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Some Of These Surveys

March 7th, 2013 at 07:26 am

I think, like many at SavingAdvice.com, I have a Swagbucks routine which brings in a little bit of extra money every month. I'm not always really comfortable with it however because I sometimes find myself walking a very fine line between honesty and trying to avoid answering questions in a manner which will get me disqualified from the surveys. Hey, I like earning my $1 just as much as anybody else.

In many regards it has to do with the questions. Without violating any disclosure agreements I probably agreed to (I've done so many surveys they are honestly a blur in my mind) I was recently answering one where a common household product was changing it's packaging.

Some of the questions:

After seeing this new form what would you do?

Call Your Friends and Family and Discuss It?
Post on Facebook or Another Social Media?
Visit an Internet Site to Research it Further?

Are they kidding? They were changing the shape of the container of something that costs less than $5! Do people really do that? "Hey Mom guess what? It was round but now it is square!!!!! Yeah, put it on Twitter and Then You Must Go Buy It Now!!!"

There was another one this morning where they were showing me a picture of a label and wanted me to check all the adjectives I felt.

Inspired! Free Spirited! Bold and Active!

Good Grief!

What further bothers me however is the indication of how much these marketing tactics probably do work in our society. There are many times I feel like I'm mired in a constant onslaught of images and words all designed to make me spend money I really don't want to spend. To make me buy things that I really don't want or need, and probably wouldn't miss at all if I didn't buy them.

I have no doubt that our entire economy is mostly built on these empty motivations and the sad thing is, when people turn away and start making their money follow what they truly believe in, then things turn bad for all of us. Because when we don't spend money, the economy is bad and those Recession, Depression, and Economic Collapse terms start to get thrown around.

Just my thoughts from this morning.

They Weren't Kidding

March 3rd, 2013 at 08:01 am

A Whole Foods store opened up near us a couple of months ago and I've been meaning to stop by, yesterday we finally took the trip.

Oh holy heck was that a nightmare. First, we had to fight like Black Friday to get a parking spot and then it was so packed in the store we could barely move. I've never had to use my elbows as weapons to get to a bag of overpriced carrots before and I can't say I ever want to repeat the experience.

DH pointed out some fish fillets he wanted and I said "Honey, those cost $17.99 a pound!" We finally settled on some fish taco stuff that was $9.99 a pound.

Even with all my horrified sticker shock we managed to spend about $140 on hardly any food at all. I've always heard people joke the place should be called Whole Paycheck and now I see why. I try not to overly judge anybody but

I.just.do.not.get.it!

And I even buy a lot of organic and health food type of stuff. Why in the world is that place so popular????

I cleaned out my purse yesterday and took the $28 that was in my billfold leftover from my February allowance and put it in the safe. I haven't withdrawn any of my March allowance yet. I'll probably use some of that to take my Mom out to lunch next weekend.

Happy Day!

March 1st, 2013 at 06:26 am

I like the first day of the month because that is the day I make transfers from our checking account to various savings account. I hate to sound all corny and everything, but it does give me a feeling of peace to put money into savings. So today I transferred

$405 to Emergency Funds (the $5 is because I have a rule that part of all money in must go to Emergency Funds and I just received a $25 Paypal payment from Swagbucks).

$370 to Repairs and Insurance

$200 to Tuition Savings

Sadly nothing to the Vacations and Gifts fund because I need to keep it in our checking account to pay for the computer I bought my Mom.

I took the world's longest survey on Swagbucks this morning and earned 150SB immediately so the daily goal is met. I also ordered two $5 Amazon cards (daily limit) to put toward Holiday shopping. I have enough points built up to order two more tomorrow so I'll have maxed out the 5/450 point cards pretty early in the month. I'm expecting a big Swagbuck deposit soon from my husband buying dress shoes and a belt last month from Shoebuy.

Not much else going on. I'm very thankful it is the first of the month because that means the grocery budget resets and I can go shopping. Last night was chicken soup made from things I could find in our freezer and fridge. We need groceries BAD.

Happy March Everybody.

Taxes are Done - Yay

February 27th, 2013 at 10:18 am

We came out about even ---- Our refund from the State is about $700 and we owe the Feds about $500. No huge surprises, I always try to adjust withholdings on my husband's year end bonus check to even out the taxes. I went ahead and told the software to pay the IRS now, so I have it all tucked away and finished.

So, our state usually refunds pretty quickly so I'll have $200 to put somewhere in March. I'll probably send some to the Emergency fund and give the rest to DH because he wants to by new outdoor furniture for our patio.

Done In!

February 26th, 2013 at 07:53 am

I've worked our March Budget over about 12 different times this week trying to make the money fit what I want to accomplish. I think at this point I've about guesstimated everything the best I can and now I just have to make the lifestyle fit the numbers. That's the hard part.

I upped our auto fuel budget by $150 to cover my extra trips to see my Mom. That should be about 3 trips if I use my Husband's car instead of my gas guzzler and 2 trips if I use the SUV once. I offset that with decreasing savings to our tuition savings account because I have enough saved in there to pay for everybody's schooling through the end of 2013 and a good chunk of 2014.

I'd like to thank everybody for their kind support concerning the situation with my Mom. Senior social services in her area does not have the budget to assist. They classify her case as "self-neglect" which means they do nothing but put her name on a list of people they'd like to help if they ever get funding. If I or another family member were neglecting or abusing her they'd step in but she is allowed to neglect herself until the cows come home. I did get about a half-hour phone conversation with a Social Worker who recommended that I just continue on and try to be patient with her. My brother-in-law did go over to Mom's house last week wanting to help but Mom refused to let him into the house. Since I'm pretty much the only one who can get in there right now, I'm pretty much the one who gets to clean. Lucky me. LOL

At this point the work just continues. I have the kitchen completely clear and all the food locked up in airtight containers. Convincing Mom to keep the food in the airtight containers remains a problem but there have been signs in the house that she is making a small effort to clean things up. Right now, budget wise, the expense mostly consists of bleach, windex, and garbage bags which thankfully are pretty cheap. I've replaced her computer and I'm holding off on other big purchases in her house while we just clean. The physical and emotional toll of it is the worst part.

I hope to have the house clear enough that I can bring my boys in around May (after their finals) and they can help me move furniture and shampoo carpets. I haven't brought that idea up to Mom yet, I've found that overwhelming her with too many plans at once just makes her shut-down. Last week we agreed the kitchen needed to be cleaned up and now we're moving on to the bathroom.

With the final numbers in, because I don't expect to spend anything over the next couple of days, we finished February $28.10 under budget in groceries, gas, supplies and other similar categories and managed to save decent amount in our emergency savings. Plus, I expect to receive a $25 paypal payment from Swagbucks soon.

Hey, I'll take it!

Wishing My Life Away!

February 23rd, 2013 at 09:30 am

With all due respect to my 8th grade teacher who used to chide us for wishing for Friday with a "Don't Wish Your Life Away!"

BOY do I wish February was over!

What a no good month with all it's grey weather and unexpected expenses. I've had enough February, get your butt out of here.

Now I realize I still have an entire March to experience but I find myself thinking ahead to April. April is a financially interesting month because we are going to receive some stock dividends and I haven't decided yet what to do with them. I expect to receive a little over $1000 after taxes and I'd like to divide it up into the following categories

Our Emergency Fund, I have a rule to put something of all money we receive in here.

Our Car Repair Fund, which only has $149 currently and isn't going to handle a Car Repair at all.

Fund to Handle the Unexpected, which is just about at Zero after the no good February took hold.

So, at least I have something positive to think about in March while I wait for April. May is good too, because that is a 3 paycheck month for my husband.

February, be gone!!!!!!

Dipping Into the Repair Funds

February 19th, 2013 at 08:15 am

and not for myself.

After another weekend trip to my Mother's and the resulting discussion of "You let me help get this place cleaned up or I start calling Social Services because I can't let you live like this......"

I got to work. After 6 hours of cleaning a very tiny house, by the looks it seemed like I hadn't even been there. Frown But I did get the unspeakable job of clearing out her refrigerator done. We are working on sanitizing it now. I had to buy her a mini dorm size fridge and freezer until we can't get that useable again. $231. I took her grocery shopping to buy some fresh food supplies but she paid for those herself. I also bought her some airtight containers to use to store food in until I get the rest of the kitchen cleared and disinfected. She promised to make sure to use them, hopefully I will find that she did when I get back. I also got her a phone with a second unit and got that hooked up (about $60 for the phones) and I got new batteries into the fire alarms and light bulbs all around the house. It was about $30 for all of that.

Further - Mom is going to need all of the following at some point. A new computer, a dishwasher (probably not a necessity but I think it would promote cleaner living), some new dishes (I threw out plenty that weren't cleanable), and some flooring. Her birthday is coming up and I already ordered her a computer because it really does help to keep her connected to the world. She likes to read Facebook of people she knows and visit a couple of blogs. I don't know exactly when her computer died but her disappearance from that was one of our first clues things were desperate.

I think she needs a new mattress for her bed too. I just can't do everything at once. I think Mom can cover some of these purchases herself from social security and her small pension - we'll have to see.

Medically she has made an appointment for tomorrow to speak with her doctor about her depression medication. My sister is sloowwwwwly coming around to trying to help a little. She did agree to go over on garbage day and haul the filled cans out to the curb because they are really heavy and Mom wouldn't be able to do that. I'm not going to insist my sister do more, she needs to get there on her own. My sister lives 10 minutes away and if she'd even just agree to help out by checking in on the house once a week and look things over, that'd be a huge help.

I've decided I need to concentrate on some of the good things.

1. I have emergency and repair savings accounts that I can use to help her here.
2. My husband is being awesome about all of this. He even made the suggestion of maybe we could find a housekeeper to go in and help once I get the house into better shape.
3. My Mom did allow me into the house and admitted she needs help.

So that is about where things stand. All told I think I'm going to have to spend about $1500 total getting her house in better shape. Then I need to rework our budget to account for my travel expenses down there more often. I did bring up the subject of her moving closer to me and she wasn't very agreeable to that, but she said she'd think about it.

Mid-Month Check

February 13th, 2013 at 07:34 am

Tomorrow is 1/2 way through the month so I did a check on some of our budget numbers. Some, like the car repair accounts I just throw an amount into that "bucket" every month and I let it accumulate until we need it. Some, like groceries, we try to stay under the budget amount and then I zero it out and move the money into savings or do something fun at the end of the month.

These are some of the check numbers

Grocery - we have 53% of our budget left
Auto Fuel - we have 53% of our budget left
Clothing - we've used all the budget up
Home Maint - we've used all the budget
Miscellaneous - I have a slush fund of $122 to cover anything unexpected

There's more but I'm feeling fairly solid for the month. I don't think we're going to end up with a surplus like last month but we should stay on budget overall, after moving some amounts from fund to fund.

More on the Mom situation. I have raided my cleaning supplies and put them in a box to take down there. I also bought her a new vacuum because I'm not sure she has a working one at her house. I'm pretty sure the carpets are toast but I have to get it to a point where we can at least get them pulled up and hauled out of there. I'm taking our shop vac the next time I go down there, but it will have to come back home with me.

After I had forced my way in there last week it was obvious nothing has been vacuumed or cleaned in a very long time. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been inside the door and I think it was last summer. I called around to other family members and a neighbor of hers and she's pretty much been keeping everybody out of the house. Whenever anybody goes over to meet her or pick her up for something she meets them on the front porch and carefully shuts and locks that door so nobody can see in. The psychiatrists classify her as a hoarder but I don't agree because she really doesn't "hoard" anything. She just lives in filth and then things start to break but she won't tell anybody because they'd have to come over and see the house for it to get it fixed for her. I'm going to start a list next time I'm down there of everything that needs repaired. After I start making in-roads on getting things cleaner and stabilized, my husband is going to start helping with some of the repair work.

I've been looking hard at some of our savings accounts and I found that I have enough in the Education funds to get son #1 graduated this spring and then pay for son #2 through next winter. That's more than enough to get us through until the next bonus, which should pay for the bulk of son #2's tuition bills for the year after. I've been saving $400 a month into that account and I think we're going to cut that down in order to pay for the increased Mom-care expenses.

Ups and Downs

February 11th, 2013 at 06:16 am

I went to visit my Mother over the weekend and it was a really, really very bad no good day. Long story short I'm going to have to spend much more physical time with her and what she needs is going to have an impact upon our finances just in driving costs alone as well as huge physical and emotional toll.

If I drive my husband's car, it is about $50 in fuel to go see her. If I drive my big SUV, it is over $90. So to say the least, several of those trips in one month can really add up. Plus, I always have to take her out to lunch. There are huge amounts of drama, dysfunction and other stories behind all of this that I won't bore everybody with. Let's just say I first hope to get her house cleaned up to the point where she will let some other people in the front door. And then I hope to repair some relationships to where family members who live a bit closer to her will once again agree to help out a little. Dealing with Mom isn't easy on anybody .... family, neighbors, church members. She's pretty much destroyed any sort of support system that exists that might help out.

In up news, we are doing really well on our food budget this month. We are approaching the 1/2 way point of the month and are well under 1/2 of our food budget spent. Yay!

I'm very much looking forward to spring and improved weather. We have big plans for some backyard improvement work this year and my husband has been visiting some online sites like mad trying to find a good deal on some outdoor furniture sets.

A Tale of Two Girls

February 6th, 2013 at 09:02 am

Yesterday, I was staring into my pantry at about ¼ of a bag of potatoes that needs to be used soon and I was hit by a childhood memory. One of my best friends was a girl who lived, as we used to say, out in the country. I loved visiting her house and farm, but one visit in particular sticks in my mind. It was her birthday and I had been invited to spend the night for a celebration.

Visiting my friend’s house was always a little like visiting a foreign country to me, but that night in particular was even more different. In my house birthdays always meant the birthday girl got to choose the restaurant. At my friend’s house, her Mother was cooking her favorite meal - cheeseburgers and home made fries. The act of watching her Mom cut up potatoes (real potatoes, not even a frozen bag!) was fascinating to me. Meals at my house primarily came from bags and boxes, or restaurants. Fries came from McDonalds. I don’t think I had ever before even realized that a person could “make” their own fries. That night we had the birthday meal, including a cake baked by Mom, sang the birthday song, my friend opened her presents and we did the dishes together. It really was a fun time.

In reflection, I think that our family view my friend’s family was probably a little “poor.” Mom and Dad never really said as much to me, but that sort of idea was always in the background. My friend’s family didn’t seem to go on vacations much, my friend dressed in respectable but lower priced clothes, and when our sixteenth birthdays hit she didn’t have a car.

But, when high school graduation time came, my friend was one of the few in our class with the parents who paid her tuition in full. This was, at the time, a rather shocking bit of events. I can remember even my parents talking about it and wondering in hushed tones: “How on earth can they afford that?” I remember my Father speculating that maybe they had received an inheritance or something. But, in fact, my friend’s family sent five children through college and as far as I know, paid the bills for all of them.

The rest of us kids obsessed over student loans and trying to find grants or scholarships.

There were many times over the years when I kind of envied my friend. She did after all live at a place where there were always baby animals around and her Dad would happily let any visiting child feed, water, and pet to her heart’s content. But, in between those bursts of envy, I always had this naïve sense that my family was better ….. because my parents bought things. We had video games, meals out, junk food bursting from the cabinets and I had a TV AND a phone in my bedroom. We had three cars, including one that was primarily used to drive me the ONE mile and back to school everyday.

I sadly have to admit that it took me a long, long time until I realized the true cost of all those “things” that are now likely buried thousands of feet deep in a landfill. Those things were not only likely the college funds of me and my sisters, they were also my parents’ retirement. Sadly, like many people, I spent several years emulating the financial habits of my parents until I gradually began to get the idea …. Our family was succeeding on the earning end of the equation, but our money was not going toward what truly matters the most in our lives.

My husband and I have been spending a lot of time recently speaking about our money. We are in a fortunate position to have it, and really have quite a bit of it. Like most, we have plenty of dreams and hopes. But at the same time I have over the recent months become quite in tune with the need to make sure my money goes not toward what is easy, not toward what is convenient, and maybe not even toward what everybody else spends their money on …… but instead on what is going to make my husband and I, and all the people we love, the happiest.

Drip Drip Drip Drip

February 4th, 2013 at 11:06 am

Tiny little snowflakes have been appearing all morning. $3.84 Paypal deposit from QuickRewards, a $22 check for some textbooks I sold and I won $5 in a Superbowl pool.

The funny thing is that I am such a numbers geek, putting all those little snowflakes into my YNAB and then dutifully assigning them a job gives me such a happy feeling. I wish everyday could be a happy little snowflakes day.

My husband this weekend discovered we live in what is known as YNAB Bufferland, which means we have one full month of budget saved up in our checking account and we are living on January's income in February.

"You mean I can have ALL my allowance for the month right now?"

"You betcha!"

So then later on he asked how our other savings was doing and I showed him our Retirement spreadsheets, Vacation funds, and Emergency Savings. He gets these bursts of interest in our finances about two or three times a year. Otherwise, he's content just to know the ATM will give him his allowance whenever he asks for it. LOL

We are very much opposites attract in that manner because I HAVE to balance my checking account daily or I get hives. I even do it on vacation -- wake up and balance the checking account online.

I Had Such Big Plans

February 1st, 2013 at 07:59 am

So earlier in the week I was looking at my Calendar and I noticed that February 1st happened to fall on Friday. Awesome! Because I had in the back of my mind this niggling thought that I should create a blog and what better time do accomplish that other than the first day of the month on a Friday --- which is typically the day when I have a good amount of free time.

Then Friday morning hit and my mind was a complete blank.

But here I am, and I had promised myself I would get this thing going, so let's all just push our way through.

My best piece of news for the week was that our family finished up the month of January $546.42 under budget. This was in categories such as Groceries, Entertainment, Clothing etc etc. Much discussion abounded amongst the household what to do with our windfall and the final decision was...

$100 to Emergency Savings
$100 to my Retirement Fund (separate from DH's 401k)
$300 to Our Big Adventure (vacations) and Gift Giving Savings Account

and the final $46.42 I gave to my older children to put onto their Student Loans. This was because they both spent a good amount of time here in January and I told them that if they would ~try~ not to eat me out of house and home and run us over budget in groceries I would split the "savings" with them.

So in other activity, I was recently watching a documentary from ESPN 30 for 30 titled "Broke." It has to deal with the enormous number of Professional athletes (over 70%) who find themselves bankrupt or in financial difficulties shortly after their careers ended.

I admit, I was fascinated as to how this could happen. These people make millions and millions of dollars and then it just ..... evaporates on them. My fascination is fueled a bit just by the sheer human nature of being attracted to other people's drama and failure as a means to make yourself feel better. I mean, sure I've made mistakes in my life but LOOK AT THEM, THEY'VE MADE MUCH BIGGER ONES!!! It is awfully judgmental of me.

Stepping back though I looked through that list of athletes and I realized they were all so young when they made their money and for the most part they went from relative poverty or at best middle class to enormous wealth. I tried to imagine what the results would be if somebody stuck a couple of million dollars into one of my 20-something children's bank account.

I have to tell you, it'd likely be a disaster. Just as it would have been a disaster if somebody had given me so much money in those early years of adulthood.

We talk much in this country about the lack of fiscal education. I think "Broke" shows this lack of such education at the most extreme level. It also shows our immaturity and failures personally (me included) and as a society. Most of us when we are young make financial mistakes, many of us (often me too) keep making them long after we are old enough to know better.

These athletes make them with lots of zeroes added onto the end as Dave Ramsey would say.

That's about all I can think of for now. I will try to get back in a couple of days to continue the blog. I do highly recommend the ESPN documentary Broke if you get the chance to see it.


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