Almost the end of the month...
- We almost made it to the end of the month within our food budget; we're about $8 short. That can be made up with other categories.
- F has a class trip coming up. She is celiac, and there is a meeting tomorrow with her and her adviser (also celiac! Isn't that cool?) and some other administrators to figure out the meal plan while she's away. I will have to pack food for her, but they are going to figure out what I pack so that she can eat as much like the other kids as possible. She's in middle school now, so these are things she takes care of (I am not involved in the discussion), which is really great!
- I didn't realize that one of the 20s in my pay envelope from the gym was actually a 50! So I made $82 rather than $52.
- I need to increase the amount we put in the Pets category. Our dog is old and wonderful and needs three kinds of medicine daily.
- I made $131 on credit card rewards this month. This is from my new Chase Business Unlimited card which is no fee and is 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- The meal plan this week is frugal:
S - crustless quiche
M- chicken piccata with rice, broccoli
T - red peppers
W - risotto
T - salmon cakes with peas
F - black bean spinach casserole
S - not sure; maybe big salad?
- I get to eat something tonight that I don't have to cook! Woohoo! Risotto is one of Ds dinners. Every once in a while it's nice not to have to cook.
- F is doing really well on varsity soccer! She is having fun, and started the last game, was played more than 3/4 of the game. And school soccer is free! Well not completely free. I have to pay to get in some games (not at our school) and I will probably join the booster club ($50) and buy a shirt to wear to games. But it's a LOT less than the $465 per season we pay to her club team. And we don't need to buy uniforms.
Viewing the 'Frugal Shopping' Category
Almost the end of the month...
I've been working so hard for the past week; it was probably ok that I wasn't able to post until now.
Here's what's been going on (some financial, some not so financial):
- F made it onto the varsity soccer team as an 8th grader! They played their first game last night and won! She played most of the game, and did really well. So we're proud!
- There has been a lot of spending associated with the soccer team (a lunch after a scrimmage, money for a tshirt to tie-dye, entry fees for D and I to the game last night, $20 for the retreat). I am taking the money from the same place we take the fees for her club team since we don't need to pay for club this fall. In the end, school soccer is A LOT less costly even with all those miscellaneous costs.
- F lent money to two friends for the lunch after the scrimmage and only one paid her back. This is her spending money, so it's in her interest to follow up.
- I have $101 left in the grocery budget for the month, which is tight. I'll shop on the 26th. I need to be careful about meal planning! Eat out of the pantry and freezer and add fresh veggies and fruit.
- Our pet debt is up to about $300... old dogs are expensive, but worth it. I need to put money in there from another category.
- We got a massive deal on our 2017 photo book (Shutterfly). I saw they had unlimited pages and 40% off, so I finally printed 2017. Total was $42 including tax and shipping. It's a BIG book. I will start entering 2018 photos so we can have a book in place when the next big deal comes around.
- Got $131 in Chase cash back; this goes into the vacation rewards fund which is up to $1500 now.
- We bought a wedding gift for my niece. We got an item on their registry that was $150. When I put it in the cart, Honey searched for coupons, and by the time we were done, it was $134... so now I feel bad because I intended to spend $150... But we are spending a lot to go out to California to attend the wedding...
- I bought F a winter puffy jacket on sale.
- Total for gym payments this month was $171. That's pretty good! This was partly offset by the $35 I had to pay for the next release. But teaching is more than paying for the releases.
- Now that F is in school and soccer I have a ton of time to work, but I need to learn how to work at a slower pace! I'm so used to having limited work time, that I work with ferocious intensity, and I can't keep that up for 10 hours! I have one more deadline in the near future, and after that I promise I will relax a little.
Soccer tournament weekend!
The car is all packed up... I made a spreadsheet for food, partly based on the recommendation of F's coaches on what the kids should eat and when. The games are at slightly weird times so we had to make the schedule. I just reminded her to drink another glass of water! Hydrate!
F is super excited!
I already vacuumed most of the house, cleaned the litterbox.
I also made a list of everything to bring to next week's tournament which is out of town - 5 1/2 hour car ride away!
And I looked at our "red" categories. I don't want to dip into our tax refund to pay those back to ourselves. I am shifting money around from other categories. The big one is the car repair category which is just at $700. This may take a few months to knock down.
Someone was supposed to come before 10 am to buy the birdcage we have for sale... it is 9:59, so I'm not hopeful. We leave at 10:30 for the soccer fields. I have other people who are interested, so I will email them if I have to!
Here's how we saved money this weekend:
- Instead of going out to dinner or lunch (which we do have a budget for), we went out for dessert last night! It was a beautiful night and we walked down Canyon Road afterward (like tourists! Ha!). We are saving up money to go out to dinner in Flagstaff when F has her soccer tournament.
- We are having a party for F's grade at school (50 kids and their families); but since I organized it, I decided to do a fun potluck picnic (the school is letting us use the campus) instead of meeting at a restaurant (which other classes have done). This way no one has to pay for meals out for their family (so no one is excluded) and we can play soccer and frisbee, etc. People forget that even though it's a foo-foo private school, not everyone is wealthy, and lots of kids get tuition assistance.
- F and I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and wandered around looking at everything. We bought a chard plant and a zucchini plant for the garden. I hope they do well! I don't think we'll have another freeze...
My grocery shop used to be about $100-120 per week and now it's more like $115-130.
I have a few theories about why this is:
- F is almost a teenager and eating A LOT
- F and I both have to eat gluten free which is slightly more expensive
- I buy organic where possible and now that we've paid off our mortgage, this is the one place I've bought better ingredients and skimped less
Here is our meal plan for this week:
- frito pies
- hearts of palm with coleslaw
- gambino crime
- salmon cakes
- crustless quiche
- chicken taquitos
Here, for the record is what we bought (this is a long list, sorry, but just in case anyone is interested; I shop at Trader Joe's and Sprouts. I wish we had an Aldi). Total spend was $127.98:
Dinner Ingredients for 7 dinners ($44.28):
Frozen chicken, 2.5 lbs (3 meals worth) - 7.49
Cream cheese (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Goat cheese (also for lunches) - 4.99
Sour cream (will last 2 weeks) - 2.99
Plain yoghurt (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Eggs - 3.99
Frozen edamame (2 meals worth) - 1.79
Green onions - 1.29
Bok choy - 1.99
Tinned salmon - 3.29
Corn tortillas - 1.29
Salsa verde (also for snacks) - 1.99
Hearts of palm - 2.99
Broccoli - .71
Cilantro - .50
Green cabbage - .57
Lettuce - .99
Lime - .50
Red pepper - .50
Red cabbage (some used for lunches and salads) - 1.44
3 ears of corn on the cob - 1.00
Almond milk - 2.69
Irish breakfast tea for D - 2.49
Advisory Snack (we are responsible this week) ($5.98):
String cheese - 2.99
Crackers GF - 2.99
Breakfast items ($19.01):
Eggs - 3.99
D's bread (also for sandwiches) - 2.49
our GF bread (lasts 2 weeks) - 4.99
our GF bagels (last 2 weeks) - 4.49
2 potatoes - .98
yellow onion - .31
Large grapefruit for me and F - 1.76
Lunch Items and snacks ($37.45):
Sliced turkey for D (this will last 1.5 weeks) - 4.99 x2
Cookies for F - 3.99
Carrots - .79
Crackers - 2.29
Crisps for D - 1.99
Crisps for me and F - 2.29
Seaweed snack - .99
Tortilla chips (large bag) - 4.49
Apples 2 lb - 2.99
3 bananas - .57
Mandarins 2 lb - 2.99
Larabars (2) - 2.00
2 mangos - 1.00
Strawberries - .98
Cucumbers 2 - 1.00
Avocado - .99
Kiwis - 1.00
Radishes - .50
Tomato - .18
Baking ingredients ($9.03):
Chocolate chips - 1.99
Dark chocolate 1 lb. - 4.99
Sugar 2 lb - 2.05
Sunday lunch (we get something like this instead of eating out on the grocery shopping day!) ($3.69):
Trader Joe's black bean taquitos - 3.69
I know there are places we could cut back (chips!!), but I try to remember that this is 7 days of meals, three meals a day, and we don't eat out this week.
I saw that a few of my friends use Earny, so I got on their website to take a look.
The premise is that they pay you the difference in what you paid for an item if the price drops.
Here's the thing, though: when you go to sign up, it gives you this message:
"Earny wants to access your Google Account
This will allow Earny to:
Read, send, delete, and manage your email"
Whaaaaaaat? Read, send, delete and manage my email???!!!!!
I didn't sign up. It seems slightly insane. Wondering if anyone here has experience with Earny?
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!)
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!
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)
We made a special trip down to Albuquerque today to get a graduation dress for F (they graduate from 6th grade).
Before we went, I made her go through everything in her closet and we had a huge pile of things that no longer fit. She has enough leggings, enough shorts, but she's very low on short sleeved tshirts and tank tops. Also her lightweight hoodie is too small, and that's a summer staple. And she has ONE skirt. And she needs clothes for 7th grade that she'll feel good in (I am a firm believer in that - remind me to tell you about my very sad wardrobe as a child sometime - I wore my school PE clothes on weekends because I wore a uniform during the week and my mother didn't think it was necessary for me to have other fall/winter clothes).
So, off to Albuquerque for the Big Clothing Challenge. She's now definitely a tween - so some kids clothes are ok, and some are not. Some adult x-small are ok, and some are not. She's tall and thin, with strong soccer player thighs (leggings are great, skinny jeans are horrible).
We found things at Old Navy and at H&M, but no graduation dress. I had no idea where to go. Old Navy and H&M (and Target) are pretty much the limit of my shopping expertise.
Our coach was with us, and she said we should try Hollister, which is the worst store in the universe. It's dark and it smells like some sort of weird scent that is supposed to evoke California (I am from there, and I can tell you it doesn't; also I have a headache from it). But we found the dress!
It was so perfect on her, and... the strap was detaching from the body. Except it was the the last one left. The only one (and miraculously in her size). When I went up to ask them about getting a discount since it was the last one, they said they wouldn't sell it to me. Whaaaaaat?
I said I didn't care about the discount, and they insisted they couldn't sell it to me. I explained that I can sew. They said they'd call to another mall to see if there was another dark blue, x-small. "You want me to go get this same dress in Rio Rancho??!!!" which is miles out of the way. They tried calling the Rio Rancho store, but they didn't have it.
I asked for the manager, and said to him: "I am buying this dress; ring it up for me NOW." I found out the guy I'd been talking to WAS the manger, but he sighed heavily and sold me the dress for 10% off. It was already on sale for $21, so now it was $19.
And, as I mentioned, I can sew. It's really not a problem.
Did I also mention that is the last time we shop at Hollister? And they gave me a website to take a survey about our "experience" there, which I am going to do.
Other places I'm never shopping again (because F hated their clothes): Rue21 (clothes are too fussy/complicated), Aeropostale (same problem). F likes simple, I like simple. Phew.
We didn't go into Express. Is that simple? Or more of the Rue21 type of stuff?
She doesn't need any more clothes right now (we got two tshirts, a 3/4 sleeve baseball shirt, 3 tank tops, cardigan and a jean skirt), but it'd be good to know where to go for next time. Gap and JCrew would be good if not so expensive, and I don't have the clothing gene to be able to shop in thrift stores (which are not very good here anyway).
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!).
So much going on here right now! We're trying to eke out a little more summer before school starts.
Circus Camp - F had her circus camp performance on Friday night. She did trapeze (photo below!) and unicycling and stilt-walking. I bought her a new t-shirt because her old one from camp is too small ($15).
Lots of Unicycling in the Park - We went to the park a lot to practice unicycling. I even tried it, and couldn't even get on the saddle! Grrr!
Soccer in the Park - tonight, meeting friends. And we're bringing the unicycle of course.
My friend's wedding - in mid-October! I'm so excited for her! And F is the flower girl, which means we need to get her a dress and some ballet flats. Yes, my daughter only owns soccer cleats, sneakers, indoor soccer cleats and a pair of outdoor/merrell type sandals. And she has exactly one dress that is a cotton thing she wears after the pool. Where we live dress-wearing doesn't come up that often. All of this means a trip to Albuquerque. They have a Macy's, a Gap, Old Navy. Any other ideas for a dress for a girl that isn't just a dress-wearer?
D's Job - D is getting worried that the non-profit he is working for is shrinking a bit. I think his job is safe, but he's looking around anyway. This is not a big city, and the jobs in his field aren't plentiful, and he's sort of freaking out. So I had to go through this exercise with him where I calc'd only our necessary expenses, and it turns out if we stopped saving and bought only essentials we could live on my salary. Assuming this would only be for a few months, it wouldn't be that bad. So I think he isn't worrying as much. When we pay off our mortgage things will be even less tight.
My nephew - D is on the phone with our brother-in-law right now making arrangements! My fingers are crossed, and I will let you know when things are worked out.
Clean House - Every weekend I clean the house, but I'm DONE so we can go to the pool!
Mortgage - We are officially in the 20k's!!!! $29,296.94. I would say this deserves a celebration, and I'd planned to treat ourselves every time we went went down $10k, but I am so focused on paying this off that I just want to save the money for that and not go out for a big dinner or something.
New lunchbox - Got F a new lunch box yesterday. She'd had her old one 3 years and I was having a hard time getting it to stop smelling! Yuck! I washed it every night! Anyway, it was tax-free day here which meant it was 8% less than usual, and I used my Target card, so another 5% off. So the total was $10. She's very excited about it since it's cute but not girly, a teen/tween lunch box/bag: http://www.target.com/p/thermos-lunch-bag-rainbow/-/A-49146390
And now it's time to go buy groceries and then go to the pool! Hope you're all enjoying the rest of summer!
I am supposed to go to the grocery store... It's 5 pm on Sunday, and we got back from F's soccer tournament (they came in 2nd - yay!) about an hour ago. But I can't go... it's raining SO hard! Hail, hard, splatty rain. Lightning. Ugh.
I really need to buy food for the week, and I have to work hard all next week, so not sure when I'll have time to go during the week.
I am resigned to not going today, though. I usually shop at two stores, and I'll have to figure out a time to get to each one during the week. Maybe just before or after school pick-up since there's no soccer practice this week?
Boom! More lightning.
We are going to eat out of the pantry for a few days. I am mentally trying to think of what we are lacking that is crucial, and I can't really think of anything big.
The meal plan for this week is:
Tonight - something from the freezer and a salad
Pad Thai - I just need shrimp for this
Pasta Carbonara - need bacon and eggs
Enchiladas - need sauce, more corn tortillas, beans
I can't remember the rest.. but it did just stop raining for a minute - maybe I'll try to go!
There are some planned purchases for 2016, but I am currently seeing how the numbers are in YNAB before we buy anything...
- Bag for storing the Christmas tree (last tree was stored in the original box which became a mouse bed - yuck) - we will hang from the rafters in the garage with hooks we already have - $40 (we can take this from the $126 we have in Supplies)
- Swimsuit for me (mine is great but after two seasons it's falling apart already!) - $30 (I have $13 in my clothing fund, but this is not an urgent item so I can allow another month or two to let the fund build up)
- Water Shoes for the family for Summer Trip - the beach is super rocky, and if we get shoes there, they are twice as much - saw these on Amazon for $7-10 per pair - $30 for all three of us (let clothing budgets build up for a couple of months)
- Bday gifts for F in June - thinking new scooter and a subscription to BYOU magazine - family gift fund is depleted after Christmas but this will build up and by June there will be plenty
- Wide mouth insulated bowl for F's lunch - $30 (yes, it's a lot) - small appliances is in the red by $46 after buying the Christmas tree - so we'll let that build back up and I should be able to buy this in March. In the meantime, the thermos certainly works...
Also - we have signed F up for a weekend soccer camp in Arizona with her IDOL: Megan Klingenberg. I couldn't wish for a better role model for F, and she has a foundation and a camp each year. It's going to take a little scraping to get us all there... This is an unexpected trip, and luckily Phoenix is close. I am searching for hotels, and we're having our wonderful neighbor over for cake this weekend (and we'll ask her if she can watch the pets while we're gone to avoid boarding).
- We went cross country skiing yesterday (super fun!). It was not in the forest but at the groomed trails, so we had to buy trail passes ($60). D rented his gear ($10).
- F and I have our own skis and boots, so maybe it is frugal...and maybe not so bad compared to downhill (we don't downhill ski, but a lot of our friends do). We made sandwiches at home and ate in the warming hut on the trails. Got to talk to lots of nice people!
- D bought new wiper blades for his car.
- He put the wiper blades on himself rather than paying someone to install them.
- Went to Target and bought half priced wrapping paper. Also a shirt that F loves in the next size up for $5 on sale. I have a little stack of "favorites" in the next size.
- We joined our friends at their club today to go swimming (indoors of course!). I insisted on paying the guest fee, and they insisted on me not paying it. I insisted again, and my friend reminded me that I had them over for Christmas dinner and did almost everything (which I was so happy to do!) and that she wanted to do something nice for me. Sometimes when I think of my friends, I just want to cry because I'm so thankful for the support (particularly since we don't live near family).
- Our NYE celebration will consist of lots of special foods... it wasn't inexpensive, but a lot less than going out to a big party or getting champagne or something. We don't drink... but we do love to eat!
Now... on to 2016! Lots of super exciting things planned including a visit to D's family in the UK (and an add-on trip to Croatia), a trip to LA to see my family, spelling bee, more soccer, and a few things in the works. Most of this was already paid-for last year. I am really looking forward to a year filled with wonderful experiences rather than stuff.
Our food spending is so high this week, it's making me crazy. (And after watching several episodes of Eat Well for Less - shame on me!).
Not sure why, but I will try to figure it out...
- impulse buy candy corn ($2.50) - but it's almost Halloween, and my birthday is on Halloween, and I love candy corn; surely one bag a year won't break the bank?
- stocked up on my bread when I found it at Natural Grocer for $1 less than usual
- coach coming to stay with us
- had leftover mozzarella and thought I'd better use it, so I made a giant lasagna. But the ingredients aren't that expensive - and I already had the mozzarella. This is not one of our usual meals, but the coach is here, and it's a nice treat!
- I accidentally categorized something as groceries when it wasn't groceries; that's an easy way to lower the amount in a category!
Today was our big shopping day... grocery stores and gas. We didn't do too badly considering we're having friends over for dinner on Thursday (to watch the final of the Great British Bakeoff).
We also got things for F's "hot lunch." She no longer wants any of the hot lunches through school, and I'm just as happy; they charge $7 for the school hot lunch (yikes!) and it's not good, and it's not hot. She (and the other kids) don't like it. Hot lunch used to be a treat, so this is a way that she can have a treat once a week. And it costs $3 less!
The big money savings today: went to my friend's house to feed her cat. We feed each other's pets when we go away. It works for both of us, and I know it's not current money savings, but every time I pop in on her cat, I think "that's money saved for both of us!" We still take our dog to the free-roam boarding place, but this friend said she'd be happy to take our dog and watch her in her own home, so that might be a future option. When we go away for a long time, we have a friend come stay at our house with all of the pets.
Do you have a petsitting arrangement with any friends?
I taught my last weightlifting class at the gym today, at least for a while. A woman moved to town and is paying for the gym to be licensed for a certain branded class. In exchange, the owner gave her my class to teach. I understand it from his perspective - he pays me to teach, but she's paying him essentially. The difficult part is that she is a mom at F's school, but we haven't been introduced yet. Not sure if I should introduce myself; I'm pretty sure she doesn't know whose class she has usurped. I'm not sure if she feels justified or embarrassed. I'd be embarrassed.
Anyway, this was a side job, but it means that I now only teach one class at the gym. I still get a free membership, but I will be making $35 less each month. I was using it to pay down the mortgage.
In other "loss of income" news - I am no longer maintaining the website for a subdivision I work for. This was only about 2 hours a month, and I am actually glad to see this extra project move on. I help run their Architectural Review Committee, and that is actually architecture. I am not a website administrator (at all!!!!). They're getting a new website, and they're going to maintain it themselves. I won't miss the income since this took up two work hours that I really could use.
Since I finished up a project on Monday and had a meeting this morning, I was going to spend the rest of the day tying up loose ends, but the other subdivision that I help with Architectural Review had a brand new problem (someone's window trim is BLUE! Oh no!) that needed to be dealt with immediately (you know, if someone's window trim is BLUE that is not something you can let go until tomorrow!). Sorry about the sarcasm. I actually love working for them; they are really good to me.
After dealing with blue window trim, I did manage to get some dinner in the crockpot and I went to Target to find some clothes for F now that the weather is turning cold and she no longer fits in a 7-8 (she still fits in them but everything is way too short - sleeves, length of tops, length of leggings). I bought four shirts and three leggings and... she liked ALL OF IT! I know her taste - not too girly but bright colors. She likes stripes. She likes henley shirts. She likes leggings and soft, soft jeggings, but not jeans. Total cost was $55.
I think we're all set for winter now.
Tonight: soccer practice now that it's stopped raining. I'll bring my new ebook (the new one by Neal Stephenson) from the library.
We delayed our shopping trip by a day, and the amount was about 75% of normal. So the food inventory is working, I guess! I also bought some pasta so we're now stocked for pasta until mid-December (we eat a pasta dish once a week).
Today F and I went downtown to have a mother-daughter day... we parked in the office, and walked about half a block to our favorite place for lemonades, and then had a picnic in Cathedral Park (next to our beautiful cathedral). I brought her a burrito and a sandwich for me, plus some tortilla chips, salsa, pickles and a nectarine. I keep a picnic blanket in the office.
There are tons of art booths downtown right now, and we wandered around a bit, talking, hanging out.
Tonight we're going over to some friends' for dinner. I'm bringing potatoes dauphinoise (they asked for a carb-y side dish).
When I was doing our food inventory yesterday I was thinking about food storage. We hardly ever have food waste, and it's partly because I've worked out how to store a lot of perishable foods.
avocados - I leave them on the counter to ripen, then put them in the fridge so they don't continue to ripen after they're already ripe!
lettuce or cilantro or spinach - I wrap with kitchen roll to absorb moisture from the "rain" in the vegetable aisle.
cheese - I put a piece of kitchen roll in there, too, once it's opened
bananas - I wrap stems with plastic wrap
flour tortillas - I keep these in the freezer and just take out one at a time; they last forever this way; we only use 2 or so a week.
herbs - I store leftover fresh herbs in ice cubes in the freezer
butter - I keep baking butter in the freezer and spreading butter in the fridge
bread - we keep our bread in the fridge (and extra loaves in the freezer)
Things I'm still not sure about: strawberries, applesauce (once it's opened it gets mold so fast; can you freeze it?). Any tips? Any other food storage ideas I haven't mentioned?
Our coach left this morning - oh, F is so, so sad! I think he was the best one so far... like the perfect big brother for F.
I've been spending the morning washing sheets etc. But I don't care - we invited him to come back asap for our city's Fiestas! There is another coach that is here not only part of the summer but also Fall and Spring, and he'll be here for Fiestas, too, and they're friends.
Tonight we are going to our friends' house for a summer afternoon potluck. I am bringing a flourless chocolate cake because I always have the ingredients for flourless chocolate cake on hand!
I need to go to the store tomorrow, but we've got a lot of food still in the fridge, so it's an eat-from-the-pantry meal plan.
What I have: celery, a cucumber, half a watermelon, half a cantaloupe, frozen chicken, some eggs, half of a head of lettuce, whole head of cauliflower, rice, four cans of soup, a few sausages and hot dogs in the freezer, enough turkey burger in the freezer for turkey burgers (plus we have buns in the freezer!), french fries in the freezer, three meals worth of white chicken chile in the freezer... wow, it's a lot!
We need a couple of staples: olive oil, butter. Also some fruit - peaches are on sale and so are cucumbers and mini tomatoes.
Here are the meals I can think of for the next week and a half or so:
- tortilla espanola (I have eggs and potatoes, so I think we're set)
- mexican eggs with salad (need to buy more corn tortillas and green onions and eggs, a couple of courgettes would be nice to have alongside)
- white chicken chile from the freezer with a salad (need a head of lettuce)
- big salad and toast (using the rest of that head of lettuce, probably should buy some more carrots)
- soup with garlic bread
- general tso chicken with rice and cabbage (can use the other half of the green onions I buy for Mexican eggs and a cabbage would be nice since it's not expensive)
- roasted cauliflower with sausages/buns
- turkey burgers with french fries
Just random thoughts for today, some financial/some not...
1. I bought a new mouse for using at the house with my laptop since the old one broke. Bought with office credit card since I need it for working from home (really only need it to use Autocad). The scroll thingy is sort of weird (smooth rather than clicky; I preferred clicky). This is the updated version of my old mouse. I guess I'll get used to it.
2. I got the mouse at Staples. We were also there to get some plastic/acetate display pockets for F's sports illustrated womens world cup covers. My "framing" idea is to put them in the acetate, then use a big bulldog clip and hang on the wall in a grid pattern. Much cheaper than framing, and she can keep the covers on the magazines. But they didn't have the pockets or the bulldog clips. I went home and ordered on Amazon. Can't believe how irritating stores are; I'd much rather shop online.
3. We ordered 8 more salad plates because we use those most often and always run out before we run the dishwasher. Ordering more plates was on the Declutter Calendar for last week, so I'm a little bit late.
4. We are leaving in a few mins. to go to a horse show (free!!). It's the last weekend. I'll let you know how it is.
5. Here are the other things on the Declutter Calendar for this month:
- change water filter
- declutter hall closet
- reorder plates and bowls that are broken
- wash car
- dust tops of all framed pictures
- clean out paper stacker thingy
- wash and rehang white curtains
- clean shower and apply rain-x
I did a little spreadsheet a year or so ago of all of my clothes, how many of each type, etc. to figure out the ideal number of each item. This was fine, except that I forgot to take into account condition. I had a lot of things with holes, stains, faded, didn't fit, that I never wore, that looked terrible on me.
This is what happens when you stop buying clothes for a long time. Things wear out. Even if you don't use your dryer.
Well, Creditcardfree and Snafu opened my eyes a little bit, and I went through my closet and removed 27 items of clothing (this is everyday wear, not once-in-a-year going out clothes or pajamas or underwear or socks or workout gear). I wasn't left with much, but I did see that I had the basis of a wardrobe. I have about 4 long sleeved tshirts and 4 short sleeved tshirts. One tank top in a pretty color. A couple pairs of jeans that fit well. Two pairs of cropped summer pants. Two nice summer dresses (one black, one brown). One pair of shorts, two casual skirts and one skirt I can wear to work.
I also saw that when I removed certain items that I was left with a big wardrobe gap. Primarily: things to wear to work. My work is very casual, but not so casual that a threadbare tshirt with holes is ok. Also not so casual that I can wear workout gear to a meeting.
I had $111 in my clothing category (I put in $15 a month, but often raid it for other things like and outing with F).
Armed with a list of things in my reject pile that I actually really need, and was wearing, but were not really wearable, I went all the way down to the outlet mall (20 minutes away! that seems like not that far, but that's pretty much on the edge of town). A friend had mentioned that there is an Ann Taylor Loft outlet down there, and that's where she shops. I put on a podcast because that way I would be distracted and not turn around and go home.
I had a clear morning (no work to finish imminently) so I could take my time. F is in camp.
With the help of a super nice salesperson (and the fact that I was there at opening so it wasn't busy), I managed to buy:
- one pair of black narrow pants in a knit fabric but jean style perfect for autumn because they are long and not jeans (original price was $69.99, I paid $14.88)
- one pair of the same pants in grey (original price $69.99, I paid $9.88)
- really pretty tank top in purple (original price was $29.99, I paid $14.99)
- the same tank top in a black/white print (original price was $29.99, I paid $14.99)
- black tank top with cinched in waist (original price $36.99, I paid $14.99)
- purple tshirt ($9)
- green tunic with 3/4 sleeves ($27.99)
Everything is knit fabric (it's a sensory thing for me), machine-washable. I made sure of that; I don't dry clean/lay flat/iron or otherwise tweak my laundry.
I am feeling like a really good shopper right now whereas before I felt like a terrible shopper with a hideous wardrobe. Thank you to this group for pushing out of my comfort zone a little - I am pretty excited to get dressed tomorrow!
So, first: How Soccer Saves us Lots of Money
- We are at the soccer fields every few days for practices and games. We were there last night for practice, today for a game (F scored a beautiful goal!) and tomorrow for another game (F is on the A team; we have A and B... I am so proud! She's worked hard for it!).
- The fields are in an abandoned horse racing track. I'm posting a photo of the entrance. It's super weird. And not near anything. There isn't even anything between the fields and our route home (no restaurants or shops or ANYTHING), so no temptations.
- Free entertainment, a great place to run (also free) when she's practicing (the old horse racing track is packed dirt)
- Lots of parents to socialize with! I even see old friends whose kids are on other teams/fields. There are like 30 fields.
- It forces me to have a good plan for dinner because we're not home until 7:30 or 8 pm on practice nights.
And now, How I Got a Deal on Glasses
I've been using magnifiers to read books and menus and things for a couple of years. But now when I drive, everything is fuzzy and I can't read street signs. Grrr. So I got an eye exam, and got my prescription for distance glasses. It's a light prescription. I don't need the glasses to get a license. But with the prescription, the trees have leaves and the signs have letters (the eye doctor took me outside so that I could test it out on things that are far away like trees and mountains).
There are a lot of eyeglass places online, but I have a teeny tiny head. And I have three pairs of reading glasses and two of them are super uncomfortable. All three are huge on my face and look ridiculous. But I read in private, so I don't care. But I'll be wearing the glasses to see kids' faces in soccer games, so that'll be public. Warby Parker (online) has a try-on program, but I thought I'd check our local eyeglass store first.
It's down by Target, and I was going by there on the way to get some stucco samples made, so I popped in. They had a special for glasses and lenses together (same price as Warby Parker!) and the salesperson showed me which glasses were on special. Then she looked at me and said, "or for the same price you can get any of our kids' glasses." I really am kind of small.
Anyway, I tried on the adult glasses. Like the three bears: too big! And then I looked at the kids' frames: they looked way too small! But I tried them on just to be sure: just right! Not just one pair, but pretty much every pair was my size.
So, I'm waiting for the prescription to be put in my kid-sized glasses.
I can wear a kids' size 4 1/2 shoe, too. I have kids' mittens and a pair of kids' jeans (I like them because they're stretchy). Kids' stuff is a lot less expensive!
I'm looking out the window at the fuzzy spring trees. I can't wait for my glasses to come so I can see the leaves and branches!
We woke up at 6:30 this morning to find that it had snowed overnight - beautiful! But... F was supposed to play in two soccer games. We checked email and at 7 they emailed to say that the games were still on, then drove all the way out there. The games started at 9, and we arrived at 8:35 (coaches need to be early and D is a coach)... at 8:36 we received an email canceling the games. Ugh.
The fields were COVERED with snow, so it wasn't a surprise. We ended up playing in the snow with another family that showed up, too. We made snowmen, played snow soccer, made a huge snowball...
That mom was supposed to bring snack that day, and she gave D and F homemade strawberry bread, and here is where things went wrong... I can't eat gluten so I was jealous, and we stopped at a bakery on the way home. $8.
We went home and watched the football match (soccer), did our spazzy workout since F was stir crazy. Then lunch at home.
I called a few of F's friends to see if they could come play, but no one could, so we decided to go ice skating. On the way we stopped at Target to get Claritin for F. We used a coupon and got 70 pills, so this was an expense we were expecting anyway. $25.
Ice skating was $22 for the three of us.
Then frozen yogurt afterward. $10.
We did combine our errands, and we stopped by the grocery store on the way home, doing a big loop around town. It was supposed to be a relatively inexpensive shopping trip, so I was freaking out until I realized that we also bought a big bag of dogfood (this is from the "pets" budget category). $58 groceries for the week plus $20 dogfood for the month, which is good for us, so this was a spending highlight. It's a good meal plan, too with pad thai, pasta with courgettes, baked potatoes, risotto, mexican eggs, apricot chicken/rice/salad and something from the freezer (also with a salad).
We all have good days and bad days, and I'm not counting the Claritin, groceries or dogfood since those are expected expenses. All in all, $40 I didn't need to spend, but we all had a wonderful day and F wasn't too sad about missing soccer.
Since I live in a place where tourists love to visit, and PNW Mom asked about things to do here, I thought I'd do a post about some of the wonderful things to do here. I've included some locals-only tips, and if you're coming to visit, you should tell me!
Sorry - this is super long!
My favorite is the Musuem of International Folk Art; it's free on Sundays! The most incredible collection of folk art I've ever seen - bright and colorful!
The Spanish Colonial Museum is also on Museum Hill and is housed in a house designed by John Gaw Meem (a famous New Mexican architect who is partly responsible for reviving Spanish Colonial style).
INDIAN PUEBLOS -
Taos Pueblo tour - this is about an hour and a half away; they have tours.
Feast Days - If you are coming in the summer, check to see if there's a feast day at one of the nearby Indian Pueblos...
We have lots going on all year.
Music on the Hill (bring a picnic dinner and listen to music while you picnic outside) http://www.sjc.edu/programs-and-events/santa-fe/music-hill-2015/ June-July (free! great with kids)
Santa Fe Bandstand (July-August) https://santafebandstand.org/ concerts on the Plaza (also great with kids)
Indian Market (free), Spanish Market (free), Folk Art Market (July 10-12 this year - Community Celebration with the Artists is Wednesday evening and is free! Tickets to Market vary and the lowest is $10 if purchased in advance)
Rodeo de Santa Fe - end of June
The Burning of Zozobra - We burned Zozobra long before there was burning man...
Santa Fuego Baseball - small-town baseball - we bring food and a blanket and you get to see the game up-close; end of May through July - tickets are $6
Winter Indian Market and Winter Spanish Market
Farolitos (paper bag lanterns on Canyon Road) on Christmas Eve
- Audobon Trail is a short, easy loop but can be made longer if you make a turn and go up the Bear Canyon trail to make it longer (free); Randall Davey's house was donated to the Audobon center - it's open every Friday at 2 pm for a docent-led tour ($5). They have bird walks led by local experts every Saturday at 8 am (free!).
- Waterfall Hike - As you head up to the ski area there is a ranger
station to the right about halfway up (just past one of the campgrounds in Hyde Park). In back is the old log lodge where they hold a lot of weddings. There is a 1 mile hike to a waterfall - really nice and beautiful... kind of snowy and cold in the winter. Day use parking fee is $5.
-Bandelier - totally worth doing! (about 45 mins from Santa Fe). You can enter the caves and see the blackened ceilings (from the cooking fires made 800 years ago!). At the farthest point of the Main Loop Trail (1.2 mi roundtrip) you have a choice to continue to Alcove House, which is 140 feet above the canyon floor and only accessed by a series of ladders. It's another 1 mile roundtrip and the view from the top is amazing. $12 per car fee.
- Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (about 20 minutes away toward Albuquerque) - really cool cone-shaped rock formations! About 20 min. south of Santa Fe.
-Tsankawi - On the way to Bandelier about 30 minutes from Santa Fe; petroglyphs and an amazing trail worn into the stone by people 600 years ago, beautiful vistas (ladders are a required part of the trail and the trails are very narrow). $12 per car fee.
- end of June is our rodeo down at the rodeo grounds - Rodeo de Santa Fe
- Folk Art Market - July 11, 12, 13 - http://www.folkartmarket.org/ - I would definitely come for the Thursday procession in Railyard Park (free with a free African concert - everyone dances, it’s a blast!!!). There is a volunteer button on the homepage - if you volunteer you get a free ticket (special times excluded) - volunteer as a Line Host!
We have some really amazing food here.
- The Tea House - stroll up Canyon Road, see the art (Friday night there are a ton of art gallery openings with wine/food), then stop in at The Tea House for tea and a scone or other dessert (they have a lot of gluten free choices, too).
- Ecco - stop in for gelato (on Marcy St) - it's homemade and wonderful
- Bumblebees - Mexican (not New Mexican) food, inexpensive
- Tune Up - GREAT locals place - really great New Mexican food
- Pascual's - great breakfast! This is not cheap, though.
- Vinaigrette - salads made with locally grown produce (grown up in
Nambe) - really wonderful, can eat outside beautiful patio (but also pretty expensive - this is for a treat!)
- Cowgirl - a fun outside patio, good to stop in and have a margarita
and listen to live music on the patio
- Kakawa - try an unusual hot chocolate - not cheap, but really different!
- Roque's Carnitas - a little lunch truck on the Plaza has been here for years and years. Super yummy and very messy! Get extra napkins!
- The Pantry - for a great New Mexico locals-style breakfast - it's down Cerrillos a few miles. You'll be the only tourist there! Be sure to get the potatoes.
- Chocolate Maven - you can sit down for breakfast here or just pick up a breakfast burrito to go. These are the best breakfast burritos in town!
- If you want Indian jewelry, shop under the portal of the Palace of the
Governors - you have to be certified/vetted to sell there,
so you know what you're getting is real - if you buy from any other
places/tables scattered around the plaza, the authenticity is not guaranteed
- Doodlet’s - fun/crazy souvenirs (this is just off the plaza)
- Madrid - a small town south on Highway 14 about 30 minutes - fun for a day trip and some funky art/crafts for gifts.
- Farmer's Market (Saturday and Tuesday mornings - check dates for summer v. winter) and Artist's Market across the street in the Railyard on Saturday mornings. You can get a yummy breakfast burrito in the Farmer's Market building.
- Todos Santos - chocolate shop hidden away in the beautiful Sena Plaza downtown; it's beautiful but I never buy anything here. It is worth seeing, though, and I'd probably buy something as a special gift for someone.
- Señor Murphy Candymaker - I do buy piñon caramel turtles here! And my favorite thing is the marshmallow dipped in caramel and then chocolate! Yum!
It's soooo much better and more fun to be near downtown, but it is more expensive. The biggest bargain is the Santa Fe Sage Inn which is a short walk from downtown. I hear that the Old Santa Fe Inn (even closer) is also not too expensive depending on the season.
I got "perfumed" at Target today. It was from pushing the cart (it's my hands that smell). It's so strong that even after using germ stuff, washing my hands three times, rubbing with a lemon... they still smell! I am so grumpy! Now I'm going to have to sniff the cart handles before I use them.
Anyway, I bought F some shorts (we are going to CA for Spring Break and I realized her summer clothes don't fit!) $8, some foil and kleenex and wipes.
I also went to the grocery store this week and had a pretty good week. Total was about $75.
I am going to go wash my hands with baking soda; be right back.
I'm back; it didn't work.
Dinner tonight is Apricot Chicken with Basmati Rice and Broccoli. I'm going to go get started on the sauce to take my mind off my stinky hands.
F needed googly eyes to finish her valentines for school... Michaels coupon 40% off, so total spent on valentines is $1.94 for googly eyes. She made them out of construction paper she already has. We got the idea from this website: http://www.theidearoom.net/2015/01/valentines-day-crafts.html
Michaels is right near Petsmart, and I had a coupon for $3 off good through the end of February, so I popped in to buy cat litter. Besides the $3 coupon, the cat litter (their own brand) was $2 off with my petperks card. So the $14 box of cat litter (I buy the 40 lb. box) was $9. And the receipt had another $3 coupon (good until 3/17) if I filled out a survey online. So I did that while F did her math homework. We'll use if for dogfood.
Now the valentines are done, and the kitchen is clean for the night, and F has done her reading and logged it.
Today was a very low anxiety day for F and I'm hoping that things are getting better. She and I relax A LOT now! I think it's good for both of us.
Also talked to our friends who used to live on the Central Coast and now live here (I lived in SLO in college). I told them we're going to visit my parents and then go up the coast and they said they'll be there at the same time (we're there for a week, but they're there almost all summer!). She said "You should stay with us! We're renting a house!" I think that would be awesome! Let's see what D says... (he's more of an introvert, and I LOVE being around people). It could also save money (sharing costs), and we all know I love that!
Yesterday we spent a lot of money on a cross country skiing day trip to Enchanted Forest in Red River, but it was planned. Here is a list of all the way we saved but still got a really great weekend break:
- F and I own our own gear (my skis and boots are about 20 years old but are still great!) so no rental fees for us. Only D rented, total price: $16
- the ski area is the biggest x-c ski area in our state (33 km of trails), but it's still a cool little family-owned business. For trail passes for three of us it was $45. That's a lot less than downhill! (We don't downhill, by the way).
- We did not stay overnight, so no hotel. And our neighbor popped in to let our dog out since it was a long day (no petsitter).
- We packed a lunch, so we didn't pay for lunch (and we didn't need to take out any ski time to go eat).
- Used half a tank of gas to get there and back which is pretty good, and gas prices are low right now. $8 in gas.
- We went with another family, and had so much fun!
- We all stopped for dinner at our favorite place in Española on the way home. The last time we ate out was three weeks ago since we knew we were going out after the ski trip.
And, here's a big one: everyone was so satisfied with the trip (and exhausted) that we just stayed home today and didn't feel the need to go out today. F mentioned ice cream, but then I got two apples at the store, so we're having an apple/blueberry crumble instead.
I did the meal planning, and spent $80 for the week's groceries (and that includes ingredients for a salad for the potluck lunch the Parent Association is making for teachers/staff on Tuesday.
I did really well on groceries this week. I had to check the receipts to make sure, but we were under $100 which is good for us.
This week's meal plan:
S - pasta with courgettes (and some goat cheese)
M - v. sweet salmon and green beans
T - mexican eggs with garlic bread
W - crockpot meal from the freezer with salad
T - chicken tikka in crockpot with rice
F - baked potato and broccoli
S - quesadillas and guacamole
Unfortunately I accidentally bought a bag of cat food we didn't need. I thought we were out, and didn't realize that we had a bag waiting. Oh well, it will get used eventually and it was on sale. Also had a deal from American Express (spend $25 at Petsmart, get $5 back). I looked, but there aren't any other deals I need right now.
Now I'll tell you about the unplanned purchase I made today. I've been thinking about it for a while because I'm so cold all the time and I spend a lot of time in unheated job trailers or on jobsites. I bought an on-sale down jacket from Lands End (I also used a coupon code for an extra 15% off). Actually, the office bought it for me because it's my new site visit jacket. Now hopefully I won't shiver noticeably at outdoor meetings. It probably won't come in time, but I have to meet at a job site on Tuesday that is basically a big dirt hole up in the mountains (brrrrrrrr).
Today I bought;
- a toaster oven (it is a very good brand, and it's convection and is easy to clean; was in the scratch and dent section) which uses a third of the watts of our oven; I decided to go with one that does 6 slices of toast because that's the most we'd make for garlic bread - that way we'll barely need to use the oven!
- a bunch of LED light bulbs to replace the 35 watt halogens in our track lighting. Instead of 35 watts, each one is 4 watts.
I am weird about energy usage, and also I don't want to change those bulbs again! I shouldn't have to ever again!
Also today: began drafting my New Year's resolutions. One is to have an eye exam (it's been a few years), and I started calling around places to find out prices. One wasn't open, so I'll call them back tomorrow. They take the 15% vision discount that comes with my insurance (vision isn't covered for adults). So far the prices seem really high ($140-150 without the discount). Our Lenscrafters just lost their eye doctor, but I don't know if they'd be cheaper anyway. The one that wasn't open is stuck into the side of a Walmart; I'm not a big fan of Walmart, but I don't think they're affiliated.
If you've recently had an eye exam, what did you pay? It's probably covered in the UK, right? (I'm scared to even talk to D about it; every time something like that comes up he wants to move back immediately!).
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