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Archive for February, 2014

I Made It!

February 28th, 2014 at 06:55 am

It's the end of February, and even though I went over my challenge last week, I didn't let that open the floodgates. I kept my spending down to $312.

I found a penny last night, which evened up my found money to $32.

There were two great books at the station last night. At first I took only one, but upon reflection, I took the other as well. I generally only take one book at a time, but I've never seen anyone else take a book, in all the days I've ridden the train. Well, once. Just once. What gives? I suppose a lot of people use e-readers. And it looks like a lot of people just read the paper, or play games. I hope the library keeps donating books to the station!

In yesterday's Tip Hero, there was a link to Square Cash, which offered $1 to try their money-transfer system. I did! The $1 should appear in my bank account in a few days. There is no fee like PayPal, so I may use it in the future.

Another Cold Day

February 27th, 2014 at 07:23 am

This one is even colder than yesterday. My face hurt by the time I got to work. I started thinking about the Titanic victims and how painful it must have been to freeze in the icy water!

I slipped on the ice on the way in -- quite a slide, in fact, but I didn't fall, and I didn't wrench my leg. Just another month, and I won't be thinking about these things at all.

All spending is on hold till Saturday. I forgot to pack my breakfast this morning, but I had some leftovers from yesterday's lunch. What's the matter with quiche and peas for breakfast? Smile I did remember to pack some stew for lunch. And I have raw carrots and celery in the fridge as well.

I bought my train ticket; perhaps the last one for a while. One of my train-mates challenged me about the cost of driving. He couldn't believe that it wouldn't be more money to drive. I understand where he's coming from, but I want to test it out in April before I make that decision. However, if my employer does reactivate the voucher program, I'm on the train for sure.

I realized yesterday I don't have to pay the Discover bill before pay day. That's great; that means I can transfer some money into savings on pay day! I really want to get the slush fund back to $2,000, and I want to add to the emergency fund, too.

Nice!

February 26th, 2014 at 07:44 am

I did a survey for LinkedIn this morning that paid $5. Then I checked the Discover site and found $169.73 in cash back rewards! $150 of that is the bonus for spending more than $750.

It's a deep freeze again, and yesterday I thought I might work from home today. However, I have a meeting, and anyway, it's so frustrating to work from home because the connection to my work computer is always kicking me out.

I was very tempted to drive today so I could skip the cold walk, but I knew I would have to fill the tank if I drove. So I walked to the station, and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I must be getting hardened to this!

Sometimes that's what frugality is all about. Just doing things you don't feel like doing, but that pay off in the long run. I'm going to get through this month without spending any more! I've spent $312 instead of $300 in my challenge, but I'm not going to say "I failed" and stop trying. I'm going to keep it at $312, by golly.

Last night I went to Physical Therapy, and took the train instead of driving. That's just a little savings, as it wouldn't take much gas, but I've already paid for the train ticket, so every ride I take is a "free" ride.

I walked around Barnes & Noble while killing time for the next train, and I didn't see a thing that tempted me.

My knee is better, my hip is worse. My therapist says this is common, since it's all related by muscle and nerves. The key is to make my hip muscles stronger. I'm doing exercises, and I have to learn to walk differently. I can't "mince." I have to stride, and push off with my heel. That will be easier when the ground isn't covered with ice. Smile

My son called me yesterday to let me know he was driving to a promising interview in Atlanta. I am SO hopeful that this will work out. It sounds like a perfect fit for his skills, and we would all be happy with the location. It's closer than Florida, and he would still be in a temperate climate!

Another new credit card application

February 25th, 2014 at 07:07 am

Just applied for the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card, which will pay a $100 bonus after spending $500. I don't know if I will be approved because of the adverse account with Macy's on my credit record. I got a fax from Macy's yesterday verifying they were taking it off, but I don't know how the timing is going to work out. I decided to go for the new card, anyway, since it's a pretty good bonus ratio for a low-spending amount, and unlike those with families, I can't afford to spend large amounts on a credit card. Just hope it won't hurt my credit rating any more, though for the life of me I don't know what I need a credit rating for at my stage of life.

My new Discover It statement closes today, so I expect to see my $150 bonus soon.

I got through the day yesterday without buying food. I had a granola bar and oatmeal in my desk, which got me through the day (also got a couple of mini chocolate bars from a co-worker). Not very nutritious! But once I was home I had a serving of a very veggie-rich beef stew I made over the weekend. Surprisingly, I wasn't very hungry throughout the day.

Today I packed plenty of food!

I had a sleepless night and struggled to get in to work this morning. I hear that tomorrow will bring in another deep freeze, so I anticipate working from home tomorrow. Today I have a lot of work to do, and a required webinar to watch, so physically coming in was a must.

This evening I'll buy my last "cheap" train ticket. Our VP is talking to Human Resources about finding a way to continue the voucher program. We'll see. I'm not holding my breath.

Only three more days in February. I almost met the $300 challenge and I plan to continue spending nothing till the end of the month to stay in the spirit of the challenge. (Train ticket doesn't count.) Ironically, I'm not going to have a lot to transfer into savings this month, but that's because I basically paid my property taxes out of my cash flow. Which is a win right there!

Weekend Spending and Cat Litter Review

February 24th, 2014 at 07:18 am

My weekend spending took me over my $300 challenge. I spent $35 at the grocery store, $32 at PetSmart, and $2 for a drink from a drive-through (I was parched). I am only over by about $10, which is about the cost of the gravel cleaner I got at PetSmart. I could have waited on that, but since time is more scarce than money right now, I decided to get it while I was there at PetSmart -- and I needed to buy cat litter and fish food.

I could say that the $30 I spent on a donation was a work-related expense, since it went toward an office gift, but I counted it because, in truth, it was a gift in memory of a friend's daughter, not just an office gift to me.

The memorial service was lovely and moving. I had the special thrill of hearing that the very words I had written to the mother were shared in her eulogy as something that gave her a bit of comfort in her despair. That is so meaningful to me. You never know when you are going to make a difference, however small.

This morning I had trouble waking up, and I had to change the cat litter, so my morning routine was shortened. I didn't have time to pack food. I had a granola bar in my desk, and I have oatmeal for later. That probably won't hold me, though. I have a decision to make whether to go hungry or break the terms of my challenge -- even though, in a sense, I've already failed.

Speaking of cat litter, I promised I would offer a review of Nature's Miracle Easy Care Crystals. Here it is. It's more expensive. One 8-lb. bag does not last quite a month for my two cats, and it costs $15. It does offer superior odor control until the crystals get saturated, at which point you have to change the litter. Cleaning out the used litter is not easy. I was glad I have an extra pan so I could put it into use while the other pan soaks. It does not track nearly as badly as clay litter, and it is not at all dusty. It is very easy to scoop out the poop and stir the crystals on a daily basis. In summary, I like it well enough that I bought another bag, but I do wish it were a bit cheaper.

FICO Score

February 21st, 2014 at 06:55 am

After reading about some of you getting your FICO score from Discover, I did the same. I was pretty surprised that it was only 785! It made a reference to "late payment" which is pretty wonky, since I am the queen of paying on time. So I ordered my credit reports. Turns out Macy's is on my record as an "adverse account!" Here's the story -- I made an $8 purchase at Macy's, never got a bill, and I completely forgot about it. Three months later they left a voicemail about my account. I called back, and found out I was overdue and now owed $40 because of late fees. I talked the rep into dropping one of the fees and paid $31 to settle. Then a mystery $2 charge started appearing. (I was now watching the account online). After trying to get someone to tell me what it was for, I finally just paid the $2 to end it. I thought it was all settled and done. And I was reported to the credit bureau for this! I bought something for $8, ended up paying $33, and got reported!

Luckily, I talked to nice person who could see the folly here. Because my address was in their system wrong (I have a weird address that causes lots of trouble) they believed me that I didn't get a bill, and therefore could remove the adverse report from my record. I hope it really gets done. I don't really trust anyone at this point.

And I don't think I'll shop at Macy's any time soon.

Last night I did take the train to Physical Therapy and then took it back to my home station. Now I know I can do it. It was windy and rainy and the puddles were lakes -- and ice under the water everywhere. So it wasn't fun doing the ground part of my travel! I almost drove today because of that, but this morning, even though it is very windy, it seemed less treacherous than last night.

My only spending yesterday was a $30 donation toward an office gift to a children's charity in memory of my former boss's daughter. I think I shared some time back that she had undergone a heart transplant. While at first it seemed that everything went well, in the end, her kidneys -- not her heart -- failed, and she was taken off life support last week. Such a sad ending after so much hope. Her mother is devastated. I'll be going to the memorial service on Sunday.

But tonight I get to babysit my grandsons! I sure will hug them tight!

Budget Changes

February 20th, 2014 at 07:52 am

Well, I think I've already reported that I will have to pay $30 more for my train pass after March. That made me wonder if it was still more economical to get the pass than to drive. I got onto one of those online mileage calculators, and according to it, it will be cheaper to drive -- even factoring in the $100 parking pass. I don't know. The problem is there is a lot of idling in rush hour traffic, so I don't know if it is accurate. On the other hand, I wouldn't be paying for transportation on the days I stay home, unlike with the train pass, which is a flat monthly fee. I think in April, I will test it out. See how much it truly costs to drive instead of ride for one month.

My other budget change is the $20 increase for cable/internet. I don't feel like hassling with Comcast again. Whatever happened to customer-driven service? Not profitable, I guess. I think I will confer with my son, who is my techie expert, to see if I can viably drop cable. My fear is that it will mean upgrading my TV, which is an old-fashioned tube.

Just when you think everything is on auto-pilot, someone changes the rules!

Today it is raining and thunderstorms and heavy winds are predicted. There is danger of flooding. That doesn't affect my property, which is on the second floor, but it may get into the basement, where my storage unit is. Most things are in Rubbermaid containers or off the floor, so I think I'm okay. The only piece at risk is a wooden headboard and footboard. I should prop them up on something.

All the streets and sidewalks are already like swimming lanes. I dread picking my way back to the station after work. I have PT tonight, so I think I will ride the train straight to that exit, and then train back to my home station after the session. That way I won't have to bother with moving the car or finding parking. However, it might be icy if the temperature drops. Decisions, decisions.

One more budget change -- my smartphone costs me about $50 a month, whereas my old flip phone, on a prepaid plan, cost about $35 per month. So altogether I have about $65 in monthly increases to make up for. Oh, that doesn't even count the rise in assessment fees, which was about $15. Need to put my thinking cap on.

As for my $300 challenge -- I'm still on track, since my vacation expenses aren't counted in that. Still have $94 left for the month. With only 8 days left, that's quite doable.

Back from Florida

February 19th, 2014 at 11:18 am

Well, it was a nice vacation. All the Floridians complained that it was cold, but it felt wonderful to me!

I'm tired, because we did a lot of work, but made $400 on the garage sale. For only one day and one family, I think that's pretty good.

The trip was expensive. On top of the airline ticket of $217, I spent $230 on taxis, $146 on eating out, $70 on gas, $39 on groceries, $16 on gifts/souvenirs, and $50 to check a bag there and back.

Yes, that's right, more on taxis than on the plane. The killer was the $96 fare from the Tampa airport to my son's home. He couldn't pick me up because he was still traveling himself, and had a carload. Of course, he didn't expect that the fare would be so much. Then the two fares in Chicago were around $40 each.

On the way back my flight was cancelled and I had an extra day in Florida. They routed me to New York and then to Chicago the next day. Luckily the re-route didn't cost me anything extra since I could just stay with my son the extra night.

My son is stressed. He hasn't worked since December, because the airfield lost a helicopter to mechanical issues, and thus has even less work to offer. He is moving in with his aunt and uncle (Dad's side) next month while he sends out resumes and tracks down a new job. He and his wife had savings but have finally run out. He does have lots of family support, not only from me, but from his dad's family and his wife's family. I pray that he will find something soon.

I came home and immediately paid my property tax of $1881. I also found out that my Comcast bill has jumped $20 -- my promotion ran out. They don't have a new one. I need to think about this, but I'm too tired right now.

Countdown to Vacation

February 11th, 2014 at 06:35 am

I prepaid for my taxi to the airport yesterday - $35. I also bought some valentines and candy for my grandsons at Walgreens. After my rewards redemption the cost was $7. And this morning I bought breakfast at McDonalds for $5. That was a splurge. It was a bad-winter-poor-me treat. On the up side, I got another Pine Cone payment. Good thing; I've been really lax about Swagbucks.

I drove today since I need to make a stop on the way home for garage sale labels. Also, my knee really hurt yesterday; I think the walk to and from the station was hard on it. The terrain is so uneven with piled-up ice and snow, it's like an obstacle course.

Tonight I have physical therapy. I also need to pack, and I should do a load of laundry, although it isn't a necessity. I have enough clean clothes to pack.

I am looking forward to warm weather, a few days away from the office, and my granddaughter's beautiful face!

The Monday News

February 10th, 2014 at 06:28 am

I had a nice weekend. On Friday night, after I got gas ($25) I went to Goodwill to look for a dress. As it usually goes, I didn't find that but found something else I've been looking for -- a baking dish. This one is made of glass and will double as a serving bowl - $4. I also picked up some Halloween knick-knacks for $1.50. They are so nice I actually might gift them.

Then I went to the new Chick-Fil-A with my free sandwich coupon. I waited in a LONG line -- everyone else had the same idea! But I was in no hurry. I bouth a diet coke for $1.58. I always hate to just get a free item and nothing else!

On Saturday I grocery shopped - $39 -- and then went to Chili's and The Lego Movie with my son's family. Lunch was $7 and so was the movie.

On Sunday I went to see "Labor Day" with my DIL's mom, which was no cost to me because she insisted on paying! She says I feed her a lot, which is no big deal to me, but I guess it is to her!

That leaves only $145 in the $300 challenge.

On Wednesday I leave for Florida (coming back on the following Monday). Since that is vacation time I won't count it in the challenge.

I have a lot to do. I have a load of laundry I MUST do, I have another PT session, I have to pack and I have to get labels for the garage sale (I promised). I also have to arrange for ground transportation. I hate the getting-ready part of a vacation. I love it when it's underway!

It was another bone-chilling day, but I walked to the station. The train was late, as it often is on cold days. Luckily we had a warming area to stand in; it wasn't too bad.

I can hardly believe I will be in warm weather in a few days!

A Cold Friday

February 7th, 2014 at 06:31 am

Well, the temperature is no higher, but I went to work today. I have a meeting; can't do that remotely.

I needed to move the car for plowing and was planning to drive closer to the station. However, it was so bone-chilling cold that I opted instead to drive all the way to work. No way was I getting back out in the cold again.

I'll get cheap gas tonight and use a coupon for a free Chick Fil-A for dinner. And I'll go to the Goodwill to check for a dress for my niece's wedding.

I did two loads of laundry yesterday while I was home. I also emptied and scrubbed out the cats' litter box, and put in some new litter -- it's called Nature's Miracle Easy Care Crystal. It is supposed to absorb urine instead of clumping. It's odor-free, dust-free and doesn't track. I do have to scoop out the poop, and it has to be completely changed every two weeks. My son highly recommends it. It's more expensive, but if it does everything it's supposed to do, it's worth it. I'm sick to death of the smell, the dust, and particles all over the house. Since I'm in a small place, I can't get very far away from the litter box.

Working From Home

February 6th, 2014 at 09:46 am

It's at the zero mark again. And last night I had to clean two feet of snow off my car so I could move it before they plow today. That was after a perilous walk home, climbing snow mountains at every curb, hoping upon hope that I wouldn't fall and twist my knee.

So I am working from home today. I am getting just as much done, and more. It's crazy how much time I spend getting to work, when all I have to do is open my computer! But I can't push the "working from home" envelope too far. I save it only for days when the weather is truly nasty.

I had a nice surprise when I looked at my bank account today. My refund has already arrived! Woo-hoo! That means as soon as I get paid, I can pay my property tax in full. Pay day will happen while I'm in Florida, so it will probably be a few days after that.

I spent nothing yesterday.

The woman who administers our voucher program told me that we may not get vouchers for the train tickets any more. That would mean $30 more a month out of my budget for the monthly pass. I'm bummed. $30 is a lot to make up somewhere else.

The college had another financial open meeting yesterday. They talked mostly about changes in tuition remission (which doesn't affect me at all) and changes in retirement contributions. Basically they were saying that they may tie the college's retirement contribution to the employee's contribution. That is, if you contribute 5%, the college will contribute 8% -- something like that. But if you don't contribute yourself, the college contributes nothing as well. I was shocked to learn that currently the majority do not contribute anything at all to their own retirement! I always have, so there will be little impact on me. In fact, none, since they won't enact this until 2016 -- after I'm gone.

Snow, snow, snow and more snow

February 5th, 2014 at 07:47 am

What a snow dump! I don't know how many inches we got, I just know that I waded to the station. Walked in the street when I could. Went through many areas where the snow topped my boots. No snowplow in sight. I almost turned around and went home, but frankly, I felt that once I was out in it I might as well carry on and get to work.

I am trusting that by quitting time some major plowing will have happened.

I believe I mentioned that I made an untasty casserole last week. I had a few servings and then I froze the remainder. Then I thawed it and tried to make soup out of it, but the noodles got too soggy, so I drained the broth out of it and used that for something else. Last night I took the casserole remains and mixed with a couple of eggs and tried to make patties to fry on the stovetop. I made only a few and they were not successful; didn't taste great and didn't hold together.

But there is still a bunch to use up! So I mixed in another egg and put it back in the fridge. Tonight I'll try again to make patties, but this time I'll add some grated cheese, and I'll serve with ketchup. Ketchup will make anything edible, right? Boy, will I be glad when this stuff is gone.

Ordinarily I think of myself as a good cook, but this mess is rivaling the stirfry I once made that the dog wouldn't eat!

I'm looking out of the window and the snow is still coming down like crazy. It's a beautiful scene -- if you don't have to go out in it!



Feeling Better Today

February 4th, 2014 at 06:58 am

Every time I think I'm so low I ought to go on Prozac, I bounce back. I seem to have a buoyant spirit, if I just give it time. I'm grateful for that!

I picked up my car last night. To do so, I got off at a station that is not my usual stop, and I was disoriented. Took a walk around the block until I figured out where I was supposed to go. I should have looked at a map first! I knew the parking garage was right by the station. What I didn't understand was that it was the other side of the station, where there was a whole different set of tracks. Grrr!

I got a call from my alma mater and agreed to donate $75 this year. I won't count that in the $300 challenge, as that is something I wouldn't do on a tight budget. But I wanted to make the donation. Working at a small liberal arts college myself, I am very sympathetic with the need for alumni to step up.

This morning I woke up hard -- meaning I couldn't shake myself awake, couldn't get out of bed. Finally I just forced myself. I didn't have time for breakfast, so I got it at the station. $4. Sometimes I just have to do it. It is a very soothing treat if I don't do it too often.

I've received several compliments on my haircut, so I think I really have found a winner!

No physical therapy this week. I was surprised when I checked my schedule this morning, but then I remembered that when I was scheduling, there was a time period when no openings were available. This is it. I don't go back till the 11th. Meanwhile, I'll be vigilant about my exercises and careful about how I move.

Winter blues

February 3rd, 2014 at 07:14 am

What a blue, dismal weekend.

On Friday night I parked my car in the city garage for the snow emergency (which was rather underwhelming, but that's okay). The car is still there. I'll ride the train to that stop tonight and pick it up. No charge for the parking.

But before I parked the car, I went to PetSmart and the grocery -- spent $36 at PetSmart for cat food and kitty litter, and $28 at the grocery store. The grocery store, by the way, was the predictable zoo -- the promise of bad weather always brings out the crazies!

On Saturday morning I got my hair cut at Supercuts ($15). I went there on the recommendation of my niece, who has a favorite stylist there. I got a really nice cut, much better than the last one I got at Fantastic Sam's. And this place is in easy walking distance! I actually got a ride from my son, but I'll walk when my knee heals.

I also made a quick stop at Walgreen's for a couple of grocery items I had forgotten the night before ($7).

So I am already $86 into this month's $300 challenge. And it's only the third!

I made dinner for my son's family on Saturday night. Just potato soup, rolls and Waldorf salad. But it was a tense dinner; my grandson was cranky and misbehaving and his parents were furious. They were tired and cranky themselves. It was not fun. I felt very blue afterward and all the next day. I'm still blue. I think the weather and my knee are factoring in.

I didn't bother watching the Superbowl; I went to bed early and got plenty of sleep.

Can't believe I'm facing another week of work, with the promise of more snow, another temperature dive, and no progress on my knee. Being able to take the train has been a mixed blessing since it puts me on my feet more and stresses my knee more. I don't see any end in sight. I feel kind of like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day" when he says that winter will never end, and every day will go on just the same, forever and ever. I know the feeling!