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Archive for October, 2007

Well, not really aloud, per se, but sort of, I guess. This counts as aloud as far as I’m concerned. Thinking for an audience. Whatever.

Before I talk about what I came here to talk about, I have to tell you that I got lunch at Pei Wei today. Soleil told me they have incredible tofu. She was right. Wowza! Yummy! And they also have brown or white rice, and they also indicate which items on their menu are vegetarian if you get them with veggies & tofu. So I got honey-glazed veggies & tofu with brown rice for lunch.  I wasn’t really planning to eat out today, but (a) I left my leftovers at home and (b) my boss ordered in pizza and I don’t really care for pizza. Also, I was looking for a book and the Half-Price Books by my office didn’t have it, and I went to the one in Arlington to see if they had it; there was a Pei Wei along the way and I’ve been craving tofu. So it all kind of worked in this cosmically karmic way and I got my tofu. Didn’t get the book I was looking for, but I found another one and had a 30% off coupon, so all was well.

And yum. Tofu.

Okay. Here’s what I wanted to talk about.

I’ve been mega hyper focused on our finances lately. Ever since I read that Bach book on Smart Women Finish Rich, I’ve been thinking, planning, acting, and reading. I’ve since read a couple of other books, and a heckuva lot of blogs. I find that reading other people’s blogs helps me stay focused.  I also find some good ideas that way.

So here’s what’s improved since then:

  • I know where my money (personal allowance) has gone since then. I’ve still wasted too much of it, but I know what I’ve wasted it on.
  • I have $110 in a higher interest savings account. That it’s $110 is due in part to my awesome husband who, when I boasted that I had $55 and had set up an auto transfer of $50 every payday, he told me to write myself a check for another $55. So yay to him! I think it’s paying 4.30% interest right now, which is substantially higher than the piddling interest my regular bank pays. 
  • I get paid Friday, and I haven’t run my personal allowance account down to zero–I have a little cash left, and I have $14 left in my checking account.
  • I canceled Netflix, which will save me about $19 a month.
  • When the catalogs come in the mail, instead of looking at them first and then putting them into the recycle bin, I don’t even bring them into the house. I immediately put them into the recycle bin.
  • I took 4 bags of books to Half Price Books last weekend and sold them, thus clearing some space in the house as well as getting a little extra cash. The piddling amount of money I got compared to the amount I paid for those books will, I hope, be some incentive in helping me be a bit more cautious about buying more books.
  • Last night instead of automatically going out to dinner, I stuck a frozen lasagna into the oven while Joe and I started clearing out one of our most cluttered rooms.
  • I have registers in Excel for my 401(k), my cash, my checking account, and my savings accounts, and I update them daily so I always know how much money I have.

There is definitely a correlation between the debt and the clutter. How many times have I bought things that I didn’t need, to cheer myself up, or because I thought I deserved it, or for whatever tomfool reason I came up with? I couldn’t even begin to tell you. And how much of the clutter in our house is due to those types of purchases? And then we can’t find things we genuinely need, so we end up buying another one, or two, or three. Joe has gone from adamantly refusing to throw anything away “because we might need it someday” to realizing that we’ve got way more than we’ll ever need and than we can possibly use and than we have room for, and he was really helpful last night. We got a good 3 or 4 bags of rubbish out of the house last night. We didn’t finish getting that room cleared out, but we made a good start. I think we might have finished it up, but he got distracted and went to play guitar for a while. And I don’t want to push him too much. I think maybe we can finish it tonight while we’re waiting for goblins and princesses and spidermen to come knock on the door for treats.

And once we’ve got that room cleared out, it will make it so much easier for me to keep the kitchen cleaned. And then we can actually cook at home, and eat in the — gasp — dining room! Wow! I’ve found that if Joe will let me plan the meals, without him getting all freaked out about having to have meat substitutes, vegetarian cooking is a lot cheaper and more healthful than the meat eating that we used to do. If we can get that dang grocery budget down, we could put that money on snowballing the credit card debt.

This month things went askew also, because we had to buy a new refrigerator ($500) and had to get plane tickets and a rental car for a trip to Buffalo ($1000). But the refrigerator had to be replaced, and Joe’s mother doesn’t turn 80 every year. It’ll be the first time all her kids and their spouses have been together since 2004, I think. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

So when I get paid on Friday I’ll transfer another $50 over to my savings account. I’ll get my allowance. And I’ll put the rest into our family account to pay bills with.

I’m hoping to only spend half my allowance this time. When I record anything I spend in my register, I’ll note whether it was a want or a need with the goal being to cut way back on the wants.

Because my biggest want is to get out of debt and get my finances in shape for the things I truly want to do in life. And they don’t include nickeling and diming myself to death. We got out of debt once before, before almost immediately getting right back into debt, and far deeper. But my focus now isn’t only on getting out of debt. I have a long-term focus on being truly financially free to be able to take care of ourselves, and help our family and friends. We can’t do that when we’re ensnared in debt.

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I like the stories where there’s a big bad, and the protagonist has to decide which side to stand on. I like it when the protagonist digs in his or her heels and says, basically, “Screw this. I know you’re a big bad, and I may not have what it takes to defeat you, but I am not giving in.”

I believe that there are powerful forces in this world, forces for good and forces for evil. A lot of times it seems like things pretty much maintain the status quo, pushing back and forth at each other, so that nothing seems to change a whole helluva lot. But sometimes something slips up, and the foe shows his hand in a way that perhaps was unintentional, or at least the viewing of it by the protagonist was unintentional.

This may not make sense to anyone reading here. And that’s okay. It’s not for you. It’s for me. And it’s for the big bad. Because the big bad just pissed me off. That was a big mistake.

I’ve dug in my heels. And I’m standing firm.

Guess what?

I’m back.

And you’d better start running.

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Friday Fill-In

1. The last good thing that came in the mail was an invitation to my mother-in-law’s surprise 80th birthday party .

2. This week I’m grateful for friends, family, Joe being able to spend a little more time at home than usual before he hit the road again, my dog, Halls mentholated honey-lemon cough drops.

3. The hummus and samosas at Cosmic Cafe in Dallas are  the most delicious thing ever.

4. Jehara inspires me.

5. I’m most happy when I am in harmony with my dreams .

6. And all the roads we have to walk along are bumpy and curvy and sometimes just plain annoying .

7. As for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to Buffython with Jehara and the incomparable Izzybella , tomorrow my plans include catching up on the rest of Season 1 of Heroes and Sunday, I want to sleep. Oh yeah, and Joe comes home on Sunday !

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I remember hearing the morning radio show I used to listen to a few years ago talk about how women have multiple best friends. Apparently, at least according to the guy, guys don’t do that. He said that’s a woman thing. Well, if that’s true, guys are really missing out. Because I’ve got lots of best friends, and I love ’em all.

There’s my best friend the incomparable Izzybella, who’s also my sister. We’ve been best friends since before she was born. I knew she was going to be a girl, and she was the cutest little thing I’d ever seen. I won’t pretend we’ve never gotten annoyed at each other, ’cause yeah, onions and make-up and slobby bedrooms, but overall we get along great. We always have a good time, and I can always count on her to be there when I need her.

And then there’s my best friend Clover. She shares her kids with me and gave me shots in the butt every day when I had to have them, and is a great writer, and is a real hoot. She’s another person I can always count on. She’s true blue, through and through.

My best friend Jehara is pretty cool. I’ve known her a little bit since we were in a Shakespeare class together in college, and I’ve known her a lot since February of this year. And she’s a complete kindred spirit, and I love her madly.

And my best friend L-squared is another complete kindred spirit. She’s weird and kooky and utterly lovable.

My best friend CTR-kid I’ve only gotten to see once in person, but we’ve talked multiple times on the phone and spent lots of time exchanging emails. She and I have fallen out of contact over the last few years, not out of any desire to do so or because we don’t love each other anymore, but I think it’s just because our lives have gone in different directions and we’re both crazy busy. I know that the best friendship is still there, and when we get to talk and visit again it’ll be like no time at all has passed.

My best friend Janine is dead, but she’s still my best friend Janine, and she’s another that I know when I get to see her again we’ll gab like no time at all has passed. I love her, and miss her, and still cry to think that she’s gone. The accident that took her life was such a horrible shock.

And I have lots of other potential best friends and good friends as well. I feel pretty dang lucky right about now!!!

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I think it’s probably pretty safe to say that autumn is here. I got up this morning planning to shower before I left for work. But when I meandered into the bathroom, it was only to find that Joe had left the bathroom window wide open all night long, and it was just as cold as it could be in the bathroom. I was clean enough. I decided to shower after work instead. And it wasn’t raining then, but in the few minutes between that time and my actually getting dressed, it started pouring. And where was my umbrella, one might ask? Why, in my car, of course! So when I left, I put a plastic bag on my head and raced for the car. It worked sufficiently well.

I’m dreading another winter without central heat. Yeah, the space heaters do okay. I’ll be fine huddled up in the bedroom all winter, but it really sucks, y’know? The summers without central air are fine; in fact, I think the window A/C units keep the house cooler than the central air ever did since we’ve lived there. But the space heaters just don’t keep it as warm in the winter as our old furnace did. And I know we can’t really afford to replace it this year. Maybe by next year we can. We’ve just been socking every spare cent we get onto the credit cards. They’ve gotta go.

I left work early Thursday afternoon, and stayed home Friday as well, since I was feeling so awful. I ended up sleeping–literally–all day Friday, as well as all night Friday night. Saturday I was feeling quite a bit better, albeit quite grouchy. The grouchy mood wore off as the incomparable Izzybella and I got over to Jehara’s for the MoMentuM monthly meeting, and then the three of us went over to the Spiral Diner for a late lunch.  As we were going from Jehara’s to the Spiral Diner, Izzybella and Jehara talked the whole way about Heroes.

Important note: I don’t watch television. Not much, anyway. Once in a while I’ll watch Jimmy Neutron and the Fairly Oddparents; if I’m lucky enough to catch it, I might turn on How Do I Look or How Clean Is Your House. That’s about it. Otherwise if the TV is on it’s playing a DVD. (Why do I pay for cable? Heck if I know.)  So I’ve never seen Heroes.

When we got to the restaurant, I told them they had to quit talking about Heroes, and talk about something that I could join in, and they agreeably did so.

So Saturday night, when I inexplicably found myself completely unable to sleep and absolutely nothing on TV that I felt like watching, I got online for awhile. I had mailed back my Netflix movies that I had at home (liked Howl’s Moving Castle; Bridge to Terabithia made me cry like a leetle girl; didn’t care much for The Prestige and ended up turning it off after a bit) and decided to see what was in my queue.  I was still bored and unable to sleep. I decided to watch a movie online. And lo and behold, I discovered that the first season of Heroes, save the unaired first episode, was available to watch online with my Netflix membership. So I figured I’d watch the first episode and then take a sleeping pill.  That was about 3 or 3:30 Sunday morning.

At 8:03 Sunday morning I called the incomparable Izzybella and told her she was a bitch. She was a little bewildered until I told her I’d been watching Heroes since 3 or 3:30. Then she gave me the most unconvincing apology I’ve heard since she got me hooked on Buffy. (I texted Jehara later on, and she didn’t even pretend to apologize.)

I watched Heroes all day yesterday until about 5:30 or so, and made it about halfway through Season 1.

It’s a good show.

I hate Izzybella and Jehara. Frickin’ makin’ me love another television show. Bit-cahs. First Izzybella gets me on Buffy, then Angel, then Firefly, then Veronica Mars. And now this. And the only show I got to get her on was Alias. See, that’s the problem with not watching television. I never get to get even!

***

I’ve been doing a lot of financial thinking & planning since reading Smart Women Finish Rich (David Bach–I highly recommend it). I’ve been contributing to my 401k since I was eligible, and recently upped my contribution to 12%. And our company, as of January 1st of 2008, is really improving the 401k program. They’re matching 100% of our contributions up to 6% (instead of 50% up to 3%), as well as 2% right off the top, and also a discretionary 2% depending on company performance.

Anyway, I have zero cash savings. I mean, we keep a nice–not fantastic, but nice–little cushion in our family checking account so we never run it down to nothing. But as far as my own personal allowance goes, I get it every two weeks and I spend it. No, it’s not a ton of money, but it’s enough that I could easily fritter away some and still save some. So I was inspired by Tired of Being Broke to open an account at ING. The interest rate is around 5%, which is way higher than my bank pays, and I’ve set it up to auto transfer $50 every payday into that account.

I’ve started writing down everything I spend, even cash, in a little notebook I keep in my bag with me. It’s annoying, but it’s been good to see exactly where the money goes. It’s also been embarrassing to realize exactly what kinds of things I waste it on.

During my lunch break today I was reviewing Bach’s advice on life insurance. He recommends having enough to (a) pay off immediate debts, such as house, credit cards, etc.; (b) obviously having enough for funeral expenses, etc.; (c) and living expenses for at least 10 years. So I sat down and figured out how much that comes to, and realized that Joe is somewhat underinsured, and I’m quite a bit underinsured. Fortunately, open enrollment for both of our companies is coming up, so we can take care of that. Bach recommends getting life insurance that is transferable so that if you leave your company you can take it with you. I know that’s the ideal, but right now while we’re still paying off credit cards, I’m content to have our insurance through our employers.  After we’ve gotten rid of the consumer debt, then we can buy life insurance that we won’t have to leave behind should we change jobs.

So a month ago I’d have gotten my allowance on Friday and, when I realized how much I love Heroes, I’d have gone and purchased Season 1. But my new someone more fiscally responsible self decided that I cannot justify spending $50 for the boxed set. I’ll just finish watching it on Netflix and be grateful for that. And yes, Netflix is worth the money, because it keeps me from buying DVDs which would cost a lot more than the money I spend on Netflix.

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This Just In: Dumbledore’s Gay

In her reading at Carnegie Hall, J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore is gay and was in love with Grindelwald.  I’d already pretty much come to that conclusion myself, but it was cool to have her confirm it.  It adds more depth to an already deep and complex character that I completely adore.  According to this story, the audience response was very warm and receptive.  It will probably be just more ammo against the books from the idiotic people who already are gunning against them, but they will just continue to reveal themselves as the brainless bigots they have already shown themselves to be.

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I Did It

The S Project: I, the Killer. Earlier this month, I stated that I couldn’t even fictionalize myself as a killer.  Something happened today to change my mind.

“Have you heard of that new reality show, America’s Most Smartest Model?” she asked.

I twitched. Well, to be more accurate, my left eye twitched.   “Yes, I have heard of it,” I replied, “and there’s a reason I don’t watch it.”

The incomparable Izzybella giggled.  “Every time I hear the name of that show, I think of you.”

Jehara laughed. “The models on that show do sound really dumb. ‘Yes,'” she said, mimicking one, “‘as America’s most smartest model, I would say’ blah blah blah.” She and the incomparable Izzybella laughed together.

My left eye twitched some more.

The incomparable Izzybella, always one to beat a dead horse long after it, lucky beast, has stopped twitching, said, “Today Carol said something was quite unique. It made me think of you, too, and I giggled.”

I saw red. I dropped my bag. I ran across the room and ran at her with full force.  “YOU! MUST! NOT! MODIFY! AN! ABSOLUTE!” I shrieked over and over.  “YOU! MUST! NOT! MODIFY! AN! ABSOLUTE!”

I became aware of Jehara screaming at the top of her lungs. My hands were clasped convulsively around the incomparable Izzybella’s neck, and her face was purple.

“What have I done?” I sobbed.

The incomparable Izzybella fell to the floor.

Jehara stood over her corpse and shook her head sadly. “She was the most unique person I ever met.”

I slowly turned around. “YOU! MUST! NOT! MODIFY! AN! ABSOLUTE!”

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