A Much Better Florist For You

Last fall I ranted about the florist that really messed up on the delivery to my father-in-law’s memorial service.  Now I have great news!

Carithers Flowers.

First of all, the service is terrific! I called and explained that I was looking for local Marietta, GA delivery, and what I was looking for.  I had been to their web site, but wanted to check out the service level by phone. The gal answered my questions without hesitation, thoroughly, and competently. I trusted them. When I asked if it was possible to include a small box of chocolates, she explained the local chocolatier they used.

What I ordered was a Christmas centerpiece of greens, white flowers and a hurricane candle. And the chocolates. I gave instructions on what to do if the recipient was not home. I got an email within minutes of the delivery, stating what they had done (which is exactly what I’d asked).

The recipient said she cried because the flowers were so beautiful. Wow. That’s got to be a beautiful arrangement. I did get a photo from the recipient, and it was blurry, but it did look spectacular.

So! Flowers in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area will be henceforth ordered from Carithers Flowers.  They have many locations around town, awesome flowers, and truly wonderful employees.

 

Money Makeover: Success-ish

January was a good month for our money makeover. I was able to sock away a huge chunk, despite some earlier-than-expected expenses. We kept a handle on our everyday expenses for the most part, going over budget in some areas, under in others, so it all balanced out.

The early expenses? I took a trip to Florida to visit DS#1. I hadn’t seen him since September, and that was not a happy time for any of us.  Prior to that, I hadn’t seen him since the holidays in 2014. A mom needs time with her son, even when he’s a “grown up.” He had plans for extended travel again this spring, so I took a weekend in January to spend a few days enjoying time and conversation with him. Bonus: it was warmer there. Downfall: I returned to a blizzard. I had expected to take this trip later in February; we had to do it in January. But I’m SO glad I was able to spend quality time with my son. Where I stayed was an awesome deal and a very nice place, very close to him, which he selected for me. The trip was a hit to the savings plan. Even though I was still able to transfer a bundle to savings, it could have been more. Some things are more important. Also, I’ve already paid off the charges, so there is no looming debt.

Now I’m planning some no/low cost kitchen updates for the spring and summer. In the past I purchased materials for a few projects that never got done. Well, last year I learned the satisfaction of actually doing the projects with the materials I have sitting in the garage. I’ve been perusing the Interwebz for ideas, tricks and tips. I saw my neighbor’s very easy, very cool renovations. The plan is coming together in my head, and I need to put it on paper soon. More on this project as it progresses.

Also on my agenda is a new computer. I have been having increased problems with my 2007 laptop with XP. (Yeah, really.) We need to upgrade some software, and it won’t run on XP. This will be a big expense, and I’m keeping my eBay funds separate for this.

Coming up with a set date this spring, is our trip to Arlington for Col. FIL’s final farewell. We decided to drive, because that will cost about $400 round trip for three of us. A plane ticket for one is $600 = yikes! Driving also lets us pack more liberally, and take a cooler for meal fixin’s. DS#2 will have his license by then and can help with driving, too. There are also possible college visits! I tried out Trivago for the DC hotel (they were filling up fast), and it funneled me through booking.com. I got a great rate, and the reservation is made without a deposit. Not paying in advance like I thought we would have to, really helps. If I find a better deal, I can cancel the reservation (by a set date) and take that. The room has a full kitchen and we plan on stopping for groceries in the ‘burbs.

This month we celebrate our anniversary and Valentine’s Day. For the first time ever, we have reservations for dinner! My real gift was the trip to Florida, and I’m good with that.

Another awesome thing this month is my “double nickels” birthday! Senior discounts, here we come! Actually, we already get a 50+ senior deal at the bank, and sometimes elsewhere when I ask for them. At 55, though, there are many more available. I’ll certainly be taking advantage of any and all discounts daily, and on our trip to Arlington.

Hey, this means I’ll get carded again! (It’s the little things, isn’t it?)

Have a happy February. Stay safe on the icy streets, and warm in your winter-prepped home. Let me know what you’re up to.

~CT~

 

Money Makeover – A Year of Savings

Like many of you, we had high hopes of saving last year.  We decided to address budgeting a little differently, and resolved to stick with it.

Last year was an unusual year for us.  But financially, it ended up pretty good.  Despite the emergency travel, and the emergency kitchen appliances, we were able to save more than we have in many years.

Changes in emergency fund accounts helped a little, mostly in our outlook on the process.  And when that happens, the excitement starts, and, well, the situation just gets better.

While our savings increased, our giving increased substantially, as well.  Wait, reverse that.  I really believe that because we gave 10% off the top, we were blessed in many ways.  I realize many people find that counterintuitive, but trust me, it is a phenomenon that actually occurs.  Giving, joyfully, unquestioningly, the first fruits of income, provides a trust and a peace that things will all work out.  And, lo and behold, they sure do.  It’s an attitude thing.

Our spending went down.  At least my spending went down.  I’m very okay with that.  We’re comfortable with less.  Really.  Maybe we’re just too busy to dwell on things that don’t matter, on things.  Maybe we’ve retrained ourselves to not want.  Maybe it’s a combination of things.  Whatever, we’re good.  I’m more focused on decluttering and getting things out of the house, than on accumulating.  I’m more focused on cleaning up and using what I have (sometimes in new ways), than on getting something new.  It’s working for us.

This year, I have savings goals, and plans to get there.  Oh, yes, there will be projects!  Projects on the house, and travel to Arlington.  Amid it all, we will be saving.  If my calculations are even in the ballpark, we’ll have an excellent year, financially speaking.

How did you do last year?

What are your plans for this year?

Now We’re Cookin’! Without Stress

The dust from late summer/early fall has been settling, and there have been new and different challenges for us.  A neighbor recently commented that we’d had a lot of work done at our house this year.  I guess we have, since our budget plan has been generally working, and we were able to save before planned work and emergencies struck.  And here’s a new, recent one.

Exhibit A:

We have shiny new friends in the kitchen!  (Don’t judge my backsplash. It’s original to the house, and I’m just not ready to handle a renovation at this time.)

Our range went out two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Isn’t that special?  It was original to the house (1992), and while it was high tech for its time, and I loved it, the old gal just expired.  I suspected it was imminent when it took an hour to cook a pizza.  During that episode, the broiler inexplicably turned on.

Add to the kitchen joy that we had a microwave that had a broken handle since 2012.  I’d used epoxy, Gorilla Glue, and finally duct tape, to keep it on securely.  I’d recently changed out the bright pink duct tape (an unanswered subliminal message that we needed a new one) to white (a quiet acceptance that we weren’t getting one).  The point is that I made do with the one we had because it still technically worked and closed properly, and I wanted to save up for a non-cheapo this time, since this was the second one we got in 10 years.

We were able to continue my fall dinner menu plans without much interruption, using a Crock Pot as a substitute for the oven, but mostly cooking on the stovetop.  No problem there.  I just had never shopped for a range before, and the one I saw in magazines and on the Interwebs that really, really spoke to me, was roughly $3,500 — WAY more than I had for this.  I did a lot of research online before heading to the four local stores I had narrowed down.

Since all of the local retailers were having great kitchen appliance sales, I was able to find a range and microwave that matched, at less than I had budgeted.  I was also able to get a few fancy features that I might have passed up in the past in favor of a lower price:

  • convection option
  • programmable start and cook time
  • self-cleaning option
  • a third rack option
  • stainless steel look
  • solid surface cooktop

But I did have a budget, and am happy to say I found exactly what I needed with it.  Lowe’s offered a 7% discount when we used their credit card, so we cashed in on that, too.  Delivery and haul away were included, but not installing the non-tip device, or installing the microwave.

In the past, we have installed our own microwaves, which is not really difficult, but takes a long time to do right.  But DH was working late into the evenings, and on weekends, and had zero spare time to devote to this project, let alone get a good night’s sleep.  And I certainly wasn’t going to do it myself, because those things are heavy!  I gave my appliance repair guy, Phil, a call, and he quoted me less than what Lowe’s did.  I was still under budget.  I helped him (because heavy), and since he knew what he was doing, it went fast.  He also knew exactly what to do and how to measure for the anti-tip device.

Here’s my favorite part of the story.

We had much more than enough in our secondary emergency fund for this!  I paid Phil in cash, which came out of the home repair budget.  When the Lowe’s bill came, I paid it with a check from the EF2 account, and now it’s done and done!  We will not feel this financially.  What a great feeling to be able to take care of this without incurring debt!  Plus, there’s still a huge chunk in that EF2.

This range is taking some getting used to, though.  I’m so used to old school technology, and adjusting for skewed oven temps.  I am really having to revise my recipes and habits.  There have been a few “overdone” items, and some underdone Christmas cookies, but I think when I get used to it, this appliance will be a huge blessing.

BONUSES:  I was able to clean the sides of the cabinets, the wall behind the range, the floor under it, and the entire area around the microwave.  Gross, what happens in a year’s time.  Also, these appliances use far less electricity than the old ones, so ongoing savings there, too.

 

No Spendsday Wednesday = Freebies for Me!

What’s better than a No Spendsday Wednesday?  One with FREE stuff!

This week I was able to meet with a friend (Hey, Jen!) for yummy coffeehouse drinks, and mine was free in exchange for some market feedback.

Then we headed over to the mall, where we each got some free Victoria’s Secret products.  Somehow, I am on their mailing list.  I have no idea how because I’ve never purchased there.  But about quarterly I get coupons for free undergarments.  The strangest thing is that my adult son is on their mailing list, too, with a feminized version of his name, and he swears he’s never purchased there.  Whatever!  Freebie for my friend, too.

Then, as we were walking through Sears on the way back to our cars, she began explaining how she “does deals” using Shop Your Way, getting needed items, accumulating points, using them combined with coupons on other items, etc.  Kind of like the Kohl’s or Walgreen’s deal scenarios.  So I saw a garment I wanted for my fall wardrobe (and had been shopping for), and I knew it would fit in the clothing budget.  Plus it was on sale!  And the SYW card intrigued me.

When I went to check out, I signed up for SYW, and they asked if I had a Sears card.  Nope, and I wasn’t planning on getting one.  Until she said that my purchase would be free, because there was an immediate cash off deal if I signed up.  Well, that was more difficult of a decision that you would think!  And my, “Okay!” probably made it seem like it wasn’t.  But it was.  We don’t need a Sears card.  I was prepared to pay cash.  I carry too many plastic rewards cards and other things in my wallet.  The open credit concerns me.  And yet, I walked away with a free sweater and a credit card that is going to be filed away in the basement.  DH was fine with the credit application, btw.

The one bad thing is that the weather was quite wicked, and my umbrella broke.  Just snapped.  And went right into the trash can at the mall.  No worries, we have other umbrellas, so I didn’t have to buy a new one, and the rain and hail stopped by the time we went out to our cars.

So how are your No Spendsday Wednesdays going? 

No Spendsday Wednesdays

Recently I’ve been implementing No Spendsday Wednesdays for myself.  I don’t buy anything, not at all, and it feels good.

It’s not a chore or a rule.  It’s just something I started doing one day when I woke up and thought, “I don’t need to spend anything today.”  It was kind of a natural fast, like “I’m not hungry,” and I realized I just did not need to spend for at least a day.

No bills.  No gas, no groceries, no “errands.”  Oh, I went out, and picked up things, and did things.  I just didn’t spend money, and I didn’t need to.

So I started thinking after this happened a few weeks in a row, that No Spendsday Wednesdays would be good self-discipline.  A spending Sabbath, kinda sorta but not really.  Again, it’s not a rule for me, just something to remind me that it’s not always about “the stuff.”  There are things larger than this physical world that matter more.

I’ve decided to use my midweek energy instead on using and maintaining our already existing blessings. Addressing one thing per week is not outrageous.  Hand washing my vehicle, for example, is a good use of my time and provides me with exercise and time to think about the thing.  Clearing out a closet and vacuuming away the dust does the same thing.

I’ll also be gleaning from my pantry, shelves and closets to give to others.  The things I find that we haven’t been using or eating can surely benefit someone else.

No Spendsday Wednesdays are my tap on the shoulder to keep my eyes on the prize, limit focusing on worldly things, and get priorities straight.  That last one is something we should do daily.  Even several times per day.

It’s just a little step, not a huge leap.  Care to join me?