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It's really spring (in March!)

March 29th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Some of the little flower and vegie seedlings we planted last week are starting to sprout. We've been opening the covers to allow the condensation to dissipate, which attracts our cats' attention. And I thought the outside bunnies were dastardly? So far we've held strong against the evil kitty forces...

Oh my word, the temperature is nearly 60! And we're headed into the 70s later in the week. The weather guys have been saying this will be the first March in recorded weather history with no snow. Usually March is MN's second snowiest month. Absolutely no complaints here!

We broke out the grill last week - my favorite way to cook. On tonight's menu is grilled chicken to top a spinach salad with strawberries, red raspberries, red onion, and feta cheese topped with a berry vinaigrette. I hope it tastes as good as it looks in the magazine (Taste of Home's Healthy and Light.)

Later, we'll head out for a walk. Can't take this beautiful weather for granted!

On the spending front, March is looking a little on the spendy side, but not horrible. The girls and I all did a little various wardrobe updating. I stocked up on groceries this past weekend, as we had gone two weeks since the previous shopping. We worked through quite a pile of frozen items. While adjusting to cooking for less, I'd end up freezing more and more food. Finally after one too many shove and slams to the freezer door, I decided it was time to resolve this problem. We are so souped, stewed and chili'd out now, but my freezer looks much better. (Spring cleaning of a sort!)

Enjoy your evening and take care!

Taxes & Tires & Tidbits - oh my!

February 8th, 2009 at 03:43 am

The taxes are done! I e-filed my oldest's federal and will mail out her state - both with refunds. I also changed her withholdings. I used TurboTax for the first time (I'm a long hold-out with the paper and pencil!)and e-filed our federal - we get a refund of all of $50. The state taxes is a 'oh my, how did this happen??' We owe $674, which include a $17 penalty for being over $500. Not much has changed from last year, but somehow we ended owing this much. Will be submitting new w4s on Monday for sure.

Well, we upped our percent going to my husband's 401k - we're at the max. I'm hoping this is, and will be, a good move, but as it is said, we're in it for the long term (so please, please turn yourself around, market!) I'm a public employee and my retirement fund is a prescribed employer/employee amount, so no more there I can do. Next is to check into a Roth IRA.

It's been one of those weekends where things want to join together in falling apart. A couple nights ago, we were doing our nightly shuffle of the cars so everyone is parked in the right order to get out of the driveway in the morning (yes, we look crazy and yes, the neighbors think it's hilarious.) When my husband pulled our Olds into the driveway, he heard a sudden hiss, and one of the tires went flat. A puncture in the sidewall of one of the new tires we had just bought in May. Poo... My husband took it off, and brought it to the tire store. Not salvagable, so another $80 for a new one.

Today we were finishing up the last load of laundry, and my husband commented on how long the last load was taking to dry. He went to check on it, when he found it was wet and cold, not a good sign. Luckily he's a handy sort and after dismantling the machine, he did a little check online for a schematic and found that it was a heat sensor fuse that had blown. We'll have to wait for the Sears Parts store to open (we'll check, but I'm thinking it's not open on Sunday) but the part is about $15, which isn't too bad.

My husband is thinking that work is starting to look more relaxing that these 'restful' weekends.

I'm thinking there are forces out there trying to part us with our money. Always!

In other news...we got the official letter saying that our mortgage has been satisfied and officially payed off. We'll still need to get the copies of the record from the county when it becomes available. I guess my category of "I owe,I owe..." is now "I don't!"

And oh my...the best news of all is that my oldest got an acceptance to her first choice of college. (This is what spurred me on to accept what my taxes were saying and just get a move on in filing!) On to the FAFSA - oh yay...

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Catching up

October 8th, 2007 at 09:25 pm

How busy the last month has been! Between school's start and my new job and my husband's job, along with the girls' few activities - whew!

I've now worked long enough to get three paychecks, and all I can say is that it's so nice to write out the bills and have the funds ready. Our checking account buffer is back in place again, along with the small emergency funds. Now we're working on the one last cc debt - actually we have been for the last year, but we are making greater strides in obliterating that balance.

This month hasn't been cheap either. The school fees and expenses aren't fun, but are normal and expected. The unexpected included another repair on the conversion van (along the more important repairs, I now have the driver side washer fluid line working AND I have greatly improved heat and defrost. Yay! As this has been our warm weather camping van, this hasn't been too much of an issue. But with my oldest driving her sisters to school in the minivan, I'm using the behemoth, and well, heat is a good thing.)

The other expense that we weren't expecting quite yet was some dental work for my husband, which I paid in full today. Easy come, easy go the paychecks!

Budgetwise, we're holding tight. I've been cooking at home and still shopping once every two weeks. My grocery budget has actually decreased a little, due to changing to a different grocery store. I've been able to stick to just under $200, which has been my goal. The last couple trips I've been including stocking up bit by bit for upcoming holiday baking. I've also been trying out new recipes, mostly because I'm bored with our usual meals. Many are from the Light & Tasty magazine - some have been more successful than others. The girls come to the table warily, and I'm no longer bored as it's very entertaining to watch their expressions. A mom's gotta have fun once in a while!

Utility-wise, we're doing pretty good. MN has been going the whole range of weather lately, and we have had the heat on one night a couple weeks back. The last two days have been very humid and near 90. I keep a pile of blankets next to the beds and keep a constant refrain of "take the jacket...where's the jacket" ringing in my girls' ears.

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

It's the simple things in life...

April 19th, 2006 at 07:42 pm

Got the biggest of the hospital bills today - boy, this hospital is faster than the one we used last November. Have the money set aside for it, at least.

Was going to try to hang the laundry that I washed before leaving for work this morning on the line outside, but a bank of dark clouds is moving in quickly from the southwest.

Wednesday is a busy night with the girls all heading to church , but at different times. So crockpot spaghetti is on the menu for an early dinner at 5pm. (We still eat all together - we just move the time around as needed.)

I was catching up the checkbook yesterday, and was sort of panicking, because it seemed that I had a lot of debit card receipts and checks to log in. (Probably could tell my panic by my long, rambling entry yesterday!) So I marked them all down, and sat back feeling a little silly. I only spent as we had planned and budgeted for, except for a small amount at Target (something we needed, just vague as to when.) I shared this with my husband, and we had to laugh at being out of the practice of spending our money that it seemed we were being quite reckless. May we remain so out of practice!

(Ok, I have to share what I got...bath towels. I happened on a clearance of better quality, cheaper than what I was pricing, AND in the color I wanted! Our old ones were very well-used. This is my third set of towels since my husband and I got married in 1984 - yup, very well-used old towels, very appreciated new ones. It is quite simple to make me happy! Hey, and I got some new towels to replenish the rag bag - oh, yay!!)

Hey, and it's not so bad looking to the SW, maybe I'll try the clothesline yet! Better get to it. Take care!!

Time Flies...

April 18th, 2006 at 07:47 pm

...when you're having fun!

Actually, life hasn't been too bad lately, just plain busy. The couple times I tried to make a new entry, I couldn't log in, so I'm glad it's working out for me today.

We had a fun long Easter weekend. My third daughter came home from her school trip on Thurday night, feeling very successful (no tearful calls home from a homesick girl!), tired and with lots of stories of her adventures. On Friday, everyone got up early to do yardwork in our beautiful summery Spring weather. Afterwards, we had moved into the house to clean and generally spruce up the interior. On Easter day, we had my husband's parents over for noon dinner, and later went to visit my mom at the nursing home (she's still in a wheelchair for her December hip break, and we would not have been able to get her to our door even, plus her stage of Alzheimer's makes it so hard to take her anywhere anymore - she gets so unsettled and anxious, and just wants to go back home. Can you tell I feel bad about this? This is the first Easter dinner without her. I know there is nothing to be done, but to do what's best for her. It just takes a bit of getting used to, I guess.) We took her dog along for the visit - she loves that old dog! It was a nice visit with my mom - the dog and girls always bring my mom a lot of attention, so she had fun being at the center of it all.

So it was back to work and school for us all today. I work extra this week - the last session of Kindergarten Connection. I also said yes to working a two-week session in August to get the kids ready and raring to go to Kindergarten in September. I'm off in the summer, and by August a bit of paycheck will be welcome.

We've seen online all that the insurance will pay toward my oldest's hospital stay in March, so will be prepared for the bills when they are sent out. We have the money set aside.

I'm getting a little edgy about upcoming expenses. Hospital charges - ok. Ongoing medical appointments - 25-75 per week - have been managing, but have been putting off the more non-pressing medical appts, and that can't go on too much longer. (Still saying to myself - be thankful that there is insurance!!)

My two middle girls are going to our church's camp in Wisconsin in June. My oldest is going on a mission trip to Wyoming in July. Between the girls' savings and work (at the pool and babysitting) and youth accounts at the church, I'm estimating that the amount I'll pay out to be $200-300, or so altogether.

We are camping over Memorial weekend - paid for! Just the gas (no small expense anymore!) to get there and we bring along food. We try to camp a couple other times over the summer - we'll have to see how we stabilize after paying off the hopsital and manage the ongoing medical expenses, once I'm not getting a paycheck.

Also, we got notice that my second daughter was recommended for a school trip to Wahington DC next Fall as an 8th grader. Her older sister did the trip, and we thought it was a wonderful experience. My oldest paid for over a third of the trip by working at the pool as a water safety aide in lessons. My second is applying for an aide position in our commnuity ed program over the summer - that would really be great news in making this trip a reality.

Well, enough for this entry - not the best at short and sweet! It's a beautiful day here in Minnesota, one that you dream about at Winter's darkest. I definitely need to find some puttering to do outside! Take care!

Free Lunch...

April 8th, 2006 at 01:27 am

...and more than you want to know!

I went to lunch after work today with a friend. I offered to use a gift certificate that I got at Christmas time from one of my preschool students. The sandwich shop is adorable and has great food, but a little pricey. It was great for free though!

Otherwise, my husband got paid, and there was a small bonus based on last year's company revenues. Not big, but surely much better than nothing!

We paid the van repair bills. Online, we were able to figure how much we'll expect the hospital to bill for my daughter's recent stay, and we have that ready to pay out.

After my daughter's medical visit yesterday, it was recommended to try a different direction in treatment, including more testing. I'm trying to stay positive. I keep praying that the drs know what they are doing, that the insurance and our finances will hold out as needed, and that I can keep it all sane and stable for the whole family.

And you know what's funny? While those 'big things' seem to have a permanent loop in my mind, I have some wonderfully demanding 'distractions'. Tonight was crazy, but very normal for here. My oldest spent some time with grandma, took a shower, and went to a friend's. My second brought a friend over after school, IMd their friends on the computer, and spent way too much time in the bathroom preparing for a 7th grade event at the youth center. My third took a bike ride, played in the yard, changed clothes, and went to a youth event at our church. My youngest played outside with the neighbor boy, brought him over for dinner (hey, I managed to feed everyone but the oldest!)and they dragged my tired husband to the playground, where they played baseball, 4-square and some sort of running game. Daddy is really tired now. I took advantage of the lull to clean up around here (yeah, I know two seconds after everyone is back, little evidence of the cleaning will remain.) ....ok, I'm feeling better now! Take care!

Van repairs

April 6th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

I'm lucky that I work with a friend whose husband does vehicle repair on the side. He does a great job, at a great price and is very tolerant of my husband doing partial work on our vans (when it's discovered that the job is too difficult or requires special tools, etc.)

The brake line repair that my husband attempted on our conversion van in January got stalled, and was finally brought to our friend at the end of March. Luckily, the timing worked out perfect as our minivan started to shimmy at 40mph, and became quite scary to drive around. So we dropped off scary van for the newly repaired van. Whew!

Both vans are repaired. Our friends, knowing our medical situation of late and the forthcoming bills, said to pay them whenever, or make payments, or do whatever we can afford. We thanked them graciously, but told them to give us the bill. I got it today. Well, all I can say is what very dear friends they are. I'm paying them a little more than what they charged, and will give them a giftcard for a restaurant that I think they will enjoy.

We are very blessed in friends! We believe wholeheartedly in what comes around, goes around - so we'll be looking for our opportunity to be 'a friend indeed to a friend in need', whether for this family or for another. It all works out, and adds such richness and depth to our lives. Take care!

It's Friday!!

January 13th, 2006 at 10:04 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!

Happy 2006

January 1st, 2006 at 07:18 pm

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!

Last two days

December 29th, 2005 at 04:49 am

Something happened so that I couldn't login, but thanks to Jeffrey I can now. I wrote up another entry tonight, but it didn't get posted, so the score is 2-2 (2 that got posted and 2 that didn't - well, I like a good challenge!)

Yesterday I worked on getting the checkbook caught up and several bills paid. We both get paid on Friday and it will be none too soon. I arranged for payments with no interest for the hospital (over 3 months) and the doctor (over 4 months.) I also tried to access my husband's pension account from his previous employer, but couldn't locate the pin, so asked to have it sent out to us.

Today I had an early morning care conference for my mom, who has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease and is in a nursing home - I'm POA for her along with my youngest brother. The I headed into work. School is out for the winter break, but I also do the bulk mailing for our program and had the Spring brochure to get ready and send out. These few hours will be welcome on the check that reflects the time off for this break. I also spent quality time cleaning up the house with the girls, because tomorrow will be a friends over day (and it was getting a bit too messy for me!)

Tomorrow I want to collect together the other retirement account papers and start researching if we want to rollover into an existing account or create another to collect these loose-end funds. I'll also take time to play in the snow with the girls and their friends in our balmy MN weather (before the snow all melts!) I have a number of snowcats decorating my front and backyards, but I would like a snowman/woman and/or kid or two.

Take care!

2nd entry, actually 3rd...

December 29th, 2005 at 04:00 am

Wow, I was so impressed that my first entry worked that I posted a long 2nd entry telling a bit about myself and some goals, but alas, it didn't get added after I pressed the add entry button. As I said in the first entry, I am not computer-literate, but I won't take this as defeat. I can be persisent!

The lost entry was a slightly lenghty account of myself and our financial picture. Maybe I'll try short and sweet. I'm married (21 years) with 4 daughters (15, 13, 10, & 8.) We live in an older house with a small mortgage and own free and clear two older vans. We just finished paying off braces for d15, but will be starting up again for d13 in the next few months. We have a few medical bills and hospital stay for d15 from November. When it all happened, I called the insurance and was told how much our portion would be. Just got the bill from the hospital at the end of last week, and surprise, it's not even close to the that amount. Several hours talking to many people resulted in "oops, it your problem." Oh well, not fun to pay, but at least we are not in a panic about it. We will make use of the hospital's 'make payments for three months at no interest' plan. Our most unfortunate financial entity is our cc. It's at about $11,000. I wish I could say it was for fun and/or toys, because then I could say Hey! this is where we need to cut back. Nope, it was for very mundane things through the years, such as big van repairs (my husband does the maintenance and a lot of repairs to keep those vans running, but occasionally we've needed to have some big repairs done by others - our theory is it is still cheaper than making car payments, though each year makes that debatable.) The other thing we've used the cc for is medical expenses and large household repairs. We try to pay more than the required minimum most months, but some like December get the minimum.

The other side of our picture is that we have retirement accounts with levels set at company matches. Our regular savings....well, that is the making of a goal for the coming year. In general, we live paycheck to paycheck. My husband works as an installer of security and fire alarms, and we are very lucky he has use of a company van that he can come home in (can't be used privately, but that's not a problem.) I was a sahm for 11 years and started working again in 2001. I work not even two blocks from my house for the local school district's early childhood program as a teaching assistant in preschool. We horde money for the summer (I have the school calendar work schedule and am not working in the summer) as well as for the bigger things that come up (such as the initial costs of braces, summer camping trips, Christmas...) So as you can probably deduce, we can live with our normal expenses and do a little extra beyond (pick one- Fun like camping and Christmas or Obligations like repairs and braces or Paying down the cc.)

Some goals that I'd like to work on initially include building a bigger savings cushion for those inevitable car and home and whatever costs. We always manage (better now than a while ago,) but I'd like to get that cc balance down if not soon gone. And now, it's either pay for repairs, etc with minimum payments to the cc. And after 21 years, I should and do know that stuff always happens...and it usually costs. Another thing that I'd like to do is consolidate our various retirement accounts. I've always been a public employee in some way and form, with one account through the years, all in one easy place. My husband, who does stay at jobs long-term, has several different vested accounts, due to company sell-outs, etc. I, who likes the checking account balanced to the last penny, find it hard to keep tabs on it all. (I like diversity in our funds, but this is too much!) Last, I think we get complacent on what we spend our money on. It seems like we are pretty frugal, but I know it's easier to just sit back and assume we're doing our best effort. I would like to look at where the money goes, and see if that's what we want to be doing.

Btw, I'm lucky in that I can say 'we' over and aver. While my husband does NOT keep the checkbook to the last penny (not his strength at all,) he is definitely a great partner for this. He is game to try out new things and different ways. Most of all, he and I have similar ideas of wants, needs and goals, so again I know I'm lucky (yup, he is too!) Now, our daughters on the other hand....well, at least, they are understand that not all wealth is monetary. Though they would hardly be opposed to some more of that monetary wealth coming their way!

Ok, not so short and sweet, though if you saw the lost entry... you would see that this one is.

Next time, I'd like to be more specific on how to achieve the following goals:

Goal 1 - increase our savings cushion

Goal 2 - consolidate or get on top of the several retirement and investment accts

Goal 3 - analyze our spending and see if it's in the way we want

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