Home > Archive: February, 2015

Archive for February, 2015

Meal Plan for Next Week

March 1st, 2015 at 12:07 am

I watched a show on Channel 4 called Junk Food Kids and it seriously freaked me out. We don't eat like that, but I do like sweets! I made pumpkin muffins this morning... yum! But those are home-made, so I control the sugar.

Anyway, I made our meal plan and then went out (a break in the snow! and the roads had been plowed!) to get this week's groceries.

This week's meal plan:
- sausage pasta with lemon and white wine
- chicken and rice soup with garlic bread
- white chicken chile (this will made enough for 3 more meals!)
- mexican eggs and salad
- tostadas (vegetarian)
- tuna melts with veg
- french dinner (a salad, some nice olives, cheese and crackers)
- quick chili

I realize that's eight meals instead of seven... I got over-excited about meal planning! This will take us through next Saturday night, and then I can shop on Sunday.

We're also trying a new recipe for chicken taquitos for lunch tomorrow.

Back to junk food kids... I put a cookie in F's lunch every day. I may try to do more baking instead of putting in a store-bought cookie. I love to bake and I think it's less expensive and healthier.

Tuition Assistance Part 2

February 27th, 2015 at 09:15 pm

I spoke to the Director of Finance up at school about tuition assistance. He asked me to come in, which I guess is a good sign. It meant that event though we ended up getting no assistance, there was at least some hope.

What he told me was that we didn't get anything because of the large amount of equity of our houses. We have one house that we live in, but the other one (in Ireland) is our retirement savings. We have IRAs but no 401k's or pensions.

He said that if he were me, he'd write an appeal (he said it could be just an email; that it didn't have to be a formal letter). He said we needed to explain a few things:
- the Irish house is retirement savings (not a second home) and that it's rented year-round.
- the tax situation (Irish capital gains is 33% - so the value of the house is not what our equity actually is); plus the exchange rate is lower than when we did our tuition assistance paperwork
- Expenses mean we don't make anything on the rental of the home (we'd really like to sell, but the exchange rate is not great right now but we are hoping to sell the house and buy something somewhere else where we'll make money from the rent)

He said that we may get something if we do this, and we need to get the info back to him by Monday morning.

I already drafted the email!

No Tuition Assistance

February 27th, 2015 at 02:35 am

Ugh ugh ugh. The financial guy up at school pulled me aside today to tell me that we received nothing, zero, zip, zilch in tuition assistance. He asked if I had a few minutes to talk, but I was picking up F and she's really nervous if I'm not waiting where I'm supposed to be.

We're going to talk tomorrow instead. He mentioned that we could appeal.

I want to talk to him about a few things:
- did my health insurance count as income? (it is included on my W2 because I'm self employed and that's the way the IRS has to have it)
- I had to enter my husband's side income twice in the online system; was it counted twice?
- the income we get from the Dublin house is completely wiped out by the mortgage on the house, but that doesn't show on our taxes; we pay tax on the entire amount
- if we don't get any tuition assistance can they at least waive the $250 convenience fee for paying monthly rather than pre-paying the entire amount

I took a look at our budget, and our school savings, and I think we can make this work if we scrimp even more. We have about $150 to make up.

Gym Payment and other Snowflakes

February 26th, 2015 at 12:27 am

I got paid by the gym today for January - $200! I was shocked! I did sub for someone, but I haven't been paid this much by the gym ever! I drove right over to the bank and paid down mortgage principal.

We now owe $62,100.

I am waiting for the $24 pinecone payment to show up in my bank account (it already showed up in paypal and I transferred it) and then I'll pay that toward the mortgage, too.

Our mortgage payment posts on the 6th of the month and we'll be in the $61k's!

I know most people would advise us not to pay down principal but rather to put this money into IRAs, but there are two big factors which make me want to finish the mortgage: piece of mind and getting the mortgage paid off before F starts jr. high school (when our school payment will be very large).

In the meantime, we are fully funding the IRAs, too.

Make Do and Mend, Windy Weather

February 22nd, 2015 at 10:18 pm

I did my weekly shop today, and I did quite well. We are well-stocked with the storms coming.

The Menu is:
- risotto with peas, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese
- cod pieces (they sell small pieces for a lot less) with aioli and broccoli
- shrimp sushi (already have shrimp in the freezer) with cucumber and avocado
- pasta with homemade red sauce with basil
- roasted chicken with lemon and cauliflower (one casserole dish - easy!)
- soup with garlic bread

F is at her friend's house, so I got a lot of sewing done. I fixed three pajama bottoms (cannot believe I was wearing them like that - so embarrassing!). One had a giant hole in the back, and the other two were so long I kept tripping on them.

Now I am fixing a little hole in a shirt and darning some socks. This is all hand-sewing. Need to fix a little hole in a pair of F's leggings, too, but they are still wet from the laundry.

Every time I was clothes, my mother reminds me that when she was little they had a wringer-washer. I think that I'm so frugal, I might be ok with that. Then she says, "And we hung our clothes on the line outside! Oh... wait, you do that, don't you?" Yes, Mom, I use the patented Solar Dryer (clothesline).

Didn't do that today, though. Everything is drying on hangers in the laundry room (we have a rod under a shelf that's on the long wall of the room) because it's so windy and awful outside. It's supposed to snow starting around 7 pm, and then it's supposed to snow all day tomorrow.

I am thinking now that I mention my mom's wringer-washer, I never told you about my mom, who is really funny, still very young and quick and walks every day, but is NOT frugal. I'll save that for another post...

Saturday is for Cleaning and Relaxing (No Spend Day!)

February 21st, 2015 at 04:35 pm

F and D are watching the football match, and I am taking a break from cleaning. I need to brush our dog before I finish vacuuming! I want to wash the towels today because they need to dry outside, and tomorrow is supposed to be snowy (which means even under the portal they wouldn't dry).

We were supposed to go out to dinner last night with our friends, but F had a bad stomachache, so we went home instead. We talked about seeing them for lunch today instead, but they have lunch plans. So I guess that's money saved.

Instead, F is having a friend over. Two very sweet girls, and the house will be clean by then (just need to finish vacuuming and get the towels in, but I can't vacuum until the football is over). So I'll take the afternoon to relax a little.

I guess it's a frugal day by default.

Thinking about our Mortgage

February 20th, 2015 at 07:26 pm

I just paid off another $20 toward mortgage principal. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps, right?

We have 3 years (best scenario) until this is paid off entirely. Worst scenario is 5 years. I should be feeling really positive, but I am just antsy!

Just to remind myself:
- We have put $300k into this house
- All but $62,310 is paid off
- That is our only debt
- We are living on last month's income
- Our house is worth about $500k
- Three years ago F was 6 and starting private school; it seems like yesterday! So three years will go by quickly (that actually is sort of sad!)

Because we live on last month's income and because I have several sinking funds and because we have an account specifically for car replacement (in 3 years or so), it looks like we have a lot in the bank. But that money is all spoken for. It is not for paying down our mortgage.

What if we took that car money and just wiped out like a third of it, though? Then it would take 8 months to pay it back in. I guess this is my plan for the end of the mortgage.

Gross Receipts Tax: Probably not Something you have to deal with

February 19th, 2015 at 07:06 pm

I just received a check at work (final payment for a project! Yay! It's always good to get the final payment because that basically means they're ok with the project). When I got the check I logged it in as usual, and checked to see if any of it was reimbursable so that I could put it properly in my check register. None of it is reimbursable, but I had a weird moment where I saw two checks from last month and realized those did have reimbursables (a lot) and I just knew I didn't log them correctly.

This would be ok in just about any other state, but in New Mexico (and about six other states) we have gross receipts tax. It's like sales tax, but on everything (not just goods, but also services). I don't charge my clients gross receipts tax on reimbursables, though (things like permits and printing) because I've already paid the tax and they'd be double taxed. So I don't pay the tax to the State either.

Except I logged it wrong and made it all look like it was taxable, and I already paid the state for last month. Ugh.

Panicked call to the Gross Receipts Division, and the woman helped me amend my gross receipts tax return. I just saved myself 177.88! Yay!!! The payment is still going through wrong, but she said call back tomorrow so they could fix that (the system needs 24 hours). And she gave me a direct telephone number to call.

You should be very thankful your state doesn't have gross receipts. It's a pain! Are any of you other states like mine and have experienced this, too?

School Recipe Book

February 18th, 2015 at 10:54 pm

We're putting together a recipe book for our school (something we've never done before which surprises me).

We've asked for healthy, easy recipes...

I looked through my recipes and these are some candidates:
pad thai
white chicken chili
chipotle chicken stew
lemon crumbed fish
chicken piccata
bad breath pasta
zucchini socca
tunis cake
pumpkin corn muffins
summer pasta with bacon (we use turkey bacon)

In the meantime, I am really wanting some new recipes, and I can't wait for the cookbook...

Here is what we'll be trying in the next few weeks:
Corn Bread with cheese and sundried tomatoes (having this tomorrow night with a salad)

Chicken with cauliflower and olives (not that frugal, but a one-dish meal)

Baked chicken taquitos (these look so good!)

Potato farls with carrot/coconut soup (haven't had potato farls since I lived in Ireland!)

Happy Pancake Day!

February 18th, 2015 at 12:41 am

I had to have an endoscopy today, but the dr. said everything looks good! So that was great news! (And $442 but I have the money in a sinking fund called "Medical Unforeseen").

I'm having a little bit of discomfort though, so dinner isn't sounding that great tonight. It's baked potatoes and broccoli. Pretty mild.

And for dessert - pancakes (crepes here in the US) of course! It's Pancake Day! Shrove Tuesday!

I know there are some UK people on here, and people who have lived in the UK, that know this as Pancake Day. Are you having pancakes, too? Savory or sweet? (We do sugar and lemon).

Frugal Things from the Long Weekend and Our Meal Plan

February 17th, 2015 at 12:29 am

Frugal Things from the Long Weekend:

1. We used a coupon at Baskin Robbins and got another to replace it.

2. I did 3 hours of continuing education online for free.

3. We all went out to eat on Friday, but D and F went to a local burger place (it's really awesome apparently, but I can't have the burger or the bun). I went with a friend (she took me out to lunch so it was free for me!

4. We spent nothing on entertainment. On Friday F and I hung out. On Saturday, we helped her with a school project (it's a video and was super fun to make except that I am the worst actress ever). On Saturday night F and I went down to Albuquerque with her friend (it was me, the mom and six girls) to see Cirque de Soleil. Completely mind-blowing! And the family covered all of the tickets. I drove three of the girls, and we had so much fun in the car (all six girls were amazing). Then the girls went out to dinner, and D and I went somewhere nearby (it was Valentine's Day after all - spent $40 on a very nice dinner) and then went back to the other restaurant and hung out with everyone. On Sunday we filmed the other half of the video for F's project (I still can't act; there's even a blooper roll at the end that is basically me losing it; F decided to include that). And today F went to the gym with me.

5. Had a very inexpensive grocery shopping week for us. Very happy because friends are coming into town on Friday, and either we'll eat out or host them.

Our menu plan this week:
- pasta with turkey balls
- baked potatoes with broccoli
- quesadillas with guacamole
- frittata with spinach and cheese
- chipotle chicken stew from the freezer with a salad
- sundried tomato and cheese cornbread with salad

Slept on it and feel better, no school, baking!

February 13th, 2015 at 09:11 pm

After the shock of the possibility of less tuition assistance, I've had a good night's sleep, and I am confident that we can make this work. I always forget about our big cushion (which is that we save over 20% of what we make). I don't want to reduce savings, but it's a big safety net. And I think we can swing the tuition payments without reducing savings. D is going to do school photos again next year and that is side income, so the profit from that can go right into school savings.

I want to say one more thing on the subject, though: I volunteer up at school (this year I am Parent Association president, next year I will be past president, I've been room mother and I've served on the Building and Grounds Committee since day 1). Maybe they take that into consideration? I hope so!

So... there is no school today or Monday, and most of our friends are going skiing in Colorado (or in one case, Banff, Canada!) so F and I are hanging out. She is having lunch with D, and at the same time I will have lunch with D's coworker (I've known her since before D started working there; she so great and funny!). Oh - and here is a weird thing just to show you what a small town this is: D's office got a resume from... the son of F's school principal! Who I also know because we were at during winter break and he was very sweet, taking time to talk to F about soccer. I also met him last summer at this free music in the park thing. He's my favorite of the principal's three sons.

Anyway, F suggested making valentine's cupcakes today, so that's exactly what we're going to do! I'm pretty sure I have all the ingredients we need.

Tuition Assistance

February 12th, 2015 at 11:44 pm

When F started private school I did a spreadsheet (ha! of course!) that showed money inflowing and outflowing for tuition all the way to 12th grade. I used the amount of actual tuition, not including tuition assistance, plus an increase each year.

We've been really fortunate to receive tuition assistance each year, and I think we'll get something this year as well. But I just spoke to the school's finance guy and he said that the place that analyzes our financial situation said that the parent contribution should be more this year.

I'm not sure if this is partly because of the fact that I have to take health insurance as income, which makes it look like our income is higher. And because the cost for health insurance was higher this year it looked like I had a bigger income. I talked to him about this, so we'll see. This year, our health insurance costs have gone up even more, so next year will be worse.

D did get a raise this year, but it was eaten up mostly with taxes and cost of living increases. It was about a 1% raise. He now makes $45k.

According to my spreadsheet, if we don't get tuition assistance, our tuition savings will be depleted when F starts 7th grade. This includes money in and out, and continued savings. It could be worse... we will own our house (if all goes as planned) by the end of 7th grade. So if we can cover those 9 months or so we can use the money we've been paying to the mortgage to cover tuition.

I am starting to think that due to the terrible school system here (it's statewide) this is a pretty expensive place to live.

F loves the school, and we love the school, and we'll do what we have to do to make this work. I'm still worried and need to sit down with our budget and see where we can make adjustments. I don't want to mess with savings, but we may have to.

Saved a Little Today

February 12th, 2015 at 02:32 am

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:

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!

Budget Has to Absorb $85

February 11th, 2015 at 12:32 am

Well, I met with the psychologist today, and let's just say that our thinking on F's anxiety is different. It just wasn't a match. Please bear in mind that she's never met F, so maybe her take on the situation is biased based on her experience with other 9 year olds? Basically she said that a big part of it is probably attention-seeking. (My take: F is very frustrated by the unwanted anxious thoughts; she is an only child and gets tons of attention; right now she is playing with D who just got home). She also suggested that if F came in to see her, she'd have her do drawings to explain her feelings since she's "only 9." (My take: F is not much of an "art" kid and doesn't feel super comfortable with art, but is very verbal and loves making up stories; I'm not sure what "only 9" means since F is very capable of describing her feelings and so are the other 9 and 10 year olds I know). Lastly, she wants to find the source for the worry; did we not hug her very often - !!!! - or maybe it was because she was a preemie. (My take: she has had bouts of anxiety since she was 2; I think she's just that kind of kid; I was that kind of kid; sometimes there is no trauma involved).

So, anyway, I spent $85 on the appointment, and I made another appointment, but I'm going to call and cancel. I just don't feel that it's right for us. (You may agree with the psychologist, but I think with a psychologist, it has to be right for your specific family).

In good news: dropoff was so much better today, and at pickup she didn't have any big worries to report. We decided that 3:30 would be our "worry time" and other times she'd try to put her worries into an imaginary box to discuss later. This seemed to work pretty well. We've also taught her some anxiety management tools and she's been doing relaxation techniques.

In other good news: my dad is fine after surgery. We can't wait to visit my parents in CA in March!!!

Meal Plan, Free Entertainment this Weekend and our Plumbing Leak

February 10th, 2015 at 12:19 am

Lots to report today:

1. Our meal plan:
- lettuce wraps with rice (had this last night and for lunch today)
- soup with garlic bread (chicken with rice soup)
- lemon crumbed fish (F's favorite!)
- tostadas (refried beans, corn tortillas, lettuce, sour cream, salsa)
- chicken piccata with rice and asparagus (on sale for 88c/lb)
- grilled cheese with tomato soup

2. Unexpected Expense: F has been experiencing a lot of anxiety since the end of winter break. According to my friend who is a child sports psychologist, separation anxiety is not uncommon in 10 year olds. We have books and have been trying to help her, but it's been over a month, and I think it's time to consult an expert. I saw a really great psychologist years ago when I was trying to break up with my long-term boyfriend, and she agreed to see F for a couple of sessions (everyone thinks that's all it takes to get anxious kids the tools they need to manage their worries; I hope so, because we can't afford more than a few sessions!)

3. Free Entertainment: F is going to a birthday party this weekend. They are going to see Cirque de Soleil (wow! what a party!) at one of the casinos about 45 minutes away. It's about 6 girls, and the mom (a good friend of mine) asked if I could help drive (her husband was going to go and drive half the kids, but he and the son are going to a chess tournament). So I am using the husband's ticket; it should be pretty fun and the girls are all wonderful kids.

4. Plumbing Leak: We finally got the bill from our plumbing leak around New Year's Eve. We used (are you ready? this makes me feel sick): 3x as much water as usual. The bill is $110 (compared to our usual $65) for water, sewer, trash. I am going over to the water company tomorrow to apply for the once a year bill amnesty. I don't know how much of a credit we'll get, but it's worth a try. I have to bring a copy of our repair invoice.

A Few Hours Here and There

February 5th, 2015 at 01:04 am

I've had a project that is just a few hours a month.... four or five. I haven't invoiced it yet (started in August), but I spoke to the client and he said to go ahead and invoice. It all added up to about $3k, so I'm pretty happy! I am very close to my yearly goal, and I have a new (large) project that I just got. Plus one that was put on hold that should be starting up in March. I am going to try to put them off until after spring break.

Because things aren't that busy yet, I am trying to take an hour a day to clean out the office. Like most architects, I have a ton of old files and drawings and spec books and just PAPER! There are legal requirements for how long I need to keep things, but a lot of my stuff is waaaaay older than that. I've had my own business for 11 years, but some of the paperwork is from the previous business.

The storage closet is so clean now!

And I have an old printer that I may have sold on craigslist (need to speak to the buyer tomorrow).

I am getting things in order partly because I have a desk in the office I'd like to rent out to someone. I think things need to be tidied up first and I've been using that desk as a base for my garbage operations. It would mean an extra $100 or so in income when I finally rent it, but I need the right person.

$0 Prescription! Really!

February 4th, 2015 at 12:42 am

I went to the doctor today to discuss acid reflux and other exciting digestive issues. The bad news is that I need to have an endoscopy (I thought she might require that). The good news is that she gave me a prescription for the omeprazole that I take for acid reflux; my dosage is doubled, but because it's prescription strength rather than over the counter, I get it through the pharmacy.

My insurance covers generic prescriptions 100%! A $0 copay! I was shocked when the pharmacist handed me the prescription and didn't ask for any money. This is something I've been taking over the counter and paying for every month. I have to take it every day, so I guess I'm happy I need a bigger dose.

In other health-related news, D is going to start allergy shots, and it looks like those are less expensive than we thought, too. We'll see, but that could be really good news for our budget.