Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Wrap Up

January went pretty well. Our employer income went up by 2% because the hubs got a raise. In this economy we are glad he got anything. My review is in April and I don't know yet if my company will be giving out merit increases. We made no extra money this month but did cash out the CD from the stimulus check last spring to buy five new tires for the Subie. We also bought a Wii fit board with about $130 of that money and the rest went to savings.

Eating out and coffee continue to be a problem for us. We went way over the budget we had set. Eating out budget was $50 and we spent $115.37. Coffee was also $50 and we spent $156.69. Some of this money was getting breakfast at Starbucks as well. We were not too prepared in the mornings this month.

We did stick to our $500 grocery budget this month as long as I only spend $100 today which I think is completely possible since we don't have the kids until next weekend.

We had planned to put $1800 on debt and pay off two credit cards. We put $1284.28 on debt and paid off one credit card. The one credit card I paid off I used to get a couple items of clothing that were on sale and that is scheduled to be paid off again next month.

As far as working out went I did still walk with my friend every Sunday morning except last week because she was sick. The elliptical machine, Wii fit and Firm was spotty this month. Water was also spotty, I started out doing great in the beginning of the month and waned. The hubs and I didn't really get a date night either.

As far as hand crafting and decluttering go, I didn't work on any of my hand crafting projects but did get my pattern pieces put away in a temporary spot until more decluttering can be done. We donated about nine bags and made a little bit of money taking items to Half Price Books.

So, goals for February...

Finances
  • Reduce debt by $1318.71
  • Pay off the two store credit cards
  • Keep eating out at $50
  • Increase coffee budget to $80
  • Try $400 grocery budget ($100 per week)
Health
  • Take BJ to dog park every Saturday
  • Continue to walk every Sunday
  • Elliptical once per week for twenty minutes
  • Wii fit twice per week for twenty minutes
  • Drink eight glasses of water per day
Hand Crafting
  • Finish SD tabi socks
  • Finish SS fingerless gloves
  • Finish headband
Decluttering and Condo projects
  • Find homes or donate stuff behind the couch
  • Find homes or donate stuff along the wall in the master bedroom
So, I didn't check off a whole lot from last month. They continue to stay on my list. Here's to a better month!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fun Friday

It's month end and unfortunately our system has been down all day. That has allowed me to archive my email box and get some limited research done. Found this over on Frugal and thought it would be fun to do. Descriptions need to be one word only. Looking forward to Margarita's with dinner tonight.

Yourself: Loyal
Your partner: Kind
Your hair: Disobedient
Your Mother: Busy
Your Father: Jovial
Your favourite item: Uggs
Your dream last night: Forgotten
Your favourite drink: Dirty Martini
Your dream car: Efficient
Your dream home: Comfortable
The room you are in: Office
Your ex: Lost
Your fear: Loneliness
Where you want to be in ten years? Happy
Who you hung out with last night: The Hubs
What you’re not: Flighty
Muffins: Blueberry
One of your wish list items: Laptop
Time: Dusk
The last thing you did: Typed
What you are wearing: Jeans
Your favourite weather: Warm
Your favourite book:
Last thing you ate: Strawberries
Your life: Contented
Your mood: Tired
Your best friends: Loved
What are you thinking about right now: Dinner
Your car: Efficient
What are you doing at the moment: Talking
Your summer: Warm
Relationship status: Blissful
What is on your TV: Nothing
What is the weather like: Cold
When is the last time you laughed: 2 seconds ago

I admit, this one was a little hard and some of Frugal's words were just perfect. Feel free to tag yourselves!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Times - Cash Only

Last Saturday night the hubs and I went to the Garage to play pool and bowl for a friends birthday. We decided the only way we would stick to our budgeted amount we allowed ourselves to spend was to take cash and not use our debit card. That seemed to work pretty well. We spent all our cash and that was it. Bowling was a blast and I am super sore.


Thanks to the hubs friend Jay (photo above) who bought a few rounds I did imbibe more than planned. That made for a really lazy day yesterday watching season one and two of Weeds.

Happy B-day Steve!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Going Back to School - Kinda

I have been following this gals blog for a while and I decided to sign up for one of her classes. I'm pretty excited. Its all online and starts this coming Tuesday (still time to sign up if you are interested). I just don't seem to have the best focus lately so I thought a class at a minimal cost would help me to jump start some things.

I have accomplished a few of the goals I set out for myself this month but not as many as I had wanted. I know there is still a week left in the month and I know I am a perfectionist but I did expect to be further along than I am.

In my defense, work has been super busy. In fact, I will probably be doing some work this weekend - tonight even. With the layoffs that happened a couple weeks ago I have ended up being the go to girl for several other employees and I am exhausted. Three nights this week when I intended to work out I have ended up taking nap.

I try really hard to leave everything at work and not work from home. This weekend I just have to do some stuff or I will not get everything done that needs to be done by next Friday which is month end.

Got to go - the bubble bath (and the computer) is calling to me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wii

Last summer the hubs and I bought a Wii. It was my idea. I'm not a big gamer like the rest of my family. When I heard about the Wii fit it made me want this particular game system even more. After searching in stores through Christmas we could never find a fit so we ordered one from Amazon. It came on Monday and we were able to try it out last night.

I have not tried the fit game but used the fit board with our Wii ski game. The more lessons you take the more you can open things up like new ski wear etc. Below is a photo of the hubs and I taking a "photo op" in the game in our Kimono ski wear. Crazy cause I would never wear tabi socks and flip flops skiing!

The Wii is possibly one of the coolest things ever invented. Got to go finish watching Lost now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Can

Today was the inauguration of our 44th President. Never before have I been so involved and interested in the political side of the presidential race as this year.


When I was a senior in high school the first President Bush was sworn in to office and I was there. My high school marching band was selected to represent the state of Washington in the inauguration parade. My husband and sister were in the bag pipe band and I was in the color guard (flag corp). I remember how darn cold it was and what an amazing experience it was to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.


I watched the inauguration today at work and I have a real hope for change to come. The white house has revised it's official website and I encourage you to go there and check it out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gut Check

So, it's already more than halfway through January. How are you doing on your goals?

I can't believe I have only accomplished one non financial one! I did go through some stuff and donated a bunch last weekend but I still have piles sitting around my living room and master bedroom. Stuff that needs to be gone through and either donated or permanent homes found for them. As soon as I am off the computer (right after I post) I will be tackling the small mountain behind my living room couch.

We did cash out our CD upon maturity last Monday and spent about $600 on five news tires for my Subaru. We were in desperate need. We bought warranty' on all the tires so every 6000 miles they will rotate them and rotate in the spare so they get even wear. It's a good thing we bought a new spare because the one we had was a different size tire than the four on the car.

We did splurge a little and bought a Wii fit which will arrive tomorrow. It's one thing we wanted to buy for the family for Christmas but ran out of money. So can't wait to do Wii Ski on that thing!

The rest of the CD money went in to savings. Now - where did I leave that sherpa?


I also found a great blog for people trying to declutter and simplify their lives so give it a gander!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Good Read

I am and have always been a big reader. Sadly I have not made much time for reading lately. That is because reading usually requires buying books. For the last couple months I have been going to the library to feed my reading addiction. You can tell from the books below that I enjoy a wide variety.

I have read and enjoyed the Harry Potter series and am going to be borrowing the Twilight series from a friend who is reading it for the third time. I'm waiting to read the Bootleg Boys by fellow blogger Roland Hulme. I won a copy but the hubs got to it first. (Roland - the hubs started it Thursday and is already half way through and can't put it down).

I was turned on to Christopher Moore by my brother in law and just finished one if his books called "You Suck" about a nineteen year old guy who finds out his girlfriend is a Vampyre. If you are looking for something a little edgy and fast paced combined with interesting characters like a bumb with a thirty-five pound shaved sweater wearing cat, a call girl with blue skin and a bunch of night stockers at the local Safeway then this book is for you. I started it last night and finished it this morning.

One author I started reading in college is Clive Cussler. If you have seen the movie Sahara then you get a small taste of what his books are like. Whatever you do, read many of his books before you see Raise the Titanic. This film does not do his books justice and is the reason Clive waited twenty five years to let one of his books become a film again. I saw it years ago and have managed to put it out of my mind. Even though big name actors (Jason Robards, Anne Archer and Alec Guinness) are in the film it still stank.

His primary character is Dirk Pitt, a combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond in the modern day. A marine engineer who spends his time discovering shipwrecks, working on his notable classic car collection and trying not to get killed. He works for a fictitious government entity the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) and often finds himself embroiled in a mystery involving the sea "thwarting a large number of plans by villians intent on global catastrophe or world domination".

**************Spoiler Alert**************

One of the coolest things about his books is Clive will often take something that happened in history, rearrange it and place it in to the story. For example, the movie Sahara opend during the Civil war where a Confederate Ironclad escapes in to the fog on a river. In the book Sahara the Confederate Ironclad does indeed escape the same way but has a very important hostage aboard, President Abraham Lincoln. He was not assassinated in the theater but kidnapped.

Also, a part of the book that does not make an appearance in the movie is of Kitty Mannock, an Australian female aviatrix (a note to Amelia Earhart I'm certain) attempting a record breaking flight between London and Cape Town who crash lands in the Sahara. Later in the story Dirk and Al do cannabalize her plane to make a land yacht which you do see in the movie. I wish they had filmed the back story though.

Also, Clive has been known to put himself in his books. Dirk usually bumps in to him and for some reason seems strangly familiar but can't remember his name. Clive does put himself in this book and when I heard they were making it in to a movie I thought it would be so cool if he had a cameo. Sadly he did not.

**************Spoiler Complete **************

I was lucky enough to meet Clive with my husband and parents (who are also fans) when he was in town a few years ago. He has been writing his Dirk Pitt series since the 60's and has also written two other series as well as non fiction about his true life shipwreck discoveries through the real NUMA.

The NUMA files are a series of books with a new main character, Kurt Austin. The first story in the series involves the shipwreck of the Andrea Doria and a pre-Columbian antiquity hidden aboard. His other series is that of the OREGON files about a one-legged mercenary Juan Cabrillo and his operations ship the OREGON. "On the outside completely non-descript but on the inside packed with state of the art intelligence gathering equipment. A completely private enterprise, available to any government agency that could afford it." Run like and called The Corporation Juan and his company are usually hired out by peaceful countries with nothing but good in mind. Lastly he did write a new book that may or may not turn in to a series. It takes place during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The lead character in this series is Isaac Bell, a wealthy person who spends his days as a detective on the hunt of a ruthless bank robber who blends in to a town then fades away unnoticed.


I have always loved mysteries. Nancy Drew was and still is one of my personal heroes. In particular I love cozies where I can get lost in not only the mystery but the series and characters.

"A cozy is a mystery which includes a bloodless crime and contains very little violence, sex or coarse language. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished and order is restored to the community. The character solving the crime is often an amateur sleuth who becomes involved because of personal reasons but it is also possible for the character to be a professional; police officer, medical examiner or private detective"

Some of my favorite cozy authors...

Cleo Coyle the pen name for married authors Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. They write the Coffehouse Mystery series about a woman, Claire Cosi who roasts coffee beans and runs the famous coffeehouse The Village Blend along with her ex husband, adventure junkie and coffee buyer, Matteo Allegro. Problem is, they always seem to get involved in murder. Quite a bit of coffee knowledge infused in to these tales set in New York City. Check them out and meet the other characters like Matteo and Clair's daughter Joy, a culinary student and Matteo's mother Madame Dubois who is determed to get Matteo and Clair back together again.

Madelyn Alt author of the Bewitching Mystery Series about a twenty something empath Maggie O'Neill who's just trying to understand her power and maybe find herself a serious steady boyfriend. Her boss, the owner of a store in their small Indiana town is ghosthunter extraordinare with a few witchy tricks up her sleeve.

Jill Churchill is the author of a couple mystery series but my favorite is Jane Jeffrey about a widow with three kids who along with her best friend and next door neighbor happens to stumble upon murder victims more often than not.

Finally there is Mertz/Peters/Michaels. This author/archeaologist writes under three names. Under the pen name Elizabethe Peters she writes her Amelia Peabody series. Amelia is a woman before her time. Striking off in to the sands of Egypt with her husband this series starts in pre WWI Cairo. Along with mummies and various buried treasures they dig up a lot of murder. The Jacquline Kirby series is about a librarian turned romance novelist. She's got moxy and a quick wit and she's not afraid to use her womanly charms to figure out who done it. Vicky Bliss is an art historian living in Germany who specializes in medeival Europe. The love of her life is a particularily devilish cat burgler with expensive tastes. Under the Barbara Michaels name she writes stories that have a somewhat gothic mysterious flair to them. She also writes non-fiction under her real name of Barbara Mertz.

One day in the not too distant future I hope to write a book of my own. I have a bunch of ideas rattling around in my brain that I just need to get on to virtual paper (word is my friend). That probably means sitting down at least a little every couple days and doing it.

So, what are your favorite books and authors?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mini Debt Revamp

I've become a little obsessed about our debt. More than anything I want to pay it off but at the expense of what? It's important to have a life while we are going through this journey. Since it's going to take quite a bit to pay it off I have revamped the plan a little.

Originally we were going to put $1200 to $1400 per month on the debt - Gazelle Intense to borrow a Dave Ramsey term. That pretty much represented all of our extra money. That didn't leave much for anything else above minimum expenses every month. It's important to have a life at the same time as meeting our goals. I figured a little bit of money saved was better than being miserable and not being prepared for an emergency.

I've decided to put $200 per month in savings and the rest between $1000 and $1200 on the debt. Leaving a little wiggle room for some fun - an occasional movie, new clothing, etc. Those two months a year where the hubs is paid three times will still see an increase to savings and debt. That is still more than the minimum payments and will still accelerate our debt payoff. This will afford us to be able to have a savings in the event of an emergency so we don't have to stop everything to pay for an emergency.

Lot's of people recommend placing $1000 in savings and putting all extra money on debt. When there is an emergency that uses up the $1000 you temporarily stop funneling money to the debt and build your $1000 emergency back up. I understand why this idea is sound when it comes to interest credit card companies charge etc. I just feel better knowing that I am building a savings even if it takes me a few months longer to pay off the consumer debt.

It's still important to recognize a need from a want. The hubs and I had taken $1000 of our stimulus money from last year and placed it in a 7 month CD. It matured on Monday and we used more than half of it to buy new tires for my car which was in desperate need. Yesterday the hubs and I ordered a Wii Fit which we had wanted to get for the family for a Christmas gift but had run out of money. We know we will use this in our efforts to lose weight and have family fun. The rest is sitting in our savings account.

We are also focusing on smaller goals in regards to our debt. The higher interest cosumer debt is the debt I'm really interested in getting rid of as quickly as possible. If I think about smaller chunks it makes the entire picture manageable. The consumer debt represents 69% of our total debt. Of that consumer debt, 29% is high interest in the form of credit cards. So far I have paid off one credit card this month and am on track to pay off another.

For the next few months our focus is getting our personal loan paid down so we can refinance to a lower minimum payment. That savings will be funneled towards the credit card with the lowest balance until all credit cards and then our personal loan is paid off. By the time that happends we should have over $5000 in savings barring no emergencies.

One of the things I have come to understand in this situation is to find out what works best for you. If something isn't working, tweak it until it is. One persons debt reduction plan is different from another persons debt reduction plan. This will probably not be the last time I tweak our plan but I do feel good about the change I made.

This goal of minimum savings every month means we will be prepared for Christmas and will not have to stop all of our debt reduction efforts just to pay for gifts like we did this past holiday season. It's not a license to be too generous but it takes the pressure off . After we reach our goal of being debt free we will also be that much closer to our emergency fund goals then starting from scratch.

You can certainly have a plan but you can't live in a bubble. Life happens and I believe these changes will help us deal when it does.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Close To Home

Today was a little sobering. My company laid off about seven people. For a company that has just over one hundred people that is kind of major. Suffice it to say the ones that are left are going to be taking on more throughout the next year. In fact, I learned some new stuff this afternoon actually. This is the closest I have come to the current economy taking a bite.

The other news this brings is that my office relocation from Seattle to Redmond is delayed until at least October. That's good news to me because I can still carpool with the hubs and save wear and tear on his car as well as gas money.

I am grateful for gainful employment.

On to more news of a different kind. A friend who's husband is in the Navy left last Friday for a three year stint in Japan. She's writing about her adventures in a blog so I hope you check her out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Honest Scrap


I didn't officially receive this award but was inspired by Bohemian Mom to do it anyway because she essentially gave it to everyone who reads her blog. Write a list of ten honest things about yourself.

I chose to go for honest and not widely known my many people I know in real life.

1. I played the Virgin Mary in my eighth grade Catholic school Christmas pageant.

2. I drove across the state from my college town to my home town with my clutch going out and my breaks metal to metal (about 500 miles) my Junior year.

3. I worked for four hours for a telemarketing company.

4. I was in the 1989 inaugural parade for the first President Bush (and so was the hubs and my sis!).

5. I broke my hand using a makeshift slip and slide on the fourth of July when I was 13.

6. I'm obsessive about things being equal. I can't eat an odd number of anything; jelly beans, hard candies, pez, etc. And I always have to switch sides of my mouth so they are even too.

7. I was a carhop at A&W (my first job) - yes I wore roller skates.

8. I slid down a hill at Gas Works Park so many times during one summer outing I wore through my shorts.

9. I used to love ketchup mixed in my cottage cheese (still love cottage cheese just sans ketchup).

10. I think feet are funny.

Bonus

11. I love lists!

I too am not going to tag anyone. If you read this and want to do the meme feel free. Leave me a comment so I can go check out your post!
If you are like me and many other American's the beginning of the new year brings about those inevitable resolutions. Like many others I too have a better health plan in place which includes more exercise, healthier eating and more relaxation and fun.

I stumbled across a great website tcalled my fitness pal that is absolutely free! You can track the food you eat every day, the exercise you do every day, your weight as well as like most social networking sites you can have friends and post on community mesage boards. Once you fill out your profile and let it know what your goals are (weight loss, gain or maintenance) it will give you a target of calories per day you should eat to obtain that goal.

What do you have to lose?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Woohoo!

Two credits we were waiting to be applied have hit our credit cards. That reduces our debt by $200 and combined with the $1800 we plan on putting on debt this month takes it up to $2000 in debt reduction. I'm really hoping by snowflaking we can up that even more.

The $1000 CD we have will be cashed out after it matures on the 12th. It's going to savings temporarily until we know...
  • a) how much our tax return will be
  • b) how much it will cost to get our Subaru fixed
Anything we have left over after the Subaru expense will go towards debt. I also need to buy new tires for my car. I still have $190 of the $286 I got from the cashed out stock. So, that will be used towards new tires.

I will also have two cards paid off this month. Granted one of them did not have a balance on it until just before Christmas. I used it and will pay it off this Friday before interest hits.

It's still going to take us over two years to pay off all our consumer debt. I have started thinking well in advance what we will do when we don't have all that debt to pay off. The first thing I want to do is set up an emergency fund. Three months living expenses mandatory but really I would feel more comfortable with at least six months living expenses.

After we get three months living expenses saved I want to save money in a travel fund. I think $5000 is a decent start for that. Starting 2010 (if possible) or 2011 I want to take at least one international trip with the hubs a year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

What did you do last night for your New Year celebration? We were pretty mellow at a friends house. It was a PJ themed party. The loudest we got was firing off a replica of an 1847 Walker Colt. Don't worry, just black powder and we did it in an enclosed back yard with safety goggles and ear coverings.

Below is our friend Marc taking care to load his pistol.

Here is the hubs taking aim at the shed in the backyard. Given a different outfit he could pass for a buccaneer of another time with that full beard! The beard is his winter coat and will come off in the spring.


Here's John after he fired the gun. It was tricky to get a shot of the muzzle flash and the smoke as it dissipated quickly.


We even let our kids fire off a shot or two. I did it a couple times and I have to say that gun was really heavy. I had to hold it with two hands.

Here's Jessica with her daughter and nephew. She and her husband John will be leaving for Japan tomorrow. He's with the Navy and they will be stationed there for three years. We will miss them.