Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To Shop or Not To Shop?

My original answer on this question was easy. No shopping today. I knew I was going to get a Target gift card from my Dad -- and since I didn't have any pressing needs or wants, I was going to hold on to it for a while.

All that changed Christmas Eve, when I dropped my iPhone (which happens to actually not be mine, but a work provided phone) on my Mom's hardwood floors. And the protective case broke. Fortunately the phone did not. But since I have to pay for that phone if it breaks in a non-work related manner, well..... I don't want to do that, so I am going today to replace the case.  No choice whatsoever, because I am WAY too klutzy to tote around an unprotected phone!

So, I guess I need to get out of my warm jammies and get ready to brave the insanity that is the day after Christmas shopping. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 21, 2012

SO Far Behind

Presents aren't wrapped. Nor are they all bought. My Mom STILL hasn't told me what to bring for Christmas Eve Dinner -- so, that's not handled either. Baking not done. Groceries not completely handled. House = disaster zone. And my inbox is completely full at the office.

Basically, if I don't make it back here before the big day.... Y'all have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Two Income Household Once Again

The Princess has moved back home. My house is complete chaos. I SWEAR all this stuff came out of this house! How come its so hard to work it all back in?

Anyway --- when we made the decision for her to move back home, we decided that she needed to be working again -- not a ton -- but she was tired of being broke, and speeding tickets and concert tickets had depleted her savings. Not totally depleted -- but she definitely was aware she needed more cash.

So, she went to her old boss to see if he might hire her back. And he did! He had been very impressed with her professionalism while she was working there and when she left at the end of the summer. (From what he said to her he doesn't get that a lot from teenagers these days). Anyway, she started back to work tonight --- so she will be keeping herself in itunes and cute shoes for the next little while.

Grocery Shopping - Gotta Feed The Pups and My Sweet Tooth

I wanted to take advantage of the Publix Gas Card Deal again ($10 off a $50 Gas Card Purchase with $50 grocery purchase). I had thought that it might be hard for me to reach the magic $50 number because the ad just wasn't fabulous ---- however, I didn't count on my sweet tooth! Long week, after work purchase = calories and cost! Whoops.

Anyway, this is what I purchased:

2 Tyson Chicken
1 Edwards Chocolate Pie
2 Stouffers Family Size Entrees
2 Ore-Ida Hashbrowns
1 Oscar Mayer Smoked Turkey Sausage
1 Oscar Mayer Turkey Lunch Meat
1 Command Picture Hanging Strips (need to take these back because I just realized they rang up for $3 more than they were priced)
2 International Delight Coffee Creamer
2 Emergen-C Immune Support
2 Crackerful Snack crackers
1 Little Debbie SnackCakes
2 Kibbles & Bits Dog Food (4lb bags)
1 Publix Dog Food (35.3 lb)

Overall, spent $$65.78
Saved $53.02 or 45% --- Not bad considering I bought a TON of pup food

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just A Quick Follow Up.....

I still have a job. It is complicated, but basically, through legal maneuvering and more bureaucracy.... well the BIG decision is once again postponed. Likely the postponement will be anywhere from 3 months to 2 years. So, for the next while, I am still employed! Yea!

Things have been slow the past month or so in my "temporary" reassignment -- I'm basically making sure I look busy or seeking out other stuff to do to keep myself busy day in and day out. I know that this is likely a temporary lull based on the past year's worth of work, but it does make me nervous.

I keep thinking that maybe I need to be more actively looking for another position. However, I've had some co-workers do that and the grass has not ended up being greener. For most of them it has ended up being kind of a "dog spot brown". Also, there's the matter of benefits...... my benefits are actually really good. The health insurance is affordable -- and given that I paid a total of $105.15 out of pocket for my surgery earlier this fall ($100 hospital co-pay, $3 lab co-pay and $2.15 pain med co-pay), its actually very good coverage! And then there's the 401(k) --- my company pays 12% into my 401(k) regardless of whether or not I contribute a dime (subject to a vesting schedule, of course) --- that goes a long way towards making up for the fact that I waited WAY late in the game to start putting $$$ aside for retirement. I do, however, put some aside myself! Add in 12 paid sick days, 12 paid vacation days and 11 holidays (if I'm counting right).... well, it is a NICE benefit package. Oh, and did I mention it takes me all of 10 minutes to get to work.... and that's IF I hit every single light!

For now, I'm staying put. The resume IS polished up. I'm somewhat passively looking, and if the right opportunity presented itself, I'd take it, but for now... I really like where I am.

Friday, December 14, 2012

There Are No Words

Today, 20 families sent their children off to school like any other day. Today became those parents' worst nightmare.

There are no words to express the sheer horror, sadness, grief, frustration and rage I feel for for those parents. I can only hope and pray that they find some sort of peace amid the horror. Some acceptance of the unacceptable. It is probably a futile prayer, but that's all I can offer at this time.

Peace and love to you all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Few Ramblings....

I think I've got about a jillion things going on right now, so this will just a few random and notreallyorganized thoughts... but please feel free to jump in and give me yours.

  • I am NOWHERE NEAR the financial situation I'd hoped to be at this point in the year. I'd be lying if I said I've been paying close attention lately. That needs to stop NOW. That's how you get in trouble.

  • I've got a foyer and dining room full of the Princess's stuff I brought home on Sunday, with more to come tomorrow when she arrives. Do I have ANY CLUE where I'm going to put all this crap? Um... NO.

  • The Princess called Friday afternoon and the first thing out of her mouth was "I just NAILED that Math Final!". Given that she has an "A" in Math for probably the first time since 3rd Grade, that was music to my ears.

  • The Princess called about 30 minutes ago and the first thing out of her mouth was "Ugh!!! That History Final was HORRIBLE!". That was NOT music to my ears. Acing Math and having a hard time in History --- College must truly be an alternate universe.

  • I get the Bad Pet Owner of the Year Award --- I got a card in the mail yesterday from our vet. Thing 2 is due for her annual checkup and vaccinations --- ONE MONTH AGO. Sigh.

  • Publix is running another Gas Card Promo starting tomorrow. But the ad doesn't look too awesome..... this is going to take some work on my part tonight getting the trip where it needs to be to qualify for the deal.... and I have to do a volunteer deal tonight, so my time is limited.

  • Yeah, yeah, I know that some people think that coupon clipping and all that isn't worth the time it takes to work the deals. However, the time I'm setting aside after I get home last night will likely be about an hour to work it all through and plan it out. I'm looking at a MINIMUM of $10 savings (on the gas card) if I don't buy a single thing on sale or use a single coupon. Well, the whole purpose of planning it out is that I will take advantage of sales and coupons to get the best value for the money spent. And no, I will not be buying stuff I wouldn't buy anyway just to save a few $$$, I just have to look closer at the ad and look closer at what we are running low on to make it all work right.  So, I'm betting my actual savings on that grocery trip will be around $40 or so. So, that's a tax free $40 for an hour spent (and that's more than I make in an hour so it works for me).

  • And a friendly PSA --- if you do NOT want everyone at work to know your business --- maybe don't talk about it constantly in your cubicle and for goodness sake don't make personal calls there! People have ears! They can't help if you are laying it all out there. Sheesh.

  • And College Textbooks are a racket. Pure and simple. We spent over $600 for textbooks and the bookstore sell back only yeilded $58.50. Are you kidding me? Basically because they are now using "online access codes" --- as if we aren't killed enough. And the Princess's school wouldn't release the textbooks they were using to the students until classes started, which meant no way for her to get them online (Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstores -- you suck!). Yeah, Princess living at home this coming semester is definitely going to have its benefits. Amazon, Chegg, Half --- well, I'll get up close and personal with y'all in a couple weeks or so!

And that's it for my afternoon ramblings... y'all have a good one!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Give Til It Hurts?

I believe in charity. I believe in giving to those less fortunate. I believe in helping my fellow man. I truly do. At some point though, I think it might start to get just a bit overwhelming.

At work we've done a food drive and a toy drive. Another organization I belong to is doing a toy drive too.  As is another one! Every single day for the past two weeks I've gotten emails from friends and co-workers soliciting help for the family/organization etc that they/their church/their social group is sponsoring for the holidays. I truly believe these are all worthwhile causes. I really do.

However, I think I'm burned out with all of the "giving". I'm tired of the relentless emails, the co-workers stopping by my cubicle to say there's still "time to give", the charity calls making me feel guilty. At some point, no matter how fortunate I feel, how much I want to help others, I have to draw the line. And at some point, the endless barrage of pleas becomes overwhelming -- the guilt trips, irritating.

I'm not willing to go into further debt to provide my own child's Christmas, I'm not going to do it for others, either. Call me a Scrooge, a Grinch, Cold-Hearted, whatever. I've given all I can give this year... I am not going to give til it hurts.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Moving Day

This morning I'm heading down to The Princess's school to pack up most of her dorm room and move her stuff back. Her last final is tomorrow and she will officially move home on Tuesday. I'll leave her the essentials, but we will get everything we can into my car today. I have a strong feeling that she has not decided at all, what, if anything, is "essential". Fabulous.

I spent yesterday morning getting the house into tiptop shape so that it can handle the onslaught of the Princess's "stuff".  Then I spent the rest of the day with a friend, having lunch and browsing at the mall. I managed to get through a whole mall without buying a single thing. Although, I must confess, poor planning had me heading back later to exchange some sheets. But all in all it was a fantastic day!

So, off to college town I go --- I am NOT looking forward to the drive!!!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Is That Much TP Really Necessary?

This week's grocery shopping was basicaly focused on stockpiling --- snacks for when the Princess comes home and TP because it was about as cheap as it ever gets!!! I was a bit embarrassed when the bag boy asked me whose house we were planning on rolling.... Anyway, this is what I picked up this week:

3 12 Packs Angel Soft
1 Country Crock Spread
1 Publix Sour Cream
1 Arnold Whole Grain Bread
1 Publix Milk
3 Special K Crackers
3 Special K Popcorn Crackers
2 Juicy Juicy Fruitfuls 8 Packs
1 Publix Hot Chocolate (Penny Item!)
1 Kelloggs Pop Tarts
2 Gevalia Coffees (after Publix and Manufacturer Coupons these were $1/bag!)
2 T-Bonz Dog Treats -- 25 oz size (this is what Santa is bringing Thing 1 and Thing 2)
1 Oscar Mayer Ham

Spent: $49.00
Saved: $64.81 or 57%

I think what I find really stunning is that without working the coupons and sales, all of this would have cost $113.81. It is just amazing to me. Now, granted, had I not been able to get those bags of dog treats for $2.20 each, I wouldn't have bought them --- because regular price those are almost $15 worth in dog treats! But, Santa always brings the Pups something, so this is affordable, at least! But still, grocery prices currently have me going "Wow".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Little Apprehensive

As you may (or may not) remember, about this time last year, I was "temporarily" reassigned to a different department due to a contractual hiatus that had nothing to do with me. If I'm not making sense, just think "bureaucratic red tape". Here we are, one year later, and I'm still "temporarily" reassigned. A bit bored out of my mind sometimes, but since the reassignment didn't come with a loss of salary or benefits or perks, well, I'm decently paid to be occasionally bored out of my mind.

About two weeks ago, we received notification that this "process" was likely going to continue for another 2 years. Fabulous. But THEN, on Monday, that was reversed and we should have "clear" contract awards on December 14. Sounds fabulous, right? Except that the process for those contract awards was already overturned 2 months ago..... Confusing you yet? Well, yeah, me too.......

So basically, come December 14, I may or may not have my "temporary" reassignment, I may or may not have a job at all, for that matter. Isn't that a FABULOUS way to face the holidays?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Getting Through Christmas Without Breaking the Bank

Christmas is a time of year that it can become very easy to just slap down a card and "worry about paying for it later". I did that a bit last year.... I am DETERMINED not to do that this year. I've finished most of my shopping and while I still have a few things left to get --- I'm on a much better track than I was this year.

It helps that the Princess doesn't have one BIG item on her list -- well she does -- a new car stereo and speakers because hers went kaput --- but her Dad is getting that for her. So, no other big "wow" item. Everything else on her list is pretty small and I've been able to pick them up on the cheap, using various cheapskate methods.

One of those ways was through Groupon --- as you probably know, Groupon is a daily deal site. It can be a real hazard if you don't have good discipline. However, if you know what you're looking for and can resist impulse spending, then it can be a GREAT benefit. In this case, the Princess wanted her teeth whitened. The ZOOM! whitening process can be pretty expensive at our dentist's office -- like $400 so that would have been a HUGE purchase. But then OUR DENTIST offered a groupon for $99 plus I had a $15 off first Groupon purchase credit. Making the deal $84. Trust me, I wasn't going to trust those teeth that I've paid a small fortune for to just anyone, so this was a great deal for us!

Another way was through Swagbucks -- if you aren't doing Swagbucks, you SHOULD! Basically, you earn Swagbucks from searching the web through their search engine, entering "secret codes", referring friends, taking polls, watching videos, printing and redeemening coupons and even shopping -- those Swagbucks can be redeemed for various items -- although I think the $5 Amazon gift cards for 450 Swagbucks is the best deal out there. Through Swagbucks I earned $95 this year in free Amazon Gift Cards, which I have used for various FREE Christmas gifts for the Princess, as well as a couple of little things for me. This has to be my favorite way of getting free stuff for Christmas.

A slightly more tedious way to earn holiday extras is through My Coke Rewards. Bascially you collect the reward codes inside bottle caps or cases of Coca-Cola and enter them on the website to redeem for rewards. In the past, I've redeemed them for tickets to the World of Coke Museum in Atlanta, Coca-Cola 12 packs, magazine subscriptions and the like. This year, during their 12 Days promotion, I just redeemed some points for a $25 Wal Mart gift card. The rewards add up slow, but if you're patient, you can get some good deals --- and just so you know -- I do not buy Coke products just for the rewards -- I just save them when I do buy them!

One very time consuming way I found to TRY and get stuff for Christmas was through blog giveaways! I've kind of had a low ratio of time spent vs. items won on this endeavor, though. In the past couple of months I've won copies of The Lorax and Despicable Me, 2 coupons for Purex Laundry Detergent, 16 boxes of Thermacare Heat Wrap and a $5 Arby's gift card. Considering the time I spent entering the various contests, not a great win ratio -- HOWEVER, most of that time was when I was on the couch recovering from surgery or watching tv anyway, so not too bad. And the Purex Coupons helped me take advantage of the Publix Gas Gift Card Deal last week -- so its all good!

How about you? What are some ways YOU try and reduce your Christmas spending?

***NOTE: The links featured above are my referral links.***