Friday, August 31, 2012

Hello, Murphy.

So, the Princess is home! Hooray! She made it here all safe and sound and with plenty of laundry to occupy my time this weekend (because of course, I have nothing better to do, haha).

Her car has been running rough, so first thing we did when she got home today is put it in the shop. While we were there, my mechanic hopped into and took it for a quick ride to see what were describing. Well, he came back and said, "The GOOD news is.... it's not the transmission. The bad news is, I think its your catalytic converter, but I'm going to have to get in there and see to be sure." So, we left the car in his capable hands, and came on home.

He called just a little bit ago..... its the catalytic converter. The part alone is over $900 because the only place in town with one is the freaking Honda dealership (which means it costs more). Then you add in labor, and the oil change she's due for.... and we're looking at almost $1300. I am freaking out. Completely. I do not know what we are going to do.

So, Murphy has come to call. I'm hoping he turns around and gets the heck out of Dodge REALLY fast. I can't afford for him to hang out for long!

Homeward Bound

First of all, I just want to say that this waking up way before sunrise thing has got to GO! Right now, it is almost 5 a.m., but I have been awake since 3:30. Yesterday, I woke up at 4:30. This is just not cool. I am exhausted.

Anyway, The Princess is coming home today! Since it is Labor Day weekend, she was going to be her until Monday anyway, but her Professor for her afternoon class today cancelled class so she is going to get on the road heading home a good four hours earlier than planned and will miss Rush Hour in both of the large cities she has to travel through. (That always makes Mom happier!). And then, (Bonus Time), her Professor for her one Tuesday class cancelled classes too, so she doesn't even have to go back until Tuesday, meaning she will miss the majority of the Labor Day traffice too!

I have figured out that she took too many clothes with her to school since she has informed me she hasn't yet had to do laundry --- and swears she still has clean clothes left! Looks like I will be spending the majority of my weekend handling that! (Thanks, Princess). I should probably make her do that laundry, but I'm well aware that the primary reason kids come home from college is so that someone else will do their laundry.

I'm also very well aware that most of the Princess's friends will be coming home this weekend too, so I'm resigned to the fact that I will likely only see her in passing for most of the weekend. That's one reason why I'm so pumped about class being cancelled on Tuesday --- that means I'm going to actually SEE her on Monday night as all of her friends will be heading back to their respective schools then.

I just cannot wait to see my girl! Three weeks is a long time for this Mom.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Here

I think I've got the blahs --- after a super busy summer full of anticipation of new beginnings for the Princess and super amounts of stress about where the $$$ for that new beginning, we've gotten to that new beginning and I'm feeling let down about it all.

Money is tighter than it has EVER been. I've got very little until my next payday which is still 10 days away so I can't even finance some of the very inexpensive projects I want to start on. The Princess is not happy in her new beginning. I don't think I ever realized how shy she actually is. Talk about a slap yourself in the forehead moment! She never seemed shy at all before. Likely because she's gone to the same school system with most of the same people since she was 5. She never had to "start over". She's not adjusting well and is already making noises about transferring next year. I'm hoping things will settle in better soon. Until then, that has me constantly worried, but about something I can't do a THING about.

Some things just don't work out the way you want. You can hope. You can pray. But it just doesn't work the way it is "supposed" to. And then you have to figure out where to go from there. But until you figure where to go from here, you are just here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Not Even Sunrise

If I had to choose a least favorite time of day (or night), I think it would have to be 3 a.m., specifically 3 a.m. when you roll over and then just stare at the ceiling. I'm typically an early riser, and since my pups feel that the moment the sky starts getting a tad bit brighter, it is time to begin the day.... well, I rarely ever sleep in.

BUT, I do usually sleep until at least the sky starts brightening up a little bit. Not so this morning, I rolled over at 3 a.m., and there was the ceiling, staring back at me. I rolled over again and closed my eyes. They popped back open. I tossed, I turned. And then I started thinking heavy thoughts. Those heavy thoughts CERTAINLY didn't let me go back to sleep!

Finally, after 4, I gave it up. I staggered into the kitchen and put coffee on. I let the pups out, gave them some breakfast and here I sit. I should get productive, but quite honestly, even at now 4:45, I can't quite see straight!

It is going to be a long day!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reaching for the Goal

In recent weeks, I've been thinking a lot about my goals and my future. I've reached the beginning of on goal --- getting the Princess to college. Definitely not as easily and financially secure as I'd like. But the goal is at least reached, now to sustain it for four years!

But I've got other goals too..... personally, professionally and financially. Those seem harder to reach.

Personally, well, that's just a mess ---- I've got fabulous friends and a fabulous family, but basically I'm a disorganized basketcase. And there always seems to be not enough time to give those other relationships their due. And lately with the Princess gone, the solitude is harder to deal with.

Professionally, that's a mess too --- I've basically been in limbo for the past year. And that's through nothing I've done or haven't done --- it's bureaucracy at its finest. And it looks as though the limbo will continue for another year possibly. The good news is that even with a greatly reduced workload, my benefits continue as does my salary level. I survived the cuts that had to be made, but some of my coworkers weren't so fortunate.

Financially, that's always a mess --- I think I've figured out a mostly workable plan if Murphy doesn't pay a visit and if I didn't have to pay for the Princess's flight to my brother's wedding and Christmas. That's a big huge YIKES! I'm still working on that plan.

All of that combined kind of has me with the "blahs" this morning. I feel like I'm living in limbo in so many ways and that's just not the easiest way to function. I'm working on all three facets, but I don't feel like progress is being made. And I need progress. I need to know that my efforts are amounting to SOMETHING.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grocery Saving With Publix

Most of my grocery shopping lately has been done at Aldi. I like the fact that I don't have to think very hard to still get great value. With limited selections, they either have what's on my basic list or they don't, so my in and out there is very fast. There's also the fact that the regular grocery store deals haven't been quite what they once were. But, there are still some good deals to be had.

This week's Publix deals weren't stellar, but with an empty nest, there wasn't a whole lot I needed anyway. However, the Powerade deal was enough to get me through that door. They had the multipacks on BOGO and had Publix coupons for $1 off in the paper a couple of weeks ago. Then you add in the fact that the penny item this week was toilet paper (and who couldn't use almost free toilet paper?) --- and I made the trip to the store after work on Wednesday. The list is short, but here's what I got:

2 Powerade Multipacks (for the Princess to take back to school with her next time she comes home)
3 Ken's Marinade
1 Publix Greenwise Toilet Paper

Spent: $6.28
Saved $17.69 or 74%

The really interesting thing is that had I bough just ONE Powerade multipack at regular price, my grocery bill would have been more than what I spent on 2 multipacks, 3 marinades and a 4 pack of tp!
Coupons CAN still work in your favor, even if you have to watch the deals a bit more closely now!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Loving Aldi

I've shopped frequently at Aldi over the past year or so. One benefit is that I can get in and get out very quickly. There aren't a ton of choices so if you just need basic stuff it is fabulous. Also, the prices are simply awesome. Now that I'm basically just cooking, cleaning and eating for one, the savings are even more noticeable. And its really nice to be in and out of a store in about 15 mintues. Since I haven't had to do a big grocery shopping that included actual meats and such since the Princess left for school, my grocery bill is enjoying the break. Anyway, here's what I got:

Sweet Potato Chips
Speical K Bars
Turkey Lunch Meat
Light Sour Cream

That's IT. That's all I needed for the week!
Spent: $14.41

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gearing Up For Christmas...Yes, Christmas

With all of the time and money focused on getting the Princess ready to go off to college, getting her there and then trying to settle in to my new normal, my usual early Christmas planning has been derailed. I usually have at least a few presents already bought and stashed appropriately away. Well, that hasn't been the case so far this year. Christmas is looming just four short months away and I've done very little in the way of preparation.

However, a couple of things have happened in recent days that have made me want to jumpstart my planning and start really giving it all some thought. And by happening, I've had some free stuff land in my lap that will make great presents so that has kind of jumpstarted and energized my thinking.

Item #1 ---- through My Coke Rewards, I got an offer for a free Shutterfly photo book. I'll still be paying shipping, but I'm thoroughly jazzed about being able to gift a photo book. I haven't decided yet whether I'll do a book for the Princess or maybe even my Mom. Just not sure yet, BUT I'll be making a decision soon.

Item #2 (and, technically #3) --- I entered a blog giveaway at Life As Mom and won copies of The Lorax and Despicable Me. We already have Descipicable Me, so that will be a gift for my nephew. The Princess has always been a HUGE fan of "kid" movies, so The Lorax will be wrapped up and under the tree for her.

So, that's three presents without a real ding to my budget. I'm starting to redeem my swagbucks for they will all be ready for use come the really good deals in November and December. Now, I just have to see what else I can get for free without making my budget gasp for air.

Any ideas or suggestions from y'all?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Am NOT Getting Another Dog

My house has been very quiet lately. With the Princess off at college, it has been almost eerily quiet around here. No music blaring in the mornings as I get ready for work. The TV barely gets turned on. And while I talk to my pups frequently, they haven't started talking back. So it is quiet. And its a different quiet than the Princess just going off to visit her Dad for a week or so. It is QUIET.

All along, as people have asked me how I would or how I am adjusting to the empty nest. I would usually joke and say, "If I start talking about getting another dog, I need my friends to stage an intervention so I don't become the crazy dog lady!". I love pups. I think everyone should have a pup. Or two. Or even three if their home, life and budget can support it.

One thing I know for certain, my budget cannot support another pup. My budget is currently tie-you-to-a-tree-tight. I also know that for Thing 1, who is 12 years old, introducing another dog to the family at this stage in his life just would not be fair. He deserves to enjoy his old age without another rambunctious ball of energy muscling in on his territory.

I have several friends involved in Animal Rescue. I admire and love the things they do for the lost, lonely and abandoned four legged friends. I truly do. However, I think I'm going to have to "hide" them from my facebook feed. I just don't need the temptation. And goodness knows if I say how cute or sweet a furbaby is and how I hope he finds his "fur-ever" home --- well, they tell me mine would be just perfect! Yeah, I don't need the temptation.

So, no new pups for this household. I'm sticking to that. For certain. For definite. End of story... Now to just hide those feeds!!!!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Battling the Jungle

This summer has not been kind to my yard. I tried container gardening for veggies. After what looked to be a fairly promising first harvest of veggies ---- nothing. Well almost nothing. Let's just say I was less than pleased with the turnout. A lot of work for very little yeild. Live and learn I suppose.

I did a fairly good job at keeping up with the rest of my yard until I went on vacation. That encompassed the better part of 2 weekends, and I was never really able to get things caught up again after that. With the preparations for the Princess to go off to college, I was lucky to be able to get the grass cut!

Some of that will change today, however! My dear, sweet, wonderful Dad is coming over to help me for a few hours to get the yard caught up. I've got a lot of stuff that badly needs cutting back and then needs to be hauled to the curb for pickup, so we are going to focus on that --- the heavy lifting to get my yard looking better again. I'm pretty pumped.

Lots of rain yesterday should make most weeds relatively easy to pull and right now its nice and cool out. Of course this is August in Alabama so it will warm up as the day goes on, but I know that it will still be a lot more comfortable than a normal August day. Free yard work! Yea!!!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trying to Trim To Make Deeper Cuts

So, I've been playing with numbers a lot trying to figure out a new budget for this new normal. There seems to be more money that needs to go out than there is money coming in. If I sputter along like normal, I think we will be okay for this year, however, we will be running in a huge deficit for the 2013 school year and that's not what I want to do.

I've still got that credit card #2 which I would like to have had paid off --- however, that has NOT happened. I need it to be gone. We have been using it some, but I have been paying off what I've been using, plus my monthly goal of $500 per month. It still doesn't seem to be going away fast enough. Currently the card is in the Princess's possession -- she will use it for gas, medical co-pays and if she needs her migraine meds refilled at school. These are the only acceptable uses and she knows it, so I am really not worried about her charging up a storm. She has proven to be responsible and it is easier for me to track her spending on it than in her debit account which she can spend as she sees fit.

Anyway, all of that rambling is because I'm still struggling with how much to slash my budget for my current household expenses. Obviously certain things like groceries, water, and power should go down. One person using those things vs two should automatically decrease them somewhat. My first instinct was that "Oh, I can cut those by 50% easy" -- then you take into account that the food for the pups comes out of the grocery budget, so do the toiletries that the Princess will still need. The fridge still has to be plugged in and running regardless and I'm certain that on the weekends she comes home, the Princess will be bringing a ton of laundry for me to do. So, I don't think I'll be able to cut them 50%. But it was a nice thought!

I've been toying with ideas for cutting the utility costs. Unplugging vampire electronics. Adjusting the thermostat just a wee bit warmer (thank you for the below normal August temps!), stuff like that. Do you have any great ideas for cutting electric costs? I'm already using CFL bulbs. I'm thinking that, as much as I hate to, I might forgo my usual Halloween and Christmas light displays. Or, at the very least, put them up later than I usually do. Lots of thoughts rambling through my head on that one, so any suggestions would be welcome.

I'm also thinking about cutting the cable. Problem is, my house is now very quiet and I've turned on the TV more this week than I have in the past month. AND football season is coming. I live in Alabama and college football is what we DO in the fall, so I'm not sure that's a great option for me even if it would cut some of those monthly expenses.

Sheesh. This new normal is driving me crazy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Empty Nest Groceries

So, after very little grocery shopping in recent weeks (WHO HAD TIME?), I decided that in order to eat somewhat healthy with my empty nest, I needed to have at least some food on hand to prevent the trips to Sonic. So, I went to Aldi and picked up a few things:

1/2 Gallon Milk
2 Greek Yogurt
Cottage Cheese
Vine Tomatoes
Turkey Lunch Meat
Special K Pastry Crisps (these are for the next time I see the Princess --- she LOVES these things)
Garden Salad Mix
Frozen Pizza
Turkey Smoked Sausage
English Muffins
Wheat Thin Crackers
Sliced Provolone
2 Avocados
Sweet Potato Chips

Spent $35.41

Not too bad --- but I'm wanting to seriously slash my grocery bill since there's just one in the household day in and day out so we will have to see how well I can do in coming weeks -- but for now, I just needed FOOD.

I Hate Being Stupid

So, back in May, my very generous friend, Singer Girl, gave me and the Princess each $50 Amazon Gift Cards. Our plan was to use them both for textbooks. So, I held on to them to be sure we didn't spend them on something stupid. BIG MISTAKE.

We went to apply them to our account, and the codes had already been used. So I contacted Amazon, who basically told me that either the giver had "taken them back" or someone else in my household had used them. Wrong. For "privacy reasons" they couldn't tell me who had redeemed them. So, Singer Girl, contacted them. As it turns out, they had been stolen by someone not in my household and who I've never heard of --- they would tell Singer Girl because she's the one who paid for them.

Anyway, I ended up talking to someone at Amazon who was very sympathetic, and could "see" that it had obviously been stolen so she sent it to the "escalation department" to see if anything could be done and for further investigation. Well, that was a big fat waste of time, because 30 minutes later I get the exact same form email from Amazon telling me that it had likely been spent by the original gifter or someone in my household.... sigh.... they didn't even look at it. Just rubber stamped it again.

So big lesson learned. When you get Amazon gift codes --- APPLY THEM IMMEDIATELY. There are apparently a lot of very dishonest people out there, and quite frankly, Amazon would rather protect them than their honest consumers. I really hate being stupid.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Early Saturday morning, we got up, got ready, loaded the last of the Princess's stuff into our cars and made the 2 1/2 hour trip to the Princess's new school. Her Dad met us there to help move her in --- since the dorm doesn't have an elevator, is situated on a hill and the room is on the 2nd floor, I was very glad he came. We got her set up, with the Princess and I handling the clothes and stuff and him handling setting up the computer, printer, cable, tv and dvd --- as well as putting together her shelves. I think we've feathered her nest pretty well for her new home away from home. Spent more than I wanted to all in all, but for the stuff we had to buy, I at least tried to (for the most part) keep in mind things that would have future uses.

The shelves pictured above were the biggest recent expense, got them at Bed, Bath and Beyond. They were $60, but we had a 20% off coupon, so spent $48. We really like the extra storage space they provide --- not sure how much she will be able to use them in future years, but she'd had her eye on them for 2 years, so I bit the bullet and got them. The bedding was from Target and we got it last fall when it went on clearance. The bulletin board was an idea from pinterest --- foam presentation board, covered in fabric -- much lighter than a normal bulletin board and therefore much easier to hang with Command strips -- and honestly, a lot cheaper too. $6 for board, fabric and hanging ribbon. The necklace holder was a thrift store find that I spray painted black a year or two ago.

Her desk and dresser area is pretty much all recycled from home except for the clearance priced lamp, the crate for books and the spanking new printer (a gift from her Dad).

After we got it all set up, we still had to make a quick trip to walmart for things I hadn't thought of --- a mop, a seat cushion, a rug and an additional surge protector. I really do not like shopping at Walmart, but that's what was available in this town, so off we went.

As our luck would have it, the Princess woke up Friday morning with a sumemr cold and has been feeling basically like crap ever since. When I was preparing to leave, she teared up, told me she just wanted to go home and wishes she'd made a different choice. My heart just broke. This is going to be hard enough on both of us. I hate that she's feeling this way. I know being sick and Mom leaving has something to do with it, but she's also scared about finding "her" place there --- she's been in the same school system since kindergarten and has never had to make the effort to make friends --- she just had her friends. And she's missing them.

I talked to her several times yesterday, and she sounded better, but is still feeling like crap. I really hope she can kick this cold soon as the first couple of weeks of college are important for finding your "place". I swear, I am worrying about her more now that she's out on her own, than I ever really have in the past 18 years. This new normal is not setting well with me so far!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Today's The Day

Today my sweet Princess moves into her dorm, 2 and a half hours away. Its going to be a hard day because she is now having cold feet. No one from her high school is going to the same school. Her roommate has been down there for a few days already, because she is doing sorority rush. The Princess opted against going through the sorority rush because of financial and time management aspects. School doesn't come especially easy for the Princess so she really did not want something else tying up all of her time.

Last night we went over to one of her friends houses for dinner and to hang out before both girls move into their dorms at their respective schools today. Goodbye was hard as this family has been the Princess's second family for years now ---- lots of tears from all of us.

When we got home, the Princess talked about all her fears as we sat on the couch with Thing 1 and Thing 2 snuggled up between us. Lots more tears all around. I'm hoping and praying that this transition will be easier than she thinks it will. I remember it being hard to transition myself, and I was only 30 minutes from home. And I also was in a sorority, which makes it much easier to meet people sometimes.

This is going to be hard. On both of us. I just hope it is harder on me than it is on her.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to a New Normal Soon?

Just thought I'd pop in to say HI! We are in the midst of getting everything prepared for the Princess's move to college on Saturday. My bank account is SCREAMING. And of course I've thought of one more thing she "needs". Sheesh. This has NOT been easy on my checkbook.

The Princess's Dad will me meeting us at the school to help with the move-in. I'm really happy about this --- his meeting us will drastically reduce the number of times that the Princess and I have to go up and down the stairs (no elevator) and drag stuff across the parking lot ---- a good 50+ yards from the edge of the parking lot to the entrance to the dorm.... YIKES. Plus he may be bringing on of his buddies with him. That will be huge! I might just make it back home at a somewhat decent hour and not be totally wiped out.

After I get back on Saturday, a new normal will begin for me. From here on out, most of the time it will be just me and the pups. I'm kind of freaking out about that. Walking in to a quiet house every night. I'm used to some noise blaring at me the moment I walk in! Trying to decide what to make for dinner for just one person --- I think it can be tempting to take the easy way out and just stock crap in the freezer and fridge but I'm really hoping to NOT do that. Another thing that will be tempting is going out a lot ---- meeting up with friends for dinner and socializing when I just don't have the money to do so. A lot of things to consider. So, y'all help keep me honest, okay? When I finally get back to posting groceries and everything is crap.... call me on it. When I start saying "oh, I went out to dinner with so and so" with much greater frequency... call me on it. I'm just not sure how I'm going to adjust to the New Normal.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shopped and Dropped

Yesterday the Princess and I spent 7 hours shopping. 7 hours. We were finishing up her back to school purchases before she moves off next week. Dorm stuff, clothes, groceries (just a few), toiletries, clip on lamp, shoes, etc. It was a day that ended up a blur of ringing cash registers and swiped cards.

Alabama had one of those back to school "Tax Free Holidays" this weekend. Theorectically, the state drops the sales tax, and then counties and local municipalities do too. It can add up to a 9%-11% savings on certain items if you are already buying them anyway, but I've noticed that the "deals" aren't as good on those weekends so I can generally save more by shopping the last weekend in July. Due to the Princess's wisdom teeth extraction, that just wasn't possible last weekend and she moves next weekend, so off to the malls and shopping centers we went, coupons in hands and a mutual pledge to shop the clearance and sales racks when possible.

All totaled, we spent $671.98 yesterday, not including the food we ate out (which ended up another $80). OUCH. Getting kids to college is expensive before you ever even step on campus! But before y'all think I totally lost my mind, not all of that was out of pocket. $237.46 was on gift cards that the Princess had received for graduation and had decided to use to help with the back to school costs. So, the final out of pocket costs were $434.52. And by combining sales, coupons and tax free holiday, we "saved" $492.26 over full price --- not that I would really PAY full price, but its always interesting to add that up when its offered on the receipt!

So, I think we are about done --- I'm sure there's something I've forgotten but right now, I'm just worried about how we are going to get all of this stuff into 2 cars!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting It All Together

Ten Days. In just TEN short days the Princess will be moving into the dorm. I cannot believe time is this short. When I started this blog, it still seemed like a far off thing. But its here, and I am in no way near where I wanted to be financially. I'm still looking at $5K in credit card debt. Financial Aid wasn't what we'd hoped it would be, and DANG! There is SO MUCH that we still need to get (purchase).

Add to it, the Princess has been making noises about clothes she needs/wants to start school with. I really cannot gripe too terribly much as I have not purchased one single item of clothing other than her graduation dress and shoes since she started working in April. She has very specific "needs" in mind to "round out" her wardrobe, so I'm biting the bullet and taking her shopping on Saturday. I have some money left on a couple of department store gift cards I got for my birthday, and she has a couple WalMart card she got for graduation that she is willing to use for necessities instead of "stuff". So, I'm hoping we can really combine our efforts and spend as little as possible since there are lots of things she will still need.

We are way behind on the organizational front. Her wisdom teeth had her completely out of being "useful" for a good four days, and waiting on her constantly interrupted the things I was trying to get accomplished. (I'm really not complaining as the waiting on her is part of the "Mom Job", and she was really a good patient --- it was very nice to hear "please" and "thank you", even when it was slurred out due to the sedatives!). However, these past 3 days have been kind of a wash too as I've come home from work and basically hit the couch because I've had some really bad pain in my back.

Anyway, we are in a mad dash to get it all done. I'm trying not to freak out because of money. A friend keeps telling me not to worry about things I can't control --- but I can't help it. I'm WORRYING! And I'm doing a fabulous job at it!