Saturday, January 31, 2009

At least Girl Scout Cookies are still $2.50!!!

In a time when almost EVERYTHING is more expensive (including ladies lunch at church which is going from $5 to $7 soon) I was delighted to find that Girl Scout cookies are still $2.50 per box. Made me feel double good to buy my favorite Tag Alongs!

Ways to impress a potential employer

Last week I received an email from a designer looking for work (the only other toy company in our area had shut down). Later that day I received a request from that designer on Linked In to be friends.

I phoned a friend who had worked at this designers prior company and found the person had a rather negative reputation.

Following that tip I politely told this person we were not hiring at this time and that we'd keep said resume on file in case anything came up.

Not satisfied, the designer called my boss directly. Yep, went right over my head. Interesting strategy, I guess the motivation could have been to replace me or to see if I was just lying. At any rate my boss referred designer to me and I suggested referring to my original email stating we are not hiring at this time.

I'm willing to give anyone the benefit of doubt regardless of reputation but seriously we are not hiring. Not that any of the above puts this person as a first choice. Small company = rubbing elbows every day. Who wants to work with someone who lacks respect?

1:18

The time it takes to place a call to Bellsouth to downgrade local phone service to BASIC with NO extra stuff that I never use and to downgrade DSL from Ultra to Lite.

Total monthly savings = $25
Total annual savings = $300

On a separate note there are discussions at work to give everyone a 3K pay cut. I'm so motivated to continue to find savings under every rock!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Top reasons to not get a new pet

I frequently read blogs where a mom is lamenting that their children are begging for pets. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should not give in:

1. Do not get a puppy unless you wish to have another child because they equate the work of a new child.

2. Do not adopt an older dog. You don't know what "baggage" they are coming to you with. If you don't have time to fix their problems, don't get them.

3. All small rodents bite - hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and guinea pigs - they all bite. Don't get one. Even if it is a sweet animal by nature, your kid will figure out how to get it to bite them.

4. If you hate cleaning up vomit, don't get a cat or dog. The dog will clean his own vomit and will volunteer to clean the cats.

5. Any pet you get requires CLEANING. And here in lie my biggest grip:
- with rodents, if you do not clean their cages, they die or smell horrific which would make you want to kill them
- with fish, if you do not clean their tank, they die
- with dogs, if you do not wash them they will smell so bad you will lock them in the garage until husband comes home and you fiercely refuse to recognize dog as member of the family until he cleans said dog.
- Cats do not require cleaning of themselves but as a new reader of my blog "screamish" pointed out recently, they will race across your couch with litter feet thus making everything in their path dirty and making you clean after them.

So if you have enough housework to do and are exhausted by the end of the day and can't figure out how to get all your dishes done, make dinner, do your hair and have pretty nails, don't get a pet. Your kids can get pets when they move away to college and need to fill the void until they have kids - like I did!

Monday, January 26, 2009

end of the month splurges

Okay so I have $35 dollars left for food (after the following) and it's almost the end of the month so I went out yesterday and bought a small coffee and a chocolate eclair. These are things I used to get every weekend but after denying myself for several months (this mission started before Jan 1st) it was so much fun to get a few treats. I may have gone overboard later that night by grabbing a 20 from my Christmas gift money and buying a bottle of wine and $5.00 chimichanga at my favorite Mexican restaurant but a splurg never felt so good - especially knowing I'm still on budget.

saving money on bags (and helping the environment)

I used to use alot of bags. Bags for my breast milk and zip lock bags to be precise. I'm now using my tupperware for lunches and quick storage and taking bottles to work for the breast milk. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just an average Sunday

Cat threw up on my recipe book - at least he missed Charlotte's piano, it's really hard to get liquid out of the cracks.

5 days from the end of the month and still on budget. We have $55 left for husband to get gas, milk and bread. I celebrated by getting a chocolate eclair.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sacrifice

1. Laundry
Husband's latest idea - powder laundry detergent. It wouldn't be so bad if they just made it without the smell, I prefer no perfumes.

I remember when I first left for college, mom gave me a 10 gallon bucket of powder laundry detergent. I think it lasted 2 years!

When I hit pay dirt with my first job out of college I swore off powder laundry detergent. I guess somethings are just not worth fighting for - except to beg for no perfumes next time.

2. Water
I adore bottled water. When given a choice of beverage at Whole Foods I will choose Smart Water or 365 electrolyte water over all other juices and sodas. As a substitute I was buying Target's brand of water by the case. I'm now on a bottled water hiatus. Justification is that it clutters landfills and research shows tap water is just as good and sometimes better then bottled water. Although I'll argue Smart Water beats tap water for purity/quality ANY day!!! I'm now down to enjoying the occasional bottle on spa days.

3. Eating out
I've sworn off eating out with co-workers (with the exception of Birthday Lunches, a time honored tradition of taking the birthday person out for lunch, it's expensive because each person picks the top restaurant but at least we only have 9 people). Justification is the average lunch is $10 x 5 days = $50 x 52 weeks per year = $2,600 (packed lunches are ALWAYS cheap). Even if I went out by half that is still a number I'm not willing to spend. Subsequently I'm getting depressed at being stuck at work all day (I've been doing this for almost 7 months) so I need to make the following concessions.
- My church is starting up Thursday ladies lunch for $5.00 and I'm fitting that into the weekly budget for a mental break.
- At least once a week I'm going to the little park one mile from work and eating outside.
That gives me at least two breaks from office life.

4. Eyebrows
I've stopped getting my eyebrows waxed. Husband hated it anyway. And the last time I went, when laying back in the chair I still look a little pregnant and the other Asian beautician grinned, pointed at my belly and then rubbed hers. I'm not going back for that reason and I save $10 every two weeks.

5. Gas
I've started playing this game where I see a red light ahead and coast to a stop. It works best on weekends because there is less traffic to get annoyed that I'm creeping up to the light at 20 miles per hour. People like to rush to the light and break suddenly. They will pass me, jump in front and then break quickly. My goal is to use stop using gas when I see I have to make a stop ahead. My husband will just die when he reads this one because he's familiar with me rushing to stop lights.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Charlotte's favorite toys

As a toy designer, I have taken great interest in the toys my daughter plays with. I haven't bought a pile of toys, only a small collection that she seems pleased with. Beyond the toys she prefers adult items like our remote controls, cell phones, car keys and the computer keyboard which have only surprised me in that I thought babies took interest in the parents stuff much later.

So here they are in order of current preference:

1. Sally Doll


2. 22" Lumpy plush (which is much bigger then her but she enjoys wrestling it to the ground)


3. Computer keyboard


4. Grocery List that has been snatched from counter


And when done with paper she still enjoys her Fisher Price piano (inspired after she took interest in the computer keyboard) and a giraffe rattle that my friend got from Peru.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Regaining balance

Christmas tree is down and all decorations put away - but storage containers not yet ferried to their respective locations.

All dishes and laundry done BEFORE the work weeks starts. A feat of astonishing effort that mostly took place before the weekend started. See I can be taught to clean up throughout the week!

Resolutions updated -
There are two resolutions I've been quietly keeping that should have taken space on my resolution posting:
1. Eat dinner at the dinner table (vs couch while watching TV). Last night even feed daughter pureed green beans while we were eating so she gets accustomed to eating in her high chair instead of viewing it as a playground.
2. Recycling - started in late December and have been studiously recycling all 1 & 2 plastics, metal, glass, plastic bags and paper bags. Quite pleased with this one.

Still trying to get schedule and exercise under control but still on budget - and that is really the most important goal.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm having balance problems - part 2

The cats will not stop throwing up on my couches, pillows and floor. Fortunately the dog tries to be helpful when it lands on the floor.

Sunday evening I found a bump the size of a quarter and raised up 1/4" on the back of daughters head. Not one to freak out, I told husband and we both quietly seethed. The following day husband took her to the doctor who told us to get a CT scan. Long story short, I left work and got to spend an afternoon with daughter and husband and she's fine. Nurse called today to say it's nothing. That irritated me because a bump is SOMETHING! Fortunately friend at work has pediatric nurse mom and we called her. She said it's probably lymph modes because she's so skinny.

Daughter's gained 1/2 lb in 3 weeks. Not the pound I was hoping for but I'll take it.

Work is chaotic. Last week we had a girl fight at work between Girl A in my dept. and Girl B in another department. I've carefully negotiated a cease fire by taking each aside for discussion, afterward there was another minor flair up when Girl B told my Girl A that she had no manners on AOL chat. Managed to smooth that over. Now trying to maintain a wave of calm as I go to work putting on my super happy face to keep spirits up.

My personal budget is on target!

I have not found time to exercise yet this year.

Tonight I came home from work just in time to pass husband on his way out the door to teach a class. Daughter immediately insisted on going to sleep and as much as I'd like to spend the evening with her, I can't deny a secret glee in having an evening off to make cookies, blog and read book 3 in the Twilight series. I think some Godiva chocolate might also be nice.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trip to LA

Recently I was going to bed at 10pm which means I can get up with enough time to exercise in morning and get to work on time. I was so close, literally on my way to bed when I received an urgent phone call. Trip to LA is needed and you must book the flight now because it's in one week and flights skyrocket the following day. I spent the next 2 hours looking for a reasonable flight and finally called boss and enlisted his support because my brain turned to mush and I figured he needed to authorize cost anyway - and maybe stay up late as well.

The following day I did not exercise and got to work late.

One week later, I did not exercise on Monday because I needed to pack and spend extra time with baby. Tuesday I could not possibly exercise because I was running late for work after continuing to pack the following morning and got to work late.

Wednesday - got up for flight at 3:45am. Thanks to baby, I've been getting up at this time for almost 7 months to pump milk so I'm quite adjusted to functioning at this time yet would you believe I still found reason to run late for 6:20 flight and had to rely on miles gold status to get me to the front of the security line?

Flight to connection Dallas - slept. Flight to LA read 2nd book in Twilight series, got half way through book.

Got to LA at 11:15am, pumped milk in airport bathroom. LA based co-worker picked me up and we went to Pasadena. Oh how I love Pasadena. Such a pretty town with the mountains in background. Our meetings didn't start until 3:30 so we had 3 lovely hours to kill. We went to an amazing Italian restaurant where I got a dish of sausage, potatoes, chicken and peppers in a red sauce with angel hair pasta. It sounded a bit odd, who puts potatoes with a pasta dish but the sauce pulled the whole thing together. Afterwards we went to my favorite coffee shop, Coffee Bean and Tealeaf. Oh why don't they have this chain in S. Florida?

After the meeting we went to Hollywood where my co-worker used to live and knows all the hot restaurants. I can't remember the name but it was some Shee Shee Hollywood restaurant and I commandeered their bathroom to pump milk. Ha! Again, my friend has great taste in food. We had cheese and chorizo starters followed by a delicate dish of Yellow Tail with pomegranate berries and avocado.

The following day I was left to my own devices, no meetings and flight didn't leave until 1:40pm. Staying on the LA hotel strip without a rental car and no personal budget presented a challenge until I spied the trolley for $3.00 to Manhattan Beach, mall or other shopping center. I've never heard of it but it must have breakfast that is better then the hotel. 9am I'm outside waiting for the trolley until I realized I was supposed to pay for ticket at hotel. Back to hotel to get ticket and rush up to room to pack while waiting for next one. Weather is comfortable and enjoy the breeze. Back outside at 9:45 it feels a bit brisker, finally catch trolley and find it full of Brits in shorts and t-shirts. Seriously do they ever get cold? I've got my shawl wrapped tight and thinking I should have brought a sweater. As I ponder this two little boys discuss the finer points of Star Wars bad guys. My favorite line "Darth Maul is definitely worser then Darth Vader" he says with the cutest accent.

I tap through my phone at work emails (I should make some pretense at working on a "work" trip) when I spot a glorious sight - FOG! When I lived in LA I used to love the fog. It wraps everything in a lovely white cloud and you know the beach is out there but you can't see it. You know it will lift as soon as the sun hammers it by 11 but until then the fog rules!

I spot the perfect breakfast place as we pull into the beach stop. Uncle Bob's Pancake House. But first I'm freezing. Something to consider when going to any beach - it's colder. Duh! I've only lived on both coasts! I duck into Lucky Brand to buy a sweater at 50% off. Does this wreak my budget - no, I still have Christmas money! Buy lovely deep red sweater and wrap up tight. I'm feeling quite pleased with myself and the only thing that will put me over the top with self gloating is a good breakfast.



Jackpot! The place is packed and there is one seat left at the bar. There's a bar in a breakfast stop? Who cares, I cozy in between two patrons and request coffee. Portions look huge! I could order pancakes but husband and I are quite good at these. I can't make omelettes very well and love a good one. Settle on avocado, jack cheese and sausage. I'm not disappointed, I think they shoved an entire avocado in there. They give me two muffins - those go with me thank you very much.



I ate until I felt the need to roll down the next hill.



The fog is lifting. I have 15 minutes left to run down the hill to the beach. Ah the surfers are out. One stumbles past me to say his suit has broken.



I sigh and sadly walk back up the hill to catch the trolley.

On the way back to the hotel we pick up the same Brits at the mall. I guess they only had an hour and used it shopping. Sure why not take advantage of the exchange rate while it lasts! But the beach was definitely a better choice!

New Year's Resolutions - update

On target with budget. Have not gotten to work on time yet this year! Have not exercised yet this year. Sigh! Think I'll join Grit in a Crisps eating contest.

Jan. 12th - only 19 days left this month

This is such a hard challenge but I can honestly say we are on target for this months budget. One good thing happened to me recently:

My camera was returned and refurbished! See originally I thought I spent $90 for the repair shop to only say they couldn't fix it but they sent it back to Kodak who sent us a refurbished model. I'm so glad I held out over the holiday's by borrowing my work digital camera and avoiding all the big sales to get a new one. Having money to blow at one point in my life has made it really super hard to resist the pull of sales. I wanted to badly to just run out and buy a new camera but I kept telling myself to wait for the camera to be returned and then call Kodak for my options. And they sent me a refurbished model! Yeah!!!

Weird wacky ideas we've come up with for saving money on food:

1. I've made homemade tomato sauce since leaving home. It's my mom's recipe who made Spaghetti every Friday night while I was growing up. For the last 3 years I've bought tomato products in bulk at Costco and they run $7.99 per pack of 6 cans. This month husband bought 5lbs of fresh tomatoes for $6.99. I diced them and cooked them down for 3 hours on a low temperature on the stove and then blended them. It made about the same quantity of tomato product as buying the cans so after saving a dollar, we have non-pasteurized tomato sauce. It's very tasty. Next step is to find a farmer's market with cheaper tomatoes.

2. We've started eating soups almost every night because it makes meat last longer. Monday night I made an amazing ham and white bean soup. I got confused and bought a 1 pound slice of ham when I was supposed to get ham on the bone and let it cook off. So I can make this dish even more economical. The best part is this also saves on the calories because eating soup for dinner is less consumption of quantity of food.

Well that's all for now. More as ideas I have go into fruition.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Initial steps towards financial freedom

January 3rd - 3 days into the year, lets see how we've done!

I came home from work on Friday to find all the lights off and husband making dinner by hurricane lamp light. All the windows were open to save air conditioning. The light in the living room has a slider so you can control the amount of light and a piece of tape is over half the slider so I can't put the light at full blast. He also turned off all plugs throughout the house that just hum away at energy consumption - including baby's wipe warmer - yes, baby needs to contribute as well. We live in Florida, how warm do wipes really need to be?

Husband gets an A+ for effort.

At my work, we have 9 employee's including the boss. For everyone's birthday, the office goes out to lunch together and does group pay for that persons birthday. The person always picks an expensive restaurant and we end up paying $14 - 15 for lunch. It sucks - seriously, one day into my commitment of saving money and I have to go out to lunch. I had actually planned to get the cheapest thing on the menu, like soup, and then later that afternoon heat up a lunch from home. I caved and got a hamburger and sweet potato fries.

I get a D- for effort.

New Year's Resolutions

1. Stay on exercise schedule for entire year - not just a few weeks here and there sporadically.

2. Stay on budget - even started a new blog to keep self and husband accountable.

3. Go to work on time and leave on time (notorious for getting to work an hour late and staying far too late).

That's all. If I can meet these 3 resolutions I'll be a happy camper by end of this year. I'll have a nice savings account, happy well fed family, and will be in fabulous shape. Bring it on '09!

I suspect daughter is trying to wean herself

by eating for one minute and then hurling herself dramatically the opposite direction to stare at the floor, ceiling etc. She does this at almost every feeding. Normally I'd say lets tough it out until she gets hungry but when we went in for her 6th month appointment she had gained 1/2 pound in two months. Husband and I are doing everything we can thing of to shove calories into this little girl and she seems to willfully want to stay skinny. It's driving me crazy. Is it a tooth coming in? Discovery of everything new and exciting in our home? Gas? It is probably all of the above but I know on January 19th she's going back to the doctor's for 2nd flu shot and she better have gained one pound or I'm going to start feeding her white potatoes and corn laced with sugar and butter.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The reasons for this blog

I'm going to be really honest here. Husband and I just took a hard look at our home finances and we are spending everything we make, saving nothing and in December we pulled $750.00 from savings to pay for trips and presents and still have $900 in credit card debt. I'm so aggravated I could eat nails!!!

I've been successful in my job as a Director of Product development by relentless hammering my Asia and creative teams on all aspects of toy development. I'm both loved and hated with equal passion due to my relentless pounding on every single minute detail. Is it possible I can put the same focus on my home finances???

Review of 2008:
1. I had a baby and drained savings.
2. Since having baby, husband has cut back work hours by 3 days to stay home with baby.
3. I need a new digital camera because we spilled tea on our camera and the repair shop has deemed it unrepairable. Not only did I pay $90 for worthless repair, I now need to cough up $133 for new camera (which originally cost $250, but on sale now) so I'm getting a deal right?
4. Still bitter about $650 spent on cat's tail stitches which he immediately pulled out thus causing end of tail to fall off. Need more savings to account for unexpected issues such as this although will not be revisiting the vet for pointless tail issues.
5. Work health insurance has increased $200 per month. Loss of income!!! Scream. Eat more nails.
6. Every vacation taken this year was paid for by credit cards.
7. We bought a condo in 2005 with a 5 year interest only mortgage and no money down. This condo has lost 40% value which means the only sensible thing to do is stay in Florida far longer then planned and make additional payments on principle so that in 2010, when our mortgage is reassessed we don't suffocate on the payments. The last 6 months we have not been paying the principle and it's high time we get our collective heads out of the sand and make this extra payment.

This past year I've found many creative ways to crunch our budget but as you can see from 1-6 it's not enough.

Today I created a very tough budget for 2009 and when finished I realized it's still not enough to reach all my goals. So I've decided to start this blog as an attempt to mark every discovery of a dollar saved. One year from now, I will proudly announce the $$$ saved. I'm even going to look for a barometer to calculate the savings as I go along. So cheer me on, give me your ideas and most of all pray I keep my sanity with all the salvaging of pennies and dollars. Who knows, it might even turn into a fun game!