Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still Alive and Kickin'

But busy busy. I'm going to Nebraska this weekend, so check back next week for (hopefully) new posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How Cheap Can I Get a Subscription?

Answer: Pretty cheap. I like to get my magazine subscriptions for as little as possible. I wanted to subscribe to Outside magazine (I'm hoping it will make me more outdoorsy. Or more sportsy. Or somethingy.), which seems like a simple task. It only takes five easy steps:

Step 1: Check and see if Best Deal Magazines has any cheap subscriptions for Outside magazine. They do- 12 issues for $4.69.
Step 2: Close that window and visit Ebates to click through their Best Deal Magazines link. I will earn 10% back for clicking through Ebates.
Step 3: Google for coupons. Find one for 15% off.
Step 4: Check out and enter my 15% off coupon. My total is now $3.99 for 12 issues.
Step 5: Hope that I get .39 back through Ebates (sometimes they don't credit you if you use a coupon.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Make Rebates Work for You

Rebates are just one more way to make your dollars stretch and try stuff for free. Here's some tips to making it simple.

1) Be organized. I have a small binder with plastic pages dedicated to rebates. While I am fulfilling the rebate I collect receipts and forms in it. After I have sent it in, I keep a copy of the forms in it until I receive the check. Call the company if you haven't received the rebate in the specified period of time. I used to keep a running list of outgoing rebates for this purpose.

2) Read the small print. Make sure you read the form VERY CAREFULLY before purchasing anything. You may have to purchase all items in one transaction or need to mail in UPC codes.

3) Take advantage of them! They won't work if you aren't willing to use them. It takes very little effort to fill out a form and send it in. I still don't know why people don't take advantage of free offers.

4) Save more money. Use a coupon if you can to maximize savings and money out-of-pocket.

5) Sell the stuff. I once bought software from Staples that was free after rebate and then turned around and sold it on eBay for a profit. Make sure you are truthful in your listing and disclose if you removed a UPC symbol or any other part.

6) Save the money. This is such an easy way to beef up your savings account. With the exception of Walgreens rebates (which I receive in giftcard form), I save all of my rebate checks. I just purchase the item and deduct it from my checking account as usual. By the time the check arrives, I've forgotten all about spending that money anyway. Over the last year, I have saved HUNDREDS of dollars this way.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We Really Do Have Conversations Like This

Scene: Driving in Mom's car to a flea market in the town where I live. A nasty looking bug has flown into the car.

Mom: I just don't like bugs coming in the car. If it were anything else, I'd be fine. Like a bear.
Me: If it were a bear, you would be dead. And so would the bear since bears can't drive.
Mom: I don't know, bears are pretty tough. He would probably live through the crash.
Me: How do we wind up talking about things like this??? This is definitely going on my blog.

Car Repair: Think of All the Shoes That Could've Been Purchased

Well, the car repair turned out to be more than just struts. Add in some incompetent tire mounting that apparently ruined my wheels + the struts + some other minor (but pricy) repairs, and $608 later, here I am! Thankfully, I have a great mechanic.

It was the nicest feeling to be able to write the check for that amount knowing that I had plenty of money in checking as well as my savings to tide me over. This is why I have an emergency fund. I may not be able to meet all of my October financial goals now, but that is absolutely fine. It is just such a great feeling knowing that I can "afford" these repairs.

When I was in college, I had to have a major brake overhaul on my last car. This was in the days before I had any savings. When I learned that it would be in the $300 range, I almost had a breakdown right there. Thankfully, it was the summer and I was working full time at a pharmacy. Pay day was a few days away and my gracious mechanic was willing to wait until then for part of the money. Those repairs took my entire check.

I am so happy that I am not in that position anymore. However, God provided for me then as he continues to provide for me now.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

October Financial Goals

I think it is a good idea to start posting my financial goals monthly. I am big on goals- all sorts of goals- and have devoted a journal to them. I am a firm believer in the thought that writing down goals makes you more likely to achieve them.

October's financial goals:

1) Replenish emergency fund. I had to take some money out of this for moving expenses, so it's time to fill it back up.

2) Start a retirement account. This is scary to me because I've never done anything like this before. I'm thinking that I will start with Sharebuilder because I have a code to get some money for free when I open an account.

3) Start saving mileage check for future car/car repairs. I think I will get my first mileage check in about a week, to the tune of ~$350.

4) Cashflow this month's scheduled car repair (struts) out of my paychecks rather than taking any more money out of savings. I think this will be $250-300.

I'm not sure if I can accomplish all of these, but we'll see how it goes and I'll report back next month.

A Trip to the Library Book Store

A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to my favorite library book store. The one where hardback books are all fifty cents. I got the above books plus this still wrapped vintage Italian record set. Now, I have no desire to learn Italian, but there was no way that I was leaving this behind for fifty cents. Perhaps eBay?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

How to Spot a Well-Made Garment

When I was little, my mom sewed much of my wardrobe. Because of this, I learned what a quality, well-made garment looked like. I also learned all about different fabrics. It can be difficult to tell what quality looks like since expensive doesn't always mean well-made, and vice versa. Here are some tips for finding well constructed items on the clearance racks and in thrift stores in case you didn't have your own seamstress while you were growing up. ;)

* Be aware of different fabrics. NEVER pay a lot of money for acrylic, nylon, rayon, or polyester. Cotton, wool, linen, silk, and cashmere last longer, breathe better, and look nicer. (I will say that I have some poly items, though.)

* Before you go shopping, go through your own closet. Feel the fabrics, look at the stitching. What makes certain items fit well? You will be able to see the difference between things that are constructed well and those that are not.

* Look for linings in pants, skirts, suits, jackets, and coats. Bonus points if they're lined in silk. (I hate lined pants, though, and never buy them.)

* Button down shirts and cotton dresses should have darts in the front and/or back that make them fit better. Same with most coats and jackets.

* With shoes, examine them for even stitching. There should be no noticeable glue anywhere. Set each shoe flat on the floor to see if they are stable or if they wobble. The best shoes (in my opinion) have leather lining rather than man-made lining. Your feet will not sweat in these beauties!

*In handbags there are a couple of things to look for. As in any item, you want nice even stitching. Soft leather and metal hardware (particularly metal zippers) are also indicators of good quality. Lately there have been a lot of moderately priced ($15-30) handbags at T.J. Maxx that have fooled me into thinking they would be expensive because they had all of the marks of quality.

*This is the underside of a skirt hem. When a hem is finished off with lace, trim, or ribbon (as in the picture), this is a hallmark of good sewing. This takes extra time and is not often seen in clothing that is manufactured now. However, you do often see this in vintage clothing.

*This is an example of a well-stitched hem. It is neatly folded over and is sewn in an even, straight line less than 1/8 inch from the end.
For more reading on quality for less, see dressing professionally on a dime.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stupid Tax

Dave Ramsey has a section on his website where people write in with stupid things they've done financially. I like to read them from time to time, and I'm usually a bit smug while doing so. Ah, smugness. You are often my downfall. Well, now it's happened to me.

I just paid my first (and it will be my only) insufficient funds fee.

When I moved, I opened a checking account with Washington Mutual. It turned out to be more of a hassle than a convenience, so I decided to stick with my hometown bank. I only had a little bit of money (less than $200) left in the WaMu account, so I decided that I would just pay for everything out of that account and try to get it as close to a zero balance as possible.

Not a smart idea.

I mixed up some receipts between my two accounts and wound up not subtracting the right amount of money out of my WaMu register. Which led to an overdraft. $1.88 charge is what got me a $32.00 NSF fee. This was totally stupid since I have plenty of money in my regular account, and WaMu deserves the fee for my stupidity.

I've learned my lesson!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Exercising When You Don't Really Want To

Exercise is obviously good for you physically, but it has also been shown to be as effective on mood as a mild antidepressant. Since I trained as a health psychologist, I always encourage people to exercise! Here is some tips to getting going when you don't really want to. Plus, exercise is free entertainment.

1) Exercise first thing in the morning or right when you get home from work. If you sit down or lie around, it is unlikely that you will get back up again to go exercise.

2) If you do have to/want to sit around for some reason, put on your exercise clothes and shoes. Be ready to go.

3) Set "do-able" goals. If you are new to exercising, running three miles three times a week is NOT a do-able goal. Be honest with yourself about what you really can and should be doing. Baby steps. It doesn't matter if it's ten minutes three times a week to start with. The goal here is to...

4) Make it a habit. The more you exercise, the easier it is to fit it into your life. I've been exercising consistently enough now that I am at the point where I feel gross if it's been a few days since I've worked out.

5) Understand that you may not ever be to the point where you are really pumped to go exercise. I have been exercising regularly for some time and I still have to drag myself out the door. I just focus on the way that I feel during and afterward.

6) Focus on health, not on physical attributes. Losing weight and looking great are fantastic goals. However, I've found that if the focus is on health, you are much more likely to feel like you are succeeding. And feeling successful is key to staying on course.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

No Thank You,

Shortly after graduating high school (in 2000) and before the days of My Space, several people from my graduating class signed up at I did, too, as a "free" member. I never visit the site, but today I received an email stating that someone had signed my guestbook. I didn't know I had a guestbook. Anyhoo, I decided to see what it said. Well, surprise, you have to pay join (i.e. pay money) to view your guestbook. The cheapest option is $15 for three months.

No thanks, I guess my guestbook will remain a mystery forever.