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Archive for December, 2014

2014 Summary

January 1st, 2015 at 12:15 am

Well, it turned out that even with an unexpected medical expense, 2014 was a good year.

- D got a raise in October, and then a promotion which came with another raise (effective 1/1/15)

- We spent 25% on wants, 53% on needs and 22% on savings (close to the 30/50/20 ideal)

- D had a lot of side work (photography) and with that extra money, we were able to get both IRAs up to the $5,500 limit

- Our food spending was less than last year!

- We paid off $4,013 in mortgage principal

- We made $1882 more than we spent

- We have a little over $10k in our car savings fund

- Everyone is happy and healthy, and that's what really matters!!

Happy New Year!!!

End of Year Quick Declutter

December 30th, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Quick ten minute declutter:
- the "hat and mitten" bin in the laundry/mud room (found lots of teeny tiny stuff that doesn't fit F anymore)
- one old broken cheese grater that I replaced about a month and a half ago
- some kids' sunscreen and toothpaste F won't use from under the sink (bring to the shelter?)
- broken hanger

Bought Investments in Energy Savings

December 29th, 2014 at 11:47 pm

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!).

Thinking about a Purchase...

December 28th, 2014 at 08:30 pm

We have $40 in small appliances/household furnishings, and I'm thinking of making a purchase...

Right now when we make a quesadilla or cheese on toast or make a burrito for lunch (these are all single items, not six burritos or something) I have to heat up the entire oven which is something like 2000 to 3000 watts per hour.

This probably happens once a day.

I am thinking of getting a small 600-1000 watt toaster oven for those small jobs.

What do you think?

My Ideal Wardrobe - Spreadsheet

December 27th, 2014 at 09:54 pm

I redid my wardrobe spreadsheet. Big disclaimer: everyone's wardrobe needs are different! I teach exercise classes three times a week, and my work clothes are casual (jeans). I only very rarely need to dress up.

So... here is the verdict;

- I have plenty of tshirts (long-sleeved, 3/4-sleeved, short-sleeved and tank tops) - too many in fact, and I don't wear many of them.
- I have three cropped jeans for summer; I think I could get rid of one of these
- I have a glut of cardigans I've knit myself; I am trying to knit other things besides sweaters (currently working on a pair of slipper socks, and F wants a new cardigan which I have yarn for)
- I have too many pairs of tights, but one extra is not a big deal; I can't think of the last time I wore these, but it's good to have a pair around; I may toss one pair (they're super old) but first I need to figure out which pair is the one that's awful (and I am pretty sure one pair is awful - like, you know, the crotch is 6" too low or something)

What I could use:
- a short-sleeved tunic to wear on "nice" work days (but so far haven't found anything I like)
- I don't have a nice skirt to wear to work on "nice" days - but then again, if I had the tunic, I probably wouldn't need the skirt
- I really could use a pair of nice work trousers; this gap in my wardrobe comes up a lot
- I need underwear! But I can never find any I like, so I have the materials to sew my own

So, here is the plan for 2015:
- one pair of nice trousers
- one nice short sleeved tunic
- sew that underwear!!!

Boxing Day - Snow, Leftovers, No Spending

December 26th, 2014 at 04:01 pm

Woke up to snow this Boxing Day - beautiful!

Because of the snow, and the fact that it's on a holiday (which means our City didn't plow our street or even the busier street that we use to go downtown), we're staying in today. Which means no spending!

F is playing with her presents. D is having a leisurely cup of tea.

We all had leftovers for breakfast, and for dinner I'm using leftovers to make Rachael Ray's turkey croquettes. I can't tell you how much I love leftovers!

I think we'll drag the sled out later.

Happy Holidays and Lightbulbs and the Gym!

December 24th, 2014 at 04:44 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you at SA! This community has been a source of comfort and advice and has helped me keep on track throughout the year! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Lightbulbs: D is in the kitchen right now changing out the spots to LED. That is 8 watts/bulb instead of 45! Wow! Those bulbs are our Christmas gift to ourselves this year.

Gym: I am teaching weightlifting at noon today. In a way I'd like to just stay home, but actually it's good to get out of the house and exercise! I couldn't run yesterday because it was just too cold and the sidewalks were icy.

Mince Pies: How could I forget mince pies? I had some filling left over from last year in the freezer, and I'm making dough today. We need to leave a mince pie for Father Christmas! And D needs his mince pies. So tonight is traditional New Mexico tamales, salad and mince pies! Then out to see the farolitos with the rest of the city! We're going early so it's not too crowded!


December 22nd, 2014 at 05:58 pm

I am thinking of switching from Moneywell to YNAB in the new year. It might be sort of irritating and complex in the beginning but here are my reasons:

- I haven't been really tracking properly (shifting money and tracking all accounts including savings) because it's sort of difficult in Moneywell
- New year with new budget is a good time to start a new program
- YNAB closely aligns with how I budget already so it should be more intuitive
- I want to be able to use my phone and YNAB has what appears to be a really good ios interface

The only thing is... I do sometimes have negative categories when I'm paying something back over several months. I'm not sure how YNAB looks at that. I suppose I could set up a debt account and track it that way, lowering the debt each month.

Do any of you use YNAB? Do you like it? Is it worth the money?

Christmas Week Menu

December 21st, 2014 at 01:25 am

Our menu this week:

Breakfasts and lunches - the usual, except Christmas morning.

Sunday - chicken, roasted cauliflower, rice (using the cauliflower up, and the chicken is from the freezer)
Monday - cod with broccoli and potatoes and aioli (need to use up the potatoes)
Tuesday - penne with butter and pecorino romano with stirfried courgettes
Wednesday - tamales (it's Christmas Eve!) and a salad
Thursday breakfast - sausage (it's in the freezer) and french toast souffle (this is made the night before and popped in the oven in the morning)
Thursday Christmas dinner - I am making cranberry sauce, potatoes dauphinoise (sounds fancier than it is!), turkey, gravy, tarte tatin; my friend is making a sweet potato dish, brussels sprouts with maple and a chocolate dessert.
Friday - Rachael Ray's turkey croquettes with leftover turkey! Going to try baking rather than frying.

It's pretty frugal (and luckily Christmas dinner is a shared effort!). Now we can afford some red wine and the adults can relax while the girls play!

Paid by the Gym, Pinecone Surveys and Possible Project

December 20th, 2014 at 01:02 am

Paid by the Gym!
$100 (includes payment for teaching and Christmas extra). We have now paid $4013 extra in 2014. We owe $64,600 (house is worth about $550k, so I am pretty happy!).

Pinecone Surveys, Etc.
Two in the past two days! So that's $6. I have 1206 Swagbucks, too. I think I have some money in Chase (business credit card) so I'll get cash for that, too. Will check tomorrow.

Possible Project
There are two "Letters of Interest" from the County - one is due January 5 and the other should be coming out soon. I have a good shot at either one. This is good timing since I have three projects that just finished up.

One Last Thing: Business Finances
I made a lot more than my goal this year, so I've delayed billing some of my invoices. If people pay promptly my business will start the year with $38,000 in the bank! That is about half of what I hope to make during the year, so I am so happy! I also have guaranteed billings for the remainder of projects. I think my total intake in 2015 (guaranteed) is $60k. So I just need a few projects to take care of 2015! Huge relief given how architecture has been in the past 5 years.

Thank You, USAA!

December 16th, 2014 at 07:38 pm

Got our notice of our dividend from USAA insurance. $58.65, and I haven't decided yet where it's going.

We have our property and auto with USAA, and I've been a member since I was 16 and started driving. My father was in the Navy (which is how I was eligible for USAA), and I really think having USAA insurance is a privilege.

Other financial thoughts for the day;
- I bought D and F each a chocolate orange; they get one every year.

- Today's chiropractor visit was also paid for; I have one last appt. on Friday for which I will have to pay the co-pay, but overall this back pain (nearly gone) hasn't been a financial setback.

- I set our deductible for a lower amount. The premiums are higher, but it means the business absorbs more of our healthcare costs, which makes sense. I am thinking of setting up an HRA. Does anyone have experience with these?

- I sent out the end-of-the-year bills to my clients. They probably won't pay in December which is fine. I'd prefer to get the money in early January, which is why I sent them out now. My business is on a cash basis.

- I got a request from the County to submit a letter of interest on a transfer station/volunteer fire station project. Given my experience, I have a good shot at this. The response is due January 5th, so I am feeling very forward-thinking to have F in a three day camp just before new years!

- I can't wait for F to be out of school on Friday! Holiday break! We're meeting my friend and her daughter (one of F's best friends) for lunch since it's a half day. Since D is getting a holiday office lunch I feel like this is my office holiday lunch!

Medical Expenses

December 16th, 2014 at 02:38 am

I had to go to the chiropractor today (that's the bad news - picked up the vacuum cleaner while twisting - ouch!). The good news is that the last time I was in, I paid in full but they submitted the claim to insurance. So I had a credit. I didn't have to pay for this visit.

The other bad news: I have to go back tomorrow. But the other good news is that I've had a version of this low back pain for a few weeks but very mild - the vacuum cleaner incident just brought it out. So now at least it's being addressed.

I'm pretty irritated that the medical category was way over this year. Even with insurance, it's just a fact of life. I'm budgeting better next year because I know that D will do his allergy shots.

I have a very low prescription cost, and I'm wondering if the doctor can give F a prescription for her allergy medicine even though it's not a prescription medication. It would cost half as much as we pay now! Also, I take omeprazole for acid reflux; if I could have a prescription for it instead of having to buy it I'd save a ton!

That is on my financial to-do list for next year... check with the doctor about medications!

It's only 3:30?!!

December 13th, 2014 at 10:40 pm

It's one of those days that you can't believe is so long! Which, in this case, since it's a weekend, is a GOOD thing!

D was up all night with food poisoning/stomach bug so F and I are hanging out today.

We got up early, had pancakes, and I cleaned the house (and bleached the bathroom).

We drove to the animal shelter in the next town (about 30 mins away) but met the other kids who were volunteering today at the Lovin' Oven (real name!) for donuts beforehand. I drove F and her friend, and the other mom drove her son and another boy (carpool!). I brought lunch to eat in the car because the volunteer slot was 12 to 2.

The donut man was so impressed that four 4th graders were volunteering at the shelter that he gave each of the kids a cookie/marshmallow concoction for later! So nice!

The kids played with and exercised the dogs, and then we came home (and they ate the rest of the packed lunch). F and her friend played for a while before K's dad picked her up.

While they played, I replaced our alarm keypad (DIY!!!); the buttons stopped being pressable about 2 years ago. It worked really well, so I'm going to replace the other one (the buttons are pressable but just barely). I am pretty sure pressable is not a word.

Now we're going over to my friend L's (she is F's guardian if something happens to us; a very, very special person in our family) to bake Christmas cookies. L's daughter is home from college, and we can't wait to see her, too!!!

Dinner tonight - well, I had a plan. But D's stomach is so sensitive he just wants rice. I always have rice on hand, so I just need to figure out something that goes with that for me and F. Poor D. But he's had the day to himself to recover.

Solar Panels are Operational, Spending on Giving

December 11th, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I am feeling financially very fortunate right now....

- D found out that he got a small raise for next year; along with his employer's 6% match, that is very good news for us. I am trying to increase our savings based on this raise, and just feeling so happy. I haven't been able to raise my salary for the past six years, and D was the same before he took this job last year.

- Our solar panels are operational, and we can see our meter running backwards. When we get our tax credit I'll be applying it to our mortgage principal.

- Our Christmas spending ended up being less than budgeted. I will take the remainder for the school teacher gift fund and for the giving tree that is up at school. The tree went up on Tuesday, and today there were no more ornaments! I think K, who organizes the tree, will get more kids' names tomorrow...

- I saw a young man today sitting on the side of the road with some food; it looked like maybe someone gave it to him and he was sorting through it. I desperately wanted to give him a voucher to a restaurant or something, but I wasn't sure what was going on, and he wasn't holding a sign or anything, so I didn't want to offend him. I wish I knew what to do in these situations.

- 4th Grade breakfast with the Head of School tomorrow morning - I love that F goes to a school where it's small enough that we can do things like this. I love that I know every kid in the school, and every parent, too. I love that they tell me that the time that I volunteer means so much to them. I love that no one treats us differently because we aren't wealthy like some of the families.

- I am going to take F and her friend up to the animal shelter to volunteer on Saturday. Their class has already made $1000 on homemade cat toys and dog treats; all of the money will go to the shelter. It's only the first week; they are hoping to make another $1000.

Summary for November and a New Budget

December 9th, 2014 at 09:08 pm

Last month's income decreased by 15% compared to the same month last year (that's because D started his new job last year and he collected income from his previous business for the previous month - about $1500 extra).

But our expenses were 49% lower than last year.

Our savings was 3% lower (because we put last year's extra income into savings).

Knowing D now has an employee savings plan at work and that he'll be getting a raise, we've been working on the 2015 budget. I set the budget based on last year's expenses as well as anticipated expenses (had to increase a few categories including home repair since we hope to restucco at some point and medical - D needs allergy shots).

Since the employee savings plan is before employment taxes, I'm not sure how to calculate our savings rate. I was just going to add that amount to what we're saving. I'm trying to keep my 50-30-20 formula.

Have you re-jigged your budget for 2015?

Week's Meal Plan and Mortgage Milestone

December 7th, 2014 at 06:51 pm

The meal plan for the week:
this week:
- soup and garlic bread $6
- pasta with turkey balls and marinara sauce $8
- spinach and cheese frittata $6
- white chicken chili $17.50 for 4 servings (the other three go in the freezer)
- tostadas $5
- tuna melts with salad $6
- going to our neighbor's house for dinner tonight and bringing dessert ($8 for dessert)

I bought a few extra things on the grocery budget to have around at Christmas, sort of doing some of my shopping early. And we're eating out of the pantry next week, so the bill should be low.

As far as the mortgage, we've hit a milestone. The amount we have left on our mortgage is equal to the amount I paid for the lot 17 years ago. We worked out that we'll have the house paid off before D turns 47.

This is really hitting home (ha ha!) because one of his coworkers just bought a house; she's in her 60s and used to have a house in another city/state where housing prices were lower. She now has a brand-new mortgage and so she can't take advantage of the employee savings plan which has a really great match (6%).

Today: we've baked biscuits for the animal shelter (and our dog got one, too) and now we're going to the Indian Arts museum to see some dancing, make some christmas ornaments...

Holiday Decorating and Raspberry Tart

December 6th, 2014 at 10:51 pm

I'm in a much better mood today!

For one thing, I resolved things with my mother (life's too short).

And I got a ton done today around the house since F is playing at a friend's house; that way tomorrow is freed up to do fun stuff with her and not vacuuming!

Last night we went to the Recycled Fashion Show (kids and adults made awesome dresses from TRASH!) - it was amazing! Also very festive. They have booths, too, but I didn't buy anything.

Today we put up our tree; haven't decorated it yet. We'll do that tonight or tomorrow morning. I did put green christmas ornaments in the tree in front of our house. It doesn't have any leaves since it's winter, so the green baubles are not only festive but add some green!

Tomorrow - Winter Festival at our Indian Arts museum. There'll be dancing and storytelling and ornament-making. It's free with our state drivers licenses. Also we have to bake dog biscuits to raise money for the animal shelter (it's F's class service project). And we're going to our neighbor's house for dinner. I'm bringing dessert: a raspberry tart with a cream and mascarpone filling. Gluten free, of course! Big baking day tomorrow. Total cost of tart will be about $8 for all of the ingredients (raspberries were on sale). Not inexpensive, but our neighbor is providing dinner for three of us, so I wanted to do a nice dessert.


December 5th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

What a week. Ugh. Nothing truly horrible, but lots of little things that add up, so I'm really glad it's Friday. TGIF!!!

Stupid Bark Beetle - which kills piƱon trees; I had to spend money to spray the trees, and it's a chemical which I hate. (The upside: the tree sprayer said he felt like it needs one more spray, and is coming back to spray next week to get the rest - for free which is super nice of him).

Irritating Clients - actually not really my clients. I do review for two subdivisions, and these are homeowners who don't want to do the things they already said they'd do. And one of them hasn't paid my invoice. Grrr....

D eats lunch out once a week - which is ok; I don't eat out hardly ever, but I know it's his little luxury and he needs it. Usually it's about $6 to $8, but this week it was $10.20. That seems like a lot for lunch!

Teacher Gifts at School - one parent is making my life miserable. I wish we were a normal school and everyone just gave individual gifts; you don't need to comment on the way we pool the money. I know it's odd. At least this way the specials teachers and staff get something, too.

My Mother - cannot let go of one certain perceived failing in my parenting. I have a child who is sometimes anxious. D and I rarely go out without her (this is part of the failing in my mother's opinion, but it's at least 75% economic). We went out when we were in CA, and F got very anxious worrying that something would happen to us. I was an anxious child, too, and I can tell you from experience that my mother (who is also super anxious - this runs in the family!) can't deal with anyone who is freaking out (if it's not herself) and tends to cause people to feel anxious because she's super high-strung and jittery. So, we've been arguing for the past several days about how I caused this episode and how it can be prevented in the future. My take is that something completely different will cause her to be anxious in the future that I can't prevent. My mother's take is that if I don't want her in F's life, that's fine (huh? when did I ever say that?). I'm sure this will blow over. Thank you for letting me vent.

OK, time to go pick up F from school. Then tonight we have tickets to the Recycled Fashion Show, and this will hopefully be the start of a fun weekend and a new week!!!

Lots of Advent Calendars

December 3rd, 2014 at 06:44 pm

I grew up without Christmas (I am Jewish, but no one in my family is religious, so we didn't really do much for Hanukkah either).

So now, I am the biggest Christmas fan ever! Our tree is full of homemade ornaments that are so fun to take out each year, and we decorate the house (also stuff that we use every year), and I pretend to be Santa (Santa has his own handwriting, so that it isn't like mine or the Easter Bunny's).

We make tamales on Christmas Eve and have a big dinner with Christmas crackers. I have a bowl of Cadbury roses out starting the week before Christmas.

And F has four advent calendars.
- There's the one from Trader Joe's with the chocolate (it was 99c)
- There's the one Grandma made - reused every year - with little pockets (I put cookies in that one)
- There's the Playmobil one (with playmobil guys - it's not cheap at $30, but she plays with the toys all year - she loves playmobil)
- There's the one with little boxes - also reused every year - which I put notes into. Then you turn the boxes around one by one and at the end there's a scene with a snowman. This year the notes are fortunes. She likes them to be funny so tomorrow's is: " You will receive another fortune tomorrow... and that one will be funnier!"

I so hope it snows! That is the best way to have free fun on Christmas!

Back from Thanksgiving

December 3rd, 2014 at 03:22 am

We're back from Thanksgiving, and I have random bits of financial news:

1. We drove to CA (nearly 1000 miles) and back - spent only $170 on gas which is good; my mom paid for a hotel on the way there and one on the way back which was so nice of her (I think the message is she'd rather contribute financially to our travel plans than come out here).

2. Actually that is definitely the message my parents are paying for us to take the train back out to see them in March. We had such a great time out there, and F got to see her adorable older cousins (they are quite a bit older - in their 20s).

3. We (our family, the cousins, my brother, etc) played soccer in the park on Black Friday with the older cousins instead of shopping. F was the captain of her team, and she drafted a pretty good team. I was not the last to be picked (I used to be in school).

4. Dining and grocery budget suffered a little bit, but I didn't go over the budget.

5. I got paid by the gym just before I left and was able to put another $102 (don't ask - weird amount, right?) toward mortgage principal. This month we'll be below $65k after our regular payment posts.

6. Our solar system is installed but we're still waiting for the rec meter from the local utility.

7. I had to get a filling replaced today, so I'm hoping the dental insurance covers most of it.

8. Just a few more gifts to buy, total cost will be less than $30. I also need to do teacher gifts. There is plenty of money in the gift fund. My parents' gift to F is three days of winter break circus camp; this is not only awesome for her (she loves this circus troupe) but also means that their gift won't create clutter (gift of experience!) and that I have three days during the winter break to get some work done!!

9. Frustratingly, I can't work out next year's budget. I don't know how much D will be making (he's getting a small raise which I'm super thankful for). He gets an employer match also, starting in January, up to 6% of his salary; we'll definitely be taking advantage of that. But I so want to work out the budget!!