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Archive for January, 2014

Rationalization for Stupid Spending

January 30th, 2014 at 03:38 pm

After I picked F up from school today, we went over to Whole Foods to grab a snack. I needed to use up some time because I wanted to return the choreography notes and cd's that I borrowed from a fellow instructor (who wasn't going to be at the gym until 4 to teach her class). She very kindly let me copy her stuff since I am now co-teaching that weightlifting class. She no longer teaches the weightlifting class, but still teaches spinning).

We each bought a little dessert (I was only going to get a drink, and I don't know what happened! I was weak in the presence of chocolate!) and a drink.

Here is the rationalization: I really wanted to get the stuff back to my friend because I've had it a week, and this was one of the only times I could drop it off. I got a lot of music and choreography for free (thereby offsetting the cost of the treat!). I would have had to go home and come back (so we would have used up gasoline).

All of this is a rationalization. In reality, I should have just gotten the treat for F. I didn't really need anything. I didn't even want anything. This is my weird buying impulse - this is why I don't go into stores. It's not like I spent a lot, but it adds up. I usually food shop early in the morning (when I'm not hungry and weak-willed).

Note to future me: you don't even like the chocolate that much after you get it; next time stop by the cheese samples for a FREE salty treat! (I am going to have that tattooed onto my hand or something.

Internet Bill - Reduced!

January 29th, 2014 at 03:41 pm

When I got home today, my internet bill was in my inbox. Yikes! It had doubled since last month! I figured the promo deal I had was over.

So I immediately called to beg for another promo deal. All I said was "I noticed the promotion is now over." There weren't even any formalities or "we'd really like to keep you as a customer" - they just transferred me immediately to the retention department who without any discussion (or begging) offered me a rate that is even less than what we've been paying for the past year. I was prepared to beg; seriously.

We now pay $19.95 plus taxes for internet only. (We were paying about $25).

It's like the other, "non-promo" rate is just for people who are too busy or don't bother to call in. All you have to do is call up and you get the better (way better) rate.

Savings is about $60/year.

$75 Snowflake and a Question

January 28th, 2014 at 04:02 pm

Got a check for $75 from my business credit card (cash rewards). I haven't decided if this is mortgage principal or will go into F's tuition account which will be depleted since we just paid next year's deposit. I might wait until the end of Feb. when I find out how much tuition assistance we get.

And now a question, which might be silly... but here goes... how do you determine a no-spend day? Some days my mortgage payment goes through or I pay the gas bill or whatever. But those are fixed expenses that I can't do anything about. Is it a no-spend day if you haven't spent on incidentals/food/stuff like that?

My visa payment went through today, but these were items I bought on other days. To me, this was a no-spend day, but the days I bought those items were spend days. Does that make sense? How do the rest of you figure it?

My Cleaning Calendar

January 28th, 2014 at 09:12 am

This is my cleaning calendar (for those who are interested). It's actually three calendars: Weekly, Monthly and Yearly (some things appear more than once on the yearly). It's personalized; lots of things would be different for different people.

There are climate/seasonal differences (I have to wait until after our monsoon season to wash our windows/screens, for example).

There are lifestyle differences (number of rooms in your home, number of kids, pets, where the cleaning and decluttering challenges are, when is garbage day).

There are preferences (such as how often you thing something should occur - should mopping be weekly or monthly? should you deep clean the refrigerator once a year or twice?).

And, there are time limitations... I work about 35 hrs. a week, and work limits what I can get done.

MY METHOD - Every Sunday night I copy and paste the relevant things from each list into my to-do list for the week.

OK, here goes!

WEEKLY
Monday
mirrors or stainless (alternate)
take up bins
Tuesday
F’s bathroom
water plants
Wednesday
dustbuster
Thursday
our bathroom
Friday
fur fight
sheets or towels (alternate)
dust
file emails
Saturday
litterbox
vacuum
laundry
grocery shopping, clear out old food from the fridge
clean birdcage
Sunday
collect garbage
allowance
lunch pictures

MONTHLY
week 1 - magazines to library, clean tile in F’s bathroom, pay RGS
week 2 - clean windows, clean out purple caddy in alcove, straighten rug, go through inbox/filing
week 3 - mop
week 4 - clean shower, clean tub surround, vacuum out car

YEARLY
January
week 1
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
go through F’s artwork, scan, put in portfolio
take down Christmas cards - put some in keepsake envelope
week 2
wipe top of refrigerator and top of oven
wipe and clean play kitchen
clean vacuum cannisters (dustbuster and dyson)
week 3
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
clean trash pullout and bottom
winter clothing sales
week 4
clean tea shelf
inventory for reorder for household supplies

February
week 1
purge medicine cabinet
clean out paper stacker thingy
week 2
wash car
dust legs of wood chairs and tables
week 3
go through F’s sock/underwear drawers - toss, reorder
go through my sock/underwear drawers - toss
toss papers in garage filing cabinet
week 4 
sale on bags/foil at Albertsons - last week in Feb
do individual bookshelves - take all books down

March
week 1
declutter bedside drawer
declutter F’s guys baskets with her
wash and rehang white curtains
week 2
declutter F’s bathroom drawers and under sink
water trees
week 3
wipe fronts of kitchen drawers and handles
declutter F’s dressup drawer with her
test smoke alarm
week 4 
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)
turn mattress

April
week 1
declutter/clean guest bedroom
clean freezer
week 2
survey of things that need repair/upgrade in house
wipe and clean play kitchen
front entry - sweep and tidy, portal too
week 3
paint - touchup 
clean light switches and door handles with wet wipe
week 4 
declutter F’s closet with her
wipe dining room chairs
inventory for reorder for household supplies

May
week 1
declutter laundry room, put away coats, bring out swim bag
clean top of pantry shelves and closet shelves
week 2
water trees
week 3
go through my winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
laundry sink, surfaces, dryer lint
week 4 
go through F’s winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
dust the picture rail in the den

June
week 1
declutter bathroom drawers
wipe down remotes
week 2
tidy and wipe pantry shelves
weed
go through F’s artwork, scan F’s, put in portfolio
put memento envelope on shelf and start new envelope
week 3
dust top of light fixtures in kitchen and dining
wipe kitchen appliances
week 4 
declutter F’s books with her
wipe lampshades

July
week 1
clean engagement/wedding rings
declutter garage
week 2
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
week 3
declutter spare room closet
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
week 4 
wipe and clean play kitchen
weed
wipe cabinet fronts
inventory for reorder for household supplies

August
week 1
declutter hall closet
reorder plates and bowls that are broken
week 2
wash car
dust tops of all framed pictures
week 3
clean out paper stacker thingy
wash and rehang white curtains
week 4 
weed

September
week 1
clean windows - screens and all - level 1
week 2
clean windows - screens and all - level 2
week 3
clean windows - screens and all - level 3
week 4 
go through all kitchen drawers
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)

October
week 1
go through my summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
clean freezer
week 2
clean outdoor light fixtures
go through F’s summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
new toothbrushes
week 3
water trees
wipe and clean play kitchen
week 4 
sell items on craigslist or ebay
clean top of fireplace
vacuum behind sofa
inventory for reorder for household supplies

November
week 1
declutter kitchen cabinets 
start buying Christmas presents - make a list
week 2
tidy art center
tighten any loose kitchen cabinet hinges
washing machine - clean outside with a wet wipe
week 3
book purge
under kitchen sink
week 4 
declutter holiday box (ornaments, etc)
declutter linens

December
week 1
water trees if there hasn’t been much snow
tops of fans
week 2
discard old/expired spices
wipe cabinet fronts
week 3
do photo book in shutterfly for the previous year
toss all receipts from previous year 
week 4 
declutter game cabinet
clean washing machine with 1 c vinegar on hot
clean dishwasher with vinegar and pick out calcium deposits

Cleaning/Decluttering Calendar

January 27th, 2014 at 03:24 pm

On the Cleaning Calendar for this week: purge medicine cabinets, clean paper stack.

Haven't tackled the paper stack yet (but it doesn't look toooo bad). Later in the week.

But I just did the medicine cabinet. D had four expired medications in there! And there was some Lactaid. It doesn't matter how much Lactaid I eat, cow dairy still doesn't agree. So I put that near D's sink to see if he wants it. And we had some ten-year-old hippy sinus drops; in the trash. There was nothing weird or old in F's medicine cabinet.

On the monthly list are: take magazines to the library and wipe the tile in F's shower. Both easy tasks. Will probably do F's tile tonight since it's bath night.

The other thing we do at the beginning of the month is pay tuition. And because it's February, we also pay our deposit for next year. I have money in our Tuition account, so it's not a big deal; it's just scary watching it plummet so much in one month.

I need to find out if we got any tuition assistance and, if so, how much. Will report back.

Grocery Shopping, Meal Plan and a New Recipe

January 26th, 2014 at 09:49 am

The meal plan for this week (with commentary!):

- pasta carbonara (new recipe! very inexpensive, and soooo good) - $3.81 total
- potato pancakes, applesauce, sour cream (I bought a ton of hashbrowns on sale last week) with salad ($5.00)
- chicken sausages, brussels sprouts and rice (about $6.50 total)
- tilapia (curry powder and paprika) with broccoli and garlic bread - $8.50
- something from the freezer (tamales?) with salad
- mexican eggs and toast ($4.50)

Total grocery spend: $103 (stocked up on some staples)
- dinner items $28
- lunch $26
- fruit $6
- staples $18 (higher than normal because I bought gf loaves of bread on sale to freeze)
- breakfast $13
- dessert $13 (higher because I bought gf flour blend on sale - I already have a lot, but it was 50% off and will get used)

So... the new recipe. I've always loved pasta carbonara, except I was pretty sure I couldn't have it anymore since cream is not a good option for me. Except in the back of my mind, I knew the authentic version doesn't use cream at all, only eggs. When I found this recipe http://www.dinneralovestory.com/restaurant-worthy-carbonara/ I was pretty excited to try it. It was so good! And the whole family liked it (crucial; we had friends over yesterday and E makes something different for each member of the family every night - I won't make anything we can't all eat). I used five strips of turkey bacon.

I have a lot of recipes in our repertoire now. It's been a key to budgeting: I mix up very frugal and slightly less frugal so we're not eating expensive meals every night but we can have fish or chicken a few nights a week. Do you try out new recipes? Any that are yummy and frugal that you want to share?

No Tuition Increase = Very Good Mood!!

January 24th, 2014 at 06:38 pm

Just got an email from F's school - they are NOT increasing tuition this year! They usually go up a little each year.

That doesn't mean that we'll get the same amount in tuition assistance, so I'm not changing my spreadsheet yet, but I am pretty relieved that even if we get less tuition assistance, it won't be as big of a problem if the overall tuition doesn't go up. Phew!

We receive our re-enrollment contract next Monday, so we'll find out if we got tuition assistance (and if so, how much) then. Fingers crossed.

Dinner is a Big "?"

January 24th, 2014 at 11:08 am

We're not going out tonight, but I don't have anything planned for dinner either (I plan for 6 days a week and assume one night out). Ugh. I've eaten a super boring but inexpensive lunch (a pear, two fried eggs, chips and salsa leftover from F's lunch yesterday).

D will come home from work and assume I have dinner sorted out.

Options:
- something from next week's food list that we have in the house (but that is probably eggs and I just had eggs for lunch).
- polenta with red sauce and a side salad (we had salad last night; maybe peas?) or grilled cheese sandwiches
- stop by Sprouts and pick up a cooked chicken (the expensive option) and have it with something already in the house (peas?)
- goody plate made up of stuff left over in the fridge: toast, cheese, carrots (but since lunch was sort of unfulfilling, this might not be a good option; hmmm - do meals need to be fulfilling in addition to filling? probably yes)

I think it's the polenta. Inexpensive, warm, yummy.

Tomorrow - will take advantage of Sprouts' sales on gluten free items. Will increase the grocery bill in the short run, but save money in the long run.


Freebies

January 23rd, 2014 at 10:37 am

Freebie 1 - Was taken to breakfast today by a client. This never happens, since my clients are almost always local governments. This client is a hotel. He also mentioned there will be more work coming up later in the year, so that's good.

Freebie 2 - I got paid by the gym; it was $40 (mortgage principal!). I really would (and have had) taught just for the gym membership. I think I'd get paid more if more people came to my classes, so I might have to figure out how to drum up business!

Freebie 3 - No horse riding for F today - it was canceled due to cold. She'll be sad, but I am glad since it is really cold! My parents pay for the lessons, but this saves the gas down there.

Medical Expenses for D's Vertigo

January 22nd, 2014 at 09:25 am

Vertigo is gone, but D still has symptoms (in the end I think it was a sinus infection that settled in his ear). He says his ear continues to feel plugged (but at least he's functional!). The tally for the medical expenses is about $215.

Not sure if it's related (maybe sinus pressure is affecting his eyes?) but he also went to get a new pair of glasses - total $261 incl. the doctor visit. He now needs them to see up close (so it's prescription reading glasses - he didn't want bi-focals). This wasn't an expected expense since he just got glasses in June.

It's a lot to absorb, and we're about $209 down on our medical "envelope." (This is a virtual envelope - we do our budgeting and tracking in moneywell which uses what they call a bucket system, but its basically an envelope). I'll need to funnel some money in there from underspent buckets. Dining and groceries should be low this month, so we can use some of that to fill that bucket back up.

Miscellaneous Money Stuff

January 21st, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Lots of thoughts in my head right now (it's good to get this down so I can stop thinking about everything):

- I got my bonus from Capital One today - $125! Yes! I am going to apply this to mortgage principal next month.

- A friend is coming over this afternoon to share her music and choreography for the exercise class I teach. She is so nice! She used to own our gym, and she was the one who got us all certified to teach this class. She was at the hospital the day after my daughter was born (and it was a trek! We were at a hospital an hour away due to complications). Anyway, the result is that I don't need to buy choreography. And F and I get to see her!

- I was attending the same class yesterday (my friend L teaches on Mondays, and we share the Wednesday class). L and I have already shared our music, and I'll be copying everything for her, too. Anyway, the gym owner paid L, so I am hoping that means I'll get paid either tomorrow or Thursday. Fingers crossed; he is pretty erratic about paying us.

- My insurance company is making me a little crazy right now. They were great in that they decided that D's last day on the insurance was 12.31.13, but somehow decided I wasn't eligible for coverage and didn't pay my doctor for my well-visit (so I had to call and straighten it all out). Then despite the fact that D is not covered, we've paid for him for both January and February. I was told we'd get a credit for January to appear on the February statement, but they told me their billing department is separate. Another call. I'm hoping this is fixed for March and we see the credits for both January and February. The woman I spoke with understood that we shouldn't be paying for my husband, and promised that would be straightened out for March, but didn't mention the credit in the phone message she left me. We'll see.

- I finished the business taxes (both federal and state). Just need to mail - phew!! I've download Turbo Tax for our personal taxes (my parents let me use their software since you can download onto multiple computers). So I'll start that this week.

- I am doing the business checkbook reconciliation.

- I am vowing to curb our spending in February. January was "spendy" due to stocking up in the sales.

Day off of Work = Some Spending + Guilt

January 20th, 2014 at 10:14 am

F is off of school today, but D works, so I am taking advantage of my self-employed status to hang out with her.

This morning we have been hanging out a home, and right now she's playing minecraft for a few mins.

I was relieved to get an email from F's piano teacher this morning canceling today's lesson. F hadn't practiced much (we are trying to work out a better system for practicing) and we get a credit toward next month's lessons. That means we pay for only three lessons in Feb. rather than four.

So instead we'll do a few quick errands downtown and then go to the gym. F gets her own bench, and she does the motions with just the bar (1 lb.) or dance or play on the ipad. Usually all three over the course of the class.

Then we're going out to lunch! We're going to a Japanese place for bento boxes (they have a lunch special). D eats lunch out once a week, and I eat lunch out once a month, so I don't feel too guilty about this splurge. OK, I must feel a little guilty or I wouldn't be mentioning it. Whatever is left from our dining budget for the month, I use to pay down the mortgage. But it is, after all, the dining budget. I know everyone has issues around money, and I feel less guilty if I deprive myself, but I am trying to deprive myself less when the budget is not in any danger.

I buy stuff at the grocery store for F and D (crisps, scones for D so that he doesn't go to Starbucks, pickles for F, beer and coffee for D). I end up with the rejects from F's lunch as the sides in my lunch the next day, and I don't drink alcohol or coffee (I gave them up a long time ago when I realized how expensive these things are). This is not a rant against my husband and daughter; it's really about me, and I know that. I don't need as many "treats" but when I do give myself a treat, I have to try to not feel guilty!

Do any of you struggle with the guilt thing?

Low-Key Weekend

January 19th, 2014 at 08:14 am

D and F are out getting breakfast burritos together. Last week, D went and saw a movie mid-week after dinner one night (and F was sad that she didn't see him much that day, just at dinner). And tomorrow is a no-school day, but D has to work, so she and I will hang out (that is the beauty of self-employment). So D and F are spending some time together today. First the breakfast burritos, then they'll meet a friend of hers and his dad up at school to kick the soccer ball around.

Tonight we're having pizza at our friends' house. They have six kids (including triplets!), and there will be two other families there. I am bringing salad. I'm happy - love all of these families, and I love potlucks. F is happy because she loves all the kids.

I took our pennies to the bank on Friday and we had $5.78! That's a lot for pennies! So that will go to the mortgage principal next month.

I've gathered up a bunch of old photos to scan (we didn't have a digital camera until F was born). D and I looked so young when we first met! And I gathered up old family photos, too. I should have time on Tuesday to scan some of them.

Right now - need to vacuum F's bedroom and get a load of washing in before D and F come home!