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Archive for September, 2006

Safe in Croatia

September 16th, 2006 at 05:41 pm

After some whirlwind travel, and a half day in London, I made it. The keyboard in this Crikvenica internet cafe is a little tough to navigate. The food is incredible, and the ice cream rivals Italian gelato. Since I have never had italian gelato, it is the best I have ever had.

I am taking pictures, and also logging everything I spend to have a record. I am not trying to pinch every Kuna, but simpler pleasures do thrill me so even without setting a lot of limits my natural pattern is to be low key.


Good Bye, and Come Back in October

September 13th, 2006 at 09:10 pm

In 45 minutes I leave for vacation. I will sleep in San Francisco tonight, then board my flight tomorrow, and arrive in London early Friday morning. Friday evening I arrive in Croatia. Iíll start at the top, in Crikvenica, make a day trip inland to the Plitvice Lakes, then move down the coastÖ.perhaps Hvar, perhaps SplitÖ.definitely ending in Dubrovnik on the coast, then inland to Mostar in Bosnia, then farther inland and up to Sarajevo, then to Zagreb for a flight back to London. An incredible dinner at St. Johnís restaurant, back to San Francisco on Saturday the 30th, then driving back home on Sunday the 1st.

Doesnít it sound divine? I love travelling, and I could really be happy anywhere, I think. Iíll be with three other women, seasoned travelers, and expect to have a great time. I am planning on tracking all of my expenses, so I can post that a two week trip to Europe does not have to be a bank breaker.

I may peek in to say Hey if I hit an internet cafť. I may not. Wish me safe travels.

I Have a Case of Zombie Debt.

September 12th, 2006 at 03:55 am

I have a really old debt from the early nineties that I paid off in 1997. I just got a bill from a collection agency for the same bill. I can see from my incomplete notes that in 1999 a new company tried to collect that debt and I had to get proof of wire transfers to get them to stop. This is a new company.

Fellow blogger Princess Perky pointed me to an article by Jeffrey, http://www.pfadvice.com/2006/08/21/zombie-debt/, and Iíll take the correct next steps, which may be no action. Itís not very much, but it is already paid.

What gets me is how absolutely deflated I felt when I got that bill. Here I am, Month 7 of My Challenge, and getting ready to go to Croatia and Bosnia. Bopping around, feeling good. I even decided to finally use a spa gift certificate I got as a gift last October to get a manicure and pedicure, and I scheduled my appointment for Wednesday, the day I depart for vacation. (It will be my first time for both!) Work is in order, the house is in order, Iím feeling pretty good overall. A little worried about too many migraines and headaches, but overall enjoying my life and being productive and all that.

And the ooooomphÖ.like a punch in the stomach, I opened the letter. ďWe are your new creditor.Ē I had worked so hard to clean up all the messes I made whenh I was not frugal and not responsible with bills. I already had another old debt glitch that I havenít tackled yetÖI had paid off $4000 in fines, and my credit report says I still owe $4. (Why would I pay almost $4000, and not the $4? Long story...the County admits they picked a new collection agency because the old one had really screwed up records, but canít fix the $4. Iíd even pay the $4; I just donít want it on my blankety-blank credit record. )

So after diligently paying everyone I ever owed, years and years and years later debts and fines shadow me. My reaction for now is that being good didnít pay off, which bums me out because in general I believe that what comes around goes around. Maybe itís because I was bad and then good, if I had been good all along I wouldnít be in this situation. I thought that realizing I had made a mess then cleaning up my mess would count for something.

I donít plan on continuing to pout, but I am a little tonight. And I admit Iím gorging on junk food (donít drink or smoke). Iím drunk on cookies. Tomorrow Iíll realize that my life is good and that I just have these tasks (battles) to face, and that since Iím a grown up thatís part of what I have to do. Tonight I get sugar in my tea instead of Splenda.

The Never Ending Soap Dispenser

September 10th, 2006 at 11:16 pm

Weíve lived in our rental for 4-1/2 years. When we moved it, the only non-fixture items in the house were a roll of TP and a soap bottle by the sink. That same soap bottle is overflowing today!

I put my soap bits in there, instead of piggy backing them. My Guy likes a bar of soap, so he uses that and I use the pump bottle. It mushes well by itself, with some hot water now and then. I did try to nuke it once but it slightly warped the bottle. I will sometimes float it in my super hot baths (an admitted luxury) to soften, and then I shake.

Yesterday I bought a nice soap/lotion pump bottle as a gift for a particular friend; it's perfect for her. I was going to empty out the soap and wash it, so that she could do lotion or soap of her choice. Well, that liquid wonít fit in that 4-1/2 year old bottle.

I wonder how many of the original molecules from the original liquid soap are still bubbling in there?

I Am Not a Good Shopper

September 9th, 2006 at 09:51 pm

I went to Target with my $10 worth of gift cards (Harris Poll Online Surveys) and shopped for an hour and a half and spent $9.37. I just donít have much of a shopping streak. I had originally been worried that I would spend too much splurging for my vacation, but I guess I was wrong.

I am not always sure how to count gift card purchases. I donít want to count them as income, because obviously I couldnít put it towards rent or utilities. However it seems as if that way I could ďspendĒ $10 on clothes or something and not have it show against my clothes budget. Then next year, my clothing total would be falsely low by $10. Well, since itís $10 Iím not gonna worry about it. If it was $25 or $100, I might need to look at a different method (not just for The Challenge, but for me on an ongoing basis. Iím into tracking my expenses).

I did end up getting Nair (will be on the beach), a journal (a must for travel memories), a tiny spray bottle (for Fabreeze) and a pack of disposable razors (vacation and getting pills of my sweaters). This was after looking at many items, and trying on eight bras. I have room left in my toiletries and clothes budgets, so I didnít need to be so restrained, but nothing seemed right. I almost got two pairs of shoes, but the more I looked at them, the more they seemed cheap. I just donít want to buy disposable clothing.

My reluctance to spend $10 on an item probably was enhanced by being at garage sales, where things are such great deals. My haul today totaled $4:

Two gifts - $1

Two wet/dry womenís battery powered razors, with batteries: $1

Necklace, I think itís a silver plated chain, $1.25

shorts, needed for vacation, seventy-five cents

Brush/mirror travel combo-free

Plastic hanger-free


With the shavers, Iím planning on being decadent and putting one in the bathroom and one in my travel bag. On the chain, it is heavier than non-silver, but isnít marked 925. I did a Google check and didnít find any good tip to tell if itís real silver. Thatís okay; I needed a longer chain for pendants and I couldnít return it anyway. Itís not like $1.25 for a chain is outlandish!

I did get my hair cut, though I didnít get it washed and wet in freshly showered instead. I brought in pictures of my hair for the hair stylist; dorky but it helped her. It was $18; no Challenge would ever get me to be a bad tipper, and I tipped $6, although $4 of $5 would probably have been just fine.

And the last bit of money news: a whopping ninety seven cents extra income from recycling. (I had a lot of non-money stuff to take in, so it was a full trip, just not the good stuff.)

I Love a Productive Headache Free Day

September 9th, 2006 at 02:50 am

Iím in countdown mode; 4 more full days before I leave town, on Wednesday the 13th!

Iíve got a fair amount to do to tomorrow, some to get ready. Tomorrow is garage saling, laundry, berry picking, Target, hair cut, recycling. (Why Target? I have not found a tiny spray bottle for Febreeze at garage sales, and have not found a bra at a thrift store, and have 2 $5 certificates from Surveys.) I need to finish any last minute planning on the internet and print out a good little personalized mini-guide.

I looked at my budget to see what is affected by my trip. I think I need to take out $45 from my Grocery budget, and put it towards vacation. Before you think of it as cheating, think of this: I wonít be buying grocery for 2 weeks, and if I only spend $45 this month it will falsely lower my average grocery bill, which is currently an average of $92. See what I mean? So Iíll take half my food money and use it towards food. Otherwise, no other expense should really go up or down, except gas (to drive 6 hours to airport) and I will post that in my Travel Totals.

Shopping ahead for gifts works well. A birthday snuck up on me, but since I had been tucking away items I had two gifts for her; her favorite lotion (unused, from college gals who sold tons of bath goodies) and a NASCAR Jeff Gordon poncho-not my thing, but definitely her thing. When I end my Challenge in February, one thing I really want to continue to do is be vigilant about looking for gifts year round. I think of my circle of family, friends, and co-workers when Iím at garage sales or any store, and as I see something, I grab it, for the next event, birthday or Christmas of ďthinking of youĒ or whatever. I can not only get items at a lower cost, but I can get items very suited to the person, as I have months to get the perfect item, not weeks or one trip to the mall.

A Poor Way to Not Spend

September 7th, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Effective, but poor way not to spend: Spend two days in bed with a bad migraine. So frustrating.

I'm able to be out of bed now, meaning I can move without extra pain. I'll have limited time this weekend to plan for Croatia.

It's a good thing my lifestyle is structured to be low maintenance....no "missed" grocery runs, not a lot of missed cleaning, no missed errands.

Puttering, That's All

September 5th, 2006 at 01:27 am

Mopping is one of my least favorite chores, and I did it today. Our house tends to be very neat but not so clean. The floor looks a whole lot better, and I feel proud. I also otherwise cleaned, and hung a lot of laundry, and put away laundry.

I was sure hoping that thereíd be decent TV on tonight, so I could get it bed and watch a little nonsense. However the offerings are not watchable, except maybe Antiques Roadshow. I do have the mighty stack of books.

My Labor Day Weekend was a cheap one; I spent $8.75 at garage sales. Since I do have my vacation coming on the 13th, itís not like I could really feel good about spending much. I already feel somewhat guilty about going to Croatia in the middle of the Challenge. I knew that I would not give up travel even before I knew Croatia was a possibility. I do know that folks who are struggling donít get to pop over to Europe for a couple weeks, though.

How am I Handling the Body Blow?

September 4th, 2006 at 02:57 am

I have been forced to take drastic measures. The footie jammies are on, the tea is brewing.

(These bad boys cost me a quarter. So much comfort in that quarter.)

Severe Body Blow

September 4th, 2006 at 02:25 am

Iíve been assuming that on Minimum Wage Iíd have no Federal or State Income tax liability. Wrong. I should have verified much earlier; I checked an online calculator and I believe that my Federal income tax liability would be $569 for a year. I think I wonít owe for State, if include the renters credit which Iíve always gotten, but that doesnít help me much.

At $569 it would be a tad over $47 a month. However, since I delayed verifying this until I was freakiní halfway into the Challenge, I have to make up that amount in half the time, so to catch up I need to budget $95 a month.

It should not come as surprise that at $1073 a month, that $95 is going to make a big dent. Iím gonna do my best, and go forward. That sad thing is that this may challenge my Challenge, but real folks working full time in California, where the cost of living is high, would get $1026 a month if they never missed a day of work.

(For those that think public assistance would be available to help, I idly checked and the gross income of $1178 would make the single person earner ineligible for food stamps, as itís over 130% of the Federal Poverty Level for one of $817. Medical benefits would have a $488 share of cost, meaning that all medical expenses up to $488 every month would have to be paid for by the minimum wage earner. Not real helpful with doctors visits and prescriptions.)

But enough on that digression. As I have stated before that this Challenge is not meant to be a political statement about the Minimum Wage, itís to exercise my thrift skills and become more grateful. My succinctly stated opinion is that people need to be paid a fair wage and have affordable health care, and that people need to make better spending choices.

Boy, that additional $95 a month is going to be tough. And itís my fault for not checking. Blech.

End of August Halfway Mark Totals

September 4th, 2006 at 02:02 am

My Half a Year totals are ready. On my Minimum Wage Challenge I have spent $5,947.13 in six months. I have $405.96 banked/budgeted for planned purchases. I have $5.54 set aside in by Emergency/Big Purchase Fund, and $117.00 set aside in ďSavings.Ē

My income is as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. Iíve assumed no federal or state tax liability, which I will have to revisit. Edited to Add: I have had an additional $37.63 in income over the last six months; an average of $6.27 from a couple of half.com book sales, some recycling, and a couple one dollar GoZing surveys.

On the Challenge I have been able to buy a freezer (thatís why my ďsavingsĒ and emergency/big purchase funs are so low). I have been able to cover all my needs as well as quite a few wants. Iím getting birthday and Christmas gifts, and have an entertainment budget. Iíve counted every penny of expense since 1998 so it has not been hard to track to the penny how much I have spent. Every dollar counts against the Challenge; the day I picked up the freezer I felt very lucky and ďrichĒ and gave $2 in cash to a person begging on the corner. (She looked very hungry, and here I was getting extra room to put all my food in.) That $2 went into the charity column; I donít let myself cheat.

As far as my $20 Challenge goes, last year I averaged $1592 a month in spending. At 6 months on the Challenge, thatís $519 less spent x 6, plus $122.54 in saved money, equals $3236.54 in extra savings due to My Minimum Wage Challenge.

Any questions on details in any category gladly answered.

We Hope You Like Jamming Too

September 3rd, 2006 at 09:46 pm

What are the odds that people recognized the reggae lyric in the title?

We made three batches of jam today, one plum and two blackberry. I also prepared a batch of plum puree for the next time we jam. Yesterday we went picking again; My Guy pointed out that while there is fruit to harvest, it makes more sense to harvest than can.

My dad wondered if canning jam was really a money saver. I know if I bought all new jars, and bought fruit, and paid full price for the lids and bands and pectin, it would definitely not be cost effective. Even with free fruit and low to no cost jars and bands and lids, itís possible that the cost doesnít beat out the cheapest grape jelly. Iím sure itís competitive though, and you canít really tie a ribbon around a jar of supermarket jelly as a little gift the same way you can with homemade.

For lunch we had a bread thrift store bake your own loaf, with some cheese left over from the camping weekend, and fresh jam. Delicious.

I am rolling in books. A Freecycle guy posted for ďWanted: Mystery Books.Ē I replied back that I had a few for him, and let him know about the buck a bag sale. He wasnít able to make the sale, but he let me know of some authors he was interested in, and I kept an eye out for them, and we did a swap today. I have got a bunch of books to read.

I also have some books that might well be gifts. Iím not fond of hardbacks. I now itís an oddity; at least it happens to be a cost effective quirk. I will put this nice stack of hardbacks by the gift pile. I like how Freecycle Guy and I are both ahead.

I did prepare a gift for a work friend. A very nice flannel nightgown that I have been assured is a "known" brand (garage sale); a good book (garage sale); and a batch of homemade cocoa, made with Splenda because she's doing Weight Watchers right now. The theme is a little bit of "Welcome Winter": here on the North Coast it's getting chilly and foggy.

Iím not sure why I havenít closed out the August/Half Year books yet; I suppose I just havenít been in the mood. The fascinating dollars and cents will have to come later.

Garage Saling

September 2nd, 2006 at 06:43 pm

Today was a fair garage sale today. I am so spoiled by super prices that regular good deals donít get me excited like they should.

I spent $8.75 total.

For the house I spent $3.25, for assorted canning supplies, frames for my hanging files, and some gift bags. For gifts, $5, I got a lot of unopened bath stuff; some I have assigned to people (their favorite scent or brand), some for miscellaneous. A quarter on bath stuff for me and My Guy. A quarter on earrings.


Itís All Downhill from Here

September 2nd, 2006 at 01:29 am

Iím officially in the second half of my Minimum Wage Challenge. A voluntary belt tightening to live on less than half my net income; California minimum wage less taxes, for a total of $1073 a month. This is a three paycheck month for me in my real life, and in October I get another raise, so I could be living large. But Iíll be working at getting my Challenge Savings and Challenge Emergency fund back up there by trying to spend less than $25 a month in entertainment!

Someone asked me today why Iím doing this. I only had a second to respond, I couldnít go into the whole ďitís increased my gratitudeĒ spiel that I wrote about in April. I simply replied ďitís an extraordinarily cost effective hobby.Ē

Hullo to my folks out there in Nicaragua! May your internet cafes be excellent! As goofy as it is, my folks read my blog and I think itís very sweet. Even though the focus is primarily on frugality, for me frugality is a way of life that increases independence, gratitude, skills, and attitude, so my financial journaling can be personal in some ways and a fair enough way to keep up with a daughter that lives 2700 miles away. Feeling that life is abundant is really about more than knowing that I have food in the cupboard and money in my account. Many families in central and south America would see my life as very rich; endless water, hot and cold; many different outfits; seven rooms for 2 people; groceries stores filled to the brim.

Tomorrow may be the first canning of the season. Since we are eating store bought jam I canít wait to get some of the good stuff put up.