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Archive for December, 2006

Addendum: New Year, Same Goals

December 30th, 2006 at 11:36 am

This was the list of goals for the new year that I posted yesterday. I have made some progress, so thought I would make an update. I know, I'm ahead of schedule (WOO HOO!!!), but it's better than being late...

* I will post a wish-list on the fridge by January 15th. There will be 3 sections: one for me, one for DH, one for the house. I think this will be helpful in keeping tabs on our goals for home improvement, getting ideas for gift-giving times, and maybe (just maybe!) giving DH a little perspective. DONE! I just made it on Excel and printed a copy. I put fix up our attic space, a freezer, and a dishwasher under the house column. I have a new camera bag and a better tripod. I'll let DH either see the list or wish for something before I start filling his in.

* I will get a library card by the end of January. As a side note, I will use said library card. DONE! Went at noon today and got my card. There are two locations really close by, one downtown and one on the way to the grocery store. Maybe I'll start going Thursday nights when DH is playing pool.

* Our net-worth will be in the black by the end of '07. I would set this goal sooner, but there is the possibility of my office closing down at the end of February and debt payment is taking a back burner to stashing cash.

* By the end of February, I will come up with a list of 10 things (or more) I know I can do to make at least $500 per month should I actually lose my job. Anyone want to commision a spreadsheet design?
Working on this one in the back of my head. The natural foods store I shop at gives a 20% discount for employees AND 50% off the prepared food in the cafe, so that is a definite option. And push comes to shove, they're close enough I could walk or bike... I'm also considering something with photography, or maybe making and selling some prints of some of my better shots... Open to other creative ideas from anyone!

* I am going to wean myself from cigarettes. I'm not saying I'm going to quit, as I think the finality of it is what causes a lot of folks trouble. Starting 1/1/07 I am allowed 10 smokes per day. On 7/1/07 the number goes down to 5. I am not allowed to 'roll-over' any unused cigarettes to the next day. I have a cigarette case somewhere that will hold 8-10, so I think I'll start carrying that instead of a pack, just to prevent temptation. Still trying to find that blasted case! I know it's around here somewhere...

Well, since I started out with 5 on the list and have knocked out 2 before the new year even starts (oh, did I say WOOHOO about that yet?), perhaps I should keep a running list of 5 items? Whatcha think, make it an ongoing list of betterment goals? 5 seems pretty doable, not too daunting, but plenty to pick from when I want to procrastinate from one of the others *grin*

New Year, Same Goals

December 29th, 2006 at 08:07 am

Well I was debating about getting around to this, then Paul threw the gauntlet down and posting his. I will meet this challenge head on!

In all reality, the goals are pretty much the same for all of America from year to year. 'Lose weight, save money, enjoy time with family and friends'. A bit vague and over-arching, which makes it easy to feel like you aren't making any progress when you are. Or, like you are making progress when you aren't.

Anyways, life in corporate America taught me about 'SMART' goals, and I think there is some merit to the concept.

Simple
Measureable
Agreed Upon
Realistic
Timed

It's the difference between "I'm going to lose weight and exercise in '07" and "I'm going to lose an average of 1 pound per week by May 30th. I will do this by finding creative ways to burn up 1750 calories and consume 1750 fewer calories every week."

In a sense, it's throwing the gauntlet down for yourself.

So, here are mine. Subject, of course, to revision Wink

* I will post a wish-list on the fridge by January 15th. There will be 3 sections: one for me, one for DH, one for the house. I think this will be helpful in keeping tabs on our goals for home improvement, getting ideas for gift-giving times, and maybe (just maybe!) giving DH a little perspective.

* I will get a library card by the end of January. As a side note, I will use said library card.

* Our net-worth will be in the black by the end of '07. I would set this goal sooner, but there is the possibility of my office closing down at the end of February and debt payment is taking a back burner to stashing cash.

* By the end of February, I will come up with a list of 10 things (or more) I know I can do to make at least $500 per month should I actually lose my job. Anyone want to commision a spreadsheet design? Big Grin  

* I am going to wean myself from cigarettes. I'm not saying I'm going to quit, as I think the finality of it is what causes a lot of folks trouble. Starting 1/1/07 I am allowed 10 smokes per day. On 7/1/07 the number goes down to 5. I am not allowed to 'roll-over' any unused cigarettes to the next day. I have a cigarette case somewhere that will hold 8-10, so I think I'll start carrying that instead of a pack, just to prevent temptation.

I'm sure I've got some more rolling around in my head somewhere, but I think this'll do for a start.

Ho Ho Holy Cow!

December 26th, 2006 at 11:33 am

So glad to be back at work today: I can rest!

My holiday schedule included 5 events in 3 days, 3 meals out b/c my kitchen was a distaster area, untold changes of clothes, and DH having to go in to work Christmas Eve morning and night, and 30 min Christmas day.

Oh, and a huge seive-like leak in the drain pipe from the kitchen sink that we discovered Thursday night.

Falalalala
lala
la
la

Good news is A) the leak is a drain pipe and therefore not wasting any water B) the water is leaking right into to the drainway for the sump-pump C) I wasn't hosting this weekend so I didn't have to really worry about it. But, I'm only doing dishes one huge load at a time so as to not have sink after sink of water draining into my basement... Ergo, the kitchen is a mess and the resulting meals out.

Perhaps I should just plant potatoes in a tub and put that under the pipe. When life gives you lemons, you know.

At any rate, the Christmas weekend was most enjoyable and tiring: the two hallmarks of a successful venture. I love being a gift giver, so I had a blast. And I was pretty much within budget tolerance: total was $1,191.00 according to my register, budget was for a grand. I don't feel bad as 1191 is for all expected Christmas expenses, cooking, and gifts, plus 3 unexpected birthday gifts, a baby shower, 2 unplanned co-worker gifts, and a night in a hotel in Chattanooga.

Falalalala
lala
la
la

Anywho, I hope everyone had a Very Merry. Time to stare at my computer screen while I come off a sugar high.

Saved $176 this week not doing things

December 24th, 2006 at 05:46 am

Wooohooo!

First thing I didn't do was pay the $75 for next month's rent of our storage building. I asked DH if we could go ahead & clean it out, so we did Thursday night. Rent for next month was due on Saturday, but no rent for us!

Next thing I did: I didn't take out the $55 I had budgeted for household money for the upcoming week. There's so much holiday time and time off from work I'm hoping we won't need it.

Last thing I didn't do was take advantage of the 3 easy payments offered by my insurance company. Since I bought my car 9/27 and my policy was until 11/11 or so, there was a price difference for some months I had already paid. They offered to break it up into my next 3 bills and I paid it last month. Thing is, I forgot to update this month's register which showed the higher amount, so when the bill came in I had an 'extra' $46.

I'm starting to feel like Typhoid Mary!

December 21st, 2006 at 07:42 am

Apparently all of my fiscal plotting and strategizing has angered the Money Gods. I'm sorry Money Gods!!!

Was late coming into work this morning b/c I stopped to get donut holes for the office. Krispy Kreme was a mad house and I waited 40 minutes! At any rate, the day I'm this late is the day there's a 9am meeting. Figures.

Turns out my boss and his partner will no longer be with the company starting January. Part of the deal was that there would be no other 'personnel changes' for the first 60 days of the year.

Crap!

See, the company I work for got bought in June. I hired on in August knowing full well it might be a temporary sort of thing, but was also told temporary meant till the end of 07. Enough time for me to make myself invaluable when changes began to happen.

Now, changes are happening way ahead of schedule. I'm the new kid on the block, and don't feel NEARLY valuable enough!

CRAP!

Now, this whole 60 day thing may or may not be meaningless. I might be all in a tizzy over nothing and my job might be totally secure. Or not. Who knows, it is as they say a CRAP SHOOT! Emphasis is of course on CRAP!

Geez... Last place I worked got bought and we all got downsize. It might possibly happen here, too. See what I mean by Typhoid Mary? Maybe I should just work in the cigar store. Then again, my dad could wind up selling the place, and I'd be back at square one!

Question: Do you Budget Weekly or Monthly?

December 20th, 2006 at 01:49 pm

I know, it's not exactly a burning question, but I am still curious.

The way I see it, it's easier to budget monthly when one is paid a certain number of times per month; for instance, I'm paid the 15th and the last day of the month. I can tell you exactly which bills come out of which check, which makes it much easier for me to determine when to siphon money off to savings. In my case, it's the 3rd and 18th.

DH, however, is paid bi-weekly. The dates jump around (not fun) and twice a year he gets 3 paychecks in a month (FUN!). Since the dates aren't consistent, it makes it that much hard to say X bill for next month comes out of the 2nd check this month, etc.

So I'm looking at my budget wondering if it makes more sense to work it monthly or weekly. What did you choose, and why?

Headline: Dorkus Strikes Again!

December 19th, 2006 at 06:48 pm

As a side note, let me just pause to laugh at the fact that I have watched an old movie where the girl was named Dorcus. HAAAAAAAAAAAHAHHAHAHAHAAAA! And it wasn't supposed to be a joke, that was just her name!!!

OK, sorry...

Anywho, in the dwindling hours of 2006 I'm still waging the war on what to pay off when, and how much to throw at it in 2007. I think I have an established order of what bills in what order, but I wondered if the $550 I had allotted every month was the 'sweet spot' as they say.

And here's where Dorkus strikes again...

I calculated the amount I might throw at debt every month, how much interest it would 'save' me, and the how much interest it would cost me since I wouldn't be earning my 5.25% compound interest in my GYD account. And then I figured out what my 'total cost' would be for each monthly amount.

Dorkus...

Of course the highest amount I calculated had the lowest over all cost involved, but after that, it got interesting. Compound interest does work both ways, after all!

BTW: that total cost column is actually calculated as interest paid PLUS interest lost, as opposed to what it shows in the picture. DOH! Sorry!

Musings of a Fiscal Nature, and a Confession

December 19th, 2006 at 04:53 pm

Seems like both the blogs and I have been quiet lately. Tis the season, I know...

I've only got 2 more gifts to get (gift certificates, both of 'em!), and am pretty much on budget for the holidays. Technically I'm over budget by about $50, but I don't feel bad since I had to add in 3 birthdays, 3 Christmas presents, and a baby shower gift. And that's for a total of 4 people! EEK!

My confession is regarding a purchase. In a way I'm really OK with it, but there's still that voice telling me I shoulda put the money towards debt.

At any rate, lemme give you the reasons why I'm OK with it. One: property taxes for the car & house were $162.62 lower than anticipated. WOO and HOO!!! The as-of-yet unrevealed purchase was $179.99 before tax, so only $17.37 was money I hadn't already planned on spending. Two: even with December being one giant cash drain (2900 in regular expenses, and 2000 for budgeted taxes and the holidays!ack!), there is still money leftover this month. Three: aforementioned purchase was a REALLY GOOD DEAL.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, baby Wink

OK, here's what we bought: a 1000 watt home theater system (aka DVD/CD player tuner combo, 5 speaks and a subwoofer). Completely unnecessary, but a great deal nontheless. And, considering our existing stereo, CD player, and DVD player were all crapping out (and our 52" big screen was a freebie), $179.99 for a brand new setup isn't bad... Hey, it could have been worse, the one we *really* wanted was $249.99... Even I looked at that one and said "Boy, THAT'S sexy!" Big Grin

The coolest part by far, though, is that there's a USB slot on the front of the receiver, so we can plug in our flash drives and play hours of our favorite songs. No more burning CDs and the associated costs therein! See, it was really a frugal decision! HA!!!

On a more serious note (kinda), I'm debating about how I want to tackle debt in the new year. Thanks to my snowballing spreadsheet I know what would make the most sense by the numbers. Thing is, I don't know if that would be the most gratifying way to do it. And more importantly, I don't think it would impress DH as much to do it the 'right' way.

I'll ask him, but I'm pretty sure he'll hop on the wagon more completely when we actually have some bills we don't have to pay anymore, rather than just seeing the existing balances go down. Ah, psychology, strange beast...

And good news: I may have found a buyer for our canoe! Yes, the same canoe we bought in September because DH had wanted one for 20 years, but has since only been used once... A co-worker is interested in it. Keep your fingers crossed, cause that would be an unexpected 400-500 to put towards the cause!

Want an email copy of 'Snowball Scenarios'?

December 18th, 2006 at 02:06 pm

I've tweaked/revamped the Snowballing Spreadhsheet, and can email it to those that are interested. If so, leave a comment including your email address, and I'll mail you a copy of the Excel sheet. I have macros turn on in this sheet so it will update the information based on the order in which you anticipate paying your debt (so you can find out which snowball is bigger!).

Stashing Cash Wk 8 and Wk 9

December 18th, 2006 at 12:59 pm

I promise, I haven't forgotten!

$28.10 Week Ending 12/07
$31.07 Week Ending 12/14

I've got all my stashed cash just waiting for a Salvation Army bucket, and I haven't seen a one! Guess that's what happens when you don't go shopping all that much! Oh, well, hopefully I'll run into one before Christmas. And, does anyone know if they're out and about between Christmas and New Years? I can't seem to remember...

Tax Day and Twilight Zone

December 15th, 2006 at 11:32 am

Today was the day. Property taxes.

I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I've been dreading paying my property taxes. Not the money, that was stashed away and waiting (a small victory in and of itself, might I add).

See, my car tax was billed for the wrong car (registration for my new to me car crossed the tax bill in the mail), and my house tax was billed at the rental rate, not the permanent residence rate. So I knew I was going to have to spend quality time at 2 different accessors offices getting the bills fixed, and then wait at the auditor's office to actually pay the bill. And then wait in line at the DMV to show them my receipt and get the new sticker for my car.

Crap.

My choices were few. Go today, the 15th and a common payday. Go next Friday, the last one before Christmas. Or the one after that, the last Friday of the month and the calendar year.

Crap!

I decided to take my chances with today. I have vacation days the next two Fridays too, so if today didn't work out I could always try again later.

Because I wasted time poking around savingadvice, er, I mean spent valuable time researching financial responsibility this morning, I didn't leave the house until noon.

CRAP!

I came prepared, though. I had a book, my financial figuring sheets, a chocolate bar, and a drink. I was ready for the long haul. And here is where the twilight zone comes in.

I left the house at noon. By 1:30 I had gotten both bills adjusted, paid both bills, been to the DMV and gotten my sticker, and made it to the bank to deposit my paycheck. An my taxes were $162.62 less than I had budgeted!

HOLY CRAP!

Don't ask me what happened. I don't know where all the people are today, although my cynical side thinks they're putting off taxes until they paid for Christmas. I'm REALLY surprised that the bills were lower, and it's a great time of year for it to happen. Woohoo!!

I've decided the house will get a treat for this: curtain rods so I can put up curtains I've had for 2 months. What a splurge, hm? Big Grin

Snowball Scenarios

December 15th, 2006 at 08:16 am

As many of my frequent readers know, I am a computer geek. Not exactly 'leet haxor' level, mind you, but a geek nontheless.

Combine these techno-tendencies with my frugal nature, and POOF: you get a spreadsheet that let's you analyze snowball scenarios!

What the foo, you say?

Snowball: we all know this one, when you pay off one debt with extra income, then when that debt is gone roll the extra income and the previous debt payment onto the next debt. Payments snowball from one debt to the next.

Scenario: which debt do you pay first? How do you know which order of payment will meet your particular debt goals?

As I don't have any purchased financial software, I decided to create my own. It has space for 7 debts, which is what I'm dealing with when I count my house. You enter the debt name, regular monthly payment, current balance, and your APY divided by 12. Also enter the 'extra' money you anticipate having in an average month to 'throw' at debt. Then decide which order you want to try paying the debts in. It calculates monthly payments for all 7 debts (amortization style), adds up what all the payments are for all the debts, and compares that to what the raw balance is on the debt. By looking at the payment schedule, you can see when you would be debt free in total, and when each debt would be paid off.

See, I am a dork! Big Grin

At first I included my house when running my snowballs, and am pleased to know I could actually have everything paid off in 6.5 years. WOOHOO!! But, since we are planning on refinancing the house next fall and we don't know how long we're going to stay here, I decided to take it out of my calculations. Anyways, a house is good debt, right?

So what did I find?

Well, there's only a 1 month and $600 difference between my best and worst snowball scenarios. This makes me feel better, because if I chose to not snowball 'by the numbers', I won't actually be loosing too much. For all debt other than the house, we're looking at 2.75 years assuming I keep the same monthly extra amount of $550.

Interstingly, if I only pay $500 extra per month (stashing $1650 over 33 months)it'll only cost $200 more in interst on my best scenario and add 1 month to my timeline. But I digress...

Which scenario was the most expensive? The traditional snowball: paying the lowest balances off first. I didn't expect it to be the best of the bunch, but I didn't figure dead last.

Paying off highest balances, highest interest rates, and highest monthly payments first also weren't number one. This was a surprise!

The best snowball is a bit random, but math is math I supposed.

Strategy 2007

December 14th, 2006 at 07:44 am

All this talk about the New Year has me mulling and mulling (and re-mulling!) my fiscal strategy for the beginning of the new year. I'm in a slight pickle, because they've just changed our benefits provider at work and therefore I don't know what will be deducted for coverage. Ah, well, such is life.

So, here is the proposed strategy for 07.

Notes
1. I have a lot marked as savings but no real EF established. In my view, the $400 per month short term savings can all be earmarked in the event of an emergency, plus I will have about a grand in savings at the close of 2006.

2. DH plans on having 6% of his gross deducted for his 401k starting in January. Where I work offers no 401k, but I elected to stash 6% of my gross as well. Since his 401k comes out of his check before it even hits the house account, I don't count it as income and that's why it's not on the sheet. Classic 'hidden money'. I know we should be saving more for retirement, but I think 6% is a number I can get DH to buy into for the time being.

3. I have included medical and car line items fully intending to not use them.

4. I have included household and vacation line items hoping it will help DH adhere to the budget.

5. Not really a note, but I wonder what DH would say if he realized his allowance is our biggest monthly expense? The mortgage is actually only $493, I've rounded on the spreadsheet for ease of use.

6. The 'Long Term / Debt Reduction' amount at the bottom is what is left of our net after you subtract the 7 itemized sections at the top. I'm still determining the best strategy for this amount: I want the most effective personal debt snowball I can manage Big Grin

7. I know the text is a little small. Click on the image and you should get a slightly larger more legible version.

Love Him, but He's a Bit Out of Touch

December 13th, 2006 at 07:09 am

My DH is a sweet man. Funny, snuggly, and has done the dishes more times in the past 2.5 weeks than I can remember. I love him, but he's a bit out of touch sometimes...

He desparately wanted a space heater to keep in our bedroom (we'd given our old one to my mom and we're wood only heat). I agree it gets chilly up there, but it's perfectly acceptable when I'm wearing pj pants, a longsleeve tshirt, and socks. DH gets cold, but could it be because he's sleeping in just boxers?!? Hmmmm...

Well, I relented Sunday night, secretly because the thought of toasting my buns in front of the heater when getting dressed in the morning was almost too sinful for words! Lowes was closed, as it was 7:12 pm, and we no longer shop at Wal-Mart. Target it is!

We picked out a heater very close to the one we used to have (which was an absolute workhorse). Specifically, we want one that will turn off if it over heats OR if it tips over; that's a must have with 3 cats. We found one, I wrote a check, and off we went.

Next night when I get home from work DH says he's not happy with the heater at all. I agreed: the air in front of that heater was tepid at best, nothing that even came remotely close to warm. I pulled out the receipt and said "We can take it back, but since we wrote a check yesterday we'll get a gift card back not cash."

You could see DH's thought process coming to a screeching halt!

"What do you mean a gift card? We don't need a gift card, we don't really shop at Target! It doens't say on the receipt that we won't get cash!!"

Word to the wise to whatever partner in the relationship doesn't do the routine shopping: believe the parter who DOES do the routine shopping, chances are they'll know what they're talking about!

I explained to DH that we paid with a check, which hasn't cleared the bank, which means if Target gave us cash back they'd be risking our check bouncing and loosing the cash given as the refund. They don't know us from Adam's Off Ox, so they have no way to know that I've got cash burtsing out the seems of my checking account (hehehe, I wish!).

He said it was crazy and stupid and there was no way we were accepting a gift card.

Right.

So, off to Home Depot where we bought a fantastic heater, does just what we want it to do. Then to the Target across the street, armed with our returnable and our receipt. Sure enough, the nice lady behind the counter explained that since we paid by check our refund would have to be as a gift card.

I waited for DH to speak up. I looked over at him: he was staring at the bright red Target border at the top of the walls... Imagine the cartoons where someone is rocking back & forth on their heels, hands behind their back, whistling and looking frantically around: that was my husband.

"That'll be fine" I told the associate.

RoadTrip Revelations

December 12th, 2006 at 08:03 am

Well, some of these are revelations. Some are just things that stick out in my mind after our trip to TN this weekend.

1. My car gets better gas mileage on BP/Amoco gas. I'm talking about a very noticeable 4-5 mpg better on the highway, or an extra 48-60 miles out of a tank. That's like having an extra 1.5-2 gallons of gas, worth $3-4!!! I'm very willing to pay an extra 3 cents per gallon to save $3-4 per tank. It's so noticeable I might have to write them and let them know. Same for their competitors: I just can't rationalize buying gas at another station when I look at these numbers.

2. DH and I are like a different couple when we're on a road trip. OK, not necessarily different, but almost an idealized version of our relationship. We laugh and talk and wander around in unfamiliar places together. You'd think we would get snippy with each other after spending endless hours in the car together, but we don't. In fact, it seems we're more prone to get snippy with each other in the first 2 hours we're off work than we are at any point on a roadtrip. It's really quite odd. I told him Sunday that I think it would be pretty neat to take endless roadtrips when we retire.

3. Along those lines, we're discussing taking an actual vacation next year. Our first pick? 2 weeks in Argentina. I know, it's not gonna happen, but it is our first pick! What we are talking about doing, though, is packing our camping gear, driving up to Maine, and then eating our way down the Eastern Seaboard. We could camp out of the back of the car at state parks, treat ourselves to a motel a couple of times, and spend most of our vacation money on food and gas. Better make sure it's BP/Amoco gas!

23 Outside, and the Rose Blooms On

December 8th, 2006 at 06:28 am

23 is cold, I don't care where you live! Add 10 mile an hour winds, bringing it down to 10 with the wind chill, and it's downright COLD outside. And yes, my rose is still outside blooming its little head off!

Slept with my mattress pad at almost halfway up last night and woke up warm and toasty. Since it doesn't get much colder than this here, I don't think I'll ever crank the thing onto full.

Ran downstairs and filled a cup full of coffee. As long as I have hot coffee, I barely feel cold no matter what the temp is. Then threw some kindling and an Enviro Log in the woodstove. I know it's cheating, but it lights fast, lasts 3 hours, and puts out some serious heat. FYI, Enviro logs are those 5 lb cheater logs you buy 6 to a pack, but they're made from recycled paper/wax takeout containers. The natural foods store had them on clearance for half off, so a 30 lb box was $9.50. I can't buy a no-name brand of log for that price, so I've been stocking up for just this type of occasion!

I don't have to go to work today: vacation day. Actually, I have every Friday off for the rest of the year, because I had to burn my vacation and floating holidays. I just don't take them that often, plus I like taking as much of December off as possible.

Today's schedule includes making holiday no-bak treats. Last night I made peppermit bark and chocolate dipped cookies. Today will be cream cheese mints, peanut brittle, chocolate dipped candy canes, and possibly tiger butter and peanut butter no-bake cookies.

All the cooking is to get ready for our weekend trip. FIL's side of the family is having their holiday get-together tomorrow in Chattanooga. DH and I are leaving at 7a, driving to TN, and will be staying the night in a hotel tomorrow night. Sunday will be a leisurely drive back home through Atlanta, with a possible stop at some of my favorite restaurants from college. Need a cheap place to eat in Atlanta? Ask a kid who went to college there!

We'll be driving pretty close to Blairsville tomorrow, so Julie I'll wave as I go by! BTW: did any of the snow stick where you are? We didn't get any precipitation, just some serious cold weather.

At any rate, it's time to check the fire again. Hope everyone is having a good day!

Martha Stewart Doesn't Live Here...

December 6th, 2006 at 08:23 pm

This is me flipping off Martha Stewart, Trading Spaces, DIY, and every department store holiday window mock-up that has made me feel my tree is crap for the past several years.

You know what I'm talking about: big beautiful bushy trees with firmly attached needles and no bald spots. And decorations: do I even need to go into detail? Gorgeous sculpted imported from Umbosloveckia where they're hand-wrought by peasant children earning a decent wage to buy mom a new babushka for Christmas. Big, tasteful, beautiful ornaments. The kind that hang on the tree with a silky ribbon, not an el cheapo wire hanger.

Every year I see these trees and yearn for one of my own.

Every year I refuse to put the several hundred dollars into it, and every year I wind up secretly disappointed that I've fallen short of Martha's dream.

Well, pardon my French, but screw Martha Stewart!

When my husband asked when we were going to put up our tree, I silently sighed. Bluh. Another bluh tree... We bought a 6.5 ft pre-lit fakie tree 3 years ago, and it does the job. Not big and beautiful, mind you, and definitely doesn't smell good. And, as an aside, does anyone have a decent way to CLEAN a fakie tree short of vacuuming it? DH had never had a real tree, so I've bought one once (9 ft!) for our first Christmas together when we were dating. Ever since: el fake-o.

So there I was, staring at my piddly li'l 6.5 ft tree and my pile of decorations. Actually, they weren't all my decorations. See, when it came time to clean out the office right before the lay-off, my manager gave me all of my department's Christmas ornaments. So now I have a hodge-podge of my stuff, their stuff, and even some stuff I'm not really sure where it came from.

No way I can pull a Martha-tree off with this. There's more than one shade of red in that pile, for Pete's sake!

So, in a fit of holiday peevishness I decided to put a bunch of junk on my tree. By 'junk' I mean 4 stockings, 2 stuffed figures, plushy country-time ornaments, silver jingle-bells, and a Santa Hat. There's some other stuff on there, too, like my tasteful silver, gold, and frosted globes which clash ever so nicely with the red wooden feaux-berry garland.

Believe it or not, it ain't half bad!

* * *
No, I don't have a 'Battle of the Bulge' ornament on my tree! Big Grin Appears I've been struck by the photo-upload bandit!
* * *















Stashing Cash Wk 7

December 5th, 2006 at 07:14 am

I started stashing the change and dollar bills from my allowance 10/12. Here's my progress:

----------------------------------------------
PREVIOUS TOTAL
----------------------------------------------
  $275.02 total as of 11/23
- $ 0.00 reward for 1W1G (holidays hit!)
---------
  $275.02
----------------------------------------------
THIS WEEK
----------------------------------------------
  $ 30.00 dollar bills
  $ 4.50 quarters
  $ 1.40 dimes
  $ 0.05 nickels
  $ 0.18 pennies
  $ 9.50 house pennies
  $ 21.43 balance hiding in 'Dreamland' account
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  $ 67.16 total this week
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  $342.18 total as of 11/30


WOW!!! Not bad for less than 2 months worth of stashing! Part of this money is going to be used for Christmas, I'm not sure what the rest will be used for yet. Although, I have been dreaming about a new pair of boots since my last pair died a year ago...

As a reminder, any cash I stash for the month of December will be deposited at random in Salvation Army Santa buckets.

Beat Holiday Stress with a Cookie Party!

December 1st, 2006 at 08:21 pm

Why is it that a time that should be peaceful, joyous, and magical almost always winds up feeling stressful, annoying, and frustrating? With parties and gatherings and dinners and gifts and decorating, it's amazing some of us enjoy our holiday at all.

So, take a tip from my mom: participate in a cookie party with some friends and get rid of some of your stress!

The idea is simple. Get some friends, family, and/or co-workers to agree to a cookie party. We'll say you get 10 people including yourself to participate (but the number could be anything you decide is manageable). Every attendee picks one type of cookie to provide for the party. No duplicates!

Here's where it gets interesting. Calculate how many cookies you need to make: 1 dozen for every attendee (perhaps 2 if you're adventurous!) PLUS another dozen for the party. Make sure to include yourself in your calculations! So, if there are 10 attendees including yourself, 12x10 = 120+12 = 132 cookies.

Gather/purchase the ingredients needed to make the alloted number of cookies. This is where the cookie party really shines: you save money by buying only a few ingredients in bulk and save time by making the cookies super assembly style. Also, make sure you have materials to package up the cookies by the dozen.

The next step, obviously, is to set aside some time and make/package your cookies.

Fast forward to the day of the party. Don't forget to bring your cookies, a bag, and maybe a beverage! All the attendees swap the cookies they brought and get to taste-test since there is an extra dozen of each floating around.

Ready for the best part? After our imaginary cookie party you walk away with 10 dozen cookies, all different kinds, just ready and waiting to hit your desert tray for any event you might have coming over the holidays. Not to mention the great time you can have at the actual party itself!