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Small DIY success

October 22nd, 2019 at 04:02 pm

Okay, this one may sound lame but I still count it as a success.

We were in Lowe's last week buying a new dishwasher. As we were walking through the store, we passed the aisle with the 4-foot long workshop light fixtures like many people have in unfinished basements or garages. We have 3 in our basement. One barely works and one hasn't worked at all for ages. I just never bothered to do anything about it.

Ours have 48" fluorescent tubes. Now they are all LED which is nice. I took pictures of the 3 options and a couple days ago searched on Amazon. Of course, I was able to find similar fixtures that are even brighter and cheaper than Lowe's so I ordered two of them.

They arrived today and I installed them both easily since they were going exactly where the old ones were, even hanging on the very same hardware that was already there.

We now have 2 super bright fixtures. The laundry room has only had a single regular bulb since that fixture died and the other half of the basement was pretty much in the dark except for the rare occasion when that fixture actually decided to work. It looks great down there. DW is happy because she is in charge of laundry and I'm happy because I do a lot of stuff on the other side. Plus the extra pantry is down there so now we can find things without pulling out our cell phone flashlight. And all for just $60 (and I'll get 5% cashback from our Discover card).

Saw the accountant today; "new" printer

February 20th, 2019 at 05:39 pm

I met with our accountant today to do our taxes. I don't know the outcome yet but everything is submitted except for a couple of forgotten items I sent over tonight. I should know in a week or so how we made out.

A few weeks ago when I went to print something, my printer made an awful grinding noise. It did ultimately print but each time I tried after that, same noise. The printer was over 8 years old so I wasn't terribly upset, and it wasn't an expensive item to begin with.

The only thing I was annoyed about was that I bought a set of ink cartridges for it not long before that. I knew if I bought a new printer, those would go to waste.

So I checked the box for the cartridge for a list of compatible printers and then searched on ebay for the newest of those models. I lucked out and found someone selling the newest one for $15 plus $17 shipping. I was happy to spend $32 to get an upgraded printer and not waste about $60 worth of ink cartridges. It arrived yesterday and I just set it up tonight. It seems to be working just fine so I'm back in business for a pretty modest expenditure.

Went to Aldi today

February 17th, 2019 at 06:51 pm

My mom loves Aldi and I've taken her there a few times as she no longer drives. My wife has always kind of looked down on the place. Even though she's frugal and a good shopper in general, she's never been a fan of the deep discount places.

Last time I took my mom over, my wife was also with us. We noticed that they sell the same brand of Italian rolls we buy all the time. I think they were over $1/bag cheaper. And one of the things my mom went for was strawberries which were on sale for $1.39. I had just bought a container of them at Wegmans the day before but I paid $4.49. That's a big difference.

There happens to be an Aldi on my way home from work if I take a certain route, so I stopped there today. I was going to just buy strawberries. They are no longer on sale so they were $2.99, but that's still $1.50 less than Wegmans. I also picked up blueberries for $1.99. I'm not sure how much those are at Wegmans but I know it's more than that. DD had some of each tonight and said they were good.

Next step is to actually go over and browse and buy some things to try out and see how we like the store brands. Hopefully we can find a few things we like. I'm happy to stop there after work occasionally, especially if every trip saves us several dollars. I'll count that as a win for sure.

Survey and other stuff update

April 8th, 2015 at 05:12 pm

I realized that I haven't posted here since the end of the year. Where has the time gone?

So to update....

2015 is off to a solid start with my medical surveys.
January: $936
February: $764
March: $1,434

April promises to be a good month as I'm already at $610 as of today and it's only the 8th. So I should definitely break $1,000 again.

In other news, we've had an expensive few months. We replaced our refrigerator in January. A few days later, our heater died. That (the heater) cost us $4,000 plus a couple of nights in a hotel. The fridge was about $1,200 I think. Replacing the heater also led to replacing the AC, which we just did the other day, for another $3,000.

In the good news department, I was dreading filing our 2014 taxes because a couple of our taxable mutual funds paid out large capital gains distributions (like $20,000 worth). So I was expecting a 4-5K tax bill. As it turned out, thanks to some other stuff, like the college tax credit, we actually ended up breaking even, getting a small ($95) refund. That was a big relief.

I've been making more use of some online savings, specifically promo codes at sites like retailmenot.com and discounted gift cards at sites like cardpool.com and giftcards.com. We saved almost $100 on the fridge, $30 on a trip to the local aquarium, and $66 on a new suitcase for DD recently.

So that kind of sums up the recent stuff.

Update to stuff

June 13th, 2013 at 06:07 am

Well my wife is officially unemployed. Her last day was May 30. I ran the numbers and her average monthly take home pay was $385. On top of that, a total (with match) of $480 was going into her 401k, so $865 total that we're down as a result.

We're addressing that in a few ways. We are tightening up the spending particularly in the area of groceries and dining out. We have typically averaged about $300/month eating out. For the past few weeks, we have cut that back significantly and have been doing a lot more cooking at home. For example, I used to go straight from my office to our synagogue on nights when I had meetings and I'd stop and pick up dinner on the way. Now, I've been stopping at home and getting dinner there instead so that probably costs $2-3 instead of $8-10 when I'd eat out.

We've also started using coupons which I haven't really been in the habit of doing for a while. It saves $2-3/week but it all counts and all adds up.

I've been more careful about where I buy gas and have been paying cash a lot more since many stations charge more for credit. I used to stick to stations that charged the same for cash or credit. The problem has become that those stations are charging more. So instead of $3.33 for cash and credit, I'm going to the station that is $3.27 for cash and $3.37 for credit and paying cash. Again, not a big savings but it's something.

The main thing I'm doing is really focusing on my survey participation. It's probably too soon to make a dependable prediction but I've started tracking my actual surveys done. Previously, I only tracked the money when it actually comes in.

For the week of May 27, I did $291 worth of surveys.
For the week of June 3, I did $210 worth of surveys.
For the week of June 10, I've done $185 worth of surveys and the week isn't over yet.
I also do an ongoing survey that pays me $150/month which works out to $34/week.
So for the past 3 weeks, that means I've generated a total of $788. That's a weekly average of $262.66. Multiplied out for a year, that's $13,659. I realize I can't really extrapolate based on less than 3 weeks of data but there is certainly a high probability that I will earn more in 2013 than I was shooting for originally (8K). At that rate, I could earn almost 8K just from June to December and I already took in $3,000 through March, so 10-11K for the year is certainly doable.

This also includes only online surveys. I regularly get invited to do in-person studies but don't usually get to them for scheduling reasons. I'm paying more attention to those and trying to find ones that I can work around to do. Even if I could only do one every 2-3 months, it could add another thousand or more to my total.

On my wife's end, she is doing the sewing/quilting thing and has already sold 20 or more items. A friend bought 9 $5 tote bags from her yesterday for teacher gifts plus a $60 patchwork beach bag for herself. Our neighbor bought an iPad cover for a gift and a Kindle cover for herself. And there have been numerous other sales so that's doing well so far.

I'll post at the end of the month with the monthly survey total as always. I'm at $322 so far so it should be good.

Loving my iPhone 5

January 8th, 2013 at 09:59 am

Why is an entry about an iPhone appropriate for a financial blog? Well, ultimately, everything we do has financial impact so why not. Besides, a device that simplifies your life and can even save you money definitely fits the topic.

Anyway, enough rationalization. I got an iPhone 3G in early 2009. At the time, I thought it was terrific. It could do all kinds of things - check email, get online, play games, take pictures, record video, etc.

The 3G had one major fault, though. It was agonizingly slow. Many of the apps available simply didn't live up to their potential usefulness because the phone was just too darn slow. Yes, it is nice to have a device in your pocket that can be phone, computer, camera, GPS, game player, movie viewer, and more, but if it is too slow to actually accomplish those things, it isn't quite as impressive.

Enter the iphone 5. I got this just before Christmas when WalMart cut the prices. A phone that is $199 everywhere else was $127 at WalMart. I was planning to upgrade anyway and that made the decision even easier.

This phone is GREAT! It is lightning fast and all of those apps that had great potential before have actually now become useful in the real world. I've even started seeking out new apps for specific tasks which is something I rarely did on the old phone. This week, I got a running log app to record my treadmill time. I also got an app called Money Monitor that I've started using to record all of my medical survey income. I used to do that with pen and paper in my datebook. Then at the end of each month, I had to manually add up the total for the month. Now, each time I get a payment, I enter it on the app and anytime I want, I can quickly see how much I've earned so far that month (or year to date as the year progresses).

Sorry to sound like an iPhone commercial but for anyone thinking about it, now is definitely the time to go for it, or upgrade if you have an older model like I did.

Taking advantage of local resources

January 25th, 2010 at 07:03 am

In the past month or so, I've really taken notice of the fact that we do not take advantage of many things that are in our own backyard particularly as far as inexpensive entertainment is concerned.

When I was off from work over winter break, my daughter and I rode the train into the city to do some sightseeing, lunch and shopping. We try to do that every year but for some reason, this year really opened my eyes to what is out there. We walked through the downtown area and passed endless shops and restaurants that would appeal to all of us, even if just for window shopping. Of course, there are also a ton of historic sites, museums and other places of interest within walking distance of the train stations.

Then yesterday, a school friend of my daughter's was performing in a play at a nearby college. This time, we drove into the city (not near a train station). For $10/person, we saw a very good show. We did pay another $13 to park plus the $4 bridge toll, but that's still less money than if we had gone to NYC to see even an off-Broadway show. The colleges in the area offer all kinds of entertainment - concerts, live shows, art exhibits, film festivals, etc. We never go to any of that stuff and we really should. It is usually inexpensive and sometimes even free. It is close to home. And it is not mainstream stuff so there is an educational/cultural/expand your mind aspect to it, too.

I'm going to start looking around online to see where they list upcoming events and make an effort to do stuff like that occasionally throughout the year.

Buy gift cards for yourself and save money

November 29th, 2008 at 03:34 pm

I posted a thread about this on the forum but thought it would be a good topic here, too, as I know not everyone reads both.

We went out to lunch today at a local restaurant that we like. They were having a special deal on gift cards: buy $100 worth and get $20 free. So we did just that. Not only that, but I charged them to my Discover card which has a 5% cashback bonus at restaurants through December, so I'll get $5 back on the purchase. That means I actually spent $95 and got $120 worth of gift cards. Coincidentally, our meal today came to exactly $25.00 which means the meal was basically free. We spent $95 (after the Discover cashback), got lunch for the 3 of us and walked out with $95 remaining on the gift cards.

A local mall also has a deal on gift cards. Buy 3 $20 cards and get a $15 gas card.

A few years ago, we took advantage of a deal on Marriott gift cards. I don't remember the details but I think we got $50 free for buying $200.

So be on the lookout this holiday season for gift card bonus offers, not to use for gifts, but to use for yourself to save money on things that you would be buying anyway.

Got $50 Free at Mens Wearhouse today

November 23rd, 2008 at 08:30 am

In the past year or so, I've purchased a new tuxedo and 2 suits at Mens Wearhouse. They have a rewards program and a couple of months ago (after I bought the suits) I earned a rewards coupon for $50 off my next purchase. The coupon has been sitting on my dresser ever since as I really didn't need anything else. I did pay attention, though, to the fact that the coupon expires on November 29, so I decided I should use it. Even if I didn't actually need anything, it was silly to pass up a free $50.

I just went to the store and picked up a pair of pants for $39.99 (a lot more than I usually spend for pants). I wasn't going to buy anything else and let the other $10 go to waste, but at the register, they had those sticky lint roller things. They sell for $4.99 so I got 2 of those and that took me within pennies of the $50. So I got the pants and rollers for free and didn't spend anything out of pocket. Perfect!

General update

October 16th, 2008 at 06:12 pm

I realized I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. Nothing particularly exciting has been going on but I figured I'd give some updates.

1. Even though I stopped doing the Exercise Log entries, I have not stopped exercising. I'm still working out with Wii Fit. I think I did 22 minutes tonite.

Now that I've had it for over a month, I would still highly recommend it for anyone looking for a home exercise regimen. Much more convenient than a gym, not dependent on the weather and you can exercise on your own schedule. It is even portable if you go out of town and want to pack it. As long as you have a TV to hook it to, you're all set.

Not only that, but the other night, the TV was in use so I just went upstairs and did several of the exercises I've learned from Wii in our bedroom. You can't do the balance games but can certainly do the yoga, strength training and aerobic ones.

2. My wife and I visited a local casino (Chester, PA) last week. I won $93 and she won about $12. We had a casual dinner at their sports bar and just had a nice evening out. We're planning to go again on Saturday morning while our daughter is at a school program. We'll play a little and maybe do an early lunch or snack.

3. Got the van fixed today. It had failed inspection for an emissions problem. Repairs came to almost $1,500. I know I could have had it done cheaper elsewhere but the dealership is so convenient. They provide excellent service, a free rental and I trust that they know what they're doing. They did recommend some other work be done (like front brakes and tires) but I decided to shop around for those things. Now I just have to get it back to DMV to get re-inspected.

4. We had to scrub our annual Disney World trip. My daughter was hand-picked for a special school program that meets every Saturday for 6 weeks and that conflicts with when we were going to go. We're all bummed since we have been going annually for a long time (my daughter just turned 13 and has been there 14 times). We're talking about going next summer instead. We'd love to go for more than a week so we could do that then. Can't do it during the school year.

5. Since we can't go to Disney, we may just go away for 2 days that week when my daughter has no school. We're deciding where to go. Lancaster, PA is always on our list so that's probably where we'll end up.

6. As I mentioned on the boards, I got 2 books for doing medical surveys. I put them on Half.com and sold one within 24 hours for $7.99. The other one is still listed but hasn't sold yet. Since I got them for nothing, anything I make is okay with me.

7. Watching my portfolio dissolve right along with everyone else but keeping my cool. 18 years until retirement and 6 until college so time for things to turn around. I'm sorry that I already maxed our Roths for the year. I would have liked to have been putting that $10,000 in now instead of earlier in the year like I did. Oh well.

Can't think of anything else to report at the moment.

Over $600 back from Bat Mitzvah spending

October 3rd, 2008 at 05:47 am

Last night, I returned most of the unused alcohol we had bought to stock the bar for the Bat Mitzvah. We had originally spent just over $1,100 using the recommended list the caterer had given me.

We were able to return any unopened bottles of liquor or wine or unopened cases of beer. We kept 8 bottles of wine for ourselves. We also had to keep, I think, 3 12-packs of beer because we had written on the boxes. And, of course, we couldn't return any opened bottles, so we have quite a few of them at home now.

End result was I returned $554.00 worth of stuff which I was very happy about. That means we spent about $566 for alcohol including all the stuff we get to keep. Knock off the 8 bottles of wine, which really shouldn't count as a Bat Mitzvah expense, and the total was under $500. Had we gotten the liquor from the caterer instead of supplying it ourselves, the charge would have been $15/person. We had 106 people so we would have paid $1,590, meaning we saved over $1,000 doing it ourselves. Plus that way we wouldn't have gotten to keep the leftovers.

I think what really kept the liquor bill low was that I make my own homemade Lemoncello. A lot of our synagogue friends are familiar with it and many others became familiar with it that night. I brought about 4 liters of it to the affair and we used about 2.5 liters. That only cost me about $35 to make but a lot of people drank that instead of the other stuff.

The other money back came from the balloons. We had changed the original balloon order but I realized after the fact that when I picked them up on Saturday, they charged me for the original order, which was more. I went back with the receipt last night and explained the error and they credited me $54 for the overcharge.

So I got back a total of $608 dollars last night which was a nice little bit of change.