I said I'd try to blog more regularly so figured I actually need to post every couple of weeks.
I made our latest mortgage payment which brought our principal under the $10,000 mark. The end is near. I expect to pay it off in August most likely so that's exciting.
I haven't picked up any extra shifts at work the past week or two. I need to take a look at the schedule and pick up something in the coming weeks.
My wife and I are doing an overnight getaway this weekend. We're just going across the river into the city. There's a whiskey bar we've been wanting to try (we are big bourbon and whiskey fans). We didn't really care for their dinner menu so we're eating at a different place in the next block and planning to then go to the bar for drinks and dessert. The only problem with that is that we couldn't reserve a table just for that so we'll have to wait for space at the bar on a Saturday night. Hopefully around 6:30-7:00 it won't be too crazy yet. We're using a free hotel voucher for our stay. Just have to pay for parking.
Haven't done any decluttering lately. I'm hoping spring brings a nice weekend soon when I'm off and can start attacking the garage.
Need to start working on plans for our June trip to Dallas. The hotel was booked months ago but I haven't bought airfare yet. DW has been browsing the tourist sites looking for things to see and do when we're there.
I can't think of anything else of significance from the past couple of weeks so I'll stop there.
Viewing the 'Cooking/Household Stuff' Category
I said I'd try to blog more regularly so figured I actually need to post every couple of weeks.
A couple of months ago I took a look at our cable bill, something I had neglected to do for way too long. I noticed we were being billed for 2 convertor boxes at $6.99/mo. each. However, we only have one. I went over to the office and told them and they agreed to take one off the bill.
Fast forward to last week. I was in the basement and came across a convertor box. Sure enough it is the one they insisted we had and have been paying for. I have absolutely no memory of why we have an extra box or why I never returned it. I brought it up and figured I'd drop it off next time I was over that way.
A couple of days ago, I get a letter in the mail from, the cable company. An account review showed that we're paying for one box but their records still indicate we have two so they're going to start charging for it again.
Now that I actually have the extra box, I can fix this once and for all. I'll go over today and return it and make sure our account is updated accordingly so that we can stop paying that $6.99/mo. fee.
There are 3 savings things that I do manually each month. I send $1,000 to our Ally savings account, $1,000 to our taxable Vanguard account, and $1,000 extra to our mortgage. I don't usually do them all at once but it worked out that way this time. I just did the Ally and Vanguard transfers.
When I went to do the mortgage payment, I discovered a notice that the annual escrow review showed a shortage (doesn't it always?) of $114.89. So I had to pay that. I also had already decided to up the extra going to principal from $1,000 to $1,500. So I did all of that and made that payment. I can't wait until the mortgage is gone in a few months.
If you really want to follow our decluttering process, I'd head over to the forums: https://www.savingadvice.com/forums/forum/financial-chit-chat/general-discussion/700407-2019-decluttering-thread. We just went through all of our sheets and mattress covers and are getting rid of a whole trash bag full that will go to Goodwill. Some worn out stuff is also going in the trash.
I didn't realize it but my wife and I have a "date night" tonight. Our daughter is heading back to her college for a fraternity event and will be gone from about 4:30 until after 11:00. I think we're going to cook dinner together and then rent a movie on one of the online services and relax with a couple of drinks. Not sure what we'll see but maybe A Star is Born.
Ok, this entry is NOT about saving money. It is about spending plain and simple. Our 6-year-old iMac has gotten incredibly slow. I think the last couple of software updates really did it in. It had gotten to the point of being almost unusable at times. Also, we have had Verizon DSL for years and from time to time, the service would be very undependable but lately it has gotten really bad. We never knew from day to day or hour to hour if we'd have internet access. As I'm sure you all understand, we depend on our net access a great deal at this point for all kinds of reasons from financial stuff like home banking to entertainment like streaming movies from Netflix to making travel arrangements to DD doing school assignments. Having access that we can't depend on just is no longer acceptable in 2010.
So... we are now the proud owners of a brand new 21.5" iMac and Comcast cable internet with a wireless network. The computer is beautiful, the screen is huge and the processor is way, way faster than the old one. And the internet access is now 3 times faster than the DSL and, I anticipate, much more reliable.
Oh, my wife also got her iPhone last week, so we now have 2 iPhones, an iPod touch, a netbook, a laptop and a desktop on the network. On the phones, the new cable hook up is superfast. On DSL or 3G, there was a very noticeable delay when checking email or viewing a website. Now, it is instantaneous. I literally hooked it up 10 minutes ago but I'm already loving it.
A few months ago, before the winter, we discovered that the paneling on one wall of our family room was rotting. We had never seen any water coming in but we had a contractor come out and he found where water was getting in. The roof over the family room is about 14 years old and the roofing material is generally expected to last 10 years so we were overdue for a problem.
The contractor said he should be able to do the job by the end of January. Of course, snowstorm after snowstorm kept pushing that back but he finally came out today to start the job. So far, so good. When he opened up the wall and poked around, there was no more damage than expected. I was afraid he would find rotten ceiling beams but he didn't. Hopefully, that means the work will come in close to the estimate he gave us which was about $2,200. I set the money aside back when he first came out so that's no problem. I just didn't want it to balloon much higher.
My wife's been home supervising. I'll see it in a couple of hours. Hopefully, everything will be done by the end of the week.
Those of us on the east coast have been buried under record snowfall this year. We've officially broken the all-time snow record by over 6 inches as of last night (and it is only early February). This week alone, we've had two major storms totaling over 40 inches which is unheard of in this area (hence the record).
Anyway, while most people have been snowed in, we actually got snowed OUT. Last night while I was washing the dinner dishes, I saw a bright flash out the back window. My wife happened to be looking out the front window at the time and saw the transformer blow on the electric pole and out went the power. Considering it was still snowing heavily and the number of homes without power was in the tens of thousands, we figured it could be quite a while before a crew got out there to fix the problem and restore power. So we decided to escape and spend the night at a hotel.
I called the local Fairfield Inn and booked a room, then went out and cleaned off the car and shoveled enough of the driveway so I'd be able to get out. My wife and daughter packed overnight bags while I was doing that and we hit the road. It was kind of eerie as roads that are usually heavily traveled interstates were deserted. Between home and the hotel, I doubt that we saw more than a dozen cars. We made it there safely and checked into a nicely lit and heated room, two things that were lacking at home.
This morning, I called the house and the answering machine picked up so I knew the power was back on. We had breakfast (included with the room) and packed up and came back to the house. Other than one large tree branch coming down (no damage done), everything was in order. So ended our little snow adventure. And only a tiny ding to the savings for an unplanned hotel stay.
It started snowing about 6 am Saturday and forgot to stop. By the time it was done, we had recorded the record high snowfall for the month of December beating the record set in 1909. We also got the 2nd highest snowfall ever after the storm of 1996.
Needless to say I've spent a good part of the past 2 days snowblowing and shoveling snow. I'm done now. Well, not done in the sense that all the snow is cleared but done in the sense that I'm not going out there again. I've got my car shoveled out. The van is mostly cleared but needs a little more work. I'll probably do that tomorrow night after work and DW and DD can work on it tomorrow, too.
It has been a long time we've seen snow like this (13 years to be exact). I just hope this isn't a sign of things to come this winter.
As I reported a couple of weeks ago, we've been working on some house cleaning lately. The first round turned up some monetary rewards by finding stuff to sell on ebay.
This week, cleaning actually turned up money. Wednesday night, I was cleaning in the basement. I came across a file box of papers from when my wife and I ran the Girl Scout cookie sale for our daughter's troop 3 years ago. I realized there was no reason to still have that stuff and started pulling everything out to recycle. In one of the folders, I found a $20 bill. I'm certain that we handed over all money due to the troop so this $20 probably belonged to us for some reason, but I have no idea why it would have been in that file. So the next day, I stopped at the Girl Scout office and told them the story and to give the money to her troop (she's not a scout anymore).
Today, my daughter found a $20 bookstore gift card and $8 cash plus some change while cleaning.
So that's almost $50 turned up in a few days. Get rid of your clutter and get organized. It may pay off more than you realize.
All 3 of us got on a cleaning binge this weekend. As has happened before, that has resulted in me listing some items on ebay. Yesterday, my wife came across a book/CD set from a work seminar. An identical set sold last week for $22.50 so I listed her set.
Today, my daughter unearthed her Game Boy Advance. I searched and they have been selling for $20-$30 for the player alone and DD also has a lighted grip thing that should add a few dollars to the value, so I listed that.
In the process, I also listed 5 other items that I didn't find due to cleaning but it put me in the mood to unload some things.
So I've listed 7 items in 2 days. Three items already have bids and I know from experience that most bids happen on the final day so I'm sure some of the others will sell, too. So cleaning the house may bring in $50-$100 in sales if we're lucky.
Several months ago (January, I think) I posted an entry entitled, "Our house is falling apart."
Six months later, we've fixed several things on that list, though not all of them. In the meantime, a few new ones have cropped up.
We had to have our oven repaired not long ago. I went to bake pizzas one night and the oven warmed up but didn't get to anywhere close to 450 degrees, so we ended up with warm but not fully cooked pizza. When the repairman came out, he was able to fix it but advised us that it is 20 years old and it probably won't last much longer.
We've had a recurring problem with carpenter ants and have had the house treated a few times over the years. This being ant season, they came back last week. The exterminator came out and retreated but discovered some moisture damage in the wall where the paneling is bowing and cracking. So now we need to have a contractor come out, rip out that paneling, see what kind of damage exists behind it and fix whatever needs to be fixed.
Now, our stovetop, which is just as old as the oven, is on the fritz. I was helping DD cook some potstickers last night and even though the burner was only set on medium, it got red hot and burned the food.
So it looks like we need to go shopping for a new oven AND stovetop. Oh, and replacing the oven means having the contractor rebuild the wall (it is a built-in model) because our oven is 26" and the standard now is 27" so it won't fit where the current one is. Also, the current unit is a combined oven and microwave (that died a couple of years ago) so we want to rebuild the wall to fit a new oven and build a cubby to put our free-standing microwave and get it off our countertop (that will be nice). Besides, we've always hated our stovetop. It has 4 burners, 2 small and 2 large, but they are too close together so you can't actually have 4 decent size pots going at the same time. I'm sure the end result will be a more functional kitchen, but we just weren't planning on spending any big bucks on renovations at this point in time.
Oh well, such is life.
Today is a beautiful spring day, the first we've really had this year. I spent a couple of hours attacking the disaster area we call our garage. I managed to make some progress, get rid of some trash, put some stuff in the recycling bin and condense some of what remains. I also made a trip to the Goodwill donation center with 3 boxes containing 3 sets of dishes, 1 box of children's books and 1 old computer monitor. That cleared some space in the garage.
I also located a number of items that I will list on ebay, hopefully starting tomorrow. So my decluttering may yield some cash, too, and help my ebay challenge numbers. We'll see.
A couple of days ago, I went to lock the front door deadbolt and when I turned the knob, nothing happened. The knob turned but the bolt didn't move. I'm no home improvement whiz but I knew that wasn't what was supposed to happen. Fortunately, the door has 2 locks so I didn't have to rush right out and fix it.
When we first installed that door, we put in a better quality (more expensive) lock set. I don't remember exactly when that was, but it was somewhere around 8 years ago. I certainly expected it to last a lot longer than 8 years given what it cost. When I took it apart, I saw the problem. The metal ring around the shaft had just broken apart. So much for better quality.
I stopped at Home Depot today and bought a basic set. If the more costly ones aren't going to hold up any better than the cheaper ones, why spend the extra bucks. This one doesn't feel quite as nice in your hand, but big deal. It will do the job and if it breaks in a few years, I won't feel like I got ripped off.
Today is my last day of work until April 13. I always take off for the week that Passover begins because we have so much to do at home. Lots of cleaning, shopping and cooking. So it isn't a vacation in the "sit on the beach and relax" sense, but it is time away from the office. It also gives me a few days when I can actually sleep past 7am. We've really been on a treadmill of activity lately so I'm looking forward to the break in routine, even if there is still a lot of work involved while I'm off. Plus, after Wednesday, the work will be done and I'll have a few days to actually relax.
So I'll wish an early Happy Passover to my Jewish friends and Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate that.