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Time for a Coin Change

April 13th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Had good frugal shopping day today, except for the seltzer water, but we saved $4 buying the seltzer so okay.
Chicken thighs for ninety-nine cents a pound, whole chicken for eighty-eight cents a pound, bought nine tins of the cats' favourite food at 15% reduction, free sour cream, pork chops for $2.20 a pound.

I'm bothered by the price of beef being so high, but I can still eat eggs, seafood, pork and chicken.

Birthday is coming up, spring break for boy is this week: an expensive week. Trying to up the fun factor and down the spending. Soon I'll be venturing out for a long walk in the sun. Planned is a dinner on an island, we have a restaurant coupon and ferry discount coupon. This is to celebrate the 70% equity milestone. Another activity could be trying our hand at pie-making, or buying a neon jacket and getting the bicycle fixed and outfitted with an engine to go up hills. When I tell people I'd like to get a Raspberry Pi they say "that's a super idea! I might get one too!" and then they're surprised that I mean the Pi with cables and memory card and LED wires. Although a Raspberry Pie or Key Lime Pie or Mexican Chocolate Pie sounds great too. I'm more concerned with feeling fantastic than risking a positive correlation between money spent on me and any positive self-esteem I may have. So I'm staying off the forums for a "free or dead cheap ways to celebrate my birthday" question because I prefer to come up with answers without getting verbal abuse from strangers.

I did treat myself to Turkish coffee and orange flower water. Only twenty-three cents a cup for a 6 ounce trip to the secular Middle East! Beat that, Starbucks!

I may open up a DogeCoin wallet and start using GoogleWallet. And start playing with my finances so I can find ways to save more than 3% and put the savings toward debt reduction. Oh for the day I can obliterate one five-digit debt. Might be a four-digit debt before that happens.

Millimetring forward, Kilometring back

April 10th, 2014 at 08:31 am

Most importantly thank you for the kind thoughts about my brother, and the cat. My brother's problem is fixable, the cat's, not so much. I haven't heard from him in a while so maybe he's calmed down and is busy getting his affairs in order.

My men took advantage of Ben & Jerry's "Free Cone Day" promotion on Tuesday. I bought Apple stock, finally, after weeks of saving up for the amount needed for commission and one full share. I probably need to do some spring cleaning on my Roth IRA, while I'm busy changing passwords on my accounts.

Oh yeah, equity in the house has pushed past 70%! It boggles me how I can be paying over $700 principal per month on a small house in a "thriving metropolitan area" and yet accrue equity oh so slowly. Eight years ago we were at 65% equity.

My birthday's coming up and I can't bring myself to buy myself a present because of the $1092.79 on the credit card. The only person who talks about my b-day is my son who tells me I should go up to B.C. and have a good time. Last time we did that, for his birthday, he complained and still complains about the 20 whole minutes we spent at one of the greatest independent record stores in North America, at his father's request. We didn't spend over $100 there, so I don't know what the big deal was.

Maybe renewing the Costco membership will be the birthday present. The sales flyers don't do anything for me: I'd rather have a dead cheap 10lb bag of quinoa than leather furniture, 54oz tubs of coconut oil rather than a bulk assortment of KIND or CLIF bars...

I may abandon the 52-week Savings Challenge. The oral surgery that led to the cat's dismal prognosis usurped my future savings and dispelled any grand 20th anniversary notions I may have had. For weeks 13 and 14 I moved the savings to the Roth IRA to take advantage of the AAPL purchase.

Incidentally, right now my total debt equals the mortgage amount we took out in September 2011. I feel that one debt is going to be eradicated within a year in one swoop, perhaps two or three.

$3.54 away from $120000 debt

April 1st, 2014 at 06:15 pm

This doesn't include what's extant on the credit card.

I calculated the interest on our mortgages: over twenty-four and a half years we'll have paid $152,599.06. Over fifteen years we've paid $134,299.22. Calculation of cumulative interest for original 30-year mortgage is $240,739.28. I'm keeping these numbers in mind so I don't feel terrible about extending some debt to maintain lower monthly payments.

The latest company to vex me is Paypal. I wanted to donate to Rare Ideas LLC for its Portable Apps Bundle as requested. I was prompted, when donating through PayPal, for the last four digits my SSN and date of birth, which I supplied, but PayPal demanded more than what I'm willing to give an online "payment transfer agent" that can't process or recognize my date of birth and SSN. So I emptied my account and am looking at DogeCoin, LiteCoin, BitCoin and GoogleWallet, among others. If you need to know specifics I'd had the account for over seven years, never had more than $25, and had a total of four transactions over those seven years, none of them with "sanctioned" or "forbidden" countries, all of them donations or shareware payments under $10 USD, no guns no porn no knives no plutonium etc. So none of this IRS declaration or maximums being reached, or withdrawal monthly limits hit problems that sour many other relationships with PayPal.

Still sour about cat expenses.

Eating down the pantry and freezer, so to speak. Fridge looks bare except for condiments and Bob's Red Mill grain bags (Flaxseed, Cornmeal). Tried some Lentils with Salmon: tasty with thyme, leeks and red vinegar. Groceries for the month of March cost $512.38

Request for insurance discount shot down by GEICO

March 30th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

GEICO Insurance put a 8.5"x11" glossy double-sided insert in my Berkshire Hathaway annual report on how I could "score big savings" on my car insurance. Only after a "No" response do I see the tiny print on how some discounts are not available in all states. There is a maximum of discounts applicable to policies. How vexatious.

What a waste of advertising.

Worse, the "speshulist" I spoke with couldn't give me an average annual premium for my vehicle's age, make and model for someone in my city. Later found all that on the internet. I'm paying $388 less than average, but that feels like a lot.
Anyone want to be a co-conspirator for an April Fool's Day prank on the Saving Advice forums "is ---- a scam" board? If you think the MLM thread that won't die is ridiculous, maybe consider dreaming up a MLM scheme and pretending we're all millionaire founding partners. After all, most of them are lying, and it's for one day...

Paulette Finds Out About Contests

February 26th, 2014 at 07:22 pm

I've entered contests for the first time since I was a tweener reading "16" Magazine. Friday's a deadline for many of them.

This week: Games Magazine Crypto Twist contest. Movie quotes and cryptograms, how could I resist? Grand prize: $100

PBS Masterpiece: Four days in London. My friend and I are trying to get to London as cheaply as possible. I might spring for travel to Toronto, then London England, but that's as pricey as I get.

Newegg.com: Every prize, grand to fifth, would be useful in my House of Nerds.

Valpak Clean Up Cash Sweepstakes. $500 for one stamp, not too shabby.

Commented on VerityMom.com, didn't get the $5 Starbucks gift card I was looking for.

I've found eight sweepstakes websites, varying in value and promise. Some require FB "likes" and those I won't go for.

Making this short and sweet. Use "sweepstakes ends February 28, 2014" very soon.

HNIC's Don Cherry Guest Writes

February 3rd, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hockey Night in Canada commentator, former Boston Bruins coach, and Canadian legend Don Cherry turns 80 on Wednesday, February 5. He'll be dealing with Russian security and perogies then so I posted his guest blog entry early.

SO ME AND THE BOYS WERE having a few pops, eh? And we're thinkin' "We're gonna get some medal this year, how about that?" and gettin' all excited and everythink like dat. Gotta show some love for our boys and girls out in Sochi, ya know? And then I read this Sochi Challenge thing and boy oh boy, I gotta tell ya it's a beaut! $5 for gold, $3 for silver, and those loonies for bronze, eh? Gotta like that.

So smarten up and stay away from the cheap beer and lottery kiosks, kids! Put that money in your RRSP, or GIC, or BTO, or Nickelback or Deadmau5, I dunno.

Lemme tell you 'bout Sochi. Now, I got some dame yappin' in my ear about how Canada women are gonna take gold again, I say, hey sister, it's not a sure thing dere, and besides, those Rooskies don't take to our athletes smokin' cigars and havin' a few pops onna ice, like they do in your greenie-scenie hippieland Vancouver!! Ya know we got good Canadian kids out there, sweatin', workin' real hard, flattenin' those namby-pamby finesse Euro players, but we got some unknown quantities refereein'. We keep playin' the Yankee Doody Dandles, and eventually, eventually they get to where they're almost as good as us except when most of our dames are onna rag, throwin' in that extra period (ha! Good one!) and then well, it's a line brawl, show's over, and get'em next time. So, maybe some evenness there, ya know?

And what da heck are the Japanese doin' playin our game?! Do we send our women out there as sumo wrestlers, play their go-checkers and stuff like that?

This one Canadian woman I know, good girl from Ottawa, she went over there, all 1.78 metres of her and scared the Japanese half to death! I have it on good authority that the Canadian and the Japanese women's teams aren't playing hockey against each other. Good thing too. Can't have the game interrupted every three minutes with some medic team resuscitatin' a player when the Canadian women come after 'em on the ice! God forbid this be in Detroit, where some Red Wings fan throws an octopus on the ice and a Japanese defenseperson skates over to collect it for a snack!

But the guys. I gotta tell you we got the greatest guys in the universe. THE GREATEST. It's up only to the unknown quantities refereein', makin' some wacky calls, and the home advantage for Datsyuk, Malkin and Ovi, they're gonna be doin' some grandstandin'. Don't be like that, kids. Smarten up! Use up all that extra rink space! The Rooskies ain't gonna be standin' around dreamin' about beet-flavoured ice cream while Lemieux and Gretzky flash by them, they've learned somethin' since then, eh? And they don't have that BreezeGlove guy in net freakin' out and calling us "uncaged gorillas."

So this Sochi medal savings prediction, I got $97, which is what now, $108 US? No? Other way around? Add 32, divide by 9 multiply by 5 ah fuggedit. Geez. $88 US. or $108 Cdn if you use US dollars for your savings challenge.

Anyway, I probably will regret interrupting this savings blog, I'm feelin' queasy already, but I did it anyway and I'm gonna treat myself to a good Canadian beer. THUMBS UP! LET'S GO!

Meal Planning

February 2nd, 2014 at 11:26 am

Sure, it doesn't look healthy, unless you believe animal fats and protein are key to surviving winters (I do, stews are a hug from the inside). I admit the pasta representation is heavy here, but I'm using up what I have. And I have two vegetarian dishes.

Sunday: Macaroni-Beef Casserole

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

Pappardelle with Peppers and Sausage - (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

Roast Chicken

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

Chicken Pot Pie? Chicken Noodle Soup? Something with Chicken Leftovers

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

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

Tomato-free Spaghetti Sauce with Spaghetti

Pork Sausages with Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes (Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

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

Bok Choy and Tofu Noodle Bowl

Baked Salmon with Mayonnaise and Rice Vinegar

Today's Conundrum: Amazon Prime or Costco renewal?

January 29th, 2014 at 08:50 am

Link - Ten Items You Should Always Stock Up On

We haven't yet gone to Costco this year, haven't yet renewed our membership. We're waiting to build up our grocery budget reserves, and to be out of five staples before we go. Coffee is one of those items, and it's apparently pretty cheap to get through Amazon. Amazon Prime Membership is $79 a year versus $65 a year for Costco, no pushing a cart past people, no ten minute wait at checkout, no hassle trying to find a parking spot a mere 200 yards from the store... Costco isn't that far from our house, a mere fifteen minute drive.

OF COURSE the day I think of getting Amazon Prime the company thinks of upping the annual cost from $79 to $99 or even $119. I'm compiling a list of things I usually get at Costco, or even at Vitamin places or department stores, their average or latest prices, how often I buy them, and how much they cost on Amazon. If I end up saving $150 despite Amazon Prime, I'll jump. But if I were dozens of miles from a Costco, this'd be a no-brainer.

Menu Plan for this week

January 26th, 2014 at 04:39 pm

This week's honoured cookbook, on loan from the library, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Veal al Limone (this time for sure!), Cauliflower w/Garlic, Oil & Chili Pepper (p.172) - all (Essentials, Hazan)

Tuesday: Either Huevos Rancheros or Egg Foo Yung (More With Less, Longacre)

Wednesday: Gourmet Succotash w/homemade chicken stock
(Nourishing Traditions, Fallon)

Thursday: Spinach Soup (Essentials, Hazan)
w/Fried Tidbits of Swordfish

Friday: Rib Eye Steak

Saturday: Peas, Peppers, Prosciutto and Cream (Essentials, Hazan)

Part Two 2013 Assessment

December 20th, 2013 at 04:25 pm

Ever ask yourself if you can do better with your household finances? Ever follow up that question with how? Are you blessed with a mind that determinedly does NOT complicate a solution?

For me, two out of three ain't bad.

My credit union reduced its deposit interest rates (boo! hiss!). My reaction to this is that my $$ need better apportioning among: debt, emergency funds, planned expenditures, and investments. I do not expect 2014 to be as splendiferous to my house value and common stock value slopes.

My Money Market Fund is $2500 shorter than it needs to be for its interest rate to bump from 0.05 to 0.10%.
My CDs earn .35%

My math task will be to determine what three options have the best chance to save me more interest and increase my net worth.

$12,547.34 Heloc 12/15/2012 $411.38
$11,499.80 Heloc 12/15/2013 $363.19

Interest difference:

$109,034.67 Mortgage 12/1/2012 $4,232.48
$100,535.68 Mortgage 12/15/2013 $3,602.97

Interest difference:

$7,568.48 Money Market Account 6/28/2013
$8,800.35 Money Market Account 12/20/2013

0.35 % CDs
0.05 % Money Market Fund

Price of GE Dec 21, 2012: 20.88
Price of GE Dec 20, 2013: 27.36
Price of PG Dec 21, 2012: 68.74
Price of PG Dec 20, 2013: 81.84
Price of WAG Dec21, 2012 37.21
Price of WAG Dec20, 2013 59.04

House Value December 2012: $310000
House Value December 2013: $372500
If you've read this far, and you can handle some whimsy and are of a certain vintage or nationality (you can be American and enjoy this, Americans recorded this, but my experience has been more Canadians than Americans roll their eyes at the opening chords; Americans, stay with the medley for your US-patented content, cued at 2:17), please enjoy Seattle band The Squirrels (no relation to the Chipmunks). No video track, so safe to enjoy.

Part One 2013 Assessment

December 17th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I've met my 7% principal debt payment goal for this year, time to ratchet the % up to 8% for 2014. I want to refinance our car note down to 1.74% or whatever the prevailing rate is for new. Hoping for 48 month term instead of 60. If not I shall invest the difference.

Winter for me means a monthly gas bill over $110. That's what ours came to for the past month. Not interested in reducing it. I feel, with blankets, newer windows, throws, insulation, and a programmable thermostat, we've done enough. That triple digit just shocks me. Fortunately the bill shrinks by the March statement.

A whole lot of things I want to do differently. Make my blog content more useful and find the useful contents on other blogs would be great. Save enough to buy a new mattress or refinish the wood floors.

Things I did well this year:
* correctly diagnosed executive functioning problem
* reduced car fuel costs by over 40%
* met my goals for debt
* identified my energy leaks
* found and am using effective weight loss and stress reduction routines
* learned to shop at Asian markets for cheap vegetables and fruits

Slow Cooker Frolics

December 7th, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Having a great time saving money on the gas bill making stews, soups and ragouts, but some recipes I underestimate the time and effort for preparation (washing, peeling, chopping vegetables, trimming meat into fatfree cubes). A slow cooker is an ADHD person's dream. About three hours into cooking the food's aroma intensifies. Plus, it is a joy to go to a meats purveyor where the jolly souls educate me and give me good deals ("You want stroganoff? Forget this round steak business, we have ends from tenderloin and strip steak, sell 'em same price as round steak."), cut to any size I want. And their shanks for osso buco are bigger than those found at the supermarket.

It may snow. Just north of Thrifty Ray there is snow. I have a supply of logs, coffee, Kahlua and some hefty reading in case we are snowed in: Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End as I have the Frumious Bandersnatch, er, Benedict Cumberbatch film on hold; a short posthumous book by Canadian David Rakoff; a Kate Atkinson Novel; Agatha Christie's Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker. And Brian Eno's ambient CDs so we don't kill each other.

End o' Month Scraps

November 29th, 2013 at 05:37 pm

I'm not quite at the 7% benchmark for debt repayment for HELOC and Mortgage, but could meet it by December 16. Wondering if I should throw an extra payment at the HELOC so I can have $100,000 principal payment achieved on the house by the end of the year. I'll also have the 20% mortgage paid off milestone reached too. Should I see what percentage of my original 30-year mortgage would be paid off by now?
Update: On March 1 2014 I'd have a balance of $134,518. I'd have paid $162657 in interest at that point.

Not in a big rush to have primary mortgage balance drop to five digits: give it five weeks and it will. Disheartening to see a leftside digit drop practically fifteen years after buying the house.

About planning for the future: the elderly couple down the street adopted a Siamese kitten. I told them how long Siamese cats live on average: they are the Okinawans of the cat world. You should have seen their faces. We should swap cats: they can have our two 14-year-old cats in exchange for the kitten.

Pretty sure I'm not going to win any of this year's Dead Pools. I've lost one sheet to the annihilated Hard Drive, another DP is shutting down because its admins are overcome by the scope of work (72 lists, 40-person lists) updating.

Still ambivalent about debt group attendance. I believe I am the only one counting her car loan and her mortgage, and I am grumpy about attending and listening to how others' parents help them with this and that. "To lose one parent is misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness." It's like listening to hedge fund managers complain about how their penthouse strata council won't let them put in fountains, or how their Cayennes have scratches.

Eating Out a Lot Past Few Days

November 3rd, 2013 at 08:24 am

1. Some of us had to drive to the other side of town (15 miles) for a two-game tournament day starting at 7:45 am, so a visit to a 24-hour diner was warranted.

2. By 9:30 am our side of town lost power, for nine hours. A windstorm knocked out electricity to several counties. I've not been without power for that long in this part of the world. We drove north another fifteen miles to eat midlunch/middinner at probably the only Czech/Hungarian restaurant in the western part of the state. The first time I had food there I cried, it was so good. They're open on Thanksgiving, as they are immigrants who don't have family nearby (as am I) so that's where I'm heading.

3. Friday night we had not much thawed, and 90 minutes before a free concert and horror movie, so we went to a happy hour at a local restaurant.
Mortgage milestone: 20% paid! In 2014 I'll have $100K principal paid on the house and that will be very sweet to see the mortgage balance drop to the five-digits!

Overfunded HSA - Open Benefits Surprise

October 29th, 2013 at 09:18 am

I never see my spouse's paystub: they aren't mailed to him. He does ask me how much per paycheque is to be placed in a HSA. I sum up and estimate two pair prescription glasses, my expensive eye drops, kid's dental exams, annual exams for me and for tot, divide by 26. Apparently my memory is not so good and we put in $4000 a year. Sure, that's great for when my drops run out, or a pair of specs shatter, but what if you never knew how much was in the account? What if you were paying out of pocket for expenses because you were unaware your spouse contributed 3x as much as you thought?

I think now maybe $1500 per year (not per pay period) would be better, especially with a car loan to pay back, because who likes budgeting take-home pay to where under twenty dollars is a surplus? but he's ratcheted the contribution to $113 per pay period.

Dubious milestone arrived

October 28th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

This past weekend we hit the out-of-our-control milestone of $250K equity on our house. The last time that happened was 2007, but it plummeted. House is now valued at $55000 below peak, and we owe $55000 less than we did at that time. I used to believe that for every dollar of mortgage principal paid, the house equity would rise by an amount larger than a dollar. That's how it should work. Is our house overvalued? I don't think so. Everybody's house in our area was overvalued in 2006. The people who purchased between September and November 2006 have just this year achieved positive equity, after an excess of $65000 principal has been paid over seven years. If we'd the average 4% rise in home value over the last twelve months instead of the absurd 20% leap I'd probably be making the $250000 equity crowpost in summer of 2015, with an interest rate of 3.75% and a payoff date of August 2023.

And if no boom or bust cycle happened at all, with logarithmic growth of 4% annually, we'd have the $250000 equity benchmark in March 2014, owing $37000 more than we owe now, assuming 30 year mortgage and 6.625% interest, and a final payment due February 2029.

This tells me our area still hasn't fully recovered. This is why people who've seen boom and bust real estate cycles do not use their primary residences as ATMs.

did I get a freebie from credit card issuer?

September 24th, 2013 at 06:24 pm

On August 15 I used CC#2 for a fuel purchase instead of CC#1 because the spouse and I were racking up all kinds of expenses between the two of us. CC#2 was scheduled to be decommissioned as the account had been compromised. CC #2.2 was sent to us and authorized before the August trip. I have not used CC #2.2.

39 days have passed and I have not received a statement from the credit card issuer for either CC#2 or CC#2.2. I have telephoned the 24-Hour Customer Service line for both accounts to learn I have no outstanding balances.

I have a cold. I was going to post about that yesterday and autumn arriving but I wasn't thinking in my mother tongue (English) and took the fact I wasn't mentally composing anything in English as a sign of delirium. French language has a terrific phrase for it: "attraper un bon rhume" (catch a good cold, only good is used as strong here, not beneficial).

The Powerball Lotto Winner Fantasy post

September 18th, 2013 at 09:47 am

If I had * million dollars:

The move to north of the border is one action all the family agrees on. They don't really know/care where, as long as it's in a safe, walkable neighbourhood of a city. I care, but they trust me to know where to land.

Public or private school? Don't know.

Donate enough for the barista/cook who survived a mass shooting at my fave coffeehouse to pay for his surgeries and a year's worth of counselling therapy.

Get scooter properly maintained, or a new one, or maybe just use bicycles when we move somewhere flat.

Overseas trips to destinations south of 37N and north of 35S in the winter (except New Zealand, would happily dip below 35S for Kiwi land), but not to those places where I have to cover my head and neck because of my already covered mommy parts.
Overseas trips to destinations between 55N and 42N during summer months.

1st class international flights or premium economy flights. Stalk my fave composer in a southwest London borough until I get him to talk to me by asking him for directions. Then when he gives them to me, leave him in peace.

Redo will.

Roadtrip to southern Oregon. Rail trip to Los Angeles. Rail trip to Toronto.

Start a business. Start three. Learn to program and troubleshoot properly. Learn to invest other people's money.

59th Street Bridge Song: Feeling Snarky

September 10th, 2013 at 11:29 am

I can think of two Savings Advice forum topics that won't die. I become the Incredible Snark when I read updates on the active one. I haven't posted there because: I don't want to contribute to the topic's lifespan; people have contributed cogently and respectfully thoughts that I would be prone to express in a way such that would at least get me a warning from an SA forums monitor; I've hit my limit on alienating SA people.

A local political action firm has been calling me six-seven times a week since August 22. Debt collectors don't call that often. Both debt collectors and local political action firms use restricted phone numbers and don't leave messages. I know it's not a debt collector because we are current on all our bills and I've chased away those looking for people who've used this phone number on their credit apps by citing the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act in mail and by phone.

The correct protocol is to answer and say "remove me from your list." I know this. Last year I was bullied by a caller from this political action committee (there is only one that contacts me) into agreeing to send money, even though I said how long I'd been out of work and the money left at the end of the month was little. The canvasser said they had quite a few members who used food banks. She didn't say how many had children.


Given a choice between expensive medications to slow my eventual blindness and the political action firm contribution, I'd take the meds; between a week at the already-stretched food bank with my family to preserve $$ for the PAC and buying fresh farm food, I'd buy the fresh food; between outfitting my child for a three-day eco-learning required school activity in the Olympic National Forest and giving to the PAC the PAC loses out. The political action firm isn't working for my benefit if they're making money off the indigent and unemployed. If "remove my data from your list" doesn't work, I'll give them a list of the vagrants living under viaducts and a list of freeway offramp panhandlers as "contribution prospects." At least the vagrants and panhandlers without children.

I don't answer the phone because I want their time wasted. The more elusive and inaccessible I am, the more they'll perceive me as a highly valued tantalizing treasure. Then I can answer and say, "The Man From Del Monte he say... 'oooh sod off.'"

Badaba DA da DA da, feelin' snarky...


August 29th, 2013 at 08:28 am

Getting this down while it's still fresh:

Readers of this blog'll know I had a "time out" away from home, and that we've been "kinda" working on moving. In my dream we had gone as far as divided time between our house and an "efficiency apartment"-style hotel, our room in a cheery-but-bordering-on-ghastly yellow-orange-white combo. The day after I arrived from my time in the homeland I "woke up" (those dreams you wake up in, and you're not yet sure if you're dreaming or waking from a real dream) my spouse gave me coffee and a western noir paperback novel written by someone with a name like "Troy Deering" or "Travis Newman" or "Trevor Phelps", remaindered from Sparks (Nevada, not the band). I went to the bathroom where several flies hovered near the toilet.

My spouse also gave me the bill of room charges: $147000.

"How did this happen?" I sputtered. "How long have I been away? Why didn't you do anything?"
He shrugged. "Why is this my problem? It's not a big deal. It's only money."

My clue as to how this could have happened came at 10 pm that night, when a service employee came in with our complimentary Pop-Tart: only it looked more like a Kind Bar than a Pop-Tart. The service employee opened the mini-bar which had gigantic Canadian candy bars: Mr. Big, Coffee Crisp, Crunchie, Sweet Marie: those were $10 each.

Addendum In the same hotel room I was having a late night conversation with a pushy well-known stats nerd (name rhymes with "Tate Wilbur") where he was attempting to pressure me into a whole-night "friendliness session" (this is a family website, so beware of euphemisms). I tried telling him my spouse was due home at 1:45 am and I had a 1:08 am "friendliness session" booked already so an all-nighter was out of the question. Apparently I was wh*r*ng myself out to lonely nerds to make ends meet.
This addendum helped me to analyze my dream, believe it or not. The Signal and the Noise was the book I read before nodding off to sleep...

Low Walkability = Fewer Panhandlers?

July 28th, 2013 at 10:54 am

In the seating/Starbucks Coffee area of the nearest supermarket a man asked me for help getting him something to eat. I don't know why he singled me out when there were food workers right in front of him. Outside the parking lot was a panhandler. Outside an exit from the adjacent vehicle lubrication place was another panhandler. And on the northeast corner of an arterial, still on the same block with the three men I just described, was a person who held a Stranded sign. This person has been Stranded at that corner since May (I bet I could make some decent distance with 2.5 months of walking) but comes out once a month.

Do I live in a bad area, or an area with some nearby drug dealers, or is everyone in a residential neighborhood of an American city witnessing multiple panhandlers in one block within 0.25 miles of where they live?

Are there peak days and times for panhandlers? I hate thinking I have to plan my errands and paths to avoid them. The Safeway ten blocks up from me has no panhandlers, only shoplifters. The supermarket near me has both.

I have lived in Canadian cities and the panhandling was only bad in the downtown - just east of downtown areas, or by the liquor stores in the high-density parts of the city.

Under $130000 in debt

July 18th, 2013 at 11:48 am

Thankfully it is asset debt, not credit card debt. This is my silver lining for July, my finance freakout month: auto insurance, big water bill, utilities due at the end of the month. Oh yeah, and I owe 45% less on my mortgage than I did when I bought, the principal portion is now over twice the interest portion.

How is it that I can easily calculate the densest and cheapest protein sources, but be in a quandary about what to do with the few dollars remaining from our bank accounts, or how to properly monitor our budget and discipline ourselves to have delayed gratification. I am probably overwhelmed by too many choices and my unwillingness to extend the amortization terms to pay even more cumulative interest.

Visit to optometrist went much better than orthodontist. I did some things differently: I had a bill from last week's visit I announced my intention to pay. I had my Health Spending Account debit card with me and asked if I could pay that way. When there was a discrepancy between what the front desk person heard and what I heard for my next scheduled visit, she offered to double-check. I was proven correct. And the optometrist told me he'd waive his personal services fee as I have a high-deductible Health Savings Account. Plus he gave me four free bottles of artificial tears to hydrate my eyes, so they don't burn when I put in my medication. So glad my assertiveness has improved. It also helps that the number of employees is smaller.

I'm also a little down on how hard 10-year mortgages are to find these days. I'm not into paying so much interest up front anymore.

I do feel like a mental defective with budgeting after reading CNN's collection of McDonald's workers budgets: I should be able to outsave these people, some of whom have large children to feed. Our housing is about 3-4x what the profiled workers pay though.

My shopping successes

June 19th, 2013 at 09:07 am

Found the best savings out of my 2-for-1 supplement coupon at a favourite store.

Saved 37% from my Safeway groceries order last night.

Will be buying a clarinet for the kid at a cost that equals about four months' rental cost.

We were at a national chain pet supply store yesterday looking for flea control treatments. We didn't do our research, so looking at hooked cards reading "take this card to the register to purchase the product" didn't have the ingredient and application info we were looking for. So we wrote down the three most likely products to purchase, went to the library for a 15-minute express internet session to look at reviews and product information, then found that online retailers had cheaper prices, so we ordered online.
I'm convinced that national chain stores are largely for the "buy it now" crowd who've researched their products ahead of time. If I did not know about Hartz products making animals really sick, I'd have been less concerned about the toxicity of flea control products and their applications and would have purchased the cheapest product at the national chain.

This one boggles me: ordering a math workbook from Canada was cheaper than ordering a math workbook from the US. Shipping and handling was $5 less from Canada, and there was no tax.

Summer is here, funds for summer are not

June 14th, 2013 at 03:09 pm

67 minutes my boy's in for summer vacation. I am determined he will not loll around in his room playing games all the time, and when I finish "I, Claudius" I can set an example for him.

Considering the principal paid since April 1999 on the house is a letdown: 170 mortgage payments, less than 46% principal paid. I know people who refinance for thirty year terms, they can't be expecting to make mortgage payments in their seventies, wouldn't it be a comedown to start at a low principal payment and have tens of thousands of dollars in interest? Why don't they just go for 5/1 ARMs?

Also not working this summer, but will sharpen my database skills. I'm housesitting, or at least accepted an invitation to housesit, up in a Vancouver suburb for a week-and-a-half: my idea of a good cheap vacation. Dunno if the boy is coming up with me.

Unusually lax or distracted about finances

June 3rd, 2013 at 10:34 am

For the second time ever in my household's history, I paid the mortgage late. Two days late, so hoping for no penalty. I thought I paid it on Saturday online, then I got distracted with about six open tabs on my browser, and it timed out.

I suspect my brain needs more training on how to focus on more than a handful of numbers going down at a time.

My next challenge is to live on $50 a day for twelve days.

end-of-month update for Laura

May 31st, 2013 at 03:54 pm

I lost six pounds this month. My eating habits are improved (four meals a day, 0.5 cup coffee a day if at all), and I'm strength training 3 days a week, doing mild cardio 4 days.

Don't wanna talk about my spending. I went a little overboard with supplements, but:

- I can sleep again when I wake up around 4-5 am
- I do feel less stressed
- I can fit into most of my pants now
- I lost 1.5 inches on the hips and 2 inches on the waist

I'm not done yet, but I have made a good start. MyFitnessPal keeps me going.

WWYD Question about panhandlers

April 16th, 2013 at 03:26 pm

Would you give to a panhandler (able-bodied, with bicycle) who had a tablet you felt you couldn't afford?
How about a panhandler (able-bodied) who had a more recent, app-friendly phone than what you have?

Recipe Request Fulfillment Dept - Pork Katsu

February 2nd, 2013 at 07:42 pm

Ingredients for four servings
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or 1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon hot mustard (I'm using Colman's Dry Mustard mixed with liquid)
4 pork cutlets, about 1 1/2 pound in total (no bone)
1 egg
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 cup panko crumbs
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup corn or 1/4 cup peanut oil

steamed rice, opt., for serving

Make the dipping sauce thusly:
Stir together 1 T. of hot water and the soy sauce, mirin, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and mustard. Set aside.
Prep the pork thusly:
Place the pork cutlets between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound them with a meat pounder until about 1/4 inch thick, unless they are already thin-cut in which case disregard the pounding and move to the next instruction. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg. Spread the flour and panko on 2 separate plates. Season the flour with the salt and pepper. Also, season the pork cutlets with salt on both sides. Dip the pork first into the seasoned flour, then the egg mixture, and lastly the panko (coating both sides). Press the panko into the pork so it stays put.
Panfry the pork thusly:
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just hot and then add the oil. Add the cutlets and fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and just opaque at the center (you don't want to overcook pork) - this should take approximately 5 minutes on each side.
Tranfer the cutlets to paper towel to drain briefly, then cut across the grain into strips 1/2 inch thick.
Serve with the dipping sauce and rice.

You can use boneless chicken breasts instead of boneless pork for chicken katsu.

I finally resolved the OverDrive Media Console issue. This matters to my frugality plan because I won't have to skirt the law by using uTorrent or eMule, nor head to the video store. I am vindicated by my hours of torment with the knowledge that somebody who wrote The Word 2007 Bible had my problem and took more reboots to solve the problem than I did. Someone who writes a 700-page software application comprehensive manual is NOT a computer newbie, and is NOT incapable of following directions. I write this because in the extensive volley of e-mails with the library support staff (I never once berated nor belittled them), several times staff members suggested I try methods I had already listed as "tried" in earlier e-mails. I silently questioned their reading comprehension. They'd never had the problem come up before.


February 1st, 2013 at 07:27 am

What I am thankful for:

1. My kid is fine with homemade valentines for his class. I usually make homemade valentines where he picks out the designs. We are doing innocuous
1920s style Valentines: no white kids on the front, no barebutt Cupids, no gushy romance, but a Rumi poem.

2. St. Nicholas, the magazine for young folks that ran from 1875 to 1940, has some issues scanned online, available at books.google.com and archive.org. I love the illustrations!

3. If 2001 turned out the way Walter Cronkite told our parents it would, I would be thankful for the Robot Housemaid. I do not have a Robot Housemaid.

(And here at 0:57 of 1999 AD, a Savings Advice blogger looks to the internet for menu planning for a picky family! It would have been far better if Karen suggested a scotch and soda instead of the high caloric beer for Mike!) In the year 1999, there will be a Wink Martindale in every home. He will be your father...your husband...perhaps both. I am always thankful for the Internet. Even if I look at it too long.

4. Yahoo! mail has a filter. FlyLady changed its content delivery partner, and no longer has digests, so now I receive up to ten posts a day, some of them marketing-concentrated.

I have some personal challenges for this month: a big one will be cramming for Jeopardy, another one is the Organized Home big clutter cleanup.

SavingsAdvice.com blogs are like Our Gang short subject Mush and Milk today:
Blogger One: Don't touch the Blog Settings
Blogger Two: Why?
Blogger One: They're SPOILED

Not complaining. This is a great resource, I am thankful and have expressed gratitude, I am just seeing the humour of the situation.

Recipe Request Fulfillment Department

January 20th, 2013 at 03:32 pm

wasted some money on a double cappuccino and blueberry scone today while chatting with friend, then on some kitty weed, dried and fresh, to test the cats' individual speeds to "oblivion." One cat is mellow, one is happy, and one is surfin' about harum-scarum.

Skillet Chicken Dijon
1/3 cup hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
dash of pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
nonstick cooking spray, butter, or oil

In a small bowl, combine chicken broth, wine, mustard, basil, tarragon and pepper. Set aside. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray or coat with a little butter or oil. Heat skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken. Cook chicken for about 2-3 minutes each side, or until lightly browned.

Remove skillet from the heat; carefully add broth mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken to a warm serving plate; boil pan juices for about a minute to reduce to about 1/4 cup. Pour juices over chicken. serve with rice and a green vegetable.

Servings: Four

Chicken Paprika
Lots of ways to make this. Could I find the one recipe with roast red pepper I had in front of me when I constructed this? No. Sorry. When I do, I'll post it here, or scan it and give you the link to my Mega lode. I have three others, but this one is quick and has the least ingredients.
Servings: Two
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
paprika powder
ground pepper
can of stewed tomatoes
cup of cream (heavy? whipping? I use whipping)

Place 1/2 cup of flour onto a piece of waxed paper and coat the chicken in the flour. In a large frypan, add some olive oil to cover the bottom and lightly fry the chicken until it is brown on both sides.

Remove the chicken from the frypan and set it aside.

Add stewed tomatoes juice to the frypan and stir over medium-high heat until juice boils. Add three tablespoons of paprika to the juice, and continue to boil for one more minute.

Add the cup of cream to the mixture and raise to a boil then reduce heat to low immediately. Replace the chicken in the sauce, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Update: You're welcome! Simple as this last one is, it is the one that my son's best friend asked me to send to his mother.

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