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Archive for January, 2014

January Spending Notes

January 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am

1. Bought AAPL. Feeling fortunate that my cheques cleared AFTER the 9.5% price drop.

2. Total Spending: $5180.86. Income is about $1000 less than that. I am including the investing dollars as spending, however. Otherwise, I'd be even.

3. Overbudget: Charitable, Cats (food, flea medication, litter, vaccinations), Investing.

4. Underbudget: Entertainment, Fuel, Groceries, Restaurant, Household Goods. Food is currently 17% underbudget, which is severe, as I haven't purchased much meat and am making more of an effort to cook with legumes.

5. $215 surplus so far, I have two days to go and a self-imposed spending limit of $25/day, so really $165 budget surplus, excluding the Roth and Coverdell contributions. How to divide the $165: use $33 for 52-week savings challenge, $132 carries through to next month. Maybe I'll try seeing how living on $19/day for groceries feels.

My asset totals will be down from the beginning of the year: annual winter house value slump; market slough; investing; insurance.

February expectations: Home Maintenance expenditure, no "catch-up" repayment of credit card; night out at a GOOD restaurant (table service, cloth napkins, wine list).

Today's Conundrum: Amazon Prime or Costco renewal?

January 29th, 2014 at 08:50 am

Text is Link and Link is http://lifehacker.com/ten-items-you-should-always-stock-up-on-1511457806?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_twitter&utm_source=lifehacker_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow
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.

Update:
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.

Minutiae

January 28th, 2014 at 04:30 pm

Minutiae, btw, is a DYNAMITE Scrabble Brand Crossword game word, especially if you have five vowels on your rack.

I just realized that this month is the first month in perhaps five or eight I have had more than a day of a zero balance on my credit card. I usually (97.5% of the time) pay my statement in full, but have some sort of balance. My big expenditures of semiannual car insurance and utilities eclipsed the post-holiday credit card payoff activity.

Also, it just occurred that the Canadian dollar is below ninety American cents, so the toll bridge charges, even with the obnoxious "invoice processing fees" no British Columbians warned me about, will be less than expected. Yay!

This year, when something unusually terrific happens like meeting fun people, or receiving a compliment, or succeeding at something, or enjoying a new activity, I write it down with the date on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. So when maybe I am feeling like I am wasting time on this planet in this body, I go to the jar and read things. Today I entered a slip of getting to speak my second language with both a native speaker and someone struggling to learn the language. Seattle's notorious for freezingly polite and very withdrawn people, it's hard to make friends here if one isn't gregarious, so this was a brilliant moment for shy, withdrawn me, happening upon this couple. We did not speak entirely in the second language, we were all aware someone in our group wasn't multilingual, but sprinkling a phrase here and there was so glorious and exhilarating. I don't mean to give the impression that communicating in my first language all the time here is a drag, it definitely is not and is a superb convenience, but the serendipity of starting a surprising conversation with strangers in an unlikely area in a language one is rusty in... oh, so sweet, so miraculous, so rare.

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)

Week 4: 52-Week Saving Challenge

January 25th, 2014 at 02:21 pm

Here's my new, personal trick for climbing out of the Overthinking Pit. Start with $26.50, the average of 52 weeks of saving, and subtract splurges, add saves. This week deposit is $25, because:
- free Starbucks 12 oz drip;
- as mentioned in an earlier post, some tricks pulled at the self-checkout;
- splurge of decaf, cappuccino, and breakfast treat for child.
- freebies: tea, mending ($17)
- sale on frozen vegetables ($2.07)


We had Chinese food takeout yesterday, because I ended up exhausted and took to bed very early. Then I dreamt vividly of missing a 1931 thriller at our jewelbox arthouse film theatre, making do with the day's presentation of a 2008 German film, which was pre-empted by my child's choice of a NHL game where the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers were playing, my kid yammering on about the action as we watched. My dreamlife has been interrupted by a tot's monomania. We have now called it quits on my child's NHL/Sochi 2014 prattle, and I sing "Mickey Mouse" by Sparks or "I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire" to drown him out when he starts up on it.

This was such a bizarre dream and realistic up until the hockey game that I had to share. My kid thought it was the greatest dream ever. I think Ridley Scott's "Chanel No. 5" commercials are the greatest televised dreams ever.

I fell into the Overthinking Pit this week.

January 24th, 2014 at 09:49 am

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

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

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

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

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

I feel like this:


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

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

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

Menu Plan

January 20th, 2014 at 05:29 pm

Today: "Three Sisters Stew". I hope this isn't my day to be Failed by Veganism. I accidentally saved $6 today because I went to a vegan sweet shop "open every day" to learn they were on vacation for a week! The first and only other time I went, they were closed for another reason.

Tuesday: Coconut Chicken Curry

Wednesday: Leftovers, or Sweet-and-Sour Lentils

Thursday:

Text is Ground Beef w/Pasta (Campbell's Soup recipe) and Link is http://www.campbellskitchen.com/recipes/creamy-pasta-and-vegetables-24917
Ground Beef w/Pasta (Campbell's Soup recipe)

Friday: Veal al Limone

Saturday:
Text is Fried Swordfish and Link is http://www.foodista.com/recipe/2N57SKW4/pan-fried-swordfish-steaks#
Fried Swordfish, or something with Swordfish

Sunday: Probably some Lentil-Beef Skillet thing from More-With-Less cookbook.
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I am going to buy some stock, I think. I talked it over with the men. [Paulette: "I want to do this, and I want to do it with your money." Spouse: "Sure, I trust you not to go crazy." Kid: "Let's look at the fundamentals and growth potential here. I see it has a dividend; that is good. Yes, I am aware of this company and its products. I approve."] So tomorrow I'll go to the discount brokerage firm with a cheque, calculating 2% padding for commission and price fluctuation, and light a candle for abundance or something. I'm taking half of the price of one share from my child's savings account and the rest from the money market account: one share goes into the child's account, the other into my Roth.

Good Money Day, #3 52-Week Saving Challenge

January 17th, 2014 at 06:24 pm

Last post had me mentioning a few items we have for sale. The software is selling very fast, despite it being old. I may have to sell our Elvis Presley 1959 EP on eBay. I tried selling it for $15 a few years ago on Craigslist (sells for $25 on eBay!) and no bites. Seattle doesn't have the King fans the way inland or river cities do, I guess.

Baselle mentioned back in August 2013 winning a Greenwood Gumshoe local merchant certificate pack. She split the booty with me 5/4, and I used my third certificate offered by an Alterations Seamstress on some mending and repairs. I'll be taking a jacket in tomorrow, with some buttons to replace on another jacket. $15 to add to savings.

$15 from certificate
$5.45 from deeply discounted pajamas
$7.55 from Tom's of Maine toothpaste deal
$24 from $50 sale of software
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$52!


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Don't read this if you were caught in North America's polar vortex: my heating bill came to $107 for Dec/Jan. No, I do not live in Wagga Wagga.

Today's Spending

January 16th, 2014 at 07:24 pm

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

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

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


Deadbeat Kindle Reads, plus Budget Drawback

January 15th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Today on

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

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

I slipped a bit: we got the fundraiser Guest Bartender date wrong last night so we consoled ourselves with dessert takeout from the supermarket. Sugar doesn't do me any favours, but with 1200mg alpha lipoic acid daily intake I can handle an eclair or half a Pop-Tart without waking all sweaty in the dark. So I had an eclair. I did wake a few times with weird, weird dreams ("oh look! a human corpse. Someone should clean that up."). I walked it off today.
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I froze some orange peels earlier in the year. Today I took some out for thawing: half are in a jar of vinegar for cooking use; I will scatter orange peels around my food plate because we have a lazy, greedy cat who lurks on a dining chair ALL DAY, and gets belligerent when we eat. The peels will repel her. If I can manage some vodka, I could extract oil from the remaining peels to use in the bath. When I can manage the cash to buy a microplane grater, I have additional uses for them. Orange peels are good to use as kindling or to throw in a fire.
Text is Here and Link is http://thesproutingseed.com/30-ways-to-use-orange-peels/
Here are more ways of using orange peels around the home.
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Update for Sadness: My son's complained a few times about the $40 clarinet we bought him in August. We brought it to a local instrument shop for possible repair, but were advised that abandoning it and renting would be the better way to go. My child has a concert next week. We are back to renting, but it's $8/month cheaper than where we last rented. We agreed on some pad protectors (my child paid for those) and a cleaning case (the woman wasn't up for haggling with the $22.13 cash I had with me).

Menu for the Week

January 11th, 2014 at 05:44 pm

Sad but true, the chicken did not thaw overnight. So, I thought to use the udon noodles Imooto-san (little sister) left in my kitchen. Sadly, the noodle package is exclusively Nihongo (Japanese language) so off I went to the Internet, where I found this comforting breakkie/dinner

Text is goodie and Link is https://bartlettsfarm.com/food-sundries/recipes/miso-soup-with-egg-scallions-rice-noodles-and-caramelized-bacon-breckie
goodie, so nice on a cold rainy day. I didn't have watercress, so didn't use it.

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

Sunday: Oven-Baked Chicken
Chicken did not thaw overnight

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

Tuesday: Roast Beef w/Yorkshire Pudding

Wednesday: Roast Beef Leftovers, maybe
Text is Roast Beef au Diable and Link is http://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/sauce-diable
Roast Beef au Diable

Thursday: Curried Lentils & Cauliflower

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

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

Eggs go superfast here.

Payday Frolics

January 10th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

Deadbeat Follies

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

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

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

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

Text is Link du Jour and Link is http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/how-to-live-like-a-king-thor-harris/
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.
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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

Text is 52 week Declutter challenge and Link is http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2014/01/09/1020146_the-52-week-declutter-challenge.html
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:
Text is This Will Be Our Year and Link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmuswTEGF-U
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Not all of today's surprises are welcome

January 7th, 2014 at 03:08 pm

First: I am pretty happy about Team Canada's men's hockey roster. Surprised three players didn't make it, and that one person did, even though he is on one of my favourite teams.

The financial surprise:

Text is FRED graph and Link is http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?id=HOEREPHRE
FRED graph showing the average homeowner's equity as a percentage of household real estate. Look where the percentage was fifteen years ago. Look where it is now. The average mortgage interest rate was 6.75% for a 30-year term fifteen years ago, now it is 4.53%. You'd think by now the equity would be back up, even without homes reattaining the equity hills of 2006-2008.

I saw on Twitter a link to an article "I Don't Want to Pay Down My Debt" and that's how I feel. I don't want to keep my numbers, but refinancing is not a good option for any of my debts. I told my friend attending de