Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'll Admit It - I'm an Idiot

Welcome all who found this embarrassing story via the Carnival of Money Stories: August 2, 2010 at Money Beagle. I'm glad you stopped by to see why I'm an idiot. It's a long story, so get comfortable. And when you're done, feel free to stick around for a while.

So, last week I discussed why we had to unexpectedly send the IRS $1700 this month, which really put a damper on our lifestyle and debt repayment process. But, we were able to do it. No credit card needed. We did have to dip into our emergency fund a bit, but that's what it is there for, right? About a year ago it would have gone on the credit card because we had no choice (and we probably wouldn't have blinked twice to do it).

However, our financial life is different now. In such a good way. No, we don't do as much eating out, shopping, or entertaining as we did, but we also are knocking down our debt and spending with cash only. I can't wait for the day that we can feel liberated because we owe NOBODY!

That doesn't mean we don't do stupid things still. Correct that...I do stupid things. This one is entirely on me, and I won't even TRY to pass any of it off onto Chip.

Sit down...this is going to take a while. In fact...go ahead and get something to drink and go to the bathroom. Go ahead.

You back now? Good. Let's proceed.

One of our debts is a chunk of change that we owe to a timeshare company.

Yep...we own are paying for a timeshare. We bought into the idea when we were living in Mississippi and made a visit to Charleston. Chip is originally from Charleston and we got talked into the sales pitch with the idea that it would give us an excuse to come back to Charleston every other year. So we signed another note the papers thinking more about the monthly payment than about the overall cost.

Guess what? We now live 1-1/2 hours from Charleston, so we have no reason to visit for a week at a time. And yes, we can trade our points for another location, but guess what else? We have two small children and no money because we are trying to pay off debts like this one. So, no vacation for us.

So we aren't using this timeshare. But that's not the real mistake that I was planning to discuss with you.

We want to sell it. Not that we won't use it one day, but right now, it really isn't doing anything for the money we're spending on it, so I'd rather it just be gone.

There are companies all over the internet who offer to sell your timeshare. You know the idea that you aren't supposed to pay anyone up front to list it for you? Well, I did. On a credit card. I know...stupid. So we were out $634.00. Because this company did list our site on its site. But it doesn't do any active marketing. And there really is no need for them to because they already have our money.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Kaye.

So a few weeks later I received a call from another company. I didn't recognize the name, but I filled out a few forms online to "contact me" while looking to sell it, so I didn't think a lot about it.

They wanted to actively market our timeshare to customers who were already interested in vacation rentals and purchases. They had professional presentations and all of the bells and whistles. Well, that's what roped us in when we signed the papers, so why not?

Then they told me that they would charge me to list it.

No. No, I said.

I've already done this with another company and got ripped off, and I'm not doing it again.

Then not just the hook...and line, but also the sinker...they would get me my money back from the other company.

How?

Well, they explained, they are a brokered company who is licensed (yes, they provided me with a license number and I verified it) to sell the timeshare themselves...not just list it. Because the other company is not brokered, by law in Florida (the state where both companies are located) the other company must surrender the fees I paid them because I now have listed it with a brokered company.

So I could get my $634 back if I paid them $400.

I know...I sound like a moron right now, don't I? I promise it sounded more plausible in real life.

So I paid them (via credit card...again). That's a total of $1034 if you haven't been keeping track so far.

And I saw the listing. And I called to check on my listing. And they send me emails talking about all of the marketing they were doing in their touristy town during touristy events. There were always people interested but no one making an offer. One lady wanted to make an offer, but her husband wasn't with her, so she couldn't (both parties required--typical in timeshare sales).

It was heartbreaking and could have been conceived as suspicious, but I knew the things weren't easy to sell, so I didn't think much of it. About 6 months has past since they initially listed it.

Then Wednesday, July 7th happened.

What was July 7th, you ask?

I tried to call them that morning to check on our listing. It had been about a month or so since I had spoken with anyone from the office and wanted to check in. I called and got a message that no one was available, and I needed to leave a voicemail. So I did.

Nothing by that afternoon. I called again and left another message.

You see where this is going, don't you?

On Thursday and Friday of that week I did the same thing, leaving messages on every extension I could. By Friday I was approaching livid and told them that if I hadn't heard back from SOMEONE by the following Monday afternoon I would pursue further action elsewhere.

Nothing on Monday, so I called again on Tuesday. Nothing this time, but it seemed that the voicemail boxes must have been filling up because I couldn't leave a voicemail...I just got a circular loop of messages telling me to leave them without ever prompting me with a "beep." So I found one extension where I could leave a message and did so. I told them that they would be reported if I heard nothing else by Friday of that week.

Friday came. I called.

Guess what?

Phones disconnected.

Seriously.

You know what I did? The first thing I did was called the city's police department. I was told that they were aware of the issue but were not involved because the state was running an investigation. Wow. I started getting in touch with the BBB of central Florida. I wrote the Attorney General of Florida's office. I wrote the Dept of Agriculture of Florida (which is where their consumer affairs division is located). I was FURIOUS! I filled out all of the forms and attached all of the documents and correspondence I had with the company to the Dept of Ag form (there was space to do so).

I was in tears. There is nothing in the world like feeling stupid. Feeling like the picture was obvious and you still didn't see it. Knowing you threw away money you didn't even have to throw away. All for the dream of getting rid of something that, in hindsight, you really didn't need in the first place.

On Monday following that Friday, I received a letter from the AG's office that was an affidavit. I filled it out and attached pages and pages worth of correspondence that would prove my case.

So, here we are. $1034 (plus interest) poorer. Feeling duped. Being duped. Feeling stupid.

It's amazing how naive and stupid a well educated professional can act.

That has been my financial heartache of the last few weeks.

We'll just wait and see if anything happens now.

In the meantime, do you know anyone who wants to rent a week in Charleston, SC? It's a really nice 1 or 2 bedroom (we can do either), fully stocked place that overlooks the open market in the historic district (seriously...the balcony looks straight down onto Market Street). Walking distance to anywhere in the historic district and lots of great food.

Since we can't use it, someone should get to.

We'll give you a good nightly deal.


Photo credit: kmakice

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WFMW - When OTC Pain Meds Don't Work

You know when you have a killer headache, or backache, or shoulder pain, or some other pain and you've tried to use your standard go-to pain medication? You know, that Tylenol, or aspirin, or ibuprofen, or Aleve, or whatever just doesn't work?

You know what probably will?

Menstrual pain medicine.

Yep...Midol or Excedrin Menstrual Pain or something similar.

The same additive in that medicine that makes cramps go away can also make other pains go away when the "pain medication" doesn't.

I pitched this to my boss a few years ago, and he was mortified. He was at work and was struggling with a headache that just wouldn't go away (my guess it was tension related). Anyway, he had taken some meds from the first aid room that were pain relievers, and they weren't doing the job. I told him to take some of the Midol out of the first aid cabinet. He looked at me with a horrified expression, and I promised him that he wouldn't loss his Adam's apple over it. So he tried it.

Guess what?

He stopped using anything else from that first aid cabinet and hit up the Midol first.

I can't guarantee it WILL work for you, because I don't know the source of your ailment. But I can tell you that it is worth a shot, because it does Work For Me when my other medicines don't.

Go over to We Are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else!

photo credit: dariuszman

Monday, July 26, 2010

8 People to Know in Your Community

  1. Neighbors (at least 2)—Someone to lend a key to in case you lock yourself out. Someone to borrow a miter saw from. Someone to walk the dog when you are going to be at work later. Someone to get your mail when you are out of town. Somewhere you child can go when the bus is late. You need to know who lives around you.
  2. Doctor—Great to have someone to call to ask medical questions without needing to pay a copay for an office visit. I also have had doctor friends write prescriptions for me after doing an informal, non-office consultation for things like allergy problems and such.
  3. Handyman—You need to know a “Mr. Fix-It” for those annoying little problems around the house. Maybe he’ll knock it out for free. Maybe he’ll charge you, but come over outside of work hours. Maybe he’ll teach you to do it for yourself. This is much better than paying full price for a contractor.
  4. Clergyman—Sometimes you need someone to really talk to. Sometimes it cannot be your spouse or your best friends because they are the subject matter. Sometimes you need someone to listen and your mom is not the best listener. Sometimes you need advice with a theological spin. Sometimes you need to know someone who can just pray for you. This is a great someone to know.
  5. Butcher/Produce Guy—These guys can let you know when you can get the best deals, what the best cut of meat for your meal is, when the freshest mangos will be delivered, and how to prepare your food for optimum results.
  6. Local Businessmen—I like supporting local businesses. I’m all about mom-and-pop joints. Often you end up with perks that you don’t get with chains. Sometimes you get inside info on sales, sometimes you get donations for your local charities, and sometimes you get new and fresh local produce from the farmers. Regardless, you need to know the people who make the businesses in your community thrive.
  7. Lawyer/Judge—They can’t give free legal advice as your lawyer. As a friend, they can offer some off-the-record hypothetical situation that might give you a good idea. And you might need them to help with a traffic ticket sometime (ahem).
  8. Teacher—Know your kids’ teachers. They are often great people and can offer you a world of insight into who your child is while you are not looking. Assume they do care for your child and have his/her best interest at heart—they don’t get paid enough to do it, so they must love it.

BONUS: I didn’t add this as a bullet in the list, as it might be a duplicate of someone already on the list. But ALWAYS know someone who owns a truck. That way, you don’t have to buy one yourself.

What other people would you add to this list?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What a Mistake Cost Us

If you are visiting from the Carnival of Personal Finance at the Ultimate Money Blog, I just want to take a moment to welcome you to my humble abode. Feel free to stick around and check the place out. I'd love to hear your comments on any of my posts.

I mentioned in a previous financial update post that we were going to have to send some money to the IRS.

A few weeks ago we got a letter from the IRS telling us that we had failed to report some income in 2008. I immediately went to check on it, but our prior tax returns were locked in our firesafe and Chip was traveling with the key. So I had to wait for him to get home. When he returned, he checked into it and found...sure enough...we had neglected to claim one of our income sources. How is this possible, you ask? I'll give you the only scenario I can imagine to explain....

In 2008 Chip had a couple of different jobs. The problem was that two of his W-2s had very similar amounts on them. I mean...the "thousands" amount was the same down to the "tens" amount.

My only guess is that he picked up the 2nd similar-looking W2, saw the amount, and thought it was the one he had already entered into our tax filing software. He certainly didn't intentionally leave anything out.

So last Friday we sent the IRS a check. A whopping check for $1722.00. Ouch. Seriously.

What is worse? The reported tax withheld was like $395.00 and was probably close to right. That other almost $1500...fees for the omission and interest that has climbed during the year it took the IRS to find this problem.

And yet worse? We have to file an amended state return for that year and send them some money as well.

Chip was hating himself for it. I totally understand how the mistake could happen, and although I hate to see the money leave the account for something other than debt repayment right now, I know that there is nothing to do about it but send them the money. So I'm not upset about the fact that it happened.

What I have learned through this incident: We really can do this frugality thing. I mean, we lucked up that it happened in a month with three paydays for each of us but one of Chip's was not a full check because he wasn't on a full schedule yet. However, we cut back to just the minimum credit card payments this month and restricted spending to only the necessities.

And we are doing it.

So far, we have eaten out only once...the kids and I visited Chip at his Waffle House for lunch, which is a real treat for the kids (and Chip). It was $19 with tip, so not too bad. And our grocery bill (so far) has not skyrocketed. We are just spending much more purposefully now. And so far I have had to pull only a little out of our emergency fund to cover the IRS payment, and it was only as a precaution (so far). So it appears that we actually might be able to pay $1700 more than the minimums on our credit cards! That would rock if it holes true.

Funny thing is, the stress and frustration of this situation has caused us to realize that we can live like this (because we've had to) and it is not so bad! Maybe it will help us push through more months like this and really make some debt repayment headway!

I wish that has been our last financial mistake. But it isn't. In fact, there is even another one that has reared its ugly head lately.

The latest mistake that cost us money? Totally me. And I am hating myself.

I'll touch on that one next week when I have had time to be not as angry about it.


Photo credit: djshaw

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WFMW - Hosting a Giveaway

No, silly. I'm not hosting a giveaway.

Not today at least. Just wait though...I've got something big planned for the beginning of August.

However, I do host them from time to time and have had increasing success each time I do it. I am learning how to attract more and more people and therefore bring more attention to my site.

Here is how I do it.

FIRST OF ALL, you need to know a little something about your own site. How much traffic do you get? Do you have any idea? If not, use either StatCounter or Google Analytics to look at this kind of info. You will probably need it because companies often are interested in this type of information.

And don't worry if you don't have big traffic. Some companies like to use small, intimate blogs to market.

SECONDLY, create a disclosure policy. It isn't something that you can never change as your site develops, but you need to cover yourself while hosting giveaways. I discussed how to do this in a previous WFMW post. You can find those details here.

THIRDLY, you need to get a company interested in hosting a giveaway at your site. The first thing I did was join My Blog Spark. I have had companies contact me randomly through that affiliation. However, they were unexpected and did not flock to me initially. However, go ahead and sign up and wait.

However, in the meantime, I have a company that wants to use more bloggers to market itself. When I hosted a giveaway for CSN Stores it brought a lot of traffic to my site, so I would think it would be a great one to start with! Just leave your email and blog address in my comments (or attached to a profile where they can be located) and I will forward that info along to them as requested. I will do this on Monday the 26th, so make sure you leave the info by the end of Sunday, July 25th to make sure you get included!

NEXT post your review and/or giveaway. Decide on the details. When will it run? How many entries are allowed? How will the winner be contacted? How long does the winner have to respond? Make sure the rules and clearly posted with the giveaway. And make sure you follow up on your end of the deal too!

LASTLY market your giveaway. Go to this link at Mommy Snacks to find a list of giveaway linkies across the web. It is sorted by the day the linky is posted and includes my Tuesday Free for All. Each new day of your giveaway, go to the newly posted linky on each of those sites and post yours for good exposure. Get blogger friends to promote for you if you want.

There are other ways to market yourself and get more opportunities, but this is a good place to start.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS that I have learned personally along the way:
  • Don't require people to follow your blog in order to enter. It will just alienate people. You can offer it as an additional entry if you want and the people who want to do it will, but if you require it as an entry, I will just click off of your blog. Seriously...I don't want to follow people when I am not interested in their site. Sorry, but that's just the truth. And chances are a lot of those people will just drop you as soon as the contest is over.
  • Make sure the company sponsoring the post is doing the shipping. Don't let them send you two copies of the product so that the shipping charges are on you.
  • If you find a company you want to do a giveaway for, contact them and ask. It never hurts and you might just hit the jackpot!
That is my not-so-short tutorial on how to start hosting giveaways.

To see what works for other people on various topics, visit We Are THAT Family and look around!

Photo credit: arte_ram

Monday, July 19, 2010

8 Uses for a Rubber Band

If you are passing through thanks to the Festival of Frugality #241: A Midsummer's Night Dream Edition over at Yes, I Am Cheap, I want to talk a moment to welcome you. If you like this post, you'll find a series here that runs on Mondays called my Monday 8s where you can find other similar topics. Feel free to stick around and get comfortable!

Sure there is the standard use for a rubber band--to hold items together. But these simple yet sometimes annoying little tools can truly make our lives easier if we're a little creative.

Here are some of the most practical and creative uses I have seen.

  1. Add Friction – Wrap rubber bands around an object, like a remote control, to keep it from sliding off a smooth or slick surface.
  2. Bookmark – Wrap the band around one of the outside covers (front or back...whatever works best for where you are in the book) and wrap it around to the page you left off reading. Perfect bookmark that won't fall out!
  3. Grip for a Stubborn Lid – Place a rubber band (either a thick one or several thin ones) around the rim of a jar lid and twist off that stubborn lid.
  4. Eraser – If you fold one several times, you can actually use it as a make-shift eraser in a pinch.
  5. Childproof Cabinet Doors – Simply wrap several rubber bands tightly between the left and right cabinet door knobs to keep little people out of cabinets that they should not get in. This is a great temporary fix if you have children visiting.
  6. Thumb Through Papers – Wrap a rubber band around your index finger a few times the next time you need to flip through papers. Funny that there is a specific product for this when a rubber band works great!
  7. Hold onto Your Bottles – Wrap rubber bands around shampoo, conditioner and body wash containers to make it easier to grip them in the shower.
  8. Mark Your Containers – When you are done painting (or something simliar), wrap a rubber band around the outside of the container at the level of the paint so you will know at a glance how much is left.

These are some of the more useful ones I found. Do you have any to add to the list?

Photo credit: johnnyberg

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Introductions...Frugal Dad

Revisiting the Introductions series in my blog, my intent to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful. Frugal Dad is one of my favorite PF bloggers around. His advice is wise and sound, but really hits home with a lot of topics that are interesting to me and many other everyday people. His posts focus not just on finance, but on the real life applications of the decisions involving finances.

I recently exchanged emails interview-style with the Frugal Dad. This is the story (did you just hear the Law & Order "dum-dum"? I did)...

Me: Please tell my readers a bit about what Frugal Dad is all about.
Frugal Dad: FrugalDad.com started nearly three years ago as a sort of catharsis - a chance for me to get years of financial frustrations off my chest. I used to work in the financial industry and saw first-hand the pain caused by being buried deep in debt. Despite those examples, I followed a similar pattern, borrowing debt to go back to school, living a spendthrift lifestyle, and basically wasting away my twenties. Fortunately, my wife and I survived, financially, had two kids and decided at 30 it was finally time to grow up.

Me: You mentioned your work in the finance industry, you have an interesting perspective on debt since you once worked there. Can you give my readers a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes?
Frugal Dad: Most people think that credit card companies are essentially soul-less entities whose primary mission is to make as much money from customers as possible. They're right. Actually, that's not entirely true. Some credit card companies are worse than others. I worked mostly in back-office operations and software development, but my interactions with marketing and other executives affirmed my belief that 90% of the company's mission was to dream up new fees they could legally add to cardholder's statements. Yes, I happen to have worked for a particularly lousy credit card company, and the predatory practices, fees bordering on usury, and general lack of a corporate moral compass caused me to quit the company - the entire industry, in fact.

Me: Wow...I cannot imagine working in that type of environment. You also mentioned your personal debt story. Did you have a big uphill climb out of debt or was it relatively painless?
Frugal Dad: We had a relatively small climb to get out of debt, compared to others, but it was still plenty painful. During our journey to debt freedom we had our second child, changed jobs, relocated, I lost my mom at 53 after a year-long medical and financial crisis following a stroke, and of course there was the Great Recession. At times, things got pretty lean. But we fought, we clawed, and we pulled it off.

Me: It seems that everyone's story of debt freedom has some of Murphy's Law involved. Based on your experience, what method of debt elimination do you recommend personally?
Frugal Dad: I personally recommend the 80-hour workweek method. The fact is, it doesn't matter whether you snowball debt, tsunami debt, make two payments a month, or tackle the high-interest debts first, the most important thing you can do is increase your income. Easier said than done. During our journey to debt freedom I wrote freelance articles, started my own blog, answered surveys, mowed yards for friends and family and tried (unsuccessfully) to land a part time job. Actually, I'm glad the part time job thing failed because it left me more time to pursue becoming an entrepreneur.

Me: Ahhh...you really hit on the root of the solution. Do you find people feeling pity towards you since you are not suckered into the debt-dependent life that so many in our culture adhere to?
Frugal Dad: Five years ago, yes. Now, being frugal is all the rage. Actually, I think attitudes have shifted such that people tend to feel sorry for those out collecting material items to fill some void in their personal lives. Internal happiness and contentment are the new envy. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced it will last.

Me: I know...maybe people (including me!) will learn and stick with it, but that's really not human nature, is it? On Frugal Dad, what types of posts do you find elicit the most responses from readers?
Frugal Dad: Kids and money posts are always popular for getting the lurkers to join us on the comment threads - particularly anything related to allowances. I never realized people had such strong opinions on allowances!

Me: That's funny! What do you personally enjoy writing about most?
Frugal Dad: I especially enjoy writing about family preparedness and self-sufficiency. I'm not a Chicken Little by any stretch, but I do think it is prudent to take some actions to better prepare your family for emergencies. To what extend you take that advice is up to each individual family. Some will save a couple hundred dollars at home and maybe put up a few cans of vegetables. Others buy thousands of dollars of dehydrated foods and build a bunker in their backyard filled with gold bullion and gallons of water. Like everything, there's a balance somewhere in between that works for most families.

Me: What's next for Frugal Dad?
Frugal Dad: I used to have grand visions of quitting my day job, blogging full-time and writing a book. Then I realized that blogging was still fun, and if I had to do it for several hours, every day, to put food on the table, that it would start to look too much like work. Besides, since my wife is a stay-home mom, having two income streams helps keep us more diversified. I still kick around the book idea, but it’s a lot of work, and for now I’m content sharing ideas at the blog.

Me: That's quite practical and well thought out! Who are your favorite bloggers to read? Where do you draw inspiration from?
Frugal Dad: The first blogger I read in the personal finance blogger space was Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar. While recovering from rotator cuff surgery one December, I stumbled upon The Simple Dollar and was immediately hooked. I think I spent the better part of two days reading every single post available in the archives. Since then, I've discovered several other great bloggers that I read almost daily including J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly, Brett McKay over at The Art of Manliness, and anything Philip Brewer posts - but mostly his stuff over at Wise Bread. I’m also lucky to be part of two blogging networks with a number of skilled writers, The Life Skills Network and The Money Writers. I’m the junior member of that latter group, which tells you a lot about the quality and longevity of the other eight member bloggers.


I am sure that the Frugal Dad would love to see you over at his site. You can add some comments about allowances if you want. =) Of course you can always bookmark him or search for him, but once you visit and find the great posts there, you are likely to subscribe like I do! You can choose email or RSS feed. Also, don't miss reading his e-book, The 7-Day Turnaround: One Week to Change Your Family’s Financial Future. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. If you want to totally stalk him, you can do all of the above. Now stop reading here and go check him out!

Monday, July 12, 2010

8 Organizational Tips that Can Make Your Life Easier

Here are eight tips that work for me. Adjust them as needed to work for you and enjoy the pleasure of a less stressful existence.

  1. Bins for toys. Labeled. Since Patrick is a bit OCD like his parents, his natural tendency is to put everything in its proper place. And since he has to put away all of his toys before bedtime (there is another free tip within a tip), we have a cleaned-up family room every evening and morning.
  2. Create a meal plan. Whether you use e-mealz (like I do) or create your own, write down a plan for the week. Assign a day for each meal based on your personal schedules and the use-by date on your produce, dairy and/or meat.
  3. Prepare the night before. Make lunches, lay out clothes, put together items for work, locate your keys, put mail out that needs to go in the mailbox, and do anything else that might hold you up in the morning.
  4. Junk mail goes in the garbage before it touches the countertop. We still have a stack of mail, but at least we know it might be relevant to our lives if it is in the pile.
  5. Pay bills at the same time each month. Whether that is on a particular date of the month or after each payday, pay all of your bills that will come due before the next scheduled bill-paying day. If you need to schedule the payment for a later date via your online banking, that is fine, but be sure you remember that and don’t create an overdrawn situation.
  6. When you are doing a whirl-wind clean up (like company is coming over quickly), be sure to put away things in their rightful home and don’t just stash it somewhere. Take it from me…you won’t be able to remember where you put it later.
  7. Seasonally, I go through my stash of next-season children’s clothes so I know what we have for the kids. Make a list if you need to. That way, when you find seasonal sales and deals you won’t stock up on things you already have…regardless of how good the deal may be!
  8. Have a regular schedule. You can alter it seasonally if you need to work around soccer practice, dance lessons, or whatnot. But have a weekly routine that works for you. Do chores and/or laundry on the same day, so you don’t find yourself running low on items. Cook ahead if that works for you. Just be consistent and you will not find yourself facing (as many) unexpected situations that leave you frazzled.

What do you do to make your life more organized? I need to learn some more tricks!

Photo credit: Chiot's Run

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WFMW - Disclosure Policy

Recently (yeah...I really can't remember when) the FTC decided to really tighten the reigns on bloggers and their disclosure of what posts, links, and advertisements were endorsed and/or sponsored by the company being discussed. Suddenly there was a calling to start including a disclosure policy on each post.

Well, there are various bloggers that adhere to these guidelines in various ways, but I'll tell you how I am doing it.

I have been posting a caveat on each post that included any type of sponsorship (such as free items for review and/or giveaway). Today I set up my official disclosure policy that I can leave permanently linked on my blog and just reference that in each post.



If you ever receive any compensation for your blog (whether it be cash, credits, free items, etc) you need to be disclosing as well.

It's really simple. Go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org/ and click on the Generate Policy tab or button. Pick the choices that best fit your blog's circumstances and make your own policy.

Easy. And it covers you.

And if you use blogger, just in case you don't already know, there is a simple way to make a permanent page now (like a Disclosure page or an About Me page). Go to your Dashboard and click the Posting Tab. Then select "Edit Pages." Create a new page and publish. Easily link to it now either manually or using one of the tools they offer.

So simple! You can find mine linked both in my middle column under my Additional Info section and at the bottom via a Disclosure button from http://www.disclosurepolicy.org/ .

So although the Works for Me Wednesday was themed this week, I broke out of the theme and posted about Disclosure Policies. Head on over to We Are THAT Family to see some favorite summer recipes (and other topics from those who also broke out on their own this week) that work for others!

Monday, July 5, 2010

8 Playground Safety Rules

  1. Never allow your child (or any other) to walk near the swings. Behind or in front of those swinging can cause serious injury.
  2. Use only age-appropriate equipment. If the child is too young, they may not have the skills or abilities to maneuver the equipment as required. Older kids’ equipment is typically higher and more complex. If the child is too old for the equipment, they could injure other younger children in the process.
  3. Use slides correctly. Always go up the ladder and down the slide. Slide one at a time. Never go down head first. The child should move away from the slide upon reaching the bottom.
  4. Make sure metal surfaces are cool to the touch. Come on…how many of us remember getting 2nd and 3rd degree burns from those old metal slides?! Seriously…even monkey bars can be too hot to grasp in the heat of the day.
  5. Don’t allow children to climb over or around guard rails. They are there for a reason.
  6. Remove all drawstrings or cords, as they can get caught in and around equipment leading to injury or even strangulation.
  7. Supervise your child at all times. You don’t have to be within one arm’s length necessarily (if they are old enough to manage themselves safely), but don’t lose sight of them and don’t turn your back.
  8. Always provide personal safety measures, such as plenty of water and sunscreen (and insect repellent where needed).

Photo credit: Peter E. Lee

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Financial Status - Update #9

Oh am I embarrassed.

I mean, seriously embarrassed.

Why? Because our budget this month? It stunk. REALLY REALLY bad. In fact, it has been bad over the last few months.

I thought that blogging this would help; that it would serve as some type of accountability. However, I am obviously shameless because not only does it not keep me from spending outside the budget, but I am now blogging about that reality without a lot of hesitation.

We've gotta' buckle down. Chip and I have got to get refocused. We have goals in mind. Not "one day out there" kind of goals, but goals that are turning out to be more solid. More concrete. And we've got to control ourselves if we're going to make them happen.

So let's get down to the nitty gritty and see the shame that was June:

INCOME:
Perhaps the only bright spot in this month's budget was the income. Yep. We made a whopping $34 more than anticipated for budgeting purposes. It's not much, but I'm grasping for what I can highlight this month.

OVER BUDGET AREAS:
Gas/Fuel: $231 over budget. That's right. Not $231, but $231 OVER budget. I will explain this one although it is still outrageous. I traveled to my mom's over Memorial Day weekend. It's a 6 hour drive. Most of the weekend expenses did not clear until the month had rolled around. Then Chip had to drive all over to complete his work training. And to boot, he had to drive to Atlanta and back for the ultimate completion of his training. He will get reimbursed for that, but it didn't make it stay in our account while it was going on.
Auto Service/Parts: $8 over budget. Just some maintenance surrounding the trips. However, because we were good in the months prior, it came out that cumulatively we are still $22 under budget for the year in this category.
Mobile Phone: $5 over budget. I had some texting to some people not on our free texting list. So it cost us. Since we have done well in this category for the year, like with Auto Parts, we are actually $1 under budget cumulatively, but that doesn't excuse that we were over this month.
Utilities: $16 over budget. This category includes water and electricity. Since it is getting hotter, I expect this bill to skyrocket. June was a terribly hot month and we're going to need the $56 that we are collectively under budget for the year to account for June. I'm leaving the budgeted amount alone though, hoping that from season to season it will average itself out.
Coffee Shops: $5 over budget. Although not planned, I will let this one go. Chip bought coffee to keep himself awake while traveling home from Atlanta. Money well spent since he arrived home in one piece.
Fast Food/Restaurants: $218 over budget. Yep. Yikes is not sufficient. I can tell you that about $90 of this will be reimbursed, but it doesn't excuse the rest of it. We failed. I could try to come up with 100 excuses, but they are just that--excuses. I cannot justify any of it.
Groceries: $227 over budget. You'd think will all of the eating out we did that this would be lower. But no...it doesn't seem to work that way. Must reign in the food spending. We did feed extra people for Abigail's birthday party, but not that many!
Home Services: $10 over budget. This month I increased the budget (for the month) to include our required annual termite inspection. I did not account for the fact that my e-mealz subscription was due.
Home Supplies: $15 over budget. We had to buy more propane for our gas grill. Didn't know when that would happen.
Hair: $17 over budget. I got my hair cut this month. And it costs more than our monthly budget. However, we are collectively $13 under budget for the year for this category, which is justification for the budget being set at an average...so these things can accumulate and allow some higher expenses some months. Although over the month, I will highlight it as good planning.
Toiletries: $18 over budget. No explanation. Just spent money here.
Clothing: $550 over budget. "What?!" you ask. Yep. But really. I'm okay with it. Chip bought a really nice suit with some shirts and ties for his big work attire/business needs. And I'm okay with that. Seriously the man rarely shops for clothes and he hasn't bought a suit in years. It's totally legitimate to get a nicely tailored suit for work when you are embarking on a new career and treat yourself. We used the extra payment money that we usually send to credit cards for this.
Miscellaneous: $187 over budget. This includes: $91 to host Abigail's birthday party and a gift for another 1st birthday party; $47 for photo books that I made of Patrick's first 4 years, a trip to Disney World and a Father's Day book for Chip; $37 for DVDs that I bought for the family at Movie Gallery's going out of business sale (it was for 7 movies, so it really wasn't bad at all, although not nearly necessary spending); and $12 for dog food.



ON BUDGET AREAS:
Auto Insurance: This really was no surprise.
Television: Seriously...this is a fixed amount. I don't know why I bother putting it on here except for the idea of full disclosure.
Doctor: Abigail had an ear infection. We plan for one trip to the doctor a month. This was it. She also had her one-year check up, but since it won't clear the bank until July and it will be reimbursed by my employer, I am comfortable in saying that this was on budget.
Term Life Insurance: Once again, a fixed cost.
Mortgage: On budget.
Childcare: We're actually under budget if you look at the chart, but this week's check will clear in July, so we are really on budget cumulatively. It will show up next month as an overage, but to a built up budget (since I let this amount roll over from month to month).


UNDER BUDGET AREAS:
Pharmacy: $9 under budget. We spent $6 on amoxicillian for Abigail's ear infection earlier in the month. When I was previously taking birth control, I had this amount set for the cost of my monthly medication plus slightly more for those OTC drugs. I haven't changed it, so we are collectively still $23 under budget in this category. I should change it now to be more like $5 a month for OTC meds and any unexpected prescriptions.
Baby Supplies: $43 under budget. Still using diapers that I stocked up on previously. I didn't spend $7 on diapers this month, but I got almost 100 of them for that price, plus $10 back in CVS Extrabucks, so they were better than free in reality. =) A small bright spot in this terrible month of budgets. And we are $92 under budget cumulatively.


Additional Comments:
  • Still owe $178 for the balance of the bill for Chip's vasectomy. Need to pay for that in July before late charges start coming in.
  • Paid $50 more than the minimum on two credit cards we hold. Paid for Chip's new suit (see "clothing" above) with the rest of our regular credit card payment money.
  • We paid the Dept of Labor back $1300 as discussed during the last update. I would have loved to have sent that money elsewhere, but it is what it is.
  • Our birthday party plans for Abigail only cost a total of $91 out of pocket including food, cake, invitations, and presents. I think we did pretty good!
  • I thought our alarm company contract was up this month, but they haven't contacted us about it. Since I'm not big on sending lots of money to people in a month we have already used it all, we haven't contacted them about it either.
  • We will be sending $1700 to the IRS next month. Major accidental SNAFU on our part on our 2008 tax return that they caught. It was purely an innocent (omission) mistake, but we do owe it and we will pay it. That means we'll have to send our credit card overpayment money plus some from savings to cover it. Sigh...it is so hard to get ahead.
  • My 401k is suffering with this sucky stock market activity. I am $3000 poorer than I was at the beginning of May--even after my money going into it twice a month since then. Sigh...I'm just holding on until it starts climbing again. I don't really know what else to do.
  • Our tax appraisal came in this month. Our house appraised for 20% less than was we paid for it. The idea of that really hurts, but it doesn't really hurt since we are not trying to sell. And our tax bill will be lower, so that is not altogether a bad thing.

That is the good, the bad, and the really ugly for the month. In a few days I will be discussing our future new goals and aspirations and how it is important that we really get back on the wagon to make them work. They are exciting and frightening all at the same time. I can't wait to see how everything plays out!

 

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