Archive for September, 2008

Spending Twice As Much On Vacation

My husband and I typically spend $200 – $250 on groceries each month so I was shocked to find $525 worth of grocery expenses on our credit card bill. We enjoyed two vacations during this credit card cycle, spending two weeks in North Carolina and five days in Colorado. While we were on vacation I thought we spent our money rather wisely. On both trips we ate almost every meal at home. So how did we spend so much money on food?

When we are at home in Maryland I tend to stock up on items when they’re on sale. Our fridge is almost always stocked with staples like butter, sour cream, cheese, tortillas, pasta, chicken and bread. Of course, while we were on vacation we were at the mercy of the local grocery store. If we needed chicken, and chicken wasn’t on sale, we purchased it anyway. The same can be said for butter, sour cream, bread and anything and everything else that was thrown into the cart. I did review the sales circular and bring coupons along, but the deals simply didn’t match the items I needed. So right off the bat I paid full retail price for most of the items I purchased.

The second problem: I didn’t plan for all of the meals I made. On at least two or three different occasions I found myself in the middle of a meal without all of the ingredients I required. Rather than wasting the day driving back and forth to the local Food Lion, I decided to drive to the gourmet grocer nearby. The prices in that store were at least two to three times higher than Food Lion’s. At the time I convinced myself that we were saving money. After all, eating in is certainly cheaper than going out to eat, but in the long run these little trips added up to quite a bit.

In addition to the high cost of groceries we also spent quite a bit eating out. As I mentioned above we rarely ate out on our trip, but when we did eat out we paid premium prices at resorts and airports. I also found myself eating out in between our vacations. I typically clean out the refrigerator before we travel, so when we arrived home from vacation our fridge was bare. On both occasions I didn’t make it to the grocery store for a day or two after we got home, so although we scrounged for food for dinner, I bought lunch at work for at least two or three days after we got home.

The next time we travel I would definitely like to watch my grocery expenses more closely. If we drive I’d like to bring a bag or two of staple food items with us. This will ensure that we purchase the items on sale, rather than being at the mercy of the local grocery store. Of course, to make this work I will also need to create a menu in advance of our departure. That way I can limit the number of trips I need to make to the grocery store. Not only will it prevent me from buying items at the high-priced gourmet grocery store, but it will also give me extra time at the beach and pool.

Also, the next time we travel by air I will definitely prepare for meals before we leave for the airport. If we carry sandwiches, snacks and fruit we won’t need to pay ridiculously high prices for fast-food.

September 29, 2008 at 3:58 AM 2 comments

Wasting Time Diddling on the Internet

Somehow I’ve managed to waste the last hour diddling around on the Internet. It all started innocently enough when I came across a photograph that reminded me of my good friend Jenevieve from high school. After a few clicks on the grand ‘ole Internet I came across a series of blogs written by Jenevieve’s husband.

It just so happens that my old friend will be induced tomorrow for the birth of her first child. Congratulations Jenevieve!

The Internet is a miraculous and magical thing. To celebrate the good news I’m posting a photo of Jenevieve that I took in high school. After quitting her job at the local Shoney’s she dumped a bucket of salad dressing on her head and asked me to take pictures. Oh those were the days.

September 27, 2008 at 3:59 AM 3 comments

I Am Constantly Tracking Down Money

I am constantly on the phone with companies and organizations that owe me money. Today I spent ten minutes on the phone with John’s Hopkins Hospital tracking down an overdue refund. A few minutes later I was on the phone with an Internet company that has yet to refund money for a damaged umbrella. Every time I turn around I am following up on a monetary issue that has fallen through the cracks of some company’s computer system.

I keep a running tab of these phone calls. I have called John’s Hopkins twenty-two times in eight months and I still have not reached a resolution about my medical bill. Over the past month I have called the company that delivered a damaged umbrella five times and I still have not received a refund.

Each time I call I am given different information from different customer service representatives. More often than not I am told that the refund is on it’s way or that the financial issue has been resolved. Yet, somehow days and weeks pass and my credit card is never credited and I never receive a check in the mail.

I am irritated beyond belief and I’m beginning to wonder if the money is worth all this time and frustration.

September 26, 2008 at 3:55 AM 2 comments

Frugal in Colorado

Right now I’m hanging out in Denver International Airport waiting for a flight home to Baltimore. In an effort to save money my husband and I ate dinner in the condo every night and prepared sandwiches for lunch on all but two days. On the last day I suggested we head out for dinner, but my husband suggested we head back to the grocery store instead.

We spent much of our time driving around Colorado stopping at various ski resorts and small towns along the way. We explored a whole bunch of areas we’ve never visited during the winter including Vail, Silverthorne and Golden. We walked around the town of Breckenridge and along some of the trails where my husband typically snowboards.

Our biggest expense was $44 each for a half-day pass at Winter Park resort. We rode the Zephyr chair lift up to the top of the mountain and hiked the Ute trail all the way back down. We also rode the 3000 foot alpine slide at least six or seven times. If the lift hadn’t stopped at 5 o’clock we would have ridden even more. In Winter Park we splurged on turkey and swiss sandwiches with honey aioli. If you know how to make honey aioli please leave a comment on this blog. Those sandwiches were unbelievably scrumptious.

Although we spent an hour or so shopping in Breckenridge I didn’t buy a thing. I was very tempted to purchase a pair of earrings from a local jeweler, but she was unwilling to sell the earrings without the matching necklace, so I walked away empty handed.

It feels good to head for home. Colorado was amazing, but this short trip gave us more than enough time to explore.

September 23, 2008 at 9:35 PM Leave a comment

Quality Time in Colorado

Colorado is amazing this time of year.

September 22, 2008 at 4:03 AM 3 comments

Back on Vacation

My husband and I are waking up bright and early for a quick mini-vacation to Colorado. I haven’t been out west since my medical problems began, (oh so long ago), and I’m really excited to head back out there. We typically snowboard out west, and since I’m no longer able to ride, my husband has spent the last few years on the slopes without me.

I have absolutely no idea what we’ll do, but I’m excited to go somewhere different for a change. Since we bought our beach house we’ve traveled down south for every single family vacation. Although there is no place like our home away from home in North Carolina, it will definitely be nice to venture into new territory for a few days.

I’ll be gone through Tuesday but I’ll try my best to write a few posts while I’m out there.

September 19, 2008 at 3:40 AM 1 comment

A Slew of New Purchases

I’ve been feeling slightly blah since I returned from vacation. For the most part my vacation was unbelievably relaxing, but my husband and I had a little tiff that seems to have stuck in my crawl. We almost never argue, so I tend to get really upset on those rare occasions when we can’t seem to agree, particularly because we tend to fight over things I can’t seem to change, like my in-laws. As if that wasn’t enough I came back to a chaotic work situation. My boss left my team for a new position and my company has undergone a very large structural change. As a result my employment status seems to be suspended in the netherworld. The stock market is tanking and the overall financial news, which I tend to listen to on a regular basis, has been bleak at best. I don’t feel particularly sad or stressed, just blah. This blahness has resulted in a good deal of unplanned spending.

It started innocently enough. I purchased a new dish drying mat, like the one pictured above, for our house in North Carolina. I purchased one of these for our home in Maryland a few years ago and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. We place pots, pans, and silverware on the mat after dinner and let them drip dry. It keeps the counters clean and dry, and keeps my husband from piling up wet dish rags all over the kitchen.

Day before yesterday I purchased two summer blouses at Ann Taylor Loft. I’ve been holding on to a gift card to Ann Taylor for years. Seriously years. It’s not that I haven’t shopped at Ann Taylor in years, it’s that I always to forget to bring the dang card with me when I head out to the store. In fact, I forgot the card again on the first trip to the store and had to place the items on hold. It was a lucky thing I did. The next day the blouses were 20%. With the discount my gift card covered the entire cost of both items.

On Monday night, after spending nearly two hours in Books-A-Million, I happily walked out without purchasing any new books. I absolutely love books, so this felt like a major accomplishment. Proud of my self-discipline I came home and ordered two free books from But yesterday, I broke down and purchased Hungry Girl from Walmart. I’m in desperate need of new recipes for the upcoming winter and this cookbook looked much too cute to pass up, not to mention the recipes looked amazingly yummy.

Last night I ordered a beautiful blue dress from Nordstrom’s for an upcoming wedding. I saw the dress a few months back in Macy’s and absolutely fell in love with it. Of course, I didn’t have a reason to purchase it that day, so I didn’t even bother trying it on. I have no idea if the dress will fit, but I’m crossing my fingers. I absolutely hate returning items after I pay shipping fees.

I’m heading out of town for a mini-vacation on Friday. I’m happy to be heading away for a little while, but I know that the same problems will be around when I return early next week. I know the spending will continue while we’re on vacation, but I plan to get things back in control as soon as I get back.

September 18, 2008 at 2:15 AM 2 comments

Your Money Bus Tour

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisor’s Consumer Education Foundation, Kiplinger’s and TD Ameritrade are kicking off the Your Money Bus Tour on October 1st to promote financial literacy across America. According to the tour website:

The national savings rate in the United States is currently at an all-time low, which means millions of American families are not in a position to plan for their long-term financial well-being. This is a trend that must end. For the next year, Your Money Bus Tour will be going from border-to-border and coast-to-coast to deliver this important message. Fee-only financial advisors will be in cities across the country to conduct free advice events and symposiums where you can learn what you need to do to start saving and get your financial life in order.

The tour will begin with a series of symposiums on October 1st and 2nd in Washington, DC followed by a one day event in Baltimore, MD.

The tour will then continue on to a number of different cities including Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Providence, Manchester, Portland, Albany, Hershey, Richmond, Charlotte, and Atlanta. For details on the events associated with those locations click here.

The tour seems to be an extension of Kiplinger’s Jump-Start Your Retirement Plan Days, which provides free advice on investments, taxes, insurance, estate planning and saving for college and retirement through a 1-800 number for one or two days each year.

With the current state of the economy, including the recent rumblings in the stock market, I bet a lot of folks will take advantage of free financial advice from professional financial advisors.

September 18, 2008 at 12:45 AM Leave a comment

Chocolate Croissants

I planned to blog today, but somehow I managed to procrastinate until the late hours of the night, and now I’m staring at an empty text box. Although I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for an hour I haven’t written a single word until now. The last few days have been extremely hectic. My job is a bit chaotic right now and for the last few days my brain seems to be jumping back and forth between the present and my recent vacation.

My husband just popped downstairs to greet me. It’s nearly midnight and he just pulled two chocolate croissants from the cupboard and poured himself a glass of apple juice. I planned to surprise him in the morning with sweets and a love note, but he found the surprise a few hours early.

When we were in college my husband ate chocolate croissants and downed a glass of apple or orange juice each morning. His classes were much earlier than mine each day and I still remember the way the room smelled like juice long after he left each morning. Although we’ve known each other for over 12 years the thought of those early mornings still makes me smile.

On those hectic days there is nothing better than the simplest of pleasures.

September 16, 2008 at 3:55 AM 1 comment

Should I Attempt to Fix a TV Struck by Lightning?

In July a television in our rental home was damaged by a nearby bolt of lightening. According to renters the TV smelled burnt the morning after a heavy lightening storm and wouldn’t power on. The TV is a Sanyo LCD 42 inch TV that we paid a little over $1000 for a year ago. We brought the TV back home with us from North Carolina but now I’m not certain whether I should have it repaired and if so who might be able to repair it.

Since the TV was over $1000 it seems crazy not to try to fix it. There a couple of TV repairmen that make house calls but I was unable to contact any of them for pricing information. I have a feeling that more than one part in the TV will be fried and that in the end it will be nearly as expensive to fix the TV as it will be to purchase a new one.

I hate to go down the repair path if we’re ultimately going to need a new TV anyway. I actually paid a repairman in North Carolina to investigate the problem, but apparently he did nothing. He came to the house recognized the smell of burnt machinery and then told us to buy a new one. Amazingly I still had to pay him $135 to receive that information.

Has anyone ever had good luck repairing a TV? Everything on the Internet tells me to abandon my hope of repairing this one.

September 13, 2008 at 2:15 AM 5 comments

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