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Archive for February, 2013

Jeopardy! 2013 Audition itinerary

February 12th, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Of interest mostly to people who live in the vicinities where we'll be dining and eating. Food recommendations heartily welcome.

March 4/5 sleep in Eugene, OR. Lodgings not yet booked.
Heading south.

March 5/6 downtown Sacramento, letter streets.
dinner probably in Redding or Ashland. 11:30 - 2:00 audition. Heading north.

March 6/7 sleep in Medford, OR. Lodging booked. Heading north.

Won't be posting much else for awhile unless I learn of some incredible, effective savings. Debt Reduction numbers will be updated, however.

If you want to share here an interesting fact about yourself or someone else, please do.

Hello, Bottom

February 10th, 2013 at 08:59 pm

BTW, borrowed Paul McCartney CD "Kisses on the Bottom" from library, which is a sure sign I am old. It's a Starbucks CD, and Paul sings sweet romance ditties from the 1930s. Perfect for Valentine's Day. Also borrowed the Wong Kar Wai film "In the Mood for Love."
Because, you know, Valentine's Day. Which I am apparently spending with two fifth grade males.

I scooped some Sunday newspaper coupon inserts from the library recycling bin.

When I told my friend of the money people leave behind in the self-scan counters, she said she was going to beat me to it.
"You and I shop at different hours," I said.
"If I see you, no matter what aisle I'm in, I'm going to zoom to the self-scan and grab that change before you do," she said.

Told debt group I was not going to pay down any debt other than what's automatically removed from my accounts until my house is sold. I did mention that I need budget tweaking to find more ways to save. I did not get any suggestions other than "you need to think about going back to work," a recommendation to visit an Asian market for fruits and vegetables, and an offer to look through our spending register. I have been anxious all weekend because of this budget imbalance. My cold disturbed my thinking so much I forgot where the car was after debt group.

I was disheartened after listening to everybody, including myself. I told them "homework: identify FIVE things that are going well for you financially." Here are mine:

1. The house value is growing by $30 a day, and the house equity by $53 a day.
2. I have enough food in the house for 16 days' worth of meals.
3. I can pay off one loan if I had to.
4. My equity is currently more than the original sale price of the house.
5. My heating bill and my water/sewer/yard waste/recycling bill are both 2/3rds of what is average for a household our size (equal square footage).

Meal Planning:
Monday - lunch: leftovers; dinner: Roast beef w/Yorkshire Pudding
Tuesday - Pancakes!
Wednesday - Chicken Tarragon Spaghettini
Thursday - Steak au Poivre; Potatoes Anna; cupcakes'n'ice cream
Friday - Frankfurters Paprikash with Sauerkraut
Saturday - Baked Chicken

Still working on my budget

February 9th, 2013 at 03:40 pm

The 2% Social Security tax is back and our paycheck is 2 percent smaller. Sadly, food, utilities, gasoline for the car have not decreased. We feel the pinch, most sensitively thanks to our car loan.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers suggestions for adding dollars back into our budget. Lo:

Adjust our withholding. This is good if you receive a tax refund every year, but what if you don't? I could review our Health Savings Account contributions.
Pay with cash. We try to. Comcast, our $3/month spam-free e-mail account and our mobile phone we pay with credit card. And it's still nice to have the RedCard. I am no longer using one stamp to pay a $3.00 bill. After Hurricane Sandy, I am no longer mailing mortgage payments to New Jersey. So that's 94 cents saved a month. Times eleven = Hey, that's ten dollars! We have been good, but not stellar, about abstaining from coffee out, probably because we have colds. Would you believe, addict that I am, it took me 27 hours between coffees because I was downing 56 ounces raw honey/ginger/cayenne/apple cider vinegar daily? My head was sweating too much to bother with the bloody pipecleaner effect of caffeine withdrawal.

We have found sixty-six cents this week in the self-checkout stations. I was almost at a dollar when I opened my big yap and offered to split the bounty with someone heading toward the cash-rich, vacated (but not yet voided) station. The attendant interfered and ruined my fun. Maybe this is something someone under the age of 12 who can't be held indeterminately without charges can do for me instead.

Find $10 in each of 10 categories each month. Shave $10 off the grocery bill. That sounds so doable. It's the other nine categories I worry about. If I can reamortize I can shave $10 from the car loan. I can stop making extra payments to the home equity line of credit: that would be $69 saved. It's silly to do so if we know for sure we are leaving within five months. Yet I wanted to see that $20K milestone of principal paid. Don't tell me that you haven't been tempted to push a repayment goal ahead of schedule!

We caved in and went back to Costco. We got wild salmon at $6.99/lb, ana Colombian for $5/lb. $3.00/lb (* 2lb) and $1/lb saving from a 5 lb bag of whole beans = $11 savings.

See if there's something I can sell for $10 each month. Fackit, it'd be great if people READ the ads and WANTED what I had for sale. It's not like I don't take photos, crop them appropriately, and don't add relevant details to the items.

Change habits. I don't buy weekly lottery tickets, nor do I buy newspapers. The only library I visit more than once a week is the one I can walk to without my heart bursting. Caffeine is a habit but I am changing: I am using up the powdered coffees and not going out for coffee except for once a week.

Yesterday I learned that frozen items like roasts and whole chickens can be placed in slow cookers. This is good to know.

My cold "refuculated" my thinking processes, and I believe it's because the body energy was rerouted into mucus production instead of cogitation. I got lost (!!) twice while driving, thought I asked for a $1.50 drip but got a $2.75 latte, spazzed out when I saw $20 fall out of a Christmas card (hey, the card wasn't addressed to me) and hastened the recipient to write a thank-you letter, spazzed out again trying to find the correct address of the gift giver, vamoosed to drop the card in the mail (already six weeks late, but remember, cogitation got downgraded to Priority 4) spazzed out once more attempting to corral 2012 tax statements (haven't yet found 2012 W2) and completely spaced about thawing something out for dinner. It was not a good day, unless one was a virus-fighting antibody, or you were a four-and-a-half-star rated cheap burger place in suburbia. My bladder got a good workout.

Yo mama so poor she went into McDonald's...

February 6th, 2013 at 09:11 am

...and put a milkshake on layaway. That's about how I feel.

$4.00 - That's how much leeway our monthly budget might allow us. Anything more than $4.00 growth in savings accounts, or $4.00 depletion of interest in debt accounts, is gravy. A Very Thin Gravy.
I feel I've gone so far down in saving $ (without spending $$$ for a trickle of a monthly payback) that a severe change is needed. I believe the car loan is responsible, combined with the expiration of the tax cut. Our debt burden is higher than recommended and that unsettles me. Outside Sacramento and the water heater, we have $650 less in savings than what we owe on the Home Equity Line of Credit and the car loan.

I am feeling bugged because we're now, what, one sixth into the month and we've blown 35% of our restaurant budget already.

I have to sell the house in six months or else refinance. I have not yet done our taxes, but I have a gloomy apprehension we will owe even more.

The upsides: we have ten years left to go on our mortgage, we're paying more than twice as much in principal as we do in interest, so lots of equity. Our area has been slower than other Seattle areas for house appreciation though: our equity, after $4400 principal payment, is now what it was six months ago. Still, this is the first year we have seen positive market value appreciation since 2008, so I'll take it. We are using under 25% of our home equity line of credit limit.

Yes, I am tracking our purchases and using coupons. I have a debt group meeting (not Debtors Anonymous, more post-MSN-MoneyCentral-Women in Red) and I'll bring up the subject that I need budget tweaking or more ways to save. If the sale of the house is a sure thing this spring/summer (88% certainty: where we move to depends on how the citizens of Seattle feel about renewing a school building expenditure levy), I need not bother saving for a "vacation" if I have the $$ on hand (or "on wrist" in this case) or for home repairs or home improvement if I'm just going to borrow from the HELOC. That's $155 a month relief right there.

I told one woman in our debt group how I was feeling about my budget and she offered to host a potluck one month in her apartment. I can't host in my house because one woman is allergic to cats, and the last time I hosted everyone was allergic to cats and my cat would NOT leave us alone once he woke up from his nap, screaming when I kept it out of our room, threatening to jump on the lap of the most allergic/fearful member if he and I did not change seats.

$25.00 goes to a CD in an automatic deposit monthly. The payments to the HELOC and the car are automated as well.

More ways to save money:

Try Planned Parenthood. Visit one of these clinics if you need a routine Pap test, a new birth-control prescription, or even a flu shot. Call your local office to find out what services it offers and its fees (which vary from state to state but are often less than a private doctor’s). Most locations accept insurance.

Buy more fruits and vegetables. Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that when families add more produce to their diets, their waistlines get smaller and their food budgets can shrink by 25 percent. This may happen soon, thanks to our current thin budget surplus and the drought of 2012. I see a tempeh experiment in our near future.

Your AAA membership gets you more than roadside assistance. It scores you discounts at retailers like Target.com, New York & Company, and more. Visit aaa.com for details.

Cash out. Some shops, especially independent ones, will offer you at least 10 percent off when you pay with cash (I have never seen this, personally).
Ask a manager or the owner before paying. I'm going to try this with the water heater.

Make free phone calls. Download a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application onto your computer and dial up family and friends worldwide at no charge. Sign up at skype.com, lingo.com, or voip.com.

Boost your deductible. Increasing your policy’s deductible from $200 to $1,000 may save you as much as 25% on insurance costs annually.

The average person files a claim just once every 8 to 10 years, so you’re better off stashing the amount of your deductible in an interest-bearing savings account. I may raise our deductible from $500 to $1000.

New-to-me ways of saving money

February 4th, 2013 at 02:28 pm

I went to supermarket without my wallet, d'oh! It wasn't a total loss: I got some exercise, plus I collected 41 cents from the change receptacles in the unattended self-scans, plus four coupons. I bet I got more money in those three minutes than the guy begging outside the supermarket property perimeter did. Better yet, I got that money without having to ask people to part with it, and they'd already made the decision to leave without their change. Super Bowl is a good time to check the stations for change: lotsa people do emergency shopping during breaks.

Bestbuyeyeglasses.com - get specs at a fraction of the cost.

Comparing the cost of frozen vs fresh, especially in winter months. Fresh green beans: $2.99/lb at Kroger. Frozen green beans: $1.69 for 12 ounce bag at Kroger.

Using the sensor on the dryers. We'd been cranking the timer up to 70 minutes regardless of load. But I just now noticed the sensor, and used it for the comforter on the kid's bed. It's not a down comforter and it is small enough to put in the dryer. I use the sensor based on what is being dried, and also alter the dryer heat accordingly. This does not work all the time because whereas *I* try to take proper care of fabrics, I live with "if it fits in the washer put it on whatever mode" thinkers.

I air-dry delicate wool and cashmere sweaters, silk jammies, and my Marimekko shirts.

I made Pork Katsu and it was restaurant-quality at one-fifth the cost. The dipping sauce was zesty as I doubled the "hot mustard" quantity.

Tax Documents Checklist

Just discovered http://www.couponmom.com/cellfire-464 but I don't like to use the Java plug-in. I installed the Java plug-in on my IE browser only, my go-to browser for "YES I WANT TO BE WATCHED WHILE I WEB SURF" action.

Boy and I need to learn how to sell stuff. This guide should help. Finding specialty markets is the killer. For instance, I posted an ad selling four VHS cassettes, two of them rare, $10 for the whole set. EBay shows individual price listings for two at $12.99 and $10.99. I am not posting on eBay: I will probably have to open a new account and sell there.

I've known for a week now that I will be spending Valentine's Day evening with my kid while DH skips off to a schlock movie course. Heading to the women-only spa in the evening is not in the cards when I have a male fifth-grader to take care of: I will have strawberry pavlova and play Jeopardy! with my favourite blood relative male I suppose.

Recipe Request Fulfillment Dept - Pork Katsu

February 2nd, 2013 at 07:42 pm

Ingredients for four servings
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or 1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon hot mustard (I'm using Colman's Dry Mustard mixed with liquid)
4 pork cutlets, about 1 1/2 pound in total (no bone)
1 egg
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 cup panko crumbs
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup corn or 1/4 cup peanut oil

steamed rice, opt., for serving

Directions
1
Make the dipping sauce thusly:
Stir together 1 T. of hot water and the soy sauce, mirin, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and mustard. Set aside.
2
Prep the pork thusly:
Place the pork cutlets between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound them with a meat pounder until about 1/4 inch thick, unless they are already thin-cut in which case disregard the pounding and move to the next instruction. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg. Spread the flour and panko on 2 separate plates. Season the flour with the salt and pepper. Also, season the pork cutlets with salt on both sides. Dip the pork first into the seasoned flour, then the egg mixture, and lastly the panko (coating both sides). Press the panko into the pork so it stays put.
3
Panfry the pork thusly:
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just hot and then add the oil. Add the cutlets and fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and just opaque at the center (you don't want to overcook pork) - this should take approximately 5 minutes on each side.
4
Tranfer the cutlets to paper towel to drain briefly, then cut across the grain into strips 1/2 inch thick.
5
Serve with the dipping sauce and rice.

You can use boneless chicken breasts instead of boneless pork for chicken katsu.

I finally resolved the OverDrive Media Console issue. This matters to my frugality plan because I won't have to skirt the law by using uTorrent or eMule, nor head to the video store. I am vindicated by my hours of torment with the knowledge that somebody who wrote The Word 2007 Bible had my problem and took more reboots to solve the problem than I did. Someone who writes a 700-page software application comprehensive manual is NOT a computer newbie, and is NOT incapable of following directions. I write this because in the extensive volley of e-mails with the library support staff (I never once berated nor belittled them), several times staff members suggested I try methods I had already listed as "tried" in earlier e-mails. I silently questioned their reading comprehension. They'd never had the problem come up before.

things I did to save money today

February 2nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

We visited some libraries. I returned a book and some CDs to avoid fines: DH and DS borrowed items, I did not. We wrote Valentines at a cafe near a library and a post office: that was not money saving except we used a coupon to get one drink free.

We walked to get some money-saving microfiber cloths. Suddenly Frugal author Leah Ingram says they are a good deal. I used my Target RedCard. Then we walked downstairs with a 75-cent coupon to buy two Whisker Lickins packages for the cats.

We went to Safeway to bulk-buy cat food, which was on special for 20% off, and bought other things on sale for "poverty food week" like baked beans and meat for under $2.50/lb.

Total spent: $58.00
Total saved: $15.75

Speaking of poverty food week, here's my meal plan for the week

tonight: sausage, tomatoes, and cream farfalle
Sunday: pork katsu w/soba noodles in dashi
Monday: beef stew
Wednesday: potato pancakes w/sauerkraut
Thursday: beanie weenies
Friday: Shepherd's Pie

We drove to another library near a drug store to recycle a CFL bulb. From the library I took out a Berlin Philharmonic recording of some Paris songs and a book on how to be Smarter on Sunday (Jeopardy! cramming) and an Edward Abbey comic novel about environmentalists flirting with ecoterrorism.

Used the library to investigate quality plumbers with competitive prices for our water heater.

I'm a wee bit disappointed with _Suddenly Frugal_, although there are some good tips. For instance, if I know my child plans to continue with his chosen instrument, I could buy a used clarinet instead of renting. Nobody in my area watches rare silent films on VHS so I must advertise on eBay. But the author calls her food budget benchmark $180/week, which is what we spend roughly on food ourselves. Unless she has three teenage boys and two Great Danes, this is not really a frugal grocery budget.

My African-American History month reading is _Invisible Man_ by Ralph Ellison.

I'll yammer more on this later, but I am scratching my head as to how to live this well or less on the decreased take-home pay. I keep wanting to stretch and expand instead of constrict.

February

February 1st, 2013 at 07:27 am

What I am thankful for:

1. My kid is fine with homemade valentines for his class. I usually make homemade valentines where he picks out the designs. We are doing innocuous
1920s style Valentines: no white kids on the front, no barebutt Cupids, no gushy romance, but a Rumi poem.

2. St. Nicholas, the magazine for young folks that ran from 1875 to 1940, has some issues scanned online, available at books.google.com and archive.org. I love the illustrations!

3. If 2001 turned out the way Walter Cronkite told our parents it would, I would be thankful for the Robot Housemaid. I do not have a Robot Housemaid.

(And here at 0:57 of 1999 AD, a Savings Advice blogger looks to the internet for menu planning for a picky family! It would have been far better if Karen suggested a scotch and soda instead of the high caloric beer for Mike!) In the year 1999, there will be a Wink Martindale in every home. He will be your father...your husband...perhaps both. I am always thankful for the Internet. Even if I look at it too long.

4. Yahoo! mail has a filter. FlyLady changed its content delivery partner, and no longer has digests, so now I receive up to ten posts a day, some of them marketing-concentrated.

I have some personal challenges for this month: a big one will be cramming for Jeopardy, another one is the Organized Home big clutter cleanup.

SavingsAdvice.com blogs are like Our Gang short subject Mush and Milk today:
Blogger One: Don't touch the Blog Settings
Blogger Two: Why?
Blogger One: They're SPOILED

Not complaining. This is a great resource, I am thankful and have expressed gratitude, I am just seeing the humour of the situation.