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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!

Trip to San Francisco - Fun and Expensive!

February 22nd, 2018 at 06:15 pm

The trip to San Francisco was so much fun, but, wow, that is an EXPENSIVE city.

We did not rent a car, but my brother has a two-door car with only two seatbelts in the backseat. So we ended up having to Uber more than we would have liked because we were in places not on public transport lines. I would have walked more, but still recovering from pneumonia. I actually did walk a lot anyway, and I think it was actually beneficial for my lungs (we live at 7000' elevation, and there was a lot more air down there!).

My brother is sort of fancy. We ate some amazing meals, but expensive. He bought the two most expensive meals which was nice of him, but then my brother picked this tea place and we reciprocated. And we saw a good friend of mine and took him out to breakfast because there were three of us and just one of him, and he is financially strapped at the moment. He gave us a copy of his book (it is beautiful!) and that was our only "souvenir."

That's all we bought - just food and transportation.

Well... we also bought tickets to Color Factory several months ago... that was a really fun experience! If you are going to SF, it is worth it, but you need to get tickets well in advance (you can't buy them there).

We walked a lot, saw a lot, went on the cable car. Went to the Golden Gate Bridge and did a free scavenger hunt I found online. Walked around Chinatown. Met an old high school friend and her husband and kids and walked all around Golden Gate Park (around the De Young and the pedalboat pond). She brought snacks which was nice!

Since we mostly did free things and my brother paid for the two most expensive meals, the cost of the trip wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was a weird hybrid between how we usually travel and how my brother does things. But I was so glad to see him!

And one of the meals was so good, I am still thinking about it... the restaurant is about to get a Michelin star apparently. It was a vegan sushi restaurant called Shizen. I've never eaten at a restaurant like that before. If you are wealthy, and especially if you are vegan, it is a once in a lifetime experience!

Going to San Francisco!

February 13th, 2018 at 10:09 am

I had a doctor's visit yesterday and was cleared to travel to San Francisco this weekend!

I am still not 100%, but that could take a month, so we are going to go and try to have a low-key trip. We have some things planned (a trip to ColorFactory, dinner with my brother, brunch with my good friend who is like my Chinese brother). We are staying near Chinatown and it's Chinese New Year's, so we want to walk (slowly!) through Chinatown. See the sea lions at Pier 39? Cable car (we are on a cable car line).

My doctor said it will feel like I have a ton of air because San Francisco is at sea level and we live at 7000'. I hope so!

We did not know if we were actually going until yesterday. F wrote me a note this morning: "Dear Mommy, I'm so excited to go to San Francisco! I just can't wait! I'm writing this letter because wanted to say how excited I am, and that I don't want you to feel bad because we have to go slow. We all (myself included) need a break sometimes. I'm so excited to go to Color Factory! And I can't WAIT to see Uncle D and N! Love, F."

I called the airline and I have a wheelchair to make our connection in case I need it (we have less than an hour to connect; I can't run).

The next thing to deal with is how to get from the airport to the hotel. Normally we'd take the BART, but it takes too long and too much walking up and down steps. Looked at shuttles but the reviews are atrocious. So we'll take a cab. But I need to be able to reject a cab if the driver is wearing cologne/perfume or if they've got an air freshener; I need an unscented cab.

Anyway, lots to think about, but very excited!

Grocery Delivery and Update on Meal Service

February 8th, 2018 at 01:07 pm

Here are the facts:
- I am recovering from pneumonia
- My husband called me from work yesterday to say he has a cold!
- He is in exile in the spare bedroom. I wiped down the entire house; he is not allowed out of the bedroom except to use the bathroom which is designated as his now.
- He was supposed to be taking over most of the housework, making meals, dishes, driving F around, etc, and now he can't do that.

So... I have more to do, but I am feeling better day by day, and I can do some of it.

Grocery Delivery:
But I did NOT want to go to the grocery store. So I ordered online! Sprouts now has online delivery here. It was $8.98. I hope they actually bring what I ordered. My mother is covering the cost of the groceries and delivery because she wanted to do something nice for me. That is so nice!

Meal Service:
I wrote about the meal service gifted to us by my almost-sister-in-law. We had the first meal last night. As someone mentioned - wow that is a lot of waste in the packaging! Yikes! The food was pretty good. My sister in law is vegan, so the meal service is vegan (we are not vegan, but mostly vegetarian). I subbed out the vegan yoghurt for yoghurt we had on hand. It was a lime coleslaw, pan fried hearts of palm and basmati rice. I added some of our own rice. I would make the meal again on my own, but not vegan. I don't have an issue with dairy. Tonight's dinner is a farro risotto. I can't eat farro (it's not gf), so I will sub our own rice. There is tofu "feta." I am using real feta. I don't eat tofu.

My thoughts on Purple Carrot:
- Like that it's vegetable based, but not that it's vegan.
- You have to cook the meals yourself of course; I think it might've been better to send something that we only needed to heat up, because right now it'd be great not to have to cook.
- But I am getting some new recipes. I would have never thought of hearts of palm as a main!
- I think I have too many dietary restrictions for this to make sense.
- I'm cooking anyway, so I'm not sure how this makes it easier. Just a lot more little plastic things to open.
- Would never order one of these meal services again... but it was fun to try it at no cost!

Update on Paying Ourselves Back

February 6th, 2018 at 11:33 am

I know there are going to be medical expenses associated with F's visit to the ER for hives and for my pneumonia (chest xray), but right now, this is where we stand:

Medical - balance is positive for both doctors and drugs, and this is after a lot of miscellaneous expenses (drugs, had to buy a humidifier)

Estimated Taxes - done; although we will probably have to start paying estimated taxes again after we do our taxes. Not sure; we did extra withholding out of D's paycheck. He no longer has Schedule C income.

General Savings - We still need to bolster this a little bit. I figure even if we put in $100 a month, that will be fine.

School Savings - We are putting $500/month into school savings, I hope. I need to create a new category. This will mean that we eventually have the tuition before it's due, and we can pay on their May/November plan which avoids the monthly installment charges. It also means that we are done paying for private school around when she starts 12th grade, and the remainder of the money can be there for her first year of college.

Speaking of college... we have several plans, and since F is only 12, who knows how this will go:
- UC system? D's employer has a relationship with the UC (university of california) system that means children of employees pay in-state fees (even though we live in a different state)
- UK or Ireland - their college fees are about what we pay for private high school; we own a house there, and would move over there with her.
- Canada - I have Canadian citizenship; I actually think F would love Canada, so this is on the list.
- Ivy League school that pays most of tuition - this is only for kids that can get into these schools, but currently F is top of her class at an academic private school (will be in Geometry Honors in 8th grade). She is a really amazing student, participates in some interesting sports... you never know. I'm sure her school will encourage her to apply to at least a couple of Ivy League schools.

Spent a Lot on Being Sick and My Opinion on Meal Planning

February 4th, 2018 at 09:46 am

So first... I have spent a ton of money on being sick. I have pneumonia (no comments please, I am getting better and I've heard it all from my friends). Bought a humidifier, loads of drugs, I'm sure the copays are going to be awful. Missed teaching my classes (so I won't get that income). It's frustrating now that I'm starting to feel better. But I AM feeling better, and that's all that matters.

Enough of that (believe me, I've had enough of it).

On to meal planning.

So one of the things about being home in bed/on sofa for over two weeks is that I've been on the internet A LOT. We don't have tv. I did watch a series (A House through Time) which I loved and a movie (Hidden Figures) which I loved. And for some reason my facebook feed is full of "Prep 5 Dinners in an Hour" which I don't love. There was a lunch version, too, which I watched because it was a cute little girl and since I've been sick F has been making her own lunch.

The Lunch One - not enough food!!! I was horrified! If I sent F with some veggies and dip, a piece of cheese and a muffin, she wouldn't make it through the day! She does do a lot of sports. But seriously!

My Lunch Planning:
- a main (deviled eggs, caprese sandwich, turkey wrap, burrito, dolmas, avocado/tomato wrap)
- a veggie (carrots/celery/cucumber/snap peas and dip, a salad)
- a fruit
- a starch (chips/salsa, popcorn, seaweed, japanese rice crackers)
- a dessert (yes, I give her a dessert - usually a small piece of chocolate)
- a snack for some other time during the day (nuts, string cheese, trail mix, hardboiled egg, dried mango or pineapple)

And the Five Dinners in an Hour - I've seen a bunch of these, and they are all based on CHICKEN and BEEF and PORK. Every night is meat-based. We are not vegetarian, but a lot of our meals are. Most of the Five Dinners had almost NO vegetables in them - ack!

My Meal Planning for six nights:
- Something with Fish (tuna melts with a salad, fish with a veg and rice, souvlaki bowl, teriyaki bowl with red peppers/bok choy, salmon cakes with red peppers)
- Something with Pasta (red sauce with zucchini, carbonara and a big salad, pad thai with lots of veggies, pasta with balsamic and spinach)
- Something with Eggs or Potatoes (crash potatoes/vegetable, frittata with spinach, Mexican eggs, baked potatoes/vegetable, aloo gobi in the crockpot)
- Something Bready/Cheesy (enchiladas with black beans, risotto with peas, quesadillas with guacamole, roasted veggies and rice, tostadas, polenta with beans or veggies)
- Something with Chicken (roasted chicken in the crockpot, baked penne, chicken queso casserole with the leftover crockpot chicken, posole in the crockpot, asian meatballs in the crockpot)
- Something from the Freezer (leftover from earlier meals!)

I know my meal plan doesn't get everything done ahead of time, but I organize my meals based on activities that evening. Some nights, it needs to be cooking away in the crockpot. Some nights the 13 minutes it takes to make pasta (I prep everything while the pasta is cooking so I can get dinner on the table in 15 mins) is ok. Some nights I can spend some time making dinner (enchiladas, pad thai, souvlaki bowls).

I am putting this out there in case it helps someone... or maybe gives you new dinner ideas. If you have an awesome (fast) dinner idea that is vegetable based esp. if it is made in the crockpot, I would love to hear it!!

End of 2017

December 30th, 2017 at 07:13 pm

It's been a year of highs and lows... some financial, some not as financial. Highs and lows, give and take.

1. We paid off the mortgage! This is 100% awesome... and it happened in 2017.

2. D got a new job! Also awesome! And at the end of 2017 he started getting every other Friday off... he's so happy! The salary increase and the health insurance were a big deal for our family. The only drawback is his work is 35 mins. away... spending more on gas and I am not only the primary parent on duty, but the only parent on duty.

3. F started 7th Grade (Middle School)l! This has been good (her grades are amazing, A+ in Latin, History and Algebra and A in everything else) and bad (a few 7th graders are boy-crazy and gossipy and it makes her crazy). And good (she loves the sports) and bad (a friend who has made some new friends who are more "exciting").

4. No Vacations - no, we didn't really have a vacation in 2017 (unless you count seeing my parents at Thanksgiving), but we have two trips planned for 2018! It seems like we're spending a lot and it's freaking me out, but we have the money budgeted. Spring: San Francisco. Summer: Ireland, Portugal.

5. Spent More on Food - Ugh. This makes me crazy and this month is particularly bad. D is making more money and I need to understand that he's making some sacrifices in order to bring these benefits to our family, so I need to budget more in 2018 for his weekly lunch out and his occasional coffees. This is something we didn't budget for before, and now that he's making more, I need to add that to the 2018 budget.

6. My Business Made a Profit - And I was able to put $2000 in my SEP.

7. Started Teaching at Another Gym - Which brings in about $100 a month extra! Sometimes it's hard when I have a lot going on at work but it's fun, and I'm feeling more connected to my students.

8. Now two of us can't eat gluten - Doctor's orders because of F's stomach issues, but it does add to our grocery budget. On the other hand - her stomach is great!

9. F started Karate - she's done so well and is now a green belt white stripe; they do karate and self defense. This is an added expense, but worth it.

So - some increase spending, but we're making more money, too, and on balance saving more.

Paying Ourselves Back part III

December 26th, 2017 at 05:53 pm

A quick update on "paying ourselves back." Even though I finished Christmas shopping in November, in December we spent a lot on Christmas gifts for various people: coaches, teachers, F's three best friends, etc... We didn't spend a lot but it added up.

We were still able to make progress on paying ourselves back for various things:

Fence (this is for our dog): paid off as of 12/21!

Medical (unexpected): $19 left but this will go up because we have a $130 bill.

Estimated Taxes: paid off as of 12/22 AND we have $240 in there for the next estimated taxes due on 1/15/18. Not nearly enough to cover it, but we should be able to add some with D's next paycheck. I am really hoping that we don't need to pay as much in estimated now that D has his new job and we adjusted withholding.

Fully Fund IRAs: fully funded as of 12/4

Repay General Savings: still need to start work on this; we owe ourselves $1280.

We will have a new item to pay down in the new year. We are buying a painting from a friend of mine who is a famous artist and illustrator. He sells prints, but this will be an original painting. I was embarrassed to ask because his paintings go for thousands, but he said he could do a custom painting with our dog in it for $500 (and I know this is because he's a friend; I am so grateful). Did I mention that he's one of the nicest people I've ever known? Anyway, $500 for the painting we promised ourselves when we paid off the mortgage. We'll hang it so it can be seen from the front door.

That's it!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday (whatever you celebrate!) and that it didn't put you into debt...

Paying Ourselves Back part II

November 29th, 2017 at 08:25 am

We are still working hard at paying ourselves back for some long term costs...

Dog Fence - $591 left to pay off (but the fence is done and it's GREAT! We can let our dog out on her own now!)

Medical Expenses - $287

Estimated Taxes - $630 (and I would really love to get this paid off asap because our next estimated taxes are due in January. We should have it paid off in December some time).

Fully Fund IRAs for the year - $600 - This is budgeted and will be fully funded by Dec.! Yay!

After all of these are paid off, we will start bolstering our emergency fund/savings.

Thanksgiving Expenses

November 28th, 2017 at 08:22 am

Things are quiet around here... we just got back from a trip to my parents' for Thanksgiving.

Because my brother is vegan and would not attend if the food wasn't ALL vegan (so no turkey, no butter, no cheese), it was a pretty inexpensive Thanksgiving in terms of food. I told him that since his diet is very restrictive, he should probably do the cooking and he agreed. I just had to make a salad and salad dressing. He did tell me "No one eats salad dressing anymore" but I made it anyway. I like salad dressing. (In case you are wondering, what people do now is just drizzle a little bit of balsamic, but I have a really nice recipe with red wine vinegar. Everyone ate the salad, even with dressing on it). I am being sarcastic and snarky, but I don't care.

So, the expenses I did not need to pay for:
- Hotel room (we usually stay with my mom but she didn't want anyone staying there and got a couple of hotel rooms which were she paid for).
- Lunch on Wednesday (my mom had cleaned out her refrigerator for Thanksgiving and asked us to go out to eat when we arrived, but she wanted to reimburse us which was nice)
- Rental car, because my mom let us use her car which was really nice!
- Entertainment - Because we hung out with cousins, had the Friday family soccer game, walked on the Third Street Promenade with my brother and his girlfriend. It was fun!
- Shopping - the only thing we bought was a magazine for F (that is her usual treat when we visit my parents).

Expenses we did pay for (total about $325):
- Uber to and from the airport ($25 each way!) but my mom couldn't pick us up...
- Dinner out on Wednesday night (my mom did not want any un-needed cooking at her house); we had sushi!
- Sandwiches for me and F for lunch on Thursday before Thanksgiving; my mom went and got sandwiches for everyone but us because we have to eat Gluten Free and she didn't understand that she could ask for GF bread, so we walked down to the Whole Foods and had lunch together. Good mother-daughter time which we both loved because there were a lot of people around - like a mini-escape!)
- Petsitting - Wonderful woman and I left her extra because we've paid off the house and I hope she can use it for Christmas!
- Turkey Trot 5k for the three of us - F did really well! She came in 8th out of 133 for girls 14 and under.

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, too! Hope your food was better than ours, though. Snarky again.

Trip Planned

November 17th, 2017 at 10:35 am

We purchased the tickets for our trip back to Ireland... we will get the tickets to the UK later (I think we are flying into Bristol from Dublin to be close to D's dad in Gloucester).

We are going in late June and D is coming home about 4 days before F and I. We'll stay a couple of extra days with friends. We'll just hang out and I'll show her all of my favorite spots, since the last time she was there, she was nearly 5 but doesn't remember much. Also - she has an Irish name, and has never met anyone else with her name, so we are trying to arrange a party where our friends come and bring other girls with her name!

We'll go to the seaside (we have the Rio Grande, but that's the only body of water near us!). We'll go down to Mary and Henry Streets and to D's alma mater (Trinity). We'll go to the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin and up to the castle at Malahide. Maybe out to Powerscourt if we get a nice day! Howth or Dun Laoghaire. So looking forward to seeing our friends, too!

The tickets were paid for by saving money each month and credit card rewards. We have been saving for two years (since the last trip). We still have about $3400 in our vacation account even after buying the plane tickets!!

Update on our payback to ourselves:
Estimated Taxes - $635 to go
Medical - $387
Fence project - $777

The fence and gate are finished and it's such a relief. We can now let our dog out in a secure area. Where we live there are very few fences... no fences between properties. It's unusual, and sort of annoying. We had to get approval from the neighborhood association to build this fence.

Financing my own Debt

November 7th, 2017 at 10:35 am

I use YNAB, and I think a lot of you do as well, but I don't use it exactly as it's meant to be used. Sometimes I let a category go negative for a few months, and rather than moving money from other categories to cover it, I just pay down the negative over several months. I guess I could move money around, but for me this lets me keep track better.

It works because the other categories have plenty of money in them and we live on the previous month's income, so there is always enough money in our checking account.

So here are the things I'm self-financing right now:
- Current household project- fenced in area for our dog - this is at -$94
- Unexpected medical expenses -$257
- Estimated taxes from September - $635

I used extra money this month and set up a math problem so I was allocating it to each debt proportionally. I like math!

We should have all of these paid off before Christmas. Just in time for another estimated tax payment in January!

Update

November 3rd, 2017 at 01:45 pm

It's been forever since I've written anything!

I am trying hard to keep spending under control, and there are a few things that are messing with my plan. I can't be too upset, though, since D is making more at his new job and there is money left over each month.

1. Karate - because of all of F's sports (schedule conflicts), we are having her do private lessons once a week. It's not cheap. But it is really worth it particularly in terms of her confidence.

2. Medical Costs - I have been going to a psychologist once a month to get strategies/techniques for F for her anxiety. It is well worth it, and the best part is that the woman I'm seeing doesn't require F to go. She offers this as an alternative for kids who already have a lot in their schedules or who feel like there's stigma to seeing a counselor. She has some GREAT techniques and comments. Middle school is hard, and even harder for a kid with anxiety!

3. Food Costs - Combination of out-of-town visitors and just higher prices. It's been hard to stay in budget. Also, I have to spend a lot on nuts and avocados and other good protein for F is constantly on the move.

So, what's been up?
- I had a birthday (but my birthdays are inexpensive because it's Halloween and mostly we just go trick-or-treating"
- F was asked to run varsity x-country next year
- We have new soccer coaches and they are AMAZING - two women which is great for girls this age. And they are young and enthusiastic and used to play professionally.
- F is on the basketball team, and she rode the bus down to Albuquerque for a game, which is a lot of progress!
- D's sister came to visit and wore so many oils (sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, and a bunch of other stuff) that we are still trying to get the smell out of D's car; I can't ride in it.
- My dad is in the hospital (had back surgery, went home, fell three times and was back in the hospital in less than a week). He'll now go to rehab which is where he should have gone in the first place.
- My brother is in Singapore (has been in Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Vietnam in the past month) and will go to Japan before Thanksgiving.
- We had our big Turkey Fight of 2017, and we are not having turkey at Thanksgiving. We are not sure yet if it's going to be a vegan Thanksgiving (what my brother wants). I don't care anymore; although I love butter and cheese, I guess I can have them at home.
- Going for ice cream today!

Ebates, Meal Plan, Found a Starbucks Card

August 20th, 2017 at 07:14 pm

Lots going on in the "very small amounts of money" financial world.

Ebates - I got an email from Ebates that said they are sending me a check for $8.06.

Meal Plan - First week back at school and we planned carefully for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner!
Breakfasts - bagel/cream cheese, english muffin with slices of cheese, toast with marmite, homemade granola
Lunches - out to the little sandwich place by my office the day before school starts, mains: chimichurri rice with salad, turkey wrap, caprese "sandwich"
Snacks - string cheese, avocado, chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, nuts and fruit, hardboiled egg
Dinners:
- tuna melts with salad
- asian meatballs with rice, rocket salad
- frito pies (special request for the first day of school)
- bad breath pasta and a crostata for dessert
- baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese

Starbucks Card - I found this in my old wallet. No idea if it's expired or has any money on it. I think someone gave it to me as a gift, but I'm not a big starbucks fan. But F likes the cream frappacinos.

Gym Payment - Haven't gotten payment for July yet - grrrr!

New Gym - I am teaching an additional class at another gym in town now, starting next Thursday. Need to update CPR ($25). But they pay more per class, so that's good!

New Phone - No, I am not getting a new phone. TMobile has a deal where they pay you $300 for your trade-in and you get an iphone 7 on installment. My iphone 5 is worth pretty much nothing, so $300 would have been a good deal. But I decided not to do it. D says I should wait until the iphone 8 is out. I am not sure. I'm not good at making purchases and this makes me nervous. Plus I just got a new vacuum cleaner, so that's it for 2017.

A Day at the "Beach"!

August 19th, 2017 at 08:40 pm

I know - we don't live anywhere near the ocean. But we do have a beach about half an hour away... it's the beach at Cochiti Lake and it's really fun. It was a $5 parking fee, plus we got salads and sandwiches and cookies at Trader Joe's ($15.96 total).

F starts school next week, so this is our last real summer weekend.

I blew up my floating lounge chair thingy (it really is ridiculous, but so fun) and we set up our camping tent for shade. We hung out in the water, and it was great! It's not a fancy place, but lots of cute kids and nice families.

Right now F is at an end-of-summer pool party at a country club to celebrate her friends' bar and bat mitzvahs earlier in the summer (the did it in NYC where the grandparents are). We got them each a gift certificate to Amazon, but that was paid for with money in the "gifts for others" category. It is fully funded.

I want to figure out something fun (and frugal) for tomorrow, too. Maybe a hike.

OK, need to go pick F up from the party...

Mortgage Paid Off! Weird! And Good! But Weird!

August 13th, 2017 at 02:46 pm

It's been a bittersweet week for me - given all of the things that are going on in the country and the world right now I am really profoundly sad and also scared, but we also paid of the mortgage last Monday.

I haven't felt like writing about it, but this is a blog about money not current events or politics or anything like that, so I am determined to celebrate this huge milestone!

On Monday we went into the bank and paid off the remainder of our mortgage. This is the month that D has three paychecks (he is paid every other week rather than twice a month and we decided to live off two paychecks each month and use the two extra each year as a "bonus"). So we used that extra paycheck plus the amount the bank has in escrow (don't worry, we have saved our own "escrow" for taxes and insurance).

Our bank doesn't charge anything for a payoff statement, and they don't charge anything for payoff except the $30 to record the release of the lien at the County.

I checked into all of this ahead of time. All we owed was the remaining mortgage less the escrow plus $30.

It hasn't really sunk in yet... I guess it will when that mortgage payment DOESN'T come out of our account on the 2nd of next month.

I am now busy drawing up a new budget. According to the YNAB philosophy, "every dollar has a job" even if that job is savings. We have to fund a few categories before the budget is really set (I want to make sure we max our our IRAs before the year is over so that's an extra $600 per month... things like that).

Actually the first time it sort of hit me that this is real was in Trader Joe's today. I usually buy the $2.79 cage free/hormone free eggs, but then I saw the organic/free range eggs for $3.99, and I bought a dozen of those. It's $1.20 more, but I want to see if they are as good as the eggs we used to get in Ireland. And I could make a decision like that, whereas before I never would have.

On the other hand, I am going to get me hair cut next week at Great Clips with a coupon. I don't need to spend money for no reason!

PS - F rode her unicycle into the bank for a festive atmosphere when we went in to pay off our mortgage! It was funny! And we ran into our City Councilor from our district who told us congratulations.

PPS - The other things I did this week are called the insurance company to let them know that we'll now pay for the insurance ourselves. Also made sure that I turned off the mortgage auto-payment on the online banking site. And I still need to contact the County to make sure we get the bill for property taxes and not our bank.

Menu Planning - Pantry/Freezer Use

July 29th, 2017 at 03:12 pm

Our grocery spending was high this month. Ugh. And I still have to do one more shopping trip before the month is over (tomorrow).

The reason is partly that the dr. told us that F needs to try a gluten free diet for a month. I have celiac, and she just had the celiac blood test. I am hoping it's negative, but even if it is, we're supposed to try the gf diet. She loves tortillas (wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches), and the brown rice tortillas are pretty awful, so I splurged on the Rudi's brand. They are tiny... so I used two to make two mini burritos. I also bought her gf english muffins.

The menu plan for this week takes advantage of things that I already have in the freezer and pantry.

Risotto - we already have risotto rice and sundried tomatoes. Just need celery
Cockaleekie Pie - from the freezer; and we have lettuce for a side salad
Chili - we have that in the freezer, too. Just need an avocado.
Tuna melts with corn - can use the celery for the risotto and corn is inexpensive right now
Chipotle sweet potatoes with roasted veggies on the side - a couple of sweet potatoes is all we need to buy
Chicken piccata with rice and broccoli - just need one lemon and some broccoli
Quesadillas and guacamole - An avocado for the guacamole

So our grocery list:
- avocados
- celery
- sliced turkey for lunches
- sour cream
- cheddar for lunches
- sweet potatoes
- broccoli
- tomatoes for lunches
- head of lettuce
- corn on the cob
- one lemon

Hopefully less than $30.

D's New Job

July 26th, 2017 at 06:56 am

D got his first "real" paycheck of his new job (the previous paychecks were not really representative - one had fewer hours, one didn't have the 401k taken out yet, etc).

I learned a couple of things;
- Money put into the 401k is not subject to federal withholding but is subject to social security and medicare; didn't know that because we've never been eligible for a 401k before
- Because the paycheck is every two weeks, we are treating the extra two he receives each year as a "bonus" and we're not budgeting it. So we'll live off 24 paychecks rather than 26.
- Each paycheck will be $362 more than the old job plus since my business doesn't need to provide healthcare anymore, I will be paying myself extra to cover the health insurance that gets deducted from D's paycheck. That cuts my business expenses by $272 each month.
- Net gain from his last job is $544 per month (and $272 less in business expenses).

And D likes his job!

Company picnic (I've never been to a company picnic before!) is this weekend. D has to work for an hour and a half of it. I'm not completely sure what to expect from a company picnic. There will be A LOT of people. I know people that work up there, but we'll probably have to find each other with our mobile phones. There are THAT MANY people!

Other stuff related to D's new job:
- I am still working full time, too
- He has a few weekend and evening events (one is tonight - a lecture series) so F and I are on our own for dinner, which is pretty fun (time together).
- It's a longer commute, so I will report back on the gas usage later. Our cars are fuel-efficient, but they are still fuel (not electric).

Paying Ourselves Back

July 15th, 2017 at 05:04 pm

With D's new job, we are getting very close to paying the bank back (mortgage is right at $5k!!) and paying ourselves back (sometimes WE are the bank).

​Paying the Bank Back...
Mortgage is at $5058.07. I had a weird moment where I couldn't understand why the payoff amount on the website was less than what we owe, and then I realized that it's the escrow they've collected. They have about $600 in escrow and when we make our August payment it'll be $900. But we will need to save $300 each month from August through November for the next property tax payment.

Paying ourselves back:
Our estimated tax payment is $2119 every quarter. We are a little behind and still owe ourselves $2033. Next payment is due in September.

Paying ourselves back:
We need to repay our emergency savings $1280.

IRAs:
We will need an extra $2400 this year to fully fund our Roth IRAs. I think we'll be able to do this with D's new job.

The future:
We need a dog fence, but I haven't gotten prices yet.

This is all very intimidating, but we just have to keep plugging away. And now I am off to make a frugal dinner!


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