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Archive for November, 2013

Interesting Article about Generation X in the Workplace

November 29th, 2013 at 04:01 pm

Just read this on the bbc website:
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20130710-the-forgotten-generation

As a member of Generation X (although not sure I'd identify myself this way, I know that I'm not a baby boomer - I was born in 1966), I found it relevant. I am one of those people who worked in smaller firms, and then opted out to form my own firm (it's a corporation, but I'm the only employee).

I lost a ton of wealth during the last recession (watched the value of our houses plummet and our IRAs lost about 30% of their value). And my salary has just never gone very high (I've topped out at about $45k and so has my husband). It makes it hard to save, but we've done the best we could and been frugal.

The label that most consistently gets applied to me is not "slacker" (no one mistakes me for a slacker!) but "you're still young; you have a lot of time to make money." I am making far less than most of my clients (firefighters, city or county employees) and they kid me on the sly about making a ton of money. And 47 isn't that young when you have to think about retirement. (There may be some gender bias here, or maybe a misunderstanding of how my fee is divided up between salary, overhead and paying my engineering consultants who normally get a third or more).

Anyway the article was interesting to me; what do think about it? Are you in one of those groups: boomer or gen x or a millenial?

In Praise of Cross Country Skiiing

November 28th, 2013 at 10:36 am

This photo is from last Sunday... we strapped on our cross country skis and went skiing right down our own street (this is in our cul de sac).



My SIL was just trying to convince F that she should downhill ski. I said she can go downhill skiing when she can afford the gear and lift tickets. At our ski hill, a bunny hill lift ticket is $36 (regular hill is $49) for kids. Gear rental for kids is another $32. So $68 for a day. That's our budget for household supplies/toiletries/cleaning products for a month.

Or kids can do a 6 week program, all inclusive with rentals for $485. That's more than our entertainment budget for the YEAR.

Anyway, my x-c ski gear is about 20 years old, and all I need is a bottle of maxi-glide once in a while. F's set up is less than $100 and lasted two years. Last year, we bought her new boots end of season that should last another two years. We can sell the old boots (still in great condition) at the ski swap we have here in town (and maybe pick up new skis for next year).

And cross country skiing is super fun! And you can ski UP!! (And I don't downhill ski - so I'd basically be sitting around in the ski lodge waiting for F all day).

It's a little frustrating that my SIL, even though here intentions are good, is putting ideas in F's head that we can't follow through on (she so admires her aunt and wants to do whatever she suggests). But hopefully F will stay satisfied for a while longer with what we do as a family.

Thanksgiving is in Full Swing

November 26th, 2013 at 03:23 pm

My parents have arrived. It's been a mixed bag.

Not so great:
- they didn't like their hotel that they chose and moved to a different hotel (but complained a lot first)
- they don't like walking in snow (we got a lot of snow last weekend)
- I'm cooking a lot for everyone! And trying to keep the house clean
- My mother keeps calling my brother who arrives tomorrow to warn him about things (like snow or the dog hair) which makes me feel sort of bad
- My dad lost his mobile phone, but someone called me - last number called - to say he found it, and we got it back only a few hours later

Great:
- having my parents here
- they got to watch F sledding - priceless! (I grew up, and they still live, in so. California where there isn't any snow)
- my mother complained enough about walking in snow that we went to Ross and we both found boots (mine are Clark's - got a great deal)

So - my brother arrives tomorrow. I have bought all the food at Trader Joe's already, so now just need to get wine. I'm not sure I know how to pick out wine (usually D tells me what to get based on what he sees on the TJ website).

'Twas the Weekend Before Thanksgiving...

November 23rd, 2013 at 07:41 pm

We had such a nice (and frugal) day today.

Woke up to snow! And it continued snowing off and on throughout the day. Beautiful!

We made hot chocolate and hung out in our pajamas. And then worked on the living room a little (we put in our new tv/game cabinet yesterday, and we were refeeding the speakers and stuff).

Then went to a friends' housewarming. They live up a dirt road; I'm glad we put the snow tires on last weekend. (This house was HUGE and had 360 degree views and a glass-enclosed temperature-controlled wine cellar. I have to say though - I wouldn't want to live in a house like that - it wasn't "warm" at all - not temperature warm, but cozy warm).

Then went to another friends' house (very cozy!) and while F and their daughter played, we hung out and ate yummy food (cheese, crackers, olives) and ate the cookies I made (cranberry/white chocolate/pecans) and drank tea.

Then home to a simple dinner (toast and deviled eggs and some satsumas).

Tomorrow I have to get the house ready for the family (who arrive on Monday and Wednesday)... vacuuming, putting sheets on the bed and setting out towels. And have to do the last of the shopping for Thanksgiving week (this will be a big shop - I have to feed four extra people!).

Another Snowflake - and P Found Money in My Car!

November 21st, 2013 at 07:22 pm

I like those days when I can drop F off at school and sit at my desk and work hard uninterrupted. But today was not like that!

But in all the craziness of today, I managed to sell something on craigslist and made $8.

Then I was at F's horseback riding lesson (this is paid for by my parents - my dad used to ride so they're very supportive) and the teacher C's 3 year old son P got in the car with me so we could hang out where it was warm. We draw together, and he plays with the hazard lights button. He's super precocious and very cute.

Anyway, after informing me that he was going to shoot a bear and we'd have bear burgers for dinner, and then letting me know that I'd drink water and he'd drink whiskey (!!) he reached into the car door pocket and pulled out a few dollars and announced "I found money! Here!" and he thrust the wadded up bills into my hand. Cool! I guess I don't ride in the passenger seat of my car very often. Either D or I must have stuffed it in there.

I need to pay down the mortgage principal this month, but I'm waiting until tomorrow because Friday is popcorn day at the bank!



Thanksgiving Menu

November 19th, 2013 at 06:57 pm

I've worked out the Thanksgiving menu, and believe me, it wasn't easy! I can't eat gluten (celiac genes) and my brother and his wife are vegetarian and my dad is pescaterian. My brother won't come if I cook a turkey in the house. Here is the menu that accommodates everyone (and my pocketbook; they are coming from out of state, so I provide all the food).

- Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Moosewood cookbook)
- Wild Rice Stuffing with cranberries and pecans
- D's roast potatoes (his roasties are the BEST!)
- French beans with a vinaigrette
- Asparagus with Brown Butter
- Cranberry Sauce
- Precooked turkey breast from Trader Joe's for the four of us who want a little bit of turkey (this was $12.30)

- Salted caramel and chocolate tart
- Pumpkin chiffon cake (a Rachael Ray recipe that I adapted to be GF)

I've bought all the ingredients except the fresh veggies (mushrooms, potatoes, beans, asparagus). So far I've spent $27.94. I had a lot of the staples already (flour, sugar, mustard, butter).

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Another $40 and a Nice Hike

November 18th, 2013 at 03:34 pm

I've lived here for 20 years (almost 21) and I've had friends come and go. Two friends who moved away years ago were here this past weekend; it was so great to see them! I miss them a lot!

They were all into eating out and shopping, and it was hard to say no, because I wanted to hang out with them. When they suggested a hike, I was definitely in for that, though! Our beautiful hikes are the free treasure here. We walked up a gorgeous arroyo, and picked up heart shaped rocks and saw the sunset just as we arrived back at the trailhead, and it was a great way to spend time together (for free).

Today I got paid for teaching my spinning class - $40 for the month. And I went to the weekly weightlifting class I love (taught by my friend L) for free (that's one of the perks of teaching).

And when F got home from school we had hot chocolate with marshmallows because it's turned pretty cold here. My recipe: 2 T sugar, 2 T cocoa powder, 1 c almond milk and a lot of marshmallows!

I'd much rather have a hike and hot chocolate than a lot of little trinkets. I wasn't even jealous at all of my friends' purchases - necklaces, postcards, a purse, etc... (Mostly because I can't deal with clutter!). So that's progress, right?

Tuition Assistance

November 17th, 2013 at 10:21 am

Last week the issue of socio-economic diversity came up at F's school. One of the parents of a girl in F's class made a public comment (in a school-wide meeting) that she works hard for her money (? she doesn't work) and was not in favor of tuition assistance because she was concerned that the level of education would suffer.

I was personally insulted, and pretty upset. We get 15% of our tuition reduced. It is means tested, and I was told that we should apply if we made less than $100k (we were making $70k and now make about $80k). I was thrilled to get some help!

I know there are people that make less than we do, and they get more assistance, but I have no idea who they are, and they don't know who we are. You know why I don't know? Because you can't tell! I mean you can tell who is RICH, really RICH. But aside from that, the kids all dress pretty much the same, and they're all bright (you have to apply to the school). You can't tell by color or race or color whether or not they're on tuition assistance.

And my daughter is at the top of her class academically (and both my husband and I have masters degrees), so I have no idea what this mother was talking about.

Then there is the idea of what is "poor." We have close friends that know we're on tuition assistance; their daughter is also in F's class. Their lifestyle doesn't seem that different from ours, and the husband wants to take another job with a $30k pay cut (yikes!) so his wife was worried about a drastic change in their lifestyle and was curious about tuition assistance.

I told her that the financial guy at school told me to apply if we made less than $100k and she looked disappointed. "Oh, it'll still be way above that." With a $30k pay cut? Wow! I kind of thought they weren't making much more than we were.

Anyway, it just shows you can't tell. Someone may have a nice car that they have a big loan on, or they may have a less expensive car but own it outright. We have a nice house, because I designed and helped build it myself; we owe $80k on it while our friends' $1 million house is fully mortgaged. We have friends that have really expensive clothes, a new Honda Fit and their kids have tons of toys, but they just declared bankruptcy.

So... my message to this mom is "you don't know." And you probably shouldn't go on about things you know nothing about.

I haven't talked to her since the comment (it was last Monday) and probably won't reference it at all. I don't even want to look at her; when I think about her, I just get angry.

Snowflakes and Decluttering - Yes!

November 14th, 2013 at 07:57 am

I brought some old cd's to Hastings yesterday, and I got $18 for them! I was expecting about $5 and was set to donate them to goodwill, so I'm pretty happy!

And it declutters the house in the process!

Today - just turned in a proposal for some work with the County. Fingers crossed. There's a Starbucks right near the County's purchasing office, so I took my half off groupon Starbucks card (paid $5, get $10) to Starbucks and got a coffee as a treat. They gave me a survey thing which I filled out online, so now I get another $1 off my next coffee treat. (I get a Starbucks coffee about once a month).

OK, back to work...

Plane Tickets to Europe

November 12th, 2013 at 05:47 pm

We are in the process of purchasing the flights to England to see D's family (mother, father, sister, brother-in-law and our two nephews and one niece... oh, and a few cousins, too!)

His family cannot or will not (different in each case) travel here, so if we want F to know her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins, we need to travel there. We're currently on an every-other-year schedule, but, oh my gosh - it's so expensive! Total will be - gulp - $4482.

We have money saved up (I set a little aside each month so that we save about $2800 every two years) and also travel rewards (about $1500) to apply to the tickets.

And I just figured out that we can fly from here directly for the same price as driving down to Big City. That means: someone can drive us to the airport (so we don't have to pay for parking for two and a half weeks) and we don't have to drive an hour to the Big City (saves tons of time!). But we do have to take a smaller plane (one of those regional jets) which I don't love. It's still just one stop, though, in Dallas.

I have to remember that this is one of the reasons (in addition to saving for retirement of course) that we are frugal in our spending: so that we can afford for D to visit "home" every few years and so that F can know her family.

Frugal Baby Gift

November 12th, 2013 at 03:33 pm

My friend is having a baby any day now - hope she holds off until Friday (which is when the baby shower is). This is an amazing woman who has five kids already (including triplet boys!) and she's NICE. Her daughter and F are in the same class.

Anyway, I bought her a little onesie and when I was given some free yarn by F's piano teacher last week I decided to knit this little cardigan, too.



Cost was just for the buttons...

Cringeworthy Business Expense

November 6th, 2013 at 03:19 pm

I entered one of my buildings today in the local AIA chapter's award competition. It irritated me to do it (costs $100 to enter), but I haven't submitted for an award in years, so all of my awards are sort of old... This is no guarantee, of course, that I'll win. But it would be good for marketing. The $100 is not mine personally, but a business expense. (I'm still a little irritated about it, but D convinced me to do it, and he's probably right).

I'm entering one of my fire stations in the renovation/adaptive re-use category. I'm proud of that project because it was really difficult (the original building was made of a very brittle clay tile called pen-tile so I had to work with existing openings - otherwise the tile just shatters). I also had a ridiculously low budget. And I think it looks pretty cool! (The first thing I need to do is to get D to take photos of it - the only ones I have, I took, and they're not great photos!)

So... wish me luck!!



Reading a Book I Love!

November 6th, 2013 at 03:11 pm

I don't usually post about what I'm reading, but this book is so much fun!

It's called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and I saw it on the book club list of one of our local bookstores. I got it at the library, of course!

It's a mystery (which I have to confess I love) about books (which I also love) and a bookstore (don't love that much, but that's because I love the library).

Speaking of the library... I am going to take a pile of books over there that I was saving for the garage sale I'm not having. The library has a store, and they make some money from the sales of used books. Our library is right downtown, and it's in a pretty building, and the librarians are super nice. And did I mention I have a friend who's a librarian at a local college? (Add librarians to the list of things I love).

Thankful for Tiny Windfalls

November 5th, 2013 at 09:59 am

I paid the car registration today. I saved 5% by paying it online, but had to pay a convenience fee of $1.25. In the end, though, even with the fee, I saved $1.00. So it made sense. A little snowflake, but it's still a snowflake, right?

Speaking of snowflakes, it's turned really cold here. It rained, hailed and snowed a tiny bit last night. With the time change it was very dark coming out of F's piano lesson. But the piano teacher told me she was getting rid of a ton of stuff, and she had some yarn in her garage/storage area. So we went out back in the dark, with the blowing leaves and drizzle. And I got a huge bag of yarn! F was excited to look through it with me after school.

Today I am subbing for another spinning instructor; I think the gym might pay me for these subbed classes (I have not really figured out the payment system). I already subbed a weightlifting class this month, so we'll see if I end up with more money. I don't get paid much as I've mentioned, but I do get to exercise for free! It'll be good to move around a little today. I feel like I've been sitting in this office forever!

A Few Not Frugal Decisions that I'm Happy About!

November 2nd, 2013 at 10:22 am

Not-frugal decision #1 - it's the last day of fall soccer for F; the girls were so great! We are hosting the pizza party since D is the coach. Not sure how much it will cost in total (lemonade, pizza) but I had money left over in the food budget from last month, and so we're still in budget. And in my mind, this is one of the things I LIKE to spend money on! Glad we can be generous!

Not-frugal decision #2 - I was going to have a garage sale tomorrow. I anticipated making about $60. But I've decided to donate to a charity shop instead. It's gotten cold outside, and I want to spend the weekend with F - $60 isn't worth missing out on time with her. And the stuff will go to charity. I am going to go through everything and set aside a few things to sell on craigslist/ebay. I went back and forth on this, nearly making myself crazy! But I'll be glad to have the house decluttered, and to be able to give back to a charity!

October stats

November 1st, 2013 at 03:58 pm

October stats are in! (I had time to do this today thanks to F and her friend L who was over for a playdate - the girls were great, gave me tons of time, but the yard is a mess!)

- Income - up 21% thanks to D's new job - hooray!! (self-employment was sort of unpredictable for him)
- Spending - down 16% - hooray again!
- Savings - up 650% - wow! I will say that it's easy to do that when your savings is very low to start with.

To put this in perspective:
- Income net - $6,344
- Expenses - $4,069
- Savings - $1,126
This is for a family of three with a private school tuition payment and a mortgage. (Because sometimes it's interesting to look at the raw numbers).