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Archive for January, 2007

Crock Pot Cuisine

January 30th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

Rewind to Monday evening: The weather was forecast to be frigid the next day, and I knew I wouldn’t be home until after 6:00.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to use the 'ol Crock Pot!

I wanted to try a new recipe-- my only criteria were that the meal be:

* Vegetarian (or easily adaptable to Vegetarian)
* Contained barley and lots of vegetables (wanted to use up both of these)

I found a lot of soup recipes online, but the only issue was that I didn’t want a soup that was basically just diced tomatoes, broth, vegetables and barley. Been there, done that—we needed a change. So, I was pleased to this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Vegetable Barley Soup.



It fit my criteria for ingredients, and the “creaminess” was a nice variation to an old stand-by. Another bonus was that the creaminess comes from skim milk and corn starch, not fattening cheese.

The recipe couldn’t have been any easier to prepare. I threw it all together last night in less than 5 minutes. I did make some changes to the vegetables in the recipe: I used frozen corn, frozen green beans, 2 peeled diced potatoes, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes with chilies in lieu of the recommended vegetables. I also omitted the parsley.

The end result was tasty and filling. It’s not something I’d enter in a cooking contest or request on my birthday, but for a frugal, quick, and healthy mid-week meal, it will be on my “REPEAT” list.

In the future, I’d like to cook more with barley. It’s a great source of soluble fiber, and a 1 pound bag costs on $0.49. Any recommendations?

Selling Coupons on eBay

January 29th, 2007 at 03:40 pm

Inspired by this post at The Simple Dollar, I figured I'd try something new (to me) and attempt to sell some coupons on eBay.

I can't compete with the coupon Divas who can assemble a lot of 25 Huggies coupons for auction, but without much hassle, I was able to scrounge up 25 restaurant coupons from 4 different restaurants (UNO Bar & Grill, Olive Garden, Arby's and Long John Silver) sitting around the house.



I started with bidding at $0.99 + $0.39 shipping. The auction won't end for another week, but I'm curious to see what happens. Worst case, I'll be out $0.20 for the insertion fee.

Has anyone tried selling (err, shall I say giving away coupons and charging for labor) on eBay before?

Understanding eBay Relisting Fees & Challenge Addition

January 29th, 2007 at 07:52 am

I mailed the second item I sold on eBay. After deducting the various fees, I net $7.42, which I will add to the Challenge.

Old Total: $531.36
+ eBay sale $7.42
------------------------
New Total: $ 538.78

After reviewing my eBay invoice to calculate my exact profit, I was confused as to why the insertion fees for the sold items were credited back to my account.

A little further investigation led me to the explanation that if you list an item on eBay and it doesn't sell, you are eligible for a credit of the insertion fee if you re-list the item within 90 days AND the item sells the second time around. Since both of the items I sold were re-lists, eBay credited the insertion fee back to my account. This policy holds true even if you re-list at a lower price the second time (as I did).

If the item(s) do not sell on the re-list, you are out of luck and pay the insertion fee(s) again.

You can read this policy in full detail here.

Challenge Addition

January 27th, 2007 at 09:33 pm

I made $40 babysitting tonight. Once again, I'm exhausted (the parents stay out late and the kids can stay up until they get home!), but this babysitting gig has been a great way to add to the Challenge.

I do feel a little bad leaving Mr. Bean home alone every Saturday night. I've left tomorrow open all day to spend time with him since I spent most of today cooking (for my personal chef job) and babysitting.

Old Total: $491.36
+ $40 babysitting
--------------------------
New Total: $531.36

I received payment for the other eBay item, but I still need to figure out the actual shipping cost before I can add it to the Challenge.

Guten Nacht.

$10 Dolla Drama

January 27th, 2007 at 06:34 am

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail from the brick & mortar bank where I have my checking account. The letter stated that if I completed 2 automatic bill payments by 12/31/06 I would receive a $10 bonus award.

The only bill I pay each month is my personal credit card-- Mr. Bean takes care of the rest. I already had my credit card set up to automatically deduct from my checking account, but I figured I could do the reverse for 2 months and get the $10 bonus.

The $10 bonus was never deposited. I called the bank's 1-800 number and waited while the CSR researched the situation. He politely informed me that this offer must have come from the local branch and to contact the local branch to get the $10.

I went to my bank, and in typical fashion, the teller (a sarcastic little 20 year old) doesn't know what to do, so but says, "Well, if you are so hard up for $10, I'll call to the main branch and see what they know". He calls the main branch, they tell him just to put $10 in my account. The teller does so, but says, "Ok Beanie, I deposited the $10, but don't go stealing any more money from me." Granted, I know this little doofus was trying to be funny, or flirt or whatever, but I was annoyed. It was unprofessional of him to joke with me like that. I had to bite my lip and to refrain from saying,....well, I’ll take the high road and refrain from writing what I refrained from saying.

Fast Forward 3 days:

Last night I was reconciling my account in Quicken (I do this manually and not through the automatic download option), but I couldn't quite figure out why my checking account was off when all the transactions seemed to be present.

Finally, I noticed that annoying little teller DEDUCTED $10 from my account rather than DEPOSIT it.

I guess I'll be going back to the bank. I'm going to go on the same day and time so I can deal with the same little twit again. If he gives me any lip, I'll be ready to give it right back to him!



eBay / Half.com $$ for Challenge

January 26th, 2007 at 07:51 am

After deducting the actual shipping and various fees, I made $2.51 on the Half.com sale and $3.13 on the eBay sale. I’m still awaiting payment on the second eBay sale.

I've learned that I need to be careful when shipping. I used my own padded envelope (cost $0.50) to mail one of the items today. It ended up cheaper to mail it Priority Mail, so I could have used a Priority Mail envelope at no extra charge. Lesson learned: Don't assume First Class will be cheaper than Priority!

In keeping with my rules, I’ll deduct $0.40 for the insertion fees of the eBay items that did NOT sell. In the mean time, I’ll add $5.24 (total of above items minus insertion fees of unsold items) to the Challenge. I’ll update again once the second eBay item is paid for.


Old Total: $486.12
+ $5.24 eBay and half.com sale
-------------------------------
New Total: $491.36

Clothes Shopping Fix!

January 25th, 2007 at 08:39 pm

Only 2 / 4 of my items on eBay sold. Neither is a big ticket item (a pair of shoes and a pair of jeans), but it feels good to get them out of my closet; not to mention the few dollars I'll make in profit.

I'll add the money to my $20 Challenge after they get mailed so I can calculate the exact profit. A paperback book I had listed on Half.com also sold today.

Motivated by the great Goodwill finds I've read about on Savings Advice, I made my second sojourn earlier this evening. The first time I went I was a little overwhelmed- the place was a little disorganized. Thursdays are 15% off for students and senior citizens so I thought I'd take another look.

My timing was great, because they were having an unannounced sale of 50% everything in the entire store today - Sunday. I thought the selection and organization seemed better than my last trip, too. I ended up buying a nice sweater (originally from Express) and a pair of cords (originally from old Navy) for a grand total of $5.49!



I wasn't in dire need for new clothes, but it's fun to splurge on some fun stuff without breaking the bank! I might go back this weekend when I have a little more time to look around and see if I can make any speculative purchases for sale on eBay. It seems difficult to judge what's going to sell on eBay, so this might be a little "risky" from a money making perspective-- if you can call Goodwill speculation risky!

NYT: Barons Before Bedtime

January 25th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I have 4 eBay auctions ending tonight, so this article in today's NY Times made me chuckle. I may be 10 years older than these kids, but I think we share some common virtues! Ever since I started selling on eBay, I find myself looking at EVERYTHING in our house with a more critical eye!

My favorite quote:

Bradley, the eBay maven, has discovered his own source of passive income: books in his younger brother Justin’s room. “If I get into a selling mood,” he said, “I will look around the whole house for things to sell. All over my brother’s room there are books that we have never read just lying around.”

He has put Justin’s “Hardy Boys” books on eBay three times, he said. And each time Justin goes online and takes them off.

I'll report back on what sold in my auctions later today.

$40 for Challenge

January 24th, 2007 at 09:15 pm

I babysat again tonight and made $40-- of course, it goes to the Challenge:

Old Total: $446.12
+ Babysitting $40
---------------------------
New Total: $486.12

It's great to see the Challenge total getting up there, but I'm exhausted! I'm off to bed-- maybe I'll dream of having only one job at a time!

KIVA: Make a Loan, Change a Life

January 23rd, 2007 at 07:29 pm

Microlending is the process of giving small loans, typically under $200, to individuals typically rebuffed by large lending institutions.

Economist Dr. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their (dare I say, revolutionary?) use of microcredit.

Even Oprah had him on her show to talk about microlending.

If microlending is good enough for a Nobel Peace Prize and Oprah Winfrey, then it's certainly good enough for me!

I find the whole microfinance idea appealing on so many levels, so I was really excited to find out there's an easy way for everyday people like you and I to participate though the non-profit Kiva.org.

To quote from the Kiva web page:

"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back."

Intrigued? Check it out yourself. You can loan as little as $25 (these are interest free loans). A lot of us have been very fortunate in our lives. It's nice to be able to lend a hand to someone else.



Additions to the Challenge

January 21st, 2007 at 01:00 pm

Of the four items I had up for auction on eBay, only 1 item sold. The auctions ended on Thursday-- the same day eBay was running a 1-day special of $0.20 insertion fees, so I re-listed the unsold items at a lower price. Hopefully things will go better this time.

I thought it might be interesting to break down the costs associated with an Ebay sale. My item sold for $6.99 + $8.50 S&H. I always do a flat rate shipping cost. When I buy things on eBay I like to know the shipping cost before I bid, so I figure other potential buyers might be the same. Typically I end up making a small amount on the shipping, but the buyer for this particular was on the opposite coast from me and the actual shipping was $0.50 more than I anticipated.

Ebay Sale Price: $6.99
=+S&H $8.50
--------------------------------------
Buyer pays: $15.49
eBay insertion fee: -$0.35
Final Value fee (5.25% sale price) -$0.37
PayPal Fee: -$0.75
Actual Shipping Cost -$9.00
--------------------------------------
My profit +$5.02

For the purposes of the Challenge, I’m also going to subtract the money I spent to list the 3 other items that did not sell. The cost to list those items was $1.32, so I’ll add $3.67 to the Challenge. Not big money, but it cleared something out of my closet that I don’t wear. I had tried selling it to a used clothing store and they were not interested, so at least it’s gone and I have a few more bucks for the Challenge.

I’m subtracting the lost money because this is a Challenge, and I expect to win some endeavors, and lose others.

Last night I babysat for the same family that I sat for on Wednesday and made $50. That will also be added to the Challenge.

Old Total: $392.48
+eBay Sale: $3.67
+Babysitting $50.00
-----------------------------
New Total: $446.12

Positive review of Swim-Outlet

January 20th, 2007 at 12:25 pm

I recently made my first purchase from Swim-Outlet.com. Bathing suits can be ridiculously expensive-- in a sporting goods store, most suits will start at $45.

At Swim-Outlet.com I found a nice selection of women's competition suits (ie. suits you wear for swimming laps) for as low as $19.99. Granted, I might not be so keen to purchase a bathing suit online if I were looking for a glamorous 2-piece for lounging on the Riviera or for entering a beauty contest, but competition suits are usually full coverage suits that can be fitted with your bust, hips and waist measurements.

I will admit that the suit I ordered was a little small, but all I needed to do was mail the suit back to the distributor (the cost for me to mail the suit back was less than $2) and they sent me a larger size and waived the shipping charge. Total turn around time was less than a week!

If swimming is part of your New Year's fitness resolution, I recommend checking them out. They also sell goggles and other swimming fitness equipment.

Babysitting $Moola$ for the Challenge

January 18th, 2007 at 07:07 pm

In an attempt to find new income streams for the $20 Challenge, I decided to sign up with a local online service that matches college-aged babysitters (I live in a college town) with parents looking for child care. It's free for sitters to register, but parents must pay a fee to look through sitter profiles. It's an interesting idea for any aspiring entrepreneurs!

I was contacted by a family looking for a babysitter every Wednesday and Saturday night for their 3 kids, ages 6,9,12.

Last night was my first night. The kids were great and the parents were equally nice. They pay $10 / hour, so I came away with $25 which I'll add to my Challenge.

Old Total: $367.48
+25 babysitting
-----------------------
New Total: $392.48

I was really pleased with the rate they offered. $10 / hour is about what babysitting is "worth" for me, so it was great to have them offer it right off the bat. If it had been less, I'm not sure if I would agree to this being a regular job. I'm not saying that parents should pay babysitters $10 / hour (It seems like a night out could get awfully expensive at this rate!), but $10 / hour is about what my time is worth FOR ME to give up every Wednesday and Saturday night. Another factor that might contribute to their offer is that I'm committing to a regular schedule and I drive myself out to their home which is ~ 7 miles from the campus area. Many college students don't want to give up Saturday nights or don't have a car.

I remember babysitting for $2.50 / hour in high school and $5 / hour in college. For those of you with children, what do you pay a babysitter?

Thinking about Selling on eBay? Reason to Start Today!

January 18th, 2007 at 08:07 am

If you've ever considering selling on eBay, today's a great day to jump in. For today only (January 18), eBay is offering $0.20 insertion fees.

Before you create your listing, I highly recommend reviewing the fee schedule to avoid creating an expensive listing (tip#1: only list in one category- otherwise your fees nearly double).

Happy selling! I actually have 4 auctions ending today, but I might consider listing a few more things later today to take advantage of this special.

My Anti-Latte Factor

January 17th, 2007 at 03:31 pm

I'm sure you're all familiar with the Latte Factor in the David Bach books.

In some of my posts I've mentioned "buying lattes", but like Bach, I use lattes as a general term for things I spend money on that can add up and don't contribute much value to my life (plus anyone who knows me knows I'm a cafe au lait girl anyway).

With that said, I am a coffee drinker. I love the way it tastes, smells, and gets my engine running in the morning. Typically I don't drink coffee in the afternoon, but some days, I NEED IT. I used to run to the coffee shop near my office, but not only did this cost a few bucks, it also took time, and often, the coffee didn't even taste good.

Enter in my anti-latte factor:



This little gem keeps the coffee warm all day long. But unlike coffee that sits in a pot all day long, it's protected from constant high temperatures (if the pot is left on) and oxygen, both of which contribute to the icky taste of coffee that has been sitting around all day.

When I make coffee in the morning, I brew a little extra. I drink my typical cup or four and dump the rest into the thermos with a splash of cream. The thermos goes in my bag-- if I drink it fine. If not I bring it home and dump out the coffee (it's typically still warm-- even 10 hours later), wash out the thermos, and do the same thing the next morning.

Works for me!

The Beans Go Carnivorous

January 17th, 2007 at 06:09 am

I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Then, I went to Germany for 3 months. I came back an omnivore.

Mr. Bean, although never a vegetarian, was raised by a vegetarian Mom, and grew up on a largely vegetarian diet. Neither of us has a strong preference / taste for meat and we’re both runners and health conscious- so, even though I’ve shed my vegetarian title, we don’t eat it meat too often.

When I do eat meat, I tend to want to try what I consider more interesting meat. No, not organ meat, but not chicken breasts. So, when I ran across turkey drumsticks on sale for $1.19 / lb I figured they might be fun to try.

I used a recipe Moroccan Turkey Drumsticks and served with some cumin-roasted potatoes and a salad. This was all just so very different than how we normally eat (which is typically some sort of concocted vegetarian one–pot wonder).



The result—ehhh. Decent, but not something I’ll make again. It was fun in a weird way to eat these HUGE drumsticks—I felt a little like I was attending a medieval feast.

NYT: The Voices in My Head Say ‘Buy It!’ Why Argue?

January 16th, 2007 at 08:09 am

Today's New York Times Science section presents an interesting explanation of brain differences of spendthrifts and tightwads.


"Now that scientists have spotted the pain and pleasure centers in the brain, they’ve moved on to more expensive real estate: the brain’s shopping center."

Perhaps John Tierney's humorous suggestion for a credit card that would remind you of your outstanding balance isn't a realistic answer to activate a lazy insula, but how about regular viewing of credit card statements online, or tracking in Quicken or MS Money? I know, I know, how passé! But isn't most good personal finance advice?

$5 for the Challenge

January 15th, 2007 at 07:55 pm

As I seem to keep mentioning, we recently re-arranged our entire house, which has prompted me to weed through a lot of our belongings.

The $20 Challenge really motivates me to sell things rather than just give them away on Freecycle. Freecyle is great, and I still give stuff away there (in fact, right now there's a Titanic Soundtrack cassette on my porch waiting to be picked up by some lucky Freecycler!), but without much more effort I can get $$ for some of the stuff (albeit not Titanic cassettes!). Selling is so easy with free online classifieds like Craig's List and Community e-Bulletin Boards. So far, I've been pretty happy with the results. It feels great to de-clutter and make a little cash at the same time.

In addition to the cat supplies, I also listed 2 hand-me-down lamps that we rarely used (neither gave sufficient light for reading). Someone bought both for $5. Mr. Bean thinks I should have asked more, but I'm happy to have them out of here. I can't imagine they were worth more than $10.

I'll add the $5 to my Challenge:

Old Total: $362.48
+ $5 for lamps
_____________________
New Total: $367.48

I have an eBay auction ending Friday. It won't be a big money maker, but it should net $10-$15 dollars. Wednesday is my first night babysitting for a potentially regular 2 night / week babysitting job.

I babysat tonight for my friend's baby, but I refused to let her pay me. Not only is she my dearest friend in the world, but the baby was only awake for 30 minutes before she went down for the rest of the night. After that, I laid on the couch, read a book and drank their chocolate milk-- hardly a hard night's work!

Let's hope Wednesday's job is as enjoyable!




Cash Cat

January 14th, 2007 at 09:10 pm

After a year of mooching of us, our kitty finally started to earn her keep.



With my help, she successfully sold a few of her no-longer used cat toys, a cat brush, cat nail clippers (I have better success with human clippers) and a collar she refuses to wear on Craig's List. She wanted to post something in the "Missed Connections" section for the squirrel she watches out the window, but I had to draw the line-- too many weirdos out there.



She earned $5 and agreed to add it to my $20 Challenge. I tried to take a picture of her with the cash, but she wasn't interested in staying still.




Old total: $357.48
+ 5.00 Cat Cash
___________________________
New Total: $362.48

I also need a goal for the $20 Challenge. I've decided on a goal of $1,500 by June 30th. If I can achieve that, I'll set a new goal for the second half of the year. $1500 might not seem ambitious enough since I'm ~25% there, but I don't anticipate having another big ticket item for eBay. The sale of the OSU jacket really jumpstarted the Challenge for me.

I've been diligent about transfering any money earned in the $20 Challenge into my online savings account. I need to keep that up!

Money that DOESN'T talk

January 13th, 2007 at 04:53 pm

Here’s an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Styles section concerning women’s use of cash to hide purchase from their husbands and partners.

"MEN certainly aren’t above treating themselves. But the difference, psychologists say, is that men are more likely to be open about buying an iPod or a $2,500 case of 2003 Château Pavie for their wine cellar, even if it leads to an argument. “In my experience, when men make money, they assume it is theirs,” Dr. Potash said. “Women, even if they earn their own money, sometimes feel compelled to ask permission to buy things.”

Although I can’t relate to a $2K handbag or a $250 bra, as someone who tracks credit / debit / check purchases to the cent but rounds all cash purchases up to the nearest dollar, I have found myself scraping together change for things like a latte so that I don’t have to record it in Quicken (even though my Quicken records are only seen by myself). Talk about that for abnormal psychology!

Brainstorm: How to Make More $$

January 12th, 2007 at 08:31 pm

How can I find new income streams for my $20 Challenge?

What I'm already doing:
** Perusing the online classifieds for the occasional odd job, like leaf raking, pet sitting
** Selling on Half.com / Ebay / Local Classifieds / Plato's Closet Used Clothing
** Registered in a database of local college aged (err, and slightly older than college aged) babysitters [I'm actually meeting my first family on Wednesday for a regular Saturday night job]

Things I'm contemplating (in descending order of likelihood):
** Seek out other local consignment stores to sell clothes
** Bring stuff to my mom's garage sale this Spring (I don't have enough for my own)
** Teach nutrition classes at the YMCA (I'm already on their list)
** Keep an eye open for research studies I'd qualify for
** Ask for a raise in my Personal Chef job
** Lend through Prosper.com

What I could do, but I'm not going to (I'm looking to save money / make money, but I'm not in personal debt. If I had personal debt, I might re-evaluate)
** Get a formal part-time job with regular hours
** Donate plasma (I'm already a regular blood donor with the Red Cross)
** Expand my Personal Chef clients (one family is exhausting enough!)


Any more suggestions??

The Bewildered Bargainer

January 12th, 2007 at 09:05 am

As I mentioned in a previous post, we recently steam cleaned our carpets. Since everything was moved from its original location, we decided to reorganize our furniture. It's been a fun process and a good way to clean everything out.

Previously, my desk was in one of the front rooms that we often use for entertaining. My desk had a director’s chair because:
a.) It was the only extra chair I had available for the desk, and
b.)Since the desk was one of the first things you see when you enter in the front door, the director’s chair was more visually appealing than a big klunky office chair.

I admit, not 100% rational.

Needless to say, the director’s chair is not ergonomically designed nor particularly comfortable for working at the computer. Mr. Bean has been on my case for some time to invest in a better chair.

Well, as part of the furniture re-organization, my desk moved into the spare bedroom, so I felt it was time to get that desk chair (albeit 3 years into my doctoral program and um-teenth thousand hours at the computer later). As luck would have it, someone had posted 4 office chairs in good condition on our local online classifieds. In particular, a leather mid-back chair originally from Staples was being offered for $25, with the claim that the chair was only 2 months old. I looked on Staples online, and found the chair retails for $39.99 . Considering a new chair would include sales tax and assembly time I decided to take a look. I love finding gently used items rather than new, but I rarely can muster the courage to try to bargain for a better price. However, I noticed in the online classified photo that there were a few small scuffs in the leather, so mentally prepared myself to offer $20 rather than the $25.

Upon arrival at the seller’s apartment, the seller gave me a quizzical look and said, “I know you!” I looked at him in confusion since I didn’t recognize him, but it turns out he was the husband of another student in my department. I guess that’s what happens when you live in small college town! The chair was in great shape, and since I “knew” the seller I lost all gumption to try to bargain. C’est la vie. I love my “new” chair, and $25 is still a good deal!

My Challenge is Losing Money Already!

January 11th, 2007 at 07:07 pm

After getting a better understanding of the $20 Challenge and it's various incarnations, I'm going to make a few changes

1. Only going to count NEW sources of income generated from the $20 start up money and the resources I have at my disposal. That means personal chef money is out, hearing testing money is out. I track my earnings in Quicken, so if I want to know how much money I've earned from all sources it's easy enough to figure out without counting it in the $20 Challenge.

2. I am going to count Half.com and eBay sales since the New Year. Technically, I made my first (ever) sale on eBay and Half.com in mid-December 2006, but it's still all really new to me. Along this line, for bookkeeping purposes, I probably shouldn't have deducted the fees and upfront costs from my first eBay sale of 2007 since the $20 is start up money. However, for simplicity's sake, I am going to always list the net profit and just let the $20 start up sit as it's own line.

So, my NEW $20 dollar challenge total is: $ 357.48 (the last total - $75)

$20 Challenge $$

January 11th, 2007 at 05:19 pm

I took some used clothes to a used clothing shop this afternoon and earned $9.80, so I'll add this to my challenge money:

Old total: $422.68
+9.80
_________________________
New total: $432.48

The shop is actually part of a chain that specializes in "teen" used clothing. They rejected some of what I tried to sell-- a fact of life when you're 29, I guess ;-). I was surprised by some of the things they didn't take, ie. a pair of Size 4 Boot Cut J.Crew jeans in great shape. Maybe they're not in style anymore, or maybe the store was at capacity for jeans. Either way, I've listed the jeans and a few other "rejects" on eBay. I might have earned more on eBay for the items the store did buy, but the picture taking, listing, waiting, answering questioins, etc. on Ebay is time consuming.

$20 Challenge- I'm In!

January 10th, 2007 at 07:12 pm

Back in December I decided to join in on this year’s $20 Challenge, but haven’t been posting about my progress. So here goes!

First, my guidelines:

I’ll count any money earned outside my stipend towards the challenge, excluding gift money. I want to use the challenge to motivate me to find new ways to generate income. Gift money, even when it goes into savings, doesn’t fall into this category. I hope that by keeping a running tally I’ll have something to be proud of by the end of 2007.

I will count the money I make on my Personal Chef job. This is a job I “fell” into, and the family I cook for may decide at any point they don’t need my services. As it is, they cut back on meals during holidays and when they travel, so the money isn’t always something I can depend on. (see revisions to my challenge posted 1/11/07). I’ll also count money I make selling things on eBay, half.com minus listing fees, shipping, cost of padded envelopes, etc.

I’m not going to count money saved using store cards or coupons. The reason for this is that I’ve always used store cards, and figuring out coupon savings is just too darn confusing (case and point: I recently got a box of Barbara’s Puffins cereal for free after using coupons. I’ll eat it, but I don’t love it, and wouldn't have “bought” it if I hadn’t known it would be free. That’s not really savings, or at least not savings at full price.)

I’m also not going to count money for exercising, forgoing an indulgent treat, or the like. It’s A-OK if other people want to do this, but not how I want to use the Challenge to help me track savings.

OK, so now that my Guidelines have been established, here’s where I stand:

$20 beginning balance
+285.99 eBay sales
+41.69 Half.com sales
+75.00 Personal Chef
$422.68

A note on my eBay sales: Back in the day, I earned a varsity letter at Ohio State, but then I transferred to another university. All varsity letter winners at OSU get a beautiful wool jacket with leather sleeves-- regardless of if you letter in football or gymnastics. Since I transferred, I never wore my jacket and it never had a lot of sentimental meaning to me. So, I listed it on eBay right before the BCS Bowl and it fetched $305 + $18 S&H. I don’t anticipate having such great eBay sales in the future.

Interestingly, PayPal's and Ebay's cut of the action on the jacket was about $25!

Frugal Birthday

January 9th, 2007 at 01:20 pm

I turned 29 on Sunday. It was odd to think that this was the last birthday I'd truly be 29-- after this people can rightfully make the joke, "It's your 29th, right? [wink, wink!]" In all honesty, age doesn't bother me, (yet).

To celebrate, we went out to one of the better restaurants in town and saved ourselves some cash by purchasing a dining certificate beforehand from Restaurant.com.

If you haven't yet used the Restaurant.com site, I highly recommend checking it out. Basically, you go to the site and buy "Dining Certificates" for a certain dollar value off your meal. Typically, a $25 off certificate costs $10, but the site often runs discount specials.

We bought our $25 off certificate while they were running a 60% off special, so we paid only $4 for a $25 off coupon. The drawback is that you are required to "present you certificate" prior to ordering, so it can feel a little awkward and more like a coupon than a gift certificate. If I were single, this isn't a move I'd make on a date, but since I'm married and both my partner and I are full time students, we quickly recovered from the awkwardness. The way I look at it, the establishment chose to list themselves in Restaurant.com, so they shouldn't be too shocked and appalled when people show up to use certificates. Also, be sure to read the fine print-- most certificates include a minimum purchase price for meal, some of which are double the certificate amount.

For dessert we had an ice cream cake at home. I clipped a coupon for an ice cream cake and casually left it on the counter while making a not so subtle comment about how I like ice cream cake and my birthday was right around the corner. Mr. Bean took the bait the swooped the coupon.

For a birthday present, Mr. Bean rented a steam cleaner and we spent the greater portion of my actual bday steam cleaning the sofa and carpets. My friends got quite a hoot out of this, but I was quite happy. I can be a bit particular about cleanliness, but Mr. Bean is not. Having his help for an entire day (weekend) doing a thorough cleaning was a great present. Plus, our formerly dingy looking sofa looks new again. In an ironic twist, while we were returning the steam cleaner, the cat puked on the carpet-- something she rarely does. Luckily she picked two discreet spots. Otherwise... well, I'll just leave it that she picked two good spots.

Homemade Drain Declogger and another grocery bonanza

January 5th, 2007 at 08:32 pm

We experience a lot of clogged shower drains in the Bean household due my thick curly head of hair. Periodically one of us shoves a pair of needle nose pliers down the drain and removes a truly disgusting glob of hair covered in soap scum (gross, I know).

Anyway, our bathroom sink drain has been draining V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y, but the clog was down too far to be seen or reached with pliers. I thought about going to buy a bottle of Drano at the store, but with my new found frugal ways I decided to look up a homemade remedy. I'm glad I did, because not only is Drano ~$4 a bottle, it's also pretty noxious nasty stuff, and the the homemade remedy did the trick. Our drain is back in action.

***** .....and onto another topic ******

It's triple coupon week at our grocery store (up to $1), so even though I made a big trip last week, I decided to make another venture out and stock up on some more items. My big "scores":

3 jars Ragu Spaghetti Sauce: FREE
2 Packages whole wheat pasta: FREE
4 12 oz cans chicken broth: FREE
1 box Barbara’s Puffins Cereal : FREE
3 cans Dole Tropical Fruit Salad: $0.27 ($0.09 / each)
2 16 oz CoffeeMate: $0.32 ($0.16 / each)
2 cans Chock Full O Nuts Coffee: $1.78 ($0.89 / can)

Total bill before savings: $51.03, after store card: $40.68, after coupons, $22.71 (I also bought salad, OJ, and other perishables for which I didn't have coupons)

Goals: Done and Done

January 3rd, 2007 at 05:47 pm

DONE: I opened the Vanguard Roth IRA account (I orignally intened to do this last month, but after realizing I could skirt a $10 low balance fee by waiting until January and making a 2006 and 2007 contribution, I decided to wait). I opened a Target Retirement Fund via Vanguard IRA Express online. The entire process took ~ 10 minutes. Yea!

DONE: Opened an Emigrant Direct CD to mature in February 2007.

Entertaining in, NOT eating out

January 1st, 2007 at 07:03 pm

A friend invited us to get together for dinner tonight. I think his intention was to all go out, so I asked him, "Do you want to go out or do you want to come over and I'll make dinner?" He chose the latter-- which is what I was hoping. I made pizza dough in the bread machine and then made 2 pizzas. I was tempted to run out to the store to buy a few extra things for toppings, but decided to just use what we had on hand. I'm glad I didn't go out for more toppings because I would have spent another $5 (I was thinking about sweet peppers and mushrooms) and the pizza turned out great without these additions. I topped it with some turkey sausage (in the freezer since October), thawed frozen broccoli (make sure to drain as much water as possible or pizza with be soggy), thinly sliced and broiled eggplant, mozzarella, a sprinkle of feta, and a few canned artichoke hearts (left over from a recipe from earlier in the week). Estimated total cost for all ingredients < $7, and we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow! If we went out, I imagine it would have been at least $25 for Mr. Bean and myself. Since I like to cook, I try to convince people to come over for dinner rather than going out to eat. It seems like a win-win for everyone. I end up doing more work, but typically shell out a lot less money.