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Archive for January, 2007

Selling on the Half

January 30th, 2007 at 02:15 pm

Just sold a book and a tv dvd box set! I bought the book for a class I audited last sememester, and while I really liked the tv show (The Closer), I really didnt feel the need to own it and rewatch it all that much.

So, for the $20 Challenge, I will be adding:
$20.26 - The Closer
$3.88 - "Choices in Deafness"

I have $110 at the moment, plus this, plus a late birthday check I got the other day, bringing my emigrant account to a whopping $154.14.


Making Goals That Work: Special Education Edition

January 30th, 2007 at 10:33 am

Ive seen alot of people making goals on here lately. Whether that's weight loss or saving money or cleaning or whatever, alot of goals get made around January.

Some of the goals I've seen arent very specific - they're too vague, or have no deadline.

So, here's "How to Write Goals 101" as written by a Special Education teacher who has to write goals ALL THE TIME for students.

There are a few rules when making goals.

Goals need to be:

1) Time sensitive
2) Achievable
3) Measurable

Goals need to be TIME SENSITIVE. You need a solid deadline to come up against. Without a deadline, it becomes this amorphous "someday" dream. This ISNT a dream, it's a goal, so pick a time limit and stick to it. Anywhere from about 3 months to a year is usually a good limit.

Goals need to be ACHIEVABLE. It has to be realistic, something that can actually be done. If you decide, "Im going to lose 10 pounds in 5 days," that is both unrealistic AND unhealthy. It has to be something that can be done within your time limit. If you CAN'T do it, but you've been working your butt off, then you feel like a failure.

Goals need to be MEASURABLE. I cant tell you how many times Ive seen on an IEP (special ed paperwork for each kid), "So and So will LEARN his multiplication tables." Well, honestly, that doesnt tell me a darn thing. How can I tell he learned it? "alia will save money." I picked a penny up off the floor yesterday and I saved it. Hooray! Give yourself something measurable. If you're losing weight, pick an amount. Saving money, decide how much.

Let's get started with a sample:

First off, pick a topic. My sample goal will be saving money, as that is what I am trying to do. I need to save money for April, when I have to go to Anchorage to wait to have the baby.

Goal 1: Save money for Anchorage

Now, there are some problems with this goal.

Its vague.

There is no time limit stated, and there is no money amount attached to it.

So, we revise.

Goal 1: Save $1000 by April 6, 2007

There. That's much clearer. Now I know exactly how long I have to come up with that exact amount.

Now, we have the big goal. Now we need OBJECTIVES. These are the steps we're going to take to get to that goal. We write out the steps, because otherwise, we have to stop and think before doing anything on our goal. It helps to have it all written out.

Again, they still have to be TIME SENSITIVE, ACHIEVABLE, and MEASURABLE. The only difference is that they are shorter term and they depend on your goal.


Objective 1:
-determine how much is currently in savings

Ok, but again, where's the time limit? April 6 is only about 3 months away, so I better get cracking! Plus, I have more than one savings account.

Let's revise.

Objective 1:
-determine amounts in ING and Wells Fargo savings by January 31, 2007

Clear, and it gives me the exact step I need to do first. And, it's something I can do by tomorrow without having to scramble around frantically looking for paperwork from the bank or anything. You can make your objectives as picky as you like, but at first, I would suggest anywhere from 3 to 5 objectives.

Objective 2:
-determine how much to save per month

Unclear and no time limit. Revise!

Objective 2:
-by Feb 1, determine how much to save between Feb 1 and April 1

I cant be more specific, as Objective 2 builds off of Objective 1. I have to know what is in my savings first before I can determine how much extra to save.

Objective 3:
-deposit money

You already know what Im going to say. REVISE! Time limit! Specificity!

Objective 3:
-deposit set amount of money into ING account on Feb 1, March 1, April 1

It tells me WHEN I am making the deposits, as well as WHERE. It doesnt tell how much I am depositing, as I havent actually done objectives one and two yet!

Congratulations! You've written a goal! One you know you can keep, can identify when you've reached your goal, and how long you have to do it!

The whole thing looks like this:

Goal 1: Save $1000 by April 6, 2007

-determine amounts in ING and Wells Fargo savings by January 31, 2007
-determine how much to save between Feb 1 and April 1 by Feb 1
-deposit set amount of money into ING account on Feb 1, March 1, April 1

Now, the next thing to do is get started. As soon as I get my first objective completed, Im going to update my next two objectives.

Let's say that in my ING savings and my Wells Fargo savings, I have a total of $400. Now, I can revise objective 2 and 3 to be more specific.

I need to put $600 in savings before April 6. I have Feb 1, March 1, and April 1 to do this.

Objective 2:
-save $600 between Feb 1 and April 1

Objective 3 I can then rewrite.

Objective 3:
-deposit $200 into ING account on Feb 1, March 1, and April 1

Simplistic? Yes. And that's how it should be. Goals are what to want to achieve, which means you need to spell it out to yourself exactly what you want to accomplish and, more importantly, HOW you are going to accomplish it.

Hopefully, that helped someone. If you have any questions, or need help making goals or objectives, let me know!

Cheap and Tasty: Couscous Stew

January 22nd, 2007 at 12:55 am

this might not be a cheap recipe for you, but we ALWAYS have couscous and chickpeas on hand, so it was a no brainer.

I generally have a hard time finding recipes that I can cook for both myself and the brandus. He's vegetarian, but Im not, plus, he's a MUCH better cook than I am. When Im not sure what to make, I George Foreman a chicken breast and Im done.

But, this turned out very well, very tasty, and disgustingly easy, which is always a highlight of my day.

Couscous Stew

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can artichokes
2 cups bell peppers (we keep frozen on hand)
2-3 cups couscous
dash of hot sauce

If you're using dried chickpeas, rehydrate.
Throw everything EXCEPT the couscous into a big pot or a slow cooker. Make sure to dump in the juices from the cans as well.
Spices to taste - we like alot of garlic
Cook until chickpeas are tender (about 2 hours on high in a crockpot).
Dump in couscous and cook for about 5-10 more minutes. Remember that couscous EXPANDS in liquid! You might have to add a little more if its too think.
Top with some parm.

Yummy! I love it when we have everything we need AND a new recipe turns out well!

There and Back Again

January 21st, 2007 at 09:03 pm

Brandus, and by extension, Riddick, arrived back from Anchorage tonight. Exhausted and still not feeling well, but with medication and the hopes of feeling better very soon.

Brandus didnt make it to my bank to deposit money, but he cashed out some of the reimbursement checks and just paid for most things using that.

Unfortunately, as my husband is REMARKABLY bad at bringing me receipts, I have no idea what was spent where..although he promises he did save several and they are in his luggage.

his luggage, which is still in Anchorage. *facepalm*

the planes are small. you can only fit so much stuff on there. and brandus was overloaded, especially with the cat carrier and the new ferret cage (yay!).

but, brandus did make it to the dr to get his ribs checked out, and it turns out that once a rib gets dislocated, its going to just keep happening. and even though i have never heard of dislocating a rib before, at least now we know what it is.

Also, it means we get 90% of the plane fare back as well. yay!

And Now Its Time for Good Idea/Bad Idea

January 20th, 2007 at 12:53 am

Or rather, the good and the bad.

The good is that Brandus made it into Anchorage tonight and will be depositing our $1800 health insurance reimbursement checks.

The bad is that this wasnt a planned trip.

Last night, we noticed that our male cat, Riddick, was having some urinary trouble. If you have cats, you'll know that this can be very serious, even life threatening.

So, we talked about it, and even though the trip would be expensive, we werent just going to stand by and let Riddick suffer.

So, Brandus packed up the checks, the checkbook, and the cat, and headed off to the plane.

Expensive? Yes. But..he's our boy. Out here, we would have no choices really, unless we wanted to borrow someone's shotgun if it didnt clear up. And Im not that brave.

Plus, Brandus strained/sprained/tore something in his chest (again!), and this gave me an excuse to bully him into getting it checked out properly.

So, if Brandus makes it to his own doctor, we'll get a chunk of the plane ticket cost back.

Here's hoping.

So, with pet related expenses, it does look like a good part of the reimbursement will go towards the cats and the ferret. And that's ok.

We were planning on using some of the money to buy a new cage for Juice, the ferret, and finally getting a kitty tower, because we had to leave the old one in Colorado. So, we'll just add these expenses in with those.

And hopefully, Riddick will come through all this fine, and only needing some medication.

More Fun and Games with the Chase Credit Card

January 18th, 2007 at 10:32 am

I called Chase, and very politely asked about my APR, stating that I had gotten an offer for a new card with a much lower APR (which was true) and asked if there was any way they could lower my APR or match the offer. Otherwise, I would be transferring my balance to a new card and canceling the Chase.

Without changing inflection, looking up my payment history or anything, the guy said, in a very bored tone, "No, there is nothing we can do to lower your rate. It is as low as possible."

I said, "Thank you, I'll call back and cancel this credit card tomorrow."

"Goodbye, ma'am."

No willingness to work with me, nothing.

So, I opened the new USAA card (which gives me another card, which I REALLY dont like), which has a 18.15% APR - but a 0% APR on balance transfers for 6 months. And then I transferred as much as possible over to the new card.

So, Im still carrying a balance on the Chase card, but Ive cut it in half.

So! One of my goals for 2007 has at least had some progress.

Chase: 1,374.84 at 22.99% APR
USAA: 1,475.00 at 0% APR

Ill get that stupid thing paid off and cancelled yet!

Plotting the Challenge

January 15th, 2007 at 11:36 am

Ive been trying to think of ways for me to make a little more money for the challenge. Ive been unreasonably annoyed, because I have a good 30 or 40 books that can be half.com sold...only, they're in Georgia.

But! I got 2 books on pregnancy that are BRAND NEW and i dont need to keep them, as I already have the information, so I shall try to return them. If I cant return them, Ill sell them to the second hand place in Anchorage when I go in February. I have several other books I picked up there that I have no interest in now, so those will go too.

I also have a brand new SLR camera from my husband for Christmas, so Im going to try and ebay my old Canon AE-1 and telephoto lens. I looked, and it seems as if AE-1s in good condition are going for about $30 on ebay. Not bad, and probably more than I could get at a pawn shop or photography store.

So, thats my plan to begin with. As things get sold or traded (as the used book store takes trades more than sales), Ill see if Im making anything. At the very least, Im getting rid of things I no longer need or want.

'Spensive Groceries and $20 Challenge

January 14th, 2007 at 05:14 pm

Brandus went to the AC store (as opposed to the Native Store) today, and for my birthday, got me several of the things Ive been really craving lately.

The grapes alone cost $8! For one small bunch of grapes! But! He also got me chocolate milk, REAL chocolate milk, which I have NO IDEA how he managed to find, some fresh carrots, a 12 pack of dr pepper and a few other odds and ends..for the low price of $100 or so. Eek!

But, the chocolate milk ALONE made me extremely giddy, so its not a bad thing today. And we still have $100 left in our grocery budget.

Plus! The past couple of days, 2 people have used ING referrals from me, so Im adding the $10 each to my challange money. Im happy!

Meal Planning and Pantry Cooking

January 13th, 2007 at 08:48 pm

Ive been trying to plan some meals for the next week or so, but its very difficult for me.

I cant exactly make a meal plan of whatever sounds good and then run to the store. Being in the middle of nowhere means that there isnt much available in the 2 little stores here in the village.

So, instead, I have to do a full pantry inventory, and then make a meal plan from that.

Which isnt helped by the fact Ive found several recipes lately that sound really yummy. But I cant try any of them, because the store in town doesnt have half of the stuff we need for them!

Anyone have any suggestions for organizing the pantry? I hate doing that even more than i hate washing dishes!

Confusion and Extra Payments

January 12th, 2007 at 12:03 pm

It seems like everyone is a little confused this morning! (well, its morning for ME!)

Ive been thinking about that troublesome Chase card with the 29.99% APR. I applied for a USAA AmEx with a 0% APR on balance transfer for 6 months, which Im happy about. But..the limit is $1000, whereas we have $2800ish on the Chase. Should I call USAA and explain the situation (and that we just got raises, YAY!), and see if they will raise the limit so I can switch the full amount over to the new USAA card? Or should I transfer as much as I can, and then pay on both cards, paying special attention to the Chase?

There is a 3% transfer fee, but really, thats not much money compared to the extreme APR going on here. Last month, I paid JUST the minimum payment (as an experiment), and only $7.42 went toward the balance, thanks to finance charges!

Im stumped as to my next step. *sigh*

Also, we currently have a $380/month car payment (yes, I know its high. Its Brandus's car, his baby, and its the one he REALLY WANTED). I have an automatic payment of $400/month set up - I always figured it would help if we were ever really behind and couldnt pay the whole thing. Should I keep it at $400, or should I pay just the basic payment and add that $20 to a credit card?

The paying extra came in handy this last month, when things were REALLY tight thanks to Christmas and traveling. I only owed $50 for the month, which was nice. But, its probably not the best way to go about getting everything paid off.

Gah. Its all so complicated!

But, hey, I DID learn that our teaching contracts for this school year have FINALLY been approved. Yes, 4 months after starting teaching! And along with that, both myself and Brandus are getting a raise of about $1200 a year, retroactively. WHOO!


January 10th, 2007 at 02:54 pm

Our health insurance finally sent us the money they owed for the last 2 flights and Brandus's last visit to the doc. They still owe me for one half of my flight, plus, we didnt have time to go by the place to turn in our travel receipts for January.

But! $1800 back in our pockets! WHOO!

We are discussing where to put it. A small portion needs to be put towards a new ferret cage, as the one we have for Juice is just one of the little "starter" cages, and its starting to fall apart less than 6 months after getting it.

The rest? Im hoping towards the cards, as always! And probably a little into savings, just because. Smile

APR Increase?!

January 8th, 2007 at 10:28 am

As I was checking my Chase card account balance online - as I do to make sure it hasnt been used or anything, I noticed something interesting.

In December, I checked the APR, and it was 27.24%.

Today when I checked, it had been RAISED to 29.99%.

I pay ON TIME. I no longer use the card, and havent since September. Why on EARTH would my APR be going UP? Especially as I am paying the card DOWN?


Ill be calling them today to see if they will be willing to reduce it. If not, USAA told me i was preapproved for a new card, which isnt something I want to do. But, if it will get me a much better interest rate, Im willing to do it so I can get this thing paid off faster.

This is the one card that is just KILLING the budget.

Any advice is highly appreciated!

Minor Goals for Today

January 6th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

1. Unpack suitcase - and i mean actually unpack it and put stuff up, not leave it laying on the floor and digging through it when i need things

2. Do some dishes - Flylady says I can do it in 15 minutes. Flylady has never seen my kitchen

3. Plan meals for the week - we're so very bad at this

Speaking of meal planning, Ive been looking for a spreadsheet or some form of free meal planning software that i can use. I want more than just the days of the week and the meals. Does anyone use anything you really like and can recommend?

Cheaper Anchorage Trip and $20 Challenge!

January 5th, 2007 at 11:44 pm

Just got back from Anchorage again! Due to having to reroute through 2 different airports to get from GA to AK though, we ended up traveling for 24 hours straight.

*dies of exhaustion*

We pulled up to the hotel around 4am and stumbled to bed. I had to get up for a doctor's appointment, and Brandus ran a bunch of errands - picking up first aid/CPR training equipment for the village and stuff. My health insurance deductible started over again, but fortunately, i just had a $32 payment this time.

we were fairly lazy due to extreme tiredness, so except for having to pick up a prescription for me, we did NOTHING that night - Brandus didnt even try to order a movie from the hotel!

Leaving early the next morning, we found out that the hotel only charged us for one night instead of two - even though technically, they could have. So that was exciting. AND! because we have stayed there seven nights and we are gold members of the hotel (entitling us to free breakfast every morning), my next night there when i go in Feb is FREEEEEE.

so, based on all of that - and on the fact we couldnt rent a car at 4 in the morning so we had to wait a day - meant that we spent at LEAST $150 less than we normally would on an Anchorage trip.


Also, finally got the $20 Challenge up and running by opening a Emigrant Direct account through the savingsadvice.com link. My mother randomly gave me $20 on the first, and then I got some early birthday money, so I opened the account with $90 already! Through the link, I should be getting a $20 bonus after I confirm the account, so I am already well on my way!

Financial Goals for 2007

January 1st, 2007 at 07:19 pm

1. Pay off Chase credit card - currently $2754.30 with a whopping interest rate of 27.24%. Yikes!

2. Track budget with PearBudget, a free spreadsheet budget program. it breaks it down into a day by day, month by month thing, and i like it.

3. Move Roth IRA from current bank to USAA where I can actually access it and put money into it.

4. $20 Challange - I have no set amount to aspire to, i just want to play! Change and any dollar bills that can be set aside, as well as figuring out how to sidetrack Brandus when he goes to the store to pick up this and that, mainly because he is bored.

I would like to have 5 goals, but I cant think of another one that is all that important to me. Except for the "Save for this summer" goal, but I want a specific amount before I write that down as an actual goal. Smile