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Payday Frolics

January 10th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

Deadbeat Follies

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

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

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

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

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

This Will Be Our Year - Declutter Challenge

January 9th, 2014 at 02:01 pm

I love these challenges that inspire me to quantify my year. The 52 week Declutter challenge will be a cinch as I have already discarded nineteen items of clutter today, if discarding includes shredding. I have organized my writing centre, my postage/mail centre, and recorded bills coming due and CDs scheduled to mature shortly.

For me the key is to undertake one challenge each day, and to incorporate each challenge in my Red Notebook Journal Template.
All Hail Discardia!

I miscalculated my stock purchase by $50 (that's a paddlin'), leaving $35 in our chequing account this morning. This oversight has since been rectified.

Our new homeowner's insurance policy arrived, and it is $51 less than it was last year, so there are some savings to be had there, or one mocha per month. Sadly as our insurance is paid by escrow we will not see any reduction in monthly mortgage payment until July 2014.

YouTube goodie for you: This Will Be Our Year - The Zombies, Odyssey & Oracle

First No Spend Day of 2014

January 8th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Yesterday was our first no-spend day of the year. Finetuned YNAB to include an expense made last year I didn't know about until today, when the charge showed up on the credit card. Electricity bill $26 more than I thought it'd be. With $120 in the account to last two days I feel slightly better, as long as the $98 fee for DS's extracurricular activity and the $40 GE stock purchase don't go through at the same time.

2014 Resolutions

When Savings + $1800 = Principal of Debts HELOC and Car, pay off lowest debt.
Looking at November 2014 presently as payoff date. Assumptions include 3.7% rise in assets monthly, fifty cents more to car payment each month.
I am using the shareware "Red Notebook" to journal progress which may not be of interest to you, such as the other challenges for 2014 aside from 52-week Saving Challenge that I found on Lifehacker.com. So far I like it, but I need a robust and sensible metadata framework to keep it uncluttered.
That Money-Saving Mom's Budget book is brilliant. I thought, snobbishly, that Trent Hamm's book 365 Ways to Save would be ingenious, but no, that Money-Saving Mom's Budget (Crystal Paine I think is the author) is very useful. Lots of aha!s last night just from three pages, which is what I've come to demand now.

Empty Purse to go with my Empty Hearse

January 5th, 2014 at 08:31 am

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

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

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

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


Trying the 52-Week Savings Challenge for 2014

December 28th, 2013 at 11:57 am

Tell me, 52WSC vets, the two best tips you learned while doing this last year, the two best tips you saw from other people, and the two best tips you took with you into the challenge.
I ran across the street, not in an intersection, while the arterial was quiet. My men followed me, coins falling from the pocket of the littlest one. When we collected on the other side, the small one cried at the loss of what he claims to be eighty-five cents. I braved the street during traffic lulls to rescue fifty cents. Twelve is a little old to be crying about lost change, unless you're a born Saving Advice columnist.

To prep for this challenge, I'm trying something newer than Ms. Taylor-Hough, Ms. Vicki Robin and Ms. Dacyczyn: The Money $aving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine, and 365 Ways to Live Cheap!, by Trent Hamm, whom you may know of TheSimpleDollar.com.

Message to Manchild

December 6th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I am not giving you that Nintendo 3DS for Christmas. Sure I spent $$ on stuff for boy but two of those softcover gifts were signed to him personally by international luminaries, two I used coupons for, one I had to import but he yammers on the subject matter 60% of the time so I think it'll be money well-spent, and the one electronics game I bought was for $18.99. We know electronics obsolescence by our collection of obscure diskettes, and we know the longevity of books by the musty dusty ones we have downstairs.

I can't buy a $200 gift for you knowing that there are students at our kid's school who are freezing, and that lots of struggling families nationwide are on food stamps.

I think I'd like pajamas, warm sturdy socks, or maybe a family-use subscription to a VPN so we can keep the computer entertainment going.

Food plan, mind-stretching for seeking alpha

October 13th, 2013 at 05:47 pm

Even our credit union is changing the terms of our credit card, from fixed to variable. I sense either yet another impending economic collapse in the US, or that credit usage is greatly reduced and less frequently utilized.

I am now understanding that our credit union struggles, first with the reduction of interest in our savings and chequing accounts, then with the shift from fixed to variable rates for our credit card. I thought they shifted to variable in 2009: I haven't been keeping up.

I am disenchanted with my debt group. I am considering a break until I get my mortgage down to a five-digit figure. I feel left out because I am neither on Facebook nor do I have diabetes. All I have to talk about is reduction of interest.

Another gripe I have: it seems every three days I am buying $20-$24 worth of vegetables and fruit. They go fast!

Trying a new approach to what I put in my stomach, after three weeks of Pop-Tarts. Daily morning lemon squeezed into water has given me new energy. Plus, I put a teaspoon of cinnamon in my daily coffee. The first night I woke up feeling my stomach was incinerating its contents. I have yet to establish a baseline for weight loss though: 100% of the time I feel urge to lose weight is when my pants are tighter around the waist and 24-48 hours later my period shows up. Has anyone had success with a plan from Timothy Ferriss' The Four-Hour Body?

Also going for more black beans and lentils, because it is turning to soup weather here, and I love the extra iron from lentils when my period comes. Mostly though, 4-6 ounces of lentil is cheaper ($0.55) than 4-6 ounces of meat ($1.60). I did pick up veal scalloppine at 50% off: my big thrill of October. I still love meat: I am just choosing to have it less often and be more creative about eating down my stores.

Sunday - Marinated Roast Beef (30% off)
Monday - Turkey Breast (Thanksgiving)
Tuesday - Lentil Soup, probably with bacon
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - New York Strip Steak
Friday - Roast Chicken w/Red Peppers and Tomatoes
Saturday - Black Bean Tostados

Going Down is My Going Forward: Year-To-Year Surmisings

September 2nd, 2013 at 01:24 pm

The only progress I seem to be making is decreasing my debt.

My assets value (stocks, CDs, bonds, precious metals) have increased in the past twelve months by 0.5%. Mostly because one CD gets $25 added to it monthly, and the bonds always go up.

I have six-figure debt, so reducing it by 9.7% annually is not terrible, but that and the big uptick in home market value appreciation are making me look good. I don't have cash flow, I have cash drip.

What we spent money on:
$31.07 - fill up car gas tank for 464 miles. We finally input our gas costs, so the Pious computer can display how much we spend from point A to point B. Five kilometres = 25 cents.

$47.94 - one of our supermarkets is closing. The savings aren't all terrific: some amazingly bloated prices, like $6.32/lb for frozen berries (get real); 30% off $11 bottles of Rao's pasta sauces. No thanks to that! We did save on bagged cereals, the baking soda, and wines; I'll come back for stewed and diced canned tomatoes. I'm sad about the market closing: it was part of a northwest Washington state chain, and now no supermarkets in our county, the most populous one in the state, exist.

$20.75 - Value Village thrift store: kid needs some rugged shirts for Peninsula trip in November; DH selected some gaudy Hawaiian shirts. Filler paper.

$24.55 - apparently lost book. What I remember is taking it to a library (probably the wrong system). And my child's overdues. The overdues will come from his account.

$31.93 - acid reducer BOGO. two packs jerky, two jars preserves, olive oil and super glue.

Maybe I won't have to buy anything this week other than next year's local "green" coupon book, if even that. I'd like to pay some of the credit card balance, and stash some $ into the tot's savings account.

I cannot refinance our vehicle loan, even though the rates have dropped a half-percent from what they were earlier this year, because we've had our loan only seven months. I don't feel like extending our mortgage another two years for a mere fifty-dollar per month saving. We're saving $44 more than last year because we no longer rent an instrument and a router.

The good stuff:
Paid more than 18% of our mortgage in two years! Spotted a quarter on the floor of the closing supermarket.
Received a free automated car wash courtesy of my auto dealership.
Made personal edition of LUSH's well-loved "Ocean Salt" scrub with ripe avocado, coconut milk, Dead Sea Salts, witch hazel and lemon juice. Shoulda used lime... saved $$.

The punitive crawl of humility to stable finances (Part One)

August 23rd, 2013 at 09:50 am


The bummer of returning home is to see how much the finances resemble 1942 Guadalcanal or 1917 Vimy Ridge and having sole responsibility of cleaning that mess up.

Il buono
I paid my optometrist bill. Isn't it odd how some people are keenest to pay the creditors who've positioned themselves as given the customer a break? My bill wasn't overdue but as I don't know what balance is on the high-deductible health spending account, I postponed payment for a few salary payperiods. There was enough $$ in the HSA for my eye exam, yay. The optometry office staff treat me so well I feel abject and unworthy.

I sacrificed my vanity scooter plate to save $32 on my license tab renewal. I knew hubby would pout but I said "Virtual Private Network" to him.

The entrepreneurial tot got his 1995 Topps Larry Walker (MLB:Expos,Rockies,Cardinals) card signed, multiplying his card's worth by 5000%.

il brutto

I have forgotten when my spouse gets paid. When yesterday I dared peek at our chequing account balance it was around $1900. So I am guessing he gets paid next week. I left the spouse with $300 in the account on August 5, I know that much. He has the password to our credit union online access, but he's not ON IT like I am fifty weeks of the year.

Update: He was paid today
I deduce that he must have used the credit card for everything, looking at our CC balance.

I have a serious case of the wants after house-sitting a "monster" designer house in the burbs. Not the size of the house: too much to clean! Not the electronics: too many manuals to keep and read! But furniture: I could use a dinner table that doesn't rock, a better organization system in the kitchen and bedrooms. And here the 2014 IKEA catalogue tempts me.

il cattivo

Scooter insurance payment gets mailed today.

Most school supplies have been purchased. My boy is ramping up toward manhood (learning to cook, absorbing Facts of Life/Birds and Bees, acquiring first USB drive--RadioShack tried to interest me in a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes character drive, but I declined: dignity is crucial to the tween).

I don't know where this is in the buono/brutto/cattivo Venn Diagram, but very little changed in our fridge during our absence. Condiment-heavy fridge shelf, vegetable crispers untouched. I did not see any pizza boxes or empty beer bottles/cans. I do see that most of our frozen meat stash has gone. I have to do another inventory, but I can safely state that a Costco trip for bath tissue and paper towels is due.
That's what I'll do: play "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" on my mp3 player while I shop at Costco.

Lagniappe: Most common questions/comments I received in British Columbia
"So how's that marijuana legalization working out?"
"Now you know why we shop for dairy in Washington!"
(seriously, how can veal be so affordable but milk be so pricy up there?)

staying beyond initial exit date

August 17th, 2013 at 08:44 am

No, I'm not defecting (I never lost citizenship so repatriating is not the right word). But now I find that my library books are going to incur dues, I'm spending more money than allotted, I still have license and medical bills to pay when I get back... hope the hubby isn't having pizza and beer every night! I'm so penurious at home too!

Shockingly, despite all our fun and friends and adventure, I'm ready to return home, if the dream I had this am is any indication: my mom was ignoring me and having fun with her friends going off somewhere, and in a fit of pique I gave her the finger, said a sentiment associated with giving someone the finger, and added "I'm going back to Seattle!" I'm only here because the family whose house I'm squatting in extended their vacation.

Anathemic: "It's only money!" I love so much reconnecting with my friends and family at their leisure, seeing more of the area than I did when I didn't have a car or made one-day trips. The kid is rarely bored, having access to sports channels on cable television, his Don Cherry Rock'em Sock'em DVDs and other Canadian amusements. I'm sure I will regret at leisure the spending, but my spouse will thank me for bringing the tot up with me, the tot will thank me for an extended stay at his "homeland."

Hard to budget to the penny for a vacation

August 5th, 2013 at 08:39 am

I sold some gold to finance gas, admissions, parking, and treats for twelve days. Then I learned there wouldn't be much left in the fridge where I was staying, so I must buy groceries. Today's a civic holiday.

Also DH is visiting us for a weekend, so tickets for bus fare, plus anniversary dinner. I'm telling myself it's the #1 city in Canada we're visiting, thus the expenses will be justified.

Speaking of former stomping grounds, went on an eyeball bender with baselle, and a 5K gumshoe through a Seattle neighborhood. We had good weather, eagle eyes with "limited" mental filters, and enough blood sugar to last us three hours. We finished up yesterday, just the two of us, to limit the chaos and take best advantage of her close-reading aptitude.

Refunded for Ortho Fiasco - yay

July 11th, 2013 at 11:30 am

What I learned:
- question all charges that seem incorrect. Do not assume that the orthodontist tells the assistant attending the appointment what to mark down on the charge sheet.

- my contribution to seeing this does not happen again is to ask for a statement I can pay in 15 or 30 days, and not pay immediately after appointment before orthodontist reviews day's billings.

Most peeved as my semi-annual auto insurance had just been deducted from my chequing account, and I have been very attentive to the remaining balance, which is under $60. It's a new car so my insurance is over $1100 per year. All it would take for us to go under would be a grocery visit from me and a $40 for lunch and gas and whatever money withdrawal from the spouse.
(He does this without asking. I have to tell him what the balance in our account is so he can choose either to go without or use a credit card.)

I removed my factual, indisputable Yelp review after an explanation and an apology from the orthodontist. I am glad I wrote it though, and let the staff beyond the financial coordinator read it, as now the office has discussed improvements to billing routines and the orthodontist has explained to her new hires how preservation of her top reputation she worked thirteen years for helps the office and is important, and perhaps that patients tend to assume the orthodontist directs the assistant what line item with fee to check off at the end of the appointment. I certainly assumed this.

Attempts to save and spend money

April 8th, 2013 at 01:31 pm

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

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

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

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

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

April update

April 2nd, 2013 at 11:05 am

Paid $3895.43 in principal over this past quarter.

Started planning in earnest to sell home. Collected boxes and wrapping paper, contacted some plumbers, returning borrowed items to people.

House equity is, for the first time since 2008, at 65%.
Am confident now I can put $200K downpayment on next home. Credit union no longer allows bridge loans, so we will live in extended stay quarters for 2-3 months.

I'd been stewing in frustration and hopelessness for weeks, but this past weekend had some epiphanies in store for me:
- renewed energy with the longer hours
- the UFYH tumblr tag (Unf*ck Your Habitat), easier and more motivating than FlyLady

I have overspent for both February and March. Oddly, I do not much care. Perhaps it is due to the market value rising, or that I expect some short-term fiscal pain between now and the sale of the house. I've budgeted $18000 for keeping up both mortgage and rent, replacing toilet and water heater, staging the house, moving and storage expenses.

Found 64 cents nearby on Friday. Whee!

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

Still working on my budget

February 9th, 2013 at 03:40 pm

The 2% Social Security tax is back and our paycheck is 2 percent smaller. Sadly, food, utilities, gasoline for the car have not decreased. We feel the pinch, most sensitively thanks to our car loan.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers suggestions for adding dollars back into our budget. Lo:

Adjust our withholding. This is good if you receive a tax refund every year, but what if you don't? I could review our Health Savings Account contributions.
Pay with cash. We try to. Comcast, our $3/month spam-free e-mail account and our mobile phone we pay with credit card. And it's still nice to have the RedCard. I am no longer using one stamp to pay a $3.00 bill. After Hurricane Sandy, I am no longer mailing mortgage payments to New Jersey. So that's 94 cents saved a month. Times eleven = Hey, that's ten dollars! We have been good, but not stellar, about abstaining from coffee out, probably because we have colds. Would you believe, addict that I am, it took me 27 hours between coffees because I was downing 56 ounces raw honey/ginger/cayenne/apple cider vinegar daily? My head was sweating too much to bother with the bloody pipecleaner effect of caffeine withdrawal.

We have found sixty-six cents this week in the self-checkout stations. I was almost at a dollar when I opened my big yap and offered to split the bounty with someone heading toward the cash-rich, vacated (but not yet voided) station. The attendant interfered and ruined my fun. Maybe this is something someone under the age of 12 who can't be held indeterminately without charges can do for me instead.

Find $10 in each of 10 categories each month. Shave $10 off the grocery bill. That sounds so doable. It's the other nine categories I worry about. If I can reamortize I can shave $10 from the car loan. I can stop making extra payments to the home equity line of credit: that would be $69 saved. It's silly to do so if we know for sure we are leaving within five months. Yet I wanted to see that $20K milestone of principal paid. Don't tell me that you haven't been tempted to push a repayment goal ahead of schedule!

We caved in and went back to Costco. We got wild salmon at $6.99/lb, ana Colombian for $5/lb. $3.00/lb (* 2lb) and $1/lb saving from a 5 lb bag of whole beans = $11 savings.

See if there's something I can sell for $10 each month. Fackit, it'd be great if people READ the ads and WANTED what I had for sale. It's not like I don't take photos, crop them appropriately, and don't add relevant details to the items.

Change habits. I don't buy weekly lottery tickets, nor do I buy newspapers. The only library I visit more than once a week is the one I can walk to without my heart bursting. Caffeine is a habit but I am changing: I am using up the powdered coffees and not going out for coffee except for once a week.

Yesterday I learned that frozen items like roasts and whole chickens can be placed in slow cookers. This is good to know.

My cold "refuculated" my thinking processes, and I believe it's because the body energy was rerouted into mucus production instead of cogitation. I got lost (!!) twice while driving, thought I asked for a $1.50 drip but got a $2.75 latte, spazzed out when I saw $20 fall out of a Christmas card (hey, the card wasn't addressed to me) and hastened the recipient to write a thank-you letter, spazzed out again trying to find the correct address of the gift giver, vamoosed to drop the card in the mail (already six weeks late, but remember, cogitation got downgraded to Priority 4) spazzed out once more attempting to corral 2012 tax statements (haven't yet found 2012 W2) and completely spaced about thawing something out for dinner. It was not a good day, unless one was a virus-fighting antibody, or you were a four-and-a-half-star rated cheap burger place in suburbia. My bladder got a good workout.

things I did to save money today

February 2nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

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

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

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

Total spent: $58.00
Total saved: $15.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Menu Plan for the week, food & drink saving tips

January 19th, 2013 at 05:46 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first NSD of 2013, doing without Costco, more

January 17th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude Post, frank expenditures, hot tip to some SA bloggers

January 9th, 2013 at 05:11 pm

For the past hour I have been feeling contemptuous of things that are beneath my contempt level, so this gratitude post is corrective action.

Today I am happy for:

1. Lunch walks with the spouse for errands. My favourite person, my favourite activity in which we are both erect.

2. We did not lose electric power during last night's wind and rain extravaganza.

3. I am doing well on the 8000 IU daily dose of Vitamin D3 for December/January. I am considering asking for a blood test when next I visit the doctor, preferably before March 15, so I can determine if my body's storage of cholecalciferol is adequate. My friends 110 mi north are taking only 2000-2500 IU a day, except for one who is taking 10000 IU and he says he genuinely feels better for it. After a six-week bout with a grisly virus that left me feeling like the walking dead five years ago, I am grateful for my decision to megadose on Vitamin D3. I have not experienced any toxicity problems.

4. eBooks available through my city's library system. I finally read an eBook for the first time ever, this past week. Having a lighter laptop with a longer battery life may have something to do with my adapted reading habit: I like taking it to a cozy overstuffed chair without fussing around behind the chair to plug in the adapter.

5. The late great operatic space alien/pastry chef Klaus Nomi concocted an easy lime tart recipe. That did not stop me from messing it up my first time (evaporated milk =/= condensed milk), but I will certainly make it again soon. Wanna try it yourself? (music not included)

6. Waking up without pain, at a proper time.
I am not off to a great start in 2013, financially. Every day seems to be an expenditure unplanned. Replacement tire, news subscription, mattress pad, DH's spree at JC Penney (completely tongue-in-cheek here, I do not begrudge my man some major mark downs of new clothes, especially when his annual clothing budget is $200/year), other things I have kvetched about here. I did make half the credit card statement's balance due, the rest to be paid two weeks later.

A gift to you whose workflow of opening an Add Entry link and filling the Entry Text box to publishing frequently outlasts the 20-minute window, I tell you of Lazarus, a text recovery browser extension (I use it for Chrome, but here's a Firefox add-on link that preserves your text so you need only click on the pale green ankh on the upper right of the text box to reclaim your golden thoughts!

$20 Challenge

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I won a 2012 dead pool, officially (yay!) and received payment today. Great change can start small and gradual, so very early in the year I begin with some small differences:
1. "Extra" money is divided among: investments that will get 3% or more this year; debt with APR of 3%; budget cushion money; and fun money.
2. Eating every 2 - 2.5 hours. Already I am experiencing more energy.
3. Mindful gratitude for gifts several times a day.
4. Acceptance that things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better. And sometimes inconvenience and discomfort is part of getting better.

Sunday b----y Sunday

December 16th, 2012 at 03:36 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. 30% discount of car insurance premiums.

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

I Learned How to Pay for a Car Today

December 10th, 2012 at 05:06 pm

My friends were slackjawed to learn yesterday that we drove our car off the lot before presenting the complete payment for the automobile. "I can't believe they let you pay just $8800 before taking it home," said a friend who bought from that very dealer.
Her remark made me wonder if maybe we should have gone to the credit union last week to officially apply for a loan.

"So how then do you buy cars when you haven't yet applied formally for a car loan, and you buy at a date or time when the dealer cannot directly and immediately contact your lender?" I did not ASK to take the vehicle home: I was fine with picking it up in a few days.

I figured we would apply for the loan formally at some point, after the inspection and insurance, and the credit union would mail payment to the dealer. We visited the credit union today to get the loan and experienced a delay due to the "new"/"not new" status of the car, where we saw a cheque drawn for the balance of the vehicle. We borrowed 25% of what we were approved to borrow, so we knew acceptance was a foregone conclusion. We were to bring the remaining payment to the dealer.

"New" - present year model of vehicle.
"Not new" - previous title, 9500 miles on car.

So today I did drive to the dealer to bring in the cheque and a thank-you note for not sending the cops or repo men after us. To be hilarious (they have BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and Lincolns in the showroom) I showed up in my furs. I am relieved we were not reminded by the credit union or the dealership in a "what is wrong with you you car thieves" kind of way.
I feel this car purchase has just begun to change our lives.

I may even call the insurer today to remove the old car from our policy. I have to fax the insurer some documents anyway. But we have eleven minutes left on our phone for the month (family health emergency, car sales, car purchase, regular phone call home for DH), so I will download, install and run Google Voice.

Feeling poor but not broke: I bought a luxury down pillow from Pacific Coast, it has an outlet ten miles south of us, for 15% off, plus getting shipping free for ordering today. I am not sleeping, and I think the limpness of the pillows may be contributing to that.

Menu for the Week
Baked Chicken, from Nourishing Traditions
Chicken Noodle Soup, La Fourchette Cookbook
Spaghetti Sauce from Nourishing Traditions served on buckwheat noodles
Gourmet Succotash, from Nourishing Traditions
Foiled Pot Roast Eat Better for Less Money, with leftovers served with ratatouille for a casserole, perhaps with a winter root medley.
Red Bean & Quinoa Chili, from Feeding the Whole Family

Gratitude List
1. Learning new ways to protect my privacy, identity and anonymity online. Considering the lengths US and Canadian politicians are going to to transform the Internet to be that less of an open, unrestricted space, finding and using these options will be key for me.
2. The Portlandia crossover with The Simpsons, so I can view through Homer and Marge's eyes how we must appear to my relatives. My extended family is not hip at all. My immediate family is "punk in the head" without external signifiers like neon hair, leather, metal, ripped clothes, or tattoos -- it is all inside. DH's family is brainy and quietly subversive so we are at least 67% normal in their eyes. The hipsterish Springfield is not that far-removed from Seattle, especially when Homer remarks about how it's cloudier and cooler. At that point we doubled over. We saw these clips online, as we do not own a television.
3. The credit union representative and the dealership associate did not blink or yell at me for showing up a week later with the remaining car payment.

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!

Bought a New(er) Car Today

December 2nd, 2012 at 03:42 pm

It is a 2012 Toyota Prius III. We bought it for $22000. Its MSRP was a little above $24K but as my good buddy bought her Camry Solara at the same lot earlier in the week we received a 9% discount. We are not the first owners but the vehicle has under 9500 miles. And the previous owner is local so no Frankenstorm Sandy rejects.

We arrived at the lot with an eye to purchasing the advertised 2010 Toyota Prius III with 24K miles as it was within our budgeted amount. This one, not so much in the budget but I can sell our current car for $800. We did not buy the 2010 Prius as it had already been sold: absolutely no bait and switch though. My spouse said that before I mentioned my friend bought her new car here we were offered $22K as the dealership specializes in European luxury vehicles and the discount is an incentive to move the vehicle out from the lot.

A Yelp review is pending: we had excellent service and I owe my friend a gas card or something nice in exchange for getting a good deal. She told us that the car dealer ship has salaried workers who are laidback, but one does not get to negotiate unless one owns the dealership.

My nerves are frayed right now from test-driving and shelling out for the car. I am going "gakgakgakgak" like the aliens in Tim Burton's film "Mars Attacks!"

Ready to Push Finances Reset Button

November 24th, 2012 at 04:52 pm

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

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

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

Not meeting my 2012 debt repayment goal

November 19th, 2012 at 10:09 am

I did not meet my 2011 debt repayment goal either. I could say I feel defeated but what is the point.

I was to put the house up for sale or reduce HELOC to $13060 by June 6. Or buying a car when Precious Metals ($12989 today) and Money Market Account ($12653.36) are worth at least twice of HELOC ($12637.97). No new car yet, although the credit union has lowered its APR to 2.34% should we buy a late-model vehicle.

Most of the Christmas/holiday gifts I was to send in 2012 have been mailed. Thinking of sending our leftover tanning lotion to my brother in Abu Dhabi.

I do owe less than I did last year, and for those without Ghostery, Do Not Track Plus or AdBlock Plus you can see that most of my planned acquisitions have been covered.

My son lost The North Face three-way insulated jacket I bought him for his three-day stay in the Olympic National Forest, before he was to go. Why do we bother spending $$$ on him?

Out Out Brief Update!

November 3rd, 2012 at 09:29 am

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

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

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

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

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

By request, indian summer skillet & items

October 9th, 2012 at 11:39 am

boneless, skinless chicken breast halves dredged in 1 tablespoon flour, sauteed in olive oil for four minutes each side until brown. While chicken is kept warm, add one chopped onion and four pressed grlic cloves in pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, saute until onion is translucent. Add 0.25 cup white wine, deglaze the pan with a wire whisk, then add 0.5 cup diced tomatoes and 0.33 cup chicken broth. Simmer sauce and reduce to desired consistency. Add stemfree chopped basil leaves to sauce and return chicken to the pan to heat. Serve chicken with sauce over the top.

-- recipe courtesy of Leanne Ely, from 2005 edition Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way.

In oddball news, the state Department of Licensing sent a letter telling me they sent my extinct vehicle registration info to a process server. The vehicle registration is for a car I imported from Canada and drove for one year before legally transferring title back in Canada, ten years ago. So there is no reason to suspect that this vehicle would still have a certain Washington plate. I called the process server and we hazarded the thought there could be a typo in the Vehicle Identification Number.

While messing around with a debt consolidation calculator I saw that the fixed-rate advance home equity line of credit I have has a ten-year term, and not 15 as I had thought. I made a payment to keep it current.

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