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Archive for July, 2008

Saved money on the cell phone

July 25th, 2008 at 06:29 am

One of the first things people in the forums suggest when someone asks for budget help is "do you need a cell phone?" and "do you need a land line?" If the answer is yes, the next question is "can you get a better rate?"

Yes, we both need cell phones. I drive so much I don't want to be stranded if something should happen (and I really don't know many people in Wichita if I did have trouble...), and he is always on some tractor or something, so I would never be able to get ahold of him any other way. Also, he uses it to call dealerships and stuff to make sure the parts are there before he goes to pick them up. So yes, we need the cell phones.

I also need land lines in both houses (yes, yuck). I have DSL in both houses so I can be on call for work. If I couldn't be on call, I couldn't come back home on the weekends I have the pager.

The good news is that we can write off both cell phones and probably half of the internet charges at both houses (because it is required for work) and probably one of the home phones...have to check with the CPA on that, but I think that will work.

The bad news is that it is EXPENSIVE!

We have home phone + cable + internet bundled at the north house. That is $100 a month. Any cheaper cable is just local channels. Maybe that is a luxury, but not something I want to give up yet.

We had home phone + Dish network + internet bundled at the south house. It used to be $120 a month for that, but I recently dropped dish network, so the last bill was $90.70, and $7 of that was the prorated part of the Dish network bill. So that will go down a little more.

We also had 2 lines on Alltel (the only cell phone that works at the north house...but it doesn't work at the south house...another reason I have to have home phone at the south house), 1400 minutes a month, 10 "my circle" minutes and 300 text messages (again so I can use my cell phone as a pager for work instead of using the actual pager...which doesn't work at the north house anyway). You can call nights and weekends and mobile to mobile (i.e., alltel to alltel) for unlimited minutes. That was costing us $115 a month! $89.99 for the base plan, $9.99 for the second line and $5.99 for the text message plan. Then all the taxes and fees.

I looked at our bill, and we use 5 of the my circle minutes a lot. He calls the south house home phone every night I am there (sometimes I call him on the home phone and just let it ring a few times and then he calls me back, because my number is in my circle and I don't have to use long distance that way). The other numbers we call a lot are my work, his parents, my parents and the north house phone. So, we could get by with 5 my circle minutes. The other calls are about 350 minutes a month. So, we are waaay overkill on our minutes.

I looked up different plans, and one was $49.99 for 750 minutes and 5 my circle numbers, but it cost $20 to put a second phone on. Another one was $59.99 for 900 minutes and 10 my circle numbers, and only cost $9.99 to put the second phone on. That is the one we went with...same price for more minutes.

Long story short, we'll save $30 a month. I also may drop the text message plan. At $.15 / text, we would have to send and receive 40 text messages every month for that to be worth it. I need to log in and look at past months to see how many pages I am getting every month, but I doubt it is that many.

Oh yeah, and why didn't I look at this before? I have no idea. What a doofus. Smile

Funny story. When I called in to change the plan, the operator on the other end suggested I wait until start of the next billing cycle to make the change, because, as she said "the proration will make your bill higher." I asked "what do you mean" and again, word for word, "the proration will make the bill higher on the next bill." Just like that. Obviously, she didn't know what the work "prorated" means. I said, "um, no, we are dropping the price, so it should be lower." She kept me on hold for a while while she was frantically typing and then said "but you'll only have 400 minutes until the next billing cycle." Ok, we only use 350. Do it. Poor girl. Doesn't even know the meaning of prorated.

A little breathing room

July 24th, 2008 at 04:28 am

You could probably tell that I was a bit stressed out in my last post. I have calmed down quite a bit.

We got the wheat cut a few days after my last post. It only brought in 16 bushels / acre. Before the hail storm, when we counted heads and counted berries in the head, it looked like we were going to get around 40, so that sucked. But, the 16 got us our contract ($4005) and we have about 250 bushels left over. We got the check for that and the check from the hail insurance (only $2353...coverage is going up next year!) and were able to make the land payment and the line of credit payment on time.

Line of credit is now at $0 and we only owe about $14,000 on this piece of land. (This is 80 acres of farm land he bought about 5 years ago.) We both agree that if we ever get ahead and have money left over to throw at some debt, that is the one to throw it at. To actually own the whole piece of land...how awesome! And, it is the highest interest rate at 7%, because all of our other debt we can deduct from our taxes, or is just low, so the effective interest rate on everything else is ~ 5.5%.

Baler got fixed from the last post, and even though I had been swathing for 6 days with him basically sitting still, he got caught up with me last week. Of course, the baler broke again. This time it will be a $600 part which they had to order from Canada, so he was working on that this week. He got the baling done last week before the rain came in...just in time. But, he wanted to get the beans planted last week and didn't get it done before the rain. We got 2.5" on Thursday night, so that put the stops to my swathing for him last weekend.

Now, for south house news. I called my mommy (I'm making fun of myself here) about the same time as my last post, and just about cried. I had been working 10 hour days and staying up until 2 in the morning to work on the house and I wasn't getting much done, in my eyes, and then going back home and swathing for 3 days in a row and then coming back and starting over. The house work was slow and steady, but it felt slooooooooooooow and jerky. Well, she volunteered to come help me! I met her and my sister (who will be a 7th grader this upcoming year) and drove down here on Sunday morning, and I thought all we would do is paint the window sills and finish the bathroom. That was my goal. Well, let me tell you, they did SOO much more than that. I worked with them all day Sunday, and we did get the windows sills done in all the rooms, and the bathroom was recaulked and that stuff looked great! But, when we were taking off the last bit of tape in the office late Sunday night, it pulled the wallpaper off below the window. After cussing (and getting reprimanded for exposing my little sister to that) we decided that we could just texture it.

Well, that meant painting the whole room, which needed it anyway. We were going to go to home depot to get the paint, but you know what is cheaper than buying paint? Finding the paint that the previous owner used on a shelf in the garage! Yep, that turned out great. I went to work the next day (and the next day, and the next day...they ended up staying until Thursday night) and my sister textured the wall and they painted the whole room. The office was some kind of funky almost translucent white wall paper that had an ugly border on it, so the paint in here really helped. They spackled the 2nd bedroom nail holes and used the old paint to cover that up, and it looks like they repainted the whole room! Yes, a fresh coat of paint really brightens up the room, but it turns out, just getting rid of the nail holes does the same thing.

They worked all day and when I got home from work I helped. We painted the trim in the hallway and painted the hallway the same color as two of the bedrooms. My air conditioner had an ugly piece of plywood that had a 19" x 38" hole cut out of it so the air could get through it, and we painted the wood the hallway color and got two 20" white vents and covered that up. The kitchen had a similar thing for the water heater, and we covered those vents up with 16"x16" vents. We spackeled the master bedroom, pulled off the border and painted that with left over paint, and also painted all of the trim in that room. I got some plants from Loew's and mom planted them in the little garden in the front, with some pretty red ones right by the door.

Last thing we did was make curtains for the master bedroom. There are two windows that sit side by side on one wall and another window on another wall. We had looked at walmart for some curtains, but it would have been $25-$35 per window had we gone that route. We found some twin sheet sets with a pretty pattern for $9 a piece and bought 4 of them. These made all the window covers, and had the 4 pillowcases and the fitted sheets left over. I gave mom the fitted sheets and put the pillowcases on the pillows on the bed, so that all matches. We finally left late (like 11:00 p.m.) Thursday night.

Oh, thank you, thank you, mom and sister! It just looks awesome in here now. Some day I'll fix up a house and actually live in it for a while! And paint it so I like it, not so it is generic (but, I actually do like some shades of beige...) I did spend a bit of money. Buying the plants, buying the vents, buying more kilz, buying some hardware. But, holy cow, it was worth it. Probably $200, but the only thing left to do is paint some trim if I want to (it doesn't look bad as it is, but it MIGHT look better if I painted it) and get a gate for the back yard fence. One of DH's friends is a contractor and he is working on that part, so after that, I don't have to spend any more money on this house.

Of course, my sister didn't want to eat home cooked meals at all (she kind of thought of it as a vacation, even though she worked SO HARD, at least it wasn't outside in the heat), so mom took her to McDonald's every lunch and I brought home some KFC and Pizza Hut every night. And she got her ears pierced (in my family, we are supposed to have to wait until we are 13 to get our ears pierced, but she is 12 and doesn't turn 13 until December. Mom and Dad made her call all 6 of her older sisters to see if it was ok with us...we all said yes).

New real estate agent brought her entire office here yesterday, and they ALL liked it. One of them brought a client back tonight, and even though she didn't give us an offer, she did say, if someone else offers, let her know. No one is complaining about the window sills anymore, no one is complaining about the ugly hole by the air conditioner, no one is complaining about the hallway, or the borders, or anything. I can't say it enough, thank you mom and sister!

Now, let's just get this house sold!

One last bit of good news. I had a skiing accident a year ago in February...about a year and a half ago. I slipped on some ice and basically did a cartwheel down the mountain and the back of the ski on my left leg hit the mountain and did mucho damage to my knee. ACL, MCL, and meniscus. I had surgery on it March 2007. Well, ever since then, even after therapy, it has hurt, and my hip hurt. I told the surgeon and the therapist, but they didn't do anything about it. I just thought that that was the way it would be the rest of my life. I did something to my back a few weeks ago and needed to go to the chiropractor (for the first time since the accident), so while I was there, I asked him if maybe it had something to do with my hips. I mean, as hard as that ski hit and as much torque it put on my body, physics says that all that impact wasn't absorbed by my knee. He felt the inside of the knee and asked "does that hurt?" YES! Stop pushing on it! He felt the back of my knee and said it was swollen. So, he popped my hips back in place, and I DON'T HURT ANYMORE!!! It is amazing! I have been walking around with my hips out of place for a year and a half now, and my knee has been constantly in pain, and now, nothing. I can finally start exercising and not hurt and maybe stick with it cause I'm not in pain! Yeah!

Final thing. We signed the papers at the title office on Friday for the 320 acres we are buying from his cousin. Another $750 for closing costs, but now it is OURS! We now have 400 acres. His dad paid for some of the planting we did for him (about $550), and he gave us $200 just for the heck of it, so that covered that! I am sooo excited. Of course, that means we own 3 houses now (the south house which I am selling, the north house we live in, and the farm house that had druggies living in it up till about 3 years ago and so it needs to either be fixed up or tore down). Now we can work on getting water to the place and a fence around it so we can put cattle there. Exciting stuff.

Stop dragging him down

July 8th, 2008 at 05:41 am

That is what I need to do. I like to / have to pour over our finances, and especially this past weekend, everything was about "how are we going to pay the credit card?" It was due on Sunday, and has like $7000 on it now. I put $128 on it Saturday from the kicking around account, just so I wouldn't miss the minimum payment, and then on Sunday I balanced the checkbooks and came up with $1500 to put on it. We have $2000 in our "extra hidden" savings account. I don't want to touch that money for any reason, but maybe I should. We have $1000 extra in the farm/bills account right now. I have about $300 for the next two weeks in the kicking around check book, but that doesn't include the $90 I spent on gas this morning. I'll have to get gas again on Thursday and next Monday before I get paid again in about two weeks, so that is about all the money right there. We also used all the diesel in the 600 gallon tank, so we need to replenish that somehow.

The wheat should be cut any day now, but it rained again up there, so I don't know when it will be cut. I swathed a lot this weekend, but that won't be for cash...that will be for bales we need for this winter. Or we can sell it. But no money coming in from there for quite a while. The crop insurance check will be for ~$2600, but we have to make a land payment of $2500 at the first of August.

DH had a terrible time this weekend. For some reason the fuel pump went out of our tractor on Thursday, which we just had someone go through for $900 a month ago, and he hasn't been able to get that off and to the mechanic again. So, we are renting a tractor by the hour. He was baling and my brother-in-law (my sister's husband, not his brother) happened to stop by while he had a bale in the baler. He stopped and talked to him for like an hour, and when DH tried to start up again, something went wrong with the hydrolic pressure and he couldn't get the bale to start turning again. Couldn't get it out for some reason either. So he had to take a roller out and dig the hay out by hand and then couldn't get the roller back in. Worked for about 2 hours getting it unslugged. I had to stop swathing and come help him put it back together.

He started baling again, and got that patch done. Went to another patch, and he hit a ditch. The hitch pin came out of the baler and the baler came off the tractor and slid down into a ditch. Not like a ditch beside a road. A little one, but it sure messed us up. Anyway, it pulled the wires from the back of the tractor and broke the wire harness, and he couldn't get the baler out of the ditch. We borrowed a tractor with a loader on it, because ours was 10 miles north of there, and got it out. But we couldn't fix the wiring harness. So there was a bale stuck in there and there was a chance of rain last night. Not good.

On top of that, the air conditioner has been broken for 2 weeks up at the north house. I haven't called anyone on it because when I am there for the past two weeks, he said it wasn't too hot and we are only there at night. But it was REALLY hot this weekend. I think I may have been on the way to heat stroke on Sunday, but I finally got enough fluid in me. So it was hot and muggy and just icky all weekend.

He is out in the hot sun all day and working his patooty off and is frustrated because things keep breaking, things don't go as we think they should, and I keep reminding him that he isn't bringing in enough money. He planted about 600 acres for our farmer friend in June, and I wanted him to ask him for that money (ok, I've been nagging him about it for a few weeks). But he finally explained to me that we owe him for water hauling (we just have to pay for the gas in the truck, but still), water we used this winter for the cows, him spraying our beans, him fertilizing our beans, two bulls and one cow we bought off him. I was like, holy cow, let's not bring it up...we may owe him money!

He also planted for his dad, and I swathed for him. But he had paid one of our parts bills for ~$1000 and our work will pay for that, but again, no cash flow.

Poor guy. I guess I am a bit morbid about checking out the spreadsheet and want him to look at it with me. But I think I'm just reminding him of the things that are going wrong.

I keep saying, once the south house sells things will get better. If we can get what we are asking, we will clear about $23,000. So, that will cover most of our bank payments for the next 6 months. Here are our big payments coming up:
- $2500 for land payment August 1.
- $1200 line of credit August 1.
- $6300 pasture rent in October
- $4700 tractor/baler payment November 1
- $1039 insurance payment November 11
- $9900 land payment in December 1
- $6000 cattle loan payment in April 1

I'll also have about $1000 from not paying this mortgage and utilities I won't have to spend every month. That will help too. I was paying for dish network here at the south house, but canceled that last week. I have to have DSL for work purposes (at both houses), my cell phone doesn't work at the south house, so I have to have a land line, I have to keep the house cool so the people looking at it don't stroke out before deciding to buy. I don't know where to cut.

So, we just have to figure out a way to handle operating (and living) expenses until we can sell the house, beans, milo and calves. If that darn wheat would be cut, I wouldn't be so stressed out and in turn bugging the crap out of him. I am sorry honey!

Oy vey

July 2nd, 2008 at 02:08 am

Last week was a hard week.

My DH came down to the south house to work on the living room with me. He came down Wednesday night, he worked on painting Thursday during the day while I was at work, and then when I got home, I helped. We worked all day Friday painting and then all day Saturday finishing up the little stuff. It looks good (I think it does at least).

Before:


After:




And final kitchen shot...we added the curtains that were in the living room and got new ones for the living room:



We got a phone call on Thursday night saying that our wheat got hailed out. I was freaking out. We have been spending a lot of money in the past 5 months (a LOT LOT LOT), especially last month with filling up the 600 gallon diesel tank (on the credit card) and buying new belts for the baler, and selling the wheat was going to allow me to pay that card and put some money back for the upcoming months.

His dad called first and said it looks pretty bad, but we might be able to cut it with a pickup reel. We have hail insurance, but only for $4000, which would cover our contract, so basically, we wouldn't owe the coop money for the contract, but we wouldn't make any money if we couldn't cut it. He said that because it wasn't quite ready yet, it didn't shatter as much as some of the other wheat that got hailed.

His brother called later and said it basically looks like crap. Our neighbor called to say the same thing. I was just totally freaking out.

We didn't get home until late on Saturday, so it was almost dark. We went out Sunday afternoon to look at it. It does look like crap. It was about 3 feet high and now it is broken over at about 1.5 feet. But, most of the heads still have the berries in them. So, if we can cut it close enough to the ground and use the pickup reel, we might be able to salvage some of it. And, the insurance agent is supposed to come look at it...we may get something out of that.

I feel better after seeing it, but still am nervous. The credit card is due July 6 and even though DH should be getting paid for the work he did in June, I won't be able to deposit it in time to pay it. Usually the wheat is in the bin by now, so this is hard to plan for. This will be the first time in about 5 years that I will have had to pay interest on the CC.

Working on the bathroom now. In fact, I shouldn't have been lurking around here for the past hour and should have been painting.

Oh yeah, we had an open house on Sunday. That is why we worked so hard on the living room (we worked until 6 in the morning on Friday, then got a few hours sleep before starting again). My RE agent sucks. She doesn't advertise. Only one person came, and that person had just been wandering the neighborhood. That person wasn't interested. The RE agent gave me a list of excuses as to why the house hasn't sold yet. She said the contract is up on July 2, and if I want to resign with her, she would be happy to sell it for me! Whatever. I called the agent that I used when I bought the house, and she is going to come over sometime to look at it. I told her some of the things my agent had been saying and she just laughed, like "what an idiot" (about the other RE, not me, I hope). She is with a bigger company, she said she has sold about 6 houses in the small towns around here in the past few months. I need to get the first agent to give me a copy of the contract, and if it really isn't over July 2, then I need her to release me from my contract. Cause she sucks.

So, that is why my week sucked last week. Hail on the wheat. No sale on the house. Credit card due next week and no way to pay it now.

I called my mom and told her about the hail. I was expecting some sympathy or encouragement or reassurance. I got "that's farming". Well, yes, I know that, but geez, a little empathy would be good. She called back the next day and it was better. She said their first year their wheat had mosaic in it, and only yielded 10 bu/acre (which sucks) so she knew how I felt. That's better.

Last thing. I sold my couch and chair on craigslist (I think I blogged about that already...it was for $350) so I bought a newer couch for $350 that fit better in the south house and north house living room. Ok, that would have been better to the CC. But I am trying to stage this house. No furniture looks terrible. And the old furniture looked terrible in this room. So, no, I'm not going to feel guilty about that.

And, I started my diet today. I'm doing Atkins. I went to the doctor yesterday and about fell off the scale with shame. I told the Dr about my situation (working 10 hour days, the commute, stress of living away from my husband, stress of trying to sell the house, the knee surgery that put me on my back for a few months so I got off the working out habit) and she said, yes, that is common, but you aren't too far gone yet. Ok, I can do this.