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Archive for April, 2008

Food Budget's Gone... Planning For BF's Arrival

April 20th, 2008 at 09:48 am

Purchases for yesterday (4/19):

Gas: $40.46
Snacks: $3.08 + $1.58

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It was pouring the rain when I got up this morning, but it has stopped now, so I might run to Walmart to pick up a few things today. On the list so far:

-Carpet Shampooer Solution
-Fabric Freshener
-Disposable Camera

I feel like there is more that I need, but since I forgot to write it down, I have no idea. Either way, I'm going to wait before I go, because if I don't need anything besides those three, I'm not going to waste a trip. I can go without those until Thursday (my next day off). By then I might have more to add to my list.

Because of my snacking yesterday, I'm pretty sure my food budget is gone for the month. It should be okay, because I've got stuff to make here at home & take to work, but I'll have to put in a little more effort as there is no wiggle room. I'm really trying to resist going over on the budget. It's hard when I know that I have a "safety net" in my checking account. I've just got to remember that I have a budget for a reason, and next month I won't splurge early on McDonalds!!!

So right now I've got some cheesy rice cooking, and I guess I'll try to finish the Kool-Aid that I made before making a pitcher of sweet tea. I wish I had just made tea to begin with, the Kool-Aid just isn't doing it for me.

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Puppy Update: We are SLOWLY, but surely, getting to our goal of total housetraining. Because I'm uncomfortable crating him all night right now, I am just getting up when I hear him get up in the mornings (if it's too early for me to get up) and putting him in his crate for 30 mins to an hour until I am ready to take him out. At least that ensures that he's not going to go on the carpet. It should be easier when BF gets here too, and I only have to take him out HALF the time.

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BF should be here in 9 days. Finally in the single digits! :P I can't wait, and I'm trying to come up with some neat things to do to celebrate.

I already have some cookie dough that doesn't expire before then, and that is one of our favorite things to do... make cookies together.

I also have a poster that I've decorated that says "Welcome Home"... kind of humorous because this will really be the first time it's been his "home".

We also have a $25 gift card to Red Lobster that I got as a gift for my birthday a few months ago, so we could use that to go out and eat, but will probably save it until the weekend.

So for the day he gets here, I have cookies & a poster, haha. I am going to try and have the apartment as clean as possible so he doesn't feel like he's coming home to a junkyard, and it will mean more time we can spend together not worrying about cleaning/laundry.

I also want to have a financial binder of some sort ready when he gets here, so we can start budgeting together. The May budget will likely be a special one, as we are going to be having some weird expenses (2 trips to our home state for my graduation & his cousin's wedding, buying a couch), and he will be finding a job in that time. The income part will be largely estimated, but we have an emergency amount to dip into if needed. Hopefully by June we will have a pretty standard budget in place.

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Well, lots to do today and not so much time to do it in, so I guess I should get started if I want to accomplish any of my goals for BF's getting here.

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Note: I forgot to add that I've tweaked my monthly budget again (always a work in progress, right?). This time I just changed the amounts going towards my credit cards and the amount I'm putting towards our Wedding Fund. After researching some average photographers and reception sites, etc., I've discovered that many of them ask for a deposit up front, and so we will need to have cash ready for that.

Because it's not possible for us to pay off our debts and save the necessary amounts at the same time, I talked to BF, and we decided the best thing to do would be to pay the minimum amounts (or a little more) on the debts, and put the rest towards our Wedding Fund. Any extra income from surveys, ebay, change, etc. will also go towards the Wedding Fund, as well as if we underspend for our budget one month.

So, at the end of each month, we'll mail in the total of our surpluses to our Wedding Fund savings account.

We could take out a personal loan for the wedding, but I like the idea of slowly paying down some of our debt, while saving as much as we can for our wedding. I also know that it will help us to be more frugal if we are saving, instead of knowing we are getting a loan for the wedding. We'll see.

On A Roll

April 19th, 2008 at 05:29 am

Forgot to add yesterday that I randomly found $0.25 at work. Then found $0.02 this morning outside my apartment complex. Adding that to the loose change found when cleaning out my truck the other day, and my "cash in a coffee can" is growing nicely. Smile I must stay on the look-out for more.

I was attempting to balance my old checking account this morning when I realized that I am on my last check. I was thinking that I had another whole book, but I can't find it anywhere. Maybe not. Either way, I had planned on using that check to pay at the gas station this morning (one of the few that will take checks) instead of using my Discover Card. BUT... I can't do that now, because I need that check to make a deposit into my NEW checking account.

I'm going to take the survey check I got in the mail this week, and my last personal check and go to my new bank today. I'm thinking I can write myself a check from my old account, and deposit it to my new one? Hopefully.

I don't want to order any more checks for the old one, because I will hopefully be closing it soon. But there are a few things that I will need checks for, so for now, I'll deposit money into my new acct, then get cash from an ATM and get a money order for what I need to mail.

I'm going to have BF get some cash from the old account and bring it with him when he comes as well. Slowly, I need to phase that one out. The timing is difficult because I have my insurance automatically withdrawn from it, and my paychecks automatically deposited. Hmmm.

Well, I've put stamps on about 12 of my graduation invites, so those will be on their way this morning. I need to get some more stamps and finish them.

I don't have much left in my food budget, but I think I might spend $2 on lunch today. I honestly don't feel like fixing anything, blah. We'll see.

Off to work!

New Brakes, New Router, New Clutch Switch?

April 18th, 2008 at 03:47 pm

Managed to get the truck to the shop this morning, and picked it up after work. $511.38 later, there is no grinding noise and the brakes are much better!

The mechanics said I needed new front brakes (period), and one new router. They managed to fix the other router, and cleaned/maintenanced my back brakes. I also told them about the issue of it not starting periodically, and they performed an electrical test. That guy said it was one of two things: either I need a completely new starter, or the neutral-safety switch for the clutch was going out. He said he thought it was the switch because when he wiggled the clutch, it started, but it could still be the starter.

Anyways, the $511.38 was the total for the brakes/router/labor/oil/tax today, and they had to order the switch for the clutch. He estimated that would be about $65 next week (but I'm not sure if that includes labor). I asked him how much a new starter would be, and he said with labor, somewhere between $300-$400 more. Whew! Let's pray it's not the starter, just the switch!!!

I do feel alot relieved, though. The brakes are new, the grinding is gone, and the oil is changed (next stop 119K miles). So hopefully when they replace the clutch switch next week, that will be the end of it for a good long while. *crosses fingers*

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Some random work news: I was taking out the trash before we closed the other night, and in my boss's office I saw a manilla folder with my name on it on her desk. I knew it wasn't my personnel file, because those are different looking, so I thought it must be MY manilla folder I had left in there earlier. I looked inside to see if she had marked anything else off my list, but then realized it wasn't mine. It was a manager's appraisal of my performance (monthly I guess), and with a quick glance, I saw that she had marked "Excellent" for my performance. Yay. Smile I assume that I will see that form officially at some point anyway, but it's nice to know she thinks I'm doing good right now.

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Eleven days till BF moves in. He's already cleaned his car out and washed it, so that he can pack his things in. Smile

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Puppy Update: Since I vacuumed/shampooed the carpet yesterday, he hasn't had any accidents. He didn't even get up last night and try to go. If we keep having problems at night though, I will wait until BF gets up here and then we'll crate him overnight. I don't want to do it now because he's my only company. Big Grin (Yes, I'm a chicken like that.)

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I need to figure out something to fix for dinner. I'm out of the ground turkey that I bought. I kind of feel like making some frozen veggies in the skillet, but then again I'd also like something with a bit more flavor. Hmmm, I dunno. One thing's for sure... I don't have much money left in the food budget for the month, so I can't go buy anything.

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Now that I've got the truck expenses taken care of (I hope), we need to start thinking about a budget for buying a couch. I have some extra from my signing bonus & tax refund, but I want to leave about $800 or so in there in case we need it before BF finds a job, or an emergency.

We want a brown leather couch, and we've decided that we'd like to go with a higher quality that will last us a while, rather than the cheapest just to get by. We have the cash for it, so I'd rather get something quality, but of course we can't break the bank either. Plus, we want to eventually have brown leather furniture as the cornerstone of our living room in our "real house". (That's what we call the house that we will someday OWN... instead of renting apartments)

Anybody know about how much a good, new, brown leather couch would cost? Anything we should know before shopping, any special kinds to look for? Any help would be appreciated! Big Grin

Cleaning out the truck

April 17th, 2008 at 07:15 pm

Okay, here is the list of what I was able to accomplish today:

=Vacuumed Living Room
=Shampooed Living Room
=Took The Pup Outside For Some Walking
=Cleaned Out The Truck
=Took Out Trash
=Cooked Dinner/Lunch For Tomorrow

Not as productive as I would have liked, but enough to make me feel a little bit ahead for tomorrow.

For dinner, I used the rest of the ground turkey, and the other half of my bag of frozen stir-fry veggies. I also made some white rice, and added a little cream of mushroom soup for flavor. Now as long as I can remember to clean my tupperware and pack the leftovers for tomorrow, I should be set for lunch.

While I was cleaning out my truck, I couldn't help but laugh at myself. It's been quite a while since I've actually taken stuff OUT of it (usually I'll just shove it behind the seats), but since I am taking it in tomorrow for repairs, I figured I'd better get it looking presentable. I had so much stuff in there from moving here, from work, even from when I was in college and practically lived out of my truck during the day.

A partial list of what I found:

=Facial Cleanser/Astringent
=2 Bottles of Body Spray
=Lipstick
=2 Books
=Foundation Powder
=Cough Drops
=Unopened Bag of Popcorn
=All Kinds of Old Paperwork
=College Class Papers
=Beauticontrol Lip Peel
=Umbrella
=Box of Crayons
=Lots of Clothes Hangers
=The Pup's Old Leash
=Some Random Change
=3 Deodorants
=5 Coffee Mugs
=Some Random Clothes

Honestly, I don't understand how it was all in there to begin with. Smile The good news - I won't have to buy deodorant or body spray for a while, and I can add the random change I found to my "cash in a coffee can".

Today did turn out to be a NSD. I need to make sure my checkbook is balanced so that I'm prepared for whatever damage the truck repairs will cause to it tomorrow.

Things To Do, Expenses To Plan For

April 17th, 2008 at 10:11 am

Today will be a busy day. Or it should be a busy day, depending on whether I actually get motivated enough to do all the things I'd like to do. Maybe to provide a stimulus, I'll post later tonight about everything I did (or didn't) get accomplished. Geesh... why are days off so hard to come by? Smile

The good news is that today should be a NSD, unless I run across some bills that I need to pay. I'm not going anywhere, mainly because I don't need to spend any money, and because I don't want to risk driving my truck any more than I have to until it gets fixed. I need to take a look at my checking account balances and future expenses, and see if I can swing some new tires while I'm getting the truck worked on, too.

I did manage to complete about 20 of my graduation invitations this morning. I am going to call my mom later, because I'm sure she'll be able to remind me of a few people that I forgot about. There are also a few that I just need addresses for.

Speaking of graduation - I think I'm also going to ask my mom about having a small get-together afterwards. The actual ceremony is at 8:30 AM, about 40 minutes from my hometown. So if it lasts and hour or two, and then everybody drives back, it would be the perfect time for lunch. I'm thinking that I might be able to get my grandma to cook outside on the grill, which is always awesome. Hopefully most of my immediate family could make it - mom, siblings, grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course BF. I might even see if BF's sisters & parents want to come, but they may have other plans. Guess I might need to check with mom about it first though. Big Grin

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It's a beautiful day here, even a little on the hot side. If I have time between all I hope (and need) to get done today, I might see if me & the pup can try Squirrel Frisbee again. We'll see.

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I have several things I need to plan for soon. One is a haircut, although I have no idea where to go. I might see if there is a Great Clips or anything close to me. I want to make sure I get it done before graduation. Nothing drastic, just a couple inches off the length. The other thing is something to wear to graduation... I'm not sure if people wear dresses or just dress clothes under their gown? Either way, I have no idea what I could throw together out of my current wardrobe. All of this can wait until after the truck is fixed though, so I know how much that expense will be, and also won't be afraid to drive it.

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Only 12 days until BF gets here. That is so crazy to say. I remember the first day he left, and I was thinking, 3 months is too freaking long for this. Needless to say, it got shortened to 2 months, but these have still been the longest two months of my life! It's so crazy when he talks about telling his bosses bye, or planning on switching his cell phone plan. It's really that close!

I am really excited about making our budget together. I think I may try to come up with a finance binder for us, to keep track of all the various things we've got going on. I don't want to spend money on it though... so I'll have to see if I can dig something out of my old college stuff.

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Well, that's it for now, I guess I'll stop procrastinating and try to get something accomplished today. :P

Pay Day, A Trip To The Car Shop

April 16th, 2008 at 06:58 pm

Payday will officially be Friday 4/18 (when it will be direct deposited), but I got my pay stub today:

Net Pay After Taxes: $1,079.92
Health/Vision/Dental: -$56.76
401K: $0.00
Net Deposit: $1,023.16

Included in the net pay is 1.85 hours of overtime, amounting to about $11 extra. I'm adding that to the challenge, and will deposit it into the Wedding Fund at the end of the month.

The amount taken out for my health/vision/dental is the same as last time, which is a little more than I had budgeted for it, so I'm going to go ahead and change that part of my montly budget. The good news is, the net pay after taxes is higher than I expected, so I'm going to change the budget reflecting that as well.

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Spent $2.12 on McDonalds breakfast this morning. That's what I get for being early! Smile

Also spent $20 on the DC for gas on the way home.

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At the recommendation of a guy that I work with, I went down to the car shop in our shopping center on my lunch break. When I described what I had going on with my truck, the man there said his guess was the brakes hitting metal in the front end (whatever that means). I was able to make an appointment for Friday morning, so I will drop the truck off and then walk back to our store for work. Then they are supposed to figure out what's wrong with it, and call me to let me know. From there, I'll probably ask the same guy I work with (and maybe call my brother) to make sure what they are saying & what they want to charge are reasonable. Then, if everything is a go, I was told that they could have the work done by the time I got off work.

Right now, I am just hoping it's not over $700. I also need to get the oil changed while it's there (if they do that), and I probably need new tires if I'm going to try and keep the truck for a while. I would estimate the tires at about $90 a pop, so an extra $360 plus labor if I wanted to do that. Ugh. I really don't want to spend $1,000 or more right now, but I know the mechanics are going to push new tires, and I will feel stupid not taking them, because they are about 4 years old, and I'm constantly battling flats. Oh well, we'll see what they say and how much the first repairs are going to be.

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The good news for today is that we had free pizza for lunch at work, so no money spent there.

And finally... I am off to update a few of the pages in my side bar, and then FINALLY fill out my graduation invitations to mail. Woo hoo.

$9 extra & graduation invitations

April 16th, 2008 at 05:51 am

I was too sidetracked to post last night, but I spent $5.20 on cigarettes yesterday on the DC.

I also got my first check from doing surveys, a whopping $9! Big Grin Every little bit helps, and I am going to add $9 to our Wedding Fund at the end of the month. Also adding that $9 into the challenge.

Did manage to get to the post office yesterday before work to pick up my graduation package. I freaked out at first because I thought they had forgotten the fancy envelope seals, but found them stuck down in another section later. So as far as I know, I can start sending the invitations out tonight, or whenever I have time outside of work. I need to get them done soon though, only about 2 weeks until graduation. I still need to try on the cap & gown, and see if grandma will need to hem it. Smile

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Puppy Update: We're doing well now when I take him outside, but still having problems in the late evening and during the night. I don't give him water a few hours before bedtime, so it confuses me that he even HAS to go, but oh well. My new plan is to move his crate into the bedroom, and have him sleep in there. That should work, unless he barks/whines the whole time, because then I'll have to take him out so the neighbors aren't mad. Grrr.

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In other news, I've lost another pound toward my weight loss goal. Still alot more to go to get to my target weight, but only about 15 lbs to get to my weight a year ago. I have no idea how I gained so much in such a short amount of time? Craziness.

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Less than 2 weeks until BF moves in, and I can't wait!!! It feels like forever since I've seen him even, and it's going to be such a great experience to have him here all the time. Ahh, relief! Smile

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I talked to a guy at my work yesterday that knows a little about vehicles, and he seems to think that the problem I'm having with my truck is the wheel bearings. He said his was making a similar noise and that was his problem, and that it cost him about $400 to get it fixed. The only good news is that he got it fixed at the shop right down the shopping strip from our store, so if they can do it, maybe I can drop it off while I'm at work and pick it up afterwards. I just need to get it done, before my wheel comes off!

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Well, that's it for now, but payday is this weekend, so maybe I'll have my paycheck to report later. Off to work!

The Cat Has A Turn...

April 15th, 2008 at 05:26 am

Well, here I sit, checking SA blogs, BEFORE I go to work. This is getting a bit ridiculous, huh? Smile

I've packed the leftovers from last night's dinner for my work lunch. I ended up cooking 1/2 pound of ground turkey, 3 slices of cheese (mixed in once it melted), some spaghetti broken up into little pieces, and at the end, threw in some diced tomatoes. When the spaghetti was soft and everything was mixed well, I put the mixture into a soft tortilla, and rolled it up like a burrito. I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing, but it turned out very well! So well that I think I'm going to write the recipe down before I forget it, ha!

So I've got that for lunch, and I'll probably pack a salad as well, and some more Kool-Aid. I really wish I had went ahead and made some sweet tea the other day instead of the Kool-Aid, but I gave in to the convenience factor. I think it's because of where I am from... I'm having sweet tea withdrawals.

And here's a change... instead of the pup, it's the cat that is driving me crazy at the moment. When BF isn't here (which he hasn't been for a month), I sleep with my bedroom door closed & locked. If I put the cat inside the bedroom with me & the pup, he gets up in the middle of the night and starts pawing the door wanting out. He is declawed, but the door still slightly "thumps" with his weight on it, so I'm afraid the neighbors will get mad if I don't stop him. Then when I let him out and go back to sleep, 30 minutes later he's pawing at the door, wanting back in!

And this morning I got up to find that he had knocked a little plastic container of puppy treats off into the floor, and had somehow managed to get it open, and EAT ALL OF THEM!!! Those were like $4 a bottle, and we only used them for training, so they would've lasted forever. Eh... I guess another bottle will have to come out of the Pet Supplies budget before long.

Anyway, I'm about to grab a cup of coffee (that I made at home, of course),and throw my clothes in the dryer for work. If I have time, I'd love to go by the post office and pick up my graduation stuff before work, so I can work on it tonight. We'll see.

Hope everyone has a great day!

Work, Graduation, and Weddings

April 14th, 2008 at 03:35 pm

Today started out well... it was much easier to drag myself out of bed for the early shift this morning, because I knew I had everything pretty much ready to go for work. I had already packed the leftover stir-fry and salad in tupperware containers, as well as a plastic bottle I filled with Kool-Aid. I managed to start the coffee pot, turn the clothes dryer on, and take the pup outside to pee in about 5 minutes.

Work went well, no extremely rude customers. I'm actually getting into some of the purchasing/receiving areas now, so it's a little more interesting than just being a merchandiser.

One of the assistant managers came back today after being out with a broken ankle, and when I filled him in on BF's planned move-in date at the end of the month, he asked if he had found a job yet. I told him that we hadn't even started looking, that we had a little saved to tide us over for a month or so, but hopefully he'd be able to find something soon. Then the guy suggests that BF can probably get on fairly quickly with our same company, at another store. I didn't know that was allowed, but apparently it doesn't matter as long as you don't work at the same store. So he says he will call the manager over there, and see what he can do.

Even though that store is still about 30 minutes away from our apartment, it would pay pretty well, and we'd know he wouldn't be working nights. So we'll see what happens. Smile

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Puppy Update: Two successful trips outside before work this morning, then a successful trip after work when I got home. While I was changing the kitty litter, he went #2 inside. I actually don't mind that as much as #1, because it's easier to clean-up and doesn't leave any smell behind. But other than that, no other accidents, so we're doing well so far.
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I think I finally have things settled with my old apartment complex. I faxed my move-in sheet to them on Saturday while I was at work, and then called to verify that it got there. The property manager doesn't work weekends, so I said I would call her back today to make sure she didn't need anything else (i.e. that she wasn't going to try and charge me for the carpet). So I called today, and apparently she hadn't even looked at the fax yet.

When she finally did, all she said was "Yes, you were in my to-do file" and "Alright, yes, it's very thorough". You'd bet your bottom it's thorough, just for these types of situations! Then she told me that would be fine, and that I could just send the check for the bill she had sent me for breaking the lease & my last water bill, and it would be done.

So I made out the check tonight & will mail it tomorrow morning, a total of $994.42. I don't think I've ever been so happy to write a check!!! Big Grin

Plus, this amount was about $1,000 under what I had estimated from what the other girl told me at first, so that will be that much more in our reserves to either pay down debt or tide us over until BF finds a job. I still don't know how the two people got two totally different amounts for what I would owe to break the lease, but I'm guessing that maybe because I moved for work, they didn't charge me so many penalties? Either way, I have the copy of the bill that she sent me, and I wrote "Everythingn Paid In Full" on the check, so they had better not try to come back and say I owe them another $1K later on.

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I had a note on my door Saturday when I got in from work, saying I had a package to pick up at the post office. My mom was forwarding my graduation cap/gown and invitations, and I told her to add delivery confirmation, just in case. I could have picked it up today, but the post office was closed by the time I got home from work. I will try to swing by there tomorrow morning before I leave for work.

I am very anxious to try the cap/gown on and make sure they fit! I am so nervous now that it's getting down to the wire and less than a month till graduation. I just don't want to show up in the wrong color gown or something!

I can't wait to see the invitations, either. Hopefully they didn't spell my name or my major wrong or anything. I want to be able to get them out in the mail this week, so that the people I'm actually inviting to attend can have a definite time/date, and the people I'm only sending an "announcement" invitation to can start thinking about sending me money. :P

I think I might go ahead and make a list of people to send them to tonight, so I can get them all done faster.

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Other news on the job fronts... one of BF's managers told him that he would be willing to give him a written recommendation to bring with him here, since it's two states away and all. I thought that was really nice, and shows what a great employee BF has been over the past 4 years there. And the other manager has already told him that he's on the "re-hire" list for whenever he wants to come back. What a hard worker. Smile

I broached the time-off subject with my manager today, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous about it. I already have to ask off for my graduation the first weekend in May. I will need off that Saturday to drive to my home state, then the graduation is EARLY the next day, and then I expect that the decent thing to do would be to stay and visit with my & BF's families the rest of the day Sunday. We would drive back on Monday, but I'd need off all day Monday because there is no way I'd be able to make it back in time for work (it's an 8 hour drive).

Then BF's cousin's wedding is May 25th, which is a Sunday, so that puts me in the same situation. Although, if it's in the afternoon on Sunday, I may be able to pull off working the early shift on Saturday and then us driving the 8 hours Saturday evening/night. Then I'd only have to take off that Sunday/Monday.

AND... if BF's sister decides that she's going to do her shot-gun wedding thing in June, I will definitely need off for a few days there, too.

I explained the situation to my manager, and she seemed to think that I could probably give the dates to the assistant manager that does the scheduling, and probably work it out so that I give up having Thursdays off those weeks, and only end up using 1 vacation day for each event. So since I'm already off on Sundays, and I could work Thursday to make up for missing Saturday, I would really only be taking a day off for Monday.

But we'll see how that goes... I need to verify the BF's cousin's wedding is really May 24th, and then write out a list of my scheduling needs to give to the A.M. ahead of time.

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Phew... that was alot. The only spending I had today was $30.01 on the DC for gas.

Now I just gotta figure out something tasty for dinner.. I'm starving!!!

Groceries & Cell Bill

April 13th, 2008 at 06:33 pm

Finally got motivated to go grocery shopping tonight. I had roughly $33 left of my food budget for the month (thanks to splurging early in the month on McDonalds), so I planned to buy some pantry-stuffers and spend about $20.

The goods:

1 Gallon of 1% Milk
1 Can Cream of Celery
1 Can Cream of Chicken
1 Can Cream of Mushroom
1 Can of Diced Mushrooms
1 Box of Bowtie Pasta
1 Box of Shell Pasta
1 Bag of Colby/Jack Shredded Cheese
1 Bag of Pizza Shredded Cheese
1 Bag of Frozen Broccoli/Cauliflower
1 Bag of Frozen Stir Fry Veggies
2 Bags of Frozen Mixed Veggies
1 Bag of White Rice (2 lbs)
1 Can Diced Tomatos
1 Packet of Spaghetti Sauce Mix
2 Packs of Ground Turkey (1 lb each)

Total Including Tax: $21.65

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I feel like I did pretty well, and hopefully when combined with what I've already got stashed away, I can survive the rest of the month with $11 in the food budget.

I also used my gift card again, so I didn't have to actually pay out of my checking account.

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Also paid my cell phone bill today for this month. It was more expensive than I had anticipated, $116.55 instead of the budgeted $90. I'll be watching my anytime minutes a little more carefully this month, but with BF moving in at the end of April, I don't foresee another problem. Smile

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I actually made myself dinner tonight, using some of the groceries I bought. I used 1/2 lb of the ground turkey, 1/2 bag of the stir-fry veggies, and the cream of celery. Ended up with some tasty stir-fry.

I put half of what I made into a tupperware container for my work lunch tomorrow, and also chopped the last head of lettuce that I had in the fridge to make a salad for my work lunch, too.

Now I just need to make a pitcher of sweet tea or Kool-Aid, so that I can take that in a bottle tomorrow, and I will bet set to go.

Gotta work the early shift, so I don't wanna get up any earlier than I have to!

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In other news, BF is going to be here in 16 days (but who's counting?). I can't wait, I miss him so much. Things will be so much easier and less stressful when I know that I've actually got someone here with me just in case.

Puppy Update: We haven't done so hot today, I feel like yesterday ruined all the progress we had made thus far. We have had a few successful trips outside today, but so many random accidents! Oh well, looking forward, tomorrow should be better.

Well, I'm off to do some laundry, start the dishwasher, and make some tea.

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Went To College

April 13th, 2008 at 06:31 am

1. I know you think you want to be a veterinarian, but you don't. You'll realize when you get to college that organic chemistry with 600 other students, well, it kicks your butt. But just think about it, do you REALLY want to be jerked out of bed in the middle of the night to go tend to a birthing cow? (You know how much you like your sleep.)

2. Dorm life isn't all that bad, enjoy it. You'll be itching to get your own apartment as soon as you move in to the 7 x 15 space that you are to share with your roomie, but don't rush. You'll miss alot of good times (I don't want to ruin any surprises, so I'll just say "slip-n-slide", "hobo man", and "electric checks". There will be some priceless, cozy, Sunday afternoons spent with your new BF, too. So when you're trudging down 15 flights of stairs for your first fire drill at 3 AM, remember that it's worth it.

3. Those straight A's you got in high school, they ain't happenin' in college. First of all, get off your pedestal and crack a textbook, because professors don't care if they cover it in class or not, it's gonna be on the exam. And stop laughing at the people walking around with index cards flipping in front of their face, if you were smart, you'd have your index cards, too.

4. Your scholarships will work out, so don't waste a BEAUTIFUL day at the end of your freshman year to re-apply to as many as possible. Even though nobody will tell you that the scholarship you have is automatically renewed for 4 years, it is! So go ahead and go home for a visit that weekend, instead of holing up inside your bedroom with your laptop.

5. As a matter of fact, don't be in such a hurry to move out of your mom's house. They have plenty of extra bedrooms now, and if you feel so independent, then just buy your own groceries. Take the your $265 portion of the rent and stick it in your checking account, you'll need it.

6. If you finally do get that apartment with your roommates, be careful. Jumping on that old mattress in the parking lot probably isn't such a great idea, I don't care who is doing it. Also, even though you know some Spanish from high school, it's probably better not to yell "fiesta!" across the parking lot to the Hispanic population a few buildings over. Oh, and watch your clothes... one of your roomies is a thief.

7. You'll have an array of jobs in college, but most will serve their purpose. That job at the dairy farm, where you think you'll gain priceless experience for your vet school application, will actually turn out to be okay. If you can trudge through getting up at 2 AM to go herd cattle, and then suffer through 3 inches of standing water in the parlor as you milk them, then all your future jobs will seem like pieces of cake. You'll also have some valuable memories and friends from here... including a few with that same BF you've been dating. (Just a helpful hint here - when you two get the Gator stuck at 2 AM in the middle of a dark field, taking off your muck boots to wedge underneath the tires won't work, your feet will just be cold.)

8. Be careful with those credit cards. I know there are times when you'll have to use them, like when the towing company has your truck locked up in their shady parking lot. But just realize that it's not going to be as easy as you think to pay it all back. Even when you're working full-time and making much more money, you're also going to have to move to an area with a higher cost of living. Use them if you must, but try to cut it back to the bare essentials of spending.

9. You will graduate, even early. So don't pull your hair out when your computer locks up scheduling classes. Whether you get into that Advanced Agricultural Economics class this semester or not, it will all work out, and you'll end up very happy with your results. You'll land a great job, and be started on (I hope) a terrific future. You've got good credit, so you'll just have to pay down your debt, and you'll be in great standing, especially for a 22-year-old from a poor family. You're the first to graduate college, and you did it with a full tuition scholarship. So cut yourself some slack sometimes, and enjoy your college life a little more.

10. And lastly, I've mentioned your BF a few times here. The reason? He's still gonna be around 4 years from now. Yep, that boy that's still in high school now, the one that you can't quite figure out, he is a keeper. You'll fight, you'll cry, but in the end, you're good together. I know you don't want to hear this now, but just know that as you stumble through these early parts of your relationship, you'll one day hold his hand and picture the day you'll marry him, and what your kids will look like.

That is all. Big Grin

Budget Check

April 12th, 2008 at 05:25 pm

Had to buy gas today on the DC: $20

Was VERY tempted to stop for a cup of coffee this morning, because I had a rough night and had to get up early for work. But I trooped it out and saved $1 by making the effort to make my coffee at home.

Since I have tomorrow off and therefore a little free time tonight, I thought I'd check in on the monthly budget and see where I am:

On the left is the actual amount for this month, on the right is the budgeted amount.

=Income=
Paycheck: $1075.66 / $2,090.00
Extra Income: $5.10 / $0

=Expenses=
Entertainment/Fun: $8.50 / $10
Health/Dental/Vision: $56.76 / $108
401K: $0 / $85
Rent: $875 / $875
Household Supplies: $20.55 / $10
Food: $36.65 / $70
Gas: $165.01 / $355
Bank Fees: $46 / $0
Pet Supplies: $44.53 / $50

Notes: Along with this, I decided to update my budget to include $10 in "fun" money every month. This month, I've used it to get film developed, but I don't feel like it belongs in the "Household Supplies" category. Speaking of Household Supplies, I am already over budget, but primarily because of a book of stamps and some shipping supplies, which will last me a while. Food & Gas seem to be in okay shape, as long as I cut the eating out the rest of this month and make smart grocery purchases. I'll probably end up being over in Pet Supplies too, because I'm only $6 away now, and I need to get some kitty pan liners & more dog food eventually.

Overall, I'd call it so-so, but I've still got plenty of categories that I haven't encountered yet this month (utilities, etc.).

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Puppy Update: He has had two accidents today, but I think they are my fault. I was arguing with BF on the phone earlier and probably didn't notice his signs of needing to go out. He's sleeping now, but I'm preparing to take him out again shortly to prevent any more.
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I guess I should start checking in on my monthly variable bills to see where they stand, I'll have a separate post if I end up actually paying anything.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend... only 17 more days until BF moves in by the way! Big Grin

Lots to think about

April 11th, 2008 at 04:25 pm

Well, I thought I'd post a pic of the pup today... just because. Big Grin



Currently he is running around the apartment like a wild hog. When I took him out earlier, 3 different people stopped us to ask what kind of dog he was, how much they cost, etc. He's popular. Smile

He's done really well with the housetraining again today. Went out this morning before work, then when I got back, he went #1, and we had a wait a little while before he could go back out for #2 because it looked like a sudden thunderstorm outside. All is calm now though.

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On the financial side, spending for today was:

Gas: $20
McDonalds (lunch): $9.50

Actually, only about $5 of the McDonalds was mine, because I picked up lunch for one of my coworkers too. (She's supposed to pay me back tomorrow.)

I had to put both on my Discover card, because I have yet to get my money transferred from my old checking acct to my new one with a debit card. But the Discover card is easy to check & pay online, so I will add my expenditures on it this month to the planned amount I was going to pay, and all should be even.

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Went off to work this morning and forgot to take the move-in sheet that I was supposed to fax to my old apartment complex. BF suggested that I use my scanner and email it to them, which is a great idea, if I can only find the power cord for my scanner/printer. I'd like to get it done as soon as possible, so I can go ahead and face whatever the next crap is that they throw my way.

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I may pay some bills later tonight, so I'll update if I end up doing that.

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There are several big financial decisions that have been weighing on my mind lately. One of these is my vehicle situation. I have had the same truck since I turned 16 and got my license. It's been great, very dependable and easy to maintain. With the recent not-starting and ever-louder grinding noise though, I am scared that it's going to be a downhill spiral. I am especially distrustful of most mechanics, and so it would kill me to hand several hundred dollars over to someone to fix my problem, and then run into another (or the same) problem soon after.

I just wish I knew exactly what was wrong with it, and if I spend the money to fix that, if it will hold up for a while yet. It's paid off, so I certainly don't want a car payment if I can help it, but I also don't want to keep dumping money into something that is going to keep taking it.

Also, if I'm going to end up selling it in the next year, I'd rather do it sooner than later, because whatever I get will be better on gas mileage. I'd also rather trade it in while it still has the most worth, and not wait until something else happens to it.

I have never car shopped before, so I have no idea where to start. I like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, but can't decide if it would be better for me to go with a new car and get a warranty, or get something used and hope it holds up. Bleh... I really just wish my truck was fine.

The other decision I've been thinking about is how much money to leave in my checking account for emergencies. With BF moving up here and having to start over with finding a job, I want to have enough of a stash to cover us for a month or so. Also, we will be spending some extra on gas to get back & forth to my graduation in May, as well as his family weddings in May & June.

So I am thinking I should leave at least $1,000 in there. That would cover us for a month or so, and the gas expenses to get back & forth. But maybe I should leave more to cover my pending car repair expenses?

I do think that I'm going to go ahead and get my hair cut this week. I haven't had a cut in 4-5 months, and I want to look decent for my graduation pics with family. I would rather do it now when I have a little extra in my checking, before I start paying extra on the credit cards.

Alot to think about, and not much time to think about it...

Feeling accomplished

April 10th, 2008 at 04:12 pm

Wow. I feel accomplished. I always have big plans for doing things on my day off, but sometimes I get lazy or distracted and don't get everything done.

Today, however, I did manage to:

-Wash/Dry my living room rug
-Vacuum & Shampoo the living room
-Vacuum & Shampoo my bedroom
-Take out some trash
-Water the plant
-Clean kitty litter box

It was so nice out today (even a little hot!) that I also took the pup out to play Squirrel Frisbee (with his new 'flying squirrel' toy). It ended up being more like me playing frisbee by myself with him on a leash, but it was still fun. I would throw it, we'd both run to where it was, and then he would just run past it. Then I'd pick it up and repeat. :P

I still have a few other chores that I'd like to get done tonight:

-Wash/Dry my work clothes
-Clean up kitchen
-Get lunch/snacks ready for work tomorrow
-Take a shower so I don't have to in the morning
-Take some more random trash out (boxes, pop cartons)

My plan for my home is to try and keep it as clean as possible until BF gets here. I don't want our first few days of living together to be focused on vacuuming. With all the shampooing I did today, I think I can maintain it without TOO much effort. Baby steps.

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Puppy Update: WOW! He is doing so great today. (I don't know why I say that, I always end up jinxing myself) But there was even a point earlier, when I am almost positive that he actually went to the outside door and stood, wanting to go out. It may be just a coincidence, but when I took him out, he went immediately. Either way, he's doing so much better!
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More house matters... I've decided to make a list of everything that I would like to purchase for my (soon to be OUR) home. This list will take some budgeting for, especially because we have practically nothing right now.

For starters, I have a dining room table that I bought (with 4 chairs included) at Walmart for $105. Within two weeks, I set a bowl of hot soup on top, and the thin layer of wood material warped, so now there's a huge bubble in the middle of the table. Then it got even more wet in the move here, so there are small cracks and more bubbles on the top. Then there's the fact that I have no living room seating at all.

I had a $100 futon from Walmart, but it was so broken down that I decided not to bring it with me. I'll make a complete list and add it as a page on my sidebar. I think that will help me to slowly be able to budget and check items off as we can afford them.

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As I type this, I just saw on the news where people in Haiti are so hungry that they are making "dirt cookies" to eat. The dough consists of butter, water, and dirt. Just goes to show you that no matter how bad you think you have it, you could always have it worse.

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I've got to fax my move-in sheet from my old apartment to them tomorrow from work. Then I'll call and make sure it got there, hopefully be able to talk to the apt manager, and verify that I'm not going to be charged for the carpet. HOPEFULLY... it would be nice to have one more step behind me.

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Checked my checking acct today and noticed that a large transaction cleared, so I checked one of my credit cards:

Balance of only $3.15

Yay! I am going to go ahead and mail the rest of this small balance in tomorrow, and it should officially be done. Also had a NSD today Big Grin

BookCrossing & A Day Off

April 10th, 2008 at 06:18 am

Today will be a much needed day off. Even though most of it will be spent doing laundry, taking out the trash, cleaning, and catching up on randomness, it's still better than having to worry about my truck starting for work or rude customers ruining my day.

I'm also expecting a package sometime soon. My mom told me on Tuesday that my graduation cap/gown and invitations had arrived at their house, and that she would forward it on to me here. I had to have it shipped there when I paid for it, because the bookstore didn't offer delivery confirmation with their shipping options. And I really don't feel like paying $187 dollars again because it got lost.

Hopefully it will come today, because if not, I will have to go one day before work to the post office and pick it up, and Lord knows my mornings are hectic enough without another stop. I also need to hurry up and get the invitations in the mail to the people who I am actually inviting to attend. And of course, the sooner I send out the "announcement" invitations, the sooner people can send me graduation money. Smile

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Puppy Update: He is doing good so far today, although it's still really early. We made it out this morning for #1, and then after he ate, for #2. It's harder for him to concentrate when he can hear traffic on the nearby interstate, or people walking down the road, or birds chirping, etc. I feel kind of ridiculous sometimes, because I will be so excited that he's about to go, and then all of the sudden a weird bird will chirp and he's completely alert and totally distracted from his task.

The only problem we're still having is the time right before bedtime. I take him out just as much (or more) then, but we have yet to have a no-accident night. I can't figure it out, because I only give him water when I first get home from work, with his food. Maybe when BF gets here and I don't feel quite so alone, we will work on moving the crate to the bedroom and letting the pup sleep in there.

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Speaking of BF... he finally broke the news of his moving to his boss at one of his jobs. He works two part-time jobs, one of which he just started about two months ago, before we knew I'd be moving. I feel horrible about it really, because he seems to really like the job itself and could probably get a good full-time job there within a year if we stayed. Anyway, it has been stressing us both out (especially him) to think about what they will say when he leaves.

He told the boss man yesterday, and apparently it went great. He said the guy acted a little shocked at first and just said "Oh, really?" like it was no big deal. Then BF explained that I am up here by myself, with alot of stress and worry, and the guys says "Oh yea, I completely understand, man."

Then BF tells him that he hopes nobody is mad at him, and that he really liked the job and wouldn't quit for anything less than this reason. And his boss told him "Oh, I'd take you back in a heartbeat."

Yay!!! Even though we're not sure where my next move will be, or if we'll ever end up close enough to that area for him to work the same place again, it's nice to know that he does have the job if he wants it. And I know it makes BF feel better to know that nobody thinks badly of him.

Honestly, we have decided that if my next move (to be an assistant manager) isn't within 3-4 hours of our hometown, then I will quit and find something else. I really don't want to have to do that, because we've both sacrificed alot for this so far, and it's a WONDERFUL opportunity for our future (plus a stable job), but I also can't justify letting them drag us wherever they want for the rest of our lives. We want to be close to our family and friends, and they have enough stores within 3-4 hours of our hometown, that it's not ridiculous to ask for.

It's important for us to be near our families when we start having children of our own, etc., especially for BF. He has told me before that he doesn't want to live so far away that he can't decide to go watch a ball game with my brother, or visit our parents' houses on the weekend. So right now our timeline is, within 3-4 hours away for my assistant manager position (about 9 months), and then when I take the first manager job, within 2 hours. I'll do that and try to transfer to a store closer to home, but if I can't do it in 2 years, then I'll have to find something else. We'll just take it as it comes I guess.

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Today should be a NSD, unless I pay some bills. I could go grocery shopping, because I really have nothing to take to work for lunch, but I think I'll use today to get together a list of what I REALLY need to get, and see how much of my food budget is left for the month. Then I will just look at it as a challenge, to see what I can be creative & come up with for lunch and dinner for the next few days, out of what I already have. It should be interesting.

And finally... there is a website that I just remembered, and I thought I'd share it with my fellow SA'ers. It's called BookCrossing (www.bookcrossing.com), and I think it's about the greatest idea since sliced bread. Although I've only had limited participation to this point, I'm hoping to get more involved.

The basic idea is that, members of the site (it's free to join) use either old books that they have read already, or an extra copy that they have, and "drop" them places to be "hunted" by other BookCrossing people. It's like a scavenger-hunt version of a library. But, every book that you hunt, you go and make a journal entry about it after you read it. Most of the books already have a little BookCrossing label on the inside, which identifies the book to the site. But if you want to drop a book of your own, you can go there and print out a label for it.

You can go to the site, search the area where you live, and most likely there are already books "dropped" somewhere near you. When you go hunt them down, you can read & journal about them, and then you go drop them off somewhere yourself, for someone else to find. Most of the time, people will announce when they've dropped a book so that it's easy to find, but some people just randomly drop them, making it even more random when someone finds it.

Anyway, it's a fun site, and pretty much free to do. An exciting version of the library, and every book you get has a story of it's own.

*On a side note, I've also decided to track my credit score on here, although it will only be about every three months or so.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thursday!

April Is Not My Month.

April 9th, 2008 at 07:04 pm

I've decided that April is now my least favorite month. I used to like it, it used to mean that I was finishing up a semester of school and getting ready for a summer of (even though I worked alot) fun. But since the beginning of April, I have had nothing but bad luck and horrible days. I may boycott it next year.

I called my old apartment complex today. This is the fourth time that I've called in 3 weeks, simply trying to find out how much I owe for my last month's water bill and for breaking my lease. The first time, I was told that the apartment manager would call me back the next day with a total. She never did.

A week later, I called back, and was told the apartment manager didn't work Sundays, but the lady could call me back in 30 minutes with how much I owed. I wait two hours, she didn't call. I called back after another half hour, and *coincidentally* she was calling me back at the exact same time! (Not.) Then she gives me a vague estimate and says she will have to check with the apartment manager and they will call me tomorrow. I tell them that I have to work, so even if I don't answer, leave a message for me with the amount.

Tomorrow comes, and they don't call. Fast forward a week and a half, and they still haven't called. By now, I KNOW they've got the last water bill, and decide to try and finish this business again.

So I use my lunch break to call them today, and don't get to eat so I end up starving. When I called and explained what I needed (again), I was put on hold for about 5 minutes.

When the apartment manager finally got on the phone (hallelujah), she verified which apartment I had been in, and then said that they had a problem. "The carpet is so stained and torn up that we had to take it out and install new."

I am shocked. They've got to be kidding. The carpet was HORRENDOUS when I moved in, so bad that I immediately went and bought a rug runner to cover the worst parts in the living room. And apparently, they've already taken up the carpet, so I couldn't have sent anyone to inspect what they were accusing me of anyway.

Keep in mind, I only lived here for 2 1/2 months before I had to move for work.

Trying to remain calm, I tell her that the carpet was really bad when I had moved in, and that I thought I had noted all that on the move-in sheet. Then she says "Oh, yea! That's right! We don't have one of those on file for you! I just remembered that I needed to call you about that!"

So, COINCIDENTALLY, it's taken me 4 calls to even get an answer for my question. And COINCIDENTALLY they didn't have the last water bill when I called the second time, even though I always got the water bill a week before the end of the month, so that I could pay it with my rent. And COINCIDENTALLY when I call the 4th time, they have ALREADY taken up the carpet that I damaged so badly in my 2 1/2 month stay. And in conclusion... COINCIDENTALLY they don't have my move-in sheet on file where I noted all the previous damage.

Well, it just so happens that I can be a bit obsessive and paranoid about people trying to scam money from me. So I tell the apartment manager that (COINCIDENTALLY) I had made myself a copy of my move-in sheet before I turned it back in, so I could easily fax her one.

She finally gave me the amount I'd owe for breaking the lease, which of course isn't what I think is right. She is calculating that I only owe for two month's worth of rent, minus my security deposit. The lady that I had worked with when I moved in and when I called to see how much I'd owe if I did break the lease, who has since quit to go work somewhere else, told me something different. From what she said, I would owe two months rent, would NOT get my security deposit back, would also owe discounted rent that I had received on a special promotion, which included getting half of the month of December free when I signed the lease.

So the total I come up with is around $1,700, while the total she told me was $994. I would take this and run, but now that they are trying to screw me over with the carpet, I am afraid they'll just wait a few weeks/months and then try to claim the rest of it, and by then I will already have used the money to pay down debt.

So the plan is, the lady is mailing out a copy of the bill for breaking the lease tomorrow, and when I get it, I'll make a copy for myself and mail a check with "paid in full" on it back to them. I'm faxing my move-in sheet to them tomorrow, then calling to verify that they got it, and that I am NOT getting charged for the carpet. Thank God I found the move-in sheet that I had.

UGH. I hate April.

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Puppy Update: I took him out this morning when we got up, and he peed. Then after he ate and before I left for work, I took him out again and he pooped. When I got home from work, we made it outside for him to pee, and after he ate, we went outside and he pooped. So no accidents today, but I'm watching him carefully, as late night and before bedtime seems to be our problem area.

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I will be glad when my finances get simpler. I can deal with the debt and not having much (or any) extra every month, but I can NOT deal with having all these random things hanging over my head that I can't do anything to solve. I feel like the money I have is tied up in this stuff, and I can't use it the way I'd like to pay down my debt or put away for savings.

Hopefully in the next few days, I'll have the apartment problem solved, and when BF gets here, we'll go pay for a couch. Also when he gets here, I'll take my truck to get an estimate on fixing whatever is making it not start and make a grinding noise. If it's too much, I'll see about trading it in for something. I can't even afford to think that far into the future right now. I just hope it works tomorrow.

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Days like this make it almost overwhelming to be all by myself in this strange place. Every problem is my problem and I have nobody to help. Tonight, I had to put $10.01 in gas on my Discover card b/c I couldn't write a check at the gas station.

Ugh. Life is not fun right now, and I am not enjoying it. I can't wait for BF to get here and things to get better. Sorry for whining.

New Bowl & Toy For The Pup

April 8th, 2008 at 07:00 pm

Work today was not great today. It seems like it's getting harder some days than easier. More grouchy, rude customers, for no reason.

I did have time to pack a lunch today, although I forgot a fork, and had to eat my salad with my fingers. That was quite an experience! Big Grin

While at work, I bought the pup a new food bowl (his old one was too small, I couldn't fit one feeding in there anymore). Now I am going to use his old bowl for water and his new one for food. It's bigger than he needs right now, but it will save me from having to buy another one later as he grows.

I also gave into a chocolate craving and bought some candy. This work candy has to stop! Got the pup a toy, too, since he is doing so much better with his housetraining, and has to put up with his crate so much while I'm at work. Pretty much, I just felt guilty. It was a "flying squirrel" disc, which is basically like a frisbee, but with lifted sides and it's more "chewable". As I was buying it, a customer said that he had one for his dog, and they LOVED it. So I feel good about my choice.

Here is the final tab for today:

2 Bags of Candy @ $1.59 each
1 Flying Squirrel Toy @ 5.24
1 Jumbo Food Bowl @ $2.77

The bowl & toy will come out of the Pet Supplies part of the budget, and the candy from the food part. The good news is, the employee discount made for a really good deal on the toy & bowl.

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Puppy Update: As of 9:27 PM, we have had exactly ZERO accidents today! He went this morning when I took him out, then again before I left for work. Then when I got home from work he went, and a few minutes ago we went out again and... success! Smile There is still time for an accident of course, but we're being careful, and it's an improvement no matter what! We're so proud. :P

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For those of you who responded to my last post about deciding whether or not to buy the nice camera and try my luck at freelance photography, I appreciate all your opinions! While I've not made any definite choice, I talked with BF about it, because our finances will be pretty much joined in a few weeks, and I know he is scrimping every dime right now to save.

In the end, I think what I've decided to do is just wait a while. I haven't heard from the lady that was interested in me doing her reception, so I'm not going to pursue it anymore unless she does. My plan is to base my future decision on these variables:

1) Exactly how much I have to pay to my old apartment complex (if they would ever FREAKING give me an answer... that's a whole other story).

2) Exactly how much we will be spending on a couch.

3) Exactly how much I will get in graduation money from friends/family/neighbors.

All of these should be worked out by the beginning of June, and so I can purchase it then and still have it in time to practice at BF's sister's wedding. If not, I can always pursue it in the future. It's something I'll always be interested in, but I don't want to jump the gun.

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Speaking of buying a couch, BF & I are trying to decide if we want to go ahead and get a couch & recliner, and possibly an entertainment center, or just the couch for now.

I have a really cheap black & silver entertainment center from about a year ago when I moved into my old apartment. It's really more like a stack of shelves with legs, but it served its purpose.

Now, I know that I eventually want a brown leather couch, and so I thought we could go ahead and get that now, as it should last us well into our future moves & maybe our future house, whenever we get settled. Then we could get a nicer wood entertainment center that would actually halfway match the couch, but I'm not sure that we want to spend that money right now.

If we're going to have a wedding anytime soon, I'd like to make sure we've got as much money going in that direction as possible.

I found a leather couch (not sure if it's genuine leather) in a sales flyer today for $399, so I may do some comparison shopping. If it's a great deal, I'll go see if they can hold it until BF gets here so they can deliver it.

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I've had a few bites on my CraigsList clothes ad, but everyone seems to want to buy individual items, and it's not worth me driving 15 minutes to drop 5 shirts off for $1. I guess we'll see what happens.

The thought of getting a part-time job has crossed my mind recently. There are a few restaurants near my apartment, so if I could get a few hours a week there on my days off from my real job, it would be a little more towards the savings. I just don't know if I could find something that flexible.

Decisions, Decisions...

April 7th, 2008 at 03:29 pm

Today was a normal day, no too expensive either.

I spent $1 on lunch at McDonalds, but I can blame that on the fact that I was going to get food for a mother/daughter pair that I work with, that didn't have a car. But between the two of them, they spent $10.50 on food for lunch. This is very judgemental of me, but seriously... could you not save $2000 and get a car if you're going to spend $10 a day on lunch for two people?

Anyway. I also went to Walmart and picked up the roll of film I had getting developed, thinking it was the missing roll from our trip to the casino for me & BF's 21st birthdays. So 5 minutes and $8.50 later, I find out that it isn't the casino roll. It's a random camera that my little brother was snapping pictures with, so about 20 of the pictures have no faces in them. Then about 8 are from Halloween, pics of my brother & cousins trick-or-treating.

The good news is, I plan on getting some frames and using the pics of my cousins as some cheap Christmas gifts to my aunts/uncles. Smile

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Puppy Update: He has done pretty well today. He went as soon as I took him after work, and then I brought him inside and he ate. About 10 minutes later, I saw him circling around and took him out, and he immediately went #2. Smile

The night is young still... but hopefully we can get through it without an accident!

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I posted some of my old clothes to sell on CraigsList yesterday, and ever since then I've had something on my mind. There was a post on there about someone needing an amateur photographer to take some pics at their wedding reception, and it made me think about all the times that I've said "I'd really like to do that."

Now that I'm focused more than ever on controlling expenses and generating extra income (other than my salary), this is like a double-edged sword.

On one side, I genuinely think that it is something I would be able to manage effectively. I've always wanted to have something to do on the side to bring in some extra money every now and then, and I absolutely love pictures. If I could work as a freelance amateur photographer, I wouldn't have to be responsible for all the "big money" shots like at the alter and coming down the aisle, etc. I would really like to be able to focus on the in between moments.

On the other side of the argument, I would need to upgrade my camera. I have a very cheap digital one now that I've had for about 2 years. It's only like a 3 megapixel, and I would need at least a 9 MP. From the research I've done so far, I would end up paying in the neighborhood of $450 for a good resolution camera with multiple lense capability and the appropriate zoom features. This is by no means a "nice" photography camera, but it would do to start.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I emailed the person who had posted that ad. She responded saying that this is the second marriage for both her and her fiance, and they are not looking for anything fancy. I told her that I didn't have much experience, and that I would feel most comfortable if she had a professional photographer as a primary, and I would be the secondary.

To this, she said that they only need a few pics during the ceremony and then just a little while at the reception. I told her that if I was going to do it, I'd like to do it free of charge, and then if they liked any of the pictures that I took and wanted them, they could pay on a per-photo basis. This way, it's fairly risk-free for us both. She gets a free photographer and pics if she wants them, and I get experience without all the pressure.

Now she says that sounds perfect.

So I'm at a crossroads. Do I shell out the money for the camera and work my @$$ off to make some extra money, or do I forget about it?

Some other variables in my decision process: The wedding that I would be working is not until September, so there would be roughly 5 months for me to get the camera, get used to it, and make sure I feel comfortable with the quality photos I'm able to develop.

Also, as all of you who have read my blogs regarding BF's sister's shotgun wedding know, I will have a wedding to attend in June. This would be the perfect place for me to "practice" my wedding shots and see what I'm able to do. They won't have any photographer at all there (besides her mom w/ a disposable camera), so I'm sure she would appreciate any decent pics I'd be able to take.

BF says that I should do it, because "you only live once" and "you are good at everything you try". But I'm a little hesitant to spend the money. I have a $94 gift card to Walmart, assuming I could order the camera online, I could use that and cut down the cash cost to me. Also, I do have some money left over from my signing bonus that I haven't done anything with yet, so I would be able to pay for the camera out-right.

Ahhh... decisions, decisions.

Sweet Tea & Fish Sticks

April 6th, 2008 at 07:14 pm

That's what I had for dinner tonight. Yum. I'm finding out very quickly that when it's just me, the pup, and the kitty, my cooking skills go untested.

On the bright side, I had a No Spend Day today, but mostly because I was lazy and didn't go anywhere. I did manage to get a load of dishes washed, clean up the kitchen & living room some, and list some items on CraigsList. I'm not extremely hopeful that I will find a buyer, but it would be great if I did.

I talked to BF tonight and told him that he needs to hurry and get here before I forget how to make spaghetti. It's so funny that my psychological state affects my motivation to prepare a meal. I have big plans for a full meal sometimes, but as soon as I crank out the can opener or turn the stove on, I start to hear this nagging little voice that says, "Why bother?"

This situation, along with the fact that I've stopped spending as much money on fast food, does come with one benefit: I have lost 4 pounds since I moved! Smile

I've still got a long way to go to get to my goal weight, but I will be happy to shave off a pound or so a week. The sad part is that it's actually not that hard for me to lose weight, I've done it in the past whenever I've been busy with work or school without even meaning to. I have come to the realization that I need to go ahead and get down to the size that I want to be now... before I lose the metabolism and it gets harder.

I had plans to go to Walmart and pick up some film I had developed today, but as the day drug on I didn't feel like going anywhere. I kind of wish that I had now, because I'm curious to see what's on the camera. I have this habit of taking FOREVER to get film developed, so by the time I get the pictures back, I usually say something like, "Oh, look, these are the pictures we took on vacation! I thought I'd lost that
camera!" Big Grin

I forgot to add the other day that I bought a book of stamps for $8.40. Hopefully they will last me a while, since I don't really mail alot.

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Puppy Update: Today was not much better than yesterday. The pup had went in the floor WHILE I was attaching his leash to go outside. I did catch him circling later in the day and took him out, but after 15 minutes of nothing, we came back in, and he actually didn't go then either. Maybe the urge had passed?

Anyway, he had one more accident later in the afternoon, and each time I would calmly put him in his crate for a few minutes while I cleaned it up. He surprised me by not whining THAT much. We did have one victory... I took him out earlier this evening, and he went #2 almost immediately. It's all in the timing I suppose. :P

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Well, that's all I have to report right now. I have to work the early shift in the morning, and since I'm not all that enthused about work in general these days, I guess I should be getting to bed fairly early... don't wanna be any crankier than usual.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!!!

Thanks to MariRDH...

April 5th, 2008 at 08:24 pm

Thanks to MariRDH's post about the free site for watching the Maxed Out documentary, I have some more motivation for my financial journey.

I have to say, I am more motivated than ever to save and pay down my debt. Seeing how those college students killed themselves over their debt, or that older woman breaking down because she was losing her home, that is so horrible.

It really makes me feel scared, like my heart beating faster. All I could think about was my remaining credit card balances, and the "who knows what" that is going on behind my back each time I mail in a payment.

I used to feel embarassed when being particularly frugal, like choosing to eat lunch that I brought from home while everyone else is eating out. But now, I feel like my priorities are much straighter.

I know this might sound a bit dramatic, but that documentary really made me feel as though you can't trust anyone anymore. I thought the FICO score was the most sacred thing in the financial world, and then you watch the movie and find out that unless you're an "important" person, they don't even care if your credit report is right.

Along with this feeling of distrust comes a deeper feeling of self-reliance. Especially in an economy like we might experience soon, it feels like the wolves are gathering, and we need to circle the wagons around our families and finances.

It's funny because I think this feeling of uncertainty has translated into our culture in more ways than one. Not only are people a little more hesitant about the economy and investing, but I have actually noticed MANY more people doing their own gardening this year. You would be surprised at the number of people that have always gardened for fun or a hobby, and now they are doing it to save money and have security.

Amazing, and scary.

Evil Retail Customers

April 5th, 2008 at 06:38 pm

RANT ALERT: I understand that working in a retail environment means dealing with all different kinds of people and personalities. But today, I was pushed to a new limit.

A lady comes in, and apparently clueless about the process of standing in line and waiting your turn for the cashier, starts nudging her way next to the customer I'm checking out, and asks for clothesline. I overlook the fact that I have 3 people in line, and she has just walked in, hasn't even tried to look around our store. (It's not a huge store, you can cover it in 5 minutes easy) So I ask the other cashier, who is also busy with her own line of customers, and she says "I don't think we have it."

Then the customer I have just finished checking out (who has been nudged out of the way by Clothesline Lady) suggests that she try Walmart, which is not even 2 minutes away. To this, she huffs "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

As I hand the customer his change and the next customer starts to unload their purchases onto the counter, I tell the lady "We do have some string/rope right back there, you might be able to find something similar. It's right back there under those trashcans." I point in the direction of the trashcans.

A few minutes later, the lady checks out with the other cashier (there were only two of us, even though Saturdays are crazy busy) and I hear her get kind of rude. When the rush finally died down, I asked the other cashier what she had said, and it was "There WAS clothesline back there, and you were going to send me all the way to Walmart!"

Fast forward 20 more minutes - the store manager is at the front and the phone rings. She answers it, and there's alot of "No, go ahead" and "Absolutely, right..." and "I appreciate it".

She hangs up, turns around, and says to the cashier and myself "That was a lady that bought clothesline. She said that she felt like you guys were no help."

We both stare at her in disbelief. She goes on, "She said she asked about clothesline and one of you said we didn't have it, and a customer told her to go to Walmart"

I tell her that the customer I was checking out had suggested Walmart, and that I had told her we did have rope/string, and told her exactly where it was in case we did have something similar to what she wanted. Then the manager says "Oh, well she did say that one of you finally suggested where she could look, but SHE found it."

Awkward silence.

Needless to say, I was not in a good mood after that. The fact that we were still really busy and I wasn't able to blow off any steam really made matters worse. One of the assistant managers overheard the whole ordeal, and had happened into the lady on her way out, when she had given him a dirty look for stepping in her way as he came in the door. He tried to convince us to forget about it, that people like that don't deserve any extra thought.

But SERIOUSLY??? It KILLS me that some people can be so RUDE and OBNOXIOUS. First of all, is she more important than the rest of the customers who are waiting patiently in line to check out or ask questions? Secondly, is Clothesline our specialty or something, would it be so outlandish if we DIDN'T have it? Thirdly, was it really such a hardship on her that she felt the need to call back and complain?

Days like this make me wonder if I really want to be in this management development program at all. I do know one thing... when (if) I am a manager, and I get a complaint about two of my FRIENDLIEST and HARDEST WORKING employees, I will at least ask them about it before scolding them in public.

Eh. Rant over.

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Puppy Update:

I have decided to take some of the advice given in response to my last post, and also to update our house-training progress in this blog. If it works for financial accountability, why not training the pup?

Tonight when I got home, I took him out and he went, then praised him & gave him a treat. No #2 though. Then we came back in, I saw him sniffing a little later, so I took him out. After 15 minutes, nothing. I take him back in, and he pees. I crated him while I cleaned it, then let him out. Then I turn around, and it's #2 in the floor. Again with the crating & cleaning.

I'm not going to give him any more food/water tonight. I don't want any late night getting up and having a little wee in the bedroom floor.

So today - not so good, but we're working on it. Smile

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And finally the financial stuff:

Spent $40 on gas tonight, and $4.24 on a pack of cigarettes. Had originally planned not to buy any more, but after today, I caved.

Advice... puppy refuses to housetrain!

April 4th, 2008 at 07:57 pm

Okay, I have heard several different pieces of advice lately, but I thought I would ask my SA friends too.

I have a 5 month old Great Dane puppy, who is a total sweetheart most of the time. It's also my opinion that he is pretty darn smart, learning to sit and lay down in about 2 days. He also has learned random things like the fact that he can put his paw to the outside door of our building and push it open to go outside.

So if he's so smart, why can't he get housetraining?!?!?!

This is what we've done so far, tell me where we went wrong:

We got him when he was almost two months old, and immediately started using puppy pads for about the first week. Then, when I moved and could take him outside easily, I started putting his leash on and taking him outside any time I saw him circling the ground like he was about to go.

Within about a week, I thought he had the gist of it. There were even a few times when he would go to the door and look at it, wanting to go out.

But then, a week or so after that, it all suddenly stopped. I would try to time when he would need to go by when I would give him his food/water, but it never works. I wait 30 minutes and take him out, but then we end up out there for 20 minutes and he acts like he just doesn't have to go. But when we come back in, five minutes later he is going on the carpet.

I use a crate for during the day while I'm at work and can't come home, and he does really well with it. He never goes inside, and when I take him out as soon as I get home, he goes outside easily.

Sadly, it's when I'm AT HOME that his accidents happen. I've tried everything, puppy pads, catching him in the act and trying to interrupt and take him outside, yelling a stern "NO" when I see him, pre-emptive trips outside after eating, etc...

Now I am afraid my brand new apartment is going to start smelling like dog pee! Plus, all the Spot-Shot is costing me a fortune, I go through at least a bottle a week cleaning up after him.

Any advice, suggestions, etc. would be GREATLY appreciated. I am all out of ideas at this point, but I can't imagine going on with him doing this!

NSD, Emergency Fund

April 4th, 2008 at 06:06 pm

I didn't have to spend any money today, as the gas tank is still about half full. I also took lunch to work, a salad with cheese & ranch dressing, and some egg noodles that I made this morning. The tupperware I got at the Dollar Tree is really coming in handy. Smile

I missed BF alot today. I still do actually. I guess it's just one of those days that seem harder than others, when you see other couples doing everyday things like shopping for pet food, or holding hands coming out from the grocery store. Less than a month until he's here though... and this time he's not leaving. Even if I have to break out the handcuffs. Big Grin

I have decided that the next time I buy dog food, I am going to get the cheap kind from my work. It's even cheaper than Ol'roy from Walmart, for a 50 lb bag, and I get it at 5% over cost, which should make it even cheaper.

I've also decided to save $500-$1000 in an emergency fund. There are some things that aren't practical to budget for monthly (like semi-serious car repairs), but can't be ignored either.

What prompted this decision? My truck has started making this weird grinding noise. It's not all the time, at least I don't hear it all the time. It's mostly when I'm going slower, like in a parking lot, and I'm pretty sure it's the worst when I'm applying the brakes. BF says it could be anything from needing brake fluid to brake pads to new roters (sp?). This is all new to me, because it's never given me any problems, so it's a surprise to think something might actually be wrong with it.

Either way, I'm going to try and make it until BF gets here in less than a month, and then he will be here if I need to take it to the shop for a day or two.

Another reason for the emergency fund is income uncertainty. While I'm on salary, we're not sure what hourly pay BF will be able to get a job with, or how many hours he'll be able to get either. So it would be nice to have a little extra to dip into if we fall short in the first few months.

Payday, Ebay Profits, Mystery Knockers, and more on BF's sister!

April 3rd, 2008 at 06:00 pm

Today has been a semi-productive day. The dog got me up early, reminding me that I HAD to go get his dog food this morning. I also had to take my rent check to the office, as I realized yesterday that I hadn't paid it. I wasn't sure what the grace period was (or wasn't), so I wasn't going to feel at ease until it was taken care of.

At this point, I started wondering if the rent was indeed $875 like I've been saying all along, or if it was $895. I knew it was $875, but for some reason I was doubting myself and decided to check. When I was skimming over the lease, I noticed a part that says the landlord has the right to require all rent payments in money orders or certified checks.

WHAT??? So I'm freaking out because there is no way I can get a money order OR a certified check in this state. I have all of my money in my old checking account in my old state. So I wait patiently until 9:00 when the BBT banks open. I was planning to explain the situation, and hope that they would let me cash a check from my other checking account, if I deposited some of it into the checking account I have with them.

BF called on his break from work, and I was so stressed that he said he hoped my day got better, and that he'd pray for me. Ten minutes later, at exactly 9:00, I decided to try calling the leasing office to verify that I couldn't just write a check. And what do you know, she said that was fine! Apparently they use the same lease for the hundreds of properties owned by the management company, so that particular clause didn't apply to me. Better yet, she said I had until the 5th to even drop it off. I called BF back to let him know that his prayers worked. Smile

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I also picked up some paper mess that the pup had made while I was in the shower yesterday, and was startled by a knock on my door. Not knowing who it was (and we don't have peep holes yet), I didn't want to answer. The pup was barking like a guard dog, and I just sat completely still, and didn't hear anything else.

I told BF about it later, and he said it might've been someone who just had the wrong apartment, which made me feel a little better, since there was no note or anything on my door from maintenance or package delivery, etc. So I go do my errands and come back, and I'm right in the middle of a survey when my doorbell rings. It's a rather loud doorbell, and hardly anyone uses them, so it scared the crap out of me. The pup is barking again, and I'm sitting in my computer chair frozen. I wait about 15 seconds, and don't hear anyone walking or talking outside the door. Just when I go to get up and see if there was a note, the doorbell rings again. I freeze again. Still no talking, no offering of who they are, no walking away, etc. Then about 10 seconds later, there is a knock. This time, it wasn't just a regular old knock, it was the EXACT rhythm that BF used to use when he would come to my old apartment, so I would know it's him.

So of course, what do I think? BF has crossed two states to surprise me, and he's going to move in even earlier than I expected!!! Yay!!!

Not. I grabbed the pup's collar and opened the door a crack, only to be faced with a middle-aged man and woman, dressed professionally, and then be battered with questions of how I'm doing and do I attend church, and did I before I moved.

Now, I am a Christian, and I do wish that I could get into a comfortable church here, but is knocking at strangers doors at 7:30 at night really the best way to go about recruiting people? I was really surprised to find out that they were from a Baptist church (which is what I attended back home), because I've really never encountered that. Anyways, after 10 minutes of them doing all the talking and me trying to keep the pup from escaping between my legs, I was handed a card with their cell phone numbers, and a pamphlet about their church.

All in all, I'm a little relieved to know who it was knocking at my door earlier, but I'm also a little freaked out that they came back twice, and were pretty persistent the second time. They also kept asking me alot of personal info, like my first & last name, if I was married or moved for work, etc. Kind of freaky.

It also sucked that in my pathetic state I thought it was BF at the door. Frown

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On to the financial stuff...

The shipping for all my ebay items totalled $13.80, plus about $2.75 that I had to spend on packing supplies. The total payments I received after the fee from PayPal was $23.65, so my net profit was $7.10.

It's not alot of money, but it's more than I had a few days ago! Also, it's a little less clutter of unwanted items around the apartment.

I've decided to take any extra income (overtime, surveys, ebay, etc.) and put it into our State Farm savings account (AKA Our Wedding Fund). I'll wait until the end of the month to mail in the deposit, in case there is anything else I might get to add.

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Pay day is officially Saturday, but I got my pay stub yesterday, so I know the amount I'm getting plus what's being deducted:

Net After Taxes: $1,075.66
Health/Dental/Vision: -$56.76
401K: $0.00
Net Deposit: $1,018.90

This check also incluses 1.12 hours of overtime, which amounts to about $6 more net pay. I'm going to add that to my $20 challenge, and put it in the Wedding Fund at the end of the month if it's still extra.

The good news: The net pay after taxes is a little higher than what I had budgeted for (based on two pay periods per month), so that may be a surplus at the end of April.

The bad news: The amount deducted for my insurance benefits is about $2.76 more than I budgeted from each paycheck, for a total of $5.52 more per month. I will check my next stub, but I will probably change the amount budgeted for that next month.

The other news: I had forgotten that my 401K contributions will not start until after my third month with the company. So at the end of the month, if I don't need the money to cover some other problem budget areas (like the insurance deductions), then I will stick it in the Wedding Fund.

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I requested payment from a survey site today, so hopefully I will get a $9 check in the mail this month. More for the Wedding Fund maybe!

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Gossip News: For those of you who read my post about the "situation" with BF's sister getting married again, around the same time as we would be starting to plan our wedding, I have some extra news:

Not only is one of BF's girl cousins getting married in June (they've been planning for like a year), he just found out today that one of his guy cousins is moving his wedding up to the end of May. They were originally planned for December of this year, but due to some unforeseen circumstances (one guess what it is), they will be doing it in May.

So... if my intuition is correct and me & BF will be getting engaged in the next three months (I could be wrong, I haven't exactly asked him, but I have a pretty good feeling about it), that will mean that at the same time we're announcing our engagement and starting to plan our wedding:

1) His cousin will be having his wedding in May.
2) His sister will be having her "shot gun" wedding in June.
3) His other cousin will be having her wedding in June.
4) My uncle's baby is due for July.
5) His cousin's baby is due in November.

And we're both VERY close to our families (uncles, cousins, etc), so each of these events will be a big deal for our families. It's starting to look like I am going to have to give up on waiting for "our moment" to be the sole event... if I want to get married any time in the next 10 years!!!

I love me some Dollar Tree

April 3rd, 2008 at 10:07 am

I guess I should start by detailing my expenses from yesterday:

Ice Cream w/ the Coworkers: $1.75
Gas: $40

Today, I have to drop my rent payment off, and also mail some items that I was able to sell on Ebay this week. I will update with the exact amounts I was able to profit after I see how much the shipping is going to be.

Rent: $875

Also today, I have to tidy up the apartment, finish laundry, and get a plan together for lunch at work tomorrow so I don't end up splurging more of my food budget again.

I have been thinking, if I'm going to detail my daily expenses, I might start putting a note out to the side of how much I have left in each category for the month. It will be easier for me to keep track of where I'm at for the month.

Had to make a trip to Walmart today to get some stuff, and since Dollar Tree is only a little ways from it, I decided to run in there first, and see if I could get anything cheaper. I was able to find some good deals on stuff that would've cost me more at Walmart:

=Dollar Tree Purchases=
3 Pack of Dish Rags: $1.00
Box Tape: $1.00
2 Pack of Rubbermaid Containers: $1.00
Travel Coffee Mug: $1.00
(Tax): $0.24
1 Lb of Dry Egg Noodle Pasta: $0.50
1 Lb of Dry Spaghetti Pasta: $0.50
TOTAL: $5.24

=Walmart Purchases=
17 Lb Bag of Dog Food: $9.92
22 Lb Bag of Dog Food: $7.50
12 Pk of Bottled Water: $2.50
2 Citrus Air Fresheners: $0.94 (x2)
Dental Floss: $0.87
Box of 100 Envelopes: $0.94
12 Pk Diet Cola: $2.38
(Tax): $1.56
2 Heads of Lettuce: $1.44 (x2)
Bag of Sugar: $2.14
TOTAL: $32.57

I was able to use my Walmart gift card for the purchases there. I got two different kinds of dog food because I am going to try and mix the kind my pup usually eats with a less expensive brand of similar nutritional content, so that he can continue to eat to his heart's content, with breaking the Pet Supplies budget. Smile

I am going to try and use the tupperware containers and the bottles of water to take my lunch in for work. After the water's gone, I'll make tea and take that. That should cut down on the cost of colas.

===Change in Budget===
Food ($75): $56.31 LEFT
Gas ($360): $285 LEFT
Rent ($875): $0 LEFT
Household Supplies ($10): $0.84 LEFT
Pet Supplies ($50): $31.53 LEFT
Bank Fees ($0): $46 OVER

My Enemy, Cheap Candy

April 1st, 2008 at 07:00 pm

Today's Spending:

Gas: $15
Boxes & Tape: $4
Candy: $1.75
McDonalds: $4

I've learned not to go into work hungry anymore. I thought I'd be okay with a drink, but just knowing that I had to work until we closed, and I was already starving, I ended up buying a bag of candy to tide me over until lunch. The good news is, I bought it at our store, so I got it at 5% over cost. At least it was cheap candy. Smile

Then I realized that with the stress of the last few days, I had completely forgotten about planning for lunch. So, I hit McDonalds. I'm not proud of it, but hey, all I can do is plan for tomorrow!

Other than that, nothing much going on. The dog is driving me nuts, and I need to clean my apartment, but I'm not in a hurry.