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Archive for April, 2017

Lacking the Clothes Shopping Gene

April 30th, 2017 at 09:49 pm

We made a special trip down to Albuquerque today to get a graduation dress for F (they graduate from 6th grade).

Before we went, I made her go through everything in her closet and we had a huge pile of things that no longer fit. She has enough leggings, enough shorts, but she's very low on short sleeved tshirts and tank tops. Also her lightweight hoodie is too small, and that's a summer staple. And she has ONE skirt. And she needs clothes for 7th grade that she'll feel good in (I am a firm believer in that - remind me to tell you about my very sad wardrobe as a child sometime - I wore my school PE clothes on weekends because I wore a uniform during the week and my mother didn't think it was necessary for me to have other fall/winter clothes).

So, off to Albuquerque for the Big Clothing Challenge. She's now definitely a tween - so some kids clothes are ok, and some are not. Some adult x-small are ok, and some are not. She's tall and thin, with strong soccer player thighs (leggings are great, skinny jeans are horrible).

We found things at Old Navy and at H&M, but no graduation dress. I had no idea where to go. Old Navy and H&M (and Target) are pretty much the limit of my shopping expertise.

Our coach was with us, and she said we should try Hollister, which is the worst store in the universe. It's dark and it smells like some sort of weird scent that is supposed to evoke California (I am from there, and I can tell you it doesn't; also I have a headache from it). But we found the dress!

It was so perfect on her, and... the strap was detaching from the body. Except it was the the last one left. The only one (and miraculously in her size). When I went up to ask them about getting a discount since it was the last one, they said they wouldn't sell it to me. Whaaaaaat?

I said I didn't care about the discount, and they insisted they couldn't sell it to me. I explained that I can sew. They said they'd call to another mall to see if there was another dark blue, x-small. "You want me to go get this same dress in Rio Rancho??!!!" which is miles out of the way. They tried calling the Rio Rancho store, but they didn't have it.

I asked for the manager, and said to him: "I am buying this dress; ring it up for me NOW." I found out the guy I'd been talking to WAS the manger, but he sighed heavily and sold me the dress for 10% off. It was already on sale for $21, so now it was $19.

And, as I mentioned, I can sew. It's really not a problem.

Did I also mention that is the last time we shop at Hollister? And they gave me a website to take a survey about our "experience" there, which I am going to do.

Other places I'm never shopping again (because F hated their clothes): Rue21 (clothes are too fussy/complicated), Aeropostale (same problem). F likes simple, I like simple. Phew.

We didn't go into Express. Is that simple? Or more of the Rue21 type of stuff?

She doesn't need any more clothes right now (we got two tshirts, a 3/4 sleeve baseball shirt, 3 tank tops, cardigan and a jean skirt), but it'd be good to know where to go for next time. Gap and JCrew would be good if not so expensive, and I don't have the clothing gene to be able to shop in thrift stores (which are not very good here anyway).

Menu Plan with our Coach

April 30th, 2017 at 12:29 am

Had to slightly tailor our menu plan to fit our coaches likes/dislikes. She definitely doesn't like fish or seafood, so I had to adjust the meal plan slightly.

I have to be gluten free, and none of us eats beef or pork. Since she doesn't eat fish, that leaves only vegetarian, chicken or turkey for our mains.

I tried to alternate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Last night we had chicken queso casserole which is one of our favorites, but not sure if the queso and green chiles are completely normal to an English girl from the north! Oh well, we'll expose her to new things.

Tonight, though, is a dinner you can find in any English house... baked potatoes with green beans or maybe a salad.
S - asian meatballs with veg of some type
M - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes
T - turkey burger for her and fish burgers for us with fries and rocket salad
W - pasta with red sauce and courgettes
T - quesadillas with guacamole, sour cream and salsa
F - She may be having dinner with us and maybe not... I'll make general tso's chicken and asian cabbage with rice
S - just us: lemon crumbed fish, rice, veg (back to fish!)

It's been kind of a challenge to my meal planning, but I think I've managed to balance everyone's food preferences with the budget!

Coach Coming to Stay

April 26th, 2017 at 12:08 am

Another Spring, another British soccer coach coming to stay with us!

This time it's about 10 days... no reimbursement from the Club (ugh; sometimes they really frustrate me - even $25 would help with food costs). It's a girl, and we're very excited because I met her and she loves both soccer and Harry Potter (so F's twin!).

She'll be here tomorrow, so tonight we're eating a very frugal dinner of polenta and salad. Tomorrow - chili with cornbread.

I need to get the sheets on her bed and quickly clean the bathroom (which is already clean, but you know...).

Tomorrow is a soccer practice night which is why the crockpot dinner. F's team is scrimmaging the boys' team.

In other news - her coach told me last night that his wife has basically gone AWOL (alcohol). They have a two year old, who he is now taking care of by himself. His parents are in town, and he has the two older kids to help (his daughter is on the team, too). I offered to help however I can - how could I not? I think some dinners over here would help. And I can watch the kids.

OK - need to go make a salad now, and start dumping things in the crockpot for tomorrow's chili (I put the crockpot in the fridge until morning; couldn't do it all in the morning - too crazy).

How we paid off almost $7500 in 4 months

April 19th, 2017 at 02:58 pm

Someone asked how we paid off $7500 in 4 months and I thought this would make a good post!

First of all, I have an excel spreadsheet that calculates pay down with additional principal payments. That has helped us know what we need to do to reach our goal.

Also - our regular payments are included in the $7500. The spreadsheet shows how much of our regular payment each month is interest and how much is principal (we are mostly principal now).

Here's the breakdown:

January: owe $18029
principal from regular payment - $1034
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown,
- 23.75 insurance refund from USAA, 70 gym payment for teaching,
- 312.05 net rental income from our Irish house (which was paid off a year ago; we pay an average of $400/month - one month 300 and the next month 500 but this is in euros, so it's a little more in dollars)

February: owe $16,400
principal from regular payment - $1039
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 extra principal (because our escrow amount went down but we're still paying the same payment
- 57 gym payment for teaching
- 532.19 net rental income from our Irish house
- 38 consigned a coat and payment came through

March: owe $14,590
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 86 gym payment for teaching
- 316.48 net rental income from our Irish house
- 67.5 D's side work

April: owe $12,910
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 - my banking mistake, but I made it up in another category
- 75 gym payment for teaching
- 318.56 net rental income from our Irish house
- 75 D's birthday gift which he used part of and put this amount toward the mortgage - that was nice of him!
- 633.37 - distribution from work (long story, but I took a distribution and decided to pay down mortgage principal with it)

Now owe: $10,600

Our circumstances are very different now that our Irish house is paid off. D bought it for $100k Irish pounds (back before the euro!). We did not pay down principal since the interest rate was low; we just did regular payments until it was paid off. It is rented out to two friends. We feel ok taking $400/month out to help pay down our mortgage here. The rest of the rent money is for repairs and taxes.

If it helps, our take home pay every month is $6446. Of this, we pay $850 toward tuition and $800 toward our IRA's (we are trying for $1000). I will post our full budget soon. Not sure what other people make, but I am happy to be transparent if it helps someone!

Thinking about Mortgage Payoff

April 16th, 2017 at 10:49 pm

I am starting to think about paying off our house, and so I looked up some info on the internet.

Here's what I found:
- If you ask for a payoff amount, they charge you a fee! Well, I won't need a payoff amount - I'm just going to pay until it's done. There may be $20 or so that they owe me back.
- They charge you to record the payoff with the County - so I am going to check with the County and see what that recording fee is

I asked my bank (which is a smallish local bank) if I could meet with a loan officer about our impending payoff (probably 4 or 5 months off) and the woman said I couldn't make an appointment, that they would need to contact me. She asked if our loan was there (um, yes, otherwise why would I want to talk to them?). Then she said "So this is a refi," and I realized that she misunderstood and thought I wanted a new loan. I explained that I didn't want a new loan, that I was going to pay off our mortgage in full in a couple of months. And she looked at me blankly. But she took down my info and said someone would contact me to make an appointment.

Do you think someone will contact me? I don't. But I have a couple of months to work on this and find out what happens next.

For those of you who have paid off your mortgage (and I know it's different in different states) how does this work? Do I cancel my automatic payments? What were the fees?

I can't even ask my parents because they still have a mortgage. I have two friends whose mortgages are paid off, so I'm going to ask them how it worked. I like to know ahead of time.

PS - paid off another $75 from the gym payment for this month, so we now owe $10,600.

Financial Things Happening Today

April 7th, 2017 at 10:23 pm

1. When I was looking through recent transactions on our online checking, I saw a $10 fee charge. No idea what it is. At first I thought it might be part of our tuition because it came a day later and I called the tuition management people to scream, but it isn't them! The bank had no idea what it is either. They said I should come in and dispute the charge.

2. Nissan finally called me to tell me my airbag is in! So I took my car over there and asked them to do the service I need at the same time. The good news is that Nissan USA gave me a $250 voucher toward Nissan service (or products) and I can use that to pay for the service (it's a biggish one - 75k mile).

3. Did not get my gym payment yet (boo hoo!) for last month. I've bugged them twice already since April started.

4. French dinner tonight.... my daughter said "Isn't that just a fancy name for a goody plate?" and I didn't have the heart to tell her that even a goody plate is a fancy name - something my mom made up when I was little that meant eating all sorts of stuff from the fridge to use it up! (French dinner is cheese, crackers, olives and whatever else is in the fridge - plus a salad made from the rocket/arugula we have growing in our garden).

5. Current tv program we're watching is MasterChef (the UK one; I don't know if there's another one) on the bbc iplayer. It's hard to keep up with - three episodes a week.

6. F has started talking about her birthday party. She wants a sleepover with some friend and a sort of Harry Potter theme (they may make a "movie" with wand duels). I am looking up recipes for butterbeer ice cream but may just swirl butterscotch into vanilla ice cream. This is not going to be a costly birthday at all, so I told her I'd take her and a friend down to the mini-golf/go-kart/bumper boats/arcade place in Albuquerque on her actual birthday.

7. We are thinking of hosting a coach again for soccer camp. They give us a stipend and we end up breaking even pretty much. It's such a great experience, though... worth it even if we spend a little more. Like having a very sweet, 20-something, soccer-playing houseguest.

Holiday Update (with Photos)

April 6th, 2017 at 10:33 pm

It's been a long time since I've written anything - oops!

I guess I should give an update on our Fairly Frugal Holiday.

It was super fun! If any of you are ever in Southern New Mexico (I can't see why you would be, though, unless you live in West Texas) you should definitely see Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument.

Day 1 - Three Rivers Petroglyphs - a billion petroglyphs! It was so cool! Ate lunch from our cooler under one of the picnic benches. It was a $5 entrance fee. Went on to Alamogordo where we went to the toy train museum and checked into our hotel which had a pool. Hotel was free with my mom's points. Ate dinner from the cooler heated in the microwave.

Day 2 - White Sands (brought our sleds and it was so much fun!!). Then the pistachio ranch where we got pistachios for the people watching our pets, and also took a photo with a giant concrete pistachio, and also tried every sample they had! Then the Space Museum. Entrance for all three of us with an IMAX was $20. Breakfast was free at the hotel, and we ate lunch and dinner from the cooler. Did I mention that food in Alamogordo is... not great. So this was not just to save money.

Day 3 - Drove to Carlsbad (NM) and swam in the pool for a bit, then went to the river and got a pedal boat ($10). Breakfast was at the Alamogordo hotel, and dinner was from the cooler. We ate lunch out in Carlsbad. The hotel was free (I had a free night) and had a real kitchenette, not just a microwave.

Day 4 - Carlsbad Caverns - gorgeous and a total natural wonder! Admission was $20 total. A bargain. We had breakfast at our hotel (and ran into friends - isn't that weird? and then again in the Caverns - different friends!). We were out of lunch things in the cooler, but had some fruit and snack stuff, so we supplemented with food from the Visitor Center; it wasn't worth it. Then the long drive home. We managed to get home by dinner which was good because it was astounding how few towns there are between Carlsbad and Santa Fe. F decided to skip the alien museum in Roswell.

I didn't get any decent photos, but my husband did... but you should look it up - it's such a cool place.

The trip was a good length, and cost us a total of about $200 with admissions, food and everything.

And now we owe $10,674 on our house; the low-key vacation really helped us with the mortgage - I paid off a bunch this month!