Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frugal Recipe for Disaster

This week, with all the turkey leftovers and our chock-a-block full freezer, I only bought a few things at the grocery store. So when I got home last night, I had to do a little creative cooking. We didn't really have anything that fit nicely into a meal and we were taking a break from all that turkey before we turned into turkeys. I decided to make mini-pizzas, using crescent rolls as the dough and a variety of toppings. Never said I was making a healthy dinner.

I unrolled the crescent rolls, baked them into mini-crusts, and prepared a variety of toppings using a little bit of everything we had in the fridge - spaghetti sauce, chicken, broccoli, pesto, mashed potatoes - you name it. I then mixed up some mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar cheese we had left over from various dinners past. I looked at the cheese briefly to make sure it wasn't moldy, and it looked fine. This is what writers call "foreshadowing".

Ten minutes later, we were sitting down with our smorgasbord pizzas. I was bragging to my husband about how amazing I was for throwing this all together and not going to the grocery store. I think I even said, "I am a frugal champion!" Words that I would soon eat.

We bite into the pizzas, and they're pretty good. Except... they taste like bleu cheese. And bleu cheese wasn't one of the ingredients I used. About 4 bites in, we realize that one of the three mixed cheeses must have gone bad. All together now: ewwwwwwwwww. Much to my chagrin, we figured it best to throw the pizzas away. All of last night's dinner and what should have been today's lunch. My frugality was thwarted, as the rest of the food was fine, just smothered in moldy cheese.

So I heated up a couple of cans of soup and ate those instead for dinner. I learned to always have a backup plan (notice that it wasn't take out! YAY!) and to always smell your cheese. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival Delight

Gonna grab my laptop, gonna hold on tight, gonna get me some carnival delight. When you see these posts you know somethings right, they will keep you reading into the night.

This week I participated in 2 Carnivals! The first is the Carnival of Debt Management #30, hosted at Debt Consolidation Lowdown. I'm a little late on this one, as it was posted on Thanksgiving. My post on getting All Fired Up to pay off debt was included. My other favorites are:
  • The Wealthy Create Luck at Watson Inc. I take this one step further and believe that there is no such thing as luck, and that we each control our own futures.
  • Freezer Cookin' and Pantry Eatin' at Dandelions and Daydreams. I have a post about cooking from food you have in the works, and though my meal didn't turn out so well, it's a great challenge.
Moving on to the Festival of Frugality 102, which was posted at Cheap Healthy Good and featured a sweet little mix tape theme. Ah, mix tapes. Remember having to listen to the radio and try to push the play and record buttons at the exact same time without catching any of the DJ blabbing in the background nor missing the beginning of your favorite song? Good times. My post on Black Friday Shopping Karma was included, and here are my picks:

  • Reducing the Grocery Budget at Lightening. Great post, and always a personal goal of mine. This is the first post in a series, so be sure to check back.
  • Be organized be Frugal at Frugal Journey. I think everyone has an example of how being disorganized has cost them money. Here are some trouble spots to help prevent that.
  • Lazy Man just returned from his honeymoon and teaches us how to Save Money in Aruba. I'm not sure I believe all these tips... maybe I'll have to test them personally. ;)
That wraps it up! Thanks to the hosts, and be sure to check out the carnvals - tons ofpriceless information to be had.

Commission Backslide Part 2

I did it. I sent the nasty-gram to try and save my $2500. Thanks for all the support and cross your fingers for me! $10 off coupon = free stuff

I saw this at and wanted to share. If you sign up for Google Checkout, you get $10 off a purchase at I signed up and bought a USB flash drive for tax only and free shipping. Then I signed up using another email account and bought a Christmas present (for someone who reads this blog) for $7 less than I found it on Amazon and eBay, also with free shipping! YAY!

All $10 items that are free with this promo.

The USB flash drive I bought.

Many thanks to MoneySavingMom and her readers. I just started reading her website today, and I am so glad I did!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Commission Backslide

As I've mentioned before, I work in sales. My salary isn't very large, and a good chuck of my income is made through commissions. In January 2007, I helped to sell a large deal that was worth $2483 in commissions to me (before tax). For comparison, the majority of my deals are worth $200-$600 pre-tax. So this was obviously a big deal (pun intended).

In October, we ran into an issue with the billing of the customer. Turns out that there was an error and the customer never received any invoices. They hadn't made a payment on the equipment in the 9 months that they were using it. After much back and forth and getting the runaround, visiting the customer 4-5 times, the two companies decided that an agreement couldn't be reached that everyone was happy with. So the equipment is going to be returned and the sale will be effectively canceled.

Why is this relevant? My company has asked me to pay them back the commissions I earned on the deal. All $2483. On paper, this is the correct way to deal with the situation. They have to protect themselves from anyone who places false orders and then cancels them, cheating the system.

However, this is an extenuating circumstance and a rare case. I was advised to write a strongly worded letter protesting having to pay the company back. Two weeks ago. But I haven't done it yet. I don't have any good reason why not. I'm a little bit of a procrastinator (example: I started writing this post Monday morning). I think I'm almost embarrassed to ask for my own money. Which is ridiculous, of course. I earned the money to begin with and did everything in my power to prevent the order being canceled.

I just need to man up and do it. Writing this post is a start - it will hold me accountable if I try to wimp out again. I will have my protesting email sent by midnight Wednesday. It's not like I have $2500 laying around to give back to my company. It's already been applied to the credit cards! Months ago! Having to pay it back would seriously inhibit my budget and debt payoff.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Reality

This long weekend has been something of a vacation. I had five days off from both jobs, cooked Thanksgiving dinner, slept, ate, and shopped. Unfortunately, the party is over and I need to go back to my real life.

Thanksgiving had a bit of a negative impact on the budget, but I think I'll be able to balance it out within the grocery budget. We came home with a cooler full of leftover turkey (like PaidTwice), pie, and 25 bagels from the bagel shop down the street from my in-laws. I have to check out the freezer, but I might not even have to go to the grocery store at all this week. It'll be close. If I can pull that off, we'll end November about $45-$50 under the grocery budget, which, in these days, equals just one tank of gas. It's something, though.

The other thing I need to get back to is my budget mindset. It's easy to be a little more free with money when you're away from home, and I need to tighten the purse strings once again. We've both gone over our fun money for November already, and there's still a week left. I have to pay about another $750 to our debt to reach our monthly goal, and I hope to do so with my paychecks on Thursday. It all depends on whether my husband's direct deposit goes through on Friday (Nov 30) or Monday (Dec 3). Our mortgage will be deducted on Dec 1, even if it is just pending, and I need to make sure we have the money in the bank account to cover that.

The best way I know how to get back to our financial reality is to open up Quicken and look at all the numbers. That usually whips me back into shape!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Black Friday Shopping Karma

Yesterday, my husband and I got up at 4am, armed with lists and our Christmas budget, and hit the road. We were headed to a few department stores and then the mall. After a cup of coffee, we were raring to go.

The first couple of stores were a bust. We were looking for the early bird specials, and two out of three were already sold out. We weren't in dire need of anything, so we didn't get to any store early enough to stand in a line that wrapped around the building. Feeling slightly defeated, we headed to the mall.

There we fared much better, scoring deals left and right. Most notably, at Macy's, I bought 3 ties for my husband for Christmas for $27.95 when they were originally priced $113, and he bought me a sweater for $10.98 that was 69% off after a coupon. When we went to JC Penney, I quickly zeroed in on a blazer I found in the ad for $16.99, regularly priced at $44. We were able to find a register with no line and made it out of the store in record time. On the way out, I tapped on the shoulder of the last customer in a 20 person line and directed her to my secret, lineless register. My husband asked me why I did that and I replied, "Shopping karma. It'll come back to us."

By this time, we had been shopping for about 8 hours, so we stopped for a quick bite to eat, then hit the outlets nearby. We found a nice pair of Banana Republic black pants for me that, at 40% off, only cost $29.99. Then we went searching for dress shirts for my husband. Here is where I found my greatest victory of the day.

We went first to Brooks Brothers and looked at their no-iron shirts. They were offering them three for $159, which I know is their everyday price and not within our realm of possibility right now. Disappointed, we left to wander throughout the other stores and made our way into Van Heusen. We found that they had wrinkle-free dress shirts there for $27.99 where, if you buy three, you get 40% off. What a great deal! He picked out colors to match the ties from Macy's, and we went to check out. While we waited in line, the women in front of us received a coupon to three other stores in the plaza. When we checked out, I asked for the same coupons, but was told that your total must be over $60 to get the coupons. Our shirts were only $50.47. Oh well, at least we tried.

We continued our shopping nest door at Bass, where we found a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes for half off. At the check out, they printed out three coupons for $5 off - including one for Van Heusen. My husband saw the look in my eye and told me to "just let it go." I said, "Honey, no way am I letting this go. You keep shopping, I'm going to take care of this."

I marched back into Van Heusen and sweetly asked to get my price adjusted. The manager came out, made a phone call to the manager of Bass, and said she could adjust my receipt. Sweet! While she was calling the other store, she saw a coupon for 10% off one item and asked me if it were mine. Unscrupulously, I said it was. Then she scanned another coupon for 20% off another item! This was my shopping karma coming back for me. So all in all, we ended up paying $40.33 for all three dress shirts. It wasn't our best deal of the day (that prestigious honor goes to the ties), but it was the most satisfactory.

Our grand total for the day was $298.17, at an average savings of 55.69%. The interesting part is that most of the items we bought were clothes, and almost all of them were unadvertised. We just went out and looked around for things that struck our fancy. While this sounds like a recipe for disaster, we stayed well within our Christmas budgets, and we had a great time!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Financially Thankful For

While I am thankful for all the standards - my family, health, house, etc, I wanted to write a list of things I am thankful for in terms of my personal finance.

  • My jobs - although I complain from time to time about working so much, working both of my jobs has allowed up to accelerate our debt payoff.
  • My husband's business - this is a high risk venture that he pours all his time into. The plan is for this company to eventually fund our early retirement (of course there is a contingency plan).
  • Our financial awakening - we were in a downward spiral, charging everything, including gas, groceries & unnecessary crap. Last year, we woke up and started fixing all our mistakes.
  • The progress on our debt - one year ago we had about $38,000 in credit card debt. Right now, we have just under $15,000. We're behind our original plan to pay it all off in 2007, but we've still made tremendous progress.
  • Our budget - I love knowing how much money we're supposed to spend when. It helps me keep things in check and limit my spending.
I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving and have plenty to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Miscalculation

This Thanksgiving, we traveled to my in-laws house in Delaware. We drove down this morning, missing most of the traffic and arrived early this afternoon. In all the planning and preparation for the trip between packing for the trip and working extra hours to make up for the time off, I forgot something important. I forgot to budget for the extra expenses.

When I was planning for our journey, I concentrated on what I needed to do before we left: pay bills, buy another cat carrier, pack. I was excited that we wouldn't need to buy groceries for this week since we had some left over from last week and we'll be eating here all weekend. I didn't budget for the extra gas needed or travel expenses.

This doesn't sound like much, but consider this: the drive from our house to their house is 7 hours long. That is about a tank and a half of gas. With the recent rise in gas prices, the trip down cost us about $60 in fuel alone. Granted, we didn't think ahead enough to buy gas before we left at 4am, so we ended up at an expensive gas station right off the highway. Hopefully the trip back will be a little less expensive.

I know that our budget can handle this alteration, but it will put us over the normal gas budget for the month. I feel pretty dumb for completely overlooking this aspect of our trip. I was just so excited to finally have a few days off that I put the blinders on. Of course, it wouldn't make any difference on whether we would make the trip or not. In the future, we will just plan for it a little better.

This Week's Festival

I am slowly getting back into the festivals after the hectic chaos that was the past couple of weeks. At the Festival of Frugality #101, my post on the Frugal Bridal Shower was included! If you haven't seen it, be sure to check out Kyle's writing at Rather Be Shopping - the way he posted the festival as a tour down Highway 101 is a testament to his creativity and writing skills.

I enjoyed the other posts in the festival, as always, but my favorites were:

So, based on these picks, can you guess what's been on my mind? Christmas shopping! Maybe it's Black Friday looming, but I have been thinking about it a lot and have some upcoming posts on the subject.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Absolutely Free and Almost Free GIfts

Just in time for the holidays, Are You Going to be This Way the Rest of the Time I Know You? posted a challenge: to come up with 5 completely free and 5 almost free gifts. This is a great way to challenge yourself to come up with useful gift ideas that won't break your budget instead of just running out and buying the latest gadget.

Absolutely free gifts (can count items you already have around the house):

1. Stocking stuffer samples: I get a lot of free samples throughout the year from places like for mostly toiletries like deodorant, toothpaste and the like. Perfect size to stick in a stocking! I'm even giving my husband some to give back to me in my stocking. :) One tip: use a secondary email address on the form to avoid spam.

2. Day at the park: Plan a day with someone you love and the great outdoors. If you're in the snowy north like myself, go sledding and then make some hot cocoa. In a warmer climate, google some local wildlife and go find the animals.

3. Mix tape: Go old fashioned and make a custom compilation for your friends or family. Of course, I have a bunch of blank CD's hanging around and loads of songs on iTunes.

4. Giveaways: While rare, there are occasions when the freebie handed out at promotional events are actually good. A cool t-shirt or even a stress ball would be a great gift for a kid.

5. Re-gift card: With one of my credit cards, we can claim our rewards in the form of gift cards to restaurants or stores. You can either give away the gift card or use it to buy presents. We often get $25 gift certificates to and use them to buy books, DVDs, CDs, pretty much anything.

BONUS - Rescue a pet: There are plenty of dogs and cats available at the pound or posted in the newspaper that are initially free. Of course, there is food, vet bills, and supplies later on. Imagine the look on your child's face when they open a box with a puppy in it! Instant classic.
Caveat: don't give a pet without either discussing it with the recipient or being prepared to care for the pet yourself. I surprised my husband with a kitten that was found behind my mom's restaurant after we'd talked about getting one for ages. They get along pretty well:

Almost free gifts (under $10, hopefully under $5):

1. Mix in a Jar: A popular cheap gift favorite. Basically it's all the dry ingredients for a recipe layered in a jar with instructions to make the recipe. I am making the double fudge brownie in cute little snowman jars that I bought for $2.24 each.

2. Dinner on Us: Offer a busy couple dinner with all the fixings at their house, from set up to clean up. If you plan it well, it can cost less than $5 total. A favorite of mine is baked ziti.

3. Super Clearance: Throughout the year, there are special deals and steals online and radical markdowns in stores on discontinued merchandise. I was able to snag a few such deals, both at about 99.5% off. I would post details, but I don't want to spoil the surprise!

4. Custom Web Design: My husband used to work in web design and we have a server in our basement. For the low, low price of $9.95, we bought a domain name for my parents and set them up with their own website for their photos. They keep it going and love posting all their pictures.

5. Cozy Fire in a Basket: Nothing beats curling up by the fire on a cold winter night, so why do so many fireplaces go unused? Because it's a pain in the butt to gather the wood and build a fire. So invest in some firewood, divide it up and include some kindling (gathered in the woods) and matches. If you have a little extra money, buy a cheap wood carrier and wrap it all up together.

There are all my ideas for saving money on gift giving this holiday season. I have used a few in the past and plan on using more this year. Make sure to check out the original list and the list at Paid Twice for more ideas!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Frugal Bridal Shower

This weekend I am going to a bridal shower for an old friend. My sister and mother are also going. This shower is going to be a classy event - full, plated luncheon at a very nice restaurant and there will probably be about 100 people there.

The bride and her parents are the kind of people who know everybody. And the people they know have money. So, when I check out the registries, there were a lot of very nice, very expensive gifts chosen, such as Waterford dishes at $120 per place setting and Lenox stemware for $30 a glass. A little bit out of my budget price range.

I was planning on spending $50 for the gift. My mom and sister had about the same budget, so we decided to pool our money and buy a gift together. We wanted to get a few smaller items so it looked a little better than buying 1 place setting between the 3 of us. I know, it even sounds silly to type that out - buying any gift should be OK. But I was concerned with looking cheap. So we worked to stretch our dollars.

Before we went to the store, I looked at the registry and picked out a group of things in our price range. The bride was registered at two stores, and both registries were pretty picked over. Then we went to the mall, prepared to buy our gifts. Except they weren't there. Everything in our price range at store #1 was on back order, with no chance of becoming available for 3 months. So we went to plan B and walked across the mall to store #2.

Store #2 wasn't much better. We did manage to find a few items that kind of went together, in that they were all kitcheny. They had to be ordered and the store charged for shipping. By that point, we were so frustrated that we just agreed with it. But I had a secret plan.

I knew that store #2 frequently sent out coupons in the mail. I waited until I received a coupon, then returned to the store with my receipt. The adjustment was $23. Twenty three dollars just for going back with a coupon!!

Using this money, I was able to buy a card, wrapping paper, a Christmas ornament and a cookbook (50% off) to go with the original gifts. The grand total was $127, well under our budget of $150, and we bought a lot of presents. I am very excited to be able to walk into that shower knowing that we bought gifts the bride wanted AND in our price range. I know there will be people there who spent a lot of money on their gifts, but I am very happy with ours.

Monday, November 12, 2007

All Fired Up to Keep Paying Down

I was finally going through our files today and organizing and purging them. I was throwing things out left and right, using this list as my guide. It was nice to be getting rid of some old files, like electric bills from our old apartment and random condo association newsletters. Then I came to the file where I put all the receipts from our wedding.

This was the thickest file in the whole drawer. As I was going through it, it was like going back in time to when I spent money recklessly, without a care in the world. I always knew which credit card had the most available balance, because that is what I used to buy everything. I look at all the money we spent on the wedding, borrowed from credit cards, lines of credit, and family and it makes me sick.

We bought a lot of things we didn't need. Of course, the argument can be made that all you need to get married is the piece of paper and a trip to the courthouse. But there were just superfluous purchases made here and there that all added onto our debt. I really look forward when I can think of our wedding with only happy memories and not reflect on the mistakes we made. (Not in marrying my husband - that was no mistake and the best decision I ever made. More on that in a minute.)

So of course, all these receipts made quite a big pile. I'm looking at them and getting bummed out more and more. My husband asked me what was bothering me so much. When I told him, he suggested getting rid of them - we've already dropped that spendy mindset and there was no need to keep them (except the wedding ring receipt). Since we had a nice little fire going tonight, that's where they all ended up. Burnt to ashes. It felt really good to get them out of my file cabinet, my house, my life.

I still felt like an idiot for making the purchases in the first place. Until my husband said to me, "You're only an idiot if you don't fix the problem. We're already solving the problem. So this (referring to the flaming receipts) was just a mistake." He's pretty good at saying the right thing and never just what I want to hear. Mistakes I can deal with. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to only make it once, and learn and grow. Or burn and grow. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tales of a Cashier - Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Tales of a Cashier relates my experiences at my part time job in a retail store.

In my store, as I'm sure holds true for many stores, we have an official policy and then we have the policy we actually follow. A lot of this revolves around trying to get the customers to return to our store. There's a lot of competition out there and we do everything we can to keep the customers happy and telling their friends how happy they are.

Our store sells household products and frequently sends out coupons to use for a discount on most items in the store. Officially, if a customer forgets their coupon, we offer to them the chance to bring back the coupon with the receipt and we will adjust the price. Unofficially, any customer who asks for, forgets, or "forgets" their coupon will get the discount anyway, on the spot, no returning required. All they have to do is ask.

Now will we give them a discount on 5 items for each of the 5 coupons they forgot on the kitchen counter? No, we do our best to keep it reasonable. But the main thing to remember is that the stores want you to leave happy and want you to return. Customer loyalty over the course of years is much more important than one sale. Similar to the coupon issue, we will also discount items is they are visibly damaged or have been used as a display. Usually all you have to do is ask.

So how can you benefit and save using this theory? Don't be afraid to speak up. The worst that could happen is that you're in the same position you started off in. Be polite, slightly apologetic, and be sure to thank them. That's all we really want. When people start getting rude or witchy, we're actually less likely to help them out than if they are polite. There's a lot of money you could keep in your wallet just by asking the simple question. I used to be shy about it until I was on the other side of the cash register. Now I don't care. Anybody have a good story of asking for a discount and saving some money?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

October Round Up

Even though we're 1/3 of the way into November, I shouldn't neglect poor old October just because I've been busy. So onto the wrap-up!

October, being a long month, is pretty challenging. Add on to that the fact that My brother, brother-in-law and sister have birthdays within a week of each other at the end of October, and the budget gets a little strained. But, fortunately, we have a little stretch in our budget.

This month we paid $1836.29 towards our credit card debt, which is $934.71 short of our goal. However, we made huge mental progresses and paid off our worst debt, that we've been working on since February. At the end of October, we have paid off 57% of our total credit card debt, up 4 percentage points from September. Our motivation has really picked up as well.

My income was finally over for October (by $658.30, thanks to extra hours and commissions), which will be extremely useful in keeping our November numbers on track. Our gas expenses were over by $30.87, which is essentially one fill-up and due to some bad timing of getting gas on Halloween. Should have waited one day! Our groceries were over by $19.53, and our fun money by $22.28, which totally disproves my theory of fudging the budget. I guess that's what happens when you try to cheat the system.

As for the emergency fund... I set up a high interest bank account, and then never transferred the money over. It's still waiting patiently in my checking account. This is a high priority on my to-do list this week.

While the numbers look OK, I'm pretty disappointed in myself. We pay a lot of money toward our debt each month, but nowhere near our goal of $3000. I have $2771.00 budgeted toward debt payment each month and try to make up the difference, but the last time we hit our goal of $3000 was in June. Not that much has changed in our finances that we shouldn't be getting to that number. I think we were just burnt out from being in super frugal mode that we rebelled a little. Not to mention a few mistakes along the way. Paying off our line of credit and transferring to the 0% card were huge for our motivation and will get us back in the fast lane. Same old story and I need to put my money where my mouth is. November is off to a great start with the extra paycheck and already making a big payment, so I am feeling very positive moving forward. Hopefully planning ahead for Christmas will prevent any bumps in the road.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Mental Victory & a Milestone

Whoa, what a week!! I was in a work training session all week and between the extra hours and trying to make up the real work I'm supposed to do, I have neglected my housework, sleep, and of course, the blog. :( I unfortunately didn't have the foresight to prepare some posts soooo... nothing all week long.

At the beginning of this week, we paid off another credit card! (With a little help from all the paychecks.) But it's a shallow victory. We paid a lot of the card off with a balance transfer - $5100 to be exact. So the $1900 payment I made on Monday didn't really pay it off. But oh man, does it feel good.

I have all my debts listed in an excel spreadsheet, from highest interest rate to lowest. Every time I pay something off, I highlight the entire line in red. It's such a powerful feeling to eliminate a debt and put that big fat red line on the "Debt Snowball" spreadsheet. Before paying off our largest debt last month, I hadn't crossed out a line since February. February! No wonder I was losing motivation.

I am psyched to be gaining momentum again and to finally be back on track. In addition, this last payment has gained us another milestone - we are now under $15,000 in credit card debt. (Current total is $14,616.42. We started this journey at $38,621.13. This means that we have paid off 62% of our debt! We're almost 2/3 of the way there!! :-D Just when we needed some more incentive to stick with it. Now I understand more why Dave Ramsey recommends paying off the smallest debts first - the feeling of accomplishment is tremendous.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Crazy Eights

I used to love playing crazy eights as a kid. Actually, I still love it. Never mind the kid part. I like to hoard the eights and draw and draw from the deck so when I defiantly say "one card!" I get to watch my opponents scramble to change the suit so I can't win when it's my turn again. Then I can triumphantly throw down my eight and do a banging victory dance. Man, do I love winning!

So when Suburban Wife at Daily Dollar Diary tagged me for the Crazy Eights Meme, the first thing I thought was cool! Yay me! The second thing was... uh, what's a meme? Turns out I'm some part of cultural evolution. Woot.

8 Things I'm Passionate About:

1. My husband
2. My family
3. My kittens
4. Personal finance, especially our debt payoff. Although "psychotic" might describe it better.
5. My home
6. The Caribbean
7. Improving myself
8. My future

8 Things I Say Often

1. Loveyoubye. This is how I end phone calls with my husband, mom, dad, sister and brother.
2. NoooOOOOOoooo. One of the kittens is still testing the boundaries of my sanity.
3. Want to snuggle? I haven't turned the heat on in my house yet. :)
4. Hello, this is Jessica - this is how I answer the phone.
5. Bedtime for Bonzos
6. Miscellaneous quotes from Will Farrell movies
7. That'll move the chains!
8. Giggity giggity giggity

8 Books I've Read Recently

1. Eragon
2. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke
3. P.S. I Love You
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
5. Something by Nora Roberts, I'm sure
6. Confessions of a Shopaholic
7. Rich Couples Finish First
8. Pay it Down

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die

1. Be married for 100 years. 1 down, 99 to go.
2. Travel to Europe
3. Visit all 50 States
4. Live in the Caribbean
5. Write a Book
6. Have children and grandchildren and great grandchildren
7. Travel to Australia
8. Build our forever house

8 Songs I Can Listen to Over and Over

1. Everything I Do - Bryan Adams
2. Unbroken - Tim McGraw
3. The Wonder of You - Elvis Presley
4. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
5. Stronger - Kayne West
6. The Moulin Rouge Soundtrack
7. I Can't Get Next to You - The Temptations
8. Benny Lava - ok, maybe not over and over. Or politically correct.

8 Things the Attract me to My Friends

1. Integrity
2. Sense of Humor
3. Honesty
4. Lack of Drama
5. Ability to have a conversation
6. Intelligence & Common Sense
7. Loyalty
8. Extra tickets to the Red Sox, Pats, concerts, etc. (see #2)

8 Things I Learned in the Past Year

1. How to create and stick to a budget
2. How to win arguments/confrontations (not that I win them all, but my record is improving)
3. Which battles are worth fighting
4. How to sleep alone in my house. Hint: it involves a sleep timer on my TV.
5. That often you only get what you want if you ask for it.
6. DVR makes my life better.
7. How to swallow my pride
8. To be a better judge of character

Wow, that took me a long time. Gone are my plans for more relevant blog posting tonight :). I'm just going to convince myself that you all really wanted to know that information about me.

I'm going to tag a few people so we can culturally evolve together, but if anyone reading this wants to throw their hat in the ring, feel free! Just link to it in the comments so I can read your answers too!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Will that be Cash or Debit?

There are generally two schools of thought for controlling your spending. The first is a cash envelope system, where your monthly budgeted amount for every category is placed in an envelope with the category written on it. The second is to use the debit card for everything and track it using money management software.

Strangely enough, I like to use both. Better than that, I have to use both. I have tried to go all one way or the other, and it just doesn't work.

Our fun money has to be in cash. If I use the debit card for my fun money, I overspend my budget. Without fail. When I have cash only for fun money, I can keep it in check. The sooner I go to the ATM and take out my fun money, the better off my month is budget-wise. (Which reminds me, I need to get November's fun money.)

Everything else - gas, groceries, household expenses - are all on the debt card. I can't imagine carrying that much cash around, not to mention that my husband needs to spend some of that money as well and it's not practical to split that money. We just make sure that the totals don't surpass out budget. Plus, I can track when we spend the money rather than how much we have remaining.

So this is what works for us. It's a little unorthodox, but a lot of what we're doing now is irregular. How do you keep track of your spending - cash or debit? (Presumably, if you're reading this, you don't use credit unless it's for the points.)