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Archive for November, 2013

Thanksgiving Preparations

November 27th, 2013 at 02:20 pm

I've definitely decided I'm not driving tonight. I'll get up early in the morning for the three-hour trip. Weather and traffic aside, daylight driving is better!

Last night I went to PetSmart for the fish feeder -- only $3 for a package of two 3-day pellets and one 7-day pellet. Hope they like it. I also cleaned the tank so the fish are good to go.

Also went to Aldi, since it was right next door to PetSmart. Spent $32 there on two bottles of wine, a big jar of cashews, a box of chocolate truffles, two packages of dried beef and a loaf of bread. For my son's birthday (Thanksgiving Day) I'm making his favorite entree, the ultra-frugal chipped beef on toast. Did I raise him right, or what? Smile

Also spent $4 at McDonalds for dinner, since it was late, and there was no food at home. I'm looking forward to getting re-stocked once I'm home again for good.

It is brutally cold today. The walk to the station and to work was painful. Hoping that the weekend will be warmer, even though I will be farther north!

In Limbo

November 26th, 2013 at 05:57 pm

I sort of feel like I'm in limbo -- home for a few days, but soon to be traveling again.

Work seems weird, too. Everyone is already focused on vacation. I think tomorrow it will be dead.

Weather reports for Wednesday are not good, so I've pretty much decided I will travel on Thursday morning. Hate to miss anything, but I think it's for the best. If I get an early start, I should miss the worst of the traffic, and clear roads will be a boon, too.

Yesterday I bought my train pass ($105) and spent $4 on pretzels at the station. I got the garlic flavor and it stayed with me for HOURS! I will not do that again.

My son's birthday is on Thanksgiving, so I have to wrap his gifts to take along. I also have to go to PetSmart tonight and buy a vacation feeder tablet for my fish. I should get something for my hosts, as well. I'm thinking maybe Garrett's popcorn, since they love it. The only problem is that a big tin is hard to handle on the train, and the station is where I buy it!

Also need to get a nice bottle of wine for the dinner.

Uh. I am not prepared for this holiday.

At this time of year I do try to be mindful of others who have less. I had a good opportunity yesterday when volunteers from the food depository passed out paper bags to fill at the station last night. I didn't have much in my pantry, but I put a box of spaghetti, a can of pumpkin, a can of cranberry sauce, and a can of Spam into the bag and dropped it off this morning. Gave me a good feeling with very little effort on my part. Couldn't help but notice that the great majority of people just walked past.

Every month when I remember to move my car on street-sweeping day, I feel like I've saved $100! I moved it this morning, parking nearer the station. Tonight I'll walk to the car first and run my errands. Then I have to park on the OPPOSITE side tomorrow. I wonder how many people get stuck with tickets? And how many pay them? It always seems like there are a lot of cars in the wrong place!

FYI, I read that John Cusack's boyhood home is up for sale for $980,000. The interesting thing is that it's just a few blocks away from where I live -- which I did not know! That's what I love about my neighborhood. It's such an interesting mix of inhabitants, rich and not-so-rich. Guess which one I am!

The Trip

November 25th, 2013 at 07:01 pm

I returned home from my Florida trip yesterday afternoon. Overall, I had a wonderful time -- precious visits with family, lots of time for talking, and playing games. Lots of interaction with my beautiful granddaughter.

I also came home dead tired. I never slept well the whole time -- sometimes I was sharing a bed, sometimes it was just that I wasn't in my own bed -- and sometimes I was in too much pain to sleep. My legs are giving me fits. I think I have a combination of bursitis, inflammation in the joints, and an unhappy sciatic nerve. Of course, I will have no time to go to the doctor before the Thanksgiving trip in two days. Luckily, I have some good pain pills left over from another painful episode.

My spending was not too terribly bad, considering. The flight was $281, taxi $31, food $122, gas $84, hotel $111. No rental car fee, as my brother took care of that while I took care of the hotel. I spent $60 on flowers but my siblings gave me too much of their share, so I ended up spending nothing for them, essentially.

My son helped with cleaning out my uncle's room in his assisted living facility, and was given two nice pieces of cherry furniture, a set of dishes, and a grandfather clock. AND, he will inherit my uncle's car. So nice to see how much the family likes him. And since he is just starting out, and the rest of us are downsizing, he was the perfect person to take on the family heirlooms.

I took just a few mementos -- my favorite, a jar of old marbles.

Now it's a short week and another trip, this one a driving trip. Woo-eee. Wish I could have spread out the joy, but that's how it is.

A great weekend and prepping for the trip

November 18th, 2013 at 06:05 pm

I had a really great weekend with my BFF, despite the big storm that soaked us, despite setting off my car alarm and being unable to find my remote, despite losing (but eventually finding) her sweatshirt in the movie theater .... it was that kind of weekend, and yet we had fun.

We ate out twice, and I spent $29, which was not bad. We saw a movie, "The Book Thief" for the senior citizen price - $7.50. She is my Goodwill buddy, so we scouted out a new store in Northbrook. She had a 25% off coupon for her birthday, so we got some really good deals. I spent $11 on gifts, $5 on home entertainment (puzzles), $14 on clothes & jewelry and $10 on household items. Very pleased with all purchases and sated for a while.

Had a great time also at my grandson's birthday party. He got some nice gifts that weren't over the top -- books, games, etc. I gave him a spirograph set, a stuffed peregrine falcon (his new obsession) and a shirt and pants which I got ridiculously cheap!

My biggest spending came from preparing for my trip: $32 to reserve a taxi, $60 for flowers (I'll get some reimbursement from siblings for that), $20 for cat litter and cat food. I also spent $22 on groceries and household items, and sent $22 to the dentist. This morning I ordered ornaments for my grandchildren for $20. I always try to get ornaments featuring the costume they wore for Halloween -- they made it tough this year by dressing up as knights. But after a search, I did find some nutcracker knight ornaments that will do.

It will be a costly week in Florida. But I am trying. I will sleep most nights at my son's house. I'm sharing a rental car with my siblings. Eating out will probably be an expense, as I don't expect my son to feed all of us as well as offer a free hotel. We'll just see how it goes. It is important to me to honor my uncle, so I'm not going to stress about money.

I will pack tonight -- lightly. The taxi will pick me up at 4 AM. UGHHH! But once I'm at the airport I will begin to relax. I always do. It's the prep that drives me nuts.

I Succumbed to Garrett's Popcorn

November 15th, 2013 at 02:22 pm

Some days, when I'm just feeling sorry for myself, I cheer myself up with Garrett's popcorn. Yesterday was one of those days. It was $4.50 for a small bag of cashew caramel crisp, which I bought at the station on the way home. I ate every morsel. It turned out being my dinner, as I wasn't hungry when I got home and went to bed early.

Why was I feeling sorry for myself? I was dog-tired and foggy from a sleepless night, my knees were hurting for some inexplicable reason, and work was stressful.

I'll try to make these little treats few and far between. But boy, was it good!

I forgot to mention that the lunch I had on Wednesday was free! The nice woman who wanted tips about my line of work insisted on paying, not only for me, but for my friend who got us together. Nice! And it was a wonderful lunch called Pot Roast Skillet -- pot roast with potatoes topped with fried eggs. Sounds weird, but it was delicious.

I found another penny this morning, this time in the station.

It's payday! So I will be sending in my mortgage payment and paying my Discover bill. I'm also going to transfer $800 into savings. It's been a good month for saving. Next month will be a different story, with all the traveling expenses popping up.

Tonight I need to do some catching up on housework before my friend comes for the weekend. But I'm not going to stress myself about it. I know she is not coming to see how clean my house is, and she does understand my break-neck schedule.

A penny found is a penny earned

November 14th, 2013 at 03:00 pm

Coin-finding has been slim pickings recently, but I did find a penny shining under the lamplight this morning. Interesting how it can actually be easier to see coins in the dark than in the daylight!

The Social Security program yesterday was jam-packed with information. I was glad that the presenter verified my plan to claim my ex's benefit at age 66 and switch to mine at 70. The nice thing I learned is that I can do it online without even contacting my ex. And I don't have to wait for him to file to claim the benefit, as long as he is 62. (He is.)

I will have to set up an account on the website, and it sounds like I should get a credit report beforehand, as there will be a number of questions to answer.

I also learned that it is a myth that payments don't start for three months -- they begin right after you file. However, you can file three months (or more) before you retire, just as long as you don't earn more than $15,000 in that time. I think I might as well do that; get a little overlap in payments.

I'll need to file for Medicare Part A during the open enrollment period at the first of the year. I don't need to file for Part B until I retire and lose my benefits.

Part D covers prescription costs. I'm really on the fence about that. I have one prescription that costs me $5 a month. (I know it would cost more without a plan, but I don't think it would be a lot more). It seems like it would make sense to just pay for it out of my own pocket, because a premium would be more expensive. But you have to weigh the risk of needing expensive medication in the future. I wonder if you can choose to pick it up later?

I think, next year, I will have a little more in my paycheck. Switching to the HMO will lower the premium. Also, I elected to put less in flexible spending. I usually have trouble getting it all spent before the end of the year, unless I have a medical event.

No spending yesterday, but I did reserve a hotel room for $111. I'll be sharing it with my siblings, so I'll probably pay $37 in the end.

Still to do -- get flowers, get transportation to the airport, and arrange for pet sitters.

And after the Florida trip is done, there's Thanksgiving! Thank goodness I am not traveling for Christmas.

Today's Plans & Weekend Plans

November 13th, 2013 at 02:25 pm

Not much financial going on. I'm going to a presentation on Social Security today -- figure I can use all the information I can get. Then I have a lunch scheduled with someone who wants to get into my field. A mutual colleague is arranging it. She just wants some tips on what she needs to know, how to present herself, etc. Kind of amazed someone WANTS this job, but there you go.

I did a load of laundry last night ($1.50) and I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher (that was free Smile) It felt good to get that little bit done -- the house just gets away from me during the week. But I have company this weekend so I have to keep up.

This weekend we'll be celebrating my grandson's birthday. He gets to pick the restaurant for his birthday lunch, and he has chosen Outback Steakhouse. That will be at 2. I figure my BFF and I will get brunch at a favorite restaurant in the morning. And we'll probably go to a movie on Sunday. So there will be some spending this weekend, but I am also expecting a very good time!

From the Frozen Midwest....

November 12th, 2013 at 02:49 pm

Baby, it's cold here! I hope this is just a fluke, and we're back to normal fall weather soon!

Yesterday I donated $20 toward a wedding gift for a colleague. Usually I don't give that much, but it will be my only gift, and it is for someone I like and respect very much.

This morning I bought my breakfast at Corner Bakery ($4). The reason being, it was a rush morning because I had to find and break out my winter gear -- it was 24 degrees! And I didn't take the time to pack a breakfast. Lunch is already in the work fridge (I often take enough for two days). Anyway, I have to say, I did enjoy it! Doing something less often makes it more fun!

Still hammering out plans for the trip to Florida. My brother, sister, cousins and I are trying to coordinate -- it's not easy, especially with the main airport two hours away from the site of the memorial service. But I think I and my sister will stay with my son for most of the time. My brother and cousins will probably get hotel rooms near my son's house. On the night of the service, we will all try to get adjoining suites in a hotel down there. I'm guessing I will have to rent a car, too.

Oh well. It will all come out of my emergency fund, and I will make it up. I'll try to save where I can.

Yesterday I was in a meeting that ran late, so I had to take a train one hour later than usual. It was a dark and cold walk home (and snowy!), but once I got home, I was happy to be able to throw together a great meal -- steak, steamed asparagus, smashed potatoes and a glass of wine. MMmmm. Tonight I'm going to use the leftover steak in fajitas.

I could have used my new boots yesterday. But I wore them today -- there is still snow on the ground, though I doubt it will last. I am happy to report that they are very comfortable. And warm.



A Kohl's trip

November 11th, 2013 at 03:25 pm

Like the rest of the world, I went to Kohl's yesterday. I had a 20% off coupon, as well as a $10 and $5 off coupon. My mission was to find a pair of winter walking boots, and I did. I ended up with a pair of Eddie Bauer boots, short, pull-on, lined and roomy enough for SmartWool socks. They were originally $90 and with the store's sale and my coupons, I got them for $38.

My only regret is that they are not a little taller, but since I mostly walk on sidewalks I guess that is not a big issue. The big issues are warm, comfortable, and non-slip, and they fit the bill. And the price was great.

And it looks like I got them just in time, as snow is predicted today. (I'm not wearing them, however; I don't think the snow will amount to much.)

On Saturday I did two loads of laundry ($3) and went to the grocery ($34). My ten items were:

Flour Tortillas
Cinnamon Applesauce
Tomato Soup
Wheat Saltines
Plain Yogurt
Creamer
Wine
Sirloin Steak
Oranges
Asparagus

The steak was actually two packages, two steaks in each package. It was a BOGO. I froze three steaks and will have one for dinner tonight.

I finally made the tomato-pumpkin basil soup, and I loved it!

I didn't do much else this weekend, as I am still under the weather with this cold. And I've got lots of activity coming up -- grandson's birthday, a visit from my BFF, a trip to Florida, uncle's memorial service, granddaughter's birthday, Thanksgiving, son's birthday, girls' weekend, and then Christmas! Wow. I feel like going back to bed just from typing all that!

Bought my ticket

November 8th, 2013 at 06:06 pm

After a lot of back and forth, changing plans, etc., I went back to my original plan -- fly to Tampa on the 19th and out on the 24th. My DIL changed her plans, so I will get to see my granddaughter after all!

I was planning to fly United and use my $200 voucher, but the price shot up to more than $535. So I went with Spirit for $281 (which includes a checked bag) and I'll save the voucher for another trip; hopefully, a cheaper one. Maybe a fun one.

Spirit doesn't offer bereavement fares, but the ones that do were way more expensive.

Other than my train fare yesterday, I did not spend anything.

I found another penny this morning under a parking meter. It's slow going, getting to that next milestone, which is $50!

Back in Business

November 7th, 2013 at 04:46 pm

I caught a later train this morning so I could go to Lost & Found when it opened at 8. It cost me another $4.25 to get to the downtown station. But I got my pass! I'm so grateful to the unknown person who turned it in. From now on the pass doesn't leave my grubby paws. I will show it to the conductor, and then it goes back in my bag.

Since I was driving yesterday I made a stop at Goodwill. I volunteered to buy forks for the break room -- we have every other kind of silverware, but the forks have disappeared! I only found four; they were only .10 apiece. I also found two pairs of shorts for my granddaughter and a pair of pants for my grandson, as well as a knitted scarf for me -- which I wore this morning! Altogether I spent $8. Since it was Senior Citizen Day, I got a 15% discount.

I talked to my Florida son last night, trying to make plans about the memorial service. He has to have a root canal, and was quoted a price of $2,500! I've never had one, but that seems high. He was wondering if he should get a second opinion, but hates to spend the money for another appointment with a new dentist -- I assume the new dentist would have to take X-rays? I didn't know what to tell him. It does seem like it might be a lot of cost with a strong possibility that the second dentist will simply agree with the first.

The memorial service will be on November 20, and I'm tentatively planning to take off the 19th through the following Sunday. Unfortunately, there is a strong chance that my DIL and granddaughter will be in Colorado at that time. Still, I will get to visit with my son, as well as other family.

My cold is still making my head fuzzy. I'm coughing and not sleeping well. I'm ready to be done with this.

Lost My Pass Again

November 6th, 2013 at 02:39 pm

Well, as you all know, I wasn't in a very good state of mind yesterday -- tired, sick, grieving -- so I wasn't alert, and I left my monthly pass on the train. And I didn't realize it until it was too late to check Lost & Found. (The train had left).

I actually wasn't too upset -- in the whole scheme of things it didn't matter too much yesterday. Today I'm a little more upset. I had my business card on it, and I was hoping that I would have an email or a phone message this morning, but I do not. I called Lost & Found, and they said to check back later.

I have a sinking feeling I'm not going to get it back this time. Which will be a loss of $100. I'll just have to try to make it up in other ways, and write it off as one of those unavoidable emergencies. (Although it was certainly avoidable -- I just have to screw my head on tighter!)

So I spent $4.25 on a ticket home. I drove to work today.

While I was in the station I bought sympathy and birthday cards -- $12.

I also bought a 7-Up from the vending machine at work yesterday - $1.50. Just needed the bubbly. And this morning on the way to work I bought a bottle of water for $1 because I forgot to take some from home -- and I have to drink water with my Mucinex-D (which I'd already swallowed).

My cousins are talking about holding a service for my uncle later in the month. I heard this from my brother, and he didn't have all the details, but it sounds like the actual funeral and burial will be for the immediate family, and the service will be for everyone, including family members like me who have to travel a ways. Some of the possible dates are after Thanksgiving. I'll just go with the flow.

A Sad Morning

November 5th, 2013 at 06:34 pm

My uncle died this morning. It was not exactly surprising, since he was 92, but he has always been in remarkable health. He had a mild heart attack a few days ago, but he was scheduled to leave the health center in the next few days. This morning he just went quietly in his sleep.

He was the last of that generation in my family. He was my stand-in dad for many years, since my dad died at the age of 69. I will miss him.

Arrangements are yet to be made, but I'm pretty sure there will be a service in Florida. I'll do everything I can to make it there. I do have a $200 voucher for United Air Lines, so that might help.

My cold has worsened, and last night I took Mucinex-D, forgetting that it keeps me awake. It did dry me up, but I spent many hours lying awake in bed. So I'm really tired today, and taking a sick day was tempting. I wanted to come to work, however, because today was the presentation about the changes in benefits. I'm going to go with the HMO, despite my earlier bad experience with one. My new primary doctor is in the network, as well as the hospital most convenient to me, so I think it will work out. It will be more than $100 cheaper a month. And I think I have a better grasp of the rules than I did before.

I got a free lunch at the benefits health fair!

My only spending yesterday was $5 for a prescription.

Tonight I'm going to walk $20 over to my son's house for my grandson's school fundraiser.

Then I'm going to go to bed and hope to get a good long night's sleep!

Lost Weekend

November 4th, 2013 at 02:49 pm

It almost seemed like a lost weekend. First of all, my BFF called on Friday night and begged off, due to a bad cold. I was okay with that -- didn't want to get a cold. Surprise ! I'm getting one anyway!

On Saturday morning my son called and asked if I could watch the boys while they car-shopped. As it turned out, the boys were with me until after supper, but my son and DIL succeeded in finding a great car. They bought a Buick Rendezvous, a 2004 model but in amazing shape! 75K miles. They paid under $7K. Sounded like a pretty good deal to me. They paid cash. My son is a chip off the old block! (Me, thankfully, not the ex!)

After a full day with the boys my house was wrecked, and I was exhausted. On Sunday morning I started putting things back in order. I did three loads of laundry, and did some cooking -- I made sloppy chicks filling, a chicken broccoli casserole and chicken salad. Also some cream of celery soup.

The kids invited me over for pizza at lunchtime, and I spent some time playing games with my son and older grandson. Then ran some errands and went home, where I spent a good part of the day sorting clothes and putting away summer clothes, as well as clothes that are too small. Then I watched "Up in the Air" on broadcast TV, and suddenly, the weekend was over! It just disappeared.

I was so looking forward to having an extra hour of sleep this morning, but actually, getting up felt just the same.

My spending:

Groceries: $36
Home Depot: $22
PetSmart: $41
Laundry: $4.50

At the grocery, I bought:

Granola bars
Almond milk
2 packages muffin mix
Chocolate milk
Granola
Broccoli
Chicken
Sourdough bread
Coffee
Kitty Litter

Still experimenting with muffins -- the mix was cheap, but didn't produce much, and the blueberries, of course, were fake.

My Home Depot shopping was another storage bin (bought one last week, too), and a 3-pack of spot bulbs for the kitchen can lights.

The PetSmart purchase was a box of 12 aquarium filters plus a $1 donation for homeless pets.

October Recap

November 1st, 2013 at 02:49 pm

Housing - $1039
Gifts/Charity - $188
Groceries - $128
Fares - $105
Utilities - $104
Eating Out - $83
Clothing - $58
Gas - $36
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor - $30
Vet/Pet Supplies - $29
Medical/Health - $27
Car Repair/Maintenance - $25
Laundry - $17
Entertainment - $16
Personal - $15
Household Supplies - $9
Miscellaneous - $9

Grand Total - $1918

First time since March I've been under $2000!


Halloween

November 1st, 2013 at 01:42 pm

What a day it was yesterday! First of all, it was good that I was at work, because my comment about data blowing up turned out to be true -- there was a mistake in a report that was already sent out to the donors (not my mistake). I was the only one around to handle it. I couldn't correct it, but I could figure out who could help. It's all resolved now, except for re-sending it to donors -- hope I won't have to do that; I expect the project's manager will be back in the office today.

I had a good dentist's visit. After confessing in the chair that I had been terrible about flossing, the hygienist said, "Your gums look great -- but get back on track, okay?" Next time I won't confess so fast -- of course, I'm going to be better, so will have nothing to confess.

I got a ride to the dentist from a co-worker, but it was clear enough afterwards to walk back.

I left at 3 to get back for trick-or-treating. It was raining to beat the band, and I got soaked on the walk to my place. Quickly changed shoes and jacket and met up with the kids. One grandson was already crying because he had left his treat bag behind. The other was soon crying because he fell down and got his hands muddy. Eventually we figured out that the little one was running a fever. The rain continued and we were all soggy. There were some good moments but overall it was a pretty dismal Halloween.

We made a quick stop at a friend's house for chili, then got the boys home so they could sleep it off.

It was a no-spend day.

Today I got up and realized I had no breakfast to pack. There is oatmeal at work, but at the station I felt too hungry to wait and succumbed to a sausage biscuit at McDonald's along with a cup of coffee. ($2)

I'm so excited that today I get to do my October recap AND do the monthly Treasurer's report for my professional org! What glee!

And a found a penny this morning, so all systems are go!