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A pittance of successes, plus a finances reboot

November 16th, 2014 at 05:41 pm

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.)

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.

Day of the Deadbeat

January 3rd, 2014 at 04:56 pm

DS earned a value-added nonrefillable Gameworks card for his participation in a library reading marathon for middle schoolers. On the last Friday before he returns to school, he and I took the bus downtown.

I had with me my second place Dead Pool "Departing Gift" which I intended to deposit in a closed account. I am not the brightest star in the firmament. Instead of asking the very solicitous and everpresent concierge of a building lobby for a quarter, we asked where the nearest building decorative water fountain was so my son could collect some change for the bus. I did not know his regional transit card balance, only that it was low, and I had, other than my $20 bill, $1.25 on me, about twenty-five cents less than my child needed to board the bus.

We returned our library books at the downtown library branch, got some new books, went to Gameworks where I was employed to solve "Wheel of Fortune" puzzles. Then my kid's sails no longer billowed, so we went to the Driver Licensing office to learn no Motorcycle Manuals were printed anymore, and to the credit union where I learned my account had closed years ago, despite my receipt of a new account number and getting lots of marketing material in e-mail.

I got my pencil sharpened... for free!
We rode on the bus... for free! Our prepaid regional transportation cards could not be processed as the bus card reader was out of commission.
I got a credit union wall calendar... for free!

And yes, we had physical as well as metaphorical raindrops. Pennies from Heaven, and all that. It would've been sweet synchronicity to borrow the "Pennies from Heaven" DVD from the library, but I settled for Richard Matheson's Hell House.

Savings: $17, excepting my kid's game card. Earnings: $20. I still have the bill with me. I'll deposit it at credit union #2 tomorrow.

Year end splurge

December 30th, 2013 at 06:34 pm

I am so excited to be at the magic cusp of $100,000 principal paid and $100,000 mortgage left to go on the house that I took advantage of some Christmas money and Amazon.com deals to buy Fracas eau de cologne, Nutrigold fish oil and Doctor's Best alpha lipoic acid. I saved $90 on the total order and spent just over $89 total for those three items prior to tax.

I'd been thinking about how to make this $1378 savings challenge and the first thing that came to me was shaving $$ from the vitamins I purchase. I'm not advertising brands necessarily here; I read a news article about a study that purports that supplements don't do anything. The article of course did not specify if the supplement brand was something you'd find at a supermarket or chain drug store, or if it were a higher-quality brand found online or at health food and nutritional supply stores. I know Vitamin D3 supplementation has helped me and other people; magnesium made my feet stop getting cold and cramping, and let me sleep better; alpha lipoic acid helped my blood sugar. But why spend $14 in a store when I can spend $8?

By the by, baselle herself won her own Dead Pool this year. Go congratulate her!

Colxn of HaZ CraZ thots

December 13th, 2013 at 09:43 am

If everyone who created SavingAdvice.com user accounts for the sole purpose of trawling the forums for W*k* *p N*w suckers or defending its value/payout structure started their own M*lt*-L*v*l M*rk*t*ng company, they'd be richer than they are now.

Why the asterisks? You know that search terms are what brought them here, right? You think they're bright enough to search with asterisks? I don't.
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Buendia, Life After Life was a terrific read. I had to put it down during the 1940 Blitz attacks, how Europeans then emerged from WWII devastation without post-trauma stress is beyond me, and because a bomb shelling killed Al Bowlly, my fave singer from that era, but I picked it up again and read. I perceive the headaches and heart strain as accumulated stresses of those other lives, and think Dr. Kellet must have gone through the same phenomenon, and possibly other characters.
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I am slightly insane. Every four months I think of consolidating my debt, and now that I've been to MortgageProfessor.com, I see now that doing nothing is the cheapest plan. The MortgageProfessor doesn't allow me to calculate for a 12-year refinance though.
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Mental note for 2014: Invest in data brokerage companies, 3-D printing companies.
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Judging from a certain person's Dead Pool winner list (and current lead), I would say that SavingAdvice.com bloggers have a talent for getting more bang for their buck
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More on slow-cooking: here's how to make over 30 meals in four hours -- frozen meal packs for slow cookers
link
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I am a few dozen dollars away from reaching the $100000 principal paid milestone. Should I meet this milestone before the end of 2013, or should I combine it with my Mortgage Principal "Digit Drop" for an extra shot of New Year Joy?
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I met Ken Jennings. I have not been called for Jeopardy!, but if I had been, I couldn't tell anyone except people who would wonder why they are sleeping alone. He wished me luck. The great thing about triviahounds is that they are at no loss for conversation starters. We couldn't talk for long as he was tasked to sign and promote some of his favourite books at a bookstore, so there were awkward moments of looking to see if people were lining up. I will say that he and I have similar tastes in fiction, plus he is the only person on the planet so far with whom I have discussed Chip Kidd.

Adapting to Change

September 26th, 2013 at 02:59 pm

More of my stock accounts are heading to ComputerShare. I am not happy with the new security policy of 14 day wait for account identity verification. I am happy that I thought to enter my son's UTMA account into ComputerShare last year. This year, he wants THI but I may surprise him with KO (Coke). Sure wish there were more kid-oriented or Canadian S&P 5-star rated companies on ComputerShare.

DH may apply for a FT perm pos at his former lead's current employer. All I know is that it's a healthcare IT gig.

In an unusual move I took our phone with us out to lunch and it rang! My spouse answered it: it was a third number the previously mentioned political action committee used to phone me, and the third call they made to me today. (Again, debt collectors do not call three times a day.) He told them we had no money for them. Here's hoping this ends their calls.

Grocery workers in our region voted in favour of a strike. Weighing my options: Costco (beat the rush), local small Mediterranean food market, Target, farmers' markets, local farm produce market. For fish I can go to Fisherman's Terminal, blessing of living by the sea. Yeah, this isn't going to bother me much except for the lines and crowds at my identified alternates.

Free Museum Pass Day sponsored by the Smithsonian is in two days. I printed out a pass for the EMP Museum yesterday.

In Dead Pool news, I missed my chances to watch "Love Story" and "Honey I Shrank the Kids" yesterday. I saw one musical segment of "Mame" and learned today Jane Connell, who played Agnes Gooch in "Mame," died. I saw "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" yesterday and learned today Marta Heflin died that day as well. You better hope I didn't read any of your blogs yesterday...

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!

$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.

Ready to Push Finances Reset Button

November 24th, 2012 at 04:52 pm

I have seen some good easy advice: keep separate accounts for your goals. I have my monies in various accounts, all presumably for the "OMG the credit union is gonna rescind our HELOC WTF lulz!" moment, which came only to people who banked with Washington Mutual and now with JP Morgan Chase, and even then I know only of incidents of reduction of HELOC limits, not outright rescission.


Some of us recognize the internal pressure and amplified yen that propel us to make a purchase. I fight with my mouse, my USB ports are broken or finicky. I may blow up to $500 on a refurbished business-class laptop.

We have not seriously shopped for a vehicle yet. We have been buying silver and paying bills and shopping for presents. My spouse wants a certain kind of car and now admits he likes the style of it, All my long-distance presents except for one CD to New York have been mailed. My friend is Jewish and it's domestic so I think any time between now and December 24 should be okay for her. I may owe her a $10 Amazon gift certificate, the prize for our private dead pools.
My stamp/coin/currency dealer has expressed interest in dead pools. I can tell you that after this morning I feel better about my position in the one I participate in with mjrube, baselle and others.

Out Out Brief Update!

November 3rd, 2012 at 09:29 am

My kid paid his dad to go buy some scratch tickets and he won money, a 66% profit. Our rule now is for every $2 frittered on lottery tickets, $25 goes into medium-long term investments, applicable to everyone. DH and I are to collect a 20% broker fee too.

Silver and gold prices sank, along with many equities. I will probably buy some next week. On October 31, my son dressed as a Knight of the Round Table, we walked to the local coin shop where my dear lad asked for the Holy Grail. One proprietor went into the back and got one for him. "Used, but still holy," he said. Of course other trick-or-treating happened too, then we went to a Secret Sprocket Society screening of Pre-Code horror and cartoons.

I am on track to pay 10% less in interest on the Home Equity Line of Credit by the end of the year. And as long as Lindsay Lohan doesn't freebase with Dick Cheney over the holiday season or in a murder-suicide bid I am likely to get some money from one of the dead pools.

Saved $210.74 with coupons for local retailers from November 2011 to October 2012.

For those who would shoplift from supermarkets, do carry a list and dress professionally, foregoing deep-pocket dusters and cargo pants. Do not be obtrusive.

Off-topic day: dead people, weight loss

September 21st, 2012 at 09:44 am

101 days until my list is due for Fantasy Celebrity Cemetery 2013. When I see the competing lists I see five that I perceive to be stronger than my list: that is, I would throw away three of my lingering picks for any three on their lists.

Secondly, I have lost fat! I have not weighed myself, but I can see my toes even when I look down past Mounts Baker and Rainier, I look only three-four months pregnant instead of five when I view myself in the mirror, and my waist is a half-inch smaller. I attribute this to the coconut oil and the qigong exercises where I stretch and redistribute my energy. I now take 2-3 tablespoonsful of coconut oil daily, in coffee and tea.

I picked up Dr. Joel Fuhrman's _Eat to Live_ but it owes so much to the now-discredited China Study by T. Colin Campbell, its quickie weight-loss diet is low in protein and healthy saturated fat, and there is no mention of coconut oil, or hormone rebalancing to stabilize the cortisol and blood sugar so not so much fat is created. Also nothing about magnesium.

Problem is, highly caloric nuts and seeds have lots of magnesium; so do spinach and cocoa powder. But I could wean myself from caffeine by doing half-coffee and half-cocoa with coconut oil in the afternoons, hmmm...
The nuts and seeds have lots of fiber and very little sugar, so that is helpful. My vitamin and mineral supplements skimp on the magnesium: not sure why, supposedly the majority of people in this country are magnesium-deficient.

More Spending, and most not on fun

July 23rd, 2012 at 01:01 pm

DS has three adult teeth coming in, two of his baby teeth are not giving way -- his mouth again resembles that of a shark with a second set of munchers. 31 days from now the baby teeth get removed by dentist. Kaching Kaching. Weep.

Went out to Ivar's Acres of Clams as our guests, on a Sunday night, vacillated between seafood and pizza (show me a restaurant that does both well) -- getting reservations for six on short notice in tourist season is tricky. But I managed it. Brother knows pizza is four blocks away if he wants it: very fresh, like from the water to the pier, seafood is not. On days like that I am reminded how small our city is.

My waist is finally at 34", a one-inch reduction. I keep reading that women with waists 35" in circumference or thicker are at increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease: what if you are taller than 98% of women? What if you are over 40 and your tummy naturally thickens as part of the aging process? What if your waist is still slimmer than your thighs and your breasts and you can look down and see your toes?

Roadtrip will damage my diet. That is why I have protein bars, trail mix, and spring water for food supply. Pondering taking coconut oil for insomnia and sleep issues, but I would need something portable as an oral debriding agent.

One cat has adopted my brother's family. The one that jumps on people ran back to us on the first cool evening and has not left the bed sixteen hours later. No he is not dead.

No dead pool news: Julius Pierpont Patches has died, which saddens those of us who grew up watching him on TV. Andy Williams is dying and I am sad about that too.

Halftime Dirtnap Show

June 30th, 2012 at 02:18 pm

Today is June 30. Thursday I was thinking, "boy would it not be spiffy if I got five kills in the $$$ dead pool before the end of June?" This has not yet happened, but I did get a hit in the alt.obituaries deadpool today with Yitzhak Shamir. Oy! " I am nowhere near the top, but I do have a 'twin' who has, at least until today, shared the exact names of stiffs for 2012 and thus the same number of points. The half-time for the year actually is on Canada Day (31+29+31+30+31+30+1=183=0.5*366).

I am not happy with the $400+ bill to evaluate and diagnose the tot's neuromotor difficulty. But if it leads to an individual education program and legally required concessions, it may be worth it. The boy is to try martial arts next month.

Visa bill is still high, pending my brother's reimbursement for Mariners tickets, and $100 taken out for a hotel stay. Hotels in the Great Plains sure are cheap!

Trying coconut oil to lose weight. I take two tablespoons a day so far, and put it in baking instead of shortening. Coconut oil is great for the hormones and for blood sugar, I have found, and moisturizes my hair and skin. The Energy Medicine alone did not help me to lose weight AT ALL, but two hefty walks along a lake so far may help. It did make me feel better to read that thickening of the middle is a natural and normal sign of middle age. I do not fancy the muffin-top look on me though.

If it's June it must be annual Tightwad Gazette reading time

June 19th, 2012 at 08:32 am

I am mixing this up with 50 frugality blogs to help save money. I want my son to take martial arts this summer, even if it means cutting down on cappuccinos and potato chips.

Some debt group people are looking at their food expenses. I know I tend to overspend my own food budget, which is uneven because some months we buy meat in bulk, and some months we have Costco runs for the deals. Costco coffee went up 10 cents a pound, pooh. But gasoline went down twenty-five cents a gallon.

My visiting family are gourmands, so I will make some fish and veal stocks for them to use as they cook for us.

My price book cover looks like the Rapture happened, with four faces removed. As we are nearing the halftime show of Fantasy Celebrity Cemetery 2012, or Dirtnap for Dollars, here is a psychic remembrance of whom we will lose in 2013:

- Kirk Douglas
- Ernest Borgnine
- Andy Williams
- Billy Graham
- Christopher Lee
- Jake LaMotta
- The Duke of Edinburgh
- Olivia de Havilland
- Pauline Phillips ("Dear Abby")
- Mickey Rooney

you are welcome.

My goal now is to get more than $9.23 a month increase in net worth for my money market account, savings, certificates of deposit and chequing.

All About Dirtnap 4 Dollars 2013

May 26th, 2012 at 07:37 am

I am one of a few participants in a certain celebrity dead pool who did not select someone under the age of 50. That's not hurting me yet, but if Lindsay Lohan and Dick Cheney die this year I certainly shall have strong competition. So next year I will have maybe a bell curve assortment of nonagenarians, octogenarians, septuagenarians, sexuagenarians, 50+ yos. So my total potential point total exceeds 250.

I will also encrypt the dead pool lists of other entrants. I didn't even mention Robin Gibb dying to my family, although he was my fourth strike of the year. My husband did, and my child asked who on the dead pool had zero points. I named one, he prompted "who else?" until I went through all the names and when I mentioned the last name he said "serves that person right." Seems the dear tot is in high dudgeon over two picks on that person's list. Yes you read that correctly, my kid is upset that someone he doesn't know put two people he admires on a dead pool list. He's memorized the names of the offenders AND their entries.

weekend ramble

April 22nd, 2012 at 07:03 pm

Animal Control came. The Great Dane in its small pen barked for close to 60 minutes, maybe 75 minutes on Friday at dinner time, when it's inconvenient to have pink noise or the mp3 player on for dinner prep twice... I no longer record when it barks during the day, because I can slip headphones on and ignore it, but I can't ignore it at dinner: I have to hear timers beep, phone ring. I've discovered pink, white, and brown noises on binaural beats are as beautiful to hear as a newborn's first cry.

Dismayed by low Zillow estimate. Don't know how 38% growth in market value over 12 years happens to just us and only us, but others have higher ones. New roof, new heating system, new insulation, new windows, new kitchen, new bathroom. Just because everything except the roof haven't been added in the last two years doesn't mean that Zillow's priced it in.

I am doing an employment novena for my friend and he is doing one for me. All I know is that after the "holy water", purple candle burning, Blood Sugar Blues tincture and magnesium, the nasty cortisol-fueled thought racket at night doesn't happen.

We missed out on the car buying days event sponsored by the credit union. Oh well. September or August, we should have a newer car. Unless we've moved, in which case we will definitely have a better car.

Robin Gibb woke up from his coma. I'm positive Barry Gibb's singing to him did the trick: Barry can hit the notes that can recharge certain parts of the brain. Oddly "You Should Be Dancin'" hit the mp3 shuffle play as I typed this. I am sorry I did not think to play the Bee Gees when my mother had her cancer. Maybe Paul McCartney couldn't sing high enough to put Linda McCartney's cancer into remission. Two deaths in a week is just greedy anyway.

My spending focus is on the house.

Birth and Death and IKEA

April 18th, 2012 at 09:54 am

my birthday rolled around. Parents dead for over a decade so they're no fun. Nifty presents are all colourful: Raoul Dufy print mug, flowers, rainbow Swatch watch, a mystery book. And now a double-scoop of custard: Kit Kat plus vanilla! Five-star Yelp review comin' up!

Deaths: Dead Pool 2013 is already slated, thanks to recent announcements, plus a NY Times online feature about obituaries, including dead pools, so now I have rich sources of names. I'm envious of the people who made their dead pool lists as global and varied as possible: mine was mostly US-based. My friend who gave me the Dufy mug is ranked ten on a big deadpool, I am languishing at position thirty-seven, eighth from last. No money is involved there though. Happy with my current position on a money dead pool.

I'd been secretly hoping I'd get a 38-point bump by today on my for-money list. I am sure I am not the only one.

Dead Pool UPDATE: Dick Clark passed. He's on my list. I better let the fair administrix know.

Thanks for the birthday greetings and wishes! I only wish I had the stamina and focus to keep cheer every day and pass it around as well!

Finished the second of Kyril Bonfiglioli's Charlie Mortdecai crime novels: this one is not so much fun, less violent and more domestic than the first, Don't Point That Thing at Me.

Close to broke again (but not poor) after a trip to IKEA. Hoped to pay with credit card, balance well into the three digits after birthday dinner, gifts, and auto repair and maintenance charges, but didn't have a PIN. I did get a coupon for $1.08 off my next IKEA purchase, and the kid had a fun time at the cafeteria: all the Swedishness reminded him of Team Alfredsson in the NHL All-Star event, where at least six Swedes from Ottawa and Vancouver were on Alfie's team. And what Canadian teams made it to 1st round in the playoffs? That's right, Ottawa and Vancouver. Fortunately IKEA is cheap and I didn't buy more than what I could carry. IKEA's having a "living room event" next week: maybe I'll finally get that Ektorp sofa bed and matching chair.

Scrabble players, according to a University of Calgary study, really are smarter than most. I feel this is another handicap preventing me from employment. Maybe the real handicap is not knowing what jobs are available where puzzle-solving and pattern recognition are valued and earn ample compensation. Too many people I see at school and at shopping who are hired ignore, disdain and yawn or foolishly argue and lie. I used to think it was me, but I've had great experiences at other places and think I must have crossed the divide into "those kids are rude and have no sense of privacy" codgerdom. I'm happy with that.

little things

March 28th, 2012 at 01:46 pm

1. I started juicing, now that I am reading a book by Dr. Sandra Cabot. This week I used spinach in the drinks, for protein and to offset the acid from lemon, grapefruit and orange. The drinks aren't horrible. The great thing about juicing is that a lot of carrots get used, and therefore I buy in bulk, and that brings the cost per pound of carrots down to 70 to 80 cents.

2. Gas is now officially over $4.019/gallon where I live.

3. I believe my neighbour's dog is senile, as she is old and was whining outside at 2:35 am. We suggested to the neighbor that he bring his dog to a vet for a checkup, as she was outside and whining when it was cold and wet, and older animals are likely to be uncomfortable in those weather conditions, as they have thin skin, sensitive bones, and possible cognition decline. But why take care of your elderly best friend when you can irritate your neighbours to the point where they have to move if they want to claim their property rights of a quiet night?

4. This one is for baselle: Robin Gibb undergoes surgery - my friend and I were at Gainsbourg last night when she pointed to my price book cover and said, "I predict he will be the next to go." "I'm goin' nowhere, somebody help me." Stayin' Alive

5. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who is charged with murdering 16 Afghans, had mortgage finance problems. His house was briefly on the market days before the murder of the Afghan civilians. This is why I am afraid to confront my underwater-mortgage neighbours about their suffering animals. It's said that Staff Sergeant Bales had Post-Trauma Stress Disorder, and I believe that, as my cousin was a staff sergeant from the same company, and was diagnosed with PTSD before he was shipped to Afghanistan. I am told that my cousin killed civilians as well, but I cannot verify that. “I don’t see how you can do this,” he said, “and not be damaged.”

6. My Jeopardy! tryout sucked. I got maybe 44 out of 50 questions.

Learning Excel for Fun and Profit

March 21st, 2012 at 05:41 pm

I use lots of Excel for my Schadenfreude list, but the problem with autodidact learning is lack of structured curriculum. I have been using Excel Formulas and Functions for Dummies, working on my first, second and third mortgages -- not concurrent! do not fret! -- and found:
if I kept my first mortgage, I would be paying $388.50 in principal a week from now, with 16.78 years left.
if I kept my second mortgage I would be paying $653.37 in principal a week from now, with 11.44 years left.
I'm paying only $24.23 more than $653.37 in principal, but $141.19 less in interest. With the first mortgage $792.87 would have been paid in interest. I would still be using the Itemized Deductions Schedule on my 1040.

I have overspent for this payperiod, and yet oversaved as well. On the Payday it all works out: surplus is allocated to money market account, and VISA card.

Now that My HELOC Balance is $300 away from what it was in June 2011 before I borrowed for the roof, I am slowing my contributions to $163+/month, and putting 5% of our income toward noise-cancelling ear buds and home improvement/maintenance.

Who's Weak This Week: Zsa Zsa is trending but not for reasons the Dirtnap for Dollars crew would salivate at; Robin Gibb will likely live to see the centennial of the Titanic's sinking (he composed a requiem and is making public appearances). I have been spoiled this year by a score each month: numerically that rate is impossible to sustain. I passed up Andy Williams for Larry Hagman, strictly based on age, and here's Andy in a wheelchair, and Larry doing television. I like Andy Williams too, I had such a crush on him when up until I was five. He voice-dubbed Lauren Bacall! How cool is that? You know what would be cool? If he sang a recording of his own eulogy, and Lauren Bacall addressed the mourners, lipsynching the eulogy. Or vice versa, only I hope Ms. Bacall stays with us a long time.

A tip for those who want to play in 2013: Morley Safer, Steven Adler, William "Refrigerator" Perry, and Tony Iommi.

Signs I've been saving money

March 5th, 2012 at 10:03 am

The balances seem abstract to me, except the tax bill, that's as concrete as a two-ton weight. When the proprietor of our espresso hangout says he's noticed our absences, staring at the tip jar, we can see how the $$ we contributed to his fund made a difference.

I'm not bothered so much now by the tax bill: I earned that much over the year in interest, dividends, and other investing. Although I am requesting DH change his tax withholding, it seems to me I am a more responsible steward of monies eventually turned over to the government than the government is of monies returned to me. The initial shock of surprise and unplanned expenses ebbs when I understand I have the $ to pay for them. Maybe the refinance changed our tax deductions for us: we pay under $4300 in mortgage interest, pay under $3400 in real estate taxes, the $600 tax for the roof just don't add up to itemized expenses. Last year we paid $5100+ in mortgage interest, and probably $6100+ the year before that. Amazing how fast the $100 savings is redirected to school donations, higher food and gas prices. We shopped and got $68 worth of groceries, but I've forgotten most of what we bought. I remember the produce, and dairy products and Nanaimo bar, we got some bagged cereal as well. Oh yeah, the wines. The wines cost at least a third of the bill. Meanwhile if I use up four vegetables our crispers are halfway to empty.

I wasn't happy with last month's food bill, but I did shop at Costco and buy a bulk order of meat, that's $300.

What's great when the insides are not so great: organic udon in chicken broth flavoured with salt, sugar, soy sauce, and sprinkled with five spice powder and kelp. Ohhhh.

In Dirtnap for Dollars news two of my picks are selling their houses; one has defaulted on her house loan. Try to imagine being in the tabloid news 50 years ago for wearing furs, getting jewels from randy royals, and big divorce settlements, and then defaulting on a house loan when you're five years away from pushing 100.

My Office Professional 2010 arrived today. I hope my 2008-era Dell laptop can handle it.
Extending my spring cleaning to include my PC and my insides. Starting with yogurt smoothies and indoor exercises.

Watching gold and silver slide like cliffside Malibu houses during an Act of God. If I see it below $1690 USD I'll buy a half ounce or one ounce.

jolted into conscious spending/saving

February 17th, 2012 at 02:02 pm

Walked to and from Target today, in the rain. I made a list of six items I could carry home in a six block walk. I didn't save much money other than the 5% discount from RedCard and some sales on non-list items like AAA batteries and Starbucks ground coffee (total $4.23), but I did get some aerobic activity. When we empty the bag we can bring it to a Starbucks store for a free 12 oz drip for even more savings. I was going to go to Costco but was stopped by a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the cost of my desired purchases, the sum of which I mentally added to our heating bill ($118). I probably saved $1.50 by not going to Costco (gas).
Lentils ($1.49/lb), organic sugar ($3.00/lb) and quinoa ($7.99/30 oz) are not good deals at Target but they are at Costco.

Oh! And do we want to discuss deals? I shopped at Trader Joe's for produce, and came home with two humdinger deals, said the man who checked out my groceries. One was in the produce department -- I will let the regular TJ shoppers guess--answers in the comments please, and the other is the wine. I picked up a barbaresco nebbiolo for under $15 and saw a Barolo for under $20. I and the woman behind me at checkout were treated to a mini-seminar on how Trader Joe's manages to sell wine that cheap: it pays in cash and on time (at the time of sale/pickup, I guess). I silently edged toward the end of the checkout aisle, conscious of the woman behind me with her shopping cart, but she was as appreciative as I was to learn more about how Trader Joe's gives us its budget-price value wonders.

My rules now:
any home brewed cup of coffee that is less than 30 cents for 6 ounces is okay. I am also using up green tea and will work on the yerba mate when Lent starts (February 22).

Make at least one meal a week that includes any of the lingering red lentils, polenta, kasha, barley, quinoa in our pantry.

I posted a chart of our tax liability on the fridge. I am recruiting the boy to do weekly inventories of our pantries, fridge and freezer. Our reward for getting at least halfway to our tax liability in savings will be a 2-day stay in Vancouver (the uppercase one, in case the NW peeps were wondering) right after the tax payment is in the mail.

Gary Carter was on my list in the dead pool baselle is administrating. RIP Mr. Carter - Montreal was lucky to have you.

payday yayday

February 10th, 2012 at 09:04 pm

Each payday I feel like Peanuts' Lucy shaking her Psychiatric Help stand can with a nickel inside.


Spent $$$ today: oldest friend came by with his family. He, she and I had a great time: his daughters were somewhat bored/restless, understandable: all were under 12, the cats fled immediately, and soon my son did as well, as he too is under 12. He didn't emerge until his father came home. We went to an izakaya (Japanese pub). I love my friend because we can be immediately real and honest with each other in ways that might be awkward with other people. My phone service provider told me I needed to add money if I was going to do crazy things like call Canada phone numbers: I paid the extortion fee they call "Top Up." It was worth it though. I also ran to the corner store to get multigrain and cheddar crackers, Pepperidge Farm cookies and juice. I also cut up vegetables and pears and made a vegetable dip.

What did I learn from this? Chance favours the prepared mind. And I am not an awful person.

I think I lost already the 2012 dead pool: Robin Gibb is recovering from his liver cancer, so the news reads.

2012 predictions and me

January 13th, 2012 at 11:58 am

Etta James released from hospital last week
Robin Gibb seeking natural treatment. Seven rounds of chemo!
Penny Marshall smoking and eating Italian food.

Psychics predict ends to Abe Vigoda, Muhammad Ali, Pope Benedict XVI, Lindsay Lohan, and Dick Clark. This is not wishful thinking: I have only one of those people on my list.

Also, gold and silver will rise. I'm hoping they'll rise enough to handle the also-predicted summer spike in food commodities and oil prices. I predict summer gas prices west of the Rockies to reach $4.50 US/gallon by August.

If you look at the sidebar, there's a new debt reduction milestone. My car fund is not increasing, as I have made debt reduction my top priority this quarter. Hubby and I paid the same bill without each other's knowledge. He did it on the credit card, I used EFT.

For fun: go to Google.com and input "do a barrel roll." Safe for all ages.

wu wei of the dragon (year)

January 1st, 2012 at 05:45 pm

At last it can be told:
I met baselle yesterday to deliver my list and share in a toast to 2011 and 2012. We had a lovely time: I was immediately comfortable with baselle, and coming from a hermitess like me, that is big. She told me she was waiting for someone, and I pulled out All Your Worth and my decorated price book from my bag and said "let's see if these items are markers of the person you're to meet with."

At last it can be told:
1. Annette Funicello
2. Aretha Franklin
3. Dick Clark
4. Etta James
5. Gary Carter
6. James Garner
7. Larry Hagman
8. Penny Marshall
9. Robin Gibb
10. Zsa Zsa Gabor - breath barnacle

Eight slots were committed, two of them wavered over three weeks. I agonized about Don Rickles, Prince Philip and Andy Williams, but I am about points. This is a "balanced" (growth + income: some sure things, plus one long shot, one nonagenarian) list. I do not wish ill on any of these people, and I do know what it is to lose immediate relatives well before their time. I put Zsa Zsa Gabor down to thwart everyone else who had her on their lists too, just like I buy stock or precious metals just to make its price go down the next day. I wonder if the rule of five applies to dead pools: one does better than you expected, one worse than you expected, and three are par for the course.

I won the dead pool my friend and I had between ourselves last year, with 20% success rate. I'll be happy with 20% success this year, but I hope for 44 points or more... But the dead pool victory of 2011 ensures $30 added to my $20 Challenge! Thank you to Chris, Harry and Jack for making this possible.

Hubby bought clothes at JC Penney at vastly reduced prices, I think 70% off. Righteous.

Walked on Burke-Gilman trail in north-east part of city with boy. Beautiful day, hubby was pushing at me to break in my helmet on the scoot, but boy asked to come along.

Starting a Price Book

December 27th, 2011 at 10:21 am

SavingAdvice.com forum post on price book.

I didn't think to take one of the little notebooks I gave to the school teaching staff last month, so I bought a recycled-paper small one to fit in a purse. The price book idea I read in The Complete Tightwad Gazette, but OrganizedHome.com also has a downloadable template.

YNAB v3.6.0.5, perhaps considered "faddish" by some, so far has kept me mindful. My Money Market Account (MMA) is $600 larger than it would have been if I weren't keeping track. We're not completely denying ourselves either: I bought nibbles for our board game sessions. I'll be shelling out $$ on NYE. My attention deficit disorder had me drafting and redrafting some asset allocation/spending plan schemes. With YNAB I can keep better track of my savings goals and where our money is going.

I also don't include my gold and silver amounts in YNAB because of their daily fluctuations, so I look more broke than I am.

Today I give blood.
My Price Book so far has entries for items we commonly buy from Costco, or find ourselves walking to yonder national chain every week to get.

Thinking I might not do a Target (TGT) Direct Purchase Plan, but rather put some cash in one of my stock accounts: the initial purchase fee in the DPP is equal to the commission the investment service applies, and I've had a number of free trades, so averaging the commission cost is lower.

The spouse of one of my alt.obituaries Dead Pool picks died: no points.

Can it be? A No-Spend Day!

December 20th, 2011 at 04:38 pm

Yes. But tomorrow won't be one: I'm buying turkey sausage for bean soup, ground veal and ground pork for tourtière. My scheme for the next eleven days is to spend under $100/day, and put what I didn't spend into the VISA card, then the HELOC, then into silver, money market account, Procter & Gamble Direct Purchase Plan (DPP), and Walgreen DPP. Target by Value Line and Standard & Poor's judgements is worth buying as a Direct Purchase Plan BUT! The initial purchase charge is equivalent to my TD Ameritrade account charge; and when I signed up to receive the Direct Purchase Plan by mail, the Bank of New York/Mellon website's form did NOT accept my name, although when I used the Contact Us form to complain, my name didn't hold up any processing script.

I have been blessed with heaps of bean sprouts so am making chow mein, chop suey, egg foo yung before they get slimy beyond use. The More-With-Less cookbook is helping me out.

I dropped off three cans of tuna, one box of macaroni (it was Barilla, the good stuff), and one package of whole wheat spaghetti at the local food bank.

Has anyone used the YNAB software program with success? Has it paid for itself? I have a trial program but only a seven-day trial key.

My Dead Pool 2012 lists are ready.

Maybe 2012 is when I restart stock buying.

December 7th, 2011 at 05:27 pm

I think maybe the button was taken! Let's hope!

I am deluged with coupons, and I am so tempted to buy as "an inflation hedge." Local drugstore chain, Target...

One thing I haven't done recently is add to my Direct Purchase Plan stocks. Thinking of also Canadian National Railway (CNI), which I had my eye on and is doing nicely. My father once worked for Canadian National: I have early misty memories of going to the train depot.

CNI's up to 78.07, and Value Line noted when it was not yet at 76 to wait for a pullback. But I'll keep it on my watch, with 3-5 year returns ranging from 6% to 15%.

WAG dropped 11% this year, but Value Line's 3-5 year returns projected are 18% - 22%. DY: 2.66%.

GE year to date's drop is -10.88%, 3-5 year returns projected are 20 - 35%. DY: 3.77%. Morningstar says it's a buy.

PG year to date's drop is... hey there's no drop! 2% increase, with 3-5 year returns projected 12 - 17%. DY: 3.28%.

Kinda glad I went with gold and silver this year.

Also, my friend needs to come up with three stiffs in three weeks to win the 2011 dead pool between the two of us. No 96-year-old famous male with pneumonia was safe from me.

First of December

December 1st, 2011 at 02:12 pm

HELOC: $15137.12
Mortgage: $117,328.84

Money spent on coffees today. A local entertainment periodical is offering a raffle of two paid nights in a Vancouver, BC hotel for those who give to a certain food bank charity. If I win I have to take my family (they and apparently homeland security take my solo excursions with alarm). They've been to the hotel and my husband still gripes about it. It's a decent hotel but the nickel-and-diming of fees rots his socks.

Mailed a present to my NY friend: $2.25.

Things are rough all over. When we went to coffee the proprietor was wailing and gnashing his teeth. Half my debt group are ill. Owe money in overdues to libraries but will pay up before Dec. 31.

Dirtnap for Dollars 2011 closes in 30 days. I leapt into the lead in early January and have been there for nearly eleven months.

How to save $10000 - Link du Jour from Wall Street Journal.