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Archive for November, 2014

Another Lazy Update Sunday Here in Savings Status Land...

November 23rd, 2014 at 09:50 pm

I did earn $100 through a focus group, yay for me, but in addition to the $137 I spent on pillows this week, the spouse spent an equivalent amount on waterproof hiking boots. Given our winter weather this is understandable.

Thanks to those who clued me into Moto G, Moto X phones and Ting cell access provider. I found that Ting sells refurbished iPhones on its website. Woowoo! When I recollect my experiences in the Far East and in the Great White North, I find that the capability to use my phones outside the U.S. is a strongly desired feature. I don't like it when I access my e-mail accounts overseas, and because the IP address is different from my home a verification code is sent to a phone I can't use because I am overseas (e.g. hotmail. Gmail and Yahoo! mail accounts are actually good for using outside the US because their verifications are questions we can answer correctly no matter where we are), whereas hotmail/outlook/Live accounts are garbage, plus, Microsoft has placed binding arbitration amendments on Terms of Use for those accounts.

When I perused a Consumer Reports Buyers Guide for Electronics, I was disappointed to see that the smartphones offer at best middling telephony performance. When I want to buy a phone it's because I want better reception and performance for voice "across the universe", not so much data (altho data is very convenient!) and not apps upon apps. I know this is because I am old.

I mailed three packages across two oceans yesterday. The US Postal Service needs to add staff on Saturdays: only one person worked at the counter. I did fill out the customs forms before I entered the office with my packages. Astounded to learn it'd cost $33 US to fly my softcover book to Newfoundland (that is in Canada), so I'm driving to the Lower Mainland next week to take care of Xmas cards and this present, plus to deliver an autographed copy of Ken Jennings' _Maphead_ (my family and I spot him here and there, usually in libraries and bookstores - he lives six miles from us) to a BC friend. Sure, I'll probably spend $15 US in gas, but I'll have some tins of nice After Eights, Carnation's hot chocolate powdered mixes of Rolo, Coffee Crisp and After Eights, Murchie's teas and coffees, Shreddies cereals...

I just now found our new Bank of America credit cards. I didn't shred them because they are Signature Cards with chip technology, which are helpful and gradually becoming required by Canadian merchants.

Pillow Talk, or, a Ballad for Heavy Lids

November 18th, 2014 at 10:17 pm

I learned recently that if your pillows don't spring back to their proper shape after you fold them over, they're of no more use. I wonder now what I can do with old pillows.

I bought two pillows at 50% off from JCPenney today. They are the second and third pillows I've bought this year. It seems I am always buying pillows, but maybe their purchases are conspicuous because I feel I am getting ripped off, or because we have six or seven usually and the life span for a pillow is three to five years. The beauty is that I have free shipping for the pillows.

A pittance of successes, plus a finances reboot

November 17th, 2014 at 01:41 am

I seem to have lost a spark. Read then, if you dare, this plodding narrative.

This whole burning & burying the brother episode led to a surprise: a credit limit increase to $21000 on one card, the day after I paid back the last of the amount. What this does to my credit utilization ratio is probably close to nothing: I still get so-so credit card offers, and ThirdFederal routinely sends me mortgage offers I can't qualify for.

Albertson's is having a meat sale: I amazingly purchased about ten pounds of fish (sole - $7/lb), pork (BOGO), chicken ($1.99 bnls skls per pound), stew meat, and steak (BOG2). I intended to buy animal protein under $5.00, so this was a windfall for me. I saw this golden oldie and Miz Pat's Pork Roasts recipe request, so am feeling more optimistic about feeding my family for under $3/plate.

I am starting my finances from scratch after my Spending in September and October. I keep a debt repayment/assets spreadsheet and am, sigh, $4000 under from the beginning of September. I have a fair bit in gold and silver, and that's tanked along with the Canadian currency I maintain "for emergencies", as the US dollar is so strong. Apparently some of my stocks like IBM, ONNN and GILD have dropped significantly in value as well. I'm happy I didn't buy PCLN, and that I managed some BRK-B purchase while it was still under $140. My first clue should have been how cheap the Yen was compared to my first trip to Japan. The good news is that I have run out of brothers and parents to bury, I guess.

If I can brave the dark and cold, I can get $100 for participating in a focus group on Thursday. I have too many wants for the $100 to cover. Birthdays, heating bill, a handful of hot soaks in a women-only sauna and hot tub place, Christmas gifts, maybe even Amazon Prime for a year...

Oh yes I am also currently in the lead in a Dirtnap for Dollars competition. Fortunately for me the lead competitor, who had four people in common with me on her list, disqualified herself by not ponying up the $20...

Menu for the Week -
Monday - Roast Sirloin
Tuesday - Chicken Tonkatsu
Wednesday - Cottage Pie? Leftover Roast Beef?
Thursday - Solo Sole. Guys can have whatever. Or I'll eat out, knowing I'll be getting $100...
Friday - Red Lentil Curry for real this time
Saturday - pork maybe? who knows. The mind reels. Especially after a few toots of Gentleman Jack (my bro's friends and I toasted him in a sendoff with this. I learned how to ask for aspirin in Japanese the morning of the funeral.)

A dull report

November 11th, 2014 at 06:17 pm

The quilts have come out from storage: high of 7 degrees C/44F today. One has some urine stains: ick! Dumped lotsa washing soda and some trickle of Woolite in the Delicate Soak cycle: hoping this will do the trick... I already regret not picking up OxiClean at Costco.


My kind of laundrette. Scooters and chamber musicians welcome!

Revisited the glove drawer to make sure I have matching pairs too. Even considering putting a "cold weather survival bundle" in the car: blankets, drinking water, flares, lightsticks, flashlight, matches, protein bars, whistle, hand warmers, kitty litter, window scraper, rag. No snow shovel: not in a severe weather area. For those of you between the Rockies and the Appalachians, north of 40, I feel for you. As my people would say, standing outdoors in their summer shorts: "A bit brisk, eh? Bit brisk."

Went to Costco for first time since... July? Easier to go in the evening! We didn't waste any time, stuck mostly to a rehearsed list, and paid $2.68/gallon for gas. It seems now we are always refuelling, and I am always buying vegetables. When we were fuelling every 10 days, I'd have a game with myself where I'd have to save at least a dollar on my spending when I went out. As I'd buy enough to warrant the size of the car this wasn't a problem. Now, I may have to try another game: the Use-It-Up or Pantry Challenge popular here.

Menu for the Week:
- Shepherd's Pie, tonight
- Bean Soup, with Kielbasa Wednesday
- Bean Soup Leftovers Thursday
- Either Red Lentil Curry or Quinoa-Kidney Bean Chili Friday
- Roast or Baked Chicken, yum or probably Bean Soup leftovers.

Done with Dead Brother, Onto Other Challenges

November 8th, 2014 at 06:01 pm

Recap:I've paid for obituary, memorial dinner, interment, funeral attire, hotel room, travel, gifts, postage for more gifts, thank you notes. I didn't contribute to the GoFundMe account for burial expenses, but I did pay close to half its current amount in interment, and brought the bones to Canada, so I think I'm good. I didn't contribute to the trust fund for my nephew and his mother, but I did help circulate notice of it to over 20000 people. I was the only blood relative who attended the funeral, so I'm good there too. Nobody's told me I haven't done enough. It just feels like I haven't because I don't know how much my brother left his widow. Objectively we can agree my brother should have planned better. Subjectively I don't feel his widow and son should suffer.

I am so happy to have an emergency fund. Christmas isn't going to be much fun though this year, unless we do an Advent Calendar of Joy or some antimaterialist mission. Something that doesn't involve a lot of money. I should probably mail something to my brother's widow and son though... maybe. I don't know how relationships through marriage go after a death. It's much up to the bereaved, or the older relatives, in my experience. I'm still in touch with my step-parents.

My husband did his open enrollment activity in front of me, groaning "that sucks" so I am gritting my teeth and mulling possible financial rearrangements. Like maybe paying for the car in full to free up some $$. I know he is reducing his HSA contribution. I may have to get my prescriptions filled in Canada if they'll cost half as much. Another thing I could do is reduce my espresso intake to once a week. I bought Mount Hagen Organic Instant coffee, which comes out to a little more than eighteen cents a cup, one twelfth of what I'd expect to pay for a demitasse of espresso. Nescafe is probably cheaper than that, even. I'd heard that Nescafe invests more $$$ in research and development. Half the coffee drinkers on the planet prefer instant. What helps me stay frugal is that I've become so old that I can't abide loud music in coffee shops in the daytime, and where I live it seems mostly young people with profound hearing loss are serving espresso. Seriously, isn't that what ear buds and earphones are for?

Shampoo: my hair's oil-clumpy whether I use a citrus shampoo, Garnier Fructis, or Dr. Bronner's soap. I wonder how I can get a smooth, manageable head of hair. Do I need to rinse with vinegar water every shampoo? And why do clumps of hair come out when I use soap or baking soda?

Food: Root vegetables and squash varieties I am experimenting with this year. We were introduced to yam chips and love them almost as much as sweet potato chips. Tried spaghetti squash for first time tonight, that was a big hit. Mostly I like roasting the root vegetables, putting tons of butter and maybe some chile powder or crushed red pepper on split-open halves of squash, with lime.