Saturday, February 28, 2009

yay!

I know I've mentioned it before, but I really love Swagbucks!  I have earned $55 in Amazon gift cards since late November.  This has really been excellent, because we have been able to buy a few dvds that we wanted, without having to feel guilty about spending the money.

I feel like right now, any little bit truly helps.  So thank you if you have signed up through my link!  The best part is that you earn points when your referrals search, so make sure you share your own referral to get even more points! :)

Also, I just got my first check from Ebates for $91.70!!  During the holidays, they had offered double cash back on many stores, so my earnings were really able to grow.  If you sign up from my link, we both get an extra $5 when you use the site.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stockpile FAIL

I started cleaning out my pantry today, and I'm really annoyed at how much food has gone to waste.  Last year, I placed two orders (I know I should have learned at order #1) for groceries on Amazon.com that led to my stockpiling fail.  Both times the deals were outstanding, and they were for products that we ate all the time.  In both cases I received products that were very close to their sell by dates - between 1-3 months away.  

Unfortunately, once the quantity of the once prohibitively expensive food became available to me, I completely lost interest and it was left to languish on the shelves untouched for months.

Now I have a lot of "expired" food - most from June to August 2008.  Now I know that eating it will most likely not kill me, but it depresses me nonetheless.

So I'm getting rid of the food today.  It makes me feel terrible, but at least I've learned a lesson: don't even attempt to buy in bulk unless I can determine the quality of the food before I purchase it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

baking FAIL

So I tried making those blondies that I mentioned before, and I failed pretty miserably.  I think that they would have been okay but I baked them a bit too long and they completely dried out.  Hopefully some vanilla icecream on top will be able to salvage them.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day will definitely be pretty cheap this year.  We aren't going out, and instead I am making short ribs, which is all my husband wanted anyway.  So I spent about $10 for everything I need for dinner.  It's pretty bizarre to cook dinner at 10am, but now all I have to do is make mashed potatoes later.

I am the worst present giver EVER.  I bought him a gift for Valentine's Day two months ago that I already gave to him because I was excited.  So then I went and bought another gift that has been sitting out in plain sight for a few weeks.  I should probably get around to wrapping that at some point before he gets home from work.

If I feel ambitious, I want to try baking something yummy for dessert.  These blondies are looking pretty good right now!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A friend's sad story

A friend of mine has been going through some really hard times lately, and I think that her story really emphasizes a lot of don'ts in personal finance.  Within the past few months she lost her job (in a completely ridiculous way) and now her boyfriend, whom she lives with, just broke up with her.  

I'll mention the job loss because it is just completely insane.  She had a part-time job (at a really shady day-care/school) and she just graduated from college.  Upon her graduation, she was talking to her boss about taking a few days off, and her boss informed her about how she (my friend) was leaving at the end of January.  My friend had no idea what she was talking about, because she never mentioned anything about leaving her job once she graduated.  Her boss (evil!) basically said, "Oh but you graduated.  You need a better job now.  So your last day will be at the end of January."

My friend was furious and within a few days was told by her boss to "just leave already."  When she filed for unemployment, she received the first check, but then got a letter saying that her boss told them she quit her job two months ago.  Meanwhile, the boss has been going around the school telling everyone that she fired my friend.

When my friend went in to pick up her last paycheck (since her boss couldnt' be bothered to mail it), she saw her boss' brother sitting at her old desk.  Nice.

So, she started going on interviews for a new job, trying to stay as positive as possible.  She was offered a job with a salary of $14,500.  She accepted it, since she didn't know if she could find anything better.  Keep in mind, we live in NYC.  $14,500 is NOTHING but an insult, especially since it required a college degree.

So then, her boyfriend of 5 years breaks up with her.  Keep in mind, they just renewed their lease for the apartment in NOVEMBER.  So now, besides dealing with the emotional pain of a breakup, she is responsible for half of the rent on an apartment she will not be living in for 9 months, or until the management company can find a new renter.  Her half will be $700 a month!  Plus, her apartment needs major work including a new kitchen and bathroom, so I'm sure that the management company will just love getting paid rent to do the work and take their sweet time doing so.  She will also need to find a new place to live, and that will be at least another $700, and that would be a studio apartment with no windows in someone's basement.

Besides all of this, she literally has NOTHING.  She has 10k in credit card debt because they were never able to make ends meet anyway, and all of her bank accounts are shared with him.  She literally has no idea what she will be able to do, except move back upstate with her parents, which is something she desperately wants to avoid.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don't combine all of your bank accounts with anyone.  Period.  Especially before you are married.  She literally has nothing of her own, and who knows how the splitting of their bank accounts will go.  Every woman NEEDS to have an emergency fund.  It's just a matter of protecting yourself.  I have funds (albeit quickly plummeting in the stock market) that are mine and mine alone.  When my mom mentioned putting my husband's name on this account, my husband refused stating that it is my money.  Now of course, we have accounts together now, and that is where 95% of my attention is focused, but at least I have something on my own in case something ever happened.  I don't think this is dooming my marriage to fail (as some financial gurus might argue).  I am simply being realistic.
  • Her boyfriend is a jerk.  He told her that he has been unhappy for YEARS.  If this is true, why the hell did he renew the lease just a few months ago?!  I think that the renewal of a lease should accompany reflection on whether you are truly content with the situation for the next year.  A signature is a promise and now he is also responsible for $700 a month that he also cannot afford.  He is throwing close to 13k (combined) in the garbage, because he was not responsible enough to realize what signing a lease truly meant.
  • I would have lived with my husband before we were married, except my mother would have murdered me and cried forever.  I've never had an issue with living with someone before marriage and I have no moral qualms with it.  This situation scares me, because she has absolutely no legal standing.  He is breaking up with her because he needs some time to "find himself."  Plus, even though this situation has much of the trauma of a divorce, her family is not treating it as a divorce.  So while she is heartbroken and devastated, she is also getting a total "told you so" attitude from her family.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

free FAIL

My husband and I were super excited about yesterday because we were going to go see Coraline and go to a fancy lunch all for free.  Except we failed.

I had $20 in Fandango credit that I had received from some promotion long ago.  Surely $20 should be enough for a movie, right?  Nope.  $13.50 each with a $1 surcharge on each ticket, bringing us to to $29.  I sadly paid the rest on my credit card, but hey, $9 for a movie that we were really excited about on opening weekend (in 3D!) was still pretty good.

Everything seemed like it would be okay for the restaurant.  No hours were listed on the website, but surely they would be open on a Saturday afternoon, right?  Nope.  They didn't open until 5 and I had already purchased the 4:50 movie tickets.  I tried to figure out something with Restaurant.com gift certificates, but that didn't work either.  We ended up going to the Cheesecake Factory and spending $40.

Oh well.  We had a good time, and we really rarely ever go out, so I can't feel too bad about it.  We'll just have to save our free restaurant gift certificate for another day.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Free Stuff!

I just got my 7th $5 Amazon.com giftcard from Swagbucks!  $35 in free Amazon.com money!  Between that money and my $25 gift card from my credit card, I was able to get season 4 of Battlestar Galactica and season 11 of South Park for free!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cheap Eats!

I always thought I was a pretty good cook, and I think my husband did too - until we got married.  When I lived at home and worked random hours and went to college, I had plenty of time to try out new and complicated recipes.  But when I got married and started working full time as a teacher, I quickly became overwhelmed and as a result we ate tacos and chili...A LOT.  At first I was making these meals with ground turkey, but I started couponing and looking to save money on groceries, and I realized that it was cheaper to buy ground beef in giant family packs.  

My husband would rant about how much he hated ground beef and how tacos and chili all the time made him sad, but I was way too tired to do anything about it.

So this year, I decided that we needed to eat new things and stop eating so much beef.  Thus, I discovered lentils.  And I am in love.

First of all, a bag of lentils is crazy cheap and I could make 2-3 meals from it.  Second of all, lentils are crazy healthy.  Third, they are not ground beef.

My first lentil experiment was with this soup.  Yes, it looks completely gross in the picture, but trust me, it is delicious and it cheaply fed us for a few days.  

So I made the soup twice and I still had more than half a bag of lentils, and I wanted to try something new.  I saw this recipe for lentil tacos in my free subscription (yay!) to Self magazine and I tried it tonight.  I was a little nervous about it, but it was SO GOOD.  Definitely better than the ground beef tacos I had been making (a little too frequently) and so much healthier.  My husband took a bite, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Can we please never eat beef tacos again?"  Plus we have enough leftover for tomorrow.  Yum!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

January recap

Once the car saga was over, I felt like we were finally able to get back on track.  I was able to put $1000 into our savings account, which was a great relief.  I also was able to put $500 towards the car loan.  I still have some left over money for January that can go to either the car or savings, but I think I am going to hold off on that for a little bit.  

When I got into the car accident I felt completely overwhelmed and that our whole financial situation would be damaged.  Luckily, this was not the case since I didn't even have to pay the body shop the $500 deductible.  In fact, I think the accident helped me to reel in my spending, since I was in the dark for quite some time about how much this was going to cost us.  

We went through January without a written budget, but I think we were able to do okay.