Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello, 2014

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Mine was terrific. No little children, so everything was at a relaxed pace. I am embracing this time before the next generation arrives and throws it all off-kilter!

I'm really not sad to see 2013 come to a close. We had health issues I'd rather not repeat and extended family drama I would like to forget. But we survived and I'm looking forward to a clean slate.

Updated the numbers and figured my year-end total. I missed my cross-my-fingers-hope-it-happens goal. I was secretly hoping to announce that we had paid off $50,000 in three years. We fell short by $2,446.25 - I guess that's not a lot in the grand scheme, but I wanted to see that banner number. We should be hitting it soon, though. This year, we paid off $16,891.73 - can't complain about that!

Times are still tight, but we've settled into a somewhat comfortable financial routine. There are still corners we could cut, but it seems to be important to our success to not go totally bare bones. I'm sure some of you would disagree with that decision, but it's working for us. We're making progress and are committed to seeing this through until the end.

In another surprise, there have been more than 200,000 views of this blog and there are now more than 100 followers!! Who would have thought that would ever happen? Not me!

Happy New Year to all. I wish each of you happiness and peace in the coming year. Thanks for standing by me through this journey.

Sarah

Saturday, November 30, 2013

So long, November

I have not been on the computer much this month - too much going on. I'll hit the highlights.

1. I turned 50. Enough said!

2. A week and a half ago, I dropped my son off at the university and five minutes later, while sitting at a stoplight, a speeding bus plowed into my van. There ended up being five vehicles involved. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but three of us saw our vehicles towed away. I spent the next few hours trying to find a wheelchair accessible van to rent - made more difficult because it was the week before Thanksgiving and they were all booked ahead. Finally got one on a temporary basis. I called the owner of the bus company two days later because insurance appeared to be moving slowly. He was extremely nice and sincerely wanted to help. He called the rental company and is personally guaranteeing payment for the rental van ($770 a week!!) My van has a lot of damage and I'm told if it were not a wheelchair conversion (which adds value), it would have been totaled. Thank goodness for that conversion because we were NOT planning on buying another van now! It will be another 3 weeks before we get it back because of the many parts that have to be ordered, but we are able to keep the rental until then, so all is good. And by the way, the bus driver - who never got off the bus to check on the four women involved in the accident - is no longer employed by the bus company.

3. Christmas tree is up and all presents wrapped and paid for in cash.

4. Updated my debt totals and they went down by more than $1,500. Woo hoo! Slow and steady is winning the race.

Hope everyone had a lovely and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Sarah

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm hiding from the goblins tonight

I didn't buy any Halloween candy. We live in an older neighborhood and there are very few kids around. The past two years no one rang our doorbell, but the weather wasn't the greatest. The result was that I ate way too much candy the day after Halloween. Not so this year. I'm keeping the porch lights off and staying away from the windows. I may be a scrooge, but it's better for my wallet and my waist.

Sarah

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The upside of menopause ...

... just the thought of turning on the heat makes me sweat. The temperature dropped to the 30s the other night and I slept with the ceiling fan on! Of course, I'm not the only one  living here, so I'm eventually going to have to give in....but not yet.

On an unrelated note, I just went to see what's up in Mysti's world and found I had been blocked from her blog. As she was one of the first PF bloggers I started following way back when, this makes me sad. I'm trying not to take it personally ...

Is it getting hot in here??

Sarah

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A sobering reminder

A friend lost her husband last week. No warning. She found him dead in his recliner of an apparent heart attack. He was 50 years old.

Not to sound totally crass, but my brain immediately went to the financial implications. I think my friend is in pretty good shape, though I don't know that for sure.

But really, I started to think about our situation and what if something happened to one of us. It's scary, you know? It makes me thankful that we took Dave Ramsey's advice several years ago and bought term life insurance on both of us. It would be nice not to have to pay those monthly premiums, but at times like this I'm reminded why we do it. If I were left alone today, it would take half of the $500,000 of DH's insurance to pay off all the debt, including the mortgage. That's a huge chunk gone quickly, but at least it would be there to pay those bills.

I'm also thankful that we finally put on our big kid panties and started beating down this monster. Had we kept going the other direction ... well, I don't want to think about it.

It's hard being an adult.

Sarah

Friday, October 11, 2013

Yes, dear

Out of the blue the other day, DH said "How can I make what is a decent living and we never have any money?" He wasn't angry. Just venting.

I've long given up getting DH terribly interested in the money situation. If I dwell too long on it, I resent him and that's not what I want to do. (He took over paying the bills once early in our marriage and I was so horrified by the awful bookkeeping that I just started doing it myself.) He knows what we have and what we owe - well, he has access to it all, he just rarely bothers to actually look too hard into it. He is not a spendthrift and doesn't have expensive hobbies or car lust, so I try not to be too hard on him. We are just wired differently.

But back to his question. I think because he is removed from the finances, he forgets. But don't worry, I'm right there to remind him. I pointed out that $100,000 went (and is still going) to sending kids to college. We bought four cars in a year's time (2 for us, 2 for the kids ... all are paid for). We are still paying for the $40,000 accessible bathroom addition for our son. (I so wish I had a $40,000 kitchen instead!) There have been the medical expenses - and the equipment not considered essential by insurance. For example, a van with a dropped floor and a ramp to accommodate a power wheelchair - $15,000. Just for the modifications. Our daughter got married last year. So we paid for a wedding. And on and on and on. The list of necessary and stupid is long.

I did reassure him that there is a light at the end of the very long tunnel. In 2.5 years, we will wipe 6 credit cards off the list. The monthly minimums for those 6 cards total, hold on to your hat, $1,443. That should help give us some breathing room, finally, and get the snowball rolling.

He's really frustrated, I think, because the raise that was supposed to kick in over the summer is being delayed by union contract negotiations. And, like me, he knows retirement is getting closer on the horizon. Well, he hopes it is, anyway.

Sarah

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life keeps on coming

Ended the weekend with a bang, so to speak. DS fell during a wheelchair transfer and we had to call EMS to lift him. The blood. Oh. My. Word. It was everywhere. He has a nice gash on his head that required stitches, but no broken bones, which is nothing short of miraculous given his brittle bones. I lost a couple years off my life, though.

Something I learned from this experience: If EMS responds to your 911 call but doesn't transport the patient to a hospital, you aren't billed anything. Who knew?

Now the ER bills will be another thing ...

Sarah

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trudging along

I am so tired of being in debt. So tired of trying to get blood from a turnip. Not that I have a choice. It is what it is. We are halfway through the payoff programs we have with six of the credit cards. I'm holding tight to the realization that when those payments disappear, we will at least be able to breathe. Getting rid of six big payments almost at once will be amazing. And then we will be able to start snowballing instead of just paying minimums. Maybe we will get out of this mess before DH is ready to retire ...

OK, no more Debbie Downer.

Remember those beer rebates I talked about awhile back? A friend and I have teamed up and when we find forms, we pick up one for each other. It's not a lot, but in the few months I've been sending these things in, I've received rebate checks totaling just over $300. Pretty cool, huh? With coupons and sales, that should take care of Christmas this year. Woo hoo! Anybody else started Christmas shopping? I've always been a plan-ahead shopper - but it is especially important now.

With DS back at school and my chauffeur duties in full swing, gas is once again eating a hole in my budget. And groceries ... ugh! Prices are out of control! On the upside, we had an incredibly mild summer here and my A/C costs were substantially lower than they typically are this time of year. Can I order a mild winter with low heating costs, too??

Sarah

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The numbers do the talking

So I updated my numbers and watched as the total debt paid passed the $40,000 mark. That made me stop and do the math. The $40k represents the amount my debt has been reduced since starting this blog in March 2011. It has been a slow, painful and not at all fun journey so far, but the numbers tell the story ...

We reduce our debt an average of $1,340.50 every month. I don't care how much is left - I think that's pretty darn good and I'm proud of it!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Sarah

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Checking in

I know I haven't been posting much lately. Just really hasn't been a lot to tell - which I think is a good thing. I have picked up a couple of freelance jobs and what money I earn is going into savings to be used for an "extra" - maybe a family vacation next year. I know it could be used to pay off debt, but we've made the decision to keep it separate. Freelance work could dry up at any moment, so we don't want to get used to having it. We'll continue budgeting from DH's pay. Anyway, between that and catching up on DS's medical appointments while there is a bit more time in the summer schedule, time has been flying by!

Happy belated Fourth to all!

Sarah

Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekend demolition

Much as we tried to sort of ignore it, the rotting bathroom floor had to be dealt with. Thankfully, we live in a ranch style house, so if we did fall through it would only be a couple of feet before we hit ground. And fortunately it's the tiny master bathroom so DH and I are the only ones ever in there.

We had been putting it off not only because of the expense, but also because DH is not, well, handy. I mean seriously UN-handy. So he called a friend who does have such skills, recruited DS (who doesn't appear to have inherited his Dad's inability to wield a hammer) and got to work. DH took on demolition because he can destroy things pretty well. He had a large hole in the bathroom floor in no time. The rot underneath was not good. It is actually kind of surprising that we have not dropped to the ground by now.

DS and the friend spent most of the day replacing joists and making it somewhat safe. DH was in charge of handing over tools and cleanup. In the end, they repaired the hidden problems. But there is still a hole in the floor that is now covered with plywood. We don't have the money right now to tackle the next phase - which is interior and tiling.

On the plus side, it's a bit more satisfying to do this in phases as we have the funds. In a past life, we would have just stuck it on the credit card.

Happy Monday everyone!

Sarah

Friday, May 31, 2013

Another month gone!

Holy cow, how did it get to be the end of May already?? I really don't have a lot to report. We've been pinching the pennies even harder this month to pay for DS's second summer school class. DH and I went to an out-of-town wedding last weekend for the daughter of very close friends. It was the first time in more than nine years that the two of us have been away alone! We seriously had to remind ourselves how to act.

I realized the other day that at the end of the summer, we will be halfway through the 5-year payoff plans we are on for 6 of the credit cards. Yay, progress!

My favorite thing about summer is the fresh fruits and veggies. Tonight I roasted fresh green beans and sliced the first canteloupe of the season. Yummmm!

Enough of the rambling. I've been keeping up with all of you, even though I've not been posting much. Love hearing about the progress everyone is making!

Sarah

Monday, May 6, 2013

Earning fun money

Since I'm not able to work outside of the home and still care for my son, I'm always looking for ways to pick up a little extra cash. I've already written about finding beer rebates, which earned me about $100 last month.

Recently, I started using apps on my iPhone to earn a few dollars. I use iBotta and Endorse, but the most lucrative app I've found so far is Field Agent. With that one, I'm offered jobs - like mystery shopping, except I never have to buy anything - and am paid from $3-$12 for each. Last week I earned $33 for about an hour's worth of work total, which isn't a bad take. An example of a job I did this weekend was to go to a particular Target and stop by the sampling stations they had set up. I answered a couple questions about each on my phone and submitted the project. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes and I was paid $8.50 via PayPal the day of the job. Field Agent jobs are offered, I think, in Canada and Australia as well.

I am putting all of the earnings from these little ventures into a separate Ing/Capital One 360 savings account to be used for a yet-to-be-determined extra apart from the regular budget. It's fun to think about how much I can grow that little account.

I know all of this might sound a lot of effort for very little. But I don't have the option of going out and getting a "real" job and I often have down time in between DS's treatments and activities, so it works for me. Am I the only one who does this?

Sarah

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nice surprise!

We took DS's dog for her checkup and a slew of shots that were due. I was bracing for the bill, which I figured would be well over $100. (I was right.) But when I went to pay, the receptionist said we had a $63 credit on our account. Apparently, they forgot to give us the 30% discount for a service dog on our last visit and were nice enough to make note of it. I ended up paying $67, which was much better than I had expected.

It's the small blessings that add up ...

Sarah

Friday, April 26, 2013

This and that

How did it get to be the end of April already? Today is the last day of classes of DS's freshman year at university. He's had a great year. He is going to take a couple summer school classes to make up for the lighter load he took while getting adjusted to navigating campus. I have mentioned before that he has a full four-year scholarship, but that doesn't cover summer school. Normally, that would have caused panic, but because we were able to refinance in March and didn't have an April mortgage payment, we had the cash to pay his tuition. (It's amazing what you can do without a mortgage payment!)

The weather has been beautiful of late and we haven't had the heat on for weeks. I'm looking forward to that being reflected in the utility bills.

We've spent $554.78 on groceries thus far in April, including household and personal care products. We're well stocked, so I don't anticipate adding to that, which keeps us under budget.

All in all, a pretty good month. And updated the debt totals - still going down! The two largest Chase balances are half what they were when I started this blog. The tortoise will win this race!

Sarah

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday morning catch-up

My back was acting up the past couple of days, so I was laid up a good part of the weekend. It's a recurring issue, the unfortunate result of being a 24/7 caretaker of a growing young man for nearly 20 years. All the nighttime turning and wheelchair adjusting takes its toll. Thankfully, it was the weekend so hubby was around to let me rest. I'm feeling pretty good this morning, so hoping it has passed for now.

Saturday's mail perked me up. I got a small check from a local consignment shop for a dress I left there well over a year ago and had totally forgotten about. Also in the mail were a couple of checks from the beer rebates I send in routinely. I love unexpected money!

And now, I am off to pay the price for being out of commission for two days while the boys ran wild ... They did try to clean up, but ... yuck!

Sarah

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The high price of being sick

A key piece of DS's medical equipment is kaput. I've mentioned before (as have Kim and Mysti!) how costly it can be to be chronically ill. Our home is overrun with equipment - both true medical pieces as well as those needed for daily living. This particular item is referred to as a cough assist machine - and that's exactly what it does. It simulates the cough that DS is unable to produce himself, thus helping to keep his lungs clear. We bought this machine when he was a toddler in the mid-'90s. Back then, it was in its infancy and insurers balked at chipping in toward the cost. This was especially true for DS, whose illness is considered terminal and so the insurers figured why pay for something that wouldn't do any good in the long run. So we shelled out nearly $15,000 that we did not have and bought him the machine that his doctors said he had to have.

I figure 16 years is a pretty good run for a complicated machine to last. And so tomorrow, we will head to the hospital and see his specialist and have him start the ball rolling to get a replacement. Thankfully, time has proven the effectiveness of the cough assist and insurers these days accept it as necessary. The cost of the machine itself is less, too. We will still owe a chunk, but are optimistic that it won't be nearly what it was back in the days of the dinosaur.

Fingers crossed...

Sarah

Monday, April 8, 2013

What if?

Since January 1, we have paid off $5,483.69. I'm pretty proud of that, even though it's really just a result of paying minimums on everything. What it does mean is that the minimums are starting to add up and more is going to principal now instead of it all going to interest.

But I can't help but think ... what if? What if we didn't have this stupid debt? What if we had that much extra to invest in our family? What if we didn't have to sweat every. single. penny?

What if?

I can pretty quickly tick off some places to put that money. We've had to neglect some home improvements that need to be taken care of but can't because there's no money. What if we could just decide we wanted to work on something and then just do it? What if our Emergency Fund was so fat we didn't even have to think about it? What if I didn't have to panic when an error delayed DH's paycheck?

What if?

I can't wait to try it out for real. And for the first time, I really think it's going to happen. It's going to be awhile, but it's going to happen. And I can't wait!

Sarah

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's April - no fool!

I, for one, was glad to flip the calendar this morning. The first three months of the year were a struggle on several levels and I'm glad to put them behind me. DH and I dealt with some big health issues, including DH having surgery at the end of February. Aside from the obvious, we were hit hard financially. DH works a lot of overtime and that, of course, evaporates when he's out of work. He was home for four weeks and not only was his paycheck smaller, his manager screwed up and for two weeks there was NO paycheck. We finally got it straightened out, but boy did it hurt in the interim!

But DH is back to work, the bills are paid and it's going to be 73 degrees today! Life is good.

I've said before that groceries are a tough expense for us. We have four adults living and eating here. DH and I usually eat all three meals from home (I pack a lunch for DH). Our DS's typically eat 1-2 meals and all snacks here. It's no secret that grocery prices have gotten out of hand. I looked back at earlier posts and I had set myself a goal two years ago of spending $150 a week. It sounded high, but it was a definite cutback from when I wasn't paying attention.

This morning I added up what I have spent monthly on groceries so far in 2013. Here's the rundown:

January - $661.30
February - $790.76
March - $598.94

That averages out to about $158 a week. So, not too bad. I was happy to see I was within spittin' distance of my original goal.

How is everyone else doing with goals you have set?

Sarah

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Success!

So when the A/C guy was here last week, he said the dual element fuses needed to be replaced - 2 of them - and quoted a price of $203 to get the job done. I declined and he shook his head as if I had lost mine.

I spent this morning on my computer trying to figure out two things:
1. What IS a dual element fuse?
2. Is this a DIY job that can be done for less than this guy wants?

I fairly quickly came up with a site and had an email address, so I snapped pictures of the fuses in question and sent an email, asking whether this is an easy replacement. Within minutes, a nice man named Joe called me and told me to NEVER pay $203 for new fuses. I asked a couple questions about how these things are installed - no different than popping batteries in a remote - and whether he had any to sell. He did.

Total cost? $28, with shipping.

Seriously? I know people have to earn a living. But the guy was here anyway and we're talking a job that takes 10 seconds, max. I mean, it's so easy even I can do it!

Next up, replacing the flapper in the toilet. Geez, it's quite the life I lead ...

Sarah

Friday, March 15, 2013

The tax man taketh his time

I'm big on filing taxes early. Nine years out of 10, we get a refund of some sort. My FIL works for H&R Block and does our taxes for free. I got him all of our info in early February and he got to work immediately. He e-filed Feb. 15.

Unfortunately, this year we required Form 8863 - which should be a good thing because it gets us an education credit. But this year there was a glitch in the system and everyone who filed mid- to late February and had that form has been held up. This week, we got an email saying someone, somewhere, is working on it, but it could be April before we see our refund.

I wonder if Mr. Tax Man would so patiently wait on us if he were the one on the financial receiving end? Somehow, I doubt it.

Oh, well. At least a check will be coming ... eventually.

Sarah

Friday, March 8, 2013

Poof goes the EF

The Emergency Fund already took a hit yesterday with car maintenance. Today we were having the A/C serviced in advance of warm weather somewhere on the horizon. We had budgeted $100 for the servicing and filter replacement. Turns out the condensation pump under the house had quit working and water was pooling. So a new pump was added to the bill. We ended up paying $361 today. Took it straight from the EF, so no new debt, but the EF is now nearly drained. We are expecting a tax refund that we were earmarking for other purposes, but it looks like it's going straight to the EF. I think we are taking the term Baby Steps to a whole new level....

Sarah

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Car inspection - fail

I was second in line this morning to have the oil changed and state inspection for the van. Took about 15 minutes before I was called over to "chat." The van didn't pass, I was told, because the wheels ... blah, blah, blah (imagine Charlie Brown's teacher talking). I seriously consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but I feel like an idiot when discussing automotive issues.

Good news, I'm told, is that it is not a huge deal and they can get it done in less than an hour. Do I really have a choice here? I can't get the license plate renewed without a valid inspection. And, I guess there really is something that needs to be fixed.

Thank goodness for the emergency fund. We keep it in our Ing, er, Capital One 360 or whatever it's called now, account, and don't use that debit card for anything else. I was able to cover the $235 charge with the emergency fund - because I decided this was an emergency. So we're $235 poorer, but not more in debt. That's called putting a positive spin on the situation.

Sarah

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Refinance is a go!

I can hardly believe it, but we've been approved for the mortgage refinance - the one that we did not initiate. It seriously was about the easiest thing we've ever done. It entailed a five-minute phone conversation and our commitment to take the closing papers to the bank and have them notarized. That's it. Keep in mind, when we actually did initiate an attempt to refinance a couple of years ago, we were turned down flat because of the amount of our debt.

So, in case this can help anyone, this is being done under HARP - Home Affordable Refinance Program. As I understand it, the program was initially for homeowners who were underwater or very close to it. Recently, though, it has been expanded and equity is no longer the marker of eligibility. There are two main requirements. 1. Your mortgage must be held by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. (Who knew ours has been Freddie Mac since 2003? It's easy to check online.) 2. You can only use the HARP once.

While they do run a credit check, they don't have any debt ratio requirements. I believe the credit check is to confirm that there are no accounts in collection and that there hasn't been a foreclosure. Our refinance is a 3-step HARP through Wells Fargo, our current mortgage holder. There are NO closing costs. I checked that one out thoroughly! The amount listed on our closing documents is what we owe on the mortgage.

As long as we get the papers signed, notarized and returned by March 25, our interest rate drops more than 2 percent.

All I can say is, WOO HOO!!!

Sarah

Friday, March 1, 2013

It's March?!

Just tallied the numbers. In the first two months of 2013, we've paid off $3,178.71. That keeps us pretty much on track to knock off $20,000 this year. Although I'm secretly hoping for more ...

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sarah

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crossing fingers and toes ...

I have the mortgage company in a tizzy and I'm hoping that works in my favor.

It started when I got my annual escrow statement this weekend. Our homeowner's insurance went up about $100 last year, so I knew there would be a slight adjustment. Taxes are the same, so no other variables. Imagine my reaction when I saw that they wanted me to cover the escrow "shortage" of ... are you ready? ... $712!

Now, math is not my strong suit, but even I know that doesn't add up. So I sat down with the four page statement and all its fine print and tried to learn their math. The only thing I could see is that last year, for the first time EVER, they decided to pay our tax bill in October instead of December, throwing us into a 2-month shortage. Since we also receive a copy of the tax bill, I checked and the due date had not changed, so there was no reason for them to pay early. And so I did what I hate to do. I called them.

I spoke with a very nice woman who was suitably surprised at the amount of the shortage given the slight insurance increase. She ran the numbers herself and couldn't make them work either. I pointed out the early payment and she said, yes, that could be the issue. She then started babbling about they must have gotten a notice from our tax assessor with a new due date. I assured her that the due date had not changed. Off she went to talk to someone in the tax department. When she came back, she said the person told her they were getting a lot of these calls from my area and they couldn't figure it out so they were "checking in to it." Hmmm. So, she says, my case is with them and they will get in touch with me. Meantime, she could spread out the shortage over three years rather than one year, thus making the monthly payment increase not as painful. OK.

As I'm getting ready to hang up, she says "Wait! Your interest rate is quite high. Have you thought about refinancing?" Well, ma'am, yes I have. I even tried to do it with your company some time back but was told I couldn't lower my payment because I had too much debt (love the logic there). I told her we still have a very high debt ratio and I didn't think we qualified. Well, would you let me ask someone about it? Sure. A few minutes later she comes back and tells me she has great news and she is going to transfer me to Benjamin. Benjamin asks a few questions and says he doesn't see why we wouldn't be approved. There is a new no closing cost program, he says, that doesn't look at debt ratio, only that the income is sufficient to make the payments. (Please explain to me why it worries them to make my payment lower when I've been paying them a higher amount for years??) He says I'm to expect a FedEx packet in a few days. If it goes through, the time left on the loan will stay the same, but the monthly payment should drop by quite a bit. Our current rate is 5.85% and the new rate would be 3.375%

I'm trying not to get too excited. ... But how awesome would that be??!!

Sarah

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rebates, new app, this and that

Happy Valentine's Day! We don't do much celebrating around here - read none - as our anniversary is the week before. Come to think about it, we didn't do a lot of celebrating for that, either! I have thought about maybe making a fun dessert for the hubby, but I haven't gotten around to seeing what exactly is in the pantry to make that happen.

I've been plugging along in February. Money is tight. Stress comes in waves. Wake up in the night wondering if we will ever reach the finish line of this wretched race. Same old, same old.

A friend has turned me on to what she calls "beer rebates." Seems that walking the beer and wine aisle at the grocery store can be lucrative. Every so often, rebate forms show up on that aisle. I never would have looked at them had she not told me how it works because I don't ordinarily peruse that section. But these rebates are awesome! The most important thing to know is that you don't have to buy beer or wine to use them. There were a bunch available around Super Bowl time and I mailed off $25 worth. Each one required a purchase of something and the receipt for proof. But most of the purchases were generic and they were never limited to a particular store. For instance, one required me to spend at least $25 in one grocery shopping trip. That's it. Didn't matter where. Didn't matter what. I'll get $5 for that. Another was for a frozen pizza. Any brand. I won't get rich doing this, but it's turned into a bit of a game.

I also discovered a new app called Ibotta. Basically, it loads some product offers on my phone and I check them periodically to see if I've bought something that is on the list. I go through a couple of steps, upload a picture of the receipt and product barcode, and the reward is deposited into my account. When I get to $5, I can transfer it to Pay Pal and pull it out. Free money, as far as I can tell.

Every penny counts, right?

In the good news/bad news department, the only current residual from my bout with Bell's Palsy is that I have lost most of my sense of taste. That's the bad news. The good news is that I've lost 10 pounds without trying because of it. But after a month and a half of this, I want to taste my food again. Diet, be damned!

Sarah

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New glasses - the verdict is in

They're fabulous! For those of you who missed it, the dog ate my glasses and no way was I able to afford a new pricey pair. So I went out on a limb and ordered a pair online at 39dollarglasses.com.

What a great experience! I got exactly what I expected, the lenses are perfect and the good quality frames don't even require any adjustments. I was even given one of those tiny screwdrivers of my very own as well as a cleaning cloth. Total time from order to delivery was less than six days. Total cost, with coupon code, including shipping: $23.90.

This company has a new customer!

Sarah

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I ordered eyeglasses online ... and I'm scared!

So I've recovered enough from Bell's Palsy to get back to my to-do list. You might remember that the dog chewed my glasses to dust not long ago. Those glasses were all of three months old. Today I headed over to the place where I bought them and had them crunch the numbers. Insurance won't help because it's been less than a year. The lenses, which were under warranty, can't be replaced because I have nothing to give them to return for replacement. But since they felt sorry for me, they offered to give me a 30% discount. That would make the total ... are you ready? .... $378. Uh, no thanks.

So I got a copy of my prescription and hit the road. I did a little searching online and settled on a site with reasonable reviews. 39dollarglasses. I found a coupon code and went to work. The final cost, including shipping, came to $23.95. So I hit the button.

And now I wait to find out if I've wasted my money or gotten a good deal. Anybody ever try this before? I sure am hoping this was a brilliant move on my part. I'll let you know.

Sarah

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm back and looking forward

So far, 2013 has not been all that it was cracked up to be! I'm still in the throes of Bell's Palsy, but at the two-week mark yesterday had the first twinge of movement on my affected side. And today I drank from a cup without a straw! It's the small things in life that can make my day. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. This is certainly not a convenient illness, but I expect to eventually make a full recovery.

Meantime, DH moved from ankle problems to hernia issues. He's scheduled for surgery next month. We sure do seem to be falling apart around here!

Financially, we're plugging along. We survived a week without pay while DH was down and out and were able to stay up-to-date with our accounts. I'm currently battling a medical supply company that insisted I pay upfront for a piece of equipment and now has not properly filed a claim. I purposely ordered this piece in December, prior to the new year as our deductible had long been met. It is my fear that when this does show up on the insurance docket, that it will be counted toward this year and I won't see any of the money back. We'll see.

Did I mention that the dog ate my glasses? Really. Chewed right through the case and left the glasses in a pile of rubble. And did I mention that said glasses were all of three months old? It was not a happy time at our house the evening the crime occurred. I'm using my old, scratched up pair right now. The lenses had a 2-year warranty (supposedly for scratches etc.). I need to call and see if that extends to total obliteration. Then I'll have to figure out the frames problem. I'm afraid that if they do agree to replace the lenses for free, they will have to be exact replicas of the originals. Meaning I'll have to purchase the same frames. Without insurance (because no way will they replace them after three months), that could be cost prohibitive. Again, we'll see.

Maybe we're getting everything out of the way early and the rest of the year will be a breeze .... maybe!

Sarah

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sarah update and 'Malware Ahead!'

Thanks to all for your prayers and comments for Sarah! She's not noticing a huge improvement yet, but she did have a weekend of considerably more rest than usual. She has a doctor's appointment this afternoon, and she'll report again after that.

On another note, I tried to access our blog thru Chrome as usual yesterday to reply to some of the comments and was stunned to see a 'Danger: Malware Ahead!' warning with this message:

Google Chrome has blocked access to this page on gazelleintense.blogspot.com.

Content from www.frugalconfessions.com, a known malware distributor, has been inserted into this web page. Visiting this page now is very likely to infect your Mac with malware. 

Malware is malicious software that causes things like identity theft, financial loss, and permanent file deletion.

I've never seen this and am NOT cyber-savvy - is this a legit warning or a ploy to get us to fork over a firstborn or two in exchange for 'protection?'

Access to the blog is fine thru Safari; I haven't checked it thru Firefox yet.

If anyone has any experience with this, please share! Thanks.

Meanwhile, my husband's suspicions that his 'interim-in-name-only' teaching/coaching position is truly an interim position for him were pretty much confirmed Friday afternoon with the principal's careful choice of wording in response to his questions. After pondering the piddly options in anticipation of his being booted to the curb, we decided that the smartest move is for him to initiate the retirement process. Today. It's a slightly scary thought to know that the 'teacher' check will be dramatically reduced just as we're getting back on track with the $$$ student loans, but with early social security and a willingness to think way outside the box for additional income, we WILL make this work.

And we're willing to bet he won't need blood pressure medication come June....

Jenny

Friday, January 11, 2013

A '13' Jenny and Sarah report

Greetings to all! I hope 2013 has started out with a better bang for you than it has for Sarah's family and mine. Sheesh. We've never complained that life is dull for either of us, that's for sure.

In a nutshell, my family is going thru job turmoil in all branches. With retirement looming in possibly just two years, my husband has reason to suspect that he's about to be in search of another job in order to free up space for someone else. It's a familiar tune, along with the one of being booted out because he just tries to do his job right, refusing to fall in with the good ol' boys. My father had the same 'problem.'

Meanwhile, our smart, conscientious son feels like he's stuck in a dead-end position with an insane amount of questionable paperwork and a boss too inexperienced to be effective and is pondering a switch to a completely different field. He's been in his current field three years.

Meanwhile, Part 2, our exceptionally creative son-in-law is in the middle of his first year in his career, and he's already wondering if he wants to do this any more. The stress level is horrendous, as is his exhaustion, thanks to frequent 12-hour days and work that continues when he drags home.

All three are in education: hubby in high school, son in middle school special ed, and son-in-law at an award-winning elementary school. My father was a career educator - elementary teacher and principal. My own teaching stint in a self-contained school for special needs students lasted just six years; I stopped only because we moved away. Since I was convinced I could never find a school setting so perfect, I chose to be a stay-at-home parent and volunteer in our kids' schools while hubby taught and coached.

I could easily get started on a rant about education, but I won't. The financial aspect of all this is obvious (who wants to hire someone so close to escaping retiring), especially since we've replaced staggering monthly credit card payments with those for student loans. Some day I'll tally them all up and post a progress indicator when Sarah can show me how.

Speaking of Sarah, her new year was bumped to the next level when she awakened earlier in the week with Bell's Palsy. She was able to get started later that day on the standard regimen of steroids and antiviral medication, but if anyone has helpful experience with this, please share!!! Her eye is patched to provide minimal comfort (as if there's such a thing in Bell's Palsy) and hopefully reduce the severity of the headaches, and she tries to avoid loud noises as much as possible because they're painful. Unfortunately, that includes barking dogs. They have two of 'em.

Her trooper self is still transporting her son to college, grateful that the schedule is a tiny bit easier this semester than last... in some aspects, anyway. This is when living halfway across the state is a bummer.

Prayers for Sarah would be greatly appreciated!!! I don't know when she'll be able to return to the computer long enough to post herself, but I'll pass on any news.

Happy weekend to all -

Jenny






Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A new year, new numbers

Over the past year, I have not often looked at the goals I set 12 months ago. I hit some of them and failed miserably at others. But, as often happens, there were some exciting peaks and some dark valleys - I think that's called life. Overall, I'm OK with how I managed. Here's the lowdown:


2012 Goals
1. Smile more. B- ... I tried. I could have tried harder.

2. Count my blessings. Every. Day. A ... I know that no matter how hard things are, it could be worse.

3. Pay for our part of daughter's wedding. In cash. A ... And it was worth every penny!

4. Make way too complicated cross-stitch Christmas stockings for same daughter and her groom as a wedding gift. Hmm, B+? I made one for my son-in-law, but it took so long I didn't have time to make a second, so I gave DD her childhood stocking which thrilled her.

5. Follow Eboo's Dollar a Week Saving Plan in order to have a fully funded Christmas account come next buying season. I actually started this in November, since that's when I'll need it next. Total so far: $171.19. F ... I started it with good intentions, but ...

6. Catch up on scrapbooking. That should keep me busy. C ... I didn't catch up, but I did make a wedding album for DD for Christmas.

7. Lose 25 pounds. I made this #7 so it wouldn't be so scary. F ... Enough said.

8. Exercise. Some. Anything at all will be an improvement. F ... See above.

9. Continue to work on the grocery budget while eating healthier. See #7. C+ ... Definitely spent less weekly than years past, but there's much room for improvement.

10. Be more positive about anything and everything. See #1. C ... Some days are better than others.

11. End 2012 having shaved a minimum of $15,000 off our debt. A+++!

12. Keep praying. It's the only way to survive this life journey. B ... I can never pray enough.


In 2012, we reduced our debt by $19,249.32! That is nearly twice as well as we did the year before and gives me hope that we can do even better in 2013.

Update on DH: His ankle woes turned out to be tendonitis. The bad news is that he missed four days of work, which will really hurt come payday. I've crunched the numbers and I think we'll be able to squeak by without resorting to drastic measures. Rice and beans for dinner, anyone?

So long, 2012. Here's to 2013 - the year we all beat down a whole lot of debt!

Sarah