Wide Open Wallet

An honest look at family finances

Archive for May, 2008

One more thing…

I forgot to mention the most important thing!!

I was editor’s pick this week on the Carnival of Personal finance over at Canadian Dream: Free at 45! Thank you very much Tim,for highlighting my article. It was very exciting for me.

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  • Filed under: roundup
  • Roundup

    Happy Saturday! Not to much to report this week. So we’ll just get straight to business…

    From the PF Bloggers:
    Get Rich or Die Trying wrote about how to spot an addiction to plastic. Funny cause I was just researching this same topic. Oh well….
    Master Your Card discussed what to do when the collectors come calling. I know it’s stressful but it’s better to face your debts head on. You can’t run from it.
    No Debt Plan is offering financial planning help to a few readers. If that sounds like something you would be interested in head on over there.

    From around the blogsphere:
    Not the Jet Set taught us how to make a rain water collection bin. Unfortunately it doesn’t rain in the desert enough to be able to collect very much water. But I still think it’s a great idea for other places.
    Rocket Finance has an interesting post about national oil. Head over and leave a comment with your feelings on the topic.
    Frugal Dad talks about the most expensive $2 he ever saved. The psychology of saving money is pretty interesting.
    Mrs. Micah discusses why it was better for her not to have to work during college. I’ve always been a believer of working during college, but she gives an interesting view point.
    Paid Twice gives us 10 ways to stay in debt. If you’re doing any of these things, stop right now!

    Well that’s it. I hope you have a great weekend. See you on Monday!

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  • Our new fridge

    We have a new fridge! It should be here in a few hours. We decided on this one. It’s basically like the one we already have but quite a bit bigger, and it has the door compartments that are big enough to put a gallon of milk in the door. Which is awesome. We have outgrown the fridge we have now. Trying to put the groceries away is like putting together a puzzle. And the filters for the ice machine/ water dispenser are easy to change and only $30. So we might actually change them. We would have to buy less bottled water that way.

    One good thing about this whole situation is that it happened over Memorial day weekend. Sears was having a nice little sale. It ended up costing us $920 including tax, delivery, set up, and haul away of our old fridge. Remember how I was going to ask if they would deliver it for free? Well, turns out they have a mail in rebate for delivery charges, so I’m getting $75 back from that in 8 weeks. And I put it on my rewards card, so that is another 1% off. Hey, it’s something! So all in all we spent $836. Not too terrible. We will be taking the money out of our emergency fund. I’m going to try to pay it back though. I hate taking money out of there.

    While I wait for delivery I’ve set up the cooler to keep the things I was able to salvage from the fridge. Luckily the freezer is still working fine so nothing melted, which would have been bad. We have a deep freeze so I’m going to move the freezer stuff into there. I’m really only losing about $20 worth of food. The big bummer is that I have left over Baked Rig in there, which I was going to eat for dinner tonight.

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  • Filed under: life
  • Fridge shopping

    Nothing like opening the fridge in the morning to get your two year old a cup of milk and being hit in the face with a wall of warm, sour smelling air. Yup, our fridge is dead. My husband has been complaining for the last few days that the food isn’t, well… cold. It’s cool. But it’s not cold. Our fridge used to freeze the top layer of the milk, and lately it’s not even very cold. We put a thermostat inside and after a few hours of not opening the door it was 54 degrees in there. Not good. Serious tinkering by my husband didn’t improve it even one degree.

    One thing that I hate about this situation is that we need to buy a fridge today. I hate making big decisions on the fly. I want to hem and haw, discuss, turn it over, go back and look again, work every option until one choice stands shining above the rest. And to make it that much worse, my husband is working late. So it’s up to me to make the final decision, alone. Yipes!

    We talked briefly about having someone come out and look at it, but the fridge is 9 years old. And it wasn’t an expensive fridge even back then. So it was a quick decision to buy new. The next discussion was about color. Stainless vs. Black. I wanted black and my husband wanted stainless. We talked about it a little bit. We each gave the reasons why we wanted our choice. I brought up the extra cost, he likes the style. We actually both convinced each other and by the end I wanted stainless and he wanted black. haha.

    So yesterday we stopped by Lowes and Home Depot to take a look around. I was surprised that stainless isn’t that much more expensive than black. A hundred dollars or two. But in the end we decided that we are going to buy a black side by side. I adore the french door with the bottom freezer but those are really expensive. The side by side is the most reasonably priced. We decided on black since we aren’t replacing the dishwasher and oven right now, and I don’t want to have to try to match the stainless later. I think it would drive me bonkers to have non matching stainless. So black it is!

    After looking at them in person we went home and shopped online. Sears is having a pretty good sale for Memorial day (that ends today) so I’m going to head down there as soon as they open and see if it would be possible to pick one up today. I don’t know how that is going to work since my husband won’t be home til long after Sears closes, maybe I can convince them to deliver it for free. Hey, it’s worth a shot right. I’ll play the poor pitiful mother of two who just needs to keep some milk cold for her kids.

    Pic by: Orfield Photography

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  • Filed under: life
  • Inflation


    Everyone is talking about all this inflation. How everything is getting more expensive, I know we are feeling it. Aren’t you? Just seems like every time you turn around you’re paying more and more money for the same items.

    While we were making the household budget for June I started wondering how much of an impact all this inflation has really had on our family. I planned on writing a post about how much more we are spending for our basic needs. I went digging for our budget for June ‘07 to compare it to June ‘08 and was pleasantly surprised.

    Over all there wasn’t much change. Technically we are spending less money this month than we did a year ago. Yup, we are spending less. We also made less so that’s probably why. I’m sure if we had an extra $300 this month we would be happy to find a place to spend it. But the bottom line is that our basic expenses haven’t changed very much at all.

    Here is the breakdown…
    Mortgage - no change, actually it went down $50 when we got rid of the PMI but we have decided to continue to make the same payment and reduce our principal that much more.
    Homeowners Association - increase of $9
    Cable - down $3. This one surprised me. I don’t think we have gotten rid of anything, I can’t remember.
    Electric - no change. We are on the plan where you pay the same every month, but they didn’t make an adjustment this year at all.
    Car and life insurance - down $9.
    Cell phones - increase of $3
    Car payments - no change
    IRA contributions - no change
    City - increase of $7
    Medical- increase of $25. We have two monthly prescriptions that we didn’t have last year.
    Groceries - no change. I do spend more time shopping sales and using coupons though.
    Gas - increase of $40 and we still think we may need to add a little more later in the month, even with my husband picking up an extra person in the car pool.
    Backyard landscaping - increase of $165. We hadn’t landscaped the back yard last year.
    Pocket money - no change
    Other stuff - down $360.

    Pretty surprising. The only thing that changed significantly was gas, which I was expecting. There were some one time expenses last year like swimming lessons, a camera, and a surround sound system we needed for our new tv. But this year we had to replace my retainer that I stepped on and broke, had to do some maintenance on our hot tub, and we have a wedding to go to. But over all actual outlay decreased, which is pretty cool.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t inflation, but my feelings about our budget don’t match our reality. I feel pinched, strained, and pessimistic. But it seems that it’s more from listening to the news than from our actual situation. Pretty interesting.

    pic by: keepin’ on

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  • These are a favorite around my house. This recipe was handed down from my husband’s grandma. It’s written on a piece of notebook paper that is probably as old as I am. What I really love about these cookies is that since the dough is frozen you can keep them on hand and make as many or as few as you want. You’ll spend $2.42 and you won’t waste one cookie since you can make one, all five dozen, or anything in between.

    Another bonus is the frozen dough is also a great treat, even if you’re not in the mood for actual cookies. I made this recipe the other day and when I went to make cookies today most of the dough had mysteriously disappeared.

    Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies

    1/2 lb margarine (2 sticks) ($1.03)
    1 cup brown sugar (32 cents)
    1 cup white sugar (19 cents)
    2 eggs (32 cents)
    1 teaspoon vanilla (2 cents)
    1 1/2 cup flour (14 cents)
    1/2 teaspoon salt (less than a penny)
    1 teaspoon baking soda (less than a penny)
    3 cups quick oatmeal (40 cents)

    Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Combine wet and dry mixes together. Fold in oatmeal.

    Wrap dough into 3 long rolls using wax paper (saran wrap works too) and freeze overnight. Slice thinly and cook on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350.

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  • Filed under: Frugal eats
  • Roundup

    It’s my birthday! Happy birthday to me…. I know it doesn’t hold quite the same excitement as when you’re a kid but I still get excited. Our favorite BBQ place lets you eat for free on your birthday and I’m planning on taking full advantage. They make their own rootbeer and have the world’s greatest floats. I’m looking forward to it.

    But here’s my roundup..

    PF Bloggers:
    Get Rich or Die Trying laid out his wedding budget.
    Kristy from Master Your Card let us know what she thinks of Dave Ramsey. Make sure you check out the comments. It gets interesting in there.
    Living Almost Large asks if you can hide debt. Leave a comment and let her know what you think.

    Around the Blogsphere:
    Mrs. Micah suggested keeping wedding costs down by having frugal favors. I agree wholeheartedly.
    My Two Dollars does a great job of explaining how credit card companies calculate interest. This is so important and was one of the questions I got most often when I worked in credit card customer service. A must read.
    Paid Twice gives some steps to take to get your family on board with debt reduction. It’s a big source of conflict when one person want to make a change and the other don’t. I can see how that would be frustrating.
    Being Frugal lists some frugal living tips for beginners. This is a great place to start if you’re beginning your frugal living journey.
    Blunt Money indulges the idea of gas rationing. That’s a pretty scary thought.

    pic by: wishymom

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  • Money quotes

    Today is the first day of summer vacation around here and I had my nephew sleep over last night. So that means I have two very excited school aged kids bouncing around my house followed by an equally bouncy toddler. I’m telling you this to explain why I don’t have an actual post today.

    But to stimulate the money portion of your brain I will give you these….

    “Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money. ”
    ~ unknown

    “If you want to feel rich, count the things you have that money can’t buy.”
    ~ Proverb

    “Don’t tell me what your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”
    ~ James W. Frick

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditures nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditures twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
    ~ Charles Dickens

    “I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.”
    ~ Jackie Mason

    “A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.”
    ~ Jonathan Swift

    “The easiest way for your children to learn about money is for you not to have any.”
    ~Katharine Whitehorn

    “Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle.”
    ~Ken Hakuta

    pic by: rogilde

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  • By the pool

    I was watching the news last night and they advertised an alternative to going to the park. Arizona is backwards in that way, we can’t go to the park in the summer time because it’s too hot. Even if you want to brave the 110 degree heat, the equipment is too hot to touch. So their teaser ad for an alternative caught my attention.

    They did a piece about a local indoor play area. It really did look pretty cool. It has an arcade, a café, a great big jungle gym thing. All done up in a jungle theme. Pretty neat! They didn’t mention until the end that it costs $8.50 for kids and $3.50 for adults. That means that it would cost me $20.50 for my kids and I to go play. I don’t see how that is an alternative to the park. The park is free.

    So today I rediscovered something that is free, the pool in my neighborhood. Technically, we pay for it with our association dues but it doesn’t cost extra to use it. I’m already paying for it so I might as well get my money’s worth. We went up there today and had a blast. We swam for almost two hours. It was great. Everyone was wiped out. And it was totally and completely free. No gas used, no miles on the car, no eating out, no charges to get in, nothing. I will even confess that I didn’t get dressed today. I went from jammies, to bathing suit, and back into jammies. So it even saved on laundry! Now, that is what I call an alternative to the park.

    What are some free or low cost things you are planning this summer?

    Pic by: Brunna Peretti

    Related Articles:

    Summer Break

    Teaching kids about savings

    Money lessons from my parents

     

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  • Filed under: kids
  • Credit Protection

    I got my credit card statement the other day and I saw something that made me really mad at myself. No, I didn’t overspend; I realized for the first time that I have their “credit insurance”. It’s called different things with different credit cards but the idea is the same with each. They charge you a small percentage of your balance and say they will pay your minimum payment if you are laid off or become disabled. They will also pay off your entire balance if you die. You are usually signed up automatically when you open a new account. I can’t say it’s a scam exactly but I’m here to tell you it’s pretty hard to actually qualify for the benefits. If you have this on your credit card call and cancel it right away. This service costs about 80 cents for every $1,000 of balance. So for an $8,000 balance you would pay about $6.40.

    I’ve mentioned before that I used to work in credit card customer service. I talked to over 100 people a day for two years about their credit card accounts. That means I’ve worked on over 50,000 credit card accounts. Do you know how many people I’ve seen that actually received benefits from the “credit protection”? One. ONE! One person out of 50,000. I’ve worked with dozens of people while they were trying to receive benefits and were eventually denied. I’ve seen lots of accounts go into collections because the cardholder was told they would receive benefits but then never did. But I’ve only seen one person actually receive benefits from this insurance.

    Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the supposed benefits.

    · They will make your payment if you are laid off or disabled. This is only for a certain amount of time, usually a year, and it’s only the minimum payment. The minimum payment on a balance of $8,000 is probably about $160. That is less than $2,000 in potential benefits. And your balance didn’t go down very much. At the end of the year you would still owe quite a bit. They didn’t really relieve you of anything.<!–[endif]–>

    · They will pay your entire balance if you die. Who cares? You’re dead. If there is another contractually liable person on the account then this benefit doesn’t kick in. If there was not another liable person then there isn’t anyone to collect the money from. No one needs to pay it.

    Ok, so hopefully I’ve convinced you that you don’t need this service. When you get your credit card statement this month, take a close look. Make sure you aren’t paying for this service. Credit card debt is hard enough to get out of without having extra charges put on your account every month.

    Pic by: Photo Alien

     

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  • Filed under: credit cards
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