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Archive for February, 2014

Teacher Meeting and Good Financial News

February 28th, 2014 at 06:15 pm

We had the meeting up at school the other night - it was with the Principal, former lead teacher, secondary teacher, new lead teacher, all of the parents and the head of the Board. None of the parents were happy; all of us wanted the secondary teacher to step up and be the lead rather than bringing in a new teacher.

The Principal has made his decision, though. The concessions we did get: the new lead will be in the classroom more in the next few weeks to help transition, the secondary teacher will be in our classroom more than her current half time, the intern that comes in 10 hours a week is now coming 20, and last year's secondary teacher (who the kids LOVE) will be coming in for a few hours on Monday and Friday.

I am, in the end, ok with it, as long as there is monitoring to see how they're doing and there is communication about that. Many of the parents are still unhappy.

In good news: our net worth is over $1 million. I am so happy! Now... this is a little misleading because $600k of this is the value of our house, but still... Investments are at $471k approx.

Less Stress, No Spend

February 26th, 2014 at 03:00 pm

Less stress today than yesterday.

I managed to call a few friends about the office (no takers yet - may have to be a bit more "global" about it and post on facebook to a wider audience).

We received new credit cards the other day, and I activated them this morning, then spent about half an hour changing the credit card info on paypal, amazon, itunes, health insurance company, insurance company, netflix. Luckily I have a list of what is associated with that credit card, so I don't have to think about it. The only reason it took so long is that the health insurance company had me on hold forever. And then they were jerks about it, saying that I had a pending payment, and if it didn't go through then they'd charge me $30. So then I had to call my credit card and make sure they were paying the pending payments (they are).

I almost finished a proposal that is due next week. I am waiting for info from my landscape architect, but that didn't stop me from working on other sections.

I went to my weightlifting class at lunch time.

And then I picked up F from school. We are sitting across from each other at the dining room table; she's doing her homework.

I didn't go to a store, and I didn't spend a dime (not on the internet either).

And F will spend the evening with her friend while D and I are meeting the new teacher. Turns out the school is letting the kids play in the library while we meet, but I think F will be happier playing with a friend.

What a Day... Ugh

February 25th, 2014 at 03:20 pm

Trying to practices zen mindset since today has just been... weird... irritating... ugh.

- My uncle is in the hospital in Las Vegas; he probably needs to go into assisted living. This was the uncle who my mother and I are trying to help by setting up automatic bank drafts, etc. My mother has been calling me ten times a day.

- I haven't found a tenant for the office space in our office yet. I wanted my friend K to take it, but she hasn't called me back. I need to start looking in earnest. Tomorrow.

- I bought the countertop for our office, managed to remove the backsplash in one piece so it can be re-used (yay!). But my office mate hasn't been in to help me install. Called him, but he hasn't called me back.

- I do architectural review for a subdivision, and when I called one of the homeowners today who is making a minor change, he told me he would not pay for my time. (Other neighborhoods for which I provide this service pay me directly, but this neighborhood has the owners pay, and if they refuse, the neighborhood pays - it's a pain in the behind).

- Got an email from the school today - F's teacher got a job with the State Educ. Dept. and it starts mid-March, and no, they will not let her start the job 2 1/2 months later, and yes, she is breaking her contract. And my daughter's heart.

- The new teacher is a woman who subs sometimes. According to F, she constantly screws up her name (in fact, today she called her by the wrong name! Two other kids tried to correct her). We'll have to have a talk. It's one thing for the sub to call someone by the wrong name, but very different if the main teacher does it! (Just as an aside - there is NO way she'll be able to spell it if she can't even say it right). I asked the Principal if we could have a "connection conference" with her before she starts; this is something we have at the beginning of each year to talk about our kids and their personalities, etc. (and how you pronounce their names!).

OK, enough venting.

By the way, this was not a no-spend day. After school I took F for ice cream; she was crying in the car. Oh my.

Discount on Airport Parking and Airfare Cost Analysis

February 23rd, 2014 at 07:57 am

We are going to CA to visit my parents in a few weeks, but they also want us to come in May for my Dad's 81st birthday.

We can go two ways:
- direct from our city on a regional jet or
- the usual way - down to the Big City (Albuquerque) on Southwest

Southwest costs $948 for the three of us. My mother always gets us pre-boarding ($60 total). Airport parking is $12 for four days. The gas down there and back is about $14. It's an hour's drive. We'd leave Friday night due to flight times.
Total $1064

The regional jet is $1151 for the three of us. No need for pre-boarding or airport parking. The drive is ten minutes. We'd leave early Saturday.
Total $1151

Difference is $117. So, is it worth it?

While figuring out these costs, I visited the airport parking website and found that you get $1 a day off just for making reservations (no pre-payment or anything). They give you a coupon to print out. So that's good to know!! I reserved for our March trip.

Bought Ingredients for More than a Week's Worth of Meals

February 22nd, 2014 at 03:12 pm

Last night we got stuck for dinner. This happens only rarely because usually I'm a really good planner. But we found ourselves in this situation:
- picked up D from work late-ish to avoid rush-minute
- I was already hungry because I'd done a really hard noon workout class
- I didn't have a meal planned because we usually eat out once a week
- This was the night to eat out, but no one wanted to
- F had quesadillas for lunch so she didn't want pizza or mexican
- I was wearing pajamas so I couldn't go into the store
- D didn't want to go into the store because he hates going into the store
- I suggested we pick up a cooked chicken but everyone said "yuck"
- We ended up at home eating out of the pantry, which is what we should have done in the first place
- But before that we all argued like little kids (only one of us is a little kid)

So, in my meal planning I've planned for SEVEN meals this week to avoid any problems, even though we're already planning to go out tomorrow night.

Meal Planning (each meal feeds three of us):
- sausage, rice and asparagus ($5.86)
- quesadillas with guacamole and a salad ($8.66)
- polenta and some kind of vegetable ($2.67)
- mexican eggs and peas ($5.45)
- lettuce wraps ($8)
- spagbol (that's spaghetti bolognese) ($8.79)
- baker's wife potatoes with broccoli ($3.45)

I spent $125 on groceries this week, which is very high for me, but I did stock up on a lot of stuff. We are going out of town for a week in March, and the week before will be use-it-up week!

Dinner ingredients $58
Lunch ingredients $34
Fruit $10
Staples $5
Breakfast staples $10
Dessert ingredients $7

I am trying out a new dessert recipe from this Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/21/white-chocolate-pudding-roast-cabbage-recipes-simon-rogan: white chocolate pudding with white hot chocolate mousse. I'll let you know how it is!

Office Improvements and Some Changes, Too

February 20th, 2014 at 04:05 pm

I don't own my office (I wish I did). I rent from the BEST landlord ever. We've been in the space over 8 years and have only had one minor rent increase. It's way below market value for where it is (right downtown). No one can believe it. Actually, it's below market value for anywhere else in our city, too.

Anyway, it's in an old 50s building (with a butterfly roof - architects love butterfly roofs - and I am not the only architect in the building, actually). A lot of the fittings are from the 50s or 60s. The 50s light fixtures are cool. The kitchen, however, is a disaster. There's a countertop with a sink cutout but the sink was removed and put a foot over, so there's now a wood board over the old hole. I will take a photo for you... it will be a Before photo because the landlord just gave me the okay to put in a new sink and countertop. My office-mate and I will install it, and the landlord will pay for everything. I'm so excited!

That's an improvement. Here's the change... The office has an itsy bitsy kitchen, teeny tiny bathroom, two small offices, a storage room and a large area where the conference table is. In the large area, there is an extra desk that I've wanted to rent out, but no one has been interested mainly because it would be more of a drop-in situation and wouldn't come with a parking space. But I'm only asking $75 a month. That's a great price! Includes internet!

My office-mate just told me that due to finances he can't keep renting one of the small offices, but that he would take that desk! That is great news! Now I just have to rent the small office.

I started by calling friends, and the first friend I called (my first choice!) said she might be interested. I would love to have her. And the three of us would be a great combo. She's an architect, too. Cross your fingers for me!

And I promise I will post photos of the kitchen before and after. It can't be any worse than it is now. Seriously.

$50 Snowflake

February 19th, 2014 at 07:26 pm

Got paid at the gym today, and it was definitely higher than it used to be before I added the weightlifting class (which I teach twice a month because I share the class with a friend). I taught today actually, and it was really fun! (Well, at least it was for me). And I was right on time, exactly one hour. Since it's a noon class, people are very appreciative when we're on time, so they can get back to work.

The gym paid me $50, which will go to mortgage principal.

I did end up buying a $7 cable so that I can plug my iphone directly into the stereo at the gym and play the music from there rather than having to use CDs which I've had trouble with (our gym CD player acts weird sometimes). So I guess that's really a $43 snowflake.

Going to go watch some Olympics coverage (on the bbc iplayer) and stretch for 15 minutes...

Are you watching the Olympics? If so, how are you watching?

Spending Triggers

February 18th, 2014 at 03:41 pm

I had a No Spend Day (personal) today (I did buy something for my business, but that's not discretionary), but I thought a lot about what my spending triggers are.

A lot of you know me by now, and know that I am not a big spender. And you also know that when I do spend money I didn't need to, I feel super guilty. I'm trying to avoid those guilty feelings, and only spend when I actually WANT to and for things that are meaningful to me.

So... what are those spending triggers?
- When I'm in a store (this is the first trigger) I tend to buy things that
- are on sale (another trigger - I really just need to stay out of stores of all kinds) that I don't really need
- Candy or a sweet drink (usually premade iced tea) - I get the sugar craving at about 2, and if I don't have a little square of chocolate or something, I am liable to walk down to the plaza and get a candy bar or a lemonade from the little restaurant which is less than a block from the office.
- My daughter - I end up getting her little treats that she probably doesn't need. It's better if she doesn't come shopping with me. Bear in mind that she never asks for anything; I'm the one who suggests things. This is how I know she really doesn't need anything.

Do you have triggers like this for extra spending? Are there situations you avoid?

Tennis, Anyone?

February 17th, 2014 at 03:00 pm

Our good friends have been saying for months that they think F should try tennis. I haven't played since high school PE (and I was terrible!) but F really does like any sport with a ball (and most of the others without a ball), so we all met at the local tennis center. They're members, so we didn't have to pay to get in.

Our friends brought a racket for F to have (one that their son has grown out of - I guess it's a grip issue). I love having a small daughter - she gets a lot of stuff that other kids grow out of! (Clothes, a wetsuit last year, this racket!).

Of course F loved it. And actually, I thought it was fun, too! (It's been 30 years since high school, so I guess things change). She got to keep the racket, and they even had an extra adult racket that they gave us (they said they have like 50 of them - wow!). Maybe it was just fun because we like that other family so much...

We're going to go again with them, but I thought I might take F after school one day to one of the outdoor courts (the flip side of the storms in the East is that the Southwest is DRY DRY DRY which is bad - DROUGHT - but we might as well take advantage and be outside).

Today F had a playdate with her friend K and didn't even bring a coat (February - crazy!), and K's mom is driving F home (so sweet!) and then I'll take her to piano.

So a few frugal days that were still fun.

No Spend Days Last Week

February 17th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

No Spend Days
These don’t include regular bills (utilities, etc) only discretionary spending.

It wasn't a perfect week, but I'm happy that our spending is on experiences rather than things. And x-c skiing is a lot less expensive than downhill! (The amount includes snowshoe rental for D - he doesn't ski - and trail passes for me and F).

Sunday - x-c skiing $47, eat out $53

Monday - NSD

Tuesday - NSD

Wednesday - NSD

Thursday - bought gas (this isn’t discretionary spending, so technically a NSD for me), D bought something at REI $29 (this is part of his clothing budget)

Friday - No school - bowling with F - $27 (so much fun!)

Saturday - Bought groceries as usual on Saturday. No discretionary spending.

Shutterfly Promos

February 16th, 2014 at 04:06 pm

When I got our last Shutterfly album (the 2013 photos) I was given a promo code for $20 off our next order (expires March 15). I am still missing 2006 and 2010, but I had the 2006 photos in Shutterfly waiting to do an album; I just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Well.... today I saw a promo code for 40% everything on the site. And there is a free shipping code, too.

So I am madly trying to finish the 2006 album before the 40% off code expires tomorrow evening! Ack!

I almost have all the photos arranged, but I like to include quotes and stories and things. I have to go see what's in my 2006 stuff... F was between 6 months and a year and a half in 2006.... that's when she started talking, so there should be lots to put in!

Valentine's Day - Frugal and not Frugal

February 15th, 2014 at 06:26 pm

F has a long weekend (four days!), so Valentine's Day was actually a day off of school.

Valentine's Day at school was also pajama/crazy hair/lovey day as well. F had to bring a decorated box to school, and valentines for each kid in the class. She made hers and actually, most of the ones she received were also handmade! I'm impressed! And there was very little candy (almost none! I love the parents in that class). One of the moms brought cupcakes for their end-of-the-day Valentine's party.

The teacher's valentines to the kids were also handmade, and they each got a no-homework pass for valentine's day. F declared this "the best gift ever!" which is funny if you know her, because she never uses the no-homework passes. She already has two. I will let you know if she ever uses them, but I'll bet not.

So the school celebrations - frugal.

So F had actual Valentine's Day off, and D had to work. She and I went bowling in a nearby town. The bowling alley is actually in a casino (don't ask) on tribal land. You don't have to walk through the casino to get to it, and it's a really nice bowling alley, actually. The only other people there were another mom with her son. They were right next to us, and it was fun to talk to them a little bit.

Then we went out to lunch together.

Not so frugal, but super fun, and a nice mother-daughter day!

For dinner I made lemon chicken, a family favorite, with broccoli and jasmine rice. And for dessert F requested apple tarte tatin. It is so awesome, I can't even describe it... apples, caramel, pastry - yum! We each made valentines for each other (we don't buy gifts for Valentine's Day). Family celebrations - frugal.

And now that all of the house cleaning is done for the weekend, I can relax for the next few days and have a nice, quiet weekend!

Weekly Meal Plan

February 15th, 2014 at 06:09 pm

This week's meal plan (each meal feeds three of us):
- chicken with asparagus and rice ($5.67)
- zucchini socca ($3.68)
- pasta with turkey bacon/peas/goat cheese ($7.61)
- lemon crumbed fish with broccoli ($9.79)
- tuna melts ($4.62)
- potatoes dauphinoise with a salad ($4.23)

Our weekly grocery spend was $96.50. I'm happy with that. My budget allows for $140 each week, but my goal is less than $100. It doesn't always happen... but when it does, I have $40 for savings!!
- dinner ingredients $30
- lunch prep items $35
- fruits $7
- staples $9 (mayo, oregano, etc.)
- breakfast staples $7
- dessert ingredients $8

Trying to Help my Uncle

February 12th, 2014 at 04:19 pm

I have an uncle (about 70 years old) who is both mildly schizophrenic and also mentally disabled. He has money from a pension (which goes right into his bank account) and also from a trust that my grandmother set up for him (that my parents manage).

My uncle has been dipping into the trust principal and that combined with the stock market a few years ago means that he'll probably deplete the trust in about six years. My parents worked out a plan to make it last longer (basically only dipping into principal a little bit - I think he shouldn't dip in at all, but that's me).

It means having a budget, which he's never had, and watching his spending, which he's never done. It means paying his bills on time (also - rarely happens). Actually, there is no way he can have a budget or watch his spending. Remember: he's kind of like a 6 year old in terms of emotional age, so this is actually a lot to ask. Also - my mother thinks he might be getting Alzheimers.

My mother has been setting up autopay for all his regular bills. That's a start.

My parents are going to pay his rent and his auto insurance (I know what you're thinking - you don't want to be on the road with him - you're right - I'm glad he lives in another state!)

I suggested:
- have an automatic transfer from his bank account into another "bill pay" account (we have several accounts at our bank for various savings) so he won't spend his bill money (utilities, phone, stuff like that) and is only in control of a limited amount of money for food/entertainment basically - my dad hated this idea for some reason
- if he doesn't go cash only (my mom vetoed this idea for some reason), have the credit card company set a limit equal to what his spending money will be given the budget my mom comes up with (he can't have a debit card - he's too easy to prey on).
- Wondering if the credit card company could set a daily limit, too?

Whatever my parents do, it needs to be simple, and he's been getting really angry about the whole thing - he says "You're trying to take my money!"

It's consuming my discussions with my mother right now, and she is so tired of dealing with it. I am going to call her while I make dinner...

Free Things Outside

February 11th, 2014 at 03:43 pm

When we go to the UK in the summer, we'll be traveling from my sister-in-law's to my mother-in-law's. D pointed out we'll be going right by the Uffington White Horse, a prehistoric hill figure (done in chalk) that is not only amazing, but it also features in the Thursday Next series of books by Jasper Fforde.

If you haven't read them, you should! Hysterically funny! The first in the four-part series is called the Eyre Affair (as in Jane Eyre).

Anyway, I got on the National Trust website to find out more about it, and saw the National Trust's program called "50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4." It's basically a way of getting kids excited about doing things outside.

Here's the website: https://www.50things.org.uk/

F was super excited and after we set up an account for her, she started filling things in she's already done (such as play conkers and play in the snow) and then she and D went outside and built a little fort out of sticks while I went to the grocery store.

There are lots of good ideas on the 50 Things list! Some of them may have to wait until we're near an ocean...

2013 Photo Book

February 10th, 2014 at 06:20 pm

I've had our 2013 photo book in our Shutterfly cart waiting for a deal (I did the book during Dec. and the first week of January, finished it completely, and just parked it in the cart)... Just got a massive deal, and I'm not sure how it all worked.

I got a $20 off coupon in the mail, also had free shipping (code SHIP30) and it was 20% off photo books. In the end I got more than 50% of my order (I'm not sure how it worked - the number just seemed to get lower and lower).

Anyway, we're right on budget for the photo book (I have a budget category for it), and I can't wait to have 2013 on the shelf!