Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saving on Winter Heating

How do Hobie and I keep our winter gas bill down? We never turn on the heat! Well, I can't say never, but it's rare. I have a rule that if it gets to be 59° or below in the apartment, I turn on the heat. This doesn't happen too often, if we keep the windows closed. See, the other night I didn't realize that it was going to dip below freezing, but we had the windows open because we do like to sleep in a cold room. But if it's cold in the morning, I just don't want to get out of bed, and even when I finally do, I move awful slow. So the next morning I closed the windows and turned on the heat for a few minutes just to nudge it up above 60°. Since then we've had gorgeous weather with nights in the 40s and days in the 60s so the temperature in the apartment has been perfect. Even with cold nights, our apartment will warm up quite a bit due to all of our windows being large and facing south.

I've started entering the last year's utility bills in a spreadsheet so I can make some comparisons to how much we're spending this year. We'll see how we do.

Citi Dividends

When I logged into to check on my recent card activity, I noticed an offer for 5% cash back at department stores through Christmas. I don't plan on buying too many gifts from department stores, but because I'm not yet near my $300 limit on cash back for this year and I'll be doing some shopping for wedding things at department stores, I figured I'd sign up.

I find it interesting that I had to "activate" the offer. It makes me suspicious, but that could be just a general mistrust of credit card companies. I hope it works out and that I get the cash back they promise.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Another update

I broke another rule. I went out to eat twice last weekend. Once Friday night, and then I bought barbecue for Hobie and I to eat while watching Saturday's football game. Well, at least it was cheap. I spent about $27 total for both meals.

This week's shopping trip was also a little pricey, about $104, the first time I've spent over the century mark at the grocery store in a long time (and I go less than once a week). There were some non-grocery items on there that I could have bought for less at Target, but didn't want to make the extra trip. We did get lots of food and even bought some new things to try to get us out of our dinner rut. I shouldn't need to go to the store again until the next payday.

I still haven't eaten out for lunch at work. I'm being very good there. That usually costs me an additional $4-10 a week, depending on how many times I go out and where we go.

But the exciting news of the week is I got killer fares for our plane tickets for the week of the wedding. I spent only $36 more for both tickets than what I budgeted for my one ticket! Once again, my savings account will be hit hard this month but that's one more big ticket expense paid for and off my mind.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Saving Spree update

I'm doing okay on my saving spree. Not good, not great, but okay. Not bad either, I think.

Let's see, last week I went to Super Target to check out their clothing, and I found a pair of khaki trousers, a basic black sweater, and a blue long sleeve t-shirt (good for layering and sooooo comfy) that I purchased along with our weekly groceries. I was able to escape only $125 poorer. I don't think I did so bad, even though the t-shirt was an impulse purchase. But I know I'll get a lot of use out of it. I already have.

I did cave and play poker last Thursday night, but luckily I came out $50 ahead. If I were really disciplined, I would have put it in savings right away, but instead I took it with me on my Mary Kay retreat and ended up buying $40 worth of raffle tickets for some Broncos football tickets, which I didn't win. But it was for a good cause and all the proceeds went to the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.

Speaking of the retreat, it was a lot of fun and very inspirational, so it was a good re-investment of the small amount of profit I've taken from the business so far. Two meals were included, our group ate breakfast in our room both mornings, and my one dinner out last week was when we went to dinner Saturday night. As a bonus, that meal will be tax-deductible because it was business travel! We got stuck in the snowstorm coming home, so I ended up having to buy lunch on the road, a few bucks for a sandwich at the gas station. Overall, I did well this weekend not spending money. I even resisted ice cream! Can you believe it?

I've been very good about not eating out for lunch at work, and I've been a good girl and not bought any Mountain Dew from the snack machine, either. Apparently we're not buying enough out of the machine anyway, so they're taking away that temptation on Monday.

As for October birthdays and gifts, I haven't spent any money yet because I had cards hidden away in my filing cabinet and I still looking for a gift for my brother. I was almost over the guilt of not buying a housewarming gift for a friend at work, but then I remembered how much Hobie ate at her party and now I'm feeling guilty again. Next time I'm at Safeway, I'll pick up a gift card.

So I wasn't able to "save" any money this pay period (aka move extra money to ING) besides the $170 originally, but I didn't spend any of next week's money either. I totally broke even. And like I said, today's paycheck is a little smaller because of the shorter pay period, so I'll need all of next week's money then.

I've opened up an HSBC online savings account to get the $35 reward and the better interest rate. So I guess I did "save" a little.

The plan from here is the same. I will follow the same rules, and this time no poker. I mean it. And today I'll transfer an additional $100 to ING as my usual "pay yourself first" maneuver. Looks like I will end October with $500 more in savings then when I began. Guess where that's going to go? Probably airline tickets for the wedding. So what if all this money I'm saving is going to be spent? I'm developing good habits for the future.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

October Saving Spree

I have decided that this month I will go on a 28-day Saving Spree à la Savvy Saver, starting yesterday, 10/3, ending on 10/31. That's actually 29 days total, all the better.

Here are my rules:

1. No lunches out.
2. One dinner out per week.
3. Designated wedding expense purchases are okay.
4. No snacks or sodas from the vending machine.
5. $75 budget for gifts and birthday cards (October is a busy month).
6. No poker. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. I don't want October to be a losing month, so the best way to accomplish that is to not play. I normally count any losses as an "entertainment expense", but during a Saving Spree I will be cutting back on that whole category.

There is one issue I don't know exactly how I'm going to approach. I want some new work clothes, especially now that the weather is changing (finally!) and capris won't cut it. I ruined my khakis when I leaned up against some wet paint, and all of my other slacks are several years old and have *gasp!* tapered legs. What I'm going to do for now is organize my closet and take an inventory of what I do and do not wear, and I'm going to try my best to get the paint off the seat of my khakis. If I don't buy new clothes in October, I'll just buy them in November, which isn't the point of the Spree. I'll take a trip to Target and Lane Bryant and see if there's anything even worth trying on.

I got some "extra" money this weekend, so I made a transfer of $170 to ING. I netted $85 playing poker this weekend, I got some cash back from Citibank, and the rest is my net raise from my 9/30 paycheck that isn't auto-deposited.

This will be tough but it needs to be done, especially because this month is one of those wacky months where I get a smaller paycheck on the 14th and then have to wait 17 days until my next normal-sized paycheck. Ah, the perils of being an hourly employee.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Check out the Carnival of Debt Reduction #3 over at Free Money Finance. I'm on it this week, as I submitted the post on My Debt.

I was hoping to get some readers at my site, and I'm pleased to already have my first real non-spam comment!

Also of interest is the Carnival of Personal Finance #16, a much broader topic with links spanning debt to saving to banking to investing etc.

I hope everyone's week is starting out well! I know I had a great weekend and it has really put me in a brighter mood this Monday.