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Back from Holiday

July 15th, 2018 at 11:21 am

We had an amazing 3 week holiday, and are now back! It's nice to be back (as we were landing, my daughter said excitedly "Look at the brown grass!" - this is what happens when you grow up in New Mexico - you think grass is supposed to be brown).

Here are the highs and lows of the holiday spending:

- We bought only one souvenir (a plate to use for olives with two sections - one for olives and one for pits, from Portugal) - 12 euro. We usually buy one useful thing (in France several years ago it was salad tongs that we use all the time) that are a great reminder of our wonderful trip every time it's used. F bought some things at the Harry Potter Studios with her money.

- We did not check any bags, so no bag fees.

- We stayed in apartments, so we were able to cook a lot of our meals.

- We did eat out a fair amount, probably more than previous trips. Eating out in Portugal was not expensive. We took D's dad out to dinner in Gloucester (UK). That wasn't cheap. But we had a lot of picnics. Carrots are super inexpensive, and butter and cheese. A lot of our picnics were of the cheese/olive/bread/fruit variety. Cherries were in season in Portugal and they were huge, yummy and cheap! We were taken out to dinner by family a few times (who I think were appreciative that we spent the money to come see them rather than them having to buy plane tickets to the US).

- We used public transport exclusively. They were having a "kids ride free" promotion in Ireland, so F was free there. We bought Leap cards in Ireland; any unused amount on the Leap card is refundable later if you register the cards online (including the deposit for the card).

- Some of the experiences that were so worth the money: Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour, Palacio de Pena/Quinta de Regaleira/Moorish Castle in Portugal, pedalo and stand up paddleboarding rental in Cascais Portugal, kayaking on the Liffey in Dublin, Powerscourt gardens outside of Dublin, rented bikes in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, played footgolf in Howth outside of Dublin. We used the money in our Irish account to pay for all of this; I have not been transferring any money from this account to our US account for several months.

- We had what I think was a lot of spending on experiences (which I far prefer to stuff), but had some big savings, too:
-In Cambridge, we paid only 16 pounds to punt on the River Cam because D has his alumni card and has punted before so we didn't need to do a tour (which is like 150 pounds - yikes!).
-In Dublin we got in to see the Book of Kells for free because D is an alumnus of Trinity. That would have been 28 euro.
-Visit to an English park with a little zipline that kept all three of us amused for a long time. A lot of English parks have ziplines!

- We brought home some gf food we can't get in the US or cost a lot to get online (Irish brown bread, crumpets).

- Free souvenir from Ireland - a rock from Killiney beach and lots and lots of photos.

I hope your summer travels are also amazing! Have you been to Lisbon/Cascais/Sintra? Incredible, right?

Summer Update

June 16th, 2018 at 04:33 pm

I haven't written anything in a while! I've just been so, so busy and I now have half an hour before we have to leave to go to my friends' son's bar mitzvah party.

We went to the service this morning, which I thought would be good for F to see. We decided not to do any religious education for her since D and I are not religious and grew up with different cultures/religions. Anyway, she was confused, and I was having all these mixed emotions (I knew a lot of the songs/words from my childhood but didn't say them out loud because I felt like that would have been sort of hypocritical). I sort of hummed along.

We got the son a gift certificate, but D (who used to be a children's photographer and still does family portraits now and then) also took the photos in the temple yesterday morning. He will process the images, too, and give them to the family for free (they were expecting to pay).

I had to do a little work today, but also trying to get things together since we leave in a week for Europe. So excited! We have someone house and petsitting and want to make sure things are super clean and super nice/relaxing for her. I have a huge to-do list and I still need to work this week.

We are eating from the fridge and pantry this week so we don't waste food, but I'll do a small shop for a few items. We are bringing wraps that we make at home when we leave on Saturday so we don't need an overpriced airport lunch in Dallas. And some chocolate from home. Some snacks, too (nuts, dried fruit).

Anyway - we can't wait! But this week will be fun before we leave... F can do karate every day (we pay a monthly fee, but for the summer there are four classes a week she can go to, and she's so happy). And we'll go to the pool. And Music on the Hill (free music; everyone brings a picnic dinner and hangs out with friends).

Soccer, Savings, Snowflakes...

May 15th, 2018 at 10:24 am

F played in a tournament last weekend; there weren't enough teams entered, so our team had to play three boys teams (and one girls team). Not ideal, but they had fun. We did not eat out at all (brought our own food), but we did have dessert that D brought back from our favorite little cafe up the street (for mother's day and to celebrate the end of the tournament). We are going to another tournament this weekend; this one is out of town. I have the cooler ready to go, and meals planned. We'll eat out once. I just found out that the tournament is on turf rather than grass, and I'm not thrilled about that.

We are going to swap petsitting with a woman at the karate dojo. She's watched our pets before. So - no cost!

I got a $50 payment from the gym, and I sold the birdcage for another $50. Should see another payment from this gym, and something from the other gym, too. Last month my total gym payments were $152.

Soccer Tournament Weekend

May 12th, 2018 at 09:03 am

Soccer tournament weekend!

The car is all packed up... I made a spreadsheet for food, partly based on the recommendation of F's coaches on what the kids should eat and when. The games are at slightly weird times so we had to make the schedule. I just reminded her to drink another glass of water! Hydrate!

F is super excited!

I already vacuumed most of the house, cleaned the litterbox.

I also made a list of everything to bring to next week's tournament which is out of town - 5 1/2 hour car ride away!

And I looked at our "red" categories. I don't want to dip into our tax refund to pay those back to ourselves. I am shifting money around from other categories. The big one is the car repair category which is just at $700. This may take a few months to knock down.

Someone was supposed to come before 10 am to buy the birdcage we have for sale... it is 9:59, so I'm not hopeful. We leave at 10:30 for the soccer fields. I have other people who are interested, so I will email them if I have to!

Car Repair

May 9th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

This is the thing about having an older car, right? You know you'll have some repairs. We budget for car service, but it wasn't enough to cover a big service/repair for D's car and then a big service/repair for mine a month later.

We are short $729.41 after all the payments in the auto servicing category. We will pay this down with other categories and then pay it off little by little until it's gone. It makes me sick, but because our finances are in good shape, we can owe this money to ourselves rather than a credit card!!!

Here are the numbers:
- D's car - $1365.86
- D uber to get home from the car place $15.08 (Grrrr)
- My car - $876.77 (service plus rear brakes plus replace broken torque mount)
- My transportation home from the car place $ZERO (It was a beautiful 1.5 mile walk along the river trail most of the way, 26 mins, I'll leave to walk back and pick up my car at 2 pm)

So D has a more expensive car than mine. It was more expensive to buy, but he had the money from an Irish account that was his before we got married to buy it. It's now 11 years old, but it's going strong. What's interesting is how much it costs to OWN compared to my cheapo car (insurance, gas and repairs).

My car is not glamorous (Nissan Versa hatchback) but it will now be in good working order for our trips to AZ and CO for soccer tournaments.

Saving Money on Weekend Plans

May 6th, 2018 at 11:24 am

Here's how we saved money this weekend:

- Instead of going out to dinner or lunch (which we do have a budget for), we went out for dessert last night! It was a beautiful night and we walked down Canyon Road afterward (like tourists! Ha!). We are saving up money to go out to dinner in Flagstaff when F has her soccer tournament.

- We are having a party for F's grade at school (50 kids and their families); but since I organized it, I decided to do a fun potluck picnic (the school is letting us use the campus) instead of meeting at a restaurant (which other classes have done). This way no one has to pay for meals out for their family (so no one is excluded) and we can play soccer and frisbee, etc. People forget that even though it's a foo-foo private school, not everyone is wealthy, and lots of kids get tuition assistance.

- F and I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and wandered around looking at everything. We bought a chard plant and a zucchini plant for the garden. I hope they do well! I don't think we'll have another freeze...

Broken Part on Boiler

April 22nd, 2018 at 06:58 pm

F and I walked into the garage today on our way to the grocery store and smelled gas! Yikes! I called D who was out on a run, and left the garage door open to air it out.

He called the Gas Company and they came right away. They red tagged our boiler, but let us know that it was just the pilot light that is broken, not any other part (he checked everything) and told us to get a reputable plumber who wouldn't try to fix other things that aren't broken.

Luckily it's warm here now and we don't need our boiler. We use two plumbers and they are both good and honest. I called the first one and he is out of town until Tuesday. I will call the second one tomorrow.

Unexpected expense, but I have $600 in household repairs.

Frugal Things Today

April 21st, 2018 at 07:01 pm

Frugal stuff from today:

- A 12 noon soccer game... we drove F and her friend down to the game. I made turkey wraps rather than going out (saved money and the girls got to eat right away). I also brough cucumber, cuties and some tortilla chips. And a couple of cookies, but they didn't eat them because the coach brought brownies (and GF cupcakes for F and her teammate L) because it was the last official game of the season. Now the tournaments start.

- We went to the library today when we got home because F finished another book, and realized at the end that it's a series. I saw online that the library had the next book, and she got two others as well.

- I started a new book on my phone (also from the library). It's really terrible, but entertaining. When we were at the library I saw they had the new Philip Pullman. I want to read it, but first I think I need to re-read His Dark Materials since it's been 14 years since I read it. We have a copy on the shelf (the same copy I read 14 years ago in Dublin, because D had the books).

- Got a postcard for a gallery opening for a show by the woman who was my landlord when I first moved here in 1993. We became friends instantly, but drifted apart when she was spending most of her time in Hawaii. I can't wait to go and see her! I sent her an email; hope she writes back.

- I started negotiating the contracts for my engineers on my new fire station project. So far just structural engineering, but he accepted my fee proposal - good news! On Monday: mechanical/electrical/plumbing and civil engineering.

- Got paid by one of my gyms: $52. I made $100 at the other gym this month, so total for the month of $152. The way I look at it is they pay me for exercising.

- I was given a free pass to try a class at OrangeTheory fitness. Have you tried it? It is $28/class (!!!!) as opposed to being paid to work out, so there's no way I'll be going regularly.

- We are using up some stuff in the freezer this week... make your own pizzas and frito pies (I made enough beans last time for two meals).

- Going to clean F's bathroom tonight. She still prefers baths to showers, and so I clean the tub when she gets out (it's easier when it's already wet). Not sure this is frugal, but somehow for me lifehacks are mentally linked to frugality (time saving?).

Spring wind, soccer tournament lodging and a rant about work

April 17th, 2018 at 07:18 pm

Spring. The wind has been so bad that they keep canceling soccer practice due to air quality issues (dust in the air!). F had to have PE inside today, too. She's not very happy about it, but what can you do? It meant I didn't get a workout today, either (I usually walk/run during soccer practice).

I did walk to meet my friend to take her out for lunch for her birthday. The wind was just starting to kick up. Afterward, walked to the City to drop something off at Land Use, and then walked back to the office. A little bit of exercise, I guess, before air got really bad. I could smell a fire somewhere, too.

We had leftover chili for dinner, and I made cornbread to go with it.

Other frugal stuff: we got a condo to stay in for the soccer tournament in Flagstaff; we are sharing with 2 other families and it ends up being less than half what a hotel would be. And access to a pool! Not to mention that it will be more fun, and we'll have a fridge and somewhere to cook!

Now the not so great part of last week: I did not even get shortlisted for the project that I submitted a proposal for. It's not that I always expect to be shortlisted, but this was a fire station, and I have designed a lot of fire stations in our area. They've all been really successful (close to zero change orders!), and the firefighters always request to transfer into my stations.

Well... another architect who was shortlisted was talking to my office mate, and they were discussing how shocked they were that I didn't make the shortlist. My office mate said he wanted to tell me because he knew it was going to make me crazy otherwise: the architect said that the new head of projects at the City told him that they know I have a child, and if my child has a cold or something I might not be able to make a meeting.

On the one hand, this is a way of saying that my firm is not big enough for their comfort level which is a valid concern.... although the Project Architect (heading up the project) will always have that problem no matter what the firm size - you can't just send a junior person because they can't make decision. I have people to send instead of me, too, but they wouldn't be able to make decisions or know the project as well as I know it.

On the other hand this sounds so sexist I can't even believe it. Would they say that about a man with a child?

I haven't spoken to the Fire Chief (he wasn't on the selection committee). It's a bummer because this is a big project, but I always believe that when I don't get a project, there's a reason, like the project would be a nightmare in some way (and this one really could be - I won't get into why, but there are signs in addition to the fact that the City's project manager doesn't like that I have a family).

The good news: the County (not City) accepted my fee proposal for a different fire station so that should get started soon.

The other (possibly) good news: I have a meeting on Thursday to discuss another project that could help me branch out into other areas (I've done police station, library, lots of fire stations, but this is something new!).

The other good news: what the City's project manager doesn't like about me is what I like best about myself and my work situation - I can be there for my daughter (she is growing up so fast!). So if a client isn't ok with that, they're not the client for me!

Planned and Unplanned Expenses

April 14th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

We've had some large-ish expenses around here, some planned, some unplanned.

Property Taxes (second half of the year) - Planned - $1254.76 from the sinking fund, and still have $135 left in that category (which is good because our taxes go up each year).

New soccer ball - Unplanned (her ball got a weird split in the seams and the inside was splooging out) - $21.69 - took from the sports supplies category which still has $73 in it, which is good because F needs new running shoes.

Pillow - Sort of planned - because of F's allergies, I needed to get a new (non-feather) pillow for myself and her last visit to the allergist confirmed this. She crawls into bed with us sometimes to watch tv or read, and we just need to limit her exposure as much as possible - I just took half the stuffing out and saved it in a bag (I like a flat pillow and this was already supposed to be a flat pillow, ha ha). $35

Air Filter for F's Room - Unplanned (but strongly suggested by the allergist) - $124

Vet Visit - Unplanned - $130 - our Pets sinking fund is now negative, ugh. Need to fill it up from another category. Our poor dog has had gooey eyes, and it turns out that she is not producing enough tears. It happens to some dogs when they age. The $130 was for vet visit, eyedrops and some goo to keep her eyes moist (that we can get at the drugstore next time according to D).

Hoping that the groceries are under budget this month...

One more planned expense: somewhere to stay in Flagstaff for the soccer tournament in May. I'll discuss getting a condo with one of the moms today at the game. Hotels are expensive, and if we can share a condo it'll be a lot less. It's 382 miles there and back, so I estimated $62 in gas. Then hotel. So we will be bringing a big cooler so we don't have to eat out the whole time! I'm sure there will be a big team dinner, which will be fun! But breakfast and lunch can be from our own supplies.

What I saved money on:
- ate lunch from home all month so far (but taking my friend out for her birthday on Tuesday)
- no costs for entertainment (on the weekends we play basketball at the park and go to F's soccer games)
- a good friend just gave me a present (she pre-ordered the Greatest Showman for me because she said it's my kind of movie - feelgood - and I never go to movies) - tonight's entertainment!
- have been working so hard and work has been difficult and stressful, and sometimes I think I'll stop and get a fancy tea latte to make myself feel better, but then I reconsider, and I haven't splurged at all so I'm very proud!
- reading a library book on my phone (free!) and have a list of other books for when I finish this one
- have a pile of socks to darn (ok, so I haven't done this yet, but I will!)
- did most of the housework this morning (I am including this because I don't have a cleaning person!)

Our Meal Plan and Why it's Frugal

April 7th, 2018 at 04:54 pm

I think my daughter is HANGRY. She played all 70 minutes of the soccer game today and that doesn't include the warmup. I have, of course, been feeding her all day, before and immediately after and since the game. I am going to go make dinner in 5 minutes.

But first, while I'm thinking about food...

Here is our meal plan and "why it's frugal."

S - flacas with mini peppers (flacas are two corn tortillas, dry pan fried with beans and cheese) - Frugal because not meat-based, corn tortillas are a cheap grain, we already have some extra mini peppers on hand...
S - asian meatballs - Made with ground turkey instead of ground beef, we put in a couple of diced green onions and some garlic and ginger, make a sauce with leftover marinara/rice vinegar and add some rice - nothing exotic or expensive. Usually a vegetable on the side - whatever is on sale.
M - pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - No-meat meal. Goat cheese from Trader Joe's is affordable - this uses about half a package and we use the rest for lunches.
T - aloo gobi with rice - Makes a ton! No meat, two potatoes, one head of cauliflower and some onion and spices - I think the whole dinner is less than $5. This is made in the crockpot which is good for soccer night.
W - lemon crumbed fish with veg and cheddar bay biscuits - The fish is not cheap but we buy whatever vegetable is on sale at Sprouts and make our own cheddar bay biscuits. I have the breadcrumbs from bread heels in the freezer ready to use. Probably one of our more expensive dinners, but definitely under $15 total.
Th - freezer and salad - We have some posole and chili in the freezer, leftover from a crockpot meal specifically for soccer nights when we don't get home until 7:30 at the earliest. We make a salad with lettuce ($1) and some radishes, shredded carrot and sunflower seeds. Homemade salad dressing that I always have in the fridge.
F - tacos - One last soccer night to deal with. Corn tortillas, a little bit of shredded chicken made in the crockpot, sour cream, salsa, lettuce... Or we might do these veggie with avocados instead of chicken.

Now time to feed one hungry girl... and two hungry adults... and a dog and a cat.