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Archive for January, 2015

Completed Tax Return

January 31st, 2015 at 08:51 am

By pencil and paper. I used the laptop's calculator key for confirming sums and differences. Now that I can access my 1099s online and print them out I can get through this faster.

We have money coming back to us. Not enough to do anything crazy with. I could get the Money Market Account balance back to three times our income, pay 1% of our debt balances except for the mortgage, have a good dinner out, and buy some underpinnings for me. Perhaps put half of a phone from Ting aside. I'm really looking forward to having customer service interactions with people who understand English.

CAN-US folks, Any tax-time rituals?

January 30th, 2015 at 10:54 am

I printed out the return, some schedules and a form. I was going to use the credit union's discounted TurboTax application but I see that Linux is not supported. (Note to Tabs, yes I could use wine, I'm used to doing my taxes on wine... and potato chips.)
Linux doesn't want to recognize the Pushing Daisies DVD I got from the library either. The TurboTax online site wanted me to upgrade my Firefox 35.0.1 browser. So my options are Windows or pen-and-paper or invest some time in installing and using a browser extension that'll mimic a Windows user-agent setting.

How do you file your taxes? How do you make the tedium of form-filling bearable? Do you use TaxCut or TaxAct?

Belated Goals for 2015

January 27th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Magic number: Twelve!

Some of these are already in progress. Some of them are in the uh, wings, germination file?

Average 1% Debt Principal Repayment Monthly:
Total 96800 - Dec 31 2015
Mortgage: $82697
HELOC: $9178.57
Car: 4924.43

Average 1% Liquid Assets growth, monthly.

Average 1% Living and Storage Reclaimed through Decluttering, Monthly.


Lose 12% of body weight in one year without drugs or serious illness. It has occurred to me that I probably have to exercise nearly every day just to maintain weight. I wonder if it's possible to lose 1% of mass around the bust, waist and hips monthly.

I am playing with the idea of, IF the Seattle Seahawks win the National Football League's Super Bowl game on Sunday, surrendering 49 dollars for each point the team has over the New England Patriots NFL team to HELOC and car loan repayment. If the team loses, business as usual.

A gratitude moment from Chico Marx

January 25th, 2015 at 10:57 am

Well itsa like this, boss: Pinky and me, we gotta organize da files for da tax time. Da room, it looka like da hurricane wid all da paper harumscarum only there's no harem because the clutter scarum away, heh heh. Pinky, he finda da Walgreen DRP papers, and he looka through them, and whaddayaknow [slaps hand for emphasis] da original purchis amount is dere, thirty-five dallas in May 2008. And da stock done double, more dan dat seven years later, seventy-five dallas. Atsa fine, boss.



Only da room it still looka like de hurricane boss, and atsa no good boss. Gonna feed Pinky that 5 hr Performance Energy gunk, make him clean up plenty good. So we no screw up so bad, not alla time. Sometimes we shoot da stocks lika I shoot da keys on the pianna boss. And sometimes we shoot da stocks like... well maybe weno shoota da stocks maybe da stocks shoota us sumtimes.

At last, payday

January 24th, 2015 at 05:19 pm

I feel I want to post something, because it was payday yesterday. However, to keep this light and positive, it will be brief.

After daily doing the Temporal Tap and exercising, I am 1/2" thinner in the waist and thighs, and 1.5" reduced in the bust. I must not have taken an accurate first measurement up there as the last two measurements were also 1.5" less than initial recording. I am doing exercises in addition: leg raises, "air bicycles" and sit-ups, and walking when I have to. I haven't weighed myself, for fear that my weight in pounds is the same as my height in centimetres. I go by how I fit in my pants and the measuring tape recording of bust, waist and hips.

What's good in budget land: Only $42.73 in Dining for the month, and $493.22 for groceries (two adults, three cats, one teen boy) for the month. I expect to pay $30 more this week for Ziploc bags, milk, Woolite, et cetera. I paid $84 for car's $30K mileage maintenance. I have a low maintenance car, which makes the automotive expenditure closer to bearable. I made a mini Costco run for coffee and Worcestershire sauce.

I seriously considered buying a "meat package" from a butcher shop (17 - 35 lbs) but I wasn't keen on any of the varieties of bundles, and I'm in a bad headspace where I second guess everything and am pessimistic. I could ask my family to continue breathing in and out and they'd fall down dead from asphyxiation today just to spite me.

What's bad: $225 for entertainment/recreation for the males - $100 for after-school activity for boy (February through March); $79 for schlock cinema class for male (Jan - Feb); $13 for two males to walk around a huge baseball stadium with other baseball fans; $33.00 for two males to see some fantasy CGI-fest movie.

I'm throwing some prized, scant dollars at my debt reduction so I leave January at $110,000 owing (including mortgage).

I wanna start selling my stuff online

January 22nd, 2015 at 11:48 am

...but I can't even sell firearms to gang members.
Seriously, I have a 1958 Elvis Presley EP I tried selling twice on Craigslist, worth at least $20. And a rainsuit, a fricking RAINSUIT with reflective striping, in a city where we still have 15 hours of darkness in January and a lot of rainy days and a lot of scooters, didn't go for $10.

I do include pictures. I am honest about the condition and I try a fair price: i.e., what other sellers are offering for similar items in similar condition.

Is Amazon Selling the way to go? I am reluctant to use eBay, as its PayPal subsidiary screwed me over for three weeks denying it has a problem with servers, and it does seem to freeze people's accounts for no good reason other than faulty algorithms.

Will Amazon find homes for my brother's 20+ year old textbooks and my silent movies on VHS?

A spurt of domestic divinity

January 21st, 2015 at 08:41 pm

Made two loaves of bread, just the traditional sort. They rose beautifully: I used a thermometer and put the water in with the sugar and yeast when the water was 114F. I used my stand mixer to beat the dough. I also preheat the oven each rise to close to 200F, then shut off immediately when the loaves come in. The only heels of the bread I enjoy eating: the warm, crunchy type.

I also made root beer syrup which turned out okay -- I had the roots but not the extracts so I just made teas from the burdock and sassafras and let them steep for 20 minutes. Tomorrow I'm going to try hibiscus ginger syrup.

I am feeling some fatigue from cooking. The best I could manage after the bread, and more pertinently cleaning up after the bread, was broiling one portion of salmon. I may break down and get frozen entrees next shopping trip.

Confession - I miss eating out

January 20th, 2015 at 11:56 am

I don't eat out so much because my family tends to come along, so the cost is tripled, and I don't know what ingredients will be in the food I eat, and tipping is expected.

When I do eat out it's to enjoy something I can't or won't make at home: fried chicken because I don't have a deep fat fryer, croissants because I don't have the refrigerator space for all that dough, an ethnic cuisine that'd cost me $$$ just for the ingredients which would take up pantry space and be thrown out because they're kept past expiry... or because I am fatigued by making dinner. My fatigue sets in after 3 weeks, I have found.

I haven't had breakfast out for a long while either: the idea of paying $6.95 for two eggs, two sausages or bacon strips, and hash browns which I never eat, is ludicrous: $0.50 for the eggs at home, $0.60 for the bacon. Maybe baked eggs in a ramekin, which I don't have, would be okay, or served with egg bread or brioche.

Ugh, now I am hungry...

By Request - Recipes for Red Lentils

January 19th, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Because it's Meatless Monday. I meant to write Red Lentil Soup as an entree planned for this week in my last post, but my favourite "frugal cooking" site, Budget Bytes, has a recipe for Vegan Red Lentil Stew, so I'm including that here as well.

Beth writes "vegetable broth" but I understand broth to mean the use of bones, which vegetables don't have, so I'm using stock. By all means use "vegetable broth" if you actually find such a labelled item in your supermarket or if that's what you make at home.

Vegan Red Lentil Stew, recipe by Beth Moncel of BudgetBytes.com

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 medium yellow onion
• 2 cloves garlic
• 3 oz. tomato paste
• 1 cup dry red lentils
• ½ lb carrots
• 1 medium potato
• 6 cups vegetable stock**
• 1 Tbsp cumin
• 1 tsp smoked paprika
• ¾ tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions
1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large pot with olive oil over medium heat until soft and transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and continue to stir and cook for about 3-4 minutes more. The tomato paste will caramelize during this time, which will make it sweeter and cause it to look slightly darker.

2. While the ingredients in the first step are cooking, peel and dice the potato and carrots. Rinse the lentils. Once the tomato paste has caramelized, add the carrots, potato, and lentils to the pot.

3. Also add 6 cups of vegetable stock, cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Give everything a good stir to make sure it’s mixed well. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to its lowest level and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes.

4. After it has simmered for 30 minutes give the pot a stir and add the salt, starting with ½ teaspoon. Add more if desired. Serve hot!
===================================
Red Lentil Soup with East Indian Spices, by Cynthia Lair, Feeding the Whole Family. This recipe is online, but I've included correct attribution, whereas the blog hosting this recipe does not. This is not vegan as it has butter or ghee.


Prep Time: 1 hour
Serves 4

Ingredients
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ghee or butter
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1-2 tbsp minced garlic
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 1/8 tsp cayenne
• 1 cup chopped tomatoes
• 1 cup dried red lentils
• 4 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp each cumin and mustard seeds
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a 4-quart pot. Saute onion and garlic in ghee until brown. Add spices and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until they break down. Wash and drain lentils. Add lentils and water to pot. Let simmer 45 minutes, stirring often. Stir in salt.

2. Heat the remaining 1 tsp. ghee in a small skillet and fry cumin and mustard seeds until they pop. Stir fried seeds and cilantro into finished soup.

For the next week

January 18th, 2015 at 02:56 pm

We have spent $22.47 on outside dining, seventeen days into the month. That is less than books, or movies, or postage. Groceries look like they'll be $700 for the month, including cat food and litter, as we're up to $354.28 for spending. Had a Nanaimo Bar at 50% off.

We have earned $5.86 this month in interest. The internet went up $8 a month. [Sarcastic comment about Comcast's neediness redacted.] I fueled the car with $15.00 for a 464-mile range.

Meal Planning for the Week
- Salmon
- Panko Chicken Thighs
- Creamed Chicken (w/Breasts): Canned Chicken
- Minestrone Stew
- Thai Coconut Chicken Curry: Chicken Breasts
- Red Lentil Stew (I keep writing that)
- Clear out the Freezer. I have fewer servings of some protein than I have people.

Frugal luxuries: Baker Street Tea with a 1930 film "The Benson Murder Case" starring William Powell. He started smiling about the same time Garbo spoke and for most of the decade after he did he was box office gold.

Chequing has $200 in it. Keeping fingers crossed I won't have to transfer cash from Money Market Account this week, hoping for $17/day average expenditure, mostly grocery items.




Thankful for Frugal Luxuries in Winter

January 15th, 2015 at 08:05 pm

I woke up to no power this morning. I fretted I'd have to go outside, but remembered that I have matches and a gas range and instant coffee powder.

Having just replenished the pantry on Saturday, I am not participating in any pantry challenges this month. But I am using up some Japanese instant soups whose best before date was two weeks ago. They're darling, compact 4cm x 4cm packages of starch, seaweed, tofu, and miso packet. Scrape miso packet contents into a mug, crack open the starch package and let all confetti-like ingredients fall into the mug, then add boiling water and stir.

I paid $4.30 principal into the car loan. Although I did post my interest in paying off the car loan, my contrariness made me look at the larger, higher-interest loan, and I considered if I'd be really happy paying some of that principal to bring the balance owing under five digits. $4.30 is a piddling amount, but applied every two weeks will reduce my term by at least one month. $25 goes to a CD tomorrow, $100 goes to a HELOC payment. I could probably poke the spouse to go stop the $25 CD monthly addition for next month and beyond.

My payoff car loan date looks like January 2016 right now. I'm sure you empathize with the antsiness of wanting a huge debt eradicated. I'm not going to moan, no, I'm going to make a list of frugal luxuries. Bubble baths, deep conditioning treatments, classical music on Swiss radio, pens and inks and papers. Maybe some of you have at times felt robbed off too much, perceived too wide the distance between where you are and what you want, and feel the divide ever expanding. Maybe your winter rain or snow has been with you for so long your bones feel wet. And maybe too many things are beyond your control. That is when the frugal luxuries list is helpful. Smell of toasting walnuts? Herbal fruit tea in a warm blanket? Juiced vegetables? Rereading of Wodehouse or Hiassen or Fforde or Adams or whatever floats your boat? Homemade sweet potato or yam chips with chipotle mayo? Steaming your face over a bowl of very hot water? A salt or sugar scrub with five minutes massaging the feet?

I used some barley from a glass jar to make a stew with leftover roast beef and some stewed tomatoes. I didn't want to go outside to buy a can of diced tomatoes. For a desperation dinner it was terrific on a wet wintry day. Plus I have leftovers.

About juicing: I have an old but reliable juicer. The filter collects fibres and piths from ginger, fruits. I read DoctorYourself.com's tip about soaking the filter in bleach, and gave it a try. Well, in five hours black residue coated the filter, and ebonized the bleach. With a toothbrush I could scrape the residue off the filter, then put the filter in the dishwasher. I feel like Heloise with a hint now.

Cats, Clothes, Calisthenics - the Monday Update

January 12th, 2015 at 02:25 pm

I'm in shock at my $313 water/sewer/yard bill. I will check the outdoor hoses for drips: I can't hear any drips or see any leaks inside the house. Normally it's $250 for yard, water and sewer for two months. We have not had freezing weather that would make the pipes burst.

DH needed to go out and for me to go with him on Sunday so we went to Value Village to go buy clothes for the boy and for him. I didn't have a wardrobe plan of what to buy so I merely admired but did not buy the Coach and Chanel purses and totes attractively priced for under $100. In retrospect I perhaps should have used the 30% off coupon in the Chinook Book for their purchases. My little one still has smaller feet than I do, yet he takes a size 16 in pants. He is shopping in the men's section now, although for small sizes. He is still eight inches shorter than me.

I have not bothered to weigh myself, but am programming via temporal tap my body to reduce its set weight to 140 lbs. I know I am at least 168 lbs. and am still fitting into US size 12 clothes. It looks like if I drop to 150 lbs I will get into a size 10, and size 8 at 140 lbs, according to "My Body Gallery: What Real Women Look Like."

Negatively worded phrases "It's not my fate to be fat" for example are repeated as the finger tips tap around the left ear; positively charged phrases like "I'm looking fine when I weigh 139" are "tapped in" the same way over the right ear. It's important to find and use personal phrases your body's inclined to use as truth. For example, someone on the metric system probably wouldn't want to use 139 as a number. The messages don't have to be weight-based, even. If you have salt cravings like I do, you may find tapping messages helpful for preventing a 15-oz Chex Mix feeding frenzy. Or you might program your mind and body to return your wardrobe to two sizes smaller than present. More on the temporal tap here (PDF). What I don't like is that one has to do it five times a day for about a month to see benefit from it. It's like using St. John's Wort for depression, or starting from absolute couch potato when undertaking a new exercise routine. A challenge for the easily sidetracked and impatient like me.

Debt payoff is still the dominant goal for us financially. Until February 1 I'll see if I can raise our assets by $102.60. I'll likely end up cheating by adding $4543 worth of stock and house value increase as $4440.40 of planned and unplanned expenses fly away from us. I'll be gleaning what I can from your blogs.

We sort of have a new cat. Okay, we are feeding someone else's cat. In the summer, after our white cat died, our brown one would venture out and not always come back when called in the evening. We tried shaking the treat bag, and a large ginger neuter came up: "Hey you have treats!" Now the large ginger tabby waits for us to return home, or scratches at the door, to get at our cats' food. Our resident animals are too old and puny to resist other than a perfunctory hiss when they're up to it. He doesn't stay in the house long. He is a happy nomad and not Otto von Bismarck.

Giving GnuCash another go. This time it is easier, as long as I don't jolly myself into thinking I can save and import my TD Ameritrade balances and transactions. I haven't used any of the Loan Wizards either, as they give me months upon months of automated payments all with the wrong amounts. I'm cheating by pretending I owe more than I actually do. My genuine totals owing are in the sidebar.

How are you today?

Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow Book Entry

January 10th, 2015 at 03:58 pm

Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow - Saffron Sect cover

What's good about where I am now:
I can think of my financial situation and still sleep well, other than my cat overheating me by resting on my neck. It gets cold at night, he won't burrow, won't use a pet bed, won't snuggle against the other cat, the electric heating pad shuts itself off after a while as a safety precaution, so it's my neck and chest.

I had the discussion, walking the spouse through the withholding. It turns out that we have one exemption too many, plus $75, and about $8000 in our Health Savings Account, so again a four-digit tax refund is anticipated. I may've convinced him he could put $50 toward his 401(k) per payperiod with little damage, but definitely convinced him to alter the withholding.

Starting Point: Bust - 43"; Waist - 35"; Hips - 43"
I am still proportional, except for the adiposal gut. Some prominent doctor claims women with 35" waists are at risk of getting cancer. I assume he must mean all women regardless of height percentile and proportionality.

I have lots of teas to get me through the grey soggy day. I have recipes for broths and juices. I don't have a fancy-schmancy Vitamix, but a good ol' juicer.

I have everything I need to start an exercise regimen for free: time, exercises, mat, weights.

I have everything I need to start learning mySQL, Python, XML, maybe start hadoop.

I have a $15 Amazon.com gift certificate, and a credit good for one .mp3 download.

Our pantry looked scant, as did our refrigerator, so we went to Safeway, and shopped enough to merit a 40-cent per gallon gas reward. There must be some big National Football League game on: lots of people wearing team jerseys, and a giant NFL refreshment display.

Trying one cookbook per library visit: This month it is Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. It is not at all a budget-buster. Lots of these recipes remind me of when my mother was learning French cuisine. I tried bistokes a la Russe, which are just ground beef patties with creamy nutmeg sauce on top. Lots of these recipes are also in my budget 1967 James Beard How to Eat Better for Less Money. Looking forward to those ragouts and cassoulets and soupes.


A 2015 Challenge I don't want

January 9th, 2015 at 08:49 am

That punch-in-the-stomach moment when you learn that your paycheck income is reduced, and you don't have enough $$ to pay in full one loan so you can have a comfortable surplus. 2.6% reduction from 2014's paycheck. What about COLA? What about our rising property tax and vehicle taxes? Maybe we'll end up with an income tax refund again. I'd rather have the taxes withholding and some other things settled than struggle 51 weeks of the year.

I really need to have a talk with my spouse. I can see some necessary changes:
1. My kid will have to adopt the schedules and routines I've been nagging him about because I will have to get at least a part-time job.
2. We may have to restructure a loan, or pay one loan off in full by liquidating what's left of our cash.
3. The spouse may have to play with contributing to some retirement to get smaller tax amounts deducted from the paycheck.

To save money we'd have to spend money, and that paradox eats at me. I'm very sore at my brother. I suppose I should be thankful he died before my kid's passport was approved and that the two nations where my kid holds citizenship take their sweet time processing "emergency passports" where it's no use trying to take him with me. I'd have 3x the expenses to pay back...

Looks like a family meeting and several brainstorming sessions are in order... After the semiannual insurance is paid, though. What's not on the table, liquidating any assets whose annual return exceeds the annual interest rates charged to us for our liabilities.

I'll get there, but where is there?

January 4th, 2015 at 04:58 pm

Yesterday I had the sick feeling I'm horribly behind financially. That must be a progression from "everybody dies young in my family so why bother saving." The feeling squirmed in as I listened to a woman talk of her spouse's retirement, her planned purchase of a second vehicle, college savings. I have a second vehicle but I wouldn't take it out when it's 2 degrees Celsius. Looking at GnuCash and my budget, I see maybe $150 leftover per month. I'll feel much better when I can eliminate one debt. Someone I know is planning to pay off her car loan this year, although she is considering borrowing from her 401(k). I may just sell some CDs if I feel like joining her in her car loan freedom.

Something I'd like to save up for is a delayed 20th anniversary vacation. I didn't get one last year. We were supposed to go to Hawaii this Christmas, and that didn't happen either. When the net worth improves by $2000 I'll start making reservations at places in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island. Fortunately I don't have to go far to have an "exotic island getaway." My dad was married to his second wife for 22 years; my mother didn't make 20 years with any of her three husbands, and neither did my brother. I did surprise the woman in the first paragraph that I had been married for that long: I hope it's because I don't look like someone who's been married for twenty years.

Maybe start buying foreign currency so I can save a little bit. Maybe convince the spouse to put some aside, if there's a match by employer. I did put $100 into my kid's college account but can't think of what equity to purchase with it. Maybe an ETF with a few more hundred dollars.

I have started exercising, however gently and sporadically. It's the building of a habit that matters, right? I did sit-ups today, started "bouncing" and shoulder shrugs, from Chinese Healing Exercises while watching movies, restarted tracing my meridians. Everyday I had been walking at least a mile, until today, so now I'm bouncing, trying for 1000. I think adrenal exhaustion might be a large part of my expanded waistline. Seeing connections between my eyesight and adrenals and blood pressure and caffeine and adipose. I suppose if I didn't have any hope of a happy golden age there's always the combo of energy drinks and alcohol to speed up the blood clots to take me out. Honestly, I don't know why someone would have that combo at all, let alone regularly enough when one's been hospitalized for blood pressure like 240/120mmHg and has sky-high creatine phosphokinase levels from muscle tissue damage stemming from surgeries on TWO shoulders, but if you ever thought "yeah, my four-year-old doesn't need me and I don't need to see him/hr grow up" or tune out people like your doctor who advises you to cut out the energy drinks because you know everything, I suppose Monster or 5HrPerformance plus a beer can make up for years of bad financial planning. Just make sure you do more than tell your sister you're PLANNING to make a will, and go make a will.