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Archive for January, 2013

J is for January and Jeopardy! update, jumpin' jiminy

January 30th, 2013 at 02:20 pm

J is also for Jaunts and Jollities.

Jeopardy! - The letter streets of Sacramento are where the action is in March. Now I can ensure I don't stay somewhere 25 miles away and get lost or stuck in traffic or anything else anxiety-provoking.

How I saved money today: got free mustard with purchase of two Hebrew National kosher 12 oz frank packages. Such a deal. Saved 80 cents off celery at Target. Used the Redcard, saved about 15% all-in-all.

Debt payment report this month:
$697.35 paid to mortgage; $781.50 paid to car loan; $304.74 paid to Visa; $82.72 paid to HELOC. $1561.57 paid off. Foresee $12400 paid off for 2013, unless we sell house between April and July.

Glad I didn't sell any of my stocks this month:
21.51 to 22.49 this month for GE, 37.86 to 39.80 (WAG), 68.65 to 75.08 (wow) (PG). This is well beyond 3% annualized growth for all stocks.

I tried to get OverDrive Media Console to work with my 64-bit Windows 7 platform, and Windows Media Player 12, but there's DRM-wonkiness that isn't allowing WMP to play WMA nor WMV files. The DRM-free SAMPLE files from Overdrive work just fine! One of the leading library systems in the United States based on usage blocks Seattle residents from using its OverDrive DRM-protected electronic properties. Even though the ghastly entity that gave us Windows Media Player 12 is across the lake, I expect NO success getting this resolved. Everyone relies on useless scripts, and not on obscure, little-known DLL conflicts or a company's shyness in admitting its 32-bit app doesn't work on 64-bit systems, or where Windows 7 is installed from image. The lay people who are not employed as PC technicians or systems network support folk are supposed to figure this stuff out by themselves.

Gave blood last afternoon: our blood bank really needed it, they're at a five-year low for my blood type. They're also at a low in trained staff and volunteers. We made it to a great bakery and cafe one block up, but the energy my body used to digest the sugary treats used up remaining blood from my ankles, stomach, and brain. I did not pass out but I did make like a Muslim at prayer on the floor in the cafe. Then I went into the bathroom, did something natural twice, and lo! I felt way better and made it three blocks to the car unassisted! I felt awful, but the shooting at yet another neighbourhood hangout made me think that there are some innocent victims or cancer patients who need my blood.

The days are just packed/packing

January 28th, 2013 at 05:16 pm

Jeopardy! audition date is March 6, my grandmother's birthday. I hope this is auspicious. I am a lapsed Catholic but I will do a novena anyway. My spouse just claimed that week off for holiday anyway so away we go.

Even though my kid is supposed to stay in school, as he no longer has any friends who can put him up and we have no relatives nearby we plan to take him with us. The cats can make do with water and dry food for three-four days.

Filled car for just $2.60/gallon. I have a book out from the library called Suddenly Frugal by Leah Ingram. The two random pages I opened to while looking at it in the library were very specific to my situation (buying new water heater, decluttering for a move) so I saw that as a sign too. I have hopes for the book as I read its premise: everyone knows to do things like cut memberships, stop eating out so much, and cable when one has to reduce expenditures, this book shares the lesser-known ways of cutting back.

I wish I were always this receptive to signs. When I beg for them the most they are not forthcoming.

I just looked at the Suddenly Frugal website, and on the front page everything I am already doing is listed as a daily challenge: brewing coffee at home, using scrap paper for grocery lists, reusable bags, menu planning. Where do I have to go to find the really surprising, effortless, free things that will lower my bills and cost of living?

Rushin' Frugality

January 26th, 2013 at 03:28 pm

I hastened an eight-page letter to a friend as the postage rate increases tomorrow: Canada and Mexico mail are treated the same as transoceanic mail rates, boo. I do mail art, whimsically but not skilfully, with a friend. To save twenty cents.

Then we shopped at Grocery Outlet, which is fun in a thriftin' vibe kind of way. Cheap ibuprofen, green peppers, big bag o' chips in case there are Super Bowl parties.

My big brags though are $1.10/lb whole chicken, and $2.07/lb ground beef, a $2.22/lb saving. My gas rewards are multiplying like tribbles, chee. And I'm going to enter those post-shopping trip surveys to see if I win any gift cards. They would sure be helpful. I am in need of iron replenishment this week, that's all I'm going to say, and yes Lentil Stew is one of my planned meals for the week, so I'll be using most of the ground beef this week.

Putative menu list
Pasta tonight
beef stew
bieler broth, beef strokin'off (sorry, cattle prod joke)
lentil stew (buy celery)
shepherd's pie or macaroni - beef - casserole
cod, either baked or steamed
meat sauce w/pasta or meat loaf

oh yes, made Chocolate Satan Pie. 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk, 2 egg yolks, whisk and heat; turn off heat and put in two cups semi-sweet chocolate chips; mix until melted, put in premade graham cracker crumb crust pie shell and chill for at least three hours.

Tax Cut Expiries are not our budget's good friends

January 25th, 2013 at 09:32 am

I just saw what my husband brings home in net pay, and probably because my hormones are on high screaming alert right now, I am feeling defeated and lost.

Mind you, we are still paying for December's holiday shopping and this year's tire replacement (ouch), our insurance has been paid up until late July, our bimonthly bills have been accounted for and cheques have been mailed, we're paying one of the most expensive heating bills of the year (praise be it is under $120), and our first car payment is coming up (ouch). But it seems to me we have to move/sell our house in six months or else I get a job or we refinance again, this time for a longer term, and for me the refinance means giving up and paying more interest for longer.

An untrained mind can accomplish nothing.

I plan to track our expenses for next month, to see if I can identify where our spending problems are (I am suspecting food). Then I could list what I am doing, and ask what I could do better or differently. The biggest challenge will be to be gentle with myself. To help meet that challenge I will note, probably in pages so only the truly desirous will know, if my net worth is going up or down.

Today I paid $781.50 to the car loan. If we refinance the car loan, and I am working to get the title changed to show the credit union's position as lien holder, It means maybe fifteen fewer dollars in debt repayment per month. The mortgage principal monthly payment increases by $2.19 a month; the HELOC principal monthly payment increases by $1.30 a month if I work at it.

Should I jolly myself by noting that at least my home equity is rising, for the first time in four years? Is it folly to think that $2185 paid sales tax on the car is going to make a difference in our 1040 return? I know proper withholding and the spouse's 401(k) and Health Savings Account contributions will ensure we don't endure another horrific $2000 tax bill like last year.

Has anyone made a huge, immediate payoff on a low-interest loan and felt much better despite the resulting decrease in savings? Paying off debt at 12.99% or even 6.9% seems like a no-brainer: here our choices are a DEPRECIATING asset at 2.74% APR that takes $284.25 a month out, or a HELOC at 3.0%, or saving for moving expenses.

We do have enough equity to move. We see the effortless payment in full of our car loan and our HELOC with the post-commission, post-tax proceeds of the house sale, and at least 50% downpayment on our next home. And we do not have zero savings. If we had to pay for the car in full in February, we could. If we had to pay the balance owing on the HELOC immediately, we could. But it's one or the other, not both.

Really hoping to see at least a $50 decrease in conscious expenditures per month with regular YNAB tracking. Maybe more links to entrees made with tomato sauce (we have over a dozen cans now) and grains (bulgur, wheat berries, lentils, groats and rice dominate our pantry) would be helpful.

I am not going to London in August with my friend. It is unfair to my family to put us in further debt momentarily of something that has no benefit to them. Sacramento is still okay because its expenses will be one-tenth of what I would spend in the United Kingdom, it would be a family trip of brief duration, and there's at least the tantalizing prospect of passing the test and interview.

I used to fall for Safeway's "Gas Rewards" program but now that we fill our car up maybe once a month, the gas rewards accumulate faster than we can use them, unless we pay for 2 - 3 gallons once a week, and the gas rewards expire too.

Recipe Request Fulfillment Department

January 20th, 2013 at 03:32 pm

wasted some money on a double cappuccino and blueberry scone today while chatting with friend, then on some kitty weed, dried and fresh, to test the cats' individual speeds to "oblivion." One cat is mellow, one is happy, and one is surfin' about harum-scarum.

Skillet Chicken Dijon
Ingredients
1/3 cup hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
dash of pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
nonstick cooking spray, butter, or oil

Preparation
In a small bowl, combine chicken broth, wine, mustard, basil, tarragon and pepper. Set aside. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray or coat with a little butter or oil. Heat skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken. Cook chicken for about 2-3 minutes each side, or until lightly browned.

Remove skillet from the heat; carefully add broth mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken to a warm serving plate; boil pan juices for about a minute to reduce to about 1/4 cup. Pour juices over chicken. serve with rice and a green vegetable.

Servings: Four

Chicken Paprika
Lots of ways to make this. Could I find the one recipe with roast red pepper I had in front of me when I constructed this? No. Sorry. When I do, I'll post it here, or scan it and give you the link to my Mega lode. I have three others, but this one is quick and has the least ingredients.
Servings: Two
Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
paprika powder
ground pepper
can of stewed tomatoes
cup of cream (heavy? whipping? I use whipping)

Preparation
Place 1/2 cup of flour onto a piece of waxed paper and coat the chicken in the flour. In a large frypan, add some olive oil to cover the bottom and lightly fry the chicken until it is brown on both sides.

Remove the chicken from the frypan and set it aside.

Add stewed tomatoes juice to the frypan and stir over medium-high heat until juice boils. Add three tablespoons of paprika to the juice, and continue to boil for one more minute.

Add the cup of cream to the mixture and raise to a boil then reduce heat to low immediately. Replace the chicken in the sauce, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Update: You're welcome! Simple as this last one is, it is the one that my son's best friend asked me to send to his mother.

Menu Plan for the week, food & drink saving tips

January 19th, 2013 at 05:46 pm

I did a REAL pantry inventory, and a freezer inventory. I planned nine meals. Then I went shopping to use some coupons and up the entree stash to twelve.
Menu Plan
Tonight: Beef Fajitas with Salad
Sunday: TriTip Roast w/Yorkshire Pudding
Monday: Vegetable Lentil Soup w/Brioche
Tuesday: Roast Beef Sandwiches or maybe Chili
Wednesday: Skillet Chicken Dijon w/Rice Salad
Thursday: Cod, Broiled with Mustard and Tomato Sauce, w/Quinoa
Friday: Japanese-Style Salmon, Spinach and Soba Noodle Soup
Saturday: Either Chicken Paprika or Chicken w/Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Saved $30, gained 30 cent cash reward, at supermarket.
Bought single portion coffee filter cone. These are harder to find, because the Keurig products are taking over so much retail space. But check this out: where a $1.50 coffee, plus 10% tax, and 17% tip, will set back someone close to $2.00 for eight ounce drip, using gourmet whole bean coffee priced at $7/pound. One pound of whole bean coffee yields 32 eight-oz kitchen cups. So $1.90 x 32 = $60.80. $60.80 - $7.00 = $53.80 savings. And $1.50 is cheap for drip where I am. So paying $2.99 for a filter cone, plus $3.99 for some filters, will help in the medium term.

Froze some fajita marinade and now am preparing strawberries for freezing, to be used in smoothies, pies or sauces over custard and ice cream, and on Pavlova. How to freeze: first wash, hull, rinse, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet w/strawberries in freezer for a few hours. Then put strawberries in freezer storage bag.

Our Valentine's Day Dinner will be Potatoes Anna, Steak au Poivre (tenderloin under $14/lb, plus $5.00 discount for meat purchase over $20), and Chocolate Satin Pie. I am the only one in the house who goes gaga for Pavlova.

Eager to start fermenting, especially whey so I can use it on taro root and daikon and beets.

Chickened out of selling my mom's gold bracelet today. When I have a set date for Sacramento, or feel some financial pressure, or have a high three-digit 1040 tax return amount owed, I may sell it. I know I can get $800 for it.

Goals for gaining and losing pounds in 2013

January 18th, 2013 at 09:42 am

A kindred spirit has asked today about my availability to visit London (England, not Ontario) with her. So glad I renewed my passport! As we both are "women of size" (she is 6'3", I am 5'9.5") I cringe at the idea of being wedged into an airplane seat so will see if I can whittle my hip circumference by an inch or two. First class is no doubt roomier, but hella expensive.

Also, a Brit told me pound sterling is cheaper to accumulate in winter months, so will try to gain those. If nothing else, could be a fun arbitrage play.

2013 looks so exciting to one who has energy, hope and goals to aspire to!

My first NSD of 2013, doing without Costco, more

January 17th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Quite by accident I had a no-spend day. I was planning to have an espresso while waiting for my car during its scheduled maintenance (free), but free fresh coffee was available in the guest lounge.

I am postponing renewal of Costco membership. We found a great deal on canned diced tomatoes, canned beans, canned broth, and tomato sauce, beating Costco by 12 cents a can. We found whole bean coffee on sale at a regional supermarket for $7/lb. We normally buy bulk coffee at close to $6/lb in 5 lb bags. However, you know Costco has that membership fee, and with many of its products being comparable in price, we may not be saving all that much. We are especially not saving with frozen fish at Costco. I'd need to save at least $55 a year shopping at Costco. I may be a cranky-puss but some days I am not up to the metal rattle of carts and parking lot congestion.

We filled our gas tank for the first time this year: 8.6 gallons, $27.39. First fill-up since December 27.

I made a pantry inventory and posted it on the fridge, so I am reminded to use what we already have.

What I did to be frugal: I washed one cashmere and two wool sweaters at home. That is right, I did not use a dry cleaner, but opted for the washing machine and Woolite for Machine use. I used the Wool WAshables sitting, avoided agitation (this pills the fibres), and let them soak for over ten minutes before the spin cycle. I used a drycleaner formerly, until the laundress told me she was recovering from cancer. Then I thought of the chemicals used in drycleaning. I did not roll up the sweaters in towels, though. One of them, the cashmere, should have used that treatment. Instead I stretched them out on a clothesline over our heads. But they smell nice, and they fit, and they look clean.

I am also making a Frugal Living, and a DIY list of eBooks, eAudio, and regular books on my library account. Right now it is accessible only to Puget Sound area people, although the Frugal Living list compiled by the Bellingham Public Library got me started.

Now for a financial post

January 12th, 2013 at 11:38 am

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!

off-topic (evaporative post)

January 12th, 2013 at 09:22 am

Man, sometimes I think I suck for not garnering lots of comments (Jeopardy! budget-buster post excepted), but recently I have been reminded to be careful of what I wish for.

I used to be on Facebook, but it turned out that my relatives, whom I thought were great when I was a kid, were not great, and they figured I was not great either.

I did not pick fights, nor insult anyone. I played games, sent birthday greetings. Then I erred in posting about an exchange I had with some cultists who went door to door with a questionnaire. I said that a multiple choice questionnaire was a poor way to gather the religious and spiritual beliefs of a planetary population of 7 billion unique individuals, ending with "Needless to say, I am not a convert." and "this is not an invitation to religion discussion" and lo! the born-again cousin thought it was an invitation to religion discussion! And my atheist friends mocked her post, and my brother commented bitingly to my cousin, and then her brother got involved... that thread went gang aft agley. My born-again cousin defriended me. I did not post any comments, because I erroneously assumed my audience was composed of mature people. Losing someone who did not meet my audience expectation of reading comprehension and maturity was for the best.

I did not participate in this next episode, but it horrified me, sensitive soul that I am. I have this cousin who works at a mental hospital for the criminally wacko, she regularly saw and befriended some city police, who were shot dead at a coffee shop by, wait for it, a criminal wacko. She posted her grief on Facebook along with asking why a then-governor of another state granted the loon clemency for an earlier crime, and my uncle's wife and her relatives swarmed on her post like angry hornets. Neither my uncle's wife nor her relatives ever lived in the state where the governor granted the wacko clemency, but did that stop them from posting venomous comments in response to my cousin's grief? Of course not. I felt sick that people would behave that way. I left Facebook. I felt I could not post anything without people jumping down my throat, inventing offence where none was, and having to be that guarded and second-guessing what would tip someone into the lunatic zone got to be too mentally taxing for me.

I have to say that when I posted my grief here at losing some friends in a different coffee shop massacre, the comments were consoling, NOT abusive, and I love you for that.

It's a weird facet of social media that people who know someone intimately enough or long enough could connect with a poster via e-mail or post or phone, engage with "what did you really mean by..." but instead flock to the Web where electrons are forever and heap abuse so onlookers could see what kind of people they are. "Hey I need to have the last word, post more than three times on a thread, attack other commenters." Me, I have learned not to post anything that I would not want read back to me in a court of justice.

Thrift Ideas from Nov 2012 Canadian Living Article

January 10th, 2013 at 09:08 am

Article: "The Thrifty Life" by Patricia Dawn Robertson

Canadian Living is a women's lifestyle magazine.

My spouse and I are habituated to divide our meat from value-packs into recipe size portions, but what is new to us is the idea of freezing meat into marinades.

I also hadn't yet gotten around to making one big-batch meal a week, doubling the recipe so we can have a frozen meal. We'd been getting by on making one meal for four, and the spouse eating the leftover for lunch. We haven't made a "911 Pizza Call" ever, but we have started buying frozen pizza for "emergencies" (me going out somewhere without the menfolk).

Nobody here needs a reminder to check out blogs a few minutes each week for home management and money-saving tips. I haven't looked at rootsimple.com yet, which offers DIY tips for urban homesteaders.

I'm trying some DIY recipes: I used shampoo and hair rinse ideas, and now pest control. This is my shampoo recipe: herbal water (made from steeping a handful of dried herbs in boiling water overnight, using 8 parts of water to one part castile soap, 1/4 tsp. oil -- I used grapeseed, and a few drops matching essential oil). Lavender water is purple, I noticed, until Dr Bronner's lavender liquid soap is added, then it is green.

Off to buy some eucalyptus and rosemary oils for pest control and also for fighting sinuses in the shower.

YouTube has instructional videos on everything from crocheting a simple wool hat to fixing a bathroom sink.

For learning new skills: my pubescent child would do well to learn how to cook. I'll try involving him in some simple dishes. The Coca-Cola chicken we tried last month that he made was good and gave him a sense of pride and achievement.

Gratitude Post, frank expenditures, hot tip to some SA bloggers

January 9th, 2013 at 05:11 pm

For the past hour I have been feeling contemptuous of things that are beneath my contempt level, so this gratitude post is corrective action.

Today I am happy for:

1. Lunch walks with the spouse for errands. My favourite person, my favourite activity in which we are both erect.

2. We did not lose electric power during last night's wind and rain extravaganza.

3. I am doing well on the 8000 IU daily dose of Vitamin D3 for December/January. I am considering asking for a blood test when next I visit the doctor, preferably before March 15, so I can determine if my body's storage of cholecalciferol is adequate. My friends 110 mi north are taking only 2000-2500 IU a day, except for one who is taking 10000 IU and he says he genuinely feels better for it. After a six-week bout with a grisly virus that left me feeling like the walking dead five years ago, I am grateful for my decision to megadose on Vitamin D3. I have not experienced any toxicity problems.

4. eBooks available through my city's library system. I finally read an eBook for the first time ever, this past week. Having a lighter laptop with a longer battery life may have something to do with my adapted reading habit: I like taking it to a cozy overstuffed chair without fussing around behind the chair to plug in the adapter.

5. The late great operatic space alien/pastry chef Klaus Nomi concocted an easy lime tart recipe. That did not stop me from messing it up my first time (evaporated milk =/= condensed milk), but I will certainly make it again soon. Wanna try it yourself? (music not included)

6. Waking up without pain, at a proper time.
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I am not off to a great start in 2013, financially. Every day seems to be an expenditure unplanned. Replacement tire, news subscription, mattress pad, DH's spree at JC Penney (completely tongue-in-cheek here, I do not begrudge my man some major mark downs of new clothes, especially when his annual clothing budget is $200/year), other things I have kvetched about here. I did make half the credit card statement's balance due, the rest to be paid two weeks later.

A gift to you whose workflow of opening an Add Entry link and filling the Entry Text box to publishing frequently outlasts the 20-minute window, I tell you of Lazarus, a text recovery browser extension (I use it for Chrome, but here's a Firefox add-on link that preserves your text so you need only click on the pale green ankh on the upper right of the text box to reclaim your golden thoughts!

Sure Hope Karma Exists, Menu Plan

January 8th, 2013 at 01:23 pm

My friend and debt-buddy who referred us to an auto dealer qualifies for a $250 referral bonus. She might not have known this if I did not bring it to her attention: when I did she went through her mail and found the postcard advertising this promotion from the auto dealer.

The credit union reduced its 12-year no-fee mortgage rate. As I am committed to moving in the next six months I am not sure that a temporary $100 reduction in mortgage payment is worth it. The reduction might be worthwhile if my car loan and HELOC rates were higher than the mortgage, but they are not.

Kid is greedy: he'd been demanding some of my dead pool winnings, which he kinda got with a silver coin, $5 for his tooth I pulled out (OraBase benzocain is fun!), and the three-month extension on his clarinet rental. Just because it's not cash in his pocket to spend on LEGO(tm) does not mean he doesn't have it. Now he is attempting to negotiate a percentage for helping me in Jeopardy!

Menu for the next seven days:
- baked five-spice tofu, kale, carrots
- tofu coconut curry soup
- chicken coconut curry
- baked or broiled salmon
- roast chicken
- chicken leftovers put to good use
- bean soup

2013 Resolutions, plus free Adobe software

January 7th, 2013 at 10:16 am

pay off 7% of existing debt.
Use coupons, rebates, gifts as debt repayment. Focus on car, then HELOC.
Read eBooks, books I already own.
Be actively grateful 4-5 times a day.
Download and use task managers to reduce chaos, if a free task manager exists for Windows, or use Google Tasks.
Learn how to use Evernote.
Master Excel and OpenOffic Calc.

Learn how to manage my money with Google Calendar.

Get as many things for free as possible.

Learn how to deal with difficult people, and remind myself not everyone, maybe not even the majority of people, is like that, and that everyone has a down day. Learn it's okay to assert that being difficult is not necessary to a "winning formula."

Big changes, or Changes from Bigness:
Develop and use an entry-level gentle exercise program.
Learn to love Poached eggs with Wilted Balsamic Greens.

For a Limited Time Only! Slickdeals.net has links to getting Adobe Creative Suite applications for free, like InCopy, PhotoShop, Audition, Acrobat Pro, GoLive, et cetera.

A good budget-buster

January 3rd, 2013 at 04:38 pm

Guess who passed Jeopardy!'s Online test for adults and will be invited to a city (700 miles away) for audition?

I learned this of course two days after I registered for the 2013 online test (consequently I shan't be taking it), and close to a year after I took the 2012 test.

(Practicing with the son's Wii game 2x/day)

$20 Challenge

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:05 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.