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Frugal or Foolish?

August 6th, 2008 at 09:01 pm

Well, it looks like the transmission on my 1994 Mitsubishi Expo Wagon is about ready to bite the dust. Repair cost is about $1800 to rebuild it and have a year waranty. The car is about ready for it's timing belt change, $600 and new brakes, $400. Total in all is about $2,800.

For a car that's 14 years old, it only has 107,000 miles on the engine. Burns a tiny bit of oil, but not too bad. It's still shiny black and hasn't been in any accidents. There are the usual door dings. The interior can use a cleaning, but it's in good repair as well.

Once the repairs are made, my mechanic says that I should get another 2-3 years out of it easily. He replaced all the other belts and water pump two months ago.

Here's the frugal/foolish part. Do I spend close to $3000 to repair a car that's worth less than $2000 because of it's age or do I buy a new or new to me car to replace it? I've been looking around for another car, but most of the newer used ones in my area have more miles than mine does and seem to all cost over $12,000!!! Apparently a lot of commuters around here. Any new car that will do what I need it to do is about $18,000 out the door and that's for a basic model without frills.

My mind has been going back and forth: repair or replace? I am so torn.

Why the IRS LUVS me!!!!

July 12th, 2008 at 10:57 am

Being a single gal with no kids or deductions is something that the IRS drools over. I'm sure they drool over single men who have no deductions as well...or is that me that drools over them??? Sorry, I digress...I have a small 2 bedroom house in a pretty nice area of my growing city. I paid off the mortgage about 5 years ago (a good thing) but am now being taxed at a really high rate because I have no deductions (a bad thing). Darn IRS won't let me use my two rescued dogs as deductions...hehehehe.

I've been really looking into the option of purchasing a second house. I figure now is the last time in my life ('cuz I'm getting old) that I will see the bottom end of a real estate cycle. What I'm wrestling with the most is if I should buy a second house and move into it or buy one that I'll rent out to someone else.

With the housing prices currently down in my city, I've been looking at several ways I might make this happen.

1) Buy a second house, move into it, then rent out my first house.

2) Buy a second house and rent it out.

3) Buy a duplex or multiple unit piece of property, move into one and rent out the others, including my current house.

4) I know there are other options I haven't thought off. Insert yours here!

The first option allows me to get a house at a lower interest rate and will give me about $1200 a month in income from my current house being rented (not taking into account vacancies). One realtor suggested that I get a loan on my first house since I already own it and pay for the second house in cash. I'm not knowledgable on how that works, but maybe one of you does?

The more I cruise around my town looking for houses, the less inclined I am to move. Seems that I did a good job 16 years ago with location, location, location. There's no way I can afford to upgrade in my own neighborhood! Other neighborhoods aren't looking too appealing in this town.

The second option means that I'll probably have a higher interest rate on the loan and a larger down payment because the purchase is considered an investment. Not sure what the income would be on the house as I havn't found one to buy yet. Would really like the rent to cover the payments...but????

The third option I'm even more confused about. I've heard things like I'll only be able to deduct 1/2 the payment/interest from my taxes if I live in one and rent out the other (duplex as an example). Someone else said it's still an investment property and I'll have to pay the higher interest rate on any loan I get.

Overall, I'm just not sure what to do. I keep researching and reading as much as I can so I have a better idea of what I should do. I have no clue if I'm cut out to be a landlord, but on the other hand, I just can't keep giving so much of my $$ to "Uncle Sam". I'd like to retire at 55, but will probably have to keep working until 62. I won't need a lot of $$ when I retire, but I don't want to have to worry about scrapping by, especially with any health care costs.

All suggestions welcomed!

Peanut Butter Dogs

October 7th, 2007 at 10:05 am

I had to laugh at my dogs today. I've been saving two near empty Skippy Peanut Butter jars (albeit plastic ones, but jars none the less) to give as a treat to my doggies. They LUV peanut butter and the drooling started as soon as they saw the jars.

As they started in on licking the jars clean, I noticed that you could really see the logo of the Skippy brand and thought it would make a great commercial for them, so I snapped a few shots. Thank goodness they were in the thrawls of licking heaven, because normally they would have followed me into the house while I got my camera, which would have ruined the shot.

Personally, I think the blue of the label goes best against the red of my Golden Retriever....what do you think? Smile

Made $167, Spent $169!!!

September 8th, 2007 at 09:58 am

As some of you know, my 5th graders are trying to raise funds to go to Science Camp. The class as a whole is running their own "student store" business. Last year we just sold scented pencils. This year we've expanded to include a lot of cute pens, bookmarks, pencil sharpeners, etc.

Well, our first day of sales was last Wednesday. We didn't advertise like we did last year with signs and stuff. Just haven't had time at the beginning of this year to do that. All we did was one Monday morning announcement. When we set up at lunchtime, you could not believe the excitment. There were so many kids lined up to buy that we had to keep asking them to form a line as they were almost rushing the tables!

We sold $167 worth of stuff in that one hour lunch time! You have to understand that our BIG days last year were only in the $50-60 range! The biggest seller? The glow-in-the-dark, spooky Halloween pencils with HUGE monster erasers attached. We sold 49 of those! Almost unbelievable.

Of course, I had only ordered small amounts of each thing so I could see what would sell. That night I had to place another order so that we would have inventory for this week. It all should arrive on Monday. My students just about died when I told them that I had spent all their money, plus $2...hehehehe. They were asking, "Why? We need the money to pay for Science Camp!"

It was an excellent teaching opportunity to explain supply and demand, inventory, sales-cost=profit, not to mention introducing some math word problems based on their business. I'm sure the kids will be just as thrilled when they see the new items I've ordered for their store. I know the boys inparticular will be glad to get their hands on the glow-in-the-dark Halloween pencils.

Fundraising for Science Camp

August 26th, 2007 at 01:15 pm

I have spent most of my summer trying to set up ways to finance Science Camp for my 5th grade students. The total estimated cost for ONE class is between $11,000 and $13,000, depending on the transportation. The original camp I was going with was four days/three nights long, but I found another camp that really stands out where we can go for five days/four nights at a lower cost than the first camp. Our school is in a very economically disadvantaged area where most of the parents work in agriculture which makes it very difficult for them to pay for the entire trip.

Here are the fundrasing ideas I've come up with so far (feel free to add any suggestions you might have *smile*):

-Canning- Where you place informational cans out in the community where people can drop in their change. Amount taken in so far in the last month-$100.44.

-Grant- Recieved from an Educational Foundation. Glad that I'm a halfway decent writer. Made a presentation in front of them on Tuesday. Was informed on Wednesday they were giving us $2,500. *huge smile*

-Matching Funds-Potentially offered from two other organizations to see if, now that we have one grant, they're willing to match it. Funny thing is, once one group gives you money, other groups seem to think you're more "worthy" of getting their funding. Haven't been able to get their applications yet. One I need to contact directly, the other said the application was on line. I haven't been able to get the application to download for me. Guess that means another phone call.

-Student Store- Last year my students raised about $1,100 selling scented pencils. I spent close to $500 for this year's supplies. We've now expanded to obtain different styles of pencils, pens and cute notepads. I'm hoping that my students "work it" and are willing to take things home to sell in their neighborhoods to people/children they know and not just rely on the Student Store sales.

-Parent Contributions- The estimated cost of going to Science Camp is $350 per student, including transportation. I'm sending out a letter this week requestion $100 per student or $10 per week for 10 weeks. Most parents seem to be happy with the science camp idea which is amazing to me as many of our parents culturally believe that "girls" should not be allowed to spend the night away from home until they get married!!!! SmileI'll be holding a parent meeting soon to really fill them in so their concerns won't be so great.

-Back Up Activities- Car Washes, Dog Washes, Water Sales, Employer Solicitations/Sponsorships and, hopefully, approval to have weekly Popcorn Sales. I still have to get information from Food Services to see what the government now approves for food sales at school and when we can sell it. I was under the impression that "healthy snacks" could be sold after lunch service. Now I'm being told that we can't sell until after school...well, that defeats the purpose. Students can go next door to the laundry mat and buy all sorts of candy and such after school, why would they want some air popped popcorn?

I've also been looking for ways to cut the cost of the trip. Transportation (either school bus or the district's approved charter bus service)is fully 1/4 of the total price. I can cut that almost in half if the District will let us take the train! Smile I think it would be a wonderful experience for my students as well. We've had a lot of changes in our fieldtrip regulations over the summer, so there seems to be no one person who can give me the all the information I need at the moment. I'll be tracking people down next week.

My biggest concern is that, although the Science Camp said we could do defered billing until April, 2008, the District is saying that we have to have all the money together before we go. That's a bit tough, because we're leaving in eight weeks!!!!!

So, with ALL that said, we currently have $2,600 towards the cost of the trip. If I can get the parents to pay before the trip, that's about another $3,000, or half way to our goal. Fingers crossed that:

1) the District will allow us to use the Science Camp's deferral.

2) the District will allow us to take the train and save half the cost of the transportation.

3) we get matching funds from the other two grants. Smile

Cross your fingers for us. I'll keep y'all informed of how it goes!

CJ Smile

Do You Want to Hear the Good News or the Bad?

June 11th, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Well, I'll start with the bad: someone managed to figure out my password and steal my main email account....the one I used for all my E-Bay, Half.com, and PayPal accounts. Frown Luckily, I discoved it within a few hours, changed my passwords on all (and there are MANY) other accounts, closed up my PayPal bank account, put a hold on all my credit cards and credit reports, changed ALL of my bank accounts for ones with new numbers...and more. Frown

Stupidly, I had kept over 2,000 (yep, you read that right) e-mails with all of my transactions over the last few years. My BillPay account was included in there. I'm hoping my ss number wasn't still hooked into my correspondence with the University where I went for my Master's. That would be VERY bad. Frown

Funny thing was I had listed a back up email account through my main email, and was sent a notice where they said my password had been changed. The "stub" of the IP address that was attached to that showed that the password request had come from Fresno, CA. Less than 24 hours later, I received another email stating that the password had been changed again! This time from San Francisco. Three days later, another...this time from England!!!!

It's been a couple of weeks and I haven't received any more notifications. That doesn't mean it hasn't been "transfered" again, it just means they may have found the back up address and changed it so I wouldn't know what was up.

Yahoo has been absolutely NO help. They just sent out a form letter saying that they'd look into it. Then sent another form letter asking how I liked the service delivered by the first form letter. Let me just say, they haven't responded back to the second letter I sent them. Smile

I guess the good thing is that I found out about it and acted quickly. It truly freaked me out. Online banking is something that I've only recently started (as per my other blog entries and starting up PayPal just a few months ago). For now, I think I'm sticking to the old fashioned ways of delivering payments: in person and using an envelope with a stamp. I'm telling you, it's very nerve racking to have that happen. Frown

The good news? I've been in the mood to purge a lot of my "stuff". I think I'm at that time in my life where I need to "shed" the extra material possessions that seem to be weighing me down. I started the process before all this stuff happened with the stolen e-mail acocunt and have been putting it on hold the last week or so as school is taking up more and more of my time.

I have PLENTY of stuff to sell at a garage sale, but decided last night that I'll Craigslist the things that I know can bring in a few real $$ and Freecycle or donate the rest. I just need it all out of here.

Anyone ever get those feelings? You know, where you just need to be rid of something (and no, I'm not talking about anyone's significant other...hehehehe). Usually I'm the type that holds on to things, many times, for way too long. It's sort of a new feeling for me, and not a bad one at that.

Hot Stuff!!!

April 20th, 2007 at 09:05 pm

Well, not me, but my compost! Smile I've never been a real gardener, and have just started getting more into it. I looked into finding a composter and happened to be given a tumbling type from Freecycle.

My first "batch", I followed the directions of the man who gave me the tumbler, but nothing ever heated up. I ended up with a blecky mess. Had to turn it out and just let time do the work.

This time I spent countless hours (well, I could have counted them, but that would have taken up another hour...hehehehe) researching the net to find out the differences between composting in a bin or pile and composting in a "tumbler". Turns out, I had the whole thing way too wet and not near enough browns.

This time I used shredded paper, coffee grounds, a few shovels full of mushroom compost (AKA horse and cow poop), and 2/3 a garbage can full of freshly clipped grass. By the next day, there was steam coming out of the tumbler and and I couldn't even stick my hand inside to touch it! I used a meat thermometer (I know, but I don't have a composting one) and the compost's temperature was up to 150 degrees!!!!! Couldn't believe it! It made me feel so proud that I finally got the right "recipe" to make this thing work.

Now it's on it's second round of heating up, as it stayed at about 115 to 125 degrees for almost a week before cooling off, but didn't break down all of the paper. I put in another 1/2 can of clipped grass and the whole process started over again. *fingers crossed* that the paper breaks down this time.

On the Princess front, I don't think that she's made much progress this week. Her leg still looks really swollen and she appears to be having more difficulty getting up after having lied down for awhile. I'll be taking her back to the vet next week so they can check her out.

I hate seeing her in pain. Frown That's the reason I decided to have the operation done, to stop the pain for her. Doubtful that I'll get the other knee done this year. Have to wait and see the healing of this one first.

Early Mornin' Surprise!!!

April 9th, 2007 at 07:36 pm

Showing off her sexy shaved leg and happy her first follow up is done, Princess resides on her comfy thrown. Smile

What a treat for me this morning! Princess decided that she needed to go "outside" at 4AM!!! She has to be let outside on a leash so she doesn't some how hurt herself by running around. So, we're walking around the back 40 (back 40 feet, for those of you who were wondering), when my puppy starts freakin' out. All of a sudden, Princess bolts toward the back fence, spinning me around and almost dropping me to the ground. Surgery and all, she's one STRONG dog! I had to grab her by the collar so that she wouldn't keep putting pressure on her knee.

And what was she straining to get at less than 8 feet away on the fenceline? One of the biggest, scraggiest, ugliest Mama Possums I've ever seen. Now that's enough to freak you out, get your adrenaline going, and keep you from falling back to sleep once you get in your nice, warm, cozy house. The possum scurried away, but Princess decided that we needed to spend the next half hour looking for it.

Geez, this nursemaid stuff is killing me! hehehehehe Smile

I do have to say that Princess was so cute this morning. After walking around and NOT going, she found one of her tennis balls. She picked it up, dropped it, and picked it up again showing that she wanted to play catch. My heart just breaks for her, knowing that her spirit wants to play but that her knee isn't healed enough for her to do that.

Princess had her first follow up after the surgery today. The vet looked very surprised to see her walking on the leg already. She said that it all looked good, but that the stitches would have to stay in until the next follow up appointment.

Poor Princess was so scared about going inside that I had to physically carry her into the vet's office. (Oh my back!) I'm pretty sure she was afraid that she was going to get hurt again. Frown She'll have 4 more follow ups to get her confidence back. I feel terrible knowing that she needs a second operation. Wish there was another way so she wouldn't have to go through all this pain again.

As for me, I have to start back to work tomorrow. Feel like I haven't even had a break since I've been taking care of Princess. My sister will be taking care of here during the day while I work. That way I don't have to worry about her hurting her leg while I'm gone.

Shoot, hopfully going back to work will give me something else to blog about besides my dogs! Smile

Warning: Slightly Gory Pics

April 5th, 2007 at 07:55 pm

For those who have been asking, here are a couple of pictures of Princess' leg, now 4 days after the operation. The brusing just looks terrible as it's all red like blood clotting just under the skin. Since her skin is so transparent, you can truly see where they held her or pulled back the skin to get to the bones. Frown

On the up side, the seepage is almost non-existant (great compared to how it all was for my other dog 12 years ago). She only has 9 stitches for a cut that's about 7 inches long. Some swelling, but not near as bad as it was the second day. Still, it looks a bit like a large turkey leg. Smile It all appears to be healing nicely. Princess is doing very minimal licking, so I don't have to put the E-collar on her.

As you can see from the last couple of pictures, Change is sure happy to have her sister home, even holding on to her paw to make sure she doesn't get away again. Smile

I, myself, am just about exhausted. I would make a TERRIBLE nurse, having to cater to one patient and one pain in the patooty is MORE than enough for me. In addition, the dogs wake me up every hour and a half to two hours to either go outside or rearrange their sleeping locations. Since Princess needs to be helped to stand up so she can get going, guess who has to get out of the bed to do the rump lifting portion? *smile* I'm sure once Princess is feeling better, there will be less of the need to move around to find "just the right" position or location.

I did manage to get most of my taxes done today. Looks like I'll get a bit back to help me save for Princess' second operation. Also, I went online to look up the operation and found a site that had many postings from people like me who have had the operation done on their dogs. Seems there's a BIG difference in cost depending on where you live. Surprise, huh?

One gal posted that she lived "near" Portland (OR or ME, she didn't say), but the cost for her dog was only $1200. There was no additional contact info on her. Frown Someone else had asked in a post where she had it done, but she never responded back. Could call all the vets around both those areas, but seems like a lot of work. The difference in cost is $2,300 though. If it's Portland, OR, I would fly or drive up there to get that done, as the savings are WELL worth it.

Thank you for your warm wishes to Princess. I'm sure that's one of the reasons she's doing so well. Smile

Princess is Home!

April 3rd, 2007 at 06:48 am

Back home, all snuggled up, and enjoying her bed!

She's very groggy and not willing to put up with the "puppy's" antics, but her leg looks good. I'm amazed that they didn't cut as much as they did with my dog who had the same operation 12 years ago. It's the same surgeon too. I'm thinking that's a good thing.

Although she hasn't eaten since the day before yesterday, I have been able to get her to drink water a little at a time. I have some ground turkey thawing out and will cook that up along with some steamed rice, maybe a few veggies. Pretty sure her stomach is sensitive since not having food for a couple of days.

Actually, the "puppy" is doing amazingly well in not buggin' Princess too much. Princess bit Change on the nose when she first got home, letting Change know that she wasn't going to mess around with her. Of course, this morning she's barking at Princess trying to tell her she wants to go play. Guess her only playmate for the next few weeks will be me. Smile I'm making sure that she's getting plenty of attention, since Princess pretty much wants to be left alone so she can rest.

The hardest part for me is lifting Princess up using a folded towel around the lower end of her stomach. It's more for support once she gets walking, but dang, that's one heavy dog (73 lbs). I think I need to find a longer towel, maybe a beach towel, so I don't have to bend so much when supporting her. She did manage to get outside with assistance so she could empty her bladder. Thank goodness she's willing to try to get around!

I'll keep y'all updated on how Princess is doing, how Change is handling not having her usual playmate, and how my back is holding out! Smile Thank you for all of your well wishes.

Princess Update

April 2nd, 2007 at 01:12 pm

Wow, I don't think I've ever posted so much on my blog in one day. Sorry if I'm hogging the space.

I just got a call from my Vet. She said that Princess' operation is done and that she's now awake. The operation went well, and that there was no real sign of arthritis in this knee. The surgeon got the alignment right where it matches the other knee. That means, from what the Vet said, that her knee should be "almost" as good as new when it heals and will be able to fully support her until I get the funds to have the other knee done.

I asked about taking her home, but she said they needed to wait and see how she's doing by the end of the day. They also asked if I had anyone that could help me lift her in and out of the car and into the house. My sister or a friend of mine I know should be able to go with me and help.

Pretty sure that they'll keep her over night. That's what they did with Honie Bear when she had the same operation. I just hate to think of Princess all alone in the clinic overnight. They don't have anyone that stays there to check on the animals. Frown

I'll let you know what happens as soon as I know.

12 Weeks-$3,500?

April 2nd, 2007 at 01:01 pm

The surgeon said that it would be best to schedule Princess' second operation about 12 weeks after this one. So, I'm generating a list of ways I can start getting the $$ together to pay for the second total knee replacement. Thus far, I've come up with:

-my mom's (since passed) Danish Modern Furinture on Craigslist. Too heavy to ship through ebay, I think.

-new full figured bras on ebay from my now defunct business

-more books on Half.com, ebay, or Craigslist

-whatever else I can find (CD's, plus sized clothing, etc.) on Craigslist

Turn in collected cans for deposits.

Start doing massages again p/t. Need to build back up my clientele. I have a friend in San Francisco (about 2 hours away) who says he can schedule 4 massages in a day for me to do. At $65 for an hour and 20 minutes, that could start to make a dent in the cost of the operation, if the set it up on a regular basis. That makes for a very long day...4 hours drive there and back, an easy 6 hours of massaging including setting up between each client. That's about $26 an hour total, not including cost of gas or materials (creams). Hmmm, gas up and back should be about $30 now with the rise in prices, so $23 an hour.

I'm going to call the pet rescue organization and see if they can help at all. Then I'll go out to the city animal shelter where I adopted my other dog and see if they have any connections to help me out. It was also suggested that I get ahold of the local pet stores, PetSmart, PetsCo, etc. and see if they know of anything. I'll let you know how it goes. Maybe I should change my $20 Challenge into a $3,500 challenge?

That's all I can come up with at the moment. All help is appreciated.

Both Knees Are Blown Out!!!

April 2nd, 2007 at 11:31 am

I took Princess in for her total knee replacement this morning. Over the weekend she was coming up lame on her "good" leg. I talked to the Vet about it and she said it could be for a number of reasons.

By the time the surgeon got there, I was already home. My Vet called to tell me that both knees were bad and I had to make a decission on which to operate. I had no clue!

My thought would be better to operate on the one that was worse, but the surgeon got on the line to say it would be better to operate on the one that wasn't so bad because it didn't show much sign of arthritis, unlike the other. That way, it should stay strong and not give her any pain after it heals. In addition, if I don't get the funds to operate on the other knee, she'd still have three strong legs to compensate.

He then said, if I had the one that was worse operated on, it could be that the "better" one would deteriorate before I could get it operated on, and she'd end up with two "so-so" legs. Then, if anything happened to one, the other wouldn't be able to compensate for very long without being traumatized. *heavy sigh*

So now, instead of costing $3,500, it looks like by the time she's done it will be over $7,000. Frown I'm trying to think of what I can sell to make up for that difference of what I thought the total cost was going to be and now what I'll need to pay to get the other operation.

I did contact UC Davis Veterinary Hospital ( the closest teaching vet hospital to me at about 5 hours away) and the savings wasn't enough to cover the drive up there, the over night stay, and the folow up care. It would pretty much end up being a wash. Here, the cost is $3,500, up there, $2,900...overall savings $1,200 for both operations. That would entail taking time off of work, or waiting until the summer, gas, hotel, driving up there for follow up care, etc.

The lady who had to give Princess up, I haven't been able to get ahold of. Seems she has new contact information since she moved and I'm not too sure if I feel comfortable in asking her to help foot the bill anyway. She said she wanted to keep in contact and see Princess whenever possible, but the last time I talked to her she mentioned how free she felt not being tied down to keeping care of an animal.

Payment plans? Well, the Vet said that it has to all (each operation) be paid up front as soon as the operation is performed/completed. I'm putting this one on my credit card. Not sure about what to do for the next one. Frown I should have asked if they had a 2 for 1 coupon. *smile* I have to find some humor in all of this or I'll continue to blubber like I've been doing all morning!

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas on coming up with enough $$$ to pay for a second operation, let me know. I'll post a new update after I get her home or find out how she's doing.

Thank you everyone for all of your concern. Smile

$3,500!! What Would You Do?

March 4th, 2007 at 07:39 pm

I took one of my two dogs to the vet Thursday. She's been coming up lame for more than a week. Although she's been to the vet before for the same sort of problem, she's never been lame for such a long period of time. This time, the swelling in her leg was down enough for the vet to find out that "Princess" has blown out one of her ligaments in her right rear knee.

The vet gave me two options:

One, just let it be and let her live with it, giving medicines to help reduce the pain.

Two, have it operated on...total knee replacement. Cost, $3,500!!!!

Princess is only 4 1/2 years old, an American Staffordshire Terrier, and one of the sweetest dogs you'll ever find. She was a rescued dog from a woman that could no longer keep her. I've had her about a year and half.

The vet said there's no real way to know what blew out her knee or when it happend. She said that Princess was such a muscular dog, that sometimes the ligaments just can't hold out against the power of the muscles. Princess LUVS to play frisbee and chase her sister (non-related) around the yard, even when her leg hurts.

It just kills me to see her in pain. The coated asprin and glucosamine she's been getting daily aren't working as they once were for her.

I'd like to get your thoughts. What would you do? Get the operation for her or let her live on stronger medicine?

WORMS! Wonderous, Wonderful Worms!

February 17th, 2007 at 08:21 pm

First, let me state that I am not much of a gardener, but I got a bug up my patooty a few months ago when I read the book, "Lasagna Gardening". Basically, you build layers of compostable material on top of either newspaper or cardboard that you've layed down to block out the weeds.

My neighbors weren't all too happy about me starting this project in my side yard...especially when I went and came back from a mushroom company with a full truck bed of "fresh mushroom compost", also known as horse poop! Smile Now, granted, it didn't smell quite like flowers in Spring, but it was something that would compost well and add a lot of the nutrients my homemade soil would need. I also understand that having my side yard only 15 feet from their front door wasn't going to make them my steadfast friends. Smile (You can tell my neighbors LUV me, right...hehehehe). The gal next door didn't understand why I just didn't rototill the whole thing and be done with it. She just didn't get the idea of lasagna gardening (blocking weeds) and what I was trying to achieve (creating new, nutrient rich soil).

Anyway, today I went out to the side yard to yank up all of the straw plants that had decided to pop up from one of the "brown" layers of the lasagna. Low and behold, under the roots, squirming around, were TONS of BEAUTIFUL worms! Now, if you garden at all, you know worms are a sign of good soil. Good soil equals a strong base to feed your new plants. I was THRILLED. It's exactly what I wanted to have happen.

I used to have lots of worms, until, while I was away from home for a couple of months, a friend of mine decided to do me a favor. She scraped off all the topsoil and redwood compost in my entire front and side yards so she could lay sod for me. Frown Well, she never layed the sod and I came home to a soupy, wet, muddy mess because of the stormy, heavily rainy weather we had. I was in shock, literally shocked at what she had done. To add insult to injury, she hauled off all of the topsoil, along with my lovely worms, to the DUMP!!!! The final kicker was when she presented me with a bill for the dumping AND for the BACKHOE they (her and her husband) rented to scrape off all the topsoil!!!!

You better believe I've never had her watch my house since then! Also, I have never told her what I thought of her "landscaping" and never will. Just some things are better left unsaid, especially if you want to keep the friendship. *heavy sigh* I'll tell you about her killing off my huge plum tree someday. Talk about a black thumb! Smile

I'm looking forward to planting in my new soil soon. It's not a huge space, maybe 20'x 10'. Half of the space gets sun about 2/3 of the day, the other half gets very little because of the layout of the house. Not sure what I'll put there , but it will have to be two different types of plants..shade loving and those that can handle partial sun. I'm pretty sure that I just want to go with flowers. There's an area in my backyard that receives full sun, where I'd like to get a vegetable garden going...eventually. Smile

Completed 3 of 9 Financial Goals for the Year

February 11th, 2007 at 11:48 am

I've been working (slowly) towards completing the goals I set up for myself at the beginning of this blog.


-set up a retirement account through work

-contribute fully to an IRA

-sell unwanted items and use the money to pay for home repairs

-research new home/auto insurances to find the best for less than currently paying

-have a will drawn up

-find a place for all financial paperwork to be centrally located, easily obtainable place

-get a free electronic bill paying system through my bank to save $$ on paying bills

-set up a PayPal account through a separate bank other than main one

-check into cancelling monthly cell phone plan and going to a pre-paid plan


-Changed over my insurance both on my house and for my cars.
SAVINGS-$386.80 per year.

-Set up a Paypal account through a different bank other than my main one.
SAVINGS- None really, but I have already received payments through the account. Smile

-Cancelled monthly cell phone service and went with pre-paid plan.
SAVINGS-Estimate of $160 or more per year. Prior cost was about $360 a year. Current estimation of less than $200 a year. Smile


-Started selling items on Half.com. Have sold two books so far, but considering I only put them up a couple of weeks ago, I'm happy. Although this goal isn't "completed", it's one that will be in progress through the entire year. I'm putting the $$ into my $20 Challenge and will use this money for fixing up the house.

-Also, checked on setting up a free electronic bill pay account through my regular bank, but was told they don't offer that option. The bank is being sold to Washington Mutual Frown and it was said that they should offer electronic bill pay within the next year.

-I have all the paperwork needed to start contributing to a 403(b) through work. I just need to find the time to call up CALSTRS and find out what exactly I need to do to select one of the funds that they represent. There was information on their website that stated there was a $50 a year charge for their management of the account. What wasn't clear is if that's $50 for one's entire account or if it's $50 per fund you invest in. I want to contribute the full amount allowed each year ($15,500).

There's also the option of doing the same with a 486 Plan (at least I think that's the number). That will allow me another $15,500 a year. Smile I just need to find places for this $$ so they stop taxing and taking so much from me!

-I'll be working on a ROTH IRA in the next few weeks. Not the best timing as my property taxes are almost due. I need to research where the best places are to put my money.

Although not on my list, I would like to consolidate all of my traditional IRA accounts and find out if an old 401K from a prior job can be rolled into a traditional IRA. I'm hoping to put all the $$$ together, as they are just bits of money, but together it's a tidy sum (about $10,000).

I'm going to look online to see if I can get some ideas about how to organize all of my finiancial papers. Seems I keep bills in one spot, pay them in another, have my taxes stored somewhere else...I just need a central spot that will work for all of it. Organization isn't a strong point of mine. Once I've reorganized something, it's like my mind can't remember where I've put it! Go figure!

I Saved $386!!!!

February 6th, 2007 at 07:36 pm

$386.60 to be exact! Smile I looked into changing over my car and home insurance and going with a company that is connected to my career "association". Almost better that the savings is that I was able to increase coverage on both policies for my house and cars.

I paid for the entire year's coverage with my rewards credit card and will be getting 1% back in addition. Smile Now I have to go down to my ex-insurance company and fill out a form that will reimburse me for premiums already pre-paid. I'm figuring that should be around $250 or so. Smile I should have time tomorrow to do that. The company will probably then take X amount of weeks to cut me a check, but hey, at least I'll get the $$ back.

My next big endevour is getting a retirement account or two started. I need to reduce the amount of taxable income I have. Being single with no real deductions is a killer in taxes...at least for me.

Wasteful Frugalist?

February 4th, 2007 at 11:58 am

I know that I'm frugal, but lately I've been noticing how much I actually waste, too. Take for instance my refridgerator. When I clean it out, I end up throwing out a lot of food that I bought but never ate, cooked or finished. My dogs are in hog heaven, literally, as they get to eat just about anything that comes out of the fridge. I mean well when I purchase the food. It just seems like my eyes are bigger than my stomach, or that I just don't get around to doing what I wanted to do with the food I buy. Living alone, I only have myself to blame.

This is not the only area where I waste. I've been cleaning out my closet, finding clothes I hardly wear and others that still have tags on them. I'm not much of a clothes hound, as I hate shopping. Seems I have an idea of what I want to do with a piece when I buy it, just (again) never get around to using it. Either it has to be ironed and I don't have time or it doesn't work with what I wanted to do with it (like complete an outfit).

The list goes on: books I collect but never read, junk mail that should be recycled as soon as it comes in the door, my mom's furniture that is just taking up space in my house as I ponder what do to with it, crafts that I start and never finish. Maybe it has to do with being a procrastinator? My intentions are always good, but making it to finishing the actual initial concept is what is most difficult.

Being wasteful costs me money, so how can I be frugal if I waste so much? Saving $$ doesn't seem to be much of a problem, but how much more could I save if I didn't spend money on things that go unused? Now that I'm more aware of this waste, will I cut back on buying things I won't use or bringing things into my house that take up space and make everything feel cluttered? Stay tuned...we'll see. Smile

Going On Strike?

January 17th, 2007 at 07:08 pm

Well, I just got back home from walking an informational picket line for our teacher's union. I know that many people feel that teachers are overpaid, but would you work at a job where they're demanding more and more from you but haven't given you a raise in FIVE YEARS???

Now, even though this was an "informational" picket, we had all four local TV stations there and three different newspapers. We've been trying since July to again negotiate with the distict on a contract that expired in 2005. Considering the amount of work/requirements that they're now almost demanding of teachers, it would sure be nice if they would negotiate in good faith and with respect.

We had another informational picket a couple of months ago. When the press came, we told them that we were just doing this as a sort of low profile event and didn't want the coverage. Guess things changed when the district offered a ONE PERCENT raise! *smile* Now tell me, how insulting is that after five years of nothing?

I'm not 100% sure if the union is thinking of striking, but they are using the language about the steps it takes to get to striking level. It will not be pretty if that happens. *shudder* The strange thing is, the district has the money. What they're trying to do is keep a 5% reserve in funds when the State only requires a 3% reserve. The State gives the district a Cost of Living Adjustment each year. The district chooses not to pass that down to the teachers and uses it for other costs. Frown Hence, no raise!

Although I'm getting sickly, I decided that I really did need to show my support. Hopefully, I won't end up feeling like garbage tomorrow. Frown Don't want to spread it to my students...although I'm pretty sure they're the ones who gave it to me. Wink

Dollars for Doggies

January 13th, 2007 at 01:39 pm

I have spent more on my doggies this week than I have on anything else. First, they needed food. Since I don't buy dog food that contains corn meal or ground corn(makes big dogs poop BIGGER), usually I buy the pricier brands. I happened to go to the feed store while they were discontinuing some Avo-Derma (Breeder's Choice) Beef and Rice 40# bags. I bought two for $19.99 each. That $43 after tax is almost what I pay for one bag!

Then, my "pups" needed to get their shots so I could get their licenses renewed. I was only expecting to pay $8 each for the rabies shots, but the gal said I needed to get the Distemper/Parvo vaccine too. Another $13 EACH! I'll be smarter next time and not feel guilty about saying no to the second shot.

Finally, I went to the local city animal shelter to pay for the licenses. The cost was $9 a year, but they said I could pay for 3 years (because that's how long the rabies shots are good for) for $20. So, there went another $40.

My totals were:

Food, $43 Saved $36
Shots $42 Saved by not going to the Vet
Licenses $40 Saved $14

Total Cost
$125 Saved $50

Dang, costly, but well worth it for the unconditional love! Smile

Making My Paycheck Work for Me

January 13th, 2007 at 08:25 am

As I have stated in my goals for this year, I want to become more in tuned to my financial situation, especially in regards to my savings. I've been on auto-pilot for about the last 6-7 years just letting the chips sort of fall where they did. I know because of this I've lost A LOT of $$ in possible interest. I'm now ready to do something about it.

First, a bit of background on what I'm trying to achieve:

My paycheck is direct deposited into my local bank's checking account that makes UNDER 1%. Usually I go into the bank a few days after the check's deposited and transfer about half into my regular savings (.46%, bad, I know), just in case I need it. Pretty much, that's my emergency fund.

When I get what I feel is too much in the regular passbook savings, I transfer it into an account that pays 4.16% and allows additions, but doesn't let me pull the $$ out unless I need $500 or more. You're allowed up to three withdrawls on it over the course of three months before it renews.

From what I've read on these forums, if I'm understanding correctly, internet banks like Ing and Emg. tie into your regular checking and you can EASILY transfer funds from one account to another. I would like to be able to have most of my paycheck transfered to the higher paying account and only pull out what I need into the VERY LOW paying checking account when I'm actually paying off my bills.

There's usually a period of 2 1/2 weeks between when I get my paycheck and when I need a chunk of $$ to pay off bills. I would like to make as much interest off that paycheck as I can.

I've asked for help in the main forums, but I'm actively looking into how I can get this done before my next paycheck at the end of the month. *fingers crossed* We'll see where this leads me. Smile

And The Answer Is....

January 12th, 2007 at 05:49 pm

"Miss J's 4th grade class is selling 'smelly' pencils to raise funds for fieldtrips. Thursday they received a delivery of 4 cases and 2 boxes of pencils. Each case has 4 boxes. Each box has 100 packages of pencils. Each package contains 3 pencils.

How many pencils does the class now have available to sell?"

Scroll down to find the answer!

I used this word problem with my students yesterday. Kids HATE math word problems, except when it's about something that concerns them. As some of you know, I start a business with my students each year: 1) so they can learn that work brings benefits (fieldtrips in our case) and 2) so I can use their buisness to help improve their math.

Every student has a job, whether it be as a cashier, an advertisement executive, a security guard (shame, but we need them), a customer service representative, or an auditor who oversees the checks and balances. They are interviewed and hired for the position. Funny, they're almost protective of the job they've selected. If another student is in their "place", they tell them to move out or on over.

When the state tests roll around, my students are pretty prepared, at least in math! *smile* They are some of the top scorers in our district. This, in a school where 90% of the students are second language learners. When other teachers ask me how I did it (having students score so high on the state tests), I tell them in a questioning tone, "I taught them?" Smile

Getting back to the business...Wow, we have a lot of pencils to sell! The good thing is my class has sold enough pencils to pay back about half the cost I paid out on my credit card to buy and have these pencils shipped out to us. Once I'm paid back, everything else is pure profit!

We should have more than enough pencils to carry us through the next school year. These students will "loop" with me up to 5th grade next year. They should be professional pencil sellers by then!

Oh yeah, the answer to the problem is: 5400 pencils!!!!

Putting It Back Out Into The Universe...

January 10th, 2007 at 09:12 pm

...either that or I'm plain crazy. Smile I received a call from the director of a program I attended in the summer. Seems they're trying to give me $500 for my participation. It just didn't feel right to take the money from them. Let me explain a bit more about the program.

It was a 6 day training in the Arts up at a wonderful camp in the California Redwoods. The gave us (us being teachers that attended) a cabin, feed us 3 meals a day plus snacks, and we had hands on training in the "Art" of our choice (music, dance, theater, or visual arts). It was all FREE, well free to me. I had been given a scholarship of sorts to go. My district had money through a grant that was used to pay for everything.

I picked dance...I'm not a real dancer, but that was the whole point, to get training in a discipline that you have minimal experience in. The days were long, 8am-10pm, with the training being about 2/3 of the time. The rest of the time was more book work, learning how to write up lesson plans that would coordinate with the state standards. My "PAUD" (pronounced pod) was taught by 2 instructors and only had about 14 people in it. Great way to learn with those numbers. Wish the classes I taught had numbers like that!

Anyway, it was a fantastic experience. There were probably 160 teachers from all over northern California there. Some very amazing people, I do have to say.

I've taken back some of the dances to my classroom. My 4th grade students LUV doing some of the Call and Response type dances/chants. They're always asking if we can do another one. Now, part of it may be that they don't have to do "schoolwork" during that time and that it makes the day go by faster, but I like to think it's because they truly get something else out of it. *smile*

Now you see why when I got the call from the director of the entire program trying to pay me that $500 stipend for attending, I just couldn't take it. I asked her to put it back in the program "coffers" and offer it as a scholarship to someone else. She seemed actually shocked!

She then said that, if I wanted, I could find my own scholarship recipient from other teachers in my district. I told her I'd put the word out, but if she found someone deserving of the funding, that she should feel fine about giving it to them.

Here I am, trying to manage my money, start a new retirement program, and fix my house up, and I'm giving $$ away. Sounds a bit crazy, I know, but I have to believe that it all will come back around. Smile

Hey, anyone need a scholarship? *smile*

Windchimes and Memories

January 7th, 2007 at 04:02 pm

Several months ago, my back porch area was rebuilt. My windchimes had to come down and were relegated to just being kept outside in a plastic tub. Well, weather being weather, the tub filled up with rain water and the windchimes were forgotten.

I don't know what got into me, but I decided that they should be re-hung. I took them out of the tub, cleaned them off, restrung one of them that had "rotted" from being submerged in water for months and figured out the best location for each one.

Today, as they tinkled in the wind, my mind floated back in time. While I was growing up, my mom always had windchimes. She usually got the glass ones that had pressed flowers between the panes of each chime. Being out on the 'farm', in the open air, where the breezes would gently push those chimes together, those memories were nudged into my conciousness as I listened to the musical concert. It brought such a smile to my face.

My mom passed just over two years ago. When clearing out her mobile home (a long way from the farm we had grown up on), I heard something and went out to her back porch. There was a large windchime, the only one she had left, just spinning in the wind, making its presence known.

I remember restringing that windchime for my mom years ago. She was quite upset that it had become tangled and broken. Some fishing line, a bit of time and it was ready to sing its song again. My mom was delighted. She always loved the sound of those chimes.

When it comes to windchimes, you have to find just the 'right' one. Some chimes play a song that just doesn't sound like sweet singing to your ears. I have been known to 'play' every set of windchimes in a store just to hear the sound, looking for the one that calls me. I'm sure my mom must have done the same thing. The song of the chimes had to call her as they do me now.

It turns out that my younger sister wanted those chimes at my mom's house and I let her take them. It's the only set of chimes my sister has hanging in her patio. No doubt, she has memories of mom whenever she hears them play.

Rehanging mine has made me both happy and sad. I miss my mom terribly, and although she isn't here to listen to their songs, my hearing the chimes sing brings back many memories of the times she and I shared together.

So I Went to Target x2

January 5th, 2007 at 04:56 pm

Now, I was debating this morning if I should hit up Target while they were having their 90% off seasonal stuff. Yes, I went, but am quite proud of how I did. At my local store, I spent $5 on cards, cutters and a few gift bags. This was after I looked at ALL the stuff in my basket and decided that I really didn't need MOST of it. I left the basket near where everyone was digging through the sale items and just took what I knew I could use.

Then, after getting in my car, I decided that I should enjoy the sunshiney day and head over to the Target 25 miles away. Now there, I spent a bit more, $21, but got a lot of stuff that I didn't see at my local store.

My 4th graders aren't the best when it comes to using scissors, so I bought 10 paper cutters. They look almost like disposable razors. I'm going to play with one and see how they'll work for my students.

There were also Teacher Calendars that I'm going to give out as gifts to some of the teachers at school. I'm so tempted to open them up and read them. They're the page-a-day type with sayings and jokes to make your day a bit lighter.

Well, there was one more thing (or should I say 10 more things) that I just happened to spy. No where near the 90% off seasonal stuff was a HUGE display of Special Edition White Fudge Covered Oreos. *smile* For anyone who hasn't had these, I do have to say, they're better than sex. Maybe not better than really good sex, but better than everyday, just cuz ya have ta sex. Smile

Now, they were marked $2.70 with a big sign on top of them. I thought for a minute and decided that I should scan a box. They came up .27 EACH. Thinking quickly, normally one box is $2.70 and these are .27, I could get 10 boxes for the price of one. Smile I'm bad, I know.

As soon as I got home, I gave two boxes away to a friend of mine and told her if she wanted anymore, just come ask. You know what she did? She punched me in my arm!!!! Geezzz, not like I was TRYING to ruin her New Year's Resolution! Smile She promptly ate two cookies...then two more. Thankfully, I've only had ONE cookie and since there's only 12 cookies in a box, I'm going to have to portion them out. Smile

Anyway, I'm done with shopping for a long time, that is, except for groceries. I've never been much of a shopper. Flea markets, garage sales, I can do those, but getting into a mall and looking at the exact same thing in every store one enters....naw, I don't have that shopping gene.

Time to work on saving my $$ and getting my retirement squared away. I found all the paperwork for the school district's self-funded (meaning I have to pay into it, not them) retirement plan. I'm going to look up and research the best funds that I can use in my 403(b).

I also think I need to start writing down where my $$ are going. Managing it has never been a problem for me, as I'm a saver more than a spender, but I'd like to see if there's another corner to cut.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

January 5th, 2007 at 08:57 am

Target is calling me. All of their seasonal stuff went on 90% off and I'm wondering if there just might be "something" there that I should go get.

I did go when it was 75% off and spent $41. That got me 3 CD's (including the new John Ledgend Christmas one to be used as a gift), WAY too many bags of Almond Roca (that I had coupons for, making it .25 a bag), 3 page-a-day calendars (2 that were gifts), 1 box of Christmas cards (for next year), a double pack of Gald Press 'n Seal (one regular, one freezer), and assorted other stuff that just doesn't come to mind. Smile

I've been working on cleaning/purging the house and freecycling/craigslisting things I don't want anymore. I'm to that point where I NEED to get out of the house. My doggies are driving me nuts. I go back to work on Monday, and that will be a shock after being off for 3 weeks. I have to ease myself back into the real world. Smile

Well...hmmmmm.....Targetttt Smile

Anyone Want a Couple of Doggies?

January 4th, 2007 at 11:05 am

The part of California I live in has been blessed with some nice weather since the beginning of the year. Today, it's pouring rain. Well, my doggies decided they wanted outside and I took the opportunity to sweep the house and put on a new slip cover to the overstuffed chair I have in the living room.

Yep, you guessed it! Not only did my doggies go play in the rain, they decided to DIG in the mud. Oooo, what a mess. I had to wipe them all down, clean their paws as best I could, and toss the mud covered towel in the washer for a good soaking.

Of course, my puppy, the Golden Retriever, decided that she was good to go when it came to jumping up on the new slipcover. I had to pull her off (cuz she surely didn't want to leave that clean smell behind) and recover the chair with the old slipcover. She seems quite content now draping her head over the edge of the arm.

The other dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier, decided she wanted to romp on the couch. She has to stomp the cushions "just right" before she plops herself down.

They are a handful sometimes, but are the most loving dogs. Enjoy the pics!

Can Y'all See This???

January 3rd, 2007 at 06:21 pm

...yeah, right here. Come a little closer. Is it just me or right here across my forehead does it say S-U-C-K-E-R? Well, then what about this cap I'm wearing. You know, the pointy one. Is that D-U-N-C-E I see?

I have got to be one of the most gullible people out there. My ex-bf came over my house today to, once again, "borrow" money. He's been having a real rough two years. He's a carpenter by trade and while working a job, he had an entire side of a house fall on him as the crew was trying to raise it. With that, it broke his back.

Now, yes, he did go on disability, but was still living like he was working full time and having that income. When the settlement came, he was so behind on bills already, that most of the $$ went to catch up.

Fast forward to this year and his ex-gf (me). He's come around several times in dire straights begging for a loan. Now, y'all know it's not a loan, 'cuz I'll never see a cent of it. Let's just call it a gift then. This gift is now at $2,900!!!!

I know, I know! I told you I had sucker writen across my forehead! For many different things, I can say no. To many different people (usually myself the most), I can say no. But to him, I just can't seem to say it. I feel so badly for everything he's gone through and I don't want to see him out on the streets.

Here I am, trying to find ways to cut back, save, figure out how to use things one more time, and I have given this man one-twelfth of my total take home pay for a year! *heavy sigh* This is one thing that I don't know how to control. Frown

Cell Phone Plan Change

January 2nd, 2007 at 05:26 pm

I am so HAPPY!!! I changed my T-Mobile cell plan over to T-Mobile To Go pre-paid plan. Bills...I hate 'em...trying to remember to pay them on time, well that I hate even more. The older I get, the fewer bills I want to see. *smile*

With changing over to the pre-paid plan, I can buy 1000 minutes for $100 and they last up to a year. If I was the sort who HAD to have a cell phone, I'm sure there would be a plan that would cost me less per minute than ten cents, but I've been paying premium rates on the minutes I wasn't using. What a waste of $$$.

My contract ended in December, so there were no extra fees for closing the one plan and opening the other. They said they will port my number (GREAT!).

Funny thing is, when I initially went into the T-Mobile store to find out more about their alternative plans, they told me that I would have to spend $50 on a "To-Go" kit to change over even though I already had one of their phones! I asked about this when I called the 800 number and they said I didn't need to pay anything extra to change plans. Hmmmm....wonder why the push from the store?

Anyway, with the changes in insurance and cell phone plans I've made today, I should be saving an extra $500 or so a year. Smile YIPPEEEEE!!!

Insurance Premiums

January 2nd, 2007 at 04:14 pm

For the first step of this life journey I'm on, I called a different insurance company that is recommended by the local teacher's association. Although they charge more on my second car (my big, old truck that I only drive a couple of times a month) than I currently pay, overall their cost was less annually for both vehicles.

Using the additional 10% off for combining both my home owner's and the auto insurance, I can save about $335 a year. Also, the amount of coverage for both insurances goes up. Not bad, pay less and get increased coverage.

I do need to check with my current insurance company to find out what my deductibles are. The deductibles that the new insurances are based on are $1000 on both cars and home. I have a feeling that my current deductibles for both is only $500 each. We'll see.

I'll give my insurance a chance to match this new coverage. If they can't, I'll be moving over to the "teacher's" insurance as soon as possible.

My next step along this journey is to change my cell phone plan. I'll call T-Mobile and see if I can move over to a pre-paid plan. Currently, I'm on the $19.95 a month plan plus taxes, that gives 60 anytime minutes and 500 minutes on the weekends. I rarely use the phone and think spending the $100 for 1000 anytime minutes would be a better deal considering my usage.

If anyone knows of a better plan, let me know. Smile

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