Home > Archive: December, 2015

Archive for December, 2015

Frugal and Not-so-Frugal end to 2015

January 1st, 2016 at 12:13 am

- We went cross country skiing yesterday (super fun!). It was not in the forest but at the groomed trails, so we had to buy trail passes ($60). D rented his gear ($10).

- F and I have our own skis and boots, so maybe it is frugal...and maybe not so bad compared to downhill (we don't downhill ski, but a lot of our friends do). We made sandwiches at home and ate in the warming hut on the trails. Got to talk to lots of nice people!

- D bought new wiper blades for his car.

- He put the wiper blades on himself rather than paying someone to install them.

- Went to Target and bought half priced wrapping paper. Also a shirt that F loves in the next size up for $5 on sale. I have a little stack of "favorites" in the next size.

- We joined our friends at their club today to go swimming (indoors of course!). I insisted on paying the guest fee, and they insisted on me not paying it. I insisted again, and my friend reminded me that I had them over for Christmas dinner and did almost everything (which I was so happy to do!) and that she wanted to do something nice for me. Sometimes when I think of my friends, I just want to cry because I'm so thankful for the support (particularly since we don't live near family).

- Our NYE celebration will consist of lots of special foods... it wasn't inexpensive, but a lot less than going out to a big party or getting champagne or something. We don't drink... but we do love to eat!

Now... on to 2016! Lots of super exciting things planned including a visit to D's family in the UK (and an add-on trip to Croatia), a trip to LA to see my family, spelling bee, more soccer, and a few things in the works. Most of this was already paid-for last year. I am really looking forward to a year filled with wonderful experiences rather than stuff.

End of Year Business Planning

December 29th, 2015 at 06:01 pm

I am at the school gym right now while F has basketball practice... and since I have internet access (I know the secret password!), I just did some end-of-year financial stuff.

I paid myself reimbursables and mileage.

I also sent an additional amount to each of our Roths - so we've now met the maximum of $5500 per year each. D also contributed to his work 401k up to the match. I will take a distribution from my business in early January to cover the additional Roth amounts (it's a little over $2000). I am also putting $5000 from the business into my SEP (that is with the profit I made this year in the business which was about $11k total). The rest of the profit will remain in the business.

I also worked out my salary for 2016. I am increasing it a little bit. It won't hurt our chances for tuition assistance at F's school because we don't have any chances for tuition assistance anymore since the value of our Dublin house is too high. I guess the equity in our house here is also a factor. If the Dublin house was an IRA instead, it would be different (and that's really what the Dublin house is, but that's not how they see it).

Other financial stuff:
- estimated taxes are coming up
- I have to do the office quarterlies for Q4
- I have to do a bunch of billing now for the end of 2015!

The rest of this can wait, though, because we are going to drive up to Red River tomorrow to go x-c skiing! This is our new year's gift to ourselves! Then it's New Year's Eve which will be spent at home eating lots of nice hors d'oeuvres (we just do nibbles on NYE, no real dinner). Then New Year's Day - and we have a party to go to... it's one of the families at school and they have a VERY fancy house (they are really nice people); it's kind of fun, and D didn't go last year, so he's looking forward to it.

I have to say, and I realize I'm rambling now, if I had that much money, I'd spend it differently. I like our smaller house, and I don't need a grand piano or a $100k car. I would travel A LOT though. I'm surprised at how there are so many wealthy families at school and only a few of them are adventurous travelers. Most spend their vacations either in Hawaii (ok, I would LOVE to go there) or Telluride (which is pretty close to us).

If you had that kind of money, how would you spend it?

Pretty Much Snowed in

December 27th, 2015 at 01:48 am

Well, it's snowing... a lot! The City just sent an advisory that no one should drive unless absolutely necessary. They have like two snowplows for the whole city. That may be a little bit sarcastic, but not much. Most of the plows are people with plows on the front of the their pickups who just clear snow (maybe sub-contract with the City?).

Anyway, we just took stock and we have a ton of food! We wrote down three days worth of really nice meals, and I don't have to be anywhere until Monday at noon.

Also have a puzzle going, a bunch of shows to watch and a load of laundry to do! And F and I have our mother-daughter coloring book we got for Christmas... it's the Secret Garden book and we got a set of pentel pens, too.

It's beautiful and quiet outside... I love the snow so much (maybe it's my So. California upbringing, but it never gets old living where it snows; I've been here 23 years).

I hope you're having a great weekend, too!

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2015 at 03:36 am

Little snow flurries all day... we relaxed and played and just hung out.

Then this evening, downtown to see the farolitos and christmas lights. We popped into my friend K's house. It's always great to see her - she is a wonderful person and great hostess... also very glam!

Then home where we had frito pies (one of the least expensive and yet most satisfying meals ever), and the carrot cake just came out of the oven; it needs to cool a little before we frost it. It will be breakfast, too (and I bought some smoked salmon!).

Right now I'm running a bath for me and F in the "big tub." Then we'll crawl into bed and watch a silly Christmas special.

F knows she needs to stay in the bedroom while I put presents under the tree!

I hope you're having a wonderful evening, too!

Updating 2016 Goals

December 23rd, 2015 at 11:51 pm

I really want to start thinking about next year's goals, but my work just dramatically ramped up! I really want to b concentrating on relaxing, Christmas dinner and 2016, but right now I'm trying to answer bidder questions. We are issuing an addendum on 12/29... crazy!

Anyway, I decided to take a quick minute to look at last year's financial goals and amend them for 2016.

- Retirement - increase from $730/month to our IRAs to $800 per month and increase what D puts in the employee matching plan from $249/month to $265

- Mortgage (our only debt) - Hope to pay down $12,000 in additional principal this year. Total paid to principal for 2016: $0 so far but I have $10 from a Craigslist sale.
Currently will be paid off entirely July 2019.
Owed at the beginning of 2016: $43,109
Now owe: $43,109

- Tuition - increase amount we pay out of our budget from $750 to $800 (which will reduce the amount we take from school savings each month and stretch that out until we pay off our mortgage)

- Car Savings - continue putting in $150 per month (automatic withdrawal)

Also Christmas Dinner:
- Turkey (brought by my friend M)
- Ham (brought by my friend B)
- Potatoes Dauphinoise (me!)
- Wild Rice (me)
- Roasted Veggies (me)
- Salad (B)
- Gingerbread cookies (M)
- chocolate cake (me)
- wine (M)

Now for relaxing...

Christmas Marionettes

December 20th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

One of the things on my winter break to-do list was to go downtown to our Art Museum where they were having puppet-making for kids.

Once a year at Christmas, the Museum brings out the replicas of the Gustave Baumann marionettes and has a puppet show. The marionettes are beautiful (the originals are too fragile to use). We were just in time for the 2:30 show.

It was magical, held in the beautiful St. Francis Auditorium of the Museum of Fine Arts; it looks like a traditional New Mexican church.

The story was really funny and involved Santo Niño, a little duende (sprite) called Warts, Rosina and her husband Juan and a burro called Miguelito.. and Santa Claus at the end. There were references to Taylor Swift and Martha Stewart and evites... we all loved it!

Afterward, the kids could have their parents take a photo with Santa (the puppet) on their laps (a totally cute twist and the only way we were able to get a picture with Santa this year).

It was a great (free!) thing to do on a cold Sunday afternoon.

More on Gustave Baumann here:

Christmas Specials

December 20th, 2015 at 08:15 pm

It's cold outside, and snowing a little bit, but that's ok because I've done my Christmas shopping. It was going to be just the three of us, but now it's either 9 or 13 people (we still don't know about one family - we're giving them a deadline to decide!).

Meanwhile, we've made up a list of all of the Christmas specials we want to watch... we are not big TV addicts (we watch either a half hour or hour a day), but we love those Christmas specials! We'll spread them out.

We've already watched "Back in Time for Christmas" which is the Christmas version of "Back in Time for Dinner." (That's the show where a family experiences the food and lifestyle of each decade since WWII - totally fascinating especially with rationing). Have any of you seen this? It's brilliant and challenged a lot of my assumptions about food.

Here are the others on our list:
- Supershoppers do Christmas
- Bear Goes Wild with Barack
- Eat well for less at Christmas 28 days
- Tigers about the House - What Happened Next (we saw the original of this, and can't wait to see what happened next!)
- The Secret Life of Children at Christmas
- Gogglesprogs
- Great British Bakeoff Christmas Masterclass

Forgot to tell you about Phoenix!

December 19th, 2015 at 02:58 am

In our busy-ness this week getting ready for the holidays, I completely forgot to tell you about Phoenix!

We went last Friday night to see the US Women's National Team (USWNT) - the women who won the World Cup in soccer! - play China. It was the second to last game of their Victory Tour, and Abby Wambach's second to last game.

Wow, wow, wow!!! What an incredible weekend! This was F's primary Christmas gift, and both sets of grandparents made contributions.

We had fourth row center seats, and we even had F's favorite players (Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath) on our side of the field.

The entire weekend was fun, and we were there with another one of F's soccer teammates. They wore their warm up pants and training jackets the whole time.

Now we're gearing up for Christmas, but no big gifts. We did get her a Tobin Heath jersey and Fifa 2016, though. And a Harry Potter book (Care of Magical Creatures). Also I sewed her a pair of pajama bottoms with some on-sale flannel. And of course a chocolate orange!

I will write about the school Secret Santa debacle in a future post...

Snow Day (Mother-Daughter Time!)

December 15th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

When we went to bed last night, I was pretty sure there would be a snow delay, but at our usual waking up time, there was still no text or email. D checked the school website on his phone - nothing. Then he looked at the website on his computer and there was just a banner across the top (no date on it) that said there was a delay.

I got F's lunch ready and let her sleep in. At 7:22, we finally got the text and email. That is about 10 minutes before we usually leave for school, so I was glad we checked the actual website. I did email the head of school to let him know that we hadn't received the text, and he said that he'd sent it to the service at 6 am! I would have slept in a little longer...

Anyway, we had a fun morning, and then we got a text at 8:34 saying school was canceled. Icy roads.

We tried to sled down a hill near our house, hung out, ate cake I made last night (great recipe! and I had all the ingredients).

Then we decorated the general store dollhouse for Christmas!

Mortgage Accounting for 2015

December 15th, 2015 at 03:07 am

I just paid our last mortgage principal payment for 2015... it consisted of $100 gym payment and $20 Craigslist sales.

The totals for the year:
- House value about $600k
- I wanted to pay down $8k in additional principal in 2015
- Actually paid down $10,127
- Our mortgage was $64,601 at the beginning of 2015
- It's now $43,327 (so that is $21,274 of principal from our regular payments)
- If we don't pay down another dime and just make regular payments, we'll pay off the house in July 2019...

... but you know we're not going to do that!

I know that there are good arguments for putting the money into IRA's instead, but these are our reasons for paying off the mortgage:
1. We will need the money to pay for F's school
2. It has trained us to live on less (we might just have spent the money without this goal)
3. When the mortgage is paid off, whatever does not go to the school will go to savings now that we're trained not to spend our excess

And... It's snowing, and I made this chocolate cake for dessert tonight! We'll be eating it for days!

Strange Thing Happened Yesterday

December 11th, 2015 at 08:38 pm

There is only a tiny nugget of financial stuff in this story, so be forewarned!

So.... I was driving down to Albuquerque (to the Apple Genius Bar) yesterday from the Community College where I'd just dropped off a brochure/portfolio (looks like I have a project there coming up - hooray!). It was about 10 am.

I passed an elementary school on the right, and after that the landscape is just rolling hills without buildings or houses; no shoulder, but about 30 feet of tall, scrubby brush and then a simple three-strand barbed wire fence after that.

Then I saw a person walking in the brush on the other side of the road, and when the car in front of me got close, he ducked down. He popped back up and I saw it was an 8 or 9 year old boy. When I passed, he ducked down again.

I couldn't stop (no shoulder) so I went another half mile to a fire station (that I designed, so I knew it was there) and told the firefighters what I'd seen. They called dispatch, and I got back in my car to make sure the boy was still there and ok. I found a little turnout off the road, and just watched him in my rearview mirror. I didn't want to scare him.

Eventually, he kind of came near the car, and I called out "hi; are you ok?" He came over to me, and I talked to him for a while. How old was he? Nine. Why wasn't he in school? (He said he was homeschooled but he was in the public school dress code). He said he was "out for a jog." I said I thought his parents would be worried and asked if he was cold (no, he'd been "jogging."). He said the truth was that he was trying to go see his grandparents, and his parents wouldn't let him see them. He gave me an address, and asked if I'd take him there. I told him that I thought it'd be better if he went with a policeman or firefighter.

We talked about 8 minutes or so, and then a cruiser and fire truck showed up. He told them the same story, then they took him into the fire truck to get warm. I talked to the policeman a little longer and we both thought he probably went to the school up the road (yikes!).

When I got back in my car, I was so sad, I felt like crying. I thought of the parents who probably had no idea he was walking along this narrow but busy road by himself.

I have no idea what happened after that, but at least he was safe.

I went to the Genius Bar and ended up with a new phone (exactly the same one I had before but not broken) for $79 even though I am waaaay out of warranty because Apple is good that way and the guy that helped me was really sweet. (That's the financial part of my story; if you're having a problem with your iphone, go to the Genius Bar - they don't charge you to check things out and you may end up with a new phone).

Money Ins and Outs

December 8th, 2015 at 12:55 am

Financial stuff:

- I put the gift money for the teachers in the envelopes, so I can cross that off my list. I had budgeted for this, so it came out of the Gifts for Others category. -$40

- I sold our old fish tank. +$10

- I ate my lunch at home, and did not buy any food out, but I hardly ever do! Still - I am patting myself on the back for this!

- I went to get basketball shoes for F and found that the sneakers I just got her at the Nike outlet were on sale for $25 less than I paid! I am taking the others back to the Nike outlet. -$25

- The basketball shoes are necessary, but I'm a little bugged that they don't make shoes for girls. I got her a good pair that were not name branded. They're blue and grey, and she liked them (phew!) -$40

- I printed out some origami patterns at the office for F; this is for her Secret Santa recipient. I think it's a very clever addition to the origami paper she got her with a half off Michaels coupon! She even did a cover and table of contents. I brought her a report sleeve from work to put it all in. Note that I am not stealing from my employer since I'm self employed!! -$0

- We are sharing a ride down to the airport with a friend (and her daughter, F's friend), then we're renting a car together too, and sharing gas when we're in Phoenix. Savings should be about $40! Plus we love our friends, and it'll be a lot more fun with them! +$40

Holiday To-Do List

December 6th, 2015 at 02:42 am

Here is our list of things to do during the Winter Break. Maybe there are similar things where you live?

Things that are Happening All Month:
- GLOW at the Botanical Garden $9 adults, $6 kids - 5 to 8 pm

- River of Lights in Albuquerque - $12 adults, $6 kids - we haven't done this since F was little, but it's amazing!

- Christmas Eve Farolitos - we do this every year as does everyone where we live - it's free and beautiful. Here's a google search so you can see what it's like:

- Christmas in Madrid - it's an old mining town that is now an artists' community; they LIGHT UP at Christmas! We're going to the parade tonight (free!!!)

- Ice Skating up at the outdoor rink in Los Alamos $5.25 adults $3.75 kids

General Things:
- Hot chocolate
- Cross country skiing (F and I have our own skis)
- Make christmas crackers - we are saving toilet paper tubes!
- Make nisse logs
- do a puzzle
- build a Trader Joe's gingerbread house
- watch it’s a wonderful life
- make lamps for our dollhouse from toothpaste caps I saved
- make yarn covered tree decorations with the yarn cones my friend Marta gave me - something like these:

Things that are only on a certain date
- Christmas events at our Plaza (but we won't be here!)
- Holiday Faire at the local Waldorf School
- December 29th - make puppets at the Museum of Art downtown
- December 27th 4 pm - Holiday Circus Cabaret - $20 adults and $5 kids tickets online (we already bought our tickets - it was this or Nutcracker!)

What are you planning on doing?

Great Day... So Tired

December 4th, 2015 at 03:12 am

I am happily exhausted!

Another day of cleaning the garage (including a load to the scrap metal place, a giant dumpster load and went through all the paint cans).

I did all my invoicing for work for the rest of the year.

Went up to school to see F in the school Spelling Bee... she came in 2nd which means she's going to the County Bee in January. Her best friend is the one who came in 1st, and they were so happy! They went about 37 rounds together, and then it went off-list.

Then we stayed around school for Basketball practice.

Now.. it's 8 pm and the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean and the tree is glowing. Time to watch a silly tv show (Junior Bakeoff?) before an early sleep.

Hope you had a great day, too!

Craigslist postings up

December 3rd, 2015 at 12:46 am

I promised myself I wouldn't blog until I posted four things on Craigslist.

First I continued the Great Winter Garage Purge. I found more evidence of mice which strengthened my resolve to continue this project. I am going to get almost everything up off the floor onto either shelves or hooks.

Then I did my work (and managed to complete a mini-cost estimate that actually makes some sense). The project bid meeting is on December 18th which is the last day of school before break. It's at 11 am, and I am going to have to skip the site visit because I need to pick F up from school early that day.

Then I picked up F, got her settled with a snack while she did her homework, started the rice for dinner and emptied out the containers from her lunch box.

Then she wanted to hang the ornaments on the tree outside our door (the indoor tree is happening bit by bit). Then we had cider.

And then... finally... I posted my craigslist items. I still have several to post. This is a good time for some of them (Christmas dress, child size ski boots and skis, snow boots) so I really needed to get this done! And others are really important for being able to clear out the garage (plus they'd make nice Christmas gifts for someone). I try to price really reasonably.

Cross your fingers that someone will take some of this off our hands! Especially the large stuff!