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Archive for January, 2016

January Recap, and Other Stuff

January 31st, 2016 at 04:45 am

I will not spend anything today, so I did my January recap. I ended up spending 99% of my variables budget. I went to the grocery store yesterday and spent $21. Two reasons: my grandson called me yesterday and I ended up inviting the whole family over for hamburgers today -- and while I was at the store getting buns and cheese and sherbet, I decided to get dry cat food and kitty litter in preparation for my trip. I also had neglected to log a restaurant meal in my variables budget, so all that pushed the total up to 99%. Still didn't go over!

So here's the recap:

Housing: $677
Care Repair/Maintenance: $612
Insurance: $304
Groceries: $211
Vacation/Travel: $179
Utilities: $143
Vet/Pet Supplies: $81
Gifts/Charity: $59
Eating Out: $48
Medical/Health: $32
Furnishings/Equipment/Décor: $28
Household Supplies: $27
Entertainment: $22
Personal: $22
Laundry: $17
Clothing: $8
Fares/Parking: $2
Grand Total: $2587

Not the great beginning I was hoping for, but there's nothing you can do about a car repair, which is the real wild card. And groceries -- twice my usual! Got to reign in there. Pet supplies should be low next month, as I am pretty stocked up.

I made the order to OTC Essentials yesterday. I "spent" $49 (free to me) on a Colace generic, a Zyrtec generic, mucus relief tablets, and 2 packages of medicated corn removers. I am really delighted that I will have $150 more to spend this year on OTC items. I'm so glad I cleared out my medicine cabinet recently! I really knew exactly what I needed.

On Tuesday I leave for my trip. I am driving to my friend's house in Indiana, and I will fly out of Indianapolis, so that I can use Allegiant Airlines, which flies so cheaply into Florida. But there will be some gas cost. I hope that I can park somewhere free near my friend's house. She will drive me to the airport.

My cousin will be able to pick me up at the airport. Apparently she is driving again, because she is taking her dogs to the groomer, who is near the airport. So I don't have to worry about ground transportation there. My cousin will foot the bill for food. In return, I will do all the shopping and running. We won't do much besides hang out.

I hope my son will be able to come over the weekend. We will celebrate his birthday. He has already asked for money to put toward a tablet, so I'll write him a check. I'm going to put a $50 limit on birthday gifts this year, so I won't be too much help in that regard, but he will understand. And he has lots of rich relatives (not mine!) who will help out.

I had a terrible night's sleep last night, and Iggy didn't help a bit, with his big mouth. I will probably be dragging today when the kids come over, but I'm still looking forward to it!

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Hamburgers, chips, veggies, sherbet
Dinner: Soup?

Check Arrived!

January 30th, 2016 at 06:02 am

Yay! My check from the museum finally came! I deposited it into my E-fund, but that is just a holding place, as it will be used for my two vacations next year.

I also got a catalog from UnitedHealthcare, which underwrites my supplemental Medicare insurance. Apparently, part of my benefit is the ability to order $50 worth of OTC essentials every quarter. I'm going to take advantage of that! I'm going to go through the catalog today and make an order. I think I will count it as a snowflake, too, since I would be paying for those items otherwise. All the products are generic, which is okay. The only medication I will miss is real Advil, and that is just because the candy coating makes it so easy for me to swallow. I'll report tomorrow on what I decided to buy.

I'm watching the weather forecasts. A storm is moving in on the day I am scheduled to fly to Florida. I am already reconciled that I will cancel the trip if it looks too bad. I am not comfortable flying in bad weather, especially freezing rain.

I am still working on the novel. Yesterday I added material I had written on the fly. It's pretty rough. Today I have to go over that and make it better. I'm really noticing it's harder for me to choose the right word. I know there is a word I'm reaching for, but I can't get to it. So I work around, and hope it comes back to me. The challenges of aging. The main thing is not to give up, because, while I don't think I'll ever publish this book, working on it is an excellent mental exercise.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Granola, toast
Lunch: Turkey quesadilla
Dinner: Veggie cheese soup



No Repair Bill

January 29th, 2016 at 06:49 am

Well, the shop couldn't find anything wrong with the car. They ran it through the car wash several times (which I'm glad about -- it needed it!) and could not find a leak. And the lock was working fine. We finally figured out that the wetness on the floor was the residue from the leak last week (which was fixed), and I hadn't noticed it before because it was frozen. When the temperature warmed up, it became wet again. They said it would take several weeks to dry out completely.

So, the good news is, the fix was real, and I don't have to pay anything more.

So yesterday was a no-spend day.

I got my monthly interest payment from my retirement fund today. The interest rate is locked in for a year, but I think we are nearing the time when it is adjusted. I'm thinking that with this market downturn, the payment may go down a little. I'll make it up, but such a balancing act.

Yesterday I got my 1099-MISC from the museum, and it does not count the money I earned in December. Of course, I haven't been paid for it yet, but I was wondering if it would be taxable since I earned it in 2015. Guess not. I was excited to see the envelope, thinking it would be the check.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Banana bread, fruit
Lunch: Turkey tacos
Dinner: Sloppy gobblers

The Car Again

January 28th, 2016 at 07:06 am

Just dropped the car off at the shop. Hoping upon hope that this time the problems will be resolved, and hoping they won't charge me more. They shouldn't, but that doesn't mean that they won't.

My refrigerator is finally looking more cleared out. After the brunch, it was stuffed with food, and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't tell what I needed to use up most. Now I can see everything. People think my fridge looks bare, but really, if you live alone, it shouldn't be stuffed, because then you are wasting food you can't eat before it spoils.

I have spent a lot on food this month, but I'm proud to say I haven't thrown away any of it.

I went to see my 9-year-old grandson at lunch yesterday. Oops! I think a 9-year-old is too old for a surprise visit from Grandma. He was very much into trading Pokémon cards with his friends, and a little embarrassed to have his Grandma there, I think. I thought that might be the case, but I didn't want to ignore him, having visited his brother last week. Now I know. So is 9 the beginning of the teen years now???

I'm feeling like everything is on automatic pilot now. The bills will be paid automatically. I don't need to get groceries before the Florida trip. I don't need to pack yet. Nothing but the car really needs to be taken care of, and I trust that will be done, if not today, in the next few days. My variables spending is at 94%, and I have every expectation that it will stay there. Yesterday I was tempted to get fast food, to top off the tank, and to get a car wash, but I remembered that I am at 94% and all of that can wait. Only a few more days.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Toast, yogurt
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich
Dinner: Turkey casserole

Pay Day, and Other Stuff

January 27th, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Today was pay day. I paid my Discover bill and my mortgage, and updated all my spreadsheets.

I am still waiting for the final check from the museum. My boss emailed me yesterday about whether I had received it. I said no, and she said she would follow up. No further word. I do trust it is coming.

I am also waiting for my W-2 from the College. I believe it will be mailed to me at the end of the month, since I can no longer access it online. If I don't get it by the time I am home from Florida, I will give them another call.

I stopped in at the auto shop today because my car is once again taking on water and the lock is acting up. It was only fixed for a few days! I talked to the guy who helped me before, and he recommended that I bring it in early tomorrow morning and drop it off, so they can get to the bottom of it. I don't know why they didn't get to the bottom of it before, especially after charging me $611.

Yesterday I opened up the novel I am writing (but have put aside for quite a while) and made a few minor revisions. Overall I was pleased by how it read, which is unusual -- I usually hate my work! Today I have a bit more to add -- additions I wrote on paper and never got on the computer. Once I get that added and revised I can take it up again seriously.

I see some problems with it -- fixable, though. I have a tendency to introduce characters and then do nothing with them. I have to either tie them in or cut them out. I won't know which until I know exactly how the story plays out. Yes, I have a rough idea of how the story will go, but I know from experience that twists and turns happen while you are writing. Or at least while I am writing.

Anyway, it feels good to have some work to do, while I wait for work at the museum to materialize.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & spinach
Lunch: Cheese quesadillas & salsa
Dinner: Refrigerator soup & bread


The End of the Month is Nearing

January 26th, 2016 at 08:01 am

My variables spending is at 94%, now that I've factored in the laundry I've done. I can't imagine I will have to spend more between now and the first, but you never know, do you? Still, I think I have managed to stay under budget this month, despite a shaky beginning.

My trip is only 8 days away. My brother texted me that he might come, too; then he kind of backed out because of an eye appointment. I asked him if he couldn't reschedule, and he said it took him a month to get it. Hmmm. Unless there is a pressing problem, I would take a trip before an eye appointment, but it's his call.

Tomorrow is pay day. I'll pay the mortgage and my Discover bill. Neither counts in my variables. I track my Discover spending when I make the purchase, not when I pay the bill. So pay day is not very exciting! But it's really nice to reflect on how unexciting my finances have become. No desperate wait for the pay check any more, it's just another day. I never stop feeling grateful that I got out of debt and built up an emergency fund.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Yogurt, apple
Lunch: Spinach salad
Dinner: Spaghetti

Great Weekend

January 24th, 2016 at 01:30 pm

My BFF just left -- early start to avoid wintry mix developing tomorrow.

Our fun weekend together did not break the bank. I am still under budget -- 93% spent. Of course, there is still a week to go in January.

I spent $32 eating out, $6 for a movie (Brooklyn), and shopping was $56. I bought some pajamas, some small gifts, and a baking stone, so I will not burn my cookies any more! We watched a couple of free movies on demand, and, of course, all the conversation was free.

It was a very good time, as it always is.

Now I'm bushed, from a short night's sleep, so I'm going to stretch out and recoup!

I'm feeling very satisfied that I could indulge myself a bit, and still stay under budget. I felt guilty over every penny I spent, but once I did the numbers, I felt fine!

Today's Menu:

Brunch: French toast, bacon, strawberries
Dinner: Egg casserole, spinach salad

Company Coming!

January 22nd, 2016 at 06:40 am

BFF is coming! I'm looking forward to a fun weekend. Even though the east coast is getting pounded, we will only have flurries today, and a weekend that is relatively warm and clear.

After I picked up the car yesterday, I topped off the tank ($14). In the winter, I like to fill up whenever the tank gets halfway down. I don't know whether that is a good practice or just a weird idea I picked up somewhere, but it keeps me calm.

Then, I drove past PetSmart, and realized I should go in and buy more feeder blocks for the fish, since I have a trip coming up. While there, I saw a sale on cartons of Friskies cat food, so I bought two boxes. The total cost: $28.

Also, the car cost $611, not $580. There was a fee for hazardous waste disposal, as well as tax; not sure what that was.

So now the variables spending is up to 80%, and there are nine days left. And I have company.

My no-spend January didn't materialize at all. A few factors here: 1)Winter makes me crazy as far as stocking up and doing extra things to be safe. 2)I hosted a big party that was expensive, even though I really tried to use what I had on hand as much as possible. 3) I took a weekend road trip. 4) If I see something that I use regularly and it's on sale, I feel compelled to get it.

Maybe I can aim for a low-spend February, although I will have a week's visit in Florida, which will no doubt wreak havoc on my budget.

March, do I hear March? Smile

Anyway, I will be happy if I even come close to meeting the budget.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Egg casserole
Lunch: ?? Out ??
Dinner: ?? Hamburgers ??

What I eat today will depend on what BFF wants to do, but I am thawing ground beef for hamburgers to eat sometime this weekend.

Car Repair

January 21st, 2016 at 06:36 am

I took the car into the shop yesterday. They indicated that the wait might be long, so I accepted a ride home. I was having a really brain-dead day, because, first of all, I gave them my house keys along with my car keys, and they had to track down my car to give them to me before we left. Then, when I got home, I realized I left the phone in the car! Now that was a problem. I don't have a landline, and I live alone. I tried to communicate with the shop through email, but it didn't go anywhere. Finally, I sent a blanket email to all family members in the area, asking for a ride to the shop. My DIL, bless her heart, was online, and she drove me there after she picked the boys up from school.

Well, I got there, and the guy who was helping me said, "Where have you been? I've been calling you!" I explained that the phone was in the car. And he says, "Why didn't you call me?" And I said, the phone was in the car. So who else is brain-dead? Smile So, of course, it was only then that the repair began, because they were waiting for my consent. So they drove me home again, and the car was kept overnight. I will be picking it up this morning. At least I got my phone back.

The problem was that the plugged drain from the sunroof caused pooling in the car which shorted out the system that controls the locks. The damage runs to about $580. Sigh. At least, this time, they will make a repair on the drain instead of just clearing it, so it shouldn't happen again.

The $580 will come from the EF, so my variables spending remains at 74%.

I went to the grocery before going to the auto shop. I wanted to cash in my change, as well as get some quarters, and pick up a few items. I spent $20, half of which came from the coins (pennies, nickels and dimes). I was disappointed that the change machine took a 10% percentage, even though I was getting a grocery store voucher. That is a change in policy since the last time I used it. I should have just taken an Amazon gift card, in order to get full credit, but I wasn't thinking fast enough. I was too focused on getting grocery store credit, which was silly. It's not like I don't have the money for groceries.

My BFF will come and visit tomorrow if the weather holds up. She is a very fearful, cautious driver, and she is listening to weather reports that are meant for the east coast. Even knowing it is not for us, she seems to be affected by it, like if there is bad weather anywhere, she needs to stay off the road! Sometimes I feel impatient with her, but I try to be understanding. I have my quirks, too. I do hope she works through it and she comes. But if she doesn't, I suppose I will save some money.

This is not financial, but I went to have lunch with my grandson at his school yesterday, and it was so much fun! It was so great to surprise him and get a big hug, and I also loved meeting his friends. Next week I will visit his brother as well. The little joys of being retired!

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Granola w/almond milk
Lunch: Spinach salad
Dinner: Fried Rice

Florida Trip Planned

January 20th, 2016 at 05:45 am

I bought my airline ticket for Florida yesterday - $167. To get that rate I had to book for Wednesday through Tuesday. I also have to drive to Indianapolis to catch the flight. I hate to be away from home that long, what with my neurotic cat, and the fish to be fed. You can get a 7-day feeder block, but I never believe it lasts that long.

But I want to see my Florida kids, and it is so nice of my cousin to invite me so I can do that.

I will probably have to rent a car, or figure out some kind of ground transportation, as there will be no one available to pick me up. But I'll deal with that later.

I'm doing laundry today - $3 - and later I plan to stop in at the school and have lunch with my grandson. While I'm out, I will go to the grocery store, for just a few things on my list -- I mainly need more quarters, so I won't be stuck unable to do laundry. I will also stop at the Toyota dealer to see if they can take a look at my car. More money out.

The airline ticket pushed my variables spending up to 71%. It will be a challenge to meet the budget this month. The car repair, however, unless it turns out to be cheap, will come from my emergency fund.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Banana bread French toast, juice
Lunch: Veggie Cream Soup
Dinner: Veggie Burger

Another freezing day

January 19th, 2016 at 05:17 am

I spent the whole day inside, and I plan to do the same today. I want to remain blissfully unaware of just how cold it is out there.

Of course, staying inside encourages the no-spend day. Although I may get online to find an airline ticket. My cousin has invited me down to Florida. I may go on Super Bowl weekend, since there is a chance my son's family may visit my cousin that weekend. No promises, though.

Other financial things looming: my car needs attention. I think the duct that runs from sunroof is clogged again, and the lock is acting up. The key fob doesn't open the door (even though the battery has been replaced, and the fob is clearly functioning.) And as I drive along, the lock keeps clicking intermittently, like it's trying to unlock. I'm wondering if it's an electrical problem? I don't know much about automatic locks.

And I am still wondering if I should take Iggy to the vet. The cost -- and the trauma for him -- are obstacles, but I just wonder if there is something bothering him that I could fix.

My variables spending is at 50%, with 61% of the month gone. So I'm doing well, but either a car repair or a vet visit will blow that out of the water. Or an airline ticket!

But anyway, today will be a nice, indoor day, while I wait for the weather to normalize.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Breakfast cookies/clementines
Lunch: Turkey-rice casserole
Dinner: Veggie cream soup

Happy MLK Day!

January 18th, 2016 at 08:30 am

On Friday, I went to my grandsons' MLK Day performance. (They go to a school named after Dr. King, and they always have a great performance in honor of the day.) Such cuteness. It brought tears to my eyes.

Right afterwards, I hit the road. When I stopped at the museum, to turn in my badge, I got a nice surprise. My boss' boss asked me if I were interested in being placed on retainer. That means I would earn a monthly salary, whether I actually worked or not, and I wouldn't have to keep track of my hours or invoice the museum. I would just do special projects as they cropped up. I said YES! But they have to get it approved in the budget first.

My weekend in Michigan was wonderful. I had a great time with my brother and his wife, and a great time with my man friend. The cost of the whole weekend was only $43, which counted gas, road food, and the cost of a movie, "Joy." I also spent $20 on bakery bread, which I brought home. I just can't get bread like that in my area.

The weather turned arctic on the day I went home, and, in Michigan, there was snow falling and blowing, so visibility in some areas was really poor. But once I got south of Benton Harbor, the snow disappeared, and it was sunny and bright. So I started out feeling kind of nervous and edgy, but had a good drive home.

Today it is so cold, I'm not even going to do laundry, since I have to use the exterior stairway to get to the laundry room. It can wait. This is definitely a day for cocooning.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Grilled cheese, veggies
Dinner: Turkey-rice casserole

Just Another Day

January 14th, 2016 at 06:39 am

Yesterday was a no-spend day, except for a load of laundry.

I tried to find my headshots, and it doesn't seem I have them saved anywhere. I really thought I did that when I retired, but they are not in any logical place. I emailed our secretary to ask if all our pictures where saved anywhere, and she responded that she had only one, and attached it. It was a smiley picture. So I will have to get that passport photo taken. It looks like it will be about $15. Too bad I passed up the opportunity for a $10 headshot at a conference I attended recently.

I didn't even get around to contacting the campaign consultant, or looking for airline tickets. I had a lazy day.

Friday is going to be even busier than expected. I was planning to leave in the morning to drive to Michigan, but my grandson is in an MLK program at 11:30 and I promised to attend. That means I will leave town about 1 at the earliest, and I have two stops to make on the way. Ah well, that gives me more time in the morning to get ready.

Sunday is going to be very, very cold, and that worries me a bit as I'll be driving that day. I'll be fine as long as nothing goes wrong -- my car has a great heater -- but I sure hope I don't have any travel problem that could sideline me. At least there is no precipitation expected.

My variables spending is evening out. I've spent 43% of the budget, but 45% of the month is gone. That makes me feel a little better.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: English muffin w/cheese
Lunch: Corn chowder, veggies
Dinner: Omelet

No-Spend Day

January 13th, 2016 at 04:45 am

No financial news today, other than racking up another no-spend day. I didn't leave the house, except to take out the garbage. One whiff of the frigid air made me happy to go inside again.

I got started on applying for my passport, which it looks like will cost $140. I may also need to get a passport photo taken. I'm going to look at the professional pictures that were taken while I was still working at the college; I think there may be at least one that was full head-on with no smile. If I can save even that much, it will be a good thing.

I got an email from my boss at the museum, asking me to bring in or send in my badge. She didn't elaborate, but I assume her boss got on her about not getting it back from me at the end of the year. She didn't mention anything about the budget, either, or whether there was any chance that my contract would be renewed. I'm thinking it's not looking good, but it's early days.

Anyway, I told her I would drop it off on my way to Michigan on Friday. On the same day, I will stop at the Field Museum to turn over the papers to the new Treasurer. Good thing I've got all day to get there!

I got onto LinkedIn and updated my profile, since I am no longer officially with the museum. Today I'm going to try to find the contact info for that campaign consultant who wanted my business card. I still don't have a card (my DIL is designing one) but I can email her my info, and something might come of that.

But I have to admit I am not fired up about finding new work. I really am enjoying not working. Even with being penned inside by the cold weather. It makes me smile, actually, to think about how I DON'T have to go outside in the bitter cold, when just one year ago I had no choice.

Maybe today I'll start looking for flights to Florida. Allegiant is having a sale. Since they are already cheap, I may find a real bargain.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Eggs & toast
Lunch: Cheese quesadillas & salsa
Dinner: Peanut soup & stewed apples

(Yes, dinner appears to be the same as yesterday, but in fact, I snacked on cheese & crackers late in the day and then didn't feel hungry for dinner. So today I will make the soup for sure. I need to use up the half & half.)

Nice Haircut

January 12th, 2016 at 05:39 am

Yesterday I walked to the hairdresser's to get my haircut. It is only a couple of blocks. It was cold, but I was dressed warmly enough, so I was fine. It felt good to get a little exercise, which I've been very lax about lately. I'm glad I did it yesterday, though, because last night it snowed, and the temperature is even colder.

The haircut, with tip, cost $15. I really like it. It was just a trim, but it made a big difference.

While I was there, another customer, a man, went into a rage because his stylist was asking him questions about how he wanted his hair cut. He apparently thought she should just know. My stylist defended her, and he cursed them both out, and left, with a final "F--- you!" as he went out the door. People are crazy.

I got my Discover cash back yesterday, $9.63. That will go to my snowflakes.

Today I'm going to stay in, do some cleaning and organizing. I'm going to watch some more episodes of Blindspot, which I realized yesterday was available on-demand.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: English muffin w/red pepper jelly, clementines
Lunch: Tuna melt, veggies
Dinner: Peanut soup, stewed apples

Re-Posting

January 11th, 2016 at 07:54 am

Weird. I posted yesterday, but it is not on the site. I thought I even checked it afterwards. Hmmm, come to think of it, the site became unavailable right after, so it probably got lost in whatever went wrong yesterday.

So, the gist of it was that I confessed that I went back to the grocery store, because I was out of cat food and coffee, and I spent $33 more. I got a box of cat food cans, Friskies, which the cats seem to like. The Fancy Feast clones that I bought at Aldi were a big failure. I also bought plastic lids, and I got an oven thermometer. And a lottery ticket, which as we all know, was not a winner.

So, it turns out my oven is pretty accurate, according to the thermometer. So I'm going to concentrate on the bakeware. Yesterday, I made granola, which turned out great. I doubled the baking sheet and used parchment liner. It occurred to me that I could pick up baking pans/sheets at garage sales/Goodwill. Even if they are not attractive, or very heavy, they would be good to put under my good pans, and a lot cheaper than investing in expensive bakeware. (Which I can put on my Amazon wish list!)

Yesterday I did not go out, and I had my moment of gratitude for not having to. It is super cold, especially when the wind chill is factored in, but it's cozy warm inside, thanks to my radiators.

I did some laundry ($3), watched some movies on TV, read, just had a good day.

This Friday I'm going to drive to Michigan to visit my brother and have lunch with my man friend. According to weather reports, it will be quite a bit warmer by then, so it shouldn't be a scary drive.

Variables spending is (yikes!) 41%! I hope that even with a weekend trip, I will be able to hold the line for the rest of the month and come in under budget, even it it's only by a little.

I will have to get my hair cut before the trip. It's shaggy.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Cheese & crackers, apple, juice
Lunch: Fettucine Alfredo, mushrooms
Dinner: Tuna salad sandwich, veggies

Happy Saturday!

January 9th, 2016 at 07:27 am

Yesterday I ran out of the small garbage bags I use to clean the litter pan. I used to get plastic bags free from many stores, but now that my city has banned them, I have to buy them! So I decided that a grocery store run was necessary, and while I was at it, I would get everything on my list. With a snowstorm and arctic blast looming, I don't want to have to go out.

I went to Aldi first. And maybe I just shouldn't go to Aldi, because I get into this mindset -- oh, I'd better grab this, who knows when I'll be back. I ended up spending $52 at Aldi, which wasn't the idea at all. Then I went on to Jewel, to buy the things I can't get at Aldi, and I spent $32 more. This is supposed to be a no-spend month, and so far I've overspent my grocery allowance by $50! Of course, hosting a brunch for a group is mostly to blame, but I think I'm also doing this nesting thing, hunkering down for winter.

Well, I'm staying at home for at least the next couple of days, so I won't be able to spend anything.

I did finish up organizing the treasurer papers yesterday and texted the new treasurer about meeting.

I got my electricity bill, which went up for the second time in a row. I think I'm using it a lot more, now that I'm home most days. I adjusted my variables budget. I do want to be sure that I take enough out of it to cover the "fixed" expenses. I put that in quotes, because they aren't really fixed; they do vary. But they vary slightly. My variables are food, clothing, gas, gifts, household stuff, pet expenses, fees, parking, entertainment and travel.

I've spent 36% of my variables budget. Ridiculous -- it's only been nine days! Yes, it's a leaner budget this year, now that I'm saving $100 more, but I need to get more serious about cutting back, and groceries are the major culprit.

On the good news front, I found .11 yesterday. My first found change in 2016! My $208.85 in snowflakes includes rollover from last year (I pulled out $1200 before Christmas for grandkids' college funds, and I earned a little more after that), as well as my savings interest from 2015. This is a nice start for 2016.

I still have that Saturday feeling, even though I'm retired! But it's even better, because now I don't have to fill it up with the chores I couldn't do all week. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: English muffin, stewed apples
Lunch: Carrot soup, grilled cheese
Supper: Turkey-rice casserole, mixed veggies, clementines

This and That

January 8th, 2016 at 05:56 am

My banana bread was not the greatest success. Definitely brown on the bottom and mushy on the top, though it is edible. I admit I forgot to put a cookie sheet under the loaf pans, but I did turn down the heat and moved the rack up to the middle. And I shortened the time in the oven.

I probably didn't turn the heat down enough, though. I think I will get that oven thermometer, just to know.

I made great progress in organizing the Treasurer's papers. Today, I just have to go through the older papers and get them into some semblance of order. Records were kept pretty erratically prior to 2008. Most of the important stuff is saved electronically, anyway; the papers are just backup.

Once I get it done, I'll make plans to meet with the new Treasurer and turn them over.

I heard from man friend yesterday, letting me know that any time in January is good for a meetup. So I just need to get some dates from my brother.

I couldn't go to my grandson's concert last night -- I had had a rough night and a too-early morning, and by the time 7 pm rolled around, I was so tired I thought I might be sick. I feel okay today, though.

Oh -- financial stuff -- I don't think I have any financial stuff to report. Waiting for my pay check from the museum. I was told it would be mailed to me -- we'll see. At least I know my supervisor has turned in my invoice.

And a cat food question. My cats seem to like the wet food, but even though I give them each only 1/4 of a 6-oz. can, morning and evening, they leave a lot uneaten. There is a lot of waste. Should I give them even less? That would be just a spoonful. Should I take away the dry food and force them to eat only wet food? This is new territory for me.

I just hate to spend so much for wet food and then end up throwing half of it away.


Today's menu:

Breakfast: Toast w/cream cheese & jelly
Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Cauliflower/cheese casserole

Bookworm

January 7th, 2016 at 05:43 am

Well, yesterday I was going to sort the Treasurer papers. Guess what. I started reading a book, and I couldn't put it down. I read all day, until bedtime.

I'm not really upset with myself, because I don't have an experience like that too often. And I'm retired, and it's the kind of pleasure I should be pursuing once in a while!

The book was "The Girl on the Train," by Paula Hawkins. I won't say it was the best book I ever read, but I was compelled to keep reading till the end. I had to know how the mystery would be resolved.

Today, though, I need to be more productive.

My insurance payment hit my checking account yesterday. It is higher than last year -- not a lot -- but why does it keep going up? My car is getting older and older and I'm living in the same place. It used to be that car insurance went down as your car got older.

So I adjusted my variables budget, assigning a bit less to "fares/parking."

Is anyone else going to buy a Powerball ticket? I'm thinking of it. A $500M payout would be amazing!

Now that a week has gone by, my 25% variables spending is not out of line. I don't have to go to the grocery store yet, and my tank is full. I do need a haircut, and a weekend trip is coming up, but despite that, I do hope to come in under budget this month.

In addition to working on the papers, I'm going to bake banana bread today. I'm hoping that with all your good advice, I will not burn the bottom! I haven't bought an oven thermometer, but I'm thinking that if I lower the temp a bit, add an extra layer of bakeware, and move the rack to the middle, I might have this problem licked!

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Bananas & cream
Lunch: Broccoli cheese soup, roasted veggies
Dinner: Lasagna, roasted veggies

Yesterday's Accomplishments

January 6th, 2016 at 07:54 am

Yesterday I took everything out of the medicine cabinet and only returned the items that were not expired. Yeah, I'd say about 2/3 of what was in there was thrown away. How enlightening. I have spent way too much on medications, vitamins, supplements, etc. that I didn't take. I also threw away four prescription medications.

Since I know that people go through our dumpsters, I took everything out of the bottles and mixed them with unsavory garbage (coffee grounds & used cat litter). Then I threw the bottles away in a separate bag. I don't think there was anything truly dangerous, but I wanted to be sure.

I LOVE having a medicine cabinet that comfortably holds its contents!

I do have to get some Benadryl, which is something I like to have on hand. But I think I have learned to buy small amounts, even if they are more costly per unit.

Inspired, I went on to clean out the car. Okay, the car was already cleaned out when it was detailed, but they gave me a bag full of everything they pulled from the glove box, trunk, side pockets and under the seats. Kind of embarrassing, but in my defense I didn't know they were going to detail the car when I took it in for painting.

I didn't get around to going through the bag until yesterday. I now have one small bag of things to return to the car. I threw away about 3/4 of what was in there. A few things went into my Goodwill bag.

Today's chore (which I'm dreading) is to get the Treasurer's papers in order. I've tried several times, but I've had to pick up and move the papers in the middle of the process, making it even worse. Today I'm going to do it! I have no need to use the dining room for a while -- it's going to be a paper-sorting island till the deed is done.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & mushrooms, toast
Lunch: Broccoli cheese soup
Dinner: Grilled cheese & roast veggies

Quiet, No Spend Day

January 5th, 2016 at 06:01 am

Except that I did a load of laundry for $1.50. I was intending to do another load today, but I realized that I don't have quite a full load yet, and I want to maximize my laundry expenditures.

I got the Christmas tree dismantled and put away along with all the decorations. It was very physical work, the worst of it being the transfer down three flights of stairs to the basement storage room. But I got it done, and felt quite satisfied with myself!

I didn't get as much food processing done as I wanted to, but I did make soup.

In the evening my son and my grandsons came over to give me a present that wasn't ready by Christmas Day. It was a calendar with the boys' pictures. Very well done and the pictures are adorable.

There's a possibility I'll get to go to a free "concert" on Thursday. My older grandson (9) will play with the high school orchestra, IF he learns the music in time. It's an opportunity for the more gifted musicians at the elementary school to play more challenging music with musicians who are more at their level. It's so awesome my grandson meets the criteria! I knew he was really good. I hope this will inspire him, because I am a little afraid the limitations of his elementary orchestra are dragging down his interest.

Well, I'm going to tackle the leftovers today, and I am going to start doing some general organizing. I noticed the medicine cabinet needs some work. That would be a good place to start.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Egg casserole
Lunch: Smoothie
Dinner: Veggie cream soup



The Brunch

January 4th, 2016 at 05:53 am

The brunch is over. It wasn't a raging success, on several levels. First of all, I burned the tarts AND the biscuits! Both were burned on the bottom, even though the allotted baking time hadn't even been reached yet, and they weren't browned on top. And I used parchment paper, too, which also burned! It was very upsetting to me. Some guests suggested that my oven rack was too low. It was about 2/3 of the way down, so I don't think that's low enough to expect burnt food. I have to wonder if something is going wrong with my oven.

Second of all, several guests came clearly hung over, and maybe on the heels of a fight? I felt a lot of tension and uneasiness in the air. One of them slipped out and left without saying anything.

Interestingly enough, it was my ex who was gracious and cordial and got everyone comfortable. And all the kids had a great time. In fact, my grandson thanked me in a very heartfelt way, and talked about how important family is. He is only six!

After everyone left, I was exhausted. I tried to nap, but I was too keyed up, so I just kind of zoned out for the rest of the day.

It was nice to be lulled back into complacency by watching Downton Abbey. So glad that genteel world is back, but sad at the same time that it will end!

On the day before the brunch, I spent another $29 on groceries, and $18 on gas. Then it occurred to me that my ex and my nephew might bring Christmas gifts and I didn't want to be caught short, so I bought two $20 gift cards for a local restaurant. As it turned out, they didn't bring anything, so I will use the cards for birthday gifts or use them myself.

I have lots of leftovers to use up. Last night I made a smoothie from leftover fruit, and I think I may have another one today. I also have a lot a veggies, some of which I will roast and some I will use in soup.

So my goals today are to process the leftovers, and to take down the Christmas tree and decorations.

I feel like the new year is really starting today. I'm really going to try to stretch these groceries out for the entire month. I'm not going to buy any extras. I do have a trip to make to Michigan, but aside from that, I should be able to do a no-spend month.

Unfortunately, I have already spent 24% of my variables budget, so this restraint is necessary.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Egg casserole
Lunch: Veggie pizza, smoothie
Dinner: Roast veggies or soup

Cooking

January 2nd, 2016 at 07:16 am

Today I'm working on getting ready for the brunch tomorrow. So far I've cooked off the sausage and veggies for the egg casserole, and I've made the creamed onions. I still have quite a list of things to do today, and then there's the last-minute list for tomorrow morning.

Two challenges. I have to go to the grocery store again for food I neglected to get, after making a big trip yesterday -- and I'm not feeling good. Yesterday I was wiped out after the grocery store trip. I thought I was just tired, but now I'm starting to wonder. I'm very, very tired today. It might have to do with my sleep being interrupted for so long a time now. My new cat is like having a newborn baby. Except I can't feed and diaper him to make him happy.

My groceries were a little over $100. I figure I'll spend about $20 more today.

MY DIL made corned beef and cabbage soup for dinner yesterday, and I brought another serving home.

I ended up spending $3 on laundry yesterday. My variables spending right now is 13%. Bear in mind I'm working with a smaller amount to divvy up among the categories, but being this scrupulous will save me in my gap year.

I heard from my man friend yesterday! I was concerned that I always seemed to be the one initiating contact, so I decided to let it ride, see if he really wanted to keep seeing me. The last time he emailed me, I didn't answer -- of course, partly because I was so busy getting my work done and getting ready for Christmas. Yesterday I got another email without any prompting from me. This is big! I'll let him sweat a little longer and answer later in the day. I do plan to go up and visit sometime in January, but he doesn't know that yet.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Fried egg & sausage
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich
Dinner: Corned beef & cabbage soup

Let Me Be the First!

January 1st, 2016 at 05:16 am

To welcome in the New Year!

I just made my first expenditure of the year. I just put three quarters into the washer downstairs.

Yesterday I adjusted my variables budget for the new year. I removed $100 per month, which will go toward savings for the gap year.

The check I will receive from the museum should pay for both trips, so I will put that into savings, not to be touched.

I will continue to fund the grandchildren's college funds with snowflakes.

So I think I'm good, except that the variables budget is leaner, and will be more difficult to meet. I will just have to be more "MINDFUL" about spending.

Of course if I make more money from the museum this year, it will ease the budget as well.

Another thing I want to do this year is pick up Christmas gifts during the year, at deep discount if possible.

My cousin has invited me to come to Florida this winter. I will have to see if I can fit it into the budget. I can get a cheap flight there, since Allegiant Airlines flies there, and it wouldn't cost me much once I was there. We just hang out, no fancy entertainment needed! The thing to figure out is ground transportation, as my cousin can't -- or shouldn't -- drive.

I know she is lonely there and I hate to say no, but I will if the numbers won't allow. Maybe my NO-SPEND January will make it possible in February.

Thanks for letting me ruminate about this!

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich
Dinner: Pizza