Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Love Deflation! (Currently)

Today I got to benefit from the deflationary environment the economy is in right now. On our way home from church, we put a half a tank of gas in my wife's car for $10. The price at the station was $1.69. It's crazy when within the past 6 months we had easily paid $4/gallon. We're still limiting our driving as much as possible, but it's nice to not have to shell out $50 to fill up.

In addition, we stopped at the fruit market and I ran in and got:

23 lbs of chicken quarters at $0.39/lb
3 lbs of grapes at $0.33/lb
12 lbs of watermelon for $0.29/lb
3 lbs of onions at $0.50/lb
2 lbs of oranges at $0.99/lb

The total after tax was $19 and some change. We removed the skin, cut the thigh and drumstick apart, wrapped in plastic wrap and put them in freezer bags. We also recommended to one of our roommates to do the same, which she picked up 10 lbs of chicken and followed our example.

I put (Currently) in the title because I know at work the sales staff has been slowing down on closing of sales. I've been told this is normal for this time of year, I'm just praying that it doesn't continue in January. I am fairly secure in my position (no one else does what I do and the work I do has brought a lot more projects to the company), but there is always the chance of layoffs.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Dead Malls & Lack of Jobs

One of our roommates has been looking for work now for almost 2 months and it's not looking pretty out at the malls. He was telling me last night that there are very few people out there these days and even less people hiring. He doesn't have his college degree yet, so the best jobs he can pick up right now are minimum wage type jobs.

He's been hitting 5 different web sites for job postings and is telling me about how there are very few new posts out there. He's also been stopping at the various fast-food places around with no one hiring. For 2 weeks he was also going to one of those "work today paid today" places and they have yet to have enough work for everyone that comes, so he hasn't gotten any work there.

I know at my own job that sales have been a bit slow, but that is normal for this time of the year for the business I'm in. I'm going to see what I can find for him in the area. If he doesn't get himself caught up rent wise in December, I'll need to ask him to leave and I would hate to do that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I Turned On The Furnace Last Night

As you may know, I've been trying to heat my house with wood this winter and not turn on the furnace. I gave in last night and turned it on. The reasoning behind my giving in to the big machine is the following:

- We have 3 other adults in the house that are not fans of it getting really cold in here. I know one of them has used a space heater already and another has an electric blanket. If it was just me, my wife and daughter, I wouldn't have last night.

- Without us putting in wood through the night, it gets pretty cold in here. Due to me not switching the switch on the furnace itself, it got down to 56 degrees at the thermostat this morning. Farther from the thermostat I wouldn't be surprised if we were in the 40's.

- My wife has been cooking quite a bit the past week tackling the pumpkins (they are complete except for 2 we are saving for later on in the winter). That warmed up the house quite a bit, but we're not going to be doing that every day.

The new gameplan is that the furnace is set to turn on at 60 degrees. This allows the wood stove to keep us warm through the day and part of the night, but helps when the wood stove is not going. We will see as the winter progresses if we need to set that base 60 degrees up more. We also learned a trick last night where if we have just coals remaining in the wood stove, we can open the door up on it and not have any smoke come into the house.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recent Suprise in the Mail

Due to the newspaper article a few weeks back about us, we had received a greeting card with a Wal-Mart gift card attached. It was sent with no return address, but we are very certain it's from someone in our church. We figured the card had $25 or $50 on it. My wife put it in her purse and life went on.

We went this past Saturday over to Wal-mart to pick up a few food items (and hunt around for a presser cooker to can these pumpkins). At the checkout, my wife took the gift card out and looked at the back of the card to see the value of the card. I wish I had a camera on her at that time, as she was shocked to find out it was a $250 gift and it showed on her face. I was also quite shocked.

Her first comment in jest was "Let's go on a shopping spree!" I joked back saying maybe I should hold onto the card instead. We discussed it some more and we decided it will go towards the Christmas shopping we were planning on cash-flowing next month. That way the cash we were going to spend can be put to our debts.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2 More Debts Paid Off

I made some calls today and was able to get 2 more of our debts settled on. Here are the details:

- Hospital bill started at $1301.63. It was from a few years ago when my wife was having pacemaker problems and we had to bring her to the hospital. Our insurance coverage at the time was not very good and had a large deductible. I was able to settle with them for $700. I had an even older letter from another collection agency for the same hospital, which I called first. They had deemed it not collectible, so they returned it to the hospital and the hospital added another visit to the balance. In the end, I'm glad it's done with.

- Bank NSF bill started at $804.49. It was from when everything started tumbling down in 2006, job lost, electricity out, etc. Automatic items started bouncing left and right and I was hiding from it all. I was able to settle with them for $603.37. There is still some work to be done on this one, as they messed up in their computer systems and have a balance for the same bank NSF in two different departments. The other department was not in the office today, so I will have to call on Monday to get that resolved.

The lessons to be learned is always keep your paperwork, question who you really owe and how much you really owe. In addition, don't ignore your problems, otherwise you will have to pay for that mistake in the future. I'll be calling one more small creditor on Monday to settle with that is the cardiologist bills from the same time as the hospital bills.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Handle 17 Large Pumpkins

I walked into the house last night and found 15 large pumpkins bathing in our sun room, 1 on the kitchen floor, and 1 in the oven. We had talked about trying to pick up a few more pumpkins after Halloween to make some pie filling, but not this many. Our church was using them as decoration and they were cleaning them out this week. They had even more than the 17, these were the remaining after everyone else took what they wanted. My wife was able to load them into her car (with the baby and car-seat as well) in just 1 trip.

Here's the breakdown plans:

1. Puree and freeze as much as we can fit. Our freezers are pretty packed already, so it will take some work but I think we can handle a few of them.

2. Cube and can some of them. I'll see about picking up some more jars tomorrow and we have some clean empty ones.

3. Keep a couple in the basement to be used later. I'm reading they can last 6 months, so in January once we've cleaned out some of the stuff in the freezer, we'll have room to freeze more.

4. And most importantly, we will puree and be giving it away on Sunday for families in need wanting to make their own pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Bits of Savings

Our latest natural gas bill came in and I did the math, we saved $25 this month by using the wood stove. I did the calculations by looking at our usage last year, figuring the difference in usage and then what that difference would have cost today. It's not much, but I hope the coming months will be more valuable.

We also did mystery shopping that will pay for our $25 meal we spent. I have 2 mystery shops scheduled for tomorrow night for a total of $36. JiffyLube appears to have started doing mystery shopping again, so we'll be watching out for opportunities near us.

Overall, every little bit helps.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another one bites the dust..

It's been too long since I've called in to pay off a debt, but did so this morning. It was for $400 for orthotics my wife had gotten several years ago. I figured we just threw them out on Saturday, we should probably pay for them right away.

When I called the debt collector, I explained that I wanted to settle the balance. They were more than willing to take the full amount, but I asked them if there was a way to negotiate a smaller amount to settle. Janice (the debt collector), spoke to her manager and was able to bring it down to $320. That was fine with me, though she then wanted to charge me $12 for an "expedited payment" so the debt would not negatively affect my credit. I told her it's already on my credit and asked her if I could pay online or by check without that fee. I was able to online while I kept her on the phone, saving the $12.

Overall, it feels good to say goodbye to one more debt! My wife's latest orthotics that we picked up on Saturday were "free" since they are covered by our health insurance this time (as well as my orthotics).

Monday, November 3, 2008


Our journey to get out of debt is leaning us more and more towards homesteading. Our weekend activities now include:

- Gathering & cutting wood for next year's winter. It takes a year for the wood to dry out, so now is the time to be looking for it. A house nearby had 2 trees taken down, so we were removing some of the wood yesterday. In addition, we're keeping an eye out for any wood elsewhere.

- Baking bread. My wife has not wanted to make bread due to the kneading doing a number on her muscles, so I decided this weekend to take care of it for her and will continue to do so. Now is the time to stock up on your yeast as well ($.79/3 pack at our Aldi's).

- Gardening. The weather was very nice this past weekend, so we dug up flower bulbs that needed to come in, chatted with a fellow gardener down the street and received some wild onions from her that will survive the winter, planted the onions, and picked some broccoli leaves for dinner last night. Next weekend I'm hoping to get my father out by us to help me with getting manure to put down in the garden.

I was a vegetarian for 3 years and even I am looking at hunting, fishing, raising & slaughtering animals. I'm going to call Joliet city hall this week and see what are the legal requirements for chickens (In Chicago you can have unlimited chickens as long as your raising them as pets or for eggs).