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Archive for January, 2014

A Little Recap

January 31st, 2014 at 10:27 am

I'm going to be bold and say that spending is over for this month. Here are January's totals:

Housing: $694
Vacation/Travel: $323
Groceries: $110
Fares/Parking: $110
Utilities: $102
Gas: $54
Phone: $50
Medical/Health: $42
Home Repair/Maintenance: $22
Gifts/Charity: $21
Laundry: $14
Vet/Pet Supplies: $11
Eating Out: $10
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor: $9
Entertainment: $8
Clothing: $5
Household Supplies: $2
Grand Total: $1,587

It was a very low-spend month! Get a load of the eating out category!

I did not count the loan to my son, as it will be repaid.

Freebies for the month of January: I got a scone, an apple, some breakfast breads, cookies, and a bagel from the break room at work. A co-worker gave me a 1/2 pound of cheese. I picked up three books, two from the station and one from a co-worker. I got a box lunch at a board meeting, and an exercise band from the physical therapist. I'll start the list over in February.

Oh, I should add the snowflakes, as well:

$5 from Swagbucks
$50 from MyPoints
$68.19 from Discover
$30 Jewel gift card & coupon
$5 from credit union (for going paperless)
$3 from Pine Cone
.28 found money

Update! Just found a quarter!

I did it!

January 31st, 2014 at 06:15 am

I rode the train this morning! And I boarded and de-boarded without hurting my knee!

Last night at PT I told my therapist what I wanted to do, and we practiced with tall steps. As long as I lead up with my left leg, down with my right, and don't try to go foot over foot, I can do it!

So I bought my ticket between trains this morning and I'm all set.

It's pretty warm -- almost 20! But snow is expected, maybe even six inches. Blah. It never ends.

I parked in free parking last night, making the extra two-block walk, so I am still at $299. Don't expect to spend anything today. (Train ticket doesn't count in challenge.)

I'm feeling so good today I even put on makeup. Smile

I Always Forget Something

January 30th, 2014 at 06:22 am

Yesterday I forgot my phone. Today I forgot my breakfast. So I stopped at McDonalds on the way and spent $5 on a sausage sandwich and orange juice.
My monthly discretionary spending now stands at $299. So I'm still under $300; just can't spend anything today or tomorrow!

My knee is somewhat better, and I think I may try to take the train tomorrow. I think I will be okay if I lead with my left leg to step up into the car and pull myself up with my arms.

Tomorrow is the last day to get the monthly pass -- well, not really the last day, but if I don't get it tomorrow I will end up having to pay an extra fare to get downtown to the ticket office, whenever I ride it next.

So I think I will try it. I can't drive forever. I figure I would have to fill my tank at least five times at $30-40 a pop just to get through one month.

I talked to my Florida son last night. He was expecting my brother to arrive soon. My brother was flying to New Orleans and the flight was diverted to Tampa because of the storm in the South. Lucky he has a nephew there! We also discussed my upcoming trip. Looks like I will taxi to his house from the airport -- he has some conflicts and cannot chauffeur.

January is almost over. One more month of hard winter. I can do it.

Property bill arrived

January 29th, 2014 at 08:35 am

No sooner did I mention it than it popped up in the mailbox. It is $1882. The first of two payments; the next will arrive in summer.

If my tax refund arrives before the due date, March 4, I'll be able to pay it without disrupting my savings.

I'm back at work today. Drove again, as the giant step up onto the train is still impossible. I practiced with small steps at PT last night and it was clear I have little control over my knee. I'm starting to wonder if it will ever improve. I suppose healing is slower as you age. (Another nifty perk of getting older -- NOT).

At least the sun is shining, and the temperatures are supposed to rise this afternoon.

I paid $1 for parking last night, and $9 came out of my account today for the World Wildlife Fund. (Because I DO want to save the polar bears.) Still under $300 and only two days to go.

I didn't get around to making the chicken teriyaki last night, so I'll do that tonight. Perhaps do a load of laundry if I'm feeling really perky.

This weather is making me gloomy, and I am fighting it, but boy, will I be glad to see spring.

Tax Refund

January 28th, 2014 at 07:56 am

I spent the day at home working remotely, but when the clock got past quitting time, I switched to doing my taxes. I am getting a $1040 refund! I was so pleased to think of it until I realized that property taxes are due soon, so the windfall will go toward that instead of into savings!

I used the free federal service on TaxActFree, and declined the state filing, which was not free. I can do that on paper. I see that I will have to pay $8 to the state -- can't see paying $$$ just to pay up $8.

The college is closed today, so I am at home, and don't have to work. Whoopee!

I've got the faucets dripping and a pot of water at a low boil on the stove. I can tell it's really cold outside, because it's cool inside, despite the radiators being on full blast. Just have to bundle up a bit more.

I have to go to PT tonight, and it looks like I'll have to clean off the car to do it. Nuts. Wish they would cancel, too.

Planning to make the filling for sweet onion teriyaki chicken sandwiches later today. Maybe I'll bake some cookies, too. I had French toast for breakfast. Obviously, I'm into comfort food today!

$300 Challenge Update

January 27th, 2014 at 09:02 am

I've spent $278 in my $300 challenge. With only four days left in the month, I think I've made it!

I even counted the second fill-up of gas, although it was work-related. I figure that in retirement there will always be the potential for some unexpected expense sneaking up on you.

I'm working at home again. Wind chill factors are 20 below. Even though it is bright and sunny, I don't feel safe commuting in weather like this. Maybe tomorrow I'll venture out. I hope I'm not ticking off my employers -- frankly, I don't see why the college isn't closed, considering every school in the area is closed.

But it seems that the cold will stay long-term, so I have to come out of my cocoon eventually. I guess I will try it tomorrow. It's just that with "advanced" years, a bad knee, and a long, long commute, throwing in bad weather seems to tip the balance.

I will be so glad to see the end of winter; also to begin retirement, now matter how financially challenging it may be.

I spent the afternoon at my son's house yesterday. We played Carcasonne with the boys -- it's a great game for adults to play with children, enjoyable for all. The seven-year-old won!

My niece is getting married in July, so that is something new to save for. I think I may have to give up my Las Vegas vacation, which was scheduled in July to coincide with a conference. Well, I won't be sent to the conference, so it would be on me to pay for the travel, hotel, and food. If I fund it myself, I won't actually attend the conference, just be there at the same time so I can visit with old friends who are attending. But now a July wedding will complicate things. A wedding means a gift, hotel and travel. And perhaps a dress, since everyone has seen my "wedding" dress about four times now! And it's really not the right weight for July.

I'm not feeling like I can do both. And a family wedding comes first.

Just three more weeks and I'll be in sunny Florida! What a relief that will be!

A Quiet Sunday

January 26th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Not a lot going on today. Getting updates about my BIL and friend. Looks like my BIL will go into a rehab facility next week, and my friend, who winters in Florida, will go home to Indiana for more evaluation from her surgeon. She may be able to have brain surgery yet.

I did another load of laundry this morning so that I won't have to go out tomorrow and Tuesday. Unless it turns out that I DO have to go to work. Hope that I can work from home; I can't see the point of a dangerous commute when I can be just as productive at home.

I'm eating up that chicken casserole that didn't turn out. I've had two servings. The rest has gone into the freezer, divided into portions which I'll take for lunches. It actually tasted better today than it did yesterday, but I'll never make it again.

I've got a pot of water simmering on the stovetop, just to get a little moisture in the air.

My knee seems to be better, but I'm still far away from normal. I've discovered that my couch throw is great substitute for a yoga strap.

Speaking of yoga, I think I might investigate taking classes after I get back to normal. Flexibility is clearly a problem of mine, so a yoga class might be just the thing to get me limber in my declining years.

Watched really good old movie today, "Anatomy of a Murder." I've never seen it before, though I've seen bits of it. Great writing and acting!

Sobering Day

January 25th, 2014 at 05:26 pm

Well, it's been a sobering day. My knee has taken a back seat -- my brother-in-law is in the hospital and may have to do some long-term rehab (physical, not drug-related), and a friend has learned that radiation is not shrinking her brain tumor.

This morning, while at the grocery, an ambulance came and took away an elderly man on a stretcher.

Reminders all round that pain and suffering are all around, and a little knee pain isn't much to complain about.

I managed to do two loads of laundry this morning, and then bought my groceries. $3 for the laundry, and $52 for the groceries.

Yesterday I spent $30 on gas and $3 for a chicken sandwich on the way home. (It was a long drive -- Fridays are always the worst.)

I took a duffle bag with wheels to the grocery to sub as a utility cart. It was okay -- better than trying to carry the bags -- but it was heavy and not so easy to wheel up the steps. However, I bought 21 items, twice as many as usual, and I think it will work pretty well for smaller loads.

One of the things I bought at the grocery was a long-handled scrub brush to clean the bathtub, since I can't get on my knees to scrub it. I'm really learning how to adapt!

We are supposed to have another deep freeze, perhaps even worse than the one before, on Monday and Tuesday. I am already planning to work from home. I hope my boss will agree.

This has been a rugged winter -- I can't remember anything like this since the 70's. I am just very thankful I don't have to do any shoveling, and I know I will be really appreciative when spring arrives!

Passed Up Free Parking

January 24th, 2014 at 08:21 am

Went to PT last night and paid $1 to park at a meter right outside of the building. There was free parking in a parking garage two blocks away, but last night it just wasn't worth the walk in the bitter cold.

Not much progress yet on my knee, but I got a good massage on it.

Back at work today. I drove, and I'll have to get gas before I head home.

Yesterday I baked two loaves of cinnamon bread (wonderful!) then assembled a chicken casserole substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream. I haven't put it in the oven yet, but it's already curdled from the heat of the ingredients. Oh well, live and learn. I hope it's edible. I will eat it if it's just ugly!

I also substituted fresh spinach for fresh asparagus, so that may backfire on me, too.

Thinking about buying a utility cart to pull my groceries (and other things) up the stairs. Stair climbing while carrying heavy loads is probably what blew out my knee in the first place. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not young any more!

Another day at home

January 23rd, 2014 at 07:27 am

Late in the afternoon yesterday my boss texted me that it would be okay with her if I worked from home again today because the forecast was for bitter cold temperatures and wind chills below zero. I was very grateful. Not just because of the cold, but because that gives me another day to rest my knee.

Working from home is working pretty well, except that the remote access to my work computer is a little wonky. It freezes up and I have to reconnect often. But I'm not complaining, it's better than making the commute!

I talked to my property manager yesterday to inquire how I would be reimbursed for the bogus late fee I paid. They said they would mail me a check, which is fine. I would rather not fool around with the automatic payment now that it's correctly set to the new fee structure. So that means the amount I have left for discretionary spending is up to $105. I can make that $50 grocery trip to Jewel and use that $5 coupon. Hate to ever pass up a $5 coupon! I'm working on a list now.

The cold outside is making my kitchen cold as well. There is no radiator in the kitchen, and it faces an exterior wall. So I'm going to do some baking. I'm going to make some kind of sweet bread, and some kind of chicken casserole. Just need to do a little research on what to make with the ingredients I have on hand.

My knee feels better today, but I know I'm not out of the woods yet. I go back to PT tonight -- hoping I will learn more about the best way to heal.

If my knee is still a problem at month's end, I MAY not buy a train pass. I have a vacation in February anyway. It may be wisest to commute by car until March, with the hope that by then I will be able to walk and do steps without straining my knee.

The Ongoing Saga ...

January 22nd, 2014 at 08:56 am

... of the knee.

It's worse today. Last night while descending the stairs, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my knee, buckled, and fell on my butt. No harm done to my butt, but my knee is definitely getting worse instead of better.

I did keep my appointment with PT but I seem to be getting nowhere. They can't do anything until the pain calms down. The therapist gave me a knee massage and checked my form on the exercises. But the simple stretching exercises seem to be making it worse. I'm discouraged. The therapist mentioned the possibility of surgery (in the future), which is the last thing I want.

I'm at home today, working remotely. What worries me is, I don't know when I'll be really mobile again. I don't know what I'll do tomorrow. I am sure I cannot make the big step onto the train in this condition. Nor could I climb the stairs to the platform. But driving takes a lot of gas, and it's hazardous in this weather.

Remote access to my work computer is not working very well. I keep getting kicked out.

Frustration, frustration.

Anybody else see a Jewel Osco ad on this site? It's a coupon to save $5 on a $50 order. I snagged it, since that is my main store. However, it expires on the 29th. I really don't want to spend $50 before the end of the month -- that's about all I have left in my $300 challenge. And chances are I will have to fill the tank again, at least once, to get to work.

Frustration, frustration.

Went to Work

January 21st, 2014 at 07:16 am

Against all reason and logic, I drove to work this morning. I should have stayed home. There was a snow dump last night and the roads were horrible, as well as the temperature. But I had no incidents, just a very careful, slow ride.

I went to work because I thought I had to approve the students' time cards, and I didn't want them to lose out on their pay. Turns out I was on the wrong week anyway! Oh well, good intentions.

I'm going to leave early so I don't end up driving in the dark. I have a physical therapy appointment at six anyway.

Had my son's family over for dinner last night. DIL has offered to do laundry tonight, and I will take her up on it.

My everyday spending this month is at $245, so I have $55 left for the month to meet the challenge.

Ouch, ouch, ouch

January 20th, 2014 at 08:50 am

Yes, this is real pain, not financial pain.

I must have overdone my stretching exercises. My knee is worse. I was warned about this so it is my own fault. Guess I didn't know just how gentle the stretch was supposed to be. I seem to have riled up a new pain on the side of my knee. Aleve didn't help yesterday and sleeping was difficult. I think it's a little better today. I did my stretches this morning but really dialed back.

I forgot to mention that when I went to the physical therapist, I walked past an alcove with a door that was unmarked -- hence, not a business, that I could see. The curious thing was that there appeared to be a bag of coins in a blue plastic bag sitting outside the door, but tucked inside the alcove. Because the plastic was blue, I couldn't be sure it was coins, but it sure looked that way. Well, despite the fact that I will stoop to pick up a penny, I walked by. It somehow seemed like stealing -- surely it was there for some purpose? It was very curious. The bag was the size of a large cantaloupe -- I think there was a lot of money in there, as I don't think it was all pennies!

I actually did navigate the stairs yesterday and did a load of laundry. I did the old-lady double-step and never put my whole weight on the bad knee. I have another load to do, but I'm hoping I can talk my son's family into coming over for a meal today and schlepping the laundry for me. Stairs seem to be the worst thing of all.

I am considering working from home tomorrow. Officially we are not supposed to work from home, according to HR, but a lot of people do it -- for lesser reasons than this. However, I think there is a meeting tomorrow that I should attend. Since I DO have to keep this job for another year and seven months, I suppose I should make the effort. I will have to drive, for not only is the walk to the station not a good idea, the steps to the platform and the BIG step onto the train would be suicide. Suicide for my knee, not me!

But driving is expensive, especially when I have already paid for the train pass. Oh well, I have learned that health comes first, even before frugality!

Grounded!

January 19th, 2014 at 07:47 am

My visit with the physical therapist yesterday was eye-opening. She told me she sees lots of issues, lots to work on, but believes we can make a great deal of progress. My biggest problem right now is the pain in the back of my knee, and she wants me to baby it, which means cutting back on the walking and stair climbing for two weeks.

Well, I can manage to cut back on walking by driving to work, but the stairs are a problem. She suggested that I take baby steps on the stairs, but even that hurts. I started to take my laundry down this morning and quickly changed my mind. I have decided to just stay in my condo for the whole three-day weekend and see if that helps. Maybe I'll do some hand-washing. Maybe I'll even get wild and try doing laundry in the shower!

Anyway, she gave me three different stretching exercises to do, and scheduled me for six weeks of therapy. While this is daunting, I am feeling encouraged that I might really be able to shake some pain that I've suffered with for a long time.

She gave me an exercise band to use for my exercises. She told me I could buy a yoga strap, but actually this freebie seems to work quite well.

She is not a fan of ACE bandages; feels they can hurt as much as help by inhibiting natural movement.

On the way home from the therapist I stopped at the grocery. I spent my $25 gift card and then spent $34 above that. Only 16 items, too, but some were expensive -- I got a big bottle of Advil, and a 4-lb package of boneless chicken breasts.

I hope the groceries will last me a while because I don't want to shop again until my knee is better.

I paid $2 for parking. I hope that the succeeding appointments will be shorter, so I can stay within the one-hour free parking window.

On Friday I picked up my vacuum, which cost $22. I picked up a free book at the used book shop next door. Then I went to Goodwill, where I bought a pair of jeans for $5 and a big pottery bowl for $3. I'm going to give the bowl to my friend whose bowl I broke. It isn't the same bowl, but it's similar in size and color. Since her bowl is no longer in production, I think she'll understand -- especially since she insisted that I didn't need to find a replacement at all. She is a Goodwill fan and will not be offended by a second-hand gift.

Back to the jeans. They are LA Blues and seem brand new. I was down to one pair of jeans and felt I needed a back-up pair.

I also spent $1 on a cutting board.

So it's a quiet weekend for me. Not exactly what I'd planned on, but I'll make the best of it.

Another snowflake!

January 17th, 2014 at 06:18 am

I won't log it until I get it, but I just earned a $10 Amazon credit for taking a survey about social media at my business. I don't think this is open to everyone, so, sorry, I can't provide a link!

My board meeting downtown was interesting. My only spending was $2 I gave to a panhandler. This is actually a selfish act on my part -- I feel better if I give a little something than I do when I just walk by!

I got an excellent free box lunch from Cosi at the meeting.

The bad news is, I pulled the sore tendon in my leg again and now it hurts worse than ever. I can barely navigate the stairs -- which is a problem, since I live on the second floor in a building with no elevator! I'm going to physical therapy tomorrow morning for my evaluation, so I'm hopeful I will find some relief.

Two New Snowflakes!

January 15th, 2014 at 06:41 am

Last night I went to Osco and picked up my prescription and my $25 gift card, which I can use for groceries at Jewel. And this morning I signed up for e-statements from my credit union and got a $5 credit!

My prescription has gone up from $5 to $7. I don't think that's a result of changing pharmacies, I think it's from changing insurance plans. Anyway, I think I can handle it! The good news about changing my plan is that it puts $55 extra in each paycheck. Every little bit helps!

I dropped off my vacuum, and should hear today how much it will cost.

I had one of my terrible nights when I couldn't sleep. I woke up at 1:30 AM, and I didn't fall back asleep. At four I just got up for the day. I'm okay now, but I will be good and tired tonight. Good thing I'm not driving today.

I made a brief stop at a Goodwill and found a beautiful Christmas mug and an ornament shaped like a violin. .31 for the pair! Their seasonal merchandise was 75% off.

$124 left in the $300 challenge.

Oh, I almost forgot! Today is payday, so I paid off the Discover card and paid my mortgage! Despite the large Discover bill, I didn't have to use the EF, which makes me so happy!

Vacuum Repair Challenges

January 14th, 2014 at 07:21 am

Yesterday I drove to work mainly so I could drop off the vacuum cleaner for repair. Well, the shop was closed. It closes every Monday. Too bad I didn't check that out in advance.

I looked around for another shop I could stop at on the way home. But when I found it, it was shuttered and it looked like there was some kind of legal notice on the door. WTF??? Am I just not destined to get this vacuum fixed?

So I drove again today and will take it to the shop I originally planned to go to. They've worked on the same vacuum before, so maybe it's just as well.

I stopped for gas this morning - $24. And I shipped a package of books to my sister yesterday - $6. I have $132 left in my $300 challenge.

My Florida son called last night with different options for my trip in February. Basically, he has been talking to my cousin, who would like to engineer a family get-together on SuperBowl weekend. While I think that would be really fun, the point of my trip is to help my son with his garage sale. I can't do both. Not quite sure what to do!

On Thursday I have a board meeting in the city. Not sure how it will impact me financially. I hope that the location is near enough the station so that I can walk and won't incur a taxi fare. It also looks like lunch is provided, so I don't have to worry about that. Maybe the meeting will not cost me anything. I do hope the weather cooperates.

I forgot to pick up my prescription yesterday and thus didn't get my $25 gift card yet. Must remember tonight!

Weekend Catch-Up

January 13th, 2014 at 07:28 am

Just received another $38.16 in Cash Back rewards from Discover. Also, a new freebie on the sidebar -- a co-worker gave me a half-pound of cheddar cheese that she was going to throw out because she thought it had sat out too long. (It was fine.)

I had to do some catch-up grocery shopping this weekend due to the extreme weather. Still, I only spent $61, and bought only 19 items. So it was kind of like a two-week shopping trip rolled into one.

I also did three loads of laundry ($4.50), exchanged some light bulbs at Home Depot, and transferred a prescription to Osco. I'll get a $25 gift certificate for Jewel when I pick up the prescription tonight. I'll have to keep an eye on my Discover account for the Home Depot transaction -- so far only the new charge has posted, not the credit for returning the bulbs.

My vacuum cleaner tried to eat a blanket (okay, it was my fault). I pulled it out, but now the beater bar is not turning. I took a look, but couldn't figure out how to fix it. So I bundled the vacuum in the car this morning and I'll be taking it in for repair at lunchtime. Since I drove, I also brought a package to mail -- books to my sister. And I may be be getting gas - if the tank went below halfway down, I'll get some cheap gas while I'm in the western suburbs.

Finally got my insurance card, but no Discover It card yet.

My son came over and took down my air conditioners and helped me get the Christmas paraphernalia into the storage unit in the basement. Now I feel like I'm ready for the rest of the winter.

$300 challenge -- I'm $123 down, about halfway through the month.

No further word on whether the $50 late penalty will be reimbursed.

Ouch!

January 11th, 2014 at 06:06 am

I opened my email this morning and learned that I had been charged a $50.00 late fee because I didn't change the amount of my automatic payment to my property management company. I was aware that the assessment fee was going up, but for some reason didn't realize that I would have to change the automatic payment myself.

That's $50 from my $300 challenge. For nothing! But I will count it, because after retirement life will continue to be full of surprises.

Hoping my new Discover It card will arrive in the mail today. I want to use it to buy an airline ticket to Florida, and also to purchase a year of service on Straight Talk. Those two purchases will go toward the $750 required to get my bonus. (Neither will come out of the challenge. Utilities and phone are already counted in fixed expenses; airline travel will probably come out of savings when I'm retired. If I decide I must fly.)

My new medical insurance card arrived in the mail yesterday. So I'll now get on making those physical therapy appointments.

No-Spend Days

January 10th, 2014 at 07:36 am

Yesterday was a no-spend day. In fact, I have had 6 no-spend days this month! Challenging winter weather really puts a kibosh on the spending!

I am tracking my variable spending, too, with the plan of keeping it under $300. So far I have spent $28. I am about 1/3 through the month, so doing great! This includes the doctor bill, a hamburger at the station, and my Netflix bill. Netflix isn't counted in my fixed expenses because it is a want and not a need.

I got my Christmas package from my Florida son yesterday. The reason it was so late was that he had been hoping his father would bring them back for me, but my ex said he had no room in his luggage. Exes! So my son mailed it after Christmas.

Anyway, he and his wife did a great job with little money. The best gift was a photobook they had made with pictures of my granddaughter. The package also included two framed pictures of her, a book, and a package of Keurig cups. I'm pretty sure the Keurig cups were from their kitchen (I had told them I needed some for work), and I'm guessing that the book and frames were secondhand. But they were all in perfect shape and in perfect taste. Somehow, knowing that they had so little to spend made it all the more special to me. He's a chip off the old block!

A new snowflake

January 9th, 2014 at 06:18 am

I got my $30 cash reward from Discover for making a purchase over $1000. It went into my snowflakes.

I paid a doctor bill yesterday for $19. I charged it to my flex-spending card, and I think my balance on it is probably too low, but I'm not sure. So I will let them run it and tell me. I don't think I can apply it to this year's flex spending fund because the appointment was in December.

The temperature continues to hover around zero. I am more than ready for the warm-up. However, I can tell it's warmer than it was by the comfort level in my condo. Much better.

Really need to grocery shop this weekend but I am more determined than ever to stick to 10 items. I was considering making it an Aldi trip, but I want to transfer a prescription to Osco to get a $25 reward. So, Jewel it is! And while I am there, I will buy quarters. This will have to wait until Sunday, the day after my Discover card cycle closes.

I also really need to do laundry! And, I need to get my son's help to take out the air conditioners and get the Christmas stuff stored in the basement. If I can just get those things done I will be satisfied.

My new insurance card has still not arrived. I've been told that the weather has interfered with the distribution -- apparently the cards were being shipped out of Indiana, where a major highway was shut down. I am waiting on that card before I make my physical therapy appointment. Meanwhile, my leg is worse than ever. Navigating over the ice and snow is not helping!

The good news is, it's my second day of work this week and it's already Thursday!

Back in Action

January 8th, 2014 at 08:27 am

Back to work today! It was a cold walk to the station, but not terrible, and the temperature is starting to climb. All the walks were plowed; the only challenging part was climbing over the mountains of snow at every corner.

I took the train yesterday evening to the parking garage one stop north where I picked up my car. No incidents to report -- the gates were still up, the drive was fine. I let the car warm up for a long time before I started out. I found a parking place on the street that was nicely cleared out. Of course, if it snows again, we start all over again!

Today I have my first freebies to report. The break room is full of food. I took a scone, which I will save for tomorrow's breakfast, and an apple. Then our secretary insisted I try some cookies she brought in.

I just spoke to a Discover agent and learned I was approved for the new card. It should arrive in a few days. That will earn a $150 bonus for $750 in spending -- if memory serves. I also got another card from Chase offering a $125 bonus for opening an account. I might just do it. I'll have to read it over carefully, but it doesn't look like they are asking for direct deposit.

I need to buy a ticket to Florida, but I'm going to try to hold off until the new cycle on the credit card. I can pay it in full IF I don't put anything new on it. I just hope the fares don't jump between now and then.

Well, as much as I enjoyed my days burrowing inside, it's good to be out and about in the world again. My office is definitely warmer than home, too! But home will be warmer once I get those air conditioners out of the windows and stop the draft. What a big mistake that was, to leave them in. I took them down last year, but it's so much work, and I hate to have to ask my son to do it. Lesson learned.





Home Again

January 7th, 2014 at 11:52 am

The College is open today, but I am not there. When it is still below zero, I am not walking to the station -- besides, the trains have had all sorts of switching problems, forcing many to wait for hours. I do not want to part of that scenario.

I texted my boss this morning and simply said I would work from home. It appears, from the email I'm getting, that not many others are in the office. Including my boss.

I'm really looking forward to the weekend, when the temperatures rise to the 30's. (Could that be?)

I checked out "Extreme Cheapskates" on Netflix and I'm disappointed that the producers obviously went for the weird and sensational. I would like to pick up some tips, not be grossed out! They make frugal people look like crazies. Seems like there is no middle ground in the media between this and those annoying "tips" about how to save on your next Hawaiian getaway -- or how to save big money by paying your bills on time! Big whoop!

I'm going to work tomorrow, but first I have to get my car out of the downtown garage. And that means I have to take the train one stop north to get there. And I have to do it tonight, or I will have to pay for parking. Who knows how much? Three days worth? I don't know how they will figure it. I just know I have to get it. Thank goodness, the plowing is done and I now have a place to park it!

Chillin' at Home

January 6th, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I say chillin' because it's chilly. I am bundled up, but the cold is seeping in.

Work was cancelled today -- practically everything in this area is closed. The temperature is in the double digits below zero -- and that's not the wind chill. It's real. I do not intend to step outside today.

I would probably be warmer if I had taken out my air conditioners when I should have. Now it's too cold to even mess with it. When the temps come up again, I'll call my son and get it done.

I got my claim code for $50 on Amazon from MyPoints. That's my second snowflake of the year.

I am leaving my oven on all day because the kitchen is freezing. Every once in a while I bake something. This morning I made mushroom rolls; then later on I made corn muffins. In a while I'll make escalloped potatoes. It's kind of like having an Aga! I will have a bigger gas bill this month, but I need the extra heat.

I watched Downton Abbey this morning on Xfinity, having completely forgotten about the new season starting last night. I will really enjoy having that to look forward to again!

I don't know if work will be called off again tomorrow, but even if the college reopens, I won't go back until the temperature normalizes. I can't make a six-block walk in weather like this.

I got my car parked in one of the downtown garages yesterday. That's a relief. I don't have to worry about moving it for the snowplows. It's free until tomorrow night at midnight. Since the snow has stopped, I should be able to park it tomorrow evening with no problem.

$5 from Swagbucks

January 5th, 2014 at 06:35 am

I just redeemed a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks, my first snowflake of the year!

We have a lot of new snow on the ground, and the temperature is going down again. I would like to stay in all day, but I may have to move the car. Make that, probably have to move the car. I'm parked on an even side of the street and it's an odd day. It's Sunday, but I don't think that matters.

I have the makings for Hawaiian pork over rice, and I texted my son to let him know I'm offering it for lunch or dinner today. No reply yet. Since he is just a block away, it would be no problem to walk over there and make it, even in a snow emergency!

I think I may bake cookies or something later in the day. There is no radiator in the kitchen, so it's always good to have something in the oven on these cold days! I think I'll make oatmeal cranberry cookies, so they can serve as breakfast cookies.

Everybody stay warm!

A Harrowing Night

January 4th, 2014 at 11:56 am

Everyone must be tired of hearing about my train adventures, but I had a new one last night. I've seen others do this, but I never have done it before -- I got on the wrong train.

I was at the downtown station, thus, halfway home. My train had been switched to a different track, and was not yet boarding. I went into the lobby to wait in warmth. When I came back out I saw that the train doors were open and I went in.

The WRONG train doors! Since it was dark outside, I didn't even know I was on the wrong train until I heard the next stop announced. I almost said to the passenger next to me, "Did you hear that? Must be the wrong tape." Then I looked out the window and realized that I was actually heading back the same way I had come in.

I got off at the next stop. It was a station I had been at before, and didn't like. I didn't like it again. It is open and unheated. Dirty. Scary.

I saw the train coming in the opposite direction, the train I needed to catch to get me back downtown. But the ramp to go under the tracks was long -- very long. By the time I got back up on the other side, the train was pulling away. And I had an hour to wait.

It was so bitterly cold. I walked over to a shopping center and browed in an Old Navy store just to be warm. I saw nothing at all that interested me. Then I went to Caribou Coffee, to see if they had a sandwich or something. On my way in, a homeless man asked for money. I said, "I'm sorry," and I noticed he had one arm.

I looked around in Caribou, but didn't see anything I wanted to eat, and I didn't want to get coffee. I was feeling pretty dejected and a little frightened. I went back out and handed a five-dollar bill to the homeless man, feeling it was money better spent that way. He looked me in the eyes and warmly thanked me, and I realized he was younger than I'd thought. It was so sad.

I walked back to the station, giving myself plenty of time so I wouldn't miss the train. I got onto the platform and heard an announcement that the train would approach from the other side. So it was back on that long ramp again to get under the tracks. I waited on that platform for probably 10 minutes or so, but the temperature was dive-bombing. Even inside my insulated mittens my fingers were starting to feel numb, and I was beginning to worry about frostbite. The train finally came, and I made my way back to the city. I had another 30-minute wait at the downtown station, so I got a hamburger. And at least there, I could wait in warmth.

Meanwhile, I was texting back and forth with my son, because I had been expected for dinner. He said he would pick me up at my home station, because it was too cold to walk. And he did. And he brought me some soup and crackers. So it was a good ending! But what a night! I got home at 8:30, after having first got on the train at 4:15.

So I haven't been out all day, and don't plan to, unless the kids want me to come over there.

I did do two loads of laundry this morning. The steps were clear and dry. It's cold, but not as cold as it will be on Monday when below-zero temperatures are predicted. I have already told my boss I will work from home.

Now I'm just trying to shake off my laziness. I have much to do, but not much enthusiasm. But I'm really, really glad to be safe at home!

Better Weather & Plans, Plans, Plans

January 3rd, 2014 at 07:55 am

Well, weather-wise, it's a much better day. The sun is shining on our 14 inches of snow. It's COLD out there, but the walk today was so much better than yesterday's, with no flakes in my face, and the walkways cleared.

Next week, below-zero temps are predicted. I will not walk in that weather. I will work from home.

I haven't talked much about my (financial) snowflakes, since I don't earn very many. But I closed out 2013 with almost $800 in snowflakes. Next year, I hope to top that. I just applied for the Discover It card that Ceejay recommended, so that would bring in $150 for a starter. I'm also expecting a $50 Amazon gift card from MyPoints.

My imminent goal is to charge nothing until January 12, when my current Discover bill cycle closes. I have a bit of cash, but I will try not to spend that either. Then I plan to pay the bill in full, without having to go to my EF.

My secondary goal this month is to spend only $300 on variables. However, I do have to buy a plane ticket to Florida for a trip in February, and I just won't count that in the $300, obviously. If I were retired already, I either wouldn't go, or I would pull the money from my EF. But I'm not going to "practice" retirement quite that rigidly.

The Florida trip is to help my son with a garage sale. I'd say a massive garage sale, judging from the number of boxes in their garage! They will probably move at the end of the month, though at this point they don't know whether it will be to another Florida location or back to Chicago. But they know for sure they need to leave this rental which is too expensive for them.

I may choose to drive, and I may bring a friend to help. We'll see. I know in mid-February I'll be ready for some sunshine!

That Wasn't Snow

January 2nd, 2014 at 08:24 am

THIS is snow! We are supposed to get 10 inches today, but it looks like we have it already. And it is coming down steadily.

I walked to the station in almost complete isolation. I walked in the street except when I got to the busiest one. (And it wasn't busy, but I didn't want to take a chance.) I expected to be almost alone at work, but it looks like at least half the office has made it. Some have called, saying they tried, but turned around when they couldn't get through.

Of course, being a train rider, I can always get through, as long as I can get to the station.

Nothing financial to report! I spent nothing yesterday, and expect to spend nothing today, unless I do a load of laundry. However, I think the steps will be too treacherous to try that today, so I think I'll just let the laundry build up -- hand wash what I need to until the snow subsides.

My New Year's Brunch

January 1st, 2014 at 03:01 pm

I am so pleased with the way my brunch went today. Everybody came, there was enough food, it was good, and everyone seemed to have a good time. It's been a while since I cooked for a crowd, so I was a little nervous. But everyone said we need to do this every year, so I think it was a success.

No spending today.

It's snowing like crazy. It's been coming down steadily all day. I have to go to work tomorrow, even though it seems like the rest of the world doesn't. So I think I will be walking through a lot of snow. My traction coils worked great, but I learned they were very slippery on tile, and the downtown station is mostly tile! So I have to be more careful inside than I am outside.

I bought my January pass yesterday ($105) my last official purchase of the year.

I was all ready to join in the 52-week saving challenge, but my enthusiasm is waning. I already have a saving plan that is working (transferring everything in checking to savings on payday, rounded up to the next $100). I typically save more than the challenge offers. So I'm out.

But I'm going to stick to my plan to spend only $300 this month on variable spending. That should leave me a nice chunk of change to transfer to savings.

My niece offered me her air conditioners, since she has moved into a place with central air. I hope the offer holds; my air conditioners are antiques, and I would rather not have to buy new ones. Apparently hers are a lot newer.

Which reminds me, I think I will keep track of things I get free this year. It seems like a get a lot, but it would be fun to see it in writing.