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Archive for January, 2015

YNAB, My New Jacket and Plan to Eat

January 31st, 2015 at 09:29 am

1. I've been using YNAB for a month now, and it's awesome! It works the way I was already tracking our budget (month-ahead, tracking everything). That in itself was appealing. But it also allows me to track our accounts and make sure everything matches up. And I've been working very hard to make sure we don't have carry-over balances into next month, so we've spent less this month.

2. I bought a total of five jackets and returned four. The one I kept is great, and it was on sale. And it was the single most expensive clothing item I've ever bought. But totally worth it. It doesn't get extremely cold here (lowest is probably zero, and it's usually in the 30s in the winter). This jacket is perfect for our weather. It's the LL Bean 850 jacket (no hood - hoods make me crazy). I settled on black because it won't go out of style as quickly, and I plan on having this jacket for a thousand years.

3. I just heard about this meal planning program called Plan to Eat. I do pretty well on my own (and have for about 12 years!), and I don't need a program. But I'm curious, and there's a 30 day trial. Have any of you used it?

PS - it continues to snow here, and it's beautiful! Hope your weather is what you hoped for, too!

Meal Plan and a Snow Day

January 30th, 2015 at 07:08 pm

I always shop on Saturday or Sunday (because of my work schedule) but today was a snow day! I dropped F off at school and went shopping, thinking that they'd probably call a half day (they did) because the snow was really coming down!

It's supposed to snow into tomorrow, so I thought it'd be better to get the food for the week today and not have to go out tomorrow (unless the roads are good, and then we're totally going sledding! If they are bad we'll go sledding on Sunday instead).

This week's meal plan:
- pasta with aubergines
- tuna melts with salad
- potatoes and peas (since I have peas in the freezer)
- pad thai
- something from the freezer (chipotle chicken stew made last week)
- manchego and spinach frittata

After we got home we had snow slushies and made a snowman. Since I grew up without snow, I really, really love snow days.

Mini Getaway, No Overnight, No Hotel

January 25th, 2015 at 04:01 pm

Yesterday we spent a lot of money on a cross country skiing day trip to Enchanted Forest in Red River, but it was planned. Here is a list of all the way we saved but still got a really great weekend break:

- F and I own our own gear (my skis and boots are about 20 years old but are still great!) so no rental fees for us. Only D rented, total price: $16
- the ski area is the biggest x-c ski area in our state (33 km of trails), but it's still a cool little family-owned business. For trail passes for three of us it was $45. That's a lot less than downhill! (We don't downhill, by the way).
- We did not stay overnight, so no hotel. And our neighbor popped in to let our dog out since it was a long day (no petsitter).
- We packed a lunch, so we didn't pay for lunch (and we didn't need to take out any ski time to go eat).
- Used half a tank of gas to get there and back which is pretty good, and gas prices are low right now. $8 in gas.
- We went with another family, and had so much fun!
- We all stopped for dinner at our favorite place in EspaƱola on the way home. The last time we ate out was three weeks ago since we knew we were going out after the ski trip.

And, here's a big one: everyone was so satisfied with the trip (and exhausted) that we just stayed home today and didn't feel the need to go out today. F mentioned ice cream, but then I got two apples at the store, so we're having an apple/blueberry crumble instead.

I did the meal planning, and spent $80 for the week's groceries (and that includes ingredients for a salad for the potluck lunch the Parent Association is making for teachers/staff on Tuesday.

I've Never Gotten this Much Done on a Tuesday!

January 20th, 2015 at 01:34 pm

Usually Monday is my "get a lot done" day. But because Monday wasn't a work day and we only have four days this week, it's been Totally Productive Tuesday.

It can't just be my work habits, though. Things I've been waiting on answers forever were finally resolved. I now have a clear list of tasks for the rest of the month. Even though it means a lot of work, I feel good that I have something to do!

Also I paid down some principal on our mortgage (we now owe $63,446). And according to the taxes, I'll be able to pay down a large chunk when we get our refund. So we'll be in the 50k's in a few months.

Tuition assistance forms are due on February 13th, so I need to get on that, too.

Yesterday, F and I had such a wonderful day... we played games, she worked on her diorama for school and then we went for a run. I am worried because I think when she does her first 5k she'll be a lot faster than I am - that in itself is a good thing, but I don't want her out there on her own, so I think D will need to run with her (she might even be faster than he is, though).

Time to Think about Taxes

January 19th, 2015 at 11:29 am

I bought Turbo Tax yesterday and started plugging things in (even though I can't finish our taxes because I haven't gotten all of our tax forms; I still know the amounts).

Now I'm slightly depressed because it appears we didn't withhold enough (Federal Withholding) from our paychecks. At least I think that's what's going on. I put in my W2 info and there was a big refund. Then I put in D's W2 info and we owed money. So I took out my W2 info, and it was a refund again. Then put it back in and we owed. Which says to me: we withheld enough if just one of us was earning, but since we earn very close to the same amount, we need to withhold about $30 more federal and about $12 more state per pay period.

I've adjusted my payroll for February (too lazy to do this for the last half of January). And now I make about $100 less a month. So... that's not good, right? I've also adjusted my monthly business distribution to give ourselves back the $100, but this feels like I'm not really facing the problem.

Next year is going to be more challenging since we will own our house in Dublin outright (although it seems like mortgage interest at this point is a very small deduction off the Dublin house rents received). Also D is making more, but I'm not sure his W2 will reflect that since he 6% of each paycheck will come out before taxes for the employee savings plan (it's matched).

I am definitely going to do a 2015 Trial on Turbo Tax, but I am wondering if I also need to finally have an accountant do our taxes.

Financial Thoughts for Today

January 15th, 2015 at 03:30 pm

Good and bad...

- Made asian meatballs with rice for dinner which is everyone's favorite. Yum, yum, yum! And frugal!

- Took our dog to the vet for annual wellness. She had her shots, too. Grand total: $90.87. But she is healthy, so I am thankful!

- Got an email from UNM Press. My royalties (which have dwindled since I wrote the book 9 years ago) are over the required amount, so they're putting $105.46 into my account. That will go to the mortgage!

- I got an email from the library that the book I wanted (This is Where I Leave You) is available. I just checked it out on my phone. I haven't seen the movie (I'm not a huge movie fan; something to do with sitting still).

- As I sit here typing away, F is practicing piano. She seems super frustrated and I can't help her because I can't play an instrument at all. She'll need to wait for D to come home. But I feel terrible that I can't help and that I never learned an instrument.

Random Thoughts on a Snowy Day (and some are even Financial!)

January 14th, 2015 at 04:32 pm

All sorts of things going on here...

- I had to take D's car today because of the snow (his has snow tires on it; mine is fine to get him to the office, but F's school is on top of a hill). Love those snow tires! His car is sort of fun to drive actually...

- F has been having a lot of anxiety lately. The school psychologist and her teacher were both very helpful. We've been trying things, and it's been helping, but when they recommended two books for us, I just got on Amazon and bought them. I didn't even look at the price. (It was $23.43 total). I don't have a book budget (we are library all the way), but I do have a budget for supplies for F. I think these books need to stay on the shelf; people who tend to have anxiety have it at times throughout their lives (I know first-hand!)

- I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to buy a winter coat. Here is the key thing: we have almost nowhere to shop here. There is Target and REI, but we don't have a Landsend or LL Bean. I want a good down coat that will last, and I'm sick of wearing a Target fleece through winter (it's really not warm enough). I think I mentioned before that my office is buying it since I need something warm for site visits. Well, I had to send back the one from Landsend (waaaaay too big). I bought one at REI and spent a fortune, but I did an experiment before removing the tags, and it wasn't warm enough. I just ordered a coat from LL Bean, so we'll see.

- It's 5:30. Almost time to leave for indoor soccer. I am bringing a book, but I often end up talking to the other moms (we've all known each other a long time by now and they're awesome!)

- But I really just want to sit on a folding chair in my sleeping bag and read my book! Actually I'd like to sit in bed at home and read my book.

- Grilled cheese and tomato soup tonight - we won't be home until 7:30! Late dinner - needs to be something easy!!

Stay warm everyone!

Accounting Help for Free!

January 13th, 2015 at 01:39 pm

I finished my business taxes (1120S for an S-corporation) about ten seconds ago. Obviously had to post to tell you! (I'm very proud).

I met with an accountant yesterday to go over a few things I was having trouble with (conceptually) so that I could finish. He was recommended by a friend/colleague, and when I heard the accountant's name I was pleasantly surprised - it was someone I knew a long time ago. He used to be married to a friend of mine, and I've since lost touch with the friend (I see her around occasionally).

I called him to make an appointment and he remembered me, too (I always think people won't remember me but this is such a small town!). Anyway, I asked him if I could pay him to consult with me for an hour, but at the end of our appointment, he said I didn't need to pay, and to remember him if I have any more complicated accounting issues.

The return is done, and I've learned something (so I shouldn't have trouble next year). And I made a profit.

Have to go now - need to pick F up from school and it's snowing so I'm leaving a little extra time. We had hot chocolate last night, so I guess hot cider after school today. And I have to clean out the car because I'm driving on the school field trip tomorrow, and I want to take D's car (it has the snow tires); his car is, um, how do I say this nicely? Not very tidy inside.

Why I Haven't Done My Business Taxes Yet

January 8th, 2015 at 03:29 pm

I was supposed to start my business taxes on Monday (I did! I mean that I did start doing them, not that I finished). I wanted to finish on Tuesday (I didn't) and then I wanted to finish on Wednesday (I didn't, but that's excusable because I had a bunch of other work to do) and so I decided to do finish up today (I didn't and my excuse is really lame).

Here is my really lame excuse:
I got distracted. I had a long list of things to do around the house, room by room. It was like a fine-tuning list of things to do... just those little things that you mean to do but never get done. I got a lot done on the list (moved some stuff out of our bedroom and into the closet, decluttered some areas, etc). And on the list was to tidy up F's art area.

As the child of an architect, F has an abnormally large and extensive art area. I thought it was maybe a 15 minute tidying session, but as I got into it, I decided there were things she didn't need anymore (some baby/toddler things, baby scissors) and then I decided that it need a total makeover so that things she uses most are most accessible. Forty-five minutes later and I was still at it, and the taxes weren't touched, and it was time to pick F up from school.

It's still not done, and I very badly need to finish because I have art supplies all over my kitchen now! The worst part is I need F's help to finish because she needs to make some decisions, and she's doing homework, which is obviously a priority (I think).

Here is the thing: it is way more fun to organize the art area than to do business taxes.

I will definitely finish the taxes tomorrow! (ha, ha!) I have to finish the business taxes so that I can do my personal taxes (the business is a pass through entity - an S-corporation).

Do you do your own taxes, too?

Bought House Supplies and YNAB is working well

January 7th, 2015 at 04:12 pm

I've been using YNAB for all of 7 days, but it's already helping me stay within budget.

I had to buy some supplies today (consumables)
- sale on bodywash and lotion at sprouts (it's their 25% off vitamin and body care extravaganza) - I made sure to check prices against amazon first
- and I also bought D's face sunscreen and some vitamin D3 on Amazon

But... I didn't go over this month's budget on supplies because I checked available budget first in YNAB. (I sound like an advertisement).

I also had to buy a dimmer switch for our new LED lights (also Amazon). I'll install it myself when it arrives. Dimmer switches are pretty easy to install. We put in 6 lights that are 4 w each (24 w total). They replace 210 w of lighting that we use all the time, so I'm pretty happy! This is well within "small appliances" which is where I put stuff like this in our budget. No plans to buy anything else so the rest will flow over into next month.

In a few minutes we're heading over to the indoor soccer place (it's just an old building on a college campus that is used for indoor soccer). I am crossing my fingers that they have the heaters going; last week they didn't and I was so cold! F was running around, and she wore a hat and gloves. I'm taking a blanket in the car just in case! The weather says 27 deg but feels like 15. I know that's warmer than it is where most of you are right now - so stay warm!!!

Net Worth Update and the Conclusion to the Plumbing Saga

January 5th, 2015 at 03:58 pm

We did our quarterly net worth update and it was good news! Net worth increased by about $16,000 since September.

And... I resolved the plumbing saga today (after D fixed the problem himself on Saturday). The plumber was nice and took a little less than half off the bill. I didn't want to pay over $100... We ended up paying $124, but I figured for the extra $24 I would keep our good relationship, and have someone to call in an emergency!

I went to the chiropractor today, and turned out I didn't need to pay anything. I paid for a visit last year, and insurance covered all but $8.50, and they just wrote that off. They'll also submit to insurance, which is good, because our deductible is lower this year so this will help if we end up getting close to meeting it.

Right now... in bed with my laptop on my lap, and F is next to me reading one of her Christmas presents that just arrived from her UK cousins today: the Arsenal Football Club Annual 2015. She is memorizing everyone's birthdays!

Meal Plan and an Unplanned Purchase

January 4th, 2015 at 03:32 pm

I did really well on groceries this week. I had to check the receipts to make sure, but we were under $100 which is good for us.

This week's meal plan:
S - pasta with courgettes (and some goat cheese)
M - v. sweet salmon and green beans
T - mexican eggs with garlic bread
W - crockpot meal from the freezer with salad
T - chicken tikka in crockpot with rice
F - baked potato and broccoli
S - quesadillas and guacamole

Unfortunately I accidentally bought a bag of cat food we didn't need. I thought we were out, and didn't realize that we had a bag waiting. Oh well, it will get used eventually and it was on sale. Also had a deal from American Express (spend $25 at Petsmart, get $5 back). I looked, but there aren't any other deals I need right now.

Now I'll tell you about the unplanned purchase I made today. I've been thinking about it for a while because I'm so cold all the time and I spend a lot of time in unheated job trailers or on jobsites. I bought an on-sale down jacket from Lands End (I also used a coupon code for an extra 15% off). Actually, the office bought it for me because it's my new site visit jacket. Now hopefully I won't shiver noticeably at outdoor meetings. It probably won't come in time, but I have to meet at a job site on Tuesday that is basically a big dirt hole up in the mountains (brrrrrrrr).

The Big Leak, Continued

January 3rd, 2015 at 10:22 am

In an effort to save money on the plumbing bill (they are coming back on Monday, and for now our water is shut off!), D is outside trying to find the shutoff for the irrigation line; he's digging out some cans down by the street (which I really don't think have anything to do with this), digging around the box to find another can (there doesn't seem to be one).

Here are some thoughts:
- Someone wasn't logical about where they put that shut off. We know there IS a shut off because we have the little metal stick thing with the prongs; it was propped up by the house. The irrigation was put in 16 years ago and never used.
- I probably used the prongy stick thing at some point, and I probably propped it up by the house. Why can't I remember ANYTHING? Argh!
- The ground is frozen. That is bad.
- We own a pick-axe. Isn't that cool? I can't remember why we own a pick-axe.
- We need to turn the water on at some point so I can take a shower and make lunch. Then we'll turn it back off right away so we don't create another frozen flood.
- F has a friend over, so we really do need to make lunch.
- I am going to be really good and not go out for lunch, although it's tempting. But it would only make this problem more expensive.
- According to the plumber the water company has a once a year leak amnesty. I have to call them on Monday.

More To-Do Items (Aaaaack!!!)

January 2nd, 2015 at 10:12 am

I am sitting here at my computer because there is nothing I can do... Almost (luckily almost) nothing is open today, or else no one is answering the phone. I just talked to D and he's the only one in the office.

- We have a (BIG) leak in an irrigation box; I am pretty sure the loud bang we heard on new year's eve was the valve freezing off. We didn't know what it was, and it was outside and could have been coming from anywhere. I shut off the water to the house, but it doesn't seem to fix the leak, and the water is running down the driveway and freezing (which is how we realized what was going on). I called three plumbers, but only one answered (so glad they answered, AND had an appointment time for us, even though it's not until 3 pm)

- Tried to call the new accountant for one of my clients because I need to send them an invoice; they're not in today.

- Tried to call the insurance company that handles our umbrella policy because we haven't seen their invoice yet, and my records show that I'd already paid it last year at this time. They're not in either.

- Called Vanguard to exchange the mutual fund that my husband's IRA is in (this was transferred from another broker, and I've been bugging him for a year to move it since the fees are out of control!). I requested a call-back because the wait was so long, and finally got the call, but even though we're married and I know all of his passwords, etc. I can't make transactions for him.

- So I have to fill out an agent authorization for him to be able to act on my accounts, and he has to fill one out so I can act on his. I realized after filling it out that we'll need to take them to the bank for notarization.

- I tried to call Capital One 360 so I can find out if there is a minimum for my checking or if I can close that account and just use the savings, but the wait was more than 2 hours, and no call-back feature, so I just hung up.

I'm not complaining that places are closed - it IS still the holiday break. The problem is, I'm still on break, too, and on Monday I'll have to do actual paying work, so I was hoping that I could cross a few things off my list today.