Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feeling festive!

Hey kids! Look who's in this week's Festival of Frugality!

Festival of Frugality

Save money by switching to a local bank.

It's not secret to anyone that I hate Bank of America with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. I loathe them. If I could conjure a plague of locusts to best their banks, I would. You get the idea, right?

After going through the worse customer service imaginable in the last few months, I switched my accounts over to a locally owned bank that is very solvent, reliable and because they only have two branches, offers me much better service.

What I am noticing is that when you have more face time with your bank, it allows you to get better advice find better options and solve issue quickly. Though I can make deposits through any Wells Fargo, I often drive to the branch just so that I can see and talk to people face to face. This way they get to know me and what my needs are.

The focus is on the customers and not on meeting major quotas or bottom lines for a larger corporation. The great thing is that I have an opportunity to go in with all of my financial data and see what ways they may be able to help me. This may occur in the form of a debt consolidation loan or refinancing of current loans including my home mortgage loan.

Even better, when I have specific needs I can talk to higher ups (i.e. bank vice president or even the president) to figure out how to make the best of the relationship I have. What makes me able to sleep at night is knowing that I am well taken care of. For example, I had an expense that was going to hit my account but I wasn't sure on what day it would happen. I had an expense check that was delayed in getting to me that brought me down to the wire. I got help up in a meeting yesterday and missed the cut off point for deposits to credit that day. Guess what? Yep, the debit went through before the check. It caused two items to go through without the funds and overdraw the account. Not good.

If I was with Bank of America, i would be looking at $70 in overdraft fees today. However, my new bank set me up with a line of credit for $500. This works as my overdraft protection. I will get charged interest if the balance stays on there. But, the check will credit today and not cause any interest due. They charge NO fees for use of the credit line. Everything should be back to normal by the end of the day.

Here's the kicker, I got a call about an hour ago. It was from Lisa at the bank. I have spoken to Lisa and can tell you exactly what she looks Like called because my account went into the negative and they wanted to make sure I knew and to see if anything was the matter. I told her no, I got held up in a meeting and missed the deposit deadline. I told her the deposit about and when I made it and she said there should be no problem. They called me. She was delightful.

I have been very vigilant in balancing my checkbook, but we all know things happen. I like knowing that my bank understands that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Well, that's a pretty tasty deal.

One of the hardest parts of trying to cut back and save money is losing out on entertainment and dining. My boyfriend and I have been talking about staying in for the weekends as we're saving every dime we have right now for a trip to Napa through my timeshare. It's the first week long vacation I have had in 8 years. I'm due and I want to make sure I can enjoy myself. More on that in a later post.

When I went to pay my Discover card I was struck by an idea. Discover has certain places where you can earn up to 5% cash back in certain months. Thank God for timing as I should get 5% cash back on nearly everything for the trip to Napa (gas, restaurants, etc.) I love the cash back program and have found it a pretty good way to save.

I had heard that there were other websites through which you can get rebates for shopping online so I set out today to check them out. TOUCHDOWN!

The first one I went to was First, I got a $5 bonus just for signing up. Sweet. Then I surfed the site for their coupons. I found the is having a smokin' deal: 80% off if you use the coupon code AND 15% cash back. So I got a $25 gift card to a great locally owned restaurant ($35 min. purchase) for $2 after the 80% discount! After the cash back, I only spent $1.70.

The second one was Another $5 bonus! Worked the exact same way. Lather, rinse, repeat. I got a second gift card at another restaurant for $2, as well. Perfect. The great thing is that it's not chain places. These are locally owned and really good deals!

So now I have more than doubled my $5 a day goal and have some major deals printed out and ready to use within the next year. I plan to use both sites whenever I shop at the cash back is between 4% and 15%. I am a total freak over a smokin' deal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saving money? Check!

Okay, I had set a goal of no more than $75 a week in groceries for my daughter and I. She's five now and eats ALL the time so this is not always easy. I must say that I rocked it and I don't think this is going to be that hard at all. Here's what I found is working for me.

  • Weekly mailers - I have combed through the grocery mailers and made a list of all the items at the store that I may need and what the prices are. Mind you, if you have an iPhone, there are some shopping applications that make keeping track of this really easy. I take all the items at all the stores and make my list from there.
  • Making a weekly menu - From that list, I think about what I'm going to eat all week. Every meal. Every things. Good for my waistline and good for my pocket book. Right on!
  • Checking coupons - I'll go through my file of coupons to see if I can find anything that matches my list or if there is anything else I may need that I can look for on sale at any of the stores. I haven't tried the online coupon websites yet to see if I can find any matches, but that is next.
  • Make a plan for shopping - I laid out which stores I went to in what order and then just went from there.
Yesterday, I went to two grocery stores - Albertson's and Fry's (Kroger). At Albertson's I spent $46.26 and saved $36.64. At Fry's I spent $24.66 and saved $31.03, more than my bill. As McLovin' would say, "chicka chicka yeah..."

I felt like I rocked yesterday. I know it's totally geeky but getting a tube of Crest toothpaste for $.25 was awesome.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting a plan together.

Okay, now that I have seen the ugliness (not too pretty eh?) I am really glad to have focus back. I am happy that I am able to make all of my bills and pay the minimum amount on my cards. This is a good thing as I'm not concerned with having anything get behind. My concerns lie in not having much money left over after bills are paid. Something as simple as a doctor's copay could throw things out of whack. That is WAY too close for comfort.

So part of my plan is to go back to trying to make just $5 a day in extra income. I'm going to be pulling form a few areas for this. I had done a few GPT sites in the past and was actually REALLY pleased with the results.

I just signed back up with Inbox Dollars. The sign up bonus is $5 so that worked well. They send you emails and if you read them you get $.02. I know that sounds tiny but you get 2 - 5 a day and it can add up. You can also do surveys there and get $.50 to $1 a survey. This is perfect in getting me to my $5 a day. Also, I just realized you can shop through the site and get cash back on purchases. Very excited about this as back-to-school is going to hit and Old Navy is one of the sites. Cheap back to school clothes for my daughter and cash back! Yea!

The other one I am going back to is Cash Crate. It's another GPT site where I made about $80 a month. Really easy survey site and works much like Inbox Dollars. I've like this one the best as you can set a really low payout of about $20. It does not take that long to get there. I'll post earnings on a weekly basis so I can track my progress.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I have updates - and they are scary.

Whoa boy. If there was anything that confirmed that I need to get my ass back on track it's what I found today. All my figures have been updated. Read 'em and weep.

The good - My move last year to pay my mortgage on a weekly basis has proven to be a great idea. This has allowed me to reduce my overall mortgage balance greatly. It turns out to be an extra payment a year and my house should be paid off in 23 years as opposed to 30. This is good as it should take that long for the damn market to recover!

Also, my 401K and stocks have not suffered that bad. They tanked in October of last year. I know, you feel me. But I have recovered all the money back and am now back to rebuilding. I just shifted my allocations in my 401K to start investing in a more aggressive fund that is offered. I didn't move any money, just changed allocations.

The bad - I didn't get a bonus last year, which I was going to use to pay a good chunk of my car off so that didn't happen. Still, I am getting close to having it paid off. I think I want to set a goal of having it paid off in 9 months. That means trying to find an extra $250 a month in funds. Yikes.

The value of my house is down, as is any house in my area. That is killing my net worth. I am actually in the red. There will be more on that later. I have to finish crying first.

The ugly - My credit cards are out of control. I had a number of expenses that came up last year and put the money on the cards thinking that my bonus should be able to cover what I have spent. That was a fine idea until I didn't get my bonus. Not a pretty thing at all. I am currently paying $400 a month on the cards and I'm not even making a dent. They got hiked in the Great Credit Card Screw Over and everything that I am paying is going toward fees. And ideas on how to get this done faster, let me know, I am all ears.

So now it's time to work on a plan...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Holy falling off the wagon Batman!

I started this blog over a year ago to help me get my finances in order. EPIC FAIL. It started out strong and then fizzles due to major changes at work and the need to focus a significant amount of time there.

Sadly, the repercussion of this horrific economy hit me hard not only at work but in the pocketbook as cuts in pay, lack of bonuses, plummeting of 401K stocks and making ends meet has become a serious issue.

So, I come back here to start all over again. I hope you join me again as I restart my journey. There are a lot of us rebuilding out there and I'd love some help and to be able to help people myself. This week, I'll be checking all of my accounts and updating them on the right so I can see where I am. It's going to be scary, especially as I post how much I have rung up in credit card debt trying to make ends meet and trying to pay that off wihtout a usual year end bonus.

Please come back often. Subscribe in a reader. I promise to be 100% honest, offer insight and give you well crafted (and frequently entertaining) posts. Salud.