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August update

August 1st, 2015 at 06:43 pm

It is hot in BC. My friends are dealing with health issues. Everyone hates the government, but they hated the federal government since always, what's different here is the premier's obsession is Liquid Nitrogen Gas. I don't have my annual twinge-moan of "why don't I live here?" but have instead "I'm so happy I live where I do." I can't vote in either country, but boy is it fun to point to Donald Trump as Someone Else's Problem. People ask me if I've heard about Donald Sutherland's letter to the Globe and Mail. They gripe about the exchange rate.

My greatest friends right now: the US and Canadian border officers. I shuttle back and forth over the 49th parallel with the minor, and they're very casual about asking our relationship. I came back from an afternoon in Lynden, a pioneer town populated by Dutch heritage people, and very sweet people: someone apologized to us for stopping in the crosswalk as we walked (!). We were never in any danger, she was going far below the speed limit.

I'm not in town for the Greenwood Gumshoe, and I last up to three hours now before my auto accident injury complains to me, and I have garden watering duties in BC in the evening, so I am not helping baselle to another great year of winning prizes. Disappointed, because when we're all healthy and painfree, it's fun to walk around with the question sheet solving puzzles and interacting with the other gumshoers. If she wants to ask my spouse for help, he'll help.

I am off my ketogenic diet, but still am trying for low-carb and high-fat. I fit in my bathing suit with no unsightly bulges!

I have a new laptop: 477 GB for $240 US. So that's one savings goal accomplished. My sweetie already installed a network connection to our local wifi, bless him.

Challenge of Dealing with Disappointments & Drawbacks

July 20th, 2015 at 01:51 pm

I am a week away from departing for the homeland. This week I eat down the stores and learn how to responsibly dispose of the food, detritus and distractions that are not good for us. I was going to plan an exercise regimen but maybe burning the calories as a human whirlwind may be more constructive. With the weight loss my hormones are rebalanced: an estrogen dominance thickened my waist, an estrogen deficiency brings the return of hot flashes. The release of body heat, perspiration, hormones and ketones was a heady scent-stew that sent my cat racing into our bedroom, right for ME, to check up on me. Cats are insanely gifted at smelling things.

I have learned that my returned right to vote has been overturned by a province's Court of Appeals -- not the province I most recently lived in, but the nation's capital happens to be in that province.

Also learned that I need more information and to share more information with my optometrist. We are stymied by insurance's irrational and unexplained restriction on quantities for renewal. My plan B, with doctor's blessing, was to head for a Canadian pharmacy, but the optometrist wrote out quantities for over 90 days, which Canadian pharmacies will not fill, and furthermore I require a Canadian physician's approval for filling the prescription. My field of vision and intraocular pressure remain stable: I won't qualify for a seeing-eye dog anytime soon.

The circumference and weight loss is still working, even though I remain wary of its drawbacks. Down to 40 inches, or 101.6 cm in the hips, and 32.5 inches or 82.5 centimetres in the waist. Not low enough to buy new clothes. The family is not touching much of the refrigerated leftover starches I made for them. We have learned so much about metabolism of carbohydrates, gluconeogenesis, insulin resistance, glycine, trace minerals, benefits of bone broth, intermittent fasting. One man improved his glaucoma with a ketogenic diet but his personal experience and three paragraphs of Adelle Davis' _Let's Get Well_ are not a sufficient base of evidence for me. The man suggests he may have had undiagnosed diabetes, the symptoms of which reversed with metabolic adaptation. Adelle Davis suggested supplementation with wheat germ, fortified milk, lecithin, and B vitamins. Milk gives me stomach cramps though.

The interesting thing is until I went on this low-carbohydrate diet I was going through butter at the rate of a pound a week. Butter is fat, and is important for keeping a high ratio of fat to carbohydrates. But because I'm not using it on pasta, potatoes or bread, and instead for eggs and vegetables and with olive oil for sauteing animal protein, I seem to have a lot more of it. The vegetables I eat now: cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, celery, leafy greens don't use so much butter, except for green beans.

Debt-wise, some karma monkey is chucking wrenches into my works to pay off the car loan: buying new tires for the bike, bimonthly utilities, semiannual vehicle insurance, a new computer to take up north. The good news is if we switch to T-Mobile, we can use our phone on Canada networks. Right now I lose $1.25 in minutes cash per month on Canada's 911 service fees. And the Canadian dollar is dropping. I'll still be buying dairy on my way to the border though.

I'd been paying so much attention to macros and summer reading I haven't been inputting my numbers.

Off-topic, possibly off-putting

June 12th, 2015 at 08:45 am

At one supermarket, I won't say what chain or what location, I seem to get free food without asking. I don't consider it stealing: stealing is when you're in the aisles and you take merchandise with no plan to present it for purchase at checkout, you exit the supermarket with goods unpaid. That to me is stealing. Even popping grapes at produce is stealing, in my book. When you present all the merchandise on the conveyor belt, with your bags and coupons you signal to the checkout counter staff your intent to purchase. Anyway, I ended up with free halibut (!!) one time and yesterday free organic chicken breasts, both items I put on the belt with merchandise I was charged for. I believe that if one's going to get free food always get the good stuff, none of this spray cheese or Dinty Moore stew business. I believe what happens is that the checkout "override" for original price (I'm no spender, I wait for the halibut and chicken to be marked down half-price before it goes in my basket!) doesn't go through, the food package sports a "freeze or use by" today's date sticker, and the counter person either doesn't scan it at all, or says "whatever, there's a line forming and we can't sell it tomorrow, enjoy your free food." This happens only at one location though, not the one closest to me.

I made the difficult decision to stop blood donations. In March I had a vasovagal response of vomit and lightheadedness, on Wednesday I had an epic "Elvis moment" response: passing out on the throne, coming to on the floor (okay so Elvis didn't revive in August 1977), skidmarks on clothes and floor and my lunch and dinner exiting the entry way on my Marimekko top. I had to wear a Tyvek blue shirt, and be wheeled out in a chair to the donation area, with my puked-on Marimekko shirt in a plastic bag. I felt like such the rock star (Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix...). If I knew how to prevent that, I would continue with the blood donations but let's consider: I made the appointment on Monday morning when a blood bank volunteer telephoned me; I said to her I did NOT want to throw up again; she said I should be well hydrated and start drinking a lot of fluids immediately; I consumed 80g of protein and 84 fl. oz of water Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday I made my own electrolyte drink of lemon, honey, water, baking soda and sea salt, and sucked down 24 oz of that prior to blood donation. My vitals were a little high but lowered within three minutes at first check at the blood clinic. A nurse called me the next day to see how I was, and to try to identify what could have caused this severe vasovagal response. She wasn't the investigative sort, which is a pity, I'd have trusted someone with medical training to advise me on preventing this. She said it was unusual for someone who's given 3 gallons cumulatively to suddenly develop this reaction. If the only advice I get from the blood bank crew is the advice I already followed, it's obviously not going to help me.

So many people in this country eat tons of carbs, sugars and starches: why don't more of them give blood? They probably wouldn't be passed out with their pants down in the bathroom.

I did eat some sugary bakery treats yesterday after Wednesday's debacle. I wanted some evidence that life is still living, and a chocolate eclair and strawberry danish were pretty convincing...

My husband tossed my handmade soap away because the plastic container was warped. :-(

Exasperation Level Reduced by $700

May 27th, 2015 at 06:22 pm

The clarinet was found in our house. I took it in for repair to pads and replacement of cork, costing $86.70. So that's a few hundred saved. The retainer is... I don't know where. It's difficult for me to believe it's outside the house.

I've reduced my waist by an inch. My tops hang better now, no shaming skin bordering the hem and bottoms. The sad things are that my macronutrient intake is not sustainable, and the diet requires a greater outlay of $$ after week 3, but it's good to know that I can reduce my waist. How'd I do it? I upped my caloric intake and consumed more nonhydrogenated saturated fats, introduced digestive enzymes and probiotics, ate eggs daily. I avoid grains, sugar and milk. Sugar is especially bad for me as I wake up in the dark with dry mouth and night terrors. I'm sure I'd have made more progress with exercise.

The dairy I do have are yogurt and butter. It may have merely been water weight or glycogen stores that were flushed away, but hey, one inch went, plus! I have no salt cravings. The disappearance of salt cravings means potato chips with their salt and starch don't tempt me, so only nutritious calories go in. If I need salt I can use potassium iodide or pink Himalayan salt.

A 2015 Challenge I don't want

January 9th, 2015 at 08:49 am

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

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

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

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

I'll get there, but where is there?

January 4th, 2015 at 04:58 pm

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

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

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

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

Must be how Scrooge got started

December 23rd, 2014 at 10:53 am

"I'm coming to your city. I'll call. Let's get together."
No call. No meeting.
Cards I sent out from BC: eleven.
Cards received from BC: two.
Package sent from BC to NL November 27. Told twelve business days (Mo - Fr) delivery.
Package still not in NL as of December 23.

Illustrious mail-order supremo bookstore (not global e-tailer, not the first one you think of) offers free shipping on orders fulfilled before Dec 15. I check my spouse's wishlist on the global e-tailer, then check for copies available at mail order bookstore (2, according to website. Website also claims inventory updated HOURLY) on December 12 so I put in an order that very day. December 16 I check supremo bookstore tracking, gift not available. I call to ask "what goes on" they say the retail area sold one copy, another can't be found. They have newer editions in a warehouse on the southern part of the state, twice the price, won't arrive at Christmas. So I had to use the global e-tailer, the one that's a poor citizen and doesn't pay taxes, the one that treats its warehouse staff like convicts, and the global e-tailer ensured my orders arrived before Christmas. Honest, I do try to support "indie" and "local", but lying to me about availability of items and not alerting me when there's a problem with my shipment does not help!!

Honestly, I am going nuts thinking what I did wrong. Was it the expressions of gratitude? Was it the effort of getting a book autographed by its author up to another country in time for Christmas? If I told the universe to spread its cheeks and mudslide on me it must be in some non-verbal, unconscious way.

The most thoughtful people I've encountered this season are my former sister-in-law who doesn't even celebrate Christmas, and my mom's cousin who knows my pain as he lost two sisters at once much too young. In short, the people with whom I share a great and untimely loss. Even the cemetery where I delivered my brother's bones to be interred sent a card. A Catholic business entity is more thoughtful than my so-called Catholic relatives.

Here's how I'm whiling the holy days: Buster Keaton 3-film set; Umberto Eco paperback; Dorothy Sayers paperback; Making Space by Thich Nhat Hanh; Middlemarch, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Gravity's Rainbow, film "Le Corbeau" and DVD of "The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle". Plus cleaning, cooking, exercising, writing, plotting, walking, whatever it takes to reduce reduce reduce and get clear clear clear.

Update: All it took to snap me out of this funk were -- a two-car collision at the nearest stoplight intersection. I don't have a neck brace, don't have to wait for an ambulance, won't be spending Thursday dozy from painkillers, won't have holiday travel cancelled with perhaps no deposit returned. Plus, my spouse cooed with delight at the Monks CD I brought home. Protopunk on a dark night is reviving! Plus an intuitive three-card Tarot spread: The Magician - (Reversed) Five Swords - Ace of Swords. Kind of a "get clear, wake up, smell reality" thing. I have electricity, people to hug, food to eat, and apparently lots and lots of media for escapism. Not so bad.

Fast Funerary, Financial Five

October 9th, 2014 at 08:45 am

1. Today was my first day braving the online banking since my 23 September departure. Ten minutes ago I paid the mortgage, the first time I have been late. Normally, five days before the end of the month, I schedule payment on either the first of the next month when it is due, or the last day of the current month. For obvious reasons I did not do this.

2. My brother died intestate, it appears, as nobody came up to me in e-mail or at the funeral, or the vigil, and said "hey I was a signatory to the will, and I'm telling you this because you've been named executrix." I am back home now, and if a will had been found, I would still be in Japan, and I dunno, probably bill collectors would be hassling my family by now. I don't usually recommend dying intestate, but that may be preferable to keeping an executrix without an income of her own overseas for at least seven weeks in a country where she doesn't know the language nor the customs.

3. If one has a digital or soft copy of a will, keep it on an external USB HDD or a flash/thumb drive. My brother's e-life is now in a laptop damaged from transit from Abu Dhabi to Osaka. I don't know what priority his widow has made data salvage: some sensitive news about their relationship was broken to me by his confidants, not by his widow, so she might be as willing to view his communications as I am willing to look at my credit card statement. If the data is salvaged, and there is a will on there, I'm gonna be p****d.

4. I paid for interment of "my half" of my brother's bones. Plus a few days in Vancouver in a downtown hotel for Canada-side estate duties; my brother died without a will, but he did send me a "if anything should happen to me" e-mail six months ago, with instructions, including his stated intention of procuring life insurance for his family, making a will, and appointing me executrix.

5. I abruptly left the home 23 September 2014, but I did print out all my internet account userids and passwords from our database and left them at my husband's workdesk before departure. Not as a "if anything should happen" precaution, but as a "I expect you to take care of things while I'm gone" message. Guess what: not everything was taken care of while I was gone.

Oh yeah, for those of you who might care and have oodles of altruistic facebook contacts - here's a GoFundMe link to my bro's funeral expenses fund. This goes to his widow and child, not to me. My expenses are my responsibility.

Answers urgently needed! International airfare websites

September 22nd, 2014 at 11:19 am

Reposted from forum:

My brother, 44 years old, died last night. In Japan. I am in shock racing into grief.
(I know this is very young, and I will tell you it was from a lung malady, not from selfharm or a traffic accident or what usually takes the lives of men under the age of 50.)

His wife asked me to fly over. I need this information fast. I don't know if compassionate fares work for overseas flights.
Will my 12 yo child need a passport to fly with me?
Are there fare discounts or freebies for children?

Update: My cousin who is a travel agent found a flight for me. I am going alone. I now have some Japanese Yen, a tasteful black dress and black flats (no sense going as Godzilla-in-mourning) and maybe I'll have ticket info (website timed out on my cousin when she booked as me). I am still kind of in shock but prone to sudden crying fits. I am very thankful I have two places to stay at in Japan, and I'll be there for probably a week so I don't burden my sister's parents, who know very little English (I know even less Japanese). My mom and dad are both dead and I am struggling with minor details and what to do for Japanese funerals and how I'm going to communicate across the sea: do you think maybe my sister will let me have my brother's laptop?

How weird is it that today's SavingAdvice article is about men and heart disease? My brother died of a pulmonary embolism.

OT: Morbid day!

April 4th, 2014 at 07:11 pm

Okay, not completely off-topic. We've spent $413 on the cats for vaccination boosters, and $1100 on oral surgery for one of them, who has since been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. She's got less than six months, I think.

The $1100 was for a biopsy and two teeth extractions, anesthetic, medications and X-rays. I did not tend to this matter: it was dealt with by someone more tenderhearted and less money-obsessed than I.

I don't like that the bulk of our tax refund went to a cat with a few months to live, but I suppose life goes like that. Edit: it could have been much worse if we didn't have the money or if the cat hadn't reached her average life span. And no, we didn't vaccinate her. Looks like we don't have to bother with that now.

Also, my brother found out after his shoulder surgery he has hypertension and an enlarged heart. He is feeling mortal and told me he'd assign me executrix duties. He hasn't done a will yet. He has a wife and a child. Maybe he's panicky from the post-op drugs.


February 7th, 2014 at 10:58 am

Enh, my triple-checked predictions for the next two weeks' spending sees us with $26, yes, $26, remaining from one two-week paycheque.

I deposited $38 for Week 6's challenge. More of that in an upcoming post.

I'm considering not eating out FOR DINNER on Valentine's Day. We've been doing fine abstaining from eating in crowded restaurants with steak au poivre, potatoes Anna prepared at home. I may attempt profiteroles. Someone's given my husband a red Cabernet Sauvignon from a local winery, so there's $7-$8 savings for 52-Week Savings Challenge Week 7. Not eating out will save us $75 minus the cost of steak and potatoes ($20), so $55. But my romantic one is taking next Friday off, so we have to think of some cheap, close-to-free ways of enjoying time together. I can think of some bistros or wine bars that offer Chinook Book discounts. I could let him have some funds to get a refurbished watch as a Valentine's Day present.

The car loan, 45 months to go, wasn't so bad before the clarinet rental, and hikes in property tax, utilities, phone tax, insurance (car, not home). Sometimes I think of bold ways to deal with the car loan. The bold options I still play with:

Sell some precious metals.
Throw the car loan into the HELOC.
Refinance for yet another 12-year loan (it's fee free) rolling the HELOC in there. This is the stupidest move because it assumes we still want to live here, but aren't many bold moves stupid?

The milquetoast option I do, because I'm timid and lazy:
shave a wee bit from what's left over to debt. And I'm touched enough in the head to not want to do that because my debt total right now is $122,222.00. See how pretty those twos are? They look like Zs, and I sure could use some Zs.

I do immediately reject solutions that require paying more interest in the long run. That doesn't mean they don't sneak back in.

I feel like I am sitting on my hands and bouncing in my seat waiting for the magic graph coordinates of liquid assets equaling debts plus emergency fund. That won't come until May, with the triple paycheque month and our heating bill cut in half.

Here's a question, for anyone with GEICO car insurance: do you enjoy a "credit score" discount? We have such a discount on our home insurance, but not for car...

My hard drive died last night

November 7th, 2013 at 07:41 pm

I mean died. As in no hope of data recovery, unless I want to mail it to southern California. I am now inbetween the depression and acceptance phases of grief. And even then, I do not want other people to see what stuff I have on my HDD.

I do have an old Dell, which is not completely wiped. I also have DHs (sorry, I cannot use apostrophes as this Windows keyboard configuration has Canadian default keyboard character assignments on my American laptop. DH is in for a surprise when he turns on the Toyota SatNav Voice Guidance too... she will be speaking in metric, hee!

I am using the old Dell. And I have two-month-old backups. But gee! I am **crushed** by this data loss.
Tomorrow morning I was going to have my haircut and colour, and buy a birthday gift for the man who puts up with me (I do not deserve him but that is not an invitation), and all I will think about is the $$$ for all that plus a new hard drive with a five-year warranty.

People were kind to me, my husband and son are sad for my loss, and my preferred School Board director candidate won. Consolations. And we have some Microsoft Gratuity coming to us for usability participation. But Fornicate a Mallard! This data loss sucks!

Are Terms & Conditions changes ever due to credit card usage?

September 16th, 2013 at 06:27 pm

Transaction Fees for your most common credit card transactions aren't changing, but fees for the following less frequently used transactions are increasing
* ATM Cash Advances
* Over the Counter (OTC) Cash Advances
* Wire Transfer Purchases
* Cash Equivalents
* Same-Day Online Cash Advances

The fee for these transactions will be 5% of the transaction amount or a minimum of $10 when the transaction amount is less than $200.

Why? I don't use any of those. I used my card eight times over the past five years and always paid in full by the statement's payment deadline. Is it because I bought a car? My credit union credit card hasn't (yet) given notice it'll change its terms and conditions, but this national bank did.

The only thing I can think of that I did wrong was get a credit card with this issuer sixteen years ago. Did anyone else get this message too?

The card issuer keeps changing its terms and conditions, and minimizing any rewards, to penalize me for using the credit card. I wonder why.

Children + Orthodontics = $$$$$ + Tears

July 9th, 2013 at 03:19 pm

$150 for six minutes the orthodontist spent sitting in her chair, three of them adjusting my child's retainer. Replacing it, with moulds, would have cost $300. I am so livid I could eat nails. Did they tell me in advance what I could be looking at for cost? No. Do automotive mechanics, widely maligned, give an estimate before going ahead with work? Yes. Do automotive mechanics charge $50/minute to play with a plastic and wire apparatus? No.

This is worse than when my dentist charged me $77 to spend five minutes with him, in which I asked a question he could not answer. That's it: no investigation of the mouth, no rinse, fluoride, X-rays.

The three bright spots to my day: chocolates to end our gruelling Puzzled Pint night, crab pasta, and I did not spontaneously combust.

Update: The orthodontist called to apologize and reiterated I should not have been charged at ALL. I told her the assistant who attended her session with my son witnessed all the work and filled out the charge sheet, so without being told by any staff I had no idea this was a no-fee visit. I'd paid $3200 three years ago to cover work, and although they prepared me for the possibility of paying for a new mould and a new retainer, this was NOT what happened. But they billed me for that anyway.

At the end of the day when the orthodontist reviewed her appointments and charges, she saw the billing error. The financial coordinator e-mailed me about the apologies, but that does not excuse the fact that the cheque was deposited immediately upon payment and not at the end of the day, when the orthodontists have approved the charges for procedures performed that day.

Refund from Pediatric Clinic One Year Later

July 6th, 2013 at 04:18 pm

Surprised, but then again medical billing makes no sense to me, unless it is single-payer. $117. It seems paltry somehow: coffee for a year, one fifth of my semi-annual car insurance payment, not even one week's worth of groceries. It'll probably go to the tot's "fishing camp." Don't laugh: halibut, salmon, clams, mussels and oysters hang out here. That's good eating.

The Spotted Pony is no more, so I shan't be seeing baselle there anymore, alas.

Only tangential to budgeting

June 21st, 2013 at 03:26 pm

I had something immensely long to share, but figure only four of you read this, and only one of you would actually manage the whole thing, therefore I have given it another page. This week, with the return of some bad habits, I find myself incapable of making a decision when all of my options do not rescue me from malaise and discomfort.
Therefore I must identify and label my malaise and remove it momentarily so I can make decisions.

I restarted YNAB, and I'm not doing as badly as I thought. Except the gold and silver declines are an especial gutpunch today.

vent unrelated to finance

June 6th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

it's the heat. I was going to rant but by the third sentence I know someone out there would take offense whether any was truly meant, so here's a vent. This has nothing to do with anyone that I know of on SavingAdvice. You'd have to be a misanthropic hostile hypersensitive fragile person to take this personally.

I resent having now to pay for content I didn't have to pay for 10-20 years ago: Usenet, region-restricted content, virtual private network subscriptions so I can see region-restricted content.

Naively I did not mind using hotmail and gmail for accounts because I thought that ads were used to make $ for the cost of the e-mail accounts. I had ad-blocking software so who cared. Then the government, who hates whistleblowers and anyone trying to get from point a to point b without having a GED failure in uniform and gloves clumsily making doctor-touchy moves, collects cellphone data (I don't care so much: the US govt can't collect my Canada-phone data) and who knows what from our e-mail accounts.

So I head to TOR. I get Vidalia bundle, and think oh maybe a tormail account too. But the Thunderbird mail reader from Mozilla does not work when I use TOR's help instructions. I try binreader to read usenet for free, but binreader isn't working for the same reason Thunderbird isn't: something about proxy server connections being refused even though I checked my firewall settings and allowed each new program to pass the firewall, and usenet isn't much for free anymore. All the info is scattered in internet forums.

And I'm sick of the "like us on Facebook" requirement for sweepstakes companies used to just have us mail in for. I have only one person on my FB friendlist, someone who lives in another country (not Canada) and I've had great conversations and a lengthy (25-year) friendship. No companies, no fan pages. Just trying to be ultradull.

I used to be all up in the net. For twenty years maybe. Now I think I either want to be on the Canadian spying side of it, or mostly out of it. Or maybe I want to know how to configure SSL, know my transport layers and protocols and ports, port forwarding, encryption, VPN tunneling, and go übergeek so I can talk to smelly, fuzzyfaced Utilikilt™ dweebs uncomfortably at schmoozing parties and they wouldn't talk to me anyway because my center of gravity has changed and I have boobies and a ring of gold on my left hand. I hate how much I have to learn to rise above the teeming mass of "data" and reclaim a moue of the fun and information I used to have back when the internet was cool.

Oh and if you've read this far today: almost had a no-spend-day. Splurged on frozen custard. I did not have any caffeine today and oddly my body has not suffered from withdrawal. I guess if you have half-cup four times a week before 10 am you're not exactly a jitterbug.

started a diet yesterday

May 2nd, 2013 at 07:50 pm

Well, a protein-heavy food plan designed to shed pounds. The 6-week plan calls for caffeine withdrawal. I limited myself to one cup before noon on Wednesday, and had headaches in the night and the next morning. I took 1/2 cup of coffee to get rid of the headache. I am not happy with my weight, nor with having to get bigger belts because using the belts I have result in raw red rims around the waist.

All the supplements and protein shakes are not good for the food budget, but so far the energy has been up, except for the headache, and the dysfunctional sleep patterns. I met with my doctor today to discuss this, after weeks of attempting to combat insomnia. Could by thyroid, could be depression, could be light, or a combination of the three. I tried valerian, both in alcohol and glycerin-base tinctures. Does not work with me.

What else: can't find my ring from Wednesday. Some s#!t keyed our car when we were in Lynnwood -- don't know why, we weren't in a handicap parking spot, we were within the white demarcation lines for the spot. Boy I wish I could understand people here: I would be happier and less inclined to avoid them. And the caffeine withdrawal headache: only an icepick behind the eye sensation, not the thick, bloodsoaked foamnoodles pulsating in the noggin, like I had the last time I went without caffeine.

This is not a good week. Except for listening to Foxygen and the Allah-las. And getting Office 2013 for $10: that was pretty cool.

I am not saving money. We had our ducts and dryer vent cleaned. I bought a duvet cover from Target to replace our old cotton ink-stained one. I felt like I was in a bed-and-breakfast (good). Then we'll fix the lawnmower, put new plants in front. But I don't care about saving money right now. Right now I need to experience the worthwhileness of life, as a respite from defeat, anxiety and lethargy.

We did get rid of some furniture, and the house has some regenerative energy. That may sound woo to you. I'm just happy that I have energy, little that it is.

Resolve to move is weakening, thanks to an anomalous circumstance where our market value, in get this, a 82 Walkscore neighborhood, in a city that had 10+% increase in market value over the 12 months, is dropping. I vowed I would not move unless our market value was over 65%. I have an accelerated mortgage, and that's probably the only factor slowing the deceleration.

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!

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.

Tax Cut Expiries are not our budget's good friends

January 25th, 2013 at 09:32 am

I just saw what my husband brings home in net pay, and probably because my hormones are on high screaming alert right now, I am feeling defeated and lost.

Mind you, we are still paying for December's holiday shopping and this year's tire replacement (ouch), our insurance has been paid up until late July, our bimonthly bills have been accounted for and cheques have been mailed, we're paying one of the most expensive heating bills of the year (praise be it is under $120), and our first car payment is coming up (ouch). But it seems to me we have to move/sell our house in six months or else I get a job or we refinance again, this time for a longer term, and for me the refinance means giving up and paying more interest for longer.

An untrained mind can accomplish nothing.

I plan to track our expenses for next month, to see if I can identify where our spending problems are (I am suspecting food). Then I could list what I am doing, and ask what I could do better or differently. The biggest challenge will be to be gentle with myself. To help meet that challenge I will note, probably in pages so only the truly desirous will know, if my net worth is going up or down.

Today I paid $781.50 to the car loan. If we refinance the car loan, and I am working to get the title changed to show the credit union's position as lien holder, It means maybe fifteen fewer dollars in debt repayment per month. The mortgage principal monthly payment increases by $2.19 a month; the HELOC principal monthly payment increases by $1.30 a month if I work at it.

Should I jolly myself by noting that at least my home equity is rising, for the first time in four years? Is it folly to think that $2185 paid sales tax on the car is going to make a difference in our 1040 return? I know proper withholding and the spouse's 401(k) and Health Savings Account contributions will ensure we don't endure another horrific $2000 tax bill like last year.

Has anyone made a huge, immediate payoff on a low-interest loan and felt much better despite the resulting decrease in savings? Paying off debt at 12.99% or even 6.9% seems like a no-brainer: here our choices are a DEPRECIATING asset at 2.74% APR that takes $284.25 a month out, or a HELOC at 3.0%, or saving for moving expenses.

We do have enough equity to move. We see the effortless payment in full of our car loan and our HELOC with the post-commission, post-tax proceeds of the house sale, and at least 50% downpayment on our next home. And we do not have zero savings. If we had to pay for the car in full in February, we could. If we had to pay the balance owing on the HELOC immediately, we could. But it's one or the other, not both.

Really hoping to see at least a $50 decrease in conscious expenditures per month with regular YNAB tracking. Maybe more links to entrees made with tomato sauce (we have over a dozen cans now) and grains (bulgur, wheat berries, lentils, groats and rice dominate our pantry) would be helpful.

I am not going to London in August with my friend. It is unfair to my family to put us in further debt momentarily of something that has no benefit to them. Sacramento is still okay because its expenses will be one-tenth of what I would spend in the United Kingdom, it would be a family trip of brief duration, and there's at least the tantalizing prospect of passing the test and interview.

I used to fall for Safeway's "Gas Rewards" program but now that we fill our car up maybe once a month, the gas rewards accumulate faster than we can use them, unless we pay for 2 - 3 gallons once a week, and the gas rewards expire too.

off-topic (evaporative post)

January 12th, 2013 at 09:22 am

Man, sometimes I think I suck for not garnering lots of comments (Jeopardy! budget-buster post excepted), but recently I have been reminded to be careful of what I wish for.

I used to be on Facebook, but it turned out that my relatives, whom I thought were great when I was a kid, were not great, and they figured I was not great either.

I did not pick fights, nor insult anyone. I played games, sent birthday greetings. Then I erred in posting about an exchange I had with some cultists who went door to door with a questionnaire. I said that a multiple choice questionnaire was a poor way to gather the religious and spiritual beliefs of a planetary population of 7 billion unique individuals, ending with "Needless to say, I am not a convert." and "this is not an invitation to religion discussion" and lo! the born-again cousin thought it was an invitation to religion discussion! And my atheist friends mocked her post, and my brother commented bitingly to my cousin, and then her brother got involved... that thread went gang aft agley. My born-again cousin defriended me. I did not post any comments, because I erroneously assumed my audience was composed of mature people. Losing someone who did not meet my audience expectation of reading comprehension and maturity was for the best.

I did not participate in this next episode, but it horrified me, sensitive soul that I am. I have this cousin who works at a mental hospital for the criminally wacko, she regularly saw and befriended some city police, who were shot dead at a coffee shop by, wait for it, a criminal wacko. She posted her grief on Facebook along with asking why a then-governor of another state granted the loon clemency for an earlier crime, and my uncle's wife and her relatives swarmed on her post like angry hornets. Neither my uncle's wife nor her relatives ever lived in the state where the governor granted the wacko clemency, but did that stop them from posting venomous comments in response to my cousin's grief? Of course not. I felt sick that people would behave that way. I left Facebook. I felt I could not post anything without people jumping down my throat, inventing offence where none was, and having to be that guarded and second-guessing what would tip someone into the lunatic zone got to be too mentally taxing for me.

I have to say that when I posted my grief here at losing some friends in a different coffee shop massacre, the comments were consoling, NOT abusive, and I love you for that.

It's a weird facet of social media that people who know someone intimately enough or long enough could connect with a poster via e-mail or post or phone, engage with "what did you really mean by..." but instead flock to the Web where electrons are forever and heap abuse so onlookers could see what kind of people they are. "Hey I need to have the last word, post more than three times on a thread, attack other commenters." Me, I have learned not to post anything that I would not want read back to me in a court of justice.

Balancing Thoughts, Cocooning Christmas

December 23rd, 2012 at 05:32 pm

I guess the debt collectors read the last post. I answered the phone, was very sweet and clear and polite with them and they were sweet and clear and polite back, answering my request for the company name and telling me they would remove my number. I guess they figured that the person who requests contact information for them but insists the person they're asking for has never had this phone number might be planning to send a Debt Validation letter. Really, the validation letter is a favour to them.

Sad irony: the one family who can stand us (we're bookish introvert rationalists on various points of the autism spectrum -- i.e., socially awkward wackos) is avoiding debt collectors: they have changed their e-mails and phone numbers. I mailed them twice with our e-mail addresses and phone numbers, but they have not taken these cues to contact us -- was I too subtle?

I am sad that I live in a culture where apparently I can't appreciate and celebrate what I do have in common, other than genetic material, with relatives, but instead be grateful for loneliness and isolation as an alternative to hearing racist jokes (my niece and nephews are ALL biracial: our kid happens to be the only white one and he's the only one with recognized dual citizen status), or anti-immigrant rants (hey, I am an immigrant, why are you saying they are bad?) or treatises on how more violence will help to curb violence.

Why do families have to act tribal and cast out people who've had unique experiences? I am not talking about addictions, criminal history or sexual perversions, but experiences like trying out a different church, or growing up in a broken home, or growing up urban or rural, or moving to another country, or living without television.

I did have some great conversations with non-relatives today, about holidays and noncontroversial subjects. For that, as a positive experience to build against the daily shelling of social anxiety, I am grateful.

Grateful to have the opportunity to drive to my home country for a day to renew my passport.

Grateful to come across the expression: "'It's the end of life as we know it' said the caterpillar; 'it's the beginning of life as we know it' said the butterfly."

The spouse received an Odd Lot Buyback solicitation for his old employer's stock. He is considering selling to apply $$ toward the car debt. I may liquidate a stock of a company I don't much like for the same reason, or to help spruce up the house.

Bonus Question: Did I miss a widget or scripting hack to prevent the Chinese F*M*L*-----.com spammer comments?

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.

The Buyer's Remorse Begins

December 4th, 2012 at 06:03 pm

I had researched for eighteen months, planned even longer, for affording a vehicle. This Prius is $6500 above my comfort level, but we are likely to have it for twenty years. I took it to my favourite mechanic for inspection: it needs an oil change and that will cost double what I am used to paying.

I may have a vehicle worth $23K more than our old car, but I do not feel $23K happier. I feel poorer. I am trying to enjoy a gimlet so I can brave the call. My husband tried to jolly me through the purchase process: "You're always like this when we buy anything priced over $300." [True. It took me thirty-six months to buy Sure-Fit covers for our catclaw-frayed furniture.] I look at the car in the driveway and do not feel ownership: I feel that I am driving an elderly aunt's or step-parent's vehicle while they are away on holiday.

Today I vowed I would call our insurer to add a policy for our new purchase and I am too much in a caffeine crash to do it. Yet it is against the law to drive the vehicle uninsured. A serious conversation with my family is due. My kid still has a case of the "I want I want". The old heap needs to be sold. I need to get a job but my kid needs to be nagged into doing his homework. Consequences do not affect his tiny but still forming mind. Adjustments must be made all around.

Things I am grateful for:
1. Permission to do the sudoku on the cafe's newspaper. Other people worked on the crossword, someone does the word jumble regularly (I did it too, but I used my own piece of paper to work it out). Someone at this cafe was irked to come in one day, pick up the crossword, and find I had been at it. "Oh, SHE's been here," and walked away. That the irked customer resembled the one who killed four people at the cafe May 30 has not left my mind ever.

2. New Winston Breen book by Eric Berlin. Yes I read middle-school lit based on mysteries and puzzles: a lot of it is clever and well-written and I wish we had more writers like that in the adult fiction camp.

3. Group family hug I got when I said I had a case of the sads giving so much money to the downpayment and to vehicle insurance.

Update My husband called to arrange for insurance while I cleaned up the kitchen. I caught a word on the comments I had not used: "enjoy", as in "enjoy new purchase." I have not yet "enjoyed" the vehicle: I was oh-so-cautious driving it on the test drive, and too much of a mess to drive the Prius home, although my spouse did give me dibs, and still skittish taking the car out of the auto service place. I have never had a new vehicle with a market value this high, never had a car loan this high. I should add that I am a faultfree driver with a long, excellent history.

Sixteen years carry many automotive improvements and new features, and the Prius right now strikes me more as a personal hovercraft with its digital display, bells and whistles. The one feature I thought was really groovy was the km/h-mph converter button: perfect for the spouse when we go to Canada. Me, I do mph/kmh instantly: it is the fluid ounces and millilitres that mess me up. And the USB port for our music. Man I dig it the most!

Denied BoA Visa card -- credit score 798

October 1st, 2012 at 11:06 am

I bet Amazon.com or Costco will be happy to give me a credit card with that credit score. Costco would give me cashback and Amazon would somethingsomething benefits, I dunno.

I guess the facts that I am not an illegal alien and I insist on 25-day grace periods rendered me ineligible. Or maybe it was all those "Bank of America sucks" posts I wrote.

Scan provided in case someone thinks I was lying or made a typo. Bank of America is headquartered in Crazytown, USA.

Passing notes

September 12th, 2012 at 08:39 am

$256.97 spent on groceries and meals/treats out this month so far. Half of the groceries were purchased at a Big Box warehouse store as mentioned: pantry items like canned tomato products, quinoa, brown rice, sugar. We buy a lot of fruit, apparently, as I need to refill our fruit bowl every five days. Sadly, we saved on average 23% per purchase too. So keeping a price book, planning meals, using coupons, making inventory lists of pantry, refrigerator and freezer still are not sufficient in helping me meet my goal to bring food spending down. Without the eating out, the grocery spending is $198. But we are still $5.00 away from meeting our $40/month coffee quota!

I also bought a cheap bottle of Riesling for poaching trout, used a cup of it and then brought it to book club, where it found several good gullets to go to. For fellow book nerds, we discussed _Anna Karenina_.

We bought Guinness Stout cans at 75% discount, to be used in some FANTASTIC beer bread.

DS goes on a three-day outing to Olympic National Park in November. I must find the handout he brought home and check his wardrobe for needed items, then budget for them.

DH's grandmother died last night but as we were over there last month, when she was confined to her room and unable to recognize her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, we get a pass on returning, especially as there is no service, only one of us could go during the school year (obviously the husband) and she was cremated hours after the death certificate was signed. I nudged my husband into sending flowers to his parents, in sympathy.

I don't know that there is a lot of grief left in the in-law household: two septuagenarians, one working full-time, the other recovering from knee surgery, spending shifts at her bedside, getting little sleep. They got to go together for coffee once the body was carted away, something they used to do daily before the lengthy languishment, and that they did once while we were there. But now they can rest and sleep and order danishes and nonfat lattes.

I need a new pair of walking shoes that do not crush nor fracture my toes. Also in need of replacement: our chairs -- I can get a desk chair for $10-$25 at the university surplus store. In the meantime, I shave off my VISA balance.

Fierce Tug of Avoidance, plus Mentoring Young Investor

August 10th, 2012 at 09:09 am

Good news first: We showed our embittered DS that his Berkshire Hathaway stock holding DID contain Burlington Northern (not sure it still does though), so he is feeling a little better. He has identified McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) as his next stock purchase. Lucky for us, custodial accounts require only a $100 minimum. I will put some money into Target (TGT) as well into his college account and into my Roth. Other stocks on his horizon: Pepsico, Coca-Cola.

Bad news: I avoided looking at our accounts for a full week after our return. I doubt I can pay all my bills right now without bringing my money market account below its minimum balance, unless I unload some CDs or some precious metals. I will divide $2500 between what I owe the painter and what I owe on the cards. My goal is to pay the painter in full by August 24 which is well within a 30-day period, and half of the credit card bill by August 27. Was most of what we charged worth it? I guess yes, to be hospitable to my brother, who turned out to be whiny, obstinate and pretty ungrateful for the $2400 we saved him (he threatened to go because only one of us thanked him and his wife for cleaning the kitchen, and I waved good morning instead of spitting out my coconut oil and saying hello. Also complained that he had no car even though he refused to drive, complained we had no television even though hulu.com was available at high speed on the laptops they brought and he knew on past visits we do not have cable). If God exists, it is patting me on the head.

I do not betray secrets, but I see that a friend has been putting money into her investment accounts while she is paying off debt, and I may do that too. She does heavy dividends, which is attractive if the debt balance APR is in the low single digits. Stocks that look good to me are ArcelorMittal (MT), Questcor Pharm (QCOR), Teva Pharm (TEVA) - I think I have this already but will accumulate, and Freeport McMoran (FCX).

Back and broker but not with a broken back

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 pm

The neighbours left on vacation. They took the third best option and left their senile incontinent lonely whining dog inside. Better options are kenneling and taking the dog with them.

I left on vacation with my family. We took the 2nd best option and left all our cats with 24/7 housesitters. The best option would have been kenneling one cat and keeping two cats at home.

Semi-frugal: had free tickets for the Botanical Gardens and for OMNIMAX and Planetarium of the Science Center, and free breakfasts for most of the travel days. Also many dinner entrees for under $10, unheard of in Seattle unless there is a drive-thru and caloric information posted above a uniformed front-counter person.

not at all frugal: Hubby locked the car keys in the truck, requiring a locksmith, and the boy unbuckled his seatbelt when a state trooper approached us after pulling us over. Yes the car had stopped before the boy extricated himself but apparently that did not matter and cannot be proven in court.

Car got 30.5 mpg mileage -- not terrific, but it does terrific speed as we learned through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Idaho.

more expenses: higher car insurance, boy requires three teeth extracted, ticket for the unbuckled seatbelt -- we were NOT ticketed for speeding, though we were pulled over for doing 88 in a 75 zone. We were not ticketed because my husband was driving: he had not exceeded the speed limit at any time in our marriage prior to this incident, and we had a rental car we had not spent much time in.

Not looking forward to credit card statements, no sirree.

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