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Archive for February, 2011

Making "Things" My God

February 14th, 2011 at 05:38 pm

I am pleased I have been tracking my spending and not debting since January 1...about a month and a half. Thankfully I have lost the terrible spending compulsion I had during my Ebay jewelry buying spree before Christmas. It was one of the worst compulsions I have ever had and it gave me great empathy for addicts of all types. Although it's difficult for "normal" people to understand, sometimes the addiction is so powerful the addict truly can't stop the harmful behavior.

I am grateful that within two weeks of quitting sugar the spending compulsion left me. In addition, I started attending debtor's anonymous (DA)groups by telephone each morning (I haven't missed a morning since I started). Both of these things have taken away my spending compulsion. Also, reading the blogs here has helped me tremendously.

Once I stopped spending, though, my eating urge hit pretty hard and I gained six pounds in one month. That prompted me to join Weight Watchers which I started about three days ago. I am glad that already the WW eating plan has taken away my out of control eating. I have also already started to drop the weight I gained which is also nice.

It's funny that one of the key components of both DA and WW is to write down everything you buy and/or eat. Doing this gives one great clarity and calm.

The DA program, and all other twelve step programs, are spiritually based programs which teach you to turn your will over to a higher power (mine is the Lord). I have realized that no matter what addiction one struggles with it all really boils down to the addictive substance taking the God spot in one's life. During my spending or overeating sprees, fancy jewelry or the next meal became what I thought about continually, NOT God or God's will for my life...spending and eating became my Gods.

I am grateful that many years ago God gave Bill W.the spiritual tennants of the AA program as it has helped so many people overcome so many different struggles. I am grateful that just for today, I am spending and eating wisely. Thanks God!

First Couponing Shopping Trip!

February 12th, 2011 at 02:30 pm

I had my first couponing shopping trip. I thank everyone who gave me advice on this. That SouthernSavers.com website has GREAT advice and also links to coupons which is very nice. I planned my trip based on couponmom.com which puts together the sales from your local grocery store with the recent coupons. It is really neat because I have learned that it is very possible to buy toothpaste and deodorant FREE or for $.50 or less, if you aren't brand loyal. I have told DH that we are both going to stop caring so much about which brand we use on our armpits!!

That being said I carefully only bought things we use and combined that list with coupons and what was on sale. Even so, though, I was kind of underwhelmed when I got to the checkout counter at Walmart. I paid just over $39 and with the coupons it was reduced to $33. It was NOT the incredible savings I see on the morning shows. That being said, though, since I was mostly buying things on sale I think I probably got about $60 of groceries for my $33 which IS good.

One bad element of the day though was that I LOST my coupon keeper filled with coupons somewhere between the Walmart parking lot and my house!!! I now need to go purchase another coupon keeper! BUT I did get my toes wet on this thing and tomorrow morning I plan to get a couple of extra Sunday papers to get at least three of each coupon. Plus my mother in law says she will save them for me.

Fortunately, although I did lose some good coupons when I lost the coupon keeper, since the website recommends that you keep the coupons in their circulars (dated) until you need to use them, I still have most of the coupons I have saved from the last month.

I do need to remember, though, that couponing can be addictive and NOT buy things I won't use.

Weight Watchers Here I Come!

February 9th, 2011 at 04:19 am

My spending is WELL under control...I have been tracking all spending and living within our budget for just over a month. Paid off one car. Paid down about 50% on the second car. Charge card is at zero balance. We just rebalanced our 401K. Established MINT.com account and DH is excited about that and even looking at all daily expenditures. He LOVES it and this is the first time he has really ever even paid attention to what was being spent. This is truly GREAT news for me as it keeps me accountable. In the past I had "free license to spend" because he never even looked at what I spent.

BUT I AM DISGUSTED TODAY! I have gone from 123 pounds on January 1 to 129 pounds this morning! Six pounds in one month! I am still a slender person but am nearing the scary weight "edge" if you know what I mean. For me, 130's ville is the weight danger zone as I know where that has sometimes led in the past.

For us addictive types, we get one area under control, then another area "pops." For this reason I am going to start using my old Weight Watchers tracking book today (you write down all the foods you eat and stay within your number of points). If I can't get this weight thing back under control myself, even though the meetings cost money, I am going to go back to them. They are $12 a week paid on a weekly basis or just under $40 a month paid by the month. When I was going to them before and lost weight, DH complained about my paying the $12 a week fee as he didn't think it was necessary. Those meetings kept me at a good weight...they were for maintenance.

On well, at least I have an option to help keep my weight under control. I will do it. I realized last night at dinner as I was eating a plate of nachos left over from the Super Bowl party that my eating habits were getting really bad.

I am going to try tracking everything I eat for at least the next few days. If I can't get it under control myself I will spend the money for the meetings. I AM SO ENVIOUS OF YOU NON-ADDICTIVE TYPES WHO JUST DO THE RIGHT THINGS NATURALLY...I HAVE TO FIGHT MY PERSONALITY EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!!!!

Oh well, I am very thrilled my spending is doing so well. As they say in my DA support group meetings "my worst day today is better than my best day when I was overspending." That is really so true. Thanks God!

What is Your Best Advice on Clipping Coupons, Coupon Mom, etc.??

February 7th, 2011 at 07:29 am

I AM IN A MESS THIS MORNING!! I have been saving my Sunday sale papers for a month and went to COUPONMOM.com to begin clipping coupons for my first "coupon" shopping trip and it is taking me forever as from Coupon Mom I have a grocery store list, a Walmart list, a Target list and a Walgreens list...flipping back and forth between each week's circular and each list is making me crazy!!

Can anyone give me some advice and/or tips on how to do this effectively? Do you clip ALL the coupons before looking at coupon mom or do you clip the coupons from each circular each week...this seems cumbersome. Also, I am worried that I will end up overspending just to get good deals. Do you couponers not pay attention to brands (i.e. do you use different brands or toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)? Do you buy ahead on items when they are good deals? Also, how do you organize the process as it is lots of paperwork?? Any tips you can provide would be helpful as I am looking at a pile of mess right now!!
From reading the blogs I know there are some true experts out there!

Making Due + Saving for a Want

February 6th, 2011 at 06:25 am

MAKING DUE. I am noticing that as I read everyone's blog here I am thinking more about how to use what I have wisely instead of always buying something new. Therefore, this morning, instead of replacing my tired and tattered front door wreath, I remade it for $13. I kept the wreath itself and the older white roses and greenery and just added a new bow and purple floral stems. My re-do wreath will be just fine and it didn't cost me $50!!

UPCOMING NEEDS. We truly do need a new carpet cleaning machine. Ours broke about a year ago and instead of fixing it which would have cost $100 we decided to buy a new one. I looked at consumer reports and have selected the best model. We will purchase it soon out of our household budget. This is truly is a NEED because our carpets need cleaning and we would spend more than $150 to have them professionally cleaned and buying the cleaner will cost less than that.

UPCOMING WANTS. My sister got a Roomba. This is the small round automatic vaccuum that vacuums your floors automatically. She loves it as it keeps her wood floors looking great with really no effort on her part except dumping out the dust bin each day (she has it set to automatically clean at midnight). I almost hate sweeping my wood floors as they take up most of the first floor so it's a big job. Since this is a "WANT" I plan to wait another couple of months and "save" the money in my "Beth's Fun Money" account. This is a $100 a month allowance in our budget (DH has one too).

This is a new thing for me to want something and not just go buy it. This is a real grownup responsible way to purchase something. Who knows? Maybe the waiting to get it will be just as much fun as the anticipating of a future restaurant treat. Actually I really DO want it now but I have decided to wait...little OOOUUUCCCHHH!!

Does anybody have a Roomba? If so, how do you like it?

Granite City Groupon + Brother in Law Visit

February 5th, 2011 at 06:32 am

GRANITE CITY. Spent $30 yesterday on 3 Granite City restaurant coupons. I paid $10 for each $20 gift card and they must be used in the next three months. Granite City is kind of like an upscale Applebees. We like their Asian Chicken Salad which is around $9. This means we can go out to a nice dinner + lemon water for the $10 of the coupon plus a $4 tip (20% of the orig. $20 purchase). We will have three great night outs to look forward to! Even going to our normal kind of frugal restaurant would have cost us more than $20! A good bargain and something nice to look forward to!

NOTE. I am learning from you all here that when you plan ahead for fun events you can (1) save money and (2) actually look forward to the event. We never got this enjoyment before because our planning was coming home from work tired and going "I'm too tired to cook, let's go out." We were playing worn out defense instead of happy offense! Tomorrow morning we are looking forward to going to IHOP with our 50% off coupon...nothing as luxurious as Sunday breakfast out!

BROTHER IN LAW VISIT. DH's brother in law is coming today to work on his car in our garage. I have nice sundried tomato pasta and salad left over from earlier in the week. We will have this plus garlic bread for dinner. For lunch I will go grab some turkey lunch meat, bread and chips. We will have avacado, sprout, cream cheese and turkey sandwiches and chips for lunch since I have the avacados, sprouts and cream cheese already! Yum!!

I always like to eat and it sounds like a good day ahead for that PLUS I get to see my brother in law!

Lord's Diner...

February 4th, 2011 at 03:39 am

My DH and I volunteer some at the Lord's Diner. It is a free "restaurant" for our community's homeless people. The building is relatively new and the decor is nice. Each evening there is a cafeteria line of good food including dessert. We call the patrons' guests and it is a cheery, nice place to eat.

Among the guests there are many stereotypical homeless people...mostly men probably with alchohol and/or drug problems and also mental ill people, as a few years back our state made the "wonderful" decision to close our state hospitals which put many mentally ill people on the streets.

Surprisingly, though, a lot of our guests have jobs at local fast good restaurants or machine shops. They probably make little more than minimum wage and they use dinner at the Lord's Diner to stretch their meager budgets. At the first of the month the diner serves 300 people and the number doubles near the end of the month because it's so far from payday. There are also many families, and a separate family wing was added recently as we are getting more and more families.

It's easy to say everyone should just get out there and get a job, but many very deserving people really can't accomplish that or they can only find a job making very little money. For example, one of our diners was very severely burned and no one will hire him.

Working at The Lord's Diner reminds me that we always need to remember those who are less fortunate as we as a society really are their only protection...no amount of positive thinking will change that or their situations. For many, many people life is hard. The Bible says the poor will be with us always. Unfortunately, I think that's true.

What Doesn't Get Tracked Doesn't Get Done (I think)

February 3rd, 2011 at 04:23 am

OK. I know I am tackling a lot lately and this could be a mark that I will burn out, BUT, I have noticed that writing down everything I spend truly is helping me become conscious of living within my spending plan.

I have noticed though, that like many addictive personality types, as my checking account has gotten fat, I have too! I guess my emotional outlet has switched from spending to eating. Spending used to be my remedy for feeling up, down, happy, sad, frustrated, elated, etc. Now cheese covered nachos and ice cream seem to be!

OK. If writing down and tracking my spending is helping me so much to improve my finances (and guys, it's truly like night and day!), then maybe tracking other areas of my life in which I want to improve will do the same thing...including my eating habits. Therefore, I have added the following daily list to my "Author Info" over there to the left:

TRACKING: (started Thurs)
DA Phone Meeting/wk (5) I
30 Min Treadmill/wk (5) I
Vitamins/wk (6) I
Weigh/daily (124-126) 127.6
Fruit/wk (7)
Salads/wk (7)
Extra Veggie (7)
Girl Friend Event/wk (1)I
Couple Friend Event/2 wks (1)
Calling someone 1/day
Work Hard at Work (5)
Writing Down Spending (7)
Net Worth (1Xmo.)
Replace TV w/30 mins/day reading about real estate (7)

When I got on the scale, I was dissapointed, but not surprised, that I weighed more than my optimal weight. Now I know that 1.6 pounds over 126 doesn't seem like much to most people, but I have weighed as much as 200 pounds in tbe past (I WAS pregnant with my first son but...), and weight can just creep up on you. Also, I had liposuction a year ago and I want to protect my investment! Before the lipo I weighted 132 and had an apple-ish middle which I have now lost and never want to see again...it cost me $7,000 to lose.

Now, either this daily tracking will be easy, OR I will end up finding out it's too much and give it up. This is an experiment for me to see if (1) I actually DO the tracking and (2)if it works to keep me on track. It's anybody's guess if I can stick to this, but if I can I will probably be healthier, happier, wealthier and have closer friendships. Whatever happens, thanks God for the experiment!

DH's Car Progress & Good vs Bad Debt

February 2nd, 2011 at 01:42 pm

I am working on paying off our only debt which is my DH's second car...his hobby Porsche. Yesterday I just got two more Ebay sales which totaled $1,459.33. Once the funds are transfered from Paypal to our checking account in 2-3 days, I will pay his car loan down to $5,129.83. These large Ebay sales are really chipping away at the loan but my largest pieces are gone now. Even if everything else sells, I will only make about $2,000 more which won't pay off the car.

That Porsche sounded so great intially, but now that it's parked safely in our garage I am kind of sorry we bought it (although don't tell DH that). I REALIZE THAT I HATE DEBT...at least debt that doesn't bring in income. Rich Dad would say that debt which brings in income is good debt. I guess that means debt for rental houses is good because it's debt that can end up paying for you to live. Of course, to make that work you have to go S-L-O-W-L-Y and make wise decisions.

For most of our 28 year marriage, other than paying off our own houses well, much of our money went for trinkets...fancy, shimmering nothings that looked attractive at the time, but ended up just frittering away our income (such as all the David Yurman jewlery I bought before Christmas which I am now selling). Although we didn't really debt all that much, purchasing all the stuff I had to have at the time wasted thousands of dollars.

Although looking back the money I wasted upsets me, it does me no good to beat myself up for past mistakes. I can only do the best I can to learn and improve one day at a time. Thanks to DA, writing down my numbers and this blog, I have now had one very good month + two days which is more than I had yesterday. Thanks God!

Don't Touch That Checking Account!!!

February 1st, 2011 at 03:48 am

I have completed my first full month of writing down everything I spent and keeping track of my income and expenses in Mint.com. It has been a great month as I set up a spending plan at Mint.com and lived within it.

I noticed that in some areas, like gas and food, I was under budget and in a few other areas I was over (like restaurant food). Mint.com is wonderful because in addition to allowing you to link your checking and charge accounts and exactly track each expenditure, it allows you to set a yearly budget for each item which rolls forward. For example, my clothing allowance is $150 a month or $1,800 for the year. In January I spent nothing on clothes, so that amount will roll forward...this month I now have $300 in that catagory...next month $450, etc.

Our spending plan is based on DH and me living on what I make and banking his salary. Due to catagories in which we didn't spend last month (like lawn care... since we had snow, not grass...and home improvement), we were $2000 under budget overall so that extra $2000 is now sitting in the checking account waiting to be spent in months in which we will have lawn care or need clothes.

In the past, seeing a high checking account balance meant "WOO-HOOO!!!! I HAVE MONEY!! LET'S SPEND!!!" Now, it just means that I have the future money needed for bark chips in the spring or our vacation next summer (I have a monthly catagory of $300 for vacation which rolls forward).

Now, my fat checking account balance is largely meaningless as it no longer means I have a license to spend! I concentrate more on the spending plan I have set up in Mint.com. If I watch the pennies there, the dollars in the checking account take care of themselves...the beauty of financial sanity!

This is really neat. Who knew it could be so much fun to live on a budget?

Well, better sign off. The timer just dinged on the granola I am making! Yum!!