Tips for a Newbie Gardener?

Whew!  This month has gone by incredibly fast!  It’s hard to believe we are just a few days from April.  What happened to March?!

Thankfully, the month has been full of good busyness – getting ready for the baby by clearing out our office, which will become my son’s room, so his room can become the nursery.  We’ve been doing well on ebay selling off our business, and although it’s slow going because of the sheer amount of product we have, we are seeing the numbers go down every day, and in February, our first full month, we made over $1000.  (Of course, after Ebay and Paypal take out their fees, you can expect at least a 10% drop!)

So our newest project is our garden.  We have 4 acres, most of which was corn field.  This summer, part of that will become a nice veggie and herb garden!  Now, when we lived in Minnesota I grew flowers around the outside of the house, but the soil was so rich and peaty there that you could plant anything and it would grow with no effort.  When we lived in coastal North Carolina, I had a vegetable garden that consisted of zucchini and snap beans – they did wonderfully considering the sandy soil and hot weather – until we went out of town for two weeks!  When we came back, there was nothing left of the garden but shriveled, sun-burnt plants!  It hadn’t rained once while we were gone.

I feel like I’m taking on a lot, expecting to do a much larger garden with all the basics – carrots, cabbage, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, etc.  I think we can do it.  I love getting out in the soil (and I’ve already planted bulbs out front) and since the ground is already broken up from the fields, all we’ll have to do is add fertilizer and plant each seed according to it’s instructions.

But I’m scared that I’ll miss something.  So…any tips for a newbie gardener?

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A little extra money never hurts

This month, we find ourselves in a much better financial position. Our Ebay sales have been great and we’re moving a lot of product. This means that we’ve been able to pay all our credit card minimums and more just from that money. Previously, paying the minimums and a few hundred extra on our personal Citibank card was all we could manage, and it took almost the entire second paycheck we get each month. So for us, liquidating our business inventory and equipment has been a really wise move for us. It also means we’ll pay off the cards that much sooner.

Because our paycheck didn’t have to go completely towards bills, my husband and I splurged a little bit. Last Saturday we spent $100 to pay for a babysitter and a nice meal at a Hibachi restaurant – something we haven’t done in literally years. And since we haven’t had a night out alone in almost a year, it was well worth the unnecessary expense. Could we have done it cheaper? Probably. Would we have? Well, let’s just say I think the money was well spent!

The extra money coming in was also perfectly timed with the arrival of our bi-annual car insurance premiums, so that $330 will come painlessly out of the paycheck – painlessly in the fact that we don’t have to figure out how to come up with it! (And yes, our rates are very low. We got that rate – about $330 a year per car – due to not only our clean driving records, but a good credit score and the fact that we have our Homeowner’s insurance with the same company. Plus we live rurally, so rates are generally lower.)

We’ve been thinking about how to best take advantage of the fact that through our business, our credit cards are basically paying themselves. And we’ve decided that for the next couple of months, we’re going to put as much of that extra paycheck towards our emergency fund as possible, and build that up. We’re also increasing our grocery budget to $150 a month, especially because pregnancy has made me very hungry all the time. 🙂 To be honest, I’ve been working with a “don’t spend anything” or $100 budget for so long, I’m a bit overwhelmed by how much extra money I have this month to use for groceries!

To be honest, that is where there is a problem.  I’m realizing that the urge to spend – when I have the money – is still there.  I’ve improved – a lot – but it still worries me.  Today I’ve found myself thinking it would be fun to go shopping.  But the thing is, I don’t need anything.  If I go to the store today, without an immediate need, it is very likely I will find something I “need.”

I do have one suggestion that works for this – it helps to make a list of things you will need in the near future – light bulbs,  towels, etc – things you need but you keep putting off.  When you get that urge to shop and give in, go shop for the things you will need, rather than shopping just to browse.  That way you waste less money (only the fact that you might not buy on sale will cost you) and you buy a need rather than an impulse item.

The only thing I can think of is yarn for a baby blanket.  But I need to put that off until I know whether I should get pink or blue!

January Progress Post (5 days late!)

Let’s see how we did in January:

Personal Credit Cards:

Citibank: Was: $1787.71
Now: $1212.73

We paid off $615.00 on this card this month – $165 of that was snowflaking, mostly from selling our product on Ebay. We also charged $40.02 on the card – all but $6.99 were interest charges.  $6.79 of that were for February’s interest charges, so that number has been inflated a tad.

Business Credit Cards:

Suntrust:
Transferred to our Business Citibank for a better interest rate and a much better bank.

Chase: Was: $6236.37
Now: $6138.80 (I paid $125, finance charges of $27.43 )

Citibank: Was: $4927.42
Now: $10,130.14 (This reflects the old Suntrust balance.  I was able to transfer my balance and go from a 14.29% interest rate to a 4.99% interest rate.  I made a payment of $100 to this card, and finance charges were $27.47 – reflecting the old balance.)

Total Credit Card Debt:
Original Debt:                 $18, 954.86
Last Month:                     $18,326.75
Current:                            $17,481.67
Monthly Difference:   $845.08
Total Paid Off:               $1473.19

Accessible Savings Account:
Current: $212.46

(We also have a saving account at our bank in North Carolina that has about $3000 in it.  That’s our current emergency fund – it came from a Certificate of Deposit that finally came due.)

I’m pleased!  This certainly offsets the heartache of the upside-down house loan!  I feel like we’ve been making progress, and it helps that we’ve been able to put extra towards our debt from liquidating our products on Ebay.  We’ve had to pay a lot of the fees and put money in our Stamps.com account for shipping, but we won’t have as many of those costs in the future.  I have another $120 in the process of transferring to our bank account to be put toward the personal Citibank, and another $80 already accumulated in our Paypal!

So all in all, I finally feel like we’re making progress on our credit card debt, if nothing else!  It feels wonderful!

Changing Life!

Well, our lives are about to get significantly different once again – we’re pregnant! I’m wonderfully excited and hoping for a girl to match my boy. Hey, our three cats are boys – I’m really quite outnumbered here! I’m due in mid-September, so we have plenty of time to get ready.

I think the best part about having a second (or third, or fourth…) child is that we already have a lot of what we need. We saved a lot of our first son’s things, so if we have a boy, we have lots of clothes. We have a crib, changing pad, pack ‘n’ play, and pretty much everything else. If we have a girl, we’ll need some clothes. Either way we’ll need diapers, but I’ll be looking for cheap used cloth diapers at diaperswappers.com so we should be set by the time baby comes!

Thankfully, my husband has really excellent medical insurance that covers the whole family. Our church (my husband is a music minister) also provides the full amount of allowed contributions for a Health Savings Account each year. This has been such a blessing. After three years of really having to consider if we could come up with $200 to go to the urgent care for a strep test it’s an incredible feeling to just be able to go and know it’s covered, one way or another. (I was on Medicaid while pregnant with my son, and he was on Medicaid until we moved up here.)

So there are lots of new things to think about, but our main focus is still going to be paying down the debt. \

We have to figure out how to afford new windows upstairs as well. The original 1940’s single-pane painted-shut windows do not make a comfortable bedroom, and our son will be moving up there to make room in the nursery. With the cold snap this past week, the windows actually had ice on the inside. We generally keep the room closed off, and the oil heat is pretty much ineffective against the cold coming in the windows.

We don’t want to go into more debt, but if we can’t figure out a way to make this work, we may have to. So far, our plan is to buy them at the local home improvement store and install them ourselves. We have a few months to save up. Well, okay, my husband and a friend will be installing them! I’m not going up a ladder at 6 or 7 months pregnant!

My car is also going to need an expensive repair in the new few months. It’s the supercharger, so it’s necessary. We’ll be figuring that out, too.

Selling our business on Ebay has actually done really well, so we’ll have some money to snowflake this month! It’s not lucrative, but we’re getting enough to cover the original costs of the jewelry after paying shipping and fees, which was our original intent. Hopefully, as we gain feedback, we’ll sell faster. 🙂 Thank you if any of you have patronized our Ebay auctions. We still have about 2/3 of our products on Ebay now – only 2000 more to go. Wow. Yes, it’s a lot!

So…give me tips – I need ideas for cheap, good windows!

Selling on Ebay to Pay Down Debt

Things have been fairly crazy here since I got back from my mini-vacation to see family in Minnesota over the weekend! One of the things that’s been keeping me extremely busy is our online business. But not in a way most would expect.

My husband and I talked about the future of BodyBangles as he drove me to the airport on Thursday. We ended our paid advertisements on the web back in December and we are allowing word-of-mouth and repeat customers to do their magic. We are still making profit after our expenses – though, admittedly, not much, and not enough to justify the time required to maintain an ecommerce website. So we needed to make a decision regarding whether we were going to keep our business or try to sell it.

Another factor in the decisions we make about the business is that I am the primary maintainer of the site, with the exception of technical issues. Having the site actually gave me a lot of practical experience in the field I have my degree in, which will be great for my resume! However, with one toddler and perhaps more in the future, my time is extremely limited. There are several things I’d like to do more – write, for instance, and improve my skills in knitting, crocheting, and sewing so they can perhaps bring in a residual income. And my garden this spring. I love to do those things, and they bring me a lot of joy. Our business used to be that way, and I don’t know if it’s the fact that we still have so much debt from start up and aren’t making it back fast, or if I’ve just found new things to be interested in, but I don’t really want to spent so much time on it anymore.

So on that ride to the airport Thursday, we discussed several options, including keeping the business and starting to work on it again, and selling it – in parts or in its entirety. I thought a lot about it over the weekend, and made a decision – we’ll liquidate our inventory and equipment by using Ebay Stores. Hopefully, since our jewelry is a popular item on Ebay, it will sell fast at our wholesale prices, and what doesn’t sell we’ll eventually auction as a wholesale lot.

If we are successful, selling our business inventory should help pay off a good part of our debt (although I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know the actual total value of our product!) Now, if I can just get all our inventory onto Ebay so I can start working on selling the clutter around our house!

An edit:  Since many have wondered, we are liquidating body jewelry and italian charms in our Ebay store.  I’m still only about half done adding products as of February 5th, 2008, so please keep checking back!