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Archive for February, 2007: TinapBeana's Blog: Money Wars!
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Archive for February, 2007

February Sales Book Review

February 28th, 2007 at 08:32 pm

So I've been keeping my sales 'book' for one fiscal month and found the results rather interesting, so thought I would share.

Bear in mind, this only accounts for 'things' the house buys like groceries, speakers for the computer, paper goods, toiletries, etc. It doesn't include either of our allowances, major planned or arranged purchases such as the TV, or money spent at restaurants (which I'm also keeping track of, and can I just say dang we gotta work on that!).

Here's the overview of the spending:



Food is the biggest expense category, which is expected. If all goes according to budget, food should account for 70% of the spending I track, but this month we were over in the household category and under in the food category. Medical was also below budget (even though I took advantage of a great Claritin sale).

Next is the breakdown of the type of spending. 'Regular' items that are bought on a fairly regular schedule regardless of price (milk, OJ, coffee, Claratin, etc.). 'Planned' items are those planned around current sales or events (i.e. Coke is on sale let's stock up, Mom asked me to bring a dessert for Valentine's day dinner, we want chili for Super Bowl Sunday, etc.). 'Impulse' items are the things bought on one whim or another. Tax should be fairly explanatory, although I must point out we have a different rate for food and non-food items.

Items of note

* this was a really good month for sales for me, over 70% of my regularly purchased items were on some sort of sale. Woohoo! With the way sales cycle, I should have another month like that in April or May.

* there's a LOT more impulse purchases there than I'd like. the main culprit is grocery shopping with DH. items he has weaseled into the cart this month include rice pudding, canned chicken and tuna, and hungry man dinners.

* not all the impulse purchases are a bad thing, believe it or not. it includes things like the reduced for quick sale chicken i found, not to mention unadvertised specials that i stumble upon in the store (like frangelico coffee, softsoap body wash, and my favorite chai tea all on special). even a lot of DH's 'impulse' buys were on sale

Looking over the items purchased, most of the household items are once in a blue moon kinda thing. If those weren't in the picture, 'household' would have been in budget. Medical was well within budget, and anything that is 'leftover' gets put into the little medical savings fund online (I figure that'll be where I go if I ever have to come up with a deductible).

Even though groceries are within budget, I'm interested to see how far I can take it. Especially when paired with the amount spent on eating out... BAH! That's OK, DH will get a financial statement tonight and I'll wait for him to freak out about the amount spent at restaurants. Sadly, he's more likely to do something about it if he's the one freaking out instead of me...


Bought My First TV

February 28th, 2007 at 03:30 pm

Here I am, 29 years old (OK, 28 and 360 days, whatever), and I just paid for my first TV. Seriously, I've never once bought a TV in my life, not new, not used. Mind you, I've had TVs for the past 10 years, but each and every one of them was either given to me or brought in by a significant other. Not too shabby!

The most recent freebie, a 48" 10 year old Hitachi, was on it's last legs. The filter had gone bad and from what we could tell just the part would cost $300 if we could find it. The picture was pretty much unviewable: offset so the bottom was at the top and vice-versa, rolling all the time, etc. Sound was fine, but if all I wanted was to listen to TV I'd be using the radio, right?

Plus, with all the rumblings about the switchover to HD, I knew we were going to have to bite the bullet. And, you see, there was this sale... Drats...

So last Wednesday we walked into HH Gregg on the last day of the sale, found a salesman, and asked if they still had the 51" Hitachi. The man tried to shaft us on the price saying the sale had ended the day before. Tina doesn't play nice like that, so we got the price we intended to pay gave the man a check, and DH went the Thursday to pick it up.

All was well with the world, and if this one lasts 10 years like the freebie one did, I'll be perfectly content.

But hark, what light through yonder window breaks? It's money karma, and the canoe is the sun!!! That's right, the canoe was listed for less than a week and POOF it was gone! Not just the canoe, either: both paddles and my slightly too small life jacket too. DH and I each took $20 out of the cut, bought new RGB cables for the TV, and the rest pays the house back for most of the TV purchase.

And you want to hear something ironic? I mean REALLY ironic? The day after we bought the new Hitachi, my dad calls and says he's found someone with a part for the old TV. It's all OK, though, because this guy has someone who wants to buy it. He's willing to fix the TV, sell it for us, and split the profits after the cost of the part. SWEEEEEEET!

So, between selling the canoe, selling the old TV, and maybe taking a little from our vacation fund, we have a bright shiney new TV for basically nothing!


Jane of All Trades

February 28th, 2007 at 04:59 am

Frequent readers have likely noted my admittedly short bio to the right stating I am a Jane of All Trades. I wish I could say this was an exaggeration, but truth be told I have been paid for a wider variety of job activities than almost anyone I know. My job duties over the past 10 years have included (but were not limited to):

* working with autistic children
* irradiating clear-nose skates
* dressing up in a bee costume
* talking to homicidal and suicidal people on the phone for a crisis line
* talking to the italian police about a russian mafia credit card scam

Good grief...

I bring this up not to ensure everyone thinks I'm one odd chica (which, honestly, I can understand if that's what you're thinking).

I bring it up to explain the point of this blog entry: I'm waiting for an order of incense oils.

All trades, remember?

It all started with the soap. Remember the blog post about the soapmaker's perspective on changing a drain pipe? If not, here's the moral of the story: I can and occasionally do make soap. And in case you're wondering, yes I have made money selling soap before. I got started into soap because I'm allergic to most popular sunscreens. Makes no sense, right? Well, in '99 I started researching how to make my own sunscreen, which led to homemade cosmetics, which led to homemade soap. This was a good thing, because I have really dry skin and I can make soap to exactly my personal specifications.

Buying soap ingredients online led to a sampling of fragrance oils and some smelly good soap. Smelly good soap led to a few folks asking to buy smelly good soap from me. This snowballed into body powder, linen spray, lotion, and (here's the connection) incense. Eventually I decided to can most of it. There were a lot of ingredients to keep on hand, contamination issues to consider, and the time involved made it hard to make it really worth my while. I kept dipping incense because it's pretty much a hands-off process. Plus, I had 40,000 blank sticks and about a thousand bags... It was either keep making incense or get into some really weird modern art.

All of this brings us to the present day. I really thought I was done with incense. I haven't made any in a while so supplies were starting to dwindle, and I was cool with that. The blanks can be used as firestarters, so it wasn't like they were going to waste.

But, it turns out I've got some customers I just can't shake! There's a lady who used to live in the area who is now in Costa Rica. Once every 3 months when she's in town, she heads to my dad's store to see if there's incense. She's offered to buy it in bulk and have a friend pick it up and ship it to her, so I don't even have to worry about am extra trip to the Post Office. How could I say no?

And thus, I had to go online and order the specific oil used for her incense. While I was there, well, I caved. I ordered a couple of sample sizes just for me. The good news? I can make DH some cologne now for $2, and perfume for me too...

So here I am: technical administrator by day, website designer by night, photographer by weekend, and incense dipper by... Well, I'm working on when that'll happen...


It's Alive!!!

February 27th, 2007 at 05:30 am

OK, all, my website version 0.1 is up and live. ACK!!! Everything looks OK so far in IE7 and Firefox, I'll just have to double-check IE6 tomorrow. Since I don't know anyone running locally running IE5, I can't test it.

So, here it is folks:

Text is http://www.focusontheupstate.com/ and Link is
http://www.focusontheupstate.com/



The everything is up and running (sort of). For those that are curious, this is running on PHP and CSS (two technologies I haven't gotten to work with much before, so I took it as a learning opportunity). It looks all nice and simple, which is what I want, but believe me there's a hairy mess of code underneath there. Bluh!

Issues that I know about thus far:

* the 'comment' and 'request for quote' forms both have a verification code system to prevent spam (yay!). sometimes it doesn't show up the first time the page loads, which i think i might have just fixed but i don't know for sure. lemme know what happens!

* internet explorer can bite my big toe! everything looks proper in Firefox, which is a compliant browser. unfortunately, i've been spending countless hours trying to make things legible in IE, which apparently doesn't like proper code. what does all this mean? i fully expect someone somewhere to be running a version of IE that chokes on my page. lemme know what happens!

Things I intend to work on but just can't muster the will to do so right now:

* more photos (although this will be the nicest part of the job!)

* a better naming system for the photos

* ability to comment on a specific photo or gallery

* a 'credits' page for all the Open Source that's running in the background. although i've hacked it up ALOT, neither the mail engine nor the gallery were my original work

* more specifics on business offerings

* possibly a 2 layer drop down menu for the nav bar, but the bones are already there for that. i just don't have one now b/c there's not enough content to warrant it.

So, there it is for all the world to see. I'm going to go sleep now!!!


Nifty OT Blurbies

February 25th, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Website's almost there, I promise. I've started to realize that I'm pretty much never going to be fully satisfied with it. Not really a bad thing, just the realization that perfection isn't possible and my options are to take forever getting as close as possible or get it good enough for now and work on it as an ongoing project once it's up...

Anyways, back to the blurbies...

I got a surprise yesterday: $25 from my inlaws for my upcoming birthday. WOOHOO!!! BTW, the big day is March 5th, in case you have any spare chocolate or coffee you'd like to send my way Big Grin In all honesty, I didn't realize my birthday was right around the corner until Friday anyways... It's weird, 'cause to be so young I have ask "What year is it?" when someone asks how old I am. This year is 29, next year 30. I decided a while ago that on the 30th I was going to scrub my face good, braid my hair into pigtails, put on baggie overalls and a pair of cons, and go try to get carded.

Something else OT yet super cool (IMO). We all know my dad owns a cigar store, right? Well, he has a private label that is really exceptional, and I found out last night that one of those found its way to Michael Jordan and he loved it and might be try to come around for a box. TOO COOL!!!! The mental picture of my dad (5'6") standing next to Michael Jordan is just too funny for words, BTW...


Weather, Website, and Want Some Help!

February 22nd, 2007 at 09:05 pm

Yes, these are 'blurbies' (like my compromise between quickies and blurbs?)

Weather
OMG it's 74 right now and I'm going nuts!!!! Last place I want to be is at work. Interestingly, it's going to be in the low 30s/high 20s tonight. Nothing like a 40-50 degree temperature shift to get the blood going.

Website
Bah!!! Here's my problem. OK, I'll be honest, I have multiple problems... I have a general idea for the site, but I can't decide if I want to go 'artsy' or 'businessy'. And I have a really nifty PHP driven Open Source image gallery that works on it's own perfectly, but isn't quite embedding into my pages the way I want. And finally, since this is something all my own and I can do it however I want, I'm creating text files that get marked up by PHP and then stich it all together with CSS for design and layout. This is cool because, when I want to change how everything looks, it'll take a few minutes tops. This is not cool, because right now I'm banging my head against a wall trying to make everything layout properly in both IE and Firefox. Forget the other browsers, I just want these two to work! I'm having to slide in some unfortunate hacks to get IE to cooperate...

And Finally: I Want Some Help!
I have been cordially invited to write some articles for SavingAdvice on computers, technology, and saving money. I'm flabbergasted, not to mention honored! Here's where I need help: what kind of articles would ya'll like to see? Are there any questions you'd like to see addressed, resources you've not been able to find, etc? I want to make sure these articles are worthwhile for Jeffrey, so any and all suggestions are more than welcome. Please, Help ME! Big Grin


Blurbs: I'm a Toasty Photo Handyman

February 16th, 2007 at 03:23 am

Sorry, BA, but I just can't bring myself to call 'em quickies Big Grin

* We're in a cold spell right now. I'm holed up in the den with a hot fire and three kitties. Leftovers for dinner since DH is out at pool night. Thursday's are my leftover night, completely cook free. Unless I want to, of course.

* Along those lines, our January was unusually cold for this area. I've had both space heaters on more than expected. The electric bill was still only $100, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the current system.

* I got a weird offer in the mail today. I have been invited to join the "Handyman Club of America". A direct quote from the letter:

Why you?

Well, it's no secret among your friends and family that you are an outstanding handyman.

I'm pretty sure my friends and family would find it a HUGE secret if it turned out I were a handyman. HAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAaaahhaha! Reminds me of spam I used to for Viagra and home equity loans when I had neither a penis nor a house...

* I am taking the picture plunge. I found a great deal of a webhost (details later) and got an OK domain (not great, not crap). I'm working on getting a site thrown together as we speak. Well, obviously not this very instant, but you know what I mean. When I get it moderately presentable, I'll post a link here to get some feedback from everyone (if you don't mind!). This way, I'll have a place I can point prospects and realtors, not to mention a slightly more professional email address than tina.p.beana

OK, enough procrastination, back to the grindstone I go!


The Joy of a Sales Book

February 14th, 2007 at 05:03 pm

OK, well, it's not quite a book, is a spreadsheet. DH caught me entering stuff into this weekend and almost freaked out, he thinks I'm an uber-dork. Yes, I freely admit I'm an uber-dork, but I think the turn of events will prove this to be a good thing, not a weird thing.

In my spreadsheet, I keep track of

1. where I shopped
2. item bought
3. quantity bought
4. date
5. general category (Household, Food, Medical)
6. on sale (Y/N)
7. whether the purchase was impulse, planned (due to weekly sale), regular (would've bought regardless of sale like milk), or tax (yup, keep track of sales tax too Big Grin)

Since I've migrated to Open Office, I get to take advantage of the easy 'Sub Totals' function their spreadsheet offers. For instance, I know that so far about 30% of my purchases are marked as impulse. YIKES! But, 80% of those were unadvertised sales I found going through the store. Suddenly, that doesn't seem so bad now does it?

Anyways, the fact that I keep track of what was bought on sale gives me a big advantage. And not just sales-paper sales, it's the unadvertised sales that can really add up. Like name brand soy sauce, half off. If I were a couponer, I'd know to start looking for coupons for Kikoman!

Plus, some things go on sale in cycles. Since I keep track of what I bought, the date, and if it was a sale, it's easier to spot trends. This is especially true for meat, at least at my store. I told DH last week that the sirloin sale had to be coming up, and sure enough it hit this week. WOO and HOO!!!

Actually, a lot of sales hit this week for items I purchase regularly, so it is stock up time!

whole chicken 49c/lb reg 99c/lb
sirloin steak 2.99/lb reg 6.99/lb
edy's icecream 1.99 reg 4.99
pepsi can 12 packs BOGO 4.99
alexia organic fries 2/4 reg 2.69 ea
2lb bag froz veg 1.99 ea reg 2.39 ea
smithfield bagon BOGO 4.99

Guess it's time to get the new-to-me freezer ready and loaded!


Dear Freebie Thank You-er

February 14th, 2007 at 02:48 pm

You shall remain nameless so I don't get flamed. But you know who you are!

I know you mean well, and I can appreciate that. You're right, it is polite to say thank you when someone does something nice and/or useful for you.

With that said, do you have to post a 'thank you' message for absolutely every freebie that's been posted? It would seem reasonable one is only obligated to say 'thanks' for the freebies one is actually going to use. Are you using all 126?

And if you want to say thanks to each and every one, so be it. In that case, please check the forums more frequently, so that you are posting a few thanks every day. As it is now, you come on once every week or two and post a thanks to umpteen freebies that have been posted since you were last here.

For those of us who use the 'show new messages' functionality of SavingAdvice.com, this is maddening! I jump on and see there are 100-200 new posts. ACK! I skim through page after page of threads that are 'new' so I can find the handful that don't show your name is the most recent poster. It makes it difficult to keep up with actual active threads, as opposed to simple 'thank you' replies.

So please, Freebie Thank You-er, please consider only thanking for the freebies you're using. Or at least send your thank you-s a few times per week, rather than saving them all up for one giant thank you bomb.


Boring Stuff

February 12th, 2007 at 01:12 pm

As I have nothing much else to say, I will now begin wasting space and time by catching everyone up on yesterday's 'thrilling' adventures in food and married life. Are you excited yet Rolleyes

Let's see.... DH woke up ornery. His sciatic nerve was acting up (has already had one surgery for this), so he didn't sleep well and couldn't get very comfortable when awake. Around noon he started saying he was hungry.

>> ratle off list of breakfast food
>> begin

He said "But I was thinking more lunch, not breakfast". No problem.

>> rattle off lunch list
>> begin

"Want to go to Jack in the Box? Or Waffle House?" he asked.

"If given the option, no, I'd rather not go out. I've got stuff to do around here." was my reply.

DH relented and ate 2 pieces of left-over pizza for lunch. Don't know why he made a fuss, I know for a fact that he enjoys leftover pizza as much as I do.

About an hour later, he says he's bored and wants to go somewhere. I look at him and say "You're bored?". Yup.

>> rattle off list of household duties
>> begin

"But I don't want to do anything too physical, my back's acting up."

OK, I can agree to that. Last thing I want is to get my wood chopped to the tune of another $1500 my portion hospital bill.

"So, instead of sitting around here, you want to go sit around somewhere else?" I ask.

"Yeah, I guess."

>> stiffle urge to throttle husband
>> begin

"Well, you could go to the cigar store to watch the NASCAR qualifying. The library. Or a bookstore, or coffee shop. But, if you're at a bookstore you might as well go to the library..." I replied, as our main library branch also has a coffee shop in it.

"Wait, I've got library books checked out, right? I can read those. Do you know where I put them?"

>> stiffle urge to throttle husband
>> begin

>> sigh inwardly
>> wonder when I became a single mom
>> begin

"They're on the table. Where you put them, when you were 'cleaning up'".

So I'm puttering in the kitchen, and DH askes if we have the bits to make rice pudding. He thinks it'll make his back feel better, which is a very obvious ruse. But it's cheap, easy, and warm, so I happily commence.

>> stuff self silly on rice pudding
>> begin

A load of dishes and laundry later, I ask DH if he's decided what he would like for dinner. I ask because usually I have absolutely no preference, whereas DH tends to change appetites on a whim. When he replied "I don't care" I jumped on the chance and said I'd make grilled chicken alfredo. Quick, tasty, and always generates leftovers because it's not one of DH's favorites. Sneaky, I know, but I take those leftovers to work. Last time I made something expecting leftovers (crockpot chili on Super Bowl Sunday), it disappeared with a frightening quickness.

I'm getting bits together, and DH shuffles into the kitchen.

"You know, spaghetti actually does sound better."

>> stiffle urge to throttle husband
>> begin

"I wish you'd mentioned that earilier. It's 4 now, and the sauce always tastes better when it simmers longer."

"It'll be ready by 7 right? Plenty of time to simmer...."

>> deep, calming breaths
>> begin

So I make spaghetti sauce. Sautee one chopped onion. Brown a pound of sausage and use half for the sauce (package up the rest to make dirty rice later this week). One 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (drained), onions, sausage and seasoning. Add one drained can of mushrooms halfway through (8 oz after draining).

Since I'd already gotten a taste for alfredo, I made a half batch of that during the 3 hour simmer-a-thon and packaged it up for lunch.

Then, I made a box of

Text is Jiffy's and Link is http://www.jiffymix.com/
Jiffy's blueberry muffin mix, except I make it as a small cake rather than muffins. BTW, I love Jiffy mix. One box is 39 cents, fills the little tray for my toaster oven perfectly, and results in eight 2x4 inch cake bars. Two of these equals breakfast, so almost a week's worth of breakfast for 39 cents plus milk, egg, and tax.

DH smelled the baking, and came in and sampled a piece (as I had done). "Interesting" he said. This translates into "Wow, this is foul, how can you eat this?!?" Doesn't hurt my feelings a bit, because now I know DH won't be bogarting my breakfast cakes because he thinks they taste funny.

I'm chilling in the kitchen to occasionally stir the sauce, so I decide to clean out the fridge. Oh boy, I have GOT to get better about left-overs. On the plus side, I now know that pineapple makes an excellant substitute for a petri dish.

Another load of laundry and dishes later, and the sauce is as done as it's gonna get. This translates to "I was hungry and didn't want to wait any more!". When it was all said and done, there were maybe 2 cups of sauce left. Out of 2 quarts... Good thing I made the alfredo, I guess!

DH finally broke down and took something for his back, which made him much more agreeable. This in turn made me much more agreeable, and the rest of the evening was spent taking turns playing computer games on my laptop and drinking hot tea.

My Allowance is Frugally Fabulous

February 11th, 2007 at 04:35 am

Yes, it is!

A new member joined the blog ranks today, and mentioned that she's feeling constrained by her spending plan. Little L, I have felt your pain! The more I thought about this the more I realized that my allowance has given me the best of both worlds.

I have a fairly rigorous spending plan for our household. Right now it's just me and DH (unless you count the cars, which I sometimes do!), but DH is a spendy type which can sometimes put a crimp in my frugal style. Line items on my plan include (among others) housing, car payment, all debts, all utilities, house and car insurances, house and car property taxes, house and car maintenance, gifts, holidays, medical costs, retirement savings, etc.

And then the 2 slightly different line items. "DH allowance" and "TinapBeana's allowance".

Our allowances are exactly that: pocket money that we can do whatever we want with. I don't keep up with his, he doesn't keep up with mine. We don't have to keep track of what we do with it, if we don't want to. I list my grocery and household purchases item by item in a spreadsheet, but I don't have to do that with my allowance.

Having this little bit of money to splurge if I want makes things so much easier. Same for DH. He saw a golf bag he wanted, but the house hadn't budgeted for it. It was on sale, a good price but only available for a limited time. He put it on lay away with the sporting goods store and is paying for it out of his allowance. It's not a need, but it is something that will bring him some amount of happiness (and exercise!). All without trying to figure out what to 'shift' in the household budget.

So, readers, if you're starting to feel constrained (or possibly suffocated!) by your spending plan, I suggest you consider giving yourself an allowance. Doesn't matter what the amount is, big or small, just a little something that you're comfortable with. When you want doughnuts or a special coffee or a night out on the town, use your allowance for it's intended purpose: to keep you sane and on task.

Software Review: Money Manager EX

February 9th, 2007 at 03:46 pm

* * * * * * * * EDIT * * * * * * * *
If you can't see the images in this
post, try clicking 'Refresh' on your
browser...

Also, the full screen pictures are a
little hard to see because they've
been shrunk down. Try clicking on one
and it'll open the bigger version.
* * * * * * * * EDIT * * * * * * * *

This is a partial review of the Open Source program

Text is Money Manager EX and Link is http://www.thezeal.com/software/index.php?Money_Manager_Ex
Money Manager EX I use for financial management. Specifically, it focuses on the 'investment account' capability, since this has recently come up on the forums.

This is the opening 'Home Screen' for MMEX. As you can see, it shows an overview of current account balances and income/expenses for the month. To start tracking investments, you first have to create an 'investment account'.



These are the simple screens you use to set up an account.









Once you finish, you're taken back to the 'Home Screen'. Notice that the new investment account 'ML: Roth IRA' shows under 'Stocks' on the left-hand nav bar.

When you click on an account, you are taken to the account page. For checking/savings, this is where you view and enter transactions. For an investment account, it's where you view and edit holdings.



When you click 'New' you get a pop-up box to enter holding information.



And this is what your holding/s will look like in the account screen.



If you click 'Stocks' on the left-hand nav bar, you'll see an overview of all your investment account holdings.



And the 'Home Screen' will reflect the value of your stock holdings.