. Also, the company my sister works for is paying me to do some work on their site. Nothing fancy, just some additions and revisions of things. I won't make a killing doing it but should bring in a few hundred dollars and that's always a good thing. I'd like to be able to add three hundred or so to savings and hopefully between the hours at my job and the free lance work, I can do that.

So, that's about it in my world. I don't have a lot of time for blogging lately but try to catch up with everyone once or twice a week...

Scored at the local 50% off grocery sales

March 14th, 2008 at 06:51 pm

The sale started Tuesday and I wanted to get there earlier but we didn't make it until tonight so there's a lot of stuff that was gone. But here's what we got at the first store:

10 cans salmon for .64 each
2 boxes of Panburger Beef Partner (for those nights when I just can't handle much cooking!) for .49 each
3 cans mixed vegetables (we use them only for soup or chicken pot pie) for .25 each
1 bag of beef jerky (their brand is the best!) for $1.19
18 small pizzas for when the kids are around for .44 each
Bottom round steaks for 1.99 lb

We also got some sour cream and three 20 ounce drinks not on sale. The total at the first store was $35.27.

At the second store we got:

3 bags of blackeye peas for .39 each
1 bag of large limas for .64
1 bag of baby limas for .96
2 bags of navy beans for .46 each
1 bag of great northern beans for .99
4 bags of kidney beans for .49 each
1 bag of black beans for .49
2 jars of DH's instant coffee for 2.68 each
3 jars of my coffee for $2.89 each
3 chicken gravy mixes for .16 each
3 sloppy joe mixes for .16 each
9 cans of chopped chiles for .59 each
8 cans of mixed greens for .37 each
7 cans of chili (my favorite breakfast!) for .69 each
3 boxes of chopped frozen broccoli for .25 each
34 cans of stewed tomatoes (I love em!) for .41 each
1 roasted chicken, not on sale, for $4.99

We spent $60.18 at the second store. We spent a little over $95 total.

I think we did pretty well and we certainly won't go hungry or thirsty any time soon. Wink

Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits

March 14th, 2008 at 03:23 pm

We really enjoyed this dish, though I changed it some last night. It turned out more like Chicken & Dumplings but that's okay because we love those. This is very good served over a little wild rice with a salad and fresh green beans. My notes on the changes I made in last night's version are at the bottom.

2 cups cooked chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 soup cans water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
16 ounces buttermilk biscuits (8)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot except biscuits; blend well. Cut biscuits into quarters, stir into mixture. Cover; cook on Low 4 to 6 hours stirring occasionally or until biscuits are cooked.

Denise's notes -

I used 4 thighs I'd slow cooked the day before. I didn't measure the chicken. I just de-boned the thighs and chopped the meat into small pieces. I also used 1 can of milk and 1 can of water rather than 2 cans of water and ommitted the chicken bouillon granules, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. I threw in freshly ground black pepper, crushed garlic, and dehydrated onions and cooked it on high for about 3 hours. I like the changes I made and we'll have this again...and soon!

Today's doings...

March 14th, 2008 at 09:52 am

I'm off today and have a few errands to run. I'm going to the bank to get cash to fund the envelopes for the next two weeks and will talk to them about opening a savings account with them. Then off to the washateria to do laundry. Oh joy!

After that, I'll head to work and pop in and say hello to our DM who will be there conducting a two hour training. I won't stay long, maybe 5 minutes. I just want to meet the man and get a quick look at the training stuff. While there, I'll check out the 75% or more clearance items and see if there's anything we really need. I doubt there is but I like to look, anyway. Just in case.

From there, I'll come back to the shop and when it closes tonight we're headed to the local grocery. They're switching to a new store brand and all items of the old brand are 50% off! Hopefully we'll find some good stuff at great prices.

Dinner tonight will be Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits with salad and fresh green beans. I made the chicken and biscuits last night and there's plenty left for tonight. It's a good recipe and the dish is quite tasty!

Opening an online savings account troubles...

March 14th, 2008 at 06:44 am

We decided to go with Provident Direct for our savings account. Their interest rate is slightly higher than the others and we've read and heard good things about them.

So, I've been trying for three days to open an account with PD. When I completed the online application I got a message saying the application couldn't be processed and to call them. I did call and leave voice mail, thinking they would return the call the next day. They didn't so I called them again, got a different department and left them voice mail. No call. So I called them again yesterday and talked to a woman who said she could take the application over the phone. Wonderful! But there's a problem. Our driver's licenses don't have issue dates on them. I don't recall ever seeing a Texas license with that information on it and apparently it's required to open the account. The rep I talked to insisted that the account simply can't be opened without that information. I asked her if they have other people from Texas with savings accounts and she said, "Oh, I'm sure we do!" and when I asked her how they opened their accounts without that required information she got a little hostile with me, told me someone would call me today, and ended the call.

Okay, so someone will call me today. We'll see if that happens. In the meantime I still have money I'm burning to get into a savings account and don't have a license with the issue date on it... ugh!

Unexpected expense this morning

March 13th, 2008 at 05:58 pm

DH has eye problems yet again! We just went through this in mid January and here we are, going through it again. Yesterday he called a different doctor, a local ophthalmologist he trusts, for an appointment.

She examined him and told him he has

Text is 'recurrent corneal erosion' and Link is http://www.stlukeseye.com/Conditions/CornealErosion.asp
'recurrent corneal erosion', a long term problem and not an infection, dilated his eyes, gave him artificial tears to put in before bed to help keep the eye moisturized, talked to him about the condition then presented him with the bill of... $215! Gulp! We didn't expect it to cost quite that much but are thankful we had the money for it. We didn't even have to take the money from the EF but we would have if necessary. He has a horrible time working when his eye is giving him problems and that constitutes an emergency to us!

Anyway, we'll see how the artificial tears work. If they don't do the trick, some kind of laser treatment is a possibility. We don't have the money for that so here's hoping the artificial tears help.

Keep us in your prayers, please...

Oh, while I waited in the waiting room for him to come out, I got some great sounding recipes from a couple of Diabetes magazines. I'll try those next week, probably. And I found a quarter lying on the floor. Cha-ching! Wink

Something weird going on with the checking account...

March 13th, 2008 at 03:59 pm

I'm not great with numbers but can handle a checking account with no problems as long as I actually stay on top of it. But there's something going on with our account right now that I simply don't understand. If I check it online or call the automated number, the balance will be $XXX.XX. I find out what credits and debits there were, add deposits that don't show yet, subtract payments and such and get a new balance. So far so good. The next day or two days later, I call and get the balance and transactions again. But the numbers don't jive. The transactions that came through don't explain the balance. Does that make sense? I'm quite frustrated. Yesterday, the balance was over $1,300 and I made a $55 deposit last night after they were closed. Today I called and it's a little over $600 with only $400 some odd dollars in transactions coming through after the $1,300.

What am I missing, y'all?

I'm off tomorrow so I'm going in to talk to them about it. But I am puzzled and very frustrated!!

Thoughts on this?

Okay, I figured out part of it. The only other online banking I've done had the pending transactions right there on the main page with everything else and they were visible at a glance. I've gone months without any kind of online banking and am just getting into it again. I realized, while standing outside fretting over this, that there must be a link to those pending transactions so I looked and sure enough, the balance the bank shows is *after* those transactions. Whew! That explains most of it. The rest I'll figure out in the morning. My brain is fried from worrying over this!

Nice little cha-ching today!

March 11th, 2008 at 12:36 am

My youngest son, the OTR truckdriver, is in town and since I was off Monday I decided to spend the afternoon with him. I picked him up around 1:00 and he treated me to a great lunch in Tyler at a Tex Mex joint called Cancun. I'd not eaten there before and it was a nice restaurant. He had enchiladas and I had beef fajitas. And to have my son pick up the tab! Oh la la, it was great!

We then went to the washateria and washed clothes together. We both needed to tend to that chore so it made sense to do it together. While the clothes washed and dried we talked about his girlfriend, money, Dave Ramsey, money, his job, money, and such.

He heads back out on the road Tuesday morning and I won't see him for another 5 weeks or so but before I dropped him off he had me take him to an ATM where he got money. And he gave me some! He gave me $300 toward about $500 he owes me. I've tried to tell him he doesn't have to pay me back, that per Dave and many other finance gurus the money was something I could do for him, not a loan. But he wants to give it back. He's anti-debt in a big way and I understand why he feels as he does. But really, he doesn't have to give that money back to me.

Since he insists, though, I took it. There are a lot of things I could do with $300 but these $300 are going into savings. What a nice cha-ching!!!

Grocery shopping & two week's worth of dinners

March 9th, 2008 at 07:21 pm

We went to the grocery today and spent $74.20. That was more than we'd planned to spend but since we'll have two bottomless pits in and out over the next week, that's fine. We'll need it all and then some!

So here are the meals we'll have for the next two weeks. The menu might change a bit if we go out to eat a time or two (we do plan for those) but this gives the general gist of two week's meals. There are too many carbs in most of the meals but darn it, it's hard to eat low carb on a budget! I just won't overeat..or will try not to. *sigh*

Beef tips and wild rice made with a couple of the charcoal steaks, served with a salad and green beans

Breakfast of turkey sausage, eggs, and toast

Slow cooked beans

Turkey chili with corn chips, crackers, or tortilla chips and salad

Pressure cooked hen with carrots, potatoes, onion, and green beans

Slow cooker chicken and rice made with leftover chicken and wild rice,
probably served with salad and a green vegetable

Breakfast again of french toast and turkey bacon

Skilletini with a salad and whole wheat rolls

Quesadillas made with leftover chicken, low carb tortillas, and served with salad

Pressure cooked beef roast (Ray's 3 envelope roast) and vegetables

Beef vegetable soup made with leftover beef roast and vegetables

Slow cooker chicken and biscuits made with leftover chicken (a new to me recipe I want to try)

Red beans and rice with salad

Leftover beans with more salad! lol

This week's meals - suggestions and ideas needed

March 9th, 2008 at 12:35 pm

I love to cook. It's one of my all time favorite past times. I check out cookbooks from the library, haunt garage sales for deals on them, and am just generally obsessed with cooking and books about it.

Unlike so many fruglies who give up all subscriptions, I subscribe to three magazines - National Geographic, Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country. The three of them are worth every penny to me - NG for the sheer pleasure I get looking at the breathtaking photos and reading the stories of far away places and CI and CC for the kitchen knowledge they impart.

But over the last month I've gotten away from cooking so much and I really have to find my way back.

I have absolutely got to get back to planning meals at least a week in advance. Without that, we eat out too often, and that's a real budget buster! Spring Break is here so the 16 year old male bottomless pit is visiting and his 15 year old sister, almost as bottomless, will be here for a few days, too. In light of these facts, I need a little help planning meals. I've done it for years so I know how but my brain is tired of doing it and I need a little push.

In my freezer, I have a couple of whole hens (tough when baked or roasted but I can use the pressure or slow cookers for stewing), a package of charcoal steaks (5 small steaks), some ground turkey and turkey breakfast sausage, a package of beef smoked sausage, a dozen chicken tamales, lots of vegetables, and plenty of cheese.

In the fridge I have a dozen eggs but will get more today. I need to buy milk and bread, too.

In the cupboards I have plenty of canned vegetables, rice, beans, pasta, flour, salt, all those necessary things.

I have three slow cookers, a microwave, a digital pressure cooker, and an electric skillet. We have no oven or grill right now so baking/roasting/grilling are out.

Here are some thoughts I have on meals I can make this week:

Cut one to one and a half of the steaks into bite size pieces and use it to make 'beef tips' and rice. Rod and Stephen both love that. Serve it with a salad and a green vegetable.

Have breakfast one night, using ground turkey to make turkey sausage and have that with eggs and toast.

Cook beans in the slow cooker one night.

Make chili with ground turkey one night.

Cook a hen in the pressure cooker and use that for a few dishes. I have a few stand bys we like with cooked, cubed chicken but need some more ideas. If you have something you make with cooked chicken, please let me know!

Any other ideas?

Finally over the flu and catching up

March 9th, 2008 at 11:37 am

We're finally over the flu. Well, we still have horrible coughs and off and on headaches but that's it. I have to say that was the worst virus I recall ever having. It was horrible and it seemed to take forever just to feel human again!

I've missed reading all the blogs so today I'm trying to catch up on them. I'm off today and tomorrow and though I don't feel really chipper (I stayed up too late last night) I'm going to get some cooking done today for the coming week. We're eating out too much again and better meal planning is necessary to put an end to it.

Hey, guess what? Today is the 9th of March and our rent, electric and phone bills are paid already, two of them well ahead of their due dates! How is that for progress, sports fans? I say it sure does sound like progress! We have a storage bill due on Tuesday and my car insurance is due next week but that's it for this month, I think. Yep, the envelope system is definitely working for us. Except we do have one snafu. One day last week, DH needed change for a hundred dollar bill a customer gave him. He didn't have it in his money so he took the $80 from our food envelope and gave it to the customer. And he didn't replace that money yet. But that's okay as long as he pays for whatever food we buy for the next week, up to $80. But he agreed to get change from the bank and stop using the envelope money, which was good.

Anyway, I'm off to catch up with y'all. By the way, thanks for the well wishes and notes of concern while I was sick. I appreciate them! But for the most part, I was too sick to respond to them. Frown