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Archive for August, 2014

Shutterfly 40% off Everything - so I'm Finally Printing the 2010 Photobook!

August 30th, 2014 at 01:59 am

Every year I do a photobook of the previous year... but I wait for a good promo to actually have it made. We'd skipped a year or two and I was slowly going back and making those albums. I've had 2010 saved in my Shutterfly projects since December, but the promos weren't that great on photobooks.

They have a 40% off sale on everything through Labor Day as well as a free shipping code (so it ended up being about 50% off), so I decided to finally print that book!

Now we're all caught up (we've got 2005 - the year F was born - all the way through 2013).

I can't wait to make 2014, but I'll keep that in my projects until another good promo comes around!

Saved Money Today

August 26th, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I really didn't want to spend money on lunch out today, but my friend is in town... I also have a lot of work right now, and didn't feel like I wanted to take an hour out (I'm struggling to finish as it is).

I'm very proud that I told her that instead of lunch I could go for a walk. And it was a really nice walk! And it was free! And my dog walked with us (she goes to the office with me and I take her on a short walk after lunch).

Tonight we were supposed to go to a soccer assessment for F, but it's been bucketing raining all afternoon. They play in the rain, but there's also been a ton of lightning and thunder, and they don't play in lightning. She's sad, but they've rescheduled it to next Tuesday.

My plan for an easy dinner still applies: grilled cheese and tomato soup. Perfect for the stormy weather. We may have the same thing next Tuesday! (Perfect when you only have 10 minutes to make dinner, too).

Worked it out with my Friend

August 24th, 2014 at 09:27 pm

The good (great!) news is I am not having a party at my house tonight! And we are going over to my friend M's in-laws (they have a vacation home here). I've know the in-laws for about 20 years and they're really nice.

The other good (great!) news is that it isn't a big party at all... there will be 11 (three of those are kids) total so I'll get to really talk to everyone.

More good (great!) news: I am bringing dessert, so that means not only that I will get to eat dessert (I usually can't given dietary restrictions) but it is a really easy potluck thing for me. I make a flourless chocolate cake (total cost is about $5 including the heavy cream (for whipping).

Yesterday I spent the entire day working on F's room (photos soon!) while she was at her friend's house. We went out to dinner (our weekly meal out) because I was so tired.

Today the same friend is here, so I got a ton of work done, and housework, too.

I am feeling really great about starting the week. My deadline is pretty much under control, and I'm hoping that one night this week M and I can hang out (she wants to go out for a drink; I don't drink, so will just have water). Every night except Tuesday (a soccer tryout for F); I have to remember to tell M! Maybe she'll want to meet me at the gym tomorrow for a lunchtime class (have to remember to ask that, too).

Friend in Town - I'm Worried!

August 23rd, 2014 at 01:33 am

My good friend is in town (she comes back to visit once a year). She's not staying with us, but she always has parties (I'm happy to bring a potluck dish) and wants to go out to eat (I usually skip that, and she's fine with that).

She loves to shop, and I don't shop at all, so I skip that, too. She has other friends to shop with.

The hard part is, she comes in late tonight, and will be staying through the week, but I have a HUGE deadline and no time to hang out with her (we could go on a hike or whatever). But I want to! But I have the deadline! And I don't want to be a whiner and say that I can only see her on the weekend (actually, I'll be working several hours this weekend, too).

It's a firm deadline (a County review meeting) and I had a setback today where I spent the day making a change (ugh; this is why I need to work this weekend).

Oh - did I mention that she wants to have one of the parties at my house? On Sunday night (school night!). I called her and just got voicemail, but I told her that we could maybe do something early, but that people have to clear out by 8:30 pm so F can get ready for bed. I wish I had said I couldn't do it at all because the thought of cleaning the house after a party, with a deadline looming, makes me hyperventilate.

I'm going to go do the dishes and then relax for an hour before I go to sleep; I think I need to rest before I can confront her (and myself) with the reality of self-employment!

Photo of Our Big White Dog (Not Financial)

August 22nd, 2014 at 07:45 pm

This is for Klarose who has dogs that look kind of like mine. She's a Pyrenees mix (and we're not sure what she's mixed with). She's from our local shelter but she was a transfer from another shelter. I think she might have been a herding dog.

OK, this doesn't have to do with our finances except that she eats a lot of food!!!

Put Gym Money toward Mortgage Principal

August 19th, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Before I could spend any of it, I took my gym money right over to the bank and paid down principal. It was $145, and it reduced our total paid in interest by $33. That's nice to see.

So now we owe $69,193.

I called my brother after I left the bank, and just mentioned that I'd paid down some principal, and he chuckled. He said he feels bad when he sees his principal go down because he knows he's doing something wrong (in his mind, the cheap interest rates mean that it's better to keep the mortgage and put his money elsewhere). He has a lot more money than I do, and it's all tied up in various investments and stock options. Actually, I think it's just stock now, not options anymore.

We have completely different attitudes about money, and he understands that I operate on piece of mind. Plus it is definitely worth it to us not to have the mortgage anymore so that we can pay for F's school. In the meantime, we are still fully funding our IRAs.

I know a lot of you use your extra funds (and snowflakes!) to pay off debt. If you're debt free except for your mortgage, how do you use that extra money? Paying down the mortgage or investing?

Gym Paid me for Two Months! and a Money Decision to Make

August 18th, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Usually when I go to the gym the owner isn't there (it's always the lunchtime classes)... if I'm teaching, I unlock and then lock up (same for my friend L who teaches on Mondays at lunch).

L called to tell me that she'd been paid for two months (June and July) while I was on vacation; we're good friends so she wanted to make sure I got paid now that I'm back. But I didn't know when I'd see the owner so that he could pay me.

I subbed for her class today, and as usual, since it's a lunchtime class, he wasn't there. But... in my car on the little side street by the gym, he pulled up next to me, said hi, how was your trip, etc... and then gave me $145 for June and July!

I haven't gone to the bank yet to pay down principal, but will some time this week.

Now the money decision: we are doing some upgrades to F's room to make it a room fit for a girl in the "upper cluster" (which is 4th through 6th at her school). She's been doing her homework at the dining room table or else at the little desk in our bedroom, and she asked for a desk. She'll need a chair, too, and we've ordered more storage bins. She'll be getting a new bed, too.

We're selling some things on Craigslist and Ebay (desk, old bed, some toys) and I'm trying to decide whether we put that incoming money toward the room improvements or we chalk that cost up to "home improvements" and use the Ebay money to pay down principal.

I'm leaning toward offsetting the cost of the new items instead of paying down principal. What do you think?

Frugal Fun Day at the Park Today - Class Picnic

August 18th, 2014 at 02:58 am

Today I bought groceries (under my spending goal!) and also bought cat litter (with $3 coupon) and a small can of spraypaint for F's bulletin board. I've been moving stuff around in her room all day with the goal of a more grown-up room, and re-fashioning the old bulletin board is part of that.

Then we went to the park for the Fourth Grade Class Get-Together. We do this just before school starts every year so the kids can get out some of the excitement of seeing each other after a long summer. Also we get to meet the new families, and their children can start school seeing familiar faces. My daughter really hit it off with C, whose family just moved here. C is a soccer player like F.

I loved the parents of the new boy J... they moved here from California two weeks ago. We stayed about 3 hours, and the kids played, and we ate (potluck). It was so much fun! (I'm a total extrovert, and I love meeting new people).

Tomorrow we meet with the teacher (we already know her, but this is a chance to talk about F and she can tell us about what they'll be doing for the year).

And then school starts on Wednesday! (I personally love a mid-week start because the first week back they're exhausted by the end of the week).

Making Brunch for Six Instead of Going Out

August 15th, 2014 at 11:53 pm

We have good friends who used to live here who are visiting this week. The suggestion was made to go to brunch together, and I can't wait to see them. But instead of eating brunch out, I opted to have them over.

Yes, I'll be cooking and paying for food for six, but it works out way less expensive than going out and getting meals for the three of us.

We're going to have french toast souffle (super yummy; and I will make it tonight and heat tomorrow so all the goop soaks into the bread), muffin cup frittatas and strawberries. And I bought some juice and D will make coffee. Total cost was less than $18.

We would have probably spent about $40 if we went out. Maybe more, because what always seems to happen is the people we eat with get more/sides/coffee/juice/etc. (when we go out we get water and just one meal each), but we split the bill anyway. I never say anything about it; you're all going to say that I should, but I hate doing that. It's just not an option for me.

Inviting people over is not only cheaper, but we'll get to hang out, and the girls can play together outside or in F's room while we chat.

I'm going to take that $17-whatever it came to out of our dining budget, though, rather than groceries budget!

More Mortgage Principal

August 15th, 2014 at 06:41 pm

Today I paid down our usual $150 plus $12 from pinecone to our mortgage principal.

Our new balance is $69,338. We're in the 60's!

Did you read the Clark Howard thing about paying down your mortgage v. investing the money? He had a good point that often people are so motivated to pay down the mortgage that they really end up saving more to do that than they would save to invest. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, according to my spreadsheet even if we don't pay down another penny on principal we'll own the house in July 2020. We've paid off $2,838 in principal this year (yay!!).

More analysis:
- if we only pay off $150/month (this is budgeted) we'll pay off the house in Oct. 2019.
- if we pay off $150/month until our Dublin house is paid off and $500/month after that, we'll have our house paid off in Oct. 2018 (that was my goal date - it's the month I turn 52
- this doesn't count any tax returns being applied to the mortgage principal, so it may be sooner

Our Vacation Books - One Really Great Kid's Book!

August 14th, 2014 at 04:32 pm

We brought several books with us on vacation... I think I read three books during those two weeks (they were all on my phone from our library's e-lending service, so easy to carry!). My favorite was the Silkworm (JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith; it's a mystery and the second in a series of books). I also read The Silver Linings Playbook which I didn't like very much. And a great book called The Boy Kings of Texas (Domingo Martinez); it totally captured growing up in a border town in Texas. There's a southwestern thing I can relate to.

F brought The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stuart) which she declared "the best book EVER" so if you're looking for a book for a kid around 9 years old, you might check this out... I started the first few pages and now I want to read it! It was lent to F by next year's teacher, and when we were up at school the other day (it doesn't start until next Weds.), F ran into the librarian who assured her that the library has all of the books in the series, and if they don't have the new one yet, she'll make sure they get it asap! (I love that librarian).

Have you been reading anything that you like and would recommend? We're always looking for books to read!

Analyzing the Year so Far

August 14th, 2014 at 01:21 pm

When I analyze the year so far, we're over budget by about $1700. (The way I do this is to use numbers for last year for the remaining months, which gives me an overall year to look at, but it means I still have August through December to "correct" things).

The $1700 is still less than the surprise medical bills I had in the Spring, which means that we're working on getting those paid for by shifting other budget items, and that makes me feel good. Basically, those medical bills account for the budget bust for this year.

So I looked at how August through December might go in order to make a plan.

Obviously, and easy way to get the budget back in order would be to stop contributing to our IRAs for two months, but I don't want to do that; we have money in the bank (EF) and so we don't need to do this. We can whittle at the $1700 instead.

So, the plan:
- limit cash for D to $40/month
- don't buy any new yarn (knitting budget down to zero)
- maybe skip the Nutcracker this year (just talked to F and she is very willing to make a less expensive substitution)
- F has a lot of new clothes from Grandma, and her winter coat fits and so do winter boots, she has the next size up on soccer cleats, so I don't think we need much for her clothing budget this winter.
- work on grocery costs (don't have to reduce much from last year)

When I do this in my excel spreadsheet, I end up with a $3,000 surplus! Yeah!

We're Back from our Holiday - Frugal and Not-Frugal Things

August 14th, 2014 at 01:10 am

We just got back from 2+ weeks in England and France (no, not Paris! More on that later!). Here are some of the frugal and not-frugal things we did on our holiday...

Frugal
- got a ride to/from the airport and left our cars at home (no parking fees)
- had someone stay in the house with our pets (no boarding fees) - we did buy him a small gift and gave him a gift certificate for Amazon (way lower than what we would have paid for pet boarding)
- stayed with family in England (and they fed us so well!)
- brought a packed lunch to the Arsenal Football Club stadium tour
- F has a "Junior Gunners membership" so her tour was free
- D contacted them ahead of time to say we were coming all the way from New Mexico and that F is a huge fan and Junior Gunner, and they arranged for the mascot - Gunnersaurus - to surprise her! Wow! And he gave her a goodybag of stuff including a watch and cuddly toy Gunnersaurus for free!
- stayed in a weekly rental in France so we cooked most of our own meals (and it's fun shopping in supermarkets in other countries)
- our stay in France was in a little town near the Spanish border - much less expensive than Paris!
- most of our days in France were spent at the beach (free); activities included walking along the cliffs to another beach about an hour away - the walk itself was awesome!
- Used public transportation in our last two days (when we didn't have a rental car) and to get to the Stadium
- Rental cars were diesel - we filled up very little
- Didn't buy souvenirs (except F got this very cool little whirlygig which we played with on the beach every evening - 2 euro - it goes up in the air with a slingshot and then spins when it comes down)

Not Frugal
- bought lunch in the airport rather than pack it (I ended up with work to do at the last minute and decided our holiday would start in the airport - but it wasn't even a good meal, so I wish I'd packed the lunch!)
- some meals out - but well worth it! - in France
- one terrible meal out in England - we took my father-in-law to his favorite pub which is just awful, but we see him so rarely and it's his favorite.
- Arsenal Football Club stadium tour wasn't cheap, but worth it
- paid for admission to some tourist sites (Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain; turtle sanctuary; a castle; and a fortress outside of Perpignan)
- Paid for the French rental apartment to be cleaned at the end rather than clean it ourselves; we could've cleaned it ourselves, but really wanted not to wreck our last day there.

I'm sure there are more... but that's all I can think of right now.