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Archive for January, 2015

I lowered the interest rate!

January 22nd, 2015 at 06:12 pm

Today is a bit better than yesterday. The kids are feeling better and I got a bunch of stuff done today. I was feeling overwhelmed yesterday and wanted to make sure today was at least better. I was looking over my bills, bank accounts, and student loan. I decided to call about the student loan and told them that I'd be more motivated to pay on time and not miss payments if they could help me out a little. They put me on an automatic pay plan where they withdraw the monthly payment every month and lowered my interest rate by .25%. It is now 4.5% rather than 4.75%. It might not seem like a lot, but it is because my student loan is now over $55K, unlike what I previously thought. As for the weird bill that went to collections and bounced back and forth to different agencies from 2011 up until now (I must have missed it when I paid off all of the consumer debt accounts...we seriously had that many credit cards at one point in the past), the account is now closed for good apparently and they are no longer collecting on it, both the credit company and the collections agency. Unfortunately it is just on my credit report, which is shot anyway, but at least I know what was going on. I also received the statement for my kids college Next Gen accounts...it was a letter stating what the fees would be...get this, it's going to be 1%, 4%, and 5% on the mutual funds we are investing in! I read about being warned on this by the Tony Robins investment book, which lets readers know that mutual funds have the highest (hidden) fee costs than most investments and to switch to low cost index funds from the 500's list...Which I will now do! After understanding the interest rate on my student loan and how much just .25% can change it good/or bad for the life of the account, I can not sit and be charged 5% on investments for the mutual fund account manager who makes money regardless of whether or not my mutual funds go up or down. (I also found it fascinating that I happen to deal with both today and finally understood the impact of every little percent counting. life is interesting). Anyway, for dinner I made chicken salad (using the shredded chicken for the chicken soup I made over the weekend) with shredded carrots and olives, with a baked potato with cheddar cheese and a sliced hard boiled egg on the side and sliced oranges for dessert. The kids loved it, which was great. I have been running out of produce a lot faster than I had anticipated and think that I will need to set aside a small weekly amount for fresh produce (maybe $10 or less). I have been recording the meals that the family eats so I remember and also be able to tell friends/perhaps family that don't believe that I'm actually home cooking all the meals and at a super low price. Tonight's meal had to cost below $.75, which made everyone happy. So, now back to re-budgeting. Now that I know that my student loan interest rate is pretty low, I will add more to the 401K side since they not only match the funds, but the interest rate is higher in terms of compounding interest.

How do I make more money? and other ponderings.

January 21st, 2015 at 09:55 am

Ah yes, that question that many of us have..."How do I make more money?" I'm actually in the process of trying to figure this out as I look at my expenses and realize that things are getting more expensive as my children get older. I totally forgot to add summer camp to my list. Usually what happens is that every summer I do the "Oh no, I forgot about summer camp and don't have the $200 per week/per kid," and then well, get driven nuts for the majority of summer having to spend every waking minute with the kids (of course I love them, but seriously, summers can be tough sometimes). They usually do not do summer camp and I understand that many families don't do this. However, this year the kids want to do lego and robotics camp. So, how do I make more money aside from cutting overhead expenses etc? At one point I typed office documents, but relying on a husband to get home on time so I can go to work is stressful so that's out of the picture. I also realize that most don't want to hire a prego person, understandable. I did try and run a business at one point, but the overhead with insurance, customers, etc can also be super involved and expensive. Avon and Mary Kay aren't really my thing as I don't have network of people that would be interested in it to sell to. In the past I've sold many things, especially when we moved, so there really isn't much to get rid of since our goal at the time was only to keep what we wanted. Perhaps I'll try the real estate license since the course is already paid for (my mother n'law wouldn't leave me alone about it a few months ago so I caved and got the course, it might be a good start?). I'm also trying to think ahead about HOME SCHOOLING for next year? I put it in caps because this has really been on my mind. I've been really disappointed by public schools, the new way of assessing children's intelligence and progress (kindergarteners now have to take a 100 question test on a computer...the kids are 5! It's ridiculous!) and the private schools, many are amazing, but WOW, the tuition! I'm not sure if I can handle a new baby and 2 kids to homeschool? It would be different if I worked full time...should I try and go for this instead and plan after 3 months of the new baby to go to childcare while the other kids are in public school so I can make money? Everything seems to have a trade off and cost! Has anyone tried this or the homeschool route and how did you make money or passive income? Anyway, on a plus side, I found a get $150 with chase bank when opening a checking account. I think we will do this. At this point, we have only one credit card with a limit of $300 for the "just in case" times, but we are thinking about applying for capital one since there is no APR for a year and perhaps we'd get a higher line for that just in case. Anyway, I'll post my revised budget list soon as it keeps changing (new things arise like potential robotics camp now that I'm more aware of it).

The "Up" of the down

January 20th, 2015 at 09:28 am

So, just as I decided to finally get my money straight, along with a few other life changing items, I noticed certain things...like getting a letter for a bill from waaaaaaaay past that happened to go to a collection agency for over $700. One kid gets sick and I have to spend $40 on the insurance co-pay and another $30 on a prescription, while the other kid starts with the high temperature. Then hubs wakes up with a sore throat this morning. The timing belt started to make that squeaky noise, so it probably needs replacing. This morning, a large handful of eggs froze and cracked due to the bowl of them being shoved in the back of the fridge. Little things like this started to happen so I'm taking from the viewpoint that I must be doing things right!LOL. I have found in my life that just when I want to solve large problems or go for a really large goal that I've wanted...that's when little things all collectively start to get in the way whether it be being splashed by a rain puddle from a car to negative-mean people. Perhaps it's those yucky forces in life that try and keep people down or a system of testing/lessons. Regardless, I have learned that I must be on the right track if it's not going to be easy. As weird as it sounds, I also think its a frequency thing that life just seems to tune into were Murphy's law gets triggered. I feel as though that this topic of money is so large and something I've wanted to grasp for so many many years and have now been willing to make a huge effort, it's now that time those niggle of negative vibes get pushed to block me. I feel that I have been kept down by fear, disappointment, regret, often times people/others, and ignorance and now that I am taking the forward steps to improve things at a faster and greater force, there's more push back to keep me at the same level. Perhaps it's throwing off the universe a little with this new shift in thinking and actions. lol. Anyway, I'm gonna negotiate the $700 bill and continue forward with focus and resolution. I've been here before where Murphy tries to creep in, but I see it. At least I have money in the emergency fund and can replace the eggs of I need to, at least I still have some left over...and to think all the yummy things I can create with thoseSmile

Bulk bought groceries and made fresh bread

January 18th, 2015 at 03:57 pm

I bulk bought 3 weeks of groceries for the first time. After researching and also seeing the various menus people plan, I thought I would attempt it...or at least see how many weeks I can go with decent meals. I spent $275.99. It's over my goal of $75 per week. However, I am proud that I passed up buying a box of cereal for a huge bag of grits. The kids loved it for breakfast with milk and honey! Anyway, I'm hoping that making bread, waffles, muffins, loaf cake, and other items will save a huge amount. I also had to spend $49.73 at Rite Aid for one kid with the flu. I ended up spending $100 at the thrift shop. It included much needed larger clothes due to pregnancy weight gain and a bread maker. Thanks to Snafu's suggestion, the break maker is awesome and is now on the 4th loaf after experimenting! My family is stunned at how yummy the warm bread is. It's a huge change from what I remember (my parents had one for a month. No one ate the rock hard bread when I was younger, but a couple of decades later and the bread machine is half the size with double the fluffiness on the bread!). Also, I have made it a week making all homemade meals! Last night we had snow peas made with sesame oil, garlic, a little soy sauce, and fresh lemon juice with some salt along with rice and fruit salad. All around $1-1.50 per personSmile Today, I made chicken noodle soup for lunch. It was a huge hit. Right now the smell of fresh baking bread from the bread maker is filling the home, yummy! I am seriously blown away at how much a week can change a few things like the budget, outlook, and meals. My husband is even asking what I'm making for the next meal, which is a first! lol. Anyway, the pantry is filled with pasta, rice, flour, grits, 2 cups of left over quinoa that only I seem to eat, and left over black beans. I'm hoping that these will pair nicely with my produce and frozen items for the later weeks.

i'm having trouble posting blogs

January 18th, 2015 at 02:46 pm

Hi, I have just written 2 entries and well, both have failed to post (maybe this will?). Anything I am posting/doing wrong?

Appreciated: Realized: now time to get it done!

January 16th, 2015 at 10:39 am

Life never ceases to amaze me. This week I have really focused on educating myself and trying to include hubs about money, debt, retirement, cooking, saving, thinking ahead and financial education. It has really been at the forefront of my mind because I am really trying to face it rather than turn away and ignore it for the first time. I'll initially get that small ping of fear of feeling bad about thinking/having/wanting/appreciating money anytime thoughts surrounding it come up. It's horribly instinctive and natural. Then I have to stop and pause and realize this is how I was conditioned to feel about it as a child and that I continue to condition it as an adult. It's funny though because growing up I always found ways to earn money and always had it whether it be babysitting, working in restaurants, etc. This is the same for my husband, he always found ways to earn and have money. My family always made me feel guilty having it and then I'd always let my brother "borrow" it, of course never paying me back until he got married (only because of his wife). Interestingly enough, my husband did the same and always paid or let his sister "borrow" funds. We both have those same pings about having money. Then we seem to rather give it away/make it go away because of how we feel about it. However, opening my eyes has really been very cool and life never ceases to amaze me in that it continues to find people to support me and the information I'm seeking, here especially. After reading blogs last night, I turned the T.V on and Suze Orman was on literally discussing wills and revocable trusts, a topic that arose and one that has been on my mind! I was stunned since I have not seen her on T.V for a while. It was very neat. I turned it on at the point where she was saying that people should get a "living revocable trust" before the will (making an example about the probate costs it will incur on the family after we die if we don't have the living revocable trust.)So, with that said, I have MUCH to be appreciative for, much to realize, (Savings Advice especially) and well, feel excited for the first time in a while about where this particular journey and area of my life will lead!

It ain't pretty, but it's homecooked

January 15th, 2015 at 09:15 pm

Everyday I have managed to home cook meals with some new bought items (such as flour, baking powder, etc) and have combined it with what I had in the pantry...the problem...oh, I'd say that a good 70% of the meals don't look that pretty, even though they taste good. I have been researching pretty much every night on various meals I think my family will eat. I was super proud that I mad homemade biscuits tonight! I ignored the comment from one kid that said "mommy, the biscuits look normal, but this gravy and sausage stuff looks like barf, but it tastes good." The first batch of biscuits I tried the other night were really hard and turned out more like scones. I found one that was yummy and easy to make. I followed a sausage and gravy recipe that I found online and had no idea how easy it was! The hubs asked where the biscuits came from... and looked at me with shock when I told him that they were made from scratch! Not to mention how happy he was when I told him that the meal averaged $1 per person give or take a few cents I think. We both came to an "aha" moment and realized why people buy such large bags of flour! I have also made pound cake too. I'm attempting bread soon, which was delayed after I had to buy measuring spoons from the dollar store...that's how frequent I was cooking, I didn't even have a tea/tablespoon, which I thought was there! So, now I'm on a quest for pretty meals that are budget friendly. I even checked out 2 cooking dvd's from the library, but they were more entertaining than usable or budget friendly. I actually enjoyed making the biscuits today, it was kind of therapeutic and I am hoping to take this approach more as much needed therapy for my pockets. The thought of my children eating and hopefully remembering yummy home cooked meals is nice too, but farther away I think since I literally came from a family of "non cookers." However, it is nice to know my family has been eating my food and that the stomach can't see half of it either for now. lol. So, on top of becoming better financially, I'm also hoping to become a better cook too. Any yummy and visually appealing meals you know of that kids will eat, send them my way! Cheers to eating yummy meals and not all the moneySmile

My monthly expenses...I think

January 14th, 2015 at 03:59 pm

I finally made a comprehensive list of the items that we spend our money on a monthly basis, kinda... This is what I am aiming for at least and I'm sure I missed a few things. I actually tried to shave off a few dollars from the grocery and car fuel, we actually live walking distance to everything and technically have very low fuel, but things like rent and utilizes are pretty accurate. I also tried to make a list of the upcoming items and a general estimate. If your groceries or other are lower, please let me know how or where to lower it tooSmile

Monthly Overhead:

1.) rent and water/sewer: $2,168
2.) cell phone for 2 lines (just lowered too): $130
3.) basic cable/internet: $70
4.) car insurance (maximum coverage): $450
5.) minimum student loan payment: $387
6.) home electricity: $45
7.) groceries ($75/weekly/ATTEMPTING): $300
8.) car fuel: $120
9.) clothes (kids grow fast and destroy): $80
10.)coin/apartment complex laundry: $60
11.) misc (birthday gifts/fees/etc): $100
12.) monthly kids college contribution: $100

Total: $3,910
Left Over: $1,500

Upcoming Expenses to put the left over $1,500:
1.) 401K contribution (?)($700??)
2.) Emergency Fund
3.) Life insurance/Hubs (?) ($1000?)
4.) IRA contribution on top of 401K...redundant? (stocks? $100?)
5.) extra to pay student monthly loan ($100-$200?)
6.) save for kid #3 bill ($650/for 7 months?)

So, I'm hoping I did not miss anything. Maybe my husbands job has a life insurance policy that I'm unaware of?






Thinking ahead before kid #3 is born

January 13th, 2015 at 01:33 pm

I have some time to really think ahead and then put in to action plans before kiddo #3 is born. On the agenda:

1.) Hubs 401K matching kicks in soon...do we contribute to get the matched funds and utilize the concept of compounding interest and time or direct as much as possible toward student loan?

2.) It will cost at least $4K out of pocket after health insurance for hospital etc for baby...do we save the $4K plus now and pay it after birth or break payments down over the course of the year after kiddo arrives, while putting funds in other areas?

3.) Do we move out of the 2 bedroom where kids currently share a room or do we stay for one more year and figure out a living situation by rearranging apartment, sleeping on couch, having kid in our room or giving up our room to sleep on a pullout? Rent in CA is mucho $$$ and also hard to find a place allowing pets.

Luckily our car already has a 3rd row. It was an unknown extra when we bought the car so somehow I think the universe/G-d/etc. already had this part ready and figured out for us. Lol. As for kids schooling, it was a tentative plan to charter school/homeschool program with the charter school, but will this be unrealistic with #3 and will I need that time of having kids off at public school during the day? What else can I cut to continue to add to the kids college fund and our debt pay off and dream fund (so far not there now with expenses). At this point the hubs is working and doing as much side work as possible. No one will hire a prego woman so I'm wondering what else I can do at this point considering #3 was not on the original plan and I was going to find work next year...was.I can get the real estate license, but how realistic is it for me to utilize that with kids? I kind of feel like just as it was going to get easier #3 happens and new plans need to happen, but how is it possible to still maintain the current finaces while I know things are just going to be more expensive with all the gear, diapers, food, etc that will all cost more? what more can I do aside from save as much and not spend, but how do we continue to make more money next year when the baby is here in the summer?

My first purchase of (25Lb) not 7lbs of flour like I thought.lol

January 12th, 2015 at 08:42 pm

So, after calculating how many times I take myself out to lunch during the week while the kids are in school I got kind of sad because I realized how, um, kinda sad it was. I realized I take myself out (mostly cheapo places)so I can sit and eat without being interrupted and have some quiet time without being bothered. Not to mention, not having to cut someone else's food or clean up after 3 other people. However, it's never really 100% satisfying since I'm spending money I know I shouldn't be spending. Then I calculate how many other things I could buy with the money and it becomes this really depressing cycle where I self loathe afterwards every time without fail.
Over the weekend I decided to do research and try and cook at least most meals from scratch and or eat at home. I looked up a list of the cheapest foods on the market. Apparently, rice, pasta, black beans, apples, oranges, homemade breads, eggs, homemade soups, potatoes are on the list. I also decided to utilize the Pancake mix that's been in my pantry for a while and made waffles, along with the frozen fruit.
Then today I decided I would bake my own bread and biscuits...Have I ever tried to bake my own biscuits? The answer is a simple and resounding "No." As for the bread, I tried it once and after watching a youtube video of the recipe I used, I realized I did it wrong and gave up too easily.
So, today I bought the largest bag of flour that I have ever purchased (because I noticed for the first time that it costs half as much per ounce compared to the little bag I normally get on rare occasions), along with the yeast, salt, and baking powder for future mixe, oh, and potatoes. I was blown away that 3lbs was only $1.79. Now I also have to look up what to do with potatoes. I will attempt to make biscuits using the leftover pancake mix and the recipe I found online. Then I will retry the recipe for No Knead Bread that the online reviews seem to like...again and hopefully I do it right this time...like my finances.
As for the meals since Saturday...They've been pretty good, not in order, but got in the tummy.
*waffles and peach syrup (from frozen peaches)
*wings using the soy sauce and left over honey and oj
*rice, soy sauce, orange slices
*peanut butter spaghetti with ginger and sesame oil
*eggs
*casadilla's with salsa
* crockpot bbq chicken legs and thighs (huge hit)
* instant mashed potatoes from pantry
* frozen green beans with butter and salt
* frozen fruit smoothie for dessert
Tomorrow will probably be left overs and maybe the bread if it rises correctly (and I didn't mess it up somehow). Happy and cheap eats for now at home!

The first month of the year and well... resolutions

January 12th, 2015 at 05:02 pm

It's still the first month of the year, the "New" year. The reality is that even though it's a new year, I still carry the same old habits and problems that I have allowed to trail me or fail me for years. Then a reality check...like 5 pregnancy tests reality check later!
During the December holidays I found that I would have baby #3 on the way! Unexpected news and well, sighhhhh... the first two were hard enough through the baby and toddler years emotionally and financially. Although my first two are now in the beginning phases of elementary school, both of whom I love, it's still difficult on many levels.
However, this time is different. We are making a lot more money, have lower overhead costs with living expenses, have no consumer/credit card debt, are one car less, and well, I'm slightly better at planning ahead only due to the fact that having children has literally forced me to think that way on so many levels.
It's different this time too because I REFUSE to be as miserable and to struggle as much as I did the first time around with my finances. I REFUSE to worry about what's in my account to pay for things. I'll never forget how scary it was to only have $20 in the bank and having to find a way to make sure food was on the table and the electricity was still on...for real, there was a time where it actually got shut off more than once...ya think this gal would learn...yeah, after the 3rd time!
So, cheers to resolving old problems and habits of ignorance and procrastination with my finances! Cheers to a new year of resolutions, putting peace to the demons. Cheers to finding a way to make my dreams come true (owning a small/homesteading farm/house and making sure that my children's G-d given talents are supported, grown, and nurtured...and cheers to you on whatever journey you are also on to better yourself and others hereSmile