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Archive for May, 2018

Yesterday and Today

May 31st, 2018 at 05:14 am

My grandson's haircut cost $20, but my DIL will probably remember to reimburse me for it. He brought along a picture of how he wanted to look, and I was told to try and get a "young, hip" stylist. (Our regular wasn't available.) We ended up with a young guy with a beard and a man bun. He gave my grandson a great cut!

I also spent $1 on parking.

The day was cool, so I made a pot of chili and a batch of granola.

Today my other grandson is playing in a quartet for the 8th grade graduation. I don't get to go, because tickets are limited to family of the 8th graders. But how I wish I could.

Yesterday he gave me a private recital, not of the piece he is going to play, but my request -- "Ashoken Farewell." Just lovely. I never imagined when I watched The Civil War and fell in love with that song, that someday my grandson would play it for me, and so beautifully.

I have two mystery shops coming up -- one tomorrow and one on Sunday. And two baseball games this weekend, but not both on the same day. Busy, busy.

This and That

May 30th, 2018 at 05:37 am

After yesterday's gym session, I went to Food4Less and spent $2 on mangoes, zucchini and an apple. Then I stopped at PetSmart and spent $11 on aquarium filters.

Variables are at 10%.

I applied for a new Wells Fargo credit card, which will pay $200 after spending $1000 in the first 3 months. I figure that will be easily done, especially since I can put my "new, improved" car insurance payment on it in June, if the new card arrives in time.

Today I'm going to go to DIL's to let the cleaning crew in, and I'll take GS2 for a haircut after school -- that is, if our favorite stylist at Supercuts is working today. Unfortunately, I can't check on that until the place opens at 9.

I'm going to start going to the gym every other day to see if my leg/hip pain improves. It will save on gas, too.

I got my first free car wash yesterday. Did I say? One of the perks for buying a car at the place I did is that I get free car washes for the life of the car. It's kind of awkward because you have to drive into the service area, and then they take it away and wash it while you wait in the lounge. So if they are busy, they won't necessarily get to it right away. But it is a service they offer and I am going to use it.

Quiet Day

May 29th, 2018 at 03:57 am

I had my quiet day at home yesterday. I did some reading, watched several episodes of "The Crown" and just generally enjoyed the calm.

I made two good meals -- an "eggless omelet" made from leftover French fries, chopped up and combined with peppers and onions -- and some cheeseburger sliders -- my own version of a Memorial Day cookout. I am getting so I only want two meals a day, though I admit I do some snacking, too.

My son did not come to install my AC; I assume the family went to Great America. They were talking about that possibility. More power to them; I would be miserable there in such steamy weather -- unless I could just ride the flume ride over and over!

It remained cool enough for comfort in my condo all day, and now a bit of a cooldown is expected, so I may be okay for the coming week.

I spent $1.50 on laundry, and that was it. Variables are at 9%.

My hips and knees -- all four of them -- are hurting, and I didn't do any exercise yesterday. I need to make a doctor's appointment, but I'm putting it off because I don't want surgery, and I'm afraid that might be the next step. I'm putting my head in the sand -- but something will need to be done sooner or later. Sigh.

Mystery Shops

May 28th, 2018 at 06:13 am

So, I had two mystery shops to do yesterday, but I actually had to do three. I went to the wrong store on the first one! I didn't even realize it till I started to fill out the report. So I had to get back in the car and drive to a different store and do the same thing all over again. Lesson learned -- look closely at the address!

I spent $27 at the first store for a phone mount for the car. At the second store I bought a bag of peanuts for $1.50. You have to prove your presence by purchasing something and uploading a receipt. In the first case, I decided to get something I needed anyway. In the second case, I just found the cheapest thing I could.

After I finally got the correct report filed, I then went out for my free dinner (which also earned me $6). I have leftovers from the dinner which I will eat for lunch today.

I also drove to Culver's and got my free scoop of frozen custard. You get a coupon for it with each kid's meal. I wasn't hungry for it the day before, so I saved the coupon for later. "Later" turned out to be the next day!

I'm just going to try to use up my food supplies and buy as little as possible at the grocery. I've had to buy too many snacks at the ball park (forgot that was part of summer's challenge!)

Today I hope to do just about nothing. My son has promised to install my AC. Even though it's hot, I haven't been too uncomfortable with the windows open. Living near the lake, I usually have a breeze coming in.

It looks like I do have a load of laundry to do. So there's my big job of the day!

No one is planning a cookout, or anything like that. It's too hot.

Memorial Day Weekend

May 27th, 2018 at 07:08 am

It's a HOT Memorial Day weekend here in Chicagoland!

My grandson's games yesterday were very uncomfortable, and to make things worse, his team lost badly in both games. They were very discouraged.

The team went out to Culver's in between the games, where I spent $6 for a kid's meal. I still have the coupon for a free scoop of ice cream, which I'll get later.

I filled up the gas tank for the first time in Jane Honda. Even though I went to Sam's, it was still pretty high, $3.16 per gallon. The total cost was $31.

I picked up two freebies at Jewel -- some bottled water and a box of Fruit Loops.

Today I have scheduled two mystery shops, one at a big box electronics store, and one at a casual restaurant.

I've already done today's gym session. My air conditioners are not installed yet, so I'll be chillin' any way I can!

Baseball Season in Full Swing

May 26th, 2018 at 05:05 am

Two baseball games today -- both are at the same location, about 40 minutes away -- but they are five hours apart. I'll have to decide what to do about the time in between.

Yesterday I paid my wheel tax, but I got my city senior pass first, so it was only half of what it would have been otherwise - $37.50. I hope the senior pass will come in handy for other things.

I updated my tollway pass info and reattached my transponder. This was no cost.

I went to Aldi in the morning and spent $18.

My splurge spending yesterday was $4 for shakes. It was a hot day, and the boys and I were celebrating my new car.

My budget is okay this month, but next month will involve another hit to savings when about $3500 in credit card spending comes due. I don't think I mentioned it, but I put $2K of my car payment on a credit card in order to earn cash back. $2K is the limit the dealer would allow. The other $1500 -- a big chunk of it -- is vacation spending. All of my normal spending goes on credit cards, too. I always pay in full, but next month it will have to come out of savings.

As far as variables go, I've only spent 4% in the early days of this pay cycle.

Meet Jane Honda

May 25th, 2018 at 05:09 am

I did it! I bought a 2010 Honda Civic. What sold me on this car was mileage of only 56K and a clean Carfax report. And I wanted to get either a Toyota or Honda because of those cars' legendary reliability. It has tires that are almost new, and the front brakes were just replaced.

I stayed under $10K as far the sale price goes, but I did shell out another $2000 for various fees, new license plates and a 3-year warranty. The only thing yet to pay is the wheel tax, which I will have to initiate on my own.

So, my gap year fund has taken quite a hit, but it was inevitable that my car would have to be replaced soon. I will just have to double up my efforts and frugalize even more.

Meanwhile, I will enjoy my new ride. She is a bit of a plain Jane -- charcoal gray exterior, black interior -- I told my friend I would name her Jane and she said "Jane Honda!" So Jane Honda it is.

A New Car?

May 24th, 2018 at 05:26 am

I've settled on one car that I want to see today. I'm going to check it out this morning, hoping that it is still available. It's at a dealer about a half hour away. I will give you more details if I buy.

I decided I probably don't need to wait for my son's help -- I've figured out the process of searching out a car; I can do the rest of it, too.

Yesterday I picked up the boys at 2:30 and I had them until about 6:30. A big chunk of that time was baseball practice. I ended up spending about $9 at the ball park and vending machines, as we were all hungry. Plus, I bought a $3 breakfast at McDonald's! Oh well, I did eat a nice economical bowl of soup for lunch.

I've gotten over mourning the demise of my old car and the hit to my budget -- I'm excited to get a new car!

Pay Day & May Recap

May 23rd, 2018 at 05:55 am

Pay Day! How I love it.

It was an expensive month, because of my vacation. Here is how it went:

Vacation/Travel - $1344
Housing - $713
Utilities - $169
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor - $117
Vet/Pet Supplies - $93
Medical/Health - $66
Personal - $57
Phone - $52
Groceries - $45
Fees/Services - $40
Gifts/Charities - $38
Gas - $37
Eating Out - $19
Clothing/Accessories - $15
Laundry - $14
Entertainment - $8
Grand Total - $2827

I am happy that I kept a lot of the normal costs down, like groceries and eating out -- unusually low!

Yesterday my lunch was an Epic Burger for .10! It was their birthday celebration. I managed to arrive at a good time -- when the line was only about 20 deep. I got free parking, too, because it took less than an hour.

My variables ended up at 69% because of a few things I neglected to record. But that's still very good.

I have not yet had to dip into savings because the bulk of the vacations costs, which I put on credit cards, will not show up till next month.

No movement yet on the car. I'm still looking around, but waiting for my son's return to make a choice.

Car Trouble

May 22nd, 2018 at 05:18 am

Well, I wanted my car to last through my gap year. But I knew I was tempting fate. The car is 17 years old. I've already thrown more money at it than I should. Now it is going back to an old problem -- a leak in the sunroof area that has been fixed at least twice. The passenger side interior was covered with water yesterday after a rainy day. The water on the floor always messes with the electrical system, and it always turns into an expensive fix. Add that to the need for new tires -- which are expensive on an SUV -- well, I'm done.

So I'm shopping for a "new" car. My hope is to find a newer, practical sedan with low mileage for about $10K. There are many options out there, and it's kind of overwhelming. I'll probably make my move when my son comes home from traveling this weekend. I value his opinion.

The recently-christened gap year fund was always an emergency fund, and I will have to dip into it to pay for the car. This is not ideal, but I will feel more secure, in a way, to have a newer, safer car, and to not be worrying about a blowout or breakdown on every trip.

I do believe a gap year fund of about $10K will suffice. Again, not ideal, but I can do it. (Flexing muscles) Thank goodness I have this much money saved.

In other news, tomorrow is pay day, and my variables are at only 67%! And I got paid yesterday by the mystery shop company which I was a little worried about. Now there is only one outstanding payment owed, and that is for the one I just recently completed.

I'll probably just stay home today so I can maintain that lovely 67%.

A Sam's trip, and news from my sister

May 21st, 2018 at 06:17 am

Yesterday, after the gym, I went to Sam's and bought Kleenex and shampoo. The total was $24.

They were promoting their app by offering a free watermelon and a box of bakery cookies if you downloaded it. So of course I did! Actually, it's a pretty cool app -- you can scan your purchases as you put them in the cart and then bypass the checkout line -- just show the app to the associate at the door on the way out.

The watermelon was heavy, so it's still sitting in the car. It's cold out, so I'm sure no harm done. The cookies I divided up into three's and put in the freezer.

I woke up with a headache yesterday and it stayed with me all day. This morning I am finally free of it. I didn't accomplish much yesterday because the headache was bad enough to keep me down -- and Tylenol did not help.

I had a good talk with my sister yesterday. She has lived her life in financial turmoil, but it seems she is finally coming to terms with what she has to do. She is selling her house, her husband is moving into assisted living, and she is moving into subsidized housing. She has even worked out a budget! They are on waiting lists for the housing, so the move won't happen immediately. She is a hoarder and has a lot of junk to get rid of -- she also has to find homes for all but one of her dogs -- I am not sure how many dogs she has now, and I wouldn't even want to tell you if I did! She will have to put down some of the older ones who can't be re-homed. This is the bitter pill she has to swallow for some very irresponsible behavior in the past.

She and her husband are not divorcing, they are just going to live separately because he needs the care, and I think only he is eligible for it. They will still get together and see each other every day.

I am relieved, because I was imagining that they would eventually be evicted and put out on the street, or that someday I would hear that they were dead inside their house. I'm not kidding!

In case you are wondering, I have tried to help her all my life, but she has been impenetrable and has refused to change. I have finally learned to not to waste my breath. Now it sounds like she has finally reached a solution on her own. At least it sounds like something she can manage, and I will hope for the best.

Cold!

May 20th, 2018 at 05:52 am

I just about froze at the two baseball games yesterday, even though I wore a shirt, sweatshirt and heavy jacket. What's going on? I can't figure out why it is so cold in May, and why the baseball field seems to be the coldest spot on earth!

I spent $7 on snacks between games, and also filled my gas tank for $37. It was very low, and the price was $3.05 per gallon.

I also spent $3 on laundry. Variables are at 64%.

It is still cold today, and I'm looking forward to a quiet day indoors.

Wedding Watching

May 19th, 2018 at 06:06 am

I've been watching Harry & Meghan's wedding this morning. I only caught it from the moment Meghan walked down the aisle, but that was enough! How lovely and inspiring, a great way to begin a Saturday morning.

I did a last-minute mystery shop last night -- it was only a $10 payment and I had to drive 10 miles in pretty heavy traffic, so overall it probably wasn't worth it. But I wanted to get back in the groove.

When I was updating my mystery shop spreadsheet, I saw that my payment and reimbursement for the oil change was still outstanding. I went to the site and discovered that my profile was not finished -- I had not accepted terms. So I took care of that and sent a heads-up note to agent who assigned me. I hope I will still get the reimbursement and that I haven't messed myself up.

My shop last night was at a warehouse store, and I was there at dinnertime, so I spent $1.65 on a hot dog and a drink.

It was kind of a crazy day. When I went to pick up GS1, my DIL called me in alarm because she had forgotten about a birthday party he was supposed to attend. It took place at a baseball game at the university, so she knew it was something GS1 would not want to miss. I rushed him home to get his jacket and his mitt and dropped him off at the field -- and it took some doing figuring out where that field was! But I got him there almost on time, and then I rushed back to pick up GS2, who had stayed after school for a Tae Kwan Do class. Once I got him home, and after my DIL arrived home from work, I hopped right back in the car to take care of my mystery shop.

I have two baseball games today, and I also expect to make an appearance at a festival that DIL's company is organizing. It will be another busy day.

Friday

May 18th, 2018 at 06:21 am

Yesterday's spending was $18 at Aldi. I bought oatmeal, cheese, syrup, applesauce, cream cheese, and a pack of bottled water for the car. Variables are up to 58%. Only five days to go.

I looked up my account on the Choice site and I now have upwards of 20,000 points. Unfortunately, that is right in between redeeming it for a $50 gift card and a $100 gift card. I won't be earning any more points for a while, so I want to get full use of them. Maybe I will save them for a free room, though I don't know when I will travel again.

My BOA travel card points -- most of them -- are still pending.

I've been cruising the mystery shopping sites, but not finding anything close enough. I'm also focusing on shops that pay outright, rather than reimburse for purchases.

I will be redeeming $3 from Pine Cone today.

Ordinarily Fridays are free days for me, but DIL is working today. So I'll have a half day to get my chores done, one of which is to make granola. Because I just keep eating it!

Another Day

May 17th, 2018 at 05:58 am

Yesterday I spent another $11 on groceries, this time at Food4Less. They have a small section in produce where they sell bundles of fruit and/or vegetables for only .99. I bought a bag of zucchini, which will serve not only as a side dish and an addition to stirfry dishes, but also as an ingredient in zucchini bread.

Variables are at 55%.

I baked bread, and it was not a success. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong, but I suspect I tried to incorporate too much flour and the dough was too dry to make a smooth loaf. I also wonder if it was a bad thing to use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter or oil. Anyway, I'm going to eat the bread, even though it is wrinkled and rather tough, and not at all pretty.

I should be getting better at this, not worse!

I went to the school to pick up the boys, but they both ended up making plans to go to friends' houses (which DIL okayed via text) so I ended up going home alone. Oh well, at least I was there to facilitate the process!

In my sidebar, I've changed the name of my E-fund to Gap Year Fund. This is what I'll use (sparingly, I hope!) to get through the low-income year that is coming up starting in July. (Low income is due to the end of my early-retirement payout from work. Income will pick up about a year later when I begin taking my full Social Security payment.)

In addition to the fund, I hope to close the gap with income from mystery shops and selling stuff -- and of course I'll be making cuts in spending as well. I'm almost looking forward to it!

Swapping Items, Etc.

May 15th, 2018 at 02:52 pm

The baskets I bought for the pantry didn't fit, so I returned them and bought some metal baskets, which were smaller and cheaper. This time around I had my Walmart gift card, so the total cost was only $7 -- and $29 was refunded to my credit card. That changes my variables to only 54%, with 8 days till pay day.

I got a couple of big jobs done today -- I cleaned the fish tank, and I thawed and cooked three pounds of ground beef. One pound I formed into mini-burgers, one into meatballs, and the third was crumbled for chili at some future date.

I got a $8 cash back from Chase. I'm expecting a big cash back from my BOA Travel card. Several of my hotel stays have not been credited yet, so I'm waiting until all are accounted for before I transfer the cash into my bank account.

I went to the gym today -- and it was bagel day -- but I forgot and didn't even notice whether the bagels were laid out or not! I may have been too early.

Catching Up

May 14th, 2018 at 10:35 am

So I'm catching up on things. I spent $3 on laundry, and $16 on groceries, and $27 on cat food.

And I'm sprucing up. I replaced my kitchen placemats, bought a much-needed pastry mat, and replaced my bathmat and bathtub shelves. (While I was gone, my bathtub shelf pole collapsed and made a mess. The pole was not salvageable.) I also bought some organizer baskets for my pantry. The total cost of these items was $129.

Variables are at 56%, with 10 days to go. Of course, the vacation cost was not counted in variables; that will come from savings.

I had some financial wins, too! A neighbor gave me two large packages of kitty litter because her cat had died. My ex gave me $100 toward the vacation -- I guess he was feeling a little guilty about all his European escapades. I've had a couple of Pine Cone payments, and one of my mystery shop companies paid. On Mother's Day, I got two free meals, and another one the night before.

I'm still tired; still regrouping. Luckily, I don't have to watch the boys today. GS1 had to stay home because he had some teeth extracted, so DIL stayed home, too. I'm on duty again tomorrow!

Back from Vacation

May 13th, 2018 at 05:16 am

I rolled back into town yesterday. Well, I should say I inched back into town, as Lake Shore Drive was backed up the whole way, and once I got to my suburb, it was jam-packed, too!

I had a wonderful 12-day vacation. We visited Concord (Louisa May Alcott's house, Walden Pond, Concord Museum), Boston (trolley tour, Paul Revere's house, North Church), Salem (Salem Witch Museum, trolley tour), Plymouth (Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plimoth Plantation), Provincetown ("Downtown" and Cape Cod National Seashore), Fall River (Lizzie Borden House) and Newport, R.I. (Vanderbilt's Marble House). I'm not sure I captured everything there, but you get the idea.

The total cost for me was $1344, which pleases me, because I was hoping to come in under $1500. The biggest cost was hotels -- not much we could do about that. We stuck to Choice hotels, since I am a member and we saved a little doing that. I earned a lot of points but not enough to get a free night. We ate the free breakfast in the hotel every morning, and ate out for lunch. Supper was usually scavenged from leftovers and vending machines. A good chunk went to the tours, etc. Only once was I able to use my Art Institute membership for free museum entry (reciprocity agreement). Gas was not too bad, as the highly-touted hike in price had not really happened yet. I did indulge in a few souvenirs - a "Beth" doll from the Alcott house, which I will use as a Christmas tree ornament, and a Cape Cod baseball cap. And I found a gift for DIL, a nice stand for one of her globes. I paid my grandson $40 for taking care of my cat and fish.

When it was all over, I spent the last night at BFF's house. In the morning, we went to Goodwill so I could use a $5 off $25 coupon. I spent $26 there, finding some gifts, some tops and workout pants, and some housewares, including a Corning casserole dish that I will resell.

No sooner had I gotten home, my son and DIL called and said there was a cookout planned at his father's house. So I dropped in a got a free supper, thus avoiding a trip to the store! Which I will have to do today.

Today, since it is Mother's Day, I'm going to a breakfast brunch and then the kids will come over in the afternoon for games and takeout.

I'm very weary, but very satisfied. And looking forward to getting back in my routine!