Monday, July 30, 2007

June Income & Expenses!

Whew! I just made it. I barely made getting June's income/expense report up in July. I think I've decided that next month I'm not going to wait until I get my bank statement (since it usually arrives after the 15th), and instead, reconcile with my online statement so I can get a better handle on where the money's going. What happens to Basil and me is that we have a good month, and then celebrate the next month, yet we don't realize how much we've spent until yet another month's almost gone by. We used to try to go over expenses weekly, but that kind of got away from us, too.

Unfortunately, as you can see, we ended up in the negative this month. But that can be explained by the purchase of a car and registration for Number One Son to take to college. We also had an airline ticket for Number Two Son to fly to visit his father for the summer.

The good news is that we quit randomly driving around and combined errands, so our gas went down $60 for the month. Basil had a lot of art income, but that was mostly spent on art expenses, supplies and for when his parents visited, but hopefully in the future a bigger cut of that should go toward the credit cards.

We kept groceries down to around $400 which is where we want to be, but that could be because for one week of the month there were only two of us. Also dining was cut by half to $236 (but I'm afraid that July's will be back up).

Entertainment was high because of Basil's family visiting.

Gifts Given was high because there are A LOT of birthdays in my family in June including mine, two of my sons, three of my sisters, and a friend's. Add to that that Basil's brother graduated from high school and I think we did pretty well in the gift giving department.

Everything else is pretty normal, but car insurance will be going up with an additional car $60 a month. We're hoping to change our cell phone package to try to get that lower, but with four people in a family plan, I don't think $142 is too bad, especially since we don't have a land line we're also paying for.

Hopefully next month I'll get July's budget up much quicker, because we've got to get this debt paid down, plus save for a wedding in the next 11 months. I think we're going to implement a budget through Quicken and see if that helps us.

Sex At $3 A Pop, Or, The Price Of STD And Pregnancy Protection

While Bianca and I were at the Rite Aid looking for aloe for my third-degree sunburn, she went off one aisle and I lingered down another. I came across the condom aisle and began looking them over. Something I had never noticed before was that in addition to the "large" size (including the popular "Magnum"), there is now an XL. This was news to me. I thought the upper end of the scale was the Magnum. Leviathans lurk in the waters of the masses, I thought.

That was until I reached the Extra Large Durex XXL's. My goodness. The box proclaimed "Extra large for big time pleasure." But I was in for another surprise as my eyes played over the colorful boxes.

I scanned the prices, finding the normal discrepancies between the Mercedes and Kia comparable brands...until I reached the "sheepskins." Holy colona. While a mid-range box of 12 condoms will run you $12.99, a box of 12 sheepskins, or "sheepies" as I immediately nicknamed them, will cost you - get this - $39! I had to know more about these extravagant contraceptives, and before I knew it I had my notebook out and was jotting down the words "pricey sheepies" in it (what - you don't carry a notebook for times such as these?).

Apparently, sheepskins are only good for pregnancy protection. They won't do you a bit of good if you find yourself sharing a room where the only furniture is a mattress with a towel over it and there's someone taking your money (But who would use a $3 condom in a situation like that? Then again, you're probably not thinking frugality at that point). Sheepskins are worn mostly because they apparently feel more natural.

The kicker for me was this: sheepskins are not actually made of sheep skin - they're made from lamb intestines.

I've got to stay out of the Rite Aid - too many rabbit holes to tumble down.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Monosyllibic rants. Stress headaches. Spitting obscenities at machines.

Getting serious about adding a debt reducing side-business is painful. Doing it on top of a stressful 9 to 5 job is excruciating. I had my best month yet in terms of sales, but had to invest it all into growth. Disappointing.

Bianca is an angel, without whom I would be in a park somewhere, my clothes black and shiny from my own oils, an empty bottle of Old Jim Skin's Budget Drunkdrink laying next to me.

Gotta pull it together.

This is the war on debt. Sacrifice. Hard work. Hopefully it will bear fruit.

Good and Bad News

The good news: Basil was really relaxed after a day of boogie boarding and lying in the sun on the beach.

The bad news: The sunscreen should have been reapplied more often because by 10 p.m. his stomach and chest were the color of a cooked lobster. Today he says it feels like a million needles are stabbing him.
I guess we'll have to find a better way for him to relax, because when it comes to putting on sunscreen, it's like trying to apply it to a three-year-old.

More good and bad news: I got a refund check of $74.80 from State Farm for my car insurance. The letter stated: "When financial results are better than expected and business conditions permit, we are pleased to return part of your premium. We enjoy these positive results because of our policyholders' attention to safety and our careful management of your premium dollars." Yay!

The bad news: I got a bill for lab work from my physical for $85, which doesn't say it's covered by insurance. It was last year, but the doctor sent me to a different lab, and this year the blood was drawn in her office. I'm hoping it's actually covered, and I'll call Monday to find out, otherwise, that refund check is going straight to the bill for the lab. Wah!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Day of Relaxation

Today we're taking Basil to the beach for some much needed (forced) relaxation. He's been working every night and all last weekend on his crafty side business and his boss even sent him home from work Thursday because his eyes were all bloodshot and he looked awful. Of course he went home and worked his second job. I figured the only way to get him to relax was to get him to the beach. There he swims, lies around, reads and always feels great when we come home. I know the side business will help pay off the mountain, but I'm afraid of what kind of mental and physical shape he'll be in when that year's up. I don't want to look like I'm marrying a hobo next summer.

Oh, yeah, and maybe I'll finally get to balance the checkbook and post June's finances this weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Basil's Intervention

Sorry, I've been out of commission for a while, but Basil was using both computers for his crafty side business this weekend and I worked late yesterday. I thought I'd better interject before people become too depressed and think Basil's going off the deep end. Basil says his brother is "more successful" than he is, but he's basing success on what capitalism, advertising and our society deems "successful".
Yes, his brother makes a lot of money, but he's 30 years old and I've given up learning the names of the latest girlfriend because I know it'll change before I even get the chance to meet her. He parties every weekend, which Basil and I have long outgrown (not that we don't like partying with friends, but going to bars has never been a weekly activity for us). Yes, he's buying a house, but he's never camped on a beach at Catalina Island, hiked the Rockies, or seen dolphins chasing a whale-watching boat. He hasn't moved across the country and when it's 0 degrees out in Chicago, we're running errands in t-shirts and jeans. He hasn't helped raise three wonderful boys, who are smart, funny, creative and just fun to hang out with. His brother may seem successful to the outside world, but he's going it alone, not letting anyone get too close to him. Basil throws himself into the world and new experiences. He's smart, creative, generous and has a fiancee´ and family who love and support him. And you can't buy that down at the Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holy Cats

My, that last post was a cheery one.

I've run myself ragged trying to manage my Crafty Side Business and my full time job and I'm coming apart at the seams. Emotionally battered. Tired beyond reason. My successful younger brother buying a house and I'm in the gutter trying to crawl my way up to $0.

My only excuse is that this site is titled "Freak Show." Lest anyone get any ideas that it's anything but.

Trying to think postivie thoughts. None come to mind, at present. But what is there to do but soldier on? At least money's being thrown at the mountain.

Movin' On Up

When you move to a major urban center to try and upgrade your financial fortunes, you often neglect to look around you at the splendor such a place has to offer. I mean, if I hadn't looked around recently I would have missed:

The beauty of the slow, graceful arc of a tall unconscious man, and the wet, deep slap his head made hitting concrete. I would have missed his assailant, chest puffed out, striding away triumphant in his drunken, shirtless glory.

The beauty of several dozen pigeons eating out of a wet garbage bag in the parking lot of a Home Depot - eating and screwing, sometimes at the same time.

A two hundred pound woman urinating quite vigorously, in the middle of the sidewalk, at 3:30 on an airless, sun-baked afternoon.

In other news, you can read about how a guy blew $210,000 on drinks this weekend. The story is here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Going Into Debt For Jesus

Bianca and I have never had cable. Ever. Whenever we enter a hotel room, the first thing that is done - before bags drop from shoulders- is the television is turned on, usually to the Weather Channel, which I could watch for hours. I could rent a hotel room, watch the Weather Channel for 24 hours, and leave completely satisfied. That's what no cable has done to us.

At home, my options were limited to the crap network stations, the Home Shopping Network and several (13) Spanish-language stations. Then there was TBN. I used to watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network way more often than I should have. I watched it for the sheer, gleeful horror of its entertainment value: the Crouches (see Jan pictured above), the silly movie premieres (watching Christian filmmakers and broadcasters act all "Hollywood" remains endlessly entertaining to me) and, of course, Benny Hinn with his amazing Holy Spirit Knock You Over Spells. I mean the guy is a real-life X-Man. There's something so ornately sleazy about him that makes you suspicious he bathes only in Cristal champagne.

I was reading a William Lobdell article in the Times today titled "He Had Faith In His Job" in which Lobdell talks about his years covering the holy beat. He mentions TBN's "prosperity gospel":

"TBN's Creed is that if viewers send money to the network, God will repay them with great riches and good health. Even people deeply in debt are encouraged to put donations on credit cards." (italics mine)

"'If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven,' Paul Crouch, co-founder of the Orange County-based network, once told viewers. Meanwhile, Crouch and his wife, Jan, live like tycoons."

They need the money, you see, for the $21 million dollar private jet, 30 homes across the country and their two mansions in Newport Beach. Oh, and the ranch in Texas. And the taxes they have to pay on these donations? Nada.

"Even people deeply in debt are encouraged to put donations on credit cards."

Look, somebody's gotta pay for Jan's pink skyscraper wigs.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Debt Numbers Updated

Debt total now stands at $14,294. This number would be much lower if I wasn't reinvesting profits from the Crafty Side Business back into it, but today I nearly made as much from sales as I made at work.

The hope is once I have the business where I want it I can grow it steadily while using profits to obliterate debt. I would love to be blasting a grand off the mountain every month, but that doesn't seem feasible just yet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So, My Credit Card Company Screwed Up - Does This Mean My Balance Will Stay At 0% Forever?

Upon double checking my statements online, I noticed that a 0% balance transfer had been misapplied as 9.9%. One of the statements showed all sorts of corrections and additions and subtractions, and they were named strange things like FUND READJ FRONT END FEE MALJUS TW 769EEHJ.

I called the company.

"What's the deal on all these corrections?" I asked.

"We misapplied a transfer rate. It's been corrected," the woman said.

"I see it's been corrected."

"Of course we apologize for any inconvenience," she said.

I was trying to hold my phone to my ear and urinate at the same time. I had been on hold for 21 minutes and the woman had come on just as I had begun to use the bathroom. " make a mistake, I get an apology - but I make a mistake and I get 29.9%?"

"Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?"

I had a vision in my head, being fresh from a viewing of the latest Harry Potter film. In it there are beings called Dementors, which suck the life out of you, your very soul trailing like vapor into their mouths. This is what it feels like, I thought. Talking to this woman, who thanks to the wonders of globalization is sitting in a room full of other women, women who speak English better than I do, somewhere in Ajjampura, India - I truly felt my soul being sucked out and into the pinprick-sized mouthpiece of my cell phone.

Gah. I've gotten so used to not speaking to these "account specialists," that it pains me when I have to do so.

A Nasty Little Secret About The Secret

A while back I wrote about the Secret. About how the Secret was essentially crap. But something happened recently that was more than a little bizarre. And it had to do with the Secret.

Because I'm sometimes known as a "wiseacre," or even a "smartaleck," or occasionally, if people are being particularly cruel, a "wisenheimer," I've been known to mix it up a little bit. Zig instead of zag. Not "hit that" when someone commands "hit that." So when I was listening to the audio version of The Secret, there came a point where the author said to imagine something positive you would want. Something you really, really want. So I did. But I didn't think of anything positive; no, because I'm a "wise guy," I thought very specifically and very hard about wanting a certain co-worker to leave the company.

This person - who, mind you, was considered by all within the company to be a lifer - is very suddenly no longer with the company.

I still think the Secret is utter shite, but let's be honest here - I did get a bit of gooseflesh over the whole affair. And just to be one the safe side, I'm going to keep my negative thoughts in a mental "lock box" for the time being. Let's face it, I'm just too cosmically powerful right now.

Mommy, There's No More 'Mercials For Nuggets! I Feel Empty In My Tummy And My Soul, Mommy

Having observed the "McDonald's-As-Crack-For-Youngsters" phenomenon with the spawn of my friends, I find this article interesting. Apparently some of the largest food companies are going to restrict advertising aimed at children under 12. Including those nugget-dealers McDonald's.

Of course parents should be encouraging their sugar-addled young to get out from under the gaze of the electronic babysitter (or the Flat Screen Love Substitute, as it's known in some households) and go outside. There are billboards I see every day that try and encourage parents to turn off the television, or to serve vegetables at dinner. What has happened where we feel like we have to use billboards to instruct people that Ho Ho's and Red Vines are not a nutritious dinner? I think once we've gotten to that point as a society, it may be that we've peaked on the ride and it's time to just throw up your arms and scream as it rockets downward.

I, of course, was above all that advertising to the under 12 set when I was included in that group. Pay no mind to the overflowing boxes of battered, very un-mint-in-box Transformers and G.I. Joe figures in my parents' attic.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our Dining this Month So Far...

After the crazy eating out binges we've been going on, I decided to check our Quicken halfway through the month to see how we're doing. So far we've spent $157, which includes the $58 buffet (for two) we ate in Las Vegas (we were checking it out to see if we wanted to take wedding guests there, but decided that unless you were a big seafood eater, it wasn't worth it. Plus it encourages you to overeat - the true American way). So we're way down from our high of $600 in May, but over where we'd really like to be. Plus I'm not sure if everything has been entered into Quicken. The only good thing I can say is that we've been eating out really cheap, and believe it or not, I'm actually getting burned out on In-n-Out after eating it four times in a week.

Monday, July 16, 2007

One To Grow On

My Crafty Side Business, which I use primarily for debt destruction, is experiencing major growing pains. I'm being approached by stores that want to carry my little crafty things, I have no social life as I'm constantly trying to stay on top of custom's mad. If I weren't in debt, I'd be able to quit my 9 to 5 and have a wonderful time making what I want. But...I am in debt, so it means I'm working essentially two full-time jobs (Take a moment here and wipe your eyes - I know, I'm a little choked up as well. Poor Basil...). I don't even know my own fiancee anymore. Plus I'm in a transitional stage with the Crafty Side Business where I'm Trying To Take It To The Next Level, which of course means spending money to make money. Errrgh. It was so simple in the beginning, just selling stuff and all the money going to debt. Now I'm actually having to do calculations, profit projections...

On another note, I've been thinking about something lately. Having been in the blogo-verse for a while now, I've noticed tons of articles about frugality, how to get out of debt, etc. What I'm not seeing much of is, what's behind all of this, all these people waking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt? What's the mass psychology behind this problem, which, as I found out here on the Intra-nets, is a massive one (and tied to America's fat problem, I'm certain)? Why aren't we dealing with the psychology? Is it because we don't want to face it directly? Is it too complicated? What's causing college educated people to wake up one day and say to themselves, "F--k me, I'm thirty thousand dollars in debt?"

That's for another time. But it's a valid question, and I think if properly asked and adressed on a massive scale would paint the world we live in in much more menacing tones than the bright colors and shiny plastic would have us believe.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I Used a Reusable Bag!

I did it! It was truly a bizarro moment for me! I used a Trader Joe's reusable shopping bag at a competitive grocery store! I felt a little weird, but she filled it up, no questions asked. Of course, one item didn't fit, so she had to use a whole bag for it. I think I've crossed a line today that I was afraid to cross before. Now if I can only remember to take them in before I'm wheeling the groceries through the parking lot to my car.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tagged! 8 Random Things About Bianca

We were recently tagged by Blogging Away Debt as well as An English Major's Money to reveal eight things you may not have known about us. Luckily there are two of us, so you, you lucky people, will get to learn 16 things you didn't know about the Bizarros (which you may live to regret). Since Basil's working late tonight, I'll post my eight things now, and he'll regale you with his unknown facts tomorrow.
1. I'm a twin. Not an identical twin. You should see how excited people are when they find out I'm a twin, and then watch their faces fall when they find out I'm a fraternal twin. I'm such a disappointment. They're also disappointed to find out we don't have any special "connection".
2. I'm 11 years older than Basil. We've been together for 10 years, and yes, he was a wee lad of 24 when we started dating. When other women find out they say "You go girl!" and call me Demi.
3. I don't like hot peppers. Every time (and I do mean every time) Basil is eating some, he offers me one. I will never take it. Ever.
4. I enjoy watching Mystery Science Theatre with my sons.
5. I make a fabulous homemade barbeque chicken pineapple pizza almost every Saturday night (including the crust). We eat it while watching Mystery Science Theatre.
6. I love boogie boarding.
7. I paint portraits in oil.
8. I've been known to play Guitar Hero with my sons as a way to bond with them, but I secretly just like to pretend that I can play "I Wanna Be Sedated".

I'll go ahead and tag Frugal Babe to find out 8 things about her.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sin City on the Cheap

I'm exhausted! Saturday we cleaned and organized for the arrival of Number Three Son on Monday, and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. we hit the road for Vegas. Had a great time and we'll recap more details later, but the bottom line is we did two full days of vacation for just under $300 (that includes hotel, gas and food). That doesn't count the $98 for a new tire after we lost some tread in Baker, CA. You haven't lived until you've changed a tire in the desert in 115 degree heat.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Vegas, Baby, Vegas

It's been a busy week at the Bizarro World household. And I can't even blame it on children. My work has been really busy, and with a holiday in the middle of the week, I found it hard to find time to post.

I'm afraid I have a confession to make....we may go to Vegas this weekend. Not to get married, but to check out the chapels, hotels, buffets, etc. It's strictly for research. No fun will be had. Since we aren't usually childless, I brought up the idea that we should go now before Number Three Son arrives Monday night. We would start out early Sunday (it's a 3-4 hour drive and hotel rooms are cheaper Sunday nights) and come back Monday afternoon before "the boy" arrives at 9:30 p.m. After checking out hotels online we figured we could do it for around $200. I could use my birthday money $110 and Basil just sold $50 worth of art, plus he got a $20 tip at work yesterday, and I had a whole day of overtime this past week which would more than cover the rest.

Then Basil did something that's usually Bianca's forte....he said maybe we should just put that money toward the debt. I'm always the cheap one, getting a big chunk of money and just putting it in my savings until I decide how to spend it (hence still having a $110 to spend on my birthday even though it was almost a month ago). We decided that maybe we didn't need to run to Vegas this weekend, and that we could probably go in the winter when it wasn't 117 degrees when Number Two Son was visiting his brother at college. This weekend we could create art, relax and maybe spend his tip money on eating out. We decided to sleep on it, and as Basil is still asleep, I'm still not sure what we're doing. We both have to enter in all our receipts and deposits into Quicken, and then we'll know. It would be so much more relaxing to just hang out at the apartment all weekend...but on the other hand, Basil insists on wandering around naked. So maybe Vegas is sounding better after all.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Cost of a Beautiful Moment

Basil already reported the good news in the previous post, so I'll just report how the spending went. It ended up being a relatively cheap weekend. We decided to rent snorkel gear (mask and fins at $9 each), which was really worth it since I'd never snorkeled before and we saw a 5-foot bat ray and some garabaldi, along with a lot of other sea life. It was kind of scary for me because I'm not too keen on swimming with large marine life, but Basil held my hand the whole time and didn't laugh when I panicked swimming over the bat ray. We also ate out three times for a total of $55. The little grill restaurant on the island was really inexpensive, so we had a big breakfast Saturday morning before our 7-mile hike. Then when we came back Sunday afternoon, we had burgers and unlimited fountain Diet Cokes (I think Basil had at least seven glasses -- it was so hot). After the boat ride back to the mainland, we stopped for some Mexican fast food. Here are the expenses for a romantic camping weekend on Santa Catalina Island:

Boat Ride: $118
Campsite: $36
Food: $33
Eating Out: $55
Parking: $24
Snorkeling: $36

Total: $302

Getting Engaged on an Island Beach at Sunset: Priceless.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Basil Pops A Question

First things first - when I was signing into my Blogger account I glanced at the rotating "Just Updated" feature, and I'm pleased to report that "Ebony Ass Gallery" has updated its blog. I didn't check what was added, but I think it's safe to say it was some ebony asses.

Second things second - Bianca and I got engaged over the weekend. It was all terribly romantic and would probably have induced vomiting if people were watching, but since we were on a secluded beach on an island, dinners were spared. The below photo was taken moments after I popped the question.
We had hiked in seven miles, and I had hidden some chilled champagne and glasses in my backpack. The ring was handcrafted by an artist on, and contained zero diamonds. If Bianca was someone who had to have a huge rock to show off to friends who actually cared about that kind of thing, she wouldn't be the person I would ask to be my wife. And any industry that tells you what percentage of your salary you should spend on something is suspect at the very least. It's almost laughable watching the diamond industry combine love and societal peer pressure to increase profits. In fact, the wedding industry is a little microcosm of the consumerism-fueled U.S. economy. Girls are trained from an early age to feel they deserve the perfect wedding, deserve to be a princess for a day. To paraphrase my dad, "you don't deserve shit." It's about love and relationships, not dresses and cake. Dresses and cakes have their places, but they should be realistic places. A traditional wedding is a whirling tornado of increasing costs and is the perfect example of how people get into serious financial trouble - they let their emotions get in bed with their money. It would make my heart glad to have wedding planners and bad DJ's out of business if it meant more couples focused on the huge commitment they're taking on. May the "Electric Slide" rest in peace. Let "Celebration" die a painful death.

When we returned to the mainland, I was intrigued to find that the newspaper had an article titled "Love extravagantly, but cut wedding costs." The article states that the average wedding cost in the U.S. is $27,000. A chart within the article ranked the average wedding costs by city. Vegas came in at $15,257, L.A. at $26,930 and - get this - a wedding in New York will cost you $40,000. Let's just say that our wedding will cost less than what someone in N.Y. would pay for music ($1,677). Number One, Two and Three sons all play guitar beautifully, so we've got the music covered there. We're looking forward to a small, close-knit affair.

Another article in the section was titled "Bare all debts, assets before the big day." This shouldn't be a problem, since we share everything with complete strangers every day. The article states a couple of horror stories, "one about the bride who found out that her husband had a $20,000 tax debt only after the IRS put a lien on her home" and "a bride who canceled the nuptials after finding out that her fiance had paid his gambling debts by draining the joint account they'd established to pay wedding bills." Brent Kessel, a chief executive at a money management firm says, "Money is one of the leading causes of divorce."

But financial matters aside, a beautiful, amazing woman wants to spend the rest of her life with me.

Celebrate good times. Come on!