Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good-bye July!!!!! And Good Riddance!

I just can't tell you how excited I am to see July come to a screeching halt! I am over budget in almost every single category --- except groceries --- and I made that by $1.85. Gasoline - over. Clothes - over. Entertainment - over. Power - over. Water - over. Veternarian - over. Phone - over. Miscellaneous spending - WAY over.

Natural Gas - under. Amount to credit card #2 - under (but only because I didn't have enough to put as much towards it as I wanted!). Car Insurance -- under (my monthly bill went down $6.46 and I have no idea why).

And none of the expenses listed above include the car repairs! Right now, my Dad is covering all of the costs, and then when we have a final tally, I will take the $$$ out of savings and reimburse him. (This prevents me from having to draw out any more than absolutely necessary).

Its time to buckle down (hmmm, have you heard THAT before?) --- well this time I mean it!!!!!

I am so glad July is now behind us! August has GOT to be better, right? I hope? How'd your month turn out?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Murphy Has Come to Call

Today Princess Penelope embarked on her final trek of the summer from Mobile to Birmingham. At 10:45 she called me to let me know she was leaving her Dad's. At 12:45 she called to let me know she had stopped in Greenville at the midway point to get something to eat. Right on schedule. At 1:00 she called again to let me know she was about to get back on the road. At 1:04 she called again. I was not alarmed, thinking she was merely calling to let me know she was making another quick stop.

Uh-uh. No way. No how. Her car had died. As she took the onramp to the interstate, and accelerated to merge onto the interstate, the car died. No power. Battery light on. Oil light on. But no get up and go. She managed to get it to the shoulder, before it stopped completely. She called me, obviously panicked. I was panicking a bit myself. I was 30 minutes away from my house in the OPPOSITE direction, and not even in my own car! And my child is broken down on the side of the interstate 2 1/2 hours away. I did my best not to freak out and instructed her to call the police, explain the situation, and that she is only 17, and ask for assistance in getting to a safe place. That part worked out beautifully.

As my friends and I rode hell bent for leather to get me home to my car, I called my Dad to ask for his assistance in going to get her (mainly because in my experience, tow truck and mechanic types tend to treat women as though they only have one working brain cell). And also, he's a lot more likely to know if someone is being straight about the condition of the car. So we drive down to get her. And then go look at the car. We were hoping it was just the alternator (which I had replaced 371 days ago!). Dad took out the alternator and we took it to the local Advanced Auto Parts, where they ran a diagnosis and confirmed it was toast. So, we bought another one, getting a core credit for turning in the bad one. And went to replace the alternator. (Meanwhile, I'm on the phone with the manager of my regular car place wanting to know the alternator I had replaced last summer was dead already. He is SO not happy about that --- but in a way that is in my favor, and tells me to purchase the core back from the Auto Parts Store and bring it in Monday and he'll make that part right).

I would love to say that's its all rainbows and butterflies from there. But I'd be lying. The alternator gets put on. And the car is still a no-go. Time for a tow. We have it towed to a local place, which was unfortunately already closed (because it is now 6 pm). We leave the car and key in the drop box and head home. As luck would have it, my Dad is heading down to the beach Monday morning and will stop at the car place to talk to them on his way. Since he's planning on leaving town at 6 a.m., he should be there when they open.

 I have no idea what the problem is, but the general concensus is that it may be the timing belt. Which I ALSO had replaced 371 days ago, as part of 100,000 mile general maintenance. My regular mechanic place doesn't know about that part yet. But they will first thing Monday. I had that ____ timing belt replaced last summer to specifically make sure this type of thing didn't happen!

I'm tired, I'm sticky and I'm irritated. And to top off this fabulous day, I come home to find that it had rained. All over the laundry I had hung out to dry this morning. Which, by the way, included the sheets from my bed! I am SO not dealing with that tonight. I'm sleeping on the couch!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Almost There!!!!!! - $1.85

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've spent roughly the last week and half trying to stretch the remainder of my July grocery budget -- a slim $6.35 --- to the end of the month. I'm almost there! However, I made a quick trip into Publix when I got back into town. I was doing quick math in my head since I didn't have a calculator with me and when I got up to the check-out, I was pretty confident I could come in still under budget. (And no, for some reason it never occurred to me to use the calculator on my cell phone! duh!)

Anyway, this is what I got:

3 Bugles Snacks (bogo rainchecks)
2 Golden Grahams Breakfast Bars
1 Velveeta Shells & Cheese

Spent: $4.50
Saved: $13.12 -- or 75%!

And yes, I'm still under budget --- $1.85 to get through the weekend!!!!!!! I've SO got this!

Business is Slow

I've got a side gig going that has, until now, brought in about $300-$400 a month. That is until June and July. June only brought in about $70 and July is limping along to get THAT much!

My upline says that June and July tend to be that way but that once September - December hit it will explode and be really great! I'm hoping so because I am stressed out about it in a major way. I know that I haven't had the time to devote to it this month to get it out of the funk because of work with my real job. That's been frustrating in and of itself. But there also hasn't been a bit of interest. I think with the economy issues in the news every moment of every day, people just aren't looking to spend extra money on anything.

So, I'm bumbling along, trying to get the few things wrapped up for the month. Here's hoping. I need the extra $$$.

On the bright side, however, I'm heading home in just a bit. Finally! Yea!!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ready for Home

I'm ready to go home. I've been on the road since Tuesday. This is my third night in a row in a hotel. I had hoped to get on the road and head back early this afternoon, but that did NOT work out.  At this point, I am ROAD WEARY. I'm tired of traveling. Even with racking up 2 no spend days this trip (yes! today was another no spend!),  I'm sick of the road. I sleep like crap in hotels. I want my own bed. I can't get my room any warmer than just above freezing. My back hurts.  Mobile is the rainiest city in the U.S. and this week, I understand why.

I miss my pups. I know they are safe and sound and having a super blast with Brave Friend, but I miss them and I'm ready to have a pup curled up at my feet. I miss Princess Penelope, however to be honest, she still won't be home from the beach until Saturday.

(Sorry for the whining, I'm just totally over being a road warrior this week)

I've Lost Track

I was going for 10 no spend days this month. And now, I have no idea how many I've had. Yesterday was a no spender, even with being on the road for work. (Big free breakfast at the hotel, granola bar and bottled water for lunch and munchies from the manager's reception for dinner!). But otherwise I've lost track. I'll hav to go back and read through this blog to figure out where I stand, although I still don't think I'll hit 10.

Which is why that $6.35 is such a big deal! I need to meet at least ONE goal this month! I'm tired of setting those goals and blowing them. So, grocery budget, take note, I'm planning to kick your butt. (Okay, a few dollars under budget isn't really kicking butt, but you know what I mean!)

Y'all have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It seems that everywhere you turn today, there is doom and gloom about the state of the economy. Debt ceilings and deficits. Taxes. Unemployment. Here in Alabama, unemployment is currently higher than it was during the recession. If the recession is over, why are we still hemorrhaging jobs?

Sharon, the author of one of my favorite blogs, My Year of Spending Less and Living More (Musings from a Mid-Life Mom), has an excellent post today about planning for a potential layoff. She goes into detail about her plans to further cut spending in order to stockpile cash in the event a layoff does occur.

As the only adult in my household, the thought of a job loss gives me the shivers. I currently have $8000 saved as my own personal little emergency nest egg. Once I get out of debt, I will add to it, even as I continue to save for a home and for Princess Penelope's education. Dave Ramsey wisdom says that I should put aside the $1000 for a mini emergency fund, put the rest toward debt, and then I would be out of debt completely in about 2 months.

That's a good thought, and I agree with it.... EXCEPT, that $8000 allows me to sleep at night. While my current position is secure, I know that could change as it did with many of my colleagues on July 1. I knew there was a possibility of job loss with contract changes back in the spring. Had I completely thrown all of that $8000 to debt in the spring, I'm not sure I would have ever slept between March and July 1, because my safety net would have been gone. There's something to be said for a decent night's sleep.

I really need to have more in my safety nest egg. But right now I'm comfortable with the fact that should the worst occur, I will be able to ride it out for a while. I wouldn't be in danger of losing my home since I rent from my Dad (how many people are lucky enough to be able to say THAT?). There are places were I could cut the budget further --- and if necessary, I could cut back to minimums on the debt repayment. For now, I don't have the worry that Sharon is facing, however, I don't think an analysis of my budget to identify where I could seriously trim the fat is out of order either. And I may just get to work on that tonight and then get another good night's sleep!

Closet Meltdown

As I packed for my business trip this week, I pulled item after item out of my close to decide what to pack. I've repeated this scenario several times over the past few months. And I came to a conclusion. I am SICK of my clothes. A lot of them are starting to show wear despite always air drying because of heavy use. Especially my work/going out clothes. While I have added to Princess Penelope's wardrobe, I have added precious little to my own in the past few years. I managed to pick up a few winter pieces for work a few weeks ago at Banana Republic (on super, super clearance). But for summer, I have added essentially nothing! I tend to have a hard time with summer clothes because so many in the stores are sleeveless --- and while they would be comfy....I consider my arms to be a particular problem area, so I limit the sleeveless to tank tops I wear around the house. I've shopped garage sales and thrift stores this summer, but haven't had much luck there.

I need some wardrobe therapy. I need to figure out what basics MUST be replaced, and what I need to add to make my wardrobe more interesting. And I need to figure out how to do it on the cheap.

It is probably a good thing that it started storming when I pulled into town yesterday evening, otherwise I would have probably been tempted to do some retail therapy. Shopping out of frustration won't help my ever beleaguered budget!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So Far, So Good

$6.35 --- I still have that $6.35 in my grocery budget. And the goal is in sight!

Last night, as I was eating a hamburger left over from 4th of July, I wondered to myself why I was so fixated on the $6.35 I have left in this month's grocery budget. Quite honestly, I have exceeded my grocery budget SO many times in recent months, so why is it such a big deal THIS month?

I thought about it and I think I am so focused on it because:

1. I paid close attention to the numbers throughout the month, so I knew where I stood.
2. With factors such as Princess Penelope out of town, and my own work travel schedule, this is DOABLE!
3. I need a psychological win --- yes, paid off CC#1 last month, but with the really LARGE CC#2 looming, I'm more weary that pumped up. I need a quick win to keep me going.
4. I'm tired of my grocery budget being a number that is essentially meaningless or rather more a target than something I actually stick to!

So, The month ends on Sunday --- that still gives me time to take advantage of the really good Publix sales that will start tomorrow and contribute that to August's food budget.

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Success and Failure

I really have been trying to get some No Spend Days under my belt this month. It has not been easy. So far, I've racked up 6 ---- my goal was 10. Now, if I counted the days I traveled for work and only spent money for meals (which I get reimbursed for), then I'd have 8,  However, that seems like cheating. So, 6 it is! I think today, I can probably have a no spend day. However, I'll be on the road Tuesday - Friday and its unlikely any of those days will be no-spends --- a girl's gotta eat! So, its looking my goal for this month may be a bust. That's the failure part.

On the success end of things, my house is now freakishly clean (with the exception of the office/craft room). I skipped yard work yesterday and really worked my behind off getting the house clean. I'm talking move furniture around type of clean. Last night I sat down on the couch and basked in my success of the day --- no spending and the house was all sparkly. It will be so NICE this week to come to a clean house, and know that next weekend I can focus on the yard work and the office work. Woo hoo!

Today of course, is Monday. And it will be a busy one. Since I will be out of the office for 3 1/2 days, I basically need to fit 5 days worth of work into 1 1/2 days. Someone might be working late! I was hoping that today would be another no spend, but alas, I've got to swing by the vet, and get Thing 2 her meds. We're down to 4 doses and that means she'll need them when I'm out of town. So, a spend day it is!

I hope your weekend was great and the week ahead brings much success! For now, I'm grabbing another cup of coffee and getting ready to face the day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Prioritizing the Day

I had planned to spend most of my weekend doing yard work and cleaning house. I got off to a great start yesterday, spent 4 hours in the yard, mowing, weedeating, deadheading, weeding the beds and cutting stuff back. Then the heat & humidty got pretty unbearable so I went inside to shower off and get busy inside the house. Problem was, once I had cleaned myself up, I was compeletely worn out and highly unmotivated.  I did some piddly things, but for the most part, I was just too tired to completely commit myself to all the stuff that needed to be done inside.

I NEED to get the house spic and span --- I'm heading out of town for work for a few days this week and I hate coming home to a messy/dirty house. I've got a office/craft room that isn't even functioning because everything is just piled in there. With Princess Penleope out of town, messes won't be recreated minutes after I've cleaned everything up. So, if I'd just DO what needs to be done, I could actually enjoy it for a few days. So, I reprioritized my weekend. The weeding in the back yard is just going to have to wait. I want my house sparkly, and I want it sparkly NOW. So, I've bumped the yard to the bottom of the list and I'm attacking the mess and clutter inside the house with gazelle like intensity. I will feel about a million times better once I deal with the stuff that keeps staring me in the face. A cluttered house = a cluttered mind. Time to deal with it all! Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


$6.35 --- that's exactly how much I have left in my grocery budget for the month. Today is July 23. I have 8 days left in the month, and I have $6.35. I will absolutely be SHOCKED if I manage to come in at or under budget this month.

A few things that might help though ---
1. Princess Penelope is at the beach this week with her Dad.
2. I will be traveling for work four days next week. (I'll be able to avoid grocery spending, but unfortunately not eating out spending).
3. My hotel has complimentary breakfast. (that's one meal per day)
4. My hotel has an evening happy hour with complimentary appetizers and beverages (I can SO make a meal of wings, celery, fruit and cheese and crackers, so I only have to tip the girl that's serving the beverages!)
5. It is much easier to forage in the pantry and fridge to throw something together when its only me in the house.
6. I don't mind repeated leftovers!

In other budget news, my dining out budget is off the chain this month, however, a good deal of that was overnight travel for work (covered by per diem) or day trip travel (which will be reimbursed). I actually ended up spending less than I anticipated for eating out when we were in Atlanta last weekend! Let's hear it for a late lunch, having those leftovers after the concert AND free breakfast in the hotel!

The spending on gasoline is still ridiculous, between Princess going to her Dad's, our trip to Atlanta and high gas prices, but we are still below where we were last month!

Power bill is still high, but the focus I had on cutting energy costs have paid off some.

I'm still crunching my numbers to determine how much I can throw at Credit Card #2 this month -- but since I've paid off Credit Card #1 - I'm anxious to get this bad boy GONE! I'm sick of looking at it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Late Posting of Groceries

This week has flown by so fast, that I've just realized that I didn't post my groceries from Wednesday. It was a quick trip on my lunch break because we had Princess Penelope's birthday festivities Wednesday night!

So, this is what I got:

1 Sargento Shredded Cheddar
1 Angelsoft 12 Pack TP
1 Airheads Popsicles
6 Hamburger Helpers
1 Publix Hot Dogs (penny item!)
1 Knorr Pasta Sides

Spent: $17.45
Saved: $16.09 --- or 48%

I really need to step up my savings percentages!!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Almost 3 Months

It has been almost three months since tornadoes roared across the State of Alabama. Almost three months since hundreds of Alabamians lost their lives in one violent sweep across the state. Almost three months since entire neighborhoods and towns were virtually erased. Almost three months. For most of us, life has returned to normal. The FEMA deadlines have passed. The aftermath is no longer the lead story on the local evening news. The houndstooth ribbons signifying support of Tuscaloosa have gradually been gradually replaced in friends' facebook profile pictures.

Today, I went to Tuscaloosa for work. Tuscaloosa is where the heaviest loss of life occurred on April 27. When I first pulled on to McFarland Blvd, I couldn't really see much of a difference. But as I continued down the road, it was suddenly like I was in a different world. Where thriving businesses one stood, there were leveled parking lots.

Where fast food restaurants once attracted numerous college kids looking for a quick bit to eat. There was nothing but a chainlink fence and pieces of glass on the ground.

And where neighborhoods once stood, total devastation.

I opted not to go into the neighborhoods, because it felt too intrusive to do so.

The cleanup has begun, even though in some cases its hard to see the progress. But I was reminded today that for so many Alabamians, these 3 months have seemed like a lifetime, and there is yet a lifetime to go before things have any semblance of normal.

So today, I didn't stress about my budget, my power bill, the cost of gas or groceries or anything else for that matter. I just came home and counted my blessings.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Princess!!


Seventeen years ago, the best years of my life began. Seventeen years ago today, Princess Penelope came into this world. I'm not sure I ever knew what life was really about until 8:06 p.m. on July 20, 1994.The last 17 years have been truly amazing. They've been a roller coaster of emotion that I'm sure are parents are familiar with. There have been ups and downs and twists and turns, but so far, its been one hell of a ride!

We did the whirlwind birthday trip/concert/present to Atlanta over the weekend. This evening we'll do a birthday dinner with my family at Princess's favorite restaurant. My Mom's birthday is today, too!

Today, I will wake her up shortly, she will get ready and we will make another trip out to the Department of Public Safety to get her unrestricted driver license. Alabama enacted a graduated driver license law last year --- 20 days before Princess Penelope got her license! Very few None of her friends fell under this law because their 16th birthdays were earlier than hers.The law basically limited the amount of passengers a new driver could have in their car (one other passenger, excluding family members) and the hours they could drive the first year (not after midnight or before 6 a.m.). No operation of cell phones (talk, text or otherwise). If, at the end of the first year, the driver has had no moving violations and no at fault accidents, they can get an unrestricted license.

The law didn't really have a huge effect on Princess Penelope because I already had set car rules of my own. I had instituted the one passenger rule on my own, and she started out with a 11 o'clock curfew on the weekends and definitely no phone usage while driving. She earned an 11:30 curfew later in the year. Weeknights were generally 10 p.m., but she rarely went out and did anything on weeknights anyway because of school (Princess likes her beauty sleep!), so that was more of a parameter. School holidays that fell during the week were handled on a case by case basis.

I must say, that Princess Penelope did fabulously. No tickets, no accidents. No reports from friends around town saying she was driving recklessly. (Our suburb is small enough that friends would see her out and about driving around. A periodic check of her cell phone records showed that she wasn't talking or texting while driving.

She's earned her unrestricted license. She never missed curfew --- came close once because a movie got out late. She called me before she left the theater, because she still had to drop a friend off. I told her not to speed, not to get stressed, follow the rules of the road and if she was a couple of minutes late she would not be in trouble. She got home at 11:30 on the dot. We discussed that sometimes things happen, and that she did the right thing by calling instead of speeding to make curfew. No harm, no foul.

However, many of the rules will stay in place. Curfew will still be 11:30, but may be stretched to midnight on a STRICTLY case by case basis. I will permit her to take one additional passenger for the time being. That may be stretched to 3 total passengers at a later date. The cell phone use is non-negotiable.

So, here we are with another milestone. My sweet little baby girl is taking yet another step towards adulthood. But in my mind's eye, I can still see that sweet little wriggly bundle with a head full of hair and the longest eyelashes you've ever seen, with her little bitty fist wrapped around my pinkie finger. They do grow up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Energy Savings!

Last month, I received a very scary power bill in my inbox. Unusually high temps for June had made my bill absolutely skyrocket. The AC had run seemingly nonstop and my bill reflected it. Yesterday, I got the new one... I opened it with trepidation (especially after how much money I spent over the weekend!). I was actually very pleasantly surprised. My bill went down! That never happens in the month of July! Usually that is the highest bill of the entire year! The bill went from a high last month of 46 kw hours and $173.17 to 40 kw hours and $149.41. That is a reduction of $23.76! And as an aside, last year's bill for this same period reflected 44 kw hours --- so I reduced our consumption over last month AND last year!

I think several things contributed to these savings ----

1. We have actually had some rain in the past two weeks which have cooled things off in the afternoon a bit. Slightly cooler afternoons means the AC doesn't have to run as hard.

2. For the most part, I bumped up the thermostat 1 degree from where we had it set --- day and evening!

3. I was out of town for a few days, which means the AC wasn't running (I also made sure I unplugged or turned off power bars).

4. Most meals were cooked in the microwave or crockpot in order to keep from turning the oven on and heating up the entire house.

5. I haven't used the dryer since early June.

However, I am not content to rest on my laurels.With the announced 3% increase in power costs looming, I need to find a way to conserve even more! Especially since I know that come winter, the air drying won't be quite as easy of an option for me! For now though, I'm celebrating the fact that a conscientious effort to reduce energy costs resulted in REAL savings!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

We returned home today from our whirlwind trip to Atlanta. We had an absolute blast! We hit the road around 7 o'clock yesterday morning all bright eyed for our adventure ahead. Of course one hour into the trip, we stopped for the requisite bathroom break. When we went to get back onto the interstate, I got on going in the wrong direction! No, not in the "everybody screaming because I'm heading into oncoming traffic" direction, but I got back on headed back to Birmingham. Whoops. Have I ever mentioned that I get lost on straight roads? And I had a GPS with me. We turned back around at the next exit. Sigh.

Anyway, we got to Atlanta and went straight to the World of Coca-Cola -- we've been there before, but not since they basically re-did the whole thing. On the plus side, there is more to see and enjoy. On the negative, initially we were herded like cattle into a room filled with memorabilia (that was cool) but had to listen to an annnoyingly chirpy hostess tell us about almost every single piece on the walls. Then we had to watch a "musical" with odd characters that really didn't make a lot of sense. Oh, well, when we were released from the cattle call, we were then free to tour the rest of the World of Coke at our own pace. I highly recommend the 4-D film. All three of  us enjoyed that immensely! I also liked watching the history of Coca-Cola advertising --- including the horrible decision back in the 80's to foist New Coke upon an unsuspecting public! We had a fabulous time --- and the World of Coca-Cola was totally free --- as I paid for our admission using the My Coke Rewards points! Well, it was free until the Gift Shop -- and that's a whole other story.

Afterwards we went to Johnny Rockets (yes we have those here in Birmingham but that's what the Princess wanted for lunch and it was her birthday trip). We took what we didn't finish in go-boxes for later. We were eating lunch around 2:30 so we were still full at suppertime. We then checked into the hotel, took advantage of the pool for a bit, then cleaned up and headed to the Britney Spears concert! We had an amazing time! I will say that it was an excellent show! However, I would give it a PG-13 rating --- if you have really young Britney fans, I wouldn't recommend it.

After the concert, we ate what was left of our lunch and hit the hay. This morning we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast at the hotel and headed back to Birmingham. As soon as we got back, I placed the order for the senior portraits of Princess Penelope, picked up the pups, and came home!

My checkbook is screaming after the past 24 hours, but everything was paid for in CASH (or rather in debit card). No credit cards were damaged or injured in our whirlwind Birthday with Britney Bash.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Road Trip!


Today is the day! I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and we are preparing to hit the road. We are heading to Atlanta for Princess Penelope's big birthday present. We will go and see Britney Spears in concert tonight. Princess Penelope and her friend, Soccer Girl, are completely excited! We are getting on the road early even though our hotel check in time isn't until 3:00. We are going to go to the World of Coke Museum in Atlanta before we check in to our hotel. We've been to the museum twice before, when Princess Penelope was much younger. We loved it! I have a weakness for all things Coca-Cola so I'll have to really try to contain myself in the gift shop! Our admission to the museum is completely free. I saved the MyCokeRewards points for free admission. Lest you think I actually consume that much Coca-Cola, Soccer Girl's mom has been saving them for us too to help cover the cost of Soccer Girl's museum admission.

All in all, I'm pretty excited. This next 24 hours will cost me a pretty penny, but we have scrimped and saved for it. Princess Penelope even managed to save over $100 for her concert shirt and spending money! This is the only birthday present Princess Penelope will get this year and it will be the only "vacation" we take together. She still has a beach trip with her dad ahead of her, so she's all set for vacations this summer!

So we are off! Y'all have a great Sunday!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Power Surge


Many of you know about the April 27 tornados that devastated parts of Alabama. The storms themselves were a tragedy unlike any other this state has ever seen. 244 people lost their lives, and thousands more lost their homes. The cleanup is ongoing and some rebuilidng has begun. We are working our way through it all. Every day, the Birmingham News features some article about the recovery process on its front page. While some of us are now experiencing "disaster fatigue", it is an important reminder that for many of our neighbors, the recovery from April 27 will continue for months and even years to come. Even if we are fatigued, we can't forget that!

Yesterday's front page headline was this: "Power Bills Going Up". It seems that all Alabamians, that use Alabama Power, will experience a 3% increase in their power bills beginning in October. This is to replenish the storm reserves that are being entirely depleted due to the loss of 900 miles of wire, 318 substations being damaged or destoyed and 7600 poles downed. The cost of this disaster has to come from somewhere. And it will come from the consumers.

The base rates themselves are not actually increasing, but a 3% credit that had something to do with adjustments for the company's tax rates is being eliminated so it amounts to a 3% increase in power costs. Apparently, the credit should have actually been eliminated long ago, but they are doing it now in order to shore up the storm reserves.  When I first read the headline, I was prepared to be irritated and angry. But, it appears that I'm not. I guess I realize that so many of my fellow Alabamians are dealing with so much more as a result of April 27. A 3% increase just isn't that huge to me when I look at the big picture of all that was lost on that day.

So, I will pay the 3%, if not gladly, at least not resentfully. However... I will be looking for ways to reduce the effect that 3% has on my wallet. I will now start further pursuing ways to cut my energy usage. I'm already using CFLs in almost every light in the house, I'm trying to use as little AC as humanly possible, I'm cooking more in the microwave, crockpot and toaster oven, I'm air drying my clothes..... any other suggestions????? What do YOU do to reduce your energy costs?

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Should Not Go To Parties Unattended

My BFF is now selling Mary Kay. They are great products and I have always really liked what I have bought when I've bought Mary Kay. Princess Penelope adores the eyeliner. Its pretty good stuff. So when the BFF had a Mary Kay Open House Party tonight, OF COURSE,  I went!

My plan was to buy Princess Penelope another eyeliner and that was it. IF ONLY it had worked out that way! I bought the eyeliner. But I also bought a liner and shadow duo, a lip liner, a lip gloss, and a three shadow set. There's a reason why these direct sales work. Because you get there, you try the products and you ADORE them! And you get hooked.

Next time, I'm taking someone with me who will snatch the checkbook away!

Another 50/50

When I got back to town yesterday, I made a quick trip to Publix before I picked up Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Brave Friend. It has gotten a bit frustrating that thanks to the whole extreme couponing craze the shelves are always cleared of the best deals. I had to pick up 3 rainchecks! And they were even out of the actual raincheck forms and had to hand write them!

Anyway, here's what I got:
2 Kibbles N Bits (4lb) - used a raincheck from last week.
4 Milkbone Chewy dog treats - there are only 3 pictured because I gave one bag to Brave Friend's pup as a thank you for putting up with Thing 1 and Thing 2
2 Chex Mix
1 Philadelphia Cooking Creme
1 Chef Boyardee
1 Publix Bath Tissue
1 L'Oreal Face Cleanser
2 8 o'clock Coffee

Got a raincheck for Bugles, Noxema Razors, and Purina ONE Dog Food.

Spent - $29.05
Saved: $29.11
That's just about 50% even.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On An Even Keel

Being a single parent isn't easy. Oftentimes, for many people, the difficult job of single parenting is compounded by additional pressures and stresses from the "ex" and family. That is defnitely not the case for me. And I am SO lucky!

I am traveling for work this week and so I'm down in Mobile for a few days. After I finished work today, I headed over to my former inlaws' house. I was meeting up with my former inlaws, Princess Penelope and the ex's wife (ex had to work late) so they could take a look at Princess Penelope's senior portrait proofs and order what they wanted. We spread the pictures out on the table, eliminated some, and agonized over which smile was best, what pic had perfect hair, the perfect tilt of the chin. After all the decisions were made, I packed up the pictures, and we all started getting ready for dinner --- a simple one, spaghetti & meatballs, salad and bread. We reminisced over Princess Penelope's youth, caught up on goings on for both sides of the family, discussed college options and plans, rest-of-the-summer plans and generally just had a really nice time.

I know I'm lucky that after all of these years, things can just be good. And nice. And easy. And even. And drama free. It was a really nice night.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Putting It Out There

I've had a side gig going since March. Its been pretty successful so far, but June and July have been slow. I'm also not an extremely pushy type and I know I could probably swing a bit more if I was more aggressive, but this pace has worked for me so far. And talking to others, I know that the summer months are the slowest. So I'm good with it.

One thing that I hadn't really taken into account though was networking. I happened to mention to one of my guy friends, Comic Boy, that I had spent a good deal of the evening doing some set up for the side gig and he said, "Oh, you have a website for that, right? Mind sending me the linke?" So, I did, and he posted it up on his Facebook Wall, and Boom! Within an hour, almost $100 in orders. How cool is that? Just by someone randomly posting my link up and telling people where to find me!

I need to remember that! I've just got to put it out there! If I don't remind people what I'm doing, how on earth are they going to know to come to me when they need something?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saving At the Vet

So today, I went into the vet's office to pick up flea & tick preventatives for Thing 1 and Thing 2. I was prepared to spend a good chunk of change because I had cards for buy 4 months get 1 free and buy 6 months get 2 free. Since this flea season has been horrendous, I figured I'd stock up since this is a product I use often. As it turned out they were out of the 4 and 6 packs of the flea meds for both of my pups! So, the vet gave me the single dose meds for each pup FOR FREE to tie me over until they get more back in stock!

Straight up FREE is much better than buying 4 to get 1 free! Granted this is not a usual occurrence, but with a limited budget, I'll take the free meds any day of the week!

A New Week after a Really Good Weekend

I came through Saturday and Sunday without spending a dime! Whoop! It was pretty easy considering I never left the house, or rather the property (I did do some yard work). And what did I accomplish this weekend? I have a squeaky clean house -- with the exception of the office/craft room which currently looks like a hurricane hit it! My yard is looking good --- yesterday's rain (finally) helped that. And I'm all prepared to hit the road for work this week and I know I'll come home to a clean house. I have a ton of travel on tap for this month.

No spending days will be harder to find the remainder of July. Travel means $$$. In addition to work travel, we are also taking a trip for Princess Penelope's birthday. This is her only gift this year, and its not going to be a cheap one. This is it for "vacation" too. An overnight trip to Atlanta to see Britney Spears in concert. The tickets were outrageously expensive. The hotel is too! I'm trying to come up with a few ways to cut costs. Definitely taking snacks and such. Princess has saved up her own spending money so I won't get stuck paying for Tshirts and such. But we really cannot wait.

My Mom's birthday is also this month.... on the SAME DAY as Penelope's! Have NO CLUE what to get her!

As for the new week, I have to swing by the vet's to pick up flea meds. Fleas have been horrendous this year! I also have a meeting this evening and have to pay $3 as part of the meal we are having at the meeting, not a bad deal, but I really wish I didn't have to part with even that $3. I'll have to pay for some eating out on the road, although the hotel I'm staying at has free breakfast and free hot appetizers and beverages in the evening. I can totally make a meal out of that! Thing 1 and Thing 2 will stay with a friend this week while I'm gone, so I will at least save some cash there! Yea! I do need to come up with a great gift for her because she is totally saving me a ton of cash this month! I'd like to say I can stay out of the grocery store, but running low on TP and that's something I kind of deem a necessity!

So, Happy Monday everyone! A new week! Let's go!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No Spending this Weekend!

Well, Saturday and Sunday at least --- I've been trying to get some "No Spend" days in this month. So far, I've only been able to pull off 3 of those this month. - the 5th, the 9th and the 10th (today). Of course it helps that I haven't left the house since I got home Friday! I've spent the weekend doing yard work, cleaning out closets and even a bit of vegging out!

I will have to head out later today --- I have to go by a friend's house to feed and water her cats while she's out of town. I am deliberately planning on wearing ratty clothes and no makeup so I won't be tempted to just swing by anywhere else since I'll "already be out". I know how my mind works, and "since I'm out anyway" can easily translate to $$$. However, I WON'T go anywhere else if I make sure I look like crap. Because we all know if you look like crap you will run into 15 people you know and be quite embarrassed due to the fact that you look. like. crap.

It looks like I should be able to pull off day 3 of my monthly goal of 10 no spend days. I'm going to have to step it up a bit though or I won't make the month's goal. Planned spending is the key!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Senior Portraits - A Planned But Not Quite Planned Expense

In August, Princess Penelope will start her Senior year of high school. Along with that we will have expenses for graduation announcements, cap & gown fees and Senior Portraits. Her appointment to get the pictures taken was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, before she left town, we picked up the proofs. Between the formal portrait, studio casual pictures and outdoor casual pictures, there was an inch thick stack of proofs to go through. I had originally planned to only order the formals, but there are several of the casual pictures that are simply phenomenal, so I've changed my tune a bit.

However, with these phenomenal pictures comes a phenomenal price. Wow. Just wow. I'm really torn... while I had anticipated that the portraits would NOT be cheap, I sorely underestimated the cost. And I sorely underestimated how many of them I would want. AND I didn't realize that I would have to place my order a week from Monday. A 50% down payment is required when I place the order.

I really really really have some big decisions to make. And some serious number crunching. Sigh.

Boredom = $$$


After a long week of work ups and downs, teenage angst and stressing about letting the Princess do a solo road trip (she did make it there safely, by the way), I got home from work tired, out of sorts and at loose ends. There's a ton of stuff I need to do around the house, but motivation just wasn't with me yesterday. So, I piddled around a bit, snacked my way through the evening meal and basically accomplished nothing. I was bored. And unmotivated. And then I got a phone call --- a couple of friends were headed to our usual mexican eatery, and did I want to join them. Well, I've already eaten (if you call potato chips and an apple dinner) "Oh, come on! Just come for a margo!" Well, okay. So I change back into suitable for public attire, fluff the hair, touch up the makeup, and I'm out the door in 10 minutes (lots of arm twisting there!) I get there, order a margo, and proceed to spend a very enjoyable hour and a half chatting and laughing with old friends. One of those friends picked up the check for the drink because "I'm a cheap date." --- ha. Then we decide to go for ice cream, or yogurt or whatever. Since my incredibly healthy (ha) dinner was now wearing off, I of course am all in for getting some ice cream. (the fact that it was a jillion degrees outside probably factored in to that a bit too).

So we decide on one of those serve it yourself yogurt places that has fifteen billion different toppings available -- where you pay by the ounce! Let me just say that those can get pricey.  I'd like to say I went for something healthy-ish, low fat and covered with fruit.... but no, I went for a red velvet/cookies & cream combo with marshmallow cream and gooey caramel topping --- and added in some coconut, pecans, maple walnuts, snicker bars and cheesecake bites on top. Yum. And OUCH to the wallet! When I got up to the register to pay --- my total was $5.78! For one small bowl! Considering I normally only buy ice cream and frozen yogurt when its on a BOGO sale --- and I have a coupon, this was a teensy bit painful.

So today, I don't care WHO calls --- I'm staying home. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to get some stuff done (after one more cup of coffee). And I'm giving my debit card a much needed break.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Letting Them Fly Isn't Easy

Today, Princess Penelope will embark on her first solo road trip. She wil be making the four hour drive from here to her Dad's house by herself. Theorectically I know that she needs to make these drives  before she starts heading to and from college in one short year. However, this is totally freaking me out. She wants to have her car with her when she is down there so she's not stuck at his house bored out of her mind while everyone else is at work. I'm okay with that --- I'm just completely freaked out at the notion of her driving the way down there. And I'm not alone in my freak out. Her step-mom is completely freaked out about it too. The only ones that are 100% okay with this is the Princess herself and her Dad.

I know she's a good driver. I know she's a responsible driver. But that doesn't change that she's also my little girl. And letting her embark on this trip is very hard for me. In my mind's eye I'm still seeing that five year old in an appliqued sundress, with a yellow bow in her hair, clutching her teddy bear on the first day of kindergarten. I'm so not ready for this.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another Sunrise

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, Princess Penelope came into my room. One look at her face and I knew something was terribly wrong. Penelope had just found out that a child (and I say child, because at 17 they are still children), that sat beside her in history class last year had taken his own life. I sat there stunned, horrified, and then I gathered my only child in my arms and held her while she cried. I didn't personally know this child. I'd heard about him, because he definitely made an impact in her history class. Some positive, some negative, some disruptive. I knew his home life was bad and I knew that he tended to act very differently from other kids based on what she had told me. Princess Penelope and I had talked about it before, mainly after different times she'd told me about the latest disruption. We always talked about being kind, even when its not easy, because you never really know the load someone else has to bear.

We cried and talked and talked and cried. We talked about how there is nothing in this world that is so difficult that another sunrise doesn't bring some hope for improvement. The "what-ifs" are definitely setting in and the wondering if she could have said something that would have made a difference. I think after talking it all out, she knows that she did in fact treat him kindly, even when it wasn't always easy. I'm proud of her for talking to me about the problems in class with this child instead of just doing the typical teenage thing. I'm proud of her for wishing that maybe she'd had a magic word or something that could have changed things.

And this morning, watching the sunrise, I'm grieving. For the loss of a child I never knew. For the loss of hope. For that life potential unfufilled. For that loss of innocence in my own child as she realizes that for some hopelessness is a way of life. And as the sun inches higher in the morning sky, I'm so very grateful that my own child is finally sleeping in her own bed. That like the sunrise, she will again wake up to another day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Deals Only Shopping Trip at Publix

Its Wednesday again, so that means penny item at Publix. I do love the penny item! Even when its not something I need or necessarily want, I generally try and take advantage of it --- because its always good to have a few things on hand for school sponsored food bank drives!

While this week's ad wasn't stellar, it did have a few things that worked for us --- The shelves were cleared on the Kibbles & Bits BOGO, but I made certain that I picked up a raincheck this time (I'm ALWAYS forgetting to get those rainchecks!)

1 Hartz Dog Treat
2 Dove Antiperspirants --
2 Pedigree Jumbones (Thing 1 and Thing 2 do happy dances over these, and they ONLY get them when they are BOGO + a coupon!)
2 Hormel Compleats
2 Crystal Light Canisters
1 Publix Salad Dressing (penny item!)

Spent: $13.02
Saved: $19.60 or 60%! Not too shabby.

No Spend Days

I've been reading around about "No-Spend" Days. The idea is basically this: you set a goal for "x" number of days per month to not spend any money. And you do your best to meet or exceed that goal. I like this idea because if you have a goal in mind and work to stick to it, then you are more likely to plan your errands and use your money thoughtfully instead of just dropping money here and there. I don't know how well I'll do at this because this month is definitely heavy on travel for me. I will be out of town for work at least 6 days, day trips for work another 2 days, Princess Penelope's birthday is this month and we have an overnight trip to Atlanta planned.

All that being said, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm making a goal of 10 no spend days for the month of July. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th were all spend days. Sigh. Yesterday, the 5th, was a total no-spend day. (Yea!) Today will be a spend day as I have a trip to Publix planned in addition to a trip to the phone store --- to finally get my jacked-up cell phone replaced. Thursday or Friday will more than likely be a spend day as I have to gas up the Princess's car for her to make her first solo trip to her Dad's and I don't want her to have to stop at an unfamiliar place for gas along the way (please say a prayer as I'm a bit freaked out about the prospect of her road tripping for 4 hours on her own). But I will try and combine other errands that I normally do on the weekend.

10 may be a bit lofty, but I'm going to try and do it! Have you ever tried No Spend Days? How'd it work out?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can't Believe I Didn't Notice This Before!

If you've been reading this blog for a bit you know I've whined talked quite a bit about how high the gas bills were in winter and the electric bills in summer. The temperatures haven't quite been normal for Alabama so I've been looking for ways to reduce the costs --- adjusted the thermostat up or down as necessary, bundled up and added extra blankets in the winter, tank tops and shorts around the house in summer. I've started air drying all of the laundry and haven't turned on the dryer since early June. I'm microwave cooking more. All of this in an effort to reduce the cost of my electric bills!

Last year my landlord (my Dad) had gas logs installed in the fireplace. His main reason for doing so was so that if we did get a freakish ice storm that knocked out power for days (which doesn't happen often, but does happen about once every ten years), we would still have a heat source, and hopefully the pipes would be better protected from freezing. Makes sense. He selected the ventless logs and had someone come in to properly install them. We've only used the logs twice since installation --- once when I was testing them out to make sure I knew how to turn them on, and once when I had people over for a tree trimming get together -- for ambiance. I just haven't wanted to spend the gas costs for the ambiance on a regular basis.

Anyway, when the guy was installing them, he permanently adjusted the flue about a half inch open, and explained that while they are "ventless", code requires that for safety (aka avoiding carbon monoxide asphyxiation) there still has to be some venting. Not wanting to die from carbon monoxide, I was fine with this. He said the heat loss in winter and cooling loss in summer would be minimal. Okay, I'm fine with that and never gave it another thought.

So Sunday evening, I was dusting the mantel and realized that there was a huge pocket of heat right in front of the fireplace. I'm not certain why I didn't notice before, except that when we are in cleaning mode, Princess Penelope usually does the dusting and probably wouldn't notice or if she did, wouldn't think to mention it. Anyway, there was definitely heat coming in from the fire place. No wonder the AC never seems to shut off! Now obviously, the best solution would be to get permanently mounted glass fireplace doors to seal that opening, but that just isn't in my budget at this time. So, I looked around the house to see what I had that could cover that opening and at least reduce the amount of heat coming in and cool going out. And I found these large poster frames that I propped over the opening (I had bought these a couple of years ago and never used them, or took them back).

Look lovely, don't they? They don't "seal" the opening, but they do seem to reduce the amount of heat coming in. I made it a point yesterday to sit for a bit in front of the fireplace and to the sides of it and didn't notice that big ball of heat that I had Sunday night. And, although the temps hit 97 again yesterday, the AC actually shut off and cycled normally instead of just running and running and running. I figure I can live with it until we get a normal firescreen installed, and if I have people over, I can just move them so it doesn't look quite so tacky. While its not the perfect solution, it does seem to be at least an improvement!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!


When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them from another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the cause which impels them to to separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

--- The Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1776.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How I Got Here


Today I was diligently working on shredding stacks and stacks of old credit card and bank statements when I stumbled across a statement for Credit Card #2 from 9/27/07. I realized that it wasn't just trips and soccer and necessary stuff that drove my credit card balances so high, it was thoughtless spending that did it. In one statement cycle, I added $547.58 to that credit card balance --- and very little of it could even remotely be called "necessary".

Here's how it plays out:

1. McDonald's - $7.86
2. Piggly Wiggly (grocery store) - $27.10
3. Texaco (gas) - $29.59
4. Texaco (same day means this was probably snacks inside) - $9.82
5. Guthries (chicken finger place) - $14.87
6. WalMart - $34.22
7. Sweet Peas (Garden Shop - given the time of year, probably pansies) - $9.65
8. Total Skin & Beauty (this was actually necessary as I was having a suspicious looking mole removed) - $61
9. The Shoe Department - $9.78
10. Lowes' (I have no idea)- $44.26
11. Post Office (stamps)- $ 13.95
12. TJ Maxx - $285.48

OMG! That was completely ridiculous! I just spent money I didn't have like it wasn't an issue! I didn't even have a really decent paying job at the time. What was UP with my 2007 self??? Glad that my 2011 self is much more controlled (well at least MOST of the time!)

Way too Early in the Month for This Kind of Grocery Spending!

Is it just me, or are the grocery coupon matchups not what they were? In the first two days of July, I've spent almost half of my monthly grocery budget! I'm going to have to really rein it in or I'm going to be wickedly over budget for the month --- especially since it is almost time for me to buy another 52 pound bag of dog food! That's always a good $26 dollar hit to the budget! (I tend to buy one brand in bulk because I don't like to switch their food too much, however, if I can score dry food for cheap like I did today, I just mix it in thorougly to the bag and it doesn't seem to upset the pups' tummies!).

Anyway, I went yesterday to finish getting what I need for the several cookouts we are going to this weekend plus a few other things....

2 Publix Lemon-Lime Soft Drinks
1 Nesquick chocolate milk (I don't normally buy this, but a coupon plus a plea from the Princess and I went ahead with it)
1 Wavy Lays
1 Adams Flea & Tick Mist (a manufacturer coupon plus a publix coupon made this $10.79 item only $4.79! and fleas have been an issue this year)
2 Bush's baked beans
1 Publix Red Beans
1 Iams weight control (a $5 off any manu coupon made this .79)
1 Lance Cracker Creations
1 Heluva Good Onion Dip
1 Broccoli Florets
2 Emerald Trail Mix
1 Reynolds Wrap
4 Ramen Noodles
1 Bertolli Pasta Sauce
2 Emerald Nuts
2 Publix Cheesy Shells
1 Gatorade
3 Mueller's Pasta
1 $50 Shell Gas Card

Spent: $85.37, Saved: $47.77

Actual Hit to Grocery Budget: Spent: $45.37, Saved $37.77 -- or 43%

What REALLY kills me though is that I forgot to get toilet paper even though it was on my list! I ran into someone I knew on the paper products aisle and started chatting, and then forgot to get the TP! So that means another trip to the store! Ugh.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Exploding Molasses?

Just a quick note to find out if this has ever happened to anyone else.  So, I'm making my five bean baked beans and I go to get the  molasses out of the pantry. I grab the botttle, and as I'm walking to the counter with it, I put my hand on the cap to unscrew it. And the cap blows clear up to the ceiling and ricochets around the room like its a bullet! And then moloasses start oozing out of the bottle!

I have been cooking for decades, and always have molasses on hand. I have never had the cap blow, though. Obviously I'm tossing the whole bottle. Does anyone have a clue as to why this might have happened? Any thoughts and theories are welcome because that is just weird.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Easy Shopping At Aldi

Today has been an emotionally exhausting day. I went from the high this morning of paying off Credit Card #1 to the super low this afternoon of knowing that co-workers in other states were losing their jobs because of contract changes in those states. Nothing they did wrong or the company did wrong. Its just the way it went down and it was a total shock. It could have happened in my state too. So between being glad and joyful that I've still GOT a job, its also tempered with sadness that friends and colleagues are losing their job. And its a terrible time to be job hunting. So basically, I just didn't feel like figuring up my coupon matches and such for this week's somewhat lackluster Publix ad. So, I went to Aldi, the easy choice for the basics.

And here's what I got:

2 boxes dog treats
2 cans black beans
1 can butter beans
1 can kidney beans
Baby Carrotss
2 Boxes Shells & Cheese
1 Cucumber
1 carton light sour cream
2 cans crescent rolls
1 carton ranch dip
1 frozen cheese pizza
1 jar pasta sauce
1 pint blueberries
1 jar mayonnaise
1 jar alfredo sauce
4 bags shredded cheese (which is getting ridiculously expensive)
1 bag ranch tortilla chips

Spent: $40.69  Saved: my sanity

Credit Card #1 -- GONE!


I did it! I paid off credit card #1! Its gone! Zero balance --- I'm doing the happy dance! I had thought that it would be at least mid month before I paid it off. However, with the "extra" paycheck this month (I get paid every two weeks) that didn't have any of the voluntary deductions taken out of it (health insurance, FSA, United Way) ---- I had almost the extra from those voluntary deductions to go ahead and wipe it out. Bills are paid, and I have enough in the checking account to get through when child support and my next paycheck comes in -- and still pay the bills that will come due before then!

So, I crunched the numbers and decided that I wanted to pay that off a full month before my projected timeline! June 30 sounds so much better than July 31, doesn't it? And yes, since I made this decision at 10:00 last night and went online to pay it off, I know that its actually not coming out of my account until July 1 --- but I actually DID it on June 30, so that counts as a month early, right? And if I'm wrong, don't tell me because I am TOO flippin' excited!

So now, to snowball the rest into that big, bad Credit Card #2 --- I'm trying to decide what to do on that one. Do I take the full snowball from #1 and apply it all to #2 (that's $360 a month minimum I was putting towards #1) or do I take $100 or so and put it aside each month for those irregular expenses I never seem to budget adequately for AND Christmas? Decisions, decisions.