Pretty sure last month was financially, um, challenging. Not a financial disaster because we have an emergency fund and we live on last month's money and we can move money from one category to another. But still... not great.
And it's stuff we can't really control: medical and dental expenses. We have good insurance, and we're almost at our deductible. But medical this month was $730 (hope that we've paid for the final bill for the endoscopy I had to have!) and dental was $217.
I am going to go now and try to use other categories to knock those down a bit:
- underspend on utilities
- underpend on water/sewer
- underspend on groceries
- underspend on dining out
- underspend on fuel
- underspend on spending money/cash
- underspend on pets
Total of all of the underspend is about $400. It's not $950, but I think I can get the medical and dental to zero in about 3 months this way.
Archive for April, 2015
Pretty sure last month was financially, um, challenging. Not a financial disaster because we have an emergency fund and we live on last month's money and we can move money from one category to another. But still... not great.
On the way to F's soccer game on Sunday our car started making the most frightening noise. D pulled over, and we tried to figure out what was wrong. We couldn't even put the car in neutral without this horrific metal-on-metal sound.
We called our neighbor who rushed us to the soccer fields, and we just abandoned our car on the side of the road (it's a very quiet dirt road). We having free towing with USAA insurance, so I called them to set it up; they said I could call back when we were ready and they'd come right out.
So F played her game (and scored two goals! score was 3-1). And our friends drove us home. And then D headed back out to wait for the tow truck.
They towed it to the dealer, and dropped the keys in the dropbox, and we were just freaking out all morning... what if it was a really expensive repair? What if it was the transmission? What if, what if...
But the service manager called D back and said it was a rock stuck in the brake calipers. All they had to do was take off the wheel. $25. Yes!!!!!! We can scrounge up $25!
We're so relieved...
My mother-in-law is coming back to stay with us tonight on her way back to the UK (from her "Tour of the West"). She'll be with us an additional three days, so I stocked up at the store. D wanted to have salmon which we eat rarely since it's expensive. And we were out of all sorts of staples, so it was an expensive shopping trip.
While we were in the store this morning it started snowing, and F was really upset because she's supposed to play in a soccer game at 2:30 today, but it's stopped snowing, and we just got an email that the games are ON! I need to figure out how many warm clothes I can pile on.
I cleaned the desk in our den (which is where I work when I work from home in the afternoons after school pick-up). My problem is with papers and mementos. But I managed to get rid of a ton of stuff. And then F made me pull out the white paper to recycle (she's a good girl! I just wanted everything GONE!). I still have a little bit to do, but it's nearly there. And I didn't clean D's side.
OK, need to go help F change for soccer.
So, first: How Soccer Saves us Lots of Money
- We are at the soccer fields every few days for practices and games. We were there last night for practice, today for a game (F scored a beautiful goal!) and tomorrow for another game (F is on the A team; we have A and B... I am so proud! She's worked hard for it!).
- The fields are in an abandoned horse racing track. I'm posting a photo of the entrance. It's super weird. And not near anything. There isn't even anything between the fields and our route home (no restaurants or shops or ANYTHING), so no temptations.
- Free entertainment, a great place to run (also free) when she's practicing (the old horse racing track is packed dirt)
- Lots of parents to socialize with! I even see old friends whose kids are on other teams/fields. There are like 30 fields.
- It forces me to have a good plan for dinner because we're not home until 7:30 or 8 pm on practice nights.
And now, How I Got a Deal on Glasses
I've been using magnifiers to read books and menus and things for a couple of years. But now when I drive, everything is fuzzy and I can't read street signs. Grrr. So I got an eye exam, and got my prescription for distance glasses. It's a light prescription. I don't need the glasses to get a license. But with the prescription, the trees have leaves and the signs have letters (the eye doctor took me outside so that I could test it out on things that are far away like trees and mountains).
There are a lot of eyeglass places online, but I have a teeny tiny head. And I have three pairs of reading glasses and two of them are super uncomfortable. All three are huge on my face and look ridiculous. But I read in private, so I don't care. But I'll be wearing the glasses to see kids' faces in soccer games, so that'll be public. Warby Parker (online) has a try-on program, but I thought I'd check our local eyeglass store first.
It's down by Target, and I was going by there on the way to get some stucco samples made, so I popped in. They had a special for glasses and lenses together (same price as Warby Parker!) and the salesperson showed me which glasses were on special. Then she looked at me and said, "or for the same price you can get any of our kids' glasses." I really am kind of small.
Anyway, I tried on the adult glasses. Like the three bears: too big! And then I looked at the kids' frames: they looked way too small! But I tried them on just to be sure: just right! Not just one pair, but pretty much every pair was my size.
So, I'm waiting for the prescription to be put in my kid-sized glasses.
I can wear a kids' size 4 1/2 shoe, too. I have kids' mittens and a pair of kids' jeans (I like them because they're stretchy). Kids' stuff is a lot less expensive!
I'm looking out the window at the fuzzy spring trees. I can't wait for my glasses to come so I can see the leaves and branches!
Here's how to waste food:
- put chicken in the oven with a really nice sauce
- check it to make sure it's done and determine that it needs an extra 5 minutes
- give it an extra 5 minutes and check again
- repeat until the chicken is like one of those joke rubber chickens
- serve it anyway
- watch your family spit pieces out onto their plates
- spit your own chicken out onto your plate
- feed the rubber chicken to the dog
I am not a naturally good cook (my mother never cooked, and therefore never taught me, so I learned how to cook around when I got married at age 36 - seriously), but I've learned to make some nice things. I need to stick to those things, and baked chicken is not one of those things.
I don't really need to say more, do I?
1. We need to restucco our house. I've budgeted for it, but not this much! Oh well, it needs to be done, and I don't mind spending money on our house since it keeps its value.
2. Bought gas today; prices are going up. I saw a woman that I work with at the County on the other side of the pump filling her car. She ran over to hug me, so I guess the County still likes me!
3. Decluttered a little bit. It amazes me that there are always more things to get rid of. This time: eyeshadow and blush from about 20 years ago (I wish I was joking); I don't wear eyeshadow or blush at all, ever, which is how it's sat in the drawer this long. Some random little toys. A few broken things and pens that don't work. The little tray in our laundry room where we put our keys is now very clean!
4. While I was decluttering, I found my sunglasses! I'd put them in a safe place (the little tray in the laundry room) and they got sort of buried by other stuff.
5. Found a new show to watch on the bbc iplayer... Back in time for Dinner. The premise is that they take a family and feed them a diet from another era. Episode 1 is the 1950s, Episode 2 is the 1960s, etc... I am disproportionately excited about this!
6. Went through my exercise socks, and weeded out a few pairs with holes too big to fix. I guess that's decluttering, too.
7. We are thinking about where we'll go this summer and we've decided to divide our vacation into three smaller trips... one 5 day and then two long-weekend trips (3 days each). We won't go far, but we'll take advantage of what is in the Southwest and our state. F has never been to Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands is amazing, too. Three Rivers petroglyphs could be done on that same trip, and we can stay in Cloudcroft and go to the Space Museum in Alamogordo. That's one short trip. And then another one might be to go up to Denver (6 hour drive) to see the Colorado Rapids play (soccer). For the big trip we're thinking about Las Vegas. The flights from New Mexico are pretty reasonable because it's relatively close (closer than California).
I was so busy today... worked hard to prep for a big meeting, then the big meeting. The meeting went so long I missed my noon exercise class (grrrr) so I went home and waited for one of the four guys who's giving us a quote on restuccoing our house. While I waited: tried a new circulation pattern for the solid waste collection center I'm designing (this was a result of feedback from the meeting). By the time he left, it was time to pick up F from school.
Here are things I need to spend money on:
- new sneakers for F
- new sandals for F
She has these very long, very narrow feet. They are getting even longer! The thing is, because they're so long and narrow, she really needs to try shoes on; I can't just buy them on the internet. So it's a trip down to the outlet mall (a whole 15 minutes away!).
I did take a few minutes today to move my eye exam up to this week. I decided it was stupid to delay until May (I was playing mental games with myself by having the bill be in May instead of April which was pointless). My eyes are feeling really strained, and I can't read road signs. If I do need glasses for distance, I will be so angry! But if I do, I might as well get them sooner rather than later.
One last financial thing... called D today to say hi and we spent a few minutes strategizing F's birthday gifts. We have money saved, and we also figured out what the grandparents might get. They have just deferred to us (in fact, D's mum just gives us her credit card number) because F is sort of difficult to buy for if you're a grandma (because our grandmas aren't particularly well-versed in all things soccer.
We woke up at 6:30 this morning to find that it had snowed overnight - beautiful! But... F was supposed to play in two soccer games. We checked email and at 7 they emailed to say that the games were still on, then drove all the way out there. The games started at 9, and we arrived at 8:35 (coaches need to be early and D is a coach)... at 8:36 we received an email canceling the games. Ugh.
The fields were COVERED with snow, so it wasn't a surprise. We ended up playing in the snow with another family that showed up, too. We made snowmen, played snow soccer, made a huge snowball...
That mom was supposed to bring snack that day, and she gave D and F homemade strawberry bread, and here is where things went wrong... I can't eat gluten so I was jealous, and we stopped at a bakery on the way home. $8.
We went home and watched the football match (soccer), did our spazzy workout since F was stir crazy. Then lunch at home.
I called a few of F's friends to see if they could come play, but no one could, so we decided to go ice skating. On the way we stopped at Target to get Claritin for F. We used a coupon and got 70 pills, so this was an expense we were expecting anyway. $25.
Ice skating was $22 for the three of us.
Then frozen yogurt afterward. $10.
We did combine our errands, and we stopped by the grocery store on the way home, doing a big loop around town. It was supposed to be a relatively inexpensive shopping trip, so I was freaking out until I realized that we also bought a big bag of dogfood (this is from the "pets" budget category). $58 groceries for the week plus $20 dogfood for the month, which is good for us, so this was a spending highlight. It's a good meal plan, too with pad thai, pasta with courgettes, baked potatoes, risotto, mexican eggs, apricot chicken/rice/salad and something from the freezer (also with a salad).
We all have good days and bad days, and I'm not counting the Claritin, groceries or dogfood since those are expected expenses. All in all, $40 I didn't need to spend, but we all had a wonderful day and F wasn't too sad about missing soccer.
Since I live in a place where tourists love to visit, and PNW Mom asked about things to do here, I thought I'd do a post about some of the wonderful things to do here. I've included some locals-only tips, and if you're coming to visit, you should tell me!
Sorry - this is super long!
My favorite is the Musuem of International Folk Art; it's free on Sundays! The most incredible collection of folk art I've ever seen - bright and colorful!
The Spanish Colonial Museum is also on Museum Hill and is housed in a house designed by John Gaw Meem (a famous New Mexican architect who is partly responsible for reviving Spanish Colonial style).
INDIAN PUEBLOS -
Taos Pueblo tour - this is about an hour and a half away; they have tours.
Feast Days - If you are coming in the summer, check to see if there's a feast day at one of the nearby Indian Pueblos...
We have lots going on all year.
Music on the Hill (bring a picnic dinner and listen to music while you picnic outside) http://www.sjc.edu/programs-and-events/santa-fe/music-hill-2015/ June-July (free! great with kids)
Santa Fe Bandstand (July-August) https://santafebandstand.org/ concerts on the Plaza (also great with kids)
Indian Market (free), Spanish Market (free), Folk Art Market (July 10-12 this year - Community Celebration with the Artists is Wednesday evening and is free! Tickets to Market vary and the lowest is $10 if purchased in advance)
Rodeo de Santa Fe - end of June
The Burning of Zozobra - We burned Zozobra long before there was burning man...
Santa Fuego Baseball - small-town baseball - we bring food and a blanket and you get to see the game up-close; end of May through July - tickets are $6
Winter Indian Market and Winter Spanish Market
Farolitos (paper bag lanterns on Canyon Road) on Christmas Eve
- Audobon Trail is a short, easy loop but can be made longer if you make a turn and go up the Bear Canyon trail to make it longer (free); Randall Davey's house was donated to the Audobon center - it's open every Friday at 2 pm for a docent-led tour ($5). They have bird walks led by local experts every Saturday at 8 am (free!).
- Waterfall Hike - As you head up to the ski area there is a ranger
station to the right about halfway up (just past one of the campgrounds in Hyde Park). In back is the old log lodge where they hold a lot of weddings. There is a 1 mile hike to a waterfall - really nice and beautiful... kind of snowy and cold in the winter. Day use parking fee is $5.
-Bandelier - totally worth doing! (about 45 mins from Santa Fe). You can enter the caves and see the blackened ceilings (from the cooking fires made 800 years ago!). At the farthest point of the Main Loop Trail (1.2 mi roundtrip) you have a choice to continue to Alcove House, which is 140 feet above the canyon floor and only accessed by a series of ladders. It's another 1 mile roundtrip and the view from the top is amazing. $12 per car fee.
- Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (about 20 minutes away toward Albuquerque) - really cool cone-shaped rock formations! About 20 min. south of Santa Fe.
-Tsankawi - On the way to Bandelier about 30 minutes from Santa Fe; petroglyphs and an amazing trail worn into the stone by people 600 years ago, beautiful vistas (ladders are a required part of the trail and the trails are very narrow). $12 per car fee.
- end of June is our rodeo down at the rodeo grounds - Rodeo de Santa Fe
- Folk Art Market - July 11, 12, 13 - http://www.folkartmarket.org/ - I would definitely come for the Thursday procession in Railyard Park (free with a free African concert - everyone dances, it’s a blast!!!). There is a volunteer button on the homepage - if you volunteer you get a free ticket (special times excluded) - volunteer as a Line Host!
We have some really amazing food here.
- The Tea House - stroll up Canyon Road, see the art (Friday night there are a ton of art gallery openings with wine/food), then stop in at The Tea House for tea and a scone or other dessert (they have a lot of gluten free choices, too).
- Ecco - stop in for gelato (on Marcy St) - it's homemade and wonderful
- Bumblebees - Mexican (not New Mexican) food, inexpensive
- Tune Up - GREAT locals place - really great New Mexican food
- Pascual's - great breakfast! This is not cheap, though.
- Vinaigrette - salads made with locally grown produce (grown up in
Nambe) - really wonderful, can eat outside beautiful patio (but also pretty expensive - this is for a treat!)
- Cowgirl - a fun outside patio, good to stop in and have a margarita
and listen to live music on the patio
- Kakawa - try an unusual hot chocolate - not cheap, but really different!
- Roque's Carnitas - a little lunch truck on the Plaza has been here for years and years. Super yummy and very messy! Get extra napkins!
- The Pantry - for a great New Mexico locals-style breakfast - it's down Cerrillos a few miles. You'll be the only tourist there! Be sure to get the potatoes.
- Chocolate Maven - you can sit down for breakfast here or just pick up a breakfast burrito to go. These are the best breakfast burritos in town!
- If you want Indian jewelry, shop under the portal of the Palace of the
Governors - you have to be certified/vetted to sell there,
so you know what you're getting is real - if you buy from any other
places/tables scattered around the plaza, the authenticity is not guaranteed
- Doodlet’s - fun/crazy souvenirs (this is just off the plaza)
- Madrid - a small town south on Highway 14 about 30 minutes - fun for a day trip and some funky art/crafts for gifts.
- Farmer's Market (Saturday and Tuesday mornings - check dates for summer v. winter) and Artist's Market across the street in the Railyard on Saturday mornings. You can get a yummy breakfast burrito in the Farmer's Market building.
- Todos Santos - chocolate shop hidden away in the beautiful Sena Plaza downtown; it's beautiful but I never buy anything here. It is worth seeing, though, and I'd probably buy something as a special gift for someone.
- Señor Murphy Candymaker - I do buy piñon caramel turtles here! And my favorite thing is the marshmallow dipped in caramel and then chocolate! Yum!
It's soooo much better and more fun to be near downtown, but it is more expensive. The biggest bargain is the Santa Fe Sage Inn which is a short walk from downtown. I hear that the Old Santa Fe Inn (even closer) is also not too expensive depending on the season.
With F not on her class trip, I decided to keep things low-key but still have a nice day out.
I had to do a tree survey for one of my projects (listing height, spread and caliper) so I enlisted F to help me; it's what I would have done anyway if she'd been on the trip. We had to enter through the "no trespassing" gate which made her nervous, but I assured her that since this is my project site, we're not actually trespassing. Then we parked the car and had to tromp across what was used for many years as a dump (people tended to just chuck things into arroyos). There were lots of sticker-bushes and old bottles. Even an entire stove and armchair. They've filled in the arroyo with dirt but it's loose and sandy, so we had to watch our footing. When we got to the other side, it was much easier, but we had step over an old barbed-wire fence. This also made F nervous, but it was all fine; we had on good shoes and she is an experienced hiker (since she could walk!).
I think it was good for her to have to confront these kinds of very mild risks (trespassing! cacti! tumbleweeds! rusty fences!) given some of her fears.
After we were done, and I'd closed the "no trespassing" gate, we headed up to Tsankawi, an American Indian ancestral site from about the 1400s. It was windy but beautiful. I thought a hike, being outside, would be good since that's what her classmates are doing, and I think being outside clears your head. The hike was incredible. Not too long. It includes trails heavily grooved into the rock by the former residents, other trails along the mesa top and two kiva-type ladders.
It was a good opportunity to talk about things, and also to think about the people who used to live here. What would it have been like to be a kid back then, living here in a cave in the rock? There were petroglyphs and pot shards, too.
After the hike we stopped for lunch at one of my favorite taco places in Pojoaque. It was 12:30 and it was packed! We got a seat at a table for four, but I saw two women who came after us who were waiting to sit and there were no tables, so I asked them to sit with us. It turned out they were from Picuris Pueblo (one of the 19 Indian pueblos in our state) about an hour from where we live, and they'd been in Santa Fe for the day and were heading home. We chatted about all kinds of stuff (one of them grew up right near where we live).
Before we all went on our way, they invited us to the Picuris Pueblo feast day in August. Such a great opportunity! I know a lot of people go to the Feast Days, but I feel weird if I'm not invited.
It's good to make a connection with people, and I think that's probably exactly what F needed today. Because this is a finance blog, the day cost $35 (that's for lunch and trail passes) and we have a ton of leftover chips and guacamole!
First, how I was frugal today, which is really just a list to remind myself that I'm trying hard and doing well at saving.
- watched a show on the bbc iplayer (free!) which is why we don't have to pay for cable.
- Ate lunch from the freezer (extra homemade taquitos that I froze last time we made them)
- Amended plan for F when her classmates go on the school trip... we are making it more low-key but still educational: a visit to Tsankawi Ruins (just a small trail fee and about half an hour away) rather than visiting Ghost Ranch (which will be a family summer outing on a weekend).
- Dinner is tostadas (one of our least expensive meals - about $4 for all of us)
- We pay down additional principal on our mortgage every month (I am adding this because when my mother in law and I were talking last week, she told me that her daughter, D's sister, has an interest-only mortgage that will come due in 20 years or so and then they owe all the principal at once - gulp! They'll basically need to sell the house to pay it, and hope that it's increased in value).
- Subbed for a weightlifting class for my good friend L; this means I'll get more from the gym at the end of the month. Or next month, or whenever he pays me for this month!
- One of the 6th grade teachers asked me to ask my husband if he'll photograph graduation; not sure how much he'll be paid, or maybe not much at all, but it's a good way to give back to the school we love so much!
Now an update on the class trip:
- F announced last night that she is definitely not going.
- She said that she wanted to tell the teacher herself, and I think that's very responsible and brave!
- In addition to our trip to Tsankawi tomorrow, she will help me do a tree survey on a site that's on the way to Tsankawi. And on Friday, she is helping out in the Kindergarten classroom. The second grade teacher said "Help out in my room, too!" so she may do that after lunch...
- We ran into the Experiential Ed teacher at pickup, and I asked him about next year's trip; it's closer to where we live (only about 25 minutes) and F told him she was pretty sure she could do that one.
- Two other girls are also not going (one because the mother thinks she's too young for an overnight, and I'm not sure about the other one).
I wish F could do it... but I think she made the right decision for herself, and I'm impressed at how she took so much responsibility for her decision.