Archive for the ‘Progress Report’ Category

So there is good news, there is bad news,  and there is a good deal on a movie and frozen food, in that order!

  • Deposits:

I am depositing $119.50 into the e-fund! Woohoo!
$1 found on the ground at Costco
$3 rebate from Rite Aid$115.50 from mystery shop payments

My current savings total is $946.14. Does anyone know of a bank that I can deposit straight from Paypal?

  • Deductions:

I had to replace my car’s tires and that knocked out  $340.00. Ouch! I shopped around and found that Costco had the best price, but I still had a bit of sticker shock . I’m glad that I had the cash available so I didn’t have to drive on unsafe tires or take on debt to get them replaced, and I’m pretty sure the emergency fund is there to cover just this type of unexpected expense, but it stung a little using it.

  • Deals

This is not normally a deals blog, but occasionally find a money making deal that is worth sharing. Starting today, there is a money making deal at Safeway that I’m taking advantage of and wanted to share.

a. Get the DVD of The Princess and The Frog for $.99, or the BluRay/DVD combo for $6.99 with the deal outlined here.

b. At Safeway, you get $10 in Kohl’s Rewards for every $50 you spend. The Kohl’s Rewards are an awesome reason to spend a little extra on pantry staples that don’t frequently go on loss-leader sales, such as spices. *Edited – the movie deal didn’t work at my Safeway.

c. Combine the  Kohl’s deal with the frozen foods deal running all month and spend $25 on frozen foods. (Stock up on frozen veggies!) You’ll get a $10 catalina coupon toward your next purchase.

Edited to add:

I combined deals to get 70% off of my grocery trip today, stocking up on spices, vinegar, oil, frozen veggies and fish, and items for my Scratch vs. Store Bought posts. I also have $40 for Kohl’s and $20 for frozen foods. Yippee!

I went to Target for the BluRay/DVD combo, and it’s going into Sweet Pea’s Christmas gift. I also got Toy Story Legos for $15 for Peanut’s Christmas gift using a $5 off coupon at Target, more Hanes underwear for Peanut (in yesterday’s comments) and 2 boxes of character Band-Aids for $.32 each with coupons. (I needed the Band-Aids for the movie rebate, and they’ll make a nice stocking stuffer. What is it with kids and Band-Aids? Mine love them! And since we don’t get a whole lot of character stuff, they’re a novelty.)


So that’s the update! Plenty of saving and some unexpected spending which reminds me why I’m saving in the first place.

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Monthly Wrap Up

Already we’re at the end of February, and I’m happy to report that I made up the gap from January and am ahead of schedule for my annual goal with a current savings of $1,082.86! That means that I put $968.86 into the emergency fund just in the month of February. Wow! A big chunk of that, over $550, was a reimbursement from overpaid health care, but I still was able to make $409 this month, before including payments for February’s mystery shops or refunds I’m waiting on. Not too shabby!

I’m still working on my Medi-Cal application, but the kids are covered while they’re evaluating our paperwork. I learned that our assets are too high to qualify us for Medi-Cal, but they don’t consider assets for kids, so they are covered. As you might imagine, our assets are not especially high, but you can’t have more than $3,000 in combined assets to get Medi-cal, and a small 401(k) from a previous employer, the average balance on our regular checking account (which is down to next to nothing by the end of the month), and this growing emergency fund push us over that amount. We will likely be using the San Mateo ACE program once all the paperwork goes through, which has an $8,000 asset limit.

Having the full $6,000 in an emergency fund will likely put us over the asset limit for ACE. Since our income doesn’t give us the flexibility to pay out of pocket for health care, I’ll need to readjust our savings plan at some point this year so that we continue to qualify for the county plan. I’m sticking my head in the sand on that until I come to it, though. I’m not willing to liquidate the meager 401(k) and pay the penalties so that we have a full emergency fund.

I’m not sure I made my 21 no-spend days goal, but if I don’t include mystery shops (which I consider work, as I’m being paid and reimbursed for whatever I spend out of pocket) I’m pretty close. I’m going to keep the goal of 21 days in March, again not including food, gas, regular bills, or mystery shops.

I’m expecting $453.00 for mystery shops (including reimbursements), $32.00 from mail in rebates, $11.29 from Ebates and $26.50 from Surveyhead (that’s taking awhile!). I’ve done more surveys but haven’t cashed out yet.

Once I get the payments for mystery shops, I will have gotten for free in February: a brake check, oil check, children’s clothes, paint, beauty supplies, a night of bowling, several meals, an eye exam (which I really needed!), and a house plant.

In February, I also did a MAJOR declutter of the dining room, painted (with paint from a mystery shop), and it is a clean, livable, and in my opinion, beautiful space now. Come back Monday for the after pictures!

Goals for March

1. Stick to a zero-based, envelope budget, using only cash.

2. Call to negotiate the price on more of our services – cell phone, car insurance, etc. Watch for a few more Dialing for Dollars articles in March!

3. Save or earn $449.14 to stay on track for my annual goals.

4. Finish paperwork on Medi-Cal, college for the fall, and preschool for Peanut.

5. All meals at home except for mystery shops. (This is still a tough one for me!)

6. Attack the closets with decluttering fury! I’m feeling so good about the dining room and want to bring the rest of the house up to its standards. This month, the focus is on our four small closets and a wall of cabinets in the living room – all of our personal storage space.

7. No-Spend days – 21; No-Drive days – 14

March Budget
Income – $1,700 (I did some work this month for the family business and will make about $200)

(We get food stamps, so food is not accounted for in our budget.)
Savings – $100
Rent and utilities – $1,000
Car payment – $200
Gas – $70
Household expenses – $49 (toilet paper, dish soap, diapers, etc.)
Mystery shops (will be reimbursed) – $100
Irregular Expenses – $181

How I came to the amount of irregular expenses:
Renter’s Insurance – $230
Car Insurance – $700
Smog Check, Car registration – $160
Clothes and shoes – $600
Household items – $480

Annual total: $2170
/12 =   $181/month

We don’t pay for utilities out of pocket; they’re included in our rent, explained here. On months that I don’t work, I don’t put away as much for irregular expenses, use less in gas or household expenses, reserve money that would go to the emergency fund, or pull from it for things we need (such as chairs this month, and my ticket and traffic school last month.)

I was asked about preschool: my son was isn’t currently in school. He was in preschool before our cut in income, at which time I had to pull him as I couldn’t continue to pay the $300 a month. He was in a Head Start program for the first semester of this school year but it was a poor fit for him for reasons I will not discuss here. I have found a subsidized program at another local preschool and am working on getting him in there now. It would be really wonderful for our family, as they’ll also take both kids full time in the fall while I go to school. Think happy preschool thoughts for us that this will work for us!

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…an unexpected check for $559.30! It’s an overpayment from our health insurance from when Sweet Pea was born 18 months ago today. They’re not speedy about sending the refund, but I’ll take it and stash it away in the emergency fund, which is now at $1,040.29!! That’s right, I’ve broken the $1,000 mark, putting me ahead of schedule for meeting my $6,000 goal this year.

Also in today’s mail was a coupon for a free bottle of Exedrin, and I’m going to put the $5 that I would have spent on it into the emergency fund. I definitely would have bought it anyway, so the freebie coupon was a bonus. (A house with two kids four and under is LOUD and headaches happen!)

I don’t normally post deals here, but I’m posting this one because it’s a pretty good money maker. 🙂 Olay 7-signs body wash is on sale for $5.50 each through Saturday at Target. If you buy 3, you get a $5.00 gift card for Target, bringing the cost down to $11.50 for 3. There were $1.00 off coupons in Sunday’s paper, and if you use 3 of them, you’ll pay $8.50 for the three body washes.  There is also a $15.00 mail in rebate here. Once the mail in rebate comes in, you’ll be making $6.50, plus three free body washes. If Olay isn’t your thing, you could donate it to a women’s shelter or something like that and write it off next year, using the full value of the receipt ($16.50).

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Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, go enter now! The winner will be chosen on Tuesday, February 16.

I just wanted to post current pictures of the dining room, where I’ve been spending considerable time sorting and purging stuff we don’t need.

On top of the bookshelf: our nephew’s birthday present (we’re giving it to him Tuesday), a stained glass art piece going in the window this week, and a clock waiting for batteries, to be hung in the kitchen. The books are all organized by category and the bottom four squares are EMPTY! You can see my CD player/radio and cloth napkins in one square. I’m still putting CDs into a binder to slide in the space there, taking a lot less space than their cases.

Look Ma, no Christmas tree! 🙂

The other side of the room was so full of stuff that I couldn’t even reach the window.I’m down to just four  boxes and one bag of stuff in here: two are things I’m posting to sell on Craigslist (plus the nursing pillow) and two boxes and one bag are books I’m taking to the used bookstore to sell. They’ll all be gone this week. Here’s what’s left:

I bought the chairs on Craigslist for $75, six chairs that match the table, are very solid, and fit perfectly.

I’m mystery shopping a home goods store and buying paint this week, so the room will get a fresh coat of paint next weekend. I’ll be watching out for curtains on clearance or the thrift store, and need to hang a few photos and  replace the bulb in the overhead light, and then it is a completely decluttered, totally usable dining room.

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I have a few posts in the works, but for today, I’m sharing my savings updates and a quote:

I’m adding $50.00 to the emergency fund from a focus group this afternoon, and $7.03 in unspent change from January, bringing my total savings up to $251.03. Hooray!

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller

I’ve been focused for so long on the closed door – the cut in income, the loss of health insurance, the change in circumstances that have been a strain on our marriage and my feelings of security – that I haven’t been able to look forward. There are so many options and opportunities, open doors in front of me, and I’m availing myself of them with gratitude.

One option: a clean desk. Public humiliation was a good motivator.

I’ve been making many phone calls and will be back in the coming days with several Dialing for Dollars posts, Saved vs. Store Bought reviews, and a giveaway! See you tomorrow!

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Monthly Wrap Up

January is coming swiftly to a close and I’m ahead for the month with $114.00 in the emergency fund. It’s not the $500 I was hoping to have reached, and I’m a little anxious about this shaky start!

I did, however, start my IDA, actively pursue more options for bringing in money, turn my $10 donation into $100 for Haitian relief efforts, and took the plunge and dropped our health insurance for Medi-Cal (still in progress – this is not a fast process!)  I also had the money on hand to pay for my little set back without incurring debt, so it’s not all bad. I got my credit report and am ready to write letters to make corrections. It was a busy month!

I also far exceeded my goal of 7 no-spend days. I’m pushing myself with a goal of 21 no-spend days in February (mystery shops, gas, groceries, and routine bills excluded.)

I am currently expecting $115.14 for mystery shops (including reimbursements), $17 for rebates, $11.29 from E-bates, $10.00 from Swagbucks, and $26.50 for online surveys at Surveyhead. I am also waiting on $77 back from a bank error.

Goals for February

1. Stick to a zero-based, cash only budget.

2. Call to negotiate the price on all of our services – phone, internet, cell phone, car insurance, etc. Watch for lots of Dialing for Dollars articles in February!

3. Save or earn $886 to get back on track for my annual goals.

4. Finish paperwork on Medi-Cal and college for the fall.

5. All meals at home except for our anniversary dinner, with a gift certificate. (We’re celebrating ten years as a couple at the end of the month!)

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At the end of 2009, I got a ticket for running a stop sign. I did run the stop sign, which I should have seen but did not, so I didn’t contest the ticket and paid it.  I learned later that one should always show up to court, even if you agree that you owe the traffic ticket, because judges will often reduce the fee. I don’t plan on doing this again, but it’s good to know just in case. Because I have never had a ticket, I am able to take traffic school to avoid the hit to my insurance rates.

But the ticket and traffic school, they’re not free. And they’re not part of my budget. So my emergency fund took the hit and has dwindled down to $114.00. I’m glad that I had the money there so it could be promptly paid, but I’m being more cautious at stop signs to avoid this situation in the future!

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sniffle and whine a little. Hopefully tomorrow will be a cheaper day.

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