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Archive for February, 2016

Low Spend Weekend (Soccer all Weekend)

February 23rd, 2016 at 06:37 pm

It's been a while since I posted anything... there isn't a lot to report.

We were very good about bringing food and snacks to the weekend soccer tournament so that we didn't have to buy the junk there or go out to eat somewhere gross (fast food or whatever). We brought fruit and veggies and sandwiches, etc. Only one other family did the same! Weird!

Anyway, as a treat (and because F's team won the tournament in their age bracket!!!!) we went out to dinner on Sunday night. We ended up with enough leftovers for lunch on Monday, so that was good.

Soccer was canceled last night (F was sad even though she was probably exhausted after two days of soccer). We spent a quiet evening at home, and she got a bunch of school work done. (Ongoing projects as well as her nightly homework).

We leave on Friday for Phoenix, and F misses a day of school, so she's turning a few things in early.

I have the food worked out until then:
- Lemon crumbed fish, brown rice, broccoli
- White chicken chile
- Enchiladas (black bean and cheese)

Last night was baked potatoes and asian courgettes. Yum!

Sometimes Expenses Come Up

February 17th, 2016 at 11:25 pm

I haven't posted in a really long time! I guess there just isn't much to report...

We've had the usual monthly expenses, plus a few others (ugh):
- vet bill $351 plus another $19 for thyroid meds for our dog (but she is definitely worth it!)
- book for F for school $6
- new glasses for D $341
- $61 for x-c skiing (including gear rental for D; F and I have our own gear)
- hair trim for me $30 (but that is budgeted for)

We are now negative in the entertainment category (but I can make up for that with low grocery and dining spending) and medical category (ugh, but I committed to taking some money as distributions for medical each month since I couldn't set up an HSA).

Also $171 over in the Pets category. Next month we'll put in $80 but the follow up thyroid test is $80 so there goes that money. I need to figure this out.

That's it, I guess. Some months are like that.

To make myself feel better, I'm going to post our frugal and yummy meal plan for the rest of the week:

tonight - tuna melts and salad
Thursday - tostadas
Friday - red pasta and courgettes (Art Night at school and F is in charge of one of the 5 tables!!!)
Saturday - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes and goat cheese - D makes this! Yay!

Carry On Only

February 10th, 2016 at 01:36 am

I'm starting to think about our upcoming trips (and there are THREE which is completely over the top for us!).

February - trip to Phoenix (weekend)
March - spring break in LA at my parents' house
June/July - the BIG trip to see D's family in the UK and add-on trip to Croatia

I'm thinking about it this far in advance partly because the two smaller trips are practice for our luggage on the UK trip. You see, we are flying Ryanair from the UK to Croatia (well, actually to Italy) and back.

Have you flown Ryanair? It's the crazy-cheap-but-not-so-nice airline that charges for everything. There's even an I Hate Ryanair website. For the record: I don't. But that's because we adhere to the rules pretty religiously.

In exchange for our low fares, this is what we signed up for:
- no food (who needs food on a two hour flight? we bring our own anyway!)
- not the most comfortable seats (who needs headrests? I am too short for them anyway)
- no legroom (as I mentioned, I'm short, and my husband isn't that tall either, and my daughter isn't even my height yet)
- super high fee for checked bags (but we are NOT checking bags)
- there's a fee if you don't print your boarding pass ahead of time (but why wouldn't you just print it out?)
- if you're American, you have to do a passport check before you go through security or they won't let you on the flight (this is one rule you just have to know)

Did I mention that we don't check bags? (We have, but only if there are extenuating circumstances). This is due to a lot of reasons (Ryanair's fees, checked bags get lost, the less luggage you have the easier it is to get around on public transport). We each get a backpack with no wheels and a small daypack that folds up and can be shoved inside the backpack but can be under our seats on the plane to provide entertainment, a sweater, a toothbrush, warm socks.

Ryanair has more restrictive luggage allowances than most airlines, so we need to meet their restrictions. You used to get just one free cabin bag ​55x40x20 cm (about 21.5 x 15.75 x 7.75). That's smaller than other airlines, and their sizing includes wheels. They're undergoing an image change to improve their reputation and now you also get a personal item 35x20x20 cm (that's a weird shape).

Now that F is older, she can carry her own bag and won't need wheels like our last UK trip two years ago, so these two trips are practice for us. I'm not sure how much she can carry and for how long.

My bag isn't huge, but probably too big for her. But it's really light (1.5 lb) and inexpensive ($30) so I'm wondering if it's a good idea to get her one and use compression straps so it stays tight and small. It's the Campmor Essential Carry-On... it's my favorite bag (it's only lacking those compression straps).

Alternative is one of my old backpacks. I need to weigh them.

I want to note that the restriction for Ryanair is 10 kg (22 lbs) which is more than I will carry and way more than F could carry anyway, so I'm sort of ignoring that.

Do you travel carry on only? If so, what are your reasons? Does frugality factor in?

Saving for Tuition

February 4th, 2016 at 05:03 pm

Tuition. I don't even know what to say. F's school raised the tuition again, and now it's $18950 (that includes the $250 fee to pay monthly instead of all at once; all at once? I can't imagine having the money to do that). It's her final year there, and then the tuition will be higher.

We were told not to bother applying for assistance this year, not because of our income, but because of the equity in our home. Don't get me started on that; are we supposed to take a loan out on our home to pay for school? I guess that's the implication. NOT doing that, obviously.

Next step is high school, and amazingly, it's not that much more. But we will have depleted some of our school savings this year. BUT, the plan is and always has been to pay off our mortgage to free up funds.

My mother said she wants to give us some money toward F's education each year from her social security (how wonderful is she?).

So...
2016/2017 school year: $18950 less gift from mom less $850 budgeted each month for tuition = drawing about $350/ month from school savings.

We have about $8000 in school savings, and that will deplete it by $4200.

2017/2018 school year: not sure about tuition, but probably around $23,000 less gift from mom less $850 budgeted for tuition each month = $650.

$4200 divided by $650 is about 6 months that we can go before we NEED to pay off the mortgage to free up the $650 for tuition that we are short.

The next year tuition may rise and we'll be short $750.

Paying off the mortgage frees up $1086 plus the $150 I budget for paying down the mortgage regularly plus about $400 income from our Dublin house. Plus gym money. We'll have $1700 extra every month - we can pay tuition and save more for retirement!

That's why paying off our mortgage is such a priority. Because the schools here are bad.

Thanks for letting me do all of my math here; it helps to see it laid out.

Soup and Stuff

February 3rd, 2016 at 05:33 pm

Yesterday for lunch I had free soup! One of the teachers at school made a big batch of a soup we both like (chicken peanut stew... mmm!) and left me a tupperware in the school freezer. So sweet of her! The community aspect is the thing I like best about a small school.

Last night the school basketball team had a game - we lost but F played so well! She was in defense, and the only girl on either team, and prevented them from making a lot baskets. Also had a great assist. So she was happy even though we didn't win.

When we left the gym it was snowing hard. Made our way home and this morning was a snow delay. But it's beautiful and sunny out now (and still snow-covered).

I finished my business taxes yesterday (including state taxes). And today I received a 1099. Which is completely peculiar because corporations aren't supposed to get 1099s. The amount isn't even right; it's lower than what they actually paid me. Since I don't use the 1099s anyway, I don't really want to spend the time untangling their financial mess, however.

Last thing - I think this is the month we will drop into the 39k's on our mortgage. I am pretty excited! But then all I can think of is getting into the 20k's.

Frugality in my Business

February 2nd, 2016 at 02:07 am

Things have ramped up at work, and it has me thinking about work I will take and work I won't take. This is always an issue because I have limited time, and usually projects all seem to come to me at once, then things get quiet for a while. It's pretty much impossible to schedule things in my line of work.

Recent projects that have come my way:

- Existing project - it is going out for a second bid and I needed to update a few drawings for re-issue - No choice on this one because it's an existing project, but I just found out today that I may get paid for the second bid

- Small project - under $3k fee - I usually don't take these, but it's an existing client and not a lot of work

- Fire Station remodel - I got this one ages ago, and it's just about to start up - I am so thankful! The fee is ok (not super high), but it's a good project for someone I know and like.

- Project at the Community College - I am feeling a little doubtful this will go through, but if it does, it'll be great. I'd like to get back into University/School work. And it could open the relationship with the community college which would be great. It's not a huge project, but probably about a $20k fee.

- Project 3.5 hours away - Ugh. This is a hard one. It's a design build for a contractor I like to work with, and it's a fire station (and maybe two of them). It's far away, though. So I told them what the probable construction cost would be and I told them what the fee would be, and I didn't low-ball it, so we'll see if this scares them off.

- Stamping someone else's drawings - I was approached by a firm in Texas to do this for them (I was recommended by someone here that I like and respect). I don't even know the fee, but I said NO; this is not the kind of work I want to take on (not just in terms of liability but also because it's not the direction I want to go).

According to my profit/loss sheet, my business needs to make another $28k this year to make a profit.

And this is where the frugality comes into play. Being frugal in my business has a direct effect on my personal financial situation since my business is an S-Corporation (which is a pass-through entity to my personal taxes).

I set up a budget for my business just like my personal budget. I know I need to make about $79k in the business to pay myself a salary and cover health insurance, all of my licenses, office rent, cellphone, etc.

Some budget-cutting:
- business lunch just once a month (these don't generate the real work anyway, but it's good to stay connected)
- I clean the office myself
- avoid all bank charges!
- do free continuing education
- limit office supply purchases (I use paper twice - back side!, find the best deals on ink, don't get sidetracked by "cute" stuff in Office Depot, use what I already have on hand)

If you have your own business (S-corp, schedule C or whatever!) how do you keep the budget in line?