Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poor kitties

I woke up at four am to the sound of mewing. It didn't register at first that it wasn't one of our cats. As I woke up, I realized that the sound was coming from outside. We opened the door, turned on the patio light, and saw nothing. It took awhile, but eventually, a tiny kitten walked in front of our patio. The kitten couldn't have been more than seven or eight weeks old!

Hubby and I tried but couldn't catch the kitten as it was feral and ran. While I don't want another cat (we have three!), I was hoping to catch it, spay or neuter it, and then find it a new home. It broke my heart to see such a tiny kitten loose in the neighborhood. I left a handful of cat food on the patio and hopefully the kitten will return tonight to find dinner. Poor baby.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Today was a very quiet day. Hubby attended a Microsoft conference this afternoon so I was home by myself. The cats were actually pretty quiet and I wasn't sure what to do without any noise!

I was feeling a bit down this afternoon. I picked up my Bible and read a few chapters in Acts about how God kept protecting and guiding Paul and Silas. They were so focused on their mission to tell others about the gospel. I admire that drive. I wish I could say the same about myself. I'm afraid to talk to strangers about God. Chalk it up to insecurity, shyness, or fear of rejection.

Between my Bible study and housework, I'm feeling better this afternoon. When I finished reading the Bible, I tackled the kitchen. We now have very clean dishes, a clean stove, and an uncluttered counter top. I put pinto beans in the crock pot this morning and made rice just a bit ago. We're having haystacks for dinner. Chips, homemade beans, homemade rice, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. Yum!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Slow progress, but forward motion nonetheless

CC1 progress

$1,272.98 starting balance
- $6.94 earnings

= $1,266.04 current balance (20.34% paid)

I found another reason to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Blunt Money's post on how interest rates are calculated shows that most credit cards charge a daily periodic rate, meaning that I am accumulating interest every single day. The term APR is misleading because you would think that it's an annual percentage rate but it's not.

Sure enough. I looked up my last statement on this credit card and they are charging interest every single day. That means that today I'm being charged interest on the interest that they charged yesterday. Compound interest strikes hard. I feel justified sending multiple payments every week if possible. It will save us money on interest because our daily balance will be lower.

We were hit hard with expenses last week. Four new tires plus alignment (which we desperately needed) cost us $416.75. Ouch! We have a $58 mail in rebate but that money can't go to the credit card until I get a check, which usually takes 4-6 weeks. Oh, well. At least we had the money in the bank and could pay cash even without touching our savings account.

Groceries were also a big expense because we needed a few things that aren't weekly purchases - olive oil, kitty litter, two bags of cat food, and a couple other odds and ends that couldn't wait. We spent most of the grocery budget on staples, building up our pantry again. I'm probably going to have to use the rest of our snowball for September ($40) to buy additional food. We don't have enough to last two weeks.

I keep reminding myself that we are making progress, even though it doesn't seem like it some weeks. It's a blessing to be able to cash flow expenses rather than dip into savings or use the credit cards. All of our bills are being paid on time and we even have extra money some weeks. I have to look at the big picture, not just at the previous week. The big picture looks so much better! God is very good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh what a day!

I'm exhausted. What a day.

Early am - Breakfast, dishes, laundry, vacuuming.
Late am - Contract work.
Early pm - Shopped for new tires on the car.
Late pm - Grocery shopping.

Come, blessed Sabbath! I can't wait to attend church tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shopping for tires

We are trying to balance debt pay off with taking care of car maintenance, clothing needs, etc. It's really hard spending money when we're so focused on getting out of debt. Each month, we take a look at our finances, determine what our snowball will be, and decide if there's anything we need that month. This month, we were planning on new tires. Next month, we will be ordering hubby a six month supply of contacts. December will be all about credit card progress, unless an emergency arises before the end of the year.

We've known we need new tires for awhile. We have two tires on the car that are a year or so old, one that is several years old, and one tire from when we financed it in 2005! The plan is to replace all four tires so that they match and will wear evenly.

Hubby had a client appointment this afternoon and walked out to the car only to find that one of our tires was flat. Interesting timing, as we're currently searching for good deals and can afford the tires tomorrow! Hubby changed the tire out for the donut and realized that we had no tread left on that tire and that's why it finally gave out. We are overdue!

It's confusing shopping for tires. I'm looking at an ad from Tire Pros that has free installation, free balancing, and sale prices on the tires. Pepboys Auto is offering that if you buy any three installed tires, you get the fourth for free and, if I'm reading the website correctly, they offer free installation. Discount Tire Company has a $40 mail in rebate on one of their tire brands but charges for installation. Walmart has decent prices on tires and $5 installation fees but I don't really trust Walmart to take care of my car. All of the companies charge outrageous prices for disposing the tires but I'm having troubles locating a company that recycles the tires so that we can avoid the disposal fee.

I think we might have to just pick a company and go with it and hope we got the best deal. They all carry different tires, so how are we supposed to compare? I'm so confused!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Art Appreciation

My hubby and I visited the Phoenix Art Museum tonight. We visit almost every week and love browsing through the European section. Most of the paintings are gorgeous and we learn something new every time we visit.

When I was growing up, my only exposure to art was photography. My brother and I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember and our parents encouraged us in it. We were poor growing up, but my parents still bought both of us cheap film cameras. As I was responsible for funding most of the film development, I didn't take that many pictures. However, when I was in high school and was hired at my first job, my photography took off. I have thousands of pictures in our spare bedroom, mostly taken in high school and early in college. Hubby and I bought a digital camera last year and I've been digital ever since (I prefer print, but my budget demands digital).

Hubby is an artist, a painter. Even though I knew of his talent, I still didn't have much of an appreciation for painting. My only exposure to paintings was my art appreciation class in college. The only paintings I was familiar with were photographs of painting in my textbook and the ones my professor projected onto the wall. Still, I didn't have much appreciation for art because I didn't realize just how detailed a painting could be.

When hubby and I first learned the Phoenix Art Museum had free admission once a week, we visited on a date. I fell in love with paintings, mostly the European art. I love visiting the museum and only wish that they had a larger European section. Someday, hubby and I have determined to visit New York City's Met. Maybe when we get all of our debt paid off, we can vacation in New York and visit some of the cultural sites.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kitchen doings

What a great success. For the first time since we were given it a year ago, I opened the box and used my new Crock Pot. I filled a pot with water and soaked black beans overnight. This morning, I rinsed the beans, pulled out a couple bad ones, and covered them with water in the Crock Pot. I cooked them for eight hours and they tasted really good! 

I wasn't sure how to long to cook the beans or how much water to use, so I searched the internet and found A Year of Slowcooking's recipe for cooking dried beans. What a great website! I'm drooling over a few of the recipes and have already determined to make apple butter this weekend if I can find a deal on apples.

I also made homemade tortillas and rice. We really wanted to make enchiladas but the tortillas are too small for me to roll and then bake. Instead, we filled them with black beans and rice (plus sour cream for me) and then poured hot enchilada sauce over the top. We ended up eating them with a fork. If I can wean myself off the sour cream (or switch to vegan sour cream) and find a homemade enchilada sauce recipe, we'll have ourselves a very healthy meal! 

Between the black beans, tortilla shells, and amish bread baked this morning, I had a very productive day in the kitchen! 

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today was a pretty easy day for work and I'm glad. I've been feeling under the weather all day so I was quite happy when I completed three hours of contract work and was told that would be all until tomorrow.

So instead, I did some cleaning. I washed two loads of laundry and washed the dishes. If I'm feeling better tomorrow, I might tackle the kitchen floor. It's looking kind of grimy in front of the closet where our trash can is stored.

I also worked on my Nano outline for awhile, putting together some information for my first two chapters. It's been very interesting trying to imagine what it would have been like to live through the plagues. How hard would it have been to find drinking water by digging in the banks of the Nile? What would it have been like finding your house overrun with frogs and being able to do nothing about it? Most of the plagues affected both the Egyptians and the Hebrews so no one was immune.

I wonder how much the Hebrews remembered about God. They were in Egypt for a really long time with no prophets. The 10 commandments reminded them of God's precepts, like keeping the Sabbath. Does this mean they had forgotten to keep the Sabbath or were just keeping it incorrectly? Or maybe they knew about the Sabbath and wanted to observe but couldn't because they had to work every day. Do we know for sure? I'm not sure that we do, but it's been enlightening trying to imagine what life would have been like.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mini-milestone and goals revisited

Last week's progress on CC1:

$1,448.98 starting balance
- $176.00 contract paycheck

$1,272.98 current balance (20% paid)

We're finally making some progress on this credit card! I received my paycheck last week for time completed in August. It's the first of several large paychecks, my next coming 10/1.

This week hubby and I will be shopping for new tires for our car. We are overdue and the goal is to pay for four new tires by the end of September. We have to wait until his next paycheck (Friday) to have the cash, but that's where most of our snowball will be directed this month. Unfortunately, we can't neglect essential car maintenance just because we're focused on paying off our credit cards.

Hubby and I have decided that we're going to start trying for a baby when all the consumer debt is paid off. I'm so excited about this as we now have a concrete goal of when we're going to start growing our family. Before, we just talked about "when we can afford it," "when the debt is paid off." Well, we have $69,500 in total debt and that pay off is years away.

We're following Dave Ramsey's baby steps:

1 - $1,000 emergency fund DONE
2 - Pay off all debt except the house
3 - Build an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses
4 - Retirement savings
5 - College funds for kids
6 - Pay off home early
7 - Give like you've never given before

Because we have no house and no plans to buy one... we're rearranging the steps a bit so that we can start growing our family:

1 - $1,000 emergency fund DONE
2 - Pay off all consumer debt (credit cards and car)
3 - Build an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses
3a - Start trying for a baby while building our emergency fund
4 - Retirement savings
5 - Save up a minimum 30% down payment on a house
5a - College funds for kids
6 - Pay off home early
7 - Give like you've never given before

That's the plan for now, though things will probably change once our consumer debt is paid off. What's left for consumer debt?

CC1 - $1,272.98
CC2 - $3,037.29
CC3 - $4,363.78
Auto loan - $4,565.83
CC4 - $9,105.16

We are $22,345.04 away from having our first child! I am very excited. That's so much more optimistic than the original figure of $69,444.98 for our total debt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

End of the week and now we rest

I am almost ready for the Sabbath. It's been a busy day but I feel accomplished. Before breakfast, I went grocery shopping. Walmart was very quiet this morning and it made for a relaxing trip. Then I spent the morning on my contract work, ate lunch, visited the post office, and completed some housework.

The only thing left to finish is putting away the clean dishes on the counter and in the dishwasher. I also have to clean out the litter boxes. Fun fun! Then I can relax and enjoy the Sabbath.

Shabbot Shalom!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'm not sure what I want to write about today. The only thing I accomplished today was six hours of work and I finished reading a book.

I've been dragging a bit lately when it comes to doing anything but my contract work. My energy levels are low, reasons known but not welcomed. Our house is passable but I haven't continued work on the 31 days to clean challenge. I intend to return to that project.

So I guess I will conclude by admitting I have nothing useful to say. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Challenge - National Novel Writing Month

This year, I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 175 page novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. Nano starts on November 1st at 12:01 AM and ends November 30th at midnight. The rules state that I have to write a novel completely from scratch, no rewrites or finishing drafts that have already been started. On November 1st, I will sit down with a blank Word document. Hopefully, by November 30th, I will have written an entire novel of at least 50,000 words.

It's fun! I've participated twice before. The first time I attempted this feat, my story petered out and I wasn't able to finish. The second time I tried, my novel was complete, over 50,000 words, but was terrible. I couldn't even bear to read it. It might be saved on my hard drive somewhere, but I don't even really remember what the story was about.

This year, I'm preparing myself ahead of time. I'm going to write a "Biblical narrative," a novel that tells a Bible story but is written from the perspective of fictional characters. I've always wondered what it would have been like to live as a slave in Egypt, experience the plagues, and see firsthand the awesome power of God delivering His people.

The novel will be written from the perspective of an Egyptian male who is involved with the Hebrews but I'm not sure exactly how. He will be either a scribe in Pharaoh's court and will thus witness Moses' demands regarding the Hebrews or he'll be a tax collector who deals with the Hebrew farmers who grow part of their crops for Egypt.

The second character is a Hebrew slave, a young girl who lost both of her parents early in life and is no stranger to hardship and grief. I want to explore what it may have been like for both the Egyptians and Hebrews as the plagues progressed and the Hebrews were finally allowed to leave Egypt.

That's what all my research has been about lately. I've been reading books on Egypt, the plagues, and Mt. Sinai. There are some very interesting theories about the 10 plagues, whether they were supernatural occurrences or natural events controlled by God. I'm not sure anyone really knows.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reminder - Dave Ramsey Giveaway

If you haven't entered today's $999 emergency fund giveaway, please do so! Having an emergency fund allows me to breathe easy because I know the money is available to cover a trip to the doctor or car trouble, should the need suddenly arise.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Free emergency fund and shopping sales

Dave Ramsey is giving away a $999 emergency fund. I didn't find out about this until after it started, but he's giving away an emergency fund every day until 9/17/09. You can enter each day for a chance to win. We already have an emergency fund in place ($1,000) but I'm still entering the drawing. If we win, we'll use it to pay down our credit card.

I had an excellent shopping day. We don't usually shop at Albertson's, but they were having some good sales that I couldn't pass up. They have selected cereals on sale for $1.50 each box, taco shells for $1.25 a box, and enchilada sauce for $1.25 a can. For the Mexican food, you could buy any combination of taco shells, enchilada sauce, and another product and the price would come out to 6 for $1.25 each plus a coupon for $3.00 off your next Albertson's purchase.

I purchased:
1 box multi grain Cheerios
1 box Golden Grahams (hubby's request)
2 packages of taco seasoning (free - "buy 2 boxes of taco shells, receive a free package of taco seasoning")
4 boxes of taco shells
2 cans of enchilada sauce

Grand total: $9.62!! I also received a coupon for $3.00 off my next order. I saved 63% ($16.70) on this trip.

After work, hubby and I returned to Albertson's to use the coupons I received this morning. The first coupon was for $1.50 off the purchase of three boxes of cereal. The second coupon was the $3.00 reward coupon off the next shopping trip. Because the boxes were $1.50 each, we got all three for free! We now have three extra boxes of Cheerios in our pantry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Responsibility and Accountability

This week's credit card activity:

$1,489.38 starting balance
- $31.00 September minimum payment
- $9.40 earnings

= $1,448.98 current balance (8.8% paid)

I am seeing very little movement on this balance, but it will speed up! I should be able to make a snowball payment at the end of the month and I have a paycheck coming this week.

Last week I mentioned that I would be interested in knowing how much interest we'll be saving by paying this credit card off in the next three months. I found this calculator, which says that we will pay $403 in interest if we only pay minimums. I believe that we should be paying about $60 in interest over the next three months and will thus save $343 by paying the credit card off early.

We actually have more than one credit card.
CC1 - $1,448.98
CC2 - $3,037.29
CC3 - $4,363.78
CC4 - $9,105.16

I refuse to calculate how much interest we’ll be paying with all four cards. It would be too depressing. However, when I found the calculator earlier this week, I couldn’t help but plug in the numbers for CC4. Ouch. I shouldn’t have looked. Our highest balance credit card is also the one with the highest interest.

$9,105.16 balance
$231.00 monthly payment
18.24% interest rate
61 months until pay off, if only paying minimums

You will pay $5,069 in interest plus your balance for a total of $14,174.16.

Depressing. Very, very depressing. That’s why I titled this post “Responsibility and Accountability.” We have to face the music and pay the penalty for making bad financial decisions. I wish the price wasn’t so high, but this is a permanent lesson. Never again will I waste my money like this! All these numbers don’t even include all the payments and interest I’ve made over the past several years. What a waste! We could have done so many positive things with the money, but instead, we’re lining the pockets of the banks. Never again. And the worst part of all of this? Hubby and I have no idea what we charged on the cards!

Friday, September 11, 2009

End of the week

No schedule today. Tons of contract hours, 7 hours worth. I'm exhausted.

Praise the Lord for the Sabbath!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Second schedule attempt

I attempted another scheduled day. It is going fairly well... Before my schedule started this morning, I wrote my three Morning Pages, exercised, took a shower, ate breakfast, and had Bible study with hubby.

10:30-11:00 - Housework
11:00-11:30 - Research
11:30-12:00 - Housework
12:00-1:00 - Lunch/Free Time
1:00-1:30 - Update prices/add items for sale on
1:30-2:00 - Read blogs/Check email
2:00-2:30 - Housework
2:30-? - Play Scrabble with hubby :)

The only thing left on my schedule is some character building for my novel. I was doing really well with the schedule but hubby is home and he was very agreeable to playing a game of Scrabble with me so I decided to toss out the last hour of my schedule. I've accomplished everything on my to-do list for today.

Tomorrow will be a return to unscheduled days. I should have contract work tomorrow morning and that's always a priority over everything else. My contract work is first come, first serve so I watch my email very closely and drop everything else when work is assigned. The faster I can finish the initial assignment, the more work I am assigned until everything has been completed for the day by all the contractors. I like having the ability to work more hours than the initial assignment but it makes planning hard as I'm at the beck and call of my emails!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The first time she attempts a schedule...

As I knew in advance that I would have no contract work today and that hubby would be gone for hours, I decided to create a strict schedule for the day. This was my first attempt at creating a schedule for homemaking duties. I think I did fairly well!

9:00-9:45 - Housework
9:45-10:00 - Reading
10:00-10:30 - Bible study
10:30-11:00 - Housework
11:00-11:30 - Work on my brother's Christmas present
11:30-12:00 - Exercise
12:00-1:00 - Lunch/Free time
1:00-2:00 - Research
2:00-2:30 - Reading (I was trying to finish a book today. Success!)

I followed my schedule almost exactly. The only deviation was that hubby called at noon and said he was done early. I talked to him for a few minutes and then hung up and did research until 1:00, when he arrived home. We ate lunch together at 1:00 and then I had free time until 2:00.

My contract work boss emailed everyone and said there is no work again tomorrow. I think I'm going to rearrange today's schedule a bit and try it again tomorrow. I'd like to exercise before breakfast instead of lunch and I want to have Bible reading earlier in the morning. I finished reading John this morning started in Acts.

All in all, my first attempt at a schedule was a great success! I feel very productive. I'm not sure what I'm going to do this afternoon, but I'll find something. Maybe I'll keep working on my brother's Christmas present. That's going to take hours of dedicated work, I've realized!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Doubling recipes

I double a lot of recipes. In doing so, I find myself dealing with conversions from teaspoons to tablespoons, from tablespoons to cups... Even though I double recipes frequently, I always forget the conversions. Thankfully, I found this calculator today. This will make those conversions so much easier.

My contract work is still on hold and I have the day off tomorrow as well because of lack of work. Hubby will be working at client sites all day tomorrow and I am determined to maximize my productivity! I have much that I wish to accomplish - Bible study, vacuuming, a load of laundry, ironing, progress on my brother's Christmas present, and some research for the novel I'm going to attempt writing in November.

During the day, I will be listening to classical music. I have a new found love for some of the old composers, especially Sergei Rachmaninoff.

My favorite, Rachmaninoff playing his Piano Concerto No. 2:

Monday, September 7, 2009

31 Days to Clean - Day 17

My husband is on call today so I decided I would progress with the 31 Day Challenge. Today's task is to clean the laundry room.

I have a tiny laundry room that I access by stepping onto our patio. It contains a stackable 3/4 size washer and dryer, the hot water heater, and a tiny trashcan where I throw all of the lint from the dryer. It didn't take too long to wipe everything down but it really needed it! I can't believe how much dirt and grime had accumulated on my washer. Now I don't have to worry about letting my clothes touch the machine as I transfer them to the dryer. Ick.

My contract work is nonexistent today. I was hoping for a couple hours but that's ok. I've been catching up on all our laundry and reading a library book. Hubby and I also walked over to Walgreen's to pick up a Redbox movie. Even in September, it's not a good idea to take a half hour walk in the middle of the day! I felt faint when we returned to the apartment. I can't wait for cooler weather!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This week's step toward freedom

$1,521.38 starting balance
- $30.00 contract paycheck
- $2.00 online survey reward

= $1,489.38 current balance

According to bankrate, we're now down to 57 months until payoff. We eliminated a month from our payoff in one week and have paid off 6.3% of our initial balance. We're making progress, though I can't really see how we're going to pay off this balance by November 30th. Thankfully I have some bigger paychecks coming, starting the 15th of this month.

I love statistics. I should figure out how to calculate the amount of interest we're saving by paying early and often. Interest over a period of 57 months is huge, even when your APR is only 10.24%!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

31 Days to Clean - Day 16

“I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?”
Source unknown

Day 16 of the cleaning challenge is all about fighting laundry piles. I have to admit, the above quote is pretty accurate! If I only do things that are fun, laundry would never be complete. Thankfully, my husband needs clean clothes to wear to work each day and thus my dirty laundry pile stays fairly tamed.

In an effort to lower our electricity bill, I've started line drying some of our clothes. Our apartment complex doesn't allow clotheslines on the patios so I am forced to be creative. Instead, I hang all of our shirts on hangers and leave them hanging on the shower curtain bar. This has been working really well, as long as I remember to fold or iron the clothes after they are dry. Our electric bill went down $16 last month!

This month, I am going to attempt to hang all of our laundry and eliminate the need for the dryer. I'm going to visit the dollar store to see if they carry clothes pins. If not, I'll check Walmart. I'm going to try pinning the clothes to regular hangers and leaving them in the bathroom to dry. I'm not sure if the clothes pins will fit around the hangers but I believe that's my only option for hanging work pants and jeans. If I'm lucky, our electric bill will drop again this month.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Work, work, and ... cookies

Today has been all about work. I had intentions of getting my ironing caught up but ended up with five hours of contract work instead. Praise the Lord! I'm hoping for another great paycheck this month.

I baked peanut butter cookies this afternoon, though I'm not sure I want to recommend the recipe. I didn't realize until I started mixing the ingredients just how fattening this particular recipe is! All that margarine, sugar, and peanut butter. I don't even want to know the fat and calorie content of a single cookie. I haven't tried the cookies yet; I'm waiting until hubby returns home from work before tasting them.

Speaking of cookies, this is the first recipe that I've managed to bake as many cookies as the recipe claims it yields. Usually, a recipe says it will bake 24 cookies but I'm lucky if I end up with 18. I guess I make each cookie too big, though it seems like they are normal sized. Oh well!