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Archive for September, 2015

When Frugal isn't Frugal

September 27th, 2015 at 04:29 pm

Sometimes my attempts at being frugal backfire.

A couple of months ago, I bought a large shampoo. It's the same brand as the bodywash we use. All natural, no added scent (just the scent of ingredients). And it isn't expensive; in fact it's pretty inexpensive.

But here is the thing: it doesn't work! Ack! My head is sometimes itchy. My hair never feels clean.

I've been using it anyway, because I don't like to waste things, but I finally gave up.

I spent about 20 minutes in the shampoo aisle sniffing shampoos because I'm pretty sensitive to smells/perfumes but I don't want entirely unscented. And I found a not-quite-as-cheap shampoo that smelled great. It was a brand I'd used before.

And now my hair is clean. My head isn't itchy. I am so happy!

Is there anything you spend a little more money on because it's worth it?

More on Insurance

September 25th, 2015 at 06:19 pm

I just found out today that my health insurance company is no longer providing individual coverage in our state. So there you go... I need to go back to the insurance company I had in 2013. It is an HMO, and I'd prefer a PPO, but that's just not an option in our state.

I just looked at my previous insurance company, and there are three plans I'd be ok with. So I guess we have to start thinking about switching soon.

My next step is to set up an FSA; I don't use an accountant for normal tax stuff, but I think I need one for this. I called the guy I always call when I need an accountant for various things, so I'm waiting for him to call me back. If I don't have to, I don't want to use a third-party administrator; it'd be great to avoid the cost for administration when I can do it myself.

As long as I was doing some investigative work into our insurance, I verified that our term life policies end in 2027 which is fine for us. F will be in college (gasp!). We each have $500k, and we pay a total of $52.47 a month.

I also decided to get our wedding rings and my pearls appraised. I never wear the pearls; they're just sitting there in the safe deposit box. Do I need to insure them? No idea.

Trying to Figure out Insurance for 2016

September 25th, 2015 at 02:39 am

There are two types of insurance that I'm not sure we need...?

Personal Articles Floater
This covers our wedding rings which we wear every day and also a pearl necklace that lives in the safe deposit box. I wear it maybe every other year once. So the Personal Articles Floater is $248 a year. The necklace is worth a lot (no idea how much), and the rings are probably $2000 each. Should I self insure instead with that $248? Maybe get the pearls appraised? (No idea in our town where I'd do that).

We pay about $50/month for dental insurance. What if I put that into an account instead and self-insure on that? I need to review what we're covered for. I think the insurance only covers half. It pays for part of one annual cleaning. But $50/month is $600 per year. That's a lot of cleanings! This is just for me and F... it's an add on to our medical insurance.

A little more research is in order.

Slight Loss of Side Income

September 23rd, 2015 at 10:38 pm

I taught my last weightlifting class at the gym today, at least for a while. A woman moved to town and is paying for the gym to be licensed for a certain branded class. In exchange, the owner gave her my class to teach. I understand it from his perspective - he pays me to teach, but she's paying him essentially. The difficult part is that she is a mom at F's school, but we haven't been introduced yet. Not sure if I should introduce myself; I'm pretty sure she doesn't know whose class she has usurped. I'm not sure if she feels justified or embarrassed. I'd be embarrassed.

Anyway, this was a side job, but it means that I now only teach one class at the gym. I still get a free membership, but I will be making $35 less each month. I was using it to pay down the mortgage.

In other "loss of income" news - I am no longer maintaining the website for a subdivision I work for. This was only about 2 hours a month, and I am actually glad to see this extra project move on. I help run their Architectural Review Committee, and that is actually architecture. I am not a website administrator (at all!!!!). They're getting a new website, and they're going to maintain it themselves. I won't miss the income since this took up two work hours that I really could use.

Since I finished up a project on Monday and had a meeting this morning, I was going to spend the rest of the day tying up loose ends, but the other subdivision that I help with Architectural Review had a brand new problem (someone's window trim is BLUE! Oh no!) that needed to be dealt with immediately (you know, if someone's window trim is BLUE that is not something you can let go until tomorrow!). Sorry about the sarcasm. I actually love working for them; they are really good to me.

After dealing with blue window trim, I did manage to get some dinner in the crockpot and I went to Target to find some clothes for F now that the weather is turning cold and she no longer fits in a 7-8 (she still fits in them but everything is way too short - sleeves, length of tops, length of leggings). I bought four shirts and three leggings and... she liked ALL OF IT! I know her taste - not too girly but bright colors. She likes stripes. She likes henley shirts. She likes leggings and soft, soft jeggings, but not jeans. Total cost was $55.

I think we're all set for winter now.

Tonight: soccer practice now that it's stopped raining. I'll bring my new ebook (the new one by Neal Stephenson) from the library.

Bought Our Chile for the Year (Plus Photos)

September 20th, 2015 at 03:37 pm

Yesterday was a wonderful day... low key, fun, lots going on - my kind of day.

F scored a goal in her soccer match; they won 4-0. We got Vietnnamese food for our Anniversary lunch. Not expensive, but really good. And then we got our annual green chile. We only got half a bushel, because we can't eat a full bushel in a year. We put it on homemade pizza, hamburgers, and these are the right size to stuff with cheese (naked rellenos). Oh, and tostadas; it's really yummy chopped up on tostadas.

At home we made potatoes dauphinoise for dinner; the house smelled like a French bistro.

And then we went out to the Plaza to hear the Mavericks... we danced around and saw a bunch of friends down there. Then home to watch the new episode of Dr. Who!

I hope your weekend is going well, too. Anyone else watch Dr. Who last night?

Frugal Anniversary!

September 19th, 2015 at 01:49 am

Tomorrow is our 12th anniversary... Here's the day we have planned:
- F's soccer game (45 mins away)
- Lunch in Albuquerque (another 15 mins, we're most of the way down there for soccer) at the Vietnamese place we all love. It's not expensive, but it's yummy!
- Get our green chile on the way back up

Relax while we bag our chile. I want to watch a movie or a show or something. Any ideas that would be good for the entire family? Something funny would be good. F is ten. She doesn't like scary (and I don't either!). I love Melissa McCarthy but I think her stuff is too raunchy for a ten year old.

Then - light dinner (not sure what yet).

Then - off to the Plaza to dance, dance, have fun! It's the Mavericks at 8:00 pm! Love that F stays up late, and there's nothing to wake up early for on Sunday!

Frugal Thoughts for Today, Plus this Week's Meal Plan

September 15th, 2015 at 11:08 pm

D is doing student photos for F's school again this year. He doesn't charge the school, but he makes money when parents order photos. Not sure how much he'll make, but he is going to take part of it to buy a new smartphone since his is now pretty old (isn't it weird what counts as old now?). The rest will go into savings which I need to shore up since we "borrowed" a little to redo our stucco and pay for D's allergy shots.

I helped out with the school photos today, so I didn't get much work done, but that's fine - I finished my deadline on Monday and this week is pretty quiet. Just a couple of meetings and misc. work.

Because of the busy day, I didn't have time to spend any money!

And I returned a lunch container which said it was 5x5 (perfect sandwich size) but turned out to be 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 (not perfect at all!).

Lunch was a very frugal: slice of turkey, a few chips, pluot, home-made muffin.

Dinner is: Spaghetti Gambino Crime Family (not the real name). It's actually this Jamie Oliver recipe (a really nice combination of shrimp, lemon, garlic, rocket, white wine and sundried tomatoes):

The rest of the week's meal planning (including the past few days) looks like this:
S - quesadillas with guacamole
S - chicken piccata and broccoli and rice
M - posole
T - gambino crime family pasta
W - grilled cheese with salad
T - crash potatoes from freezer and roasted broccoli
F - big salad with radishes, carrots and cucumber

Now I am super hungry, so I'm going to make dinner... what are you having tonight?

Watching "Eat Well for Less"

September 14th, 2015 at 10:25 pm

It's just after 4:15 pm and I still need to:
- finish emptying the dishwasher
- bring up the bins from the street
- make sure F gets her soccer stuff together

We are leaving at 5 for soccer practice.

I wanted to quickly post about Eat Well for Less (on the BBC iplayer if you live in the UK). We watched the first season of this show, and we all think this season is a little better.

It's sort of like rubbernecking to watch what these families buy at the grocery store. But there are also really good ideas. We want to try the tuna burgers from episode 1, and the beetroot chocolate cake from episode 2 sounds interesting... it's a no-egg cake (and I always seem to have food allergy friends of various types so it'd be a good recipe to have on hand).

Here's the beetroot chocolate cake:

And here's the tuna burgers:

Bear in mind that I haven't tried either of these yet.

I also want to try the homemade veggie crisps.

The show is making me think about what's on our shopping list. We seem to buy a lot of snack foods (some tortilla chips, crisps, etc) and I think too much readymade food (not ready meals, but things like D's scones; this week I made muffins instead, but D still wanted his scones).

Have you seen the show, and is it making you think about your shopping?

Good and Bad

September 11th, 2015 at 01:32 am

The bad first:
- I had to buy a drill bit today in order to hang my yoga swing (this is so I can hang upside down and get traction for my lower back pain; it works pretty well, and I guess if I can cut down on the PT it will save me money). Also had to buy two climbing straps because the yoga swing did not come with extenders (ugh! I did an Amazon review and noted the things people will need to buy to mount the swing, since I had no idea). With the bicycle hooks I bought the other day to screw it into our garage beams, I probably spent about $20 extra on the swing.

Also bad:
- Need to bring something to a soccer potluck party tomorrow, but we'll be going right from F's school Country Fair where I'll be volunteering from about 2 pm on... I think I just have to buy some tubs of cookies at Trader Joe's... more expensive than baking something or making something, but they won't go bad in the car.

But this is good:
- Had a great PT appt. today and my back feels so much better, plus she taught me how to fix things myself a little bit if my back starts to hurt in between.

And also good:
- We had a nice frugal dinner of pasta with butter and pecorino romano plus sauteed courgettes with a little garlic.

And even more good:
I got $70 from the gym, and took it right to the bank so now we owe $48,064 on our mortgage. I am not sure how much our house is actually worth... during the recession they said about $500k, but things have picked up a lot since then.

Picnic Downtown and Food Storage

September 7th, 2015 at 07:32 pm

We delayed our shopping trip by a day, and the amount was about 75% of normal. So the food inventory is working, I guess! I also bought some pasta so we're now stocked for pasta until mid-December (we eat a pasta dish once a week).

Today F and I went downtown to have a mother-daughter day... we parked in the office, and walked about half a block to our favorite place for lemonades, and then had a picnic in Cathedral Park (next to our beautiful cathedral). I brought her a burrito and a sandwich for me, plus some tortilla chips, salsa, pickles and a nectarine. I keep a picnic blanket in the office.

There are tons of art booths downtown right now, and we wandered around a bit, talking, hanging out.

Tonight we're going over to some friends' for dinner. I'm bringing potatoes dauphinoise (they asked for a carb-y side dish).

When I was doing our food inventory yesterday I was thinking about food storage. We hardly ever have food waste, and it's partly because I've worked out how to store a lot of perishable foods.

avocados - I leave them on the counter to ripen, then put them in the fridge so they don't continue to ripen after they're already ripe!

lettuce or cilantro or spinach - I wrap with kitchen roll to absorb moisture from the "rain" in the vegetable aisle.

cheese - I put a piece of kitchen roll in there, too, once it's opened

bananas - I wrap stems with plastic wrap

flour tortillas - I keep these in the freezer and just take out one at a time; they last forever this way; we only use 2 or so a week.

herbs - I store leftover fresh herbs in ice cubes in the freezer

butter - I keep baking butter in the freezer and spreading butter in the fridge

bread - we keep our bread in the fridge (and extra loaves in the freezer)

Things I'm still not sure about: strawberries, applesauce (once it's opened it gets mold so fast; can you freeze it?). Any tips? Any other food storage ideas I haven't mentioned?

Embarrassed About my Food Inventory

September 5th, 2015 at 10:36 pm

How on earth can I have accumulated SO MUCH food. I meal plan every week, but I've never done a food inventory until now. I am embarrassed and awed and shocked.

Our fridge isn't bad, but I was going to buy a ton of fruit this week and realized we already have 4 pluots, 3 apples, 3 nectarines, most of a cantaloupe and half of a watermelon.

The freezer is insane: two portions of freezer meals which I had in my head and shrimp I bought last week on sale to use later, but everything else was sort of crazy... I have a ton of things I can bring to the office for lunch (lunch sized portions) that I just forget about. Also two turkey burgers that were left over when I made turkey burgers the last time. And 16 (16?!) hot dog buns plus a package of 4 hot dogs (left over from the coach party). Looks like we need to eat some sausages and hot dogs in the near future.

Also tons of dinner ingredients in the pantry. And a lot of chips and crisps. I like to have variety, but sheesh!

With careful meal planning, it looks like we can whittle this down a little bit, and have a pretty low grocery bill for the next couple of weeks.

Dragging Today... Need a Muffin!

September 4th, 2015 at 04:27 pm

OK, a new spending trigger I need to consider: being tired! I am tired, so I need sugar which makes me want to go out and buy a muffin. Lucky for me with my food intolerances and celiac, it's not so easy to just go buy something.

I just completed the work I wanted to complete today. I've figured out the work I need to finish on Tuesday. The work load is not too high right now because I am waiting for a big approval from the County before things kick in. So it's not like I have to be glued to my desk today... I could easily pop out and get that muffin.

F is doing better with dropoffs. She's still worried and anxious, but she sees that she needs to go to school and it's not optional! Monday was terrible, but the rest of the week has been great. So I feel like I need to reward myself... with a muffin!


And I paid off $487.32 this month toward the mortgage principal. If we stop applying any more to principal we'll own the house in September 2019. åΩ But our goal is June 2017. Either way, that is within THIS decade. Wow. Don't you think I deserve a muffin for that sort of financial control?

The office will buy it for me since it's pretty much a work necessity at this point.