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Now for a financial post

January 12th, 2013 at 07:38 pm

1. So glad to be reminded I can include the sales tax of our "spaceship" (looks inside and out like something Flash Gordon and Dr. Zarkov would pilot) in our 2012 1040 return. Now to look for that Purchase Order and collect files for the tax return. Also, this is the year I will use TurboTax.

2. Insurance for the house went up $5 this year. The good news, our credit score knocked off $193 from the premium.

3. Recorded Year-To-Year stock prices for the individual stock purchase plans I have, and gold and silver prices. I watch but don't take seriously the prognostications for gold and silver: they are too blatantly created by people who run silver and gold web sites, and they are so often wrong. Past three years: "Gold's going to pass $2000 an ounce this summer!" No, maybe in Australian dollars, but not in Canadian nor American...

$20 Challenge - Saved $5 from my $54.54 shopping bill today. I made a menu plan for the week, lost half of my shopping list, and yielded only to the impulse purchase of $2.50/lb butter.

All you do to me is talk stock: Making chicken stock. The kitties sure enjoy cooked chicken.

Menu Plan
Either baked salmon or broiled Sake to Mayonnaisu (salmon with mayo tinged with rice vinegar)

Monday: Roasted Root Vegetables (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), with Beef Stew (Canadian Living)

Tuesday: Vegetable Soup with Leeks (recipe from Cancer Lifeline cookbook), or Vegetable Medley with Leeks (Nourishing Traditions)

Wednesday: Chicken, Baked w/Tarragon and Mustard (Nourishing Traditions), "Committee Salad" (recipe from Best of Best of Bridge, for you Canadian(s) out there)

Thursday: Chicken leftovers, with Potatoes Anna, Basic Salad

Friday: Shepherd's Pie OR Macaroni-Beef-Vegetable Casserole (Vancouver-area spiral-bound cookbook), Mixed Vegetables

Saturday: Soup, either Bean or Tofu Miso.

Dirtnap for Dollars The same # of people who chose Zsa Zsa Gabor last year are choosing Hugo Chavez this year, which tells me he either died very late in 2012 (no health updates, did you notice?) or he will be Ariel Sharon's bed buddy for all of 2013.

I am taking baby steps toward my goals. Still identifying several in fact. I do want to be more DIY this year. I have read that used coffee grounds can be used for a body scrub so I would like to try some.

Earlier a blogger commented I tend to reward myself for financial rewards with food, and perceived it as a problem. I qualify that it is a problem when I think "oh I reduced my $136K debt by $100, time for a croissant and coffee at such-and-such place." So I am extending the interval of reward to $1000 of debt paid off as a dessert-and-coffee reward, and $1000 of debt paid off from one loan as a dinner reward, eating out twice every three months instead of once every three weeks for a mortgage; once every four months for the car loan. Because I do love food, but eating out is not always good for me, and even when I eat foods that are terrific for me, when it's at a restaurant here the bill is not good for my pocketbook.

I am exactly the age my eldest aunt was when she died from breast cancer. My mother developed breast cancer when she was four years older than I am now. This is why I go on about Vitamin D3, and try to include green leafy vegetables and salmon as regular parts of my weekly diet. I may even try some exercise. Cancer is so complicated: Linda McCartney found out that soy doesn't prevent cancer; a nearby woman who did triathlons learned running doesn't stop it either. I'm hoping nutrition and curbing intake of toxins will be my magic bullets: I am switching to using Naturtint on my hair, which will save me big money, and limiting use of my store-bought perfumes: I have three, and they are a big "gazingus pin" as Joseph Dominguez of Your Money or Your Life would term it.

So what am I thankful for today? The Internet and all this new information about nutrition and vitamins and how to control the hormones to prevent cancer!

$20 Challenge

January 3rd, 2013 at 08:05 pm

I won a 2012 dead pool, officially (yay!) and received payment today. Great change can start small and gradual, so very early in the year I begin with some small differences:
1. "Extra" money is divided among: investments that will get 3% or more this year; debt with APR of 3%; budget cushion money; and fun money.
2. Eating every 2 - 2.5 hours. Already I am experiencing more energy.
3. Mindful gratitude for gifts several times a day.
4. Acceptance that things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better. And sometimes inconvenience and discomfort is part of getting better.

Dec update plus The Grateful Three

December 1st, 2012 at 03:54 pm

Grateful for:
Canadian Living subscription gift from my stepmother.
first Christmas Card of the year, this time with a request for a visit, from my stepfather.
Online banking showing the ortgage payment posted today, at the deadline. Updated balance is not reflected.

Contrarian git that I am, I aim, though I am sure I will miss, for as many immaterial or cheap/simple things for gratefulness. I heard William DeVaughan's "Be Thankful For What You Got" yesterday. I do not drive a great big Cadillac with gangsta white walls, but do I need one? I can still stand tall. Naturally I type this on the eve of splurging for a newer car but it will not have killer rims nor a sunroof, but stability and/or traction control.

Out Out Brief Update!

November 3rd, 2012 at 04:29 pm

My kid paid his dad to go buy some scratch tickets and he won money, a 66% profit. Our rule now is for every $2 frittered on lottery tickets, $25 goes into medium-long term investments, applicable to everyone. DH and I are to collect a 20% broker fee too.

Silver and gold prices sank, along with many equities. I will probably buy some next week. On October 31, my son dressed as a Knight of the Round Table, we walked to the local coin shop where my dear lad asked for the Holy Grail. One proprietor went into the back and got one for him. "Used, but still holy," he said. Of course other trick-or-treating happened too, then we went to a Secret Sprocket Society screening of Pre-Code horror and cartoons.

I am on track to pay 10% less in interest on the Home Equity Line of Credit by the end of the year. And as long as Lindsay Lohan doesn't freebase with Dick Cheney over the holiday season or in a murder-suicide bid I am likely to get some money from one of the dead pools.

Saved $210.74 with coupons for local retailers from November 2011 to October 2012.

For those who would shoplift from supermarkets, do carry a list and dress professionally, foregoing deep-pocket dusters and cargo pants. Do not be obtrusive.

How I successfully save $1000 this year

October 4th, 2012 at 09:41 pm

...that I did not do last year:

[*]Keep a price book.
[*]Every two weeks, do a freezer and pantry inventory.
Plan meals around weekly specials. I make six meals a week, usually, one day being "Use up Leftovers".
[*]Or sometimes I will make one meal for six, something like a stew or a meal that tastes better the next day, and serve the remains the next day!
[*]Used only 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent for full laundry loads.
[*]I use a third of a laundry sheet for two dryer loads.
[*]Rely on a friend to e-mail me AcrossLite versions of the New York Times Friday and Saturday crosswords (savings: $13)
[*]Shop every now and then at the discount grocery outlet. Only for items we use frequently.
[*]I will buy a whole fish, especially fresh, and have the supermarket folk fillet it for me for free. I put 10 - 12 oz of fish into a plastic freezer bag. I divide bulk meal purchases by threes.
[*]Used a friend/acquaintance to buy Microsoft Office 2010 Ultimate. $200 savings.
[*]I refinanced my mortgage last year, so this year I saved just over $1000 on interest alone. $1465 monthly payment in July 2011, $1346 monthly payment in October 2012.
[*]My local county transit organization has mailed me eight bus tickets, one week after the downtown ride-free area was eradicated. $20 saved.
Use the boy's 6% APR savings account for stashing up to $200. He doesn't mind: more interest for him.
[*]I use a Target RedCard.
[*]Found a hairstylist whose rates are 60% of what I got used to paying for me and the boy. $150 savings
[*]Heat water for tea in a microwave instead of using the gas range.
[*]Ground beef was recently recalled, which may be why I do not see it much on sale. Right now, pork is on sale. So I may buy some pork. When chicken, whole, is on sale, I buy that. The further down the food chain I go, the less processing goes into making the food, the less it costs and often the food is better for me and the planet. I still love beef though.
[*]Meat takes up 25 - 33% of the plate, the rest vegetables.


Factors Conspiring Against Me
[*]GEICO insurance. Never mind the discounts for safe driving, age and multiple policies: GEICO's premiums go up every year.
[*]Petrol/automotive fuel prices. I am sure I need not say more.
[*]Money Market account and Certificates of Deposit interest rates downgraded by 0.05%
[*]Comcast Business Internet went up $2.40 a month. Yes, we need it: real work goes on in the house. The commute time is twenty-five seconds.
[*]Old cars still cost a lot to run when you have to replace the parts. General Motors does not count on anyone keeping its cars beyond fifteen years. Next time I will buy a vehicle made by a manufacturer whose cars are old enough to vote.

Tips I Wish Other People in My Household Would Use
[*]It is not rocket science to make pancake mix at home. We HAVE maple syrup.
http://beingfrugal.net/frugal-breakfast-from-scratch/ - Homemade pancake recipe from beingfrugal.net
[*]Make a lunch or bring some flavoured oatmeal mix with you to work. I used to do this and went to the kitchen area to get a bowl and hot water and voila! Breakfast without shelling out $5.
[*]Cold cereals are costlier and less nutritious than oatmeal.

Mind Hacks
These do not actually save me money. They alter my perspective and reframe my thinking.
[*]Keep a large jar by your door, when you get home from work, drop all of your change into the jar, empty your pocket book and pockets of change into the jar.
[*]I have found a pay-what-you-can coffeehouse. I do not go very frequently now, every five weeks or so, but rarely do I pay full price for a cappuccino.
Just take your credit card (or loyalty card, or gift card), place it on your paper at an angle, and tear along the edge for a perfectly straight tear. Easy, clean, and quick. Works when I do not have scissors around.

And lo! No mention of cutting cable, ditching a landline, or forgoing gym memberships, going from two cars to one, or easy-peasy baby-la-la budget alterations.

What I spent money on so far in September

September 5th, 2012 at 05:42 pm

$30 school supplies for boy
$37.10 Safeway (saved $13 through coupons)
$55.85 electricity bill
$3.00 shell account

Annual insurance for motorcycle, plus license tabs taken care of. Also Signature Visa card thankfully paid five days before the due date. I learned that if I do not use the return envelope Bank of America sends me, my payment can be delayed, even though I print the correct address in a highly readable typeface at 11 point or larger size on a properly stamped #10 envelope.

Now only $703.56 left on the credit union VISA, and $61 on the Signature Visa, and $120.83 on Target RedCard. Apparently my husband uses our credit union for PayPal on occasion, and as PayPal monitors credit card usage, its algorithm-controlled PC decided that the spate of charges for our vacation expenses was reason enough to suspend my husband's account. He should have used the Signature Visa, I agree, as we use that once every two years. So don't go on vacation on the credit card you have linked to PayPal, because OMG! Gas Fillup! Fraud!

Payment for boy's teeth extraction went through. I have about $210 remaining until Friday.

Giving us $40 a month coffee budget. This includes beans we buy for personal use, as well as replenishment of coffee card, and tips. That is for two people. I would like to cut down a bit, so I can afford a Virtual Private Network that can give me a Canadian IP address.

Learning (or rather re-learning) statistics. Scores for end-of-year statewide student testing released, but individual scores not. I have told boy that if he scores outside one standard deviation for both reading and math, he can have dinner at his favourite pizza place.

I missed America Saves Week

February 29th, 2012 at 06:12 pm

Oh well. I didn't read much mention of it here.

$20 Challenge: Saved $230 (yes!) on Microsoft Office 2010 Professional. I am acquiring this program through legal means and will have an official license, if you must know. I get it on Tuesday. I sent my payment on Monday.

$20 Challenge 2: Saved $6 at the cinema yesterday. If a friend went with me she would have saved eight dollars. I got a free popcorn and with presentation of my membership card I got $3 off my admission. The film: Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes."

My mortgage cheque still has not been processed. I mailed it eight days ago and it is processed in six most times. I'll wait until March 2, and if it hasn't been processed I will put in an electronic payment.

Debt stats: Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,956, up slightly from two years ago. The majority of US households do not have credit card debt.

Total U.S. revolving debt (98 percent of which is made up of credit card debt): $801 billion, as of December 2011. This is down significantly from $866 billion, two years ago.

Eighty percent of lower income assets is in home equity. The easiest way for low income people to build assets is to pay off their mortgages. If they live where I do, they can expect a further decline of 6.9% in house value this year. I find the times where no investment yields a positive return frustrating.

Gold dove: might pick up a half-ounce today.
Bought $55 of General Electric. Considering Du Pont and Du Nemours, PepsiCo, more GoldCorp, General Electric and Procter & Gamble. What I do is triangulate among my present holdings, Jubak's Picks, and Value Line for Appreciation Potential.

a good day to spend/save money

February 6th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Went shopping for vegetables for the week, plus cereal and walnuts and honey: $34.57. Spouse and I dined on $4 Chinese Food specials in the cafe inside the supermarket.
Plus, boy needed valve oil for his trumpet so I bought a replacement bottle for 54 cents, thanks to a $5 off coupon.
Today's savings: $13.37
Today's expenditures: $45
I can't find the TD Ameritrade/Intuit sweepstakes where one wins $15000. No mention on either the TD Ameritrade or the Intuit website. I know I saw it last week, because I printed out the instructions on how to enter if you don't have a Facebook account.

It is 10 degrees Celsius out and beautiful. I have $740 until Friday. Plus, I am participating in some month-long challenge for February to mail something every day. I mailed five things on Sunday to catch up -- one was a Target bill plus two donations. If someone wants something like a postcard from me, Private Message me through the forums.

Mother-in-law is sending us Ha Jin and Harlan Ellison books. Yay!

wu wei of the dragon (year)

January 2nd, 2012 at 01:45 am

At last it can be told:
I met baselle yesterday to deliver my list and share in a toast to 2011 and 2012. We had a lovely time: I was immediately comfortable with baselle, and coming from a hermitess like me, that is big. She told me she was waiting for someone, and I pulled out All Your Worth and my decorated price book from my bag and said "let's see if these items are markers of the person you're to meet with."

At last it can be told:
1. Annette Funicello
2. Aretha Franklin
3. Dick Clark
4. Etta James
5. Gary Carter
6. James Garner
7. Larry Hagman
8. Penny Marshall
9. Robin Gibb
10. Zsa Zsa Gabor - breath barnacle

Eight slots were committed, two of them wavered over three weeks. I agonized about Don Rickles, Prince Philip and Andy Williams, but I am about points. This is a "balanced" (growth + income: some sure things, plus one long shot, one nonagenarian) list. I do not wish ill on any of these people, and I do know what it is to lose immediate relatives well before their time. I put Zsa Zsa Gabor down to thwart everyone else who had her on their lists too, just like I buy stock or precious metals just to make its price go down the next day. I wonder if the rule of five applies to dead pools: one does better than you expected, one worse than you expected, and three are par for the course.

I won the dead pool my friend and I had between ourselves last year, with 20% success rate. I'll be happy with 20% success this year, but I hope for 44 points or more... But the dead pool victory of 2011 ensures $30 added to my $20 Challenge! Thank you to Chris, Harry and Jack for making this possible.

Hubby bought clothes at JC Penney at vastly reduced prices, I think 70% off. Righteous.

Walked on Burke-Gilman trail in north-east part of city with boy. Beautiful day, hubby was pushing at me to break in my helmet on the scoot, but boy asked to come along.

Starting a Price Book

December 27th, 2011 at 06:21 pm

SavingAdvice.com forum post on price book.

I didn't think to take one of the little notebooks I gave to the school teaching staff last month, so I bought a recycled-paper small one to fit in a purse. The price book idea I read in The Complete Tightwad Gazette, but OrganizedHome.com also has a downloadable template.

YNAB v3.6.0.5, perhaps considered "faddish" by some, so far has kept me mindful. My Money Market Account (MMA) is $600 larger than it would have been if I weren't keeping track. We're not completely denying ourselves either: I bought nibbles for our board game sessions. I'll be shelling out $$ on NYE. My attention deficit disorder had me drafting and redrafting some asset allocation/spending plan schemes. With YNAB I can keep better track of my savings goals and where our money is going.

I also don't include my gold and silver amounts in YNAB because of their daily fluctuations, so I look more broke than I am.

Today I give blood.
My Price Book so far has entries for items we commonly buy from Costco, or find ourselves walking to yonder national chain every week to get.

Thinking I might not do a Target (TGT) Direct Purchase Plan, but rather put some cash in one of my stock accounts: the initial purchase fee in the DPP is equal to the commission the investment service applies, and I've had a number of free trades, so averaging the commission cost is lower.

The spouse of one of my alt.obituaries Dead Pool picks died: no points.

Return of the $20 Challenge for 2012

December 23rd, 2011 at 05:12 pm

My personal approach is to have mini-challenges. I won't restrict these to one per month, although they happen to number twelve. Some will be easier than others.

2012 $20 Challenge Savings Goal: $200. This way I look like I accomplish something.

Bathroom Challenge: Use up cleaning products from Bathroom and Kitchen, replenish either with homemade remedies or with products for which I have coupons or 10%+ savings discounts.
Amazon/Craigslist/eBay Challenge: Let's sell some stuff!
Chinook Book Challenge: Use coupons from 2012 Chinook Book.
Coffee Challenge: Reduce # of coffees out per week to two.
Coupon Challenge: Using coupons from circulars or Target.com, but not Chinook Book.
FreeCycle Challenge: Get needed items through the kindness of strangers.
Freezing Challenge: Keep forgetting I can freeze homemade bread, dough, pies, muffins and beans after they've been cooked.
Gas Challenge: Does not apply to scooter. Fill up every ten days. Options: walk, bike, take transit, or scoot.
LifeHacker/Tightwad Gazette Challenge: Learn something? Share something!
Movie Challenge: Watch films on Archive.org, on my personal PC, or from library whenever possible. Exceptions for films like 'Hugo' or rare specialty films at theaters where we have memberships.
Pantry Challenge: Popular in the last four days of a payperiod. Exceptions only for milk, eggs, butter and bread.
Poverty Challenge: Weeklong Pantry Challenge.
Reading Challenge: First, pay off library fines. Then pay for replacement cards. Then get books from the library. Also read ebooks from library or what I've downloaded.
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Wondered why I've managed only to replenish $2450 of my $7500 roof. Spot price for ounce of gold was $100 less than what it is now, and I had 1.5 oz fewer than what I have now. Also silver was $5 more per ounce than what it is now. I did not dedicate myself to debt repayment. When silver touches $40/oz I will liquidate some.
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I signed up for a local consumer research study firm but I fail all its survey qualification questions. Maybe because I don't have a lot of techie gadgets, or watch television. What are some good questions to answer "yes" to so I can get somewhere between $50 to $100 for participating in these groups.