Little Bites: Yes, I’m Still Here

When I had our daughter — who is now 28 months old! — I knew this blog would become less and less of a priority. In addition to fewer blog posts, I’ve also been drifting away from personal finance-related topics. Sure, finances are a major consideration when you’re raising a family, and a lot of what goes on in our lives nowadays relates to money. But I’ve chosen to spent most of my free moments with Emily, who is an incredibly spirited toddler who keeps us on our toes and challenges us to whip out our best parenting skills, especially when she’s in public.

Refinancing the Mortgage = More Money Toward Debt Repayment

Our mortgage refinancing was completed in February, and our first payment came due April 1 — it felt great to pay $360 less than we had been on the old mortgage. Those extra funds have been going toward paying off our credit card debt, and we’ll be making the last payments on that in the next two weeks. It’s exciting, since we haven’t have zero balances on our credit cards since before Emily was born, back in early 2011.

Two-year-olds and Tantrums

In the parenting vein, holy terrible twos. Along with the language burst came explosions in the way of tantrums. Emily’s learned to express herself AND toss her little body on the floor like a wet noodle if we dare to tell her she can’t do something. There’s no holding back Miss Independent! Except, we have to hold her back, because she doesn’t know any better. So we’re working on teaching her limits. “No, you can’t play on the Nook again!”

Our First Post-Baby Weekend Away

Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I booked a weekend getaway for just the two of us — sans toddler. We’re not venturing too far, only an hour away, but it will be nice to spend time together as a couple without the parenting duties. I’m sure I’ll be a worrywart while we’re gone, but it will also be nice to partake in some cocktails at an oceanfront bar. It’s just a motel, but we’re paying for proximity to the ocean. So it’ll be worth is (as long as the weather cooperates!).

Confession: We’re Overspending

Our credit card balance is still much higher than it should be, even with us making major payments toward it. We went overboard at Christmas, with a laptop for my husband and a new desk for my home office for me, gifts for Baby Frugalista’s first Christmas, and also had bought a new TV stand with a hutch for our living room to replace the old unsafe stand meant for an old-school TV. While we have been upgrading our furniture in the past year, it’s the first time I’ve done so in 8 years. These new items are sturdy and well-made, and I hope they’ll last us 10-20 years. So they’re not everyday expenses. That being said, it’s time to put the credit cards on “freeze” and stop using them until our balance is paid off.

The good news is that about 2/3 of our credit card debt is at 0% interest through the summer. I’d originally wanted to pay it all off by March, but now I see that won’t happen. I could use some of our savings to pay it off, but I’d rather keep that account untouched because it’s our emergency and house-repair fund. Instead, I’ve been freelancing and selling a few of our old things, such as furniture pieces, and using that money to pay down the debt. I will have the one credit card that is charging us interest paid off by March, at least.

Little Bites

— Baby Frugalista is almost 1 year old! I can’t believe how quickly time flies. We’ll celebrate her Groundhog Day birthday with a little cake and thankfulness that our preemie is thriving — you’d never know she was only 4 pounds when she came home from the hospital.

— Also one year later, I’m finally getting closer to my pre-pregnancy weight. 14 pounds down, 10 to go. Not too shabby for doing it through the December holidays and all the food that comes with that time of year. I’ve also been jogging on the treadmill at the gym a few times a week, and I can do about a mile in one shot. Which is absolutely amazing, considering my previous record was 1/4 mile… at the age of 19. If I ever get pregnant again, I will NOT gain 45-50 pounds. And remember, I only had a 4.5-pound preemie!

— New year, new health insurance. And higher co-pays for my birth control pills. My husband’s employer claimed everything would stay the same, but I guess the prescription drug list is different for this company.

 

Little Bites: Christmas Shopping, Credit Cards & Cleaning

So far, December has been a busy month, financially. We did our Christmas shopping for Baby Frugalista (and, as first-time parents, I can say with confidence that I think we went overboard). We know she’s going to get a bunch of stuff from others, and we should have taken into account that her 1st birthday is just 5 weeks after Christmas, but we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Then Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I got each other fairly expensive, combination Christmas/birthday gifts — yes, we already know about them. Buzzkill, but he wanted his first-ever non-work-issue laptop NOW and I had to order myself a new desk for my home office. I suppose we’re making up for last year, when we barely did gifts because I was pregnant and we were trying to save money. This year, we decided we had the means to spend a bit more than usual, and they are things that we actually needed. Plus, we both have birthdays that are just weeks away from Christmas, so we almost always do one bigger gift to cover both events.

Because the new purchases were put on a credit card, I decided to completely pay off the balance on our one interest-charging credit card in anticipation of doing it all over again when the January statement arrives. Our other two major credit cards have balances at 0% interest that will last until mid-2012, so we still have time to pay those off, too. It’s not an ideal situation, and as a personal finance blogger, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit we have a credit card balance of a few thousand dollars. Much of it was from Baby Frugalista’s birth and our hospital stay, but I deferred payment while I was out on maternity leave and wanted to rebuild our savings before tackling those balances. That’s why we’re just getting to it now, and why I’d transferred those balances to cards with 0% interest offers.

In anticipation of the desk shipping from Amazon (hurry up!), I’ve been cleaning out my two 5-shelf bookcases. They won’t match the new desk, and I may put them up for sale and get a new, shorter and baby-safe bookshelf instead. I have numerous copies of dictionaries and thesauri, but I can’t bring myself to part with them… yet. Old papers have been shredded, and little knickknacks either thrown away or put in a box for storage. There is just too much paper in my office, and I’ve got the cleaning bug.

In between all of this, I’ve been decorating the house for Christmas. The tree is up, and today, I start decorating it while my little elf helps. I’ve always loved this time of year.

 

Thanks for Bearing With Me (& This Blog) Last Week

Sometime last week, hackers decided to insert malicious code into every darned post on The Penny Frugalista. This code redirected readers to outside websites, which, I’m sure, were not very nice (or safe for your information). I’m truly sorry if anyone was affected by the redirects.

Being the stubborn person I am, I decided to clean up all the files myself and change my passwords and random WordPress keys. Since I hardly knew what I was doing at first, it took a few tries — and a few days — before I got The Penny Frugalista up and running again.

I know a number of personal finance sites were hacked similarly in the past few weeks, but hopefully we’ve all cleaned house and everything is running smoothly again. Please contact me if you think you see something wonky going on with this blog.

Thanks for bearing with me!

Little Bites: Paper Napkins

This is totally me: Re-user of paper napkins. I have 3 folded paper napkins on the dining room table as I type this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This comic is called “Pickles” — you can check it out at GoComics.com. I read it in my local daily newspaper yesterday, which, I think, is going to slowly kill off its comics pages. And comics are the only thing I actually get the newspaper for, sadly.

Little Bites: A Frugal Snow Day

Since I was stuck in the house after yet another snowstorm here in New Jersey (19 inches this time, on top of the foot or so that was still on the ground), I didn’t spend any money today. Instead, I worked from home and then spent some time mending holes in a few socks, followed by sewing up a rip in my favorite pair of maternity jeans (for, oh, the fourth time!).

Yes, the fourth time. I love these suckers, made by Motherhood Maternity, but the material is crappy and thin. First, I got holes at the corner of the pockets. But this time, it was a rip in the groin area — not a good look. I sewed it up tight since I really didn’t want to put a patch there. Just last a few more weeks, please!

As for the socks, Mr. NSF asked me what the hell I was doing. When I told him I was sewing up the holes made by my overly long big toe, he rolled his eyes, laughed, and told me to just buy new socks. I can only make the man so frugal, right?

Bedroom Renovation: (Almost) Finished

In other news, our bedroom renovations are now complete — I’m very excited about that! Mr. NSF and his dad will clean up the room this weekend and apply the primer coat to the walls and ceiling. There are 3 closets that need to be painted, which will be a pain. This time, I won’t be helping, though. My job is to get blinds and curtains. Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty helpless at this point. I was scraping spackle off the floor with a putty knife taped to the end of a pole — with one hand and minimal force — and I got yelled at. “You don’t need to do that!” No, I don’t, but I gotta do SOMETHING. Oh, and I may or may not have wired an outlet or two last night…

I’m getting pricing on wall-to-wall carpeting for the upstairs, and I hope that can be done in the next 2-3 weeks, because our bedroom furniture (and the baby’s) is currently all in the baby’s room, and it’s getting closer and closer to “go time.”

Little Bites: Holiday Hodgepodge

It’s been one heck of a week. What’s normally my favorite week of the year has been tinged with sadness: I received news that an aunt had passed away. We’ll be attending the wake and funeral, then celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, although I’m sure my usual holiday joy will be muted. I’m not good with loss — the last time someone close to me passed away, it was my grandmother back in 1997. Before that, I was too young to remember.

She was a wonderful, vibrant woman who spoke her mind and had a heart of gold, always helping others. She will be dearly missed. I’m so sad that our daughter won’t get to meet her.

Little Bites

— I neglected our checkbook for two weeks. I paid bills, but didn’t input anything else into the register. I finally caught up on that Sunday night. December is a three-paycheck month for me, which works out well for present-buying.

— Speaking of presents, I’m done buying and wrapping. Except for one gift that needs to arrive (in time for Christmas, I hope), everything is wrapped and tucked safely away from the prying claws of our two cats. Well, the younger one claws, while the older one just likes to bite the ribbons.

— I’m now 29 weeks pregnant. And it’s getting harder to move around and get a good night’s rest. I also think this is the last week I’ll be able to wear my engagement/wedding rings without fearing they won’t come off.

— My side gigs are still going. I continue to take freelance work, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it much longer, now that I’m getting more and more tired. Interesting side note: I interviewed Jim Cramer this week (you know, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money). And it wasn’t for a finance-related story.