Thursday, May 31, 2007

Free Movie=Koo Koo Krazies

The Bizarro household loves us some free cinema. We mine the alternative papers for free screening notices, and belong to a screening organization that is always emailing us about upcoming free screenings.

There's only one problem. Apparently "Free screening" can be interpreted as, "If you are batshit crazy, please attend and make sure your phobias, faked seizures and jibber jabber looney-tuney crazy talk muscles are toned and ready. We look forward to seeing you."

We went to see Knocked Up this evening. As we sat waiting for the film to begin, a local radio station came out and started giving out promotional hats and shirts from their station and the movie. One fellow in a yarmulke stood up and began screaming, and I mean screaming for a free hat. The radio station guy looked at him and said, "This guy is at every screening I go to." He sighed and gave the guy a hat just to shut him up. Next came the tube tops. The radio station guy said, "Whoever wants one, come and get it!" Several girls happily ran down the steps and collected their gaudy neon colored tube tops, and right on their heels was a woman of around 255 pounds, about 65 years old, running to claim up her tube top. There was some gasping and uncomfortable laughter as grandma made her way back to her seat, clutching her prize like it was a newborn.

And here's where I thought, There's actually a group of people who do nothing but come to these screenings. I looked around and began to spot them. People wearing The Truth About Cats and Dogs hats. The Marine t-shirts. Some of them were talking to themselves. Several of them had headphones around their necks. They all carried large canvas bags of some kind, and they all seemed to know each other. And they damn near salivated over the cheap-ass swag. They swarmed the small radio station table and snatched up key chains and bumper stickers, cramming it all into their large bags and looking around like the proverbial cats with mouths stuffed full of canaries. Their eyes gleamed and sparkled.

"Christ," I hissed through my teeth. Bianca grabbed my arm. Soon the lights began to dim, and Mr. Yarmulke and Grandma Tube Top gathered their coats and bags and made for the exit. My God, I thought. There's actually a sub-category of these attendees: those that grab the swag and leave without watching the movie. Amazing. I felt like an anthropologist in Crazy Town.

About halfway through this terrific movie, a woman simply lost it, loudly talking gobbledy-gook to someone next to her, and she had to be forcefully removed from the theater, security dragging her away as she screamed, "But you don't understand, it takes nine months to make a baby!"

Like I said, it was a great movie. If you go free, though, you gotta sit through the crazy. You gotta pay somethin'.

Life Takes Debt

When I'm in a funk, my mind tends to get very interested in things like conspiracy theories, paranoia, etc. It's like I'm a pothead, but I don't smoke pot.

So I'm examining things from all angles, and one thing always gets my blood up are these credit card cheerleaders. They just get so excited about the wonders of credit cards. These people probably Tivo an entire evening of television, then fast forward through the shows hoping there's a Visa commercial or ten. Maybe like the one where the woman in a drab work suit with the glasses breaks the heel off her shoe, and the magical singing black lady gives her a credit card and suddenly she's glasses-less and wearing a hot red dress and viola! she's now someone "dudes" would "bang?" It's plastic porn. It's consumerist masturbation. It's also utter shite and a glaring, loud demonstration of what's wrong with our society.

My crazy, mixed-metaphor mind ramblings came up with this scattered thought. Here is how the match up works between the credit card company and the debtor:

Credit Card Company

Focuses on: You. And you alone. Sure, they may have millions of other customers, but if you think you can escape their omniscient gaze, try being a half a day late on your payment. Religious people wish their god was this involved in their day-to-day affairs.


Focuses on: What to put on in the morning. The drab gray dress suit with the glasses? Of course! What is this, a Visa commercial? Make breakfast. Rush hour traffic, then eight hours of work. Co-workers, perhaps a boss you don't like, wondering if your career is stalled out, is the dry cleaning done? Should I eat out or eat this crappy sandwich? Solitaire. Online poker. Emails to send and answer. Traffic. Mail. Bills? Credit card bills? Throw 'em in the pile on the desk. If there are kids, help with homework. Feed the dog/cat/bird/ferret/boa constrictor (goat). More email? Balance the checkbook. Television? Time with loved one. They probably want a back rub. Yep. They're trading it for sex. Damn it.

The theory is, you're too damn busy to properly address your debt. You cannot compete with the attention your credit card company is giving you. And by being a Forgetful Frankie or Fannie, you are more likely to fail. It is in the best interest of the credit cards that you are so swamped with life that you can't make an effective anti-debt soldier. Your debt becomes just another aspect of your already too-busy life. Life takes Visa, and Visa helps make life more complicated. It's a cycle.

What do you go through in a typical day? Where is your focus at? What I'm getting at is that credit card companies have nothing to do but to monitor your account 24/7. And not just your account with them, but ALL your accounts (some companies bump up your APR if you're late on something like a mortgage payment or gas bill). So tell me, what is the level of your focus? This debt repayment thing is like a staring contest. Every month you make your payment, the contest goes on a little bit longer. But if you blink (make a mistake), just for the briefest of moments, your opponent doesn't just gloat a little bit and want to continue the game.

No, the second you blink your opponent pulls out a gun and shoots you between the eyes.

That's why it's a good idea to set up an automatic payment system if your bank offers it. With Bank of America, all my bills are pre-scheduled and paid on time, and even if I make a payment day-of, it pays it first thing and I am not charged any late fees. It took me quite a while to make the check to electronic switch, but in terms of sharpening my focus, my "stare" if you will, it has certainly been worth it and I wish I'd done it sooner.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

April Income/Expenses

See, I still have two days left of May and I'm getting my April income/expense sheet up. I think it's partially late because I've been afraid of what I would find. Yes, we're in the red by $1029, which is due to my plane ticket to visit my grandmother ($280) as well as my extensive dental work ($471). Luckily we had a great month in March, so we haven't bounced any checks, though you'll notice that the credit card payments are down. This is also due to the fact that Basil's family is visiting in June, so he's saving his crafty side-business income for June, rather than making extra credit card payments. Also, rent increased $100 a month, so we'll have to get used to that.

The other really big increase is gasoline. Just two months ago we were paying $250 a month for gas, then March was $350 and now April is $375! That's $125 more! During the week we pretty much just commute to work (public transportation isn't much of an option where we live). I drive 20 miles round trip and Basil logs 50 miles. The problem is our weekend, because to do our free things, we sometimes drive a little distance. Maybe we should try to do as little driving as possible one month to see if we can bring that down. That would be tough, but worth it.

Our dining was half of last month, but still more than we'd like at $306. Plus, we had a visiting teenager, so groceries were up to $514.

Our household expenses were way down as we only bought a water purifier pitcher for the fridge, to cut down on buying bottled water. We'll check out next month to see if that worked.

Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. We only get an electric bill every other month, but it's still cool, so there are no outrageous a/c-related expenses yet. Basil has to have rivulets of sweat dripping off his horned-rim glasses before I'll allow him to turn it on anyway.

So with $125 more a month in gas and $100 more in rent, that's $225 that we have to figure out where to cut or bring in as more income. I may have to start my own crafty side business.

Kwote Korner

"The choice of a certain way of life...demands from the individual a total change of lifestyle, a conversion of one's entire being, and ultimately a certain desire to be and live in a certain way." - Pierre Hodot

i.e., Bizarro World.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What I Did With My Windfall

Busy weekend, but I really am going to get the April expenses/income posted before June. I still have three days and four hours, or 78 hours. I'm posting to report the good deeds I did today. I had received over $3000 back from Number One Son's college, as overpayment, so before it dwindled away in my checking account, I did something with it. I put $1000 into the Roth IRA that I finally set up last year (it had been on my "to do" list for a looooonnnnnngggg time. Then I transferred $1500 over to my high interest savings account. That only leaves me $500 to spend on things like the $270 eye exam and glasses I just got for Number One Son, as well as the dental work I have coming up in June. Oh, yeah....I was supposed to save some for a much needed weekend with Basil....I guess it's a walk through the park and a popsicle.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Frugal Babe Has Debt On The Ropes

One of our all-time favorite debt bloggers has her debt by the throat. Bianca and I would like to give "mad props" to Frugal Babe, who will have her debt payed off this summer. Read the good news here.

As the esteemed AC/DC once said, "For those about to rock, we salute you." Consider yourself saluted, Frugal Babe.

Well done.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Secret I Will Not Be Sharing

I haven't posted lately, because my mental state has been in flux, and not in a good way. Sometimes when I gets to thinkin', I take a tumble down a slippery slope that always ends in a world view that is none too pretty. A lot of it comes from the stresses of the debt war. The way my hair looks after it has grown out a bit too much from my free buzz cuts (someone told me one warm day that I looked like a wet chicken). The constant reports of deaths of good Americans in a war without end. Co-workers I'd like to see fall through my imaginary trap door, under which I house my imaginary giant cross-cut shredder. Etc., etc., etc. Blah, blah...blah.

A funk, if you will.

I'm just in a very pessimistic "space" right now.

Which is weird, because not too long ago I was feeling better than I had in years. Let me explain: Bianca brought home three CD's her co-worker had burned. It was The Secret. So I popped in the first disc, and lo and behold I actually started listening to what was being said. The beginning of CD 1 had some very intriguing ideas about showing gratitude for what you have. I really responded to this. I mean, I'd been so incredibly focused on this huge negative thing (my debt), that I had completely blocked from my mind what I did have. And let me tell you, I have a lot to be grateful for. In fact, my wealth in my personal life is beyond what I could ever wish for. So after I finished the gratitude portion of the disc, I experienced the best couple of days; a wave of positive energy coursed through me, and I actually could feel what it might feel like with my debt gone. I've got to see what else these discs contain, I thought. If this is the beginning, what other wonders lie inside?

And so I finished it and began to mull over what I had listened to and came to the realization it was the biggest load of horses--t I've ever heard. (For a fantastic summary, read Get Rich Slowly's take, which I wholeheartedly agree with, here.) Ugh. So, there went my mood. It's a freaking roller coaster, this Secret. There are some good points in there (particularly about showing gratitude for what you have), but when it departs from reality altogether, whoo-boy. It gets stinky.

Anyway, I have to get back to my funk. I'm grateful to have it. There's a story the artist Tony Millionaire told in an interview. He and his friend were walking down the street, and his friend began cackling.

"What are you laughing at?" Millionaire asked.

His friend replied "Just the horror of being alive."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Camping or Vegas?

It's a dilemma....Basil and I have a child-free weekend the end of June and as it's my birthday the middle of the month (when Basil's family is visiting), we decided we should do something for the weekend so that I can be the center of attention. Every other time we've been without kids, one or both of us has been sick. Basil never gets sick and never goes to the doctor, but this past Christmas he was sick in bed for over a week with what I suspect was pneumonia (never doctor-confirmed, of course). Last year Number Two Son went away for spring break, and Basil missed a whole week of work with the flu. This time we're determined to be healthy and have a good grown-up time. And what better place to be a grown-up than Vegas?! Unfortunately, after checking work schedules and hotel rates, we're not sure we can even get away. Plus we made a pro and con list and decided that for the money, we'd get more out of a camping trip to Santa Catalina Island. We both love to camp (okay, Basil more than me, but I still enjoy getting away from the crowds and hiking). Plus the campsite is $24 a night on a beach, and the boat ride out to the island is $59 each, so we're hoping it's a lot cheaper than a $100 hotel room and gas money to Vegas, not to mention restaurants and gambling. Some of our best vacations have been camping at Rocky Mountain National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. I think the fresh air, sun and sand will be more invigorating than the hot desert, crowds and mucho cigarette smoke. Now I just have to get in shape to make the seven mile hike from the boat to the campground.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

As Long As No One Can See It....

Basil just chastised me for having a hole in my tights that a six-week-old kitten could crawl through. It's above the hemline and I've had it for over two months, so as long as no one else's one of my weird frugal things...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Money Back from College!

Last night didn't turn out exactly as we'd planned. We waited in a line for the free improv show and the cut-off ended up right in front of us. So we decided to go get something to eat and ended up at one of Basil's favorite "Rock 'n Roll" Thai restaurants which ended up costing $50, though we did have mucho leftovers. Not exactly a cheap or free night.

Good news today though -- got an e-mail from Number One Son's college with $$$$$ as the subject line. The college account finally paid, so I should be getting at least $2000 back that I overpaid last fall (she said the check would be mailed tomorrow). I'm trying not to think about all the interest I could have gotten on that, and just be happy that I got it back at all. A good chunk of that will go into my Roth IRA and the emergency savings account, but we did do a bit of spending today (on the credit card to be paid in full when the bill comes). We purchased a grill that was on sale for $89 (originally priced at $129), because Basil loves to cook on the grill and we thought we'd eat at home more if we had that option. In fact, Basil cooked out on it tonight. Then I took Number One Son clothes shopping since his shoes had a hole in the bottom and sides and I hadn't bought him anything since last fall. I spent around $123 and he got a pair of jeans, two shirts, a pair of shorts, running shoes and three pairs of underwear. I thought we did pretty well since everything was on sale. Those purchases also went on the credit card to be paid in full when it arrives. I feel good knowing that the money is coming, but will feel better when it's actually in my bank account.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

We've Fallen Off the Wagon....

Sorry, it's been so long since our last post. The monthly challenge kind of fell apart because there're two of us spending money, so we had problems getting it together at the end of the day. Also, as we spent more money, I think we were afraid to see how much was actually slipping through our fingers. I just put a bunch of receipts into Quicken and see we've already spent our allotment for groceries for the month and the dining is over $2oo as well. Sigh. We picked up Number One Son from college and so ate out fast food Thursday night, and Friday night we spent $74 for Mother's Day dinner for four of us. Today we did a little sightseeing (and eating) and spent $50 on lunch and Pinkberry's for four. But tonight we're going to a FREE improv show (we may have to pay for parking), and since we got tired around 3, we came home inbetween, so we most likely not be eating out dinner. At least now that I've seen the Quicken, I know that we shouldn't, but on the other hand, Number One Son is only here for two weeks, so I want to do fun (and tasty) things that cost money. At least I changed my payroll tax deductions at work and now my check is $17 higher a week (but I won't have the huge tax refund in the spring either).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our Son Is Being Propositioned More Than A Hooker With All Of Her Teeth

We receive Number One Son's mail as we are his permanent address while he is away at college. Every...single...freaking day our box contains at least one credit card offer for him.

A lot of PF bloggers were linking to some "savvy dude" who recently wrote a long, negative bit of nonsense about how people were blaming their credit cards for their debt. "You're the one who got yourself into debt," he sniffs. Yeah? No shit? Thanks, genius. I don't think I've met anyone who actually blames their credit card for getting them into debt. Did mine speak to me in a scary little fly voice? "Use me. Uuuuusssseeee meeee...." I certainly don't place that much power into a piece of plastic.

And as for these "credit card fans" out there, getting all excited about being able to rent a car (which can be done with a debit card), all those amazing points and cash back ($7 back on spending $700? You've got the world by a string!), how they're really sticking it to Visa, beating them at their own game. I don't know.

This is a multi-billion dollar industry that is making the majority of money on people not being able to pay off their balances. These are bad companies that have gotten very rich on preying on a nation's financial retardation. What a great deal - they get obscenely rich, AND get us to feel bad about ourselves. "Just providing a service." Uh huh.

I'm so happy all these people are taking control of their situations and many are blogging about it. Maybe someday we can find a way to band together and do something about the massive engines that gave us the wonderful tools to f--- ourselves so completely and thoroughly. Or are we going to wait until the APR bump for a late payment hits 60%? WE screwed up, WE are taking personal responsibility, but there has to be responsibility taken by the other side or this will be a ongoing cycle that will never end, at least until the next Depression. This has got to stop.

We're shredding Number One Son's credit card offers ($300 limit at 19.82%?). He certainly knows the deal on credit cards. We've broken one link on the chain.

Miracle - Bizarros Only Ate Out Once Over Weekend!

I'm proud to announce that the Bizarros only ate out once this past weekend (for us that's Friday night through Monday night as we both have Mondays off). It was difficult and involved in a lot of actually cooking on my part, but we did it. Basil and I ate cheap and fatty at In-n-Out Sunday while we were out goofing around for Mother's Day (the son had too much homework). We're trying to be good since we know that we're going to have to eat out Thursday night (have to pick up Number One Son from college) and Friday night we're going out to celebrate a combination Mother's Day, End of Freshman Year at College, and End of Advanced Placement Testing. I know I'll be spending some these next two weeks because my oldest will be here and I haven't seen him hardly at all in the past year (Christmas and Spring Break were both spent elsewhere). Plus we have Basil's family visiting in June. Lots of entertaining coming up, so we'd better cut out the unnecessary eating out. Easy to say...tough to do.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Operative Word is FREE

I kept wanting to blog about all our FREE stuff we did this past weekend, and now it's already Friday. We ate out a lot (all cheap, though I know that doesn't matter), but countered it with lots of activities that didn't cost us a dime. Friday night we had FREE movie passes that we'd gotten from a previous screening Basil and I had attended, so we took Number Two Son to see Hot Fuzz (avoiding the long Spiderman 3 lines). Parking was $2.
Saturday Basil and I used our Bank of America card to get in FREE to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (normally $15 each). Wow - what a great FREEbie! We wandered through the Desert Garden, the Australia Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Jungle Garden, plus saw a Gutenberg Bible and some wonderful works of art. We finally left, not because we'd seen everything, but because our stomachs were growling (it was 3 p.m.) and my back was killing me from all the walking around (I'm desk-bound most of the week). Basil called me a wimp and we headed out for a cheap lunch at In-n-Out ($10.29).
Monday evening we hit the local bookstore for a Chuck Palahniuk reading since Number Two Son is doing an American Lit assignment on a book of his choice - Fight Club. Basil has read a lot of his novels, and I had actually just read Fight Club as well (since I had to sign a permission note for my 16-year-old to read it and thought I'd better find out why he needed my permission).
It was a long evening as we arrived at 4:30, and the reading didn't start until 6:30, but well worth it because in addition to hearing two short stories not published anywhere, he handed out FREE stuff! Everyone got at least one FREE fake cigarette, the kind that looks real and if you blow into it, talcum powder comes out and looks like smoke. Someone actually handed Basil a handful to pass out and he ended up with a bunch left over. Score! (As a side note, Basil has never smoked and hates cigarette smoke, but likes to pretend with toothpicks and bits of grass, so he's in heaven). At the end of the reading, he started throwing out various rubber toys, and Basil was quick enough to grab an autographed squeaky hamburger. Now Number Two Son has a prop for his oral report at the end of the year! Yay! We had purchased a book that was previously signed, which was good because the line was too long to wait in, especially on a school night when there was homework to be done.
We're glad to find out that with a little digging, you can find many cool things to do that don't cost any money. You might just have to look a little harder to find them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping up with the Joneses was not how I got into debt. You can read my tragic story here.

However, I think that this is why a great deal of people go into debt. They may be at a level they are comfortable with, then lose a job or suffer some other misfortune, and rather than scale back to deal with the situation, they use consumer credit to maintain appearances.

Before you feel the need to keep up with them, here are some things to remember about the Joneses.

• Mr. Jones hates the song "Mr. Jones" by the Counting Crows. Mrs. Jones, however, loves that Mr. Jones hates "Mr. Jones." She plays it often.

• Mrs. Jones wipes boogers underneath the leather seat of her leased BMW 350i. She also does a good deal of her "stress crying" in there.

• Mr. and Mrs. Jones' kids hate riding the four wheelers their father bought for them on his gold card. Mr. and Mrs. Jones know this. They make the kids ride them anyway; in his mind Mr. Jones bitterly imagines the kids jumping the four wheelers over the mountain of debt on his gold card.

• Mr. Jones thinks his coworkers think he's a "big man" because he drives a brand new Hummer H3 that lost $4,000 when the rear wheels hit the pavement off the car dealership lot. Mr. Jones' coworkers think he's a "tool."

• Yes, Mr. Jones owns a flatscreen (via Discover). No, you can not come watch the game on Sunday. Why? Mr. Jones can't afford cable. Mr. Jones would not admit this if his fingernails were being removed with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. A fine evening of flatscreen entertainment for Mr. Jones involves the following: the creepy cold shoulder from Mrs. Jones, a dimming of the lights, a coffee mug full of vodka and a run through of "Married With Children" on the local Fox affiliate. The Bundys are HD-larious! Wait - it's just the vodka mixing with the anger that produces a potent hallucinogenic effect. At 1:30 a.m., is there any difference between laughing and crying?

• Mrs. Jones likes to talk movies with her neighbor, Fran. Mrs. Jones likes to brag about buying DVD's. "It's easier than renting, plus you can re-watch them anytime!" Not only has Mrs. Jones never watched her copy of "The Holiday," she doesn't have any idea what it's about, only that it stars that Joker-faced chick that was always kissing Justin Timberlake on the cover of Us Weekly. Fran thinks to herself, How quick could I be with these rose shears? Would I feel anything?

• Mrs. and Mr. Jones wish they were you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I Wants My Money!

Today I channeled Bizarro World. I needed all of its power.

I went in and asked for a raise.

For the last four months I've been obsessed with getting paid more. I would replay the raise-asking scenario in my mind over and over, and I won't lie to you, sometimes in my mental movie my boss' office ended up slathered in my blood. Some fantasies involved settling it with a joust, others with us wearing trucker hats and sleeveless jean shirts and lots of cock rock and sweaty arm wrestling like in Stallone's 1987 film "Over the Top." Most of the time it was me grabbing a pen from the cup on his desk and lunging, just a full-on, scrambling, paper-scattering lunge.

Instead, I took a deep breath, gathered my Bizarro World confidence about me, and laid out why I thought I deserved a significant raise and a reduction in the amount of days I worked. I started out higher than I normally would have, and ended up well above what I would have been happy with. Plus I shaved a day off my work week. It was a win, both for me and for my debt reduction.

Pre-Bizarro World I would never in a million years have done that. I did the opposite, and it worked. Perhaps it was my eyes constantly shifting to the cup full of pens that did it.

Get Happy, Damn You!

One of the themes that Bianca and I try to live by, the "Bizarro World Code," if you will, is this:

If your life sucks, try doing the opposite. Bizarro was the opposite of Superman - Superman blew ice cold breath, while Bizarro blew fire. Superman was handsome, Bizarro ugly as sin.

Waaaaaay before "The Secret," Bianca and I stumbled upon this. We were negative thinkers. "Boo hoo," we were often known to exclaim. "How awful our life is! Rue this putrid world!" Then we said, what would happen if we started thinking positively? And the second we started thinking positively, our life began moving in a positive direction. "What is this?" we'd say, startled and blinking. "What is this madness? This strange sensation? It burns! It burrrrrrnnnnns!"

Needless to say, this new feeling took some getting used to. We'd often want to dive back into our negative black holes, looking for the protection of old behaviors and patterns. We'd howl and hiss at the light like pissed-off marmots. But soon the good feeling was just too good to resist. Not long after we had moved out of the middle of nowhere to a better place and a better life.

The secret has been there all along. And it was hidden in the theme song to "The Partridge Family." "C'mon, get happy! It will change your f----ing life." That lyric was in the full 12" single, not in the short theme that played before the show.

One Month Challenge - Day 19

Dining: $30.31
Fuel: $39.83
Groceries for #1 Son "Get Thee Through Finals" care package: $21.74

Total: $91.88

There's really no getting around that we have dropped a hell of a lot of dime lately.

One Month Challenge - Day 18

Number 1 Happiness Super Fun extra credit card payment from Crafty Side Business: $16.50
Groceries: $8.50
Postage for Crafty Side Business shipping: $6.15
Books (copy of "Fight Club, copy of "Rant," both to be signed by Chuck Palahniuk at reading): $42.11 (This is one of our indulgences; Bianca and I are avid readers, and if there is a chance to see one of our favorite authors give a reading, the money spent on a book to be signed is money well spent. Most times we already have a book in our collection to be signed. We're nerds, yes. Sweet, beautiful bibliophiliac nerds.)
Dining: $15.43

Total: $88.69.

This day was a Day Well Lived. In our book, any money under $100 spent during a DWL is free and clear. It most likely fueled the DWL, kept it rolling, assisted in its own way. We'll let it go. If it was over $100, suddenly it becomes less a DWL and more a "Jesus, we just blew x amount of dollars."

One Month Challenge - Day 17

Dining: $14.48
Groceries: $19.00

Total: $33.48

One Month Challenge - Day 16

Crazy Extra Super A+ credit card payment using funds from Crafty Side Business: $15.00
Groceries: $30.69
Mother's Day gift for my sweet, gray-haired mother who drives me positively batshit: $16.24
Dining: $10.29

Total: $72.22

Friday, May 4, 2007

An Onion Article About Blogging


You can read it here.

"I'm just doing this for me, after all."

One Month Challenge - Day 15

The legendary debt warrior Debt Blitzkrieg has joined us in monitoring daily spending. We hope she finds it as useful as we have.

Misc (sun shade for my feminine "ride", compact flourescent bulb - green points!, etc.): $15.00
Groceries: $63.95 ($3.00 in coupons, free 2 liter of soda)
Sigh........dining (Basil): $7.98
Diet Coke (Basil again): $0.75
Parking for free movie: $2.00 (used free passes to see "Hot Fuzz" while every other resident in the city was trying to get into "Spider-man 3")
Car and rental insurance: $103.56
Extra credit card payment: $10.00

Total: $203.24

I'm off the rails. Need to reign this s--- in. The first couple months were great, now I've fallen off the wagon and and in the gutter, mumbling to myself and not noticing I've wet my britches. Not good. But we're seeing how much eating out is costing us - we're trying to act how we'd normally act, and unfortunately this is how I used to act - offsetting the stress of debt with yummy sandwiches slathered in honey mustard. Perhaps some Cheetos.

The new debt numbers are in! The debt now stands at $15,504.19. Down from $18,264.53 in January. $2,760.34 paid off so far this year. Need to do better. The goal is to get under ten large by year's end, even if it means just getting to $9,999.99.

NCN On The Telly

NCN, one of the best debt bloggers around, got profiled on television! Check it!

What Do Your Clothes Say About You?

Lately I’ve noticed I’ve accumulated a lot of shoes. I feel bad about it. First of all, I don’t usually throw shoes out unless they’re seriously out of style (circa 1985) or if they’re so worn out I have to purchase band-aids at the end of the day. Actually, I still have problems throwing them out because they may be just the shoe to complete the perfect outfit for some upcoming unknown event. I’ve also noticed that although I do have cheap shoes ($20 and less), as I’ve gotten older I’ve tended to spend more in the $50-$60 range for footwear. Now I know that’s cheap compared to $600 Manolo Blahniks, but it’s still a large portion of my clothing allowance. I especially feel guilty since the two sons I buy clothing for each got a $50 pair of shoes last fall and that’s it, while since then I’ve bought three pairs at $50 and a couple at $30. Plus Basil puts me to shame because he often buys thrift store shoes for $10-$15, and wears them until his socks are getting dirty from the many holes in them.
But that’s where most of my clothing money goes. Everything else is on sale, and usually cheap. Plus if I really like something, I wear it until I’m forced to retired it from public viewing due to holes or stains (and then they sometime become “paint” clothes). I have two skirts I bought at Target for $20 each (one black - one grey) that are a classic style and I’ve been wearing them to work (on and off) for nine years. Other times, I do a quick scan of what I’m wearing and realize that the jeans were $9 and the shirt $10 (both on clearance), and the shoes (at $50) are the most expensive thing I’m wearing.
Basil and I both love to thrift shop, though we’ve cut back lately, and for the men in the family we’ve found great t-shirts for $1.50: a red one that says “MENTAL” for Basil, one that says “Vietnam Break Dancing” for Number One Son, and one that says “I [heart] hip hop” for Number Two Son. You can’t find t-shirts like that just anywhere.
I also have a favorite pair of jeans that are around six years old that have one knee totally ripped out, and a patched hole in the back by the pocket, plus I recently spilled beige paint all down one leg. The other day I had them on with a frilly lace beige top while I was trying to decide whether to wear a skirt or jeans. Basil said I looked good with the torn, stained jeans, so I added cool shoes and an armful of bracelets and went bohemian for the day.
So what interesting frugal clothing stories do you have?

One Month Challenge - Day 14

Bianca dining: $5.79
Groceries: $29.46

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My $2.65 Meal

This is just a post explaining my $2.65 meal yesterday. I didn't really want to eat out, but we wanted to go to one of those super warehouse stores to get some cheap crafty supplies, and as we don't have a card for one, my friend at work volunteered to take me on our lunch break. This friend eats out every day and can't understand why I don't always want to go out to lunch with her (it's not her because we sit next to each other and talk all day long and wouldn't have it any other way). So when I mentioned the warehouse, she said "Sure! We can eat lunch there, too!" Now, since she was doing me a favor, I figured I'd better eat out with her. Wow - what a bargain! I got a gigantic slice of combo pizza (sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, green pepper and black olive) for $1.99 and a refillable glass of Diet Coke for 55 cents! Not terribly healthy, but cheap. My friend got a large hot dog and a drink for $1.50, but if you wanted to eat healthy, you could get a chicken Caesar salad for $3.69. Plus you don't need the warehouse card to get the food.
I told Basil I'd have to take him there sometime, because 1) it's somewhere new and 2) Basil is always up for cheap food.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

People Using Plastic For "Micro-Payments"

When Kai Ryssdal is isn't narrating my stamp purchases, he's reporting things like this: "MasterCard says its quarterly profits jumped 70% over this time last year. Cardholders used the plastic 16% more, spending $509 billion."

I'm a little disturbed by a credit card company's profits making a jump like that, but deeper in the story there may be some better news, particularly when it comes to debit cards.

From the story:

"Analyst Anarag Rana of Key Bank Capital Markets says the card industry is reaping the benefits of the push to go cashless for small purchases.
ANARAG RANA: These guys have an initiative to penetrate the sub-$20 transaction market. That marketplace that was sort of insulated from, you know, card-based payments for some time.
And it's not all about racking up credit card debt, either.

David Robertson is publisher of the Nilson Report, which analyzes the card industry.
DAVID ROBERTSON: What is happening in the United States is the great use of the debit card. We're now a debit card country more than a credit card country."

You can listen to or read the transcript of the story here.

One Month Challenge - Day 13

Working and the Crafty Side Business are taking their toll on yours truly. Fell asleep on the couch as soon as I got home tonight. I'm getting burned out. Here's the numbers for today:

Crafty Side Business supplies: $21.10
Dining (Bianca): $2.65
Fuel: $37.82 (Grrrrrrrrr...$3.57 a gallon for regular unleaded. When I'm gassing up I actually make a growling sound in my head. If I was in a cartoon a dark squiggly line would be in the air above my furrowed forehead)

While our dining out seems to be something we're not quite ready to give up completely, at least we eat cheap. This couple trying to dispense debt dropped $300 on dinner the other night. Makes $2.65 sound downright frugal.

We haven't paid to go to the movies since December. There was some talk about paying to go see Spider-Man 3 this weekend (matinee, natch), but the advance word from people I trust that have seen it is "stinky." We'll pass. The movie will make a billion dollars, we just won't be throwing ours on the pile. Instead we're hitting some free museums this weekend, taking advantage of Bank of America's program, which Bianca detailed here.

Can I Afford Jury Duty?

It finally happened. I got summoned to jury duty. Almost everyone at work as been called, so I suppose it was just a matter of time. Before moving to this state, I was summoned once, but when I called the weekend I was supposed to, I didn't have to go in. I later received a notice asking me what month would be good for me to serve. Since I knew I was moving out of state in July, I put down September, and sure enough, that August I got a summons, only now I could say I'd moved out of state. I know, I know, I should want to perform my civic duty. At a previous job I had, the company paid you when you went to jury duty. A co-worker there said it was great - she just read a book and then got dismissed. Got paid for a day AND did her civic duty. Not the company I work for now.
I really wouldn't mind serving except for the financial hardship and the fact that I hate courthouses. Somehow I always feel like I've done something wrong as soon as I've walked inside one. I was a nervous wreck just getting my maiden name changed back after I got divorced.
Plus, there's the financial hardship. Unfortunately, they now put that you must suffer from EXTREME financial hardship. It's all relative though. It wouldn't be extreme if it were only for one day, but if I lost five days of work, then it's extreme. Also, I work four 10-hour days, with Monday off. So if I have to go in on a Monday, no big deal, but any other day is a quarter of my workweek. I debated the fact with my co-workers and everyone had a different way to try to get out of it, mostly not entirely ethical. I finally decided to be as truthful as possible. I'm going to put down that it will be an extreme financial hardship, and if they question that, then I'll have to go, but I'm not going to pretend that I can afford it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

One Month Challenge - Day 12

Rent: $1,400.00
Credit card payment: $186.00
Postage for Crafty Side Business: $6.30

Total: $1,592.30

Whew. That's quite a day.

More real posts coming soon. We've been life-swamped.