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Archive for March, 2008

safety precautions always worth the money

March 30th, 2008 at 07:36 pm

I spent my Saturday monitoring the repairs to our door. I knew our landlord would replace the door with the same cheap door and same cheap locks and would also not consider that they shattered the door frame, and thus, a wooden door frame isn't good enough.

SO, a trip to home depot was in order. I bought two Segal cylinder deadbolts to have the work men put on the doors (away from the simpler dead bolt--duh, so they can't just kick the door open with a simple blow to the same area), two brackets and a 2 X 4, and metal sockets for the other deadbolt. I had them put the heavy guage deadbolts on both the front and back doors and also the metal sockets (because it'll be a lot harder to kick through metal than wood). Also had them put up the brackets and 2 x 4 on the rear door as a last measure. The back door is recessed, so if in the event someone actually succeeded in kicking open the door, they won't be able to fit their fingers through to remove the wood or smash through it.

The Segal locks were $59 a piece. I find that rather cheap, don't you? Considering personal security...As frugal as we all need to be, there are certain things we should never compromise on and security is one of them. I feel better now that everything's up to par. We'll be removing the Segal deadbolts whenever we move (as we paid for them). I've also got ADT coming out on Friday to set up services.

On the crazy phone call front, I called ATT on Friday and set up privacy manager (thanks for the advice on that!) No more creepy phone calls this weekend. I will be speaking with our dean of discipline and principal tomorrow regarding that.

Hubby and I had a chat about finances. It was a good talk and we both agreed on paying off the car ASAP. We also agreed about wiggle room in the budget for us, but also living just as we have (not upping money we're spending on food and such). I also brought up teaching summer school. He, of course, tride and true loving man that he is, does not want me to teach it Smile But it's up for further discussion.

I hope you all are ready for the week ahead.

One last thing, I was sorely disappointed by Earth Hour. Mayor Daley did not even cut off street lights for the world wide event, and when we excitedly went on our front porch to look at the skyline, it was as if no one had shut any lights off. What's wrong with this city? How disappointing. Can you imagine the impact if everyone actually abided by an hour per month of no electricity? Sigh.

Happy news and a margarita

March 29th, 2008 at 05:59 am




I e-mailed my husband yesterday pleading for us to go out to eat. I've been rather depressed since the break-in, and when I get depressed, I become catatonic. Sigh. So we checked out Menards and Home Depot for doors/security measures then went out to eat. I had a very large margarita which was delicious and delightfully strong. It also opened me up a bit in sharing my feelings with my husband (instead of the zombie me which stares longingly into space).

He got his first check on his new salary yesterday! AND it was bigger than anticipated because it had three weeks of work on there. Woo hoo! That, in itself, is reason to celebrate. We bought a drill, some drill bits and something else of which my unfamiliarity with tools doesn't know the name. We're going to work on arming ourselves today.
ADT will come out Friday and get everything set-up for our security system.

I've decided that I'm going to actually speak to my principal about the prank call. I don't think the two incidents are related, however, with recent school shootings and the like, I am very aware of the reality of threats. I want to make our school aware so perhaps they'll keep tighter security and just be on the look-out for strangeness.

The sun is shining today which is such a welcome change from the gloomy, yucky wet weather we've had all winter. Happy Saturday all!

Now I'm really freaked out

March 28th, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I got a call marked private around 12:40 today. (I noticed it on the caller ID when I got home) After the break-in, can you say I'm a tad paranoid? So usually I would have just ignored it and put the phone down, but I decided to check my voicemail. They left a message. It was whispered and it sounded either like "B*tch, you gonna die in seven days" or "Betcha gonna die in seven days." Something like that. I am TOTALLY freaked out. It may have just been a student prank calling, but HELLO we were in school at the time. I don't know, but it freaks me out.

I called ADT before checking the voicemail and they're coming out today to hook up services. Woo hoo to that!

I don't know. I give out my home number to students so that they can call for extensions on assignments or ask questions when they need help. I caught a few kids e-mailing nasty things to eachother on this google group our lit teacher set up for them (I signed up for it as the SPED teacher so I could be in touch with assignments, etc.) This was during the school day, so it was not an approved use of the computers. Well, one of the kids e-mailing nasty things stole one of the laptops. He's now suspended. It could have been him? Maybe? Do I have reason to wig out? Sigh. This is TOO much for me to handle right now!!!

Apartment broken into

March 27th, 2008 at 04:28 am

My son and I returned home to see our neighbor's front door bashed in. We went up the stairs to find our back door completely bashed in. I freaked out, didn't know if someone could still be in the building--first floor or basement. Police came. Neighbor came home. It was utterly frightening.

I read in the forums recently about storing one's money under a mattress. This is exactly the reason why you DON'T do that. We don't keep any cash in the house and we don't have a lot of nice things. The police said they wouldn't walk out with anything large like a TV because that's too easy to catch. They stole nothing. Didn't even do a good job of rifling through the house because they didn't bother to look in the closet where my jewelry box is. They stole a pack of pepsi and some gym shoes from our neighbor. Of course, again, we're complete nerds because we have neither nice gym shoes nor pepsi Smile

I'm scared to come home today. I feel totally violated and am fearful that now that they know what is in our house, they'll try to come back. Is it feasible to break a lease over a break-in? The building has a complete lack of security as our back gate is a piece of junk, and obviously, our landlord has not put good locks on the doors (they basically tore right off the door--it's unbelievable).

Sigh. I don't want to go to work today.

Letter about interest rate change

March 25th, 2008 at 04:10 am

I received this in my e-mail inbox this morning. It actually gave me a good feeling that my bank cares enough to say, "wait a second, let me write the consumer while they may be freaking out right now."


Dear A,

In these challenging times, having a savings plan is more important than ever. At HSBC Direct we are committed to helping you with your savings goals by providing the best rate we can.

As you are undoubtedly already aware, there has been a general trend of reducing interest rates in the U.S. market over recent months. These changes have been influenced by the Federal Reserve moving its target interest rate down in response to developments in the economy and financial markets. Last week the Federal Reserve again reduced this key rate, by 0.75% to 2.25%.

At HSBC Direct we review our rates regularly in the context of market conditions, the federal funds rate and the overall economic environment to ensure we are providing you a competitive rate at all times. Following a further review of all of these factors, we have reduced our Online Savings Account rate by 0.50% to 3.05% APY* effective 3/20/2008.

We will continue to evaluate and respond to market changes so we can provide you with the very best rate possible over the coming weeks and months. At HSBC Direct we are committed to a direct and open relationship with you, even if we have to pass on news about reductions in our rates. We think this is fair to our customers and simply the right thing to do.

The good news is, you’re still getting a competitive rate — 7x the national savings average.** And you can feel confident knowing your savings are with HSBC Direct. We’re part of HSBC Group, one of the largest and best capitalized financial institutions in the world, with over 10,000 offices around the world and 140 years of experience helping our customers achieve their financial goals.

We sincerely appreciate your support and your saving with HSBC Direct.


Sincerely,

Kevin Martin
Executive Vice President
Head of HSBC Direct U.S.

Anxiety

March 22nd, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Last summer, I decided to start a floral business. One of my first jobs was working the the floral department at a local grocery store. I learned enough basics to do a variety of floral arrangements. Last year, friend got married and I put together her flowers for her. She said, "You could make money off of this, A" and I thought, hmmmm....I have my first wedding coming up on April 5th. This morning, I went to the floral wholesaler, which I visited last week, and they haven't processed my info, so I have NO account with them yet. I'm about ready to have a panic attack because hello! I need flowers in less than two weeks!

My fears were alleviated when I got home and saw that there are a variety of places online from where I can order flowers. They will not be as convenient, but in case this place messes everything up, at least I have a back-up plan. I thought I had an account as I signed up online MONTHS ago. Sigh. The best laid plans of mice and men.

As of April 11th, I should have our emergency fund completely funded to the $1000 mark. I was looking over our budget, and theoretically (because my husband has yet to receive a paycheck for his new duties), we actually will have over 2K to put towards debt every month! And that's if I budget each of us spending money per month, etc! I know that with the stimulus payment and my bonus in June, we'll get that credit/personal loan debt squared away and maybe have the car paid off BEFORE January! Woo hoo! I am super duper duper excited.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes with with this wedding. I am really excited and axious about it all at the same time. Is this entry scatterbrained enough?

Helped a friend and spreading the word

March 21st, 2008 at 08:11 am

Last night I visited with a really good friend who I haven't seen in awhile. He is a young guy, about 30. Because of his college major, he has had a difficult time finding employment that meets his abilities; however, he is employed. He shared with me how overwhelmed he is with his finances and his anxiety over debt.

Well, anyone who reads my blog entries knows, I'm not actually GOOD with my finances. Regardless of this, I sat down with him at the computer, went over all of his expenses for the month, income, etc and helped him come up with a budget and plan for getting out of debt. When I left, he stated how he felt like maybe he could sleep again at night. I was so excited to have helped someone!

Really, I was only able to help because of all the things I've learned from you. I also acquainted him with this web site, so I hope he comes aboard and checks it out. He was rather shocked to see that he can live not only within his means, but under his means. All I have to say is FABULOUS! Now, onto getting my act in gear and together. Phew...

I'm a rambler not a gambler

March 19th, 2008 at 10:43 am

The Sears guy came and fixed the drier. It was a blown ignitor, however, he also found a load of lint in the vent and a dead bird. Yucky. Called landlord to ask her to replace the vent. Needless to say, with a working drier, I will be doing laundry all afternoon.

So one of my goals was to post random items on craigslist to try and sell. I sold a couple of items for $50 this morning and another lady will hopefully stop by later today which will earn us another $10. Yippee!!! I've got to sit down, crunch some numbers and decide what to put it towards. It would be nice to use it as fun money (such as take the family to the movies money or something) but more practically could be used for debt, of course.

I've been reading Suze Orman's book. The chapter that is the most applicable to me at the moment is the one on debt. I got so excited that she suggested to open a new checking account. It always seemed like such a cheesy thing to do for a money mismanager, so her suggestion gave me the go ahead to do it. I've thought for years about making a switch to WaMu because they give you free checks for life. Hey, that's $16 per year I don't have to spend, right? I was going to do that immediately, but need my husband's driver's license number first. I don't want to call him at work and bother him. What am I to say, "Suze Orman says to open a new checking account"? Laughing...I am a dork supreme.

Random schtuff

March 18th, 2008 at 03:57 pm

I went to lunch with a friend I haven't seen in four years today. She was shocked when she saw how big DS has gotten. We went to Navy Pier, which if anyone knows Chicago, they know it's an expensive endeavor. Rather than pay $25+ for parking, we parked and took the bus there. It was great--only $5! Then, we ate lunch and bought a ticket for little man to go on all of the fun bouncie thinga-ma-doos for their kiddie spring celebration. I got to spend a couple of hours chatting with my friend while he played till his heart was content. Overall cost was about $25 which is highly economical for a trip to Navy Pier. Also, DS is eating his leftovers for dinner. I am pleased, to say the least. Frugal=fun.

If you read my blog yesterday you know I checked out Suze Orman's "Women & Money." I decided to go ahead and earn myself a free $100 by opening a TD Ameritrade account. It'll also force me to save an extra $50 per month. I really like how a lot of people on here have their separate savings for various things, emergency account, gift giving, car fund, etc. I haven't decided what this savings will be for exactly yet, but I'll ponder it in the near future.

I do have some questions about the TD Ameritrade account. Does it acquire interest? I am not planning on doing any trading as I am so not ready for that yet. I want to make sure that my money is working for me (however, the $100 at the end of a year will count for something, right?)

So I went to the library today...

March 17th, 2008 at 03:12 pm

And I checked out three financial books. I looked for Dave Ramsey, but our neighborhood library is rather small so I didn't see it on the shelf. I did, however, check out Suze Orman's "Women and Money", "Managing Debt for Dummies" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving your Credit Score." The latter two I'm not totally enthused about, but I should be boning up on everything I can. Going to the library instead of Borders was a good step for me. I went through my book shelves and found about 20 or so self help books that had I checked them out from the library, I wouldn't have a) wasted money b)felt the need to read them (in other words, they're all crap). Here's to learning, one of the greatest of all God's gifts to us!

Oh, and little man tate checked out an Easter book. We're pretty excited about reading that before bed time tonight Smile

sparkpeople.com

March 16th, 2008 at 01:17 pm

I just had a thought about a very cool dieting freebie. My doctor last year informed me about www.sparkpeople.com which is a free web site to help you track exercise, calories and will even tailor a personal dieting and fitness plan. It's kinda like weightwatchers without the points and FREE! Just for anyone who needs a little extra something to help keep them focused. I know I do!

Happy to be a renter

March 16th, 2008 at 10:23 am

My husband and I are not ready for homeownership. I have been pressured over the course of the almost five years of my husband and my marriage to purchase something as my family is VERY pro homeownership. They view my having a child as a mistake to have made before owning a home.

This morning my husband and I were talking and both agreed that we are relieved to be renters, especially with a recession looming. Here's why:
1) We don't have to worry about increasing property taxes.

2) We don't have to deal with the negativity of the housing market in any way shape or form (even if it is as simple as thinking of refinancing, know what I mean?)

3) If something goes wrong, we don't have to worry about fixing it.

4) We don't have to worry about losing money on our "investment."

Not that we smell like roses with all the debt that's been racked up, but it still feels good to know that we've got something going for us. And anyway, I'd rather have my little man tate over owning a home any day Smile

I'm so excited....and I just can't hide it....

March 15th, 2008 at 06:11 am

Sorry for all who will have that cheesy reference to the 80's in their head all day. Rest assure that I will too. Hubby went for his orientation yesterday for the new job. Found out he gets 12 sick days, 3 personal days, 2 floating holidays, 20 holidays off AND 20 days of vacation per year! (No more worrying about non-payment for taking a day off or not having work or whatever). Holy moly batman! That's not all people! He can take advantage of a whole bunch of tax sheltered annuities. I am not sure if we should go ahead and take advantage of them or not as we certainly need the cash flow, etc. However, this is momentous. We went out for dinner last night to celebrate his first week on the new job.

I'm going to try extra hard this week to sell a bunch of this stuff I have in the house that I no longer need. Hoping this can generate a $100 or so extra dollars that I will use to buy easter goodies for DS and my stepdaughters.

Just Blabbing

March 14th, 2008 at 05:37 am

I have to say that I just love reading all of the posts. It's one of my favorite things to do first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.

Today is payday and it's only 7:24 AM and the bills are already paid. How exciting is that? I'm off today. It's my kickoff day for spring break (yay!) I'm planning on doing some grocery shopping and cleaning. If I grocery shop and clean today, then I can spend the rest of my break carefree, ya know? I also want to stop by the bank and have my bucket of change counted. In addition to that, I've got a number of items for sale on craigslist. I'm to make a sale tomorrow and am hoping to make a few others in the next couple of weeks. I will either use this money to take our family to the movies over the break to see "Horton Hears a Who" or put it into my EF. I'm trying to decide.

My hubby started his new job and is VERY pleased. I am so happy for him. He really deserves this position and I've always just wanted him to feel productive in his work. So far, so good Smile Usually, I have had to guess what he will take home in terms of pay since he was hourly staff, but soon, I will be able to anticipate a steady income. Sigh. Yes, yes, yes! Life just gets better and better.

I just also want to note that I went shopping for a few items yesterday at Dominick's (a Chicago big chain grocery store). One of the items I wanted to get because I wanted to make a quiche using leftover salmon. $2.79 per dozen! That was the cheapest one and that's without the 10% city salestax. Sigh. Boy, do I live in an expensive area.

hypermiling and other things

March 12th, 2008 at 07:24 pm

So with my husband starting his new job, I'm the one to take the car now. I've noticed he's rather hard in breaking and starting at red lights and I've also noticed that our gas mileage hasn't been so great (we own a Honda CRV). Soooo...after reading about this hypermiling thing I'm giving it a try. Three days with Chicago stop and go traffic and I've barely used half a tank (usually by this time I'm panicking that we won't make it till the end of the week). I've realized, though, that I forgot to put the little trip mileage thing-a-ma-doo to zero so I can't check to see what kind of gas mileage we got this week. This is on my to do list for the next time I get gas. Smile

OK. So my brother was able to sit for little man tate today who was banned from school for 24 hours (remember, had to pick him up from school yesterday). He was feeling fine other than a little cold--I don't believe he really even had a fever yesterday. This is mommy intuition here, ya know? He was right as rain after a nap yesterday. Brother originally had plans to meet an old friend for lunch. I said, take the little man with you. Well, brother did and ended up taking little man over to our parents' house to take nap. Had to drive out to the burbs to pick up little man because brother had keys to our apartment. THEN had to immediately drive back into the city for a sports' banquet (I coached basketball). Brother had only put on only a t-shirt for the little man--neglected to put on long sleeved shirt and sweatshirt as I had left out that morning. (he had on sweatpants, socks, shoes, coat...wasn't like totally naked or anything) I had no choice but to take little man to the banquet in the t-shirt as being coach, had to be on time. Got home, husband is totally pissed off about brother taking little man out in only a t-shirt (except he had winter coat over it while he was outside--he's not that insane). My brother has no kids, has little experience with kids, so I'm just glad all is well, ya know?

Sorry, I just needed to vent here. Oh, and banquet was miserable as son somehow found it an opportune time to show NO manners at the dinner table. I know, he's four, but oh my gosh! I was sitting next to our school network's superintendent! Yikes! In any event, I'm still alive at least. And little man tate is sleeping. And hopefully, hubby will get over it.

Relief

March 11th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Hubby called to tell me that son had spiked a fever at school (today was the FIRST day of hubby's new position, so he could definitely not leave). I went to pick up sicky son, got home and put him to bed. Usually, I then go through the game in my head about getting off my fat keister to clean. Today, however, I didn't need to go through that argument because the house is clean Smile

It feels so nice to be getting everything in order. Before anticipating and tracking expenses, I used to constantly be worried about money. I always had a nagging feeling about cleaning the house, organizing, getting stuff done. I am finally feeling at peace.

I have to take off tomorrow as well because school informed me that son can't return to school until he's had no fever for 24 hours. A day and a half without pay. Sigh. But at least tomorrow there's no nagging feeling about cleaning and I can relax.

What children can teach us about money...

March 11th, 2008 at 08:13 am

Sigh...I was an impulsive buyer as a single, childless woman. I can remember my first job making $5.15 an hour. On what did I spend all of that money? It's shocking to think that between the ages of 16 and 28 the thousands of dollars spent upon absolutely nothing. New DVD, sure! Ooohhh, those shoes are cute! Buy them! The feeling I had then, the money I had to burn (it felt like fire in my wallet), absolute craziness. I was just a child, too naive to understand the consequences of spending and too caught up in a culture of consumerism handed down to me through TV ads, my peers and even my parents.

The other day while grocery shopping for a few items after work, my son saw "101 Dalmations" sitting on a conveniently placed cardboard ad next to the check-out. "Mommy, I want 101." Thus the crying, arguing, jelly-fishing (where the child apparently loses all control of his/her muscles) commenced. I sighed. I resolved to continue to say "no." I fought the urge to say, "It's all right. He'll watch it 500 times and it'll be well worth the money." I endured the agony of the almighty tantrum. We exited the store and we lived. In fact, here we are alive a week later.

My husband shared with me that our son has noticed billboard ads posted all over town advertising the wonderment of that movie. It has occurred to me, since then, how easily the buck of consumerism is passed down to our children. Even PBS now is sponsored by Chuck E. Cheese. Is this a losing battle trying to pry my son's tiny fingers away from the clucthes of the financial distress in which I now find myself?

It's interesting because it became abundantly clear to me when I had my son that I had to work harder to rectify my bad spending habits and mismanagement of money if I were to be successful in taking care of him. Hello! He depends upon me for food, clothing, care, things that I cannot neglect providing for him (whereas when I was a singleton, I could just eat grilled cheese for a week). I have learned from having my beautiful boy that I must budget, track spending, save, payoff debt if I want us as a family to live comfortably, happily and safely. It is also extremely apparent to me that I must break the chain of reckless spending if I want my son to save the day when he acquires his first job rather than spend it all in reckless abandonment.

Many things have been learned through having my child, that much is true. It's quite sad to think that it took having a child for me to learn the importance of money management and financial planning. Having children is very expensive, but through the lessons I've learned through him about money, I may actually acquire more money in the long run.

Drugs in Drinking Water

March 10th, 2008 at 04:27 am

Check out this CNN news story. Apparently they're finding drugs in drinking water? I looked at the map to see every state that borders Lake Michigan EXCEPT Illinois had drugs found in their drinking water. That's a little weird to me, but hmmmmm....Who knows. Freaky thought, isn't it. Get a little viagara when you go to simply get a glass of water.

Recent shooting

March 8th, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Something very disturbing happened in my hometown of Chicago yesterday and I feel I must share my feelings about it somehwere, and because I blog here, I've decided to share it all with you. In fact, it happened about ten blocks from our apartment. A student leaving school yesterday at a local high school was shot and killed and another student was severely beaten with a golf club.

I have shared this before, but I'll share again that I am a teacher. There is a lot of talk here in Chicago (I'm not sure if this same conversation is held elsewhere) about our public school system failing our children. In general, there is dissatisfaction with the teachers. After yesterday's events, I can't help thinking about battling that type of violence in the community as a teacher. The news report states that grown men from neighborhood gangs routinely stand outside of the school trying to either harass or recruit students. How do we as teachers change something so ingrained in our students? Yet, we are the first to be blamed.

This also reflects my opinion about the current "mortgage crisis." I am not a homeowner, but for the past four years, I have toyed with the idea of taking out a zero down or interest only mortgage. Thank God my husband is more level headed than I! Is it American to deflect blame away from ourselves? The mortgage industry is not entirely at fault. Sure, they offered faulty products. But when are WE going to stand up and be accountable for the way we live our lives, purchasing well outside of our means, carrying more debt than we can handle, all for plasma TVs!

I see things happening in this society and I am scared for my child. What will become of us, I just don't know. Sigh. I'm just happy I now realize what a distateful thing it is to live in debt. I'd love to purchase a new couch, new furniture, nicer dishes, let the list go on and on and on and on. But I now know that those items will not bring happiness and that I have no business shopping for things I don't need when I have so much debt hanging over my head. I guess that just means we won't have guests over Smile

Just Thoughts

March 7th, 2008 at 08:39 am

Anyone who actually reads this blog will notice that my debt ticker has changed. The initial number I used came from my credit report--wrong way to do it. My number of debt is actually larger than I thought.

So I have all these goals. It's not that I haven't made progress, because I have. Instead of being in a panic every two weeks before payday comes, I have a pretty good handle on our finances. We at least are paying bills and meeting needs. I overspent a bit while in Florida, that much is true. It makes me feel SUPER guilty. Bad, bad, bad me. Looking at my tickers, I get completely overwhelmed.

As I read your blogs and gather advice, I feel like I should definitely adopt a Dave Ramsey plan. This will entail my becoming even more organized. I appreciate all of the advice I've gained through reading your blogs. Thanks for being such a knowledgeable bunch!

For me, I'm going to list out my accomplishments and goals. Read on if interested:

Accomplishments:
1)paying bills immediately upon pay day
2)keeping track of anticipated expenses using a spreadsheet
3)for the most part, sticking to budgeted expenses for food, etc.
4)am eating healthier
5)have worked out three times this week and last
6)am paying attention to where the money is going
7)set up automatic bank to bank transfers

Goals:
1)list out debts and detailed goals for what I want paid off by the end of 2008
2)stick to an evelope system for food/entertainment/gas items
3)get emergency fund to $1000
4)find things around the house to sell on craigslist/post them on craigslist
5)look for places to cut expenses
6)try to build up to working out 6 days per week
7)FOLLOW THROUGH!!!

I guess that's all for the moment. If I think of more, I'll add it.