Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unexpected Windfall and the E Fund

Approximately 3 years ago I leant a friend $2,000. This was before I'd taken out any loans, lived without work for a year, and my savings accounts were flush. She was starting grad school, her mom had just moved across the country and was having a hard time fining a job. She ran into what I think of as a funding sequence issue. She needed to rent a place and get school supplies before her student loan and scholarship checks came in.

When lending money to friends my general outlook is that I'm giving the money away. If I get the money back, great. If I never see it again, that's ok too. Shortly after my friend has a bit of a breakdown and decided to withdraw, loosing all additional funding. She moved back east to refocus and after working for two years she started school again.

Last week I got an unexpected package with a card and a dvd of the work she's been doing.* Honestly the message in the card and the DVD was more than enough for me. I was happy that she's accomplishing her dream. Two days later when I went to put the DVD in, hidden under the disk, was a check for the remaining amount owed.

In light of the pending purchase contract on a home Gameboy decided to up the goal on the emergency fund and put the funds there. The inspector said the house is one of the cleanest inspections he's done in the recent years, but we want to have the padding just in case.

*She's in an MFA program.

I got a few checks along the way

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crawling out

I feel like much of last week I was under a fog. I've learned sickness + jury duty + attempting to work = worn out. I've decided to give up on the work part and am longingly looking forward to the end of the trial. The sickness has been tackled with a variety of commercial and home remedies.

The financial effect of all of these things has been too much money headed towards the restaurant industry and not enough time in my kitchen. I'm starting to feel better/ less overwhelmed and am planning a trip to the grocery store to replenish the fridge. We've gotten to the point where the things filling the freezer and pantry all need supplementation that we don't have.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Carnival of Snowflaking #9

It's June, a few days from the official start of summer, and in my world the snowflakes are smaller and farther apart than they have been in recent months. I may not be the only one feeling that way because submissions to the carnival this week were light. In fact we're just highlighting one blogger, Amy from My Daily Dollars who is looking forward to One Grand Snowflake

In my world surveys and saving money provide the base to my snowflakes. They steadily come in time after time. The snowflakes I love the most though are the contracting snowflakes. These snowflakes require a bit more thought but usually provide a much larger reward. On the downside they are also hard to come by. Word of mouth is my greatest ally so I do my best work and make sure that all of my professional (and sometimes personal) contacts are aware of the work I can do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Juries, Addendums, and Life

I'm having one of those weeks where everything seems to be going wrong (or at least not the way I would like). Yesterday's jury summons has turned into a week long trial which will make meeting my month end deadlines really fun, if not impossible. The only real plus is the greatly reduced parking/free bus passes. I had to drive because of other commitments the past two days but will be spending some quality time with our public transport system.

In other news the bank we're trying to buy the house from keeps coming at us with crazy addendum. The latest of which could jeopardize our down payment plan. We're talking with our mortgage guy and trying to figure things out.

And because my body decided it should get in on the fun I have a cold. As a result I've been lazy this week, not packing lunches or making breakfast at home. I'm going to try to get back on track starting tomorrow :).

Hope your weeks are going better.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Hypermiling, a way of increasing fuel economy, has been getting a lot of buzz in the past few weeks. I've heard stories from two morning shows, NPR, and somewhere else that I can't remember. Getting more out of each gallon is always a plus so I decided to give it a test run.

I've filled up twice since I heard the initial story and started hypermiling. On the first my fuel economy was up approx* 2 miles and on the second it was up approx 4 miles. Not super impressive result, but I only hypermile about half the time. On days where I'm on schedule or don't have a schedule I hypermile. Day's when I'm running later and have to be across town for a meeting I don't. Its somewhere around a 60/40 50/50 split.

What I've been doing:
Coasting down- when there's a hill I let gravity take its course. Instead of stepping on the brake to slow down I ease off of the gas- or just enjoy the extra speed.

Red coasting- whenever I see red (stop lights, stop signs, brakes) I take my foot off of the gas. When I need to I brake, but usually I can coast along for a while.

Keeping back- I keep a couple of car lengths between my car and the one in front of me. This lets me coast when I see red. Another way to think about it is not having to drive like the person in front of you.

Easing up- Letting the car start to roll (let up on brake) before hitting the gas. I played cards through HS physics (and somehow got an A/B) but this has something to do with the difference in effort to get tires moving from a full stop or a slow roll.

Feather feet- Lightly hitting applying pressure to the gas pedal. Manufacturers sell you on how fast you can go 0-60, but a slower start saves gas.

Slowing down- This is the hardest. According to this little chart above 60 there is a falloff in miles/gallon. The sweet spot seems to be in the 40-60 mile range.

This driving style takes though but makes sense when you get into it. Red coasting means you're not pumping in gas that you will then work against while braking. I've also found that just as I hit the stopping point for lights they tend to change.

I've read and heard more extreme things that include changing to neutral while coasting. I don't know if that would be a good idea with my automatic transmission and I feel like that's asking for an accident. Thought the tips above require thinking differently they don't make your driving dangerous.

*Approx because before I did the math in my head, stopping with a whole number, not looking at the decimals. So my last fill up could have been anywhere in the 3.4 and 4.7 miles higher.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Money Making- Surveys

A while back I wrote about making extra money through Pinecone surveys. They are my absolute favorite because they pay a set amount after each survey. My second favorite is MySurvey. The basic info:

  • Most surveys last 1-8 minutes and give 10 points.
  • Based on answers for base surveys you get slightly longer surveys worth more points.
  • One account per household, but Gameboy and I each get surveys.
I never write about ways to make money until I've actually earned the money. Last week I cashed out my points and a check is headed my way. In the beginning (maybe Feb) the surveys were few and far between. I've found that the more surveys I do the more invites I get.

Another thing I love is surveys are usually available for a while. Other survey companies have surveys that are continually closed after the first day. I've never had that issue with MySurvey and I only check the email account 2-3 times a month.

If you have any questions I'm happy to answer them!

Other ways I earn extra income:
Pinecone Surveys
Mystery Shopping
Lending Club (not currently accepting new lenders)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How to Confuse a Customer Service Supervisor

There are times where I'm willing to pay a bit more for good service. I've banked online with ING since 2001 and though I thought about leaving them earlier this year I stayed because I've always had stellar customer service. I'm 'paying' by not having the absolute highest rate available, but the accounts never cost me any stress. It's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

Tonight I called one of my credit card companies to ask a few questions about the rewards and a weird payment thing.* The customer service rep on the other end of the line was amazing. He was exuberant, patient, and knowledgeable. From the moment he answered I had a smile on my face because I could feel his smile coming through. After I asked 8-10 questions (did I mention patient?) I asked if I could be transfered to his supervisor. He sounded a little hesitant and asked my if I would tell him the reason. I let him know I wanted to compliment his service.

After 2 minutes of bad hold music (really customer service places, what's up with the bad music) I got a supervisor who sounded a bit worn down. I let him know about my great service, giving details, and he seemed utterly shocked. He said thank you and didn't really know where to go from there. I explained that usually I'm letting managers know about problems but that in this case the service was so great I wanted to let them know. Again, he seemed a bit shocked, but happy enough to move forward and clumsily end the call.

What things are you willing to pay a bit more for?
And have you had great customer service recently?

*You can only pay once in 24 hours which is irritating but now I know my computer isn't crazy.

Baking Soda Love

It's been a while since I've talked about how amazing baking soda is. Today I have two of my kitchen favorite- in the dishwasher and cleaning veggies.

Those dual action tabs that you can buy are nice, but usually expensive. I got some powdered detergent through freecycle and on its own it wasn't that good. Dishes were spotty, sometimes with food stuck on. I decided to add a little baking soda to the pre-wash cup and the results have been amazing. Everything comes out super clean for just a few cents a load.

Cleaning fruits and vegetables has always been one of those things I hate to do. When I use soap it's hard to get all of it off but water doesn't usually seem like enough. Now, for things like apples, pears, zucchini, and cucumber I use a dash of wet baking soda. I wet the item, put a dash of baking soda in my hand and rub away. The gentle abrasiveness of baking soda strips away the dirt and wax, making me a happy girl.

Baking soda uses- drain cleaner and making baking powder.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Debt Payoff Milestone

This week I hit my first major debt payoff milestone and I'm so excited! The loan on the car has moved from the 5 to the 4 figures. I felt like I was hanging around in the $10,000 area forever and an happy to have moved down into the $9,000's.

I'm going to have a little milestone party, maybe with a free DVD from Redbox, and get back to earning extra money!

Friday, June 6, 2008

New College Grad Advice

Dear Recent College Grads,

Some of you undoubtedly have jobs by now. If you studied something that leads to a specific profession (engineering, accounting, etc) the chances that you have a job are even higher. This post is for everyone else.

The excitement of graduation and completing years of hard work can be marred by an unsatisfying/ unsuccessful job search. My tips to help you along the way:

* If you haven't actually moved/ put down deposits to live in your 'dream' city expand the net you're casting.

* Proofread, proofread, proofread. If after 4 years of papers you're not sure why that's important check out Not Hired.

* Know what you want and tell everyone. It's often easier to get jobs (or at least an interview) through connections. Let people know what field or kind of job would like to have.

My final tip requires a bit more space. If you're not living at home it's highly likely that every day you are incurring expenses. In six (or maybe five) months it will be time to start repaying student loans. How do you bridge the gap? Many recommend getting an internship in your field, but finding a paid internship may be harder than finding an actual job.

I recommend temping. The types of temp agencies abound. Legal, administrative, and entertainment a just a few that come to mind. This type of work give you the ability to earn an income while looking for the right job. It's easier to make a decision about whether a job is the right fit when you're not worried about how to pay next months bills.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

May Updates/June Goals

In mid May we changed how we manage our finances. This has had a significant effect on my usual month end numbers. Most of our bills come in during the 3rd and 15th. So with the at the end of the month I would have the surplus to distribute to the savings accounts. We started this new system mid May and won't be making allocations until the end of June. It will be interesting because in addition to changing how we do things May and June have: the balance of medical bills we've been working with our insurance to take care of (they didn't), our 6 month car insurance renewal, purchase of wedding dress/rings, new wheels and two rims on Gameboy's car because somehow he damaged them.

Another issue presenting itself is figuring out how to look what is 'mine.' So far the numbers on the progress bar and in my net worth only come from my salary/my accounts. For our household combining things is more equitable and it will (after the next 2-3 months) be much better for our accounts. I just don't know how to account for my net worth when a large portion of our money is in a joint account.*

Here are the numbers.


Eating Out $40
Snowflakes $500
Roth IRA


Eating Out $60
Snowflakes $400
Roth IRA

*Any suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Home Buying- Why We're Doing It

I've mentioned a few times that we're looking to buy our first home. This has little to do with the current housing marking and more to do with our long term plans. Honestly we had planned on buying a little sooner but our job situations prevented it from happening. The main reasons we want to buy are:

*We've decided to stay in our current city for the foreseeable future
*We want to have some time to settle into the house while before expanding our family
*We're tired of apartment living, especially the things we can't do because of it
*I want us to have some equity in a house before I stop working

We understand the greater responsibility of a house, but also look forward to the greater freedom. The little things I'm personally looking forward to the most space to plant a garden, room to store things (from food to family mementos), and having a place to hang try clothing that isn't beside our TV.

On a more serious note building equity while we're both working full time is important to me. Somewhere between 1-1.5 years I'll stop working. In the mean time I want to get used to the bills that will be larger. Before I leave my job I want to make sure we'll be able to pay the bills and/or make alternate plans.

There will probably be a few more house related posts this week because I have house on the brain. We put an offer in this morning on THE house. Our last few offers got into a competitive blind bidding system and so far we're the only ones. Cross your fingers for us!

Packed Freezer and Free Milk

I've done two freezer rearranges in the past 24 hours, and there will be another one in a few hours. Yesterday we went to Albertson's to take advantage of their 3/$5 cereal and free milk deal*. Our favorite cereals were included so I was ready to stock up. The free gallon of milk made the offer even more attractive. Last night they were out of Gameboy's cereal so we just grabbed three of mine. They were not giving rain checks but promised to be restocked this morning.

On the same trip Gameboy got a bit carried away with the meat they had on sale for $1/lb. He cooked a bit last night but I'd guess there are approx 25 pounds of meat in the freezer.

I returned to Albertson's to find that the truck had not shown up. They let me substitute another brand and gave me a few rain checks. I also took advantage of King Sooper's 3/$5 deal on shredded cheese.** Since I've had good results freezing cheese I bought 9 bags.

Needless to say the freezer, with all of the regular stuff that lives in there, is full. I still have to figure out how to get 2 gallons worth of milk into the freezer. Gameboy drinks a lactose free milk with cereal and I use soy. Regular milk goes into baking and casseroles. I don't see myself having time for a cooking marathon this week so it's all headed to the freezer.

*When buying 3 participating cereals you get a free gallon of milk. The sale ends today, 6/3.

**This one also expires today. The Kroger brand cheese is 3/$5, some blocks of cheese too.

When you run out of the essentials

One day last week I really wanted some biscuits. I measured out the flour and salt, mixed in the cheddar, chopped up the onion (I was making cheddar/spring onion biscuits), and realized I didn't have any baking powder.

In general I'm not a big fan of making lot's of random trips to the grocery store. It tends to send the budget through the roof, wastes gas, and more importantly, I wanted the biscuits 10 minutes ago. Instead I turned to our friend Google. I'll spare you the science, but in a pinch the recipe below will work. I haven't looked at prices recently to know if this is more/less expensive than the regular stuff, but I will next time I visit the grocery store.

For 1 teaspoon (tsp) of baking powder:
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1/4 tsp of cornstarch

UPDATE: This doesn't really fit the WFMW theme, but with kids I babysit/younger family I love baking on a rainy day. Who wants to go in search of baking powder in the rain with kids? My second favorite rainy summer day activity- running around in the rain.