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Archive for October, 2012

Eagle-eyed kid nets us two dollars

October 19th, 2012 at 12:17 am

A change return receptacle at the U-Scan kiosk in our closest supermarket had two dollars. My child asked for 50% of the proceeds as a finder's fee and I gave him a dollar. A reminder that my kid is the best person to go shopping with: he always has an eye for freebies. He directed my attention to some free bottled water and cookies offered by our Credit Union for International Credit Union Day.

Not much to report: had coconut carrot curry soup as an entree earlier in the week, unscheduled but tempting, and it was delicious.

What to do with my $1: HELOC? Savings? Credit Card? Wait for a mate and then look for a bar that offers Chicken Crap Bingo?

Menu for next week

October 14th, 2012 at 05:14 am

I made Veal Paprika from an old _Joy of Cooking_ recipe: sadly we all **loved** it: veal is expensive, but I think it is one-third as expensive to make at home than what is served at a restaurant. And veal is not very filling either.

Sunday: Beef stew
Monday: Sole
Tuesday: something with pork and cabbage
Wednesday: Meat loaf
Thursday: frittatas, possibly
Friday: Salmon
Saturday: Baked or Roasted Chicken

I thought it would be wise for me to start having protein snacks a few hours before bed so I do not wake up between 3 am and 4:30 am with night sweats. I tasted some smoked jack cheese and it was good enough for me to take home but it is also $17/lb. Sigh. Nuts are going for $10 - $11 a pound where I am too.

Another thing: Saving $100 a month is not going to do it for most people who want to buy cars in cash unless they have some way of getting 6% a year, or they buy very inexpensive cars.
Several have suggested the Hyundai Sonata for a replacement car: I just learned there is a hybrid model retailing for $25K. Drool. I am grateful for the recommendation because I never noticed the car before and now I see it nearly every day.

Bankrate.com's refinance calculator told me that I never quite recouped the costs of my first refinance. I would have had to stick with the first refi for another 18 months to break even. I did save close to $84800 in interest with the first refinance, and $8700 in interest with the second. This new refi I recouped the costs before the end of 2011, because I did not pay for any application fees.

I may need to be even trickier about saving money. Shorter showers. More exercise to warm the body. Find nutritious foods that make me feel full. Pay more attention to local ads for rummage sales and flea markets.

NSD, Links galore

October 11th, 2012 at 03:34 am

I must return the updated edition of The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need this week. Here are some urls I found useful for car research, online deals, how to get more nutrients for your budget dollar, free education.
cars
http://Autobytel.com
http://Autoweb.com
http://Autos.msn.com
http://Carbargains.com
http://]Costco.com - seriously, click on Services
http://Edmunds.com
http://Intellichoice.com
http://kbb.com

Online deals
dealseeking.mom
Retailmenot.com

Savings elsewhere
www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips
ninite.com - software
nolo.com - gotta update my will

I resisted going out for potato chips last night, toasting walnuts instead to have with cayenne, butter and rosemary; and again stayed in tonight to make popcorn with butter and seasoned salt (Gayelord Hauser's Spike).

Wise Bread Links on Budget Nutrition

http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-beef-tasty-frugal-protein
http://www.wisebread.com/turbo-charge-your-diet-with-superfo...
http://www.wisebread.com/7-nutrients-you-need-more-of?wbref=...
http://www.wisebread.com/25-things-you-shouldnt-buy-at-the-g... - I learned where I am going wrong from reading this one!

Two More Wise Bread links, unrelated to food
http://www.wisebread.com/the-awesomeness-of-sodium-bicarbona... - cleaned out the french press with baking soda. The hours-old coffee had that icky metallic taste to it the past few days.
http://www.wisebread.com/15-free-ways-to-learn-something-new

I have been beating myself up lately. No need to: I do not beat up my friends when they have setbacks. I figure I will take 10% off each paycheque and allocate it to: debt; car; savings; fun.

I learned that the Hyundai Sonata also comes in a Hybrid model.

Today was cool. Not nifty cool but cool as in the cats were miffed because we bald bipeds slacked off and did not heat up the earth. The heat came on today. I may use the rest of those consignment store coupons to buy sweaters, and pay more attention to the FreeCycle offers of firewood.

By request, indian summer skillet & items

October 9th, 2012 at 06:39 pm

boneless, skinless chicken breast halves dredged in 1 tablespoon flour, sauteed in olive oil for four minutes each side until brown. While chicken is kept warm, add one chopped onion and four pressed grlic cloves in pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, saute until onion is translucent. Add 0.25 cup white wine, deglaze the pan with a wire whisk, then add 0.5 cup diced tomatoes and 0.33 cup chicken broth. Simmer sauce and reduce to desired consistency. Add stemfree chopped basil leaves to sauce and return chicken to the pan to heat. Serve chicken with sauce over the top.

-- recipe courtesy of Leanne Ely, from 2005 edition Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way.

In oddball news, the state Department of Licensing sent a letter telling me they sent my extinct vehicle registration info to a process server. The vehicle registration is for a car I imported from Canada and drove for one year before legally transferring title back in Canada, ten years ago. So there is no reason to suspect that this vehicle would still have a certain Washington plate. I called the process server and we hazarded the thought there could be a typo in the Vehicle Identification Number.

While messing around with a debt consolidation calculator I saw that the fixed-rate advance home equity line of credit I have has a ten-year term, and not 15 as I had thought. I made a payment to keep it current.

Thanksgiving dinner tonight, plus Menu Plan

October 9th, 2012 at 02:43 am

We bought 1.3 lbs of turkey breast, a prepared apple pie, broccoli and a can of Boddington for beer bread. I made sweet and sour cabbage and DH made beer bread. Martin Frobisher's gratitude for getting through his third exploration voyage to the New World with most of his ships in the late 16th century is the seminal reason for us celebrating Thanksgiving: an Act of Parliament in 1957 fixed the date as the second Monday of October. So we had a holiday dinner, one the boy greatly looked forward to.

Menu Plan:
Tu - Grilled or Baked Salmon, apple walnut kale, quinoa
We Indian Summer Chicken, potatoes, broccoli
Th - Nut Burgers and Red Pepper Soup
Fr - Dover Sole in Lemon Sauce, brown rice, carrots
Sa - Something Hungarian with Veal Scallops. Saturday is luxury meal day. Potatoes and more cabbage, no doubt.
Su - Beef Stew, potatoes, salad or greens.

Neither my mother or grandmother ever told me cabbage could be made into entrees other than cabbage rolls. I enjoy finding tasty, sweet ways for using cabbage.

Boddington Ale was okay, but I prefer Anchor Steam or Guinness Stout for beer bread.

Car Mileage now over 180,000

October 7th, 2012 at 11:56 pm

What I should have written for yesterday's Blog Entry Title: "I'm off the budget rails on the Crazy Brain" (Thank you, Ozzy Osbourne!)

I do not betray confidences (in that I do not name names) but, I am not the only one on crazybrain owing to too many goals, too few dollars. People are juggling medical treatment payments, legal fees, assessment extraordinary surcharges, down payments for newer cars, veterinary expenses. Me, I have only credit card payments, investing, regular budget, this field study thing, down payment for a newer car, and home upgrades to fret about. Nothing to turn the hair grey.

Two of my friends are needing to buy cars immediately, so I thought maybe we could go all together and find a quality car lot, and work over one salesperson for discounts if it meant him or her getting bonuses for selling three cars in one day. Too bad two of us are picky about what vehicle they want, and another pair has a shorter timeline.

A saner person pointed out that I was not keen to blow my precious metals fund on a car. If I thought it was achievable, I would attempt to pay down the HELOC so the balance was under 25% of the total amount of credit extended to me.

A crazier but better organized person suggested that I make a chart of my equilateral contributions to savings and debt goals, and display it prominently so I frequently have a visual reminder that we are not as bad off as crazybrain would interpret.

Last year at this time was when I dropped out of the 'How Long Can We Go Without Turning On Heat in the House' challenge. If it were reprised this year, I would still be in it, because our weather is crazy (in that it is actually like the weather east of the Cascade mountains: dry) and not miserable.

Also, my crazybrain toggled into sane brain when I walked out of a consignment store today with a discounted, clean, fitting, soft pair of trousers and some fun socks. Knowing that comfortable and decent clothing was within my budget is palliative.

Menu Plan to come.

Maybe I SHOULD do envelopes -- ISO sane budget method

October 7th, 2012 at 03:06 am

I am having crazybrain. Not the type where I think cats make for good eatin' or that the imaginary ants crawling on me would die if I suffocated them underneath a train, but the crazybrain that comes up with a new thing to do every three minutes or eighteen different budgets. Or makes me feel I am deprived and poor because I cannot buy a car, pay off my HELOC and have an emergency fund over $10K at the same time, while at the same time I eye the veal scallops at the meat counter thinking "say, I could afford that.."

Birthday boy flipped a coin last night to determine whether we go to the kinda pricey but delicious (and bad for my endocrine system) pizza, or if we go to the cheesy cheap family restaurant for his birthday. Happy to say the cheap family restaurant won out, so we went to a frozen custard place afterward. I had baked apple cookies and chocolate bars for his class, in lieu of a cake, so that saved us some $$ as well.

The craziness I believe is the binge-purge mania of my budget. I have some $ left over from the last payperiod, it gets divided into debt and savings. On the weekend we buy whatever, as long as we need it, and for the weekdays I either aim for no-spend days or I set a limit of $60, and divide what I don't spend that day on debt and savings. I feel I should work more at building up the cash reserves, but I argue with myself: do Savings Bonds count as cash reserves, or is it just money market account, savings accounts, and Certificates of Deposit? Then I think of my friend who is not paying off her HELOC but rather investing in the stock market, and I think but I have to diversify, and how can I do that when I have maybe less than $100 each month to give to: stocks, stock trading, retirement, etc. I am reminded that savings should never be the final or leftover item on the budget: I try to make it the first and last, seriously.

Our family agreed on the idea of having more vegetarian entrees more often. We still love meat, but more beany, legumy, tempeh and fungus dishes will help us make food faster and more cheaply, and then we can regard veal scallops and bay scallops as sweet luxuries. We did spend $107 at the meat counter in the Public Market today , right next to the world-famous Flying Fish dudes, then $113 at the supermarket for Halloween candy ($1.50 off), cat treats ($0.75 off), fish (one whole salmon plus 2 lbs dover sole), cheese, apples, juices, bread, butter, pretty much everything that was obviously a great deal that we regularly consumed). The $$ for the boy's field studies on the peninsula has been taken by the school, but $300 still remains on the VISA card and must be paid off in three weeks.

In addition, what is driving me crazy is seeing money go everywhere EXCEPT toward a newer car, and a better wardrobe for me. I have three pair jeans and one pair velvet pants. I tossed out two pairs of ratty shoes, a pullover and a cardigan that did not fit, and I did not give myself some $$ to check out the consignment and thrift shops for bigger, fluffier, less threadbare sweaters.

So if you wisely scrolled past all the diarrhea, I am looking for GOOD vegetarian cookbooks. I have _More with Less_ and _Feeding the Whole Family_ which have lots of veg. recipes, but want to see what is out there.

Oh yeah, I reduced my risk of breast cancer today by taking vitamin D3 and serving steamed chard for dinner with kielbasa and sauerkraut.

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.

Article - Uncle Sam's FICO Score is 655

October 4th, 2012 at 03:00 pm

From ZeroHedge:

If the US Government were applying for a loan, what would its credit score be? ConvergEx's Nick Colas estimates it at 655 (based on www.myfico.com) - which is higher than we suspected - but consistent with the structural belief in both sovereign and personal debt rating systems that historical payment patterns matter more than ability to pay, leverage, or loan amounts.


Read the whole article here.

That is not terrible: one needs a FICO score of 660 to apply for the kind of mortgage I have: 3.75% APR, no fee, for twelve years, at the credit union.

I need to work on fitness though. That is where the US and I share the score of F. Body clutter, house clutter, money clutter...

Denied BoA Visa card -- credit score 798

October 1st, 2012 at 06:06 pm

I bet Amazon.com or Costco will be happy to give me a credit card with that credit score. Costco would give me cashback and Amazon would somethingsomething benefits, I dunno.

I guess the facts that I am not an illegal alien and I insist on 25-day grace periods rendered me ineligible. Or maybe it was all those "Bank of America sucks" posts I wrote.



Scan provided in case someone thinks I was lying or made a typo. Bank of America is headquartered in Crazytown, USA.