Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Dog Ate My Money


The dog ate my money. I mean it. Stop laughing. The dog really did eat my money. Let me backtrack a bit. I typically don’t carry more than $20 in cash on a daily basis but I do donate around 15% of my tax return to the cause of “stop my mother from calling me”. I was being the dutiful daughter and trekked over to Chase during my lunch break to get some cash to give to mommy. Yes, I’m 32 and I still call my mother mommy…except when she’s annoying me in which case I call her “mother”. She hates it. I do it anyway. Okay, back to the story.

I had 5 crisp $100 bills in the nice Chase envelope ready to pull out my $100 for the week and hand the rest to my mother. Thankfully I did get to pull my $100 bill out and left the envelope on my bed so that I would remember to actually give the money to my mom. Puppy and I snuggled up to watch The Dog Whisperer since it’s our favorite show together. Somewhere in the program I realized that the dog was munching. I reached over and felt a soggy Chase envelope in her mouth…along with 4 formerly crisp $100 bills.

Now, for those of you that have ever lost more than $20 and not been taken to the local psych ward, this is probably nothing for you. For the rest of us humans, $400 is a lot of money and allowing the puppy to have such an expensive meal at the expense of my labor was not going to happen. I had to wrestle, yes, wrestle the remaining bills out of the dog’s mouth. What I was left with were pieces of each bill. I didn’t freak out because I knew one fact that many of you probably don’t know; the Treasury department exchanges “mutilated” currency for new ones as long as you’ve got the entire serial number or more than half of a bill or at least 3 corners of the bill.

After I kicked the dog off the bed and assessed the damage, I started laughing. Who else but me could things like this happen to? As it turned out, I had enough of each bill left to be able to exchange them at the bank without having to send them in to the Treasury but can you image me waiting for the dog to pooh in hopes of getting the balance of some chewed up currency?

The lesson here today is this: If your grandma buried money in the back yard 20 years ago that she just remembered; if moths have even away at your money; if your money has been burned, ripped, shredded, or in any other way mutilated, you can still get it back. You will have to send your mutilated currency in to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Their Director has final say on how much you get back.

If your currency has been damaged (that means that you clearly have more than 1/2 of each bill) you can just take it in to your local bank for replacement. That’s what I did. I walked over to Chase on Monday and got crispy new $100 bills. That was after a small crowd of tellers, laughter, tape and one person telling me that I should have spanked the dog. I forgot to take a photo of the damaged bills but I have one of what was left of the envelope. The envelope actually was in 10x better shape than the money.

Second lesson: If your puppy is teething, always have a chew toy handy.

Contest Winners and Other Goodies

Time to announce my contest winner. The winner is…me! I didn’t get 32 entries to my contest so my $32 goes right back into my pocket and pays for my commuting costs this week. Nice! I hope everyone had a great Earth Day and did something Earth friendly.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed the look of the blog. I’ve added an “About Me” section (up top) and more pages will be coming soon. Having a functional computer and no more work Crackberry frees up enough time to really fix this place up!

10 Ways to Go Green That Won't Break the Bank

This is Earth Week and you’ll be seeing everyone advertising their green credentials this week. I’ve always wondered how I can help in a way that makes a meaningful contribution but won’t have my purse screaming. Last year I told you how to go green cheaply and save money. This, year I’m writing part 2.

Green Tips

Ten Cheap Ways to Go Green Cheaply

  1. Participate in your town’s garbage recycling programs. This helps to divert tons of garbage from landfills and saves your town money which in turn saves you from paying higher garbage/property taxes.

  2. If an appliance dies, consider switching to an Energy Star rated one. Before purchasing any appliance, check to see if there are special offers or rebates for that appliance. If you purchase an energy-efficient product or renewable energy system for your home, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit. Before starting any home project, see how if your changes will qualify for a tax credit.
  3. Instead of tossing out unwanted clothing, donate your gently used clothes to your local shelter, Salvation Army or church. If you have the money to afford designer duds and want to sell it, consider selling your clothes to a consignment shop or on eBay. You might have something that someone else is willing to pay for. My brother once sold a pair of his “collectible” sneakers for something like $100 and he had worn them! I didn’t understand it, but I understood that $100 bill. If not, consider turning your old clothes into rags that you can use to wipe the floor.
  4. Do you read a lot of magazines every month? Does a friend? Have you considered swapping? Various people in my office get different magazines and we now have a magazine recycling bin in the copy room where we dump our magazines every month and anyone can rifle though the bin for their favorite magazine. I’ve dropped my subscription to 2 magazines because of this casual exchange.
  5. Are you still getting your bills in the mail? Back in the Ice Age when everyone had AOL my amorous mailman used to drop the mail off wherever he felt like it so that he could finish in time to visit the women on my street with whom he was having affairs. The result was that one of my neighbors ended up with enough of my mail to rack up 15K in identity theft spending. Since then I get all of my statements online and I pay all of my bills the same way. You save the cost of checks, envelopes, stamps and bail money for attacking your neighbor…allegedly. And you generate less trash.
  6. If you’re still falling for it and spending a lot of money on bottled water don’t do it! Go out and get one of those cool metal water bottles that are everywhere. You’ll save yourself from toxins that the bottle can leech into your beverage if it’s heated and you save another bottle from sitting in the land fill for decades. Since plastic bottles are petroleum products you also reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  7. Have you eat vegetables? Consider planting your favorite vegetable. Last year I mad a ton of mesculin greens. I wasn’t the only one that benefited. My mom and coworker also received bags of the lettuce every week. My coworker had a bumper crop of Japanese cucumbers so we had a nice, unwaxed cucumber every week. If you live in a small apartment consider growing a planter with herbs. You can toss them in as you’re cooking or just use them to perfume your apartment.
  8. Do you have a lawn? How do you water it? You can save money on your water bill by setting up a simple rain water capture system. I would go with a simple rain barrel with a spout at the bottom.
  9. When was the last time that you checked the seal around your windows and doors? If it’s been years, go back and put some sealant or corking around all of your windows and doors. This will help to keep the cold air from getting inside in the winter and keep the warm air out in the summer. It should also lower your heating costs.
  10. Consider switching to more natural cleaning products. Our ancestor’s did not have all the magical chemicals that we now use, and they made out okay. Try using things like borax, vinegar, and baking soda.

If you like these tips check out my eHow article on how to go green cheaply. Because the green you save might just be the green in your pockets.

2nd Annual Earth Day is My Birthday Green Goods Giveaway

I’ve really been thinking hard about what to get you guys for my 32nd birthday this Earth Day and I’m having a fairly hard time of coming up with something that is:

1) Cheap and small enough to mail to you
2) Green to fit my Earth Day birthday environmental theme
Green Earth
At some point driving through New Jersey into Pennsylvania last weekend looking at all the trees, it hit me! It really was one of those light bulb moments that people speak about that you’re never really sure exists. Anyway here it is… Your gift for my birthday this year is 32 smackeroos! That’s right, I’m giving you 32 green backs for my birthday. Yes people, $32. How does this count as a green good giveaway? They’re called greenbacks aren’t they?

Oh, but of course there are rules! In order to be entered just once into the contest you must simply post a comment to this entry wishing me happy birthday on April 22nd. It won’t count if you do it before or after. It MUST be on the 22nd of April.

Second rule: I MUST have at least 32 comments from 32 unique visitors to this post for the contest to take place at all so get your friends to enter as well. Remember, 32 comments from unique visitors to this post and the contest is on. Less than 32 comments and it sucks for everyone. Well no, I’ll keep my $32 so it will just suck for you.

If you’re a smart cookie and you’ve got some time, you can get additional entries to this contest. All entries require that you wish me a happy birthday FIRST. It won’t count if you don’t.

  • When you wish me a happy birthday, name one green thing you have done in the past year. Don’t just make something up. One extra entry
  • Visit my eHow article, on how to go green cheaply, rate it (hopefully a 5), leave a comment, and leave a comment here letting me know that you did so. Oh, and wish me a birthday. One extra entry
  • Talk about my contest on your blog. Come back here, wish me happy birthday, and link back to your blog entry. Two extra entries
  • In addition to wishing me happy birthday, Tweet this post and include the link to your Tweet in your comments here. Two extra entries
  • One visitor can get a maximum of 7 entries! I will select the winner by listing all the qualifying entries in order of appearance and will use to generate the winning entry number. I’ll post the screen shot so you know that I’m not cheating.

    Here comes the quasi-legal stuff.
    Disclaimer: I’d appreciate you not entering if you’re the suing type. If you don’t win, you can’t sue me. I’m not responsible for anything. You must complete all of the steps lined out above for your entry to be valid. I won’t tell you in advance if your entry is valid or not. Only one winner will be announced on April 23rd. Winner must provide their name and address for me to mail their winnings. You must be in the U.S. because I am not paying more than 42 cents – wait, what’s the price of a stamp these days? – to mail this thing to you. If you can’t provide your info by April 27, I’m liable to spend the money and you will forfeit your winnings. Winner consents to allowing me to list their name and a link back to their blog if I feel like it. Contest canceled where prohibited. You must be 18 or older to participate. Don’t drive drunk. Call your mother. Heck, call my mother.

Lessons from A Frugal Blogger

So, the frugal blogosphere got a list of questions from Fru Blogger asking us to share our hard learned money lessons. I’ve got some lessons for you! Below are his list of questions and my answers. I hope we learned something.

1) What’s your “frugality story?” In other words, how and why did you become frugal?
If you’ve read my first entry then you’ll know that I had a business that went belly up. My parents were kind enough to lend me a good deal of cash to get the business off the ground. When I decided to close the business I knew that there was no way that I would neglect by duties and brush off my mom. I also knew that I was wasting money needlessly and needed a plan on how to get out of debt – including paying back what I owed my mom. If you don’t have a financial GPS or at least a roadmap of where you are going then it is very, very easy to get lost in the process. Plus, living paycheck-to-paycheck is scary.

Yes, I Am Cheap

2) What, if anything, tempts you to overspend, and how do you resist?
I’m not a big spender and I’ve learned to spend even less but have you ever walked into a Walmart?!! You find stuff that you didn’t even know that you needed just because it’s a good deal. I’m a “clearance”, “just reduced” or “50% off” shopper so I just stay at home and keep myself away from the temptations.

3) What personal finance or frugality habits were the hardest for you to adopt and why?
Writing down everything that I spent was the hardest thing to do. Small bills trickle out of your pocket and you don’t realize it but at the end of the week you’ve spent an extra $30 on things that you really didn’t need. That morning newspaper adds up when you buy one 5 days a week, every week, so I subscribed and saved 60% off the newsstand price. Writing down the little things was a hard, but very necessary lesson.

4) Have you ever taken frugality too far? How so?
Yes, I sure have. That’s why my new motto is “not all money is good money”. I did some surveys for the money and I realized that the SPAM and random marketing phone calls as well as the time that it took wasn’t worth the $14 check. No more survey taking for me. You have to draw the line somewhere.

5) What resources (blogs, books, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s newly frugal?
I bet you’re thinking that I’ll say Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It didn’t do anything for me. I needed an action plan! For the beginner I would recommend any of Suze Orman’s books. Suze is a no-nonsense woman with a straight way of speaking that gets right to the heart of the matter. I love that she dumbs things down so that every a girl like me can understand exactly what she is saying…Plus, I love that she gives her books away for a limited time every time she is on Oprah. Why buy the book when you can get it for free? That’s your first step into the land of frugality.


Tax Day Freebies and Almost Freebies

Tomorrow is Tax Day. If you haven’t done your taxes yet and you’re full of anxiety, then get ready to file your extension and wait on lines at the post office. If you’ve already done your taxes and have nothing to worry about then spend the day soaking up freebies and almost freebies with me.

If I hear about more things I’ll add them to the list, so don’t be surprised if this list gets bigger as the day progresses. Oh, and unless I say otherwise, these freebies are for Tax Day only and at participating locations only so check your location before going.

Everyone that walks into a Subway on Tax Day gets a free cookie.

Starbucks is offering free brewed coffee for those who bring in reusable travel mugs.

Boston Market has a BOGO for individual dinner plates beginning April 16 through April 18. You have to bring this coupon.

Two free cupcakes bites from Cinnabon from 6-8 p.m. If you want to enter their essay contest, you can enter to win $100.

Taco Del Mar is offering one free taco. You have to sign up for a coupon to get it.

MaggieMoo’s is giving away a free slice of the new MaggieMia’s Ice Cream Pizza from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

Free massage from Hydro Massage.

All beer, wine and cocktails will be 50 percent off at BLT Steak.

Get a free Tax Day relief cocktail at Whiskey Blue at the W Hotel! Just bring in your W2 or proof of tax preparation on Thursday and get your first drink free

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is offering 15% off all orders (excluding alcohol).

SOME Whole Foods grocery stores are giving you a tax break by matching the sales tax on the groceries that you buy. Check you local Whole Foods.

TGI Friday’s is giving away $5 gift cards when you make a purchase between $15 and $25. They’ll give you a $10 card if you spend more.

IHOP is offering free dinner for one child age 12 or younger with each adult meal purchased 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. all month long

Jamba Juice has a BOGO valid through April 25 but you have to bring in this coupon to get it.

I’ve heard that McDonald’s might have a sandwich BOGO or second sandwich for a penny deal but I haven’t been able to confirm that. They are doing free WI-FI so I guess if you have to do your taxes yourself you can e-file from McDonald’s.

This one I’m not so sure about because I don’t see confirmation on their website, but ask anyway. Make a purchase at a participating Chick-fil-A and beginning April 16, bring the receipt back within 30 days and get the same item for free.

Taking The Plunge

As of April 7th I am a home owner! I purchased the home that I mentioned in my previous post – sign unseen. Very risky, I know, but it seemed like an amazing opportunity. Before you begin lecturing me, I know that this is how lots of people got into trouble – buying homes that they really couldn’t afford, but I’d like to think that I’m smarter than the average bear. Let me run the numbers for you.
I purchased the home for a little over 22K. I could have used that money to pay off a few bills. Sigh. Anyway I borrowed most of it from my 401K as a 3 year loan at a rate of 4.25%. I know that the 401K loan represents an opportunity cost so if the market goes up and returns a rate higher than 4.25% (plus some other compounding) and my money isn’t in there I shot myself in the foot. I borrowed about 3K from mom which I intend to repay with 10% interest ($3,300) over the next 6 months. Hey, mom is a loan shark and her money doesn’t come cheap.

There is a tenant in the home currently paying $525 per month in rent. Her lease expires in another month or so and I intend to present her with a new one year lease at a rate of $550. I plan on inching her closer to market rates. She pays for all of her utilities except for sewer charges. About 75% of her rent is paid for by a non-profit program since she has a terminal condition. I have already opened an account where the rent will be deposited to separate that money from my other income.

I intend to use the rental income to repay my mother and then bank the balance to use to pay off my 401K loan. Unfortunately the 401K terms doesn’t allow me to add smaller payments to the payroll deductions so I intend to save, save, save. The loan terms will only allow me to pay the balance in full so if I have a 3 year term, between my paycheck and what I save to pay the loan I estimate that I should be able to pay off this loan in a tad less than 2 years.

The way that I calculate it, I should break even in year 3 of collecting rent. That’s not too bad. I’m might consider getting a HELOC to pay off the 401K loan. Depending on the cost of the loan it might work out because I would then be able to deduct interest payments on my taxes, but I need to crunch the numbers on that. I don’t want to play with adding any debt to the property.

I’m surprisingly very calm. I guess I should go take a look at the home now. I don’t think that I should tell anyone that I purchased this home without actually looking at it, should I? And I haven’t forgotten about you guys. I’m still thinking of what to offer you for my birthday this year. It has to be something good because you, my dear reader, deserve only the best of the cheapest thing that I can find.

April 1st Check In

It’s April Fool’s Day. We have now completed a full 3 months of the second year of my debt reduction. Man, time flies! My birthday is coming up on Earth Day and in addition to giving myself the gift of one paid off loan, I’m trying to think of what gift to give you guys for my birthday. I’ll come up with something by then. It’s time to check in and see how I did in March. I think I’m trucking along pretty well and made some great progress in March.

January 1, 2010
Student Loan #1 $1,871.04 @4.5%earth day
Credit Card #1 $1,019.12 @13.99%
Credit Card #2 $3,907.79 @13.99%
HELOC $45,070.66 @3.875%
Student Loan #2 $38,301.68 @3.3-7.5% (it’s a bunch of Grad School and Undergrad loans together)
Personal Loan $1,580.52 @9.45%
Car Note $0
Total: $91,750.81

April 1, 2010
Student Loan #1 $1,533.05 @4.5%
Credit Card #1 $756.01 @13.99%
Credit Card #2 $3,659.73 @13.99%
HELOC $44,117.44 @3.125%
Student Loan #2 $38,066.08 @3.3-7.5% (it’s a bunch of Grad School and Undergrad loans together)
Personal Loan $0
Car Note $0
Total: $88,132.31

Savings: $1200 GOAL REACHED

As you can see, I’ve paid off the personal loan. My debt balance is down by $3,618.50 since January and my savings surpassed my goal of $1,000. This was of course due to the tax refund that I received from the Federal government. Nice, huh? There is one thing that I need to add to the list though. Last month I mentioned that I purchased a bed. I’ve paid the balance down by over $500 but I still have a balance of $1,696.50 at 0% interest. This brings my debt total to $89,828.81. That’s awesome! I’ve cracked the 90′s and I’m working my way back down to Madonna land. The 80′s is a great place to be.

Goals for this month? Well, I’d like to enjoy my birthday. Beyond that I need to reduce the balance of CC#1 below $500 and increase my savings to $1,500. Happy April everyone.