Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gardening on the cheap

Miss MoneyPenny always spends way too much money on her annual gardening.  Just filling the pots on the deck alone can really be spendy.  You know what I mean, buying those gorgeous plants that you see at the garden center, and trying to recreate something that you've seen in Fine Gardening What usually ends up happening to me is, it is too cold for those little exotic beauties, and they end up either dying or just sulking.  This is very frustrating to me because I have spent all that money and had these big dreams about how they should look.  Not this year.

QFC had a big sale on plants at the beginning of summer.  I thought if they can live in the QFC parking lot they will really thrive on my deck.  The geraniums were 4 for $10 and they had red, pink and white.  Just your basic geranium.  No Martha Washingtons.  I also got some deep purple trailing lobelia to fill in and be really gaudy.  I think they look pretty good and they are very healthy.

So, since last year was so cold and wet, I thought about what I could do with my small kitchen garden.  I bought lots of marigolds and cosmos and a couple of dahlias.  Then I planted my beans and lettuce.  I put my two cherry tomato plants in black tomato bags, hoping for a little more heat.  My chives are huge and at least 10 years old.  They are the first thing to come up every year in the spring.  I have my herbs in big pots and they also come up every year.  I moved the herbs over by the old contractor's wheel barrow that houses my zucchinis for better bee action.  The basil is, of course, sulking. 

So what if the garden doesn't give me tons of produce - at least it is beautiful.  And everything, except the seeds (Territorial) was bought on the cheap at QFC.  I did succumb to a beautiful Italian glazed strawberry pot, though.  Miss MoneyPenny is not perfect.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Grocery Basket 7/29

Usually my grocery basket is almost all fresh fruits and veggies, plus some quality proteins.  I rarely bring processed foods or goodies home.  I think that most processed food tastes pretty nasty, although I do have an addiction to saccharine from the 60s, that I wish I could kick.  That being admitted, fresh is best.  Miss MoneyPenny is very happy with wine, cheese, fruit and good bread for dinner.  How can you beat that?  You can't. 

If I want a goodie, I have to leave home to get it.  This is the only way I can do it, and I bet that I am not the only one, otherwise I can't sleep, thinking about it.  What I end up doing is eating the whole thing at once just to get rid of it.  Sister Miss SmartyPants throws the evil thing into the garbage and covers it in used kitty litter.  That usually takes care of it...I hope.

This week is different because my 16 year old grandson is coming up for the week.  He is lined up with car detailing every day to make a few bucks, so he is going to be very hungry.  My son says he is an eating machine.  I seem to remember that he was too.  Anyway, I'm laying in supplies because I'm working also, and don't have time to cook all day and keep him filled up.

I have a family sized package of country style pork ribs in the freezer that I'm going to cook in the crock pot.  At dinner time, we will put them on the grill and sauce them.  Along with corn on the cob and good rolls, we should get two meals out of it.  Maybe not.  Along with Ferino's pizza, Valley Burgers and steak night, that should take care of our dinners.  Lunches will be lots of sandwiches and Messetta peppers.  Breakfasts will be cereal and milk.

The only things that I saw in the Safeway ad of interest this week were:

T-bone steaks $5.99/lb
Buy $25 worth of iTunes cards/get $5 off next shopping trip

QFC is where I'm shopping this week:

Buy 4 General Mills cereals/get 2 gallons milk free/I have 2 coupons for $2 off 4 boxes
Hillshire Farms lunchmeat 2/$6 - I have a coupon for .75 off 2
Lays Chips $2.79
Mezzetta Peppers 2 for $3
Peaches 10lb for $10
Peppers 10 for $10 or a buck a piece

I will fill in with bread and sodas.  I will also hit World Peace for the rest of my produce needs.  I'm going to fill my cooler on wheels with ice, sodas and waters so he will have them close by where he is working.

The guest room and bathroom are all clean.  I think I'm ready.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Having your way with credit cards

Miss MoneyPenny loves credit cards!  What a shocker, huh?  I have three and I work the daylights out of them.  I don't think that their corporate heads like me very much.  This is definitely not what they had planned when they issued me a card. 

In the olden days I was their perfect customer.  I only paid the minimum and was always at my limit, living the dream, like I had good sense.  One time, back in the 70s, I was out to dinner with some friends.  When it came time to pay up, I handed over my card.  That was when they used to call the credit card company to get an okay.  They kept my card!!  It seems I was way over my limit and they asked the restaurant to mail my card to them!  Now, that was embarrassing.  Luckily, one of my dinner companions bailed me out so I didn't have to do dishes.  I couldn't even get a credit card for a few years after that.

When I finally got credit cards again, I was much more careful.  By that time, I was married to my favorite ex husband, and we would pay them off every month.  When I found myself single, I started carrying a balance again.  I was living beyond my means and didn't have the money to pay them off at the end of the month, so I was paying some pretty hefty interest fees.  When I finally got out of denial, I knew that I had to make some changes.  I figured that if I didn't have money put aside for all these "emergencies" like Christmas, that kept coming up, I would never get out of that vicious cycle of debt.

This is when the "don't worry" part of my budget came into being.  I decided what these occasional "emergency" categories were and starting funding them every month.  This took time to build up.  What I did was pay the minimum on my credit cards and took that "extra" money that I would have put towards my cards and divided it among my categories, so that I had the money for new tires, instead of having to charge them.  When I decided that my categories were on their way, I took a look at the credit card balances.  I chose the one with the least balance and concentrated on it, paying the minimum on the others.  When it was paid off, I started on the next one, using that new freed up money on it, while paying the minimum on the last one.  I felt like I was making real progress by doing it this way, rather than applying equal amounts to all three.  It seemed to go quicker this way.  You could also start with the one with the biggest interest but I needed to feel like I was getting somewhere sooner.

What I do now is make sure that my cards work for me.  Example: I was able to put $2000 down on a plumbing van for my son's business with rewards from a credit card.  I get to shop the sales at Macy's with the coupons that they send me in the mail, saving a lot on clothes.  My other card has a rewards program that pays you 4% for gas, 3% for restaurants and 1% for everything else, so I get a nice fat check every spring.  I put as much as I can on this card when I shop and then come home and billpay it.  None of these cards have a yearly fee. 

The deal with this is to never run a balance or "they" win.  Then they will have their way with you and will help themselves to your money every month.  That can really add up.  I'd rather spend my money myself.  Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Have you heard about ebates?  This is free money!!  I heard about ebates from Charlene over at About my Frugal Adventures about a year ago.  The deal is you register your account, which is free, then when you are doing any online shopping you start at ebates.  They have a huge selection of merchants and are adding more every day.  Of course, Amazon will not come out and play, but just about everybody else will. 

So say you want to order something from LL Bean.  You go to ebates and put it in the search box.  Up comes all these coupons for LL Bean with different offers.  I usually choose the most basic offer which tells me how much my ebate is going to be.  In this case, it will be 2%.  Then it takes you to the LL Bean site. After your order is completed be sure and copy the confirmation page that the merchant emails you into a folder.  What happens next is 2% of your order, say your order is $100 which is $2, will be posted to your account.  Every three months they send you a check!  You will be surprised at how quickly your account grows.  Sister Miss SmartyPants buys as many office supplies and equipment for her business as she can through them, so she is always getting a good check.

There is another little goodie with this deal.  The "ebates daily double."  This is where you can really clean up if you are paying attention and I always am.  You can sign up to have the "daily double" sent to your email or smart phone.  I check it first thing every morning.  Miss MoneyPenny is patient and you have to be to stretch your bucks.  I have a handful of merchants that I use and I keep an ongoing list of what I need from them.  When the "daily double" hits, I'm on it.  Example: my dogs have fleas...sorry girls for telling your secrets, so when PetCareRx hits, I'm all over it.  Usually PetCareRx is 12%, so that means 24%!  The way I work this deal is to use a coupon for $10 off $35, free shipping and my American Express card.  What happen is, I get $10 off, free shipping, 24% added to my account and 1% added to my credit card's rewards program.  You will never beat this deal anywhere.  If so, I want to hear about it.

The hitch is that you have to make sure that your ebate has been added to your account.  It usually happens within 48 hours.  If it hasn't shown up by the time I receive my shipment, I click on "tracking tickets", then "click for customer care" and a form pops up to fill in.  This is where your saved confirmation comes in.  Miss CutiePie and I were talking one day about how sometimes our account was not credited and we didn't do anything about it because it is free money.  Not my sister, the accountant.  She came up with the idea of saving the confirmation page and it works every time.  After filling in the form and pasting in the confirmation page, my account is always credited within a few minutes.

This is another one of those everybody wins deals.  The merchants pay them a commission every time we make a purchase and then ebates shares it with us.  I've heard that there are other programs like this on the web.  I don't do a huge amount of shopping, so unless somebody is offering a better deal, I'm staying with these guys.  I really enjoy getting those checks.

Note: you can almost always find the PetCareRx coupons in the Sunday inserts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sane Couponing (The End)

Ha!  Gotcha didn't I?  Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny is never going to be done with couponing.  This is simply the last of the basics of couponing.  There is all kinds of online couponing out there, but at this time, I just don't have time to get into it.  I've taken a look at it, and at the very least,  have added ecoupons to my Safeway and QFC card.  Just go to their websites and check off the coupons that you will use.  Nothing will happen if you don't use them.  They just expire and go away.  When you go to the store and buy those items, they should come off of your bill.  I think this is pretty neat but Miss MoneyPenny can never remember what ecoupons she has put on her card.  I will look further on their sites and see if there is something that can be printed off and let you know.

Now, back to bricks and mortar.  I bet you were wondering how you were going to organize all those coupon inserts that you have been amassing.  There are mainly two very different methods out there.  You could just cut out every coupon that you find.  There are people who actually do this.  They buy those baseball card albums and put their coupons where you would put the cards.  The good thing about this is that you can buy extra pages as your collection ebbs and flows.  You can take it with you whenever you go shopping and never miss an unadvertised deal.  I've actually seen people do this.  It makes me crazy just thinking about it.

I think that CouponMom has the best system.  All that you do is write the date on each insert.  Example:  for SmartSource inserts, you would write 7/24 S.  For RedPlum, write 7/24 R.  What that tells you, is the date that you received that particular insert, and which one it is.  The way I organize my inserts is in a monthly file folder.  This month is July, last month June, etc.  I keep four months worth in my file cabinet.  As I start a new month, I recycle the oldest one.  Most coupons have a limited shelf life and I have yet to need one that I just recycled.

This is the best part and is pure genius as far as I'm concerned.  You look at your sale flyer and write up your grocery list.  Then you go to CouponMom and click on the coupon database.  You do have to register but it is totally free and she never sends you spam.  Anyway, you then click on your state and then enter the item that you are hoping has a coupon.  Example: you enter Olay Bodywash.  If there is a coupon or coupons for this it will tell you whether it is in RedPlum, SmartSource or Proctor & Gamble, or an online coupon which you can click on and print off.  It will also tell you how much it is for and when it expires and how many you need to buy to use the coupon.  Say it says 7/24 R.  You go to your July folder and depending on how many you want to buy, you grab your RedPlum inserts for July 24 and cut those out.  Get it?  You only have to cut out coupons for what you actually need.  Genius!

I have a small coupon holder that I carry in my purse for the odd coupon that I come across, such as restaurant coupons and Catalinas.  When I get ready to shop, I gather and organize my coupons for each store and put them in the front of my little, purple holder.  On my list, I indicate whether the item is on sale and if it is, the sale price.  I put a "Q" beside it, noting how many I'm going to buy.  Then I go shopping.

 On my last post, I noted that I had shopped at QFC this week.  I saved 47%, which is certainly not "extreme couponing" but instead of spending almost $50, I spent $25.39 and only used one coupon.  Today at Target, I used five coupons and spent $12.90.  I also got a Catalina for $3 off Zyrtec which I really go through this time of year.

What I want you to come away with here is, you have to go shopping, so be smart about it.  I spend about an hour or less getting ready for my weekly shopping, whether it is Safeway, Costco, Macy's or wherever.  Since I live on a limited amount of money, I want to pay rock bottom prices for as many things as I can, so that I will have money for the things that I really care about.  You just can't get a deal on a couple of nights at the Hot Springs.  Believe me, I tried everything with that nice reservation lady.  Senior discount?  No, sorry.  AAA?  No.  AARP?  No.  I've come every year for the last 20 years?  No.  It is still worth every penny.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grocery Basket 7/22

I'm going to share what my grocery basket looked like this week.  I think that shopping and cooking for one person is way harder than for a family, and I've done both.  Miss MoneyPenny would rather cook for six hungry loggers.  I find myself running out of cooked food by the end of the week, or waiting to die from botulism, because I made too much.  It is a real balancing act because I want good, healthy food and I don't want to waste a single radish.  Don't get me started on cilantro.  Have you ever used it all before it became black slime?  I love the stuff and can't seem to do it.

I digress.  I mentioned in my last post that I was planning on shopping at QFC and World Peace Produce this week.  I also said that once you become a couponer, coupons will be everywhere.  I was leafing through my mail that evening and noticed that QFC had sent out their little monthly magazine.  There are always coupons in the back and, lo and behold, there was a coupon for $2 off $10 of salmon and salmon was on my list.  Again, free money! 

I first drove over to World Peace this morning.  I like to get my produce from the lady that owns the place, not just for the wonderful produce and prices, but because I actually can see her and talk to her.  Today, Elvis was crooning to us from her boom box and she was singing along.  I got all my ingredients for the gazpacho I'm planning on making this weekend, plus corn on the cob, red potatoes, Bing cherries and a bunch of other stuff that I can't think of right now.  All for $15!  Plus the entertainment.  That place is great!

I've never met Mr. QFC but he sure has an expensive store.  He does have some really good sales though, and combined with coupons, you can do pretty good.  This is what I bought:

Blueberries - $4.99/2 pounds
Personal size watermelon - $2.50
Zucchini - .99/lb
Orzo pasta - $1/25
Salmon - $9.99/lb
Bakery slider buns - $2.99
Deli roasted chicken breast - $2.39

This came to $25.39 after I used my $2 coupon on salmon.  I was going to buy the $7.99/lb salmon, but they had beautiful, fresh, Columbia River King salmon for $9.99/lb.  I bought $10 worth.  Do you see how this works?  The $2 coupon brought the price down and I got a beautiful piece of fish for the same price.  At the check stand, the register shot out a Catalina coupon for a free pint of ice cream.  I'll save that for when I've had a bad day at work.

My week's groceries came to $40.39, well under the $50 I budget for.  Granted, there is no junk food and I do a fair amount of cooking on Sundays, so my weekly menu plan has to be in place.  I added the menu plan a couple of months ago at the urging of my Weight Watcher leader to help with weight loss.  When I first started planning my menus, I just hated it.  It was like homework!  But I quickly realized that this could go hand in hand with my weekly grocery list and might just save more money. 

The way this works is, I see what is on sale for the week, what coupons I have, and then I figure out what I can cook from this.  I keep a stocked pantry and freezer, so I am always looking to rotate that into the mix, also.  Then I sit down and write the menu, three meals and a snack, seven days worth. After I've written my menu, I can see what items I need to fill in and see if there are coupons.  Works like a charm, and not only saves money, it saves time.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Mr. SuperGenius, so called by the gamers at the Library because he calmly saunters over and saves their computer games, adjusted the settings on the blog yesterday.  I've heard that it was very difficult to comment and I was really looking forward to that.  What does your grocery basket look like?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sane couponing (Part Two)

Where I live, up here in the "land of no doubles" (coupons are not ever doubled) there really isn't any competition between the two grocery stores.  We have a Safeway, a QFC, the Co-op and World Peace Produce.  I shop all of them, usually on Fridays, my errand day.  Food prices are high here.  When we moved up from Portland, I was shocked at the prices and that was 1982.  They certainly haven't gone down any since then.

We get our grocery sale flyers in the mail on Tuesday.  I devour those babies like a Michael Connelly thriller.  It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realized that they have a lot more savings in them than just what is on sale that week.  For example: about a month ago, the Safeway flyer had a little tiny box that said if you got your shingles vaccine, you could take 10% off your grocery bill.  I've been trying for a year to get that vaccine.  Then, there was a little nondescript box that said if you bought a $50 ITunes card, you would get a coupon for $10 off your next shopping trip.  Well, you know how much Miss MoneyPenny loves her IPod and those cards never go on sale, so I scooped one up.  I'm not done yet.  I also noticed that they had a good sale on New York steaks and it is barbecue time.  Guess what?  There was a little tiny Safeway coupon that said "buy $20 worth of steak and get $4 off" so I picked up a family pack of five for $21 and paid $16 for really good steak.

That was a really good shopping day, wouldn't you say?  And, my insurance paid 100% on the vaccine.  I'm going to give you another example:  I think it was in April when the QFC ad had these strange looking coupons.  They were larger and were blue, as I remember them, and they ran for about a month. They were never in the same place, week to week.  The deal was, save $5 on $25 worth of groceries, save $10 on $50 and $15 on $75.  Free money, for nothin'!  The checkers told me that they had to tell people about them!  Hardly anyone had noticed.

I'm not saying that it is like that every week, but it is certainly worth checking out.  This week the Safeway ad is a bust as far as I'm concerned but I will be visiting QFC.  For those people that commute across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, there is a coupon for $5 off $50, if you buy your "Good to Go" pass at QFC.  They also have a coupon for transferring a prescription.  I worked this once and got a $25 credit on my QFC account. 

As far as deals go this week, I'm looking at the fresh salmon for $7.99/lb, personal sized watermelon at 2/$5, and the 2 pound container of fresh blueberries for $4.99.  I'll drop by World Peace for veggies.  I keep a full pantry and freezer so I just cherry-pick the deals.  It took some time to get to this point.  I started by stocking up on one or two items a week.  I looked for things that I always use that were on sale, and that I had coupons for, so that they were at rock bottom price.  It took me about six months before I was at the cherry-picking stage.  What I'm trying to do here is - never pay full price, if I can help it, and that is what I want for you, too.  We work too hard for our money to just lay it down without being smart about how we spend it, don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sane Couponing in a Crazy World (Part One)

Now, you just knew that Miss MoneyPenny was going to get around to couponing, didn't you?  I started late with couponing (2005), while my sister, Miss SmartyPants, has been doing it since the '70s.  That girl can smell a deal in the next state!  And she is a master at the Dollar Store.  I've had several phone conversations with her while she is shopping there.  In fact, now that I think about it, my last year's birthday presents came from the Dollar Store!  This from a woman with a successful tax accounting business.

Couponing and my budgeting system go hand in hand.  I don't know why I didn't realize that coupons are just like money but they really are.  You've probably heard about the television show "Extreme Couponing".  Well, that is not me.  Those people go at it like an extreme sport and for some reason think that they need 98 bottles of energy drinks or 50 containers of Pledge.  Although, I do have to admit, that a few years ago, I did go crazy on a dishwasher soap deal.  I didn't stop to think that I really only use about three containers a year.  I only run the dishwasher once a week because there is only me and the critters.  What I learned from that is, figure out how much of a product that you use in six months and buy that amount when it goes on sale with your coupons.  The sales run in cycles and nearly everything is going to go on sale.  What you want to do is buy enough to last about six months, at the sale price, so you never have to pay full price again.  The sales, combined with coupons, are going to save you an incredible amount of money. 

Where do I get coupons, you ask?  Most of my coupons come from the Sunday paper inserts.  I get the local paper and my friend, Mr. Know-it-All,  reads several papers so I get all of his inserts, too.  I also get coupons in the mail from QFC, PetSmart, Macy's, and even Silver City Restaurant.  Costco also sends out their coupon book.  Actually, once you become a couponer, you will find that coupons are everywhere.  They will even shoot out of the cash register!  These are called Catalinas or Cats and they are usually good ones, so pay attention.  The other day I was working the "Buy 10 items, get $5 off" deal (great for the Food Bank) and I got four Cats.  Three were for $1 off my next Silk Almond Milks, and the last one was for $1 off my next shopping trip.  See what I mean?  Free money!!

There is so much that I want to tell you about couponing that I can't fit it into one post, so I'll go at it again next time.  In fact, I'm always talking about it.  Everybody wins with couponing.  The stores get reimbursed by the companies, the companies get their product in your hot little hands, and you get the deal.  What's not to love?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gold Mining

This morning while I was getting ready for work, I was listening to National Public Radio.  They said that gold was going for over $1600 an ounce.  That would be pure gold.  It got me to thinking.  Now, you know, Miss MoneyPenny loves her bling just like you do.  I'm not suggesting that we go crazy here.  I'm just sayin' that surely you have some broken, old pieces from the '80s that you never wear anymore.  I bet that if you dug deep into the old jewelery box you would be surprised at what you find there.  I did a little digging and came up with some gold chains that were so ratted up that there is no way they will ever be straight again.  There were a number of other items that I didn't even remember that I had.

 So the deal here is to go to your reputable jeweler, not some place that advertises on late TV.  Your jeweler, and every girl has one, will figure out how much gold is in each 14 carat, etc.  Even though you have say 10 ounces of stuff, you are not going to make $16,000 on the deal.  You will be paid only for the gold part.  Still, it will be a significant amount of cold hard cash.  You may also find out that those gold earrings that you got from a former boyfriend, husband, etc. aren't gold after all.  Embarrassing, but pretty funny when you think about it.

You may wonder where I am going with this gold deal.  I think that this would be a great way to start to fund your "don't worry" account.  You could put it towards credit cards, but I believe that it is hard to quit using your cards in emergencies if you don't have the money to pay at the time.  The cycle just keeps going.  For example, you don't have a category set up for vet bills and your favorite pug baby swallows a squeaker toy.  Of course you put this on your card because you love your baby.  It never ends.

I know I'm going against conventional wisdom here but I would pay the minimum on the credit cards until I got my "don't worry" account up and running.  How will you ever get out of credit card debt if you have to keep using them because you do not have any money set aside for emergencies?  Once you have a reasonable amount in each of your categories, you can really go after those credit cards and take 'em out!!  Then you can either cut them up or learn how to have your way with them for a change.  See how they like it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Miss Moneypenny's budget system that really works

I was talking to Miss Know-It-All this morning and she said that I really need to discuss my budget system.  I was going to wait on that.  I worry that the "B" word will scare everyone off, but she is right because it is the base on which I build my life.  So, here goes.

When it finally occurred to me that it was me and only me in charge of my money, I panicked and did a little denial for a while.  I then did a lot of research on budgets.  I'm here to tell you that for every blade of grass in your yard, there is a different budgeting system.  No wonder we fear budgets.  Who wants to use spreadsheets, graphs, envelopes, etc. when a simple three column ledger works beautifully?

The first step is the scariest, I promise.  Sit down with your checkbook, credit card statements and pay stubs and figure exactly where you are.  How much is coming in, how much needs to go out, how much is really going out and how much debt there is.  The debt issue will be covered in a future post.  Right now I just want you to get an idea of how things look.  This isn't easy, I know.  I carried around a small notebook for a couple of months to figure out where the money was going.  It is amazing how I can just blow through it.

When you are ready and this will take some time, go buy a simple three column ledger.  My whole financial life is in mine and I'm on my second one since 2005.  Obviously, with my 32 hour Library job and small paycheck for doing the bookkeeping for my son's plumbing business, I don't earn the big bucks.  But Kathy Spencer of "How to Shop for Free" is doing nicely on $45,000 and she has a husband and four kids, one of which is in college. It is how much you don't spend that is important.  But first, you gotta find out what you have to work with.

The first page of my ledger is used to record all incoming money, no matter how small.  I write the date, where it came from, how many hours worked and the amount.  This is just for my information.

The second section is the part I use the most.  This is my monthly spending.  I use those little page tabs and I have a page for my mortgage, a page for utilities, groceries, Costco-Target-Petsmart, gas, recreation, clothing, beauty upkeep and miscellaneous.  Each page is titled, with a date column on the left, and an "in" column and "out" column and the balance column on the right.  This is my personal monthly spending and it sometimes changes.  It will always be a work in progress.  Yours will most likely not even resemble mine.

You will use the information you gathered to fund these categories.  I budget $80 a month for gas.  You might need more, or maybe less.  After a number of years, I've found I do well on $50 a week for groceries.  I usually have some leftover but you get the idea.  If it is a lean month, there might have to be some juggling done.  No problem because I've been paying attention to my very first page which indicates what my paycheck will look like with that number of hours worked.  You gotta get used to thinking ahead.

Once a week, I go through my receipts and debit slips. Then I deduct the amount spent from each category and billpay any credit card use. Credit card companies hate me.

The third section is for occasional expenses such as medical, vet bills, vacations, home maintenance, Christmas, car upkeep & insurance, etc.  I have a separate page for each of these, also.  This is the "don't worry" part of your budget because you have the money for when your washing machine breaks down or you need new tires for your car.  This takes time to build up and only you know how much you can put in each category every month.  I have only had this fully funded twice in six years.  Something always comes up, but I've got the money to cover it.

The last section is my savings.  Again, you will have to decide how much to save every month.  I actually do pay myself first.  I used to have a lot of my savings in 12 laddered CDs.  That worked well when interest rates were 5%, but those days are long gone, so you need to look around.  Credit Unions seem to be offering a pretty decent deal right now.  I do not spend my savings.  Period.

I know that this is a lot of information to take in.  It really is simple, it is the follow through that is hard but we are adults now.  We work hard for our money and we need to stretch it until it squeaks, as Mom used to say.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shopping at Macy's

I love nice clothes.  We all love nice clothes.  Back when I was married to my favorite ex-husband, I used to buy all my clothes at Nordstom, even my underwear, and thought nothing of it.  It was my own personal store and I didn't care if I paid full price.  It never entered my mind to shop the sale.  I thought those days were over.  We were in a race to see who could spend the most money and I was winning until the race car.  When he decided to pretend he was 16 again and go chase blonds, I went through all the stages of money grief, along with the other, of course.  The stage that I stayed in the longest was denial.  I have noticed that there are a lot of ladies out there still stuck in that stage.  I spent like I still had it and after a serious illness, I had pretty much blown through all my divorce money.

After some more denial and credit card abuse, I called a halt.  At first, I thought I had to live like a bag lady.  We all know her and we are terrified of becoming like her.  I started reading anything that I could get my hands on about budgeting.  There are different kinds of budgeting.  There is the usual kind where nobody has any fun and life can be pretty gray.  Then there is my kind, where with patience and a plan, you end up with a custom fit monthly budget, an occasional budget for things like vet bills, new fridges, insurance, medical bills, Christmas, etc. and a nice savings account.   I will show you how this is done in a later post but now I want to talk about shopping in the new real world.

I buy most of my clothes at Macy's these days.  They have killer sales and send out these cool coupons every so often that you can combine with a sale.  I got all my Calvin Klein jeans for 50% off and then used a coupon for 20% more.  Those coupons are like free money.  They also work really well on nice towels.  I worked the last One Day Sale and got six really nice Martha Stewart towels for under $30.  You can't even get crappy towels at Wal Mart for that.  I got five summer tops for under $100 and one of them was a Ralph Lauren.  The hitch with those babies is that you have to use your Macy's card and they don't work on some things, like cosmetics, so read 'em carefully.  Then go home and billpay your Macy's card.  Their interest is beyond crazy.  Just about everything in that store is going to go on sale and 50% discounts happen quite regularly.  It doesn't hurt to get to know your saleslady either.  They sometimes whisper in your ear to wait a week before buying something.

I always keep all my receipts because if something doesn't fit right or I don't just love it or it hangs in my closet for a couple of weeks, it needs to go back.  I have returned things that have shrunk or lost their luster in the laundry.  I shudder when I think of the bags of things that went to the Goodwill with their tags still attached.  Those days are over.  I work hard for my money and you do too.  You are going to hear that a lot from me.