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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.

Jenny I've Got Your Number 867-5309

August 31st, 2013 at 06:52 pm

This is the funniest and real retail coupon savings hack I've read from Lifehacker. For those club savings offered by retail loyalty cards linked to a phone number, or even when corporate retail cashiers ask you for your phone number, give them the area code you're currently shopping in and eight six seven five three oh ni-yee-ine...

Another little hack, although I suspect this is limited to people in Buffalo, Detroit, Bellingham, and Escondido/San Juan Capistrano/San Diego, Corpus Christi...
ask the retail staff if they accept "the colourful currency." I've now had "the colourful currency" accepted south (a mile, 1.6 km) from where I live.

I've been thinking of what to do next month. So many ways I could improve myself: I may purge -- I could get a lot done. I have to design my kid's after-school schedule. Maybe one challenge a day, then build up. One thing he wants is Tim Horton International stock. He has some stock already in a no-brainer company, but this one I want him to study. I want him to learn how to find an annual report, and to read one. Then I'll teach him what ratios are worth looking at, and why. I'll show him some calculations to determine the future value of this stock, and appropriate buy points. This sounds heady, but when it comes to money my child is precociously sharp.

We're not moving north. My spouse is working on his resume for a FT job at the company for which he presently contracts (he used to be a FTE). He'd have to commute in every day. We'd either stay put, or move a mile north, or (gulp) southeast (12 mi SE: I have no basis for comparison with any other state of the union, and 90+% of them are southeast of us, so don't think I mean your habitat).

My credit union has cut our savings account interest rate down to 4%. I may toss some money into my son's account to get some of that six percent action.

another month another grand of debt chopped

August 1st, 2013 at 10:02 am

I've paid 6.6% of my total debt in seven months. I like seeing zeros in my mortgage balance, it's like smelling mint or lemon in a bathroom or kitchen: the illusion of accomplishment or in this case reduction.
Sometimes if I feel rich I will round down the payments to the nearest dollar.

Invested in a Motorola Surfboard cable modem now. DH said they were $80 at Fry's (his equivalent of the ball playplace one'd find at a McDonald's or IKEA), but I looked at RadioShack (they do have pretty good deals): alas, no pricing available as online supply was sold out. Thanks to the website's "find in stores" feature, I found one place within five miles of my zip code. I was accosted immediately by an obvious trainee -- we didn't find it on the shelf, he tried to interest me in a pricy modem-router combo. I stuck to my request, even sounding autistically persistent ("Gotta Watch Wapner! Yeah, definitely"), after minutes he retreated and emerged with my product. I looked it over and told him there was no price, I couldn't get the price online and I'd buy it only if it were under $90. Indeed RadioShack had the same price as Fry's so if you are ditching your rental modem, go to either place.

"See? All that work earned you a SALE. Aren't you proud?" The store manager was amused. He looked at the modem. "Replacing Comcast modem?" "Yes." "Gonna save $7/month rental? HIGH-FIVE!!" Yes, we high-fived, the RadioShack store manager and I. That was sweet: when we bought our $22K car, we got only handshakes from the dealership owner and the salesperson. Obviously the store manager was more emotionally invested in our purchase than was his trainee.

My bills, extending my financial freakout period to two months: $299.30 for optometrist exam, $223 annual insurance (expected), and $134 license plate tabs for scooter: yes, tabs more expensive than a year's worth of scooter fuel.

Free Adventure Sunday

June 30th, 2013 at 03:35 pm

I drove us up to a big beachside park one county north (again), and we fortuitously drove right past an artesian well, so we stocked our water bottles with fresh spring water en route. We hiked down to the beach area, saw a BNSF train go past, mucked around, and then walked back up close to a mile, uphill. DH and I are so in need of cardio workouts: my uterus loves me, but my legs do not.

Not free, but we visited the retail outlet of a successful ice cream wholesaler company out in the boonies, which delighted DH (Kentucky Bourbon flavour) and DS (cookie dough).

My lungs are still recovering. Not used to doing that much work. Interesting to see if my energy and metabolism spike.

I may ask FreeCycle populace for some large jugs with lids so I can get more spring water for drinking. Our county water is chlorinated and fluoridated.
Halfway to go until the Dirtnap for Dollars 2013 ends. Still in the lead but it's tiny, not like last year's runaway stretch. Very slow first six months!

Round up of interesting freebies and articles

June 26th, 2013 at 04:59 pm

List of Free Science books online. Science books for the beginner here.
Math books here.

True Cost of Our Vices. I have some quibble with this: no setting for the one glass of wine every two weeks or once a month, and if one 8 ounce drip coffee at home costs $1.35 (2 oz of coffee may cost that much, but ground and percolated gives you three cups, doesn't it?) then my family is spending too much on it. Also assumes 2-3x/week minimum fast food option, 7 lotto tickets/week minimum option, 2-3 cans of pop/week minimum option. So $503 annually of our money goes to coffee sweet and hot, and maybe $200 for the wine, fast food, pop and lotto combined in a year.

If frugal movie night isn't even Netflix or the local library, you'll like Flavorwire's list of the 50 Great Movies you can legally watch for free!
How I saved money today:
1. Learned that our toll road sticker was not deactivated when we sold the car, even though the car was removed from our account. My stomach churned when I saw our state Dept. of Transportation automatic withdrawal of $30. We went in person to a customer office with our account printouts showing we were being billed for someone else's car. When I provide the Proof of Sale Receipt (I'll do that tomorrow) the charges get reversed. Fortunately only $4 worth of tolls had been incurred over the last six months.
2. Bought a clarinet for $40 instead of $125. The seller even had it out where she could find it easily.
This is going to save us $$ on monthly rentals. Boy is sulking because it looks used, but we told him Artie Shaw and Louis Armstrong did not have new instruments when they were preteens.
3. Scrabble Club director kicked in $3 addition to the $15 domain renewal fee I incurred. Coffee or lotto ticket?

Quarterly brainstorm of money saving

June 20th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Much of this is going to be "duh" to you black-belt budgeters out there, but hey, maybe some of my "duh" is novel to the white-belts so it evens out.

Buying online.
I decided to do this with vitamins, a CD I've wanted for years, and a pen, and I saved $37, leaving me with $64 outlay, including tax. Sure I've purchased online before, but only items I could not get locally.

Riding a bike. When next I move to a place that is not within a kilometre from a major commercial shopping area, post office, community centre, library, 24-hour supermarket, and not really hilly, I would ride a bike. But walking a kilometre is no big deal. Unless it is uphill and I am gasping for breath when I am 2/3 of the way up.

The Paul Mckenna will-power trick
The TV hypnotist has a clever trick to kill cravings. In a nutshell, you squeeze your thumb and finger together as tight as you can then think of a place you would most like to be or a moment you would most like to achieve. Hold the thought and repeat. Then every time you get a craving for drink, cigarettes [British slang was used for this which means something some Americans may find offensive], food, whatever, you squeeze the thumb and finger and recall the place or moment. The idea is that you have more chance of achieving your goal by recalling your aims and foregoing the craving.

Water down juices
Tap or filtered water is best, but have you ever taken spirulina powder with water? Gag gag gag. I aim for 28 grams juice for every 140 grams water. 80% of my beverages is water, flavoured with lemon and lime, or with apple cider vinegar, or Vitamin C.

Reuse bath towels.
Sounds gross at first, but think about it – you are clean when you get out of the shower. Hang up towels after each use to thoroughly dry, and only add them to the dirty clothes pile after every three or four uses. I have to open the window for the towels to thoroughly dry.

Baking soda.
I've posted this before, but it is so great. I washed my hair with baking soda last night: the argan oil shampoo and conditioner I have at present tend to collect oil at the roots. I conditioned the ends with coconut oil, bathed in lavender epsom salts, used some sea salt in a scrub with unscented liquid castile soap and a few drops of rose essential oil, squirted a solution of baking soda and water on my scalp, and had a cheapo beauty treatment. My hair is so soft and clean this morning.

Borrow this book from a library, or put it on your wishlist for someone to buy for you, the adventurous and keen DIY homeowner:
Save $20,000 with a Nail: More Than 1,900 Practical Tips for a Problem-Free Home by Reader's Digest.

What I'd like to try
Swapping bread for eggs with people. I know of two families who raise chickens. I have a child who'd like to experiment with making pastry and bread products. One loaf of bread for one dozen eggs: branch out into nonwheat flours like spelt, bulgur, rice, coconut...

Metal Detecting
Just learned there is a Cascade Treasure club in our region. Sure the detector itself is expensive, but think of all the hiking in the state parks and city parks, beaches... Maybe time-share the metal detector. Sure the $400 outlay for a detector from Sears might not be saving money, but you get a hobby, a workout, and the serendipitous thrill from treasure.

Speculate on Bitcoin
There was a rise-and-fall on Bitcoin speculation recently. I must investigate more on this, and maybe talk with my investing friend with this.

DIY Products
Oh man, I just bought some Method hand soap and now I wish I hadn't now that I know I can make my own

What off-the-beaten-track tricks have you learned of and/or use?

Trying to run with feet of cement

June 19th, 2013 at 09:35 pm

Found eleven cents walking from my parked car to the salon, hoping for a bang trim. I joke with my kid that we use the found money to pay down our six-figures-left-of-the-decimal mortgage.

How can I go on with my hair for six-seven weeks just fine and then all of a sudden my bangs and the condition of my hair need some TLC? The salon was closed so the spending is postponed. I never really save money: I just reallocate and postpone my spending. I bought one bulb of garlic. My spouse took off to go buy some Twizzlers so there goes my barely spent any money day. Why do I have money bulimia?

Buying a clarinet for my boy on Saturday. The cost equals four months' rental, and the clarinet has had six weeks' use, so I think it's a good deal. It's definitely for the same music experience level as my boy.

I know I am old and crotchety: today's mainstream music all sounds the same, I gripe about the dumbing down of society, so maybe I should fully accept my age and seriously consider an adjustable rate mortgage. What is sad is that two years ago we thought we were doing really well to refinance our mortgage, shaving 9% off the mortgage principal and interest but keeping the payoff date, and now our spending scrapes up against our budget like muffintop belly fat on a tight pair of jeans.

In which I geek out and get a free snack, plus surprise $!

June 12th, 2013 at 10:06 am

Two weeks ago I learned my city is one of two hosts to a monthly event where teams solve puzzles. That monthly event transpired last night, at a bar disclosed in a video puzzle of "Twin Peaks" clips.

I was by my lonesome, but the puzzle coordinator set me up with a friendly couple and away we went, solving puzzles of varying difficulty (the last one was fiendish: I used a chart to complete it). I liked that the couple was bright and capable of solving, but was happy to cut its solving time by adding a third person.

We actually did finish 2.5 hours afterwards (the couple was there for its second time), with correct answers. I don't know if we won, probably not, but the couple was so thrilled they paid for my snack and my drink. I insisted at least on a tip.

I will bring someone with me next time though. I do so much better on these puzzles with an extra brain.

If it weren't for the fuel-up ($38) and the groceries ($28) I would have had a no-spend day.

Update: Just fetched the mail. The credit union says it had overcharged us for credit report fees in our July 2011 mortgage and are refunding us $298.14!

I've got to label my self-hypnosis recordings and play that money magnet one daily for a few weeks...

Sweet frugal new-to-me food tips!

June 9th, 2013 at 06:59 pm

If you have a Cuisinart or KitchenAid chopper, you can grind regular sugar into superfine for use in recipes. Lavender tea cookies and homemade strawberry lemonade are two such summer recipes that call for superfine sugar.

This one is from Dr. Robert Lustig: reduce the quantity of sugar a baking recipe calls for by one-third -- you won't miss it.

Because not everyone needs to see all you do online

June 7th, 2013 at 10:42 pm


No 100% privacy, true, but these are free and effective resources full of applications for the freedom-loving, privacy-protecting disillusioned netizen:

Crunchbang.org Tips for privacy

World's most private search engine - ixquick.com

School of Privacy - be safe and secure online.

Cryptocat instant messaging that's encrypted, so only you and your fellow communicant can read your messages.

These are free of course.

Sorry I was misled into thinking National Donut Day was Free Donut Day. They were free if you went to Krispy Kreme but we didn't go there. Donuts taste really fantastic when I have them once every couple of months. I know, I am a bad Canadian. I need the CanAm kid to remind me how trips north are incomplete without a pilgrimage to Tim Horton's (I never went to a Tim Horton's until I moved down here).

small things to report

May 16th, 2013 at 05:42 pm

HELOC is down for now,
found creme fraiche for $2.99, plus one dime in the self-checkout kiosk.
Lost five pounds since May 1 on Mary Dan Eades and Michael R Eades 6-week cure for middle-age middle.

Early morning waking habit not due to cortisol spikes.

Frightened about moving. There should be some apartments or rental where I can keep two cats, right? If they stay indoors and quiet? (One I'm going to kennel, maybe, because she stays outdoors except to eat). Also the whole cleaning and painting thing. But at least I have some of my energy back.

I have had some sips (1 espresso at 8:30 am, two sips of Ikea coffee, 1.5 ounce regular) coffee. I can pretty much leave it for now, especially if drinking a full coffee is giving me vertigo and palpitations.

Gotta save myself before I save money

April 25th, 2013 at 09:02 pm

I spent most of the week being gutted, despite the beautiful weather. I have a recurring dream, which is actually as common as the rotting teeth dream or showing up to class for exams despite never having attended lectures or seminars, of my dead mother having faked her death, and then coming back many years later, only to tell us she is dying for real. It's funny only if you hated your mother, or completely got over the grieving process. I am none of the above. Also gutted by the slap of modern-day apartment/house rentals' "pet rents" (deposits I understand, but $100-$200/month/cat? GMAFB.) which is not affordable on one salary.

So I smarten up and go back to work, maybe work a whole bunch of jobs when the house is cleaned up and decluttered, so I don't feel trapped by some idjit's untrained loud animal; or I refinance, take $$ out of the mortgage, and go buy an effin' house.

I have a nine-dimensional inner life, it seems. I only find out how crazy things are in there when I attempt to talk them out with my soulmate.

In-laws gave me $150 for birthday. I want to use the money wisely, but already it is trickling from the wallet for coffees and gifts for my sister-in-law. It bugs me that I feel I am no good for anybody, and that's probably the root of why I dream my mom faked her death to spend time with her third husband instead without having to be a parent, and this affects how I spend my days. I want the $$ to be divided by "this is a sign that I accept myself completely as I am" and "this is a sign that I am willing to make my life better" expenditures. Does that make sense?

I gave up YNAB for no reason other than being at the low ebb of vitality.

In Jeopardy! news, I met someone who'd been on the show and actually won a game. I sought her out, she was very accommodating and cheerful. Still don't know that I'll be called, but better I know this stuff and maybe get chosen for a trivia team at bars, than blank out on "College Team Nicknames" and "Organic Chemistry" and "NBA Retired Jerseys" on national television.

US of Archie - Jughead and Veronica are teaching me US History. Good thing I'm not using "Gilligan's Planet" to teach me about astronomy.

Also, have experimented with baking soda, honey, almond oil, and essential oils for cleaning the face. My Target-braned reasonable facsimile of Cetaphil is empty, and I am between the ages of when my aunt and my mom got cancer, so am avoiding parabens. I read that the above-mentioned concoction would cost about $15/year. Darn cheap!

Attempts to save and spend money

April 8th, 2013 at 01:31 pm

Influenced by scfr's low-cost anniversary milestone celebration, I am gathering ideas for celebrating my own birthday. Especially as there does not seem to be more than one result on Yelp.com for "moderate price + casual dress + good for kids + no tv + 4.5 stars". I've learned I can take a ferry from one WA state port to a BC Prov port for free. Could be fun to have a beer or cocktail in Victoria. My underage kid would want to come along though. Don't feel like signing up for national restaurant "clubs" for free food. I may try the women-only sauna spa in the middle of the city, but that is not free. Make myself a spa experience with gifts of soap and clay masks, diy skin scrub and of course, coconut oil.

What I did to save money: Made tooth powder, as my Tom's of Maine toothpaste ran out: two tablespoons baking soda, one-eighth teaspoon of stevia, and two drops of peppermint oil.

Bought two pair of khakis (Bostonians keep their khakis in their pockets) at the thrift store.

I have learned that buying wine at Safeway does not contribute to the gas rewards. Ratzlefratz. I am, however, using up the grains in the house: looking forward to using bulghur and millet in a variety of breads.

I was feeling sorry for my family overspending on Feb and Mar until I saw the four-digit (left of the decimal point) balance in our health savings account. Now I've taken my tot to the dentist, next week it'll be his DTAP shot, I'll go see my doctor for an annual physical, I've renewed my prescriptions for the next five-six months... I feel like I'm on a giddy spree having inherited some money.

Hello, Bottom

February 10th, 2013 at 08:59 pm

BTW, borrowed Paul McCartney CD "Kisses on the Bottom" from library, which is a sure sign I am old. It's a Starbucks CD, and Paul sings sweet romance ditties from the 1930s. Perfect for Valentine's Day. Also borrowed the Wong Kar Wai film "In the Mood for Love."
Because, you know, Valentine's Day. Which I am apparently spending with two fifth grade males.

I scooped some Sunday newspaper coupon inserts from the library recycling bin.

When I told my friend of the money people leave behind in the self-scan counters, she said she was going to beat me to it.
"You and I shop at different hours," I said.
"If I see you, no matter what aisle I'm in, I'm going to zoom to the self-scan and grab that change before you do," she said.

Told debt group I was not going to pay down any debt other than what's automatically removed from my accounts until my house is sold. I did mention that I need budget tweaking to find more ways to save. I did not get any suggestions other than "you need to think about going back to work," a recommendation to visit an Asian market for fruits and vegetables, and an offer to look through our spending register. I have been anxious all weekend because of this budget imbalance. My cold disturbed my thinking so much I forgot where the car was after debt group.

I was disheartened after listening to everybody, including myself. I told them "homework: identify FIVE things that are going well for you financially." Here are mine:

1. The house value is growing by $30 a day, and the house equity by $53 a day.
2. I have enough food in the house for 16 days' worth of meals.
3. I can pay off one loan if I had to.
4. My equity is currently more than the original sale price of the house.
5. My heating bill and my water/sewer/yard waste/recycling bill are both 2/3rds of what is average for a household our size (equal square footage).

Meal Planning:
Monday - lunch: leftovers; dinner: Roast beef w/Yorkshire Pudding
Tuesday - Pancakes!
Wednesday - Chicken Tarragon Spaghettini
Thursday - Steak au Poivre; Potatoes Anna; cupcakes'n'ice cream
Friday - Frankfurters Paprikash with Sauerkraut
Saturday - Baked Chicken

Yo mama so poor she went into McDonald's...

February 6th, 2013 at 09:11 am

...and put a milkshake on layaway. That's about how I feel.

$4.00 - That's how much leeway our monthly budget might allow us. Anything more than $4.00 growth in savings accounts, or $4.00 depletion of interest in debt accounts, is gravy. A Very Thin Gravy.
I feel I've gone so far down in saving $ (without spending $$$ for a trickle of a monthly payback) that a severe change is needed. I believe the car loan is responsible, combined with the expiration of the tax cut. Our debt burden is higher than recommended and that unsettles me. Outside Sacramento and the water heater, we have $650 less in savings than what we owe on the Home Equity Line of Credit and the car loan.

I am feeling bugged because we're now, what, one sixth into the month and we've blown 35% of our restaurant budget already.

I have to sell the house in six months or else refinance. I have not yet done our taxes, but I have a gloomy apprehension we will owe even more.

The upsides: we have ten years left to go on our mortgage, we're paying more than twice as much in principal as we do in interest, so lots of equity. Our area has been slower than other Seattle areas for house appreciation though: our equity, after $4400 principal payment, is now what it was six months ago. Still, this is the first year we have seen positive market value appreciation since 2008, so I'll take it. We are using under 25% of our home equity line of credit limit.

Yes, I am tracking our purchases and using coupons. I have a debt group meeting (not Debtors Anonymous, more post-MSN-MoneyCentral-Women in Red) and I'll bring up the subject that I need budget tweaking or more ways to save. If the sale of the house is a sure thing this spring/summer (88% certainty: where we move to depends on how the citizens of Seattle feel about renewing a school building expenditure levy), I need not bother saving for a "vacation" if I have the $$ on hand (or "on wrist" in this case) or for home repairs or home improvement if I'm just going to borrow from the HELOC. That's $155 a month relief right there.

I told one woman in our debt group how I was feeling about my budget and she offered to host a potluck one month in her apartment. I can't host in my house because one woman is allergic to cats, and the last time I hosted everyone was allergic to cats and my cat would NOT leave us alone once he woke up from his nap, screaming when I kept it out of our room, threatening to jump on the lap of the most allergic/fearful member if he and I did not change seats.

$25.00 goes to a CD in an automatic deposit monthly. The payments to the HELOC and the car are automated as well.

More ways to save money:

Try Planned Parenthood. Visit one of these clinics if you need a routine Pap test, a new birth-control prescription, or even a flu shot. Call your local office to find out what services it offers and its fees (which vary from state to state but are often less than a private doctor’s). Most locations accept insurance.

Buy more fruits and vegetables. Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that when families add more produce to their diets, their waistlines get smaller and their food budgets can shrink by 25 percent. This may happen soon, thanks to our current thin budget surplus and the drought of 2012. I see a tempeh experiment in our near future.

Your AAA membership gets you more than roadside assistance. It scores you discounts at retailers like Target.com, New York & Company, and more. Visit aaa.com for details.

Cash out. Some shops, especially independent ones, will offer you at least 10 percent off when you pay with cash (I have never seen this, personally).
Ask a manager or the owner before paying. I'm going to try this with the water heater.

Make free phone calls. Download a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application onto your computer and dial up family and friends worldwide at no charge. Sign up at skype.com, lingo.com, or voip.com.

Boost your deductible. Increasing your policy’s deductible from $200 to $1,000 may save you as much as 25% on insurance costs annually.

The average person files a claim just once every 8 to 10 years, so you’re better off stashing the amount of your deductible in an interest-bearing savings account. I may raise our deductible from $500 to $1000.

New-to-me ways of saving money

February 4th, 2013 at 02:28 pm

I went to supermarket without my wallet, d'oh! It wasn't a total loss: I got some exercise, plus I collected 41 cents from the change receptacles in the unattended self-scans, plus four coupons. I bet I got more money in those three minutes than the guy begging outside the supermarket property perimeter did. Better yet, I got that money without having to ask people to part with it, and they'd already made the decision to leave without their change. Super Bowl is a good time to check the stations for change: lotsa people do emergency shopping during breaks.

Bestbuyeyeglasses.com - get specs at a fraction of the cost.

Comparing the cost of frozen vs fresh, especially in winter months. Fresh green beans: $2.99/lb at Kroger. Frozen green beans: $1.69 for 12 ounce bag at Kroger.

Using the sensor on the dryers. We'd been cranking the timer up to 70 minutes regardless of load. But I just now noticed the sensor, and used it for the comforter on the kid's bed. It's not a down comforter and it is small enough to put in the dryer. I use the sensor based on what is being dried, and also alter the dryer heat accordingly. This does not work all the time because whereas *I* try to take proper care of fabrics, I live with "if it fits in the washer put it on whatever mode" thinkers.

I air-dry delicate wool and cashmere sweaters, silk jammies, and my Marimekko shirts.

I made Pork Katsu and it was restaurant-quality at one-fifth the cost. The dipping sauce was zesty as I doubled the "hot mustard" quantity.

Tax Documents Checklist

Just discovered http://www.couponmom.com/cellfire-464 but I don't like to use the Java plug-in. I installed the Java plug-in on my IE browser only, my go-to browser for "YES I WANT TO BE WATCHED WHILE I WEB SURF" action.

Boy and I need to learn how to sell stuff. This guide should help. Finding specialty markets is the killer. For instance, I posted an ad selling four VHS cassettes, two of them rare, $10 for the whole set. EBay shows individual price listings for two at $12.99 and $10.99. I am not posting on eBay: I will probably have to open a new account and sell there.

I've known for a week now that I will be spending Valentine's Day evening with my kid while DH skips off to a schlock movie course. Heading to the women-only spa in the evening is not in the cards when I have a male fifth-grader to take care of: I will have strawberry pavlova and play Jeopardy! with my favourite blood relative male I suppose.

things I did to save money today

February 2nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

We visited some libraries. I returned a book and some CDs to avoid fines: DH and DS borrowed items, I did not. We wrote Valentines at a cafe near a library and a post office: that was not money saving except we used a coupon to get one drink free.

We walked to get some money-saving microfiber cloths. Suddenly Frugal author Leah Ingram says they are a good deal. I used my Target RedCard. Then we walked downstairs with a 75-cent coupon to buy two Whisker Lickins packages for the cats.

We went to Safeway to bulk-buy cat food, which was on special for 20% off, and bought other things on sale for "poverty food week" like baked beans and meat for under $2.50/lb.

Total spent: $58.00
Total saved: $15.75

Speaking of poverty food week, here's my meal plan for the week

tonight: sausage, tomatoes, and cream farfalle
Sunday: pork katsu w/soba noodles in dashi
Monday: beef stew
Wednesday: potato pancakes w/sauerkraut
Thursday: beanie weenies
Friday: Shepherd's Pie

We drove to another library near a drug store to recycle a CFL bulb. From the library I took out a Berlin Philharmonic recording of some Paris songs and a book on how to be Smarter on Sunday (Jeopardy! cramming) and an Edward Abbey comic novel about environmentalists flirting with ecoterrorism.

Used the library to investigate quality plumbers with competitive prices for our water heater.

I'm a wee bit disappointed with _Suddenly Frugal_, although there are some good tips. For instance, if I know my child plans to continue with his chosen instrument, I could buy a used clarinet instead of renting. Nobody in my area watches rare silent films on VHS so I must advertise on eBay. But the author calls her food budget benchmark $180/week, which is what we spend roughly on food ourselves. Unless she has three teenage boys and two Great Danes, this is not really a frugal grocery budget.

My African-American History month reading is _Invisible Man_ by Ralph Ellison.

I'll yammer more on this later, but I am scratching my head as to how to live this well or less on the decreased take-home pay. I keep wanting to stretch and expand instead of constrict.

J is for January and Jeopardy! update, jumpin' jiminy

January 30th, 2013 at 02:20 pm

J is also for Jaunts and Jollities.

Jeopardy! - The letter streets of Sacramento are where the action is in March. Now I can ensure I don't stay somewhere 25 miles away and get lost or stuck in traffic or anything else anxiety-provoking.

How I saved money today: got free mustard with purchase of two Hebrew National kosher 12 oz frank packages. Such a deal. Saved 80 cents off celery at Target. Used the Redcard, saved about 15% all-in-all.

Debt payment report this month:
$697.35 paid to mortgage; $781.50 paid to car loan; $304.74 paid to Visa; $82.72 paid to HELOC. $1561.57 paid off. Foresee $12400 paid off for 2013, unless we sell house between April and July.

Glad I didn't sell any of my stocks this month:
21.51 to 22.49 this month for GE, 37.86 to 39.80 (WAG), 68.65 to 75.08 (wow) (PG). This is well beyond 3% annualized growth for all stocks.

I tried to get OverDrive Media Console to work with my 64-bit Windows 7 platform, and Windows Media Player 12, but there's DRM-wonkiness that isn't allowing WMP to play WMA nor WMV files. The DRM-free SAMPLE files from Overdrive work just fine! One of the leading library systems in the United States based on usage blocks Seattle residents from using its OverDrive DRM-protected electronic properties. Even though the ghastly entity that gave us Windows Media Player 12 is across the lake, I expect NO success getting this resolved. Everyone relies on useless scripts, and not on obscure, little-known DLL conflicts or a company's shyness in admitting its 32-bit app doesn't work on 64-bit systems, or where Windows 7 is installed from image. The lay people who are not employed as PC technicians or systems network support folk are supposed to figure this stuff out by themselves.

Gave blood last afternoon: our blood bank really needed it, they're at a five-year low for my blood type. They're also at a low in trained staff and volunteers. We made it to a great bakery and cafe one block up, but the energy my body used to digest the sugary treats used up remaining blood from my ankles, stomach, and brain. I did not pass out but I did make like a Muslim at prayer on the floor in the cafe. Then I went into the bathroom, did something natural twice, and lo! I felt way better and made it three blocks to the car unassisted! I felt awful, but the shooting at yet another neighbourhood hangout made me think that there are some innocent victims or cancer patients who need my blood.

The days are just packed/packing

January 28th, 2013 at 05:16 pm

Jeopardy! audition date is March 6, my grandmother's birthday. I hope this is auspicious. I am a lapsed Catholic but I will do a novena anyway. My spouse just claimed that week off for holiday anyway so away we go.

Even though my kid is supposed to stay in school, as he no longer has any friends who can put him up and we have no relatives nearby we plan to take him with us. The cats can make do with water and dry food for three-four days.

Filled car for just $2.60/gallon. I have a book out from the library called Suddenly Frugal by Leah Ingram. The two random pages I opened to while looking at it in the library were very specific to my situation (buying new water heater, decluttering for a move) so I saw that as a sign too. I have hopes for the book as I read its premise: everyone knows to do things like cut memberships, stop eating out so much, and cable when one has to reduce expenditures, this book shares the lesser-known ways of cutting back.

I wish I were always this receptive to signs. When I beg for them the most they are not forthcoming.

I just looked at the Suddenly Frugal website, and on the front page everything I am already doing is listed as a daily challenge: brewing coffee at home, using scrap paper for grocery lists, reusable bags, menu planning. Where do I have to go to find the really surprising, effortless, free things that will lower my bills and cost of living?

Rushin' Frugality

January 26th, 2013 at 03:28 pm

I hastened an eight-page letter to a friend as the postage rate increases tomorrow: Canada and Mexico mail are treated the same as transoceanic mail rates, boo. I do mail art, whimsically but not skilfully, with a friend. To save twenty cents.

Then we shopped at Grocery Outlet, which is fun in a thriftin' vibe kind of way. Cheap ibuprofen, green peppers, big bag o' chips in case there are Super Bowl parties.

My big brags though are $1.10/lb whole chicken, and $2.07/lb ground beef, a $2.22/lb saving. My gas rewards are multiplying like tribbles, chee. And I'm going to enter those post-shopping trip surveys to see if I win any gift cards. They would sure be helpful. I am in need of iron replenishment this week, that's all I'm going to say, and yes Lentil Stew is one of my planned meals for the week, so I'll be using most of the ground beef this week.

Putative menu list
Pasta tonight
beef stew
bieler broth, beef strokin'off (sorry, cattle prod joke)
lentil stew (buy celery)
shepherd's pie or macaroni - beef - casserole
cod, either baked or steamed
meat sauce w/pasta or meat loaf

oh yes, made Chocolate Satan Pie. 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk, 2 egg yolks, whisk and heat; turn off heat and put in two cups semi-sweet chocolate chips; mix until melted, put in premade graham cracker crumb crust pie shell and chill for at least three hours.

Menu Plan for the week, food & drink saving tips

January 19th, 2013 at 05:46 pm

I did a REAL pantry inventory, and a freezer inventory. I planned nine meals. Then I went shopping to use some coupons and up the entree stash to twelve.
Menu Plan
Tonight: Beef Fajitas with Salad
Sunday: TriTip Roast w/Yorkshire Pudding
Monday: Vegetable Lentil Soup w/Brioche
Tuesday: Roast Beef Sandwiches or maybe Chili
Wednesday: Skillet Chicken Dijon w/Rice Salad
Thursday: Cod, Broiled with Mustard and Tomato Sauce, w/Quinoa
Friday: Japanese-Style Salmon, Spinach and Soba Noodle Soup
Saturday: Either Chicken Paprika or Chicken w/Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Saved $30, gained 30 cent cash reward, at supermarket.
Bought single portion coffee filter cone. These are harder to find, because the Keurig products are taking over so much retail space. But check this out: where a $1.50 coffee, plus 10% tax, and 17% tip, will set back someone close to $2.00 for eight ounce drip, using gourmet whole bean coffee priced at $7/pound. One pound of whole bean coffee yields 32 eight-oz kitchen cups. So $1.90 x 32 = $60.80. $60.80 - $7.00 = $53.80 savings. And $1.50 is cheap for drip where I am. So paying $2.99 for a filter cone, plus $3.99 for some filters, will help in the medium term.

Froze some fajita marinade and now am preparing strawberries for freezing, to be used in smoothies, pies or sauces over custard and ice cream, and on Pavlova. How to freeze: first wash, hull, rinse, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet w/strawberries in freezer for a few hours. Then put strawberries in freezer storage bag.

Our Valentine's Day Dinner will be Potatoes Anna, Steak au Poivre (tenderloin under $14/lb, plus $5.00 discount for meat purchase over $20), and Chocolate Satin Pie. I am the only one in the house who goes gaga for Pavlova.

Eager to start fermenting, especially whey so I can use it on taro root and daikon and beets.

Chickened out of selling my mom's gold bracelet today. When I have a set date for Sacramento, or feel some financial pressure, or have a high three-digit 1040 tax return amount owed, I may sell it. I know I can get $800 for it.

My first NSD of 2013, doing without Costco, more

January 17th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Quite by accident I had a no-spend day. I was planning to have an espresso while waiting for my car during its scheduled maintenance (free), but free fresh coffee was available in the guest lounge.

I am postponing renewal of Costco membership. We found a great deal on canned diced tomatoes, canned beans, canned broth, and tomato sauce, beating Costco by 12 cents a can. We found whole bean coffee on sale at a regional supermarket for $7/lb. We normally buy bulk coffee at close to $6/lb in 5 lb bags. However, you know Costco has that membership fee, and with many of its products being comparable in price, we may not be saving all that much. We are especially not saving with frozen fish at Costco. I'd need to save at least $55 a year shopping at Costco. I may be a cranky-puss but some days I am not up to the metal rattle of carts and parking lot congestion.

We filled our gas tank for the first time this year: 8.6 gallons, $27.39. First fill-up since December 27.

I made a pantry inventory and posted it on the fridge, so I am reminded to use what we already have.

What I did to be frugal: I washed one cashmere and two wool sweaters at home. That is right, I did not use a dry cleaner, but opted for the washing machine and Woolite for Machine use. I used the Wool WAshables sitting, avoided agitation (this pills the fibres), and let them soak for over ten minutes before the spin cycle. I used a drycleaner formerly, until the laundress told me she was recovering from cancer. Then I thought of the chemicals used in drycleaning. I did not roll up the sweaters in towels, though. One of them, the cashmere, should have used that treatment. Instead I stretched them out on a clothesline over our heads. But they smell nice, and they fit, and they look clean.

I am also making a Frugal Living, and a DIY list of eBooks, eAudio, and regular books on my library account. Right now it is accessible only to Puget Sound area people, although the Frugal Living list compiled by the Bellingham Public Library got me started.

Thrift Ideas from Nov 2012 Canadian Living Article

January 10th, 2013 at 09:08 am

Article: "The Thrifty Life" by Patricia Dawn Robertson

Canadian Living is a women's lifestyle magazine.

My spouse and I are habituated to divide our meat from value-packs into recipe size portions, but what is new to us is the idea of freezing meat into marinades.

I also hadn't yet gotten around to making one big-batch meal a week, doubling the recipe so we can have a frozen meal. We'd been getting by on making one meal for four, and the spouse eating the leftover for lunch. We haven't made a "911 Pizza Call" ever, but we have started buying frozen pizza for "emergencies" (me going out somewhere without the menfolk).

Nobody here needs a reminder to check out blogs a few minutes each week for home management and money-saving tips. I haven't looked at rootsimple.com yet, which offers DIY tips for urban homesteaders.

I'm trying some DIY recipes: I used shampoo and hair rinse ideas, and now pest control. This is my shampoo recipe: herbal water (made from steeping a handful of dried herbs in boiling water overnight, using 8 parts of water to one part castile soap, 1/4 tsp. oil -- I used grapeseed, and a few drops matching essential oil). Lavender water is purple, I noticed, until Dr Bronner's lavender liquid soap is added, then it is green.

Off to buy some eucalyptus and rosemary oils for pest control and also for fighting sinuses in the shower.

YouTube has instructional videos on everything from crocheting a simple wool hat to fixing a bathroom sink.

For learning new skills: my pubescent child would do well to learn how to cook. I'll try involving him in some simple dishes. The Coca-Cola chicken we tried last month that he made was good and gave him a sense of pride and achievement.

2013 Resolutions, plus free Adobe software

January 7th, 2013 at 10:16 am

pay off 7% of existing debt.
Use coupons, rebates, gifts as debt repayment. Focus on car, then HELOC.
Read eBooks, books I already own.
Be actively grateful 4-5 times a day.
Download and use task managers to reduce chaos, if a free task manager exists for Windows, or use Google Tasks.
Learn how to use Evernote.
Master Excel and OpenOffic Calc.

Learn how to manage my money with Google Calendar.

Get as many things for free as possible.

Learn how to deal with difficult people, and remind myself not everyone, maybe not even the majority of people, is like that, and that everyone has a down day. Learn it's okay to assert that being difficult is not necessary to a "winning formula."

Big changes, or Changes from Bigness:
Develop and use an entry-level gentle exercise program.
Learn to love Poached eggs with Wilted Balsamic Greens.

For a Limited Time Only! Slickdeals.net has links to getting Adobe Creative Suite applications for free, like InCopy, PhotoShop, Audition, Acrobat Pro, GoLive, et cetera.

Sunday b----y Sunday

December 16th, 2012 at 03:36 pm

Referring to my cycle. I will not believe that only two tablespoons are released over a five-day period: it feels like 1/4 cup so far (entering third day). And yes I am taking iron.

A great respite for misery: orange flower water, powdered milk, and olive oil combined, heated gently, and tossed into the bath. Sweet!

Taking 10000 IU Vitamin D daily this week and the next! I may run out by tomorrow!

Meals planned:
Today: Veal Paprika and Beer Bread (it is miserable out and dark inside)
Tomorrow: Pot Roast with parsnips and brussels sprouts and probably potatoes too
Tuesday: leftover Pot Roast with ratatouille
Wednesday: Kidney Bean and Quinoa Chili
Thursday: salmon
Friday: Coca-Cola Chicken

The two-week flurry of hemorrhaging expenses may be over: I have written and mailed a cheque for $461.60 for six months of auto insurance for the new car; scheduled a $728 payment for the computer I bought last month for Dec. 28.

I was going to work on only what we had in the freezer and pantry for the next week, then thought "as long as I use leftovers of what we do have, and have some meatless entrees this week, I can consider myself economical."

Blessings for the day:
1. The Postal Office worker who let me escape a long line of people with parcels because she read my sign 'I WILL BUY YOUR 45 CENT STAMP' when I was eleventh in a queue of sixteen. She called me out of line, we exchanged cash for postage, and I had exact change as she requested.

2. 30% discount of car insurance premiums.

3. A child who is willing and able to assist in grocery shopping.

Sunday Submission

December 9th, 2012 at 07:47 pm

Washed my hair with baking soda paste: did not even wet it first, just glopped it onto the scalp and started scrubbing. Then rinsed off in apple cider vinegar diluted with water. The hair is so soft: I had been using argan oil shampoo and conditioner regularly and the oil accumulates near the roots after several consecutive cleanings.

What I am grateful for or to:
1. A full stomach. I made beef stew, and DH made dumplings. Excellent combination on a wet December day (if you live above the 45th parallel north, that is).
2. New York Times weekend crosswords.
3. The boy helping to decorate the tree, and doing it properly.
4. B & O Espresso for not closing up when its lease expired, but for planning to move closer to where I live, and giving us 20% discount coupons for use in their new place in January.

I now act on a request for some bath recipes. Here are some recommended for cold days and for the panicky/stressed:

Hot Ginger Friction Rub
3 Tbsp. almond oil
2 Tbsp. witch hazel
1 cup water
1/2 oz. fresh or powdered ginger

Steep ginger in boiling water for 20 minutes. Mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ginger water with the oil and witch hazel and massage directly into wet skin while in the tub. Use a loofah, brush or coarse cloth to massage lotion in briskly. Remaining ginger water may be added to bath if desired.

Buttermilk Bath
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup orange flower water
2 tsp. almond oil

Combine ingredients, heat gently, and pour under fast-running bath water.

Jasmine Bubble Bath
1 Tbsp. mild liquid soap
2 tsp. oil of jasmine
2 tsp. witch hazel

Combine ingredients and add directly to fast-running bath water.

Gratitude list

December 7th, 2012 at 03:03 pm

I missed yesterday as I undertook an act of folly to sell a vehicle far away. Never again. I don't care if I have to mark the old car down 20%, people can come to the car to check it out. I feel stupid.

I marked the car down below fair condition for Kelley Blue Book, and indicated the ignition lock and starter are both new, but the calls I am getting do not factor this.

1. Thanks be to Craigslist for directing immediate attention to the car for sale.

2. Thanks be to supermarket websites with functionality to post weekly ads online and allow virtual coupon clipping. Easier to organize and better for the environment.

3. Thanks be to the spouse for having a big thick sweater I can wear at home. It is cool today, and think I will shop for men's cable-knit pullovers.

4. Free synthetic oil change for new car tomorrow.

Participated in Cyber Monday

November 26th, 2012 at 02:19 pm

Picked up NHL Slapshot at $40 discount, plus $0.50 for Target discount, plus free shipping. Between this and the Don Cherry book plus two Rock Em Sock Em Hockey DVD compilations (one of them free and unopened), my tot should manage through the lockout.
So far that is all the Cyber Monday shopping I can manage.

Am choosing to use Costco for the used auto purchase. Researching new car ideas thanks to the bounty of suggestions from using the site forum.

Menu for next week

October 13th, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I made Veal Paprika from an old _Joy of Cooking_ recipe: sadly we all **loved** it: veal is expensive, but I think it is one-third as expensive to make at home than what is served at a restaurant. And veal is not very filling either.

Sunday: Beef stew
Monday: Sole
Tuesday: something with pork and cabbage
Wednesday: Meat loaf
Thursday: frittatas, possibly
Friday: Salmon
Saturday: Baked or Roasted Chicken

I thought it would be wise for me to start having protein snacks a few hours before bed so I do not wake up between 3 am and 4:30 am with night sweats. I tasted some smoked jack cheese and it was good enough for me to take home but it is also $17/lb. Sigh. Nuts are going for $10 - $11 a pound where I am too.

Another thing: Saving $100 a month is not going to do it for most people who want to buy cars in cash unless they have some way of getting 6% a year, or they buy very inexpensive cars.
Several have suggested the Hyundai Sonata for a replacement car: I just learned there is a hybrid model retailing for $25K. Drool. I am grateful for the recommendation because I never noticed the car before and now I see it nearly every day.

Bankrate.com's refinance calculator told me that I never quite recouped the costs of my first refinance. I would have had to stick with the first refi for another 18 months to break even. I did save close to $84800 in interest with the first refinance, and $8700 in interest with the second. This new refi I recouped the costs before the end of 2011, because I did not pay for any application fees.

I may need to be even trickier about saving money. Shorter showers. More exercise to warm the body. Find nutritious foods that make me feel full. Pay more attention to local ads for rummage sales and flea markets.

How I successfully save $1000 this year

October 4th, 2012 at 02:41 pm

...that I did not do last year:

[*]Keep a price book.
[*]Every two weeks, do a freezer and pantry inventory.
Plan meals around weekly specials. I make six meals a week, usually, one day being "Use up Leftovers".
[*]Or sometimes I will make one meal for six, something like a stew or a meal that tastes better the next day, and serve the remains the next day!
[*]Used only 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent for full laundry loads.
[*]I use a third of a laundry sheet for two dryer loads.
[*]Rely on a friend to e-mail me AcrossLite versions of the New York Times Friday and Saturday crosswords (savings: $13)
[*]Shop every now and then at the discount grocery outlet. Only for items we use frequently.
[*]I will buy a whole fish, especially fresh, and have the supermarket folk fillet it for me for free. I put 10 - 12 oz of fish into a plastic freezer bag. I divide bulk meal purchases by threes.
[*]Used a friend/acquaintance to buy Microsoft Office 2010 Ultimate. $200 savings.
[*]I refinanced my mortgage last year, so this year I saved just over $1000 on interest alone. $1465 monthly payment in July 2011, $1346 monthly payment in October 2012.
[*]My local county transit organization has mailed me eight bus tickets, one week after the downtown ride-free area was eradicated. $20 saved.
Use the boy's 6% APR savings account for stashing up to $200. He doesn't mind: more interest for him.
[*]I use a Target RedCard.
[*]Found a hairstylist whose rates are 60% of what I got used to paying for me and the boy. $150 savings
[*]Heat water for tea in a microwave instead of using the gas range.
[*]Ground beef was recently recalled, which may be why I do not see it much on sale. Right now, pork is on sale. So I may buy some pork. When chicken, whole, is on sale, I buy that. The further down the food chain I go, the less processing goes into making the food, the less it costs and often the food is better for me and the planet. I still love beef though.
[*]Meat takes up 25 - 33% of the plate, the rest vegetables.

Factors Conspiring Against Me
[*]GEICO insurance. Never mind the discounts for safe driving, age and multiple policies: GEICO's premiums go up every year.
[*]Petrol/automotive fuel prices. I am sure I need not say more.
[*]Money Market account and Certificates of Deposit interest rates downgraded by 0.05%
[*]Comcast Business Internet went up $2.40 a month. Yes, we need it: real work goes on in the house. The commute time is twenty-five seconds.
[*]Old cars still cost a lot to run when you have to replace the parts. General Motors does not count on anyone keeping its cars beyond fifteen years. Next time I will buy a vehicle made by a manufacturer whose cars are old enough to vote.

Tips I Wish Other People in My Household Would Use
[*]It is not rocket science to make pancake mix at home. We HAVE maple syrup.
http://beingfrugal.net/frugal-breakfast-from-scratch/ - Homemade pancake recipe from beingfrugal.net
[*]Make a lunch or bring some flavoured oatmeal mix with you to work. I used to do this and went to the kitchen area to get a bowl and hot water and voila! Breakfast without shelling out $5.
[*]Cold cereals are costlier and less nutritious than oatmeal.

Mind Hacks
These do not actually save me money. They alter my perspective and reframe my thinking.
[*]Keep a large jar by your door, when you get home from work, drop all of your change into the jar, empty your pocket book and pockets of change into the jar.
[*]I have found a pay-what-you-can coffeehouse. I do not go very frequently now, every five weeks or so, but rarely do I pay full price for a cappuccino.
Just take your credit card (or loyalty card, or gift card), place it on your paper at an angle, and tear along the edge for a perfectly straight tear. Easy, clean, and quick. Works when I do not have scissors around.

And lo! No mention of cutting cable, ditching a landline, or forgoing gym memberships, going from two cars to one, or easy-peasy baby-la-la budget alterations.

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