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Archive for April, 2014

A Little Rant about Spending Differences

April 30th, 2014 at 08:22 pm

My husband is not a big spender, but he's not all OCD about spending like I am. I think it's possible that he's normal, and I'm a little too frugal. I don't know.

Sometimes, though, the difference in our spending habits makes me feel a little bit frustrated.

Today I got home from teaching at the gym (I thought for certain I'd get this month's payment today, but I didn't, so I was pre-frustrated; this payment goes toward our mortgage). I was starving because I'd just taught weightlifting; there was pretty much nothing in the house to eat, but I cobbled together a salad (when you lift weights, you really feel like more than salad, but I put a little turkey on it).

Then I sat down to do the monthly financials. Today, my husband charged lunch out (which he does once a week; I never eat lunch out unless it's a family lunch, but that's my choice). And he'd charged $90 for two shirts. (I think I've mentioned I haven't bought any clothes this year after determining I have enough clothes). He said it was from the birthday money his dad sent from the UK, but I have no record of the birthday money being deposited, so he might have put it into his business account.

Then I ate a little bit of ice cream from the freezer, because I told F that I'd take her for a treat after school, and I don't want to spend money on a treat for me, too.

I know you're all going to say I have to do something for myself once in a while, and I do, I promise! Like two weeks ago I took F down to Albuquerque and we had lunch, played mini-golf and got slushes from Sonic. I'm not feeling sorry for myself; it's not that. It's more that I'm wishing that everyone was as into sacrificing as I was. And I seriously can't ask for that, so what happens is, I do less for myself to offset everyone else's spending.

OK, rant over.

I think that we did well this month despite some of those extra expenses. I know grocery spending was low. And D made some side money (I really shouldn't complain about him buying stuff once in a while since he often makes extra).

American Express Offers

April 29th, 2014 at 02:39 am

I took advantage of the American Express "spend $5 on itunes and get a $5 statement credit." It's hard to believe; that means free music, right? I spent $5.20 on four songs to use for my spinning class. Need to check to make sure I get the credit.

There is also an offer for $5 statement credit when you spend $25 at Petsmart. I need to get down there tomorrow to buy cat and dogfood I'd be buying anyway.

And thinking about dogfood and catfood... I am really conflicted. We don't have a ton of money to spend, but I am realizing that Iams, which I thought was good, is basically just like supermarket brands. Every website says to go with the grain-free, protein based foods, but they're super expensive. Iams is about $28 for 25 lbs. v. $52 for a 30 lb. bag of Blue Buffalo.

I might use our coupon to try something new...

What do you use?

Thrifty Sunday Soccer Tournament

April 28th, 2014 at 01:35 am

Our girls - who named themselves the 56ers (which is the sum of all their shirt numbers - don't you love math-oriented girls!), were amazing! They got third place, and each got a bronze medal.

But what was more important was that they came together as a team in only a few short hours (some had never even met before). They played with enthusiasm and heart and sportsmanship (no fouls!). They played in sleet and snow and freezing rain and insane wind (30 mph with 50 mph gusts).

They played five games total, and we were out there for 6 hours!

I just got a text from one of the dads who said his daughter had "the best day of her life. She's still wearing her medal." She was not our best player, but she played time in every single half (in the tournament, halves are only 12 mins each) because my husband is the coach and that's what he believes in. I am proud of him, too!

And... of course it was a no spend day... it was too cold so the snow cone truck didn't even come out to the field. And the coffee and donut stand was there, but I don't drink coffee and I can't eat donuts. So we didn't buy anything. We brought our own lunch and snacks (everyone, brought stuff for the other girls to share).

Win-win!

No Spend Days, A Snowflake and Weekend Plans

April 27th, 2014 at 02:09 am

So first a recap of our No Spend Days... These don’t include regular bills (utilities, etc) only discretionary spending.

Sunday - catfood $6.48 (used $5 off rewards coupon)
Monday - NSD
Tuesday - bought foam roller for leg pain $37 (it's working! more on that later!)
Wednesday - NSD
Thursday - $2.16 for two ice creams (one for me, one for F) at Baskin Robbins - this was $1 kids scoop day!
Friday - NSD
Saturday - out to lunch (planned) with F’s former teacher (about $25 for the three of us)

The snowflake ($8) was from selling an old office chair on Craigslist. It wasn't a great chair, and not in excellent condition. My office mate thought I should have sold it for way more. Really? It was not a very expensive chair to begin with. I just wanted it gone, and the $8 will go to the mortgage principal. Combine that with the other snowflake this month ($9 from pinecone) and the regular amount that we budget to pay down principal. And hopefully I'll get my gym payment next week.

This weekend is all about soccer. F had a game this morning. Then it was out to lunch with her former teacher (I had saved up for this, and we have eaten some weird but inexpensive dinners recently). The wind started to blow around the end of the game. Tomorrow it's supposed to be SUPER windy, and F has a soccer tournament. She'll be playing 5 games total (she's one of a team of only six girls and they play 3 on 3, no goalie). We're there from 8:30 to 2:30.

Besides making some sandwiches for us, I got some clementines today for the girls, and D got a big thingy of water with a tap so the girls can refill their bottles. Everyone else will probably bring things to share, too. I might make some hot chocolate; it'll be cold out there! And we're bringing our backpacking tent in case it's really awful so the girls can huddle in there between games.

I ran into a friend at the store today, and she said her kids don't play soccer because it's so windy and dusty on the fields we play on and she doesn't want to take them down there. But honestly I think it's fun!

Have to go now and pack up for tomorrow...

Still No New Clothing

April 25th, 2014 at 01:58 am

I haven't bought any new clothes since December, after determining that I don't need anything. It hasn't been too hard, but I really want this shirt:
http://factory.jcrew.com/womens-clothing/knits_tees/long_sleeve_tees/PRDOVR~A0140/A0140.jsp?color_name=navy-white
Which is ridiculous, because as I mentioned, I don't need it.

And furthermore, I am going to need to pay the Big Medical Bill soon, and I am funneling any extra money into the medical "envelope."

I shouldn't be feeling deprived. Seriously, I am not deprived in any way. And I just bought a foam roller, so it's not like I never buy anything for myself.

It gets me thinking again about how much we really need, and how we decide we want something. I really like the "waiting period" method of buying something, where you wait a certain amount of time before you make a purchase.

(I am not buying the shirt, by the way; I have enough shirts).

Soccer Tournament

April 24th, 2014 at 08:15 pm

So F will be playing in a soccer tournament on Sunday; this is in addition to her regular game on Saturday. I am freaking out a little bit, because as coach, my husband had to pay up front for the team fee for the tournament and then we have to collect money from each player to pay us back.

The total (gulp) is $180, so it's $30 per player. Seems steep to me, but F really loves soccer. This is going into the entertainment budget.

The scary part is that we need to collect money from everyone. Maybe we can collect at practice tomorrow evening, because the charge is already on the visa card. I'd hate to get stuck with any of this.

Recap of No Spend Days

April 20th, 2014 at 01:53 pm

We had some spending last week, but nothing that wasn't budgeted for...

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

Sunday - household soap $3.78, gas $30.53, drugstore.com $39.42 (saved $2.22 plus $5 off plus free shipping), check for $32.75 for F’s hot lunches through the rest of the year at school

Monday - NSD

Tuesday - bought bday present for F ($40), bought her soccer socks ($15 for two pairs)

Wednesday - NSD

Thursday - F’s horse riding canceled; stopped for ice cream and rolaids (yes, they go together!)

Friday - big outing: $20 lunch, $18 mini golf and arcade, $2 slushes, $5.62 clothes for F

Saturday - NSD
groceries (as usual) - but they were lower than budgeted

The Old Navy stop turned out to be really great! I had a $35 reward coupon, and they were also having a big sale. We ended up filling out F's summer clothes (so now she's all set) for $5.62. Bought 3 long-sleeved t-shirts, one pair of capris, two short sleeved t-shirts, a skort and a pair of shorts. She already has about 3 pairs of capris and about 5 short sleeved t-shirts, also a few cotton dresses that fit. The hard thing is she's getting taller but is still very thin, so if something is an ok length, it's too big, and if it fits, it's too short. I will end up taking the skort and shorts in at the waist (a good reason to know how to sew!)

No School Day Outing

April 18th, 2014 at 01:56 pm

It's Good Friday - no school today! I have the day off too, because I finished a permit set for a friend of mine (a little side project while I wait for another project to start - also helps out my friend, and extra money!).

D has to work today, so F and I are going down to Albuquerque to do Albuquerque things. This is certainly not a free outing, but I'm happy to spend some money today (and it's budgeted for).
1. Old Navy - I have a $35 coupon and F needs some summer t-shirts - FREE
2. Lunch (probably Rudy's BBQ or maybe the Vietnamese place with the lumberjack) - should be about $20
3. Mini Golf $13
4. Slushies from Sonic afterwards (half price from 2 to 4) - $2 for two

Then back home.

There isn't soccer practice tonight, so we can spend the afternoon hanging out and not worry about getting back in time. And - it's supposed to be super warm down there today (it's always about 10 deg warmer in Albuquerque) - hooray for Spring!

The "Marriage Penalty"

April 16th, 2014 at 10:23 pm

I had heard about the “marriage penalty” years ago, but sort of (naively) assumed it had nothing to do with me. I just read about it again, and the article provided this link, where you can see if you’re affected by the marriage penalty. http://taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/marriagepenaltycalculator.cfm

And we so are!!! The more equal your two incomes are, greater the chance of a penalty. D and I make almost the same amount. Together we make $87,800. If one of us made that much, and the other stayed home, we’d pay almost $1300 less in taxes. That is a lot of money!

As a side note - this was designed as a marriage bonus, and did function that way back when there was only one wage-earner per household. It still is a bonus for those families where only one spouse is working. So it’s not really the “marriage penalty.” It’s really the “two working spouses” penalty. (According to the article I read, that is 57% of married people).

It’s a moot point, though, because despite our work experience and master’s degrees, we’re both in careers where neither one of us can make $80k. So there you go. We both work, and we both make almost the same amount.

Rewards Statement Credits - Yes!

April 15th, 2014 at 11:56 pm

I just redeemed rewards points on both credit cards.

Card 1 is American Express
We get 6x points on gas and groceries; those are the only things I use that card for.
Redeemed $250 purchase eraser
I put $250 in the virtual airfare "envelope"

Card 2 is Capital One
We get 3x points for everything, so I use that card for everything else.
Redeemed $237.55 travel purchase eraser (rental cars for our trip to the UK and France this summer)
I put $237.55 in the virtual airfare "envelope"

There is now $1357 in the airfare "envelope." We keep building this up so that when it's time to buy our tickets for the next trip we have enough saved up. We go to the UK every other year to see D's family, and France is my reward for putting up with them (just kidding!).

We used to have airline miles cards, but we ended up with just one or one and half tickets every two years (and we'd have to buy additional miles to get the second, and buy the last one outright, but that always cost more because we had to match it to the award ticket's time/date/etc). This method gets us three tickets, no restrictions attached!

Since last April, we've gotten $2338 in awards (in just one year!!), less the credit card fees of $140. So about $2200 (and that's just one year of rewards). Our tickets cost $4482 total (a non-optional expense we have every other year). Wow - that works our perfectly!

I am starting to get excited about the trip, and about summer in general!

Our Second Car

April 13th, 2014 at 04:54 pm

When we were first married, and until our daughter was about 2, we only had one car. My husband likes having two cars, and I wish we only had one. Most days we take just one car (I drop him off at work and then pick him up later.

Here is the breakdown on costs of having a second car (these costs are yearly estimates):

- Car 1 (VW GTI - husband's car) - total $1470-1870 per year
registration - $50
gas - $500-900
service - $350
insurance - $570

- Car 2 (Nissan Versa - my car) - total $1338-1758
registration - $37
gas - $420-840
service - $225
insurance - $656

So first of all it's interesting to me that overall the cars cost almost exactly the same amount to run. It's about $125 a month each or $250 for both; actual total for the past year was $233, so pretty accurate.

I think a savings of $125 per month (or $1500 per year) is a lot! D doesn't think it's that much.

Since tracking and spreadsheets are what I love to do, I am going to do a spreadsheet of how many miles we actually drive each week, and see how much they cost to drive per mile. I know this is slightly ridiculous, but it gives me something else to track.

And, just as a side note, D promised that when one of these cars is too old and eventually is destined for the junkyard, we will have just one car after that. So I'm pretty happy. They are both pretty newish (2007 an 2008) so it'll be a while, but I can wait.

Analyzed Our Budget to Pay for Big Medical Bill

April 13th, 2014 at 01:52 pm

With the remainder of the Big Medical Bill looming (I've paid $500 so far which was the deposit), I decided to analyze our budget to see where I can cut to help pay for the bill over six or eight months rather than dip into savings. I'm basically paying myself back since I have the money to pay for the bill. I am looking for about $350 each month.

In the process I found out some things about our budget...

Here's a breakdown:
- Home (mortgage, utilities, repairs) - $1677 (27%)
- Food (both dining and groceries) - $890 (15%)
- F (tuition, clothes, supplies, camp, piano, soccer) - $1042 (17%)
- Auto (servicing, repairs, registration, gas) - $265 (4%)
- Travel (this is carried forward for future trips to visit D's family) - $301 (5%)
- Medical (doctor, dentist) - $200 (3%)
- Personal (cash, clothes, knitting, haircuts, life insurance) - $177 (3%)
- Household (supplies, appliances, etc) - $119 (2%)
- Family Entertainment - $95 (2%)
- Gifts - $85 (1%)
- Pets - $75 (1%)
- Savings - $1200 (20%)

And my analysis:
- Home category is usually lower because I carry the monthly amount set aside for repairs forward. I currently have $770 set aside for repairs. Don't really want to dip into this
- Food category also usually (much) lower by about $190. I could plan less expensive meals and get that to $200 or $250 - that amount doesn't need to carry forward, so I can put this toward the medical bill
- Stuff for F is a category where I usually seem to go over (which I guess gets absorbed by the food category. I need to rein in that spending!!
- Auto - I need two new tires, so can't really "steal" from this category
- Travel category is carried forward so even though spending for about a year is low, we spend in one big wad (plane tickets) about every other year. I can't use overage from this category, otherwise we won't have enough when we need to go to see D's family in the UK every other year
- Medical - maybe I need to increase the savings in this category in the future
- Personal - I can't limit D's spending, but this has been lower than projected in recent month by anywhere from $20 to $120, so I can definitely use some of the savings here to pay for the medical bill
- Household - I think I can actively reduce this category, too. It's been lower than expected in recent months, and I've been carrying the balance forward.
- Family Entertainment - I carry forward money for the summer pool membership here, which I just paid. Also stash money here for winter nutcracker tickets. I don't want to mess with this too much, but maybe a little for the short term.
- Gifts - This tends to be accurate over the full year (also gets carried over all the way to Christmas when it's really important that the money is in here!) so even though we're spending very little out of this category now, we will in key months - November for Christmas, May for F's birthday in June, also birthday gifts for F's friends
- Pets - Also pretty accurate over the year although recent months have been lower, so maybe a little from here would be ok.
- Savings - NOT messing with this - that's what I'm trying to avoid! This includes paying down our mortgage, car savings, school savings and our IRAs.

Freebie Friday

April 11th, 2014 at 06:00 pm

I went to the doctor today for the checkup after my surgical procedure two weeks ago. He gave me the ok (I always like a doctor to say "you're fine" even if you know that already). And didn't charge me for the 5 minute visit. Usually it's $10!

Tonight we go to the school Gala (it's for tuition assistance). Because we are actually recipients of tuition assistance, tickets were half price. Except that we got an email a few days ago that basically said "We have some free tickets; call quickly if you want them. If you've already bought tickets, we'll refund you." I called right away and got two free tickets to the gala! So we'll be refunded next week! Yay! That means free food, too. And we're not paying for babysitting because F is going to her friend L's house.

Update on Computer Hard Drive - "Free" Repair

April 11th, 2014 at 02:07 am

Ok, it wasn't a free repair; I had Apple Care (which the business purchased for the computer) so I wasn't charged. But I had to pay for Apple Care. I consider it part of the cost of the computer.

I was without the computer for a few days, but I was able to work on my husband's computer using my files which had been backed up on Carbonite. I can't say I was as productive, but I was still able to work.

And I had backed up using Time Machine, so within two hours of getting the computer back (with a brand new hard drive) I was up and running again. The only things I was missing were some printer drivers. And I had to reload Autocad.

Apparently if I had backed up using Super Duper instead of Time Machine (they are similar) I wouldn't have had to reload Autocad. But I reloaded it while I was at the gym, so no loss of work time. Seriously, my laptop was in the corner and I just went over to check on it between tracks, entered serial numbers, etc.

My computer is now so FAST! The old hard drive must have been slowly dying. It slowly got slower (ha!) so that I didn't notice how slow it actually was. But it's so great now!

Here was the only cost of the computer hard drive disaster: I felt sorry for myself so I went to Palacio down the street and got a lemonade (they make it fresh from real lemons!) and then went to the gluten free bakery and got a sticky bun. I think the total for both was less than $10, and I felt a lot less sorry for myself afterward.

So the moral of the story - back up often and in multiple ways. And sometimes you need to get yourself a treat.

Mortgage Update

April 8th, 2014 at 05:24 pm

Our mortgage is our only debt, and we're trying to chip away at this as much as possible while still putting money in our IRAs ($5000 each per year).

This month we put $210 toward the mortgage principal: $150 savings (budgeted) and $60 which I got for teaching at the gym.

We've paid $2053 in additional principal so far this year. At the beginning of the year we owed $79,141 and we now owe $73,634.

If we don't make any more principal payments ever again on the loan, it'll be paid off in August 2020. If I just continue to pay $150/month extra, it'll be paid off in October 2019 (which would coincide with my 53rd birthday. But our goal is to pay this off sooner, so every snowflake, ebay sale, swagbucks reward, pinecone reward, craigslist sale, etc. goes toward the mortgage.

I want to note that I make $$43,800 a year and my husband makes $45,000 (gross, not including small jobs on the side when we can). We pay about $14,000 per year for private school.

Got a New Project! So I'm Decluttering the Office Storage Room....

April 8th, 2014 at 01:32 am

I really didn't think I'd get this project - but I am so pleased I did! It's for a new pavilion (for classes and weddings) and interpretive trails at our Audubon Preserve. I teamed up for the project with a landscape architect who I really admire (and she's very passionate about educational landscapes!).

Anyway, we'll need to sign the contract this week, so I have a few days to clean up the office, particularly the storage room which was really out of control.

I bought 6 boxes at U-Haul (total $22) which were the right size (12x12x24) to store plans. I've been going through every set of plans in the office, putting them in the boxes (which I stacked up in the corner) and inserting a label in them, as well as cataloging which plans are in which box. I should end up with a lot of space on the shelves (I hope so).

Plus I've tossed a ton of old fedex boxes and duplicate plans as well as some design-stage plans which I don't need to keep once projects are complete.

The next step is to toss a bunch of old samples. Samples go out of date quickly; they introduce new colors/patterns/etc. I can give them to a school (they love stuff like that for art projects).

I hope to be done with all of this by tomorrow afternoon so that I can finish up another project (should be fast) and then start the Audubon next week.

I just like a nice clean, organized office so that I can think clearly.

Limiting Today's Expenses

April 4th, 2014 at 06:21 pm

Computer repair - no charge

Artichokes for lunch - my favorite! Lunch at home.

Dr. appt. - I'm sure I have some sort of copay for this; hopefully not too much.

Ice Cream - For F for doing her piano for the past several weeks, and being generally great about it - a few dollars. But I am not participating. I'll have ice cream at home.

Evening entertainment - Well, it's Spring, so I'll be out on the soccer fields freezing my behind off and watching F's practice. Bringing my sleeping bag in case it's really, really cold.

Dinner - We're having cod and asparagus. I finally figured out how to make really good battered cod - it's the double-dip: flour, then egg, then more flour. I use gf flour.

Then F will take a long, hot bath to get all the grass and pollen off, and we'll cuddle and read in bed. Perfect evening!

Computer is Banjaxed!

April 4th, 2014 at 02:44 am

Banjaxed is an Irish expression that means "broken beyond repair." (It can also mean "drunk" but my computer is so banjaxed that I'M the one who needs to get drunk except that I don't drink).

My IT consultant also happens to be my husband. He says the computer is definitely not working, and it will never, ever work again.

I should be freaking out, but I'm not and here's why:
- I have my husband's laptop to use (he doesn't take it to work, so I can use it all day tomorrow)
- I have a time machine backup (this backed up my operating system, too and can be used to recreate the entire computer including all preferences) from a few days ago.
- I have a carbonite backup from yesterday (all of my files are saved)
- All of my mail is in the cloud (gmail)
- All of my contacts and notes and lots of other things are on my phone.
- I have Apple Care

So there you go... all of this insurance (that's pretty much what it is, right?) means that this will, hopefully, be more of an inconvenience than a disaster.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me I need a day off tomorrow. After last Friday's surgery, I've worked a full week, taught two exercise classes and done all of my usual housework. I have to say, I'm pooped.

I'll call our local Apple fixing place and maybe make a genius bar appt., and probably won't get much else done.

Shutterfly Research

April 3rd, 2014 at 03:00 am

I finished the one missing photo book - 2010 - (once that is printed we'll be up-to-date) but I'm going to leave it in Shutterfly and not print it yet. There is a 30% and free shipping promo, but that isn't enough. I "researched" past Shutterfly promos in Facebook (and "liked" Shutterfly), and found that in 2013 there was a 50% off all photo books around July. And I usually get a coupon from them later in the year. I'm going to wait to print this one.

Also, I don't want to spend any money that we don't have to spend, so that we throw everything into our medical and auto servicing categories and not have to dip into the EF.

I think that is the real strength of budgeting: being able to adjust and re-tool as needed when things come up. So for right now, my monthly budget for lots of things is going to be less (or zero).

I seem to have money leftover in household utilities (the only benefit of our mild winter here in the Southwest - lower gas bill). Also leftover in insurance since our premium went down (I just need to keep enough in for our annual umbrella policy). And a tiny bit extra in water/sewer. I have saved up some money ($44) in my knitting fund; I'll just have to start over and put this toward the medical bill. There are a lot of places to be flexible.

Car Repairs, Medical Bills - What a Month!

April 2nd, 2014 at 12:24 am

This month is going to be financially horrible: the medical bills will probably be about $3,000 (or more?) and I just had to get my car fixed ($488).

So, I am trying to look on the bright side:
- we have the money in the EF
- I have now met my deductible for the health insurance
- I got 10% off and a $25 off coupon on the car repair

Instead of taking money out of our EF, I am going to try to shift money from different "buckets" into the auto servicing and medical buckets so that some of the expense is absorbed by going lean on other categories of spending.

So, if we can keep our food costs down this month, that money can go toward paying these bills.

It's all sort of virtual, but it helps me keep track.