Saturday, November 27, 2010

I've Made a Decision

I'm rejoining the gym. I quite my membership about a year ago to save money. And in a lot of ways, that was a good call. My old membership cost about $30 a month, and I wasn't using it super often. I go through phases where I'm great about going, and then months where I hardly go at all. I told myself I would just use the beach path and DVDs and Wii Fit and that would suffice.


Honestly, I'm a gym workout person. I like classes and machines with timers and weight machines instead of free weights. I have rarely worked out in the last year, and that was evident when I went to Zumba this morning with a friend. It kicked my butt.

I have decided to invest in the Costco 24 Hour Fitness membership. It's $300 up front for two years. That averages to $12 per month, which is a good deal. My health, energy level, and weight are all important to me, and are worth making an investment in. So, on Friday I am going to bite the bullet and pay for the membership. And yes, this puts me a little further behind in my goal of paying off my car by June. But I don't want to wait to be healthier, so I am readjusting my priorities. And that's okay.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Swagbucks Strategy?

I've been doing Swagbucks for just about a year now. I'm a huge fan...with minimal effort I've earned enough Swagbucks to get $110 in Amazon gift cards. I've used most of those for gifts, which has helped my budget throughout the year. It's also nice because Amazon sells almost everything, so I can really use them for whatever I want. When I do my next order in a few weeks (the last of my Christmas shopping), I'm also ordering a new clothes hamper, since my old one is literally falling apart. No, not super exciting, but nice that I don't have to spend any money to get something I need.

Up until now I haven't thought of using my Swagbucks for anything else. Amazon gift cards are one of the best deals on the site, and I've found them useful. But, I'm thinking that after my next Amazon purchase I might start saving them for something else. While I'd love to save for the $300 Apple gift card, that would take me close to four years to get (if I earn at the same rate I did last year...though I think I'm earning faster now than I was when I started. But I digress...).

More realistically, I could save for Southwest gift cards. A $50 gift card costs 5,700 Swagbucks, which I think I could earn in about six months or so. I think it would be fun to get a free trip to visit a friend or go on a vacation. Once my car is paid off, I want to start a travel fund, and knowing I have money toward a flight would be good motivation. Although I sort of hate flying Southwest. I don't know. I might just stick to Amazon.

Any Swagbucksers out there want to chime in on what you save for? If you're not on yet, click on any of the links to sign up!

Staying in my Thanksgiving Budget

I went to the store yesterday to do my major Thanksgiving shopping. I had picked up some sparkling cranberry cider and champagne at Trader Joe's to make a cocktail, and I bought everything else at Ralph's. I'm sure there is some PF blogger out there who used coupons and got their Thanksgiving dinner for 27 people for twelve cents or something, but to them I say, just stop it.

I spent a total of $65.12 at Ralphs, which will feed 7 people with plenty of leftovers. I'll post pictures after Thursday, but that include ingredients for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, homemade caramel apple pie, and a store bought pumpkin pie. The roommate is making green bean casserole as well (yum).

I also bought organic brown and white sugar, which will last me quite a while, as well as four sticks of organic butter, which I hope I don't use all of for one meal. ;)  I also had to buy a pie pan, and since you could only get a throwaway one in three pack, I bought a glass one for $4.89, which I will be able to use in the future. I did get throwaway pans for stuffing and turkey at the dollar tree last week, so that will make my life easier. I don't have a dishwasher, so I'm fine with recycling the aluminum ones when I'm done to save me the effort of having to wash more dishes.

I'm getting excited for tomorrow! Today I'm making the pie and cranberry sauce, to save me some time tomorrow. I did a lot of cleaning yesterday, and tonight the roommate and I are going to rearrange the furniture to allow for guests in our small apartment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly Money Check Up

From My Pretty Pennies...the usual.
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on dinner and a few drinks for my sister and me=$42. Sister time=priceless.
2. Today I feel a little stressed toward money. I'm on track for my budget, but I'm also trying to figure out where I'm going to get the funds to pay for my classes and my National Boards retake, so I'm scrutinizing to see where I can find that money. It looks like I'll be able to find enough to pay for one of my classes from my November check, which is $180. :)
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was going with students from my school to feed homeless people on skid row today. 30+kids chose to spend the first day of their vacation helping others...awesome.
4. I will consider this week a success if I get Thanksgiving dinner on the table while sticking to my grocery budget. I think I can do it!
5. My favorite food at Thanksgiving is stuffing. I make it with sausage, celery, and onion. Yum!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do This!

Saving Cents in the City posted here about how to get $3 in free mp3 downloads from Amazon. Super, super easy. I got 1901 by Phoenix and Piano Man by Billy Joel.

What are you going to get?

Confession: I Care About Brands

As I've been preparing for Thanksgiving, I noticed that an unfortunate number of my glasses have broken. I've got enough wine glasses, but I also want to have water on the table for my guests. I am down the three glasses, plus four or five that my roommate has with beer logos on them. Not really what I'm going for on Thanksgiving.

I had been thinking of ordering some from the Crate and Barrel Outlet, which is where I got my old ones. I love Crate and Barrel. LOVE. I liked the Otis glasses, which were $3.95 each. But before I ordered them, my sister and I were at Big Lots and saw a set of six glasses in the size I wanted for $6.99. I liked the style and obviously liked the price.

My sister was telling me to get them and I was hemming and hawing. I finally admitted that I wanted the Crate and Barrel ones, even though they were pretty similar to these. Erin pointed out, "If these were at Crate and Barrel you'd buy them. They're the same thing." And she was right. Once they're out of the box, only I will know where they came from. And though I do love C&B, I bought the Big Lots glasses. Because I do care about brands, but I've learned in  the past year that I care about making good financial choices more.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


So, for quite a while my plan has been to use any and all extra money each month to pay down my car debt by June. Which is going pretty well, actually.

I also recently made a second goal to get a salary point raise by June as well. I actually think I can get it done by March, which would be great because it would help me pay down my car even faster. I found one free class, one for 15 dollars, and third for $65 that I've already enrolled in. That's three points. I am also on the waiting list for a free two point class during Winter Break, that I really hope I get in to.

But, I am going to have to pay for some of them if I want to get this done. Paying for classes is definitely worth it in the long's an investment because the raise will follow me throughout my career...the sooner I take the classes, the more money I make.

Here's the dilemma. I found out the work I did for National Boards last year can count for three points. I do have to pay $295 for that work. If I get in to all the ones I'm planning on, I just need six more points for the raise. There are some online classes I can take for $180 each (I found a $20 coupon for each class!) that would get me finished by March.

Also, I didn't pass National Boards. :( You need a 275 to pass and I scored a 269. Grrr. Since I'm so close, I want to retake an assessment and a portfolio. If I pass I get an automatic 7.5% raise, plus an additional 7.5% if I complete a certain number of mentoring hours. This is definitely an investment. I'm looking into scholarships, which I got last year, so hopefully I can get this one for close to free, but I'm not sure how that will play out.

For those of you following along with the math, that's a total of  $1,405. Eek. If I can get scholarships for National Boards, I can spend $655. Blech. I can pay for this in the next two months, and if I really had to tap into my e-fund for National Boards, but it means almost no extra money on my car payment...which would make it really difficult to pay it off by June.

I'm torn. Do I hold back on one of the classes, taking the cheaper/free ones piece by piece? This means giving up more of my weekends since the ones I plan to take are online. It also means getting a raise later. Or do I accept that my car might not be paid off until a few months after I planned?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whine and You Shall Receive

So, I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but my apartment gets really cold during the winter. I know I don't live in a snowy area and some of you will scoff at this, but it's the truth. The apartment is really old, so the insulation is terrible and the heater is in the living room, facing the front door. It's essentially useless. 

On the plus side, our bills stay low all year round.

Anyway, I posted a Facebook status that said, "I am remembering how cold my apartment gets in the winter....brrr! I'm freezing!" I didn't think much of it, just sharing about things no one is interested in...that's what Facebook is for, right?

I got some sympathy, some mockery about being cold in Southern California, and two offers for space heaters. One from a co-worker who doesn't use it, and one from my aunt who is coming over on Thanksgiving. I had thought about buying one this year, and look...without even asking I'm getting two. 

The one from the co-worker is really small and not enough to warm up my whole room, but I have it on my nightstand, and I've been using it for about ten minutes right before I go to sleep, which has been very nice. I don't want to jack up my electric bill too high, so I'm trying to use it sparingly. 

Anyway, I thought it was a good example of asking what people have before you buy things. Or just whining and seeing who offers to help you. :/

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Blogoversary!

Yes friends, this is the one year anniversary of my blog! And what better way to celebrate than with data and statistics! (What can I say, I know how to party!)

In the last year I have...
...paid off $5,014.11 in credit card debt
...paid $7,520.06 toward my car loan
...paid $737.62 toward my students loans...
for a grand total of $13,271.79 paid off in one year! When I see it all added up like that, I feel both proud of myself and excited for the day when I will have that much money per year to save and spend.

I've posted 193 blog posts.

I've earned $110 in Amazon gift cards via Swagbucks. Much of this went toward gifts, though I did get myself a few CDs in there too.

I've also created an emergency fund, fully funded as defined by Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 1, though that actually happened after my credit card debt was paid off, since I did it $100 at a time.

And, I've really enjoyed blogging-making me more accountable with my money, having an outlet for writing, and making new friends (well friends whom I've never spoken to or met in real life...but I'll call them friends all the same!)

That being said, if you read my blog, I'd love a comment today...especially you silent lurkers who I know are there. I know I find inspiration and motivation from personal finance blogs, and I hope mine has given back in some small way or another.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is it worth it?

Today I went to the post office and mailed off two more books that I sold on Amazon. After shipping, I made a total of $3.14. Combined.

I had a moment of, "Seriously?! I'm not destitute. Why not just goodwill these?!"

But then, I thought about how much I have made total selling items on Ebay and Amazon this year. And while they are incrementally small amounts, when you add them all up, it's significant. At least, for me.

Truth be told, most of it doesn't go toward debt. But it allows me to have one more coffee or dinner out during a month. And in my focus on paying off debt and saving, a little extra effort for a little bit of fun it worth it. Maybe once I'm debt free, I'll feel differently. Or maybe my frugal habits are here to stay. Only time will tell. But for now, I'm looking forward to getting some Starbucks one morning before worth. Thanks old books!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekly Money Check Up

Once again, the Weekly Money Check Up from My Pretty Pennies...
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my car payment. It just went through today actually, and I updated my status bars accordingly. :)
2. Today I feel in control about money. I am way under budget for Christmas and am staying on track in other categories so far. Any extra money at the end of the month will go towards the classes I need to take for a raise.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was finally taking some time to read. I'm in the middle of One Day and I'm really enjoying it.
4. I will consider this week a success if I eat at home enough to finish all the food I bought at the store over the weekend. I've been cooking and so far, so good. 
5. I am afraid of petting zoos. I tried to go in one at twelve and freaked out and left. Which is exactly what I think would happen if I tried to go in one now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I earned grad units and I didn't even know it!

So last year I attempted National Board Certification. Basically, it's four portfolios and six written assessments. If I pass, I automatically earn an extra seven and a half percent, plus have the opportunity to earn another seven and a half if I complete 92 hours of mentoring other teachers. I find out if I passed in the next few weeks. So either it'll be a big blog post, or you'll never hear about it again. :/

Anyway, I just got an email from the organization saying that the portfolio entries are now available for grad credit through George Fox University. All I have to do is fill out some paperwork ( you still call it paperwork when it's online?) and pay $295 and I will be the proud recipient of three graduate units, which puts me closer to my goal of getting a raise by June. (recap: 14 units required for next raise, I just completed two in the last two weeks).

I could definitely find cheaper salary points, but the fact that all the work is done is worth it to me. I'm spending more money, but saving time and that's not small thing in my life. My dilemma is that in order to pay for it this month, I'd have to hit up my emergency fund. If I wait until December, I could work it into the budget. There's really not a huge rush, so I know the right answer. I just like the idea of getting this going and being done with it. But, I'm going to wait until December when I get paid to take care of it.

I also signed up for a free salary point class through the district. It's on December 4th and 11th all day...and doesn't sound as interesting as my last two classes. But I can't resist the free salary points, so I'm doing it. There's another free class that does sound interesting over Christmas break. I'm on the waiting list for that one, but it's a week long technology class and it's worth two units. If I get in, for those of you doing the math, I'll have eight units done by the beginning of January. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Working some frugal magic!

Every year Scholastic offers a bunch of books for $1 each right around Christmas, marketed to teachers to get as gifts for their students. I buy them for my students, have my yearbook class wrap them up, and then give them a book report assignment to do over Christmas break. (Yes, even my presents give them homework).

I use the bonus points that I get when the kids order to get them, though I didn't have as many orders this year, so I thought I'd have to buy some of them. But through manipulation of all the coupons and special offers you can do with each order I managed to get all 46 books for free!

It's not that hard to figure out, but it did take some manipulation to get it all right. I felt like a genius and wanted to take a victory lap around my classroom when I figured it out. :)

My Christmas shopping is coming along really well and totally within budget. I'm waiting for another Swagbucks gift card to post to get my last main gift, and then I'll be pretty much done, except for stocking stuffers and one more thing for the be determined.

How's your Christmas shopping going? Are you finding any good deals or freebies?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Anyone else have AFLAC?

I signed up for disability insurance through AFLAC about a year ago, and then pretty much forgot about it. Which is good, because it means I haven't had any emergencies. But then today I got a wellness form in the mail to fill out. I think it means I will get a check in the mail for going to my wellness appointments, so I eagerly started to fill it out.

They basically wanted to know what wellness appointments I've had this year. I checked off the boxes for eye exam, dental exam, and pap smear. Then it asked for ONE date and ONE doctor for all the procedures.

Um, what?

I didn't get them all done the same day and I CERTAINLY didn't see the same doc for all of those procedures...imagine that conversation. Actually, please don't.

Anyway, I filled out the form with my main doctor's name and the date of her appointment, but still checked off the eye and dental exams.

Anyone else have AFLAC who can tell me what I'm supposed to do? Anyone know how much moolah I'll be getting for this? :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weekly Money Check Up

From My Pretty Pennies...enjoy!
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on rent. But other than that, my extra payment to my car! :)
2. Today I feel bueno towards money. My grocery spending for the month is high already, but my eating out budget only has three bucks spent so far, so I guess that's a good trade off.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was learn how to do digital animation at a class that only cost $15. I have one more next weekend...I'll post my video on the blog when it's done.
4. I will consider this week a success if I get the kids' figurative language projects graded and returned...they're turning in essays on Friday, so I want the projects off of my desk.
5. My go-to recipe is I go through phases, but probably chicken white bean chili. It's easy and it saves well. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just Checking In

I'm getting close to finishing my marathon of classes...thus the lack of blog posts lately. I had class Wednesday and Thursday right after work for four hours. Saturday I had class from 8:00-3:30, and Sunday I had a class from noon until 8:45. And I'm back at work today. I have one more class next Saturday and then I'm done. Two units down, twelve to  go for my raise! Thank goodness for that extra hour of sleep this weekend!

Because I've had no free time whatsoever, I haven't spent too much on eating out. I think so far I've spent $3 to get some coffee. The meals were provided at my classes, so that was nice. I have spent a lot at the grocery store...I bought the ingredients and made baked potato soup from scratch (recipe on The Frugal Girl's blog.) It was tedious, but delicious. That was my super exciting Friday night. I also had to buy razors and face wash, both of which are ridiculously expensive, so I know it's going to be a trick to keep my groceries in budget.

I sent out my invite for Thanksgiving a few minutes ago, asking my family to bring a few items. My grandma graciously offered to pay for the turkey, so that helps the Thanksgiving budget as well. I really like hosting, so I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner!

Still slowly working on Christmas's going well.

That's it for now. Just wanted to check in to the blogging world. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Little by Little

I just transferred an extra $222.19 toward my car payment. I made my November budget, and that's the leftover that I can spare for sure. Hopefully I'll be able to transfer a little more at the end of the month, barring any emergencies. That's what I was able to spare after allotting money for Thanksgiving and a little more Christmas shopping, plus my car insurance payment, which was another $220...hopefully come January I'll be able to put down even more, since the holidays will be over.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Goals

I think I'm the only PF blogger who doesn't make/post monthly goals...did you hear that whoosh and then a thud? That was me, jumping on the bandwagon...

1. Finish Christmas shopping, spending no more than $100 more. I should have my Amazon gift cards posted by the end of the month, which gets me enough for an order with free shipping. I've got some other plans, but since I'm not an anonymous blogger, I need to keep that on the DL until after Christmas.
2. Prepare and host Thanksgiving dinner for under $75. I'll be serving 6-8 people. This will involve some couponing and asking the family to bring some items instead of stubbornly doing most everything myself. Though I do really want to make a homemade pie this year. Looks like other people are bringing rolls, salad, and wine.
3. Organize my file cabinet. This has been on my to-do list since...oh forever. It needs to happen. It will happen.
4. Stay in my budget for eating out/fun money! I did this last month, but I had birthday coupons and people taking me out, so that was an easy month. I really want to do it this time!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekly Money Check Up

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on groceries. I spent $70.32 at Ralphs, but I did get a ton of produce and Slim Fast, which will last two and a half weeks for breakfast.
2. Today I feel a little nervous towards money. I am cutting it close on my October budget due to extra classes I'm taking and my new car battery. Bring on the November budget!
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was had my sister over for dinner and played Wii together.
4. I will consider this week a success if I just make it through. This starts my crazy week of classes, plus district assessments are due, plus I have to sort through essays for a citywide contest, etc, etc.
5. If I could grow one thing, it would be an avocado tree. I love avocados more than any other food in the world. 
Check out My Pretty Pennies post and do your own too!