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Home > Archive: January, 2014

Archive for January, 2014

Rationalization for Stupid Spending

January 30th, 2014 at 03:38 pm

After I picked F up from school today, we went over to Whole Foods to grab a snack. I needed to use up some time because I wanted to return the choreography notes and cd's that I borrowed from a fellow instructor (who wasn't going to be at the gym until 4 to teach her class). She very kindly let me copy her stuff since I am now co-teaching that weightlifting class. She no longer teaches the weightlifting class, but still teaches spinning).

We each bought a little dessert (I was only going to get a drink, and I don't know what happened! I was weak in the presence of chocolate!) and a drink.

Here is the rationalization: I really wanted to get the stuff back to my friend because I've had it a week, and this was one of the only times I could drop it off. I got a lot of music and choreography for free (thereby offsetting the cost of the treat!). I would have had to go home and come back (so we would have used up gasoline).

All of this is a rationalization. In reality, I should have just gotten the treat for F. I didn't really need anything. I didn't even want anything. This is my weird buying impulse - this is why I don't go into stores. It's not like I spent a lot, but it adds up. I usually food shop early in the morning (when I'm not hungry and weak-willed).

Note to future me: you don't even like the chocolate that much after you get it; next time stop by the cheese samples for a FREE salty treat! (I am going to have that tattooed onto my hand or something.

Internet Bill - Reduced!

January 29th, 2014 at 03:41 pm

When I got home today, my internet bill was in my inbox. Yikes! It had doubled since last month! I figured the promo deal I had was over.

So I immediately called to beg for another promo deal. All I said was "I noticed the promotion is now over." There weren't even any formalities or "we'd really like to keep you as a customer" - they just transferred me immediately to the retention department who without any discussion (or begging) offered me a rate that is even less than what we've been paying for the past year. I was prepared to beg; seriously.

We now pay $19.95 plus taxes for internet only. (We were paying about $25).

It's like the other, "non-promo" rate is just for people who are too busy or don't bother to call in. All you have to do is call up and you get the better (way better) rate.

Savings is about $60/year.

$75 Snowflake and a Question

January 28th, 2014 at 04:02 pm

Got a check for $75 from my business credit card (cash rewards). I haven't decided if this is mortgage principal or will go into F's tuition account which will be depleted since we just paid next year's deposit. I might wait until the end of Feb. when I find out how much tuition assistance we get.

And now a question, which might be silly... but here goes... how do you determine a no-spend day? Some days my mortgage payment goes through or I pay the gas bill or whatever. But those are fixed expenses that I can't do anything about. Is it a no-spend day if you haven't spent on incidentals/food/stuff like that?

My visa payment went through today, but these were items I bought on other days. To me, this was a no-spend day, but the days I bought those items were spend days. Does that make sense? How do the rest of you figure it?

My Cleaning Calendar

January 28th, 2014 at 09:12 am

This is my cleaning calendar (for those who are interested). It's actually three calendars: Weekly, Monthly and Yearly (some things appear more than once on the yearly). It's personalized; lots of things would be different for different people.

There are climate/seasonal differences (I have to wait until after our monsoon season to wash our windows/screens, for example).

There are lifestyle differences (number of rooms in your home, number of kids, pets, where the cleaning and decluttering challenges are, when is garbage day).

There are preferences (such as how often you thing something should occur - should mopping be weekly or monthly? should you deep clean the refrigerator once a year or twice?).

And, there are time limitations... I work about 35 hrs. a week, and work limits what I can get done.

MY METHOD - Every Sunday night I copy and paste the relevant things from each list into my to-do list for the week.

OK, here goes!

mirrors or stainless (alternate)
take up bins
F’s bathroom
water plants
our bathroom
fur fight
sheets or towels (alternate)
file emails
grocery shopping, clear out old food from the fridge
clean birdcage
collect garbage
lunch pictures

week 1 - magazines to library, clean tile in F’s bathroom, pay RGS
week 2 - clean windows, clean out purple caddy in alcove, straighten rug, go through inbox/filing
week 3 - mop
week 4 - clean shower, clean tub surround, vacuum out car

week 1
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
go through F’s artwork, scan, put in portfolio
take down Christmas cards - put some in keepsake envelope
week 2
wipe top of refrigerator and top of oven
wipe and clean play kitchen
clean vacuum cannisters (dustbuster and dyson)
week 3
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
clean trash pullout and bottom
winter clothing sales
week 4
clean tea shelf
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
purge medicine cabinet
clean out paper stacker thingy
week 2
wash car
dust legs of wood chairs and tables
week 3
go through F’s sock/underwear drawers - toss, reorder
go through my sock/underwear drawers - toss
toss papers in garage filing cabinet
week 4 
sale on bags/foil at Albertsons - last week in Feb
do individual bookshelves - take all books down

week 1
declutter bedside drawer
declutter F’s guys baskets with her
wash and rehang white curtains
week 2
declutter F’s bathroom drawers and under sink
water trees
week 3
wipe fronts of kitchen drawers and handles
declutter F’s dressup drawer with her
test smoke alarm
week 4 
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)
turn mattress

week 1
declutter/clean guest bedroom
clean freezer
week 2
survey of things that need repair/upgrade in house
wipe and clean play kitchen
front entry - sweep and tidy, portal too
week 3
paint - touchup 
clean light switches and door handles with wet wipe
week 4 
declutter F’s closet with her
wipe dining room chairs
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter laundry room, put away coats, bring out swim bag
clean top of pantry shelves and closet shelves
week 2
water trees
week 3
go through my winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
laundry sink, surfaces, dryer lint
week 4 
go through F’s winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
dust the picture rail in the den

week 1
declutter bathroom drawers
wipe down remotes
week 2
tidy and wipe pantry shelves
go through F’s artwork, scan F’s, put in portfolio
put memento envelope on shelf and start new envelope
week 3
dust top of light fixtures in kitchen and dining
wipe kitchen appliances
week 4 
declutter F’s books with her
wipe lampshades

week 1
clean engagement/wedding rings
declutter garage
week 2
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
week 3
declutter spare room closet
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
week 4 
wipe and clean play kitchen
wipe cabinet fronts
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter hall closet
reorder plates and bowls that are broken
week 2
wash car
dust tops of all framed pictures
week 3
clean out paper stacker thingy
wash and rehang white curtains
week 4 

week 1
clean windows - screens and all - level 1
week 2
clean windows - screens and all - level 2
week 3
clean windows - screens and all - level 3
week 4 
go through all kitchen drawers
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)

week 1
go through my summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
clean freezer
week 2
clean outdoor light fixtures
go through F’s summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
new toothbrushes
week 3
water trees
wipe and clean play kitchen
week 4 
sell items on craigslist or ebay
clean top of fireplace
vacuum behind sofa
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter kitchen cabinets 
start buying Christmas presents - make a list
week 2
tidy art center
tighten any loose kitchen cabinet hinges
washing machine - clean outside with a wet wipe
week 3
book purge
under kitchen sink
week 4 
declutter holiday box (ornaments, etc)
declutter linens

week 1
water trees if there hasn’t been much snow
tops of fans
week 2
discard old/expired spices
wipe cabinet fronts
week 3
do photo book in shutterfly for the previous year
toss all receipts from previous year 
week 4 
declutter game cabinet
clean washing machine with 1 c vinegar on hot
clean dishwasher with vinegar and pick out calcium deposits

Cleaning/Decluttering Calendar

January 27th, 2014 at 03:24 pm

On the Cleaning Calendar for this week: purge medicine cabinets, clean paper stack.

Haven't tackled the paper stack yet (but it doesn't look toooo bad). Later in the week.

But I just did the medicine cabinet. D had four expired medications in there! And there was some Lactaid. It doesn't matter how much Lactaid I eat, cow dairy still doesn't agree. So I put that near D's sink to see if he wants it. And we had some ten-year-old hippy sinus drops; in the trash. There was nothing weird or old in F's medicine cabinet.

On the monthly list are: take magazines to the library and wipe the tile in F's shower. Both easy tasks. Will probably do F's tile tonight since it's bath night.

The other thing we do at the beginning of the month is pay tuition. And because it's February, we also pay our deposit for next year. I have money in our Tuition account, so it's not a big deal; it's just scary watching it plummet so much in one month.

I need to find out if we got any tuition assistance and, if so, how much. Will report back.

Grocery Shopping, Meal Plan and a New Recipe

January 26th, 2014 at 09:49 am

The meal plan for this week (with commentary!):

- pasta carbonara (new recipe! very inexpensive, and soooo good) - $3.81 total
- potato pancakes, applesauce, sour cream (I bought a ton of hashbrowns on sale last week) with salad ($5.00)
- chicken sausages, brussels sprouts and rice (about $6.50 total)
- tilapia (curry powder and paprika) with broccoli and garlic bread - $8.50
- something from the freezer (tamales?) with salad
- mexican eggs and toast ($4.50)

Total grocery spend: $103 (stocked up on some staples)
- dinner items $28
- lunch $26
- fruit $6
- staples $18 (higher than normal because I bought gf loaves of bread on sale to freeze)
- breakfast $13
- dessert $13 (higher because I bought gf flour blend on sale - I already have a lot, but it was 50% off and will get used)

So... the new recipe. I've always loved pasta carbonara, except I was pretty sure I couldn't have it anymore since cream is not a good option for me. Except in the back of my mind, I knew the authentic version doesn't use cream at all, only eggs. When I found this recipe http://www.dinneralovestory.com/restaurant-worthy-carbonara/ I was pretty excited to try it. It was so good! And the whole family liked it (crucial; we had friends over yesterday and E makes something different for each member of the family every night - I won't make anything we can't all eat). I used five strips of turkey bacon.

I have a lot of recipes in our repertoire now. It's been a key to budgeting: I mix up very frugal and slightly less frugal so we're not eating expensive meals every night but we can have fish or chicken a few nights a week. Do you try out new recipes? Any that are yummy and frugal that you want to share?

No Tuition Increase = Very Good Mood!!

January 24th, 2014 at 06:38 pm

Just got an email from F's school - they are NOT increasing tuition this year! They usually go up a little each year.

That doesn't mean that we'll get the same amount in tuition assistance, so I'm not changing my spreadsheet yet, but I am pretty relieved that even if we get less tuition assistance, it won't be as big of a problem if the overall tuition doesn't go up. Phew!

We receive our re-enrollment contract next Monday, so we'll find out if we got tuition assistance (and if so, how much) then. Fingers crossed.

Dinner is a Big "?"

January 24th, 2014 at 11:08 am

We're not going out tonight, but I don't have anything planned for dinner either (I plan for 6 days a week and assume one night out). Ugh. I've eaten a super boring but inexpensive lunch (a pear, two fried eggs, chips and salsa leftover from F's lunch yesterday).

D will come home from work and assume I have dinner sorted out.

- something from next week's food list that we have in the house (but that is probably eggs and I just had eggs for lunch).
- polenta with red sauce and a side salad (we had salad last night; maybe peas?) or grilled cheese sandwiches
- stop by Sprouts and pick up a cooked chicken (the expensive option) and have it with something already in the house (peas?)
- goody plate made up of stuff left over in the fridge: toast, cheese, carrots (but since lunch was sort of unfulfilling, this might not be a good option; hmmm - do meals need to be fulfilling in addition to filling? probably yes)

I think it's the polenta. Inexpensive, warm, yummy.

Tomorrow - will take advantage of Sprouts' sales on gluten free items. Will increase the grocery bill in the short run, but save money in the long run.


January 23rd, 2014 at 10:37 am

Freebie 1 - Was taken to breakfast today by a client. This never happens, since my clients are almost always local governments. This client is a hotel. He also mentioned there will be more work coming up later in the year, so that's good.

Freebie 2 - I got paid by the gym; it was $40 (mortgage principal!). I really would (and have had) taught just for the gym membership. I think I'd get paid more if more people came to my classes, so I might have to figure out how to drum up business!

Freebie 3 - No horse riding for F today - it was canceled due to cold. She'll be sad, but I am glad since it is really cold! My parents pay for the lessons, but this saves the gas down there.

Medical Expenses for D's Vertigo

January 22nd, 2014 at 09:25 am

Vertigo is gone, but D still has symptoms (in the end I think it was a sinus infection that settled in his ear). He says his ear continues to feel plugged (but at least he's functional!). The tally for the medical expenses is about $215.

Not sure if it's related (maybe sinus pressure is affecting his eyes?) but he also went to get a new pair of glasses - total $261 incl. the doctor visit. He now needs them to see up close (so it's prescription reading glasses - he didn't want bi-focals). This wasn't an expected expense since he just got glasses in June.

It's a lot to absorb, and we're about $209 down on our medical "envelope." (This is a virtual envelope - we do our budgeting and tracking in moneywell which uses what they call a bucket system, but its basically an envelope). I'll need to funnel some money in there from underspent buckets. Dining and groceries should be low this month, so we can use some of that to fill that bucket back up.

Miscellaneous Money Stuff

January 21st, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Lots of thoughts in my head right now (it's good to get this down so I can stop thinking about everything):

- I got my bonus from Capital One today - $125! Yes! I am going to apply this to mortgage principal next month.

- A friend is coming over this afternoon to share her music and choreography for the exercise class I teach. She is so nice! She used to own our gym, and she was the one who got us all certified to teach this class. She was at the hospital the day after my daughter was born (and it was a trek! We were at a hospital an hour away due to complications). Anyway, the result is that I don't need to buy choreography. And F and I get to see her!

- I was attending the same class yesterday (my friend L teaches on Mondays, and we share the Wednesday class). L and I have already shared our music, and I'll be copying everything for her, too. Anyway, the gym owner paid L, so I am hoping that means I'll get paid either tomorrow or Thursday. Fingers crossed; he is pretty erratic about paying us.

- My insurance company is making me a little crazy right now. They were great in that they decided that D's last day on the insurance was 12.31.13, but somehow decided I wasn't eligible for coverage and didn't pay my doctor for my well-visit (so I had to call and straighten it all out). Then despite the fact that D is not covered, we've paid for him for both January and February. I was told we'd get a credit for January to appear on the February statement, but they told me their billing department is separate. Another call. I'm hoping this is fixed for March and we see the credits for both January and February. The woman I spoke with understood that we shouldn't be paying for my husband, and promised that would be straightened out for March, but didn't mention the credit in the phone message she left me. We'll see.

- I finished the business taxes (both federal and state). Just need to mail - phew!! I've download Turbo Tax for our personal taxes (my parents let me use their software since you can download onto multiple computers). So I'll start that this week.

- I am doing the business checkbook reconciliation.

- I am vowing to curb our spending in February. January was "spendy" due to stocking up in the sales.

Day off of Work = Some Spending + Guilt

January 20th, 2014 at 10:14 am

F is off of school today, but D works, so I am taking advantage of my self-employed status to hang out with her.

This morning we have been hanging out a home, and right now she's playing minecraft for a few mins.

I was relieved to get an email from F's piano teacher this morning canceling today's lesson. F hadn't practiced much (we are trying to work out a better system for practicing) and we get a credit toward next month's lessons. That means we pay for only three lessons in Feb. rather than four.

So instead we'll do a few quick errands downtown and then go to the gym. F gets her own bench, and she does the motions with just the bar (1 lb.) or dance or play on the ipad. Usually all three over the course of the class.

Then we're going out to lunch! We're going to a Japanese place for bento boxes (they have a lunch special). D eats lunch out once a week, and I eat lunch out once a month, so I don't feel too guilty about this splurge. OK, I must feel a little guilty or I wouldn't be mentioning it. Whatever is left from our dining budget for the month, I use to pay down the mortgage. But it is, after all, the dining budget. I know everyone has issues around money, and I feel less guilty if I deprive myself, but I am trying to deprive myself less when the budget is not in any danger.

I buy stuff at the grocery store for F and D (crisps, scones for D so that he doesn't go to Starbucks, pickles for F, beer and coffee for D). I end up with the rejects from F's lunch as the sides in my lunch the next day, and I don't drink alcohol or coffee (I gave them up a long time ago when I realized how expensive these things are). This is not a rant against my husband and daughter; it's really about me, and I know that. I don't need as many "treats" but when I do give myself a treat, I have to try to not feel guilty!

Do any of you struggle with the guilt thing?

Low-Key Weekend

January 19th, 2014 at 08:14 am

D and F are out getting breakfast burritos together. Last week, D went and saw a movie mid-week after dinner one night (and F was sad that she didn't see him much that day, just at dinner). And tomorrow is a no-school day, but D has to work, so she and I will hang out (that is the beauty of self-employment). So D and F are spending some time together today. First the breakfast burritos, then they'll meet a friend of hers and his dad up at school to kick the soccer ball around.

Tonight we're having pizza at our friends' house. They have six kids (including triplets!), and there will be two other families there. I am bringing salad. I'm happy - love all of these families, and I love potlucks. F is happy because she loves all the kids.

I took our pennies to the bank on Friday and we had $5.78! That's a lot for pennies! So that will go to the mortgage principal next month.

I've gathered up a bunch of old photos to scan (we didn't have a digital camera until F was born). D and I looked so young when we first met! And I gathered up old family photos, too. I should have time on Tuesday to scan some of them.

Right now - need to vacuum F's bedroom and get a load of washing in before D and F come home!

Huge Grocery Bill - But there's a reason

January 18th, 2014 at 11:38 am

The grocery bill was a lot more than we usually spend, but there is a reason... I stocked up on lots of things since there were great sales and coupons. Many of these things will last us a year. And this should lower the bill for the next month as well since there are many things I won't have to buy.

Weekly Menu:
- tuna melts and tomato soup
- something from the freezer (tamales? posole?) with a salad
- chicken sausage pasta
- shrimp sushi
- baked potatoes and broccoli
- salad to bring to our friends' potluck tomorrow night

Total spend: $192 (actually $182 because I got a $10 off coupon)
- dinner ingredients $81 (but this includes on-sale items that will be used over the course of the next few months: frozen shrimp, chile and hashbrowns for potato pancakes)
- lunch prep items $45 (but this includes stocking up on sale-priced mac and cheese and crackers that were also on sale - should last two months)
- fruits $10
- staples $16.50 (includes stocking up on on-sale camomile and peppermint tea as well as salt that will last at least a year)
- breakfast items $13 (includes masa which will make tortillas for the next 6 months)
- dessert $26.50 (includes gf flour blend on sale, oats that will last the next year or so and four bags of marshmallows, also on sale, which will last a long time!)

Digitizing Family Treasures

January 17th, 2014 at 10:05 am

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to digitize important stuff.

I have digitized the music and notes I use for my exercise classes.

I have also digitized some of the postcards that my grandmother received back when she sent Prisoner of War messages to families during WWII. She had a shortwave, and lived in California, so she could hear the POW messages from Japan on Radio Tokyo.

I have the originals, of course, but it's nice to know that these are backed up in the Cloud, too.

Here's an example:

A Surprise Refund

January 16th, 2014 at 01:26 pm

My husband's employer now gives him health insurance through the business, but we weren't certain it would all be set up for 2014 until December 31st! So frustrating! I called our current insurance that day, but they said that you need to cancel someone by the 25th of the previous month, otherwise they can't do the cancellation.

I filled out the form using 1/1/14 as the date his new insurance was set to begin anyway, just in case (I'm very fond of "just in case").

Well, I called today to make sure the cancellation had gone through, and also to make sure F and I were not cancelled (we are staying on that insurance). It was a nice surprise to find out that not only was everything ok, but the effective date of cancellation was 12/31/13, so we'll be getting a refund for this month for my husband on next month's bill!

My business pays for our health insurance (it's reported as income, but not taxable income, on my W2), but since my business is an S-Corp, it's a pass-through, so saving money in the business really is money in our pocket.

Winter Sales

January 14th, 2014 at 06:18 pm

I bought a bunch of things for F in the winter sales. I spent what seemed like a lot, but it's for next year's stuff, and she'll need it (her snowsuit is too small already, and I bought snowpants for next year, snowboots too small already also). I also got leggings, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, leggings and a couple of warm zip hoodies and fleece jackets in the next size up. All was through LandEnd which has really durable stuff that lasts two seasons for us (F is small). So probably no need to buy anything next year except a few long-sleeved t-shirts and maybe a few more pairs of leggings (hoping that one of her friends will outgrow some, though!).

I am feeling guilty, even though it's in our budget.

No, I didn't get anything for myself. I have already determined that I don't need anything. I don't have a ton of clothes, but pretty sure I have more than I need.

Turbo Tax Refund

January 14th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

It turned out I couldn't use the Turbo Tax I'd pre-bought for my business taxes this year (long story short: they don't make it for a Mac, I'm not going to spend the money to upgrade Parallels just to run this one program). This is not the Turbo Tax for personal taxes (that they DO make for a Mac).

So I called Turbo Tax to stop the auto-renewal.

And guess what? They also offered to refund me the amount I paid since I couldn't use it! I was surprised, partly because I already have the disk so it's not like they can check that I'm really not using it.

I will continue to do my personal taxes on Turbo Tax, and I told the customer service person that I really hope the business software does come out for a Mac in the future; I'll use that, too, when it does.

So, a pleasant surprise, a big refund to my business account. And I found a company that will let me do my business taxes online, so I'm working on those this week (I was afraid that I was going to have to do it by hand!).

Craigslist Snowflakes

January 13th, 2014 at 09:40 am

Sold two items on Craigslist.

One was an old toy of F's; the woman was so nice - has a 2 and 4 year old. We talked for a few minutes about schools (which can be a real problem where we live). Made $12.

Also sold an old backpack that was left by and old roommate, and she didn't want it back (said keep it, sell it, keep the money). I didn't want to make a lot of money off of it since I never actually bought it, but I have been storing it a long time! Made $5.

So $19 in snowflakes for the mortgage, etc. I have an envelope where I keep all of this money, and some of it goes toward F's allowance, which is why I say "etc" - it might be allowance money! She gets $1 a week, and NEVER spends it! The only things she wants to buy are apps for the ipad or ipod, and the ones she wants are often free. I think it helps that her birthday and Christmas are almost exactly 6 months apart, so there isn't a long stretch where she has to wait for something she might want. But she does have a helping jar, so some of her allowance goes in there (in the past, she's wanted to donate it to the animal shelter).

Darning Socks and Other Weekend Activities

January 12th, 2014 at 01:34 pm

F went to a birthday party yesterday and is at a friend's house today. I miss her, and can't wait to go pick her up! But in the meantime, I've gotten a ton of things done.

I turned her furby back into baby mode (this was a special request).

I put all of our 2006 photos and all of the photos from when we first met and when we first got married into shutterfly so I can make an album later.

Did all my housework (including items from my yearly calendar and monthly calendars). I still need to hang up a load of laundry.

Gathered up a ton of pennies to take to the bank next week (on popcorn day of course).

Rearranged a few drawers in order to get rid of old pajamas and make room for my exercise clothes (which are currently in a bag on the floor in the closet - not a good system!).

And darned several pairs of socks. Do you darn socks? My grandmother did, but my mother never did. She still has my grandmother's darning egg, though (I had to buy one). I darned three pairs of my socks, and two of F's. I darned socks while watching an episode of Sherlock Holmes (the UK show - have you seen it? It's amazing!).

Also made plans for next Friday night. F was invited to a birthday party she really, really doesn't want to go to (she doesn't like the girl very much, but we've talked about being kind anyway, so maybe that's why she was invited). It sort of put me in a spot, and I do feel bad for this girl. But F insisted that she really doesn't want to go. So I've arranged for dinner with our friends on Friday night and F will sleep over at her house, so that I can say we have other plans.

Meal Planning and Groceries for the Week

January 11th, 2014 at 02:14 pm

Here's the weekly dinner meal plan:
- Socca (chickpea flour pancake with zucchini)
- Crustless quiche and toast
- Posole (this is New Mexican hominy with green chile and chicken - basically a stew)
- "Bad Breath" pasta - capers, kalamata olives, spinach, yum!
- Cod and leeks with turkey bacon and homemade french fries
- Something from the freezer (probably Fagiole soup) with salad

Total spent $109

Breakdown on the spending:
$50.50 on dinner ingredients
$26 on lunches
$3.50 on fruit
$5.50 on staples
$8 on breakfast
$15.50 on dessert (they were having a special on almond milk ice cream - I can't eat dairy, so I bought four which accounts for $10 of this)

Mortgage Principal

January 11th, 2014 at 10:19 am

Yesterday I went to the bank (I always go on Fridays because they have free popcorn!) and paid down principal on our mortgage. I used the refund on our escrow plus the $150 I am now allotting each month to paying down our mortgage plus some money from savings. We now owe $77,684 on our house and if we just pay regular payments, it'll be paid off in October 2020. (But I am continuing to pay down principal, and the goal is to have it paid off in June 2019).

I automatically put money into our IRAs and a car savings account and into F's tuition account, but paying down principal on our mortgage is by far the most satisfying way to save for me. I think it's the way I can track how much sooner we pay off the mortgage; it's more tangible. Plus it's our only debt.

I called my mother not long after my visit to the bank. She seemed surprised that we only owe $77,684. My parents still have a mortgage and just refinanced (long story - but it was initiated by my brother who needed some of their equity to afford the house he wanted to buy). I think I'd feel really nervous if I had a mortgage that exceeded my life span, even if the amount of the mortgage was just a fraction of how much my house was worth. But everyone handles money differently...

Running is Free! (Unless you can't go outside)

January 10th, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I ran today for the first time since November! Among other excuses was that it was too cold, there was snow on the ground, it was Christmas break. I was still spinning and weightlifting, but the running is important to me, even though I only run once a week.

Anyway, it was good and bad..

Good... I didn't stop! Partly because I wanted to get on this blog and tell you I didn't stop, so thank you for that accountability!

Bad... At one point I got a face full of leafblower dust.

Good... Temp was high 30s and that's warm enough not to need gloves.

Bad... I was so, so, so slow! Much, much slower than I ran last time. So it took me longer to get back (well, about two minutes longer).

Good... My run is a loop, so I was pretty certain after I started going downhill that I would end up returning to the office and I wouldn't need to call D to pick me up or something!

Good... No heartburn!

Really Good... I can now eat everything!

Now the financial part:
OK, so given the excuses I made, I think it's time to investigate the free fitness membership that now comes for free with my health insurance. That way I can run on a treadmill when it's too cold or snowy outside. The gym where I teach doesn't have treadmills anymore (we used to) and there are two gyms a reasonable distance from my home and office on the list.

Do you have a free fitness membership on your healthcare plan now? Have you taken advantage of it? Any familiarity with Anytime Fitness? The other choice is an all-women's gym which I'd prefer but it's about 10 mins. farther away.


January 9th, 2014 at 10:20 am

Well, that's it. I've made my one clothing purchase for the year. According to my clothing spreadsheet, this is all I need. No, I don't need another pair of black snowboots. I don't need another red long-sleeved t-shirt. I don't need another long-sleeved t-shirt at all! I have more than enough of everything.

Some of you asked how I came up with the ideal number of each item of clothing for my spreadsheet. It's not very scientific and it's individual. I looked through each item and saw what I wear regularly. I figured I needed 7 long-sleeved t-shirts in the winter since I wear them every day. I rarely have meetings where jeans would be inappropriate, but sometimes I have to interview for a project so I need a nice pair of trousers that aren't jeans. Two or three times a year I need to look nice for social things; I needed one nice winter outfit and one nice summer outfit. Eight or nine pairs of underwear seemed right (we wash our clothes once a week). We are at the pool every day in the summer (we join a local pool) so I need two swimsuits - but I only had one!

Now I have two swimsuits - very exciting! It fit perfectly and Lands End was having a massive sale on swimsuits. I'm lucky they had something left in my size! I wasn't too picky about pattern, just something that won't make me look sickly (no yellow, no light green, no light blue!).

Now I'm going to evaluate F's wardrobe (a harder task since she is growing so fast!)

Some Progress on Resolutions

January 8th, 2014 at 03:38 pm

With the help of an attorney (but at no cost - yay!!) I did our revocable living trust and our pourover wills. They are printed out and ready to take to the bank on Friday to have them witnessed and notarized.

I've also done some maintenance on our Capital One 360 savings accounts:
- transferred in some of the money from our private school savings account so it can earn some interest
- set up a $50/month transfer from our checking to that account (automatic savings)
- transferred more money from our car savings account into the Car Savings so it can earn interest
- set up a $150/month transfer from our checking to that account (automatic savings)

Swagbucks and Birthday Parties and Tuition Assistance

January 5th, 2014 at 08:49 am

Just earned a $15 swagbucks amazon voucher. When I end up using it (probably for a birthday gift for F's friend A whose party is next week), I will do a transfer what I spend from the "Gifts - Friends" category to the "Savings" category in Moneywell.

F's class at school is small, and it used to be that every kid was invited to every birthday party. That meant going to parties even if F wasn't good friends with the child, and having to buy 19 gifts during the year!

Luckily that is changing a little bit. Her friend A is only inviting 4 kids (and F is one of them; they're really close). A little boy in the class had his party at the pool yesterday and invited everyone, but F didn't want to go. She's says he's an ok kid, and I like the parents, but they don't play together and don't have much in common, and I felt like she should decide whether or not to go.

We've never had all the kids in the class at F's parties, but that's easier because her birthday is in the Summer. I just think having tons of kids is overwhelming for a child.

In other news I finished filling out tuition assistance forms. D started his job in September, and already had made most of his money for the year from his business (the end of the year was always slow), so it's a little bit misleading. Also instead of paying for his health insurance, they just gave him bonuses for three months, so it looks like his income was higher. I'm not sure we'll get much for next year (this year we got $3250 which was so great!). If we get $1000 I'll be happy.

Weekly Menu Plan

January 4th, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The holidays are over, and I'm pretty glad, because although we met our grocery budget, things were not routine. I ended up eating a lot of strange leftovers to use them up.

The menu for this week:
- chicken tacos with guacamole
- asian meatballs and rice
- tamales from the freezer and salad
- very sweet salmon and broccoli
- tuna melts
- risotto with sundried tomatoes and spinach
- one night out

We spent $113 on groceries this week:
- dinner ingredients $38
- lunch prep ingredients $27 (we brown bag all of our lunches)
- fruits $11
- staples $27 (olive oil, bread, oj)
- breakfast items $7
- dessert ingredients $4

Got Escrow Check Back from the Bank

January 3rd, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Last year when the bank massively increased our escrow, I knew it was too high. I asked them about it, but we'd had a shortage the year before (due to property tax increases), and they have a calculation formula. So they sent us a check for $337 for overpaid escrow and lowered this year's payment. I am going to keep our payment the same and put the rest toward principal.

I can't wait until the mortgage is paid off and we can set aside our own money for the taxes and insurance! (Some banks will let you pay your own, but ours collects the escrow).

Anyway, this $337 will also go toward principal. I just need to transfer it. I prefer to bank on Fridays when they have free bags of popcorn!

I'm able to type right now because F has a friend over; it's D, one of her very best guy friends! (She is close to two boys who are both super sweet - they're in her class, but they were all on the same soccer team; those friendships with boys are so important - F says some of the girls are just too quiet and sedentary. She plays soccer at recess a lot). Anyway, thanks to D I can get some stuff done. He has swim practice at 2, so his mom is picking him up soon. And then F and I will go to the library and up to a subdivision I do review for (luckily they have horses and I have a bag of horse treats in my glove box, so we'll pet the horses).

How Much Stuff Should You Own

January 1st, 2014 at 02:47 pm

I re-read this brilliant post today, about how much stuff is the right amount to own...


This is what she says:
The right amount of stuff = the amount you can fully and regularly use.

I think that is spot on. That's how I came to the "ideal" amount of clothing to own. That's how I know that my kitchen is a little bit overstocked. I own a cheese thingy (I don't even know what it's called, and I never use it) that scrapes off a thin silce of cheese. I never use it; I never will. Why do I own that? I own these very cute ceramic chinese soup spoons. I don't use those.

Regular might be once a year (as in the case with our Christmas tree and ornaments). Regular might be daily. But over the course of a year, the things that get used are staying. And as I declutter each area of my home, the things that are never used are going.

I rarely buy more stuff... it's the "leftovers" that I have to address. And broken things. They don't get used, they'll never get used. I am dumping the broken calculator in the trash right now. I use the calculator on my phone. I did it; I just dumped the broken calculator in the trash.

New year = new resolve to simplify my life!