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Good Experience at the Tire Place

April 28th, 2020 at 01:59 am

I waited kind of a long time to get my snow tires off... but I finally made an appointment for this morning at a place I've been going to since I moved here 27 years ago.

They know me, and so I didn't feel uncomfortable asking if I could drive my car onto the thingy (what is that thingy called?) instead of having someone in my car. He said sure!

It was actually sort of fun, and they guided me onto it. Then I drove it back off. I waited outside while they did the work and even got some work done (brought my laptop).

I gave them my credit card, and they didn't make me sign. The credit card was the only thing I touched, but I used a paper towel. The total was $82.

So all in all a painless experience.

Then I went home and worked. I've been really productive, but for some reason today was kind of a low energy day. I did manage to do a load of laundry and work out our meal plan (fingers crossed the store has what we need for dinner).

Canceled our Summer Trip

April 26th, 2020 at 11:19 pm

We were supposed to be leaving on May 29th for Europe; even if things open up we all decided that we did not want to be on a plane, or traveling, or far from home. So we canceled our summer trip, and I'm super sad.

The good news is that we are not out any money.

- Plane tickets - United put the miles back in my mom's account (she gave us the miles) and also is crediting our credit card for taxes/fees. This was a straight cancel, not rebook or delay. I am super thankful to United, and we will fly with them again hopefully next summer.

- AirBnb - We had paid half, and while we don't get the money back, it is on account with AirBnb to use any time before December 2021.

- Travel Insurance - Travelguard said we can apply our insurance from this trip to a future trip, so next trip is paid for.

The only thing that hasn't been returned are the theater tickets. We were going to see Wicked for my daughter's 15th birthday (she is super sad, I am trying to work something out for her birthday) and they haven't canceled those shows yet. Pretty sure they will, and they said that if so they will refund our money. Again, hopefully next year.

Have you canceled summer trips?

Big Update - It's been a while!

April 23rd, 2020 at 10:40 pm

It has been a REALLY long time since I posted anything. Here is what's up:

- In toilet paper tracking news: we are using one roll every 10 days in one bathroom and one roll every 20 days in the other. I am sad that my weird habit is so relevant these days.

- We had a trip planned for March; I was sick, and went to the doctor, so our travel insurance paid for the cancellations. Still waiting for reimbursement.

- We have a trip planned in late May. We'll see what happens; we won't go (no way!!), but if the EU extends their travel ban just two more weeks (currently it's to May 15) then insurance will reimburse this too. We would be flying into the Netherlands. The sad thing is we were going to visit Ds family in the UK, too, and that is on hold for the near future. He talks to his parents daily via Skype.

- I am teaching my group fitness class on Zoom. I am not being paid, but I asked my members to contribute something to the gym owner because we'd all like the gym to be there for us when this is all over. It is a small gym, not a chain. I still have to buy the choreography and insurance, but it only amounts to about $25 per month. I was putting the remainder in my daughter's college fund.

- We received $136 for the airbag settlement fund and a $90 refund from the PT I went to, so I will put this into Fs college fund instead.

- My bank temporarily raised the limit for online deposits for my business so I can remotely deposit my checks. People are still giving me checks, and that means I have to pop into my office to get them. That's ok though since I only share the office with one other person (and I miss him a lot!). He's not often there. I pop in every Wednesday.

- Wednesday is when I pick up my CSA box from our local farmer's market. We decided to sign up because it supports farmers and we knew it was a way to ensure we had some good veggies on hand. This week's box had green garlic, daikon sprouts, Spinach, kale, a cucumber, dried apples, frozen blackberries and super cool looking purple carrots.

- Tuition for my daughter went up, but my husband got a raise, so we're ok.

I think that's about it! I hope you're all doing well!!

Trying to be Frugal

December 3rd, 2019 at 09:29 pm

I am trying so hard to be frugal, but it's hard right now. Some wins, some losses.

Here are some thoughts on spending and saving:

1. It's hard because we are going to Iceland in March and we need some clothing items (including thermals!). Actually they are probably things we should have gotten a long time ago (we live in a cold climate). I am trying to buy sale, sale, sale items where possible and have taken advantage of holiday sales. I put together a list in September and have been gradually finding things. It's like a weird scavenger hunt! Have not been able to find what I need in thrift stores.

2. When something doesn't work, I send it back! Amazon is great about refunds.

3. I actually got a compliment from the checker at the grocery store the other day on the quantity of groceries I got for my money. He said I was a good shopper!

4. I am slightly splurging on gifts for teachers (movie vouchers) because I want them to have something they can use.

5. My husband got a gift tag at work for a child; the girl (same age as our daughter) wanted a portable speaker which is cool because we got one for F, too, before he picked up the tag! So we'd already done our research. They were on sale at Target today. Got 5% off with my Target card. We can get her an itunes card, too, since we saved (no need to skimp on this one in my opinion!). Wondering about putting in a cute little cuddly toy, too... 15 year olds are still little girls, right?

6. My nephew is just 4 1/2 months old. So instead of a big gift, I am knitting him a little ball with scrap yarn. F still has the ball my friend knitted for her when she was little - squishy and easy to grab.

7. Going to the Twinkle Light parade this weekend (free, but we have to stand in the cold - but hey we have our new thermals!)

8. I got paid by the gym today - yay! $163! This money goes to F's college fund.

9. My lunch today was leftovers from last night: posole, two cuties and a couple of squares of chocolate.

Hope you are having a great day, too, and enjoying the holiday season!

November and Future Trip

November 19th, 2019 at 03:19 am

Hi! I feel really bad that I haven't written anything in a while. I've been saving money and spending money, still sticking with my budget.

I have developed a spreadsheet that works really well. It's based on YNAB, but I ended up divorcing YNAB for two reasons (that you couldn't carry over a negative balance and that it was expensive!). I still have buckets and every dollar has a job.

The thing I am saving for now is: college. It's not that far off (F is in 9th). So I'm putting all of our extra in there, plus $230/month from our budget.

We also have a big vacation planned for March: we are going to Ireland (to see family and friends) but stopping in Iceland for 5 days on the way back. The tickets were $1714 total for all three of us out of Denver and I had purchase eraser rewards, so in the end $1264. We have to drive to Denver. The 5 day layover in Iceland is free! I am spending a little extra because we have to buy some clothes (long underwear! Sorel-like boots) where there are gaps in our wardrobes.

So the key buy of the week were Aleader boots - they are cute, super warm and mine were $50. They look like Sorels; I can't wait to try these out this winter here in New Mexico - it's supposed to snow this Thursday, actually.

Other savings:
- I got at $10 credit for Amazon from Whole Foods
- I got a $25 gift certificate from Swagbucks
- I got a $13 Big Fat Check from Rakuten
- I bought Hannukah candles online for $4 as opposed to getting them from Whole Foods which is the only place that carries them here ($11!!!!!)
- I am knitting a cute little ball for my baby nephew for Christmas rather than buying more plastic stuff
- I am still making money teaching at a gym (and I've added running to my exercise routine - doing a 5k and also a shorter run each week; there is a nice track near our house at a local elementary school).

End of Spring Break - wahhhh!

March 25th, 2019 at 12:19 am

It's almost the end of Spring Break - we stayed at home during the break, and didn't do a lot, but we did relax. And we went to see our new professional soccer team (New Mexico United) play in Albuquerque (they play home games at our baseball stadium)... we saved money by bringing our own dinner, and we saw a ton of friends down there!

We ended up not going anywhere because D had to go back to the UK to see his parents, so that used up the vacation budget.

But we have a trip planned for early June - F and I will go to LA for my sister-in-law's baby shower (which I am hosting at my mom's house). Along with this, a day at Disneyland! Yes! Disney is soooo expensive, but we save by doing just one (very long) day, bringing our lunch and snacks and only eating out at dinner (we are going to have dinner at the Blue Bayou because F loves that).

So, it's back to work, back to school tomorrow...

The meal plan for the week is:
- Elote pasta
- Tuna melts and salad
- Tostadas
- Roast chicken with asparagus and rice (leftover chicken will be used for a meal next week)
- Stew from the freezer with garlic bread
- Crustless quiche

Lunches (with each one: fruit, chips, veggies and dip/hummus, a square of chocolate)
- big salad
- turkey/lettuce and boursin wrap
- avocado wrap
- burrito
- corn/green chile/cheese tamales

- hash browns with courgettes
- oatmeal
- eggs with stirfried leeks
- toast with peanut butter
- pancakes

Thinking about Banking Differently

March 19th, 2019 at 04:16 pm

So it's Spring Break!! D had to go to the UK to see his parents, but there wasn't enough for all three of us to go, and F has soccer and track anyway, so she and I are having a staycation.

Try explaining that to my clients, though! I've had to do at least some work every day. Thankfully, I can do some work while F is at practice. And she is also working on a musical about the suffrage movement (no, not for school; yes, she is a super focused person), so I try to do work while she's doing that.

I still haven't finished our taxes (I probably have one more hour to finish up - grrrrr).

And I am trying to figure out a workable banking system for us. My local bank is being bought by another bank, and I am seeing some really annoying changes. I have a business online account with Barclays and personal accounts with Capital One 360. I am thinking of opening an account with HBSC because they have an opening bonus, sweep money into there to earn some interest, and then using it to move money back and forth from our personal account so we earn some interest on the money we don't need right away. Specific categories we let build up are: household repairs/projects, vacations/rewards, camp. I could sweep in a lot of money, and return it to our account as necessary so that the bricks-and-mortar bank will act only as a check-writing bank. Have any of you done this?

Spring Break

February 17th, 2019 at 09:22 pm

So, Spring Break this year - a two week break, and we are staying put.

D is going to the UK to be with and help his parents ($713.53 flight plus rental car but no hotel or food because he'll stay with family). F and I are not going for several reasons:
- why spend an extra $1400 to go over there to only stay 1 week (when we go, we maximize our time there)
- F has soccer and track (practices, meets, games)

So we will give him a list of things to bring back (Nairn's rosemary and sea salt flatbreads and Tesco GF chocolate wafers which are like kit kat for F), and then plan a fun couple of weeks.

On the agenda:
- a chocolate tour and tasting at a local chocolate factory that was a gift (so no charge to us)
- trip to Albuquerque to get lunch, hopefully find an 8th grade graduation dress
- online scavenger hunt (also already paid for Christmas present)
-a splurgy lunch out (not somewhere expensive, it's just that we are normally pack lunch people)

The weather will probably continue to be cold for a while, so that eliminates a lot of outdoor activities, but if we get some nice weather, we can go on some hikes. Or just play board games at home.

My daughter is such a great kid - she says she doesn't care about going places and that all she wants is to go see her new cousin in August in San Francisco (and see Hamilton!). Her friends will be going all over, though - one skiing in Pagosa, one to Belize, etc. What are you doing to make Spring Break special?

Raise v. Expense Increases

February 15th, 2019 at 06:06 pm

My husband got a raise this year- yes! Not a huge raise, but we are super happy! The result is $98.90 per month net.

Now for the increases in expenses for 2019:
- 83.33 more to the IRAs which gets us to our limit
- 58.67 increase in F's tuition
- food cost increases - our old food budget is not cutting it anymore - probably need to add about $75 more a month to be safe but $50 more would be ok

So budget needs to change by about $192 and we have $98.90... need to find another $93.

One way to do this is to take money out of other categories:
- 20 from karate (since she does so many sports that there isn't time for a lot of privates and the testing will slow down, too)
- 10 from camp (since F doesn't really like camp anymore and will do one or two at most - one karate and one soccer)
- maybe some money from the tuition savings (we try to save a little extra each month) to offset the tuition increase

Another option is a small distribution every so often from my business, but I hate doing that.

What categories do you use to offset budget increases?

Taxes - Two Ways

February 9th, 2019 at 09:42 pm

Because I had been reading so many stories about refunds v. owning money as a result of the new tax changes, I decided to do our taxes two ways: using last year's tax code and this year's because everything else could be a result of withholding/different earnings/other factors.

This was easy to do, because I do my own taxes and I use Turbo Tax. I just opened a new file in last year's program and entered the info side by side with this year's program.

My dad said he had been planning to do the same thing: like father like daughter! My dad is 86 and still does his own taxes. The first time I did mine, he sat patiently with me as I did my (then) very simple return.

Ok, so this year we are getting back $4475 more than we would have under the old tax code. That is insane (and not in a good way, except for us it's good, but not for the country).

This is the part of the post where things get nerdy. But this is SavingAdvice, so you're probably into this! This is why I think the difference is so much in our favor:
- Standard deduction - we always took the standard deduction so the difference is pretty dramatic for us (we never itemized)
- Child tax credit - this gained us $2000 (would have been 0 under the old tax code)
- I made some pass-through money (my business profit which is taxed as personal income, and under the new rules, 20% of that is just written off
- I guess we end up in a lower tax bracket because they changed the brackets (we would have been in the 28% tax bracket last year, and now the same income is 24%)

All of this is great for us, as I mentioned, but completely unfair. Of course we can use the money (D may have to go back to the UK, but that's a different post and we are saving for college) but we shouldn't have been the ones to get a tax break. We make a good living (with both of our salaries about 120k) and I feel like this should have been aimed more at people less fortunate. Besides giving to college, some of this refund will be given as a charitable donation (along with the money F raised by making friendship bracelets for a local non-profit that deals with domestic violence).

School Re-Enrollment, Tickets to CA, etc.

February 5th, 2019 at 03:12 am

Frugal stuff....

1. Spent the weekend playing around on Excel to make sure we have enough to pay for school. I also called the school's financial office to find out what we save if we pay the full tuition by June v. paying monthly. It's $75, and it would be super hard to pay by June, plus we keep the money that we're saving for education in an account that makes interest. So - monthly it is! But good to do the research.

2. We bought our plane tickets to visit my brother and sister-in-law after they have their baby. Not cheap, but it's our vacation this summer and we're going to help with the baby for a few days. (We'll also do some driving trips around our state - maybe Chaco, Very Large Array). My mom let me know there was a sale, so I got on Southwest. The choice was Oakland v. San Jose, and although San Jose would've been more convenient (a little closer to Palo Alto), it also meant two flights and a lot more time spent traveling, so we opted for Oakland.

3. I am finishing up a library book - Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (one of my favorite writers!). A super fun book! I'll return it tomorrow along with books that F read. I truly love our little library.

4. We now have a professional soccer team in our state (second division, but still - how cool for our young soccer players)! The are having a youth clinic up here (they play in Albuquerque, so that's super nice). You get to watch them practice, then you get a meet and greet, then a training session with them!!! I had to get a ticket but the ticket was FREE! They just want people to register. The whole team is going.

5. More free stuff - our wonderful soccer coaches have been putting together some winter programs for the team including what they call "soccer class." These are in addition to indoor practices, and each week covers a different subject: athletes + sleep, focus + relaxation, goals + habits, game day prep. And I talked to the owner of the gym where I teach and she let me do a class for three weeks on resistance training for free.

6. Track is starting and uniforms are - gulp - $95. But not unexpected, and since it's a school sport, everything else is covered. F told the coach she wants to run the 800 and 1600 and his eyes lit up. She came in first in the soccer team timed mile (6 min. 45 sec.), and I'm excited to see what she can do with training. The coach said he has picked several meets at lower altitude to take advantage of the fact that our students train at 7000 feet.

7. We spent $138 on groceries this week, which isn't great. May need to do "eat out of the freezer" at the end of the month. This does include bringing a meal to my friend B who has a concussion (and is a single mom).

Working from Home

January 30th, 2019 at 07:22 pm

So F got either food poisoning or a stomach bug in the middle of the night last night (not very bad, so I am super thankful) and is staying home today. She's already done all her homework, and I am making her relax and get better. This is her first day absent this year.

She needs to recover for the timed mile for soccer on Saturday. If they do it in under 7 minutes, they don't need to do the timed two mile on Sunday. Sunday evening is the parent-student Varsity Track meeting. It's going to be a busy Spring!

I just finished the work I need to do today and am now going to do a little brainstorming on career stuff. I have a book to read, too.

Some ideas/thoughts:
- My work style - I am super productive and responsible, but in exchange for that I like flexibility in my schedule. I don't mind having commitments at certain times, but I like to control when I commit to something.
- I like people! I like helping people. But I don't like when people are working for me (like engineers, consultants) - it's better when I can just get the work done myself.
- I like variety, so I don't mind cobbling something together that is a mix of all sorts of part time things that equal full time work.
- The mix of architecture and fitness instruction (maybe pulling back on some of the architecture and increasing fitness instruction) seems like a good idea.

I met with a woman at a local non-profit that takes care of people with disabilities (mostly Downs Syndrome) and I am volunteering to do some core fitness work with them. I connected with the people at the center instantly. I really like doing exercise work with people in under-served populations, like the older women who take my exercise classes.

That's it - just some thoughts...

Time to do a little research.

Frugal Choices

January 27th, 2019 at 04:01 am

Frugal choices this week:

- I lost my sunglasses (not frugal, but it happens). I bought a new pair at Target for $14 (100% UV protection) rather than the very enticing pair of super-expensive Ray Bans I saw online; I need the sunglasses - not optional here in the high desert!

- My friend who is moving (wahhhhh!) gave me a book on back pain and a foam roller. I am going to try it out after I finish this post.

- Got a new book from the library by Liane Moriarty who I love!

- I got a 50% off coupon for an oil change at the dealer. They said I probably need new brake pads soon, but instead of getting the work done there, I called the other place I go, and it's a lot less!

- My husband found a driver that may work with our old scanner, so I am going to try that out before I buy a new one! I am digitizing all of my old photos.

- I just upgraded to Mac High Sierra (not Mojave yet) which of course is free, but I was worried that none of my old programs would work. They all do!

- Put together a frugal menu for next week (we have $89 left in the grocery budget):
Chinese chicken salad with cabbage and almonds - have everything I need! Nothing to buy!
Stuffed red peppers (black beans, corn, quinoa) - Need beans, red peppers and salsa but have everything else
Elote pasta with corn, green onions, feta and cilantro - Have everything!
Potatoes dauphinoise and a salad - Need potatoes (might try yukon golds this time) and lettuce and cream
Coleslaw and baked potatoes with chile on top - Have pretty much everything for this, too except potatoes
Veggie spring rolls in rice paper wrappers with dipping sauce (I have the wrappers and some red cabbage, everything for the sauce, probably need cucumbers and more carrots)

- Entertainment this weekend: walking the dog, reading my book, chatting with the parents at F's karate class, relaxing.

- Cleaned the house. This is not really frugal, but EVERY one of my friends has a cleaner, so I'm counting this. (I'm serious - everyone has a cleaner; it can't be that way in the general population, right? I just have friends who prioritize this?).

This Week's Meals (and our Grocery Tab)

January 6th, 2019 at 11:14 pm

So one thing I'm always interested is how people shop, what they eat, what their grocery bill is. It borders on obsession.

Did I tell you about the girl M in F's Advisory Group? Her parents give her money for lunch every day, and every day instead of buying the hot lunch with it, she gets an Arizona Tea, a cinnamon roll and a cookie. Each is a dollar, and the hot lunch would be $7 so she pockets $4. The Advisor is freaking out, and she told M that she was going to contact her mom.

Anyway, in case you are like me, here is what we're eating this week, but also our shopping list and prices!

S - Hearts of Palm with Asian Slaw
M - Fagioli Stew (turkey, beans, carrots, celery, tomatoes, etc)
T - Baked penne
W - Lemon Crumbed Fish, Rice, Broccoli
Th - Chimichurri Rice and a salad
F - Jackfruit Tacos

Breakfasts - oatmeal with fruit, toast with fruit, scrambled eggs, granola with yogurt and fruit

Lunches - red pepper with quinoa/beans (which we have in the freezer), tuna wrap, goat cheese on toast with beets (which we had today), avocado/tomato wrap, leftovers, burrito...
plus a fruit, a starch (like chips or crackers) and a veg (like carrots, cucumber with hummus).

The shopping list:
- Broccoli $1.52
- Spinach $1.29
- Cilantro .69
- Garlic .50
- Green Cabbage $1.27
- Beets $1.99
- Red Pepper $1.25
- Red Cabbage $2.99
- Red Onion .94
- Radishes .69
- Tomatoes .41
- Yellow Onion .35
- Avocados $3.29
- Carrots .79
- Cucumbers $1.00

- Hearts of Palm $5.98 (this is our main!)
- Marinara (tomatoes, salt only) 2 cans $4.58
- Kidney beans .99
- Cannellini beans .79
- Diced tomatoes $1.99
- Tuna 2 cans $2.98

- Pears $3.04
- Pineapple $2.50
- Grapefruit .99
- Mangos $1.98
- Apples $2.99
(we still have a bag of cuties in the fridge)

Bulk Bin
- Oats .26
- Jasmine Rice $2.76

- GF tortillas $5.99
- Olive oil $6.99
- Canola oil $2.49
- Almond Milk $2.69
- Plain Yogurt $3.29
- Cheddar $4.01
- Hummus $3.29
- Cereal for my husband $2.99
we still have granola for F in the pantry
- Bread for my husband $2.49
we still have our bread in the fridge
- Chocolate Chips $1.99
- Eggs 3.69

- Ricotta $2.99
- Ground Turkey $5.59 (also our main)
- Tilapia $7.44 (another main)

Total $109.44

Thinking Big

January 6th, 2019 at 12:47 am

The big plan last year was to delay some of my billings so that I'd have enough money in my business to start the year off with a significant amount of money. The goal is to be able to take some time to Think BIG and figure out where my life/career/business is heading.

There are lots of possibilities, but also lots of moving pieces.

1. I delayed enough billing that I've essentially made all of the money I need to for 2019. That is GREAT! And sort of bad, because I will make more, and will need to figure out where it goes (SEP? yes. Higher pay? probably not). Now I have more things to think about and arrange. A good problem to have, I know.

2. We have always said we might move back to Europe; this was always in the future, but next year F will be in 9th grade, so that's now in the 5 year plan! Need to think about career here AND there.

3. We may want to add a portal (that is New Mexican for covered outdoor area!) on to the front of our house and outside F's bedroom. I will need to figure out a budget, do plans, get a permit, find a builder, cost everything, figure out how much of it I can do).

4. Some of the Thinking Big may involve some classes and certifications. I need to get going on this! BUT I still have a ton of work! I just said no to a project; saying no is hard, but it felt so good! I need to free up time. Probably mid-January things should (better!) quiet down.

Anyway, this is all good, and I am thankful for the privilege.

Have you gone through the process of making career adjustments or changes? Any books you recommend? Or did you hire a career coach? Or...?

Yes, Hamilton Tickets!!!!

January 1st, 2019 at 06:05 pm

We got the tickets!!!! Row G orchestra, right on the aisle so F and I can actually see. We got on this website which shows you the views posted by people from various seats. OMG! As FrugalTexan I think correctly guessed: HAMILTON! We are so excited!!!!!!

Not sure if we can stay with my brother (and I wouldn't want to burden him with that), we got a hotel on It was less than we could get on the hotel website, and we can cancel up to two days before. It's not a fancy hotel, but it looks just fine for us! And has a pool...

We will also go visit Stanford. And if you have any suggestions in the Palo Alto area, would love to hear it! It will be early August.

In other very boring news:
- Am freaking out because the book I ordered from the library is in but the library is closed today!!! I've been on the waiting list for a while; it's the new Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) book.
- I am trying to do my billing for work today even though I'm not technically working. Billing = money. Need money!

Vacation/Holiday Decisions

December 31st, 2018 at 04:34 pm

We are leaving in less than 2 weeks to go to California for the weekend and spend time with my three wonderful nieces and their boyfriends/husbands! So excited, and so is F who really looks up to her older cousins. We are staying with K and her husband S who just got married in October (we missed the wedding, and that's why we're going out there - we get to spend a lot more time with them than just a few hours at the reception with 200 other people, so I'm glad).

Next trip - March back to California to see my parents, mid-week during Spring Break (to avoid soccer games). My mother will probably pay for our plane tickets because ordinarily they'd be coming out here (we were there for Thanksgiving) but my dad can't really travel.

We were going to use miles and take a trip farther afield in the summer, but we've scrapped that idea. We found out my brother and his wife are having a baby in July, so instead we are going to go to Palo Alto in August. I hope we can be helpful; at least watch the baby so they can nap or something!

We also did not go anywhere for Christmas (we never do, but I thought I'd mention it anyway). Most of F's friends are in Belize or somewhere, but we've been enjoying the snow. Christmas is amazing here!

Because we didn't travel this holiday and our upcoming trips do not involve eating out and staying in hotels, we are able to spend some money here and there on some cool experiences!

Yesterday: went to Ojo Caliente (hot springs about an hour north of here).

In March: maybe day trip to Disneyland!

In August: I don't even want to say yet... but... we are looking at getting tickets to a very big, popular musical that F knows ALL the words to. And is listening to right now. And has inspired her to write her own musical about feminism which has been her non-stop winter break entertainment! I am willing to get good tickets because this will come from the vacation budget.

Christmas Day

December 25th, 2018 at 06:34 pm

I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season!!

It has been way too long since I've written anything! I was working on two things:
- a fire station (turned in the drawings on 12/20)
- a Christmas Advent Village (made of cardboard) for me and my daughter. We each wrote stories about each building, too, and gave them to each other each day. You can see them here:

I have work to finish later this week, but I am taking off Christmas!

We had a great day yesterday with all of the Santa Fe traditions. We did the Farolito walk, singing carols at the bonfires, and stopped in at the houses of two different friends, ending up at my friend K's house for frito pies. This is a free and beautiful tradition. Have any of you ever been here for Christmas?

It's supposed to snow tonight (fingers crossed we get a lot!).

So, two recent odd financial things:

1. We got nice presents for F's teachers and for her karate teachers. She signed the karate teacher cards when a friend was over, and the friend (who also takes karate) wanted to sign the cards, too (yes, she knew there was a gift included). I wasn't around (they are teenagers after all) or I would've suggested she do her own cards (I have some on hand). I didn't know what had happened until I saw her handing one of the envelopes to one of the karate teachers and then asked F about it in the car. Her mom is going to be surprised when she is thanked for the gift, but whatever. I decided to let it go. One of the cards/gifts was for someone F does private lessons with sometimes; her friend does privates with someone else, and I feel a little bad that he didn't get anything, but can't do anything about it.

2. I was at Trader Joe's the other day, and something didn't scan, and they had overcharged me $71 when they coded it in! (The item was turkey, and was only $10.24). I was super surprised that the total of the groceries was so high, but I figured "Well, I bought some special things for Christmas."
Still, I checked the receipt when I got in the car, and went right back in. They took care of it quickly. Check your receipts!!

3. My brother and his wife are expecting a baby boy! So excited! I want to knit a little cardigan, but all of my stash yarn has at least some wool in it (20% merino/80% cotton on the stuff I wanted to use) and they are vegan. I need to go to the store and find something. I am going to find something they can machine wash, but I know they wouldn't like 100% polyester.

I am super happy that these are the things on my mind because they are insignificant and not really bothersome at all! Looking forward to the day; already made cranberry sauce, and Christmas crackers are ready to go!!

End of the Week

November 3rd, 2018 at 01:38 am

On Monday:
- We tried to figure out if we could afford Hamilton tickets. There seems to be two levels of touring companies. One is the original, and we can't afford those tickets, but there are cities closer to us. The other has cheaper tickets, but we'd have to somehow get to Chicago. Have any of you seen it?

On Tuesday:
- I called and got a late charge taken off of a credit card payment. I felt really stupid; I never got the bill but that's no excuse. I guess last month was really stressful (with the stuff with my dad).

On Wednesday:
- We had a Halloween party! This doubled as my birthday party... but it was mostly F's friends. Still my friends B and B came with their daughters and stayed to celebrate with me. I spent money on balloons, making chili. But that was it; we did pot luck.
- F and her teammate won the soccer pairs costume contest. They teamed up the older and younger girls, so F was with a really nice 11th grader; the two of them are probably the most competitive on the team (not just in soccer!). They went as Holy Cow and Oh Deer! We got sticks from the yard for antlers. No purchases necessary!

On Thursday:
- F came home super sad because one of her friends has found a best friend that doesn't like F (and who F doesn't like), and now doesn't want to hang out with F at all (maybe she's the kind of girl who can only have one friend at a time?). They were really close, but F doesn't have one best friend. I am really good at making things, at cooking, at being funny; but I am terrible at giving advice! So I failed to give any helpful advice. My usual m.o. is being direct and confronting someone; it usually backfires, and is not F's style at all. If you have any thoughts, let me know!

- F said she did really well on her Africa test in Global Studies. Proud of her!
- But she's still sad about her friend. She's downstairs listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (and singing!).
- We're going to play a game and hunker down until tomorrow's soccer game. Sleep in! Cheap thrills!

- I bought smoked salmon as part of my birthday week of yummy food, so that will be part of breakfast. An indulgence, but not excessive, right?
- I will clean the house.
- Hopefully time to read (reading Crazy Rich Asians from the library; I missed the movie!)


October 30th, 2018 at 10:51 pm


- I can't comment on anyone's blogs because it won't let me sign in (I can't even respond to anyone's comments on my own blog!)

- I lost a blog post. It was called Dinner out with Jerks (or: How I blew the Dining Out budget). Let's just let that one go. The gist of the story was: splitting the tab. Ugh. I eat mostly vegetarian and I don't drink. I never eat an entire dessert in a restaurant (so I split with my husband or daughter). I need to remember NEVER to split the tab, particularly with people I don't know well, or friends of friends.

- I took our sweet big doofy dog on a walk and apparently she had an upset stomach, and it was upset all over the sidewalk downtown. I went back to the office, got paper towels and a trash bag and several water bottles. I managed to get the sidewalk sort of clean. I didn't gag. I hope it rains! (It's supposed to).

- Still shaken up by events of the last week. Trying to process, as I'm sure everyone is.

So, just to balance things out, here are a few WINS!!!

Win 1 - I finished the 60% set of drawings for my new fire station. The set is more like 85%, so I'm ahead of the game. The meeting is Monday, so I'm also ahead of schedule.

Win 2 - I figured out my Halloween costume. I am not buying ANYTHING. I am using some stuff F had, and I need to print something off the internet, but that's it. D bought a fez on the internet for $6 for his costume.

Win 3 - No trick or treating tomorrow night (F doesn't want to) so we're having friends over (hers, and the parents are ours). I am making two crockpots of chili - one chicken and one veg.

Win 4 - Got my snow tires put on. A little early, but I saved money because they were having a special.

Win 5 - My xmas shopping is DONE!

So... overall more wins, right? Have to look on the bright side.

Haven't Posted in a While

October 30th, 2018 at 03:33 pm

I haven't been on here in a while - so much going on (good, bad, in between). I have been saving, and spending (within budget mostly but some shifting around of the budget to accommodate some unexpected expenses).

My father had a drug interaction (pain meds for his back with his Parkinson's medication) and that was awful. He's fine, and has had back surgery and is recovering.

F has been playing soccer non-stop. I pick her up from practice all but one day. The basis of my social life used to be talking to other parents at school pick up. I am making new friends among the other soccer parents at the games. But it's weird.

We didn't go to my niece's wedding in California. It turned out to be a good decision, and we've banked our tickets to use in February. Alaska Air and Southwest were great and credited the full amount without a change fee.

I've done most of my Christmas shopping (and I've overspent and I don't care).

My best friend is moving to Irvine, California. Her husband is freaking out, she is freaking out and sad; I am sad. She's the only person I go to lunch with. She's nice and funny, and I will miss her so much!

I have a ton of work right now. I have a set of drawings that I will finish in early December, and then things slow waaaay down, and I am really looking forward to it.

I cleaned out the spare room closet.

So, that's what's going on.

On the money front:
- over budget on dining and groceries (ugh)
- over budget on auto servicing (another $330 bill for my husband's car)
- over budget on auto fuel (just by a little)
- over budget on Christmas
- over budget on supplies and pets

But under on most every other category so I will shift some around.

And we started a category to replace D's glasses every few years since he has progressives and they're more expensive.

Haven't Posted in a While

October 29th, 2018 at 02:57 am

I haven't been on here in a while - so much going on (good, bad, in between). I have been saving, and spending (within budget mostly but some shifting around of the budget to accommodate some unexpected expenses).

My father had a drug interaction (pain meds for his back with his Parkinson's medication) and that was awful. He's fine, and has had back surgery and is recovering.

F has been playing soccer non-stop. I pick her up from practice all but one day. The basis of my social life used to be talking to other parents at school pick up. I am making new friends among the other soccer parents at the games. But it's weird.

We didn't go to my niece's wedding in California. It turned out to be a good decision, and we've banked our tickets to use in February. Alaska Air and Southwest were great and credited the full amount without a change fee.

I've done most of my Christmas shopping (and I've overspent and I don't care).

My best friend is moving to Irvine, California. Her husband is freaking out, she is freaking out and sad; I am sad. She's the only person I go to lunch with. She's nice and funny, and I will miss her so much!

I have a ton of work right now. I have a set of drawings that I will finish in early December, and then things slow waaaay down, and I am really looking forward to it.

I cleaned out the spare room closet.

So, that's what's going on.

On the money front:
- over budget on dining and groceries (ugh)
- over budget on auto servicing (another $330 bill for my husband's car)
- over budget on auto fuel (just by a little)
- over budget on Christmas
- over budget on supplies and pets

But under on most every other category so I will shift some around.

And we started a category to replace D's glasses every few years since he has progressives and they're more expensive.

Shopping on and off list

September 29th, 2018 at 07:10 pm

We went on to Target today - dangerous place because of possible impulse purchases.

On the list:
- Birthday present for F's friend K
- 2 pairs black leggings (on sale $4 each!) for F
- watch for F to replace hers that broke (they didn't have what she wanted; I just ordered it online)
- ziplocs
- eye stuff for dry eyes (I couldn't figure out what to get, so I didn't get anything, then I called my brother and he said "just saline solution" so I'll have to pick that up later)

Not on the list:
- a bag of candy corn. I have a candy corn obsession; I only eat it once a year, but I know it's awful stuff. I got the real-sugar-not-corn-syrup variety, and I'm bagging half for my friend M who has the same problem I do! I'm having lunch with her on Tuesday, so I can give it to her then.

Found a gift bag that someone gave us (we save those) to put K's present in, and we'll leave in half an hour for the party.

Overspending in September; ugh.

September 25th, 2018 at 03:03 am

I have not written in a LONG time. Have been super busy!

I will now report on our recent money-wasting behavior (I am very ashamed, but in the interest of accountability, here goes):

- We spent sooo much money on groceries this month. I have no idea why; I thought my meals were frugal. I think F is eating a lot now that she's playing in 2-3 soccer games a week and practicing every day except Wednesday and Sunday. I have $65 left for our next grocery shopping (Sunday). I am going to move $ from another category and increase the budget through soccer season!

- We went to a concert for our anniversary last weekend. It was a waste of money. The music was good (New Orleans, Trombone Shorty!), but it was too loud, and I didn't think it'd be loud so I didn't bring earplugs. It was up in Taos and all the old hippies were blowing pot smoke in our faces, so we left early. We had to get a hotel room because it's too far to drive back. And they didn't let you bring in food, so we had to eat there. We had to pay for petsitting. I feel like we shouldn't have gone.

- We are not able to go to my niece's wedding in two weeks; we need to switch the tickets to some time in January (my niece is going to tell us when is a good time to come out so we can hang out with her and her new husband), but we have one leg on Southwest and another on Alaska Airlines. I know you can change Southwest. We can't look into the Alaska Air flight until we know the new dates! And I don't want to harass the bride!!

- D had an evening lecture he was organizing for work and spent almost $23 on dinner! They do not reimburse. I can't really be angry since he makes more than he used to at this job and he's entitled to a meal out every so often, but $23 for one person!

- Because of the trip to Taos and the lecture series and driving to the middle of nowhere for a soccer game, we've spent a lot on gas this month.

- D bought hubcaps for my car. It was only $28 for four of them, and I did need them (I was missing two). It's justified, but I'm still wondering - are hubcaps just cosmetic?

- I got our booster membership for this year for the school's athletics; it is still a lot cheaper than club soccer. It's budgeted for, so I shouldn't even be worried about it.

- My sneakers were slipping all over the floor when I was teaching lunges (and had a big hole in the top), so I had to get new sneakers. I used the money I get for teaching.

So, there you go... A month of overspending.

Plan for next month:
- careful meal planning (with a bit bigger budget for food)
- pay down categories where we overspent

Looking Back at August

August 30th, 2018 at 12:59 am

Almost the end of the month...

- We almost made it to the end of the month within our food budget; we're about $8 short. That can be made up with other categories.

- F has a class trip coming up. She is celiac, and there is a meeting tomorrow with her and her adviser (also celiac! Isn't that cool?) and some other administrators to figure out the meal plan while she's away. I will have to pack food for her, but they are going to figure out what I pack so that she can eat as much like the other kids as possible. She's in middle school now, so these are things she takes care of (I am not involved in the discussion), which is really great!

- I didn't realize that one of the 20s in my pay envelope from the gym was actually a 50! So I made $82 rather than $52.

- I need to increase the amount we put in the Pets category. Our dog is old and wonderful and needs three kinds of medicine daily.

- I made $131 on credit card rewards this month. This is from my new Chase Business Unlimited card which is no fee and is 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

- The meal plan this week is frugal:
S - crustless quiche
M- chicken piccata with rice, broccoli
T - red peppers
W - risotto
T - salmon cakes with peas
F - black bean spinach casserole
S - not sure; maybe big salad?

- I get to eat something tonight that I don't have to cook! Woohoo! Risotto is one of Ds dinners. Every once in a while it's nice not to have to cook.

- F is doing really well on varsity soccer! She is having fun, and started the last game, was played more than 3/4 of the game. And school soccer is free! Well not completely free. I have to pay to get in some games (not at our school) and I will probably join the booster club ($50) and buy a shirt to wear to games. But it's a LOT less than the $465 per season we pay to her club team. And we don't need to buy uniforms.

Lots Going On

August 25th, 2018 at 02:09 am

I've been working so hard for the past week; it was probably ok that I wasn't able to post until now.

Here's what's been going on (some financial, some not so financial):

- F made it onto the varsity soccer team as an 8th grader! They played their first game last night and won! She played most of the game, and did really well. So we're proud!

- There has been a lot of spending associated with the soccer team (a lunch after a scrimmage, money for a tshirt to tie-dye, entry fees for D and I to the game last night, $20 for the retreat). I am taking the money from the same place we take the fees for her club team since we don't need to pay for club this fall. In the end, school soccer is A LOT less costly even with all those miscellaneous costs.

- F lent money to two friends for the lunch after the scrimmage and only one paid her back. This is her spending money, so it's in her interest to follow up.

- I have $101 left in the grocery budget for the month, which is tight. I'll shop on the 26th. I need to be careful about meal planning! Eat out of the pantry and freezer and add fresh veggies and fruit.

- Our pet debt is up to about $300... old dogs are expensive, but worth it. I need to put money in there from another category.

- We got a massive deal on our 2017 photo book (Shutterfly). I saw they had unlimited pages and 40% off, so I finally printed 2017. Total was $42 including tax and shipping. It's a BIG book. I will start entering 2018 photos so we can have a book in place when the next big deal comes around.

- Got $131 in Chase cash back; this goes into the vacation rewards fund which is up to $1500 now.

- We bought a wedding gift for my niece. We got an item on their registry that was $150. When I put it in the cart, Honey searched for coupons, and by the time we were done, it was $134... so now I feel bad because I intended to spend $150... But we are spending a lot to go out to California to attend the wedding...

- I bought F a winter puffy jacket on sale.

- Total for gym payments this month was $171. That's pretty good! This was partly offset by the $35 I had to pay for the next release. But teaching is more than paying for the releases.

- Now that F is in school and soccer I have a ton of time to work, but I need to learn how to work at a slower pace! I'm so used to having limited work time, that I work with ferocious intensity, and I can't keep that up for 10 hours! I have one more deadline in the near future, and after that I promise I will relax a little.

Busy Week, Meal Plan

August 14th, 2018 at 01:56 am

It's a big week this week! Two-a-day soccer practices, soccer retreat on Thursday, a training session and scrimmage on Saturday. F is over the moon! They are making friendship bracelets after morning practice tomorrow. And there's a parent meeting tomorrow night.

So I am scheduling my work during soccer practices and trying to be efficient. The retreat and scrimmage will give me a lot of time to work, which is good because I am going to miss F so much now that school is starting!

Here's the meal plan for this week (with lots of good snacks like hardboiled eggs, nuts, string cheese and dried fruit as well as Larabars and Kind bars).

S - big salad with cheddar bay biscuits (salad had turkey, cucumber, sunflower seeds, carrots, homemade dressing)
M- artichoke pasta (easy - 12 mins. total)
T - beet burgers (beets, beans, oats, onions, spices) with green chile/avocado/cheese with corn on the cobb (not easy, but filling and we can freeze the extras)
W - chicken queso casserole (make ahead and pop in oven)
Th - stuffed red pepper with quinoa and black beans (crockpot!!)
F - baked potatoes with broccoli (and cheese!) - oven timer for the potatoes and then just 10 mins for broccoli
S - scrimmage - they are going out for pizza; may have to send F with pizza because not sure about gf options for her

And now I'm going to sit down with my library book and listen to the rain dripping off the canales!

This Weekend and Home Inventory Project

August 10th, 2018 at 11:19 pm

It's rainy outside so we couldn't go to the pool. But they have barbeques there, so we went for lunch, and ate under the patio cover. We were the only ones there!

Then we went for F's allergy shots (which are free because of D's good work insurance). She hates them, but I'm hoping when she's reached maintenance in 6 months to wean her off zyrtec. Without the zyrtec she gets hives.

Tonight's dinner is a frugal cauliflower cheese (yum) made with two cauliflowers because we're hungry!

On Sunday I am going to brunch so that we can discuss Parent Association stuff. I am the Secretary of the PA this year, and the brunch is at the PA President's house; I asked what I could bring figuring would be potluck, and she said "nothing!" - she's making brunch! She's very sweet; I'm slightly intimidated because while I'm probably the friendliest person ever (probably why I was asked to be secretary), I am also super sarcastic.

While I am at brunch at C's house, F has a brunch with the school soccer team. She's been asked to be on Varsity Soccer and Varsity X-Country, so this brunch is with girls of all ages. I'm glad that she's got some girls watching out for her who are in other grades. One of the mom's of a senior said her daughter loves F, and the feeling is totally mutual! Like a big sister. The older girls offered to drive the younger girls, but D will probably just drop her off.

Anyway, because she's F, she informed me that she has already looked at the menu online and decided what to order. I have cash from the gym to give her.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day. D is videotaping a talk that a local permaculturist is giving to our neighborhood landcape committee. They're paying him to do it! (I think he would have done it for free, but that's nice; it does take a lot of preparation and editing). We will go up with him because our neighbor will be there, and tomorrow is her 80th birthday! We got her a pretty cactus and some chocolates. We love her!

And, finally, I have started my decluttering/home inventory project. The idea is to declutter a room then take photos of every wall and every drawer. I have finished our bathroom! The easiest room, but still - it's a start! I was inspired by the fires in CA - scares me so much... Do you have a home inventory?

School Money and an Extra Paycheck

August 5th, 2018 at 04:19 pm

I did this complicated excel spreadsheet to figure out if we can pay for 9th grade in two installments rather than monthly (which saves the cost of the installment plan). I've only been putting 230 a month rather than 500 into the school savings fund. According to my spreadsheet, this will actually work; I can even stop putting the extra $230 aside and save that in another way. I'm pretty excited. When F graduates, we'll have $20k to add to the college fund approximately (depending on rise in tuition costs).

That's one money thing.

Here's another: this is D's month with three paychecks. We live off 24 paychecks a year but he gets 26. Our plan is:
- 150 wedding gift
- pay ourselves back for auto repair and medical expenses 1251
- 200 to the 529
- 397 leftover (not sure what to do with this, but maybe use part for my 52nd birthday party - I never had a 50th)

That's it for now... I am coming up with a "things we need around the house that I'm avoiding" list... will post later.

Grocery Shopping Again

July 30th, 2018 at 12:17 am

Grocery shopping again - must be Sunday!

I shop on Sundays because there are no alcohol sales before noon on Sundays so the store is quiet. I go to two stores - Sprouts and Trader Joe's. At Sprouts, I check my receipt in the car before I head home, and 1 out of 3 times there is a mistake! Today I bought ginger, and it was like 39 cents, but then there was another charge for ginger right below it for something like 1.8 POUNDS of ginger for $5.59!!! I went back in the store for my refund. They wanted to give it to me in cash.... nooooo! I asked for it to be put back on the credit card.

Here is this week's menu plan:
S - salmon souvlaki bowls (kalamata, cucumber, red pepper over rice) and tzatziki (fish)
M - pad thai with bok choy (veggie)
T - frittata with spinach and onion (veggie)
W - chili from the freezer with a salad (turkey)
T - ottolenghi red rice/quinoa with pistachios, apricots, rocket (veggie)
F - asian meatballs (turkey mince) with rice (turkey)
S - pan fried hearts of palm with coleslaw and corn on the cob (veggie)

We also bought fruit for snacks (grapes, melon, plums, strawberries) and jicama (a little lime, a little chile powder - yum!). And Trader Joe's bean and seed mix. And we always have dried fruit (dried pears from TJ are our current favorite) and nuts.

Lunches will be artichokes, deviled eggs, tuna wraps, turkey wraps with green chile, salad with avocado and sunflower seeds.

I am also working on cleaning the pantry shelves one shelf at a time, top down. They need cleaning, but it also helps me remember to use things up! And I moved some things around a little (we don't eat a lot of cereal, so it doesn't need to be eye level!).

Other food-related thoughts:
- We are watching Eat Well for Less; there have been a couple of good recipes including one for breakfast tray-baked eggs. We always have veggies that we could dump in there..
- I have had so much work these past two weeks I haven't baked anything, but I want to. Maybe lemon-poppyseed cake? Chocolate seems too heavy right now.
- I bought kebab skewers which was exciting (rather than using the disposable bamboo kind)
- We've been using this recipe but with only a little bit of chicken and mostly veggies (courgette, red pepper, mushrooms)
- We made this Asian Thai salad for lunch last week and it was awesome! except I made half the dressing and used only a tiny pinch of sugar (there is already honey in it)
- We went to my friend's 50th bday last night and it was a BBQ. We brought a salad to share, and they had two types of veggie dogs (this is a good friend so I didn't feel bad digging through her trash to read the labels - one was gluten free and the other wasn't so we had the gf ones!). We were planning on eating a little more when we got home, but we didn't need to!
- Today we went to the "beach" (down by the lake half an hour from here), but we ate before we went. We had TJ tamales instead of going out to eat.

What are you having for dinner this week?

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