Friday, January 25, 2008

Yeah! Its Friday!!

Some people look forward to the weekends. Others dread it. The perspective changes if you are up to your eyeballs in debt, counting the days until the next payday, and hoping to god that the check you wrote hasn't hit the bank yet. After a few weeks on the debt reduction trail it gets a little easier and hopefully you're not hiding from the creditors phone calls anymore.

Now is the time when it gets a bit more difficult, because it can be frustrating living on a really tight budget. Friends are going out, shopping, spending money without a care. You want to participate, but temptation is hard. I go through phases where I just want to throw the budget out the door and splurge. I want to go to that movie, have dinner out with friends, buy that cute shirt. Luckily, this frustration isn't a constant and I know if I can just ride it out, I'll be able to focus again. Budgets are like diets, if you are too strict, you are bound to splurge.

Now is the time to pull out that list of inexpensive entertainment options. Local attractions often have free days. Parks may sponsor plays or concerts. The local farmer's market is great for people watching and may also have a local chef giving a cooking lesson or band playing music. Try the library which is a great place for families and often host a story hour or craft time. Its also a great place to rent a movie for a lot less than your local movie rental store.

Today I received a reimbursement check from work for $38.64. That will go towards my emergency fund rather than debt reduction.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Baby Its Cold Outside! And I just want to hibernate.

Well, I went to the first night of my auction and while I saw a few really good deals, I restrained myself. The items I was going to bid on went for more than I was willing to pay. (And that's sad to say considering I was buying for someone else with their money.) Tonight was the last night and the night of the final two lots I was considering, but I have to confess that I couldn't bring myself leave the warmth of my apartment or the comfort of my couch.

This is a good night, however, to catch up on year end projects. I received a $60 check for my Flexible Spending Account and an update that there is still $18.56 to be reimbursed. I need to find those final receipts for over the counter medication I've been holding onto.

I'm also pulling together tax information so I can sit down and finish it by this weekend. I know I'm getting a refund and I'd like to get it sooner rather than later to bring down my debt load and possible take advantage of January mattress sales. (Most likely the mattress will be put off for another year, but its always fun to have a wish list.)

Finally, when I'm done with this post I need to plan my menu for this week and next. I've been working off the cuff, but if I keep this up I will eventually rely on dining out. So far, I've spent $5 total this week including a meal at Taco Bell and two bags of chips for a snack at work.

Nights like this are a great time to take care of those to-do items we prefer to ignore. Keep a list of items for just such a night, pop in a DVD, curl up and feel the satisfaction of a job well done. What things are on your list?

Debt Repayment Progress - $60 towards debt from FSA reimbursement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Live Auctions = Adrenaline, Deals, and Cons

Recently, I started attending a mostly monthly auction at a local auction house. They start by posting an auction catalogue on their Internet site. Then they host preview dates when you can go in and see the items up close. Finally, there are a number of nights when the auction is actually held. I'm always amazed at what people get excited about and what items go for pennies on the dollar. Tonight was no exception, but I went with great restraint.

I make sure I go to the preview and highlight the items I'm interested in. I have a close look at them to make sure there are no hidden flaws that will prevent me from using it. Then I figure out how much I'm actually willing to pay for it and set my limit before the excitement of the auction builds. Don't be afraid to walk away. In case you're wondering where the deals are?
Jewelry - Like new cars it looses the majority of its value as soon as it walks out the door, but I've seen pieces that would go for thousands of dollars in the store go for a few hundred. If I'm in the market for a wedding ring, you can bet I'm pointing my soon to be husband in that direction.
Rugs - I'm always amazed at how expensive area rugs can be in the store. I've seen large area rugs go for as little as $150.
China - A full set (54+ pieces) of Limoges, Spode, Lenox, etc. will go for about $300 as opposed to $300 per setting in the store.
Silver - If you are into entertaining you can find great pieces for little money. Mostly because no one wants to polish it.
Furniture - Why buy IKEA or other brands that are designed to last a few years when you can buy solid furniture for the same cost.

Just for the record, I did not walk away with my item. It went for $100 more than I was willing to spend. Also, like Costco, not everything is a bargain. Don't get sucked into the rush of bidding. You'll only risk buyers remorse.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Updating the Budget for a New Year Can Be Full of Surprises

After a great wrap up to 2007, 2008 is looking more difficult to keep momentum. Last year I paid off two credit cards, one of which has been a thorn in my side for 5 years. This was a lesson on paying more than your minimum balance. This month I sent off the payment that officially brought my student loan debt below the $10,000 mark. Big Yeah!

The bad news, I keep reworking my budget, but I'm still seeing a $400 per month short fall. Part of it is that I'm putting away $200 per month into my Flexible Spending Account for medical savings. I'm looking at other ways to earn money rather than cut back on my savings or debt repayment plan. I'm even contemplating opening a new credit card to transfer the balance to a 0% interest rate. I don't really want to increase temptation, but it would be beneficial and keeps gnawing at the back of my brain.

In all of this planning the one thing that keeps coming up the biggest savings is not spending. I'm going to start keeping daily tally of money I can put towards debt at the bottom of each post. The one draw back is that I may need to dip into this savings to meet the short fall. I will include those expenses in the post as well.

Today, I spent $12 on groceries that will make lunches for the upcoming week as well as breakfast. I only have 1/2 tank of gas until the 31st, so I will need to make sure I don't take any unnecessary trips. My bills are paid for this month, but I wasn't able to save anything. Most of this is because I was on vacation and didn't work any overtime. It will be a challenge, but nothing too uncomfortable.

Weekly Review

Its a new year and a new start. This week's blog recommendations are a compilation of tips for the start of a great year to come, attaining aspirations, and planning for mishaps.

The Simple Dollar - The Little Things Do Matter Twelve Hacks That Add Up To A Lot In the spirit of keeping costs down, The Simple Dollar examines those little expenses that add up.

Wisebread - Farecast Your Flights For Big Savings As someone who loves to travel and travels each year to visit family, this post offers great suggestions for keeping costs down.

Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge - Planning Your Exit From Work - Financial Side Don't miss the posting before it that also covers the non-financial side of leaving a job.

Iowa Hippie Chick - My Real Life Frugal Tips... Always great to get frugal ideas from fellow bloggers and Iowa Hippie Chick put together a great list.