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Archive for December, 2011

OMG, I lost it all!

December 31st, 2011 at 08:07 am

I just composed a long post, summing up my spending in December and in 2011, and how it compared to 2010. And it disappeared!

Oh, well spared you all the reading, I guess. To put it succinctly, I spent about $2000 more this year than last, and most of it can be ascribed to medical expenses, car repair, and more spent on travel.

I actually did a lot better on gifts, so my cheapness paid off. Also spent less on clothes, haircuts, even gas and groceries. So I am heading in the right direction, and I can't really blame myself for the big surprises that pop up.

Yesterday I had to buy a $20 cooling pad for my computer, but I am sure it's my last expenditure of year.

In other news, I lost two more pounds.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oh, and I forgot to add, a recent upsurge in the market has lifted my net worth, which increased $1479 in 2011. Better than going down!

$20 limit

December 30th, 2011 at 10:06 am

Not only did I stay under $20, I managed to go to the grocery store one day later than last week -- so I stretched my pantry 8 days instead of 7.

Here is what $20 bought this week:

Bag of salad spring mix (on sale)
18 eggs (on sale)
3 fresh-baked bolillos (on sale)
Half gallon skim milk
2 3-lb. bags cat food
Tube of house brand biscuits (on sale)

The salad is for my low-carb days, as well as the eggs. I will hard-boil some of them.

The bolillos I will have in place of bread this week. A loaf of bread goes stale too quickly for me. Even though I freeze the surplus it seems like it always gets freezer-burned, no matter how carefully I wrap it. Anyway, having the fresh bolillos will be a real pleasure. On my high-carb days.

The milk -- I have given up and will only purchase a half-gallon at a time. This week I made white sauce and sausage gravy (freezing both) just to use up my milk. I can't keep doing that indefinately. And I can't drink/use a gallon before it goes bad.

Why two bags of cat food? One is higher-nutrition, for my indoor cats, and the other is cheap, for my feral cat.

The biscuits are for using up that sausage gravy! On my high-carb days.

I'm on a low-carb day today. I had sausage for breakfast and a low-carb soup for lunch. For dinner I will have the meat left over from my Monte Cristo sandwich wrapped around cheese sticks and warmed in the microwave.

I've lost two pounds. Of course, it comes off quickly when it has been put on quickly. I'll be glad to get back to where I was when I came home from the hospital in August. That's 12 pounds lighter than I am now!

I also got a few errands done today. I took a necklace to the jeweler to be repaired. I've been meaning to do this for a year -- why did I put it off? It will only cost $22.

And does anybody remember the $2 suit I bought over Thanksgiving? I finally took it to the cleaners to have the pants lengthened and to get it cleaned.

Yesterday I walked to the library and returned "The Help." I saw that another movie I wanted to see was in -- "Sarah's Key." Renting that was another $2 spent, but I am happy to support the library. By the way, older DVDs are rented free; it's just the "hot picks" that cost $2. And I can keep them for 3 days.

It's cold and rainy today, so I'm staying in now. I think I would rather have snow. At least it's pretty!

Fun Day

December 28th, 2011 at 04:25 pm

This morning I went up to check on my son's cats. They were just fine. Hadn't eaten much though. I topped off their bowls, put down fresh water and cleaned the litter box.

Meanwhile I was texting with my BFF. She may come to Chicago for the weekend with her son and his family. I have offered to let them all stay with me, though I have little space -- they would have to settle for tight quarters. But it sounds like they will make other plans. I hope to be able to see them, though -- maybe meet up at a museum or something.

On the way home I was hungry, so, remembering my resolution to forgo fast food and go to locally-owned restaurants, I stopped at a pancake house. It was packed! This was not a struggling business. I ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich and brought home half of it, as well as a serving of potato salad. I did have a warm ciabatta roll while I was waiting for my order, so that cut into my appetite. The meal, with coffee, was $10.72 and I left a $2 tip. Can't do this too often, but it was a lot more pleasant than driving through McDonald's.

My drive home took me right by my Goodwill, and I couldn't resist stopping. I spent a long time there, but only spent $17. For one thing, I got the 15% senior citizen discount. Hey! There IS an advantage to silvery hair! I didn't even ask for a discount. Turns out every Wednesday is Senior Citizens Day so I will try to do my shopping on Wednesdays.

I spent $9 on potential gifts -- brand new shrink-wrapped photo albums from Hallmark, a dog-shaped frame, and a new Yankee Candle Christmas votive (with the candle included). And I spent $7 on items to go into my booth -- a "Classic Malts of Scotland" water jug (worth $7), a Howard Johnson's ashtray (not vintage, worth maybe $3), a Pfaltzgraff platter in an unusual pattern I haven't been able to identify yet -- I'm guessing it will be worth about $10, vintage Noritake salt & pepper shakers (worth $8), a "Parsley" teapot from Salem China (worth $20), and a little Lenox-type clock which I bought just to remove the timepiece and put in my real Lenox clockcase. However, I can't seem to get it to pop out, so I may sell it as is.

I love scrounging for finds and researching them. I wish I could make money at it.

Already shopping for next year

December 27th, 2011 at 05:33 pm

I read that Kohl's had savings up to 80% -- and it is the closest store to me, just a few blocks away. So I checked it out and came away $150 poorer.

Good deals, though. My son has a birthday at the beginning of February, and I took care of that. Found a casual jacket and knit top in coordinating colors -- retailed for $126; I spent $42. Also found a box of Jelly Belly "cocktails" -- $3.50 marked down from $7.

Camisoles were half-price and I bought six for my two DIL's, who both have birthdays in June. $42 marked down from $84. I'm a little worried whether they will fit -- they are mediums, for medium girls -- but they looked small to me. Stretchy, maybe? Anyway, at Kohl's they can return "any item, anytime, for any reason." It's on the receipt. I hope that's true.

I also bought six sets of Food Network bar towels and scrubber dishcloths. $28 marked down from $52.

And for myself I bought four pairs of knee socks for $18, marked down from $28.

So it begins again!

I think tomorrow I will go up to Evanston to check on my son's cats (the family is away for a week). I promised to do it midweek, and tomorrow is Wednesday already. I hate to spend the gas, but I made the offer myself. I know how I worry when I leave my cats alone for an extended period of time. Even if you leave out a lot of food, there is still the water and the ever-worsening litter pan to consider.

I re-started my diet today. My son and I are both going to follow a plan where you have two very low-carb days a week, and for the rest of the week you just eat reasonably. (I'm aiming for 1400-1500 calories on those days). Today was a low-carb day and I ate only 13 carbs.

I am also going to try to exercise every day, even if it is just a little bit. Today I walked to the library (15 minutes each way). I checked out "The Help" -- the movie. I was going to watch it tonight, but instead I think I will go to bed early and read. It's looking awfully good to me.

Christmas

December 27th, 2011 at 06:30 am

I am so out of sync with my family. What I think is a reasonable Christmas is just cheap to them (not that they said so -- they were all gracious -- but I saw all the other gifts! Whew!) I guess I just have to adjust. I felt pretty awful during the gift openings, so next year I will just have to make more sacrifices and pony up more money for Christmas.

Now that it's over, I can report what I bought (though I don't think anyone in the family reads my blog -- but I'm not 100% sure.)

I tried very hard to find good deals at Goodwill and at retail stores, too. Here is what I finished up with:

DS1: Bocce set, College shirt, prep bowls, turkey lifter (Goodwill). Ragg socks, ear buds, $50 gas card, $10 I-tunes card (retail). Stadium blanket (free, bank promo).

DIL1: Teapot, calligraphy wall hanging, double frame set, ornament (Goodwill). Figurines for Christmas village, extra wedding pictures, silky tote bag, hand cream, gingerbread village cookie sheet, egg timer (retail).

DS2: 3 t-shirts, book, card game (Goodwill). Ragg socks, ear buds, Brita water bottle, $25 Express card, $10 I-tunes card (retail). Stadium blanket (free, won in raffle).

DIL2: Ankle weights, custard cups, ornaments (Goodwill). Gingerbread village cookie sheet, silky tote bag, hand cream, Brita water bottle, kitchen wall clock, $25 fabric store gift card, egg timer (retail). (I also gave this couple a roll of quarters for laundry.)

GS1: Board game, two mugs, Bionic lego set (Goodwill). Board game, toothbrush (retail).

GS2: Ornament (Goodwill). Talking toy, wooden puzzle with sound effects, engine for Thomas train set, toothbrush (retail).

I will also pay for a special class/activity for the boys; DIL to let me know what. I went deliberately light on the grandsons' gift; they get so, so many, from so many people who have a lot more money than I have. I feel like it's so wasteful to just add to the plethora -- and they are clearly overwhelmed by too many gifts. So I just got a few things to open.

Nephew & wife: $75 grocery store gift card. (They are unemployed)

Grand-niece 1: Mini-frames, memo pad (Goodwill). $10 I-Tunes card.

Grand-nieces 2 & 3: Assorted costume jewelry, jacks game (Goodwill). Jewelry boxes (retail).

Grand-nephew: Bag of little toys (mostly Goodwill).

Ex-husband: Bottle of wine, also wrapped up and returned some Christmas ceramics his aunt had made.

DIL2's mother: Candleholder, salt & pepper (Goodwill). Candle (retail).

DIL1's parents: Two Christmas mugs (Goodwill). Bag of coffee, assorted fancy cocoa packets (retail).

DIL1's grandfather: stuffed toy (free with purchase of greeting cards)

For work people: 2 tins (Goodwill) filled with Hershey's Bliss. Hand cream (retail), Christmas tile (regift).

I was overwhelmed with so many people to buy for, some of whom I see only once a year.

Next year I will use the Amazon gift lists, even though it doesn't feel Christmas-y to me. This was too much work for too little satisfaction.

I didn't keep track of my Christmas spending, which was a mistake -- I should at least know how much I saved! That might make me feel better! I'm sure I spent much less than anyone else, but not sure right now whether that was a good thing.

Oh yes, I got many nice gifts, too.

Gift cards totalling $175.
Tool box & tools
Fluffy throw
Knee socks
Wall clock
Stock pot
Wedding pictures
Planter
Set of jams
Coffee, tea & mug
Wine
Yankee Candle
Stocking full of sample size items

I'm sure there is more, but I'm blank right now.

The $20 limit

December 23rd, 2011 at 06:27 am

I have stuck to the $20 limit on groceries for two weeks now. This week was especially challenging. I needed fish oil, and I got a good deal, 2 bottles for the price of one, $11. I also had to get two spices for the cornbread stuffing I made -- they were expensive, but luckily, both were on sale -- sage $4, and thyme $3. $2 for celery brought me up to $19, so it was no wine this week! Maybe I'll get some for Christmas.

Don't worry, I have lots of food at home. When I really start eating my way through my stockpile the $20 limit will be even more of a challenge.

I also bought $100 worth of gift cards, and Christmas shopping is DONE!

Tonight after work I head up to my sons' houses for the weekend. Only a 40-minute drive in usual traffic, but I fear tonight it will be a lot worse. I hope I can leave work early. I'm going to go home at lunch and pack my bags, and pack the car. I have a LOT of gifts. Perhaps I overdid it. I have such a hard time with Christmas, knowing where to draw the line.

I should hate Christmas anyway. My husband left me at Christmas, my mother died on Christmas Day, my brother died on New Year's Day, I broke my ankle two weeks before Christmas ... it seems like a doomed holiday for me. I still enjoy the season, but sad memories are dredged up at the same time. I'm always glad when it's over. I like the feel of a fresh start after all the stuff is packed away again.

Net worth

December 22nd, 2011 at 06:52 am

My net worth went down by $869 this year. That's not terrible, considering I lost $5018 in the stock market. (I actually "lost" more, since my stock increased at the beginning of this year -- but that is the loss since December of last year).

That means I put away $4149 on my own. (Again, not really, because a little more than $1000 was contributed by the College to my retirement plan).

That said, I need to do a lot better. I already knew that.

I'm going to do every little thing I can. Last night, instead of letting the TV run on after the news, I turned it off, turned off all the living room lights, and went into the bedroom and read. I only got up to brush and floss (saving on those future dentist visits!)

This morning I packed a cold lunch, because the microwave at work broke down yesterday. I also packed a breakfast of cornbread, but when I arrived, there was an array of leftover food from various parties. So I will take the cornbread home to add to the rest -- I am making cornbread stuffing tonight to take to our family holiday dinner tomorrow night. I have also promised to make a sweet potato casserole, so I'm going to have a busy cooking night.

I have to stop at the store to pick up some celery and spices, and I will get the fish oil I need, too. Even though I am going to stop buying multi-vitamins, I will continue with the fish oil. I come from a family with heart problems, and I already know I have a "fat pad" on my heart, which can be an indicator for heart disease.

I will also get a few more gift cards. I had intended to order them from MyPoints and Discover, but I let too much time slip away. I will use the free cards for birthdays this year.

$372 later

December 21st, 2011 at 06:06 am

I took my computer to a local repair shop. He tinkered with it a bit and declared the motherboard dead. Well, something on the motherboard, but the whole thing has to be replaced on the kind of computer I have. That's $372 for the new board and labor. A little more than half what I paid in the first place.

Some would say I should have just bought a new computer, but $372 is less than I would pay for a new one, and once this one has a new motherboard it should have quite a few more years left in it -- I hope!

Anyway, it may be five days before the part gets in, so I won't have a computer till after Christmas. The only thing I'll miss is keeping up on my financial spreadsheets, but now that I know I haven't lost them, I'm quite relieved.

Yesterday we had our "Yankee Swap" at work. For a few minutes I had the good prize -- a bottle of wine. But I lost it, and decided to choose an unopened gift -- really, I wanted the gift bag; it was just the right size for a present I haven't wrapped yet. Well, I got the booby prize! "What is it?" I kept asking. It appears to be melted down bottles roughly in the shape of a bowl but with a key ring attached. ???? Needless to say, it's going in the swap next year.

Dad Burn it!

December 20th, 2011 at 07:56 am

Last night I was looking up a recipe online -- I went into the kitchen to make it -- came back and my screen was blank. Nothing could bring it to life again, although the computer was running.

This laptop is not very old, maybe a year and and half. It has frequently done weird things like suddenly closing down, or the screen goes blank and then the computer reboots. Always without any provocation. I've never been very thrilled with it.

So now I have to take it in for repair. I am not a DIY-er when it comes to technology. I hate to have another expense right now, but I don't want to lose all my financial info, not to mention my novel in progress. No, I don't have it backed up. I was doing that for a while on Windows Live, but it got to be a hassle. Looks like I have to revisit the concept.

Hit the EF again

December 19th, 2011 at 08:44 am

Alas, I had to take $550 out of savings. This, after $600 about a week ago.

Not really for a bad reason -- I got a notice that my insurance payments will come out on January 1. I deliberately switched from monthly to semi-annual payments, so now I have to pony up and make sure the money is in checking. I must remind myself I am saving $24, because it feels kind of bad. The $550 includes the estimated booth rental, so I won't have to worry about saving cash for that. And a $25 margin for error.

At least I will be able to refurbish the account with my tax refund. And I won't have that $77 to pay every month, so that can go back into savings, too.

It hasn't been a good year for saving. I haven't done the math yet, but I know my net worth is lower than it was last year -- mostly because of the stock market, but I haven't made up the difference.

Of course, it's been a bad year for medical expenses, and I did some traveling and had a big car repair. I really hope next year will be better.

I have the whole week off next week -- the College closes, so I don't even have to take vacation time. I'm not planning to go anywhere. I hope to do some much-needed organizing at home and also use this time as sort of a retreat. I need to figure out how to do a better job of saving. Retirement is breathing down my neck.

Am I ready for Christmas?

December 18th, 2011 at 05:58 pm

I THINK I finished my Christmas shopping today. But it seems something else always crops up. Today I learned that my DIL's grandfather will join us for Christmas so I needed to get a little something for him. He has Alzheimer's and my son suggested that I get him a stuffed toy, as he seems to respond to them. I actually found a free one, with the purchase of four birthday cards, which I will use anyway. So that was good. I also had to buy another bag of Hershey's Bliss for my Yankee Swap gift at work -- I already had two, plus two small Christmas tins to put them in, but the two bags didn't fill the tins.

I also bought some gift cards. I added $50 to the $25 Jewel card I already had -- this will go to my out-of-work nephew. Then I bought a packet of three $10 I-tunes cards. They will go to my sons and a grand-niece.

For my BFF, whom I won't see till New Years, I bought a candle plate for the pillar candle I already had, and a Sudoku book.

Today was my first attempt at the $20 grocery limit (even though it's not the new year yet, it's a good time to start because I'm so stocked up on food). I spent $18.78, and most of it was not food.

I bought two boxes of corn muffin mix, sour cream, three fresh jalapenos (all these for jalapeno cornbread for the Christmas party at work), some coffee creamer, a bag of mixed greens, cat food and maxi-pads. I also got a free can of chicken dumpling soup with a store coupon. I wanted to get wine, but since that would have put me over the $20, I resisted.

My weekend with my grandson was exhausting! First of all, I had to give up on taking him to A Christmas Carol; he insisted he was too scared and started crying. So I finally called the box office and asked them to donate the tickets to someone who could use them. Well, he was in a negative mood all round. He didn't want to eat anything I offered, and even refused pancakes at McDonalds (where I had to drag him). He did enjoy the Play Place once we finally got there. Then I suggested we go see "ChipWrecked." No. He's seen it. (Not true, his mom told me). The only thing he could think of that he would like to do was to see Cars 2 again. I tried to get it at a RedBox, which wasn't working, but I was lucky enough to get it at the library. Unfortunately, as we watched, the images started breaking up about halfway through. I had to clean the disc twice, but finally got it good enough to go all the way through. Then he got it in his head that he wanted to play his Cars 2 video game, and that was the ONLY thing he wanted to do, and he HAD to go home. Well, it was only a few hours before the time we had set, so I took him home! Clearly, he's at a very obstinate age! (And was probably a little homesick, too.)

Surprise payday!

December 15th, 2011 at 11:29 am

Today was payday. I was really surprised when I was handed my deposit slip; I totally lost a day and thought I would be paid tomorrow.

Because my Discover card was so high ($2014) I had to take $600 out of savings. Then I realized I forgot to figure in the eventual booth payment, probably around $80. And THEN I remembered I have a lot of cash in my wallet, so I really shouldn't have to transfer any more out of savings.

Last night I chopped and cooked celery, carrots, onion and potatoes for potato soup. Tonight I'll make the base and put it all together, so I just have to warm it up tomorrow when my kids arrive.

I cleaned off my coffee table and found a 2012 calendar I forgot about! This cleaning stuff certainly brings a lot of things to light!

I have the whole week off between Christmas and New Year's. This year I'm going to make it a real vacation, and by that I mean, I'm staying home! Other than Christmas Day, when I'll be at the kids'. I'm really looking forward to taking it easy and putzing around the house.

Girlfriends Weekend

December 13th, 2011 at 05:32 pm

My girlfriends weekend in downtown Chicago was expensive -- as I expected.

Hotel -- $52 (1 room split three ways)
Food & drinks -- $118
Train & taxis -- $29
Shopping -- $35

Oy!

Plus, I gave a man in the train station $7 for a ticket. He said he lost his wallet and seemed credible. I realize that it may have been a lie, but I was okay with helping him out anyway, whatever his true situation.

The shopping was mostly at Crate & Barrel, for stocking stuffers. The food included tea at the Drake with champagne, a big breakfast buffet at the hotel and lunch at the Grande Lux Cafe, as well as stops at Starbucks and Argo Tea.

I saw the Marilyn statue -- again -- and had a lot of fun shopping -- not buying -- at Swarovski Crystals, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom Rack. We also had a nice long soak in the hot tub, followed up by chocolate martinis!

It went by so fast. It was good to see my pals. We will do it again. Maybe in warmer weather next time!

Yesterday I spent $1.71 mailing the gloves that one of my friends left behind.

I had a troubling day at work yesterday. My boss was very upset, not at me, but it affected me. When I came home I had a hard time settling down, even after I got in bed. After a while I got up and started cleaning out my closet -- a project I was going to tackle over Christmas break -- but I got it all done last night, with all my nervous energy. I've made several runs to the dumpster, and tomorrow will drop off several bags at Goodwill. I have three bags of magazines -- I have to figure out who to give them to. They're too good to throw away.

You know how you find things when you're de-cluttering? When I was looking for my swimsuit I found about five bras I had put away when I gained weight -- they should fit just fine now. And while going through the magazines I found a brand new book of double acrostics I had forgotten I had. I love double acrostics -- crosswords on steroids!

On Friday my grandson is coming to stay the night so we can go see "A Christmas Carol" on Saturday morning. I've offered to feed the whole family on Friday night when they come to drop him off. I think I'm going to saute some chicken breasts, make homemade potato soup, and round out the meal with vegetables and biscuits. Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I have all the makings on hand, so I can put off the grocery store till GS goes back home on Saturday.

2012 Goals

December 9th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Since everyone else is talking about 2012 goals it got me thinking, too. My overarching goal is to save as much as possible Ė which is a little vague. So my stretch goal is -- $700 a month. That will be quite a stretch, given that lately itís been around $200-300.

So that means I have to change the way Iím doing things. Hereís what Iíve thought of so far.

Finally, once and for all, cancel cable (but keep internet). I plan to do this in January. I have a Roku and a Netflix streaming subscription. That is quite enough entertainment. I will miss the news, but the news is online.

Revamp my diet. Instead of buying frozen entrees, cook from scratch. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat less meat. Cut down on the desserts.

Cut out the wine. It may be good for my heart, but so is a good diet. Itís an expensive supplement.

Cut out vitamins (after I finish the bottle). The latest studies say I donít need them, anyway.

Set a grocery spending limit. Iím thinking $20 a week. Thatís aggressive, but itís just me, and I donít need to fill a big pantry.

Keep up with MyPoints to earn gift cards.

Complete a survey every day and do the Swagbucks poll Ė again, for the gift cards.

No more ďnewĒ clothes until I have to get a smaller size. (Quotes are there because I buy most clothing secondhand.)

Liquidate my antiques booth. I wonít do this until Spring when I can have a big yard sale. What doesnít sell I will box up and auction on eBay.

Then just a few resolutions that wonít necessarily save money Ö

Savor the little things. I forget to do that sometimes.

Support local business. I need to stop going to McDonalds, which I donít even like much, and go to the local eateries that are struggling to survive.

Find a form of exercise I enjoy, and do it!

Always remember I can be happy for no reason at all.

Money in, money out

December 5th, 2011 at 08:36 pm

Got a few bits of extra income -- $18 from a class action settlement, $10 from Opinion Outpost, $3 from Pinecone, $3 from half.com.

Way more money went out. $144 for gifts, $9 for stamps, $49 for groceries, $6 to see a movie ("Hugo"), $5 for a prescription, $1 in the Salvation Army kettle. Still, not bad, considering the season. Some of my gifts I got at the grocery store (wine, cocoa, toys, chocolate). I spent $115 there altogether and saved $28 using coupons and store discounts. I also used a $15 voucher from Coinstar and received a $25 gift card for switching a prescription. My other gifts I got at Carson Pirie Scott, using a $10 off coupon for one purchase and a 20% off coupon for another.

I'm almost done with Christmas shopping but not feeling very satisfied. I feel anxious both for spending money AND worrying that my gifts are too cheap. I should choose one worry or the other! I have kept up with the wrapping, so I'm feeling pretty good on that score.

Oh, and I went to Goodwill and bought nothing! I had three little items to buy, but the lines were long and I decided I didn't really need anything in my basket. That may have been a first!

November Recap

December 1st, 2011 at 01:10 pm

My spending in November:

Rent -- 1132
Utilities -- 224
Gifts -- 176
Groceries -- 163
Vacation/Travel -- 148
Furnishings/Equipment -- 130
Business -- 92
Medical/Health -- 83
Eating Out -- 78
Insurance -- 66
Gas -- 41
Entertainment -- 33
Personal -- 30
Vet/Pet Supplies -- 28
Household Supplies -- 25

Total -- 2477

I would LIKE to keep my spending under $2000, so this wasn't a good month. But it is the holiday season, and that makes a big difference.

Next month will be worse. I just learned that my car repair will cost $834. Sensor heater circuit, serpentine belt, a bunch of other things. This car is more than 10 years old and has served me very well. This is the first time I've had costly repairs, other than a brake overhaul several years ago. So I'm not upset. Repairs, at some point, are inevitable. It's just unfortunate that it happened right before Christmas! I'll have to draw from my EF next month when the Discover bill comes due.