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Archive for November, 2011

went to Bellingham today

November 27th, 2011 at 01:04 am

This has nothing at all to do with frugality, and everything to do with yielding to temptation.

Went to Bellis Fair Mall to get a Canucks cap for my brother -- hubby's passport was at home and he had to get to work at 4pm, so no trip to British Columbia. They had a half-off 2nd lid sale, so my kid got one too.

Because I don't like running to Bellis Fair for less than the cost of one tank of gas, we went west to look at used bookstores. Bought tea for my aunt who used to live in Bellingham, _Burr_ by Gore Vidal, the Collected Poems of Stevie Smith, some Doc Savage novels and a Warriors novel for the tot. Ate at Fiamma Burger, almost went to the Cheerful Soup Kitchen because Charlie Chaplin was adorning several of its windows. Fiamma Burger was worthy of Seattle's Fremont neighbourhood, with choices of lamb, chicken sausage, chicken, beef, elk and salmon.

I list five advantages Bellingham has over Seattle:
1. free parking on Saturdays.
2. KMRE FM.
3. fewer hills -- easier to bike.
4. more Canadian literature in used bookstores.
5. less snotty, more sustainable vibe to it.

As we pulled into Bellis Fair's parking lot, my husband realized he had not renewed his license, which expired yesterday. So I had to drive home. I did not beat my record of 69 minutes: my time was 74 minutes, to which I attribute the presence of several Washington State Patrol and unmarked squad cars, and a poky minivan going 60 ahead of us in the HOV lane. Google Directions estimated 94 minutes.

Note to VPM: thanks! received package of goodies!

Post-feast Digestives

November 25th, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I can't tell if we had Thanksgiving or not. In the Yes column:
- roast bird
- festive placemats and tablecloth
- succotash
- I had a glass of sherry
- American hubby called his parents.
- baked squash w/apple, raisin and walnut stuffing
- homemade dinner rolls
- brief religious "thank you" from child
- someone in the kitchen for hours in stations of chop, cook and clean

In the No column:
- no guests
- no turkey
- no heated political arguments or bloviation (see: "no guests")

But am I going to spend today? Yes. Although our car's battery out of juice, I walked over a mile to a used game electronics shop to serendipitously benefit in a buy-two, get-one-free sale, as my child was the only one for whom I have not purchased presents.

So My English Castle, instead of getting pepper-sprayed or squeezed to death between rampaging suburbanites, I got my exercise by walking downhill then uphill for two+ miles today.

And baselle, I am invited to an Oath of Office ceremony on Nov. 30 to watch the new school board members get sworn in.

Jimmy Savile says the band was Tightwaddehwaddeh

November 24th, 2011 at 03:58 am

$71.29 to mail presents to the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. Cheaper than flying the family out anywhere.

$5.54 for C batteries for lantern.

$15 for beets, bread, milk, and red pepper.

$4.20 out of $7.48 change jar to note International Espresso Day. I ordered my Espresso in Canadian, but paid in American.

re-reading Tightwad Gazette.

the holiday road to debt is paved with good intentions

November 22nd, 2011 at 04:55 pm

Link du Jour: 100 Frugal Gifts - BibleMoneyMatters.com

I am revisiting the small income, encroaching expenses situation that gets a few people into debt. Especially during the holiday season when the PLEAS drop into the mailbox like, oh, raindrops in Thailand and everyone has a hand out. Feed the hungry! Food banks in dire need! Church needs to retire its debt! School at a deficit! Pay for what you listen to!

To work on his writing practice, I gave my kid an option to write to Santa Claus: the number of electronic games and systems was jaw-dropping. "If I am a bad kid, just send me one. If I am an okay kid give me three Pokemon Nintendo games. If I am a good kid please send me six." He used to not believe in Santa Claus, which was better for us because when he understood everything came from Mom and Dad, he wouldn't make demands that would clean us out because the guilt would hurt too much.

My family was poor too and deeply in debt. We looked through the Sears Catalog: back then you could make a kid happy for $10.78. Now it's what, $60? We're in a much better situation now--we own a home so no moving around due to rising rents and slow child payments, gas prices don't bother us, no car payments. He has a college fund, I never did. He has stock in Berkshire Hathaway. But what child is ever moved by the poverty his parents experienced as children?

There's a number of presents that a child will gleefully receive before the joy precipitates and the unwrapping is merely perfunctory. I forget if it is Vicki Robin or Center for a New American Dream who gave the number but it's three.

I am not giving him three electronic items. He wants slippers, he can have one electronic game, maybe a book. There must be children out there who swear they've been good but get very little during the winter holidays. They suffer from no fault of their own. My child is no more deserving than they.

And nobody receives karma points for digging themselves into a position where they can no longer help other people but must focus on their own debt solutions. That's why I pay more toward my HELOC than I do to charities.

costco night and other craziness

November 21st, 2011 at 01:30 am

Spent $100 less than anticipated at Costco, but we didn't get as much as originally planned. Long grain brown rice is hard to get. I would like to thank the thousands of locals who got so p.o'd at their banks and switched to our credit union that Costco opened ALL its stores to participate in our credit union night. The parking was MUCH easier, and we spent no more than twenty minutes in the store, with clear aisles and short waits at tasting stations.

My freezer is now full with three weeks' worth of meals. Thank you, Costco and Credit Union!

Last week my husband found our car's cabin light was on. Not all of us lock the car's doors -- my husband and son don't. Today I found that although we've driven eighty miles since the last fill up, our gas gauge reads as if we've used two-thirds of our 12-gallon tank. Our car gets between 24 to 36 miles per gallon. I suspect someone is siphoning our gas. It'd be easy for them to do if they had easy access to our gas cap by opening an unlocked car door.

Also: used Savings Bond Wizard on my bonds -- I was within $30 guesstimating the accumulated interest. The bonds have a 3.46% yield and a 5.83% rate.

Day after Payday Spending Spree

November 20th, 2011 at 12:13 am

1. Target: shipping tape, butter @ $2.49/lb before 5% discount, 3lb bag o' Honeycrisp apples, bread, cat treats. Savings: $2.52

2. Replacement music book for boy.

3. Top Ten Toys: Japanese character wooden blocks for Japanese nephew toddler. Pricey but appropriate. Savings $5.00

4. Greenwood market: wine, chicken broth, distilled water, eggs, rosemary, bulk tea, SCHWEDDY BALLS - schadenfreude, whipping cream, creme fraiche. Savings: $10.80

5. Wayward Coffeehouse: $11.29 for Maple Leaf cookie, one hot chocolate, two cappuccinos.

6. Zenith Supplies: $11.70 for two bath oil vials, part of my schadenfreude reward.

italics means on sale
bold means bwahaha!

Boy got free slice of Whole Foods pizza: savings $3.27

I predict a lot of baking this week, what with bread flour soon to expire and two bags of apples.

I'm using coconut oil instead of shortening, now that I've learned what hydrogenated fats can do to the body, and although I haven't mastered measurement of coconut oil (e.g. I used 1/2 cup instead of four tablespoons), I have had some great results with pie and roll crust. Apples will also go into Bob's Red Mill 10-grain cereal, and juicing.

Today we started using our Chinook Book coupons, and I'll be pasting a log-sheet on the inside cover of what we saved, where and when.

Gearing up for Costco night! It'll be pricy, as I anticipate buying two months' worth of meat.

Promised a community radio DJ friend of mine I'd give to a station that played my favourite band, and she ahem'd at fund drive time, so probably $35-$50 donation there this week.

off-topic evaporative post

November 16th, 2011 at 06:42 pm

My candidate has done the highly improbable and surpassed her opponent the incumbent in votes today, one week after the election. We are crossing our fingers, fingering our crosses, burning herbs, saying prayers and making wishes this holds up. This might be a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment as the local newspapers are acting like the incumbent has won a strong victory.

I don't want to jinx anything for her: this year my team lost the Stanley Cup Finals and downtown rioted; I wanted a former Harvard professor/novelist to lead what used to be the "natural ruling party" in the election this year--under his leadership the party for the first time in its 150-year history got third place; the party that became Opposition party lost its leader to cancer; I just want something good to happen to a cause I support. If my candidate loses I will feel that I jinxed her. I am still working for her doing social media because now that she's ahead by 91 votes after an initial 4000+ deficit, the local news has shown interest in the "risen-from-the-dead" which means updates until the county certifies the votes.

Frugalicious: got my hair cut by a woman 1.5 miles away, for my first time. She hadn't changed her prices in ten years, but if she even raised then 20% I'd be paying 25% less than I had with my last stylist. She was informative, experienced and attentive. She gave me so much validation on how I tend to style my hair: I am the laziest woman on earth when it comes to haircare but she pointed out that letting the hair be its natural self was the best thing. I gave her a good tip because I expected to pay $20 more.

I made tourtière today for a multicultural potluck. Would you believe someone else made tourtière too? Note that the other person is not from the same ethnocultural background I have - she used her father in-law's background, but she has a French-Canadian surname and I... my surname at birth was Belgian. I used the food where I grew up because I thought it'd be unique! I could have made butter tarts but I don't want to be a one-trick pony.

I could have made cabbage rolls!


laugh if you must: this isn't far from the matrilineal ethnoculture

can't buy groceries w/o someone lying in wait

November 12th, 2011 at 05:40 pm

Walked out of a supermarket yesterday, failing to escape notice by people with clipboards waiting at the exit. I don't like clipboard people: they exist to collect signatures for initiatives or to collect non-tax-deductible funds (Greenpeace!). I cannot and do not sign initiatives. I already piss off beggars because what money left I have for altruism goes to tax-registered charities. I was asked do I "want to bankrupt the banksters?"

Well yes I do want to bankrupt the banksters. I'm buying gold and silver, "natural resource"-backed currencies, and supporting candidates not funded by large banks. I watch Max Keiser and read Peter Schiff.

I tell locals who believe they're trapped at big banks, doomed to endless fees and charges because of their torpedoed credit scores, about Express Credit Union, I spread word of a state representative's effort to bring a state bank, like North Dakota, who oh shock! golly gee! isn't as badly off as the states who don't have state banks, to us. But someone with a clipboard doesn't want to hear that: he wants my signature or what's left of my wallet.

Even though forum commentators will scoff that the banks introduce and raise fees to scare away "deadbeats" whose accounts are too expensive to operate, the very fact that people are closing their accounts is bringing these commentators out. And the commentators don't even bother to make sense:
Bank employee "you can't get wealth management services through a credit union"
Credit union menber "then why is there a wealth management service tab on the credit union website"
Bank employee "see! you've made my point! the credit union has to partner with a company!" (??? Can any American translate that logic for me?)

Would you feel confident entrusting your dollars to a bank employee who doesn't have a clue about modern banking trends? Who believes falsehoods is part of the job description? Why or why not?

And "good luck getting your ATM card to work in other countries." Never had a problem using a Cdn "caisse populaire" or credit union. "There'll only be three branches where you can do banking." Credit unions participate in shared network banking. It's weird that the trolls post "go away you deadbeats" and in the same breath "you'll be sorry you left!" Sounds like abusers getting nasty when their victims head for the door for the last time.

I wonder if anyone choosing to stay at a bank is confident that the banks won't raise fees, now that a "handful of riffraff" have left, and that the Bloomberg article about the $53 trillion worth of Merrill Lynch toxic derivatives moved to the FDIC-insured banking unit won't haunt them. People like Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh blame the government for the 2002 homeownership act, but do some research? How many banks went to the government in charge in 2002 with drafted legislation to be signed into law? What banks created Presidential Libraries to curry favour with the U.S. head of state at that time? When you know these things, and you assume that the people who troll and stay at banks know them too and have read newspapers over the past five years, you wonder if there's environmental pollution or severe cognitive dissonance resulting in faulty brain wiring.

My personal favourite was one idiot troll who posted "who in Seattle who isn't a grandparent already can afford a 12-year mortgage?" (ahem ahem!) Troll was about forty, boasting about his new re-fi'd 30-year mortgage at a bank. And his APR is higher than mine at a credit union.

I'm not cut out to be a banker, I guess. Don't understand astroturfing to insult people who've had enough or who've found better deals. It was easy for me to leave Bank of America when I was told they don't negotiate, and that they only make changes to the terms of credit card agreements when credit scores go DOWN or when they buy a regional bank or are forced to by Congress, never do the agreement terms improve when the credit score goes into the 750+ echelon.

As if the status symbol of parking $18000 in an account with 0.1% interest at a bank outweighs the $18000 earning 0.5% interest. Only in the United States are value hunters scoffed. "Pah! Look at you in that Corolla, you sad hyper-miling loser! I get 9 miles per gallon in this tank! I can run you over while I text! You ramen eaters shopping at Target! I buy everything at Barneys New York! I bet you save up and pay for your cars in full you schmuck!"

Some fields are missing data

November 10th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

My son, whom I can not and must not label as autistic or special needs or brain damaged, lost his coat at school. It is not in the lost'n'found, nor in his classroom. I am angry, but it was two years old and I paid $17 (tax included) at Macy's.

I have had two credit card offers since opening a Target account. My husband has not received any, and he is not on an Opt-Out list, whereas I am, so I know somebody's been selling my info.

I fret that my credit score took a big dive. The PTSA Fundraiser tells me she's working on getting our school on the Target RedCard program.

Bought two ounces of Canadian silver.

There is such a thing as being too penurious with money. My husband went out at the last minute to a concert I told him about, fine good. We had drinks at a campaign party beforehand, fine good. He bought CDs at the concert, one was signed by the band. This bothered me. My kid losing his coat bothered me too. My coats are second-hand and decades old. I haven't gone to a concert, but then again I bought boots. And I wait eleven weeks between haircuts.

Maybe it's because our statement shows billing of 55 days instead of 61 days last year, but I am astounded to find our water/sewer/yard waste/food waste/recycling bi-monthly bill down to $177.09. Two months ago it was $210 (summer rates, didn't feed my roses at all).

I have my DeadPool 2012 ten-person list. Funny how I'm so fussy about my list preparation and research, and then with seven weeks away until the end of the year I look at my 14 living people and think "now why did I think all these nonagenarians and one centenarian would die in 2011?" Watch as three people on my 2012 list die before December 30, and I replace them with my 2011 holdovers, and nobody dies at all in 2012. Except Harold Camping.

For My English Castle, I went for a walk today. I have been a couch potato for the past week doing last-minute election stuff, but now I am set free to go collect those urban blight yard signs from medians.

Predictions for today

November 8th, 2011 at 09:45 pm

It is election day: I predict that

- with the first wave of ballots, two school board challengers will enjoy leads of comfortable (5+%) margins; one will have a sliver lead, and one will look to be behind but will catch up into recount territory;

- my men will forgo dinner so as to load up on drinks and Mexican food at the victory party; -- already wrong: my husband is bailing so he can catch a Japanese women's rock band tonight. My child might want to watch an animation festival tonight.

- no one but trolls will respond to the press release I cowrote; (did you know that some Internet blog commentators hate facts? you can get down votes for sharing things like "Today is Tuesday;" "Abbas Kiarostami is an Iranian director who has made travelogues;" "the person profiled in this HOV-lane abuse article has had 27 court charges, three of them for stiffing Chevron, and two State Departments;" "Bank of America's holding company moved $53 trillion worth of toxic derivatives into its FDIC-insured banking unit." -- all flawlessly true.) -- wrong, unless we count two education bloggers as trolls.

- I will go to the hardware store to get batteries for a flashlight, a replacement bulb for our refrigerator, and some firewood; - partly true: bulb didn't need replacement, we have a flashlight already, but I bought scraper, chemical defroster and firewood.

- I will go to the auto supply store to get a chemical defroster; - see above.

- I will go to the grocery store for big size kitty litter and distilled water. -no kitty litter needed. Distilled water still on list.

link du jour - yelping with Cormac. Because rough westerny types reviewing The Apple Store and T.G.I. Friday's are funny.

Rising Costco prices, or that plus 42 cents will give you coffee

November 6th, 2011 at 04:42 pm

I don't know if it's because it spent $22 million on the state liquor privatization initiative, or to cover James Sinegal's golden handshake, but the cost of coffee went up by 15% since my visit six weeks earlier. $6.29/lb for five pound bag of coffee. That IS the cheap coffee. And obviously I bought in bulk.

Bah it bugs me to spend $87 on a small box of items at Costco. Granted the two priciest categories: meat and wine were in there, but it was organic ground beef in bulk and red wine for slow cooker roasts. And I see that lamb there is $9/lb instead of $13.67 at Safeway or $24 at the public market.

My husband and I figured the new coffee costs: 30.68 tbsps in a pound, two tbsps per cup, so 15 cups per pound. 75 cups for $31.45 = 42 cents per cup of coffee.

Link du Jour: How Much You'll Actually Save By Making Your O...

Compare with average 8 oz. drip retail = $1.75 before tax. So we limit our coffees out to Saturdays and Sundays.

I read that some do a second serving of coffee with half fresh and half leftover grains.

I bought Turkish coffee and a set for my spouse in August. I started making it for myself this week -- looked complicated at first, but with practice and some prep it takes less time than making regular coffee. And ooh the caffeine buzz lasts for hours.

A rerun post for today

November 5th, 2011 at 07:01 pm

I don't feel sorry for Bank of America

I don't participate in Occupy [MyCity] or Bank Transfer Day. I am posting this two weeks after reading this Naked Capitalism post. As this is commentary on a Bloomberg article, the gist of which had been syndicated/circulated to dozens of online media, it must be that the Bank of America apologists are aware of this and are okay with it, and it is only the ocean-krill trolls who are pooh-poohing consumers' activity in "a competitive market."

Also, my RedCard came today, and I immediately entered my card number in online banking and paid approximately the total of my misplaced bill.

I caved into getting a store card, after 10 years

November 3rd, 2011 at 11:04 pm

We have possessed three store charge cards in our joint lifetimes: a The Bay card, Bon Marche card, and now Target.

Target I can actually walk to, and now that it's expanded its offerings to include dairy and fresh produce I can see myself using it. As a bonus I'd hoped to give some money via the RedCard to my school.

My school has been in existence for three years. It is not in the Target "Take Charge of Education" database. Nobody in the school administration had added it, no PTA fundraising coordinator thought to include Target.

I thought if I had the school's tax id number I could call Target and get it added, but no. I had a 89%-misunderstood conversation with a woman who thought "Tax ID" was "Target ID" and that strictly kindergarten-to-twelfth-grade schools were allowed in the database. She even thought that when I told her of the elementary schools, middle schools, parochial private schools, alternative K-8 school and high school listed in the database.

So now I have a Target RedCard temporary slip so I can get my 5% discount right away. We'll see if the school PTA board responds to my ideas about public awareness. Our school isn't even in Wikipedia.

post-splurge budgeting

November 3rd, 2011 at 05:31 am

I went to Nordstrom to get some boots. I wanted the 40% off Via Spiga boots but they were not available in my size, so I bought these instead.

They are pricey: not the most expensive shoe I have, but more than my motorcycle boots, certainly. It's a stretch to afford them, but they are comfortable and stylish, best of all I have until December 27 to pay them off. Everything is right about them: the colour, height of the heel, slouch, fabric, comfort, quality, "eco-sustainability."

Yet I'll be saving money to make up for the cost of the boots: my son asked me how much they cost and I told him. I haven't told my husband and he doesn't want to know.

Link du Jour, Another month, another budget

November 1st, 2011 at 02:55 pm

Tips on saving money on groceries - article on the food items that have leaped by 12 to 15% in cost this year, why they became expensive, and ideas for substitutions or keeping the costs down.

Now subscribing to my favourite (but not frugal) store for weekly sales, and paying attention to Target coupons -- I live near a Target store, which is great because parking can suck. Although we've had a Target Superstore for a few years, we hadn't much incentive to go there for groceries.

Did I mention I went to Goodwill thrift store yesterday and bought: two sweatshirts, two pair socks, one pair trousers, one pair gloves (maybe too small) for the boy; and one sweater, one wine/burgundy pair of pants, one J. Crew shirt, and a dozen other items all for $34.80? Those are nine items off my replacement list.

I answered a survey for King Arthur Flour and earned a $10 promotional discount, so I bought some gift baking mixes for my aunt and sister-in-law and some Bennsdorp cocoa (awesome for hot cocoa!). The $10 took the edge off the $12 shipping fee, but still.

Budgeting $4200 for the month.

Question for those with mortgages: when the payday falls on the 2nd or 3rd of the month, do you wait until that day to pay the mortgage, or do you pay always by the first of the month? With my old mortgage my self-designed payment date range was four days before to four days after. I ask as December 2 is five Fridays away, and that's three pay periods for us (4th, 18th, 2nd).

11/1/11!! 11111 is not a prime number: it is the product of 41 x 271.