Saturday, May 31, 2008

Supporting the third sector

I'm a strong advocate for the nonprofits. This sector is often refered to at the third sector, business and public being the other two. All of my 'real' jobs* have been with nonprofits and my Master's degree is for nonprofit management. Most nonprofits couldn't survive without donations. My last job had a multi-million dollar federal contract but relied largely on volunteers/donations to survive.

Knowing all of this I want to support the organizations I believe in. The problem is generating funds for donation when struggling to pay bills, pay off debt, and save for the future. There are a few ways you can support most organizations:

Supporting events: Attending low cost/free night's at restaurants or other community events with a donation to the organization. Getting discounts in exchange for donations

One time donations: Sending a check (or filling out credit card info) to the organization of your choice.

Recurring donations: Having a regular amount pulled from your paycheck or put on a card to support the organization of your choice.

Time: Volunteering your time, in person or at home, to support your nonprofit's mission.

I tend to the first and the fouth, because those are things I can easily fit into out spending plan. In my head I know no donation is too small, but I have a hard time sending a check for $20. Whenever nonprofits I like have events at restaurants or in the community I try to attend and support. Remember free cone night ? In the end I paid $5 for our two scoops, with the funds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I love events like these because I get to pair eating out with socializing while giving back.

I also enjoy volunteering. One thing that I've enjoyed watching over the past 10 years is how the ways you can volunteer have increased. Currently I am affiliated with an organization that offers a drop in calendar for nonprofits thorughout the city, helping an organization work on their mission (largely from home), and doing trainings/tutoring for foster youth. I like these opportunities because they offer flexibility that work around my schedule and/or give me the opportunity to work from home.

Once we've achieved a few more of our financial goals (or at least made a dent) one time, then regular donations will make their way into our budget. Until then I'll keep offering the support I can.

*The kind that give benefits where you have a career plan.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Month End Snowflakes

A while back I looked at the snowflakes I've accumulated so far this month. I set a goal of hitting the $500 mark by the end of the month and I'm happy to say I've made it! In addition to a jury summons and a few bills the mailman brought me a check for $630. The consulting work I did in March had a fuzzy ending and I didn't submit a time sheet right away.* I don't know that this snowflake will go into the snowflake account. I think it will be earmarked for my wedding dress/alterations/shoes. On a side note I think I've found a dress!

Without this check I've made $403.35 for the month. The snowflakes from 5/28 and 5/29 were unexpected** so I could make a few more dollars this month. Regardless, I'm happy with 1033.35.

*Upon submitting my last report the agreement was to wait 3-7 days for revisions and turn it all in. The revisions never came.

**Or I've been doing a really bad job of tracking my extra income.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


On Monday I woke up convinced it was the 31st. I was ready to do my month end totals, plan for next month, and otherwise get my life in order. Then I realized it was the 26th. Since then the week has gotten better. I have a monthly test for work that I did really well on, have applied for some contract work, cooked one of our favorite meals, and otherwise been going.

Today I was really excited to get paid to recycle some cans. Unfortunatley it didn't work out. There's a place that pays for cans and scrap metal on the northern edge of the city. I've been ready to go for a while, but wanted to pair the trip with something else to conserve on gas. Work took me an hour north today so I loaded up my cans and my neighbors cans (one of the beauties of a shared garage is it's easy (with permission) to do things like this) and headed out. After a misturn I found the location, only to see a sign reading "Closed 4 2day." I was bummed, but next month I have a lot of sights to the north so I'll give it another try.

I hope your holiday weekends were wonderful! And though I missed the day, thanks to all of those who serve our country.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The New Budget

Now that our incomes are somewhat stabilized we’ve put together a new budget. His job has a base + commission and I have work + alternative income, so we decided to do a percent based budget. This way the constant fluctuations will not mean coming up with a new formula each month.

80% of all income goes into a shared checking account. From this account all household bills and rent will be paid. Starting in July we’ll be ‘paying’ what our approx mortgage (based on our target price) into the emergency fund. At the end of each month we’ll sit down and decide exactly where the surplus should go. We’re still going to keep the household expenses as low as possible, so we’ll have a nice surplus at the end of the month.

The big caveat is retirement funding for me. My job doesn’t match in the first year, so instead of a 403(b) I’m saving for a Roth. 10% of my base salary will pull from the joint account and go to my Roth savings account.*

The remaining 20% is ours to do what we please with. This includes all personal spending and date nights. I don’t know what Gameboy will do with his,** but mine will fund occasional nights out, business lunches, travel savings, snowflake account/debt, and some yarn, once the fast is over.*** I think I’m going to do 10% fun, 10% savings/debt reduction.

The budget started with our last paychecks and will cover all of the June bills. Our auto insurance (we do 6 months at a time) is up for renewal in June, which will eat up a lot, if not all of our surplus. But starting in July we should have a good amount at the end of the month for the emergency fund and debt reduction.

*I haven’t decided if I want to stick with the fund I have now or move to another one. While I decide the money is hanging out in an ING sub account.

**Though I can make some good guesses. Most will likely go to eating out and games/game paraphernalia- I call him Gameboy for a reason.

*** 145 days and going! The end may be near though because I need some more cotton for dishcloths.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Goodbye Coupons

When I first started trying to cut our food budget I turned to coupons. They can be a great way to save money on the grocery bill, but for our household they’re just not working. My main issues are the products coupons cover and organization.

I’d say about 80% of what I buy are items that rarely have coupons. Fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, milk, cheese, meat, and eggs are the staples of our diet. I’ve been trying to track my coupon usage and so far I haven’t saved enough to break even on the cost of the Sunday paper. As I work towards making more things from scratch I don’t see this improving.

The second is organization. Actually it’s more the time that organization takes that gives me problems. Clipping, sorting, cross-referencing with what is on sale takes me a lot of time. If the overall benefit is worth the time I’ll usually go for it, but since I’m not saving significant money (relative to time) I’d rather shift my focus to saving money in other ways or making money. Between my real job, alternative streams of income, and regular household stuff I’m overstretched and this is an easy area to let go of.

I’ll still use online coupons every once in a while, especially when I’m stocking up on an item. But for the most part I’m saying goodbye to shopping with little slips of paper.

A quick $10

A week ago I went through a stack of papers on our couch that were impeding my ability to lounge appropriately. 80% of it was Gameboy's mail which I sorted into things to look at, envelopes, and things for the recycle bin. Hidden in the pile was a $10 gift card offer from Target for switching a prescription, which I took advantage of in asap. Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of our grocery budget is spent there, so it will be used quickly!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Admin Night

Last night I took a much needed break from my usual chores/work and had an admin night. I gathered all of the envelopes I've been using for the past few weeks, a report I'm finished with, tape, and a pen to do something I've been avoiding for a while- getting my reimbursements and rebates in order. I still need to fill out spreadsheets, but everything is in order. I also have two envelopes ready to go in the mail, one with a $12 rebate. By the end of the week last night's work should turn into a few hundred dollars.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Newest Favorite Thing

In the past two weeks I've had a love affair with distilled water. I'm not crazy, and the other half doesn't have anything to worry about, but it is seriously amazing stuff.

I grew up across the country, at sea level, and with water that wasn't hard.* In my new home I follow the high altitude direction on the back of brownies (though it's not at all the same) and finally understand what all those infomercials about removing calcium deposits mean.

Growing up we used dried beans as often, if not more often, than canned ones so I was familiar with how to soak and cook beans. Despite the familiarity, the calls to mom, and the recipes I got online were not working out. Even after cooking all day (at 7 hours I stopped counting) my beans were a chalky mess with skins falling off. They were to a point where we could eat them, but it was not a pleasant experience.

For a few weeks I reverted to canned beans and then a mix of stubbornness and frugality kicked in. I'm a vegetarian, so we go through a lot of beans. Researching methods on how to cook beans, instead of looking at recipes, produced a helpful tip- distilled water. The minerals that make water hard and beans don't get along. Throw in altitude, which reduces atmospheric pressue and as a result the boiling point, and my bean making efforts were doomed when using tap water.

Since learning about using distilled water I've made beans twice with great results. Sunday night I put beans in a container for an overnight soak and was amazed** at how quickly they were expanding. So if you have hard water, or dried beans just won't cook for you, give distilled water a try.

*There's soft water and hard water, what do we call the stuff in between? Regular?

**Amazed to the point where I made Gameboy come look

More Grocery Adventures

Yesterday Gameboy started cooking something, only to realize we'd run out of one of the spices he NEEDED* so I made a quick Target run. While I was there I checked on a few other things we needed to see how they were priced. I was in a rush and very excited to see the cheese that he wanted was on sale for $.99, usually 3.49. So of course I grabbed 4.

Walking to checkout I had 10 items in my cart, the most expensive of which was 99 cents. At the beginning of the transaction I slid my card in and signed, trying to speed things along. While the guy rang me up I helped bag (I offer when I bring my own) so I wasn't paying attention to the display. If you've been reading this blog for a while you probably see where this is going. The guy said 23 something, and mistook me looking up in confusion as ok to hit the button processing everything.

A few minutes at customer service got everything worked out. I had grabbed the wrong size cheese in my rush, though in my defense I grabbed directly behind the sign. My mom, who is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, swears that the grocery stores do this on purpose. Her logic is in putting the wrong item behind the sale price people will grab the wrong thing and someone who doesn't pay close attention to their receipts won't notice that they paid significantly more for the item. I don't know that I totally agree with her logic, but sometimes they make you work for the sale items.

*If it were me I would have just improvised.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I've been in a bit of a funk for the past week. I'm working on getting caught up at home and at work from when I was sick earlier this month. Everytime I make a bit of headway another pile lands on my list. I also think that our decision to hold off on paying down debt until we close on a house is taking it's toll. When we made the decision we were thinking that by now we'd have an accepted offer and be working towards closing. Instead the market for the area we're most interested in is booming and each house that we like has 3-5 offers within days of listing.

There is a rush to seeing the numbers go down that makes it easier to keep pace with the ways I've been trying to pay down debt. Though my snowflake account is growing nicely (2K+) it's not at all the same feeling. I think I'm going to take a couple of days to chill out. For the rest of the week I'm going to work between 9 and 5, keep the food low key, read, and watch some bad tv, and think of fun things to do on my favorite holiday (Memorial day). Hopefully bringing the intensity down a few notches will get things in check.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A little fun

Earlier in the week Single Ma posted a fun little quiz that tells you how rich you'll be in 10 years.


How much money will you be worth?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Double Income No Kids

I've lived in my new city for 1 year and 10 months now. I moved out here for school and to be closer to Gameboy. As of two weeks ago, for the first time since I moved out here, both of us have long term full time jobs. Which is beyond exciting.

As a household we've had two layoffs, a ton of temp jobs, and scrambled to fill in the rest. Luckily we've been able to make everything work, but it is such a relief to know our salaries (at least our bases) and be able to plan from there. We're working on a new budget system based on the new income that I'll be talking about a little later.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Snowflakes, the good kind

Though I whined about snowflakes yesterday I have to say I'm happy with the snowflakes headed to my bank. Tomorrow is the halfway mark for the month and I'm up to $381.38!

Technically the figure is $409.05, but I decided to take the money I spent eating out for lunch while babysitting out of the snowflakes. I may be babysitting for that family again later this month and I will definitely be bringing enough food to tide me over to avoid eating out.

The snowflakes are a mix of passive and active income. I've seen passive income defined as income outside of your regular job. I define it as the things I don't have to put time or thought into. In the case of my snowflakes it's interest from the snowflake account and returns from Lending Club. For me active income are the things that require work/effort for the reward. In this column it's babysitting, mystery shopping, surveys, etc.

I don't have enough planned to double that before the end of the month but I'm going to try to hit the $500 mark.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frozen Shredded Cheese

Of late I've developed an obsession with my freezer. Saving lots of money at the grocery store doesn't make sense if the food goes to waste. And when you find amazing deals at the grocery store it's hard to say no.

I remembered reading a blog where the author mentioned in passing that they freeze cheese. Intrigued, and needing to try it for myself, I threw an 8 oz bag of shredded cheddar in the freezer. A week later I pulled it out. The cheese worked wonderfully in my most popular applications- quesadillas, on beans, with eggs.

At the moment there are 4 bags of super sale ($1.50) cheese hanging out in the freezer. That's what works for me (and the grocery budget)!

Getting Mocked by Mother Nature

As a part of my job I do observations at schools/centers. This involves going wherever the kids go for the time that I'm there and accessing playground safety. Yesterday it was a sunny 76 degrees and during my two 40 minute spans on the playground I thought things like:

-This is the best time of year for my job
-I'm so lucky to get to spend time outsidewhile working days
-This is a great part of the year.

I'm guessing you can see where this is going. If you're not, take a look at the picture up there*. To be fair, that's an hour from my house and 1,700 feet higher. But I still contend that I should not be able to take pictures like that on May 13th. :)

Our upstairs windows are single pane and very drafty so the winterizing plastic stays up as long as possible. After three weeks of good weather and a really warm night this weekend I decided it was safe to rip down the plastic and open the windows. Mother Nature then gave a chuckle and said I know just the combo- rain, snow, and a wee bit of hail.

In other news I've driven an inordinate amount in the past 24 hours. Yesterday's post was inspired by a trip to the gas tank. I reset the trip function on my odometer with every fill up to track mileage, so I was horrified to look down and see that I've driven just over 100 miles since then. The bulk of it will be reimbursed by work for today's observation. The remainder involves getting home from house hunting yesterday and meeting with a kid I tutor.

After seeing the scary number I started wondering of ways to reduce my expense, specifically if the mileage is tax deductible. I was paired with the kid through a local nonprofit that I do other volunteer work for. My thought process went something like- you can write off miles you drive for personal business, you can write off non-profit donations and expenses incurred while volunteering, volunteer miles are deductible right?

A quick visit to everyone's favorite federal agency let me know that, yes, volunteer mileage is deductible. I'll be adding the specific number of miles I drive while volunteering to my planner and the spreadsheet I use to track all of my side jobs**. The specific info is on page 5 under 'Out of Pocket Expenses' but if you do an itemized deduction the publication is worth a skim.

*Sorry for the poor camera phone quality. One of these days I'll get around to using my birthday money to buy a digital.
**I could have sworn I wrote about this but can't find the post. I'll share more info later in the week.

Monday, May 12, 2008


In high school I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with low gas prices. We lived 30 miles away from each other (I moved halfway through hs) and gas was generally cheaper in his county. When I knew I was headed that way I'd wait to fill up, saving 10-15 cents a gallon*. If he got in the car and saw that the gas was low he'd want to drive 3 towns over to fill up. The savings was usually 2-3 cents a gallon and back then I though it was crazy to drive 10 miles to save what amounted to 20 cents to fill my 10 gallon tank, so I tried to fill up before I saw him.

Though gas prices are crazy (!) I still feel the same way. If I know I'll be in a part of town** with cheaper gas I'll wait. Otherwise I go with the best of my available options. For me the best way to break it down is by the difference in price. Lets say gas is 4 cents/gallon cheaper 3 miles away. Filling my tank usually takes 10 gallons. That means I will save 40 cents on my bill.

Currently I get around 30 mpg when I drive. This handy tool tells me paying $3.60/gallon equals 12 cents per mile***. So driving 6 miles, round trip, out of my way will cost me 72 cents in miles. My 40 cent savings for the lower gas price is eaten up and the transaction ends up costing more financially. It also takes up your time.

The number will vary based on your car's mileage and the costs in your area, but the moral of the story is chasing the best price won't always save you money. Even if your tank takes 20 gallons saving 5 cents a gallon means saving $1.

*Back in the days of $1.50-2.oo gas.
**The upside of driving all over the city is this is relatively easy to do.
***A 4 cent fluctuation doesn't change the price per mile.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May Goals

I was all ready to write about how we're doing so far this month when I realized I never actually posted my May goals. I mapped them out earlier this month when I was all sick.

The Goals
Groceries: $175
Eating out: $40
Snowflakes: $500
Roth IRA: $200

So far I'm on track. Groceries for the month have come to $77.66. That includes today's hangover run. We rarely drink and almost never drink together (so we have a designated driver). Gameboy over did it so this morning included a Target run of feel better foods. I'm pretty confident that we'll stay under $175, if not $150 for the month.

The snowflakes are growing and should exceed $500 by the end of the month. If I have time to get things together tonight I may be able to hit the $500 mark early next week.

How's your month so far?


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Travel Safe

Shuchong, another PF blogger, is headed to China for the summer in a few weeks. She wrote a post about two of the most important things you should do before traveling internationally with credit cards- tell your credit card companies and learn about international fees. Basically, you want your bank to know charges from Timbuktu doesn't mean your card has been stolen. You also want to know if you'll get charged additional fees for international transactions*.

There is one thing I think is more important though- having card contact information. A lost (or malfunctioning) card can cause panic when you're at home. When you're across an ocean this feeling multiplies. Finding the contact number for a lost card is no longer as easy as thumbing through your financial files.

I think the best way to avoid an emergency is to be prepared. Having the information to cancel a card or call if you're having issues can save you a lot of hassle. So before I leave the country I:

-Call the companies for any card's I'm taking with me.
-Let them know I'll be gone and to mark my account appropriately
-Inquire about fees
-Ask if there is a toll free line for the country I'm in or if there is a number that will help me avoid being on hold forever**
-Write the information in a few places

I like to take 2 copies of my passport (the page with your picture) with me when I travel. In the event that your passport gets lost getting a replacement is much easier with the info on this page. On the back of this page is where I usually write the phone numbers and any other important info***. I don't put my actual credit card number down. Most companies can pull you up using other information. I put the pages in two separate places that feel safe, based on my mode of travel. Usually this info also makes its way into my email and also gets left with my mom. The version of info my mom gets has the actual credit card numbers.

That may seem like overkill but I learned the hard way. One summer when I was in Europe I went to a store to buy a gift. I hand over the card, they swipe, it's declined. We try again. I had the actual card, but had issues getting the international call to connect. After 1 day of trying (and tons of worrying) I finally got through. During the $15 call I learned that the account was improperly marked, but otherwise ok. I also learned that the company has a toll free number from my location which would have worked easier, not cost me $15, and day of worry. Personally I've never lost a credit card overseas, but I've helped friends get credit cards canceled and passports replaced. Neither is a fun experience, especially without the numbers and information you need as a starting place.

I don't know that I'll be heading out of the country (or anywhere) any time soon. For everyone who is safe travels.

*On the flip side sometimes the best exchange rates happen with plastic
**Because who wants to be on hold for 30 minutes internationally
***Local emergency contacts, the consulate, etc

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oh the fruit snacks

This week I find myself living the life of a single mom. A family friend who is a single mom is traveling for business so I'm taking care of her kid. Getting paid will really help with the snowflake fund, but in the mean time I'm having fun and eating poorly. When I don't babysit for a while I tend to forget the sheer amount of junkie goodness most homes with children have. I brought over some food, but most of my meals have revolved around what the kid is eating. After the only whole foods diet I put myself on when I was sick last week my body is very confused.

At the beginning of the week I promised a trip to the bowling alley. Mom returns tomorrow so we headed over after homework and dinner wrapped up tonight. Last time I babysat we did the same thing, but this time it was much more budget friendly.* I walked in with $10, walked out with change, and we were out for over an hour. The total was just over $8, and if lanes were ready right when we walked in (and I hadn't opened my big mouth) it would have been $6. Earlier this year a similar outing was almost $20.

The kid is 5, so while he knows how and generally does a good job turn taking, it's not his favorite thing in the world. My goal was for him to have as much fun as possible, so I decided to let him do all of the bowling. Financially, this cut out the cost of my shoe rental and reduced the number of games purchased because I wasn't playing. During my last trip I learned that on the bottom of their receipts is a coupon for half off your next games. When we got the lane and shoes I only purchased one game, knowing that a second game could be purchased half price. Waiting ended up saving even more money because a league lady was walking around handing out free game tickets.

I also gave the kid $2 to have fun with in the arcade area. When we arrived there weren't any available lanes and there was a good chance we wouldn't get a lane. The deal was he got $2 to do what he wanted with, but if there were not lanes there was no whining. It was fun to see what he chose to spend his money on and how he made the decisions. The first dollar was immediately spent at one of those gum ball type machines that has toys in plastic eggs. With less money he did a quick tour of the video games to see what he wanted to play. The final two tokens (like quarters) got the most consideration. He walked around the room pausing at every game, picking up the controllers, pretending to play, then moving on. There was a momentary disappointment when the game he most wanted to play required more tokens than he had. Surprisingly he didn't ask for more. He frowned for a few moments and then moved to something he could afford.

*Mom's paying, but that's not an excuse to waste money.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What doesn't work for me

Every few Wednesday's I participate in Work's for Me Wednesdays over at Rocks in My Dryer. Usually it's a something I recently discovered, like my cleaning experiments, snacking on the go, or uses for junk mail.

Since focusing on my debt and a tight budget something that hasn't worked for me is following everyone else's deals. When I first found Money Saving Mom and iMommies- both of which I love- I tried following the deals they construct for Walgreen's and different grocery stores. The problem? I live in a household with two adults. Many of the deals I find involve buying way too much for the two of us, even with stockpiling, or buying products that we don't need. I also found myself spending too much time* trying to save money. Saving a ton of money on things that don't help our household just doesn't make sense, if anything it ends up costing more money.

* We're talking hours of looking at sites, making lists, etc without much reward. As I mentioned the other day if it takes a few minutes and the time is worth the money, sure, if not I need to move on.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lesson(s) of the day

Check your receipts when walking out of the grocery store. I guess a better lesson would be making sure you pick up the right item in the first place, but lets not quibble.

I'm babysitting overnight for the rest of the week, leaving Gameboy home by himself. I haven't been to the grocery store in a while and needed to grab a few things to get him through the week. Usually I look at all the ads, maybe go to two stores, Coupons are arranged in the envelope with a list written on the back. There wasn't time for any of that today. I headed to the store closest to the other errands that needed taking care of and grabbed his staples- cheese, milk, cereal, and bananas. In the process I learned that his favorite cereal was on sale for 1.88. I decided to grab a box and see if I could find any coupons online at home*.

After 10 minutes of searching online I gave up and carried on with the rest of my to do list for the day. A few more errands and I was back at the store to buy cereal in bulk**. I picked up what will hopefully be 2 months worth for him and two boxes for me. I check out, happy with the amount of food I'm getting for the money. I also had a great checker who applied the print out coupons to my current bill.

Something told me to check the bill as I walked out. My cereal, which should have started at 2/$4 rang up at $3.19. By this point I was at the car and almost went home. I knew it wouldn't get done later this week so I went back in with the boxes in question. A manager I recognized was checking up front, so I asked if I could leave my bags with her*** and get the correct boxes. She said that was fine so I went and grabbed the slightly bigger boxes that were actually on sale. She rang things up and then gave me the change (2.38) in cash****.

I know a lot of people who would say it wasn't worth the time to go back in, but considering it took around 8 minute it works out to $17.85 an hour. For me that's worth it.

So the many morals of the story:
-Try to pick up the right items in the first place
-Check your receipt before you make it home
-If you'll save more than a few cents take the time to go back in and get errors (yours or theirs) adjusted.

*This particular store is 4 blocks from my house and I knew I'd be driving by later today. The same store is also across from the babysitting house, so if anything I could have gotten them tomorrow.
** Gameboy eats the same cereal every day
*** The service desk was closed
****This is now sitting in the change jar for the bimonthly deposit.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Carnivals and Links, The Inaugural Sick Edition

This week has been a little crazy. After spending two days on the couch I gave in and went to the doctor yesterday- twice. Luckily they only charged me once. Though the meds they put me on have me all over the place, I'm still more productive than I was earlier in the week.

Me on the web:
This week my article about repurposing junk mail envelopes made it into the 122nd edition of the Festival of Frugality - The Supercapitalism Edition! It's a great place to get wide range of frugal ideas.

A few weeks ago Madison at My Dollar Plan compiled a list of way's to save money based on reader comments. I made number 11.

April posts I liked elsewhere:
In general extra income is a good thing. Single Guy Money points out an instance where that is not the case.

Over at Get Rich Slowly another use for the piles of mail you get, this time for the garden. I don't have anywhere to mulch at the moment, but once we buy a house I'll be giving this a shot.

Lynnae asked readers what they make from scratch. The comment link to lots of recipes that sound great.

And for May:
I'm excited to see what a few mom bloggers come up with for 3 Mom's, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days. Their budgets put our monthly grocery budget to shame. Learn more with the kickoff post.

April Updates

I updated the sidebars a few days ago but never got around to writing about it.

My 2008 savings goals are continuing to proceed. Both got a nice bump from my month end surplus. The emergency fund is up to 75% of my current goal and my Roth funds are now at 6%.

There was a little backsliding on my debt payoff which is irritating, but I'm trying to not let it get to me. We're actively looking for a house right now and made the decision to only pay minimums on the car and student loan. The low interest rates make this a great time to buy a house, but as we've looked we've noticed common trends. Of maybe 20 houses only one had full necessary appliances*. We don't want a lack of appliances to keep us out of a great house b/c we don't have any cash on hand.

We also want to have as many proven assets to get the best mortgage rate. The loan officers and Gameboy** have both told me that short of paying off a debt, extra payments do nothing to help our financial situation as far as the mortgage industry is concerned. The idea is you'll have to deal with the debt before the mortgage is paid off, so they count it.

Half a car payment is due later this month, one student loan group is paid forward through June and the other through September. In the mean time my snowflakes are going into a Snowflake sub account with ING. By the end of the week the account will have just over $1,700. We may borrow from the snowflakes for appliances, but if not the car loan will get a nice hit.

The final area is my net worth. I'm happy to see that the line is steadily moving upward. Over the last three months I've averaged increasing it by $2125/month. If we put off buying a house I'd be able to hit the $0 mark in mid-February, just in time for my birthday. Later this week I'll expand on why the house is coming now.

I hope your Aprils were just as productive.

*Stove, fridge, dishwasher, washer, and dryer are on my list of necessities. Theoretically we don't need a dishwasher, there are those who live without them. I however am not one. You can also usually get a deal when you buy multiple appliances together.

**Formerly of the mortgage industry.

Stimulus Check

Wondering where your stimulus check is? I found this great site that answers "where is my refund?" created by the IRS. I like that they're showing a little bit of humor and letting folks know what's going on.

The site isn't working for me, which indicates some kind of problem with my return. I mailed a signature page after submitting electronically and they've collected what I owe from my bank account, so on Monday I'll be making some calls.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Yesterday, when doing a tour of my accounts I realized a few more April snowflakes had come in. Since they won't actually hit my account until early next week they've become May snowflakes.

I did two surveys from Pinecone earlier in the month. I also signed my mom up for Lending Club the Friday before they sent out their email halting lending for at least the time being. I wrote off the idea of getting the referable bonus, but when I checked for my last interest payment of the month and extra $25 was hanging out.

After accounting for upcoming bills and leaving a small cushion my account had a nice surplus, which got divided between my snowflake, Roth, and emergency funds.