Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#couponchallenge Step 2: Getting Coupons

Okay, so I have my price book and I'm starting to collect data (it's reaaallllllly interesting - a post on that soon!). I'm also starting to collect coupons - I know from experience that this really only works when you already have all the coupons you need (and with you!)!

I've started with printable coupons. Those are the easiest to get, they generally don't require an email, and there are great blogs that link to all the best printable coupons out there. It's an easy start, if you have access to a printer (The Idiot's Guide to Couponing points out that you can find coupons for ink, and start using the coupon game to get printer ink for free and maybe even super cheap!)

I'm also starting to sign up for manufacturer's email lists again. Every few years I get fed up with the amount of junk mail I get, but this time I'm doing some things differently.

First, I'm using a separate Gmail account. I've used separate email accounts before, but never gmail - and I feel like gmail has the best spam detection, easiest filtering options, and best of all, there's no way it's going to fill up like some of my other free email accounts would!

Second, I don't intend to check this email account every day - at most, once a week before I go shopping, and for many stores, only before a planned trip.

Third, I'm signing up for more and different manufacturers thank I have signed up with in the past. Since I've got a special gmail account, I'm being more broad and signing up for coupons from stores like office supply stores and fast food places, where I normally wouldn't bother before. I'm also opting in to more options - coupons plus sales alerts, instead of just coupons. (I still don't really want my info shared with other companies, though!)

Hopefully this tactic will get me some more printable coupons, or even high-value coupons mailed to my house. This works with Jo-Ann Fabrics and Bed, Bath and Beyond, so fingers crossed!

I don't have a subscription to the local paper yet because I'm not sure if I'd get enough savings by subscribing. I'm going to buy a Sunday paper this weekend and see how I feel about the inserts, and if so, I might get a 13-week Sunday only subscription (using - what else? - a coupon). I'm also going to look around for places where I can get discounted versions of day-old Sunday papers in my area - there are a few other local papers that might have some good or different coupons and I'll test those out before I subscribe to them as well. If you google "Sunday coupon preview" you'll get to see a list of the inserts - and sometimes the coupons! - that will appear in that week's paper! (Which saved me from buying a paper last weekend, when there were no inserts due to the Memorial Day holiday.)

I doubt very much that I'll ever buy coupons on ebay or anything like that. Even subscribing to the paper sort of smacks of "paying for savings", which I don't like. I guess if nothing else, the newspaper will help create more "browns" to go in our compost bin.

If you're participating in the coupon challenge, are you starting to collect coupons? Where are you finding them?

Friday, May 25, 2012

#couponchallenge Step 1: Price Book

In order to get the best bang for my buck with a coupon challenge, I realized that I needed to figure out how to optimally pair coupons with sales (and hopefully, doubling) to get the best deals.

How do I know when something's at the lowest price to get the best deal? I *know* that my memory is horribly bad - I can remember a good price for avocados and artichokes, because they go on sale so infrequently, but beyond that, I am not really sure if I'm seeing a good deal for peanut butter or hamburger buns. Grocery store circulars and end caps are not necessarily the best indicators of the lowest prices - their goal is to get you to buy stuff, and if that includes making it appear that something's a better deal than it is, well, why wouldn't they take advantage of it? Also, I generally only shop at one store - but what if there are better prices at other stores in my area, maybe that aren't quite as conveniently located, or maybe that are unexpected?

Obviously, I need a price book.

I love tracking things. But for some reason I've never really put my mind to tracking prices at the grocery store. (I did try it once and I got yelled at by a store manager, so I abandoned my cart and walked out and never shopped there again - and never tried it again.) For this challenge, I will be creating a price book. It might be a lot of work, but hopefully it'll be worth it - and if it's not, I'll quit doing it after Labor Day.

Here's my price book plan of attack:

1. Create a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets - they are organized, easy to read, portable (when saved to the cloud), and best of all - SEARCHABLE. I used a template that I found here, slightly reorganized it to feature the categories available here, and then I added all the products that I buy on a regular basis. I found those by using a few generic grocery store lists, adding unique items that I buy (quinoa, bulk almonds, and Morningstar Farms sausage links, anyone?), and visualizing my grocery store layout to see what I missed. I'll continue to refine the layout of the spreadsheet throughout the summer, but to start I'm organizing it by section within the grocery store, and alpha by product within that.

2. Update the spreadsheet based on circulars and receipts. I'm not going to check the price of every item on every shopping trip. I would give up this project in about five minutes if I had to do that. But the circulars will give me a pretty good idea of sale prices and schedules, and receipts will give me actual prices.

3. Mark when I buy items. This is so I know how much to stockpile once I figure out the sales schedule for a certain product.

4. Shop differently. I'm going to try some different stores on different occasions to see if what the prices look like. I've already signed up for the circular for a different grocery store chain that's just a little further out than my normal one - I won't be driving twenty miles to save $2!

Do you keep a price book? Are you considering starting a price book if you're doing the coupon challenge?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School lunches

Check out this astonishing blog from a 9 year old documenting her school lunches - in less than a month, she's achieved over a million views, changed her school's policy on serving sizes and availability of salad and fruit, and gotten tweeted at by Jaime Oliver. Astounding.

Without kids of my own, school lunches pretty rarely cross my mind. But when I think back to my own school lunch experiences, I'm pretty horrified. I clamored for years to get to buy lunch like "all the other kids", even though there were really no vegetarian options besides a nasty cheese pizza with oil pooling on the top of it. My parents finally caved in and gave me the $2.50 per day or whatever it cost.

Only I didn't use the money to buy lunch. At least, not all of it.  Every day for all of junior high, I bought off-brand oreo cookies and chocolate milk, $.50 each, and saved the "leftover" $1.50 for my own purposes. No one who worked in the cafeteria noticed or said anything to me. I'm horrified at the unhealthiness of that "meal" and shocked that I was able to concentrate in the afternoons lacking any significant nourishment. And I knew better, in terms of health, but I guess I just wanted that extra money to spend as I wished - it probably doubled my allowance.

Sadly that wasn't my only brush with bad school food. In high school I went to boarding school for a little while, and the cafeteria there alternated between "okay" and "horrifying". At one point it came out that they were sprinkling baking soda in the milk cooler to hide the scent of sour milk, and I remember getting sick off the milk more than once, which kicked off my years-long boycott of it. The bigger problem was that the cafeteria was only open until I think 6 a.m. for breakfast (classes started early) and I never managed to make it there on time. At that point, I totally got out of the habit of eating breakfast, something that carried through college and well into my adult life.

It seems a little thing to pick a fight about - kids who get fed at home are probably going to be okay if they get sub-par school lunches - but it is during these formative years that habits are created that will stay with those kids for the rest of their lives. When I'm a parent, how will I react to my childrens' begging to "be like everyone else" and stop taking their lunch?

I don't even know.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And the #couponchallenge winner is...

The winner of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing is commenter #2,




 I think you'll find that organizing and sustaining a coupon "habit" is really where this book comes in handy!

Swiggett, please email me within 24 hours at littlemissmoneybags at gmail for details on how to get the book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Updates!

Update #1: 1800Flowers. They put a partial refund on my credit card instead of the full refund I was due. When I called to complain about that, they insist that I was charged $5 less than I was. After *finally* getting to speak to someone who could help me, we discovered that someone at 1800Flowers changed the delivery date in their system (without my authorization) which resulted in the appearance of a $14.99 delivery charge instead of a $19.99 delivery charge. Now, where did that extra $5 go? Because it sure didn't come back to me. This helpful woman told me she had to fill out some forms by hand and mail them to New York, but she would do so to make sure I got the rest of the money they owed me. I'm supposed to get it by Friday - we'll see.

Update #2: Tipping Dilemma. I dropped by the hair salon on Friday with an envelope containing a 20% tip for the stylist-owner. It was an awkward thirty second conversation, but I do not regret it at all - the weight that lifted off my shoulders was unbelievable. Thanks for all your suggestions!

Update #3: There's still time to join the coupon challenge! Leave a comment on this post if you'd like to try to reduce your grocery spending by any amount using coupons between now and Labor Day, and you'll be entered to win a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing. I'll pick a winner tomorrow!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Linkfest: Recipe edition

I've been loving the 4 Weeks to Fill Your Freezer series over at Money Saving Mom. Once-a-Month-Cooking seems like it ruins my day or my weekend, so I've avoided it over the last few years. But individual recipes like this? DOABLE. Here are my favorites from the series:

Breakfast recipes + shopping list
Homemade Baking Mix
Freezer-friendly banana bread
Cinnamon rolls
Lunch recipes + shopping list
Dinner recipes
Brown bag burritos or Southwest Rollups
Barbecue meatballs (this would probably work with a vegetarian version too!)
Lasagne casserole (also easy to vegetarianize - and even better, no lasagna noodles. Check out her super quick cheat!)
Pizza dough (we make pizza dough, too, but we go through it too quick to freeze)

I used to make super delicious breakfast burritos for the freezer, and now I'm totally craving one!
Recipe:
Full size tortilla wraps (2-3 packages)
1 dozen eggs, scrambled and slightly cooled
Shredded cheese (I like a Mexican mix)
Jar of salsa
Bag of Morningstar farms sausage crumbles (frozen)
Bag of tater tots (frozen)

Assemble burritos by layering eggs, cheese, a few spoonfuls of salsa, a line of tots, and a spoonful of sausage crumbles, then wrap like a burrito, tucking in both ends. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze inside gallon ziploc bags. To eat, thaw on the counter (or in your bag on the subway) for about half an hour, then remove aluminum foil, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave for 1-2 minutes. You can also nuke them straight out of the freezer (again, remove the aluminum foil, please!) but I found that they don't quite get hot in the middle the way you do if you let them thaw a little bit. Makes at least two dozen burritos. I have no idea how long they'll keep because anytime I made them I would eat one a day (or more) until they were gone, so I never had them longer than a month. I imagine 2-3 months if they're tightly wrapped.

My favorite thing about that freezer cooking recipe is that the only "cooking" you really do is scrambling the eggs.

Free Money Finance details financial rules that work - and some that don't. I think his list is right on target!

Great tips on staying active from Zen Habits.

I've been using my sewing machine for a long time (which is not to say I'm an experienced seamstress!) but I still think a free online sewing machine class is an awesome offer!

Trent recommends picking a model and waiting six months - whatever it is you're purchasing. This is great advice. I've only been an early adopter twice (once for my Sony reader and once for my iPhone) and I like his method better. It hurts to see the price drop once you've paid!

Get Rich Slowly discusses how your friends are marketing to you. They're not only talking about actual marketing programs like BzzAgent (disclosure: I'm a BzzAgent) but about how every time we make a recommendation, we are positioning ourselves as an expert, someone to be trusted - perhaps, even, someone to be imitated. The post also explores the murky territory that bloggers face when major corporations are offering them perks and goodies.

I thought this Huffington Post article about turning 30 was spot-on - I experienced most of the same thoughts when I entered my 30s as well.

I don't normally read Seth Godin's blog, but I saw this link somewhere else (sorry, I forget who!) and this is a really important point: if you're going to measure something, be sure to pick the right metrics!

Lifehacker has a whole list of online classes that are available for free this summer! From coding to personal finance to nutrition to psychology, there is some interesting stuff here. I'm thinking of taking advantage of a couple of these!

One of the ways our modern economy works is by keeping the consumer dissatisfied. This is the primary goal of all advertising - because if we were happy with what we have, we'd stay home and not spend money. Miss Minimalist takes a close look at this phenomenon.

I guess it's nice to know that 1800Flowers.com is not on a personal vendetta against me - looks like not delivering flowers is a problem for many of their customers. Clearly, they are in over their heads - I wonder how they're still around? (via Consumerist)

This post by Trent about loved ones in decline rips my heart in two. I don't live near my parents, and neither do any of my siblings. Although hopefully we have years to go before they need this kind of assistance, who will provide it for them?

Some ways to stop social media sites, particularly Twitter, from tracking your actions online. (via Lifehacker)

Nine costly things new homeowners don't prepare for via WiseBread - only, in my opinion, a number of these are totally bogus. Property taxes and insurance? These are included in your PITI on your pre-approval and other mortgage paperwork. Unless you have a really unusual situation, they are listed as part of your monthly payment from the get-go, and are taken out of that payment and held in escrow until they are due. Window coverings? Generally, these come with the house - you might not like them, but you don't need to spend $2,000 to hide your nakedness the first week you're there. Appliances - again, these should not be a surprise. The inclusion of appliances with a used home purchase is discussed in the contract negotiation phase, or should be. You'll know whether you're getting them before you're committed to the house. Utilities can be a major surprise, but you can call the utility companies before you purchase the house and get the last year or two of bills to get a sense of what they will cost you.

These slow cooker vegetables look great! What a fantastic use for all the prolific summer produce out there (and a cooking method that won't make your A/C work overtime).

The headline for yesterday's Happiness Project post is something that I've come to realize in the last few years - the problem is learning to identify what really does make you happy at home!

Penelope Trunk talks about how it's impossible to recognize what an age will be known for while we're still living in that age. I hope she's right that one of the things we might be remembered for is taking personal responsibility for our lives.

DINKs Finance discusses the cutoff for a discount. I agree that 15% is not really much of a discount. I mean, I'll take it, if it's something I would have bought anyway, but 15% is not enough to get me off the couch for something I wasn't planning to buy right this minute. The concept is an important one for my coupon challenge - in order to determine if you're getting a good deal, you need to define what a deal is.

The Bottom Line of Marriage

A Practical Wedding recently discussed joint finances in marriage, and how that can sometimes become a situation where women are voluntarily giving up knowledge, control, and an active participatory role in their financial lives. I have to agree with some of the comments, saying "Who ARE these women?" because they don't sound like people I know. Here's my take: sharing finances with someone else is NOT an excuse to not participate. It's an opportunity to share the costs of building a life, but along with that is a responsibility to be involved.

The post was inspired by this article in the New York Times, and it is just boggling my mind.

Here's my opinion:

When Peanut and I lived together before we got married, we had a joint account for household expenses and maintained our own separate accounts for all other spending. During that time, we alternately had a $10,000 difference in our incomes and then earned about the same, within a few thousand dollars of each other. We split our household expenses exactly in half, and each contributed that much money to the joint account, which was then used to pay bills, buy groceries, and for things like joint vacations. The rest of our money was ours to do with as we pleased. This made sense, because legally, we weren't really financially entwined (we had an annual contractual obligation to each other and our landlord, but that was it).

As soon as we got married, we combined everything. All money goes into one pot, and all expenses comes out of that pot. There is no "allowance". There is no comparison. We pay the bills, we save for shared goals, and that's it.

I can't help it that my haircuts cost more than his. I can help it that I buy more clothes than he does, but it doesn't matter - I don't want to wait until my clothes are literally worn out before going shopping like he does. He goes out to lunch a lot more than I do. He had more student loans than I did, and he know makes more than $10,000 more than I do. None of that stuff matters. We're not keeping score, we're on the same team.

Our life is a shared life. We do maintain a spreadsheet for tracking our spending, and we do track it by person (him, me and joint) - but it's out of curiosity. I would never have to defend my purchases to him and he doesn't have to defend his to me. We make large spending decisions jointly, although we have never designated an amount of money where we need to ask the other for permission before we go spend it. There's just trust - because we openly talk about our financial goals, we can understand what our individual decisions would do to those goals. And we make good decisions for the benefit of our family.

I realize that we are unusual because we are both highly interested in personal finance. But I'm just astounded at the number of women who taken on such willful ignorance.

What do you think about the women quoted in this story who have completely given up participation in their financial lives?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Mid-Month Goal Check

In an effort to remember that I made goals, I'm trying to remember to check in on them mid-month.

1. Start trying to live on one income again. We're working on it!

2. Bring homemade lunch to work three times a week. Doing pretty well with this so far, actually. I just have to remember to get more non-frozen-stuff from the grocery store this weekend for next week.

3. Sort through the stuff my mom brought me. Haven't even started. I'll try to get through a box or two this weekend!

4. Get back into the yoga home practice habit. Haven't even thought about it!

5. Break out and USE the super handy-dandy house maintenance and cleaning schedule that I created and stuck on a shelf. I haven't broken out the book, but I have...thought about some of the things on there. We've been so focused on planting and trimming stuff that I haven't thought much about the rest of it.

How are your goals going this month?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tipping dilemma

I need your advice!

The other day I went to a salon and got a haircut. It had been nearly a year and a half since my $85 curly specialist haircut, and my hair was growing out but needed some clean-up. So I read some reviews and found another curly expert here in Minneapolis, where I'm pleased to see that the cost of living means that a super haircut here only costs $35 instead of $85. Win!

I booked an appointment with the owner of the salon, went in, got a fantastic dry cut, a little bit of pampering, and a lovely 'do. I paid her $35 plus $5 and tax for a sample size of one of the products she used that I really liked. Because she was the owner, I did not tip.

That's what I have always understood is appropriate. I've seen it in Dear Abby, I've seen it in Dear Prudence. Only, when I got home, Peanut informed me that my understanding is way out of date! Nowadays, if the owner is also your stylist, you ARE supposed to tip them. (I confirmed it on the internet, with no less than Oprah's site telling me I'm old-fashioned.)

Oh, no!

Guys, this is like one of my favorite haircuts ever, and this place is my new salon. I'm not looking for anywhere else, and I'd 100% recommend them to everyone who crosses my path. But I didn't tip her! I didn't know! I thought it was insulting to tip the owner!

So. What do I do?

Option 1: Get over it, and be sure to tip (maybe double) next time. (Keep in mind, I get my hair cut once a year at most. So this wouldn't get resolved for a long time.)
Option 2: Go in one afternoon this week and give her a tip, explaining that I didn't realize that the custom had changed. A totally awkward five minute conversation for both of us.
Option 3: Mail it to her?
Option 4: Get over it, and instead leave really nice reviews online in a few places. (I intend to leave the reviews regardless.)

What option would you choose?

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing

I've talked on and off about couponing here for years - I've always sort of been peripherally aware of couponing - mostly in the sense of, hey, use coupons when you can! I've been fascinated by the coupon games that some bloggers are able to play but I never managed to get them to work for me, and late last summer I declared that I'd "given up" the coupon game because it wasn't worth my time.

Since then, I've continued to use coupons when it makes sense (when they fall into my lap and happen to be for something I'd buy anyway, try to pair with a sale) and when shopping online (seriously, if you don't have time to google "site name + coupon code" before confirming your order, you need to stop reading this blog and do that instead!) and I've been trying to get hooked into my grocery store's loyalty/coupon program, but I haven't been doing anything else. I figured that's just sort of how I'd roll, even as I'm jealous of other people's ability to bring home the bacon for 60 and 70% off.

Then I got a chance to review The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing, and boy, did I have a good time. Turns out, what I thought I knew about couponing is not really all that much at all - and what I didn't know could, well, fill a book.

Look at all those sticky notes!
I had poked around a number of blogs and looked at their "Couponing 101" and "grocery game" posts, but I still had a lot of gaps in my knowledge. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing filled those gaps and gave me a lot of practical tips besides - in some ways, I think, many blogs want to steer clear of offering specific advice and "how-tos", opting instead to detail how the blog author does it so that readers can copy them. But this book gives concrete, step-by-step instructions, backed up by a publisher known for providing practical, prescriptive guides. The book sort of reads like a blog though - a friendly, personable voice sprinkled with personal anecdotes and accessible writing. Sort of like a very long email from an older sister explaining how to do this.

Here are a few of the things that I learned:

* I'd always kind of discounted printable coupons as not as good as the ones in newspaper circulars. But guess what? They tend to be higher value! Since you're paying the production costs, manufacturers can feel a little more generous (also: about that. There are printer ink coupons. Who knew?!).

* Likewise cell phone coupons - I've always assumed that my store wouldn't accept them or they'd be hard to keep track of. But these are actually a really well-established technology!

* Buying a newspaper subscription seems like it might not be worth it for the coupons inside, much less buying a paper each week - but there are places that sell newspapers direct for cheaper. Places like Dollar General!

* Clipping coupons can be a waste of time. So - don't clip them! Just save the whole circular, clip the coupons you'll use right before the shopping trip when you'll use them, and use a site that tells you when all the coupons in that circular are expired to know when to recycle the whole thing.

* Coupons are only for highly processed, brand name stuff. Turns out - there are several blogs focused to finding natural, organic and vegan/vegetarian coupon deals, and there are even sites that collect manufacturer's coupons for such products.

* Never throw out or recycle expired coupons again - you can donate them to military personnel overseas. That's a worthy cause!

So. I consider myself newly educated, and I'm kicking off a coupon challenge. This summer, from now until Labor Day, I'm going to be more diligent about finding and using coupons for grocery and personal care purchases. I'm going to try some things I've never tried before, like Cellfire and catalinas. I'm going to try not to spend more than an hour per week finding deals (that's less than ten minutes per day!). I'm going to report my coupon savings here on the blog. With this actual action plan and test results, I'll be able to determine once and for all whether couponing is really "worth it" for me. Posts over the next week or so will detail the specific steps I'm taking to get started with couponing the right way.

Would you like to join me in my coupon challenge? If so, leave a comment on this post detailing what you'd do with the money you save during your coupon challenge - and one random commenter will win a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing. (Not my copy - as you noticed, mine has been annotated - and I'll need it for the challenge. You'll get a new one!) Leave a comment here for the mandatory entry, and tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #couponchallenge for a second entry (please leave a second comment with a link to your tweet, for ease in tracking entries). I'll pick the winner a week from today.

I'd like to declare 2012 the summer of cheap groceries and free shampoo. Here's to it!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why We Left New York

Molly from Smart, Pretty & Awkward asked me the other day whether I'd blogged about our decision to leave New York, and it occurred to me that I never really did. I didn't even announce that we were moving until Peanut had already moved out to start his new job. I wasn't just private about it on the blog - I didn't give my family and friends much warning that we were leaving also, even though we knew for a long time.

We are quickly coming up on my one-year anniversary of being away from New York, so I think the time has come to talk about it.

First off, I love New York. I wanted to live there my whole life, and I moved there right after college for what was supposed to be a six-month internship. I stayed nearly eight years. I still love New York, even though I knew that I didn't want to live there anymore. Moving there was one of the single best decisions I ever made in my life, and I hope that moving away will likewise prove to be one of the best - but only time will tell that.

When Peanut and I got married, we had something of a plan for where we wanted our lives to go. We knew we wanted kids, and we knew we wanted to raise our kids close to at least some of our family members. We knew we wanted the option for me to stay home with kids for a little while. And we wanted to raise our kids in some semblance of the lives we led growing up. Unfortunately, those things were not possible in New York.

It is definitely possible to raise kids in New York, and I think that a childhood in New York would be a supremely awesome thing to experience. But it's WAY far afield from my own childhood in rural Tennessee and from Peanut's in suburban Minnesota. We had visions of houses with yards and maybe dogs, of neighborhood parks with grass instead of cement, of regular visits with grandparents and cousins. With no hope of ever living in anything larger than a two-bedroom apartment and no family within four states in any direction, New York just didn't meet those needs.

I actually used to have nightmares about being nine months pregnant and standing on the subway, or wrestling a stroller and a toddler through the turnstiles. Thinking of New York daycare also turned my stomach in knots, not to mention the competitive nature of kindergarten and elementary schools. And although we lived on one income pretty well sans kids, we would have struggled to do that if I had quit (my full-time job provided health insurance, and jobs with benefits are hard to come by there in Peanut's field - it's a freelancer's world).

So, I think you could say that the biggest reason we moved was for our future children. We wanted to create a life where we were more in control of our lifestyle than we felt we could be in New York. But there was more to it than that, too.

We felt like our lives were going too fast. My job was prestigious and, frankly, awesome, but it was very stressful. I tried hard to establish firm work/life balance boundaries, but it was not uncommon for my colleagues to be at work until 10 at night and much of the weekend - every week and every weekend. I learned that I am much happier when I can leave work at work, and I didn't feel that that would be possible if I stayed in my field in New York. (I suspect that because New York is so full of amazing, successful people, it's not really possible in ANY field, but obviously I can't prove that.) Likewise, Peanut was making crazy money doing freelance and he was working on some super cool projects, but more than once he wound up at the office for 20 hours in a row for most of a week, and at times, our paths didn't really cross for days. That was NOT how I wanted to spend the first year of our marriage, much less the rest of it.

We also felt that our connections in New York were fairly superficial. We had a broad network of friends, but not many deep, abiding friendships, especially as a couple. I think this is a side effect of a transient population - friendships don't go back years and years, people move in and out of the city, they move to a different borough and you rarely see them, they move to Jersey and you never see them again. (Kidding. Kind of.) We knew whether we moved back to his home state or mine that we would be able to settle near the kind of friends-who-are-basically-family we were looking for, and we weren't sure we would have ever found that in New York.

And lastly, from what I remember, we were both tired. We were tired of the constant noise, the sub-par accommodations, the high prices for everything, the feel of people pushing past you and climbing over you. Some people are wiped out by the energy of New York within their first ten minutes in the city; some people in my family are like that. They hate the feeling of feeling drained by so many other people in such a small geographic area. It took me eight years to notice it, but once I did, I'm not sure I could have ever shaken it. I'll be going back to New York in a few weeks for the first time since I moved away, and I'm full of trepidation and excitement at the thought. Who will have changed more, me or New York?

Part II: Did we get what we wanted? Coming up soon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

1800Flowers is dead to me

That's it. I am totally done with 1800Flowers.com. TOTALLY. DONE.

I should have learned my lesson two and a half years ago, but they were able to make good on that situation, eventually, and they had the best price and a GUARANTEED delivery for Mother's Day. And I figured, hey, two and a half years, they've probably got their act together now. I even selected flexible dates, deliver on Saturday or Sunday, in hopes that would increase the chances of delivery.

Yeah. Guess who didn't get flowers for Mother's Day?

I am so pissed. I called this morning and they said, "Oh, sorry about that. The florists were really busy yesterday so they didn't get the flowers to your mom. We can deliver them today."

UM. It's MOTHER'S DAY. It's one of the biggest floral holidays of the entire year, and you don't take orders that you can't fill. It's not even that they ran out of that particular bouquet or some of those flowers or anything - they just "couldn't get to it".

(I should note here that my mother does not live in a rural area. She lives in a major suburb of the fourth largest city in her state, an area that is totally hopping. There are florists all over, including one within about three blocks of her house. There are also several grocery stores with nice floral departments that offer delivery. There is no excuse for this.)

But then I got a garbled message that appeared to indicate that I could not be guaranteed a delivery date for any point in the future ("Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or possibly Wednesday."), and I called back to cancel the order and request a refund. The guy I spoke with couldn't tell me how much my refund would be. He gave me three different numbers, two lower and one higher than what I'd actually paid, and his reasoning was that I'd gotten a discount and so I wouldn't get that refunded.

Which, obviously. If I didn't pay it, I don't expect to get it back.

What I wanted refunded was the amount of money that was actually charged to my credit card, and I had to log in to my credit card account and give him that number three times before he agreed to refund me that same amount.

We'll see. I'm supposed to get the full refund within five to seven business days, and you better believe I will be watching that like a hawk - and if it doesn't show up on time, I will be filing a chargeback with my credit card company. 1800Flowers is also sending me a $25 gift certificate towards a future order, which I plan to point at and laugh in a very unladylike manner, because they have got their heads screwed on backwards if they think I am EVER going to do business with or recommend their company again.

I have now ordered flowers directly from a local florist (using a lesson I learned four years ago and should have remembered) which will be delivered today, in a lovely arrangement that was cheaper than 1800Flower's price with discount anyway. Just goes to show you - buying local means you're not subsidizing search engine advertising.

Have you ever had a bad experience with a national internet company? How did you handle it?

 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Carnival of Money Pros

Today's Carnival of Money Pros is saying "thanks!" to all the moms everywhere. Here are some of the best posts of the week. 

Steve Zussino @ Canadian Personal Finance writes Why Term Life Insurance is the Best Choice for Many Individuals - While most people are aware of the need for life insurance, many have no idea where to start and what kind to go with. Life insurance comes in many different forms: whole, variable, term, permanent, just to name a few.

Dr. Dean @ The Millionaire Nurse Blog writes iPads And Tablets: Ten Ways To Keep ‘Em Safe While Traveling - iPad's size and weight make them great for traveling. Read all about how to help keep yours from the black hole that is ' airline lost and found.'

John @ US Insurance Net writes about getting cheap renters insurance - before you can begin looking for cheap renters insurance, you have to define what you need.

Aloysa @ My Broken Coin writes How to Make it in America - I am sure you know that it is not easy to make it in America. Making it (whatever it means for you) requires a lot of work and determination. It also requires bravery and courage. For someone like me, making it in the land of opportunity was not just about hard work and determination.

ETZ25 @ Entertainment Timez writes Thoughts on a Dividend Stream For Entertainment - I hash out my plan of attack for the future dividend stream for entertainment.

Jen @ Master the Art of Saving writes Using Extra Income to Pay for Luxury Items - I was under the (incorrect) assumption that I had already told you guys how I afford to pay for my luxury items. Sometimes I get a little confused about what information I post on here, reply to in comments on here and leave in comments on other people’s blogs.

PITR @ Passive Income To Retire writes How Blogging Has Changed My Life - Find out how blogging has changed my life. It has not only improved my writing, but has allowed me to build a side business.

krantcents @ KrantCents writes The 3 O's of Success - The 3 O's of Success is the fifteenth in a series of articles to help you reach your goal.

Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder writes Earn $5 for Taking a Picture of Your Grandparents (and 12 other weird things...) - Fotokoi is an online market that allows people to exchange photos. The best part is, people interested in your work will pay you for rights to your photo.

Corey @ Steadfast Finances writes Investing in a Timeshare - Is It Worth It? - Is investing in a timeshare worth it? Find out the benefits and costs associated with timeshare vacation programs.

Jester @ The Ultimate Juggle writes The Importance of Vacations For Kids - This article explains the reasons that we prefer to take destination oriented vacations for the kid's sake.

KT @ Personal Finance Journey writes In Debt? Consider Paying Cash for Your Purchases - Are you in debt (besides the mortgage)? Do you have thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt and/or credit card debt? If you are struggling to make your payments, one of the best things you can do is to stop using credit and begin to use cash.

Jeffrey @ Money Spruce writes Travel When Retired? No! Travel Now! - I just don’t buy into the whole “travel when you’re retired” thing. It seems like such a waste to wait my whole life to travel (and, not to be morbid, but assuming I make it to retirement age). I just got back from my latest trip to Montreal, which was fantastic. It was my first visit, and it definitely won’t be my last.

Jon the Saver @ Free Money Wisdom writes When Should you go for a Reverse Mortgage? - Reverse mortgages are tricky things. Instead of avoiding them, why not research them and see if they would work for your financial goals!

Wayne @ Young Family Finance writes Unexpected Costs of Pet Ownership - Pet ownership can be quite expensive. If you are considering getting a new pet, make sure to consider these costs.

Daisy @ Add Vodka writes 4 Things All Women Need to Know How to Do - I think independence and self sufficiency is a must for all women.

MMD @ MyMoneyDesign writes What Did You Learn From Working as a Teenager? - Was your job as a teenager a complete waste of time, or did you learn some incredibly valuable life lessons that prepared you later on in life to be a better working professional? I present to you 17 lessons I learned from my early days of employment that I still carry with me today.

SFB @ Simple Finance Blog writes 8 Most Common Types of Houses - Shopping for houses means looking through countless of listings, In order to eliminate the confusion, below are the eight most common types of houses

Theresa Torres @ http://www.creditdonkey.com/ writes Financial Infidelity: Marriage and Money - Many unhappy and failed marriages are due to debts and lies about money. So before embarking on marriage, it's important for a couple to have a honest and healthy discussion about money issues. Here's a research infographic that shows how difficult it is to build a happy married life on delusion and dishonesty about money.

PPlan @ Provident Plan writes U.S. Companies Exploit International Workers - Lack of Fair Wages - Learn more about Infosys and why U.S. companies should not treat workers this way.

101 Centavos @ 101 Centavos writes Wall Street Hates Wal-Mart - After running a just-for-fun post a while back on a Redneck-themed stock portfolio, some readers suggested adding Wal-Mart (WMT) to the mix.

YFS @ Your Finances Simplified writes What Is Asset Allocation and Why Is It Important? - One of the things that investment gurus always emphasize is to diversify, diversify and diversify. Supposedly, diversification will help improve the overall performance of your portfolio since it doesn't ride on just one investment vehicle.

Corey @ 20s Finances writes How to Furnish Your Apartment for Cheap - One of the most common places that people overspend in their budget, in addition to buying food or groceries, is in home furnishings. It's easy to see why this is one of the most expensive areas for people. Furniture and major appliances are expensive.

Kanwal @ Simply Investing writes Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Dividend Paying Stocks - Dividends are cash payments made to shareholders.  As a shareholder you are part owner of the company and therefore are entitled to share in the profits. Dividends can also help you determine when a share is undervalued, and priced right for purchase.

Don @ MoneySmartGuides writes Why You Need A Will - A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post over at Money Q&A titled Four Overlooked Estate Documents You Need.

Luke @ Learn Bonds writes Predicting the Future Rate of Inflation - May Edition - What does the market say about inflation predictions? The answer is plenty.

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Politics and economy in the Eurozone part 1 - The people have spoken in France and Greece. They do not like this austerity business one little bit. Can you blame them? After all it was not the people who caused the problem so why should they suffer while the banks get off scot-free?

Vanessa @ Random Thoughts & Acronyms writes How to deal with multiple bills due on the first of the month - An effective way to handle monthly bills regardless of what dates or how many times per month you get paid

Linsey @ 1099 Mom writes Update Your Blog to Get Even More Paying Customers - A verdict has been reached: Provided that your company's blog is full of useful, engaging insights, there is a direct correlation between the amount of content you generate and the number of people who are buying your product or service!

asgreen @ Always the Planner writes Competing Priorities -

Erika @ http://fromshoppingtosaving.blogspot.com writes How My Smartphone Saves Me Money - A post about how my smartphone saves me money.

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes The Five Tool Budgeter - In baseball, a five-tool player is one who excels in some of the game’s major skills: fielding, base running, hitting for power, hitting for contact, and throwing ability. As we move to your budget, there are five areas where you must excel to find financial success

Evan @ My Journey to Millions writes Don't Subsidize My Lifestyle - Optimize Your Expenses - Anytime I complain to a company about lowering my bill they are doing it at the expense of their profit margin, as such, they are forced to overcharge someone else. Don’t be that someone else.

Jason @ Live Real, Now writes 10 Ways to Secure Your Kids Against Debt - Everybody wants their children to do well. I want my kids to grow up without making my mistakes. Here are a few ways to help them avoid debt.

Debt Guru @ Debt Free Blog writes Actively Avoiding Debt - Find out how you can actively avoid debt by not having a wish list or items that you want to buy next.

Beating Broke @ Beating Broke writes The Work Revolution - In The Work Revolution, Dr. Clow lays down the argument that it isn’t that you need to find an escape from work, but that work as we know it is in need of a revolution.

Lazy Man @ Lazy Man and Money writes Pyramid Scheme Questions Cause Herbalife to Lose 3 Billion Dollars - A company losing 3 billion dollars is significant. It's not often that the Wall Street Journal or Business Week write about an MLM company. However, that was the case with HerbaLife earlier this week.

Mr. Money @ Smart on Money writes Finding Alternative Methods of Getting What You Need - You don’t have to buy new all the time in order to get a good value. Here are some alternative ways to get what you need:

Peter @ Bible Money Matters writes 50 Easy Ways to Save Money Every Month - While getting by with less is great, you don’t have to completely do away with everything. There are a lot of easy (and crazy!) ways to reduce your spending, and save money every month. Today I thought I’d put together a nice long list of easy ways to save money every month on recurring expenses, on money leaks and on just about everything else. So let’s get started.

Matt @ Living in Financial Excellence writes What I Have Learned by Interviewing People Who Are Debt Free - For the past six months now I have had the pleasure of being able to interview debt free individuals and couples on the Debt Free Living Podcast. So far I have released about 20 episodes and it amazes me how unique each story is regarding how they got debt free. It also is interesting to me to see what each person’s “Why” is. Some got their finances together in order to travel more, some do it to quit a job they hate and do something they love, and for others it was to stay at home with t

Grand Per Month @ Grand Per Month writes How to Make $1000 Per Month Writing eBooks - I have been looking into electronic books and doing some research into the possibility of being able to make an extra grand per month by writing and selling an ebook. Never before has it been so easy to self-publish a book into an electronic format using the available platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle. And people are buying electronic books! In fact, ebook sales have surpassed physical book sales so you can only expect this market to grow over the next several years. Now is the time to tak

Ashley @ Money Talks Coaching writes Should I Get Married with Debt? - Money and marriage. They go together like peanut butter and jelly,

Sustainable PF @ Sustainable Personal Finance writes What is Crowdfunding? - Crowdfunding works in much the same way as microloans for the poor. You receive a large number of small cash infusions, rather than one or two large ones.

John @ Married (with Debt) writes The Goal of Work is Retirement: Rule 10 - This is Rule 10 in my 10 Rules to Eliminate Debt and Change Your Life The reasons I started Married (with Debt) are twofold: to help people get out of debt, and help them change their lives.

Crystal @ Budgeting in the Fun Stuff writes Doing it Again - Renting Out a Spare Bedroom - We rented out the spare bedroom of our current home 2 of the 5 years we've lived here. And we're doing it again starting today.

Thad @ ThadThoughts writes Breaking In As an Author: Interview with “Hungry for More” Author Kandy Persall - How does a budding author get started? This interview with "Hungry For More" author Kandy Persall can help figure it out!

Hank @ Money Q&A writes What Is Gap Insurance On Your Car And Why You Need It - What is gap insurance? And, do you need it? Gap insurance is a type of car insurance policy that is designed to cover the gap between what the value of your car actually is, and what you owe on the vehicle.

Amanda L Grossman @ Frugal Confessions writes Frugal Mother's Day Ideas - Sometimes what we want to give loved ones cannot come close to what we can actually afford to give them.

A Blinkin @ Funancials writes Should I Buy A House? - I rarely divulge details from my personal life, but today I’m looking for some feedback. Let me give you the full story: I have been dating Miss Blinkin for approximately 1 year and 4 months. Without giving too much information, I foresee an engagement in the coming months.

Jason @ Work Save Live writes Why We Didn't Sell Our Car on Craigslist - Last week I detailed why we considered buying a car through CarMax, and I wanted to do a follow-up on a service of theirs that we actually used.

MR @ Money Reasons writes Is Now The Time To Buy Real Estate? - With the low mortgage rates, is this the perfect time to buy real estate? I find myself looking more and more often.

Robert @ The College Investor writes Alternatives to PayPal - If you do business online, no doubt that you use PayPal. It has become the most mainstream online payment service over the last few years, thanks, in part, to it collaboration (and then purchase) by eBay. However, it is not the only player in this space, and here are a few alternatives you should check into.

Robert @ My Multiple Incomes writes Get a Company's Attention - Have you ever had a terrible experience and you felt that the company didn’t care? Are you going up against a behemouth of a company and don’t know how to go about it? Here are some tips and tricks to get a company’s attention in this modern day of social media. And you’d be surprised, it is easier than you think!

Van Beek @ Stock Trend Investing writes Investing in Google Stock - Google has been a hot stock for the last few years, and if you’re thinking about getting started investing, you may be considering investing in Google stock. I mean, why not? If you could double or triple your investment, who wouldn’t? Well, you should carefully consider your investment in Google stock, or any stock, based on these following things.

Aaron @ Aaron Hung.com writes Does rising gas prices affect americans? - Americans has been hit hard over the last few years with gas prices slowly rising all across the nation. With prices going up as much as $5.70 per gallon on Orlando Florida, you would think that most Americans would cut back on eating out and doing other activities

FG @ Financial God writes Betting on the Future President - Have you ever visited Intrade, which brands itself as the leading prediction market? You can make a market in almost anything these days, it seems. Intrade is a prediction market based in the Republic of Ireland, and lets you bet on predictions in all kinds of areas, including the future president of the United States.

Suba @ Broke Professionals writes How to Save Money on Hotel Rooms - How to Save Money on Hotel Rooms is a post from: Broke Professionals if you enjoy it, please visit us and subscribe to the Feed. You don’t have to be rich to take a trip or go on a vacation, but they do cost money.

TRL @ The Retired Landlord writes Different Places to Save a Down Payment - Find out the many different accounts or investment places that you can use to save a down payment for a rental property.

Jeremy Waller @ Personal Finance Whiz writes Reader Question: Spend Money to Repair a Gas Guzzling SUV or Sell And Get a More Fuel Efficient Car? - This week I received an e-mail from one of the PF Whiz readers: We are at a cross road dilemma to purchase or repair. Our gas hog Acura 2005 MDX, with 107,000 miles needs new a timing belt & other minor repairs. The cost estimate is $2800. This car only takes premium unleaded.

Teacher Man @ Young And Thrifty writes Choosing the Latest Investing Fad - Don’t you love the guys/gals that get their investment advice from the water cooler? You know the guys and gals that are constantly hopping on the bandwagon of whatever terrible investment advice that their co-workers heard on the radio on the way in this morning?

Kevin @ Thousandaire writes Paul Ryan is a Fiscal Liberal - If Barack Obama is the most liberal president in history for spending $3.6 trillion in 2011, then why does the Ryan plan spend $3.5 trillion in 2013?

Teacher Man @ My University Money writes Lifestyle Inflation – The Upward/Downward Spiral - Yes, I know, many of you have seen this before, and are probably thinking, “Man, I don’t go out and spend frivolously, I’m not trying to pretend I’m a Rockefeller, I’m just an everyday person, I don’t have any lifestyle inflation.” Here is the thing – lifestyle inflation is a silent beast.

Daniel @ Sweating the Big Stuff writes Wedding Gift Etiquette - Buy A Gift or Write A Check? - So what do you want for a wedding gift? With just weeks to go before my wedding, I've been asked that simple question more times than I can count. When people pose it, they're looking for a simple answer.

Eddie @ Finance Fox writes What Income Level Do You Consider Rich? - There's no secret formula to getting rich. Even as little as 10 Percent of your income invested over 30 years and you'll be set for the rest of your life.

Steve Zussino @ Grocery Alerts writes 10 Frugal Mother’s Day Gift Ideas - Here are 10 frugal mothers day gift ideas that will not break the bank!

Ryan @ Early Retirement Investments writes Retiring Early is Only Going to Get Harder - Related Posts:Why Your Children Should Open a Roth IRA at Age 18Common Sources of Retirement IncomeAbout The Baby Boomers Already Flocking to RetirementFinding...

Tushar @ Start Investing Money writes How to Dodge Investment Scams - This Post was Originally published at How to Dodge Investment Scams on Start Investing Money

Echo @ Boomer & Echo writes Pitfalls Of Chasing The Highest Dividend Yield - Choosing a dividend stock involves a lot more than simply looking for the highest dividend yield. Here are some of the pitfalls to avoid:

Mike @ Rewards Cards USA writes Best Airline Miles Credit Cards - One of the reasons that many people sign up for rewards programs is to save money on travel. Here are some of the best airline miles credit cards:

Mike @ Rewards Cards Canada writes Why Cash Back Beats Travel Rewards - A free vacation keeps many Canadians loyal to their travel rewards program, but for me, cash back is king. Here's why cash back beats travel rewards:

Jeremy @ Modest Money writes Career Lessons From My Mom - In honor of Mother's Day this coming Sunday, I decided to write about how my mom overcame financial adversity. As a single parent she went from collecting welfare to being a successful entrepreneur and is now retired early. She is a true success story.

Investor Junkie @ Investor Junkie writes Why PE Ratios Don't Matter - Here’s why I think PE ratios are more likely to mislead investors than put them on the trail towards the next hot stock:

Sicorra @ Tackling Our Debt writes Let's Talk Money - The Series - With Average Joe at the Free Financial Advisor - Check out this great interview with Average Joe from the Free Financial Advisor as he talks about his experience with money and his past life as a financial advisor.

Janelle @ A Mom's Dime @ A Mom's Dime writes You Don't Ask, You Don't Get - How I learned to ask for what I wanted, or I likely wouldn't get it.

harry campbell @ Your Personal Finance Pro writes How I Achieved a 13% Rate of Return with Lending Club - I started investing with Lending Club in August of 2010. Two years later, I’ve seen an awesome 13% rate of return on my initial investment. Lending Club is a relatively new site that brokers peer to peer lending. In essence, you become a bank and you are free to browse and invest in thousands of notes at various interest rates.

Sean @ One Smart Dollar writes 8 High Paying Jobs Without a College Degree Needed - Not everyone has the means or want to go to college. Luckily for them there are still plenty of jobs that you can make over $100,000 while not having a college degree

Jefferson @ See Debt Run writes Using Credit Cards and Paying Them Off Immediately…Too Dangerous? - It is said that your should avoid using all credit cards when trying to get out of debt, but I have started using the Target Red Card and Chase Freedom card.

Earth and Money @ Earth and Money writes How NOT to Make a Financial Decision - When it comes to making financial decisions, it is imperative that you have a clear and focused mind. Given how hard we work for our money, a poorly made financial decision can come back to haunt us many times over.

Emily @ Evolving Personal Finance writes How Do You Decide How Much to Spend on Groceries? - Our food choices are influenced by health, cost, sustainability, and convenience factors. Recently I have wanted to trade convenience for sustainability, but should our costs increase or decrease? How do you decide how much is appropriate to spend, if you don't spend as little as possible?

SB @ One Cent at a Time writes Top Risks for Investing in Oil and Natural Gas - Every investment opportunity has its share of risks. This article talks about the risks of investing in oil and natural gas sector, geared towards beginner investors.

Ken Faulkenberry @ AAAMP Blog writes Margin of Safety: Core Financial Concept is Price Matters - The margin of safety is the difference between the market price and intrinsic value of an asset. Price matters is the core concept of margin of safety.

SB @ Finance Product Reviews writes Best Credit Cards for Balance Transfer in 2012 - We analyzed over 20 cards geared towards balance transfer scenario and rated top 3 based on overall feature of the cards.

Lance @ Money Life & More writes Rental Property - The Financial Side - There are many numbers that are important when making a decision on buying a rental property. The first one that we calculated was how much we would offer for the townhouse. It was listed at $73,500 which may not seem like a lot but would probably be about 5,000 under market value IF it was in great shape and ready to rent out. It wasn’t, so we definitely would not be offering anywhere near that amount.

J.P. @ Novel Investor writes Value Investing Lessons From Warren Buffett - Highlights some of the interesting topics from an interview Warren Buffett did back in March for the MBA program at the University of Western Ontario.

This post contains sponsored links.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Call for submissions!

This coming weekend, I'm hosting the Carnival of Money Pros -  a new-ish PF carnival that's been hosted by such great bloggers as Sweating the Big Stuff, My Journey to Millions, Thousandaire, and Money Cone. This is my first time as a carnival host, so I've been polishing off my top hat and practicing my "Ladies and gentlemen!"...

Wait. What do you mean it's not "that kind" of carnival?

Well, at any rate, it's my first time as a host, and I don't want to be the only new kid on the block. If there are any newbies out there who've never submitted to a carnival -- or oldies-and-goodies who have but haven't been part of the Carnival of Money Pros -- please consider yourself formally invited.

Send in your submissions here!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Linkfest!

It's been a while since I did a linkfest! Here are some of the posts that caught my eye around the blogosphere lately.

Use leftover bits of wine to make wine jelly - yes, please! I want to try a few unique and unusual jellies this summer - this one, lilac jelly, and a dandelion jelly are on my list. If they turn out all right, I might enter them in the fair.

I absolutely loved this tweet from Smart, Pretty and Awkward. Take it to heart! (Speaking of SP&A, I'm writing a post for one of her upcoming Coffee with Molly newsletters - stay tuned for details!)

Via Midway Simplicity, 27 simplicity legends reveal their tips to you - some good ones on this list!

How do you get a raise or a promotion? Stay positive and focus on high-visibility projects. This is really great advice - it's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but focusing on projects that other people will notice is important. Another way to do this is to start a weekly status report and send it to your boss outlining everything you've done all week. It can be a little annoying to keep track of your time like this, but it can also give you a solid track record to bring up at reviews - if it doesn't pay for itself automatically before then! (I used to do this at my old job, and my boss would forward it to her boss, and she would forward it to the CEO. I made sure to talk about things that made MY higher-ups look good, so they were compelled to share the information. It also got me on a first-name basis with the CEO, out of a 700-person company. All for a simple weekly email!)


Saturday, May 5, 2012

April Spending Review

Alcohol $9
Business expenses (deductable) $3.89
Business expenses (reimbursable) $954.53
Car $154.10
Charity $10
Entertainment $59
Food—dining out $320.01
Food—groceries $171.47
Gifts $21
Household items $113.15
House $1,392.29
Hygiene/Medical $1025.74
Jeep $84.94
Sewing/Quilting $93.15
Student loans $403.83
Taxes $5,346.35
Transportation $60
Utilities $243.35
Yoga $40

Total Spending: $10,494.80

Things of note: 

Ugh, another high spending month. At least the taxes weren't as bad as we feared they might be, and that also takes care of the last of Peanut's freelance work. We have to pay estimated taxes again this year, even though he didn't do any freelance work last year, but if we didn't agree, we'd have had to to pay a penalty. Because of this, we're actually looking at a refund next April, which is very unusual for us. I'd rather have the money in my pocket now, but I also don't want to pay a penalty on the office chance Peanut does pick up enough freelance work that we have to pay again.




Aside from taxes, dental visits for both of us, and my vacation/quilt project spending, it wasn't too bad of a month. Hopefully that's the end (for a while) of the unusual months so we can get back to rebuilding our savings instead of spending it!

How'd you do with April spending?

April Recap/May Goals

April Goals
1. Get the oil changed. Done!

2. Set a budget for my trip. Done! And I got a surprise birthday present that covered all of my spending, so that was even better.

3. Have a low-key birthday. Done. A few quiet dinners, some lovely flowers. Perfect.

4. Try four new recipes. Mostly pass - I definitely made three new recipes (lentil and tofu curry, strawberry-rhubarb freezer jam, and fried rice) and one old-old-old one that I hadn't made in years (artichokes).

5. Clean out the filing cabinet. Complete fail. I thought about it twice and that's it.

May Goals1. Start trying to live on one income again. Theoretically, we should be able to do this...but we haven't had a "normal" month since we bought the house...and then bought a jeep...and had $700 in unexpected medical bills (twice)...and had a vacation...and and and and and....

2. Bring homemade lunch to work three times a week. I used to be really good at this, and then I got not so good at it and started relying on frozen entrees, and I'm just so, so sick of them. Now that the weather's warm again, I can start throwing together simple salads again.

3. Sort through the stuff my mom brought me. Oh, joy - my mom brought me boxes and boxes of stuff that had been sitting in her spare room since I moved out of her house...um, a long time ago. Some of it is stuff that I would never have saved, but she thought I'd want to keep, so now's my chance to get rid of it. Muah hahaha.

4. Get back into the yoga home practice habit. I fell out of this due to injury and travel, but I'd like to pick it up again. I always feel better when I do it on a regular basis, not to mention that I see faster improvements in my flexibility and strength!

5. Break out and USE the super handy-dandy house maintenance and cleaning schedule that I created and stuck on a shelf. I spent so much time and effort putting this thing together, and it's frankly sat on a shelf since we moved into our house. Time to USE it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Medical costs rant

Pardon me while I rant for a minute.

Remember that $700 ultrasound I was trying to avoid? Yes. Well, this morning I went to the place that does $150 ultrasounds, and discovered that I had been scheduled for two additional procedures, including a full mammogram. Each of these procedures has a different cost, all progressively higher. I understand that things cost what they cost but what I CAN'T understand is this:

When I asked how much the ultrasound was, I explained that I had a high deductible insurance plan, and anything that was done would be paid out of my pocket. WHY would they not mention the other two procedures, which were noted right there on the appointment? Why not give me the TOTAL COST of my visit, not just the cost of one procedure? I can't possibly know what the doctor has ordered for me, so why wouldn't they mention that?

Lesson learned: always ask if that's the only procedure or cost I can expect from an appointment. I'm even happier now that I didn't go with the more expensive place, which probably would have used up our entire $3,000 deductible in one visit. I won't get the bill for this for a few weeks, but I'm expecting it to be close to the original $700 estimate. At least that puts us about halfway to our deductible for the year. *sigh*

Second mini-rant: my regular doctor's office sent me another bill, which includes a service that I never got. I looked it up, and it's indicated for someone with a condition I don't have, a pre-existing condition I've never had, and is given as an injection, which I never received. I've disputed the charge, but I wonder how likely it is that these types of mistakes slip through all the time when bills are being sent directly to health insurance companies, with no one to verify their accuracy? No wonder medical costs in this country are so high!