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Archive for April, 2014

End of Month Summation

April 30th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

No surprise, kitty's surgery took our monthly expenditure 10.2% beyond the takehome pay.
Equity is way up, about 1.7% over thirty days.

Next month is a triple paycheque month. I hope I can save the extra paycheque for things like 20th anniversary celebration, new mattress, debt paydown. I would, in fact, like to put some of it toward an investment to help us save even MORE money. Maybe neon jackets and saddlebags for bicycling, revive the garden now that I can go into my own backyard again; screen windows so no flies get in. Maybe $ for a written license test for the scooter. The credit card payoff is the highest priority. Hate carrying a balance. Hauling crap to the waste terminal.

Eating out took a lot of our budget too: my birthday, celebrating 70% equity in the house, a two-day sports competition fifty miles north, with four mouths to feed both days. I did pack some spring water and protein bars. Fuel cost doubled as a result. On the other hand, my grocery bill is 20% less than average.

I'm reading a splendid book on being thrifty: Be Thrifty: How to Live Better With Less compiled by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree. Its do-it-yourself articles are by a panoply of experts, with illustrations and clear instructions for acquiring the "skills" touted in online articles. Especially useful for the first-time homeowner. Plus lots of recipes. I'm hoping to save enough using these tricks and making other adjustments to pay for a new mattress. Also looking forward to making my own mayonnaise. I've been reading Elizabeth David, and even sixty years ago there were people like me who had no idea what fresh homemade mayonnaise tastes like.

In dead pool news I have an eighteen-point score in the pool with no profit.

Small, meaningful changes

April 23rd, 2014 at 03:44 pm

I spent over $100 today, for no meat. Wine, dairy, cereal, raw honey, household items, condiments, eggs were the big items. Looking at my waistline, I am ready to eat more eggs and ingest more adrenal-gland-friendly potassium-rich vegetables. I have more juice recipes and am looking forward to seeing the grocery bill come down even further.

I learned I have a whey allergy, or is it a lactose allergy? Whey has tons of lactose. I won't say what it does to my system, but I will say that I need digestive enzymes to keep the whey shake inside me for longer than an hour. I'm bummed, because I was using whey shakes for leucine and protein, with an egg, for meal replacements. I used coconut milk, not cow milk, in the shake.

The woman who loved to neglect her large dogs by never exercising them, so they'd freak out when the dog next door to them was being properly and regularly exercised, has moved away. I walked past her house and wow, it was quiet. I loved it. I think I may have PTSD because I keep expecting the dogs to start barking when my husband opens our back door. My neighborhood is now a beautiful place, with well-cared for dogs. I can walk to the supermarket and back through the shortcut woods. I can restart my garden. Then I have no reason to complain about the cost of onions, because I'll be growing my own.

This is not my year for commenting. I have learned that my comments, while not threatening, trolling, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, mostly not political, usually on-topic, and always true, have been deleted or have failed to publish. I have learned that US & Canada news is mostly advertorials or distractions to hide encroaching horrors or disastrous legislation. A US newspaper will not publish that a bank robber's been photographed as a likely suspect in more than one hold-up but will wring its hands about police brutality ("how dare you shoot for center mass at someone who charges you with a knife and whom you, in your working role as a robbery detective, have been told pointed a large firearm at a teller during a holdup"); a Canada newspaper will not accept a comment that a post-mortem blood alcohol test shows a driver was twice the legal limit when he died, even though a link to the actual medical examiner's substantial and supportive of evidence claims report is provided; a US weekly periodical will ask "did you see this out-of-control car back into a light pole and speed on city sidewalks endangering pedestrians?" but will delete a comment if the comment shows the registered owner of the car has over four dozen traffic infractions according to the *ahem* publicly available municipal and state courts histories, and has "Fast & Furious" films on his Facebook profile. I get that cars can be stolen, but how likely is it really that someone is going to steal, more than once, a 1992 BMW 750i with no gas tank cover that just so happens to belong to a reckless driver and notorious speed demon? To take it to outlying county areas to whizz around in transit centers and supermarket parking lots at 40 mph?

How is posting items that are verifiable and can be found online and available to the public bad? "I get that this is all public information available online to anyone, but we can't accept your comment. We could get sued." You know you live in a sucky area where people can be sued for saying "the morning sun is east and the evening sun is west." But whoa, the garbage, lies and unsubstantiated reports from these news outlets can't be believed by a discerning individual with some media literacy.

Can you imagine how dull "Sherlock" and "Elementary" would be in real life? "Actually, I have a lead with much evidence, including surveillance footage to go on, criminal record, address, the whole works." "SILENCE! The suspect might SUE! We must let them be free and celebrate their independence. Pretend concern and fake furrowed brows and frowns to go with our disingenuous hand-wringing are all that we can muster for this crime."

Mortgage flood insurance fee returned: Wowsers

April 14th, 2014 at 05:02 pm

Three dollars! Woohoo! I know, you're thinking "but wasn't there a humongous mudslide caused by heaviest rain in recent history? Shouldn't your mortgage flood fee be cranked up like the 5% extra your insurance company tacked on, with its documentation typed up by an ESL rhesus monkey with three fingers amputated?" But yes, only 19 months after my 12-year mortgage was instituted, I am refunded THREE DOLLARS! I could buy two global stamps and mail letters to my favourite people!

Apartment dwellings DO flood at my elevation, but our house hasn't had that problem, thank goodness.

Impatience got the best of me this week and I paid down 9.5% of our credit card purchase before the April 27 statement, plus 100% of the Target credit card before the April 22 statement. So now we will have $75 to last us three days in the savings account. The good news is that we're full up on vegetables and meat, car fuel, cat food and coffee.

My husband ate up the lo mein I made yesterday with our 1/2 lb remaining ground beef. I was going to reheat leftovers but now eating takeout seems like a good idea.




Time for a Coin Change

April 13th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Had good frugal shopping day today, except for the seltzer water, but we saved $4 buying the seltzer so okay.
Chicken thighs for ninety-nine cents a pound, whole chicken for eighty-eight cents a pound, bought nine tins of the cats' favourite food at 15% reduction, free sour cream, pork chops for $2.20 a pound.

I'm bothered by the price of beef being so high, but I can still eat eggs, seafood, pork and chicken.

Birthday is coming up, spring break for boy is this week: an expensive week. Trying to up the fun factor and down the spending. Soon I'll be venturing out for a long walk in the sun. Planned is a dinner on an island, we have a restaurant coupon and ferry discount coupon. This is to celebrate the 70% equity milestone. Another activity could be trying our hand at pie-making, or buying a neon jacket and getting the bicycle fixed and outfitted with an engine to go up hills. When I tell people I'd like to get a Raspberry Pi they say "that's a super idea! I might get one too!" and then they're surprised that I mean the Pi with cables and memory card and LED wires. Although a Raspberry Pie or Key Lime Pie or Mexican Chocolate Pie sounds great too. I'm more concerned with feeling fantastic than risking a positive correlation between money spent on me and any positive self-esteem I may have. So I'm staying off the forums for a "free or dead cheap ways to celebrate my birthday" question because I prefer to come up with answers without getting verbal abuse from strangers.

I did treat myself to Turkish coffee and orange flower water. Only twenty-three cents a cup for a 6 ounce trip to the secular Middle East! Beat that, Starbucks!

I may open up a DogeCoin wallet and start using GoogleWallet. And start playing with my finances so I can find ways to save more than 3% and put the savings toward debt reduction. Oh for the day I can obliterate one five-digit debt. Might be a four-digit debt before that happens.

Millimetring forward, Kilometring back

April 10th, 2014 at 08:31 am

Most importantly thank you for the kind thoughts about my brother, and the cat. My brother's problem is fixable, the cat's, not so much. I haven't heard from him in a while so maybe he's calmed down and is busy getting his affairs in order.

My men took advantage of Ben & Jerry's "Free Cone Day" promotion on Tuesday. I bought Apple stock, finally, after weeks of saving up for the amount needed for commission and one full share. I probably need to do some spring cleaning on my Roth IRA, while I'm busy changing passwords on my accounts.

Oh yeah, equity in the house has pushed past 70%! It boggles me how I can be paying over $700 principal per month on a small house in a "thriving metropolitan area" and yet accrue equity oh so slowly. Eight years ago we were at 65% equity.

My birthday's coming up and I can't bring myself to buy myself a present because of the $1092.79 on the credit card. The only person who talks about my b-day is my son who tells me I should go up to B.C. and have a good time. Last time we did that, for his birthday, he complained and still complains about the 20 whole minutes we spent at one of the greatest independent record stores in North America, at his father's request. We didn't spend over $100 there, so I don't know what the big deal was.

Maybe renewing the Costco membership will be the birthday present. The sales flyers don't do anything for me: I'd rather have a dead cheap 10lb bag of quinoa than leather furniture, 54oz tubs of coconut oil rather than a bulk assortment of KIND or CLIF bars...

I may abandon the 52-week Savings Challenge. The oral surgery that led to the cat's dismal prognosis usurped my future savings and dispelled any grand 20th anniversary notions I may have had. For weeks 13 and 14 I moved the savings to the Roth IRA to take advantage of the AAPL purchase.

Incidentally, right now my total debt equals the mortgage amount we took out in September 2011. I feel that one debt is going to be eradicated within a year in one swoop, perhaps two or three.

Cents-Conscious Cooks, read Budget Bytes

April 7th, 2014 at 11:09 am

I'm seriously considering BUYING this cookbook, as if I don't have enough on my shelf. Beth Moncel, creator of www.budgetbytes.com, doesn't know me, didn't pay me to endorse this.

I'm pretty sure the recipes here will not slash my grocery bill in half, as promoted on the front cover, but the recipes I've used are very tasty, and easy to follow. Beth Moncel tells us what's freezable, and her recipe ingredients are LARGELY what's in the pantry. I've never had lo mein noodles, for example, had no idea they were American, and struck out at Asian markets.

For instance, I made her chip dip recipe, and it was even better than what I'd find at the supermarket. I did use Spike Saltfree Seasoning, though, as a substitute. And her Soft dinner roll recipe I side-eyed (where was the oil? and the milk?) but tried only because of her paragraph anecdote of how fast they went, and my spouse admitted he liked Ms. Moncel's variant better than the coconut oil and nutmeg one I use. My child inventories servings of foods he really likes, so his "how many did you have?" is a marker of excellence. He even helped make the southwest chicken salad recipe with me.

You don't have to buy the book. I didn't get hold of the book blindly from the store, but put a hold on it at the library after visiting Budget Bytes.

OT: Morbid day!

April 4th, 2014 at 07:11 pm

Okay, not completely off-topic. We've spent $413 on the cats for vaccination boosters, and $1100 on oral surgery for one of them, who has since been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. She's got less than six months, I think.

The $1100 was for a biopsy and two teeth extractions, anesthetic, medications and X-rays. I did not tend to this matter: it was dealt with by someone more tenderhearted and less money-obsessed than I.

I don't like that the bulk of our tax refund went to a cat with a few months to live, but I suppose life goes like that. Edit: it could have been much worse if we didn't have the money or if the cat hadn't reached her average life span. And no, we didn't vaccinate her. Looks like we don't have to bother with that now.

Also, my brother found out after his shoulder surgery he has hypertension and an enlarged heart. He is feeling mortal and told me he'd assign me executrix duties. He hasn't done a will yet. He has a wife and a child. Maybe he's panicky from the post-op drugs.

$3.54 away from $120000 debt

April 1st, 2014 at 06:15 pm

This doesn't include what's extant on the credit card.

I calculated the interest on our mortgages: over twenty-four and a half years we'll have paid $152,599.06. Over fifteen years we've paid $134,299.22. Calculation of cumulative interest for original 30-year mortgage is $240,739.28. I'm keeping these numbers in mind so I don't feel terrible about extending some debt to maintain lower monthly payments.

The latest company to vex me is Paypal. I wanted to donate to Rare Ideas LLC for its Portable Apps Bundle as requested. I was prompted, when donating through PayPal, for the last four digits my SSN and date of birth, which I supplied, but PayPal demanded more than what I'm willing to give an online "payment transfer agent" that can't process or recognize my date of birth and SSN. So I emptied my account and am looking at DogeCoin, LiteCoin, BitCoin and GoogleWallet, among others. If you need to know specifics I'd had the account for over seven years, never had more than $25, and had a total of four transactions over those seven years, none of them with "sanctioned" or "forbidden" countries, all of them donations or shareware payments under $10 USD, no guns no porn no knives no plutonium etc. So none of this IRS declaration or maximums being reached, or withdrawal monthly limits hit problems that sour many other relationships with PayPal.

Still sour about cat expenses.

Eating down the pantry and freezer, so to speak. Fridge looks bare except for condiments and Bob's Red Mill grain bags (Flaxseed, Cornmeal). Tried some Lentils with Salmon: tasty with thyme, leeks and red vinegar. Groceries for the month of March cost $512.38