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Archive for September, 2011

Small goals accomplished!

September 23rd, 2011 at 11:40 am

*Stuck to my no-eating-out challenge this week (with Lucky Robin).

*Emerged from the Stone Age to set up automatic monthly payment from my bank account for my telephone (includes landline, voicemail and DSL) and electric bills starting next month.

*Made heating oil choice and will go sign up with first payment today before 5:00 p.m.

So now some new mini-goals:

*Commit again to no eating out next week and probably this weekend unless a fun opportunity presents itself! (Hope LR continues, too.)

*Start calculating 2011 OOP medical expenses so that I can submit a reimbursement claim to my HSA. I just found out that I can get up to the total amount back even if I havenít fully paid into it yet (the deductions are made each paycheck). I had no idea Ė I thought I could only claim what Iíve already contributed for the year!

*Continue creating monthly expenditures spreadsheet and start using it for October (recording budgeted and actual amounts).

The no-eating-out challenge for me also includes not impulse buying junk food out of boredom or cravings. Iíve been able to resist all unnecessary food purchases this week and hope to continue next week, too!

I'll be celebrating later this afternoon with two friends at a work picnic. Free food - yippee! Smile

Update and Weird Blogs

September 20th, 2011 at 07:54 am

I stuck to my meal plan yesterday and added two peanut butter Newman O's cookies (yum!) dipped in milk for dessert after dinner. I'm going to eat the same menu today.

My financial life and I are beginning to get reacquainted. Last night I found my old Excel budget spreadsheet and started to update it with my current monthly expenses. So far, so good.

I need to choose an oil plan for this winter. I usually sign up for a budget plan, choosing a certain number of gallons and paying a set monthly amount from August to May. My oil company changed its policy last year and now their budget program doesnít lock in a price. So, you still pay a monthly amount, but it fluctuates according to market price. I considered doing a pre-buy, but I just read that if you donít use up all of the pre-bought gallons, they will reimburse you, but will take 25% of the remaining credit. What? Iím going to call around to see what else is available. That seems like a giant ripoff. I guess I could underestimate, but still!

What is up with those weird blogs that appear overnight? Are they created automatically (so many words and repeated ideas!) or is someone actually writing them? Iím so glad the SA crew removes them. I find them very annoying and strange.

Photo of last night's dinner to inspire me to create some yumminess again tonight!

Mini lunch challenge

September 19th, 2011 at 08:55 am

I need to set small goals in order to focus, so Iím going to do a lunch challenge just for this week. Hopefully that will grow into a longer time period, but Iíll start with that. I will bring breakfast and lunch to work each day and eat dinner at home. The menu will mainly be:

Breakfast: Kashi 7-grain nugget cereal, currants, chopped apples, flax seeds, walnuts, milk

Lunch: salad with kalamata olives and goat cheese, a big cracker

Snack: grapes (delicious variety from a local vineyard)

Dinner: quinoa with steamed veggies and tuna, olive oil, salt and pepper

I cooked the chickpeas and quinoa yesterday and washed some lettuce, so it should be easy to prepare my meals. I also got another free harvest from my friendís garden on Saturday Ė yippee! (I want to offer her some childcare this fall/winter for her adorable 3.5 year old daughter in exchange for the bounty Iíve received all summer.) I technically donít need to spend any money on food this week.

Iíve been buying and eating lots of junky comfort food the last few weeks (Ben and Jerryís Heath Bar Crunch, frozen pierogies, fish sticks, strawberry frozen fruit popsicles are my recent cravings). So, I left my debit and credit cards at home today in order to resist all temptation to stop at the grocery store on my way home. Sometimes I find myself wandering in the aisles like a zombie even after having no intention of visiting the store! Scary and a little embarrassingÖ

A few more goals for today: walk 30 minutes after work, prepare Tuesdayís lunch, floss teeth before bed. I have fallen off the flossing wagon and really need to get back on!

Photos of todayís breakfast and lunch to keep me inspired!

Car Loan

September 18th, 2011 at 07:59 pm

I'm realizing that I don't really understand my auto loan.

I bought a new Subaru Impreza Outback in September 2010, putting $5000 down and borrowing $12,898.00 at 2.9% for 60 months. I absolutely love the car and it's been worth every penny so far. I live in a mountainous, snowy area and I appreciate the all-wheel drive, something that my Volkswagen Golf, my previous car which I drove for 11 years, did not have. I did fine in the snow with the Golf and before that with a Honda Civic (drove that for 10 years), but this time around I really wanted a Subaru. I looked at both new and used options, but decided I really like to buy a new car and drive it for a long time. I did struggle with the choice, though, because who knows if electric cars will be more accessible and affordable sooner rather than later (one can only hope) and what the future availability and cost of gas will be. In the end, I bit the bullet, wheeled and dealed to the best of my ability and bought my beautiful new silver car.

I have been paying the standard amount due per month via check, and just finally figured out how to get into my account on-line through the Chase site. I was looking at the payment history (below) and realized that I don't understand how the payment is split up. Why does the interest fluctuate so much? Is it based on how many days are in a given month? I will probably call customer service at some point for an explanation, but thought I'd write about it here also.

I'm also starting to think about "chipping" away at the principal a la Petunia 100. I'm ok with having the loan and not in a giant rush to pay it off because I have some other things I'd like to put money towards, but a little extra here and there might be a good thing.

Date Payment Principal Interest Principal Balance
09/01/2011 $231.46 $202.06 $29.40 $10,681.83
07/29/2011 $231.46 $210.30 $21.16 $10,883.89
07/05/2011 $231.46 $201.85 $29.61 $11,094.19
06/02/2011 $231.46 $198.58 $32.88 $11,296.04
04/27/2011 $231.46 $205.43 $26.03 $11,494.62
03/30/2011 $231.46 $204.03 $27.43 $11,700.05
03/01/2011 $231.46 $200.68 $30.78 $11,904.08
01/28/2011 $231.46 $204.08 $27.38 $12,104.76
12/31/2010 $231.46 $202.63 $28.83 $12,308.84
12/02/2010 $231.46 $200.15 $31.31 $12,511.47
11/01/2010 $231.46 $186.38 $45.08 $12,711.62

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Trip to Cape Cod (and cute puppy photos!)

September 9th, 2011 at 03:19 pm

Over Labor Day weekend, I drove to Cape Cod to visit a college friend who I reconnected with on Facebook and at our 25th reunion in June. Iíd never been to the cape (not sure why) and had a fantastic time! I spent my childhood summers on the southern NJ shore and REALLY miss the ocean and salt air. I now live way up north and inland, far from the coast. My friend adopted an adorable golden retriever puppy while I was there, so we spent a lot of time playing with the sweet little guy. His cuteness was almost unbearable! I tallied up my trip expenses:

37.17 Gas (fill up before leaving at 3.559)
15.25 Gas (total rip off on cape at 3.999! I was desperate, so only bought 3 gallons and then looked for cheaper)
46.39 Gas (fill up on cape for ride home at 3.859 Ė could have filled up partway, then found cheaper off cape, but just wanted to be ready to roll)

3.50 Tolls

12.99 Beer (local sampler 16-pack I brought with me for friend and her boyfriend)
21.36 Corn, lemonade, ketchup, butter and ice cream (my contribution to Saturday night cookout, and the pint of ice cream was for me!)
9.00 Ice cream sundae/cone on Friday night (for me and treated my friendís nephew)
36.01 Lunch on Saturday (treated my friend)
30.72 Lunch on Sunday (treated my friend and her friend)
33.92 Lunch on Monday (treated my friend and her boyfriend)

Food while traveling
1.19 Liter of water (forgot to fill up my own water bottle!)
5.93 Taco bell (I rarely eat fast food, but I love me some TB crispy tacos! Thankfully, there is no TB within one hour from where I live.)
2.99 Smartfood (something to munch on during the endless drive Ė I hit lots of traffic, detours, etc.)
4.13 McDonalds (got a giant coke and a large chocolate milkshake Ė they now come with whipped cream and a cherry! Needed some caffeine and a treat after sitting in 2-hour traffic leaving the cape.)

21.20 Added to prepaid phone for calling/texting during vacation (only used about half)

Total spent was 281.75. I was pretty happy with that since I was there Thursday night until Monday afternoon. I could have probably bought some food and made lunches for cheaper, but it was fun to get some local seafood, plus I was in no mood to cook! I walked on the beach, saw lots of seals, was treated to two lobster dinners, relaxed, explored the area, hung out with my friend and her friends and completely enjoyed being near the coast. I even got a free soft serve ice cream cone from a takeout lunch place when I returned to retrieve a forgotten soda. They gave me a fresh soda, I ordered the cone they gave it to me free for the inconvenience of not getting the original soda (which I think was probably my fault, but Iíll take a free cone!!) It's the little things in life...

Brace yourselves for devastating cuteness!

Nautical boy

Discombobulated

September 8th, 2011 at 09:41 am

Wow, I am a mess these days! Very unorganized, no memory, exhausted, binge eating and have no focus. I think one problem is the Zoloft that I started taking in June to help with some depression issues. I feel drugged. Iíve taken Prozac in the past without any side effects, so Iím going to talk to my doctor about switching or just going off the meds altogether. I just cannot wake up (I always feel tired) and Iím craving and eating sugary foods in an attempt to gain some energy, which of course is not working. Iím also gaining weight.

Financially, Iím wasting a lot of money on junk food and not paying attention to what Iím spending. In order to regain some order, I need to set some small goals. To start:

Today (after work):
*Walk today for 15 minutes (I hope to go longer once I get started, but I need to think small in order to get out and do it!)
*Set up autopay for my monthly electric bill and telephone bill (Iíve been paying bills late due to forgetting, not lack of funds, so this will help to solve that problem).
*Clean old food out of fridge (itís pretty gross in there!).
*Finish unpacking car from Labor Day weekend trip to Cape Cod.
*Find property tax paperwork and mark due date (October 1?) on calendar.

This weekend:
*Choose work outfits for next week.
Clean my house (itís a disaster!) Ė Iíll have to break this down into smaller goals.
Cook food for week (need to decide what to make).

Ok, Iíll start there and see what happens.