I've been gone from the Forums for a while now. I swear it was for a good reason.
My father has prostate cancer.
The surgery to remove the cancer was in September, and it went swimmingly. We'll find out sometime this month if they got all of it, or if he'll have to move on to chemotherapy. Going home a lot to check on my parents has cost a lot of money. I had to get another job to help pay for it. But it'll be worth it, knowing that I've been able to be there for my parents.
Unfortunately, I had to use my Challenge money to pay one of my bills. I guess I just have to try again after the new year.
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I've been gone from the Forums for a while now. I swear it was for a good reason.
How does one refer a friend to the Savind Advice Forums? Is there a special procedure for recieving referral credit, or do they just need to know your username? Thoughts?
Any information would be most appreciated.
I have looked every where I can possibly think of for information on this, but to no avail. Since everyone seems to be doing it, I'll just go ahead and ask:
Can someone please explain what, exactly, the $20 Challenge is, and where can I find the information on when this thing first started?
Thanks in advance.
I was 'roused from my bed this morning at around 8 a.m. by a phone call. It was my mother. Apparently, the NC Department of Revenue sees fit to call and bother my parents at 7:30 in the morning.
They haven't been receiving my monthly filings for the Panda. I'll be calling them shortly to sort this out. I have been sending these forms out like clockwork every month. I have my copies right here next to me. Even so, I bet you I'll be paying late fees anyway.
Good grief. I hate being a business owner sometimes.
Yesterday was not such a good day.
Long story short, it was just a generally bad day.
Still no word from my web designer. I know I'm not paying her with real money, but I am paying her $100 worth of product to do this web page for me. I'm getting sick of not being able to get a timely response out of her. Grrr.
Also, my photographer (who has the same payement deal as my web designer) isn't getting the product photos edited because her husband won't stop hogging the computer. This is getting very frustrating.
Today is the last official day of my nanny job. Kim says she'll have need of me once in a while so she and Patrick can have alone time, but that's nothing to bet the farm on. I still have my housekeeping job, but that only brings in $85 a month. That doesn't even cover my monthly credit card bills. Even though John got a raise today, I don't know what we're going to do.
Running your own business can be a nightmare of frustration and acid indigestion sometimes.
I went absolutely no where yesterday. I didn't have to work, and while I had errands to run, I decided they could wait until I went to work on Thursday. Thus, I spent no money and saved some gasoline, too.
At YouTube right now, there are several SCA videos up, including a TV spot that CBS Sunday Morning did four or five years back.
Here's the direct link to that video for those who wish to take a peek:
For those of you are not familiar with me, my family and I (which consists of myself and my boyfriend John), are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. We're a group of geeks who get together at different events to re-enact day-to-day Medieval life. :P
There are smaller events on the weekends, and the occassional Renaissance Festival, of course, but the big deal in the SCA are the wars. They can last for a weekend or they can be as long as 22 days. The big one here on the east coast is Pennsic. It is held in Pennsylvannia every year in August. The kingdoms of the East and the Midrealm fight over the Disputed Lands (which consists of Pittsburg). The loser gets Pittsburg. *evil grin*
Anyway, John and I did not go last year because we were trying to be responsible and not spend money we really couldn't afford to lose. We are better off for it. It turned out to be a real downer of a year for Pennsic War, and many of our friends ran up their credit card debt just to attend. I'm glad we decided not to do the same.
This year, however, is an anniversary year for Pennsic War. It looks like its shaping up to be a pretty great war, so John and I are going. John and I first got together at Pennsic, so this is important to us for sentitmental reasons as well as SCA ones. However, we know we aren't rolling in money right now (better than last summer, though), so we're not going to over do it.
First, we are only going to Pennsylvannia for the second week of Pennsic, or War Week as it is called by us Scadians. This will cut our registration/site fee by a bit. Second, we are pre-registering to ensure we get the land we need to set up camp. We also get a discount for registering in advance. Third, I am renewing John's SCA membership (which will only cost us $10 if I work it right), which will save us even more.
If I have done my math right, site fee for the both of us will cost $190, not including what we will pay at the gate. Going to Pennsic for the full two weeks as a non-member who is NOT pre-registered costs $145 for ONE person. Non pre-regged members pay $120 per person. Pre-registered non-members pay $135 total for the two weeks, and pre-regged members pay only $110.
By going only staying for War Week, John and I only pay $90 each. Well, John will pay $100 if you include the membership renewal, but since we go to weekend events so frequently, it pays to get the membership since it saves us on average $3-$7 EACH a weekend for registration. If we were non-members, we'd be paying $115 for one week of camping. If we were going to pay that, we might as well pre-register for all of war and stay the two weeks! (This isn't feasible, of course, because John only has so much Paid Time Off, which is why we are going for only one week.)
I will write more on this subject later. Right now, I have a house to clean.
Life, in general, never gets boring. It is simply the content and the players that change.
Merchanting season officially began in mid-February, and I've been busy ever since. Keeping up with supply orders, refilling product inventory and experimenting with new product ideas is starting to take its toll. Financially speaking, I'm in over my head, but luckily I have a life-jacket. His name is John.
John and I have a "date" for some financial planning this afternoon around 4 p.m. We did a bit of schedule coordination this morning, so the calender is blazing with its newly-added tatooes made of Sharpie. It looks like I'm going to be a very busy girl this month.
The reason things have gotten so scary around here is that I missed two weeks of work due to a bought of pneumonia. Thank whatever god is watching up there that we have good insurance through John's job. If we hadn't. . .I shudder to think what would have happened.
There is good news, though. John is in line for a promotion. His company is opening two new locations within a 50-mile radius of where we live, and he is set to be a department manager at one of them when they open in the next two months. He's having to put a lot more face time in at the office, but it will be worth it come August. We might have to post-pone our plans to visit his family in Florida by a month or so, but all will work out in the end. I just know it.
Its been a while since I've updated here. Even so, today's entry will have to be brief because I still have post-holiday clean-up to deal with.
John and I drove to my parents place for Christmas. It was nice. Saved us a bit of money, too, since we didn't go to Miami to see his family. However, we're keeping a sharp eye on the savings account right now because we know we'll be going to see his father and uncle sometime between now and February 15th.
We spent less than $500 on Christmas, including presents for both families and gas for the trip home. (I think I spent more on gasoline to get around this month than I did on presents. Oye.) Heck, we even saved on shipping because of timing. (John's side of the family is mostly Jewish, so he usually times it so the box of presents gets to each sibling and his dad before the end of Hanukkah.) John's employee discount at Circuit City helped a lot, too. We bought mostly DVD's for my family (as well as each other) and food stuffs for his.
We didn't decorate the house heavily, either. We used a single strand of mini-lights around the only window on the front of the house, five cheap stockings from Target on the wall, and our roommate Brian brought a small rotating fiberoptic Christmas tree from his mother's garage. I went to the dollar store and bought $5 of miniature ornaments along with a $1.50 pack of paper clips to decorate it. (The store was out of the green ornament hooks that blend in with the foliage. But no one seemed to care about the paper clips.) Brian also got a saxaphone-playing Santa figurine and a stuffed musical snowman that we put on the television stand. Last, but certainly not least, our neighbor Jenn gave John and I a live rosemary plant that she decoarted to look like a small Christmas tree, which we also put on the TV stand. All in all, I think we spent maybe $26.50 out of our own money to fill the living room with spirit.
I didn't have to buy any gift wrap this year, either. (Well, not for personal use, anyway. Business-wise is another story.) When I first moved to the Piedmont after college two years ago, I bought a gift-wrap organizer for about $10. Shopping post-holiday sales in 2003 and 2004 saved me money this year. A six pack of Christmas-themed gift wrap has lasted two years now, and only one of them has been completely depleted. (Foil paper really does go fast.) That six pack only cost me $4 two years ago, thanks to my Target employee discount and the post-holiday prices. I got three bags of bows for 50 cents each last year, and I still have one 30-count bag left. Tags are something I have to buy every other year, so I'll have to look for some on New Year's Day. However, I will have to keep looking for solid-colored paper over the next week or so. We've run out all of our solids, which I try to buy around this time each year to use for other occasions.
Oh, and New Year's is taken care of, too. One of our local radio stations has a New Year's Eve bash every year, and this year John won ticktes! When he told me, I set aside money so that we could get him a new shirt and tie, and little odds and ends for me, as well as for the bar and possibly having our picture taken. (I know, we shouldn't pay for any, we should take our own camera, but the party planners have banned attendees from bringing their own cameras. Besides, this will be the first professional set of pictures John and I have had together.) To save money, I will probably make a nice dinner here at home for us to eat before we drive an hour to the Hilton in Raleigh. I don't mind the drive. This will be the first time I've ever been to a "grown up" NYE party. I think this is going to be fun.
Last night was a bit trying. I was trying to make lotion to fill an order, and while I did finish one batch, the rest got left unfinished. Why? Because something made me ill.
I was making Sensuous Sandalwood Shea Butter Lotion last night for a client, and suddenly the scent was overwhelming my senses and I had I not acted quickly, the batch would have been lost to my throwing up in it. Luckily, I DID NOT throw up in the lotion. I put a cover on the container and ran for the bathroom. I made it, but just barely. I guess my mother's fragrance sensitivity is finally manifesting itself in my DNA. I hope this is just a fluke. I can't keep making soaps and cosmetics if the scents make me sick. *worries*
Anyway, I took a shower to make sure I got all the sandalwood scent off of me (not to mention icky germs from. . .well, you know) and put some fresh work clothes on. I checked on the lotion, which was fine, and added a little extra anti-microbial agent just to be safe. I bottled it and cleaned all the equipment. Then I went to bed.
I'm trying to stay on my toes here, because I have an order of 14 gift baskets to fill for my parents before Thanksgiving. Between that, the nanny job, and getting the website ready for launch, I'm a busy bee!
I've noticed, however, that after last night's little episode that my throat is sore. Its probably nothing, but I'm going to take some extra vitamins tonight and go to bed early. (Note that early by my definition is before 1 a.m.) No amount of working myself to death is going to help anything.
On another note, the local Food Lion was having a "Mix and Match 10 for $10" sale today. Here lately I've been a little burnt out on cooking, so I picked up some frozen goods to try and lighten my cooking load. No pizza this time (boy, was I getting sick of it!), but I did get some frozen dinners for Brian to take to work for lunch and for me to eat when I'm in the middle of soap making. Lots of frozen vegetables and meat, too. I know that Hamburger Helper isn't all that great for me, but it DOES help with making dinner at the last minute when I've got a million and one things to do. That, and they were a buck a box today, so that helps. Even bought some cake mix, since it was so cheap today. I've been craving cake a lot lately. Not cake with gobs of icing, or mounds of ice cream, mind you. Just cake.
I've declare tonight a "fend for yourself" night. Hopefully this won't bother anyone. But I still have to make John's lunch for work tonight. Speaking of which, I should do that before I forget and have to throw it together at the last minute. Most people don't understand why I make John's lunch for him. My feminist friends think I'm "setting the movement back a few years" by taking care of domestic things while John works. Other people think that I'm being forced to do it. I have news for all the nay-sayers: I do it because it is one of the ways I show John how much I care. Its the same principle as when Mama or Dad would make my favorite dish once in a while, no matter how much of a pain it was. They were showing me that they cared. Enough said.
I got the part-time nanny gig.
The people I'm working for are paying me $13 an hour to watch their 7-year-old and their 9-month-old. If I put in a minimum of 6 hours a week at this, that's $312 extra income a month that we didn't have before.
John and I have talked it over, and we shall be splitting rent down the middle for the months that I have this nanny job. There goes $275 of my pay, but since our rent includes utilities, internet, and cable television, I don't feel too badly about it. We split Vonage with our roommate Brian, so that's $15 a month. So $290 is already spoken for by the end of the month, leaving $22 of my (minimum) $312. That will cover roughly half a tank of gasoline for my car. Not too shabby, since I'm only filling up the car twice a month these days instead of once a week.
I'm not entirely upset about all of my meager earnings being spoken for already. For two months at the very least, this will give John some breathing room in his paychecks. The holiday season is gearing up, so even if John changes jobs (he has an interview for a managment position at Circuit City this week), he'll be racking up overtime pay. The more that goes in the interest-bearing savings account, the better. This could be the beginning of actually saving enough money to finish building the house down the road. (Too long to explain that right now. More on that later.)
I have this job until December 13th, because that's when Kim (the mother) gets out of school for the semester. She says if things go well and I "haven't run away screaming" by the end of this year, she and her husband Patrick will most likely hire me on again once the school is back in session come mid-January. (Kim is going back to university to get her master's degree in education.)
I'm doing my level best to make myself indespensible to this family. (Well, considering that before me, they haven't been able to keep a sitter for longer than a week, I think I'm doing alright.) I want to keep this job. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to find other work, too, like the job at Bath Junkie or having my soap shop start producing a profit. However, that doesn't mean I don't want to keep this job, too.
I have a condition called primary hypothyroidism. To sum it up, besides having a moderate number of complications, it means that without medication, my thyroid does not process the fuel taken in by my body. Since its onset when I was fifteen, I've gained more than 100 pounds.
One of the added problems with this condition is having a twitchy immune system. Compound this with contracting meningitis when I was twenty and living to tell about it. My immune system has only just begun to bounce back, as it were.
As a result of my past health concerns, I make it a point to bolster my immune system in any feasible way I can. Not only do I take a regular multi-vitamin, but I take additional doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B-12. (I have yet to add selenium to the mix, but I've been told it helps. Personally, I'd like to find a natural source that doesn't cost out the nose, like Brazil nuts and cod do.)
While I'm sure it will cost me a bit to continue buying vitamins and vitamin-rich "odd" food stuffs, but in my opinion, being sick and hospitalized isn't worth the small savings I'd get if I cut those things from the budget. (Did I mention due to my medical history I have a $5,000 deductible? Yeah. . .)
I think this weekend will be dedicated to doing one huge scrubdown here at the duplex. I'm going to scour the entire place, check the seals on the doors and windows, check the air vents for dirt and blockages. I may not get another chance to do this, especially if I have the nanny job, find a seasonal retail job, AND have to fill orders for the Panda. So I'd better get it done right the first time.
Time for lunch. More later.
At the beginning of this year, John and I started cancelling magazine subscriptions to save money. I'm sure it is helping things a bit, but I know that John misses his Popular Science and Game Informer. It was like a treat once a month for him to get those glossy booklets in the mailbox.
I am wondering whether or not I should renew the Popular Science subscription as a gift for John this Christmas. Has anyone done this before? Was it a big hassle or was it a good move? I just don't know.
I just don't know what's going to happen this Christmas. We normally make large gift baskets in order to save money and give one to each "family," i.e. one each for John's siblings and their families, my parents, my grandparents, our aunts and uncles. It usually saves us a great deal of cash because we decide on a theme before October 1st and start looking for bargains accordingly. This year John wants to send everyone bath baskets filled with my products. He hopes that some of his more well-to-do family members will like them and brag to other folks about it, thus getting more awareness for Pampered Panda. This only works if the website is up and running before November, though.
Back to the grind.
I am one of those people who likes having a pre-determined game plan. Yet, I am also flexible enough to know when "winging it" is not only acceptable but actually necessary.
Having said this, I know that lately I've been picking up bad habits from other folks, and it is getting on my nerves.
John has never been much of a planner. This is mostly due to the fact that he often loses tract of what day it is and forgets what dates are important. In fact, I'm pretty sure he'd forget his own birthday if it wasn't printed on his driver's license. *shrugs* This can sometimes put a serious damper on my planning abilities, simply because I have found that relying on John to remember his part in things can be very hit-and-miss.
Gwynn, while being a brilliant thinker and a great "idea person," is somewhat lacking in motivation to actually execute most projects. When something that sounds like more fun comes along, she abandons what she was working on in favor of having fun. I had a period like that in college, and it cost me a full point in my GPA. I vowed to never again let my life be run by my whims.
Jeff is the same way nowadays. He used to be the go-to guy when you needed something done RIGHT NOW. Now we're lucky if we can get him to acknowledge that he promised to do anything in the first place. That wouldn't be so bad if he weren't the flippin' LANDLORD for our humble little duplex.
Sue is a little better about thinking ahead, but since she has to rely on others to get anything done that involves a car, things sometimes fall to the wayside through no fault of her own. That, and the SCA store she does work for is actually in Gwynn's name (since Sue is Canadian, she can't actually hold a job or own a business until the US Citizenship is complete. Thank you Patriot Act. *rolls eyes*), she has to coordinate most things with Gwynn, who rarely sticks to plans that are made.
I have always been somewhat easy to distract, especially when something electronic is involved. I've spent years trying to cope with this mind-wandering tendency and for a while I had a handle on it. Now? Not so much.
I've begun losing track of the date recently. I've been going for a week at a time without checking my email or my voicemail. I wake up early, start working on something, and when I blink its 5 pm and I've gotten a dozen projects only half finished. If I were 50 and this was happening, I wouldn't be so worried because I've been told that this happens with age. But I'll be 25 in January. This shouldn't be happening yet.
I've also picked up the "put it off until tomorrow" mantra, and that bugs me. Now, when things are looking hectic and you put something off in favor of eating or sleeping, THAT is acceptable to me. Putting it off because you'd rather being playing Grand Theft Auto or Dark Alliance II is NOT. I have also caught myself ignoring chores because I don't feel like doing them. This will NOT do.
I feel like I'm losing myself in a series of funhouse mirrors. Things are so distorted that I have no idea which way is up. Thinking beyond dinner time is becoming harder and harder.
I think I need to eat. My head is starting to hurt.
My current living situation is not ideal. It is workable, but certainly not what I had in mind when I graduated from college (almost) two years ago.
John, Jeff, Brian, Sue, Gwynn and myself live in a 1400 sq. ft. duplex in the middle of the Nowhere, North Carolina. (No, that's not the name of our town, but it might as well be. For those keeping score, we live between Cary and Chapel Hill, NC.) John, Brian and I live on one side while Jeff, Sue, and Gwynn live on the other. Each side of the duplex has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen with a "nook" for the washer and dryer. There is also a rickety deck on the back of either side. Our side has a grill, a chest freezer, our recycling bins and several plastic totes of my soapmaking supplies. I think the other side uses theirs to store trash, recycling, and container composting stuff.
Now, I know for some folks 700 sq. ft. is a dream come true compared to where they are now or where they have lived in the past. If it were just myself and John, or myself and Brian, I would completely agree with those folks.
However, this is not the case.
John has owned his own house previously, but always had roommates to help pay the bills. I've had nothing but dorm rooms. Brian has lived with roommates all of his adult life. You would think that we would know how to scale down our material goods by now.
Nope. Not by a long shot.
I once read an article on MSN Money called "The Hidden Cost of Too Much Stuff," by MP Dunleavey. I am a firm believer in scaling back one's life to live in a simpler manner and reduce one's ecological foot print. However, doing so is turning out to be easier said then Smurfed, as it were.
John (whether he wants to admit it or not) inherited not only money when his mother died (God rest her), but her packrat tendency as well. He has at least two 4-bedroom houses worth of stuff stored in the barns at his property up the road. I've tried to get him to go through it little by little so he can slowly diminish the amount of clutter up there, but to no avail. He works at night and sleeps during the day, so finding time to search through metaphoric MOUNTAINS of stuff is darn near impossible.
Brian calls himself a "collector". That's all well and good when you have your own house to store or display it all in. On the other hand, when you're living in a cramped space with roommates, do you REALLY need 11 plushie dragons, 5 plushie teddy bears, 3 dozen comic book hero figurines, 5 decorative katanas, two computers, 3 chest of drawers, a laundry steamer that you only use once very six months, two racks of DVD's and CD's, three bookshelves crammed with books, and exercise machine that you never use and the gods only know how many boxes stored under your bed and up at the barn? Personally, I think not.
I have had many packrat roommates over the years, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I picked up the habit myself. I figure I was doomed from the beginning anyhow, since both my grandmothers and my grandfather had the "Save it! You never know when you'll wind up needing it," mentality.
I know a large amount of the living room and kitchen clutter is mine. I have an experimental soap batch drying on the shelf above the dryer, clean laundry waiting to be folded littering the living room, boxes of supply shipments remain unopened and crammed under the coffee table, and my once clean and beautifully organized bookshelves now resemble something out of my 3-year-old godson's nursery room nightmare.
When I was concentrating solely on being a "hausfrau" (so to speak), things were ALWAYS clean. Now I can't remember the last time I was able to sit on the couch without having to move piles of clothes first. I can't remember the last time we all sat down at the kitchen table for dinner together. Heck, I can't remember the last time I made something for dinner that didn't come out of a Betty Crocker box.
The clutter is costing us money because when we can't find something, we wind up having to buy a replacement due to time constraints and what not. It is also cutting into my productivity because I have to stop and clean up the house before I have space enough to get work done. That takes anywhere from one to four hours to accomplish. I could be making soap or lotion or printing labels with that time. Lather, rinse, repeat every flippin' day.
I can't seem to convey to the guys how important it is that we ALL pitch in with cleaning the common areas, such as the bathroom, the kitchen and the living room. Brian says that if he didn't directly make the mess, he shouldn't have to clean it up. Well, you use the bathroom, do you not? Would it kill you to clean the bathtub/shower once in a while?
You eat the food I cook, do you not? Would it kill you to help me clean the kitchen more than once in a blue moon?
You walk through the living room to get to your bedroom, do you not? Vacuuming it wouldn't cut too far into your online World of Warcraft playing, would it?!?
John tends to be only marginally better, but having a leg to stand on in that arguement is difficult. Part of me feels like since he is the primary bread winner right now that I should do more of the grunt work around the house. Yet, another part of me feels that if I had more help, I'd be bringing in more money.
It feels like a no-win situation.
Speaking of which, I need to change over the laundry and load the dishwasher. Later days.