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Archive for January, 2006

Monday

January 30th, 2006 at 02:11 pm

Today I got paid. Worked a little extra - the licensing people are coming into work tomorrow, so all the rooms need to be looking their best. Still no 1099 from the bank - they are waiting until the end!

Visited Mom today. She started getting pressure sores on her heels, so is wearing huge foam boots. She doesn't understand what they are for, and is not enjoying her new fashion at all. She is looking good otherwise.

This is our first whole week of school in a while, so I'm thinking it's feeling long already. Yeah, I know - how rough we have it! We're on our second week of all taking lunches to school - still working out well, and is going to be something we continue. I bought ground beef at a good price the last time I went to the grocery store. I'll cook it all up with some onion, and bag it into 1lb. bags and freeze. I'll keep out 1lb. for use in tonight's tacos - a big favorite at our house.

We got our electric bill and it was almost $20 higher than normal - ugh! We're doing as others have mentioned here - shutting down and unplugging things. My husband is still trying to figure out our computers. I guess they are on a battery back-up thing that needs to stay plugged in or beeps and switches to the battery if unplugged. Needs?!! Well, I'm working on this (him!) The rates went up also. Oh well, the ups and downs of keeping money in our hands...

Take care!

This is how the money goes...

January 28th, 2006 at 01:21 pm

Fast!! Ok, that's a little dramatic, I know. We got my husband's check yesterday (mine comes on Monday)and there it starts to go...

Went to the bread outlet store. With my oldest two girls taking their lunches to school (yay, they are!), I have been letting them take bagels. Last week they were on sale at our regular grocery store, but still pretty high for using too often. The last time I went to the bread store, a 6-pk of bagels was $.65, and on Wed and Sat there is a 15% discount. So I stocked up on a month's worth of bagels - there was even whole grain wheat. They are in the freezer awaiting lunch duty.
Bread store - $7.96 (including several loaves of bread.)

Next I got gas and a wash for the Voyager. We usually wash our vehicles at home from spring into fall, but in the winter about every two to four weeks we go through the carwash (clean off all that road salt we love to use in MN.) With the 5 cents off per gallon coupon from our grocery for the gas and using the stamp card for each gas purchase towards money off for the wash, the total was $27.85. We're driving extra for my daughter's medical appts. - probably using twice as much gas as we normally do.

Did the grocery shopping today. Well, I didn't come in at those wonderful $90 of the last two weeks. Hardly...It came to $156.23! My excuse is that I had to re-stock the paper products and cleaning goods, as well as a few pantry goods. I will, however, still take it as a guarded success. It is lower than my usual weekly average of $170. And I don't buy paper and cleaning items every week. So my goal in the next week (or two or three!) is to be closer to the $90 mark. I feel like this is something I can do.

Still no 1099 from the bank. I called on Friday, and they said they have until the 31st. I said that's fine (I kept the grumbles to myself) - I just wanted to make sure I didn't not receive it or had misplaced it. Patience is a virtue!

Otherwise, just a quiet weekend for us all here. We seem to be needing a lot of rest lately - no illness, but maybe preventing it if we take it easy. We all cleaned up the house yesterday - nice! I'll do some baking either later today or tomorrow. I'm not even sure what dinner will be...maybe something very easy like scrambled eggs and toasted english muffins. Boy, am I having a lazy Saturday, or what?!

Hope others are enjoying their Saturday in the way they wish...take care!

Friday is here!

January 27th, 2006 at 09:10 am

Worked my usual hours yesterday, then took my oldest to her madical appt ($25 co-pay.)

No school today, and my husband took off today as vacation. We're slowly making appearances this morning - I guess we all needed the sleep.

No definite plans for today, but we may use our Historical Society membership to visit one of the fun museums in the Twin Cities. We switch off memberships year to year to get a variety of experiences. Or, with our weather so warm and gorgeous, maybe we'll head over to the free zoo and conservatory in St. Paul. The day is open... (and that's the best of all!)

My husband got his paycheck today, and I'll get mine on Monday. The money is all planned out, and waiting for bills and/or transfers to savings.

Will be making my grocery list and meal plan for the week - hoping to continue at the new reduced amount that has been happening the last couple weeks.

Cleaned out the freezer in the kitchen last night (already did this to our chest freezer.) Threw out some mangled and old stuff, but mostly did an inventory of what is in there, and organized it more logically. When the door was opened items would skid across the kitchen floor, if they didn't thud onto your toes. (I wish to point that I myself am very organized, but I live with others who AREN'T!!) Oh well, I'll enjoy my organized freezer while it lasts.

Have a great day...take care!

Yay!...

January 25th, 2006 at 03:14 pm

I worked extra hours again today. I can't believe how the extra hours have magically become available all of a sudden, especially when I am so open to working them (and need them so much for the extra bills we are currently paying off!)

It's church night tonight so I'm again using my trusty crockpot - ham and scalloped potatoes.

My husband had some potential good news. The company he's with has good record in keeping employees for a long time. He's been there 13 years, and is still considered the 'new guy'. So one of the 'older' guys has decided to take an early retirement, and try out a businees on his own. So my husband's bosses asked if he would like to move up into his position, which would include a pay raise (also an increase in stress.) If it seems worth it, both pay- and stress-wise, maybe he'll take them up on the offer. We shall see...

Now a question on this new blog format - how do you know what categories to choose for an entry? I haven't set up any yet, so maybe the answer is in the setup. I feel like my entries end up being more like a journal of our day, and not too easy to put under one category. But I feel like a slug, leaving everything under 'uncategorized'.

Anyway...take care!

I hope this works...

January 24th, 2006 at 08:08 pm

After having a bit of trouble starting up my blog back in December when I first joined, I hope that I'm doing this right.

Anyway, I worked extra hours at work - our school is making some space usage changes, and we're due to be inspected at the month's end. So I went through each classroom, checking that we have all the correct safety & emergency signage. Kind of a funny way to earn money, but I'm game for it! (All the extra hours lately will be a big help on the paycheck, and those upcoming hopital and dr bills in Feb. I'm very thankful.)

Still no 1099 - this is a lesson in patience. Knowing that we'll get a refund makes me anxious to get it to us. Plus I want to refigure our withholdings again, so as to not to get such a big refund. We are a family of six. I have no taxes taken out of my check (being part-time, as well as working only school-year, my check isn't all that big anyway.) When I fill out the w-4 form withholding calculations, well, it just seems like too much. I mean we get 6, obviously. When I figured it out, the form said 12! So I divided the difference and took 9. Still we get around $2600 (no exact figure 'til I get that 1099!) For state, I left us at 6, and we hover around owing $50 to getting $50 back. This is exactly where I like us to be. Oh well, each year I get us a smaller refund, and gives me a challenge to work on, so I don't get bored, I guess.

Have a good evening...take care!

'tis Monday

January 23rd, 2006 at 12:46 pm

Sent the two oldest off with lunches, and I think it wasn't too bad for them (except that we'll try to pack them the night before - mornings are too crazy!) Still no 1099 - I know we'll receive it before the end of the month, but I'm ready to do up those taxes. I worked extra hours today, so that will be nice on the paycheck. Dinner is in the crockpot - another batch of the minestrone recipe I tried last week. Everyone wanted it again, so I put that together quickly this morning. I have some paid training to go to tonight with a meal provided by my boss. Hopefully the family will save a bowl of the minestrone for my lunch tomorrow. My daughter has to get on the computer, so this is it for now....take care!

Sunday update

January 22nd, 2006 at 05:51 am

Got a little done yesterday. No 1099 in the mail on Sat. - I'm anxious to get going on my taxes.

Baked oatmeal raisin cookies - you can imagine how much hanging out in the kitchen there was! I managed to pack up and freeze several snack bags worth for lunches and snacks.

Talked to my oldest two about school lunches, and the oldest grumbled a bit. The thing is is that they'll have to bring lunches this week, because they ran their accounts so low, and I don't have the money to replenish them. Really!! (This is not just mom-talk, and trying to introduce a new idea - they went through the money far quicker than they should have and we don't get paid 'til next Fri.) So we'll try it out for the week, out of necessity. I put aside some bagels and cream cheese (a treat for them!) they can take, as well as those squirreled-away cookies. Not much suffering on their part, I don't think!

I ended up getting gas for the Voyager again. I usually do this every two weeks, but we had extra driving from last weekend, and I have one longer drive this week for a medical appt for my oldest. I was just under half, and in the winter (even as warm as this one) I don't like to have the tank so empty. Gas - $26

The grocery store went well again this week. I created a list, and the total came to $91. Last week it was $90. I'm liking this trend - hope to make it continue!

I have church in a bit, and plan to do some serious straightening around here. Dinner will be chicken and rice/wild rice. And, definitely some relaxing....take care!

Getting serious now...

January 21st, 2006 at 08:39 am

I mulled over what we're spending on our grocery, etc. bill weekly, and came up with a plan to help reduce it.

Lunches and snacks:

- Look for a cheaper source of hot cocoa/coffee - I was buying the cheapest of this at the grocery store we go to, but have looked up some homemade mixes that might give us a little savings

- Talk to my two oldest girls about bringing lunches to school

- Talk to my youngest girl about some charges on her lunch account - she brings lunch each day, but it turns out that she was still thirsty after drinking what I was sending, so we will make sure there is an extra container with water packed (she came up with the idea!)

- Determine the costs of the individual items packed into the lunches & figure out a max price I'm willing to pay to have an item in the lunch - started to do this and found that some of what I was thinking was cheap wasn't as cheap as it could be (mostly I plan to eliminate the really expensive few items, but still offer a variety of cheaper alternatives over the course of the week.)

- Make a concerted effort to bake and freeze more of the treat and snack items (so often it's cheaper to make than buy, plus having control of what's put in)

- Relating to the above is to prebag portions of snacks and homemade treats so as to easily pull together for snacks and lunches (do this already, but could improve - between my husband and the girls, they could eat whole packages and everything I bake fresh in one session - not good for the budget or waistline) - maybe what I need to do is find better hiding places

Take care!

Pondering our monthly food bill

January 20th, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Yesterday I was able to do a conference call with my husband to the office that manages his old job's pension. We now have the amount it's worth, if paid out lump-sum. Now the dilemma is, do we roll it over into an IRA or into his current 401K account? Or do we leave it, and hopefully it will still be available for a monthly payout (he can start receiving at age 55)? 55 is still 12 years away, and a lot of his co-workers are feeling uneasy with the old employer and have taken the lump-sum. My gut feeling is to take the lump-sum and set up an IRA account for it, then we are in control of it (well, except for what the market does to it!) He has a retirement annuity from an even more previous employer that has been not going anywhere, so I will look at rolling that over too. I think I could get a handle on our retirement accounts - his 401K, my public employee account, and a single account like an IRA for the rest - yay!

Yesterday I also did some preliminary figuring of our taxes (just need one more 1099.) We will again get a refund on our fed taxes. Every year I keep fiddling with our withholdings, and I have the state taking just the right amount. But the federal is another matter. At least compared to last year, I'm heading in the right direction. Oh well, it's back to the w-4 again. The last 1099 wasn't in today's mail, but as soon as I receive it, I'm ready to write up the forms and get them sent in.

Well, going over the budget stuff, I've concluded we're doing pretty well for our fixed expenses (including things like insurance, vehicle expenses, etc.) I guess it's more our discretionary spending is where we could use a little work (ha - a lightbulb moment or what!)

Food, including dining out - We eat most meals at home. Depending on our finances, we eat out once every two or four weeks. We all eat breakfast at home. My husband packs a lunch for work and the two younger girls take lunches and snacks to school and the older two eat lunches at their schools. I usually come home for lunch, or I bring a lunch. Dinners are at home, usually with everyone (we eat early or late depending on the activities.) Our grocery list is usually basic foods - I stock a pantry and freezer, rather than shop for meals. I shop only once a week. I used to shop every two weeks, and even for a time, monthly (we had milk home delivered then.) We're incorporating more fresh vegetables, fruits, protein and higher quality carbs into our diet, so I find weekly works better for that (though I find it is a bit more expensive the more often I shop.) I keep a running list on the frig of what we run out of. I look over the sale flyer to see what bargains and coupons are offered for the week. Then I make my list, sticking to it for the most part. With a combination of pantry and freezer items and newly bought groceries I create our meals.

Part of what I include in our 'food' budget is health, beauty and cleaning supplies, plus food and supplies for our pets (we have 6 - a dog, 3 cats, a guinea pig and a hampster.) We aren't star consumers in this area - using the store brands of cleaning items, the 99cent shampoos, generic pain relievers, etc. The pets get more than their share of the budget...but somehow we've acquired these animals and we'll see to their good care - though we have a current restriction on allowing any more of them at our house.

For a budget amount, I took an average and came up with $170 a week. And that is about what I spend most weeks between groceries, the occasional dinner out and pet store stop, though the range can be $70 - 200. Sometimes I feel that since I say it's a certain amount, I somehow make sure it is that amount. Still, I don't think there is much I can do about the pets (just no more new ones!) And the cleaning/health/beauty amounts are probably fine - though I'll keep tabs on amounts used, and use what is minimally necessary. The dining out is not an outrageous part of our budget.

So what's left is my two oldest's use of school lunches, and the food portion of the grocery bill. Hmm, I guess a talk is in order for the girls. And I'll go over the meal plans. I cook mostly from scratch, and we aren't having steak every night (actually that's only twice a year - on father's day and my husband's birthday - he loves steak!) I like what some journalists were doing with figuring out the costs of some of their meals. Maybe my meals cost more than I am realizing? I guess I'll have to think some more on this area. As a kind of initial goal, I'm trying to spend closer to an average of $130 a week. I need to come up with better figures of our absolute minimum amount to keep us and the pets going. But I'll try a $40 dollar a week reduction, and see where that gets me.

That's all for now...take care!

checking out more of the budget

January 19th, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Today was pajama day at preschool - the kids always laugh at us teachers in our gear. I even had wild hair that looked like bedhead, though that was not intentional. Visited Mom and she is now allowed full weight on her healing hip - yay! Her physical therapist stopped by to chat, and was proud to announce that Mom walked with her walker this morning for the first time since the accident. Our goal was to get her out of the wheelchair and back to her walker, and she is getting there!

Moneywise news - trying to look over our budgeted expenses some more.

Garbage - We have a city collector, with a reduced charge negotiated with the city. Over the 16-17 years we've had this service, the cost has risen very little. The city added a recycling charge, and probably two price increases for a total of about $2-3 more monthly in all that time - not bad. One of the journalists mentioned cutting their service. We'd still have to pay the recycling charge. While we recycle everything we can (we have curbside pickup every 2 weeks) and compost, I'm not sure what we'd do with the rest of the garbage. But maybe, we can increase our effort to reduce our container size (though the savings for using the smallest one is not much of an incentive - though the environmental incentive is always a good motivator.)

Phone - We have landline and internet service from our local company. I keep talking to my husband about our 'need' for DSL service - but he's not budging. We have basic phone service (the cheapest) and haven't felt a need to have all of the extras that are offered. We have a phone with an answering machine, and it works for us. My husband has a cell from his work, and they pay all expenses (and it's used for work only, though he may carry it for emergency use occasionally - never have used it so far though.) I have a cell phone with a limited plan my husband gets through being on the voluntary police reserve in out town. I like the convenience it offers me for the school to reach me about sick kids and for the nursing home staff who care for my mom to be able to reach me, wherever I am during the day (I switch schools during the day many times for work.) I don't use it to have long conversations, but for those quick calls. My two oldest daughters have pay-as-you-go phones from their aunt (she graciously supplies the phone cards too.) I looked into that kind of service for me, but found for the usage I have each month, I'd pay double what I am now. I do use those phones to call to my brother and family in Alaska. We email each other regularly, but make an occasional call, and that's the cheapest way for us to call there.

Today's mail brought more w-2s, so on to more tax compiling...take care!

Wednesday

January 18th, 2006 at 05:33 pm

Pretty good day today. I worked preschool in the morning, and then intermediate school in the afternoon. I was greeted by a few people who want to take advantage of my afternoon availability for subbing- I say yes! (February bills beware!)

The minestrone was wonderful last night - my family all loved it, and there was only one bowl left for my lunch today. Definitely a keeper crockpot recipe. Next soup I want to try is the lentil one mentioned in the food forum. Tonight we had homemade pizza - no leftovers either. It helps that I limit the girls on their afternoon snack - sometimes even eliminating it altogether if we're having an early supper. They eat more dinner, that's for sure.

Not much money-wise to report, except that it was a no spend day, while being a good earning day. Tomorrow I plan to add up receipts for tax time, and remind my husband to check on his pension from his former employer (I do most money matters at our house, but once in a while I come across an account that will only speak to the owner - no problem, except to get him to do it...)

I'll visit my mom too tomorrow. She broke a hip in early Dec, so I'll have to check with the nurses as to how her latest followup dr visit went (she has Alzheimer's and won't remember going to the dr, or even that she broke the hip - she very much lives in the moment.) I also received her newest med insurance card, so need to get the nursing home a copy of the card.

This evening still holds spelling lists study for two daughters, folding the laundry and thinking what we'll have for dinner tomorrow (hmmm - maybe another crockpot meal - I have the makings of a creamy mushroom swiss steak recipe.) My two youngest girls both have their girl scout meetings from late afternoon to after dinner, so a quick dinner is in order. My oldest will be coming home soon from confirmation, and will NEED the computer. And then slowly, one by one the girls will go to bed, followed soon by their parents!

Well, whew!....take care!

It's Tuesday

January 17th, 2006 at 02:49 pm

Went to work, then came home to work on my to-do list. Today I got a bit accomplished...some of those things that aren't a lot of fun to do, but are wonderful to cross off the list!

We have new medical and dental insurance as of Jan 1, so I had to have the clinic we go to write up 7 new prescriptions for mail-order (90-day supply with 3 refills.) I received those in the mail at the end of last week, only to find out that after trying to calculate the costs for the mail-order forms that one drug isn't on the formulary and one is actually cheaper filling it monthly at our local pharmacy. (I'm glad for the cheaper price, but do like the convenience of the mail-order.) We need to talk to my husband's dr about an alternative and mine for a new script for monthly. Today, I sent out 3 prescriptions for $150. The rest will go in on next pay period. (While I'm thankful for the good insurance we had/have, I dream of having the same medical insurance for more than a year at a time. I'm not sure how I would spend those first few weeks in Jan, if that were to happen!)

I also caught my bills and checkbook up for this week. (Part of my unwritten goals for this year - keep on top of that checkbook, so I know where we're at.) I also reconciled the checkbook to the latest bank statement. Over the holidays, I sort of piled my paid bills and statements, rather than file them. So I filed what needed to be, pulled out papers to be shredded from the cabinet, and gathered together the receipts to add up for tax time. Just waiting on a couple more items for tax time - oh, yeah!

I also arranged some extra hours at work over the next few weeks - I work in two preschool classes for our school district, but our early childhood program has a lot of events coming up, so I'll take as many hours as I can get. I also got a call from our intermediate school, and will work there in the special ed dept - one of my favorite places to sub. So more hours... all for a good cause - improving our financial picture bit by bit! With our hospital and dr bills from Nov, this will be welcome, that's for sure.

I started dinner this morning in the crockpot- a new recipe for minestrone. It smells wonderful! There is a little leftover lasagne from a couple days ago (not enough to freeze for another meal) and a salad and bread.

Good evening to you all...take care!

A day off

January 16th, 2006 at 01:04 pm

Yesterday, I went with my two oldest daughters to find a dress for an upcoming dance my oldest will attend. She had success at JCPenney, with a sale to boot. She found a pretty black, spaghetti strap dress on sale and a black, beaded shawl on clearance (70% off!) Picked up some hose not on sale and a delicate necklace and earring set on sale at Claire's (lucklily she has some strappy black heels that will complete the outfit.) I was pleased with cost, and it's a dress that can be worn in the future!

Today we had a medical co-pay to pay out for one of my daughters. One from last week and for today - so $50 total for today. The $25 co-pay will go on weekly for a while. Not a fun way to spend money, but very necessary. I'm thankful that our insurance pays what it does towards this care, and that we able to afford our part.

Otherwise, the only other spending was toward Valentine's for the kids and myself to hand out in our classes. We like to buy early and have a better selection. $7 bought 2 bags of individual candy heart treat packs and cards enough for my two younger daughters classmates and my two preschool classes at work, as well as candy enough for the older two to hand out candy to their friends, if they wish.

Dinner is a turkey we got as part of doing our normal shopping over the Fall ( it's been thawing for a few days in the frig - am glad to be cooking it up!) Typical turkey sidedishes for tonight, and then I'll have the remainder of the meat for a couple days of sandwiches and some to freeze for stirfry or other quick to put together meals.

Have a good evening, all....take care!

Sunday update

January 15th, 2006 at 08:50 am

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, and got gas too. Groceries came in at $90 - pretty good, since most weeks are closer to $170. I'm relying on a bit of what we have in the freezer and pantry, plus I caught a good sale on some stockup items that we'll use over the next few weeks. Tonight is lasagne, bread and salad.

I filled up our Plymouth Voyager - it was empty! That came to $35, but will keep us for two weeks at least. One of the benefits of where I grocery shop is that if you spend $50, you get a coupon for $.05 off every gallon up to 30 gallons. Well, $50 is not a reach for our family, for sure. So I only paid $2.12/gal - only, ha!

We went to early service at church, and then while the girls were at Sunday school, my husband and I tried out a new Caribou in our area. It was a nice little date (far and few of these!) But we both figured it wasn't quite worth the cost...so we'll look for another way to do this sort of thing.

That's all for now...take care!

trying out accountabilty

January 14th, 2006 at 09:31 am

In an effort to be more accountable for 'where the money goes' ....well, here goes....

I transferred some money over to the savings from the checking. I was going to do a smaller amount, but in one of the forum discussions, someone mentioned to try 10% off the top. Now, we already have about 14% taken out into retirement funds automatically off our gross wages. But, since it's taken out before we receive our checks, we don't even notice it gone. Our savings cushion has been harder to achieve, because we need to get the money transferred on our own. So, long story short (yay, right) I am trying to take the 10% off our takehome pay. We need to build a cushion for next month's expenses, and if we don't use it, it'll become our hidden cushion (or buffer as some use.) So, this act felt good, very good.

Other spending today - went to the discount bread store, and spent $10.39 for a month's supply for our family. I even found several items with whole grains (my mission is to integrate cheaper, but healthier food to the whole family & not just wayward me!) This is about $5 - 10 less than I usually spend.

Still need to get gas for our smaller van, as well as groceries, and maybe the dress for my daughter, if we find a bargain. 'Tis all for now....Take care!

It's Friday!!

January 13th, 2006 at 02:04 pm

After a very long evening of repair last night, my husband was able to fix the washer - yay! It's a very well-used appliance at our house, and would be sorely missed. Note to those looking for partners in life - it's absolutely wonderful having someone who is a jack-of-all-trades sort of person, because there is a good chance s/he can fix a great many things around the home and garage. His next project - replace the brake line in our old Ford van this weekend. Oh joy!!

We both received our checks today, and there were OT hours. So our first month of payments for November's ambulance, doctor and hospital bills were paid with a bit of breathing room. I'm putting some aside in our savings to have as backup for next month's payment, as well as, paying out the majority of our monthly bills (mortgage and utilities...) Hey, we can even get groceries (just kidding, though occasionally it does feel that short funds-wise.)

This weekend, I'll head to the discount bread store and buy a month's worth (most goes into the freezer.) I will make a trip to the grocery store, though except for some dairy and produce, we're not in too bad of shape, so it should be on the lower end of cost. I'll start to gather up everything for tax time, and can begin preliminary figuring (have to wait for the w-2s & 1099s to come before I can get too far into the forms.)

My oldest is attending her first semi-formal high school dance early in February, so we'll start looking at dresses this weekend. It should be fun, but she knows our limitations (so we're hoping for something cheap and gorgeous, while being a dress she'll wear again - is that a tall order, or what?!) I have a price in mind, and she could use some of her money for something more, but she is putting her earnings toward a mission trip with our church this summer. She's a pretty practical girl, so I think she'll find something great in my price range. (The lot of a mom - I'm very excited for her, being nostalgic from my high school days and the fun she'll have...but still, I'm in shock as to how we got here! Wasn't she just a little one in my arms in her ruffly pink dresses not all that long ago?? Hmm, pretty sure she won't go that route now!) Have a great weekend....take care!

It's those little things....

January 12th, 2006 at 02:35 pm

That make you crazy!!! I did the amended property tax forms - so we owe back some funds for two past years = just under $100 (my dumb mistake - though the letter from the state did imply it was a common error.) Mailing that out tomorrow.

Our city sewer system inspection went well, and we passed and will get the reduced amount on our water and sewer bill, but when they compared the inside to the outside water usage meter, the outside one was off by 24,000 gallons. Oops, it must have broken sometime over the years - how would you like to get caught up, ma'am? Hmm, can I pick never?? To remain the law-abiding citizens we are, we'll pay the $200 charge - oh, yay!

Now, this morning seemed to be fairly normal. I started my usual load of laundry as the girls and I got ready for school and work. The machine filled up nicely, and I went about my morning business. Hmm, that machine seems a bit quiet down in the basement. I check and it's not agitating. Turn the machine off and then back on, check that it is plugged in, flip the breaker. Well, the laundry is doing a long soak, til my husband gets home. He's really looking forward to this evening activity! I'm hoping it's an easy fix.

Wow - I think I need this week to end, before anything else happens!

How the time flies...

January 10th, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Another week zooming by! In my attempt to look at where the money goes and see where the budget could be tweaked - well, here goes...

Electric - Fluorescent bulbs in all fixtures as I can tolerate (maybe it's just my cheap ones, but do all give off that blue, harsh light? I know grow lights have a warmer looking light, but are there bulbs available for house lamps and ceiling fixtures? If there aren't, one lamp in the living room and the one on my side of bed will remain with the more-expensive-to-use regular lightbulbs.) Our house mantra is turn off any lights we don't need on. And we're using the many candles I received from my students at Christmas, when we're not needing light for reading or other such activities. After reading some of the threads in the forums, I'm encouraging my electronics-loving husband to the possibility of unplugging a few of the currently not being used items (baby steps are okay, dear.) I remember this from years ago, but whew, do we get lax (ok, I can blame this one on my husband - electricity is his passion.)

Natural Gas - We heat with gas, as well as have a gas water heater, dryer and oven. We have a 1200 sq ft old (as in not as insulated as it could be) house, but keep the temp down to 60 from about 10pm until 5 or 6pm. For about 4 hours in the evening we turn the temp up to 65. If someone is home sick we turn the temp up, and if the temps are sub-zero, we turn it up also. Generally, we like a cooler home, though not cold, and encourage the use of sweaters and sweatshirts and slippers. We open the blinds on our south side to let in the sun during the day. As you can imagine, with six of us, there is high use of our shower. We only have one, and it works having only that one. My husband takes a daily shower, while the rest of us usually do every other day (with what my mom called a spit bath in between, lest you wonder of our cleanliness!) We all suffer dry skin and showering every other day helps a lot with that. Again with the six, I wash every day (rather than save for a whole day once or twice a week.) I do one to two loads daily ( yes, I am one of those who will throw everything into one load! I wash in cold water - have forever- and for the most part, our clothes have been washed many, many previous times and I haven't had any of the problems that the detergent commercials like to list - dingey whites, washed out colors, etc. I wash new items, lights with lights and darks with darks, until I think we're past where it matters. Also the majority of the clothes are hand-me-downs from girl to girl, and also from lots of friends - it's so nice to have friends who buy good quality clothes and pass along. I've gotten things used and they go through all four of my girls and then I pass it all along. Amazing!) As far, as the oven, I tend to use my crockpot a few times a week, with the rest of the meals done in and on top of the stove. When I use the stove, I usually try to make extra to freeze or plan several items that can go in at the same time if there is room. I also leave the door open afterwards, to make use of the residual heat, now that my girls are older. Our gas bill is on the budget plan and is only $20 more a month than last year (and I think it will go down when they reevaluate it in Feb - they like to start us out high, and we always use less than they think we will.)

Water/Sewer - I guess some of the above also applies here. The shower/bath use is above. With a 15yo and a 13yo, I've said the rule of our house is only one shower OR bath per day! Only occasionally does it get a bit out of hand. The laundry use is above, with a few extra loads on the weekend (towels and sheets.) January through March sets our sewage amount, based on our water use. The town's thinking is that these months represent typical usage. Then in the summer months, with gardening and lawn and pools using water, the sewer rate is based on the Jan - Mar rate, and your water is your actual use. So my thinking is reduce our use during these months! Well, as much as you can with a family of six.


Well, that's all for now...take care!

Back at it

January 4th, 2006 at 12:02 pm

Back to work for me and back to school for the girls. Sleeping in and pretty much being lazy over the break made for a rude awakening yesterday morning, but we all survived and are back on track.

My husband checked out our Ford conversion van and lucky us, I didn't do damage to the transmission - whew! Just an easy brake line for him to install. This allows us to delay any big decision about what to do with this poor vehicle. We have had the front end welded a couple of times, but it's again starting to come apart. This is the van that we use when we go camping. Picture a van stuffed to bursting, plus the excess tied to the top in several carriers (a la Ma and Pa Kettle, for those old enough to remember those old movies.) At the campsite, we open the doors and things just spring out the door, as well as the four girls. After the tent and site setup, we are settle down pretty well, much to the neighboring sites' relief. We also use the old van for going to the beach in the summer, and we can bring along a blownup tube or air mattress for everyone (we usually bring along friends.) And the van is so old I don't worry about dings on the door, sand in the carpet, spills, etc. Yes, I love this old van, troubles and all...

Finally got the pin for one of my husband's old retirement accounts - will try to access online & find out if it could be rollovered to something (still need to research where to put combined funds.) Need to call the clinic to have new 3-month prescriptions wriiten up, due to our medical insurance changing on January 1. Already printed the forms needed for mail-in prescriptions.

Need to talk to my mom's insurance, due to receiving a bill from a hospital she wasn't at - my brother talked to the nursing home and they don't know what it is. When he tried calling the hospital, they wouldn't talk to him without filling out a ton of paperwork, even though we have all the legal papers including POA, and it was billed to HIM! Oh well, just when you think you have it all in order and figured out, it either changes or is just handled differently. It keeps you on your toes, that's for sure!

Well, my to-do list grows by the second, so now must do some crossing off of the list. Take care!

Happy 2006

January 1st, 2006 at 11:18 am

Having a lazy morning - make that afternoon already! After purchasing some snacks yesterday, we stayed home with the girls and played board games and watched movies. At about 11:30, we watched Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve and the ball drop in NYC. The girls were re-energized at midnight, while my husband and I were practically snoring. We all slept in this morning. So, a good start to the new year.

On the money front (and it IS starting to feel like a battle of wills - those who want our money and us trying to keep it and, as you'll see, a bit of who's side am I on)...

Minimal spending since Winter break started, since we are needing to pay those medical bills over the next few months. Our treat (planned) was to go see Narnia. We don't see many films in the theatre and it was great. Otherwise we're hanging out, sledding, playing games and enjoying what we got for Christmas and some downtime before we head back to work and school.

On a not so fun note - yesterday's mail had a letter from the State of MN property tax department. It was a bulk sent out letter saying that property tax refunds were audited for years 2003 & 2004 and that many contained mistakes on claiming tax deferred income. I thought I did it right, but I'll check them over. Even if we owe back some funds, we never receive a large refund, so it wouldn't be horrible to have to pay back, just not particularly fun. The other event to happen involves our older van (93 Ford conversion.) The brake line blew out during our recent bout of snow while I was heading down an icy steep driveway and dummy me panicked and shifted into park so as to not go into the ditch and hit a tree. I saved us from the menacing ditch and tree, but my husband is still checking out the damage. Dumb, dumb dumb! On the good side (because that's the kind of person I am,) we usually use our 95 Plymouth Voyager for most of our driving due to getting twice the gas mileage the Ford does - so at least I wasn't in the Plymouth when I wasn't using my brain. Plus the Ford has some other big repair issues that we've been putting off making decisions on - well, maybe, just maybe I've made those decisions a tad bit easier. Still very dumb, but 'tis life...

Today, I'll head for the grocery store. I find it invaluable taking a few minutes to look at our week, the sales circular for the store we visit and plan out meals for the week, sometimes two. I keep a running list on the frig and finalize it before I go to the store. I've already done that, so I just need to go. Otherwise, just another low-key, just the way we like it, sort of day. Take care!