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Archive for October, 2015

Frugal Day

October 30th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Almost Halloween!

Last night we went to a Halloween party - super fun!

Today was a no-school day (conferences), so we all slept in.

Then F and I went for her annual check up and our flu shots. No co-pay for anything, so I was happy.

Then she wanted to go up to school because she forgot her "character sketch" which happens to be my birthday present. I said I didn't know if we'd be able to get in the classroom if it was someone else's conference, but miraculously, we were between conferences. Her ELA teacher was thrilled to see her, and hugged us both, and then gave F the character sketch (which I am not allowed to see until tomorrow).

We saw her preschool buddy on the way in (lots of hugs) and then we saw one of her friends on the way out, and ended up taking the friend out for hot chocolate while her parents (also friends of mine) did a quick errand. Fun! They gave me money for her hot chocolate, but I told her to tuck it in her pocket and give it back to her parents.

Then we went home and carved a pumpkin and roasted the seeds.

F has tennis at 3:30, and I'm cleaning the house a little so I don't have to clean so much on my birthday. I vacuumed and did the litterbox.

So, a quiet but fun and relaxing rainy day. Tomorrow is going to be fun and hectic so I might as well relax now!

Spending Percentages

October 29th, 2015 at 09:52 am

I track our budget v. actual monthly, but it's not really that accurate, since some expenses are annual expenses (and in the case of our every-other-year trip to the UK, biennial expenses; let's not even go there).

So I look at my budget v. actual annual to get a better look at how we're doing.

But that's not even very accurate since extra money comes in, and it gets put into savings or pays down some on the mortgage, or goes towards a trip (since travel is where we like to spend found money if we're not saving it).

Spending percentages are a really good way of looking at how we're spending. I do the numbers as percentage of total spending rather than percentage of earnings.

Our goal is:
needs - 50%
wants - 30%
savings - 20%

Our actual for the past year is:
needs - 45% (medical/dental and household repairs categories were higher than budgeted, but we kept our personal and food categories lower than budgeted)
wants -27% (pretty much right on budget except we paid for our UK trip this year; this would have been even lower otherwise)
savings - 27% (due to putting most of our extra money into savings!)

I have percentages for different categories, too, but this gives a good overall picture.

In other good news: F's parent teacher conference/report card!
- ELA (English Language Arts): A
- Social Studies: A
- Math (and she's in the challenge math group!!): A

The only negative is that her work is super messy so it's hard to see sometimes that she got the right answer; they're working with her on this, and the teacher gave me a suggestion to try at home.

Good Money News

October 28th, 2015 at 10:16 am

Some good money news today!

- David got a raise - $88.18 per paycheck net, so about $176 net per month. This is huge for us! I was having to steal money from other categories to make up about $50 for F's tuition. I am doing the fun bit now: allocating the extra money in our budget.

- His raise also means another $16 into his savings plan at work

- I paid $55 to get a diagnostic on my very, very broken computer. They called me to say that there was bad news and good... Bad news: it's really, really broken (I knew that) - the motherboard is completely messed up. Which I gather is like having your brain removed or something. The good news: Apple is fixing it for FREE under its quality program. I told the guy it wasn't still covered by Applecare, but he said this isn't an Applecare thing. It's a known problem with this computer, so they fix it free no matter how old it is!!! I am amazed and so happy!

- I just got a text from the gym... they want me to sub a class I was going to take anyway. It's not a lot more money, but it'll mean more toward the mortgage.

Thoughts on Soup and Halloween Costumes, Etc.

October 26th, 2015 at 03:16 pm

Here is what is (financially) on my mind right now:

- I bought soup at Sprouts on sale, and it was less than the regular-priced soup at Whole Foods! I was in Whole Foods for something else (chocolate milk for F's lunch) which is also cheaper there, and decided to look at the soup aisle. I can't eat chicken noodle, have to eat chicken and rice. Anyway, I'm going to take the soup back to Sprouts; is it weird to return canned soup?

- When I decided to take back the soup, I noticed that instead of giving me three bag credits at 5c each, they charged me a 31c donation! Donation to WHAT? I guess it was a mis-entered code. I will bring this up when I take back the soup. I usually check my receipt in the car because Sprouts makes mistakes all the time, but this time I was late and didn't have time.

- The photo orders are coming in from school (D does the school and class photos; he used to be a chidrens photographer); so far it's about $600! That is really great, but he is sure working for the money. It takes hours to photograph all the kids (three mornings) and then many more hours to process the photos, then he orders proofs, and I then I enter the orders. Last year he made $3000; I'll let you know how he does this year!

- F is going as Hermione for Halloween. D and I amazingly kept our graduation robes (actually his robes are the ones he wore to formal dinners at Cambridge). He has his high school tie, too! An authentic British student's tie. F actually looks a bit like Hermione; I was going to print out a Gryffindor patch from the internet and put it on the robes.

Then I saw a friend's daughter in a Harry Potter costume, ; it was a very fancy store-bought costume and the patch is a real patch (not printed from the internet).

I felt a little bad about our homemade costume, but F and I discussed it and we both think that it's cooler to have the authentic British version of college robes, and a homemade costume means you spent some time on it. She's going to carry her Beetle Bard book, and we found "wands" when we hiked up to see the aspens change color a week ago.

I'm so glad she's not materialistic, and I'd much rather spend our money on something meaningful. We will give her the money we didn't spend on a costume when we visit the London studio where they filmed Harry Potter next summer, and she can buy something at the gift shop that she really wants (right now, she's thinking about a Hufflepuff scarf - she took the quiz on the website and came out a Hufflepuff; she's very proud of that, too, since JK Rowling herself said "This may surprise people, but it is the truth...In many, many ways, Hufflepuff is my favourite House.")

I'll tell you our Halloween plans in an future post...

- Are you trying for a less commercial Halloween? I hope so, since it's my birthday (yay!) and I always liked the creativity that went into making costumes! I used to make both my costumes and my brother's. I made the poor little boy into a butterfly one year (I spent hours making it so the wings actually worked, but I'm not sure butterfly was his first choice).

One Big Expense and another Big Expense and a Meal Plan

October 25th, 2015 at 01:46 pm

Last weekend, in addition to buying our tickets back to the UK, I also had to buy a new computer. Luckily, the old computer was fully backed up. It is very, very broken, but I decided to pay $55 to get it diagnosed; I am going to find out if the cost to repair it is less or more than what it's actually worth. Then I can make a decision.

But meanwhile, I'm typing this on my new computer. Since it's my business computer, my business paid for it. I have a business budget item for a new computer every four years or so.

And then came another large expense... definitely not planned. It looks like we're going to Phoenix in December. I will let you know why in a few days when the plans are firmed up, but it's a good thing, a sort of early Christmas present to ourselves.

We have the money for the plane tickets, and we'll need a rental car and a hotel. Ugh. But all of us are fine with using our Christmas money this way. It's my birthday this Saturday, and I have an envelope from my parents which I think has a check in it; I'll use my birthday money for this trip as well.

I'm trying to be frugal with the grocery shopping since we are spending all this money and because there are five weekends in this month. Meal plan:

Sunday - chickpea flour pizzas and roasted veggies
Monday - soup and garlic bread
Tuesday - very sweet salmon with rice and edamame salad with wasabi dressing (because I have salmon in the freezer)
Wednesday - tostadas
Thursday - big salad with turkey, cucumber, carrots, radishes
Friday - chipotle chicken stew from the freezer and a salad

Bought Our Tickets for Next Summer

October 21st, 2015 at 04:51 pm

So here's the good news: YNAB says we have $4778 in our every-other-year-trip-to-Europe-to-see-D's-family category.

This represents $3130 that we've saved up and $1648 from credit card rewards (when we get a statement credit for rewards, we accumulate this money in our account rather than reduce the amount spent on budgeted items).

The tickets for the three of us: $4237. That is $500 left over that can be used for the next trip (in two years' time).

The rest of the trip is paid for from our Irish account. We can stay with D's mum and sister and they feed us, so that's good. When we see D's dad we have to get a hotel, but he will probably take us out to dinner. We'll need to sort out breakfast and lunches.

The second half of the trip is always a family vacation (just the three of us!). Since we're already in Europe, we take advantage of Ryanair's low fares and go to one of their not-big airports. This time: Trieste. We'll be staying in Croatia (I am so, so looking forward to this!).

A word on the high cost of our flights...they are actually quite low (we used 1800 Fly Europe) for us. We live in the middle of the Southwest. If we lived somewhere near an actual International airport, the fares would be a lot lower. The nearest major airport is the Albuquerque International Sunport. Since there aren't international flights originating from this airport, and it's called a Sunport, I can only guess that they have flights to the sun or something.

Amazingly, it was actually cheaper (and way more convenient) to fly from our local airport than have to drive to Albuquerque. This is not the case if we're flying within the US, but overseas, it's always cheaper to start here. Which is great! It means we can leave our car at home and have a friend take us 15 minutes down the road to the airport. If you live in a real city, especially one near the east coast, I think Europe is a lot more accessible.

Anyway, we have the flights, now we just need to fill in the gaps: flights to/from Italy, self catered apartment in Croatia, Premier Inn near D's dad.

It's not the most frugal thing, but it's one of the reasons we're frugal with everything else - these trips back to the UK are not optional since D's family does not come out here (except his mum, a few times). I know there are others on here who are married to people from other countries... travel back is one of your priorities, yes? Do you set aside money each month for trips back? Do you have other ways of saving for this?

Food Spending is High this Week!

October 13th, 2015 at 07:38 pm

Our food spending is so high this week, it's making me crazy. (And after watching several episodes of Eat Well for Less - shame on me!).

Not sure why, but I will try to figure it out...

- impulse buy candy corn ($2.50) - but it's almost Halloween, and my birthday is on Halloween, and I love candy corn; surely one bag a year won't break the bank?

- stocked up on my bread when I found it at Natural Grocer for $1 less than usual

- coach coming to stay with us

- had leftover mozzarella and thought I'd better use it, so I made a giant lasagna. But the ingredients aren't that expensive - and I already had the mozzarella. This is not one of our usual meals, but the coach is here, and it's a nice treat!

- I accidentally categorized something as groceries when it wasn't groceries; that's an easy way to lower the amount in a category!

This Week's Menu Plan and New Recipes

October 11th, 2015 at 10:25 am

This week the soccer coach will come to stay with us again. He comes on Tuesday...

Sunday - neighborhood potluck in J's giant garage - we are bringing rosemary roast potatoes

Monday - grilled cheese and tomato soup

Tuesday - lasagna with courgettes

Wednesday - chipotle chicken stew

Thursday - potatoes dauphinoise with a salad

Friday - fish with homemade aioli and broccoli and rice

Saturday - no idea!!


So I have a lot of wealthy friends (you'd think it'd rub off!) and they have been raving about Hello Fresh. It's a box that gets delivered to your house with the exact amount of ingredients for the meals you order. You then cook it yourself. Of course, it is not a frugal option for dinner. I think it's $10 per person. Our dinners average $5 for all of us.

But, I was curious about what the meals were (new ideas?), so I went to the Hello Fresh website to check it out. It turns out they have recipes online for their past meals. Since they have both regular boxes and veggie boxes, there are a lot of vegetarian recipes.

I downloaded a couple that I want to try:
- brussels sprouts crumble (with mushrooms and parmesan, served over rice)
- one pot mexican quinoa (with corn, avocado and feta)

Those aren't really expensive dinners, and they tell you exactly how much your need of everything for 2 or 4 people.

Anyway, it seems like a good source for new (and not that difficult) recipes.

Spotify and FICO Score and Exercise

October 8th, 2015 at 09:26 am

Things on my mind (which is all over the place these days; I think it's because my new project hasn't started yet, and maybe I'm a little bit bored).

Spotify:
I signed up for the free version on my computer. I can't usually work with music on, but as I said, I don't have a lot to do until my new project starts up. I can't stop singing! If I told you my taste in music, you'd be horrified. I like any song I've heard more than 5 times, so there are a lot of songs I like. Oh - and I still remember all the words to all of the songs I listened to in High School (think: Duran Duran, Adam Ant, the GoGo's). My singing is pretty appalling; Taylor Swift (who I also like) would cringe. Thank you, Spotify, because otherwise I'd probably buy a lot on itunes.

FICO Score:
American Express said I could see my FICO score for free, so I did. Do you think it's real? I got an 849.... yay! Not sure what I'd actually do with my score. Is it like these Chinese "citizen scores" - hope not. If you haven't heard about that, google it - totally frightening.

Exercise:
After running two laps around the horse track and then walking as a cool down during F's soccer practice, my friend T and I decided we are definitely social exercisers. It's hard to do it on your own. Which is why I teach exercise classes. Tomorrow is the day I run on my own from the office. And it's cold out. Not that cold; I'm such a whiner! Wish T could go with me, but her job (elementary school counselor) allows for a 2 minute lunch at her desk. Anyway, I am a little faster than T, but my friend B is faster than I am. Need to find a running partner who gets lunch and is right at my level. Do you like to exercise with people or alone? Or not at all? Or only one type of exercise? If you are here in Santa Fe, you should come to the gym and work out with me, because I need the social thing when I exercise! We can talk about how much money we're saving by investing in our future health!!!

Chilly Autumn, Mortgage and Recent Purchases

October 7th, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Our mortgage is now at $46,633 (so over $550k in equity - wow! But you have to have somewhere to live, so I don't like to think about it that much).

The thing is, when we owed $200k, I could never have dreamed of such a low number, but now that we're in the $40k's all I can think about is being in the $30k's. Ugh. A bad habit of mine: not savoring the present, but always looking toward the future.

Today is the second chilly day of autumn, and it has me a little melancholy. I am a warm weather summer kind of person. Or snow... I love snow!

I am going to chalk up my feelings about the mortgage to the weather.

Other things on my mind: friends coming over tomorrow evening for the Great British Bakeoff final (it's on today but we have to watch on the iplayer, so please don't leave any results comments!!!!). We are doing make your own pizzas, which is fun, but not as frugal as I would have liked. More frugal than going out, though. And I'm making a tunis cake.

Also: I bought a new pair of winter boots on Amazon. They were on sale ($34! For really nice Teva boots!), and pretty much exactly what I want except that all the reviews said that they're for a narrow calf. There isn't a ton of room in the calf, but it isn't super fitted. I am trying to decide if this is ok or not. Maybe it is for $34. There is a stretchy gusset thing on the side without the zipper that I am sure is so that people with wide calves can put these on. Maybe I could get that part sewed shut (It's behind the leather, so it doesn't show but it makes the side stick out a little). Any opinions?

And: I am looking at a new pair of x-c skis and boots for F. She got a lot of use out of her old ones, but they're now way too small. I will sell these on craigslist, but it's hard to find kids' sizes used in the size you want, so I think I have to spring for the $150 setup from REI new. We used to have Play it Again Sports here, but it went out of business a long time ago. I looked on ebay, but the NNN binding skis are more expensive than the REI ones on sale!

Finally: we were going to take a trip down to White Sands for an upcoming four day weekend, but the night in the hotel room would pay for that x-c ski setup (and it really is too cold at this point for camping)! I am thinking it'd be better to do a day trip instead! Luckily I have lots of ideas... Tent Rocks? Tsankawi? Maybe even Hinkle Family Fun Center (F would like that better anyway).

Today's Savings

October 4th, 2015 at 01:40 pm

Today was our big shopping day... grocery stores and gas. We didn't do too badly considering we're having friends over for dinner on Thursday (to watch the final of the Great British Bakeoff).

We also got things for F's "hot lunch." She no longer wants any of the hot lunches through school, and I'm just as happy; they charge $7 for the school hot lunch (yikes!) and it's not good, and it's not hot. She (and the other kids) don't like it. Hot lunch used to be a treat, so this is a way that she can have a treat once a week. And it costs $3 less!

The big money savings today: went to my friend's house to feed her cat. We feed each other's pets when we go away. It works for both of us, and I know it's not current money savings, but every time I pop in on her cat, I think "that's money saved for both of us!" We still take our dog to the free-roam boarding place, but this friend said she'd be happy to take our dog and watch her in her own home, so that might be a future option. When we go away for a long time, we have a friend come stay at our house with all of the pets.

Do you have a petsitting arrangement with any friends?

September Analysis

October 1st, 2015 at 04:32 pm

I did the numbers for September and we had a good month.

Income increased 9% compared to the same month last year.
Spending down 2% (even with a $616 car repair bill)
Savings increased 27%

Now I'm putting our salary into all the YNAB categories.

We are still paying ourselves back for the restuccoing ($1680 to go). I will feel really good when that's below $1000. I thought it'd take less time, but because it's not super urgent, I am putting our extra money toward the mortgage instead of paying ourselves back.

I realize I didn't post this week's meal plan, and I'm already thinking about next week...
S - baked potatoes and salad
S - out to dinner - yum!
M - french dinner (olives, cheese, crackers)
T - non-kebab chicken and veg (used to be kebabs, but now I just roast everything - courgettes, red pepper, red onions)
W - posole from the freezer and a salad
T - cheddar bay biscuits and chicken/rice soup
F - fish with aolii and broccoli

One last update: the Physical Therapy is going really well... I went today but it was two weeks since my last visit. My low back was not doing well yesterday or the day before, but I made it almost two weeks, which is great! I now have a new exciting exercise called the sacrum clock. I've been doing all of my exercises every night, and it's making a difference.