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Archive for August, 2013

Things I Won't Buy (and Things I Buy that Some People Don't)

August 31st, 2013 at 03:49 pm

My won't buy list:
- manicures, pedicures or anything like that
- haircut over $15
- hair dye (no need for this yet anyway, thankfully)
- cleaning person
- almost all processed food (some canned items)
- fast food (except sonic slushies during their happy hour special - two for $2 - once in a while)
- expensive cars (I love my Nissan Versa!)
- clothes shopping (only go out to replace a specific worn-out item)
- birthday parties for F where you have to pay a fee (like at the children’s museum)- we have parties at home
- tons of lessons and activities for F
- massages
- gym/club membership
- store-bought gifts for adults in the family
- coffee I didn’t make at home (except maybe once a month - but I am weaning myself off of this)
- buying toys for F if it’s not Christmas or her birthday


But there are things that I plan into our budget that are definitely extras.
My will buy list:
- life insurance
- eating out once a week - lunch or dinner
- rolfing (otherwise I'm pretty sure I'd have to pay for back surgery instead)
- passports for more than one country
- piano lessons for F
- camp for F (I set a budget, and it allows me to work during the summer)
- summer pool membership (so F can be water safe)
- travel
- pets (and all of the costs that go with them)
- store-bought gifts for the kids in the family

Frugal Day, Frugal Weekend

August 30th, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Paid down $350 on our mortgage today... a great feeling! I continue to pay as much as I can into our retirement accounts, but whittling away at our mortgage (our only debt) is what really makes me happy!

I so badly wanted to go out to lunch today, but instead we all stopped off and got ice cream after work/school - way cheaper than eating out and very satisfying. This was actually a reward for F for her awesome piano practice.

Tonight's dinner is chicken tacos with homemade guacamole.

And the weekend is all planned out...
- Playdate for F tomorrow
- Sunday to our local living history "museum" - a working village from the 18th/19th centuries - kids are free this weekend
- Two Memorial Day parties to attend on Monday!

This is the last weekend the pool is open so we'll try to fit that in, too.

And my goal is to cross something off my house to-do list (stucco patching?) and make a fish costume out of scrap fabric I already have. This is for F's school's entry in our Fiesta parade - our theme is local fish habitats/river/riverbank.

Another Building (Mostly) Finished

August 29th, 2013 at 05:29 am

Another fire station mostly complete... I went down there today for the next-to-last meeting. This is very exciting because I can almost send my final bill! That's a good thing, especially since I'm working on a new project.

Here's a picture from today's visit (if you look closely you can see a bucket - site cleanup is one of the things the contractor still has to do).

Work, More Work and Some Changes at Work

August 28th, 2013 at 01:40 am

Today was the first day in a very long time that I didn't have a meeting! It was a such a relief - I got a ton of work done on my current fire station remodel.

Yesterday I had a meeting with a previous client (a hotel), and they want me to do more work for them. I told them I have a project that I'm working on right now, and couldn't start for about a month. I figured they'd hire someone else, but they said ok!

My husband, who, like me, is currently self-employed, decided to apply for a job (a real job, a 9 to 5 type of job, a job where they help pay for his health insurance) doing what he really wants to be doing for a non-profit. He had the interview today, and they offered it to him, so now he just needs to decide. This would mean a lot more money each month! (Which we could squirrel away in retirement accounts since we don't need it to live on).

It would mean less flexibility (although I know this non-profit, and they are ok with employees taking time in the middle of the day for things like attending school functions). But when we thought about it, although it's a change for him, it isn't that big of a change for me. I already do school dropoff and pickup, and I take F to her after school lessons on Monday and Friday. I take the dog to the office with us. So basically, I'm already the one who takes advantage of our flexibility to do the childcare/household things.

He is very involved with her soccer, but practices are after work, and games are on Saturday.

Anyway, it's his choice.

I guess the things to think about if he has a full-time job (since mine is 8 to 3) will I take on all of the domestic/household/childcare duties? (I currently do about 75% - mostly because I'm faster and I don't mind doing things like laundry and vacuuming - but I really appreciate the 25% that he does!!)

This Week's Meal Plan, Lazy Weekend and the Tale of the Chocolate Bars

August 25th, 2013 at 08:03 pm

This week we're having:
- polenta and salad (bready/cheesy)
- crustless quiche (eggy)
- something from the freezer - posole - with salad (freezery)
- pasta with goat cheese/turkey bacon/peas (pasta-ish)
- tacos with guacamole (chickeny)
- cod and leeks with turkey bacon (fishy)

It totally wiped me out just to go to the store today. I am not good at being sick, and I'm not really sick (but shingles can make you feel so tired).

So we haven't done much this weekend. F had a friend over yesterday, then we met another friend to play soccer up at a local high school. They were playing a game, so we watched that for a while, then went over to our school to play (or rather D played and I listened to podcasts and relaxed).

Today F went to a friend's house to play. I'm doing housework. Then later we'll head up to the park to meet some other families for soccer.

I'd really like to cross something off my house to-do list, but with my energy level I think all I can manage is the regular housework (already cleaned the bathrooms, did laundry and vacuumed).

Now, here's the Tale of the Chocolate Bars... I was at the store and they had a big sign under some chocolate bars that said they were discontinued an on sale for 99c. I have a square of chocolate after each meal, so I thought a few of these would be great for the next few weeks. But at the checkout they were $3.79 each! Eeek! Of course I didn't discover this until I got to the car (I always go through my receipt in the car just to make sure). So I had to go back into the store. The checkout woman went back to the chocolate aisle and said the 99c sign was referring to a different chocolate bar (which was nowhere near the sign). I just had her return the chocolate bars. It felt kind of manipulative, even though I'm sure it wasn't. Next time I'll read the fine print more carefully to avoid wasting my time!

I'm sure I wasted some energy on this, but who cares - $3.79 for a chocolate bar!

Swagbucks

August 24th, 2013 at 05:25 pm

So I have about 1700 in swagbucks, and I am trying to decide how to spend the $15 gift card...

1. Treat for me - Starbucks gift card - will be able to get about 4 decaf soy lattes - I usually get one a month, and these would now be free for the next four months.

2. Amazon card - Offset other spending, put the offset amount in the IRAs or pay down mortgage - This would be my inclination.

I don't know. How do you use your swagbucks?

Doctor Visit Expenses

August 23rd, 2013 at 04:35 pm

Yesterday I spent $25 for a doctor's visit and $10 for a prescription - ok, so $35 is not that bad. The bad part is I have shingles! Grrrr! It's supposed to be super painful, but it's not been very bad for me. The bad part is the light sensitivity. As I type this, I'm wearing sunglasses.

I am trying to take it easy; this started with body aches and no energy, and I had to teach my spinning class yesterday anyway, which made me really exhausted. So today I'm hanging out at home. Work for 1/2 hour, then rest, work, rest, etc.

One of the work things I have to do is send a bill to a client, so that's good.

And I need to conserve my energy because tonight is the Country Fair at F's school. Lots of games and fun for the kids, bouncehouse, sack race, face painting, and a dunk tank (kids dunking teachers!) and free dinner! I love free dinner! I'm going to bring a piece of my own bread as a bun. One of the parents in F's class always does the grilling, so I'm sure he won't mind throwing my "bun" on the grill for a minute.

Ok, time to go rest!

Today is the Official Last Day of Summer Vacation

August 20th, 2013 at 09:22 pm

Well, it's the official "Last Day of Summer Vacation." F is thrilled - she can't wait for school to start.

Today she had her yearly checkup (luckily well-checks are covered entirely by our insurance), and then had a very fun playdate with the new girl in class. We were going to go to the pool but it's raining.

I am headed over to the library to pick up a book (this is one of the things I find the most amazing about the library: I ask for a book online, they send me an email saying it's in, and I go right to the front desk and pick it up - concierge service!). I will probably also grab a few magazines to take to the free magazine exchange - hope there will be something I want to take home from the magazines, too.

When we get home, we'll watch the Great British Bakeoff which started today. It's a show we all LOVE!

And dinner is very, very sweet salmon with rice and peas. I already set the timer on the rice cooker and the salmon is defrosted.

So a zero-cost day. And a nice, low-key way to spend the day before school begins.

Low Cost Weekend Work and Fun

August 17th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I painted the hall today (total cost $17 for paint/supplies - I get a professional discount which is nice - I use the zero VOC paint which has very little odor).

Also touched up the bedroom where I'd spackled.

Before painting we all had salted caramel/chocolate tart for breakfast - it's a recipe I wanted to try out because I'm auditioning it for Thanksgiving. Yum! It's my first time making caramel, and I made it with coconut milk instead of cream.

After painting we went downtown (it's Indian Market weekend so it was crazy and not pleasant to drive there) and went to a free kids' flower drawing activity in the Community Gallery. Then we went to the pool (it's mid August - only half a month left of pool time!).

I am a little daunted because I have two more (bigger) rooms to paint, but that's not this weekend, so I just need to forget about them until they come up on my painting schedule. Also, I've made a mental note to prep, tape off, etc. the day before and then paint the morning. It was too much to do all of that in one go. Maybe that's just me; I guess professional painters do it all the time. Anyway, it looks like a new hallway, so I'm happy!

Very Big Snowflake! Yay!

August 17th, 2013 at 04:10 am

I put a bike travel box that I've had about ten years (back when I was dragging my bike to centuries and other countries). It's huge, and I've wanted to sell it for a while, but it was out of the way in a corner of the garage, and I didn't think about it a lot.

I put it on Craigslist and got $190 for it!

Now I just have to decide if that money goes to pay down mortgage principal or goes into the IRAs.

On to the next thing to sell...

Snowflake and Delayed Garage Sale

August 14th, 2013 at 12:08 am

I received $20 (this is a lot less than usual) for teaching spinning. But it's $20 I didn't have before! There were rumors that my gym is going to close; I spoke to the owner, and he said he's closing the gym half, but keeping the classes (weightlifting and spinning) in the other half. So I still have a (once-a-week) job! (The $20 will go either to the IRA or paying down the mortgage).

I was going to have a garage sale this weekend, but due to Indian Market (a yearly event here which pretty much shuts down the city) I'm delaying it. I forgot it was Indian Market! This gives me another week to gather things up to sell.

Sofa Rehab

August 13th, 2013 at 03:13 am

I started working on the sofa yesterday... I cut a slice off the foam I got at Joann's (50% off) and stuffed it into one of the back cushions. The problem is that the feather inserts are sewn shut so I just put it in the back. Well, that's not going to work unfortunately. I need to open the feather inserts (seam ripper) and carefully put in the foam, surround it with existing feathers and then sew the thing back up. I know how to sew, but the idea of 50 year old feathers is just scary. I can picture my living room full of feathers (very old feathers). I just have to try it and see how it goes.

Switching to Vanguard

August 12th, 2013 at 03:53 am

I've been meaning to do an analysis for a while to see how my Vanguard accounts are doing compared to my accounts with a broker at Morgan Stanley. Vanguard is in a low-cost fund that I picked, and the accounts at Morgan Stanley are personally managed.

Well... the result is that the Vanguard funds consistently did better (way better!). Enough better that it's not just due to the higher fees (.25% for Vanguard v. 1.5% at Morgan Stanley).

For approximately a year, the Vanguard fund made 13.8% and Morgan Stanley made 4.5%.

I needed to do the analysis because I figured if having my accounts personally managed overcame the higher fees then I would keep my accounts with Morgan Stanley. But it's the opposite! Grrr!

A Friend Declared Bankruptcy

August 11th, 2013 at 02:54 pm

I just got a call from a friend of mine who I haven’t spoken with in a while. Among other news, she told me that they’ve just declared bankruptcy. It made my heart sink. I’m friends with her because I’ve known her husband for 21 years; we used to share an office (we are in the same profession and went to grad school together). We do the same thing (architecture), we are the same age, we moved to the city we live in on the same day. We got married within a year of each other, and we have children who are within a year in age.

I feel simultaneously incredibly sad for them, but a little angry, too.

They make less than we do, but by my calculations the amount more we make is spent on private school (which they don't have - they live in the best school district) and savings. It would be tight, but we could live on what they make.

When we shared an office, he'd get boxes once a week from Patagonia or lululemon or he'd get expensive skiing gear including new skis. His wife takes the girls every week to buy Barbies and Hello Kitty.

I don't think that anyone should ever have to go into debt for medical bills (that should be an automatically forgiven in my opinion) but he doesn't have any debt like that. This is purely overspending debt. I don't understand bankruptcy very well, but is this debt now just erased? (I understand there are consequences - but he is self employed and has a house so no need for a credit check in the near future; I guess he has to stop juggling his zero-interest credit cards? Does he lose his cards? Does he lose the ability to get another credit card- this would clearly be a good thing for him).

His wife said that bankruptcy made sense because they don't have any assets. (Maybe their equity in the house is very low? They get to keep the house, though, right?)

I am struggling to be more compassionate about this.

Making Headway on the House To-Do List

August 10th, 2013 at 05:13 pm

I am busy crossing things off the house to-do list.

I just spackled in the bedroom. Still have to sand the spackle and touch up paint.

This weekend I'll also patch in the dining room.

I'm going to just leave the ladder out for a while (we have tall ceilings and lots of misc. jobs like this!)

I have found a place that has very reasonable cabinets (for our living room to replace a plywood mess that I made for my first apt. after college over 20 years ago!). I need to call them on Monday to work out the details. They ship unassembled and I'll build them here.

I'm also taking a 40% off coupon to JoAnn's today to get some foam to hopefully make our sofa pillows stand up instead of sag down to like 4" tall! I've been reading up on fixes online. The cushions are filled with down and feathers - they don't really have any structure.

And I'm washing the first dropcloth for the new sofa slipcovers. I bought the dropcloths at Home Depot - way less expensive than buying fabric.

(And tonight we have two parties to go to! Some people dread these things, but we're all super social and looking forward to it! Plus, there will be food, so dinner is taken care of!!)

More Frugal Meals

August 9th, 2013 at 07:21 pm

This is the remainder of my inexpensive meals for three, but these have chicken or turkey so they tend to be a little more expensive.

We eat chicken and fish, but we don’t eat red meat or pork or other mammals (personal choice). We eat fish once a week because it's not inexpensive; we usually have 3-4 vegetarian meals and 3-4 chicken or fish meals.

General tso’s chicken, rice and chinese cabbage - $8.25 (this is Chinese Food night - I can't eat in a Chinese restaurant due to gluten in the soy sauce, and this is a lot cheaper anyway and results in leftovers for lunch the next day!)

Sausage pasta (chicken sausage, lemon, a little white wine, pecorino romano) - $8.00

Chicken tacos with guacamole, lettuce, cheese - $7.73

Crustless quiche with turkey/sundried tomatoes/broccoli/goat cheese - $7.60

Summer pasta with turkey bacon and goat cheese - $7.50

Salsa chicken and black bean soup - $18.85 - makes four meals ($4.71 each) - add some bread! = $5.71

Chipotle chicken stew with potatoes - $18.50 - makes four meals ($4.63 each) - add a salad! = $5.63

THE STAR! - Posole (new mexico hominy with chicken thighs and green chile) - $12.75 - makes four meals = $3.19

If you haven't had posole, you should! Once the weather starts to get cooler it's the perfect time for a hearty stew like this. The green chile makes you feel warm, and it cooks in the crockpot all day so it's super easy!

My Most Frugal Meals

August 8th, 2013 at 03:17 pm

A list of my most frugal meals (each of these feed a family of three). These are all vegetarian (and all gluten free - so the pricing would be less for someone who can eat regular bread and pasta) and all $5.50 and under to feed three people. We aren’t light eaters, either! (I eat a ton!)

8. Fagiole soup with garlic bread - $16 - makes four meals (freeze three) - $4.00 each plus $1.50 for garlic bread = $5.50
7. Potato pancakes with applesauce and a salad - $5.50
6. Pasta with courgettes/zucchini and goat cheese - $5.16
5. Crash potatoes and a vegetable with a slice of cheese on the side - $5.00
4. Socca (chickpea flour pancake with courgettes/zucchini) with a side vegetable or salad - $4.95
3. Mexican scrambled eggs (with homemade tortilla slivers, salsa, green onion) and a salad/side vegetable - $4.79
2. Baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli - $4.43
1. Polenta with marinara and a vegetable - $3.20 - a savings STAR!

Later I will post our meals with chicken or turkey (starting at $8.25 for three, the least expensive is $5.63).

I would love to hear what your go-to meals are!

Craigslist = Money + Decluttering

August 7th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

We finally sold our two carseats on Craigslist. F is in a booster, so no need for them. We got $75 for both (into savings! yay!).

I also got $40 for teaching at the gym. (Savings, also!)

I have more to put on Craigslist before we have our garage sale in two weeks.

Today we went to the pool, which has been a bargain in so many ways. You have to go a lot to justify the membership, and because we go a lot, F has become a great swimmer! I feel so much more confident about her in the pool. And it's starting to feel cooler (maybe it'll warm up again, but right now it's raining at least once a day, and that cools the air temp off a lot), so I'm really appreciating the last few days of summer and the pool (it closes on Labor Day).

Lots of free summer and fall activities coming up, though. I might go by Indian Market this year (we have a downtown office, so we can use our parking space) and there are all of the parades associated with Fiestas (September). Hope you're all enjoying the end of summer, too!


Target: What I Returned

August 6th, 2013 at 03:58 pm

Another trip to Target - I had to get brown sugar and kleenex. It turns out that Target's kleenex is less expensive for us than other brands because a box lasts longer (90 tissues, one or two a day = 1.5 months). And their in-store brand brown sugar is cheaper than Albertson's.

Anyway, it was tax-free day (we have this once a year and it's only on school supplies) so I wandered over to the school supply section. F doesn't need to buy supplies (her school provides them), but there was a big display of lunchboxes and her lunchbox has been in service for two years. So I got a new lunchbox for her.

When I got home, she wailed that she "loves the old lunchbox!" and "why do I need a new lunchbox?" and you know what, she's right! Lesson in frugality from my daughter. Just because it's a deal doesn't mean you need it!

So I returned the lunchbox.

House Projects - Some Completed and one Big One Added

August 6th, 2013 at 02:45 am

I've managed to get some of the house projects (lingering for anywhere from a few months to a few years) in the past few days.

I spent about $80 at Home Depot (sanding discs, two showerheads, some blank outlet covers, liquid nails, new spackle and lots of other stuff) to complete my projects. Not a huge sum, and it's making a big difference around the house.

And I added a project - a big project - to the list. I'm surprised I left it off the first list; I probably left it off because it's too daunting. So here it is: the sofas. I have two sofas that are about 50 or 60 years old. They were my grandparents' sofas, and they are awesome! Great design, super comfortable. One of the sofas is 6' long - that's the small one! The other is 9' long - wow! They were made to last back then, though, and this, along with sentimental value is why I am going to revive them, not replace them. (And seriously - where would you even find a 9' sofa that was affordable?)

So here are the sofa issues to deal with:
- they are sagging (I have found a product called sofa saver boards - anyone ever used these?)
- the slipcovers are old, ripped, stained, and need to be replaced (I am going to sew new ones out of canvas dropcloth; yes, I can sew and I have a sewing machine. I know I have to wash the fabric first)
- the back pillows sag (they are stuffed with down and feathers - I have been researching how to get them to stand up and not sag so much and I think a piece of foam inside the cover may do the trick - just missed a Jo-Ann's sale - hope there will be another one)

If anyone has advice I would love to hear it! This will make a big difference in our living room and give a new lease of life to our sofas.

Cheap Labor

August 5th, 2013 at 02:41 am

On Friday I hired F to help me with field measurement. She's only eight years old, but is really good at knowing where to put the tape, measured several small walls on her own and took documentation photos.

I am wondering if she's really spatially aware because she's an architect's child, or do we just communicate really well because we're mother/daughter?

Anyway, I paid her $10 and had a really great assistant.

She declared field measurement "really fun" and was excited about getting to see the inside of a men's restroom. (Which is not that exciting, but when you're a girl, it's a mystery; and it's usually not allowed, so that adds something I guess).

F now has a small pile of money from her summer work, so we need to take a trip to the bank and open an account for her.

All of Those Unfinished Projects around the House

August 3rd, 2013 at 04:00 pm

Last month I briefly investigated building another house (lot prices are very low right now, and as an architect I can get good pricing on construction and do a lot of the work myself). The investigation was brief because the numbers didn't work out the way I wanted them to (my goal was to wipe out our mortgage - about $86k left - or the project was a no-go).

Also - things would be too iffy (how much could we sell our house for? would it sell quickly) and the whole thing would be a giant pain (moving into a rental for a year, managing construction when I am supposed to be working).

OK, enough of that. The result was a new appreciation for our house. I built it in 1998, 16 years ago. If we sold it, there are a few things we'd need to do - these are mostly minor repairs and updates like painting (I've never repainted most of the rooms!). Since we are not moving, it makes sense to do these things so we can enjoy them!



So I decided to make a list and tackle those things a few at a time. My goal date for completion of most of these is Thanksgiving since the entire family is coming here for the holiday. Some of these are five-minute tasks (sometimes it's inexplicable why I haven't just done them).

In case you ask why my husband is not helping with the list: he is not allowed near my tools! I like him with all of his fingers.

This project starts today with a trip to Home Depot! I will keep you posted on the progress.

General
have a garage sale (find items in hall closet and spare room closet)
crack repair in master bedroom, pantry stain, threshold to bedroom, big chip in F’s room, shower)

Master Bathroom
declog drain
new showerhead

Master Bedroom
put in baseboard (measure, buy wood, cut, paint, install)
reattach trim
fix peeling paint

Living Room
adjust strike at front door
find out about glass in door
sand door and seal
cabinet for tv
paint table white
remove black covers off of track lighting
repaint!
remove nail and spackle
declutter entry table

Dining Room
move play kitchen upstairs
repaint!

Kitchen
adjust strike
trim piece below door (measure, buy at home depot)
appliance garage of some type
shelf for my grandmother’s cups and saucers
repaint!

Fs Bedroom
new rug (measure, get sample of paint color, Home depot)

Hall
paint
cut nail ends at nicho
spackle at nicho

Den
spackle holes
paint wall behind desk
weatherstrip (already bought! remove old strip and reinstall)
picture frame for picture I want to hang
edit the pictures on the picture shelf; frame as needed

Outside
paint unmatched stucco
replace dead aspens with foresteria

Fs Bathroom
redo grout (remove old grout first!)
paint table white

July 2013 v. July 2012

August 3rd, 2013 at 05:42 am

Last month compared to the same month last year:
- income increased 21%
because my husband is now depositing a consistent amount from his business to our personal account each month
- expenses decreased 19%
because I am watching my spending! (biggest change - food spending! - I've always done meal planning, but I'm planning more with an eye to cost now)
- savings increased 298%
because we weren’t saving very much before (and we’re trying really hard to increase that!)

So overall, very happy!

Back from Vacation!

August 1st, 2013 at 08:38 pm

We're back from vacation to Vancouver and Victoria (Canada) - it was GREAT! Not cheap, but we'd set aside the money for the trip.



Favorite part of the trip: cycling around Stanley Park (had the bikes for a half day - $50), picnic lunch (about $10), stopping at the large Second Beach pool ($8 for the three of us).

Least favorite part: food in Canada is so expensive! But we ate some great food. We cooked in a lot of the time, had picnic lunches, and a few meals out. The best meals out were in Victoria - we ate at Red Fish Blue Fish right on the pier and breakfast at a place called Jam. Highly recommend both!

F's favorite part: the hour and a half we spent petting goats at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. (which followed the hysterically funny goat stampede where they run into the petting enclosure).

Museums are also expensive in Canada. I am really appreciating the free museums in the UK!

We spent $30 on souvenirs: a cuddly toy beluga whale for F (who studied them in 1st grade) and a very sweet tea set from the Empress Hotel in Victoria (also for F). Our other souvenirs were lots and lots of photos!

Our lodging: apartments we got through websites like airbnb and the last night was an airport hotel that my mom paid for with her hotel points (which she never uses and offered to us - that was nice!).

But, as I said, the real key to the trip was to set aside the money before the trip (not try to pay for it with credit!) and have a budget.