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Archive for November, 2007

Over 3K!

November 30th, 2007 at 04:05 am

Old Total: $2995.86
+ $25.00 babysitting
------------------------
New Total: $3020.86

I made $25 babysitting tonight.. and I crossed the $3000 mark!

Big Lots, Baby!

November 28th, 2007 at 03:15 am

Did you know Big Lots is a great place for baby clothes? A friend of mine is due to have her first boy and mentioned she needs simple Onesies and other easily washed clothes for her upcoming arrival.

Big lots has a great selection of Carterís and other name-brand baby clothes for a fraction of retail price. Once I get these items packed up in a one of the cute Dollar Tree gift bags youíll never know the gift cost less than $18.



I know my friend loved Robeez for her daughter, so how could I resist these Robeez imposters for $4?

In total, there are:

2 long sleeved, footie Sleepers
2 Long sleeved, footie coveralls (similar to Sleepers)
2 Long Sleeved Gowns (or as I like call them: baby sacks)
2 Shoes!

Almost at 3K

November 26th, 2007 at 06:48 pm

Old Total: $2965.86
+ $25.00 ride share
------------------------
New Total: $2995.86

I took an undergrad with me on the trip back home after visiting Mr. Bean this weekend in exchange for $25 to cover gas.

Thifty Idea: Place Card Holders

November 21st, 2007 at 03:51 am

I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year. My menu is set, but I haven't had as much time to plan the place setting and table decorations as I'd like. I did have a moment of inspiration this evening while I was eating dinner this evening I glanced up to the shelf and saw a bunch of wine corks:



These name cards were simple to make. I printed our names on piece of ivory paper, sliced into the cork and threaded through a leaf. To add a little splash of color, I tied a burgundy piece of ribbon (originally intended for Christmas packages). If time allows, I'll look for more vibrant colored leaves outside tomorrow.

A Few Minutes Surfed is a Few Dollars Saved

November 20th, 2007 at 04:52 pm

I've probably saved $100 over the course of the year with online coupons for local retail establishments and service providers like dry cleaning and auto repair.

A perfect example of this comes from an auto service center in my neighborhood. Their web page offers numerous 'Internet Special Coupons" for $4 off oil change, $10 off inspection, etc.

So, before your next purchase, check out the web page of your vendor. You might be surprised!

Frugal Food!

November 19th, 2007 at 01:47 am

Turkey gyros are one of my favorite frugal meals. When I was working as a personal chef, it was also one of the favorite meals of my client, too. Unbeknownst to them, it was a simple recipe they could easily have made themselves!

When made with ground turkey from Aldi ($0.89 / lb), the meals costs ~$1.25 / serving. Technically, a gyro is supposed to be shaved lamb, pork, beef or chicken. This recipe is neither shaved nor the appropriate meat, but the flavor is delicious so let us allow the technicality slide!



Turkey Gyros

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 C. onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 7" pita bread

Cucumber Mint sauce (to be served on top of gyros)

1 C. non-fat plain yogurt
1 C. low-fat sour cream
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. salt
dash black pepper

Mix all turkey ingredients in non stick skillet and brown. In bowl combine all Cucumber Mint sauce ingredients, stir. Spoon hot meat mixture over pita and top with sauce.

If you donít have a cucumber or mint (I didnít tonight) they can easily be omitted and your end result will still be great.

I stuff the filling into whole wheat pitas (purchased and frozen from my summer trip to the Freihoferís Outlet), and filled with diced grape tomatoes and spinach from last weekís Aldi trip. Healthy, flavorful and original!

How I increased my net worth by 12K when I make only 21K

November 17th, 2007 at 04:15 pm

November 11 was my 1-year anniversary of writing a blog at Savings Advice. The date snuck up on me, so I decided to take a peak back in Quicken to see how my financial state had changed since joining this community.

Wait, is that for real?

Youíd think that because I keep track of things in Quicken I would be watching my progress over the past year- but I wasnít. I diligently added in everything spent and everything earned, but I wasnít watching the change in net worth. In part this was due to opening a Roth and high yield CDs causing the money to be spread across a number of accounts. Plus, my old (2004) version of Quicken no longer supports automatic downloads so I it had been some time since my ROTH and 401(k) were updated.

Drumroll, please: From 11/11/06 to 11/11/07 I increased my net worth by $12,346.85.

My take home pay from the University during this period was $20,760.19 (this includes by stipend plus the additional pay I received for teaching courses in the summer). Like most people, I pay rent, utilities, and a small car payment. When I started on this adventure, I never would have guessed I could increase my net worth by so much in a year. My objective was truly just to try to spend less and save some money.

So, how did I do it? Hereís my retrospective analysis:

1.) I looked for additional income streams (+ $3675.77)

For those of you that have been following my Challenge, youíll notice that Iíve earned just shy of $2700 in the challenge. My Challenge includes only new income streams since 1/1/07, but I have other income streams that were not new in the New Year that you'll see represented here. The bulk of the non-Challenge income came from my personal chef gig where I delivered homemade meals to a professional couple. That job ended in Spring when they had a baby and the woman stayed at home.

Personal Chef: $950.00
Ride Share: $90.00
Babysitting: $1731.00
eBay sales: $507.91
Half .com sales: $294.91
Garage Sale / Classified sales: $262.00
MINUS -160.05 for eBay fees and shipping for eBay and Half.com
TOTAL ADDITIONAL INCOME: $3675.77


Looking back at this makes me realize how lucrative the personal chef gig was. On the flip side, I feel like I baby sit all the time and the amount is still relatively small. Cooking was exhausting, babysitting is generally pretty relaxing and fun. I plan to keep on doing it. I was also able to earn a respectable amount by selling stuff I didn't use and didn't value through eBay, Half.com and a garage sale. When I move in 6 months, I'm sure I will appreciate the head start on de-cluttering.

2.) I re-balanced my 401(k) (+ $1,148.00)

I had a 401(K) from a job I worked at between 2000-2002. Shortly after leaving that employer, the employer switched wealth management companies. They moved all my investments into a money market account and told me I needed to re-balance. I did nothing for three years. This is something I kick myself for now. Anyway, around December of this year I re-balanced have seen $1,148 in growth. This was probably the single easiest thing I did that helped increase my net worth over the past year.

3.) I opened high yield savings accounts and CDs. ($495.82)

One of the first pieces of advice I acted on from the Savings Advice community was to open high yield savings account. In late November of last year, I opened accounts at both ING and Emigrant Direct. Although ING doesnít have the highest interest rate out there, its rates are competitive and the $25 new account bonus plus $10 referral bonus for new accounts more than made up the differential for me. In the past year, Iíve earned $360.82 in interest in all my accounts, $110 in referral bonuses at ING Direct, and $25 for a new account bonus. In other words, I earned $500 just for letting the right banks hold my money.

When I think back to my financial life prior to November 2006, I feel frustrated with myself for letting my money sitting in a checking account earning squat in interest. If youíre reading this and donít have a high interest checking, get one today! If you leave me your email, Iíll email you an ING referral and weíll both benefit: youíll get $25 if you open an account with $250 and Iíll get another $10 referral bonus.

After I opened my high yield checking accounts, I diligently transferred any odd job money I earned immediately from my checking account to my high yield account so I could earn as much interest as possible. As my savings accounts grew, I started moving the money into CDs. Currently, I have savings account at ING and Emigrant Direct (at 4.2% and 4.75% APR, respectively) and CDs at Emigrant Direct at 5.2% and 5.1% APR)

4.) I started a ROTH IRA (+$306.87)
In January 2007, I moved money from my high yield savings account to open and max out a Roth contribution for tax year 2006. I also started regularly contributing to a Roth for 2007. By July 2007, I had the 2007 Roth maxed out. I achieved this by contributing $150 monthly plus the income I earned over the University for teaching summer school. My Roth is currently in the Vanguard 2045 Target Retirement fund. Itís a topsy turvey market lately, but as of 11/11/07, I had earned 306.07 on my $8000 contribution.

5.) I embraced frugality and tracked my spending.
How many times have you been at the grocery store and looked at receipt afterward and thought, ĎHow did all those $1-$2 items add up to so much?Ē

I canít quantify how much I saved through watching the small purchases, but the little things do add up. Furthermore, if your income isnít very high to begin with, (like mine), the total percent of those little things can easily become overwhelming. By using Quicken, I was able to watch my monthly expenses and make sure a few dollars here and there wasnít usurping by paycheck. In addition, as I become more involved with my money, I found myself far less tempted by impulse purchases. I did a lot of homecooking, couponing, and shopping for bargains while trying to resist the urge for a bargain if it wasnít really needed..

In sum, I feel happier and more empowered. Prior to joining Savings Advice I felt nervous anytime I saw an article in the newspaper about money and personal finance. Now, I know where I stand. I have more work to do before I can achieve some of my financial dreams like buying a house, but I do know I can have a rich life without a lot of money. This gives me freedom and confidence

House-sitting

November 14th, 2007 at 06:17 pm

Old Total: $2665.86
+ $300.00 house sitting
------------------------
New Total: $2965.86

Who-hoo! I just got paid for the house / dog sitting I did last week.
5 days at $60 / day = $300 bucks!

The good news is that they gave me a list of future days they need a house sitter. I don't think I can do all the days, but if I can, it will total an additional $1740!

Aldi, revisted

November 12th, 2007 at 01:22 am

Is it bad that I was actually a little happy when Mr. Bean called to say his train would be arriving 30 minutes late because it meant I would have more time to peruse the aisles at Aldi?

I havenít had much time for couponing and as a result my pantry is low. When I last visited Aldi in the Spring of 2007, I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing over the prices trying to decide if I could do better in my normal store. This time if I saw something I needed (and a few things I just wanted like a potted mum and a few crŤme filled German chocolate bars!) it went into the cart. Even with the 30 minute train delay, I was still a little pressed for time was quicker to purchase this time around.

When all was said and done, I spent $90.20 for 64 itemsóby far my largest grocery bill in a long time. I stocked up on things to make sure there was enough food to have thoughtful, tasty meals while Mr. Bean is here for the next 2 weeks. I still cook when Iím alone, but sometimes the meals lack inspiration. I also stocked up items for the Thanksgiving weíre hosting in a few weeks.

Because I bought so much, Iím not going to go through each item and its price, but I noticed that compared with my Spring trip, many items have increased in price. I bought 8 items identical to what I purchased in Spring 2007, 4 of which were increased in price:

FREEZER:
Whipped Topping: $0.75 each, SAME PRICE
Ground Turkey (85% lean): $0.79 / lb, INCREASED PRICE, $0.89 / lb
REFRIGERATOR:
Low Fat Cottage Cheese: $1.79 / 24 oz, INCREASED PRICE, $2.49 / 24 oz
PRODUCE:
Fresh Flat Leaf Spinach: $1.39 / 9 oz, SAME PRICE
SHELF:
Canola Cooking Spray: $1.29 / can : INCREASED PRICE $1.39 / can
Tomato Paste: $0.33 / 6 oz: SAME PRICE
Golden Raisins:$1.99 / 15 oz: SAME PRICE
Coffee: $4.49 / 39 oz: INCREASED PRICE, 4.69 / 39 oz can

There were a number of items I thought the price was quite good. These included:

Chicken Broth: $0.39 / 14.5 oz can (I stocked up!)
Paper Towels: $0.59 / 57 sq. foot roll
Pineapple chunks in 100% juice: $0.69 / 20 oz
Cheddar Cheese, Chunk: $1.79 / 8 oz
Green Peppers, fresh: $1.69 / 3 count
Grape Tomatoes: $1.69 / pint
100% Whole Wheat bread: $1.69 / 20 oz. loaf
Numerous Aldi Brand cereals, like Honey Bunches of Oats: $1.69 / 16oz
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese: 2.69 / 12 oz
Shredded Mozzarella: 3.49 / 16 oz.
Pecan Halves: 2.69 / 6 oz [1.5 cups]

Tonight we had a great meal, and I couldnít help but do a rough calculation in my head of its cost. Sum total it couldnít have cost more than $10 and will feed our hearty appetites at least 4 times (2 x 4= 8 servings). We had a pre-marinated Teriyaki Pork Roast, (purchased and frozen back in May on sale for $4.44 during triple coupon days, so I only paid $1.44), roasted Ginger Sweet Potatoes and a Spinach Salad (Spinach and grape tomatoes from Aldi with carrots and peppers from the Farmersí Market). Even without close proximity to an Aldi, eating well can be cheapÖ but I did have fun today!

I just noticed today is my 1-year Blogaversary. I've learned so much in the past year! Time flies where you're saving money!

Challenge money and an Aldi trip

November 11th, 2007 at 03:06 pm

Old Total: $2615.86
+ $50.00 babysitting
------------------------
New Total: $2665.86

I babysit from 9pm-2am last night. Luckily I was able to sleep in this AM to recuperate!

Mr Bean is arriving last this afternoon and staying for 2 weeks- this will the longest time we've spent together since he moved in May. I have to pick him up at th e train station 30 miles from our house. The station is near the only Aldi in the area, so I plan on going there beforehand to stock up on stuff for the pantry as well as some things for Thanksgiving. Last spring I was less than enthusiastic about Aldi since I found the prices to be comparable to our normal grocery store that doubles coupons. However, I haven't had much time for clipping coupons nor do I go shopping as much now that I'm only cooking for one, so I'm looking forward to this trip.

Finally.. something for the Challenge!

November 8th, 2007 at 04:29 pm

Old Total: $2550.86
+ $65.00 babysitting
------------------------
New Total: $2615.86

The Challenge had hit a slump, but a marathon babysitting session helps to revive it!

I'm also house/dog sitting this week which should bring in $300.

Gratitude

November 6th, 2007 at 12:45 am

I have been offered my first choice post-doc Fellowship! I broke from my normal frugal mindset had am having a thank you floral arrangement delivered to my thesis adviser's office tomorrow. Of course, I've already sent her a thoughtful letter expressing my gratitude. I'm sure she will appreciate the arrangement, but I imagine the letter probably holds more meaning. Regardless, I felt like a gift was in order.

She wrote me a great letter of recommendation and went out of her way to prepare me for the interview. In fact, the arrangement seems so minor in comparison to the appreciation I feel.

Grad school has been tumultuous, but it seems like the things that matter are falling into place.