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Archive for October, 2011

Talking Finances

October 29th, 2011 at 02:35 pm

It's the end of the month and around our city, that means spending is usually down at stores and restaurants. I think it is because so many folks receive checks the first of the month and it is running low by now.

We know some folks who would rather put their expenses on credit cards than admit their money is running low. I am not sure why they think it is taboo to just admit they don't have the money for something. I guess they view it as something to be ashamed of. I don't know why unless they spent recklessly to begin with.

I've been kind of studying some of the people we know and how they are playing the keeping up appearances game. They will never admit that they don't have the cash for something. Some even go so far as to hit a home equity line of credit to get money for things, and I'm not talking for home improvements either.

One friend admitted they couldn't afford something to me the other day and how she didn't want to tell the person that invited her to go shopping that. I told her it was no shame, but actually showed wisdom that she knew she couldn't afford it and with so many people having money issues, it wasn't anything to be ashamed of.

I guess I grew up differently. I remember in high school one of the teachers planned a trip to Europe during the summer for students and she asked if I wanted to go. I told her that although I would love to, it wasn't financially possible. She said she understood and nothing more was said. I wasn't ashamed of that and she didn't belittle me for that either. It was a fact of life and we went on.

With all the "open" conversations about everything from sex to diseases, why talking money is such a secret still astounds me.

Some common sense

October 27th, 2011 at 12:57 am

I was sitting in a grade level meeting early this morning at one of my three schools and fundraisers came up. Many of the teachers said they were hesitant to offer another fundraiser because the kids sold candy a month ago and last week they asked for things for a cookout. One teacher who is also a parent said that he thought another fundraiser was going to burn the parents out.

Another teacher said the same thing. So instead of trying to raise money, they put their heads together to figure out ways to make the money that was raised go farther! I was happy to see some common sense prevailing.

A Halloween Costume -- Really?

October 25th, 2011 at 12:26 am

A friend of mine is always grousing she doesn't have any money. She works hard and that is true. But, when the time between her pay days is here, she often has to do without or borrow money to buy necessities like gasoline for her car.

Years ago she had to live hand to mouth. Part of it was because of some circumstances, but part of it was because she was trying to live a dream. As a result of that, when I suggest she check out money saving sights like this one, she tells me she already knows how to save money.

Anyway, just last week she was worried about putting gas in the car so she could get to work. I guess she found the money and apparently has gotten paid in the mean time because she ordered a Halloween Costume and it is being Fed Ex'd to her.

I don't say anything because I know she will get angry.

But what I'd really like to ask if she needed that Halloween Costume. I guess in her mind she would say yes, but I guess I'm too pragmatic. Putting gas in the car, paying my bills, and having food would be priorities.

Guess I'm so boring I'm scary!

A good example?

October 23rd, 2011 at 07:18 pm

Last week my partner at work said I was a good example to her. Me? Really?

Last Sunday she and her husband spent part of Sunday going to the grocery after planning a menu, and then went home and fixed three make ahead dinners. The goal was to have these meals ready to heat and eat when she got home from work.

At the end of the week, she said this is something she will do again, because it made for a good week. She said it was nice knowing they had something ready to eat and they also had plenty of leftovers for other meals.

I was pleased for her because I know it had to have made it less stressful for both of them.

It was nice having someone I am around think I'm not crazy too!

We are friends with another couple and they eat out at least once a day...sometimes twice. They complain about being short of money and they think they are saving money because they are always going places with coupons. One excuse we have heard is they don't think about a meal until it time to eat so it takes so long and it is just easier to go out.

I just finished, in less than two hours, 4 meals and they are in the fridge. Three casseroles and a stew. With some of these, we will have leftovers for lunch. I also cut up fruit for a fruit salad so other than adding a cut up banana or apple, that is done for the week too.

Two hours on a Sunday as opposed to coming home tired from work then wondering what I'm going to fix and hope I have the ingredients...no thanks! I like eating good stuff and saving money as well. I had put a chicken in the Crockpot beforehand and with the meat and broth, made 3 of the meals. I figure I squeezed that chicken until it squawked!


Although I am not sure this is a make ahead recipe, I did find this one and think it looks great, especially with the fresh herbs I need to use before we have a frost.

Zucchini-Tomato Casserole
2 T olive oil
1 t garlic powder
1 T dried basil or 3 T fresh basil, shredded
2 t dried oregano or 4 t fresh oregano
1 T dried rosemary or 2 T fresh rosemary
1 T olive oil
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced or 1 cup tomato sauce
1 13 ounce can white or pink beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Mix 2 T of oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and herbs together
Prepare a 2-quart casserole with nonstick spray. Layer zucchini, onion, and tomato. Spread with beans. Top with the rest of the veggies. Drizzle with the oil and herb mixture. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the casserole sizzles and the top is golden.

Ashamed to Spend

October 22nd, 2011 at 02:14 pm

Have I reached the point of no return?

I was thinking the other day how my wardrobe could use a little updating...I am wearing some pantsuits that are pretty old. They are still nice and I don't intend to get rid of them.

I've also been trying to eat healthier and eat less and I have lost a few pounds. So, I was thinking maybe I could buy something for my wardrobe to "reward" myself.

On the surface it seemed like a good idea. I started checking out a few online sites to see how expensive the item is that I wanted.

A couple of sites in, I decided I wasn't THAT good, and I won't be purchasing that little reward item.

Have I gotten so cheap I'm ashamed to spend?

It doesn't add up...

October 22nd, 2011 at 12:37 am

I know a few of us has written about the show Extreme Couponing.

I am wondering if it is all fiction or if folks are not good at addition. I know one can save some money using coupons. I feel great if I save a few bucks off my bill. I never get a ton of stuff free though. A lot of the coupons are for items we don't buy. I'm not saving money if I buy stuff I'm not going to use.

We were watching an episode last week and this family was "saving" to move out of their bad neighborhood and wanted to move to Hawaii. She had a huge stockpile.

As the story went on, it said she bought either 200 or 300 newspapers. Our little paper here in town costs over a dollar on Sunday so even if they get theirs for a dollar, that's still quite a few bucks to shell out for coupons.

As the program progressed it talked about how the family helped and how their had a huge stockpile of items...laundry detergent, toothpaste, fruit drinks, soda pop, etc.

This shopping trip took 9 hours from start to finish and at the end, they closed the store as they loaded a trailer with their haul.

Pretty cool on the surface, eh?

But then my dh and I were discussing it. Did they have to rent the trailer? And who wants to spend 9 hours in the grocery store? Not to mention all the time and effort and money for those coupons? Did they really save anything?

I guess I wonder about that stockpile...does any of that stuff go bad before they can use it? And if they are saving to move, wouldn't it cost extra to move all that stuff?

I guess being a pragmatist isn't a good thing. I'm wondering how they are coming out ahead...she spends fortune to get the coupons, they stockpile all that stuff so it looked like they spent money on new shelving, and then the trailer...Did they really come out ahead?

Water Heater Blues

October 16th, 2011 at 12:54 am

Our water heater started making weird noises about 2 hours ago..and about an hour ago, started dripping water.

Seems it has worn out...or rusted out or something. We called the plumber and he said that water heaters only last 7-8 years. He told us what to do to shut things off. He isn't sure if he can't get to us immediately because the company they buy water heaters don't like to answer their phones "after hours" because he said they said they didn't like getting calls from plumbers in the middle of the night.

Well, what's wrong with that picture? Does this company think that the plumbers purposely wait until the middle of the night to call for a water heater because they like getting calls in the middle of the night? I would assume that if a plumber is calling in the middle of the night it is because a customer called them.

Anyway, I had read in Consumer Reports that water heaters normally last 18-20 years. Ours lasted 13. The plumber said that for a water heater that is really longer that it should have, because most only last 7-8.

Well, you know where our money will be going...

Move over, Scrooge!

October 15th, 2011 at 12:19 am

I'm warning you, this is a rant...

This has been a week where we have been hit up by kids and fundraisers.

I get the fundraising idea...I'm a teacher and schools and organizations are trying to raise money.

But, it has gotten to the point where some folks know no shame in my book.

We were out for a walk the other day and the neighbor girl stopped us and asked us politely to buy something for Girl Scouts. I had no problem with that. We know her and we are friends with her family. She was polite and thanked us for our order.

We were at Lowe's last weekend and there was a group of Boy Scouts at the exit asking if we wanted to buy stuff. We politely said no and they were courteous and didn't push it. I can live with that.

Tuesday the doorbell rings and it is a little boy and his mom. He's selling popcorn for Boy Scouts. I don't know either him or mom. I do think these folks ought to at least let us know where they are from -- if they are from our neighborhood, it would be nice to know. We bought some very overpriced popcorn. We figured we'd be equal opportunity -- Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

We've had other folks stop us and ring the doorbell in the past few weeks as well.

However, the kicker was we went to eat for a belated birthday celebration for my husband with another couple on Tuesday. Two girls ran up to our table and asked us to buy a a box of chocolates. I have no idea who they were and where they were from. We declined and they repeated the request. I told them no again, and one asked why we wouldn't. I was honest -- I told her that I had just bought some popcorn off of a Boy Scout earlier that evening. I guess I was the first person to tell her no. I guess some folks would say I'm mean, but I figure I've bought off of two kids this week and I have different organizations and charities I support. I really don't want to purchase overpriced junk from children I don't know. I have a budgeted amount of money for things and right now chocolates aren't on my list. And as for giving them as a gift, if you've ever opened a box of these fundraising chocolates, it is almost all packing and few chocolates...it makes one look cheap! I may be cheap, but I'd prefer not to look that way for gifts.

So, I guess Scrooge better move over, because I may have just bumped him out of his cheapo place.

Sunny Saturday

October 8th, 2011 at 09:23 pm

What a week! But, it is Saturday. The sun is shining and fortunately for most of us in Central Illinois, we don't have to turn on the heat...yet. We are supposed to be in the 70s during the day and 50s at night.

I worked up the grocery lists. I do the Aldi one Thursday night and my husband goes on Friday during the day. I have a menu planned for the following week and whatever we can't get at Aldi, we then go to the other grocery store and buy. I always hope to find more coupons for things, but then I realize there are few coupons for the items we buy. It is frustrating, but it is true. I'm not going to buy things just because I have a coupon; a lot of the things with coupons aren't items we normally use.

A week or so ago there was a segment on the news about the health benefits of watercress. None of our stores had it, but we did go to a local Kroger store that is pretty large and they said they would order some. They did, we bought it, and I have been looking for recipes on how to use it. It supposedly has many health benefits. I put some in the Italian wedding soup I made instead of spinach. I've been putting it in salads as well.

It was nice sleeping in a bit this morning. My dh is out watering because our city is on water restrictions and residents can only water Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We still have a small garden growing so he's hoping to keep things thriving until the first frost.

Hope your Saturday is a good one!

Home Sweet Home

October 8th, 2011 at 09:22 pm

Last night we went to a "cookout" of sorts -- it was catered and we each paid so much for our meal. The purpose was not great culinary experiences, but fellowship with church members.

The host and hostess proudly showed their home. It was beautiful and everything seemed new and perfect. The light carpets weren't stained or anything. Everything was beautifully displayed. The furniture all matched and everything seemed decorator perfect.

Overall, it was a good evening, except for the feeling when I walked in my home. Everything seemed so so so, well, shabby.

I don't know if it was because I was extremely tired or if it was just overwhelming to see a perfect house. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't jealous they had this lovely home and they were generous to share it with us.

Just in comparison, I felt like my house didn't compare. One bathroom in their house was bigger than the bedroom I have my computer and store my office supplies and my teddy bear collection.

They had one large storage area with shelves and everything was tidy and straightened up.

Other than my kitchen appliances, most of the things in my home are old or older. Lots of flaws, nicks, and scratches around here. A lot of my dishes are second hand because I collect Blue Willow and I buy at second hand stores, Ebay, antique shops, and garage sales.

Most of my doilies and tablecloths are either hand me downs from my mom and grandmother or things I have bought second hand.

After a good night's sleep, waking up, I realized that so much of my life isn't for show, but for my pleasure. I like having the tablecloths that I feel I can use so if they get spilled on or soiled, the world doesn't end.

The desk where my computer sits is an old school desk I bought from the school district for $20 and spent less than $20 refinishing it. It's not beautiful and perfect, but boy, is it sturdy. It has dovetail drawers. It's the perfect size for my small room and it stores quite a bit.

My dining room table is oak and there are scratches on it, mostly from my clumsy antics. The first scratched I cried over. The second became a badge of honor of sorts.

As for my friends from church, I am pleased they have a lovely home. I enjoyed visiting there and seeing their gorgeous things and huge home. Last night I was dissatisfied with what I had, which is bad. I think it makes me think I need more. Heaven knows I have plenty of stuff.

But, I like my sweet, shabby home. As I cleaned the bedroom and put out the quilt that has been washed numerous time and is showing a little wear, I think of the comfort that quilt provides on a cold winter night. Would bright colors and perfect machine quilting make it any warmer? Probably not. And, my home isn't a show place, so I don't need a perfect home. I need to remember I have more than enough and be satisfied with what I have. I am not the type of person who has to have everything match and be decorator perfect. And, with that in mind, I need to make sure Iím not anywhere near a store when that feeling of dissatisfaction hits.

Eating In v. Eating Out

October 6th, 2011 at 12:15 am

Been awhile since I've posted...work has kept me busy and I've been cooking a lot of stuff on weekends so it is prepared for week night dinners.

A couple we know eat out at least once a day. They are always on the look out for coupons and use them. It's interesting because they are eating things even they say are unhealthy because they feel they are saving money.

I know we spend quite a bit on groceries for just the two of us. But, we buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and I figure in the long run, I'm probably saving money by not having as many health issues.

The other night I was so tired my husband felt sorry for me and said let's just go out. I am irrational at this point due to exhaustion, but I said "No!" He looked at me and I said I had stuff in the fridge and it wouldn't take any longer to fix it than it would to get in the car, drive somewhere, place an order, wait for it, and then have it placed in front of us. So, we stayed home and I cooked.

I really should keep track of how much we save because it might make feel better on those nights when I'm so tired. I know some of the blogsters are doing challenges where they don't eat out for so many days.

Other than saving money, I also think we eat healthier at home as well as use fewer resources such as gas to drive there. But, on the other hand, by not buying things are we hurting the economy.

So, which is best...eating in or eating out?