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Archive for June, 2015

Another Snowflake, Meal Plan, One Mortgage Paid Off!!

June 29th, 2015 at 11:13 pm

Made $10 selling some books on craigslist, and I took that over to the bank to pay down principal right away. So we've paid down $252 this month to principal. And I have an $80 check that just came in the mail (reimbursement for hosting our coach). Since we were happy to host her from our regular budget, that will go to mortgage principal as well.

Our meal plan this week is:
chili with avocado, chips, sour cream
fish with courgettes and red pepper
risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes and goat cheese
big salad with garlic bread
pasta with red sauce
baked potatoes and broccoli

That kept our grocery budget down since we already had a lot of the ingredients.

And finally... the BIG NEWS: we made the final payment on our house in Dublin, so we now officially own it! I am hounding D to make sure we don't somehow make an auto-payment or pay the life insurance policy we no longer need. We can now take money out of the rent we receive for that house to pay down the mortgage on our US house.

I of course have been playing with the mortgage pay-down spreadsheet to see how this will affect how long it will take us to finally own this house. Just a few more years...

And I found out today that my close friend and her husband just took his bonus and paid their house off. It was a big bonus, I guess! She said they discussed it and (like us) decided they didn't want to fritter it away or spend it on something they didn't need. He's already contributing to their 401k. Their daughter goes to the same private school ours does, and will most likely go to the same high school. This is probably why we hang out with these friends the most! We prefer bbq potlucks to expensive restaurants and paying our houses off instead of new cars!

Las Vegas Trip Was a Success! and Some Ways We Saved Money in Las Vegas

June 28th, 2015 at 04:52 pm

We had so much fun in Las Vegas! We were smart about certain things (and not as smart about others) so I thought I'd share... Here are some of our ways that we saved money in Las Vegas:

1. We don't drink - drinks are expensive in Las Vegas.

2. We don't gamble. But I found a dime on the stairs down to the pool!

Now the not so obvious things:

3. We booked our vacation through Southwest Airlines (flights and room) and got a way better deal than booking flights and hotel separately.

4. We stayed at the MGM Signature because we wanted a kitchen, but we also wanted access to the MGM's fun pool! The hotel is non-smoking. We asked for Tower 1 because it's closest to the MGM pools (in fact it's closer than MGM rooms) and we asked for a room on the strip side (no music from the pool bothering us, plus a strip view).

5. We bought water for $2.50 (big water!) just outside the MGM at the ABC Store. A huge savings over buying water in the hotel. We put it in our fridge.

6. We brought a suitcase full of food (bread, cereal, cheese, chips, veggies, ranch dip, butter, cookies, fruit etc.) so we only ate out one meal a day. Our room's kitchenette came with a microwave, toaster, plates, cups, utensils and a little stove. We didn't use the stove, though. Southwest lets you check two bags each for free; this was the only bag we checked since we all just do carry-on.

7. The international coke product sampler at Coke world (or whatever it's called) is more than enough for a family. You just need to buy one! And a really fun activity for $8.65.

8. We brought our own tubes for the Lazy River at the MGM pools; I bought them at the dollar store. No one cared that we were using our own tubes. One waitress by the pool told us if we took them to the little tube kiosk they'd blow them up for us.

9. If you want a snack at the pools, the fries are the criss-cut type with good seasoning and are only $5 (not bad for Las Vegas) at the snack bar. We brought our own water down to the pool each day.

10. If you are willing to walk a little bit, there is an In-n-Out not very far away (about a mile). Our total was $22 for all three of us. We found out how to walk online - you need to be on the Excalibur side of the street and then cross at Tropicana.

11. It was super hot and we did want to see some hotels which were pretty far away, so we got a 24 hour monorail pass for $10 each (D used a link online). We went in the evening to the Venetian and a show at the Mirage, then we used them the next day to go up to Paris and the Bellagio. The great thing about the monorail was that we didn't need to walk through the sometimes smoky casino to get to it from the MGM Signature.

12. The Bellagio is pretty fun to walk around and they have a crazy Conservatory that is worth seeing. The Venetian has separated their casino so no smoke to walk through - and there are free opera shows in the main piazza.

13. We didn't buy anything except a coca cola tiny polar bear at Coke World and a magnet at the M&M Store for F. We're not big shoppers. At M&M world, if you buy something, you get a shopping bag for $1. We didn't need another shopping bag, so we passed, but especially if you're buying a $4 magnet, this is a good deal.

14. The Hershey store is worth seeing; they were handing out Hershey kiss samples when we were there. If I had a younger child, I would consider bringing a few Hershey treats from home just in case they "needed" chocolate, but F was fine with our homemade chocolate chip cookies back at our room.

15. The pool at the MGM was amazing, so we spent every morning at the pool and only ventured out to see things in the afternoons. We brought a huge bottle of sunscreen and used a lot of it!!

It was a fun trip and if we hadn't seen shows, it would have been pretty reasonable. The shows... well, that's why we were there! We don't get these sorts of things where we live! Blue Man Group - amazing. Beatles Love - awesome! Worth the splurge!

Vacation Tomorrow!

June 22nd, 2015 at 05:14 pm

We are going to Las Vegas tomorrow, so today is all about prep:

- Got work stuff in order (deposited a check, sent drawings to the printer so they can print while I'm gone for a project that will advertise for bidding this weekend).

- Post office to mail off F's thank you cards for her birthday

- To the grocery store (we are taking a suitcase of food and also got lunch for the plane) - $38 total

- Books back to the library

- Deposited the $10 I got from a Craigslist sale so now the mortgage is $53,147

- Updated transactions in YNAB so we know how much money we have when we're away.

- Packing is ongoing... ugh.

- Syncing phone because we're not taking computers.

- Check in online (in 11 minutes!)

Low Key Hot Summer Day

June 20th, 2015 at 09:34 pm

Our coach V left just after lunch today - we're so sad! But it's less bad for F because she has a friend over, so it's not so quiet around the house without V here. And V, who is Welsh, left F with lots of Welsh goodies including a Swansea City teddy bear.

I've already done the sheets and they're hanging on the solar dryer (clothesline!).

I took F and her friend to Baskin Robbins (coupon!) and we'll be driving the friend home soon. The two of them are both keen soccer players and they're in the living room with D watching the Germany-Sweden World Cup game. They were just outside squirting the wall and each other with squirt things.

I have a weakness for ice cream in the summer when it's this hot, but other than that, today is a low-cost day.

Tonight - dinner at a friend's house. They told us we don't need to bring anything, but we'll probably stop and get some kid-friendly drinks (lemonade?) to share.

Five Fast Frugal Things for Friday

June 19th, 2015 at 04:37 pm

1. My coworker's wife left me a magazine (brand new issue of RealSimple) that she is done with; she leaves me magazines which is awesome! When I am done I take them to the magazine exchange at the library. I was actually at the library today and I picked up the current issue of Dwell at the magazine exchange, so I have two new magazines to read!

2. I got a book for me (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and a book for F at the library today. Hope she likes her book! It's difficult to find books for her (she doesn't like scary or disturbing but everything at her reading level seems to be scary and disturbing).

3. Went to the dollar store and got three floating tubes for $1 each. We are going to be at a pool next week, and it's not clear if you can bring your own floaties or not. If you can't, at least we're only out $3. If you can, we save a lot of money not having to rent their tubes.

4. We are going to the pool today! It's hot, and it'll be something fun to do with our soccer coach who leaves tomorrow for a camp in another city.

5. Lunch will be at home. Dinner, too (bbq chicken and veggies with yummy sauce).

That's it for now! I need to head off to pick up F from camp; I don't want to miss the big water fight!!!

Paying Myself Back

June 17th, 2015 at 03:47 pm

We have enough in the EF to cover unexpected expenses, but I am trying to pay back the EF.

The accounting right now is that I've used the EF to pay for:
1442 for new stucco
444 for medical

We'll see how it goes, but I am figuring we can pay both of these categories back over the next few months.

In the meantime, our budget is working out well. I just split our personal articles floater (21/month) off of our auto insurance (108/month) to track things better. I know that the personal articles needs to build up and is paid in January, and the auto is paid monthly, so they're a little different. Even though it may be easier to lump things together in some ways, it helps me to have things divided up as much as possible.

By doing this I realized that I had too much saved up in the insurance category (more than I need to build up enough for the yearly personal articles payment). So I have an extra $75 to pay back the EF.

All the camp payments for this summer have been made now, too, so the camp category is building back up for next year.

And I just took a $10 craigslist payment to the bank to pay down the mortgage principal, so we're now at $53,158.

A Gift

June 16th, 2015 at 10:30 pm

F's school was very generous and gave me a gift at the end of my year as Parent Association President.... so nice! Here in Santa Fe, it's traditional to give a Nambe for gifts like that. Nambe is local and very unique and also useful.

If you don't know Nambe, you should look them up!

Anyway, they gave me a really beautiful cheeseboard, but it was so LARGE and something I'd only use maybe once a year. I called the Nambe store which is a 5 minute walk from my office and they said I could exchange it. I got a (much smaller!) dish, and it's really beautiful.

Part of me felt a little guilty to exchange a gift, and also I'm usually super practical, but I am uncharacteristically excited about having something beautiful.

I took a photo of it next to the Alessi bowl we got for our wedding, but I think the image thingy isn't working....

Giving Away Work for Free

June 13th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

I have these friends who hired an architect to draw up some plans for their house, paid him a lot of money, and were completely unsatisfied with what he came up with. I stepped in to help even though I don't do houses, mainly because they are friends and also because N has MS, so this project is not just about making their home nicer, it's about making it wheelchair accessible so that N can get around if she ever has to have the wheelchair. Right now it's leg brace and drastically reduced mobility.

They are really funny people, so we've had a lot of fun working together. Also - F is friends with their daughter I. The two of them went to preschool together, and are still friends even though they go to different schools.

The other architect failed to consider things like: existing windows (headers) that could be used for doors or openings, putting N's therapy room where there is LIGHT rather than a wall with no windows (ugh!), existing ceilings and how that would work with new rooms. He even had one scheme where he moved the kitchen to a completely new location (moving water and gas and everything else - this is slab on grade! this would mean a lot of jackhammering and cost). He also didn't give them a floor plan to show which walls come out and which are new, which means that it's impossible for a contractor give any sort of preliminary pricing.

So - I think they are really happy now! They keep emailing me to say thank you. They brought over pizza last night and desserts and we hung out while F and I and D watched the US v. Sweden match.

So I guess the work isn't free... the pizza was really good!

Today's Frugal Thoughts

June 11th, 2015 at 09:50 pm

Frugal things and thoughts for today:

- I grouped my errands yesterday to save both mental energy and gasoline.

- One of those errands was a trip to the library. I haven't bought a book in ages.

- One of the books I picked up was Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have to confess, I think most of the book is ridiculous. But a friend who I ran into last night said that's because I'm already tidy. There was one thing in the book that was eye-opening. She said don't think about what you want to get rid of, but rather what you want to keep. I do think there are many fewer things that I really WANT in my life than what I actually have. She says to start with clothes, so I may try that. I wear the same clothes every day.

- F requested Chinese food for her birthday dinner as well as lemon pie. I made both myself which I'm certain saved a lot of money!

- I have a meeting set up to sell a blanket on Saturday morning. That'll be a nice snowflake.

Frugal Here, Spend There

June 11th, 2015 at 03:27 am

We are pretty frugal most of the time... part of the reason is so that we can spend it where it counts (for us). We don't have any debt other than our house (and we should have that paid off in less than 3 years), we save for retirement and we have an emergency fund.

Here is why we're frugal:
- continue to save for retirement
- keep our spending low so that when we do retire we're used to living on less
- afford private school and college for our daughter
- be able to spend money on things that matter to us

We save here, spend there...

I don't spend money on haircuts or manicures. We don't eat out much. We don't have expensive cars. These aren't things that matter much to us.

But we like to have experiences together. We go to Europe to see family. We're going to Las Vegas for vacation and seeing three shows in four days. I'm willing to spend on birthdays and holidays and hosting guests. We improve our house (our biggest investment). We have four pets and they eat a lot.

Do you have things you're willing to splurge on?

Ice Cream, Dollhouses, Swimming - Summer!

June 7th, 2015 at 08:46 pm

We've had to find the right weather for swimming - unlike most summers which are super predictable (June gets very hot, it rains in the afternoons in July, etc), this summer has been strange. It rains mid-day some days; it's not as warm as it usually is. Right now it's cloudy and windy.

We went to the pool yesterday and as soon as we got there it started pouring! So we went and got ice cream instead (using a birthday coupon from Baskin Robbins for F). It warmed up and got sunny later, so we went to the pool at 5 pm, then went home and made pizza for dinner.

Meanwhile, I've been working on the General Store. Dollhouses aren't exactly a cheap hobby, but I have a Victorian house and lots of furniture and accessories from when I was younger, and I also have an entire general store's worth of things. I just didn't have the store itself, so decided to build one.

It's not a kit, and I'm lucky to have lots of scrap wood as well as my own chop saw and scroll saw (F can tell you that this is one of the advantages of having an architect mom). I actually drew the plans on Autocad (nerd!).

It's not done yet. I still need to put in the clerestory windows, make the bathroom door, trim out the windows in the interior, finish the mezzanine and railing (this is going to be a tailor and hatmaker because I have a sewing machine and sewing mannequin), finish the floor (which is made of stained popsicle sticks), make the shelves, put in the ceiling and light fixtures and put in the baseboard.

I was going to post photos but I am having trouble - every time I try to link the photo shows a broken link... ugh!

Mortgage Principal, Snowflake and Lunch Out

June 3rd, 2015 at 11:39 pm

So, this is how we handle summer days when I need to get some work done but F doesn't have camp: playdates! Only today was sort of difficult. We had F's friend A over because the mom really needed to do our playdate trade so she could go to a meeting, but I had to teach my weightlifting class, which meant the girls needed to go with me.

I fed them a big snack since the class is at noon and figured we'd eat afterward as well. One of my weightlifters is F's former preschool and Kindergarten teacher (and school owner) N, and she brought her 9-month old, so the girls spent their time entertaining the baby so N could exercise. At the end of class she gave me $20 to take the girls to lunch or a treat or something since they were so great, and she said if I didn't take it, she'd have to get a gift certificate and mail it to me and that would be a big pain in the behind, so I better use it!

So I took the girls to lunch, and they were thrilled!

I got paid at the gym today, too, for April (he's always a month behind) so that's another $72. I used it for a principal payment plus my regular $150. We now owe $54,096 (but that will go down when our regular payment posts on the 7th.

Now I am going to go work on my little project for F which will definitely not be done by her birthday (oh well) - I am making a little general store (1"-1') to house all the cute general store dollhouse stuff that I had when I was a kid; time to pass it on! I will save photos for my next post!