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Archive for May, 2014

I Spend Less when the House is Tidy

May 31st, 2014 at 08:57 am

Our house is usually very tidy and clean... except the closets. They're not terrible, but they are where things get shoved out of the way. That's how the rest of the house is so clutter-free!

The worst closet is F's closet... Mostly that's because I won't just toss or donate her things. I make her help me, because I want her to get into the habit of figuring out what to get rid of, but also because I want her to feel that she has control over her things. I was sort of a hoarder as a child because I never knew when my mother might throw something out. I kept little stashes of things in secret boxes marked "secret box - do not touch" or something like that.

Anyway, F's birthday is coming up, which means new things are coming. So we have a deal that we'll set the timer every day until her birthday for 5 minutes and declutter together. Today was super-successful. She wants to get rid of the "habitrail" for her zhu-zhu pets (but keep the pets and their car which is fine) since she never plays with it. She wants to get rid of two American Girl style dolls (which she never, ever played with - she wasn't a baby doll kind of girl. And her bike is too small (Grandma is getting her a new bike). So - need to post on Craigslist asap!

All of this leads me to the title of this post: I spend less when the house is tidy. I discovered all sorts of things in F's closet. Not just toys but clothes. I am turning one old dress into a tunic for her (she just grows taller but her circumference stays the same!). When I can see what we have I don't buy doubles of things. When I can see what we have, I realize how MUCH we have, and I'm not tempted to buy more.

Do you feel the same way? Do you spend less when you can see what you already have?

Women in Architecture

May 30th, 2014 at 02:13 pm

I discontinued my AIA (that's American Institute of Architecture) membership as of this year. I used to be super involved, but I got tired of the repetitive lectures and unwillingness to do anything meaningful. So I donate my time instead to another organization.

The AIA is nothing more than a professional "club."

You don't need to be AIA to a licensed Architect. You can have AIA membership even if you aren't a licensed Architect. You can only call yourself an architect if you're licensed.

Anyway, one of my friends has put together a meeting (she'd like to meet monthly or every other month) of women who are architects. That is pretty interesting, mostly because it'll be a room full of people who have a lot of the same concerns. I hope there'll be some interesting discussions. I, for one, am interested in work-life balance (or imbalance!). I am also interested in how we can volunteer in the public schools (where a lot of art programs have been cut).

Leaving now to go to the event. She's asking everyone to contribute $20, but I can handle that. Will take it out of the business account.

I'll let you know how it goes!

(BTW, F is at her friend's house today, and the friend is coming to our house next Tue).

Need More Time (rather than more money) at the moment

May 29th, 2014 at 02:03 am

Summer, for us, starts officially tomorrow at noon when F is out of school for the summer.

I have two big projects going on for the duration of the summer, and about three smaller ones. Also regular summer volunteer job (not that big of a thing, but something else to schedule in).

I need more time! I am insistent that F should have a real summer, and that we should spend time together because THAT is why I'm self-employed. It's mostly just bad timing, but I can't really control the timing of my projects, and I'll be making about half the money I'll make this year in the next two months. Most architects in our city don't have any work, so I am very thankful for the work (and they are really good projects!).

To calm myself, here are some of the things I am doing so that we can do all those summer things like go to the pool, play tennis at the park, get slushies, sit outside and eat popsicles, go on hikes...

1. F is in camp for five of the summer weeks (this is day or half-day camp so we have time after pick up to hang out, but I'll also have time to get work done.

2. I will continue getting up at 6:30 am and get about an hour of work done before F wakes up - her summer schedule is about an hour later (then we'll start the daily routine of breakfast, etc).

3. I have set up a few playdates in the next few weeks (F has no camp until mid-June). If a friend is over here, I can work while they play. If she is at a friend's house, I can go into the office.

4. I have made a detailed, day-by-day summer schedule on excel with three columns: Big Project 1, Big Project 2 and F. There should be a fourth column for other work, but that just needs to fit around the big projects.

5. I am not stressing about the volunteer thing, at least not now. I've contacted the organization to know I need more people in my area, and they don't seem stressed. I will put on my list to contact them again tomorrow to let them know what's up, but I have decided it's not up to me to find people to fill my schedule. I am in charge of one area, not all volunteers. The event is mid-July.

6. I will not work a shift at the volunteer event. My job is to coordinate other volunteers.

7. I will not stress about F's birthday party. I've chosen an easy, fun party. I just need to get a few supplies. Can do that this weekend.

8. There are things like buying cat food that need to be done. D has not volunteered. It will have to wait until the weekend, since I am committed to not taking valuable work time to do errands. F may go with me after the pool tomorrow, but Friday, when she is at a friend's house is work time.

9. I will make errands as easy on myself as possible. For example, stressed about the teacher gifts (class pools resources and gets a cashier check) earlier in the evening. I was going to take work time to go to the bank to get the cashiers check (they don't open until 9) and pop by school before pick up (because D is picking F up while I teach spinning). Instead, I'm stopping at the drive-through on the way to school because they are open earlier, and instead getting new crisp bills. The teachers, I've decided, won't care if it's a cashiers check or cash! Probably easier not to go to a bank to cash it!

10. I can't think of a tenth thing.

OK, I feel better. Going back to sleep now!

Head Cold and Three-Day Soccer Tournament

May 26th, 2014 at 06:17 pm

Sorry I haven't posted lately.

F was in a three-day soccer tournament, and somewhere in the middle of it, I caught a cold. Something is going around, and the girls played in the rain. They actually had to stop the play for lightning (there is a lightning siren); we all got in our cars and waited for the all-clear siren. I don't think being out in the rain was so great for me. That evening (Saturday) I had a really sore throat. It rained the next day, too. Today's game was nice. I wasn't the only mom with a cold. We just stayed away from everyone else.

There were some unexpected cold and soccer-related expenses. Parking for the soccer complex is $5 per car per day. And there is no way to get there except drive (you could carpool, and we did on one day, taking another girl down to the tournament). Dinner on Sunday night when I felt awful: made D get a cooked chicken from the supermarket, and some chicken and rice soup for me. And no one felt like cooking today either, so we went to the Range. My thought was that if I ate a bunch of green chile I'd get better faster. (That might be true! It's a New Mexico tradition to fight a cold with green chile).

The range t-shirts were funny: New Mexico. Not really new. Not really Mexico.

Here is one of our US senators holding up the t-shirt:
http://www.heinrich.senate.gov/photos/meeting-with-sandoval-county-mayors_--bernalillo-new-mexico-february-21-2014

Birthday Party

May 22nd, 2014 at 04:59 pm

I have almost $300 in F's birthday account... this party will NOT be that much, and all gifts already paid for. No big presents (unless Grandma and Grandpa get her a new bike, which may happen), but the gifts are meaningful to her.

She is getting:
- a replica Brazuca (that's the World Cup ball)
- kids' guide to the World Cup
- Arsenal piggy bank (combining the love of pigs and Arsenal football club)
- my old snoopy (she has been very into old Peanuts cartoons!)
- a tshirt and water bottle I made for her on cafepress with characters and quotes from Yonderland, her favorite tv show
- I am making her stilts (already bought the wood) from a pattern they gave us at circus camp last summer

Now that I type out the list, that's a lot of stuff. None of of it cost much, and at least one thing was free, but I think she'll be thrilled!

Grandad (in the UK) and the UK Grandma will probably send money, and so she can decide what to get - maybe a peanuts cartoon book or Ultimate Weird but True or a book of jokes or puzzles.

And now I'm off to make a list of fun frugal things to do this summer!

Lots of Expenses... Oh Well, they're Budgeted

May 20th, 2014 at 03:35 pm

Lots of expenses coming in...

The largest was a portion of my big medical bill from a few months back. I'd already paid $500. The rest was $1038. I still haven't gotten the bill from the doctor or anesthesiologist. My deductible is $2500. I have been throwing money into the "medical envelope" so the money is there for those expenses. It wasn't an optional surgery, and everything is fine, so I am thankful despite the expense.

F is playing in a tournament this weekend. You could look at it one way: a weekend of entertainment for $38 (there are 5 games over three days). It is budgeted for in "classes" which is where soccer is covered. On the bright side: no piano for the summer, so we can build that envelope back up.

I still haven't been paid by the gym, and I am starting to get grumpy because the owner comes in while my class is going and leaves before it's over, so I can't discuss it with him.

I hurt my back playing adult v. kids soccer, so I have to pay for a little bit of PT. Usually I wait for it to go away, but it's not going away! I had one session which got me to 80% recovered, but they told me I'd probably need one more. I waited to see if it would get better on its own, but it didn't so my next appt. is scheduled for tomorrow.

Everything else is low (groceries, utilities, etc.) so I am feeling ok despite the extra expenses.

The next thing to work on is F's birthday party; it'll be at home, so not super expensive.

And then we need to convince D's co-worker to house-sit for us while we are in Europe visiting D's family; that way we won't have to pay for dog-boarding. And the cat won't be lonely. Our cunning plan is to have him over, I'll make him dessert and he can fall in love with our house and our pets! Fingers crossed!!

Such a Long Day!

May 17th, 2014 at 06:32 pm

Just got home from a super long day. First, as usual, I cleaned the litterbox and the birdcage and vacuumed. We packed a lunch for later. Then F had a soccer game; didn't win, but ended up tied for third in the league.

We ate our packed lunch at the soccer fields with another friend on F's team while watching the boys' final game (their friend DB was in the game).

Then we drove DB down to ABQ with us for another friend's birthday party.

After the party - bumper boats and mini golf - the party continued at a pizza place where we all had dinner.

So far we hadn't paid for anything all day! So we stopped at Sonic for slushes before we headed back home.

Not only was today really fun, it was a great day for another reason: Arsenal won the FA Cup! Now, I don't really care about that, but it makes F and my husband very, very, very happy, so I'm happy, too! They are watching highlights from the game right now, but I really need to get F to take a bath. She is covered in sweat and sunscreen and pizza dough and slush!

Hope you had a great day, too!

Have not Been Paid at the Gym

May 14th, 2014 at 03:53 pm

I didn't receive a payment for teaching at the gym in April, but I figured that was because the owner hadn't been in the gym for a while. Well, I saw him today, but still no payment. I couldn't ask him about it because he came in while I was teaching, and left before my class was over.

I was even more irritated because I taught today even though I hurt my back on Monday. It's not all the way better yet, but I did light weights and just took care of myself. I wanted to teach because it's my obligation and because there are very few subs. So I'm feeling like I'm holding up my end of things, but he's not.

I always put that gym payment toward our mortgage, and so I couldn't put much toward it this month. Grrrrr.

Maybe now that I write this he'll pay me tomorrow and I'll be able to give you a positive update.

Glad I Waited...

May 12th, 2014 at 06:40 pm

We've needed a shopvac for a while... there are several reasons, and the main one is that we have frass (that is fake grass!) and although you don't need to mow it or water it, you do need to vacuum it! We borrowed a friend's shopvac last year, and it worked really well. (We have pinon needles that get stuck in it, and it makes it pretty much unusable since they're so sharp).

I'm glad I waited, though, because I just took advantage of the Amex offer to spend $50 at Lowes and get $10 off.

I also bought materials to make stilts for F for her birthday (she does this circus camp each year and loved the stilt-walking!).

There are other offers up on Amex, but I don't buy anything I wouldn't normally be buying.

There are some good deals on there, though! If you use amex, be sure to check out the deals regularly...

NOTE: In case you are cringing, frass is actually a really great thing in the Southwest where water is like gold. We think of it like a grass-like carpet rather than actual grass. When we want real grass, we go to a community park. It makes a lot of sense that real grass is a community investment where water is scarce rather than an individual right. (And our water bill is really low!).

Food Frugality (A little too frugal?)

May 9th, 2014 at 03:37 pm

I am sitting her eating a small bowl of what is left at the bottom of the chip bag. I eat it with a spoon (the bits are too small). My husband and daughter leave those little shards, but I'm not too proud to eat them. I get one more serving of chips or crisps that way!

I also eat the stuff that comes back in F's lunch. I try to ask her first if anything fell on the floor or if she spit anything out. She has a habit of just biting off the very tip of strawberries; there's a lot of strawberry left! So even though she's bitten it, I'll totally eat it.

I like the core of fruit (like pineapple and mango). Sometimes I'll serve fruit to F and D, and I take the core for myself. But this is different, because I actually like the core. And otherwise, it'd be wasted!

I've been known to eat the remainder of F's oatmeal as my breakfast (I'm sure I'm not the only mom who does this). And the only juice I ever drink is what she doesn't finish in the morning. But as a result, we only buy one thing of juice a week (and F and D water it down - I've trained them well!).

I don't know if some of this is just ridiculous, but I was thinking about it (you know - because I was eating those chip shards), so thought I'd post.

Do you have any weird, frugal food habits like this?

School Field Trip

May 5th, 2014 at 07:17 pm

I drove on the school field trip today to Bandelier National Monument. It was all day long, and I am sooooo tired.

The bonus was that I thought each driver would have to pay for parking, but they don't charge school field trips. So $12 saved.

The other bonus was that F got to leave school early because we returned from the field trip early.

So we spent $2 at Sonic for lime slushes (half price drinks during "happy hour" 2-4 pm) after school since I'd saved the parking fee.

The sad part was that Bandelier had a huge flood last September (the largest in the park's recorded history); the water rushed right down the canyon. It tore down trees and broke off large chunks of the asphalt trail. It even ripped off a drinking fountain (we saw it in a tangle of fallen tree branches). They've done a ton of cleanup, but the trail on the west side of the canyon was super-sandy (it was like walking on a beach).

Luckily Alcove House (a ceremonial cave 140 feet above the canyon floor) has reopened, so we got to go up the stone stairs and wooden ladders. All but just a few kids and adults went up. This was the first time F has done it, even though we've been to Bandelier before.

Anyway - such a cool trip, and I got to take a day off of work!

Starting to Plan Another Frugal Birthday Party

May 4th, 2014 at 01:43 pm

In June, F will be nine. Nine! She is still so young. The kids in her class dress like silly kids; they aren't into clothes at all. Most of them watch very little television. F won't go to the movies and hasn't seen Brave or Frozen or any of those. There aren't any "mean girls" yet; I hope there won't ever be (they are growing up sort of like siblings since there are only 18 kids per grade). She is still good friends with a lot of boys in her class.

I think nine will be pretty much like eight in a lot of ways. (Most of the kids are already nine; but F has a summer birthday).

Here is what she is getting for her birthday: a brazuca (replica of the World Cup ball), more soccer socks (more colors!), Arsenal piggy bank (combines the love of both Arsenal football club and pigs), book for kids on the World Cup, my old Snoopy cuddly toy (she's really into the Peanuts right now), stilts (which I am making with the pattern they gave us at circus camp last year - buying wood this week), a new water bottle (which I am making on Cafe Press with her favorite character from Yonderland).

She has requested a camping-themed birthday party. I was thinking of having the party up at the local forest campground (just get an afternoon campsite), but she wants it at home. May be able to talk her into the campground and then we could have a group hike to the waterfall.

I want to do the party frugally, of course. Was thinking of:
- inexpensive headlamps as party favors (found them for $4 each) or maybe marshmallow roasters (if Target has them - they were in the dollar bin a few summers ago)
- scavenger hunt through our arroyo (or on the waterfall hike)
- setting up the tent for them to play in (not sure what to play?)
- s'mores (roast marshmallows over a little firepit)
- roast hot dogs on the grill
- maybe a s'mores cake? or is that too much s'mores?

Any other ideas? Games or anything?

Paid Down Mortgage and Other stuff

May 3rd, 2014 at 09:31 pm

It's 10 pm, and I am sitting here with my laptop while D heads back to F's friend's house. Her friend is having a sleepover birthday, and F wanted to stay, but she sounded conflicted. The friend's mom, who is a good friend of mine, just called to say F wants to be picked up.

For the record, I think 9 is too young for sleepovers. (Even though this particular family is fantastic, and I know the kids won't stay up too late).

So I have a few minutes to write a little bit.

Friday was popcorn day at the bank, so I made a deposit (rent check from my office sublet) and paid down principal on our mortgage ($169). And got the popcorn, of course, which I gave to F after school for a treat. Bank popcorn is the best! And we're now in the $72k's on our mortgage. As usual around this time of month, I play all sorts of games with the mortgage calculator. But really you just have to keep chipping away at it. I am putting this out there, though: I want to own our house by October 2018. I will be 52 years old (that's 4 1/2 years from now).

I also found out last week, that my second office sublet, the one who doesn't get a parking space and has just a desk in the main area (but pays very little for the desk) is leaving as of the end of May. I like having the extra money in the business, but it's not a lot, and I figured that I might figure out someone else at some point.

And just a few hours later, I got a call from my friend K. She's an architect, too, and she was calling because she's designing a porch for a house in a neighborhood where I lead the architectural review committee. K works out of her house, so I immediately said, "I don't know why you're calling, but you need to come share the office with me and A!!!" (The guy who sublets the one of the other office spaces is our mutual friend, A, and, yes, he's also an architect).

She hasn't committed yet, but pretty much said yes! I am so relieved, but mostly happy to have K there - she is close friend, and a great person. But we also are like a support group for each other.

Current TV Obsessions

May 2nd, 2014 at 03:20 pm

We don't have television or cable, but manage to watch a lot of it regardless (on our computers, for free)!

- Moone Boy (on hulu; regular hulu, we don't have plus). This show is a funny sitcom about a boy in Ireland with an imaginary friend (who happens to be Chris O'Dowd). I used to live in Ireland, so it's nice to hear the accents again, and the references are hysterically funny!

- Orphan Black (watching on Amazon Prime for free, but most episodes are still up on the BBC iplayer). I know there are British, Scottish and Americans married to them on SavingAdvice. Wondering if you are watching, too? Second season just started, but we are still on the first. I can't tell you about it much because I'd give it away, but it's sci-fi and mystery, and fascinating!

- All Over the Place (this is one that F loves! - it's on bbc iplayer) - British kids' show; the hosts visit crazy places in the UK (and America and Australia)

What are you watching?

April Recap

May 1st, 2014 at 01:07 pm

We did well in April despite a car repair. Since I am saving for when my big medical bill arrives, I will try to do even better next month, particularly on the food budget. This is for a family of three people, one dog, one cat, two birds.

House (mortgage, utilities, etc) = $1558
Food = $664 (I budget $800)
Auto = $739 (yes, way high! And I need tires this month!)
Pets = $60
Medical = $74
Personal = $285 (but this includes D's new shirts, $90)
F = $883 (includes private school tuition)
Gifts = $119 (over budget)
Family Entertainment = $33
Household (includes all furniture, supplies, remodeling) = $54
Travel = ($487) this is a deposit, not an expense (came from credit card statement credits)

Total spending = $3981
Total savings = $1260

Total incoming = $6983 (some of this will go to fill "once a year" categories)

My analysis:
- continue working on the food category (this can be sort of hard since I have dietary restrictions, but I've been consistently lower than the budget amount; new goal: stay below $700)
- save some money for the tires I need
- we now have plenty of pet food, but it's time for Colin's annual cat vet visit, so this should be at budget in May
- personal category should be low in May
- gifts may be high since F's birthday is coming up - I'll make a list and determine what can be be from grandparents (they always send checks and say "buy something")
- no travel planned, and in fact just found out that over Memorial Weekend F will be in a soccer tournament, so that'll be a frugal weekend