September 1 Debt Totals

Between coming off of a weekend away and getting ready for my daughter to start school on Wednesday, I completely forgot that it’s the first of the month! Here are my September 1 debt totals:

Chase Card #1: $21,684.87 (-$80.23)

Chase Card #2: $4,256.71 (-$43.01)

Chase Card #3: $9,985.40 ($457.30)

Discover Card: $14,578.77 ($378.93)

Citibank Card: $7,701.55 (-$90.16)

Total Credit Card Debt: $58,207.30 ($622.83)

While an uptick is never good news, I’m not really upset about this month’s increase. First, it’s MUCH smaller than last month’s increase, and a bit smaller than the increase the month before, so we’re moving in the right direction – even though I haven’t started back to work yet.

Second, we would’ve actually had an overall decrease, if not for two glitches with my husband’s pay. His expense check ($647 for August), hasn’t been cut yet. Once it is, it’ll be used for a credit card payment. Also, we think his office manager made a mistake with Friday’s paycheck. It was a three-check month for him, which usually means that health insurance is not taken out of the third check. But it was taken out of all three of his August paychecks. Assuming this was indeed an error, it’s a difference of about $400, which will presumably be coming back to us in the near future.

Finally, with back-to-school shopping, vacation, and oil changes needed for both of our cars, August was a more expensive month. We’ve been using cash a lot more, and I think that’s reflected in this month’s total. Onward!

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Last Week’s Frugal Highs

Happy Monday! Last week was my last, full week of summer vacation with my daughter. We also had a fun weekend, staying with my parents and visiting NYC. Here are my frugal highs:

  1. Received a payment of $126.25 for items purchased from my Amazon store.
  2. Earned Checkout 51 and SavingStar credit for grocery store purchases.
  3. Registered to participate in an upcoming “family” consignment sale. This is the only one in my area that is for items other than just children’s clothing and gear. I think of it as having a garage sale twice a year, without ever having a garage sale.
  4. Watched several episodes of the third season of Six Feet Under, borrowed from the library.

How was your weekend? What were your frugal highs from last week?

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Weekend Plans

Happy Friday! My husband and I lived in NYC for several years, but our daughter has only been there once. (She was only six months, so it barely even counts.) My husband has been wanting to bring her for a while, and we’re finally doing it this weekend! We’ll be driving to my parents’ house tomorrow, which cuts the drive from our house to NYC by 2/3. Saturday morning, we’ll drive the rest of the way into the city, where we should be able to find (street) parking pretty easily. We plan to walk around Central Park, visit the zoo, and take her on the subway. He wants to take her to FAO Schwartz, but not buy anything. He thinks I’m being silly for worrying about this. We’ll see how it goes…

Saturday evening, we’ll drive back to my parents’ house, spend the night, and head home on Sunday. School starts on Wednesday (!!), so we’ll spend the rest of the weekend doing final prep.

What are you up to this weekend?

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Lesson Not Learned

My daughter is almost five, and like many girls her age, she’s obsessed with Disney princesses. And thanks to generous family members and Santa, she has quite a few Disney princess dolls. And yet, she wants more! I try very hard not to bring her to Target with me, but some trips, it’s unavoidable.

In an effort to teach her some early financial literacy lessons, I’ve started allowing her to buy the occasional new princess doll with her own money. (With both her birthday and Christmas coming up, I usually tell her to, “Put it on your present list.”) Today she asked to bring her money to Target, and purchase a doll for herself. We counted the money in her piggy bank, all $17.36 of it, and packed most of it into a wallet. I reminded her several times that she didn’t have to buy anything today, and could, in fact, save her money for a doll she has her eye on. (It’s from Target’s version of the American Girl dolls.) Nope, my little consumer had to buy something today. So she chose this:

elsa

 

It’s one of those Magiclip dolls, with the interchangeable dresses. This “set“, also includes a dressing screen, a scepter (it is coronation day, after all!), and a girl-sized ring. It cost $10.69 with tax.

After we left Target, we went to the library to return some DVDs. While there, we sat down to work on a puzzle, and my daughter put Elsa down next to us. At one point, she noticed that her former (and much-loved) babysitter had arrived, and ran over to greet her. We spent quite a while chatting, and suddenly realized that she had left Elsa on the couch where we’d been with the puzzle. After much fruitless searching and checking with the librarians, we realized that someone had probably walked off with Elsa.

I thought for sure my daughter would flip out, but she didn’t. On the walk back to our car, I said, “I’m sorry about what happened to your doll,” and reminded her that it’s important to take care of her belongings. She was unfazed, even when I pointed out that she didn’t have enough money to buy a replacement.

I already knew that she has far too many dolls to really value any of them, but I had hoped that using her own money would make this one more valuable to her. Do I continue this exercise and hopes she gets it, or do I not allow her to waste spend her money on more toys she’ll quickly forget? Help!

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We Are Not Gazelles

Dave Ramsey fans/followers/readers are probably familiar with his notion of paying off debt with “gazelle intensity“. If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you’ve probably noticed that my husband and I are decidedly not gazelles. Yes, we’re committed to paying off our debt, and yes, having that debt is a source of stress for us. But are we ready to up-end our lives and eat only rice and beans? We’re not. I understand that this is upsetting or frustrating to some people, but it’s what works for us.

We’ve made a number of lifestyle changes since becoming serious about paying down our debt and my starting this blog in April. Still, some readers have pointed out that there are other things we should could be doing to pay it off faster. I’m always open to and interested in hearing others’ suggestions, but I can’t promise that I’m going to implement them. Case in point: I work part-time, and only part of the year. It has not escaped our notice that additional income would enable us to pay off our debt faster. But our daughter is entering kindergarten next week, and we prefer that I be home to get her on-and-off the bus each day. This means working 5.5 hour days to accommodate her bus schedule and my commute. Similarly, a year-round job would mean a more consistent income, and help us avoid the debt-repayment lulls we go through every summer, when I’m off. But we would need to pay for childcare for my daughter, which would eat up much of my income. It would also mean that I don’t have the opportunity to spend a concentrated amount of time with her over the summer. Again, we choose to prioritize life, over debt repayment.

I think the important point to remember here – one that is perhaps more eloquently stated here – is that everyone prioritizes differently, and no approach is better than another.

What – if anything – have you prioritized above debt repayment?

The Wisdom of Oz: Using Personal Accountability to Succeed in Everything You Do
Roger Connors , Tom Smith Release Date: September 4, 2014 Buy new: $26.95 $19.44
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Return Work Details

I recently sent my annual email to my boss, asking when he’d like me to return to work, and how many days I’ll be working. (I work part-time as a college staff member. Because my entire job consists of meeting with students one-on-one, I only work when school is in session.)

My boss is a great boss – reasonable, understanding, and flexible. Plus, he’s a very nice guy. He’s also incredibly relaxed about schedules, and after four years of working for him, I’ve learned not to ask him when my first day back should be until the middle of August. He just doesn’t think about it until then.

With this in mind, I emailed him, noted that classes begin on 9/10, and asked if I should plan for that to be my first week back. He responded that I should plan to work two days to start, and to start on 9/16. Because I’ll only be working 5.5 hours per day, (so I can be home for my daughter’s morning and afternoon buses), two days per week is a little disappointing. However, every year the volume of student appointments picks up quite a bit by the end of September, so I suspect I’ll be working three days by the beginning of October. (I’ve told my boss that I can work as many days per week as he needs.)

As is the case every year, I’m both a little sad and somewhat excited about returning to work. It’s hard to say goodbye to the fun of summer, but it’ll be great to start getting a paycheck of my own again. Also, I really enjoy what I do, so it’ll be nice to get back to it.

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Save on Back-to-School Clothes

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It’s hard for me to believe that my daughter is heading to kindergarten next week! It’s amazing how many final details there are – bus schedules, medical forms, and meet-the-teacher days – not to mention how many things there are to buy! Fortunately, there are also lots of well-timed, back-to-school sales. I’ve purchased most of the things she needs – school supplies, a backpack, and snacks – on sale already. Now I’m going through her closet and determining what she’ll need as the cooler weather moves in. Fortunately, she has a generous grandmother, who loves to buy clothing for her. We also have a neighbor who sells us her daughter’s gently-used clothing at garage-sale prices. But there are a few pieces she’s going to need, so I’m glad that one of our favorite children’s brands, Gymboree, is having a terrific sale.

gymboree

 

Starting today, save 40% on everything Gymboree!! This great sale is for a limited time, while supplies last, so if you need any baby, toddler, or kid clothes, check it out now!

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New SavingStar Offers

I’m a huge fan of SavingStar, one of my favorite ways to pretty passively save money. Three new offers were recently added; just log into your SavingStar account to activate them today:

Save 55¢ when you buy any ONE (1) bag of Snyder’s of Hanover® Sweet & Salty

Save 25¢ when you buy any ONE (1) 15 oz. jar of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter®

Save 75¢ when you buy any ONE (1) bag of Snyder’s of Hanover® Tortilla Chips

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Back From Vacation!

Happy Monday! I returned home from our family vacation on Cape Cod yesterday afternoon. Because I’m a homebody, I always love returning home from even the most wonderful of vacations.

wave ladies

As does any, this vacation had it’s highs and lows. Here they are, in no specific order:

Highs:

  1. Free accommodations! (Both my sister and her husband, and good friends of ours, rented houses on Cape Cod during overlapping weeks, and invited us to stay with them.)
  2. Time with friends and family. We spent a few days with my sister, brother-in-law and adorable nephew, and a couple of days with a couple who are good friends of ours and their three kids.
  3. Beach time. We’re land-locked in our part of the northeast, so beach time is a real treat. (I’m sorry lake fans, but I don’t consider lake beaches to be “real” beaches.)
  4. Mostly inexpensive meals. Because we stayed in houses, we ate all breakfasts and most lunches in, or with food brought out from the houses.
  5. Delicious seafood. Another disadvantage (in my mind, anyway) of being landlocked, is that good, fresh seafood is hard to come by. We enjoyed several really delicious seafood meals on this vacation.

Lows:

  1. Crashing others’ vacations. Neither party said or did anything to make us feel this way, but I was always aware that we were riding on others’ vacation coat-tails, which made me feel slightly guilty.
  2. No family alone time. Although it was great to see our hosts, my husband, daughter, and I had very little time alone, as just the three of us.
  3. Seafood can be pricey! Need I say more about this?

Overall, we had a wonderful time on this trip, and feel very grateful for our generous friends and family members!

How was your week?

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Feeling Disconnected

My family lives on a busy road, where most houses are on at least two acres of property. In fact, the neighbor on one side of our house has 136 acres!

When we moved into our house in July, 2009, the house on our other side was still being built. It wasn’t purchased until the winter of 2013, and we finally met the buyers that April. They were a childless couple in their fifties (I’m guessing), who had just moved to the northeast after living in Arizona for 25 years. They were very nice, and we exchanged contact information. (A wooded area divides our properties, so just stopping by isn’t as easy as it sounds.) I emailed with the husband a few times about getting together for dinner, and the wife stopped by and chatted with me several times over the summer. As the cold weather moved in last year, neither of us were outside much. We lost touch until I saw the wife outside shoveling their driveway in February, and stopped by to chat. (I remember it vividly, because the snow in their yard was up to my knees!) She was shoveling by herself because her husband had recently hurt his back. We chatted for quite a while, and that was the last time I spoke with her until about a week ago. Twice in the last couple of weeks, I passed her in her driveway while heading out for a run. We waved and said hi, and I kept running.

Yesterday, she walked over to our house, rang the doorbell, and in between near-sobs, told us that her husband had died in June.  The kidney cancer he’d had several years ago recurred in his bones and brain. It was discovered a week after I saw her in her driveway in February, and nothing could be done. He died at home on June 11th.

I cannot get over the shock of realizing that someone living in the house next door to me suffered a terminal illness and died more than two months ago, and I had no idea that any of was happening. Then, I passed the wife twice, waved and kept running, without having an inkling as to what she was going through. I’ve never had an experience that so powerfully demonstrated the need for me to connect with the people around me.

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