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Some Mortgage Progress, and are you watching/reading anything for free?

February 20th, 2017 at 12:08 am

A few things to report:

- I sold an old coat at consignment back in January; I was able to pick up the payment a couple of days ago. That's another $38 toward mortgage principal.

- Our mortgage payment went down (for escrow; I have no idea how they calculate that), but we left it the same. And extra $5.21 toward principal each month.

- Our team bought the basketball coach and assistant coach gift certificates (we got a certificate for the local bike shop which is owned by a mutual friend for the coach - who shops there a lot! - and starbucks for the assistant). The bike shop is next to one grocery store I go to, and the starbucks is next to the other; as you can tell, I bought the certificates. One of the moms said she'd give me her share at the party last night. She didn't and I was freaking out that I'd have to cover her, but she emailed and apologized and said she'd bring it to school on Tuesday. Phew!

- Got a new book (free, epub book of course) - the first in the Chronicles of St. Mary's series. I'm a couple of chapters in, and I like it so far. A time travel book.

- Dinner tonight is a socca (chickpea flour and courgette pancake with red onion topping).

- We owe $14,636 on the mortgage.

- I am watching Just Add Magic with F on Amazon Prime. It's a really cute show, if you have a tween, I recommend it. I like it too, but I'm sort of immature.

Are you reading or watching anything for free right now?

A Simple Day

February 16th, 2017 at 12:17 am

I forgot to take my allergy medicine today - ooops! - and realized it in the middle of the day when I was so tired. Allergies make me tired. So I didn't get a lot done today at work.

But I did do a few important things:
- came up with a floor plan for the police dept. I'm working on. The chief LOVED it, so it's a go.
- gave a price to the contractor I work with. I aimed high; he can talk me down (a little). Or maybe he won't.
- Other misc. work stuff ilke emails and dropping off a deposit check to an HOA that the owner sent to me rather than to the accountant.
- Almost finished our taxes. We owe. It makes me want to throw up. The reason: profit on my business which I have to declare on our personal taxes (Sched. K) but I leave the profit in my business. So I am going to take a distribution to pay the taxes.
- Re-did my monthly cash flow for F's tuition for the next two years to make sure we can pay for school. We need to have the mortgage paid off by October in order to make this work.

My co-worker said "Why don't your parents pay for F's tuition?" Ha, ha, ha!!! But seriously, he's not the first person to ask me that. My parents are retired; they have a nice fixed retirement income, but it's still fixed. And they very kindly fly us out to see them twice a year, which are nice vacations for us. My mom gives me $2,000 for the annual tuition deposit. They are so good to us! But they can't just pay for school!

Tomorrow is the school skiing outing. I left it up to F if she wanted to go or not; I didn't tell her I'd have to come up with $150 out of thin air. (Or more realistically, a little bit out of several budget categories). She doesn't want to go, and I think we'll go x-c skiing together instead, then meet the class at the Lodge for lunch. I'm looking forward to hanging out with F tomorrow! But I'll bring my own lunch (the food up there is gross).

Tonight - next to last basketball game. The girls are amazing! I'm so proud of them. I need to talk to the parents about getting something for the coach to give him at our party this Saturday. Any suggestions? I thought maybe a voucher to a restaurant he and his wife like?

The Coming Week

February 12th, 2017 at 07:13 pm

Every Sunday (always before noon, because you can't sell alcohol in our state until noon, so the stores are quieter), I do my grocery shopping and get gas (even if the tank is not empty so I start the week with a full tank). I really don't spend anything during the week. Weekends are my spend time.

So, I need to get up and get going, but I'm lazing around with my laptop.

The meal plan this week is:
S - tortilla espanola with chipotle mayo and salad
M - soccer practice night - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes
T - game night - crockpot roast chicken, rice, broccoli
W - game - freezer with salad
T - game - fishburgers, chips, roasted brussels sprouts
F - soccer practice night - socca with courgettes and red onion

Our food budget is my best way to save money... most of our other costs are pretty fixed.

Yesterday, F's basketball team got together at her friend K's house to play 3 v 3 and just have fun. F wants to shoot 500 (!!!!) left-handed layups today. She can do that at our hoop at home or we can go to the park if she wants to get out. (The coach has said that F is definitively a left-handed player; there was some confusion, and there has been in every sport she's played).

Tomorrow I have to drive down to Edgewood (1.25 hrs away which for here is FAR)... but it's for a new project, so YAY!

We're going to owe money for our taxes which makes me sort of grumpy. I need to just finish up the taxes, though, so I can stop thinking about it. And I still have to do our Fbar (disclosing our foreign bank account).

This coming week: 3 day school week... so I need to get busy!

Taken out to Lunch!

February 10th, 2017 at 05:14 pm

I had a meeting yesterday with another architect. I'd referred her for a project, and she took me out to lunch, which was unexpected and really nice!

I am still going to PT once a week, and I have to say it's helping! Most days I don't even feel my back at all. Which is the way it should be! Actually, reminds me I've been sitting here for over an hour. I need to go do 5 min. of stretching.

I'm back. I'm not just doing cobra stretches anymore, but also some stability exercises.

Other things going on:
- I am still helping the 6th grade with their treehouse project. I bought the wood posts myself, but I'll be reimbursed. Need to place the rest of the order early next week. I have another parent who will help me cut everything.

- I am still waiting for my airbag to be replaced. Ugh.

- Outdoor soccer practice started this week. Basketball is continuing. So it's a lot of sports right now!

- F finished her application for 7th grade and submitted it in early January. She just took the math placement test. We should hear in mid-March if she got in or not. Pretty sure she'll get in, though.

- Mortgage is at $14827. But we have a big tax bill coming up. Otherwise I would attack it relentlessly! So....I guess no tax refund to use to pay down mortgage.

- Got a check today for one of the subdivisions I work with. I like to end the week with a check!

Better than Back Surgery

January 28th, 2017 at 12:11 am

I am writing this while sitting in a very straight chair with a towel rolled up behind my back and very perfect posture. With my feet on a book (I'm too short to have my bum all the way back in the chair and still have my feet touch the floor). This is what the dumb physical therapist said I have to do.

He isn't really dumb. He's probably really smart.

I've seen other PT's and had the same back pain (lower right side) for 2 years! Since I did penalties in kids v. adult soccer (which should not be a thing because at a certain age F was waaaaaay better at soccer than I am).

But the pain stayed.

I casually mentioned at my annual physical that my back was still messed up but not super painful and I could teach weightlifting and run and all sorts of things. It felt stiff, like I had to bend over and stretch it out a lot.

She sent me for an xray right after my physical, and my spine is like a weird curvy S. She also gave me a paper to go to PT (again, but this time a different place). My friend who is an orthopedist said they are really good there.

So after 2 years of this, the new PT does some physical "tests" and I can't remember his diagnosis but I think it was a bulgy disk (or maybe it was a slipped disk). I can't remember because I was in shock: he was telling me to sit in a straight chair and not a mushy sofa or my comfy bed with this hard towel for two weeks. And the towel in the car. And these back exercises every two hours. And I can't jump rope or jump at all or run or teach my weightlifting class for two weeks. I work out pretty much every day.

Two weeks isn't a long time; I know that. But I was in denial. I was negotiating. Can I do situps? No. Can I jog? No.

I can walk. My friends are so awesome. They have all offered to walk me (like a dog!) so I don't go crazy.

I also can't bend over. Bending over (which I was doing a lot to "stretch it out") is exactly the wrong thing. My back doesn't move at all in the other direction, so my every-two-hours exercises are supposed to get things moving the other way. Like cobra pose which I've never been able to do (that should have been a clue!).

I was depressed and cranky for the rest of the day, and part of this morning. And then I noticed that I can actually get a little higher up on the cobra and my back hurts less, so now I've decided that this is an athletic pursuit in itself. I am going to be the best PT patient ever!!! (And the most compulsive).

The dumb PT says 6 to 8 weeks to heal. He put it into perspective by saying that it's either that or I keep the disk bulgy and slippy and get to the point where I can't exercise at all.

Frugal Things from this Week So Far

January 26th, 2017 at 01:39 am

1. I am entertaining myself this week by attending a lot of kids' sports games! It's actually been really fun watching F play basketball and indoor soccer. And the games have been amazingly suspenseful! They sell popcorn and nachos at both, and we haven't bought anything. F doesn't even ask, and good for her, because that stuff is gross!

2. I wanted a candy bar all day, and I did NOT buy one! Yay me! (I still want a candy bar).

3. Dinner is burbling away in the crockpot. I put it on this morning (chili) and even asked D for help (again, yay me! I don't often ask for help). He opened the cans while I made F's lunch. This will make dinner and also a dinner for the freezer.

4. I called my client to remind him of the additional services I requested (this is in addition to the other project where I already got the additional services). He told me to write something more formal and send it in; I found an old request, copied it, and now it's ready to complete tomorrow morning (somehow getting it ready is half the battle - it should only take about 15 mins. tomorrow when I'm back in the office).

5. I bought a birthday gift for F's friend online. No shipping, and I don't have to run around to different stores. It'll come Friday, and the party is Sunday.

6. My mom sent a check to pay for their part of TurboTax which we share. She also sent some money to help with F's school; it will help a ton since there is a gap between when we pay off our mortgage and when we need to give F's new school a down payment. My parents are good to me!

7. We got a gift voucher for $50 to a restaurant that I've always wanted to try from someone D helped out with some computer stuff. He wasn't expecting anything back, so what a nice surprise! I'm thinking maybe Valentine's Day lunch?

8. I was charged for a routine medical test when it's normally covered by insurance. The testing place said that it was not coded properly, and my doctor said that it was. My doctor asked me to bring the bill by, and they'd take care of it. I almost just paid it, but then I thought... no, this isn't right. I'm glad I didn't just pay (it was $100) without thinking. PS - the test was normal!

9. I sent the list of materials to Home Depot for the treehouse I'm helping design for the 6th Grade. It's their gift to the school. We'll be building on March 2nd, but I want to be ahead of the game. I called Home Depot yesterday, and they said I could email the list, which saved me a trip down there. My engineer helped with the structure, and I have a contractor who'll help us build! I've spent a lot of time on this, but I'm really touched that so many people are helping out. The kids have already raised $600, and they have a bake sale planned for Friday.

10. The spelling bee was supposed to be last weekend, but it snowed and was postponed (to this Friday). We were so happy, because F wanted to march last Saturday morning. The march here in Santa Fe was wonderful (we marched in the snow around the plaza and to the capitol). So now she can do both, although I'm not sure she's that thrilled about the bee. It's just not really her thing. She's a great speller, though; to me it's sort of odd to be really good at something you don't like. Ah well. After the march, some friends wanted to go get a bite to eat. We resisted, and got F a starbucks instead (so we spent some, but not as much as lunch would have been!)

I Whined a Little Today + Meal Plan

January 22nd, 2017 at 10:32 pm

First - here is my stupid whine: wah, wah, everyone I know has a better car than I do! Wah, wah, all I want is heated seats. And a USB socket so I can plug my phone in and listen to the music on my car's stereo. Wah! I wish I had an SUV; not a big SUV, just a small SUV.

The reality - My car is fine. It's got a good safety rating. It runs fine. Oh - and it's paid for! When I was whining, I realized that a lot of the nice cars that I see up at school are probably leased, or still have loans on them. So I'm happy with my car again.

Here's the other thing - I don't have a lot of food budget left for this month. This is partly my fault - Sprouts was having a gf sale, so I stocked up. This was a smart move, I think, since these are products I use and they were much less expensive. They're not fancy things, just basics: tortillas, bread, pizza bases and flour.

I have to be careful about the budget, though.

Here's the meal plan for the next little while to accomplish that:

S - soup and cheddar bay biscuits
(this is a soccer practice night, and we don't get home until 8! - need something easy; I will mix up the dough for the biscuits before we leave)

M - fish with aioli and broccoli
I already have the broccoli; need to use it before it goes off. Dinner is about $9 for the three of us; one of our more expensive dinners.

T - pasta carbonara with salad
Basketball game night; easy and inexpensive dinner (turkey bacon $3, pasta, 4 eggs and some parmesan - about $6 total)

W - chili with cornbread
Soccer practice night. Will have this bubbling away in the crockpot, and make the cornbread when we get home (it's an easy recipe! Since I have turkey burger, I'll use that, but last time I made it veggie; I may bulk this out with some carrots and corn). This will create two dinners: one for the freezer.

T - crustless quiche with salad
This is a basketball practice night, but if I do the prep ahead of time, D can transfer this from fridge to oven as we're leaving the practice. I chop up olives (already had a can in the pantry), cheese (I have some herbed goat cheese on hand), sundried tomatoes (those are in the pantry, too) and lots of eggs - makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day. And vegetarian.

F - lettuce wraps
I got bamboo shoots and water chestnuts on sale the other day. Add to that shitake mushrooms and a little bit of chicken (with soy sauce and other stuff I already have on hand). We all love lettuce wraps.

S - Tostadas
One of our least expensive dinners - corn tortillas, refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa, a little lettuce. Vegetarian.

S - cauliflower cheese
Already have cauliflower, need an extra cheese, maybe broccoli. This is a soccer practice night, and we'll need to eat lat. I can make the cheese sauce and have this oven ready to go when we get home (oven timer!). Another vegetarian dinner. Will probably serve with toast and butter.

M - mahi mahi burgers with chips
We usually make the burgers on the bbq; hope it doesn't snow!

T - asian meatballs
This is a basketball game night, and this can all be made in the crockpot and rice cooker. We already have turkey in the freezer and some jasmine rice (I mix it with plain white rice). Also have green onions on hand.

W - french dinner
This dinner is basically cheese, crackers, olives and a small salad. We splurge on boursin cheese. Perfect for another basketball game night, and another vegetarian dinner.

T - roasted veggies and brown rice
We already have cauliflower and red onion. I can buy a few assorted veggies. I can pop the veggies into the oven with the timer and time to rice in the rice cooker, since this is also a basketball game night. Vegetarian meal.

F - posole from the freezer and peas
This will carry us through to the next shopping day...

Budget Wins!

January 20th, 2017 at 11:22 pm

I've started like 3 entries and discarded them all. I don't have much to say. I've decided that's a good thing!

So I will make a list of frugal things I'm accomplishing so that I can remind myself that I'm still focused on our goal.

1. Made muffins (didn't buy them!) for the bake sale today.

2. F didn't even ask me for money to buy something at the bake sale; she brought her own money.

3. Watching shows for free online (we haven't had a cable bill in years).

4. Two more grocery shopping trips this month; I'm going to try to eat out of the pantry so that I don't use up the rest of the grocery budget.

5. Managed to make dinner every night this week even though F had basketball games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and an indoor soccer game tomorrow (I have a plan for tomorrow's dinner, too). It was about having a plan in place so we weren't tempted to eat out.

6. Re-reading a book that I read ten years ago and loved.

7. Asked for additional services, and decided to ask for what I really needed rather than go low to please the client. I figured the owner (the City) could try to get my fee down. Well, they didn't. They accepted it outright!

Stupid, Minor Complaint

January 15th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

OK, this is not even that big of a deal, but I just want to get it off my chest...

So... the holiday season is over, and we did pretty well. But with presents and teacher gifts and all of that, it is definitely something you have to manage. Now that it's January, I would think that we can relax a little bit because there aren't so many parties and events and things... but NO!

#1 - F had testing last week, and there was a sign up for a "treat" and a "healthy snack" each day. I just hung back and didn't sign up, because I am always the one who signs up for everything, and I thought "let a parent who never signs up bring something." After all, economically almost every other family in the class is more well-off than we are. On Monday the PA Pres came up to me and said "We have gaps! Please sign up!!!" I sighed and told her to tell me what to bring and I'd sign up for it... so it was yogurt smoothies from Trader Joes. About $20 worth. Not a huge thing, but puts a strain on our grocery budget. Actually I budgeted it toward school supplies in the end.

#2 - Love Lunch for Valentine's day. I have a lot of work right now, so I told F to please sign us up for something EASY and NOT EXPENSIVE.

#3 - 6th grade is raising money to build a treehouse as their legacy for the school, and I am helping them with the design, and helping build it. But I still have to make 24 pumpkin muffins for the bake sale on Thursday! Ack!

#4 - The 6th Grade Ski Trip just after Valentine's day - oh my. My child doesn't downhill ski. Another friend of hers doesn't either. I told the teacher I'd take the two girls snowshoeing or something like that, and bring them to the Lodge for lunch with the rest of the class. She said "Or you could get her some private lessons before the trip." OK, so let's say we had the money for private lessons (!!!! We don't!!) - she still wouldn't be at the skill level of the other kids, so she'd be alone on the bunny hill anyway, not with her friends. Would rather have her be with her friend L who also doesn't downhill. F is a VERY good x-c skier, and she loves it; L might want to try that with us instead of snowshoe. But why this exclusionary trip? And why the expectation of parental spending on lessons?

$5 - My good friend L called me in a panic because next week is Harry Potter week at her daughter's school. Harry Potter week? Huh? Anyway, she's a single mom, and she just spent all sorts of money at Christmas, and she doesn't have the means to buy a Hermione costume. She asked if we had one (F went as Hermione a couple of years ago, but it was cobbled together from my old graduation gown, a tie of D's, an old tartan skirt I had in high school, a Hogwarts badge printed from the internet). My child was fine with that, and likes to make her own costumes, but I thought of my other friend whose daughter was Hermione a few years ago, and asked her if my friend L could borrow the (store-bought) costume. She said of course! I love my friends! So they are coordinating today.

Please, schools, have some compassion. Not everyone has the means to partake in these activities that cost money! Not everyone wants to! Maybe the activities could be more experience-based (crazy hair/pajama day or something)? Maybe they could be spread out more... Maybe we could have January off?

The good news is, we have enough that this isn't a huge problem, and I have wonderful friends who are kind enough to help out another friend they don't even know.

Still Working in the Mortgage

January 15th, 2017 at 03:03 am

I've been so busy! I've had pretty much zero time to post.

But here are the updates:

1. Still paying down mortgage principal. We have about $16,500 to go... it seems so near, but it's still a lot of money!

2. D's mum took her other granddaughter on a big trip, and she gave us the equivalent amount for F to go to soccer camp. We can now pay ourselves back a little more for that big trip!

3. We're starting to think about a trip during Spring break... this will be a driving trip in our own state: White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Three Rivers Petroglyphs, the Solar Observatory. Maybe a stop at the UFO museum in Roswell (although it's totally stupid) on the way home.

4. We got pizza last night, but we've been saving as much as possible, and buying very little.

5. We spent $16 today to use the tubs at a local pet store to wash our dog. We can't wash her at home (too big! too hairy!).

6. I've been stretching every night. But I still think I need to go to PT again. I am going to make an appt. Monday with my GP and see what she thinks.

7. Got $70 from the gym. I am loving teaching there, but they don't have a license for the class I just got recertified in. So I'm contacting another gym to see if they're interested in getting a license. It's a great class, and I've always wanted to teach at that gym. It doesn't hurt to try.

8. Meal plan is a good one this week, I think! I had to arrange it to account for basketball games on Tue, Wed and Thursday!

9. I made up the difference in the IRA limits last year, and now I owe that money to our own accounts. There is plenty in there to cover it, but I track it to pay it back.

10. I've been working on two different projects: one is a library/town hall renovation and the other is an addition to a fire station. I can't wait to bill the clients! I should be able to bill the first one soon. And I'm submitting an additional services request for the second one. One of the subdivisions that I do architectural review for has had a ton of extra work (including weekends sometimes).

Meal Planning in the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 01:44 am

School starts again tomorrow, and I have to say... I'm sort of sad! I had a lot of fun with D and F! (D went back to work today).

We managed to pack a lot into the winter break. Today was another basketball practice; the coach's daughter is one of F's best friends, so she came home with us after practice. We stopped at Starbucks on the way back from taking F's friend home because we got a gift card from the family of the girl we take to basketball practice during school. F got a strawberry cream something. She's still got one more drink left on the card; after that - no more Starbucks unless she wants to buy it herself.

When F was at practice, I went to Sprouts and bought the rest of this week's groceries. I did not succumb to the pretty "christmas pretzels" that were on sale in a barrel by the register. I still have a third of a cake in the freezer from Christmas dinner!

The meal plan for the rest of the week:
- posole and a salad (leftover posole will go into the freezer)
- leftover cock-a-leekie pie from Christmas (I put it in the freezer) with salad
- roasted veggies and rice
- grilled cheese and tomato soup
- sausage/lemon pasta (I need to think of something green to go with that - maybe peas)

I am toying with revising my meal planning technique. Right now we do one chickeny/turkey dinner, one thing from the freezer, one potato or egg thing, one bready/cheesy thing and one fishy thing. I am wondering if it might help with the budge to divide it up differently: one mexican thing with tortillas, one thing using rice, one potato thing. I don't know. I need to think about it.

Meal planning is always even more important when F has practices, and for January she has both basketball and soccer (indoor!).

Meanwhile, I am going to go make the lunch plan for the week for me and F. I've always planned F's lunches, but mine (even though I take my own lunch from home every day) are a little more free-form. I'm going to try planning for me, too.

2016 Recap

January 1st, 2017 at 05:16 am

Happy New Year! It's 2017 on the east coast and even though we still have 2 more hours of 2016 here, I think I need to go to bed soon!

Here's my very quick 2016 (mostly) financial recap:

- Paid off $13,198 in mortgage principal! Got our balance below $20k on our mortgage.

- Got re-certified in Bodypump (cost a bit of money, but it should pay back; I have plans for 2017!)

- Spent a lot on two vacations, but both worth it! England/Croatia in the summer, and we just got back from Pittsburgh (soccer camp for F - so much fun!). Paid in full with money we saved up.

- Managed to host our nephew for a month and stay in budget (thanks to a little bit of $ from my MIL to help host him).

- Just made up the difference between what we paid into our IRAs and the limit we're allowed ($6500 for me and $5500 for D). So we've contributed the max. we're allowed. That feels good!

- Changed our insurance plan so that we're only paying $20 more a month (instead of $200 more).

- We've continued putting $150 a month into our car savings account. We have over $14k in car savings.

- Put $5k into my SEP IRA (which is good because it means my business had a profit).

There are probably more milestones, but I am just too tired to think of any!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

December 24th, 2016 at 03:40 pm

We have always said we celebrate Christmakkah. Today that is even more true...

After I clean the house (yay), we're having latkes for lunch and then F and I are going x-c skiing. Then home for frito pies and off downtown to see the farolitos A New Mexico style Christmakkah!

I hope you all have a wonderful day today (and tomorrow!) celebrating and honoring your traditions!

Winter Break Activities

December 21st, 2016 at 11:48 pm

A pretty calm and quiet Christmas week around here...

- F had her well-check the other day. She had to get a shot (as her dr. said - the last one until college - DTap booster), but otherwise it was all good. And the visit was free.

- F is working on her 7th grade application essays (she's doing just one a day, which is great - they'll be done by the end of the week).

- It was a relatively warm day so we played basketball in the park. We invented this game that involves more than one hoop, so we can't use our hoop at home.

- We've been having lunch at home but we did go out and get a nice snack today at the Teahouse.

- D had his office holiday lunch yesterday. There was a mix-up and he thought spouses weren't going, and then at the last minute, his boss and one of his co-workers brought their spouses. Another co-worker and D didn't know this was happening. Just as well - although it would have been a free lunch, I was with F so I couldn't have gone.

- We are leaving for soccer camp early on the 26th - I'm excited! I've never been to Pittsburgh before. It's just three nights, and it should be fun. Right now the weather is warmer than it is here, but I bet it'll feel colder.

- Because we're leaving on Boxing Day, we're doing a kind of low-key dinner. I'm making cock-a-leekie pie! And roasties, brussels sprouts and chocolate cake.

- F got a letter from her Irish pen pal... they could email each other, but they still write letters. It's so sweet! Can't wait until they can meet in person (not this summer, but the summer after).

Thinking about the Holidays

December 16th, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Today was the last day of school (half day) and now it Winter Break! Yay! I am so glad to have F home with me. I wanted to watch a movie, but she just wanted to relax on her own (it's been a big week!).

Tomorrow:
- F has an indoor soccer game; in my mind this is free entertainment! Well, maybe not free.... but the money comes out of F's sports/activities in the budget. The girls won their last two games against all-boys teams!
- Nutcracker right after soccer (not sure how dinner will go... I think I have to bring sandwiches for us). F's friend Lucy is a party-girl this year - exciting!

Then the plan is:
- maybe x-c ski this weekend? It rained in town today, so I assume there is fresh snow on the hill. Free activity since F and I have our own gear.
- Lots of homemade hot chocolate (and we also got a $15 Starbucks card from the family of F's friend who we take home with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then back to basketball practice because they live super far away).
- Open basketball practice at the school gym
- Make cookies!
- Get a scone or some other sweet treat at the Teahouse if it snows.
- Watch silly Christmas specials on the BBC!
- Make cheap but cozy food - grilled cheese and tomato soup, polenta with lots of cheese, posole...
- Sneak into the office to wrap presents.

I hope your holiday is wonderful!!

Secret Santa and Other Christmas Things

December 11th, 2016 at 12:36 am

Budgeting in December.... not that easy, but I think I'm up to it!

Secret Santa - they did this in 5th grade, and now again in 6th. This time F got a kid she really likes, and it was easy. Particularly since one of her best friends is his twin sister! Twin sister gave F a list of ideas, which was very helpful. Also F knows him really well (they've been in school together since 1st grade and see each other a lot due to twin being such a close friend). We did a few $1 things and an Indiana Pacers calendar for the final gift.

White Elephant - one of the downsides of decluttering is that it's harder to find a white elephant gift. One of the upsides is that I'm used to getting rid of things! Might be a puzzle... I have a stack of them, and have only done a few of them twice.

Advisory Lunch - F promised something with potatoes. Smart girl. Potatoes are yummy, but also cheap! I was going to make twice baked so they can just pop them in the school microwave.

Basketball - The 5th/6th Varsity team was a little too big. The coach is the dad of one of F's best friends (and he's one of our best friends, too - also an ortheopedic surgeon and from Indiana), and he is awesome. His daughter is on the team with F. So he decided to split it in half, but instead of splitting it 5th/6th, he's split it girls/boys. The girls are thrilled!!! They had a practice today, and he said he excited about how well they listened and how much they improved in just one practice. None of the girls except F and his daughter has played before. The boys team will be coached by a 5th grade dad along with... the twins' dad (the Secret Santa recipient is on the boys' team).

Holiday Food Shopping - Why am I thinking about this now? Ugh. It pays to be prepared, though. I think we are going to our friends' house this year. They usually come to our house, but her brother will be here, and we leave the next day (early!) for Pittsburgh.

Christmas Shopping - I'm done! And not over budget!

Christmas Fun - Making and decorating cookies at my good friend L's house - tomorrow. And then downtown for Las Posadas: re-enactment "of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to give birth to the Baby Jesus—and throws in a few devils for good measure. Stay for carols, cookies and hot cider in the Palace Courtyard. Free." That's the description of the event from our city's tourism website. It's pretty crazy with the devils. Everyone boos loudly!

Update on Money Stuff

December 6th, 2016 at 12:55 am

Mortgage Principal - We're now at $18,300. It is starting to really feel real now that we will have this paid off within a year. Wow. Just wow.

Target Coupon - I got a $10 off coupon in the mail, but when I got to Target it didn't work. The super-nice checkout guy said "Well, I could wait for someone to come deal with this, or I can just take off an item." And he took off a $14.99 item. Again: wow! It pays to be friendly and nice to everyone; I think part of why he did that is because we'd been chatting as he rang me up. Which is not why I'm friendly and nice to everyone. PS - my family thinks I'm TOO friendly.

Free Magazines - My co-worker said he had a stack of magazines for the magazine exchange at the library and wanted to know if there were any I wanted first... I got an Atlantic, a couple of Consumer Reports and a Real Simple. When I'm done, I'll take them to the magazine exchange so they'll end up there in the end for someone else to enjoy.

Nephew - leaves tomorrow. I hope he had a good time! It's hard to tell because he's so quiet/shy/reserved. We took him up to the snow last weekend, and then to the Indian Arts museum where we made some ornaments. Then we went to this cool old mining town (now arts town) where he bought some gifts for his family. He used up all his money, so D's sister asked us to give him some money for his trip home (hopefully she will reimburse us). Dinner tonight is risotto.

Pescetarian Dinners - With our nephew here, all of our dinners have been pescetarian (and mostly vegetarian). When he leaves, we'll go back to eating some chicken and turkey, too. We usually only eat two or maybe three dinners with turkey or chicken each week. But there are meal changes I'm happy to keep, so we may try to do just one or two chicken/turkey. Here are the good changes: fish-burgers from Trader Joe's instead of turkey burgers, veggie chili with lots of carrots/celery/corn instead of turkey.

My finger - It's still sort of numb, and it's not totally healed yet; F thinks it looks gross. I can type almost every letter except c comfortably, so that's good. I'm still waiting for the "explanation of benefits" to come so that I can see if I can get a partial refund.

New Work and... F Won the School Spelling Bee!

December 2nd, 2016 at 03:24 am

I was starting to panic a little bit about not having a lot of work right now. It's the scariest part about having my own business. Yesterday I looked at the legal notices online (nothing) and called a contractor I work with a lot ("I will definitely keep you in mind").

Today... I got an invite to submit a proposal (no guarantee of getting the job, but at least there's work out there!) for a museum renovation and then the contractor called me back to say he had a not-too-huge (but big enough!) project with him. About $15k fee, so that's good. And the fire station addition is starting asap!

This is all good news! I am no longer panicking about next year. If I can do these jobs now and get some more work in the spring I'll be set.

Phew.

Other stuff:
- Just got Stephen King's 11/22/63 from the library on my phone. I love the library.
- My finger is a lot better. I can now type most letters with it (not c or v... ouch).
AND
- Today was the school spelling bee and F.... WON IT!! Wow! Last year she came in second. She and her good friend L (who came in second) will be going to the County Bee. I am so proud! I made carrot cake for her (as requested). She won with two off-list words (after they'd spelled all of the study words correctly): solarium and zamboni (if you get your word right and the other person doesn't, you still have to spell and additional challenge word correctly to win). Other words she spelled correctly: physicists, phrenologists, perpetrator.

Accounting (Nephew Visit Almost Over)

November 29th, 2016 at 01:38 am

My nephew leaves in a little over a week, so I looked again at the financials so that I could see how we did with an extra kid in the house!

Not bad actually...
- nothing left over from the food budget, but that's ok
- my MIL gave us some $ for his train ticket to LA and to take him to places we wouldn't normally go, so that really helped! And it meant that we could do fun things with him. Sometimes just D went so that we didn't have to pay for ourselves.

I hope he's had a good time here... it's hard to tell with a quiet, British teenager. I think he really liked LA... we hiked to the top of the Hollywood sign which was fun. And Thanksgiving was full of my 20- and 30-something nieces and nephew and their boyfriends/girlfriend.

We went to Harry Potter at Universal, too, and that didn't impress him or F. They'd both been to the studio tour in the UK, and that was so much cooler (I agree). Food was better, too. And Universal was so expensive! None of us were interested in the rest of the theme park, either. We ate at the Three Broomsticks; total scam (including the wait in line, overly expensive not-that-great food and the uncomfortable chairs). We didn't get butterbeer because we'd had it in the UK at the studio tour.

The train was fun, though!

And it was good to see my parents.

Now we need to look toward Christmas! F and I sang carols all the way to school. And we need to get the tree down! F's present is mainly going to Meghan Klingenberg's soccer camp, and then some small things. I am going to be careful about spending because November was spend-heavy (nephew, dental cleaning, car repair, stitches in my finger).

Random Thoughts

November 18th, 2016 at 11:37 pm

Lots of random thoughts:

- Finished filming my video to re-certify to teach my weightlifting class. D came to help me film, and he did the class... he said it was hard!!

- I did the filming despite my finger being bandaged up. Could have asked for and extension, but I really wanted this to be over! I hope I pass the first time, otherwise they charge to re-review.

- My mother is doing the Thanksgiving shopping, and I'm doing the cooking. Finger should be ok by Thursday. I may have to bring a few ingredients, but I don't want to since we're going on the train (carry-on only of course!)

- My nephew wanted to buy some gifts for family back home... D had to go with him since I'm such a bad shopper.

- Did a bunch of internet research on the Harry Potter thing at Universal... F already has a wand from our UK trip, so I don't think we need that. And we're setting aside $ for lunch in the park. Since both F and my nephew have been to the studios in the UK and had the butterbeer, we can skip that, too. Hopefully it won't be too expensive...

- We have roommettes, so our meals on the train are paid for.

- We're going to Fantastic Beasts tomorrow... IMAX 3D... not inexpensive tix, but F and I haven't been to the movies in about a year (Pele movie!) so we can splurge. And my MIL has given us some money so that we can show our nephew a good time.

- Frugal dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and pan fried courgettes with garlic.

- Owe $21,851 on the mortgage... so close.

- I am bringing mashed potatoes to the 5th/6th Thanksgiving Feast at F's school... frugal and easy to make.

$260 Mistake

November 17th, 2016 at 01:05 am

Oops! I cut the heck out of my finger. As soon as I did it, I knew I'd need stitches. I walked from work to the urgent care a block away (convenient!) and it was a long process. And it hurt until the lidocaine.

Five stitches and $260 later I was back at the office.

On the plus side:
- I didn't cut the nailbed (which means my nail will continue to grow with no problem)
- It was a clean slice (doctor was happy with me - easy to sew)
- Modern medicine!
- I didn't feel the stitches due to "digital block"
- I don't have to do dishes for a week
- Left hand!
- I took an Alleve and it doesn't hurt much
- My brother is a doctor and can take the stitches out at Thanksgiving - no dr visit required!!
- D is making dinner - pasta with lemon, garlic, peas and turkey bacon - yum!!

So... there you go.

Oh - and my wonderful neighbor is taking me out to lunch tomorrow!

Very Frugal Sunday

November 14th, 2016 at 01:26 am

Today we drove down for Day 2 of F's soccer tournament... brought food from home (leftovers, sandwiches, etc) so we didn't spend anything.

Got to hang out with my good friends...

... and the girls WON first place - U13 Girls. We are so, so proud of them! F is exhausted.

Came home and finished vacuuming, did a load of whites, and went to the store.

Our grocery bill is about $15 more than normal with my nephew here, but that's not bad. He didn't come to the tournament... maybe not that much fun for a 15 year old boy? But I wish he had... one of F's teammate's sister was there and she's 15 also. I talked to her and she's going to see if he can shadow her at school one day just to be around other teens. He's shy and will probably be a little freaked out, but once he's there, I think he'll enjoy it!

At the tournament, I brought cake for F's teammate who, like me, can't eat gluten. She was so happy. And she's such a nice girl, one of F's best friends on the team. My current goal is to be as nice to everyone as possible.

Ran into my friend whose politics are different from mine down at the tournament, and I gave her a big hug, and she gave me a big hug back. I really like her, and I hope she really likes me, and we're going to maintain our friendship, and that means a lot to me.

And finally - Mahi Mahi burgers and fries for dinner. I better get cooking...

How We're Saving Money While Spending Money

November 13th, 2016 at 12:24 am

Sometimes you have to spend some money, right?

1. My nephew is visiting from the UK for a month. We love having him! We want to make his stay really fun! Food budget will be a little higher (although he doesn't seem to eat a lot) and instead of eating out, we're getting treats out (like ice cream etc.) to splurge a little.

2. F had a soccer tournament this weekend. We have to drive to ABQ two days, but we bring a nice picnic.

3. One of her friends can't eat gluten (like me! I have celiac) and when I was talking to her today, she said she hadn't had cake in a long time... she said the gf cookies are ok, though. Aaaack! I am baking a cake tonight and bringing some to the soccer game for her. It's homemade, not expensive, but this little girl is such a cool kid, she deserves a treat!

4. My husband took our nephew to our city's very strange and wonderful art/haunted house/performance exhibit thing (no idea how to describe it) called Meow Wolf. But F and I have been there tons of times, so we're staying home. No need to buy two extra tickets for no reason. And they D and our nephew can bond.

5. Tomorrow we'll go on a hike through Tent Rocks. Cheap entertainment! And the weather is beautiful, so we should take advantage.

Also... we need to save up for the IMAX tickets to Fantastic Beasts!!!

Air Bag Recall

November 3rd, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Have any of you had an issue with the Takata airbag recall? I got the recall notice on my car in July, and it said that until I visited the dealer to get the passenger airbag replaced, no one should ride in that seat.

My dealer said the part wouldn't be in until September, and later made an appt. for me to replace it in October saying the part was now in. I brought the car in, except the part still wasn't in, so even though I showed up for the service appt. they couldn't fix it. I had decided to combine the visit with an oil change, and even though I wouldn't even have come in if the part wasn't in yet, they made me pay for the oil change. I think they should've comp'd it.

I called Nissan USA last week and they said the part wouldn't be in until late December! That is 6 months without the use of my front seat. It hasn't been a big problem, but my nephew is coming to visit, and we need all four seats now.

Nissan USA is giving me a voucher for $250. I wish it was cash, but it has to be used for service or on Nissan's website. There is a big service at 75,000 miles, and I think I'm close, so I guess I'll use it for that.

Save Here, Spend There

November 1st, 2016 at 11:57 pm

I've been saving and spending, saving and spending.

Spending:
- Spent all of my birthday money from my mom... F's room looks fantastic! And we are still waiting for her new beanbag chair. She does her homework on the floor - I think she'll love the beanbag. I always wanted one as a kid, and was afraid to ask for it. I showed one to F, and she was so excited! She was afraid to ask, too! (Like mother, like daughter).
- Snow boots for F - her feet are now my size! I couldn't put this off much longer; the weather is starting to turn.
- Going to Pittsburgh for soccer camp (indoor!) just after Christmas.

Saving:
- Needed a sign so that people stop confusing my house with my neighbor's. She put in a fence on her side of our shared driveway which makes it look even more like the driveway is just mine, so recently there has even been more confusion. I didn't want to pay for a sign, and my neighbor didn't offer to help pay for it either, so I hand-painted it myself. My neighbor even emailed to say it looks great! So that was definitely a savings!
- Dinner tonight is tostadas... very frugal!
- I am snuggling under the covers instead of turning the heat up!

New Tele and Books

October 28th, 2016 at 05:35 pm

Not a new television, just new shows! I watch on my computer.

I like stupid sci fi (and smart sci fi, but there isn't as much of that).

I am currently watching:
- Timeless (I can watch on the NBC website) - time travel!
- Stitchers (I can watch on the freeform website) - mind-melding
- Class (bbc iplayer) - a Dr. Who spinoff - yay!!!

Read the Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch who was a writer for Dr. Who, and loved the series, but we had to buy a couple of books because our library only had a few books in the series (???makes no sense since you want to work your way through, right?).

That makes it sound like I watch a ton of tv, but I really don't - that's what I watch all week.

Also read my daughter's books - a series by Wendy Mass with some magical elements. It was a great series (starting with 11 Birthdays) if you have a tween girl.

And now... it's off to the gym to teach my Bodypump class. I film my video next week (terror + relief that it will soon be done).

What are you watching? Anything good? Do you like sci-fi, too? Or something else?

Birthday Purchases

October 28th, 2016 at 02:48 am

I haven't really posted anything in a while... Not sure why, because the spending has been under control. Well, except for my birthday money; my mother was very insistent that I spend it on something, not just bills.

So, I've used most of it to re-do F's room. We got her new sheets, a new duvet cover. She'll take our old duvet which is too small for our bed, and we got a new duvet. So I guess I mostly spent the money on bedding! Well worth it!

I had two appts. at the Rheumatologist (all the way in ABQ, so there's the gas money, too), but that was well worth it, too! He put my mind at ease about my high ANA result (ANA is for lupus and related diseases). I have a predisposition (not for lupus but for autoimmune stuff), but he (and my regular dr.) both said I'm the healthiest person they know, and the followup bloodwork was good.

We spent a lot on food this month for some reason. It's also a 5 weekend month, which means and extra shopping trip, so I'm going to eat out of the pantry as much as possible.

And... my nephew arrives next Friday! So next month may also be a high food bill month with four of us instead of three. He's staying until Dec. 6th, and I'm so excited. My mother asked what I was thinking about his stay. She wanted to know if I wanted him to live here, but he can't; there isn't an immigration option for nephews. And anyway, he'd miss his crazy family, I think! What I'd like: for him to come away thinking "My aunt and uncle and cousin love me! I love them! I want to make sure we stay in touch and see each other forever." I want him to be there for F, and for F to be there for him.

PS - he arrives just before the election, which he is fascinated with.

Making Choices...

October 8th, 2016 at 09:42 pm

The budget says we have money in Entertainment. Summer here is full of free events, so it built up. Which allows us to do some things in the Autumn.

We still have to make choices, though. Our local... um... immersive arts attraction? called Meow Wolf is having House of Halloween. We decided to go tonight! So excited! Another family is going with us. And another of F's friends, too. I made a big pot of chili so we can eat something before we go (it's from 6 to 9).

We decided not to go down to Balloon Fiesta, so that was one of the choices. It would have been fun, but F is not a fan of fire, and those balloons are full of fire! Instead we went to a friend's art opening. He is an amazing artist. Here's his website: http://www.joelnakamura.com/gallery/. I have a birthday card he made for me several years ago, and I framed it!

We still have $166 in Entertainment.

Other stuff coming up in the Autumn: my nephew is coming to visit, and I think we'll visit some National and State parks. Probably also take him to Meow Wolf. And maybe some museums (they are free to residents on Sundays, so we'd just have to pay for him).

What we are not going to do: Nutcracker, Circus Luminous. Those are things we've done in the past, but we don't need to do them every year. Plus - super expensive!

And then... the Trash to Fashion show... maybe this is the year I'll enter something. I saved up a bunch of sweet wrappers. And I wanted to knit a cardigan or shrug out of caution tape. Or maybe something else... Need to start thinking about this...

Not Too Frugal

October 4th, 2016 at 03:04 am

The night that F went to bed in just a t-shirt... that was when I realized she was completely out of pajama bottoms. And three sleepovers this month! And some time this winter there will be pajama day at school. I sort of dread pajama day because the kids all have matchy-matchy pajama sets; in our family we wear pajama bottoms with a t-shirt.

So... off to Target, and F picked out a new pair of bottoms and then a more winter-appropriate set (top and bottoms! together! that match!). We also visited the athletic section so that she could get a top to wear under her jerseys at fall and winter soccer practice. We spent a lot, but I don't need new clothes any time soon, so it's ok.

Also bought claritin.

I had a $10 off coupon! So that was good.

And the pajamas... raccoons eating pizza and donuts on the set, hedgehogs on the other bottoms. I am a sucker for ridiculous pajama patterns, and apparently so is F. (She will probably want to borrow my polar bears skiing pajamas... no way!).

Finished Training for the Exercise Class I Teach

September 28th, 2016 at 12:07 am

Last weekend was a whirwind and the rest of this month promises to be as well...

So last Friday and Saturday all day I was in a recertification for the exercise class I teach (Bodypump). I was so tired, so spent! It was like doing 3 classes in a row each day. And when it was all over... I got a cold! I think I was just too exhausted. I spent the day in bed today. I am the kind of person who can't handle not doing something so it was hard.

This weekend... F has a sleepover birthday. She's one of just a few kids invited - it's her best friend's b-day. And a soccer game on Saturday.

The following weekend - hope it's low-key! We are going over to the house of someone I know (but we're not close friends) so I can help her with her deck. Also she runs a non-profit in town and I want D to get to know her since he wouldn't mind doing work for them again. She's a really nice person, so I'm happy to help her, but it's good for D, too. And F is good with little kids, so she can entertain their son.

Then - my closest friend is getting married! We found the ballet flats for F. She's a 6 1/2 (same size as me!!!).

Next weekend - another sleepover, another soccer game! Yikes!

I have to buy some birthday presents, but I have over $100 in the "gifts for others" category.

Other exciting news:
- Mortgage is down to $25,849.56. Below 26k! But it still doesn't feel exciting for some reason. When will it feel exciting?


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