Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Weekend of Entertainment for $1.50

My nine year old granddaughter and I spent the entire weekend together and I managed to come up with some pretty creative ways to spend our time.

On Friday I took her to Michigan First Credit Union to open a savings account. She was SO excited! They gave her a pencil case full of fun things, and showed her how to record her deposit transaction. They really treated her wonderfully, she decided to come home and make the woman who helped her a thank you card. Later, we decided that Friday would be cooking day, and Saturday art day.

Friday we made sushi, both of our favorite meals. Sushi is the NUMBER 1 expense for our family in dining out. When we first began reading the cookbook, she did say she wished we could just go to the restaurant, we had an absolute riot making cucumber rolls, tamago, miso soup, and salad. When we finished, she declared it to be her favorite sushi and thought it tasted better than the restaurants,and, honestly, it did!

Saturday started out with us raking leaves. I'd decided to not use the landscaping company we usually use for fall cleanup. Living on a 1/2 acre of land this is quite an undertaking and I haven't found a leaf blower that I want to purchase on craigslist yet. I drew an imaginary line through the backyard, cutting the lot into 4 parts. Only two of the four areas really needed to be raked, where the trees are located, the other areas only have minimum amounts of leaves. Because of all the work we were putting into this project, when she decided she should jump into the leaves it was in a fairly controlled manner. She didn't want to spread the leaves all over the lawn again. If she hadn't participated in the work, I'm sure she wouldn't have considered this.

When we got to the last pile of leaves, we decided to make a girl scarecrow out of them. Alexis, my granddaughter, ran upstairs to find some clothes for her, returned with her jeans, a sweater and a belt. We stuffed the leaves into the arms of the sweater, put a long branch through the armholes, secured another branch from the head too the legs, and dressed her - stuffing everything with leaves. All we needed now was a head. Using a small, round, pillow and an old sheet, we secured the sheet over the pillow with a hair tie. Alexis painted a face on our scarecrow. We put a hat on her and set her on the porch! She looks wonderful. . . . . . and she was 100% free!

What I noticed was that each time we started a project, Alexis was excited, half way through the project, Alexis was bored, near the end of the project, Alexis was tired, at the completion of the project, Alexis was proud of herself. The result for both projects, the cooking and the leaves, was followed by a reward - the sushi and the scarecrow.

Until recently, I believe that I was the one who was be giving up before I get my "reward". In the past few months I've been forcing myself to complete projects and it really does feel great.

Later, Alexis wanted to do more art projects, she also wanted me to locate her an empty binder for her new pencil case from the bank. I recycled one of my old office binders, turned the divider tabs upside down so she had a clean set, and gave her a bowl of rubber cement, a pair of scissors, and some junk mail magazines.

Alexis began putting together a binder of pictures, fashions, and anything else she wanted to cut out. She spent a couple of hours working on this while I took some time to relax. Cost of project. . . .free.

Alexis spent 1/2 hour reading to me from Junie B. Jones. . . . We finished the day off by watching a movie together - "My Little Princess". This child was entertained the entire day, helped around the house, and made some beautiful art projects. I never felt I had to spend a penny. Remarkable!

Sunday we drove by the bank, delivered her card, and spent the afternoon at the library. I did break down on Sunday and bought a bag of grocery store bagels and picked up other items I was needing from the store for the week. Total cost incurred with granddaughter $1.50.

While we were out, my granddaughter took me by game stop. She had been telling me that she has a play station 2 at her dad's, but no games. She said they only cost $5 at game stop. I looked and listened as she showed me the games she thought were fun, I wrote down the titles in my palm (Christmas ideas), and we left the store - no complaining, no whining. Going in to the store I let her know I was only going to look. She respected the boundaries and was excited to share her knowledge of thrift with me. The games ranged in price from $2.99 to $14.99.

At one point during the weekend, I asked her a questions about money . . . . .

What do you know about money? I know how to count.
What is money? Its stuff that you can like buy groceries to help you survive.
Where does money come from? Pennies come out of copper. Money I think you make out of paper and paper makes out of trees.
Who makes the money? Don't know
How do you become rich? You have to have a really good job or business, and whenever you have a really good job it pays really good, and whenever you do something good to help your boss.

It's amazing that the last statement is something that we carry from childhood into adulthood. When I told Alexis that she didn't have to have a really good job that paid really good to be rich, she was surprised. It doesn't matter how much you make - it's how much you save.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

$22,500 Reduction in Expenses

We’ve chosen to save $144 per year by changing banks from Comerica to Michigan 1st.
We chose to save $2600 by cleaning our home ourselves.
We’ve chosen to save $2304 this year by putting together our own gym. Our $700 investment will be paid for within 3.5 months.
Husband decided to save $840 by purchasing clippers - (oops, he didn't use a mirror though- better luck next time) .
I found an Arabic market near my home that sells their produce for 60% less than chain grocery stores. This saves us about $2400 per year.
We’ve refinanced one of our homes! This saved us $12,000 per year in payments!
I've been doing my manicures and pedicures at home, this saves us $45 per month or $540 per year.
A cut and color costs $180 per visit. By performing these services at home we’ll save $1080 per year.
We’ve knocked off a minimum of $577 on the Direct Merchants credit card, at 29.9% interest, by agreeing to a six month payoff period, paying 1578 or the 2155 owed, eliminating additional interest payments and finance fees. Yup, it comes up on the credit report, however, I'll write the credit bureaus letting them know it was due to loss of business.

These items alone are saving us $22,485 each year, and, there are several other actions we've put into play to reduce our spending which I won't be able to put a price on until they show up on our utility bill, at the gas pump, and other.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Frightening Financial Agenda

Over the past couple of weeks I've been researching to find out what our financial picture looks like. Today, since my husband and I are having a financial meeting, I put the complete picture together!

Using a newsletter template, I compiled and printed our volume one, issue one of "Jewel Financial'. We'll be putting together our mission statement by going through the team section at we'll move into our agenda which we determined a couple of days ago. The agenda consists of reviewing October's buget, reviewing insurance coverages on auto, home, condo, and reviewing our banking selections.

In addition to the above, I've listed what we currently have in each of our accounts, as I've said in the past, we have a LOT of accounts between our two businesses and our household.

Next to our assets I've listed our long term expenses and our pending monthly expenses. This is the part that I wish I hadn't done though. I believe its too much information for a first meeting. I actually felt physically sick when I saw the bottom line numbers.

I ended up calling a prayer line for support because I was so frightened.

I still need to perform these same tasks for my business so I can see what's going on there. I know I have outstanding debts, but I don't know how much. I can think of several thousand off the top of my head though.

Currently we have access to $1,515. Our Credit and Loans total $37,000. Our Mortgage balance is $462,342. For a total of $499,342! (Later: Oops, I forgot to add in a $46,000 loan that we pay $1000 on per month. Next day later. . . . another $3000 construction debt past due to add to the bottome line. )

We owe 1/2 a million dollars!

Differing Financial Opinions

My husband and I agreed to have a budget meeting tomorrow evening. This is a big commitment for both of us because neither of us likes to talk with each other about financial decisions, what to do with our money, how to spend it, how to save it, etc. We primarily don't like to talk about it because-its exhausting and, we don't agree.

We have two, extremely different financial styles and they collide at each conversation. Because of this neither of us handle the finances regularly, I pay the bills when due, or when past due or shut off, he ignores the finances completely.

In my mind, my husbands financial style is think about the short term. My style is to think about the long term. I prefer to feel the pain now for the payoff later.

One example that we can't agree on. . . . I drive a 2004 Expedition that I pay $635 per month on through my corporation, there is a balance due of $10,000. We also have a 1999 Windstar that has 150,000+ miles on it.

Because of my business, I need a large car for when materials need to be transported, but I do not have to drive a large auto all the time. We want to purchase a smaller auto without taking out a loan that I can drive on a regular basis and keep one of the cars for our second, less driven car.

Here's where the disagreements begin. . . . my husband wants us to sell the Expedition so that we can eliminate the $635 monthly payment. I want to sell the Windstar because its the oldest car and will last the shortest amount of time, and, because I've already invested $24,000 in the auto and I don't want to walk away from that investment.

Since I purchased it at the end of 2004, if I was to sell this car now, it would cost me over $8,000 a year to have driven the Expedition! If I keep it for a total of 10 years, it would cost me $3,400 per year and last until 2014.

If I sell the Expedition (husbands plan), I could pay off the $10,000 balance and make approximately $1,000. The Windstar would still be the secondary auto, because its too large to be a gas saver, and it will last approximately 2 more years, or 2009.

For him, the relief of eliminating the monthly payment of $635 is more important than anything. For me, having a reliable, long lasting auto in the end is most important.

In the meantime, we'll continue to build up a fund for this smaller car. Fortunately, this decision does not need to be made immediately.

For this budgetary meeting tomorrow evening, we've put together a fairly short agenda that will help my husband be brought up to speed on what's happening financially, and a couple of areas of cost savings/reductions that we need to discuss.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How I Saved Money Today

The many ways I saved money today. . . . . . ..

. Used cruise control while driving, drove the speed limit.
. Left the lights turned off during the daytime and turned off lights behind my
daughter and her girlfriend. Only turned on lights as needed.
. Made a very large batch of chicken soup, froze 3 dinners worth.
. Cut up a large bowl of carrots and celery for nibbling on instead of other, more costly, foods.
. Made a large batch of hommus so that I and others will have plenty of foods to choose from when hungry. Having foods prepared saves by not stopping to get something to eat while out. I have small containers of fruits, vegetables, and nuts with me that I eat throughout the day. When I took two girls shopping this evening I made sure I ate before I went (when they saw me eating they started eating too), threw a few things in a bag and went out the door. When we got out of the mall we all grabbed a few snacks to hold us over for dinner.
. Made a large batch of rice. Again, same thought process. By me having large amounts of healthy, natural foods in the house there is never a need to stop and get something while we're out. Plus rice is reasonably priced. We can and do graze all day.
. Set a limit on my daughters birthday presents. She says she needs/wants a winter coat and a pair of jeans. Fortunately, I had $50 in gift certificates for the store she found her coat at! Also, she pushed me on the one pair of jeans by purchasing 3 pairs of jeans at very low prices. She began looking at other items though, and I was feeling the pressure, so I asked if she wanted the jeans she had in her hands, when she said yes I took them from her (nicely) - leaving the other items still in her hands and went to the cash register.
. Worked out in my new home gym. . . .saved gas and am not wasting the investment we made into this fantastic used gym equipment that we purchased on craigslist.
. Composted all the cuttings of today's foods preparing for next years garden.
. Chose not to offer my daughter money to go to the movies with her girlfriend.
. Contacted a modern furniture store to see if they were interested in purchasing several (30-40) light fixtures that I have new in box. (They are a holdover from my furniture store). I was told he was "very interested" and I'll wait to see if it happens before I get excited about it.
. Paid bills on-line and on time - saved on stamps and late fees.
. Began to put together a spreadsheet listing the costs of items at various stores and programming in the formula to reduce the price to cost per ounce. Its fascinating! My intention is to be able to know if I'm getting a good price, and also, when I hit a really good sale.