Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quicken (R TM) & Quickbooks (R TM)

I am an avid user of Quicken, financial software by Intuit that came pre-loaded with my Gateway computer back at the top of the millennium in 2000. My goodness, that's eight years ago. Prior to that, James and I used the old-fashioned Budget Sheet (visit to download your Personalized Budget Sheet for FREE) and Excel. We still use the Budget Sheet--established in our household in the mid-1990's--when payday rolls around; and the Excel spreadsheet when organizing our tax information for our Accountant.

As for Quicken, I don't know how our home would have been able to fiscally operate without it. In my opinion, it is user-friendly and has so many features that help me to stay financially organized. I like it because:
• it's similar to inputting entries into a transaction register;
• it automatically calculates my balances once I input an entry; so long as I keep the entries updated (e.g., debit transactions),
• it reflects a more accurate "real-time" balance than my bank. I could download Quicken data with my bank records, but I haven't gotten that far. Instead, I place my Quicken screen side-by-side to the bank's online screen so I can compare figures, see which checks have not yet been cleared, and reconcile my records to match that of the bank;
• I can create summaries, pie charts and graphs (e.g., how much money spent on gas and groceries in 2007);
• And much more!
Since I am also a small business owner, I have long wanted to become familiar with Quickbooks. I understand that it's integrative. If so, this is appealing to me, because right now, when I have a book sale, I go into my address book to add a book patron; my inventory spreadsheet to update the inventory; and Quicken to log in the revenue.

The South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) is providing training on Quickbooks for four sessions in January 2008. Cost: $40, but $20 for Southside Entrepreneur Association (SSEA) members (see 12-12-07 entry). Savings: $20. The benefit will far, far outweigh the cost for me.

Bargain hunting for tissue in bulk

The cold season is here. I've gotten my flu shot, but I still have the sniffles. I've never done this before, but I ordered boxes of tissues through the office supply catalog, because I can get six (6) boxes containing 100 tissues per box for $5.49. That's 92 cents per box; less than 1 cent per tissue. Okay, I won't get carried away. Free S&H, I guess because it's the holidays. Not bad, considering that tissue in the grocery store can cost me around a buck per box, averaging 70 tissues per box, a penny per tissue. Sorry, got carried away again. Yet, every time I look around, I'm running out for more. This should last us awhile.

What I am personally grateful for this Christmas Day

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving got so busy that I began drafting my journal entry to describe the things that I am most grateful for; and then time flew by and now Christmas is here! So here is the list -- I am thankful to God for:

- salvation in Jesus Christ; for God "finding" me at an early age as a little girl attending Catholic parochial school. Christ's journey as depicted through the stations of the cross held significance for me even then;

- James, my wonderful husband of 15 years;

- the basic necessities of life that I never ever want to take for granted: food, a roof over my head; clothing; transportation; utilities such as heat and all-the-while remembering and helping those who don't have these things;

- good health; and all-the-while remembering those who live with disabilities or chronic illnesses every single day;

- family, friends, three church families (as a result of moving around so much);

- jobs that we love--took a long time to truly discover what is it that I was made to do.

Apart from basic necessities and our occupations, notice that most of this list has absolutely nothing to do with money and material possessions. Here's wishing that you tremendously enjoy the non-tangible aspects of your holiday season.

Assessing needs versus wants and desires – even in the midst of holiday shopping

While out last-minute Christmas Eve window shopping with my sister and niece, the only thing I really needed was a can opener. I found a pretty red one for $14.99, on sale (or so I thought) for 10 bucks. You see, I've had my can opener for as long as James and I have been married, but I must've laid it down somewhere and forgot it, after taking soup to work. Turns out, the can opener was 12 bucks, because the sale sign that I saw was for the Day-after-Christmas-early-bird-price. Hmmm--do I come back day after Christmas beginning at 6 a.m.? I pondered? Nope, my time and my sleep is valuable to me. My sister then turns to me and asks, "What do you need, want, or desire as a gift?" To which I responded that her and her daughter visiting us is more than enough, and that I'm very happy, grateful, and content. "Materially?" she prodded. I told her I didn't want to tell her stuff just for her to buy and waste her money on things I don't really need, and that the can opener I just bought is all the kitchen really needs. She then proceeded to pull out the 12 bucks to gift me for the can opener!

Remember to ask for your receipt

I used my debit card to pay for my only-once-in-a-while fave coffee. The cashier asked me if I needed a receipt. How am I supposed to remember the amount paid for the coffee in order to log into Quicken if I don’t have a receipt—particularly because I used a debit card? (To read more about Quicken, see 12-28-07 entry) This would have been the case even if I make manual entries into a passbook. Remember, companies are getting so cheap now-a-days that they don’t want to even pay for the paper to print receipts on. But I can't say that I blame them if the customer truly doesn’t want or request it.

Business association early bird membership

I joined the Southside Entrepreneurs Association (SSEA). Should have cost: $100 for 2008 membership. The deal was to sign-up by January 28, and the cost of the 2008 membership will include free prime local radio advertising spots. Saved $50.

Do not be easily entangled

Remember the phone order thing I still won’t mention from 11-10-07 because I don’t want you to patronize their company? Well, it happened again with a different company, and this was even more excruciating than the last. I desired (operative word—this wasn’t a need) a special Christmas CD so I can listen to Christmas music driving to and from work, and since guests are visiting over the holidays. I had to listen to 20 minutes’ worth of solicitations for items I was not interested in; and couldn’t just hang up because my order was not confirmed. Further, because I opted out/declined allowing 3rd party entities from “hitting up” my credit card with their offers, the item I originally called about which was advertised at 9.99 jumped up to $14.99. That’s it! I’m done with phone-in, talk-only-to-the-system orders. There’s actually a Bible verse that warns us: “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV) I felt so entrapped, ensnared and entangled while making this call…much like a fly caught in a spider’s web.

Another coupon savings

Went to CVS to buy some pertinent items. Should have cost: $21.04. Paid $16.04. Saved $5 with coupon.

Peer pressure to spend money

I received a call from someone whom I shall remain nameless. She was attending a conference in the northeast. It was a Friday night, and her roomies had gone out on the town. Nothing wrong with that, but she lamented that she simply didn’t have the money. Even though her sponsoring organization was picking up the conference tab—including airfare & transportation—she is cognizant that after spending a ridiculous amount of money for coffee and vendors’ convention food, she still has student loans and credit card bills to continue paying after the conference is over. Therefore, even though room service is in and of itself high, she reasoned that it’s more cost-productive than “going out on the town,’ where one spends money for taxicabs & fancy smancy restaurants. I say, "Hooray for her!" Peer pressure is hard, but delayed gratification today equals investment—and learning the art of discipline—in her future bank account tomorrow.

Let's talk about giving

Since Thanksgiving and the holidays are upcoming, let's devote a little time to address the subject of giving, shall we?

There are essentially 4 types of giving:

Monetary (giving money to help a person or a charitable cause);
In-kind (giving goods versus money, such as canned food for a Thanksgiving basket for a needy family—make sure it’s something that you would buy for yourself);
Time (taking time out of our busy lives to do something for someone else, even if it is listening & talking to them on the phone); and
Talents (such as lending our artistic expertise to help paint the backdrop for the school or church play).

There are also ways to give:

Cheerfully (or begrudgingly). The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver (verse). If we were to give while gritting our teeth, it is actually better to keep it and to not give it at all;
Philanthropically out of abundance, such as when we have time on our hands to contribute to a worthy cause;
Sacrificially despite our own need, such as when someone truly needs our expertise, and we give by not charging that person a fee (I have actually been the beneficiary of such gracious giving); and
Anonymously, such as donating money and specifically requesting that one’s name not be mentioned or printed publicly.

I don’t mean to preach to you, but this really caught my attention: that same verse promises: “You should each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT) Wow! Did you notice the words "always," "everything," and "plenty"? I sure did.

Additional recommended reading: Bill Clinton’s book titled Giving: How each of us can change the world.

Address correction

I noticed a misspelling on my address in the process of paying my business bill. I wrote the correct address spelling on the back of my billing statement and called the credit card company, as I don’t want any payment problems because of a simple mistake as this. And who knows how much—or what little grace—I may be shown if my next statement is not received by me in time to pay it due to the credit card company’s address error?

Refund restrictions

Remember our cable TV refund of $43.19? (see 11-21-07). After wondering where it is, I am now being told that it takes 6-8 weeks to process after closing the account! The CSR expedited my refund, but the amount they sent to me was $25.19, $18 less than what I was told on the phone. Why? They supposedly credited it to my bundled package (after I specifically requested a check, and not credit). Furthermore, they are currently airing commercials about upgrading one’s package. This is the way I see it: if they can’t get my bill right and are chintzy with my refund, I will simply ignore the commercials and turn the channel, regardless of what superstar they've paid to create a jingle endorsing their product or service.

Holiday Buffet Special

Rachel’s Restaurant at the Sheraton University hotel is offering a Thanksgiving special all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for Faculty, Staff & Students for $6.95 versus the normal price of $11.95. I need to count this $5 savings twice more, however, because I treated James there for his Birthday Lunch during on December 28th during winter break. Total Savings: $15.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming!

Wow! I received two more radio interview invitations. The Ron Ponder Show on WHBC in Canton, OH specifically requested a whole hour devoted to holiday spending on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. During the interview, I explained that Black Friday is actually not the biggest shopping day of the year; this distinction is traditionally reserved for the Saturday preceding Christmas Day. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving where the sheer volume of consumer shopping puts retailers "in the black," or in profit-margin mode. A relatively newer term, Cyber Monday, is the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend when consumers surf the net for online deals and discounts (e.g., free shipping & handling with no minimum purchase amount). In short, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the days when retailers and etailers, alike, go cha-ching!!

30% off coupon

Remember the Factory Card Outlet coupons I ordered? Well, it just so happens we’re having Thanksgiving weekend houseguests, and I need decorative paper products and utensils. My purchases came to a total of $54.47, but with the whopping 30% off coupon representing $16.34 in savings, the total came to $38.13. Now that’s a deal. I hope our guests will like the fall leaves imprinted on the napkins.

Let's get organized before the holidays!

It’s been snowing here in CNY, and it’s actually symbolic, because it reminds me of how the duties and responsibilities of my life “snow” on top of me: working a full-time job (that I love, BTW), going grocery shopping, filling up the car with gas, getting my hair done, doing the laundry and picking up the dry cleaners, keeping the house organized, running a small business, sorting through holiday junk mail that I didn’t request, getting financial literacy “out there”...

This weekend—the weekend before Thanksgiving houseguests arrive—I am going to make a conscientious effort to get organized. I thrive on organization and on being organized. Always have (just ask my Mom); always will. It just makes things flow so much easier, but after navigating a hectic week, the house alone looks like the tazmanian devil has been chasing the Road Runner in our house. (You know—you take off your clothes and bundle them into a corner instead of hanging them up because you have to hurry and get dinner on the stove).

I once saw on Oprah where we can’t expect new things to come our way if our lives are cluttered with both tangible (household junk) and non-tangible things (a million activities). I’m clearin’ it out, so here I come…

University discount

This is still a Blog of Money Saved, so even though I’ve been writing montages, here’s a recent incident of money saved: I bought a cute little home office lamp. Regular price $32.99. 10% university discount was $3.30, making the total cost $29.69.

Radio interview regarding holiday spending

I came home to a pleasant surprise, a message from WILS 1320 AM in Lansing, MI requesting a radio interview addressing holiday spending…and they needed the guest spot to be filled at 6:30. My watch showed 6 p.m.! I called them and before I knew it, I was on the air with Host Jack Eberling. Ahhh, the wonders of technology. The 10 minutes or so flew by, but I do remember talking about how James and I poll our family members and ask them to give us a list of at least 3 things they need, want, or desire for Christmas (so that it’s still a surprise). We then comparison shop for the best prices (which is now easier to do, thanks to the Internet). We don’t have to worry about getting them something that’s going to end up in the closet gathering dust. BTW, those same family members and close friends aren’t offended—they love it! Jack’s Producer not only said they’d rerun this segment during Thanksgiving, but would also invite me back the nearer we get to Christmas Day when consumer spending will reach astronomic proportions.

I'm mailing my "snail bills" early since next week is Thanksgiving holiday

Because next week is a holiday, I want to make sure my “snail mail” bills are not delayed by post office closings. This goes for you, too, you automated users!

Online security

I received two e-mails this week: One was a phony letter scam allegedly from the widow of a very rich ruler. The ruler passed away, leaving her childless. She has now been diagnosed with cancer and a stroke, and always wanted to give the money to charity, but is afraid that a total stranger may apprehend the money (what does this make me?), and she is thereby naming me the beneficiary of said monies. The e-mail states that I must reply urgently because time is running out. If I were to respond—which I’m not—I have no doubt in my mind that the next step is for me to provide my bank account info so that the money can be transferred into my account. Before you laugh at this ridiculous scenario, understand that unfortunately, people fall prey to this type of scam everyday and relinquish their bank account info for these thieves to wipe out their accounts because their heart strings were tugged onto by a false, destitute story. If the sheer ridiculousness doesn’t grab you, then for the record, no one’s going to arbitrarily drop $4.5 million dollars into your account!

The other notification was from a PayPal imposter. It was an e-mail alert requesting me to login and update my account information, because they had to “upgrade their server in order to remove online fraud.” And then a link was provided for me to click onto so that I could input sensitive information so that my account would not be further compromised. The only compromise here is that no reputable entity that you’re doing business with is going to ask you for your personal security information over the Internet!

America's Cheapest Family (TM)

Steve and Annette Economides, nicknamed America’s Cheapest Family (a name that they’ve apparently trademarked, so they’re also entrepreneurs—you go!) was featured on ABC's "20/20." They go as far as to take their walkie talkies into the supermarket with them, scanning the aisles for the cheapest bargains like they’re GI Joe hunting down a beast in the jungle! The analogy (and their last lame) is appropos. I immediately ordered their book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. After writing to them, they invited me into their "inner circle of frugal network". I feel honored.

I ordered office supplies from Staples and used my $23 coupon (as a result of providing my rewards number every time I make a purchase). Bill: $25.47. Paid a mere $2.47. I hope the Economides are proud of me.

Researching our new bank

Local bank deposited $50 into our new checking account, on the condition that we sign up for direct deposit. Nice perk, as we researched all other aspects of this bank (actually, all local banks matching our criteria), such as proximity to home and work in order to avoid the ATM surcharge for using another bank’s ATM), and questions such as (but not limited to) “Will we be charged with excessive fees should our account balance ever fall below a mandatory minimum?” “When we call, are we going to get a person or an automated service?” This is a long-term relationship we’re talking here, and we’re primarily interested in an expense account to pay the bills. This is just us; you can establish your own criteria.

Back-to-school coupon

I was given a back-to-school coupon for a Starbuck’s café mocha cappuccino and pastry at the university bookstore. Regular price $1.95 & $2.55, respectively, so I saved $4.50.

20% off coupon

Received 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond in the mail. Wanted stainless steel frying pan to sauté fresh vegetables. Also picked-up small kitchen appliances. Regular price: $27.97 Paid : $22.37. Saved $5.60

Subtle—and sometimes not-so-subtle payment method pressures

Joined the local neighborhood YMCA. The application includes signing-up for monthly auto debit. I’m not a huge fan of auto debit for our household (you do what’s best for you), and so I inquired about paying via check. This option is available, but we’d have to pay 1/3 of the annual membership for the next three months until the annual membership is paid in full. Oftimes I feel penalized for using cash and check in our automated society (have you seen the Visa commercials socially outcasting the folks in line who use cash?). Nonetheless, I prefer to hold out like a homesteader squatting on soveign domain.

Why lease when you can buy?

The local refuse collection office told me that it costs $60 per year to rent their bin with wheels so that the little critters won’t gnaw into our trash bags should we choose to put the trash out the night before pick-up. James instead went to Home Depot and purchased a huge trash bin for $69. Had we leased, we would have paid for the price of their bin many times over! Sometimes when it comes to saving money, you’ve just gotta think.

Special savings

My receipts show that as a result of using grocery coupons, having my frequent rewards card scanned, and taking advantage of special discounts, I saved $10.98 on purchases today.

Filing a claim for replacement costs

The moving guys from the moving company—nice as they were—accidentally broke our printer. You see, we had purchased this very nice Color LaserJet from Penn State University using James’ faculty discount. During the move, we all heard a loud thud and rushed to the scene of the crime. Apparently, the movers had placed the box containing the printer atop a stack of other boxes, and it fell. In response to our insurance claim, the owner/manager of the company at first wanted to divert our attention to the fact that we packed the box (as opposed to the movers packing the box); but after politely, but assertively standing our ground that our packing of the box had nothing to do with the stacking by the movers, a check in the amount of $819.06—the original price we paid for the printer—was sent to us in the mail. We immediately recycled it back into replacing the printer with a near-identical model. Kudos to the moving company for doing the right thing.

Moving refunds

If I tried to explain the PA/NYS phone-internet-cable TV bundled package transitory mix-up in the midst of juggling 100 balls in the air while moving, it would make your head spin. Suffice it to say that after a few phone calls, received refunds resulting from the PA account close-outs; I wasn’t looking for the money, just accurate billing, but this is what ended up happening:

Refunds resulting from PA move:
• Telephone service refund: $15.03
• Internet service refund: $13.54
• Cable television refund: $43.19
Total refunds: $71.76

Discounted refills

Purchased 2 refillable bottles valued at $2 each such that every time I refill it at university dining services, I’ll receive a 10% beverage discount (courtesy catering manager). Saved $4 plus the future savings on the refillable beverages. But I wonder how well it’s advertised, as I don’t see a lot of students using it…aren’t they really the ones who need to save money?

Cashback rebate

Received a business credit card cashback rebate in the amount of $58.19

Misses: win some, lose some

I ordered a couple of floor mats for my home office from Staples, and totally spaced out and forgot that I had a $23 off coupon as a result of providing my frequency rewards number every time I make a purchase. Every penny counts, especially when you’re moving and money’s flying out the door. The expiration date is end of September, so I’ll use it by then (see 9/29/07 entry).

Missed out on 10% Home Depot discount for movers, and my dear Mother-in-Law bought us a mirror as a housewarming gift for the bathroom that I could have helped save her $4.40 had I remembered. Sorry, Ma. We’ll make it up to you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Learning to be content--for simplicity sake

I received a call from the cable company this evening telling me about a special offer. The CSR mentioned the word FREE so much, that I had to ask point blank: “How much additional—beyond the cut in the bundled package you’re already receiving from us now—would we have to pay?” Besides, we’re still waiting for the refund from the PA cancellation that has been taking 6-8 weeks to arrive. On top of this, I am way too busy to view additional cable channels…I don’t have the time to curl up in my bathrobe with a bag of popcorn to watch a good movie on the channels we have now. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of introductory, limited-time offers, because I’d have to mark my own calendar in order to cancel within the timeframe specified if I don’t want the product or service, and I must weigh this against my precious time. As my sister jokingly pointed out, as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 a.m., the computer is all ready and set to charge us or to hit up our account. No thanks—we’re content with what we already have, with what we’re paying, and the way in which our cable account is already set-up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shipping & handling: how soon do you really need it?

Ordered oversized, glossy postcards from—incidentally announcing my new Blogs. The two pricing choices I considered were $13 for 14 days and $5.95 for 21 days. Thing is, last time I ordered postcards I marked my calendar with the estimated delivery date, and the postcards came in 9 days earlier than anticipated. So, I chose to save 7 bucks by selecting “slow” versus “expedited” and will take my chances. Oh, yeah, upon entering the right code, the 50 postcards—valued at $20—were FREE, so I went ahead and paid 10 bucks for color printing on the back. Total $15.95 for 50 oversized color glossy marketing postcards. Not bad, unless anyone knows of a better deal out there.

Coupons for loyal customers

Went to the discount card outlet armed without coupons; I normally don’t do this because I hate junk mail, but I’ve gotta call corporate headquarters and ask them to place me on their mailing list (see 11/5/07 entry).

Rechargeable batteries

I started purchasing rechargeable batteries and its accompanying apparatus (charger) because I got tired of running to the store and purchasing batteries, especially for my digital camera and tape player in my older-model vehicle that doesn’t have a CD player.

Although I stocked up on yogurt at supermarket over the weekend, in my haste to defy the Monday morning odds and be on time, I forgot to pack said yogurt so that I could have energy for an event today. Stopped by the student center where I have staff I.D. meal card. $1.05 ouch! I have the exact same identical yogurt sitting in the fridge at 5 for $3, or 60 cents each. I have to log this as a loss of 45 cents.

Enter bill due dates and coupon expiration dates onto your calendar

Logged in six (6) coupons from restaurant/merchants I intend to take advantage of during October-November, as I do not want the due dates to creep up on me or pass me by. These are places I would have patronized anyway. We also log in dates to mail our bills onto our calendar, as well. This is particularly helpful when a federal holiday affects mail movement.

Discount on movie tickets

My mother-in-law and brother-in-law from NYC visited us this weekend. Since I didn’t “do it up” on my 40th birthday being in a new town and all with no family and no new friends, I purchased four movie tickets from the university box office. Normal price of $10 per ticket times 4 ppl equals $40 versus discount price of $7 per ticket times 4 ppl equals $28. Saved $12.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Research notary public for gratis

We needed papers notarized. Both James and I checked across the campus. My lead: $2 per paper. James’ lead: $0 per paper. At 5 sheets of paper, saved $10.

Welcome wagon & what happens when a gift is multiplied

Received “Welcome to the neighborhood” coupon by local Italian restaurant for complimentary calamari appetizer valued at $9—enough for 2 ppl. Because the entrée portions were so ample, I took at least half of my food home. Therefore, a $42 meal turned into 3 meals (James ate all of his on-the-spot) and it’s as if we paid $14 per meal. Savings: $9.

Sending friend back in PA Staples coupon that can only be used in that region due to a new store grand opening. Making sure I send it to someone who a) will actually use it and b) literally helped us pack during the transition. $15 value plus $40 worth of other free products on-premise (see 10/26/07 follow-up entry to see what my friend did!)

Marketing strategies to get us to buy more, more, more!

Went to fill-up gas in car. As if the price of gas alone isn’t high enough hovering nearly 3 bucks per gallon, there is a scrolling message on the gas tank inviting me to buy a cup of coffee or cappuccino for half price. Hmmm—hot beverage at the gas station is not less than $1.29. No thanks. I’ll get some for FREE in the kitchenette at my office.

Needed kitchen item not found in stores. Won’t mention name because don’t wish to advertise their business. Called toll-free # to order product. 18 minutes was nothing but advertisements to upgrade, add-on additional products, and listen to offers from merchants having absolutely nothing to do with the product I was calling about. It was sheer torture, but I kept declining the robot on the phone, which tried to respond as humanly as possible. My product did arrive, and I must’ve saved 30 bucks or more simply by declining their successive offers! As for those other merchant product offers trying to obtain my account # in order to autocharge with the option to cancel after 30 days? Forget it! Been there, done that. It took an inordinate amount of my time just to make sure I was 100% cancelled out.

Today someone needed something that I happened to have. I decline to mention details, but the main point is to be able to be in a position to help others. Conversely, others may have something that I need. There’s much more joy, peace, and satisfaction in giving than in receiving.

If your financial affairs are automated, pay close attention anyway!

Prior to moving from PA to NYS, the mortgage company asked for our checking account # in order to autodraft our account. I very extremely reluctantly agreed to do so because if you ready my book, I have issues with the fact that we’re so busy we don’t have time to manually handle our own affairs; and so we allow entities to access our accounts and take care of it for us. Despite its obvious advantages, what happened before automation became available? Anyway, I reluctantly agreed because of the quarter percent interest rate reduction off of our mortgage. Well—twice in a row the mortgage company deducted the wrong account! Long short, we were on the verge of closing out the PA banking account until we could get settled into our new community and open up a new one, in which case I immediately called the mortgage company with the new account info. It just so happens that I had sent money back into the anemic PA account as a precautionary measure (cover yourself!)

The situation finally got resolved by me simply filling out a new form provided by the mortgage company, as rendering the information verbally to the rep was insufficient. Understood, but…

I promised myself to post this incident for the simple reason that should a payment with the mortgage company, credit card company, or any other entity bounce for whatever reason, they will waste no time placing a “red check mark” against James’ and my credit history. No questions asked. And it’ll take numerous phone calls and paperwork on our part before it all gets straightened out.

Maintaining organization in the midst of transition

My, oh my. These financial-related entries are occurring almost daily. Just when I thought the dust was settling on our move, James asks me where is his Penn State parking pass. His current tab is $102 because it wasn’t returned. I am sitting there thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Out of the moving trucks, boxes, new jobs, new schedules, and transition-related paperwork one encounters when moving, I’m being asked for a measly little paper parking pass? As it turns out, it was in the glove compartment of my car. Oops, my bad. I will now ask James where do I send it via confirmation, so we can put this little episode behind us. (see entry 11/1/07 for resolution)

Giving and bulk shopping: sometimes money isn't the most important thing

Remember that Staples coupon? (see 10/19/07 entry) VP (she knows who she is) turned around and blessed two co-workers with it as a birthday gift! Wow—two people who I did not even know were blessed because of one little $15 coupon.

SU sponsored a Farmer’s Market today. Picked-up whole bag of macintosh apples for $3; zucchinni bread for $3; and a small 4 oz. container of organic roasted curry cashews that never made it home. Cost wasn’t the issue here, although these are all good deals. It’s simply nice to be able to support local farmers and merchants.

Bought white and colored paper for home office. Used $10 coupon received from opening BJ’s wholesale club membership. Should have cost $17. Cost $7. Saved $10. I realize this may seem rather expensive for paper, but these are reams of 700-800 sheets, so I will not have to constantly run out and buy more.

Our pocket change can provide medicine and vaccine to Hondurans

The pastor of the church we visited explained that our pocket change could literally purchase medicine and vaccine for people in Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the world. He is leading a missionary team to go to Honduras for the next week. Imagine that. Americans' pocket change could help to change or even save the life of someone in a developing country.


James and I were invited to a professor’s home for a potluck, and the most delicious vegan dinner was served. The host and hostess were thoughtful enough to provide plastic containers for everyone to take food home. Lentil soup was one of my lunches for the upcoming week, and it saved me morning prep time.

Product recall

Supermarket mailed a product recall notification for pot pies…Hmmm…I just bought some pot pies and they smelled funny after baking them. Refund wasn’t much—just 69 cents—but it’s better than getting sick from salmonella poisoning.

Be organized and doucment your stuff

Received confirmation from university parking officials that they received our package and that the $102 fee has been waived (see 10/25/07 entry to be posted). James was very specific in all of his e-mail correspondence to them. Lesson learned: be organized and document your stuff.

Using university I.D. card to save money

Bought a book at the university bookstore using I.D. card and received 10% discount. $22.99 minus $2.30 SAVINGS equals $20.69 spent.

Comparison shopping for the cheapest gas

Weekend is here; time to fill-up the car with gas for the coming week. Suffering from sticker shock at over 3 bucks per gallon, and news reports say that it’s going to reach 4 bucks in the coming months. Say, isn’t election day around the corner? After cruising the main highway for lesser expensive prices, I ended up at my wholesale club, where I received $3.089 cents/gal. @ 11.203 gal./gas. Total savings calculated: $34.61 vs. $35.50. Savings was a mere 89 cents, but there were long lines of cars at the wholesale pump, so I must not be the only one looking to save some money.


Bringing your lunch to work & requesting coupons as a loyal customer

As the cover of my book illustrates, I am a big proponent of bringing one’s lunch to work, and have been for years. Today, I enjoyed pasta salad and Italian wedding soup. Pasta salad leftover from an event (perk of being an Event Planner—where there’s an event, there’s food). The soup reminded me of a former multi-millionaire client of mine in Manhattan, who gave me money to buy his favorite Italian wedding soup and a sandwich at the deli (At the rate he was paying me, I was more than happy to “gofer” his lunch, plus, he invited me to get whatever I wanted, although I didn’t take advantage). His order alone cost about 10 bucks a day. My soup-from-the-can came to a grand total of $1.25.

I’m not a huge fan of junk mail—Okay, I have zero tolerance for it—but I did call the card outlet company requesting that they send me coupons since I’m a regular customer at their store. (see 10/6/07 entry to be posted)

Check-out books at your local library

Bought two books at university bookstore, plus some office supplies and gift-wrapping (yes, already! People are purchasing our books as gifts, and I am providing FREE gift-wrapping). Should have cost: $55.89. Cost: $50.30. SAVED $5.59 using university I.D. While I was there, spotted Bill Clinton’s book on “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.” Called local library to see if they have it. They do, but I’ll have to wait 2nd in line. No problem. Pardon me for saying this, but the former president is a lot richer than I am. ADDITIONAL SAVINGS: $24.95

You don't have to spend a fortune to dress nicely

Received multiple compliments on my outfit today: monotone soft pink-on-soft pink turtleneck, soft pink blazer, pink pearls and broach. Tannish/brown skirt and leggings w/burgundy-brown loafers. Crème-colored outer coat. Bottom line: Most of the clothes I wear are either a) years old, b) from the thrift shoppe, or c) given to me as a gift. Appearance-wise, though, today I felt like the lead character in the theatrical production, “Hairspray,” who’s singing about Baltimore first thing in the morning (you’d have to see the movie :)

Spending money in the midst of busyness and not thinkng

I must be slipping a bit in the midst of my busyness—I bought a bagel and OJ on the way to work this morning, when I could have poured some OJ in my canister before leaving for work (spent $1.69 for 10 oz. OJ); I also realized that I had a taste for an apple which I also could have taken from my kitchen. Paid 79 cents. The middlemen sure made their profit off of me, today.

Went to campus chapel during lunchtime to have devotion, but the chapel was occupied by a group, so I went downstairs looking for peaceful and quite space. Before I knew it, I was ushered into a room where FREE lunch was being served. I identified myself as Staff and not student (although it’s flattering to be able to pass); and the person at the door assured me that it’s free for me, too. God literally fed me today. Dessert included.

Why were we not taught financial literacy in school when we interface with money almost daily?

This morning, I was so tempted to stop by Starbucks and get my fave White Chocolate Mocha. But I had to drop mail off at the P.O., and by the time I reached my office, I had forgotten. Ended up making French Vanilla Cappuccino (zero trans fat) in office kitchen. SAVINGS: $3.45. Mind you, I am not “goody two shoes.” Last Friday, I purchased a big hunk of fried whiting and generous portion of mac ‘n cheese (with peas on the side, of course) from the university cafeteria. It’s fun treating oneself on Fridays, isn’t it?

Called the health insurance company, because both James and I received bills stating that “This is not a bill,” and yet, showed how much we owe, but didn’t include payee information. We’ve learned from previous experience to not drag our feet on health-related correspondence, as we’ve had past incidences where on the very first notification, there was a line threatening to report us to a credit collection agency if we didn’t pay within a certain amount of time. No grace whatsoever. In this case, customer service rep provided acceptable explanation that the service provider was going to bill us directly, and that this letter was simply letting us know what was covered and what is not.

You see, this is why I don’t understand for the life of me why we were/are not taught financial literacy in school. Not a single day goes by in my own life where I do not have to interface with financial transactions in some way, shape or form.

Speaking of which, I have been having fascinating conversations of late with my international colleagues who’re on staff with the university, as they are able to view America’s economic system from a whole different perspective. For instance, a co-worker from Israel asked me why did it take so long—25 minutes—to fulfill a prescription for her child?” “What is the pharmacist doing back there” she queried, “and why did they tell me to go shopping until they were through?” I responded by saying that they’re filling the prescription and of course, I’m thinking that 25 minutes is not too bad. Compared to Israel where it takes about three minutes, however…It’s also fun answering questions and explaining things like how best to obtain coupons in order to save money. A Kenyan colleague told me that credit cards was a completely new thing to him. I think that financial literacy should be made accessible to immigrants so they will know how to navigate economically in this country.

Analogy between exercising and being financially astute

James and I scheduled our appointment with our Personal Trainer at the YMCA this evening (FREE service of our local Y), and something struck me like it never has before: As I was lamenting how we have not been back to the Y to workout since our first meeting a month ago, we began discussing strategies about how we can make it a priority amidst our busy schedules.

As he was describing how some members work-out 5, 6 a.m. in the morning, I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. What in the world motivates a person to workout on their own, especially so early in the morning? I looked around the gym, wondering why I don't have the same drive as the people working out, with sweat dripping off of them--including a senior citizen! Likewise, it occurred to me that when I am teaching about budgeting, being organized, watch your pocketbook, etc., it must be translating as gobbledegook to some. One may conversely ask, what motivates James and me to be meticulous in the area of finances? (You'd have to read "Our Story" in chapter 20 of my book.)

Anyway, our trainer is a rare gem: he and his wife carry no consumer debt, they pre-pay their mortgage, stick to their budget and pay cash, earn less than their friends who are struggling to keep up financially (some of those same friends make fun of them for being so frugal). And get this--much of their household furniture is furnished by garage sales...they just so happen to live in a nice area, so you can make out like a bandit from garage sales in nice areas.

Finally, I discreetly inquired: Do you feel like you've passed on these principles to your children? "Yes," he replied. So much so that the money they don't waste can be redirected towards buying something that their children truly desire, but the kids are disciplined enough to not beg for nonsensical things.

Here's an offer to consider: you hold me to exercising, and I'll hold you to sit down today and start thinking about how you and your loved ones are going to a) create your budget, b) become organized by creating a filing system, and c) avoid holiday debt, Deal?

Asking the right questions: payoff quote

Called the credit card company this morning to find out whether or not--provided we pay the balance indicated on the statement by its due date--if our balance will then become zero. S/he responded by saying "No," and that what I'm really fishing for is the payoff balance, because interest accrues daily, and then proceeded to give me the payoff quote. Mind you, this is for a credit card with a low interest rate where we were carrying a balance month-to-month. You see, even if I payoff our entire balance sooner than the due date, the total amount due will be less than the amount indicated on the current statement. Generally speaking, subsequent entries will not be this technical, but suffice it to say that the amount we'll be saving by going ahead and paying this bill in full today versus waiting until its due date is $10.92. Theoretically, this is money we can redirect and apply towards the principal on another credit card.

Lesson learned: If you don't ask the right questions, you won't get the answers you're seeking.


“Me’Shae’s Log of Money Saved” was the result of an experiment conducted six years ago while living in New York City. It started with the simple question: “Is clipping coupons, watching out for bargains, and other efforts truly saving me money?” And so I began tracking all instances in which money was saved due to sales, discounts and clearances, paying attention to pricing discrepancies, etc.

Turns out, I saved $2,304 from 2001 to 2002 in all purchasing instances in which money was spent and saved (not all purchasing instances). I repeated this experiment between 2004 and 2005 and saved $2,600; and then again in a small Pennsylvania college town, saving $2,078.73 from January to mid-June 2007. However, I’m quite certain the aggregate figure is well over 7 grand (I have the receipts).

Please be mindful that this is money “not spent,” meaning that we never saved the actual money. I do know, however, that money “not spent” was recycled for other uses in our household. Geee..if we’d only invested that money…

“Me’Shae’s Log of Money Saved” is so popular that I am finally turning it into a Blog. Due to a recent move, as well as constant financial activity, however, I have not been able to totally keep up with the postings, but the information is golden. So here’s what I am in the process of doing: I will begin to post the latest savings first beginning with 11/10/07, and work backwards until I get caught up to January 2007, Okay? Sometimes, the posting may not be quantifiable, and simply contain a lesson learned.

The purpose of this Blog is to neither endorse nor embarrass companies/vendors/organizations, but rather, to exemplify the little ways we all can reduce consumerism and redirect those resources towards the areas of our lives where we have identified the money is most / better needed.

Thank you for bearing with me during this time of transition from Pennsylvania to Central New York, and keep checking back regularly for instances of where you can learn how to save money in life’s everyday circumstances. Do even better than we did, and physically save your savings.