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Paid off the car loan today

September 29th, 2015 at 01:10 pm

$5389.00 gone, but then, so are close to 24 months of payments and over $200 interest payments. I don't feel ecstatic, I don't feel anything, even though it was my decision. I got tired of the insulting "pay less per month on your car loan" (by extending the term and paying a higher APR) offers from lenders a credit bureau sold my spouse's info to.

I'm looking forward to affording cash payments for things like: a new mattress, new phone, yard cleanup. Looking forward to automating regular investments. I'll be giddy when the title is returned to us, weeks from now.

what's new?

August 23rd, 2015 at 09:58 am

I am on my ketogenic diet again, with the cheat of a chocolate chip cookie once a week. I am down to 155 pounds. A belt I bought in a fit of optimism a few years ago I can actually cinch three notches, and I know this because I've had to use the belt to keep my size 12 pants from sliding down to my hips. My circumference around the hips is now less than a metre. I'm excited by this because it seems to be the only medium-term goal I've succeeded at in six years. However, I get so few "yays", probably because I post my victories on a forum where women have lost a phenomenal (I mean one extra adult-woman) amount of weight, or because I post on another forum where women just aren't as adventuresome or carbohydrate-sensitive as I am. I'd like to lose 4-7 more lbs, mostly about the waist. Exercise would help but I am not cleared for exercise because...

...I am still getting massage treatment for my back and it still hurts sometimes. Paid for by the driver's insurance. My car's restored from the collision and it looks beautiful. We missed it; our rental car was not kind to my back and we lost touch with the "put the key in the ignition", "put the key into the lock" machinations of making the car go.

Cluster flies swarms popped up last week: yecch. Seems the men went on a swat rampage but we still have some. The important thing is there aren't enough to make our rooms terrible at night. They must have been dormant in our house for so many of them to show up at once. We have strips to catch the downstairs ones, as our windows are painted shut.

Back to school shopping has begun. Our little boy is taking Algebra which meant acquiring a TI-84+ graphing calculator. Until yesterday Office Depot had a sale, but even with that sale we'd have spent $50 beyond the price my spouse agreed upon for a private seller TI-84+, with cord and manual.

Won $40 Amazon.ca (yes, .ca) gift certificate. Worth about $30 US. Probably half of that would get eaten up by delivery, but better than nothing.

I am now putting extra payments to the car. I may swallow my pride and have some credit card debt for awhile, if it means getting rid of the $282.21 monthly payment. I'd still pay less in interest because the balance will be smaller and it'd be for a shorter term.

I have a new laptop, dual boot. I can either use WINE and have YNAB on Windows or I can use KMyMoney on the Linux Mint desktop or I can use pen and paper for accounts. I haven't been budgeting for the past two months.

tiny steps, long paths, new cookbook

February 22nd, 2015 at 11:05 am

I am considering a savings/debt allocation system that will allow me both some financial cushion and accelerated debt payoff. I have a spreadsheet that estimates our auto loan could be paid in full between November 2015 and April 2016. Life without that payment would be easier, plus I suspect that when we move, and apply for another mortgage elsewhere, the end of the car loan will factor in our favour. When we increase our cash reserves by $300 monthly, $75 is divided into accelerated payments for the car and the home equity line of credit. I'd like to have $120,000 in principal paid off on the house by the end of 2015, hence the payment to the home equity line of credit.

Have I mentioned we've paid over $40000 in mortgage?

Zillow predicts a 1.7% increase in our property value for the year, but I doubt the growth rate will be that low. Not just wishful thinking: a school is currently under construction 1.5 blocks away. We live in a cheap neighbourhood overcrowded with students. Although we live in a cheap neighbourhood, crime's relatively low -- I've never heard gunfire nor seen crime tape in the 16 years I've been here, this part of the city is great for school kids. I'd like to see if I can sell the house for 10% beyond what Zillow says its value currently is. Who wants a new school? Who wants to live on a property with a big lawn and walk only 1.5 blocks to the new school? Families with children.

I bought a sports bra yesterday, a sign I am serious about fitness. I started a crunch, sit-up and squat challenge four days ago, and began drinking apple cider vinegar. Next on my list will be adding intestinal gut flora to aid with digestion. Also I'm doing an eight-minute daily energy routine and even yoga a few days a week in my house. I'd like to try fermenting and pickling produce. I love kombucha tea but am not convinced of its health benefits. I'm sticking with yoghurt and berries for now. Gradual small changes. I want to stay with what works: I'm encroaching upon a size 14, my thighs still touch (are they supposed to?) and clothing choices are limited past size 12 in the US I have noticed. Ultimate goal is to reduce to between size 10 and 12, lose four-five inches each in hip and waist.

I also bought America's Test Kitchen's colossal instant classic The New Family Cookbook, and I used a coupon. I hardly ever buy things for myself. I sometimes think I have too many cookbooks: I certainly don't use some very often, such as the ones before 1985 or the ones for "ooh la la" entertaining. I saw this compendium of over 1100 recipes and thought: yeah! We tried Honey-Lime Glazed Salmon and that was excellent.

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).

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.

Pillow Talk, or, a Ballad for Heavy Lids

November 18th, 2014 at 02:17 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 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.)

A dull report

November 11th, 2014 at 10:17 am

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.

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.

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.

My Sisyphean Budget (Warning: Political)

March 27th, 2014 at 08:50 am

In Greek mythology Sisyphus was a king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth) punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.

My county dearly wants to place a FLAT vehicle registration fee (FLAT = fee for renewing the annual tabs on your 75cc 2002 Yamaha Vino is same for renewing the annual tabs on the 2014 Porsche Boxster). We have two motorized vehicles: one is an eight-year-old Yamaha scooter, another is a two-year-old Toyota Prius. This flat fee is $60/vehicle, equivalent to what I spend on gas for the year for the scooter, and two months' gas on the Prius.

My county already instituted a fee hike of $20 on vehicle tabs (they call it car tabs, but no, it's a motorized vehicle tab fee, make no mistake) no more than two years ago. Its transit authority's already eliminated the "ride-free area" option. For some reason my county and state enjoy disproportionate and regressive taxes. I'm too ignorant to point out any political party as the culprit, so I'll just type that both of the two major ones are to blame. The county council is "nonpartisan" but let's be honest, I live in a city where only American cities like St. Louis and San Francisco seem more Democratic.

I don't want to pay $10 more per month because I'm not sure I can afford it. So my challenge to myself is to come up with $10 savings per month. I can tell you it will not come from fixed budget costs, nor from monthly expenditures under $40 a month. It won't come from spending $1440 in closing costs refinancing a 12-year $100000 mortgage down 0.125%.

I may be Sisyphus here, but I feel I am being punished for my county's chronic deceitfulness.

This is a very tightened black belt. I won't be giving up my celebratory Moxie pop for each alt.obituaries dead pool stiff (usually 10-11 a year, that's $1.50/month). I will probably cut down on my potato chips. I love the salt, but the carbs aren't good for me and the calories are empty. I will, however, be searching for the obscure, rare, brilliant, bizarre and ethically grey ways. And I'll put them in a page linked from the side bar.

Update: I play with a spreadsheet. I'm paying $382.21/mo in debt outside mortgage. Seeing what paying 10% less a month for a longer term looks like.

End of month report

February 28th, 2014 at 02:32 pm

Oh like you care.

Hey Hey Hey It's Hesitance Day!

February 17th, 2014 at 01:08 pm

Taxes are done, filed. I passed on the Amazon giftcard because I was afraid I'd err and end up putting all my refund in the giftcard. Ditto on the I-Bonds. Lost internet four times this weekend and was afraid of anything getting lost, or resubmitted.

Return monies potentially allocated thusly:
* one Raspberry Pi
* x% of outstanding HELOC paid, where range(x) is 4-6%
* x% of outstanding car debt paid, where range(x) is 5-7%

It would feel delicious to see those balances down to four-digit figures before the end of the year

*Rest of $$ for family

More importantly, I am at the magic point where we have 3 months living expenses in our liquid assets. My plan now is to put 1/5 of the surplus aside for investing, where anticipated gains > 6.5%, and 3/5 toward debt repayment, and the remaining 1/5 to the assets for inflation creep or Savings Challenge. The plan for this executes 21 February 2014, when the credit cards are balance-free.

Menu planning:
Franks Paprikash
Fried Tidbits of Swordfish or Other Fish
Baked Fillet of Sole with Tomato, Oregano and Hot Pepper
Eat whatever day
Beanie Weenies
Chicken Tarragon Spaghettini
Veal al Limone
Coconut Lamb Curry

We will have eaten down most of the freezer meat by payday. I have the money for our next great meatmarket venture in the Money Market Account. Only with extreme planning can I get our monthly grocery spending below $600. I use coupons, price book and check for meat markdowns.

Week 7: 52-Week Saving Challenge

February 15th, 2014 at 09:32 am

Eh, not very frugal. We had coffee and Valentine special doughnuts out, ate lunch out, had custard out (the three of us), and spouse bought brandy for the steak con pepe. But I budgeted for all this. DH bought a Weird Tales paperback. Me, I had the opportunity of browsing for a Sparks CD which I didn't feel like buying, so I'm kinda giftless. But I had coffee served to me in bed, and I get enough love, affection and obedience throughout the year. My gastrointestinal tract acted up after lunch so I abandoned my plans to go downtown.

We had frugal fun Hearts Day story time! I cut up one sheet of paper into twelve rectangles, and the three of us each wrote four character names, fictional and nonfictional, one on each rectangle. The rectangles were then folded and put in a jar, which would be shaken. Two people would pull out one rectangle each, and the names on those rectangles would be in a Valentine story.

Pairings: Doctor Orpheus (from "Venture Bros.") & Lydia Pinkham; Groucho Marx & Jim Nabors, and last match was Ron MacLean from Hockey Night in Canada's "Coach's Corner", and now currently CBC Sochi 2014 correspondent, with Tina Belcher (from "Bob's Burgers").

$13 deposited for Week 7, only because it is grocery savings.

Today I will brave doing my taxes, but not using Mozilla Firefox. It'll cost me $39.99 to eFile the return, which is what's kept me from using tax software, but this year I have fathomed:
1. If I save at least that much using tax software from my imagined burden, the software fulfills its use;
2. If I owe that much, a $39.99 extra ding isn't going to be too terribly worse, especially when I already have a software line item in my budget;
3. If I kept to pencil, paper and calculator, I'd never have learned about the TurboTax sweepstakes. I (and you) can still ENTER the sweepstakes through the mail with pencil, stamped envelope and a 3" x 5" index card.

Sochi Challenge: $38 so far. Which should be good for TJ Maxx or Ross or secondhand exercise wear.

For those who read/participated in the poll the answer is D, for Delusional, Dimwitted, Delicate, Dumb and DRAMA DIVA!

They are not yet filed because I want the Mister to come look. Thank goodness he is a docile, supportive, loving male.

Today's Special

February 11th, 2014 at 04:03 pm

We went to a different supermarket today because one location is three blocks away from a superb butcher shop, and I figured if we didn't get a good deal on food at the supermarket we would go to the butcher's.
Most items we bought at the different supermarket were below what our regular supermarket charges. I saw some fellow "school parents" shopping there too, always a good sign. Got NY Strip steak for $5/lb; veal scallops for $7.33; I might start shopping at the other supermarket's location closer to us more frequently and start scheduling moments to view its online ads. Our regular supermarket offers gas rewards, but going three miles away for shopping we saved, even with the $1 we spent on gas there and back, close to 20% what we'd spend at the regular supermarket, and saved 1300% more than we would have earned in gas rewards.

Today my spouse received an offer in the mail to move the car loan to my credit union. My credit union, so 1.5 stars out of 5 that I keep accounts only for the privilege to throw my bling in its safe (I rate the credit union two because it has its own parking lot, is the closest establishment where I can get a safety deposit box, and the staff attitude is pretty good), offered 3.04% for seventy-two months. Yeeeeah right. First, we have under 75% LTV, not 81% LTV as the credit union guesstimated; a "green" and "new" car; and I'm not ever going to happily consider extending a car loan to seven years past its purchase. All three factors should earn us a 1.79% APR according to the credit union's website if we want a car loan paid off in four years. Mailed offers are the scratched-out-of-the-rectum crud.

As for yesterday's forum post, I can only say that I had close to an anxiety attack, and I am still antsy but the idea of spending under $10 to reward myself on something calming like wild orange oil, or an Income Tax Cocktail, ameliorates the horror of either doing pencil & paper, or using TurboTax. I dealt with this attack by using my home made orange vinegar with baking soda for some bathroom floor grunge cleaning, and at the end of the day dabbing lavender oil drops on my feet and on my pillow.

I should offer a prediction poll.
Paulette will _______________ the IRS
a) owe more than a thousand dollars to
b) owe $750 - $1000 dollars to
c) owe less than b to and feel ashamed for moaning about
d) get money back from and feel ashamed for moaning about

I will tell you I have owed every year for the past six. I seem to remember paying over $800 last year.

Sochi Savings Challenge now $31


Chère diarrhée

February 9th, 2014 at 01:57 pm

OR, how to become a TROTSkyite on lemon water

Link of the day: How to halve grocery expenditures

It snowed here. I am staying in with my recipes, internet, teas, and my wacky library loan DVDs. With the exception of rotation of lentil (French, red) variations paired with brown rice, when followed closely this menu plan will use up all significant protein sources except eggs.

This week's featured cookbook is Arsy Vartanian's Paleo Slow Cooker. I returned Hazan's book to the SPL but my spouse so enjoyed eating the dishes her book helped me make that we now have at least a temporary eBook version.

Sunday: Veal Stew with Sage and White Wine (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

Bok Choy and Tofu Noodle Bowl

Short Ribs in Tomato Fennel Sauce (Vartanian, Paleo Slow Cooker)

Sweet and Sour Lentils, Gourmet Succotash w/homemade chicken stock (Nourishing Traditions, Fallon)

Prosciutto and Cream Sauce over Fettuccine (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)


Chicken Paprikash

Fried Tidbits of Swordfish or Other Fish (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

Quick Coconut Lamb Curry

Baked Fillet of Sole With Tomato, Oregano And Hot Pepper (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

Veal Scalloppine al Limone

Week 6: 52-Week Savings Challenge, plus Day 1 Sochi

February 8th, 2014 at 03:38 pm

I've noticed a binge-purge groceries habit. NSDs throughout the working week, and then one day of $85-$100 outflow. This week I had two no-spend days. I had some good savings: eight dollars off a 24 oz canister of grated Parmesan cheese; four dollars off a pound of natural ground lamb; coupon for five dollars off a grocery purchase.

A few of my friends and family have birthdays, so I bought and mailed cards to them. Some are out of the country. February and November seem to be my busiest months for this.

$38 deposited.

Sochi Challenge
$9 so far on the first day: Gold, Silver AND Bronze. Going to use the Sochi Challenge savings on exercise wear.

These challenges are working my noggin down to a nub.
Today as a Valentine's Present of sorts my husband treated himself to a new watch. $76.99. Also we treated ourselves to a brunch with one free mocha before debt group.

I opened up with how I needed to think more long-term and set some investing dollars aside as well as pay down debt. We are all "under the crunch" with our car loans, and the others agreed that maybe we should expand our scope to include novel and little-known savings ploys. We are all using the "Asian market" method for fruits and vegetables, for example.

I fell into the Overthinking Pit this week.

January 24th, 2014 at 09:49 am

Finances are complicated. I am posting only facts. Perceptions may differ. My goal is to shift to a growth mindset from a fixed mindset, and the shift is not instantaneous, nor smooth. Think of a spastic, ADD person learning to drive on a stickshift 1980 Mercury Capri: that's me approximating my path to "where everyone else seems to be."

I attempt to eat down the pantry but can't resist seafood sales and deep discount whole bean coffees. My "eat down the pantry challenge/buy on sales" activity is averaging $20/day.

We thought, errrrr, hoped, that jaunting across BC's tolled Port Mann Bridge with out of the country plates in August 2013 would give us a free pass. We thought wrong. $21.20 due in February.

Son's PC has issues. Our options: replace the motherboard at $150; buy a Raspberry Pi and share the PC w/boy (I don't really want Steam installed though).

I've spent some days wondering how I can manage this week's savings challenge. I saved myself fifty cents "miscoding" items into the self-checkout kiosk. Saved a dollar "forgetting" to pay for parking at a meter. Did I deny myself a treat thinking "I can't afford it/don't need it" this week? Yes. Does that count, or is it negated 3x by the "Ugh I got out of bed w/o breakkie or coffee because boy's alarm didn't sound so now I need an espresso when I drop him off"? That kind of overthinking.

I feel like this:

My worst financial weeks, mentally and emotionally, are in late July and late January, when the tsunami of car insurance and bimonthly utilities crashes into my pocketbook. (Ha! See what I did there? Fukusima? Tsunami? Fukuppy?) It doesn't feel like saving when I know hundreds more than a biweekly paycheque are due all in one short week. I SEE that the insurance premium accumulated in the Money Market Account, and the MMA balance grew every month. It STINGS when that money leaves, no matter how rational a purpose.

I'm still positive on my monthly budget for January though, despite overspending on clothes, charity and transportation.
It's not evident from my post, but Fukuppy is the brand mascot for Fukushima.

I put $800 instead of $1200 or $1500 toward stocks. Turns out I had a wee bit of cash in each account, and today's slide was precipitous. Even my child knew of today's market dip: apparently he looks up his stock holdings on someone else's iPad on the school bus.
More levelheaded today, but making tomorrow's 52-week savings challenge deposit an arbitrary figure

Today's Spending

January 16th, 2014 at 07:24 pm

First off, I was gobsmacked to save an additional $5 off clearance-priced microfleece pajamas today. More like $5.45, for the tax saved too. I did spend on nonessential items, like dinner between our son's possible new school tour (more on that in a future post, because it's budget-impacting) and my husband's "film" appreciation group, and some donuts with coffee while we jointly worked on a Thursday themed NY Times crossword.

Plus, we are selling items! The clarinet mentioned in the previous post, MS Office Ultimate 2007, and MS Visual Studio. I'll use half of the proceeds from Office either for the Tax Prep Software (oh how I miss the days of the synthpop, Sprite, and potato chips with calculator and sharp pencils and scratch pad!!) or to bless on a community radio donation and feed my child's transit card, or something else.

I may go the envelope route with cash. I don't have the "freeze or cut up your cards" relationship with credit, but this year, with increased utilities and local taxes, I find our car loan "itchy" and if I think about what percentage of our takehome pay goes to car insurance, gas, oil changes, plate tabs, and payment my teeth grind. None of the women in our debt group likes our loans, all of us bought within ten months of each other. My strategy for paying off while maintaining an emergency fund AND reaching savings goals is being developed. A tactic may involve chaos magick.
But back to the envelopes. I may ask paper crafters if they have spare envelopes, and print out a template for each everyday expense budget category. Then what I could do at the end of each week is see what's leftover from each, and collect from them into a deposit envelope for the 52-week saving challenge.

Deadbeat Kindle Reads, plus Budget Drawback

January 15th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Today on Money Saving Mom I lucked into a time-limited offer of free licenses for Kindle eBooks. Titles I downloaded include Frugal Living: Powerful How To Advice on Living Frugal..., Dirt Cheap Organic, Paleo for Beginners and The Ketogenic Diet. I don't have a Kindle but downloading Amazon's Kindle-for-PC application was completely free, without adware, and fast.

I also visited my favourite drug store for amazing deals ($3.30 savings per toothpaste tube) on Tom's of Maine toothpaste. Adding $7.60 (two tubes) to the 52-week Saving Challenge.

I slipped a bit: we got the fundraiser Guest Bartender date wrong last night so we consoled ourselves with dessert takeout from the supermarket. Sugar doesn't do me any favours, but with 1200mg alpha lipoic acid daily intake I can handle an eclair or half a Pop-Tart without waking all sweaty in the dark. So I had an eclair. I did wake a few times with weird, weird dreams ("oh look! a human corpse. Someone should clean that up."). I walked it off today.
I froze some orange peels earlier in the year. Today I took some out for thawing: half are in a jar of vinegar for cooking use; I will scatter orange peels around my food plate because we have a lazy, greedy cat who lurks on a dining chair ALL DAY, and gets belligerent when we eat. The peels will repel her. If I can manage some vodka, I could extract oil from the remaining peels to use in the bath. When I can manage the cash to buy a microplane grater, I have additional uses for them. Orange peels are good to use as kindling or to throw in a fire. Here are more ways of using orange peels around the home.
Update for Sadness: My son's complained a few times about the $40 clarinet we bought him in August. We brought it to a local instrument shop for possible repair, but were advised that abandoning it and renting would be the better way to go. My child has a concert next week. We are back to renting, but it's $8/month cheaper than where we last rented. We agreed on some pad protectors (my child paid for those) and a cleaning case (the woman wasn't up for haggling with the $22.13 cash I had with me).

Menu for the Week

January 11th, 2014 at 05:44 pm

Sad but true, the chicken did not thaw overnight. So, I thought to use the udon noodles Imooto-san (little sister) left in my kitchen. Sadly, the noodle package is exclusively Nihongo (Japanese language) so off I went to the Internet, where I found this comforting breakkie/dinner goodie, so nice on a cold rainy day. I didn't have watercress, so didn't use it.

Saturday: Miso Soup with Udon, Egg and Caramelized Bacon (the cats give paws up to Caramelized Bacon). A good way to use up leftovers.

Sunday: Oven-Baked Chicken
Chicken did not thaw overnight

Monday: Leftover Chicken, "Three Sisters" Stew (beans, parsnip, carrot)

Tuesday: Roast Beef w/Yorkshire Pudding

Wednesday: Roast Beef Leftovers, maybe Roast Beef au Diable

Thursday: Curried Lentils & Cauliflower

Friday: Veal & Something for Boy
Veal al Limone I think for me; Boy is happy making his own ramen these days.

Saturday: Sweet'n'Sour Lentils
from More-with-Less cookbook

Eggs go superfast here.

Payday Frolics

January 10th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

Deadbeat Follies

Turned in one empty 12 oz bag of Starbucks Coffee for a free 12 oz drip, and hubby used his gift card from work for Starbucks for a break time. We bought flour, vanilla and cane sugar.

Estimating we'll spend close to $600 on groceries, having spent $199 over the past eleven days. I was tempted to spend more $$, but that would entail getting into the car and driving, so I opted to walk to our nearest supermarket for only bread and milk. I find that walking with reusable bags to Target and our supermarket is a great way to restrict food spending to what we can carry.

This week's 52-Week Saving Challenge Deposit will be ten dollars ($4.98+4.25+0.80, rounded down). Paltry sum, but I know what expenditures lie ahead. At least it's a double-digit sum, and at least the rusty cogitation wheels are creaking with a smidgen of industrial creativity grease.

For decluttering recipes, Susan Pinsky, author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD, suggests trying a recipe within a week of receipt. All of the recipes from the backs of food products, printouts from Epicurious, Yummly, about.com, et cetera, are to go into an accordion folder. I tried putting my photocopied recipes in a binder with tabs but the binder was too small. Pinsky recommends tossing cookbooks too but I am not ready for that. Ninety percent of my cookbooks are from the old country. Who tosses out a perfectly usable copy of The New Basics or The Joy of Cooking or The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook?

Link du Jour - How to Live Like a Royal Person, by Thor Harris. Expletive-rich, so not violating any sort of copyright by reposting the whole thing here. Chances are excellent you've used most of Thor's list anyhow.
Water/sewer/yard waste/recycling bill now $231, because rates have gone up AGAIN. I can't even be all **HULK SMASH** about the rate hike because we're paying $90 less per bill than the typical house, and we ARE the typical house.

Empty Purse to go with my Empty Hearse

January 5th, 2014 at 08:31 am

Recorded my shopping experience at safewaysurvey.net, in hopes of winning a $100 gift card.
I saved $50.56 from my total shopping, using paper coupons, Just-for-U savings and card savings.
However, I have now $140 to last us five days, unless the GE stock purchase goes through, in which case $100 to last us five days. I won't be needing to fuel up in six days, so that's good.

I planned close to three weeks' worth of meals. We have a full freezer now. I'll need about twelve onions and canned tomatoes, and maybe if I'm feeling rich some whipping cream along with the eggs, bread and milk we'll eventually need to restock.

From January to mid-April I go through a First Quarter panic. We'll have some tax bite from the sale of some stocks my spouse sold a year ago. Plus car tab renewal in April as well. I'm determined to eat better this year's First Quarter panic. I've a greater assortment of “cheap cooking” blogs, and dozens, if not one hundred, slow cooker and cheap cuisine books available to me from the local libraries, including the busiest library system in the United States.
Said to me today over a juice break: "You placed SECOND in a Dead Pool?"
Looked at Lifehacker article: "Write Down Exactly What Your Savings Are Allowed to Be Spent On". Okay: furniture, home improvement, debt repayment, shareware donations, Donors Choose projects, stock purchase, and Safe Deposit Box Rental. That money isn't going to be moribund in a 0% account while there's some prettying to be done, some debt to pay, and money to be made. But it will accumulate in that 0% account until certain minimums are reached.
Spent an hour scouring the Web, including Google search "site:savingadvice.com [cheap eats] [thrifty meals] [budget cooking]" for blogs with content combining frugality with food. I just discovered "Grocery Budget" category in the forums. And this article

Blogs and Sites Outside
http://www.cheapcooking.com/ - a popular one among retired/old-timer SA bloggers
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/cheap-eat (this is a UK site.)
http://www.pinterest.com/geauxsaints9/thrifty-cooking/ (Pinterest aggregate)


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.

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.
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.
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.
Mental note for 2014: Invest in data brokerage companies, 3-D printing companies.
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
More on slow-cooking: here's how to make over 30 meals in four hours -- frozen meal packs for slow cookers
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?
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.

using up my Chinook book coupons this week

October 27th, 2013 at 05:12 pm

The grocery strike threat prompted a re-examination of protein sources and advance plan of meals. I made a weekly plan and in that week we've had take'n'bake once, eaten out once, and had leftovers for three days. Why take'n'bake? We have a coupon book for local, "sustainable, green or organic" businesses and we haven't used all the coupons we want to yet. I bought two pizzas for $10.74. My closet is hurting for warm sweaters, thick socks and knit tops so I'll be hunting consignment stores in the next week.

So we entered a coffee shop, set to work on the Friday NYT crossword, when we heard "we're saved!" from the proprietor. Apparently there was a crossword already in progress, tackled communally. We helped out, discussed tech, mentioned interest in getting a Raspberry Pi, and lo! We were given a 17" flat screen TV with HDMI port for streaming Pi fun! Now for the Pi, SD card, USB keyboard and some cables. Also for our crossword help, we received a good tip on monthly government surplus auctions for PCs with no operating systems. I may save some $50... I want a cheap laptop for Linux work.

Clothes: bought socks for us all; whimsical frivolous socks -- mine have illustrations of a young moppet struggling with a wind-battered umbrella and slashing rain, saying "#*$% this ^!@&" (not really, the four-letter words are on the socks but I'm not typing them out) -- saved $5.40 there. I apologize to My English Castle for the brain-damaged punctuation of the last sentence. I see the use of plain cheap sturdy socks. At Value Village, using a 20% off coupon from the coffee shop, I purchased two sweaters for me, and a rain jacket for the boy. I have a branded pen from the coffee shop, again for free. The coffee shop saved us about $24 that time, five times the cost of our drinks. Saved four dollars at Fred Meyer outfitting boy with dress shirt for orchestra. Somehow I don't mind shelling out $ for the boy's clothes or school or books, but man, am I stingy with most everything else (except food implements).

So, ah, no grocery strike

October 22nd, 2013 at 10:10 am

Strike averted a few hours before deadline: that may explain why the food co-op I shopped for mass quantities of paprika was not crowded.

Ate out last night, but somewhere cheap and cheerful, as the pot roast for Goulash had not thawed out. I'd thought 18 hours in the refrigerator would work for a 0.8 kg chuck roast. Beans had soaked for all of two hours. Eating down the stores will be a little challenge: I have more footlong hot dogs than I know what to do with, so feel free to suggest recipes; for me, sharing URLs doesn't work in the comments but if you give me a collection of keywords and a site, my browser'll probably find them for me.

I am thankful to my family for being adaptable to my budget-guided cooking repertoire tweaks: they are okay with vegetarian. I made burritos for the first time and they turned out well. I change bean water frequently to reduce the pootin', but when it's cooler, the three seconds of warmth generated are welcome, you know?

A better day

September 21st, 2013 at 04:51 pm

Someone left ten cents credit in the photocopier, so I paid a nickel for my Saturday New York Times crossword.

Although the ginger root was horribly overpriced at my local supermarket (no gas used), someone in front of me left forty-two cents in the change pocket. Whee!

And although I did not save lots of cash at Safeway, I did get seven gas rewards for $60 expenditure.

I like Linux Mint and want to play with it more, but can't rationalize another PC purchase. If I'm going to spend over a hundred dollars on something it'd be an interview outfit.

Dinner for the week ahead:
Beef/Broccoli stir-fry
Roast Beef w/Yorkshire Pudding
Chicken Breasts someway that makes them moist and mustardy
Fish (Probably salmon, or maybe mussels)
Spaghetti con Tonno (that's tuna, mio caro)
Marinated Roast Beef
Spaghetti Carbonara

Lowered Expectations

September 15th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Although we used half as much water as last year our water bill came out to be about the same. This tells me the recycling and yard waste got pricey.
I'm on track to exceed paying 7% of my total debt by December 31. That is a lowered expectation as none of my debts have amortization periods longer than 12 years.

What isn't a lowered expectation is the reward I dangle for the boy if he manages to score in the top 10% of kids in his grade for end-of-course state standardized test performance. This year he gets a treat of his choice as he actually did that in one tested subject. So a little budget blowout.

I originally offered him tickets to a NHL game at the city closest to us but found that the cost of tickets before service charges and Harmonized Sales Tax is $115-$160/person. This doesn't include food, souvenirs, currency conversion premiums, parking, gas or overnight stay (closest hockey city is in another country). Plus the tickets sell out fast. I dunno why Pittsburgh, a city with half the population, can afford two of the priciest NHL players in the league (Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby) and have half the ticket costs of Vancouver, yet have Stanley Cup rings, and in Vancouver one defenseman took a salary cut (earning 12% of what Malkin or Crosby earns) to extend his contract with the franchise. The Vancouver Canucks hockey club has 400+ consecutive sellouts in an arena with over 18000 capacity, so you can't tell me there's no interest in hockey up here.

My kid said he'd be fine going to the other country and having treats at a 1940s-style soda fountain/ice cream parlour , with rickeys, malts, egg creams up there (they even dress like soda jerks with the paper wedge hats and smile when you call them soda jerk). We do not have Farrell's or Brooklyn Farmacy or Serendipity 3 or Crown Candy or The Fountain on Locust or anything fun like that. Our favourite custard place within 3 miles of us is closing at the end of the month.

The political action company left me alone, two days after my previous posting. Wonder if they read it.

I vowed to put my found money toward debt repayment: I've managed 27 cents. I am no baselle. The supermarket where my son and I scavenge the self-check stations has now put multiple bright yellow stickers on each station reminding shoppers to pick up their change. Probably because of us. There are some university students renting a house down the street who almost always spill money on the sidewalk. My kid found a $10 Canadian bill in downtown Vancouver so he's a prodigy. I take him with me for grocery shopping because his superpower is finding money or cheap deals and coupons or good lotto bets.

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