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Archive for April, 2016

People Who Aren't Frugal, Part IV (Final Installment)

April 30th, 2016 at 04:37 pm

This is the final installment featuring my friend H who is having such terrible money troubles.... I am so sad for him, and I can't really help that much.

He came over to my office on Wednesday. I am super busy and I didn't have a lot of time, but we figured out a couple of things.

1. He and his wife keep their finances pretty separate. (I am curious if any of you do this, too?). They even pay car insurance separately (which means, of course, no discount for two cars).

2. They are in the habit of wasting money because it's just easier (he has never gotten different quotes for insurance, for example, so even though he has access to USAA, they have never gotten a quote from them). He "thinks the comcast internet just went up" but he's not sure, and he hasn't called them to ask about promotions. Etc.

3. He pays for major things out of his paycheck (mortgage, etc) and her money (about a third of what they make) is mostly for "stuff." So about a third of their money is her discretionary money for clothes, toys for the kids, etc. He doesn't know at all how this money is spent, and last month she said she ran out of money and he gave her $430 from his account. They do not have a joint account at all. I said they need to have one account where they dump in their money and pay for joint things, and he said they tried that but his wife put the account in her own name, and he doesn't have access, so it was just her money and it didn't work as planned.

4. He had $500 for food last month and said that's about 1/3 of their food spending. So his wife spent about another $1000. That is $1500/month on food for a family of four. It's way more than double what we spend. He said there's a lot of eating out for convenience. Convenience seems to be a theme.

5. He had a new Honda Fit that his parents got him since his other car was so old, and when it was about 2 years old, the Honda dealer called him with a deal on a new Fit, and of course he went for it, so now he has a $300/month car payment for another two years.

6. Their biggest expense seems to be his wife's medical expenses. She doesn't have a major medical issue, but she does do massage and it means that her body is often sore. She has spent (he thinks) about $15,000 to $24,000 on medical expenses last year. I said I didn't think that the max. OOP was that high, and he said she likes alternative treatments and they aren't covered.

We came up with a little to-do list for him, but it will be a drop in the bucket compared to medical expenses and food.

I think he's really frustrated because his wife has most of the control over the money (since what he pays for is pretty much fixed). And he has no idea what she spends, and a lot of it is in cash.

Any ideas about what I can tell him that I haven't already?

So Busy.... and People Who Aren't Frugal, Part III

April 25th, 2016 at 10:12 pm

It was a busy day...

First - Meeting at my daughter's school to help them get an idea of square footage for the new building they want to build (Art/Science/Performing Arts). I met with the three teachers, and it was fun! Of course I don't get paid at all, but I feel good donating time to the school I love so much!

Then - A little bit of work, and lots of telephone conferences. Fire station, waste transfer station. Engineer calls.

Then - F's teacher called and asked me and two other people to drive the kids on their field trip next week. I said of course. Hope she gives me an easy group! She is only asking three parents to drive, and the rest of the kids will go in the van that they borrow from the high school.

On my way to the next meeting I stopped by the bank to pay down mortgage principal and I saw my good friend H (the one who is having financial issues). I forgot to tell you that he was fired from the job he wanted to quit. Oh my. I talked to him for about an hour on Saturday. Anyway, he's coming over to my office on Wednesday so we can figure his financial situation out. He gave me a big hug. He looked tired.

Then - Meeting at a subdivision I work for (doing design review). There are two houses under construction that are having problems. I'm so glad I don't do houses.

Now - getting a little work done before soccer practice tonight.

People Who Aren't Frugal, Part II

April 20th, 2016 at 11:29 pm

The "not frugal" people continue to come into my life...

First an update on H, my not very frugal friend. He still hasn't come over to go over his finances, but we've talked on the phone and I have a little more insight into his financial situation. He and his wife have separate finances. All of the regular bills/mortgage come out of his paycheck. Everything else is from his wife's earnings. Since his wife earns about a third of their income, he has no idea how a third of their money is being spent. He said he wanted to figure out what she's spending money on, and then he'd get back to me.

Next person. We had a soccer coach come stay with us (we host them often). He was super sweet. But it was weird... when he wanted to do a load of laundry, I helped him put in the load of washing. I said "When you're done, you can either hang your laundry here or put it on the line in the yard." I explained it would dry really quickly since NM is so dry. He said "That's ok; I'll just chuck it in the dryer." I said we didn't use the dryer because things dry so fast outside and it uses a lot of energy. He said "That's ok; I'll just chuck it in the dryer." Oh well. I tried.

Next person: my good friend S whose daughter is on F's soccer team. He's awesome, super funny. He manages a Toyota dealership. I was talking with him about when we eventually replace our car, would he be able to look out for a good used Toyota. He said "No, what you want to do is lease a new car." He explained that with depreciation, etc. it'd be cheaper. But we drive our cars a looooooong time. I put away $150/month so that we pay for cars in cash. S says that if you have a lease, and the car is worth less than the purchase price at the end of the lease, you just walk away from it and the dealer eats the depreciation.

OK, time to go to soccer and argue cars with S again!

Meal Budgeting and Meal Planning

April 18th, 2016 at 10:05 pm

We went out to dinner on Friday night, and it was expensive because we brought the coach who was staying with us... We have $76 left in our dining out budget, though, and I really don't feel like I need to eat out for the rest of the month.

The groceries for this week came to $97.68 which seems pretty good since prices seem to have gone up.

We are so fully stocked it's a little bit ridiculous. I need to inventory the freezer and pantry. And we have three coca colas. I never drink soda, and neither does the rest of my family, but I was warned that our coach likes coke, so I bought an 8-pack on our last Target run. I think he'll be staying with us again, so I'm going to remove it from the fridge, put it in the pantry and save it until he comes back. [Update on the coke: my husband opened one and had three sips. So I can't put that in the pantry now. Do I need to buy more coke for the coach when he returns?]

The meal plan for this week:
S - turkey burgers, fries, peas
M - king ranch casserole - this version
T - very sweet salmon, brown rice, broccoli
W - something from the freezer, salad
T - grilled cheese and tomato soup
F - potatoes dauphinoise with salad
S - we have so much food, I'm sure we can whip something together!

We try to eat meatless at least three nights a week. But it's soccer season, and F needs protein!

Do you have any innovative ways to plan your meals to save money?

People Who Aren't Frugal, Part I

April 17th, 2016 at 08:58 pm

My good friend, Bad Money Man, called me on Thursday to say "I hate my job; I'm quitting. Call me back." Bad Money Man (BMM) took this job because of the money, and it's a terrible job, and I don't blame him for wanting to quit. He told me all sorts of stories. It's a nightmare job.

It paid $20k more than his last job (wow!) but his paycheck was somehow the same. I am not sure what happened, but I think it was forced savings (401k) which is a good thing, and a very expensive health plan, and some other things. I told him to get his pay stubs and we'll analyze it together. He was going to come over yesterday, but when I called him he was out doing some errands with his daughters, so he decided to reschedule.

Here was the errand: one of the daughters needed (wanted? not sure) origami paper. He was at Artisan, the very expensive art supply store. There are a lot of artists here, and they sell gesso and very expensive brushes, and things that professionals need. I am not sure his five year old is a professional origami-ist.

I said "You're buying origami paper at Artisan?!" And then I went into a whole tirade about how they do not have the income to buy their kids' art supplies at Artisan (and then I texted him a 50% off Michael's coupon). I said that they are not Whole Foods people, and his wife isn't a Lululemon person. But that's how they shop. Maybe they're trying to keep up with a socio-economic group they are kind of-sort of part of. Maybe it's how they grew up - they both had privileged childhoods, and they haven't revised their spending habits to align with the reality of their income.

He says they don't buy a lot. But there is some kind of mis-match.

Did I mention that with the raise, they make the same as us? We save $780/month in our IRAs, $265/month into D's profit-sharing plan. We pay down our mortgage $150/month. We pay for private school tuition ($850 from our salaries each month).

He says that they have no money left at the end of the month for savings or anything else that they want, and that they buy very little.

When we do get together to figure some of this out and create a budget (and he does want to which is very encouraging!), I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday - Sports in the Park, Meal Plan, Have to Clean!

April 10th, 2016 at 02:40 pm

What's happening now:

- F went to a friend's house to play yesterday and I finished my wall sections (for work); my engineers will be so happy, and it means that next week is less hectic.

- I did a little professional survey and got a $25 Amazon voucher.

- Grocery shopping today (we'll leave in a few minutes - we like to shop before noon on Sunday because the shops get crowded at noon when they start selling alcohol).

- Meal plan for this week needs to be inexpensive because we have a soccer coach staying with us. I budgeted an extra $80 just in case.

S - kebab chicken with roasted veg (already have chicken in the freezer)
M - baked potatoes, broccoli (maybe our most inexpensive meal)
T - tostadas (another pretty inexpensive one)
W - red pasta with courgettes (also not expensive)
T - chili with cornbread (this has ground turkey so it's not super cheap, but makes a lot!)
F - fish with rice and peas (may do lemon-crumbed fish since I have the lemons and garlic)
S - summer pasta with bacon (not inexpensive, but every coach has loved this!)

- F has indoor soccer today, and I told her we could go to the park and play some basketball and tennis. All free! An active day!

- I really don't want to finish vacuuming the house, but I have to. And I need to make the bed up for our coach. Last night I cleaned the food processor and stovetop with a toothpick; don't ask me why, but for me that's actually fun!

Out on the Town and Mortgage Principal

April 8th, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Last night we had a rare night out on the town (after dark!). We got to see my friend who is in from out of town, and her kids, and another friend that lives her and her boyfriend. We paid $5 to rent the air hockey table, and they paid $5 for ping pong. My husband got a beer, but that was all we spent.

It was a lot of fun! F was running the ping pong table. It's a really fun place where you can take kids even though it's basically a bar.

Today I transferred money from our Irish account to pay down our mortgage. Not sure what's up with the exchange rate, but we got more than usual out of our euros. So we now own $36,310. Whittling it down, and it should be wiped out in less than two years.

I haven't been paid by the gym for February or March, and it's starting to feel like the owner is avoiding me. My friend was paid on Monday.

It's on my to-do list to call another gym, but I need to get through my deadline first. F is down in the kitchen working on a project for school, and I am just about to start working on a drawing so that I can finish my set of drawings by next Friday.

This weekend: soccer game, play dates, family time.

A Few Snowflakes and Other Stuff

April 5th, 2016 at 03:29 pm

I currently have a lot of work, so I'm not doing a super good job of generating any extra income.

My friend who teaches at the same gym I do said she got paid. I'm hoping to get paid this week, too. And I am going to call another gym (I have a connection to the program director at the gym through two different friends, and they both said to call her).

I took our dog to the vet yesterday for her followup bloodwork (she's on thyroid medication). They had said it'd be about $80, but it turned out to be $45 (so relieved!).

I did a professional survey last week, and got a $25 Amazon gift card in return! Cool!

And, finally, here's the stuff that has nothing to do with money:
F had soccer practice last night, and their girls' select team played the boys' academy team. We had to loan the boys two girls to play with them, and the only point that was scored was a pass from one girl to the other, so the boys won, but technically it wasn't them. The girls were all proud. But before they started playing this one boy looked at our girls and said "cheerleaders!" They shrugged it off, but then the same boy started calling my daughter Vanilla and screaming "her name is Vanilla!" and got other boys to join in (that obviously isn't her name, but it it does end in a "la" sound). And when they all shook hands after the game, this boy wouldn't shake anyone's hand. I want to say something to the coach. Yes? No?

Party and a Meal Plan for this Week

April 4th, 2016 at 12:44 am

Went to my close friend's 50th Girl Get-Together last night. I have to say it was a little bit too girly for me (pink champagne etc), but it was perfect for her and she was so happy. She moved to CA several years ago, and wanted to have a celebration with friends out here. I was so happy to see her!

It was a super late night for me (out until 10:45!) and everyone still said "why are you leaving so early?" I don't drink (honestly, it's too expensive and not fun for me!) and at 10 or so everyone was starting to get pretty tipsy.

It was potluck and I brought chili (and another close friend brought all the stuff for frito pies to go with the chili plus a pie). I took home a big slice of pie for F, who was thrilled!

Today F had a friend over, and we did "make your own pizzas." And I made a big chocolate cake.

Then F had an indoor soccer game (against boys a year older, so it was kind of rough!). Not sure how those 6th grade boys are playing in our age group. But our girls stepped up, and F was super proud to foul someone for the first time! The boys were kind of shocked at how aggressive our girls were, and I was proud!

I did all the grocery shopping for the week. Does it seem like costs are going up to you? We spent $115 for the week (and that did not include the ingredients for the chili I brought to the party which I bought mid-week).

Here's the meal plan:

S - polenta with roasted veggies (red pepper, courgettes, red onion and cauliflower)
M - something from the freezer with salad
T - risotto with peas and goat cheese and sundried tomatoes
W - quesadilla with guacamole
T - tostadas
F - salmon cakes and salad
S - goody plate! (eat up stuff that might go bad!)
S - tuna melts and peas