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Shopping on and off list

September 29th, 2018 at 12:10 pm

We went on to Target today - dangerous place because of possible impulse purchases.

On the list:
- Birthday present for F's friend K
- 2 pairs black leggings (on sale $4 each!) for F
- watch for F to replace hers that broke (they didn't have what she wanted; I just ordered it online)
- ziplocs
- eye stuff for dry eyes (I couldn't figure out what to get, so I didn't get anything, then I called my brother and he said "just saline solution" so I'll have to pick that up later)

Not on the list:
- a bag of candy corn. I have a candy corn obsession; I only eat it once a year, but I know it's awful stuff. I got the real-sugar-not-corn-syrup variety, and I'm bagging half for my friend M who has the same problem I do! I'm having lunch with her on Tuesday, so I can give it to her then.

Found a gift bag that someone gave us (we save those) to put K's present in, and we'll leave in half an hour for the party.

Overspending in September; ugh.

September 24th, 2018 at 08:03 pm

I have not written in a LONG time. Have been super busy!

I will now report on our recent money-wasting behavior (I am very ashamed, but in the interest of accountability, here goes):

- We spent sooo much money on groceries this month. I have no idea why; I thought my meals were frugal. I think F is eating a lot now that she's playing in 2-3 soccer games a week and practicing every day except Wednesday and Sunday. I have $65 left for our next grocery shopping (Sunday). I am going to move $ from another category and increase the budget through soccer season!

- We went to a concert for our anniversary last weekend. It was a waste of money. The music was good (New Orleans, Trombone Shorty!), but it was too loud, and I didn't think it'd be loud so I didn't bring earplugs. It was up in Taos and all the old hippies were blowing pot smoke in our faces, so we left early. We had to get a hotel room because it's too far to drive back. And they didn't let you bring in food, so we had to eat there. We had to pay for petsitting. I feel like we shouldn't have gone.

- We are not able to go to my niece's wedding in two weeks; we need to switch the tickets to some time in January (my niece is going to tell us when is a good time to come out so we can hang out with her and her new husband), but we have one leg on Southwest and another on Alaska Airlines. I know you can change Southwest. We can't look into the Alaska Air flight until we know the new dates! And I don't want to harass the bride!!

- D had an evening lecture he was organizing for work and spent almost $23 on dinner! They do not reimburse. I can't really be angry since he makes more than he used to at this job and he's entitled to a meal out every so often, but $23 for one person!

- Because of the trip to Taos and the lecture series and driving to the middle of nowhere for a soccer game, we've spent a lot on gas this month.

- D bought hubcaps for my car. It was only $28 for four of them, and I did need them (I was missing two). It's justified, but I'm still wondering - are hubcaps just cosmetic?

- I got our booster membership for this year for the school's athletics; it is still a lot cheaper than club soccer. It's budgeted for, so I shouldn't even be worried about it.

- My sneakers were slipping all over the floor when I was teaching lunges (and had a big hole in the top), so I had to get new sneakers. I used the money I get for teaching.

So, there you go... A month of overspending.

Plan for next month:
- careful meal planning (with a bit bigger budget for food)
- pay down categories where we overspent

Looking Back at August

August 29th, 2018 at 05:59 pm

Almost the end of the month...

- We almost made it to the end of the month within our food budget; we're about $8 short. That can be made up with other categories.

- F has a class trip coming up. She is celiac, and there is a meeting tomorrow with her and her adviser (also celiac! Isn't that cool?) and some other administrators to figure out the meal plan while she's away. I will have to pack food for her, but they are going to figure out what I pack so that she can eat as much like the other kids as possible. She's in middle school now, so these are things she takes care of (I am not involved in the discussion), which is really great!

- I didn't realize that one of the 20s in my pay envelope from the gym was actually a 50! So I made $82 rather than $52.

- I need to increase the amount we put in the Pets category. Our dog is old and wonderful and needs three kinds of medicine daily.

- I made $131 on credit card rewards this month. This is from my new Chase Business Unlimited card which is no fee and is 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

- The meal plan this week is frugal:
S - crustless quiche
M- chicken piccata with rice, broccoli
T - red peppers
W - risotto
T - salmon cakes with peas
F - black bean spinach casserole
S - not sure; maybe big salad?

- I get to eat something tonight that I don't have to cook! Woohoo! Risotto is one of Ds dinners. Every once in a while it's nice not to have to cook.

- F is doing really well on varsity soccer! She is having fun, and started the last game, was played more than 3/4 of the game. And school soccer is free! Well not completely free. I have to pay to get in some games (not at our school) and I will probably join the booster club ($50) and buy a shirt to wear to games. But it's a LOT less than the $465 per season we pay to her club team. And we don't need to buy uniforms.

Lots Going On

August 24th, 2018 at 07:09 pm

I've been working so hard for the past week; it was probably ok that I wasn't able to post until now.

Here's what's been going on (some financial, some not so financial):

- F made it onto the varsity soccer team as an 8th grader! They played their first game last night and won! She played most of the game, and did really well. So we're proud!

- There has been a lot of spending associated with the soccer team (a lunch after a scrimmage, money for a tshirt to tie-dye, entry fees for D and I to the game last night, $20 for the retreat). I am taking the money from the same place we take the fees for her club team since we don't need to pay for club this fall. In the end, school soccer is A LOT less costly even with all those miscellaneous costs.

- F lent money to two friends for the lunch after the scrimmage and only one paid her back. This is her spending money, so it's in her interest to follow up.

- I have $101 left in the grocery budget for the month, which is tight. I'll shop on the 26th. I need to be careful about meal planning! Eat out of the pantry and freezer and add fresh veggies and fruit.

- Our pet debt is up to about $300... old dogs are expensive, but worth it. I need to put money in there from another category.

- We got a massive deal on our 2017 photo book (Shutterfly). I saw they had unlimited pages and 40% off, so I finally printed 2017. Total was $42 including tax and shipping. It's a BIG book. I will start entering 2018 photos so we can have a book in place when the next big deal comes around.

- Got $131 in Chase cash back; this goes into the vacation rewards fund which is up to $1500 now.

- We bought a wedding gift for my niece. We got an item on their registry that was $150. When I put it in the cart, Honey searched for coupons, and by the time we were done, it was $134... so now I feel bad because I intended to spend $150... But we are spending a lot to go out to California to attend the wedding...

- I bought F a winter puffy jacket on sale.

- Total for gym payments this month was $171. That's pretty good! This was partly offset by the $35 I had to pay for the next release. But teaching is more than paying for the releases.

- Now that F is in school and soccer I have a ton of time to work, but I need to learn how to work at a slower pace! I'm so used to having limited work time, that I work with ferocious intensity, and I can't keep that up for 10 hours! I have one more deadline in the near future, and after that I promise I will relax a little.

Busy Week, Meal Plan

August 13th, 2018 at 06:56 pm

It's a big week this week! Two-a-day soccer practices, soccer retreat on Thursday, a training session and scrimmage on Saturday. F is over the moon! They are making friendship bracelets after morning practice tomorrow. And there's a parent meeting tomorrow night.

So I am scheduling my work during soccer practices and trying to be efficient. The retreat and scrimmage will give me a lot of time to work, which is good because I am going to miss F so much now that school is starting!

Here's the meal plan for this week (with lots of good snacks like hardboiled eggs, nuts, string cheese and dried fruit as well as Larabars and Kind bars).

S - big salad with cheddar bay biscuits (salad had turkey, cucumber, sunflower seeds, carrots, homemade dressing)
M- artichoke pasta (easy - 12 mins. total)
T - beet burgers (beets, beans, oats, onions, spices) with green chile/avocado/cheese with corn on the cobb (not easy, but filling and we can freeze the extras)
W - chicken queso casserole (make ahead and pop in oven)
Th - stuffed red pepper with quinoa and black beans (crockpot!!)
F - baked potatoes with broccoli (and cheese!) - oven timer for the potatoes and then just 10 mins for broccoli
S - scrimmage - they are going out for pizza; may have to send F with pizza because not sure about gf options for her

And now I'm going to sit down with my library book and listen to the rain dripping off the canales!

This Weekend and Home Inventory Project

August 10th, 2018 at 04:19 pm

It's rainy outside so we couldn't go to the pool. But they have barbeques there, so we went for lunch, and ate under the patio cover. We were the only ones there!

Then we went for F's allergy shots (which are free because of D's good work insurance). She hates them, but I'm hoping when she's reached maintenance in 6 months to wean her off zyrtec. Without the zyrtec she gets hives.

Tonight's dinner is a frugal cauliflower cheese (yum) made with two cauliflowers because we're hungry!

On Sunday I am going to brunch so that we can discuss Parent Association stuff. I am the Secretary of the PA this year, and the brunch is at the PA President's house; I asked what I could bring figuring would be potluck, and she said "nothing!" - she's making brunch! She's very sweet; I'm slightly intimidated because while I'm probably the friendliest person ever (probably why I was asked to be secretary), I am also super sarcastic.

While I am at brunch at C's house, F has a brunch with the school soccer team. She's been asked to be on Varsity Soccer and Varsity X-Country, so this brunch is with girls of all ages. I'm glad that she's got some girls watching out for her who are in other grades. One of the mom's of a senior said her daughter loves F, and the feeling is totally mutual! Like a big sister. The older girls offered to drive the younger girls, but D will probably just drop her off.

Anyway, because she's F, she informed me that she has already looked at the menu online and decided what to order. I have cash from the gym to give her.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day. D is videotaping a talk that a local permaculturist is giving to our neighborhood landcape committee. They're paying him to do it! (I think he would have done it for free, but that's nice; it does take a lot of preparation and editing). We will go up with him because our neighbor will be there, and tomorrow is her 80th birthday! We got her a pretty cactus and some chocolates. We love her!

And, finally, I have started my decluttering/home inventory project. The idea is to declutter a room then take photos of every wall and every drawer. I have finished our bathroom! The easiest room, but still - it's a start! I was inspired by the fires in CA - scares me so much... Do you have a home inventory?



School Money and an Extra Paycheck

August 5th, 2018 at 09:19 am

I did this complicated excel spreadsheet to figure out if we can pay for 9th grade in two installments rather than monthly (which saves the cost of the installment plan). I've only been putting 230 a month rather than 500 into the school savings fund. According to my spreadsheet, this will actually work; I can even stop putting the extra $230 aside and save that in another way. I'm pretty excited. When F graduates, we'll have $20k to add to the college fund approximately (depending on rise in tuition costs).

That's one money thing.

Here's another: this is D's month with three paychecks. We live off 24 paychecks a year but he gets 26. Our plan is:
- 150 wedding gift
- pay ourselves back for auto repair and medical expenses 1251
- 200 to the 529
- 397 leftover (not sure what to do with this, but maybe use part for my 52nd birthday party - I never had a 50th)

That's it for now... I am coming up with a "things we need around the house that I'm avoiding" list... will post later.

Grocery Shopping Again

July 29th, 2018 at 05:17 pm

Grocery shopping again - must be Sunday!

I shop on Sundays because there are no alcohol sales before noon on Sundays so the store is quiet. I go to two stores - Sprouts and Trader Joe's. At Sprouts, I check my receipt in the car before I head home, and 1 out of 3 times there is a mistake! Today I bought ginger, and it was like 39 cents, but then there was another charge for ginger right below it for something like 1.8 POUNDS of ginger for $5.59!!! I went back in the store for my refund. They wanted to give it to me in cash.... nooooo! I asked for it to be put back on the credit card.

Here is this week's menu plan:
S - salmon souvlaki bowls (kalamata, cucumber, red pepper over rice) and tzatziki (fish)
M - pad thai with bok choy (veggie)
T - frittata with spinach and onion (veggie)
W - chili from the freezer with a salad (turkey)
T - ottolenghi red rice/quinoa with pistachios, apricots, rocket (veggie)
F - asian meatballs (turkey mince) with rice (turkey)
S - pan fried hearts of palm with coleslaw and corn on the cob (veggie)

We also bought fruit for snacks (grapes, melon, plums, strawberries) and jicama (a little lime, a little chile powder - yum!). And Trader Joe's bean and seed mix. And we always have dried fruit (dried pears from TJ are our current favorite) and nuts.

Lunches will be artichokes, deviled eggs, tuna wraps, turkey wraps with green chile, salad with avocado and sunflower seeds.

I am also working on cleaning the pantry shelves one shelf at a time, top down. They need cleaning, but it also helps me remember to use things up! And I moved some things around a little (we don't eat a lot of cereal, so it doesn't need to be eye level!).

Other food-related thoughts:
- We are watching Eat Well for Less; there have been a couple of good recipes including one for breakfast tray-baked eggs. We always have veggies that we could dump in there..
- I have had so much work these past two weeks I haven't baked anything, but I want to. Maybe lemon-poppyseed cake? Chocolate seems too heavy right now.
- I bought kebab skewers which was exciting (rather than using the disposable bamboo kind)
- We've been using this recipe but with only a little bit of chicken and mostly veggies (courgette, red pepper, mushrooms) https://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2015/07/chipotle-chicken-kabobs-with-cilantro-lime-dipping-sauce/
- We made this Asian Thai salad for lunch last week and it was awesome! https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/thai-crunch-salad-with-peanut-dressing.html except I made half the dressing and used only a tiny pinch of sugar (there is already honey in it)
- We went to my friend's 50th bday last night and it was a BBQ. We brought a salad to share, and they had two types of veggie dogs (this is a good friend so I didn't feel bad digging through her trash to read the labels - one was gluten free and the other wasn't so we had the gf ones!). We were planning on eating a little more when we got home, but we didn't need to!
- Today we went to the "beach" (down by the lake half an hour from here), but we ate before we went. We had TJ tamales instead of going out to eat.

What are you having for dinner this week?

Quiet, frugal weekend

July 22nd, 2018 at 07:31 am

It's been a quiet and uneventful weekend, which is GOOD! We like quiet!

I've been popping in to take care of an acquaintances dog (she did the same for us, so it's a trade, and free for both of us). Also working on a Nimbus 2000 (for those of you who aren't Harry Potter fans, that is a type of racing broom for Quidditch) for F. I had the perfect piece of scrap wood, cut it yesterday with my jigsaw and now trying to shape it with my orbital sander. We got some reeds with a Michael's coupon.

For frugal fun: we biked to karate yesterday along the river trail, went to the pool. Today we're going down to this cute little village (Cerrillos, NM) where I have a project. This is work/fun because I need to do a photo study before I begin designing this fire station.

And lastly - F is saving us a bunch of money. Instead of doing soccer camp this week, she asked to the do these morning workouts up at school with her soccer team. The workouts are free, 1 1/2 hours (so I can get work done) and saves us $325. Because of that, I'm going to ask a friend to cover my Thursday bodypump class so I can hang out with F more rather than her having to stay home while I teach. That is a loss of $25 in gym payments, but worth it I think considering the savings!

Frugal and Not-Frugal

July 17th, 2018 at 03:59 pm

Frugal: got $94 from the gym. That is probably my largest payment yet!

Not-Frugal: I broke a bowl this morning! We already had very few of those bowls, which I use a lot. Grrr. Bought a set of 6 on Amazon for $17.

Frugal: I got a $10 gift card from Swagbucks.

Not-Frugal: I messed up on an invoice I sent to a client (wrong tax amount! Ack!). It was an excel error on my part. I just sent him the correct invoice. I hope I don't have to eat the tax.

Frugal: I found some yarn I've had for a while, and I'm going to knit a new sweater, but not sure what to knit. I have two patterns I want to do...

Frugal and Not-Frugal: It's only July and I already bought F a Christmas present. But I guess it's good to be ahead.

Frugal: We went to the library yesterday and got a ton of books and ran into friends. Free books and social gathering in one!

Not-Frugal: One of F's friends is leaving for a ballet camp for 3 weeks on Saturday and when the mom suggested we have lunch before she leaves, I said ok. Should have suggested a picnic.

Frugal: I am playing the free Harry Potter Mystery game on my phone; yes, it's a time-waster, but I am a bit of a Harry Potter fan (just a bit).





Back from Holiday

July 15th, 2018 at 11:21 am

We had an amazing 3 week holiday, and are now back! It's nice to be back (as we were landing, my daughter said excitedly "Look at the brown grass!" - this is what happens when you grow up in New Mexico - you think grass is supposed to be brown).

Here are the highs and lows of the holiday spending:

- We bought only one souvenir (a plate to use for olives with two sections - one for olives and one for pits, from Portugal) - 12 euro. We usually buy one useful thing (in France several years ago it was salad tongs that we use all the time) that are a great reminder of our wonderful trip every time it's used. F bought some things at the Harry Potter Studios with her money.

- We did not check any bags, so no bag fees.

- We stayed in apartments, so we were able to cook a lot of our meals.

- We did eat out a fair amount, probably more than previous trips. Eating out in Portugal was not expensive. We took D's dad out to dinner in Gloucester (UK). That wasn't cheap. But we had a lot of picnics. Carrots are super inexpensive, and butter and cheese. A lot of our picnics were of the cheese/olive/bread/fruit variety. Cherries were in season in Portugal and they were huge, yummy and cheap! We were taken out to dinner by family a few times (who I think were appreciative that we spent the money to come see them rather than them having to buy plane tickets to the US).

- We used public transport exclusively. They were having a "kids ride free" promotion in Ireland, so F was free there. We bought Leap cards in Ireland; any unused amount on the Leap card is refundable later if you register the cards online (including the deposit for the card).

- Some of the experiences that were so worth the money: Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour, Palacio de Pena/Quinta de Regaleira/Moorish Castle in Portugal, pedalo and stand up paddleboarding rental in Cascais Portugal, kayaking on the Liffey in Dublin, Powerscourt gardens outside of Dublin, rented bikes in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, played footgolf in Howth outside of Dublin. We used the money in our Irish account to pay for all of this; I have not been transferring any money from this account to our US account for several months.

- We had what I think was a lot of spending on experiences (which I far prefer to stuff), but had some big savings, too:
-In Cambridge, we paid only 16 pounds to punt on the River Cam because D has his alumni card and has punted before so we didn't need to do a tour (which is like 150 pounds - yikes!).
-In Dublin we got in to see the Book of Kells for free because D is an alumnus of Trinity. That would have been 28 euro.
-Visit to an English park with a little zipline that kept all three of us amused for a long time. A lot of English parks have ziplines!

- We brought home some gf food we can't get in the US or cost a lot to get online (Irish brown bread, crumpets).

- Free souvenir from Ireland - a rock from Killiney beach and lots and lots of photos.

I hope your summer travels are also amazing! Have you been to Lisbon/Cascais/Sintra? Incredible, right?

Summer Update

June 16th, 2018 at 04:33 pm

I haven't written anything in a while! I've just been so, so busy and I now have half an hour before we have to leave to go to my friends' son's bar mitzvah party.

We went to the service this morning, which I thought would be good for F to see. We decided not to do any religious education for her since D and I are not religious and grew up with different cultures/religions. Anyway, she was confused, and I was having all these mixed emotions (I knew a lot of the songs/words from my childhood but didn't say them out loud because I felt like that would have been sort of hypocritical). I sort of hummed along.

We got the son a gift certificate, but D (who used to be a children's photographer and still does family portraits now and then) also took the photos in the temple yesterday morning. He will process the images, too, and give them to the family for free (they were expecting to pay).

I had to do a little work today, but also trying to get things together since we leave in a week for Europe. So excited! We have someone house and petsitting and want to make sure things are super clean and super nice/relaxing for her. I have a huge to-do list and I still need to work this week.

We are eating from the fridge and pantry this week so we don't waste food, but I'll do a small shop for a few items. We are bringing wraps that we make at home when we leave on Saturday so we don't need an overpriced airport lunch in Dallas. And some chocolate from home. Some snacks, too (nuts, dried fruit).

Anyway - we can't wait! But this week will be fun before we leave... F can do karate every day (we pay a monthly fee, but for the summer there are four classes a week she can go to, and she's so happy). And we'll go to the pool. And Music on the Hill (free music; everyone brings a picnic dinner and hangs out with friends).

Soccer, Savings, Snowflakes...

May 15th, 2018 at 10:24 am

Soccer:
F played in a tournament last weekend; there weren't enough teams entered, so our team had to play three boys teams (and one girls team). Not ideal, but they had fun. We did not eat out at all (brought our own food), but we did have dessert that D brought back from our favorite little cafe up the street (for mother's day and to celebrate the end of the tournament). We are going to another tournament this weekend; this one is out of town. I have the cooler ready to go, and meals planned. We'll eat out once. I just found out that the tournament is on turf rather than grass, and I'm not thrilled about that.

Savings:
We are going to swap petsitting with a woman at the karate dojo. She's watched our pets before. So - no cost!

Snowflakes:
I got a $50 payment from the gym, and I sold the birdcage for another $50. Should see another payment from this gym, and something from the other gym, too. Last month my total gym payments were $152.

Soccer Tournament Weekend

May 12th, 2018 at 09:03 am

Soccer tournament weekend!

The car is all packed up... I made a spreadsheet for food, partly based on the recommendation of F's coaches on what the kids should eat and when. The games are at slightly weird times so we had to make the schedule. I just reminded her to drink another glass of water! Hydrate!

F is super excited!

I already vacuumed most of the house, cleaned the litterbox.

I also made a list of everything to bring to next week's tournament which is out of town - 5 1/2 hour car ride away!

And I looked at our "red" categories. I don't want to dip into our tax refund to pay those back to ourselves. I am shifting money around from other categories. The big one is the car repair category which is just at $700. This may take a few months to knock down.

Someone was supposed to come before 10 am to buy the birdcage we have for sale... it is 9:59, so I'm not hopeful. We leave at 10:30 for the soccer fields. I have other people who are interested, so I will email them if I have to!

Car Repair

May 9th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

This is the thing about having an older car, right? You know you'll have some repairs. We budget for car service, but it wasn't enough to cover a big service/repair for D's car and then a big service/repair for mine a month later.

We are short $729.41 after all the payments in the auto servicing category. We will pay this down with other categories and then pay it off little by little until it's gone. It makes me sick, but because our finances are in good shape, we can owe this money to ourselves rather than a credit card!!!

Here are the numbers:
- D's car - $1365.86
- D uber to get home from the car place $15.08 (Grrrr)
- My car - $876.77 (service plus rear brakes plus replace broken torque mount)
- My transportation home from the car place $ZERO (It was a beautiful 1.5 mile walk along the river trail most of the way, 26 mins, I'll leave to walk back and pick up my car at 2 pm)

So D has a more expensive car than mine. It was more expensive to buy, but he had the money from an Irish account that was his before we got married to buy it. It's now 11 years old, but it's going strong. What's interesting is how much it costs to OWN compared to my cheapo car (insurance, gas and repairs).

My car is not glamorous (Nissan Versa hatchback) but it will now be in good working order for our trips to AZ and CO for soccer tournaments.

Saving Money on Weekend Plans

May 6th, 2018 at 11:24 am

Here's how we saved money this weekend:

- Instead of going out to dinner or lunch (which we do have a budget for), we went out for dessert last night! It was a beautiful night and we walked down Canyon Road afterward (like tourists! Ha!). We are saving up money to go out to dinner in Flagstaff when F has her soccer tournament.

- We are having a party for F's grade at school (50 kids and their families); but since I organized it, I decided to do a fun potluck picnic (the school is letting us use the campus) instead of meeting at a restaurant (which other classes have done). This way no one has to pay for meals out for their family (so no one is excluded) and we can play soccer and frisbee, etc. People forget that even though it's a foo-foo private school, not everyone is wealthy, and lots of kids get tuition assistance.

- F and I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and wandered around looking at everything. We bought a chard plant and a zucchini plant for the garden. I hope they do well! I don't think we'll have another freeze...

Broken Part on Boiler

April 22nd, 2018 at 06:58 pm

F and I walked into the garage today on our way to the grocery store and smelled gas! Yikes! I called D who was out on a run, and left the garage door open to air it out.

He called the Gas Company and they came right away. They red tagged our boiler, but let us know that it was just the pilot light that is broken, not any other part (he checked everything) and told us to get a reputable plumber who wouldn't try to fix other things that aren't broken.

Luckily it's warm here now and we don't need our boiler. We use two plumbers and they are both good and honest. I called the first one and he is out of town until Tuesday. I will call the second one tomorrow.

Unexpected expense, but I have $600 in household repairs.

Frugal Things Today

April 21st, 2018 at 07:01 pm

Frugal stuff from today:

- A 12 noon soccer game... we drove F and her friend down to the game. I made turkey wraps rather than going out (saved money and the girls got to eat right away). I also brough cucumber, cuties and some tortilla chips. And a couple of cookies, but they didn't eat them because the coach brought brownies (and GF cupcakes for F and her teammate L) because it was the last official game of the season. Now the tournaments start.

- We went to the library today when we got home because F finished another book, and realized at the end that it's a series. I saw online that the library had the next book, and she got two others as well.

- I started a new book on my phone (also from the library). It's really terrible, but entertaining. When we were at the library I saw they had the new Philip Pullman. I want to read it, but first I think I need to re-read His Dark Materials since it's been 14 years since I read it. We have a copy on the shelf (the same copy I read 14 years ago in Dublin, because D had the books).

- Got a postcard for a gallery opening for a show by the woman who was my landlord when I first moved here in 1993. We became friends instantly, but drifted apart when she was spending most of her time in Hawaii. I can't wait to go and see her! I sent her an email; hope she writes back.

- I started negotiating the contracts for my engineers on my new fire station project. So far just structural engineering, but he accepted my fee proposal - good news! On Monday: mechanical/electrical/plumbing and civil engineering.

- Got paid by one of my gyms: $52. I made $100 at the other gym this month, so total for the month of $152. The way I look at it is they pay me for exercising.

- I was given a free pass to try a class at OrangeTheory fitness. Have you tried it? It is $28/class (!!!!) as opposed to being paid to work out, so there's no way I'll be going regularly.

- We are using up some stuff in the freezer this week... make your own pizzas and frito pies (I made enough beans last time for two meals).

- Going to clean F's bathroom tonight. She still prefers baths to showers, and so I clean the tub when she gets out (it's easier when it's already wet). Not sure this is frugal, but somehow for me lifehacks are mentally linked to frugality (time saving?).

Spring wind, soccer tournament lodging and a rant about work

April 17th, 2018 at 07:18 pm

Spring. The wind has been so bad that they keep canceling soccer practice due to air quality issues (dust in the air!). F had to have PE inside today, too. She's not very happy about it, but what can you do? It meant I didn't get a workout today, either (I usually walk/run during soccer practice).

I did walk to meet my friend to take her out for lunch for her birthday. The wind was just starting to kick up. Afterward, walked to the City to drop something off at Land Use, and then walked back to the office. A little bit of exercise, I guess, before air got really bad. I could smell a fire somewhere, too.

We had leftover chili for dinner, and I made cornbread to go with it.

Other frugal stuff: we got a condo to stay in for the soccer tournament in Flagstaff; we are sharing with 2 other families and it ends up being less than half what a hotel would be. And access to a pool! Not to mention that it will be more fun, and we'll have a fridge and somewhere to cook!

Now the not so great part of last week: I did not even get shortlisted for the project that I submitted a proposal for. It's not that I always expect to be shortlisted, but this was a fire station, and I have designed a lot of fire stations in our area. They've all been really successful (close to zero change orders!), and the firefighters always request to transfer into my stations.

Well... another architect who was shortlisted was talking to my office mate, and they were discussing how shocked they were that I didn't make the shortlist. My office mate said he wanted to tell me because he knew it was going to make me crazy otherwise: the architect said that the new head of projects at the City told him that they know I have a child, and if my child has a cold or something I might not be able to make a meeting.

On the one hand, this is a way of saying that my firm is not big enough for their comfort level which is a valid concern.... although the Project Architect (heading up the project) will always have that problem no matter what the firm size - you can't just send a junior person because they can't make decision. I have people to send instead of me, too, but they wouldn't be able to make decisions or know the project as well as I know it.

On the other hand this sounds so sexist I can't even believe it. Would they say that about a man with a child?

I haven't spoken to the Fire Chief (he wasn't on the selection committee). It's a bummer because this is a big project, but I always believe that when I don't get a project, there's a reason, like the project would be a nightmare in some way (and this one really could be - I won't get into why, but there are signs in addition to the fact that the City's project manager doesn't like that I have a family).

The good news: the County (not City) accepted my fee proposal for a different fire station so that should get started soon.

The other (possibly) good news: I have a meeting on Thursday to discuss another project that could help me branch out into other areas (I've done police station, library, lots of fire stations, but this is something new!).

The other good news: what the City's project manager doesn't like about me is what I like best about myself and my work situation - I can be there for my daughter (she is growing up so fast!). So if a client isn't ok with that, they're not the client for me!



Planned and Unplanned Expenses

April 14th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

We've had some large-ish expenses around here, some planned, some unplanned.

Property Taxes (second half of the year) - Planned - $1254.76 from the sinking fund, and still have $135 left in that category (which is good because our taxes go up each year).

New soccer ball - Unplanned (her ball got a weird split in the seams and the inside was splooging out) - $21.69 - took from the sports supplies category which still has $73 in it, which is good because F needs new running shoes.

Pillow - Sort of planned - because of F's allergies, I needed to get a new (non-feather) pillow for myself and her last visit to the allergist confirmed this. She crawls into bed with us sometimes to watch tv or read, and we just need to limit her exposure as much as possible - I just took half the stuffing out and saved it in a bag (I like a flat pillow and this was already supposed to be a flat pillow, ha ha). $35

Air Filter for F's Room - Unplanned (but strongly suggested by the allergist) - $124

Vet Visit - Unplanned - $130 - our Pets sinking fund is now negative, ugh. Need to fill it up from another category. Our poor dog has had gooey eyes, and it turns out that she is not producing enough tears. It happens to some dogs when they age. The $130 was for vet visit, eyedrops and some goo to keep her eyes moist (that we can get at the drugstore next time according to D).

Hoping that the groceries are under budget this month...

One more planned expense: somewhere to stay in Flagstaff for the soccer tournament in May. I'll discuss getting a condo with one of the moms today at the game. Hotels are expensive, and if we can share a condo it'll be a lot less. It's 382 miles there and back, so I estimated $62 in gas. Then hotel. So we will be bringing a big cooler so we don't have to eat out the whole time! I'm sure there will be a big team dinner, which will be fun! But breakfast and lunch can be from our own supplies.

What I saved money on:
- ate lunch from home all month so far (but taking my friend out for her birthday on Tuesday)
- no costs for entertainment (on the weekends we play basketball at the park and go to F's soccer games)
- a good friend just gave me a present (she pre-ordered the Greatest Showman for me because she said it's my kind of movie - feelgood - and I never go to movies) - tonight's entertainment!
- have been working so hard and work has been difficult and stressful, and sometimes I think I'll stop and get a fancy tea latte to make myself feel better, but then I reconsider, and I haven't splurged at all so I'm very proud!
- reading a library book on my phone (free!) and have a list of other books for when I finish this one
- have a pile of socks to darn (ok, so I haven't done this yet, but I will!)
- did most of the housework this morning (I am including this because I don't have a cleaning person!)

Our Meal Plan and Why it's Frugal

April 7th, 2018 at 04:54 pm

I think my daughter is HANGRY. She played all 70 minutes of the soccer game today and that doesn't include the warmup. I have, of course, been feeding her all day, before and immediately after and since the game. I am going to go make dinner in 5 minutes.

But first, while I'm thinking about food...

Here is our meal plan and "why it's frugal."

S - flacas with mini peppers (flacas are two corn tortillas, dry pan fried with beans and cheese) - Frugal because not meat-based, corn tortillas are a cheap grain, we already have some extra mini peppers on hand...
S - asian meatballs - Made with ground turkey instead of ground beef, we put in a couple of diced green onions and some garlic and ginger, make a sauce with leftover marinara/rice vinegar and add some rice - nothing exotic or expensive. Usually a vegetable on the side - whatever is on sale.
M - pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - No-meat meal. Goat cheese from Trader Joe's is affordable - this uses about half a package and we use the rest for lunches.
T - aloo gobi with rice - Makes a ton! No meat, two potatoes, one head of cauliflower and some onion and spices - I think the whole dinner is less than $5. This is made in the crockpot which is good for soccer night.
W - lemon crumbed fish with veg and cheddar bay biscuits - The fish is not cheap but we buy whatever vegetable is on sale at Sprouts and make our own cheddar bay biscuits. I have the breadcrumbs from bread heels in the freezer ready to use. Probably one of our more expensive dinners, but definitely under $15 total.
Th - freezer and salad - We have some posole and chili in the freezer, leftover from a crockpot meal specifically for soccer nights when we don't get home until 7:30 at the earliest. We make a salad with lettuce ($1) and some radishes, shredded carrot and sunflower seeds. Homemade salad dressing that I always have in the fridge.
F - tacos - One last soccer night to deal with. Corn tortillas, a little bit of shredded chicken made in the crockpot, sour cream, salsa, lettuce... Or we might do these veggie with avocados instead of chicken.

Now time to feed one hungry girl... and two hungry adults... and a dog and a cat.

Frugal Thoughts for Thursday

March 29th, 2018 at 07:50 pm

Frugal Thoughts for Thursday:

- My good friend is moving out of state (neighboring state, but still - grrr!). I am very sad; she's like a sister to me! She's cleaning out all her stuff and is bringing over clothes for F that her daughter outgrew a long time ago (she's 21 now!). It's been a long time since we've gotten hand me down clothes - F and I are both excited!

- I am thinking of making this recipe for Spring Minestrone [url] https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/spring-minestrone-with-crispy-mushrooms-and-garlic-toasts [url] which is a Purple Carrot recipe. Not sure if they have enoki mushrooms at Sprouts... they look good!

- I've been so busy at work that I don't have time to spend any money. But I did manage to get a few things for Easter for F.

- And I did stop by the dollar store to get 4 bins ($4!) to organize her soccer stuff. One bin is shorts, one jerseys, one socks and one is for her uniform. We also got rid of some training shirts from soccer camps that she doesn't wear.

- I saw an advertisement up at school today for a soccer camp run by a couple of seniors who are graduating. They are girls which is great for F, and I'm hoping that the price is good. It's 9 to 3 for five days.

- This is the month my husband gets 3 paychecks and my system is that we live on two each month, so we really need to decide what to do with the extra money.

Finally - Extra Money... Now What?

March 23rd, 2018 at 08:01 pm

After getting all of my spending categories positive, living on last month's income, maxing out our IRAs and having sinking funds for pretty much everything, we are not in the wonderful position of having extra money each month. This is weird. And great.

But I am not sure what to do with the extra money.

- Is it time to get a fee-only financial planner?
- Should we put more in F's 529 even though she may not go to college in the US?
- Should D save more in his 401K?
- Do we buy stocks or ETFs or mutual funds or ?

Argh!!!

This is a great problem to have.

In other news:
- We do not have enough girls to play soccer this weekend (injuries, holidays), so we had to forfeit, but the girls we do have will help two other teams be able to play (due to Spring Break they don't have enough girls either)
- We are trying to figure out when F can have allergy shots; it's just once a week, but impossible to mesh the Allergy office's schedule with hers!
- Working hard on learning Irish on duolingo (free app!)...not easy!!

Frugal Things for Sunday

March 18th, 2018 at 03:02 pm

It is snowing outside which sort of wrecks our plan to play basketball today, but it's beautiful and we need the snow, so I'm happy! We did all of our grocery shopping this morning before it started snowing, and the house is 75% clean (still a couple of rooms to do).

I am sitting here with an extra pair of socks and a warm cat next to me. I was watching the latest episode of Timeless on nbc.com but decided to take a break.

So, frugal things:

1. Instead of going out to eat, we got salads from Trader Joe's; it's not making things from scratch, but it's not going out either. A compromise, but still a treat.

2. Watching Timeless on nbc. com (we don't have cable or a netflix subscription which saves a lot). We watch very little tv.

3. Found an old pair of fingerless gloves that I knitted a long time ago and gave them to F who loves them. They are super soft. Glad someone will get wear out of them!

4. Dinner tonight is what we call French Dinner! Olives, cheese, crackers and a vegetable (asparagus tonight). Frugal and yummy and reminds us of when we were in France.

Because we did not go anywhere for Spring Break...

March 16th, 2018 at 02:31 pm

Because we did not go anywhere for Spring Break...

1. We saved a lot of money! So...

2. We are able to go to Europe this summer! (OK, this obviously WHY we are not going anywhere for Spring Break, but I keep reminding all of us that we have a super-great trip planned for June).

3. F had a friend over who also stayed in town during the break, too, and I got to hang out with the mom for a little bit and get to know her better (this is harder when your child is in middle school; it was much easier in elementary). She is super nice! (As is her daughter).

4. I was able to splurge for a few things: took F out to lunch one day, another day bought her that overpriced "thinking putty" and today took her to Meow Wolf (hard to explain - you need to look it up).

5. I am making money teaching at the gym rather than scrambling for subs.

6. We are going to visit D at his office next week (he works a 40 min drive away); F has never seen his office, and D's coworkers REALLY want to meet her! We will visit the museum up there, too.

7. F is here for every soccer practice and game and the coaches are very appreciative because a lot of girls are out of town. We have to borrow girls for tomorrow because we only have 9 players!

8. We will have a fun Albuquerque day next week with Vietnamese food. I can buy F a few new things at Old Navy - she has grown so tall!

Five Frugal Things for Spring Break

March 12th, 2018 at 07:52 pm

F is off for two weeks (Spring Break!) and we are not going anywhere, so having fun at home...

Five Frugal things:

- F and I went to the gym to attend my friend L's class (she teaches the same class I do, but on Mondays). Because I teach there, I am free and my immediate family is free!

- F and I went to the library today and she got four books; we don't buy books. This should last through the week I hope. But if we need to go back, we can...

- Dinner tonight was tostadas, my most frugal dinner. A $1 package of corn tortillas, $1 can of refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa and some lettuce. D uses a little bit of grated cheese, too.

- F went to Karate this afternoon; we pay monthly, so the more she goes, the less expensive it is. She can go 3x/week.

- Tomorrow is D's birthday! We are having a nice dinner at home (because we're all getting home really late!) and flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream (yes, homemade! - way less expensive. F made him a card, and we got him a breakfast burrito from the best place in town for his breakfast. I hope it's a good day even though he has to work!

oh - and #6 - we are not going anywhere for Spring Break!

Thoughts on Personal Purchases

March 11th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

I am sitting here happily watching the snow fall outside... I know the East Coast is getting hammered, but we're very happy to have this snow. We've had a below-normal year here at the tail-end of the Rocky Mountains. So we don't need to water out trees today - hooray! Probably a savings of about $1, but still...

So, about 2 months into the year, and I've done well with my plan to minimize buying things for myself. I am not talking about experiences or consumables. The only thing I've bought this year is a new pair of trainers. My other pair were pretty broken down, and since I teach a fitness class, it's not good for my feet, legs, back... The money came out of the fitness budget, which I track separately, deducting from the money I make from the gym. I will keep the receipt for next year's taxes.

There are things I'd like to buy but haven't. First on that list is a new pillow. My pillow is great, but it's feather, and I have allergies. I do better with a foam pillow, but I like the feel of feathers. Maybe Mother's Day...

Other than that, there is nothing that I need and very little that I want very much.

So the personal spending is very low.

We spent the day yesterday at F's soccer game. We brought packed lunches for after the game. We ate brunch at home because F couldn't eat lunch before (game started at noon and they warm up at 11:15). This eliminated the cost of eating out afterward, and she was able to eat right away (she was so hungry! She is a left-winger and was not subbed the entire time!). Not sure if everyone thinks that watching U14 soccer is a great Saturday, but we do!

Today, F had her Karate belt test. She missed the class test yesterday because of soccer, so we had to do a private test (cost is $70). The private cost is for an hour, and the test only took 15 minutes, so she had a private lesson for the rest of the time which was great! She had fun, we had fun watching.

Spent the rest of today reading a book on my phone (free on Hoopla), drinking tea and going to the grocery store. We spent $121. My friend whose daughter plays soccer with F said that he never spends less than $200. It's all relative.

This week's menu is:
S - cauliflower stirfry (Vegetarian)
M - tostadas (Vegetarian)
T - baked penne with turkey (D's birthday dinner! It will be post-soccer practice so late, but he has a work thing until 6:45 anyway)
W - baked potato bar with chili, cheese, sour cream, green onions (Vegetarian) - friends coming over for dinner and he can't eat cheese, so we go with a baked potato bar approach and a side salad. I will make the chili without any turkey burger in it because we'll have had turkey the night before.
Th - salmon souvlaki with rice, cucumber, feta, greek olives and raita (I love raita! I got Greek yoghurt and F can have yoghurt with berries for breakfast one morning, too)
F - fennel salad and black bean taquitos (Vegetarian)

Building up Reserves

February 28th, 2018 at 08:18 am

End of February, so I am taking a look at YNAB to see how the spending went...

We are negative in the following categories:
- Pets: because our dog has arthritis and a thyroid condition - we bought her expensive arthritis chews (but they work, and she's worth it). Also she had her bloodwork redone so that we could adjust her thyroid meds. $34 over
- Doctors: because we paid the hospital (two separate bills) for F's ER visit in January (when she had hives). And my many visits to doctors, acupuncturist, naprapathist to get over pneumonia. I am almost well! $132 over
- Drugs: I had to get another inhaler which I am still using once a day in my recovery from pneumonia. $22 over.

But... we are also building up other categories.
- Now have $300 in house repairs.
- Leftover in Dining/Groceries is about $175!
- $750 in auto servicing; I need a service soon, so that's good
- $300 in karate
- $224 in dentist (not sure we will need this with our amazing dental plan but we're keeping it in case a filling or something needs to be replaced)
- lots of other categories with money building up for once a year expenses

We also have $1250 in Camp, but F is not really interested in camp this summer. She'll probably do one camp (soccer of course) and then we'll be gone for 3 weeks overseas. That's 4 weeks. And she can help me out in the office. And we'll go to the pool (there is enough money to pay for our pool membership accrued in that category already).

Doing Our Taxes, Part I

February 24th, 2018 at 01:11 pm

We are gathering up the info for our taxes.

D needs to get me the following:
- side income (schedule C)
- income and expenses from the Dublin house
- foreign taxes paid
- max. amount in our Irish savings and checking accounts (so we can do our FBAR)

Missing (not sent to us yet):
- W2 from the gym

Since the taxes are all different this year, I have no idea how this is all going to come out.

But I know these things for sure:
- we always use the standard deduction (not enough for itemized)
- we paid almost $7000 in estimated taxes for 2017; I am so hoping we get some of that back (we also paid payroll taxes on our income)
- my business had only a very small profit this year (so that should limit extra tax incurred)
- the big "wild card" is the income we make on our Dublin house; technically we pay tax on that in Ireland and then get a tax exclusion, but it never really works out that way because in Ireland that is our only income (lower tax bracket) and here it is added to our other income (higher tax bracket)

I will let you know how it works out!!

Also - if you file FBAR, just want to remind you that it is due April 15th just like the taxes (in the olden days - like a couple of years ago) it was due in June.

Spending - End of the Month

February 23rd, 2018 at 04:34 pm

I got paid by the gym today! It was my first day back teaching since I got pneumonia, and it went well... I used only the bar (no weights on it) which was probably a good idea. Bench press was the hardest because my ribs are still bruised. It is going to take a long time to get back to where I was, but it was really good to go through different motions to increase my flexibility. I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even open the envelope to see how much I made.

I went to the acupuncturist afterward, and that was really great. She gave me some tai chi lung exercises to do. My acupuncturist was actually recommended by my doctor; she is known for helping women through peri-menopause so I was already seeing her about every 6 weeks. When I asked me doctor if I should see her for my lungs she said absolutely yes. My doctor practices western medicine, by the way, but this is Santa Fe where alternative is not alternative. The cost of the acupuncturist might be a splurge, but right now especially I am ok spending money on my health. $45.

Tonight - party for F's soccer team. We are picking up a pizza to share, and so is everyone else. There is going to be a lot of pizza. $16.

So, the meal plan for the week (we will shop on Sunday):
- kimchi quesadillas (https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kimchi-quesadilla-with-charred-scallion-aioli-korean-cabbage-slaw) - I found the recipe on the website, so this is not coming in a box!
- salmon cakes (already have a tin of salmon and some leftover mashed potato, also scallions - need to pick up a red pepper)
- asian meatballs (will use the rest of the scallions, need turkey burger)
- ottolenghi red rice and quinoa (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/feb/24/foodanddrink.recipes1) - we have the red rice and the quinoa, have apricots and pistachios and rocket... just need a white onion)
- roasted veggies and potatoes - red onion, beets, courgettes, brussels sprouts or whatever is on sale!
- artichoke pasta (D won't be happy - he isn't in love with this recipe, but it's so good! Lemon zest and artichoke puree... I will maybe try to jazz it up a little to convince him that artichokes are awesome).

So using up the things in the fridge - always frugal!


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