Friday, June 29, 2007

A Camping We Will Go

So far this week's been pretty good on the spending front. We bought some groceries for our big camping trip this weekend, but every night we ate at home. It's been a real struggle since we're childless and that's when we go out the most since we only have to pay for two of us. Tomorrow morning we get on a boat to take us to Catalina Island where we'll eat breakfast in a restaurant, and then hike seven miles to our campsite on a beach. We're not sure how much food to pack, and since we won't have any refrigeration, we can't take anything cold. Mmmmmmmm....warm water. Basil's worried we're not taking enough, whereas I think we're taking too much (since I have to carry the food, I tend to think less is more). We only have a four-person tent, and though I was tempted to go out and buy an inexpensive two-person tent, I resisted. We figure we'll buy a two-person tent once the debt is gone, plus it's not often that there are just two of us anyway. So far the expenditures for this weekend are: boat trip for 2 - $118, campsite - $36, food - $33, parking car - $24; total: $211. We may rent snorkling gear which is $9 each. We also plan on eating dinner out Sunday night once we back on the mainland. All in all, I think it'll be cheaper than a hotel-staying, buffet-eating Vegas vacation.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A "No Money Spent" Day!

We did it! On Wednesday we had a "no spending" day! I'd like to say it was intentional, but more likely it probably had something to do with my posting our May expenses on Monday.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

May Income/Expenses

Wow - what a month! The bottom line doesn't look too bad, but I put some expenses on the credit card to delay them a month (dental bills, glasses), so next month will be crazy. We're still having a problem making ends meet because of the extra $100 a month in rent increase as well as the extra $100 a month in gas. We're going to try to cut back the unnecessary errands.

There wasn't as much art income this month because Basil saved the money to spend when his folks were visiting.

This month we started adding interest income and expense. I have a savings account that earned $17 worth of interest, and Basil's credit card interest was $119, but that included a $75 charge for moving credit around to get a lower interest rate, so next month that will be much lower.

The clothing expense was up, but that was paid with extra money I got from selling some artwork.

The scary/bad category, as always, is the dining category. We spent $499 in one month! Ugh! So with the $500 in groceries, that's $1000 in food for the month! Granted, most of the time we ventured out to cheap fast food joints, but often there were four of us as Number One Son was staying with us for two weeks. We also celebrated the end of the semester with a nice meal out as well. Something has to be done! Basil and I decided that if we're really serious about saving for an emergency fund and getting out of debt, we're going to have to sacrifice. So we've decided to follow in the footsteps of An English Major's Money and use an envelope for our monthly dining out funds. We're going to budget $30 a week for eating out, which will amount to $120 for the month instead of the $500 we spent this month. That would give Basil $380 extra to go towards credit card debt. Since that's our worst expense, we thought we'd try it for a month, and if it works well we may go to other categories as well. It will be hard because Number Three Son comes to visit July 9.

The only other problem was that last month I posted that we got the electric bill only every other month....well, I was wrong. We just missed last month, so we had a double bill this month.

Everything else was pretty standard. It's kind of depressing sometimes to see how much we spend in a month, but then we get competitive and say "We can do this thing! Let's not eat out at all next month! Let's pay the credit cards off by Christmas! YEAH! GO! GO! GO!" Then we come down off the furniture and get a little more realistic, but still determined to beat this debt.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Put Down that Phone!

We live in the LA area and today a co-worker handed me a sheet with all the newest driving fines that take effect July 1st. The one that worries me is that cell phone use while driving must be "hands free" and if you get caught, the ticket is $285. Ever since I backed into my sister's car in my parents' driveway with my recently purchased vehicle while I was searching for a ringing cell phone, I've avoided talking on the phone and driving. I've also told my sons that no phone call is so important that you have to answer it while driving. They were in the backseat at the time of my accident, so even though it cost me $500 for the insurance deductible, I think it taught them a lesson. Unfortunately I don't have the same control over Basil. He has a fairly long commute to work and often calls me to ease the boredom ("Tell me a story," is how he usually starts the conversation). Also, his phone isn't new enough to have hands free technology. I could switch phones with him since my phone is bluetooth ready, but his has been dropped so many times that it looks like a family of bears mauled it for a week.

Also mine has cool ring tones.

As a $285 ticket is not in our budget, I guess Basil will just have to use patience and make phone calls before he leaves work or wait until he gets home. He definitely doesn't want to have to blog about having to pay a $285 ticket.

And I would make him.

Was doing a little research on this info, and I've found that the law doesn't go into effect until 7/1/08. There is conflicting information, so to be safe, I think I'll advise Basil to start now....just in case.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Debt Komix!

Because no one demanded it, the debut of Debt Komix!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Live Free Or Debt Hard

Some excellent recent posts to check out:

Zen Habits has 73 Great Debt Elimination Tips! Number 38 really stood out for us: "Turn off your television, and discard catalogs and other advertisements immediately (but not coupons!). Do this, and your urge to buy stuff you don’t need will plummet." Very true. Start paying attention to how often you're bombarded with ads. Ask yourself if the tool at the water cooler prattling on about the taste wonders of Sierra Mist isn't being paid to do Word of Mouth Advertising (WOM). When the blaring, near-unavoidable inanity of today's advertising starts really pissing you off, you're on the right track.

Fiance Psychology has 7 Crucial Habits To Cultivate. If you haven't checked out this site, I highly recommend that you do so.

Frugal Babe talks about how frugality and the environment in their post Doing Our Part. Bianca and I are struggling to get to where Frugal Babe and her husband are at. They're doing the right things, and inspiring the hell out of us. An excellent post about how financial and environmental responsibility can go hand in hand.

I'm Afraid to get the Mail...

I'm starting to get nervous. My credit card bill arrives any day now and I've been putting some pretty big purchases on it the past month: eye exam and glasses, car repairs & tires, dental bills, web server fees, and many other little things I can't remember right now. Those items are adding up to almost $1000 already. I'm hoping a couple of things didn't make the most recent bill, but it'll still be high. And I'm determined to pay off the entire balance, even though Basil tells me I can do it in two months instead of one. I would rather take it out of my emergency fund than pay a penny to the credit card companies. I also go to the dentist tomorrow for my final crown on my tooth, but at least that should be on the following month's bill. Basil and I are cracking down on the spending (again!) and I should have some healthy overtime the beginning of July, so I shouldn't have any problem paying. I would just like a month where I don't have an unexpected expense of over $100.

Kwote Korner

“When you look at the buying habits that have taken hold in our culture over the past 30 years or so, you can see that we made the descision somewhere along the line to work longer hours so we could acquire more things. We’ve exchanged our leisure time for stuff.”

Elaine St. James

Cracked $15,000

Inspired by a comment on my last post, I knocked the debt below fifteen large.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid!

Some dumb mistakes lately cost me $73. The first mistake happened less than an hour after I had picked my parents up at the airport. Having promised them the glory of In-N-Out Burger, I took them to the nearest one, only to find the parking lot jam packed. I grabbed some bare, unpainted curb on the street and we went in and enjoyed our lunch.

On our way out I noticed a guy writing a ticket for our car. Then I noticed the fire hydrant, the bright yellow one I failed to notice on my way in to the restaurant. "You're not fifteen feet away from this fire hydrant," he said. And he was right. Where we used to live, all curbs by fire hydrants were painted. Not here. Just a dumb mistake. I took the ticket and pushed down the frothing fountain of bile-tinged rage that was flowing up from my gut.

The second mistake came in the mail, in the form of a letter from the library. Apparently I had kept a pile of reference books for my Crafty Side Business a bit too long, to the tune of $28. Insanity. A $3 fine used to send me into a wide-eyed hate bender, culminating with me pounding my forehead with the heels of my hands and actually screaming "Grrrrrrrrrr!"

I accepted both of these mistakes calmly and with maturity. They were my mistakes, my responsibility.

Stupid dumb asshole police and library. I mean, how dare they?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Budget Followed, Spending Watched - What The Hell Is Wrong With Me?

The parents are off. And there is still some money - granted, most of it change - in my pocket. I feel giddy. Weird.

I knew my parents were coming, so a month ahead of time I diverted my second job earnings (previously earmarked for extra debt repayments) into savings for when my parents were here. I took out the cash before they arrived and put it in an envelope in my sock drawer. Every day I would take out how much I thought I would need for that day. When that money was gone, it was gone. No more fun - at least fun I had to pay for.

And it worked. I would pat myself 0n the back, except I gained so much weight from eating out I can barely touch my left shoulder with my right hand. No back patting for a week, at least.

Budgets work. Saving works. I feel like some real Bizarro World progress was made.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Importance of an Emergency Fund

You never know when you're going to need an emergency fund. Often you think everything will go on as always....until it doesn't. My sister is a case in point. She's been at her job for over 20 years, since she was 24, and making $50,000 a year. Right after her vacation a few weeks ago, she was called into her supervisor's office and told that she "wasn't coordinator material", even though she'd been doing the job for over 7 years. It wasn't a huge surprise, as her manager has a history of personality conflicts with staff, and should not be managing people to begin with. (I also worked for the company and when I gave three months notice to say I was moving across the country, she stopped talking to me because she was hurt that I didn't tell her sooner.) Anyway, my sister is now getting unemployment, but it's a fraction of what she was making. Her husband is working, but they own three houses -- the one they live in, the one her in-laws live-in, and one they're fixing up, plus her husband just bought a new truck, so they have car payments, too. They are living paycheck to paycheck, and though my sister's usually very level-headed and practical, she was in tears and frantic about how she was going to pay her bills. I don't have a huge emergency fund (yet), but if I lost my job tomorrow I'd like to think I'd have enough to hold me over until I got another one. That's why it's so important to have an emergency fund -- you never know if you're going to be laid off or get injured. I know it' s really hard to have a huge chunk of money just sitting in a savings account, when you're thinking about all the cool ways to spend it -- a great Hawaiian vacation, a flat screen TV, or that full-body tattoo you've been wanting. But knowing you have that emergency savings can give you a peace of mind that the tattooed grizzly on your back will never give you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me with Free Ice Cream!

Thought I'd post about a freebie you can get on your birthday. Just sign up at the Cold Stone Creamery website to join the birthday club and every year you'll get a coupon via e-mail for a free medium Coldstone Creation. My Number Two Son got his last week and I got mine today. They're good for two weeks, and though it's not entirely ethical, one of my co-workers used hers three times last year. I think I only need the calories from one. Okay, maybe I don't neeeeeeed them.....

Get Inspired!

Check out the 100 Most Inspirational Personal Fiance Turnaround Stories over at We're number 16!

There's some great stuff over there - and when my folks leave I'll be adding links to some great blogs.

Must not strangle my mother, must not strangle my mother...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How Nice! Discover Took The Time To Write Me A Letter!

Discover: "Congratulations! Your credit line has been increased to $6,600.

Dear Basil Bizarro,

Congratulations! Your excellent credit management has earned you a credit line increase. That means you have more buying power than ever. So, how will you enjoy it?" (from actual letter)

Me: "I won't be using it." (from my actual mouth)

Kwote Korner

"The world is full of people that have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for."

Joseph Cambell

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Rollercoaster of a Weekend

Basil did most of the recent posting because I went for a girls "Sideways" weekend with my friend and 12 of her closest friends for her 40th birthday. It was a pretty inexpensive weekend because I carpooled the two hour drive with two other girls so gas was $10, and all 12 of us shared 4 hotel rooms. The whole weekend I used cash and spent $115, which included two meals, hotel room ($39) and wine tasting ($17), among miscellaneous other expenditures. The one hiccup was that I found my camera didn't work on the first day. Ugh! I thought I had just charged it, so in the back of my mind I kept thinking it was broken and I was going to have to replace it. Got home, plugged it into the charger, and it worked. What a relief!

Then Sunday evening I couldn't find my glasses. I'm probably legally blind without them (I wear contacts during the day, and only need the glasses for early a.m. and late p.m.) and I knew I'd last had them that morning in the hotel room. I always do a sweep of the room to see if we missed anything, but hadn't since it was only me and I thought I couldn't possibly leave anything behind. After fuming and searching everywhere for two days (and calling the hotel), I had pretty much falling into a funk thinking about shelling out money for new glasses on top of the car purchase, the glasses for my son and the unending dental work on my rotten teeth. This morning I awoke, walked over to my art table, picked up a stack of boxes and books (that Basil had cleared off his art table), and right there were my glasses in their case. Luckily they were next to another book, otherwise they would have been flattened. I was so happy that I made Basil open his eyes (an hour before his alarm goes off) and look at me so he could see I was wearing them. I had made him crazy yesterday with my moping about.

So today everything's great again (even though we found out yesterday that the Cressida needs four new tires), and I am once again annoying Basil with my unending cheerfulness.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Somebody's Got A Case Of The "Mondays" - Great Monday Posts, That Is

Finance Psychology has a great post about parental responsibility (which we talked about here). You can check out their post, Parents Gone Wild - Stop and Set Some Limits, here.

And The Simple Dollar has a post titled What Aspects of Personal Finance Bring You Happiness?. Just reading about his happiness about taking control of his fiances brought my mood up considerably. You can read it here.

Wise Bread has a nice collection of horror stories in their post Our Worst Financial Mistakes and What You Could Learn From Them. Turn off the lights and lean in close to your screen - this is better than Stephen King. Click here if you dare.

We've Had A Little Work Done...

...compliments of Bianca. I simply paced around behind her and "art directed." The experience of working together went so well I ended up sleeping on the couch.

In other news, we're off into the heart of the city to obtain registration for the new car, and to get me a haircut, my first since the beginning of January. I'm caving because I look like a Monchichi, and if my mom's going to be crying I want it to be because she hasn't seen me in years, not because of my hair.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Spoiled, Drag Racing Teens, Or, A Quick Snapshot Of the Future Debt-Ridden

"The thing that impresses me the most about America is the way parents obey their children."

King Edward VIII

The man we bought the car spoke broken English. He was in his mid-fifties, healthy looking. I was standing on the curb with him as the ever lovely and fiscally sound Bianca drove the car around the block.

"My son," he said, shaking his head.

I thought he was addressing me. "Yes?"

"No, my son's car." He pointed to a late model Acura parked down the street. The axle was visible and the tires skewed at weird angles. "He is nineteen. Racing with friends. Around curves. Hit roadside, flip around, thank God no fence or poles."

"Kids," I said. I looked at the Acura. It looked brand new. Did I just say "kids?" I thought. What am I, sixty?

"My daughter, when it time to buy her car, she say, 'Father, I must have new. Must be new car.'" He sighed. And looked down the street. It looked like he was afraid Bianca was into her fifth donut turn in the parking lot of a Wendy's. "Now," he said, "she says to me, 'Father, you were right. I not need new car.' She cannot make the payments, you see. But I love my daughter. What she asks of me I must give."

"I see," I said, though I didn't.

There was a long moment where we just stood and looked down the street, trying to will Bianca and the gray car to appear.

"Your wife, she is very beautiful."

"Um, thank you. "

"I don't understand these children. They must have everything. I work my fingers to bone at my shop," he said, now getting really worked up. "Seven days a week, so that they can have what I didn't have. Now I must sell my backup car to pay for new underparts for son's car. " A real panic came into his face. "Now what happen if my car does not work? What happens if I cannot unlock door of shop? Me, my family, all dead. Dead! Because of racing with friends and smoking funny pot."

I did an eye opening look of shock. "Wow."

A noise came from down the street and the gray car came into view, Bianca smiling. So much for bargaining, I thought.

Later I was thinking about the man and his kids. Here's a guy who had sacrificed so much for his family. Took great care of his belongings, to the point where he owned a 1989 car with an interior that looked no different than if it had just come off the line. Contrast that with his son, hasn't worked for anything in his life, fat doobage hanging from a slack lip, doing seventy in a thirty-five and striking a curb with a 2006 Acura he has no respect for. A daughter, his "baby girl," who cares more about how she appears to strangers than her own family or financial well-being. It was strikingly clear and laid bare before me: this is America. Right here. From hardworking immigrants to careless, culture-drugged morons unable to form one thought of gratitude for anything they've been lucky to receive.

Now take this down the road. Two, three generations from now. Generation Z 1a, or whatever they'll be calling them, lives literally nothing but noisy and beepedy-boopedy technological distractions from morning until night, spoiled by crap bought for them on credit by strapped out parents looking for the easy way to gain love.

Jeez, I'm talking like I'm sixty.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I Bought a Car!

Last night I drove the car we'd looked at yesterday. The interior was great and it drove well. The A/C and stereo even worked. Yes, the key was stuck, but you could actually take the entire cylinder out, and I think we'll have that looked at to see how much it would cost to fix. Also, the spare tire needs replacing, but he took $100 off the price. Being a research junkie, I checked out the Kelly Blue Book value and even with all the miles, it was a good deal. Plus, my boss had helped his nephew buy a car a couple of years ago and it was an '87 Camry with the same number of miles, and he's still driving it and has had no problems. Of course, now I feel like I should be cutting back on spending even more, even though I have the cash in the emergency fund. It doesn't help that I went to the dentist yesterday for yet another crown, paid my $178 outstanding bill (which doesn't include the crown), and have yet another crown due in my future. (My teeth that have 20-year-old silver fillings in them are now cracking in half. Ugh!)
On the plus side, I called Number One Son to tell him the good news and he said congratulations. I told him it wasn't for me, but for him. He was silent for a few seconds and then profusive with his thanks. Now he wants us to send photos (he's away for the summer).
So even though we were going to wait to buy him the car, I feel like we found a good deal and we'll be paying cash for it tonight. I told Basil he could drive it this summer on the 95+ degrees because he's doesn't have air conditioning. He said that maybe he'd keep it and give the boy his car that has no a/c, not much of a radio and the right-side passenger window that doesn't roll down. I told him he'd have to check with the boy.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Using the Emergency Fund Already....

I was so excited to get my emergency fund pie chart up, and now I may be updating it...but not for the better. Basil and I were planning on buying Number One Son a car, or helping him buy one next spring for summer internships, etc. Nothing fancy, just dependable -- and cheap. Well, since we've been talking about it, we've also started commenting on cars for sale that we see. Usually we're joking as they're old giant SUVs or cars where one door is a different color than the rest of the car. This morning after an early hike, we spotted one on our street for $1750 -- and it actually didn't look too bad. Basil went back and looked at it (a Toyota Cressida) and said it was automatic, had a moon roof, and looked well-taken care of. He was home from work today, so he contacted the owner (a teenager, but "clean cut") and took it for a drive. It was a 1989 and had over 250,000 miles on it, but they'd just put a transmission and a radiator in it. All the power locks and windows worked. The only "minor" problem with it is that you can't take the key out. I asked Basil, "What do you mean you can't take the key out?" Well, apparently if you take the key out the steering wheel locks up and you can't get it back in. Hmmmmmm.... Basil assures me that he can rig something to hide the key. So I'm taking it for a drive tonight to see for myself.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Kwote Korner

"To take what there is, and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the preconceived - to dig deep into the actual and get something out of that - this doubtless is the right way to live."

Henry James

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Wait - I Have Savings?!?!

Wow, it's been a while, but I just checked my savings account statement the other day (it's not hooked up to my checking, so I tend to ignore it), and realized that I've actually been saving a little lately. In the month of April, I put $1000, in May - $400, and in June - $1400 (cash back from son's college). For the whole year, I've made $72 in interest. So my total savings is up to $6254. I need an emergency fund and haven't decided how much it should be. Three months would be $7200 and I'm almost there. Six would be better, but would be $15,400. My next step is to get one of those bar graphs to chart my progress and post in on the blog home page (along with Basil's debt), but I haven't gotten around to figuring out how to do it yet. Any tips would be appreciated.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Strange, Tingling Sensation

I've somehow managed to save around $400 over the last month. The last time I saved this much money Bill Clinton was in office.


The reason for the savings push is that my parents are flying in for a few days in a week and a half. So instead of putting everything on a credit card during that time, I simply kept money made from my sales on sitting in my Paypal account, and did not use any of it to pay down debt. To obtain this money, Paypal enacts a four day waiting period before it transfers it to my bank account. So it's nicely out of reach.

The debt war lulls a bit, but I'm feeling good knowing I have money to spend when the peeps are in town and I don't have to keep taking them "people watching" in the park and serving them fabulous dinners of balogna and cheese sandwiches. As soon as I get their asses back on the plane though, the war resumes. I'm losing the taste of debt blood, and let me tell you something: I'm gettin' thirsty.

New debt total is: $15,012.34

Sunday, June 3, 2007

We're Out of Control!

Whew! Made it through the weekend, though the damage was pretty severe. We ate out Thursday (Mexican - $32), Friday (Chinese - $45), Saturday (Burgers - $22) and Sunday (Breakfast - $27). That's $126! Basil sometimes complains that I spend too much on groceries when I go over $400 a month, but I get a lot more than four meals out of it. Now we have a moratorium on eating out until his parents get here June 14 (except that it's Number Two Son's birthday this next week, so we may have to go out once, though I'll see if I can cook him a special dinner instead). And every time it seemed like we had a good excuse. Thursday night we were trying to make the free movie and thought we'd have to eat while we waited in line, though when we arrived, there was no line, so we just ate at the restaurant. Friday night we were celebrating (always with eating out) Number One Son's last night with all four of us before he went to visit his father for the summer. Saturday we went to pick up Number Two Son after he took his SATs, and he didn't get done until 1 p.m., so we ran out to (where else?) In-n-Out. Then Basil volunteered to go with me to take Number One Son to the airport at 5 a.m. and he wanted to go out to breakfast since we never do that (and we're trying to be bizarro). We're out of control! I need to think up a suitable punishment for us if we even attempt to cross the threshold of a restaurant (or drive-thru). I wonder if I could get some electrodes so we'd be shocked if we entered any eating establishment. Hmmmm.....maybe I'm onto something....