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Archive for June, 2014

Definitely NOT a No-Spend Day

June 30th, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Today was mother-daughter day, and we definitely spent some money, but I'd budgeted for it. We went to Albuquerque to have some fun, including lunch and the Fun Center. We stopped at Old Navy because all of F's dresses are waaaaay too short (they are quite loose in width - my skinny little girl! - she grew 2" from Dec. to June). We had lunch.

I wasn't being particularly cost-conscious, but there are ways we saved:

- shared a lunch (so total for lunch for two of us was $10). Ate at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, and got to watch the soccer (football) match on the large screen. F was very happy to see her favorite player - Giroud - and that France won.

- I got coupons online for unlimited passes at the Fun Center, so we saved $8. We definitely made full use of the unlimited pass, partly because Monday is pretty quiet there so you don't have to wait in line. We did go-karts twice and bumper boats twice and a round of mini-golf and the bungee jump.

- We visited Sonic during happy hour for slushes so the total for both was $2.35.

On the way back home, F said "I love mother-daughter days." So worth it, so much fun, and I agree with her: I love being with her, too.

Tomorrow - more frugal, and definitely a no-spend day. We are meeting some people for a free hike in the mountains.

Net Worth

June 29th, 2014 at 04:22 pm

I calculate our net worth every three months, just to see how we're doing. We're now at $1,072,306 (up from $1,023,088 last quarter)! Yay! (This is mostly our two houses... one will be paid off next summer and the other - the one we live in - will be paid off in 2020 at the latest but I'm hoping it's sooner).

The Dublin house has only $7000 left on the mortgage, and the value is going up, but we will pay a lot of taxes when we sell which is a bummer. So I probably should have put that in the liabilities column.

It seems odd that our net worth is good, and I'm super happy about it, but I only have $68 to spend on groceries for this week. Argh! And we are having people from D's work over for dinner tonight. I am making a nice pasta dish (with sundried tomatoes and white wine - already have both - and rocket/arugula - also have - and shrimp - have about half what we need).

Avoiding Baggage Fees

June 28th, 2014 at 04:46 pm

Oh, Ryanair. The world's most irritating airline, but so inexpensive and they always go where we want to go.

The problem is their luggage restrictions... all those bags that say they meet airline carry-on sizing restrictions do not meet Ryanair's even more restrictive 7.87" thickness requirement. And there isn't any leeway because they have a rigid box and your bag has to fit inside it. If your bag doesn't fit, they will charge you 60 euro to check it (that's over $80).

I have a Campmor Essential Carry-on which is soft sided; if you don't fill it too full, it will easily mush into Ryanair's box. (That, by the way, is the perfect carry-on bag - it weighs about 1 pound and only costs $30). It has a big, ugly logo that upsets people who hate big, ugly logos. Ryanair now allows a "personal item" which can be 13.75" x 7.87" x 7.87" so you can put some of the overflow in there.

But... the Campmor can only be carried as a shoulder bag or a backpack. And F needs wheels. Unfortunately, all of the wheel bags have a rigid base and that base almost always is more than 7.87". There is a wheeled bag you can get from the UK (40 GBP); they'll ship to the US. That's an option.

But here is what I'm thinking: what about a folding luggage cart? (like this one: . Then F can have a soft bag like mine and it can sit in the wheeled contraption. When we need to put it in the Ryanair box, the wheels are folded up and stored inside it.

Yes, all of this is to avoid baggage fees. We've paid to check one bag, and that's it. And that bag needs to contain F's booster seat because that would otherwise be considered a separate bag! And if we get it from the rental car company it's about 50 euro ($75!!!!).

Some notes: we are very light packers. Last time we traveled far, to Canada (varying weather) - F and I packed together in my Campmor carryon. She also had a small bag of toys/card games. She is now bigger and she has been traveling with her own carry-on wheelie, but it won't meet Ryanair's restrictions even though it's smaller in every other dimension. Also, we can stuff some things into the checked bag if needed.

My Volunteer "Job"

June 28th, 2014 at 03:23 am

Only two weeks to Folk Art Market... I picked up my badge and tshirt today (free t-shirt!!!), as well as badges and tshirts for some of my volunteers (they'll pick theirs up from me rather than being limited to the two pick up times).

I was curious that the committee chairs didn't get all-access passes, but I can take the back way in (my volunteers are on the back path to the buses. I got my parking pass yesterday, and that's the really important thing. It means I can be on-site as needed quickly. Did I mention that I get to go to the event free? And that my husband, as one of my volunteers, also goes free?

The logistics of putting on an event like this are staggering, but it's spread out to lots of committee chairs. Every year around this time, I think that this is my last year, and every year I do it again! I love it, but this is the point when I'm most tired (making sure everyone is scheduled, and making sure that I have a packet of info to give to people, and making sure everyone has a shirt and a badge, and sending lots of reminder emails. That wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have regular (paid) job!

OK, done complaining.... it'll be a great event and I'll try to post photos.

Now... the really sticky issue: will I buy something or not? I think the answer is probably not since I am still paying myself back for the large medical bill. And there is one more bill to come from that. And a vacation coming up. So, definitely no. I will just soak up atmosphere and take photos.

Music on the Hill

June 26th, 2014 at 08:18 pm

I love our city in the summer - there are so many fun, free, community things to do. One of my favorites is Music on the Hill, which is basically a huge picnic with music. Everyone brings blankets and picnic dinners. The kids run around playing. Our local bank gives out little rubber koosh-ball like things that the kids play with.

We go up to the front and dance. You see tons of friends, and sometimes people you haven't seen for a while. It's a small enough city that we know a huge percentage of the people there; maybe that's why it's so fun.

And, seriously, free music is awesome.

Last night we sat with a big group (several blankets all pushed together) including a couple and their kids who have just moved here from the UK, who now have a bunch of instant friends.

I made potato salad for the first time (despite my brother who said "I never eat potato salad; it was the answer to every food poisoning question in medical school.") We brought yummy sandwiches, and cherries and cookies. And chips and salsa. And watered-down lemonade.

Do you have free music/festivals/picnics like this in your town/city? Do you like to go?

Weird Letter - Is Money Coming?

June 24th, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I got a weird letter today from my general liability insurance company. They said they made an error calculating my premium, and if I still owed money to pay on the premium, they'd adjust it, and if I'd already paid in full, they would send a check. Really? I hope so. Wonder how much? Are we talking 50 cent or $50?

In other financial news:
- F is not loving this week's camp as much as last week's, but it's from 8:30-3:30 and I'm able to get some significant work done which will allow me to take off some time next week when she doesn't have camp.

- I drove over a screw on a jobsite (this is one of those job hazards!) and had to go to the tire store. But - yay! - the screw was just stuck in between the treads and was super short so it didn't puncture anything. They removed the screw and didn't charge me.

- Because we hosted a coach last week, we have very little grocery budget left for this month (but we do have some dining out budget which I can move into the grocery bucket). Luckily only one more shop for the month. I'll need to be strategic.

- I am making my packing list (one of my favorite parts about traveling!). I will post about this at some point, but you probably guessed that I'm an extremely efficient packer. I do carry-on only. This saves bag fees. And I have a very inexpensive carry-on ($30) and very light; it's the best on out there.

Frugal things for the day

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Summer is hard - for some reason our food budget goes way up (I think it's having friends around - we seem to want to get together, enjoy outside when it's warm out).

Anyway, we're still trying to find ways to save.

I registered F for soccer next fall early (deadline is July 1 for earlybird) and saved $10.

And we visited Sonic today during Happy Hour (2 to 5) for slushes (during Happy Hour they're half off). Total was $2.16 for two.

I canceled a subscription to a magazine. This is the only magazine I subscribed to (except for a professional magazine that I somehow just get). I find it's more exciting to see what I can find at the library's free magazine exchange.

I am making a sketch model (that is a rough model, not the finished pretty models you see in lobbies of buildings) to use for design, with cardboard I had in the office. I don't make finished models for my clients unless they pay me! (But they all want the sketch model - I usually say no because it's made for my use and to take to my engineers so they can understand the building I'm designing).

Just found a great show to watch on the bbc iplayer. But it's only available for one more day! So I used the bbc downloader so now we have it for a month. The show is called Tigers about the House about a zoo trainer who hand-raises Sumatran tiger cubs in his front room!

And, finally: dinner tonight is from the freezer (chili that was frozen from a big batch) with a salad. I make the dressing myself; so much less expensive and a lot tastier!

That was a quick round-up of our savings today. It makes me feel better just to see it listed like that!

Old Skirt = New Shirt

June 22nd, 2014 at 07:40 pm

A frugal thing:
I had an old skirt that I didn't want to wear as a skirt anymore, but I liked the red fabric. So I mined it for fabric, and made it into a tank top.

I am equally proud that I did not keep the scraps (which I am prone to do); that'd just be more clutter. I have a lot of things I keep in case they're useful, but tiny fabric scraps is carrying that too far. F's fabric scrap bag is already full, so I got rid of the scraps.

Folk Art Market

June 21st, 2014 at 03:15 pm

It's that time of the year again - Folk Art Market is almost here (3 weeks away!). I am working hard to fill my volunteer shifts, but still have some open slots left. I have contacted almost everyone I know.

I've scheduled a training session, and I've finished the information packet that I'll send to my volunteers.

So, this is unpaid of course (I am the chair of one section of volunteers), but I feel so good doing it. It has a huge benefit for the artists who take home 90% of what they make and do things like open schools and artist cooperatives. This year there will be 150 artist from 60 countries.

My friend founded the Folk Art Market 11 years ago, and that's why I'm a volunteer chair, but even if I didn't know her, I'd volunteer.

And, a big bonus: when we travel to France later this summer, we are invited to come to the house of one of the artists (a basketmaker) for the day. He'll be coming to our house for dinner when he's here for Market. Those kinds of cultural exchanges are priceless to me, especially for F.

Do you do volunteer work? I'll tell you something: it sure is a frugal way to spend your time!

Big Grocery Spending - but there's a reason

June 20th, 2014 at 02:57 pm

The grocery spending this week was about $80 more than normal - yikes! But there's a reason... we have a British coach from F's soccer camp staying with us. He's 22, and he eats a lot!

But... we get a check for $80 from the camp at some point as a "thank you" - really it's to cover extra food costs. Characteristically, I am not worrying that they'll forget to send it to us.

F is so sad that the coach is leaving this evening. I'm sad, too. We'll miss him!

Just got a notice that the coaches (Brazilian this time) from next week's camp need somewhere to stay. I'd do it, but D thinks it's a bit much to do it two weeks in a row. Next year...

Filling out my Professional Liability Renewal

June 15th, 2014 at 03:40 am

Last year I paid $3236 for professional liability insurance. I wonder what it'll be this year...

It's not optional for me (my clients require an insurance certificate), so I just have to pay it, but it's pretty frustrating given the state of the economy for architects. Our fees go down, but it doesn't seem like the insurance premium ever goes down.

Anyway, you know how I am about tracking things... I track my incoming money (for the business which is an S-corp) and also the percentage of gross billing for different types of projects (fire station, work for homeowner's associations, offices, schools, etc.) and for different types of clients. Turns out in 2013, 88% of my fees were from local governments. Ninety-two percent of my fees were from repeat clients. I need all of this info in order to fill out the renewal application.

And more information... it's a long form. I am going to fill it out tomorrow and scan/send back to my insurance agent on Monday. Hopefully given how much (how little!) I made in 2012 and 2013, the premium won't go up. Fingers crossed.

F's Bday Party Starts Soon - Seriously Frugal

June 14th, 2014 at 08:44 pm

I will hopefully be able to post some photos after the party... but in the meantime, some of the frugal things we did for this party:

- having the party at home (we always do that)
- food is hot dogs, watermelon, crisps (last year we ordered pizza and it was expensive!)
- cake is from a mix, and I'm making my own buttercream frosting (last year we ordered an ice cream cake - sooooo expensive - and not that good - never again!)

The party is an Ultimate Challenge party (this is a change from what we'd originally discussed which was a camping party). We have all sorts of games/challenges (I found them online, and a lot were from that show Minute to Win It which I've never seen because we don't have tv, only Hulu). This is what F wanted - something active, something fun! I will let you know how it goes...

I bought most of the supplies for the games from the dollar store.

The first game is Defying Gravity, where you have to keep two balloons aloft for a minute. There is face the cookie where you have to get a cookie from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands. The best one is probably Walk the Plank: you have to walk across a 2x4 and get water from the bucket at the end (except you don't have anything to put the water in - so you can use your shirt or your hair or cup your hands - then walk back and fill up a tupperware at the start of the 2x4. Will probably take multiple trips!).

It's warm and beautiful outside, and the garden is looking nice. By 4 pm, the sun will come around and the garden will be shaded.

OK, I'm going to go take the cakes out to cool... then frost.

Target Credit Card

June 14th, 2014 at 02:45 am

I finally opened a Target credit card. A lot of my purchases are from there - I buy our toilet paper and kleenex there, plus clothes for F. And my omeprazole and some other household goods. I get 3% on our Capital One card, but Target offers 5% cash back, so I decided to do it.

Since I decided to do it after I made the purchase on our Capital One card, they handed me a $5 bill instead of the 5% discount (purchase was $60 so that is more than 5%!) and then two $3 vouchers (yay! not sure why we got those).

By the way, the $60 was for 8 boxes of kleenex and two pairs of sneakers for F who has gone up a size and a half!

Time to Pay Estimated Taxes and other Stuff

June 13th, 2014 at 02:46 am

This is the first year that D has a full-time job working for someone else. But we still have to pay estimated taxes. And it's even harder to figure out, because in addition to the full-time job (they take federal and state withholding so that part is easy), he still does some side jobs.

I am going to get the estimated tax payment together tonight and mail it off when I'm downtown tomorrow.

I also have to pick up a library book for F who is reading more this summer than she did during the school year! I think it's because she doesn't have to record it. I'm not a big fan of recording reading; you'd think I would be since I'm such a big fan of recording everything else, but it just makes reading a chore rather than a pleasure.

In other news: we're still working on the garden, F's birthday party is Saturday afternoon and we are hosting a soccer coach next week (one of the coaches for F's camp). Crazy busy, but fun!

Our Garden - Almost there! With photos

June 10th, 2014 at 04:20 pm

The yard isn't done yet (which is why I didn't take a photo looking the other direction - I still need to build something to enclose our barbeque).

We already had the table and chairs, the bench (which used to be in an unused corner where the raised veggie bed is now) and the light wood chairs (which were in the garage; hadn't used them since they were in my living room 15 years ago!). We had all but about 25 of the concrete pavers (but they were in a different configuration). We even had the river rock (which I haven't finished putting back in yet; it was also in a different configuration). Oh - and the planter bed made of concrete slabs - we had all of the slabs, but there were planters scattered all over the yard.

We basically rearranged what we already had.

I had some wood in the garage, so on Sunday I made the little table in front of the bench.

I've bought: the bright plastic rug from World Market ($30) and some pavers (about $30), a lot of sand to put down the pavers and some potting soil. It's now a garden we want to hang out in! (Even our dog wants to be there!).

I still need to: move the river rock around, plant the veggie bed and the planter and build that barbeque enclosure. But there's a whole summer to accomplish those things!

Also - I saw these solar twinkly lights at Target - would love to wind those around each of our Honey Locusts.

Mortgage Principal

June 9th, 2014 at 08:55 pm

Paid down the mortgage today:
- $150 from budget (we set aside this month for paying down principal)
- $10 craigslist sale
- $9 pinecone
- $60 from gym payment (finally got paid for April!)

Total paid down is $229
Total paid down this year is $2451

We now owe: $71,487

Without any additional extra payments, our mortgage will be paid off in August 2020. With just our additional $150/month, it'll be October 2019. When we own our house in Ireland, though, we'll be able to take some of the money we were spending on the mortgage there and put it toward our mortgage here.

Busy at Work, Busy at Home

June 7th, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I haven't written anything in a while because I've been so busy at work. And any leftover time is devoted to F. Right now she and D are watching a friendly match between USA and someone (pre-World Cup) and dinner is in the oven (per D's request - a roast dinner - chicken, green beans and potatoes).

- The plus side is that if you're super busy, there aren't a lot of spending opportunities. (But I did manage to buy eight milky way midnight bars at 50 cents each - I eat one a week - my guilty pleasure).

- We've gone to the pool about a million times, including today; F has been bringing allowance money to buy ice creams (today's cost a week and half allowance - but that's her choice!) and otter pops (25 cents). The pool is only a few minutes from our house, so she can swim for just an hour; it doesn't need to be a big excursion.

- I finally got paid by the gym (for April!). So... $60 snowflake. I haven't put it toward the mortgage yet. Will do it on Monday.

- I have several things to sell on Craigslist, but no time to photograph and post them.

- F's birthday is on Tuesday, party the following Friday, so prepping for that. Tonight's task: use my office flip-chart to do a page for each of the games/challenges we're doing (it'll be up on an easel) and wrap her presents.

- I've been working on our garden every evening just before or after dinner. Today's task: finish building a table (extremely rustic!) out of scrap wood we had in the garage.

Bought Pool Guest Passes

June 3rd, 2014 at 09:24 pm

I sprung for pool guest passes today ($40 for 10). We took one of F's friends with us, which was very fun for her and meant that all I did was keep an eye on them when they were in the pool and make them lunch (there are two grills at the pool, so they had hot dogs, also some crisps, cherries, a yogurt and an apricot). Also gave each of them a dollar for ice lollies and candy. I didn't get any real work done, but I was productive this morning, so it's ok.

Also, F is going to that friend's house tomorrow, so I can go into the office and to meetings.

The guest passes will come in handy because we are hosting one of the soccer coaches from soccer camp the week of June 16th. They give us an $80 stipend for food, and we'll hopefully do some fun stuff with our coach (take him/her to the pool, go to Bandelier or Tent Rocks, have a picnic dinner at Music on the Hill). F is so looking forward to it, and so am I! The coaches are from the UK; yes, not as exotic to us since D is from the UK, but really cool for F.

Did I mention that the world cup will be going on? We don't have TV, but we got my mom's cable company password so we can watch online.

They are showing a few of the world cup games in the park on the big screen outside - a wonderful free event, and I'm hoping a lot of F's soccer friends go, too! Another opportunity for a picnic dinner.

Meanwhile, I have put tons of sweat equity into the yard. I am going to go out there after the sun is less intense and build the raised veggie bed. I still have to build a little "wall" - sort of a screen for our bbq - will be 4' tall and have a shelf on top where we can put plates/serve things. Also room for a table next to the bbq. I need to start scouring garage sales for the table. And then our garden will actually be a usable space! It's like gaining a 13'x18' room!

Spending Some Money on the Garden

June 1st, 2014 at 05:50 pm

I live on a hill, so our yard is not huge (which is fine by me!) and the space (flat space) is precious. I live in the high desert, so the shade is precious, too. And summer is here, and I really wanted to spend time outside, but the outside was so poorly configured and unusable. Oh - and we want to bbq and plant vegetables.

Anyway, we decided to entirely reconfigure the front garden (not the nice top part where we have our "frass" - that's faux grass. That is working well for us).

We hired people to help because I just have too much work right now. But I am building the wall, and we moved a bunch of river rock today. And moved dirt and other things around, so that when they come back tomorrow, they can hopefully finish up (or maybe by Tuesday?)

I will definitely post photos!