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Today's Mail had a check!

April 9th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Yea Smile

$25 from Olay ProX, from a sale/coupon/rebate offer plus another rebate last month. There's another rebate for $25 this month, but I haven't decided if I'm going to use the last rebate to buy more and get the new rebate. It's pretty expensive, even after all the discounts.

Also a booklet of $1 coupons from General Mills. But no ads! I can't shop without seeing what's on sale. So, it may just be another no shop week.

The rest of the day was spent CONTINUING to deal with the phone/internet company on the new contract. They just CAN'T seem to get it right. But they have managed to roll all the old bills together, so we can see what we were paying all combined, and YIKES! I'm so glad I'm getting back in the habit of reviewing these things.

Those free magazines weren't so free anymore!

April 7th, 2009 at 05:47 pm

Well, we’ve also been sorting out our “media” bills…newspaper, magazines, cable, all the fun stuff!

For the last year, I’ve been mostly leaving the bills and finances up to DH while I’ve been “recovering” from this accident. Which is great, except that he tends to assume that various charges are legitimate, or that I ordered a magazine or whatnot; he doesn’t ask me about it. We were tracking down my sister’s AOL charges on our credit card bill, when I noticed, well, a bill for Jet magazine. Hmmm…we don’t receive Jet magazine. But we do receive a few others that I thought I discontinued.

In fact, I HAD canceled them, but I had contacted the magazine subscription services directly. The charges were coming through auto-payments to various credit cards, and even though I had stopped subscriptions, I hadn’t double checked that the charges had been credited to our account before the accident. Turns out they hadn’t been credited, they hadn’t even been canceled!

To make matters worse, I’d order a subscription for my Mom three years ago, and the magazine clearinghouse had contacted her directly with offers for some “free trials”, with the auto delivery later being billed to me! My 87 year old, very white, mother was receiving Jet magazine, and a few others, and had no idea I was getting charged for them!

Tracking all this down has been difficult. The magazine clearinghouse runs on an automated system, and you can only access a few magazines at a time. It doesn’t tell you what else might be on your account. Just time, sniffing around, loads of phone calls, and monitoring credit cards for charges. So far we have canceled:

New Yorker
Atlantic Monthly
Ladies Home Journal
Better Homes and Gardens
US News
Travel and Leisure
Natural Health
Body & Soul
Garden Design
Architectural Digest
Bon Appetit
Taste of Home
Vegetarian Times

The charges have been credit back to my account. Yea!

We did keep a few health and fitness magazines, which I renegotiated the rates for. I also had the auto bill removed and a block put on our account.

Our newspaper is offering a new subscriber rate, and even though I’m not a new subscriber, I asked about it and my account was immediately rolled over onto the new rate, at $1.49 a week for 16 weeks. We were paid ahead by two months on the old rate, but they credited the account forward. Whew!

I can’t believe things got THAT out of hand. DH and I are both pretty thrifty, but life sometimes distracts attention from other things, like finances. At least we’re getting back on track now.


Bringing down the gardening costs

April 6th, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Wow, we just saved $300 a month on lawn care!

Which is embarassing in itself. We moved to the property 15 years ago with a plan to mow the lawn, do all the planting, trimming, weeding, maintence, mulching, have a fruit garden, a vegetable garden...and on and on.

Then, DH was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was assaulted, we retired, I had an accident. Little things that changed our lives forever.

The first thing to go off of DH's to-do list was mowing 2 acres of grass. Radiation treatments meant lots of sun screen and little sun exposure, and he was hypersensitive to allergens, dirt, mold, etc. So we hired someone to cut the grass at $50 a week.

Then there was the issue of homeowner's responsibilities, no dandelions, no harsh chemical treatments, curb appeal required. Costs were associated, of course. Careful planning to tuck "produce" gardens out of eye sight, behind trees while getting proper sunlight.

Then came the deer, rabbits, ground hogs...

Anyway, the cost of cutting the lawn had grown to $100 twice a week! The treatment was up to $3000 a year, plant replacement, etc., well, it all added up.

So, we spent March doing research on services in the area, getting new bids, and getting those costs down. We've gone from almost $800 a month to around $250, which includes budgeting for annuals like tomatoes, zucchini, etc.

Whew! VIctory feels great, but it hurts, too!

I feel guilty replacing the people we've used for all these years. They have done a good, solid job. They probably need the money as much as we do. But, I'm trying to come to terms with the simple fact that I can't be responsible for the rest of the world, but I HAVE to be responsible for me and my family, our finances.

Just growning pains.

Finally, a reasonable budget based on reality

March 28th, 2009 at 12:02 am

I’ve been sorting through the expenditures from last year, sorting out Mom’s and my families expenses, and updating with items we’ve already canceled or renegotiated. It's been a painful process (The magazines will be a story in themselves!)

Here’s what I have so far:

I’ve been sorting through the expenditures from last year, sorting out Mom’s and my families expenses, and updating with items we’ve already canceled or renegotiated. Here’s what I have so far:

Monthly Summary:
Home - $587
Utilities - $570
Transportation - $222
Health related - $675
Grocery/Drug Store - $100
Entertainment/Media - $40
Dog/Wildlife - $10
Clothing - $0
Gifts - $TBD

Total - $2204/month + gifts and charities

Wow, that’s a huge difference from my original calculations.

I'm hugely embarrassed at how out of hand things were, or at least appeared. Those weeds in the budget spread quickly, but were weeded out with many phone calls and a few heated discussions.

Here’s the breakout.

Insurance - $70
Repair and Maintenance - $40
Mortgage - $0
Security System - $32
Lawn Service - $70
Lawn Cutting – in progress
Property Taxes - $375
Total: $587/month

Fuel Oil - $125
Electric - $250
Water Systems - $30
Phone/Internet - $70
Cell Phone - $5
Cable - $90
Total: $570/month

Vehicle payments - $0
Gasoline - $75
Maintenance and Repair - $70
Insurance - $70
Registration - $7
Total: $222

Insurance for all: $480
Prescriptions - $125
Dental - $50
Eye - $20
Total: $675

Grocery/Drugstore Purchases:

Newspaper - $5
Magazines - $8
DVD/Music/Games/Workout - $27
Total: $40

Dog&Wildlife Repairs

$0 (all will be gifts)

Auto-Delivery items

I'm sure I am forgetting something.

Just a quick check in!

March 16th, 2009 at 07:08 pm

I spent the morning with DH estimating our monthly expenses from last years bills. WOW. Then I spent time removing services and miscellanceous charges, like magazines we had on a trial basis before my accident and somehow got renewed at full (outrageous) prices. Then shopping, with good savings, and now I'm running late to physical therapy.

I'll detail the findings later, but WOW, we found some HUGE savings by making a few phone calls. And unfortunately some that will take awhile to figure out.

Changing Cell Phone plans saved serious cash today

March 14th, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I have been trying to deal with my cell phone provider by phone or email, which sounds logical, but HAH it's not.

So I finally made it down to their store with DH (don't even ask, but two phones requires both of us). I've had the same provider for 15 years, back when Corporate paid the bills. I changed plans a few years ago, and hadn't really noticed that after the contract was up I didn't renegotiate a new contract, and the charges started moving way up. It was up to $70 a month for the two phones, which we really didn't need. I mean, yes, we used them, but NEED did not equal $70 a month.

We went for a prepaid pay-as-you-go, with 99c only on days it's used, and no minute charges for family members. We stayed with the same provider, so kept our activations etc, and the annual savings will be around $750 - $850!

The other problem with our current plan had been that the same provider was our internet provider, but not the line provider and local and long distance were separate, and there were little charges all over the place. I went nuts trying to track some of them down, but our DSL/internet/local calls/long distance was over $150 a month, and quite a bit was miscellaneous little charges that made no sense to me or DH.

We bundled all the services together into one bill, at $59 a month, still high but unlimited local and long distance and high speed DSL, lots of features, and -- Smile -- I got them to agree to clean up the mess of all the weird little charges. One simple bill and plan.

I also had to clean up AOL charges, which were supposed to be "free", but I hadn't quite realized that when my sister set up an account while she was staying here, she didn't cross over to the free account, and it was still linked to ours, and AOL had linked their charges into our phone company local provider and also into our long distance provider AND also into our DSL provider. Getting that cleaned up is still in progress.

Still, a good savings day.

I'm still working out the budget, trying to decrease these "line items" while figuring out the actual costs we have. One day at a time Smile

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