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Archive for June, 2011

Retirement fund

June 30th, 2011 at 09:13 am

I added another line to my personal financial spreadsheet -- my new retirement contribution from my current employer. Yay! It began with a deposit of $170 and today it is up to $174. It will be fun to watch it grow. I think I will redo my sidebar, so that instead of targeted funds I will just show my savings accounts. Which funds I will use for what is kind of a loose concept, anyway.

I was trying to cease spending this week, as I noticed my monthly total was edging too close to my income. But I can't control the automatic charges on my credit card. Today it was a payment to I-Pass, my tollway gadget. Yesterday it was a contribution to my Alma Mater. And today I will probably buy a $1 cheeseburger at McDonald's because I have to run out at lunchtime. So --- must do better next month!

Back from Tennessee

June 28th, 2011 at 01:21 pm

I returned yesterday from a beautiful weekend in Tennessee where I attended my nephew's beautiful wedding. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Isn't it wonderful we have weddings to serve as bright spots in our lives?

It was not a glamorous blow-out wedding, just sweet and simple, in an old-fashioned church, with the reception at the bride's childhood home (which happened to be a lovely 19th century home in a historic district). The only drawback was that it was very hot, and the reception was held on the lawn, so the crowd dispersed sooner rather than later.

The cost of the wedding to ME, the doting aunt, was as follows:

Gift: $108
Gas: $154
Food: $25
Hotel: $248

I also spent $18 because I forgot to pack my Align, and another $8 for a necklace/earring set because I forgot to pack jewelry.

I already had my dress and shoes.

The food was so cheap because so many other family members did things like ordering pizza, subs, etc. I was well-fed. And -- so far -- no weight gain!

On the way back I stopped overnight at my best friend's in Indiana, and we went to see Super8, $7.

I am working hard on building my case for the HMO appeal. I received my medical records, which were very helpful. Tomorrow I will pick up copies of my referrals from my primary care physician. Then I will be able to put my package together and send it. Honestly, I don't see how they could refuse!

I'm at home!

June 22nd, 2011 at 09:31 am

Strong storms rolled through our area last night, and, though I lost power temporarily a few times, I had no long-term effects. I did have a neighbor knock on the door and suggest I come out into the hall, but I felt I was just as safe in my bathroom, which is interior, with no windows.

This morning I went to work and found that there is no power on my side of the building. I stayed until 10 -- had a meeting with my boss, read a "best practices" report from another college, and started writing a "best practice" for our department -- longhand. But at 10 my boss said go home. She did suggest strongly that I work on the project at home. I will, but not yet. Coming home gave me the opportunity to do laundry and dishes, and to work on that tasteless soup. I am now happy to say that I have transformed the soup into "chicken tortilla" soup -- found a dwindling bottle of salsa to add to it. Put in quite a bit of chicken soup base and now it tastes pretty good. I'm warming it to let the flavors mix and to reduce it a bit, and then I'll put it in the freezer.

So inspired, I decided also to work on the chicken salad I made recently. It was awfully stiff, because I didn't want to add too much mayonnaise. Today I decided to take the risk of adding vanilla Greek yogurt. I thought the vanilla flavoring wouldn't be too bad, because it's already a bit of a sweet salad, with dried cranberries. I was right -- it tastes pretty good, and I didn't add a lot of calories! That I will eat for lunch today.

I'm really trying to clear out my fridge. I'll be away from Friday through Monday, and then again the following Saturday for a week. I don't want stuff going sour in there. Which reminds me, I need to pour the milk down the drain! Sigh. I'm just going to have to break down and buy only those tiny bottles of milk. I'm lactose-intolerant and shouldn't be drinking it at all, but I love it with cookies and cereal (and I take Lactaid, when I indulge). And don't tell me to buy the special milk, I hate it! Smile

Don't really have any financial news -- I'm still waiting for documentation to arrive before I file my appeal to the insurance company. So I'm on hold right now.

A walk to the store, and bland soup

June 21st, 2011 at 05:55 am

I skipped my regular grocery shopping this week, but last night I needed a couple of things, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and walk to the store. It was only a fifteen-minute walk, something I never realized before! But it was also a buggy walk, most of it on a path that cuts through a wooded area. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice, wide, heavily-used path, not anything scary, but the mosquitoes were out and ready to dine! They got me several times.

Anyway, I bought ant traps and cat food, $13. There are little ants all over my kitchen floor. I've had this before -- they always go away -- but it's an annoyance. The cat food I bought in preparation for my weekend away -- will have to set out extra food for the kids.

I had my refrigerator soup for dinner last night, and it wasn't very good. Edible, but not tasty. I'll have to think of a way to season it. It's mostly milk and chicken broth thickened with roue, with celery and Asian vegetables, all pulverized to make it creamy (thanks to my great new blender). I may just need to add some chicken bouillon powder to bring it around.

Productive Sunday, after a slow start

June 20th, 2011 at 10:30 am

I woke up on Sunday as groggy as heck, and I couldn't seem to shake myself out of it.

But as the day wore on I felt more with it. I did laundry and dishwasher loading/unloading, made some soup, and even tackled my mending. I sewed a button on a shirt and hemmed a pair of pants. I have another pair of pants to do, but that pair has a lining, so I may have it done professionally.

I also took a 40-minute walk.

Then I got online and caught up on MyPoints and surveys, and then I went back to the novel I'm writing and spruced up Chapter One and added a few paragraphs to Chapter Two. I'm going to try to add at least a few lines every day. It's better than nothing, and it's a good discipline, even though I'll probably never publish it (or finish it, at this rate!)

Today I got on the phone and talked to the surgical center who's billing me. They were so nice and tried to be helpful, but of course the onus is on the insurance company. After a little bit of buck-passing I found someone at the HMO who would give me the address where I will send my appeal. (Why do they make everything so hard?) I also called the surgeon's office and they will send the medical records which will show the surgery was legitimate. I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that someone will see reason and I won't have to pay $8,000.

Unbelievable

June 19th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Just when things seemed to be going so well, I got my final bill from the ankle surgery. $8,000. Insurance has declined to pay.

Since it's the weekend, I can't talk to anyone to find out why it has been denied. I've had trouble since day one, because I had the nerve to get injured outside my HMO area. They have tried to deny everything except the actual surgery and hospital stay. Everything else -- x-rays, followup visits, etc. have been "bones" of contention (haha). But it has all been paid, except this -- this, being the surgery to remove a pin that held my bones together while my leg was healing. $8,000 for about 10 minutes. And the insurance has told the surgery center they will pay $0. I'm so upset. I will contest, when I can get someone on the phone and find out how to do it.

Of course this happened right after I loaned $3,500 to my son! But I imagine the contesting stage will still be going on after he pays me back.

This has certainly made me think about ways I can cut back more. I'm pretty frugal already, but I have been even more mindful about using electricity, gas, water, etc. I have gone through my refrigerator and I'm cooking everything that is perishable -- yes, that means refrigerator soup for dinner! I've decided to skip this week's grocery shopping -- I have enough on hand, and I'm leaving on Friday anyway, for my nephew's wedding (which will be expensive, but I've already made that commitment). Ah me.

Yesterday I worked at a jazz concert -- actually, at the pre-concert festivities, which included a social hour with buffet for the President's Society (our top donors). Although I really didn't want to go, and was praying for rain, I had a great time, and I not only got a free dinner but food to take home as well, which I had for brunch this morning.

Before the concert I went out for pizza with my son's family, and they paid, in thanks for the check I had given them. So I've really been operating on free food for a few days!

A big loan

June 17th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

My savings account just took a hit. I loaned $3500 to my son for car repairs. He is very reliable and has never asked for money before, so I don't feel there is much risk. He has promised to pay me back in 60 days. He is just slammed with expenses right now and car trouble was the last thing he expected, or needed. It was clear he just hated asking.

Still, it makes me a little nervous. I have never been in a position to loan that much before.

I recorded the difference in my sidebar, even though I expect the change to be short-term.

In other news, I renewed my license plates to the tune of $99 and treated myself to a $1 ice cream cone. Tonight I'm going out to dinner and a movie (the latest "Pirates") with a friend. The movie will be free; we're using a Groupon.

I've decided to cut way back on coffee -- I've done this before, but coffee crept back into my life, and lately I've been guzzling a lot of it. As much as I enjoy it, it affects me in ways I don't like. I've started drinking just a half cup in the morning and then cutting it off. Makes me really savor that half cup! And should save me some $$.

Had a free lunch yesterday; it was our retreat day, which took place at an arboretum. It was a pretty interesting place -- and a beautiful day. I almost fell asleep on the tram ride, it was so calm and relaxing.

Tomorrow night I work registration at a jazz festival. I may or may not get a light dinner, depending on what's left after the crowd goes through. However, if it rains, the show is cancelled, and rain is in the forecast.

$150 into savings

June 15th, 2011 at 06:13 am

It's pay day. I just transferred $150 into savings. Pretty lame, but last month I had nothing to transfer, so it's progress. Summer, with traveling and birthdays, is proving expensive.

I worked till 8 last night, taking payments at a fund-raising golf/dinner event. I did get dinner, but I get no other compensation as I am on salary. It was fun, though very hectic at the end when everyone was paying at once for their auction items. Dinner was great -- I went over my calorie limit by at least 500.

This morning I woke up late, every muscle and joint aching. I rushed through getting ready and arrived at work just barely on time, only to find I was the first one here! I didn't do my hair or makeup and feel kind of crappy, but my hair looks fine and I can do my makeup in a few minutes. All in all, I'm glad I forced myself to do this, because it was very tempting to call in sick.

This weekend

June 13th, 2011 at 09:05 am

It was a good weekend. On Saturday I got up and cleaned out my big closet, and took three big bags of donations to Goodwill. I also went through and re-organized my gift stash, and wrapped my DIL's gifts for her upcoming birthday.

I shopped at Goodwill, finding a pair of Coldwater Creek jeans, a Danskin hoodie and a GAP sweater for myself, as well as a Pyrex pie plate (identical to the one I bought a little while ago, so now I have a set). I bought a few toys to have around for the grandsons and a very cool wooden frame which I will put in the booth, when it's resurrected in its new place. And I bought 6 silver serving spoons, which I will give to my DS and DIL, who collect spoons. Probably at Christmas. Altogether it was $35.

Then I grocery shopped. I bought 16 items, because at the last minute I put some skewers in my cart for kabobs. My items:

Sirloin tip roast and bottom round roast (BOGO & $3 off coupon)
Greek yogurt
Cat chow ($1 off coupon)
Wine (on sale)
Crystal Light
Yellow squash (on sale)
Breadsticks
Strawberries (on sale)
Mushroom soup
Can of mushrooms
Skewers
Garbage bags
Chicken thighs (on sale)
Ice cream (on sale)
Nacho sauce

Total: $57.77
Savings: $20.43

I got really good deals on meats, and I spent some time processing them -- I cooked a bunch of chicken thighs in the crock pot, froze the rest in 2-unit batches, froze one roast whole and cut the other up in cubes and froze in 10-12 oz. batches.

On Sunday I went out to lunch with my son ($17) at a local diner.

It was nice weather (though cool) and I did a lot of walking.

I feel a nice sense of accomplishment.


Weather challenges and birthdays on the horizon

June 9th, 2011 at 07:27 am

The heat and the rain have ceased my efforts to walk to work for three days now. But on the other hand, I have not turned on my air conditioning, and I am not suffering too badly -- helps to be on the first floor! Today's rain will REALLY cool things off, so now my challenge will be not to turn on the heat. It's that time of year when I shouldn't have to to either.

I did a survey for Folica and got a $10 off reward for any item over $20. I toyed with the idea of getting a mini flat iron, but decided I really didn't need more than one flat iron; the one I have is light and small and quite easy to pack. I ended up buying a jar of hair wax which I will give to one of my sons or my nephew. After the $10 off it was still $17.95 with shipping, so not quite the bargain, but I think it will be appreciated.

Both my DIL's have birthdays this month. One is coming up soon. It's time to get into my gift stash and pick out the gifts. I think for one of them I will have to pad the gift with a gift card. She is VERY hard to buy for, has very strong tastes and opinions, but always appreciates a gift card. The other is easier to please. I think she will really like some of my finds.

Found a quarter!

June 7th, 2011 at 09:18 am

Just updated my sidebar to include the nice, shiny quarter I found in the parking lot last night, as I waded home in steamy, hot soupy weather. A nice reward for a pretty grueling walk.

I also stopped in at Dominick's to get reimbursed -- I was charged twice for a greeting card I bought.

I forgot to mention that before my trip, I did my weekly grocery shopping. I bought fifteen items without even counting, so it must be second nature now!

Here is the list:

Ritz crackers -- on sale
2 packages Chips Ahoy -- BOGO
Cat food -- on sale
2 packages frozen vegetables
String cheese -- on sale and .50 off coupon
Greeting card
Hamburger buns, store brand, on sale
Hot dog buns, store brand, on sale
Bread -- on sale
Vidalia onion
Package of celery hearts
Wine -- on sale
Hot dogs -- on sale

Total -- $45.95
Savings -- $11.39

My one error was the celery hearts -- I accidentally bought organic, which cost way more than I usually pay. I will have to make sure to use up all that expensive celery!

I also lost a pound and a half -- after two days of overeating! What gives? I'm glad anyway!

Graduation weekend

June 6th, 2011 at 06:23 am

My weekend trip to Michigan was nice, but a series of mishaps, financially. Just little things.

I stopped at McD for breakfast and got an Egg McMuffin, thinking it was on the dollar menu. It was not. It was $4.42 with coffee. I waited until I got to Michigan to buy gas, thinking it would be cheaper. I finally stopped when the tank was getting too low for my comfort and paid $4.15 a gallon ($47 total). But if I had gone a little further, it would have been $4.05. I didn't spend any money there, except for my cash gift to my niece, but on the way home I missed an important exit, and had to wind back over big looping interchanges to get back on track -- wasted gas. When I got home, I found I had left the TV on (not the cable box, which is why I didn't notice) and a closet light. I am usually so careful about electricity! So, no great misfortunes, I just wasn't on my game.

It was a lovely weekend. The weather was perfect, and my niece's open house went perfectly. She got LOTS of gifts -- her main one being an iPad. I was very aware that I was not the least bit interested. I have really been left behind in technology and I don't care at all. I liked it better when things were simpler. I'm showing my age I know! I had to chuckle when I noticed a post-it note on the wall which was a step-by-step explanation from my niece to her parents on how to turn on the TV. I can relate!

I was really tired when I got home, so I didn't do the things I usually do on weekends, like preparing food ahead of time or ironing. I'll tackle that tonight. I just read and lay around. It was nice to reboot after a busy weekend.

I walked to work this morning, although it is pretty muggy. I am guessing that I will catch a ride home, as it will heat up. Found no coins today, but I was on the alert!

This & that

June 3rd, 2011 at 05:34 am

I found three more pennies on yesterday's walk. I'm getting close to $2! I think I started counting last July; I'll have to check on that.

I did not walk this morning -- chance of rain, and also, I'm going to stop at the grocery on the way home. I got an Offermatic for $5 off at Safeway. I'm trusting that it will work at Dominick's, which is Safeway under another name. I will shoot to spend $25 only to get the maximum benefit.

I signed my lease yesterday, so I'm here another year.

I talked to my brother last night and made official plans to drive up there tomorrow morning and head home when they go to their daughter's graduation at 2 pm on Sunday. We also decided on what hotel to stay at for my nephew's wedding at the end of the month. It's a Comfort Inn -- I'm going to see if I can find a deal.

More coins

June 2nd, 2011 at 07:47 am

While walking home last night, I found yet another dime in the same parking lot. This morning I was all invigorated, hoping to find more, but found only a penny. Still -- money on the ground every day? I'll take it!

I sold a book on half.com yesterday. It's been so long since I sold one I almost forgot I was still in the market. It was only .75, but I'll make a little more with the postage. I'm going to walk the package to the post office at noon.

I'm going to my brother's house in Michigan this weekend to attend my niece's graduation open house. I think I will wait until Saturday morning to start, however. I really hate leaving the city on Friday night. It's always gridlock. On Saturday morning I can sail through and save on gas.

I will also plan to not fill up until I get to Indiana. Chicago has the highest gas price in the nation right now. They say it is because a refinery in Joliet is closed, and we also have extra taxes. At least gas is not a big part of my budget.

May spending

June 1st, 2011 at 02:37 pm

Rent…..1110
Vacation/Travel….269
Utilities….190
Business…..131
Groceries…..119
Furnishings/Equipment….89
Clothing…..86
Insurance ….62
Eating Out…..52
Medical/Health….46
Household Supplies…..27
Gas…..25
Personal….20
Vet/Pet Supplies….13
Car Repair/Maintenance….5
Total…2244

Not bad. The vacation spending is part of the expense of my DC trip. Clothing is high, but I got a lot for my money.

Projected costs for June:

Wedding in Tennessee -- gift, hotel, gas etc.
Graduate open house in Michigan -- gift, gas etc.
Two birthdays

It will be a gifty month!

A new walk

June 1st, 2011 at 05:52 am

This morning I DID walk to work, and I tried a new way which cut five minutes off. It means crossing two busy streets (one is a highway, but there is a pedestrian crosswalk with a light). It also means walking through a big parking lot, which I found to be an advantage this morning -- I found two dimes! The lot is empty early in the day. Despite the traffic, I do like this walk; it doesn't seem quite as tedious.

I am committed to walking to work as much as possible, especially since my rent will go up $22 a month in July. I've decided to stay -- I like it and it's close to work, and I LOVE having the washer/dryer in my unit. I'll make my move when I'm ready for my permanent move. But I want to find ways to compensate for the rising rent in my budget.

I slept very poorly last night and toyed with the idea of staying home to sleep -- but my conscience won out. Wish I didn't have those nights, when nothing seems to be wrong, but my OFF button won't turn off.

Yesterday I called maintenance to have them snake the drain in my bathtub -- something I've been meaning to do for a long time. So nice to have a free-running drain this morning. Apartment living does have its advantages!

I will recap my May spending later in the day.