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Low Spending and Travel Plans

January 19th, 2018 at 06:14 am

Yesterday was a low-spend day; only $1.50 for laundry.

Today I'm going to Aldi after the gym, but I'm only going to buy five items. And tonight I'm going out to dinner with my friend K. So there will be some spending today.

I have a lot of housework to do today before K comes. Her house is always immaculate and that puts the stress on me! (She probably has help.)

Hoping the government shutdown doesn't happen, since my son is a government employee. He always gets paid eventually but it creates a cash flow problem. And his work builds up while he's gone, so his "holiday" is followed by a deluge of work.

I scouted out fares for Florida and found a reasonable flight to Gainesville. I texted my son to see if the dates work for him. He said he needed to check with his wife and I haven't heard back. I'm afraid I'm going to lose that fare, so I'll prod him today. The fare is only $217, which means I could actually cash flow it, since it's such a low-spend month.

I'm not excited about flying again (I've had several turbulent flights recently) but I'm not excited about driving either, and driving would probably be more expensive. On the other hand, driving has the benefit of flexibility.

I'm probably going to fly to Houston in March, too. I haven't received the wedding invitation yet, but I know I'm invited to my cousin's wedding. He has been so good about making the effort to come to family events up here, I want to make the effort for him.

This and That

January 18th, 2018 at 05:47 am

The down coat has been dried and is now hanging in the bathroom until the last bit of dampness is gone. My grandson had a bag of new tennis balls and I borrowed three of them. Worked like a charm.

I had a nice day with my grandson yesterday. We went to lunch ($17) and to the library. At the library, I spent $1 on a book at the continuous book sale. It will be a gift for DIL later in the year. I also spent $2 for parking.

I came very close to falling down the stairs! I lost my footing and I caught myself -- in the process, I wrenched my knee, but that was better than falling. I was wearing boots with a lot of traction and they caught on the stair's carpeting. I'm feeling very grateful I didn't fall, because the last time I did that I broke my ankle. And my ankle has never been the same.

My knee is a little wonky, but not bad.

I got the blood tests results, and it looks to me like everything is within range except for creatinine, which is the indicator of kidney disease. I didn't compare it to last year's, but I am still far away from kidney failure. Of course, I don't really know anything for sure until my doctor interprets the results next Wednesday. I did notice that my Vitamin D level has risen, but is still a bit below normal range.

My friend K is coming to town on Friday, just for the evening, and we are planning to go out to dinner at an Italian restaurant.

My variables rate is only 41%, with less than a week to go.

A Little Spending and Washing Down

January 17th, 2018 at 06:19 am

A little spending yesterday -- after I got my blood drawn, but before I went to the gym, I went through the McDonald's drive-up and got a $3 breakfast. I also mailed a package of books to my sister for $5.

My elder grandson had a cold, so DIL stayed home and I did not have grandma duty. I do have grandma duty today, though. I have to pick up GS1 at 11 a.m. and keep him until about 4:30. I'm planning that we will go out to lunch, and we'll see what else he wants to do.

I spilled a little coffee on my down coat yesterday. I looked up how to wash it, and decided on hand-washing in the kitchen sink. It's now spread out on the kitchen table and it's still pretty wet. I'm not supposed to wring it. When it is almost dry, I will dry it on the delicate cycle, with something else to tumble with it and fluff up the down. Should be tennis balls, but I don't have any. A pair of shoes might do if I have a pair that's clean enough. Anyway, I don't think I can do this until this evening, so I'll be wearing my lighter-weight coat today.

I mention this because it could have cost me some money. I could have taken it to a laundromat to use the front loader (top loaders are not recommended.) I could have taken it to a cleaner who specializes in down. Hand washing was kind of a pain, but it sure was cheap.

Variables are now at 38%, and I'm only one week away from pay day! I'm loving how this month feels!

Snow, Bread, Taxes

January 16th, 2018 at 06:40 am

The snow is coming down in leaps and bounds. I need to go get out in it, because I have to get my labs done. And while I am out, I will go to the gym and mail a package. But it's really coming down, and I'm not looking forward to it.

I had a very calm day yesterday. The pain in my toe went away. I will definitely bring it up to the the nephrologist, though! Because when it's there, it's all I can think about.

I ended up keeping both loaves of bread because my son and DIL have started a keto diet. I don't think the boys would particularly appreciate homemade bread. They are both in the freezer now, one sliced, one not. (The bread loaves, not the boys!)

This batch turned out better than the last. I found a warmer environment for the rising -- the console table above one of my radiators. Of course that will only work when the radiator is on.

I figure two loaves of homemade bread are worth about $10 to me, considering what I paid at the bakery. The cost is negligible -- flour, a little oil, a little milk, yeast ... Of course it's not as GOOD, but I'm working on it!

I am gathering tax materials, and so far I have W-2's from the College, my Social Security statement, and my earnings statement from the credit union. I have yet to receive statements from TIAA and the museum. I am in no hurry. I had to pay last year, because of my museum earnings, and I may have to pay this year, too.

Okay, time to get out in the wild.

Free OTC supplies

January 15th, 2018 at 04:02 am

Yesterday was a no-spend day. I did purchase $50 worth of OTC medications/supplies through my Medicare Advantage plan. No cost to me. This time I ordered a dairy digestive supplement, generic Zyrtec, Biotene, nasal saline spray, and cold multi-symptom caplets. I had a dollar left over so I ordered lip balm, too. I may have goofed up by not ordering low-dose aspirin. I take it daily and it doesn't look like I have enough to last till the next time I can order, which is April 15. Oh well, it's pretty cheap.

I baked the bread, and I think it turned out better this time. At least, it appears to have risen higher this time. I haven't cut it or tasted it yet.

I'm planning to take one of the loaves to my son's house when and if I go to play games with the grandkids today. It turns out I don't have to babysit -- my son is off of work today -- but I may hang out there a little.

I say "may" because I'm not sure how well I'm going to be navigating today. I woke up at midnight last night with severe nerve pain in my toe. It is very sharp and painful. I did not go back to sleep, and finally got up at 5 a.m. to face the day. I hope this eventually goes away; I don't know how I'm going to manage otherwise. I took Tylenol, which doesn't touch it, of course. I used Blue Ice, and massaged it. I have yet to try soaking it. The stabbing pain comes back every few seconds; it is impossible to rest.

I did some reading on the internet, and it sounds like peripheral neuropathy, which is often associated with diabetes. Well, I'm getting labs done tomorrow, so I will know soon. Diabetes runs rampant in my family, and I've always been grateful I've been spared. But my time may be up. On the other hand, it's also associated with kidney disease, which I already know I have.

One of the recommendations I read about was to cut back on alcohol. I only drink a small glass of wine in the evening, for heart health. But if it is causing pain, it's not worth it. I may return that box of wine.

We got a snowstorm this morning that will continue through the day. So far, it doesn't appear we have too much on the ground, but I may not go to the gym today if it continues. The weatherman is cautioning that roads will be snow-covered and hazardous.

Spending & Saving

January 14th, 2018 at 06:42 am

I went to Jewel yesterday before heading to the gym. I spent $26 and bought a box of wine, Dawn, Cascade pods, Grain Berry cereal, a sweet potato pie mix, coffee and canned chilis. My savings was logged as $16.72, or 60%. I used coupons worth $3.50. The Dunkin Donuts coffee was marked down to $2.99 from $8.99 because it is pumpkin spice flavored (which I love). The pie mix was only .99 after being marked down $3.00. The can of chilis was reduced by .24. The box of wine was reduced by 1.50 (which doesn't actually cover the tax on it), and the cereal was free.

This is the first time I am trying dishwasher pods. I know others who love them. They seem expensive to me, but I had a coupon and they were marked down as well. I used the coupon for the smallest container so it would have the biggest punch. This will give me the opportunity to see if I consider them worth the extra expense.

Other than that, I spent $1.50 on laundry.

I mailed in my senior "freeze" exemption for my property taxes, which has to be done annually. Seniors in my area can freeze their taxes, so I don't have to pay more than last year even if rates rise.

I did another Pine Cone survey.

Variables are now at 37%.

Today I'm planning to make bread again. I'm determined to use up the yeast I bought in a BOGO deal, and if I can get to the point that my breadmaking skill matches the bakery's, I will save a ton of money! I do not use a bread machine, by the way, so I also get plenty of exercise in the kneading process.

I'm sleeping better now. I don't sleep straight through the night, but I'm doing better. It seems once I get tired enough, my body finally makes the correction. Just wish I didn't have to experience so much wakefulness to get there.

No-Spend Day

January 13th, 2018 at 06:56 am

No spending yesterday. I didn't pay for parking at the doctor's office, and I didn't buy lunch. There was plenty of time to go home before the program. As for the parking, I parked a couple of blocks away from the medical center. It was very cold and also very windy, and I wasn't dressed warmly enough, so it was a real struggle to make that walk. Quite a lot of effort for saving only a couple of dollars. But I did it.

Also, though I was expecting to pay $5 for my copay, there was no charge. I forgot that it was my free annual checkup covered by my Medicare Advantage plan.

I got a $54 check from the Blue Buffalo settlement. I put that into my slush fund.

I also did a Pine Cone survey last night, so I'll get a $3 payment soon.

Variables are at 33% and I have a week and a half to go. I like the way I'm handling variables this month. Usually I do a chunk of spending at the beginning of the month, but this time I'm just waiting until the need arises. It feels much more comfortable this way.

Today I'm going to go to Jewel. I'll get a free box of cereal from the MyMixx program, and I'm also going to get dishwasher detergent, Dawn, and a box of wine. And I'll get more quarters.

On Monday I'll have a full day babysitting the boys. That will probably be a spendy day, since we may go to a movie or out to lunch, to break up the day.

I trimmed my bangs last night. Ordinarily I would get a haircut about now, but I'm waiting till pay day, and the bangs trim will help keep me looking presentable.

Also on pay day, I have an appointment with the nephrologist. I have to get blood tests beforehand. I'll probably do that next Tuesday.

Another Day

January 12th, 2018 at 07:01 am

Yesterday I spent $16 on gas and $1.50 on laundry.

Today I'm headed to the doctor (which will cost a whopping $5) and then to my second grandson's MLK program. I'll probably grab some fast food in between, as I am fasting for a possible blood draw, but I'll be starving by then.

Last night I attended the performance of the high school orchestra. My elder grandson (11) played in one of the selections. I watched his bow, and he was definitely playing what everyone else was playing! It's so nice that he gets these opportunities to play with a more advanced group. Afterwards he gave me a big hug, and he's usually not demonstrative in public. He was so proud of himself.

I got my Discover cash back payment - $15 - which I added to the snowflakes. It should appear in my bank account in a few days.

I've charged $67 to the new card so far. I have to spend $500 to get the $150 bonus, but I have three months to do it. My trip to Florida in February will take care of a lot of that.

As I was going to bed last night, we lost power. I looked out the front window and it was the whole building. Then I looked out the back window and it was the whole neighborhood! Not sure what happened; we had a big temperature drop last night, but it wasn't windy or stormy or anything.

The power came back on after a few hours. I trust everything in the fridge and freezer is all right. I did have to re-start the aquarium's filter by priming the pump, and for a while it seemed like I wasn't going to be able to do it. I do have an extra pump on hand for the day that it dies.

Another bad night's sleep. Wish I could figure it out. It's not related to caffeine. Is it possible that any kind of stimulation in the evening makes it hard for me to settle down? It does seem worse if I have an evening event.

Lousy Night's Sleep

January 11th, 2018 at 07:00 am

I had an awful night last night and got up late, intending not to go to the gym. But then I remembered that tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment, and it would make more sense to have my skip day tomorrow. So I will go. When I get ready.

I'm really happy the doctor's appointment has rolled around, because I want to talk to him about why I'm still coughing.

No spending yesterday. I went to my grandson's MLK program (2 hours!) He only performed in a small part of it, so I just tried to be patient and take it all in with high attention and good grace.

Tonight I'm going to his orchestra performance with the high school. This will be much easier on the ears!

I'm planning on doing a load of laundry today, and I may fill the gas tank. Not sure if it is down to the halfway level yet. I like to keep the tank half full in winter, even though right now we're having a warming spell. The cold weather will be back.

I heard that our natural gas bill is going to rise due to infrastructure refurbishment and replacement. My gas bill is not high, because it only fuels my gas stove, but I hate to hear of any bill rising right now. My gap year budget is going to be so stringent.

A Low-Spend Day

January 10th, 2018 at 06:25 am

Yesterday I stopped at Aldi after the gym. I spent $9 and bought mushrooms, popcorn seasoning, butter, eggs and blueberries. So far I've spent $56 on groceries. Hoping I can continue to keep it low.

I picked up the boys after school and managed not to spend any money at all. We came to my house, where they helped me get the Christmas tree down to the basement, and I rewarded them each with a cookie. Then we went to their house, where they did their homework, and then we watched TV until DIL came home from work.

This will be a busy week with events for the boys. Tonight there is a MLK performance by the 5th-graders; tomorrow night the fifth-grader is playing with the high school orchestra (a yearly event), and on Friday afternoon, the 2nd-grader will be in his class' MLK performance. Not sure when the sports are starting up again.

My new schedule for babysitting will be Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school -- subject to change, as DIL is having a hard time pinning down her own schedule. Her company (event-planning) has a big conference coming up and sometimes she just has to work extra.

Meals today -- the very last of the pea soup! Yay! For breakfast I'll have blueberry pancakes, and for dinner some borscht and carrots.

Let me explain about the pea soup. I started out with a normal amount, but then I added some fresh peas and some chunks of ham in the interest of using those things up. So I had a lot of soup to eat, and I didn't really want to freeze it, as it had been frozen before. So I just decided to have some every day until it was gone.

I might be facing the same thing with the borscht (which I am thawing now). Except I will not do anything to expand it. Looks like I will have at least three servings out of this container.

Maybe the lesson here is to freeze things in smaller containers!

No-Spend Day

January 9th, 2018 at 06:46 am

Yesterday was a no-spend day.

My only deviation from my regular routine was that I made a batch of oatmeal cookies. I ran out of graham crackers and decided to make cookies rather than adding to my grocery list.

Oh, and I also installed a key holder rack in my kitchen, which I bought at a garage sale a long time ago but never got around to properly hanging. It required quite a bit of searching in my tool box for the right screws, but I managed to do it without a run to the hardware store.

Today, after going to the gym, I will need to make a stop at Aldi to get eggs and butter. Aldi is right on the way, so I could stop there every day if I wanted to!

I am also running low on dishwasher detergent. That I will have to get at Jewel or somewhere else that carries major brands. I have learned that only Cascade Complete with Dawn seems to do the job to my satisfaction. Don't steer me to homemade solutions! I've tried them, and I've been disappointed.

I watched "The Lost City of Z" on Amazon Prime yesterday. I'm afraid I thought it was pretty tedious. Before I got the fire stick hooked up, I watched "Never Go Back" on my computer. It was fair. I had read the book, so I was interested to see how it was adapted for screen. They left out most of the interesting parts, but included, maybe embellished, all of the fight scenes, car chases, etc.

Anyway, it was nice to watch a movie on my TV again.

Would you believe I am still eating split pea soup? Ugh, I'm so sick of it, but I think today will be the last day.

I've been trying to stick to eating only within an 8-hour period each day, and I've been doing pretty well. Between that and regular exercise, I hope to at least tone up a little and feel more comfortable.

Home Improvement

January 8th, 2018 at 06:42 am

Well, it wasn't really so much home improvement as getting home chores done.

My son came over and helped me get the Christmas boxes down to the basement storage unit. Then he hung the curtain rod and the new curtains went up. Then I told him about my problems with the Roku, and he determined that the device itself wasn't working any more. So we went to Target to replace it. I ended up buying an Amazon Fire Stick instead, since it was cheaper than the Roku's in stock - $40. While I was there, I also bought apples, grapefruit, a mango and orange juice for $13.

After he was gone, I realized the Christmas tree itself is still sitting there! Oh well, I think I can take it down myself. I think I will return it to the storage unit, just in case DIL forgets that she offered me her mother's tree. Then I can give it to Goodwill at a time when more people will be interested in it.

The streaming device was an unexpected expense, and I suppose it was one that I could have postponed -- and probably gotten cheaper -- but I wanted to get it done while I had my son at my side and ready to help. I'm very excited that I can watch movies on my TV again!

My new credit card came, so these purchases were the first to go on it.

The new curtains, which I got at a garage sale this summer, look beautiful, and the whole room looks so much cozier! I don't know whether I will even make the coordinating roller shade or not, since it looks so good this way. And I love the way I can just draw the curtains and let light in! I really missed that, while I was dealing with a broken shade that would never go up!

My purchases brought my variables percentage up to 29%. Still doing great.

Meals today:

Breakfast - Ham Biscuit, fruit
Lunch - Split Pea Soup (not a repeat - didn't have it yesterday), bread
Dinner - Sloppy Joe, applesauce

The freezer is still stuffed. I am trying to take one thing out of it per day.

I'm going to the gym soon; no other errands pending today.

DIY

January 7th, 2018 at 07:31 am

I'm in kind of a DIY mood. Or maybe it's a MacGiver mood. I'm making do with what I have and a little ingenuity.

I bypassed the whole idea of getting a new lamp. I moved a floor lamp from the dining room (where it really wasn't doing much) to my bedside. It needed a new three-way bulb, so I bought one for $5. My reading light is now MUCH better.

I had to move my nightstand so I moved it to a space vacated by a velveteen box full of frames and pictures. It's going to go the basement storage unit. The nightstand (which is very cute) looks so nice in the new space, with just the little lamp on it. It's much more visible than before.

Then I took down all the Christmas decorations, and surprise, surprise, I had too much stuff for the storage containers. Mainly because I packed the breakables in bubble wrap, which I've not done before, and because I bought stuff during the year which never made it to the storage containers. I was going to buy one more container, but decided to see if there was something in the closet I could use. I found a container filled with paper -- notebooks, etc. I found another place to store that, and put my Christmas overflow in the container.

This morning I realized I was at the bottom of the bottle on my multi-surface cleaner. I was going to put it on the list, but then thought -- it was probably really easy to make. It was. I filled half the bottle with distilled water, the other half with white vinegar, added a dollop of lemon juice and 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil (which I already had on hand.) Voila! A full bottle of cleaner!

I don't know how I got out of these little frugal habits, but I did, and it feels good to get back in the groove.

Today's goals are to go the gym and get all this storage stuff cleared out of my living space. I'll probably need to get my son's help for the heavy lifting and stair climbing.

Meals today:

Breakfast: oatmeal
Lunch: Split pea soup
Dinner: Cheesy fried rice

Decisions

January 6th, 2018 at 06:31 am

I got a letter from BOA telling me I was approved for the new credit card, but that my overall credit limit would be adjusted. That is, my other BOA credit card would have its limit decreased by the credit limit of the new credit card. That doesn't matter to me, actually; I never come anywhere near the limit of any card.

But it answers a question I had in my mind -- whether my new reduced income would make a difference in how I am viewed as a customer. I had wondered whether I would even be approved.

I expect I will get the card in the next few days, and I will start charging everything to it in order to earn the $150 bonus.

I also got an offer from AT&T. If I switch to them they will pay a $300 bonus. This would be a bundle of TV, internet and phone -- apparently cell phone. The monthly cost would be $86 before taxes, and of course there would also be fees for setup, etc. It's tempting, since I pay about that amount already just for TV and internet, and the TV I get is basic; very limited. This would give me a fuller spectrum.

It's mainly the phone that worries me. I am not sure of how much data usage I would get, and would I have to change my phone number? I'm happy with Straight Talk. I'm cautious of change in general. At this age, I hate dealing with changes in technology, and it seems like every change is just an invitation for things to get royally screwed up. I need to read all the fine print and let it simmer a little.

I would like that $300.

Yesterday was a no-spend day. I did go to the gym. I did not even get started on taking down the Christmas decorations, so that is on tap for today, as well as another gym visit. And I will pop into Goodwill to see if there is a suitable lamp there.

But I may just rearrange a little. I might be able to use a floor lamp beside the bed, if I can find another place for the little nightstand. I'll have to see if the floor lamp provides the kind of light I want.

I got my first withdrawal for my Medicare Advantage plan this year. It is gone up by one dollar per month.

Variables remain at 20%. I have two and half weeks left in this pay cycle.

Meals today:

Breakfast - scones (the last one!)
Lunch - Split pea soup with ham
Dinner - Fried rice (from freezer)

I am so heartened to know that the temps will get up into the 30's tomorrow! This frigid weather has really been getting to me.

A Simple Day

January 5th, 2018 at 07:23 am

My kids got home last night safe and sound. I'm done with cat duty -- well, not at home, of course!

I did a load of laundry yesterday ($1.50) and that was my only spending.

Today I'm going to go to the gym, but I don't plan to stop to buy anything.

Meals today:

Scones
Mac & cheese, peas
Soup & bread (not sure which soup; I'll pick one from the freezer)

I think I'm going to start today on taking down my Christmas stuff. I usually wait till January 6 (Epiphany) but the decorations went up earlier than usual this year and I'm ready to let them go.

I had a higher-than-usual electric bill ($51). I know there has been a rate increase, but it was small. I suppose I have had the lights on more than usual so that I could enjoy the lit-up tree. And I have been at home more than usual.

My insurance payment of $337 was withdrawn from my bank account yesterday.

I've decided I need to buy a new lamp. My bedside lamp is too small to provide good reading light. I need a lamp that is taller, and that can handle a bright bulb. I'm tired of struggling to read. I'm going to start looking around for a deal. (I don't have another lamp to move into its place; I broke a lamp not long ago, so I'm actually a bit short in that area.)

I'm feeling good financially. I have money in the bank, gas in the tank, food in the fridge, nice clothes hanging in my closet. My bills are paid. I have some fun trips coming up that I will pay for with cash. I'm good!

Yesterday and Today

January 4th, 2018 at 07:39 am

I really pushed myself yesterday morning to go to the gym, shop at Walmart, and perform cat duty at my son's house. It was cold and so unpleasant, and I was wearing a pair of boots that rubbed a sore spot, so felt particularly irritable. It felt so good to come home and relax for the day.

At Walmart I bought parchment paper ($3), cat food and kitty litter ($23), a combination lock ($1) and a magnifying glass ($5). The magnifying glass will be one of my cheap gifts for my grandson in the coming year. He is fascinated by mine.

I also did a load of laundry at home. ($1.50)

My son's family is coming home today -- they will probably arrive around 7:30 tonight. So this is my last day to take care of the cats. I'm also going to vacuum a bit and mop the kitchen floor, which I've tracked with snow.

Meals today: scones for breakfast, French onion soup and egg salad sandwich for lunch, sauteed chicken and peas for dinner. I'm going to try to stop eating at 5 -- trying out the intermittent fasting idea.

I'm not going to go to the gym today. No shopping to do. No driving. I'm just going to walk over to my son's.

I hope all of you on the east coast are staying safe and warm today!

Edit: my variables are at 20% -- pretty good!

Groceries and a Wal-Mart Plan

January 3rd, 2018 at 06:01 am

After the gym yesterday I stopped at Aldi and spent $11 on butter, creamer, tilapia fillets, applesauce and hamburger buns.

Today I'm going to go a little farther afield -- to Wal-Mart, which is a bit out of the way for me. I need to get a new lock to use at Planet Fitness. For some reason my current lock now refuses to close. Not much security there! While I am at WM, I'll get cat food and cat litter if they have the right brands. And I'll also look for parchment paper.

Today it's above zero -- not much, though. I don't like hearing about the big storm brewing on the east coast, and I hope my kids will not try to drive through it. They haven't let me know yet when they are coming back, but the boys have to be in school this coming Monday.

I watched an Amazon Prime movie yesterday -- The Circle. It was interesting, but I'm glad I didn't pay for it. I have to watch on my computer. I used to have a Roku hooked up to my TV, but something has gone wrong there -- I need my son's help. I'd rather watch a movie on a bigger screen.

I finished up the chicken stuff yesterday. Today I'm planning on having tilapia and spinach, and cheese quesadillas and salsa with applesauce. Breakfast will be pumpkin scones, from an Aldi mix.

I'm already tired of winter. It's going to be a long season.

Uberfrugal Month Begins

January 2nd, 2018 at 07:13 am

It began for me with a free dinner at Planet Fitness. I was surprised to go there last night and see a very light crowd -- usually it's packed on Pizza Day, but it was very cold, and it was a holiday to boot.

Other than that, I made the chicken/mushroom/noodle dish -- I've got enough for another meal or two. Didn't cook the spinach yet, so must do that today.

Today it is 8 below. That's not even counting the wind chill. It makes me wish I could just stay in, but I have to feed the kids' cats, anyway, so I'll go to the gym, too, and then I'll stop at Aldi for creamer and butter. I'm out of parchment paper, too, but I'm sure Aldi doesn't carry it. Maybe Food4Less does, which is in the same plaza as Planet Fitness. Is parchment paper a need? I hate to be out of it.

I just heard that the deep freeze will continue till the weekend. At least there is no financial hit to me, since I pay for my heat through my assessment fees, which are fixed.

Getting low on dry cat food and kitty litter, but it is not yet a need for today. Maybe within the next couple of days.

Commit

January 1st, 2018 at 07:41 am

I think that's going to be my word for 2018. Commit. I haven't been very good at it in the past. Whatever I decide to do, it's worth nothing if I don't commit to it. To me, commitment means going all in, following through, and being bone-chillingly honest about your behavior.

I don't mean to sound austere. But it will be a financially challenging year, and if I don't commit to making my finances work, I will be in trouble. Or at least in discomfort.

I got a .59 check from CapitalOne yesterday. It is the reward from a credit card which they closed due to lack of use. I'm going to deposit it by phone to the credit union. It was my last snowflake of 2017.

My first snowflake of 2018 is the $77.90 interest I earned on my credit union account. This year my snowflakes are going toward augmenting my income, not toward the grandkids' college accounts. That will resume in August 2019, when I start drawing my own social security (now drawing the spousal benefit).

I haven't spent much yet this budget cycle, so my variables stand at 11%.

I didn't make the chicken/mushroom dish I was planning yesterday, so I will do that today, as well as cook off the rest of the spinach after I have one more spinach salad.

It's very cold and I wish I could stay in all day, but I have to go feed the grand-cats, and later on, I'll go to Planet Fitness for the free pizza -- oh yes, and for the exercise, of course!

I was planning to go see movies during this break from the family, but I haven't. I think I will check out what is available on Amazon Prime. They won't be new movies, but if I haven't seen them, what does it matter? Commit!

New Year's Eve Reminiscing

December 31st, 2017 at 08:28 am

I like the yearly recaps some have been posting, and I thought I would summarize my year, too:

Good stuff:

Financial - Despite a challenging budget, I managed to end the year with my net worth not only intact, but a little higher than last year.

Vacations - I went on my first-ever cruise (using my first-ever passport) from New Orleans to Mexico. I had a total blast with my kids and grandkids and my dear friend C. Then a few months later I had a beautiful long weekend getaway with my girlfriends in Madison, Indiana, where we stayed in an adorable historic home, ate some great food and went antiquing. I went to Florida twice (in quick succession), once to visit my son's family, and again to help out my DIL, who was on crutches. I went to visit my brother in Michigan often, including family get-togethers on July 4 and Thanksgiving. And I also went to visit BFF and she came to see me, and we never failed to have a great time. I had lunch with my man friend P whenever I went to Michigan, and I hope to keep seeing him in the new year.

Work - I really retired! My work at the museum ended rather abruptly in February (no fault of mine), and though I miss the extra income, I do not miss the commute, nor the stress.

Medical - I went to a nephrologist for the first time and got good news about my chronic kidney disease -- it is progressing very slowly and I learned I did not have to follow a special diet. I also learned from my GP that I did not have to take a statin any more.

Family Triumphs - My son completed his Master's in Predictive Analytics. My grandson made first violin in his middle school orchestra and is therefore concert master -- the youngest ever! My other grandson earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwan Do.

Family History - I started transcribing my mother's diaries (and got side-tracked, but that's another story!) I researched C's lineage and updated the family tree, and I got my DNA tested! I'm very British!

Bad Stuff:

Personal - I lost my good friend C to cancer. She lived approximately a year after the original diagnosis. I was privileged to be one of her carers at the end. She had an amazing last year and I was so happy to be part of it.

Car Repair - I had to replace the master switch assembly in January, and brakes in June, along with a lot of other little things. Car repairs cost me $1889, but that was a lot better than the previous year, which figured above $7K!

Medical - I had to pay $325 out of pocket for physical therapy, and I was troubled by knee pain for about half of the year (it still isn't completely gone!)

Overall, despite the tragedy of losing C, it has been a good year.



Wow, It's Cold!

December 30th, 2017 at 06:16 am

I'm not going to the gym today, or running any errands. I do need to walk over to my son's house to feed the cats, and I'll also go downstairs to do another load of laundry. But those will be my only ventures into the great outdoors.

I paid my big Discover bill this morning, which covers a lot of my Christmas spending. In a few days, my auto insurance premium will be withdrawn.

Meals today will be the rest of the fried rice, and spinach salad. I have some leftover chicken and mushrooms and evaporated milk, so I'm planning to make a cream sauce to blend with both and serve over noodles. But I won't do that until tomorrow since I already have plenty of food to eat up today.

I got a renewal notice for AARP. It is only $16, and I do use it for hotels and Walgreens discounts -- and restaurants, when I remember. But since I have dallied about renewing, they are now offering a luggage organizer set as a bonus. Looks like the set is comprised of four zippered containers in graduated sizes. I think it might make a good gift in my upcoming gap year, so I think I'm going to go for the renewal.

I intended to get more Christmas lights yesterday, but Walgreens was out of the clear ones. I even checked a second Walgreens, and they were out altogether. Oh well, at least one strand is a start.

Feeling pretty content. I love to just snuggle up in winter!

This and That

December 29th, 2017 at 05:44 am

On the way home from the gym yesterday, I stopped at Walgreens. I needed scotch tape and Command hooks. While there I looked at the discounted Christmas items, and I ended up buying a string of fairy lights. The reason being: DIL is going to give me C's Christmas tree, which is much nicer than mine, but is not pre-lit. The string of lights I bought (for only $2.50) includes 100 bulbs and is 21 feet long. Is that enough for a 7-ft. tree? It's been so long since I had to buy lights. I wonder if I should buy another set. They will be double the price if I wait till next Christmas.

I spent $21 altogether.

I also spent $1.50 on a load of laundry.

I applied for a BOA credit card which will award me $150 for spending $500 in the first ninety days. That is easily done.

I made fried rice yesterday using up sloppy joe filling, along with celery, onion, spinach, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. Seasoned with teriyaki sauce. It was delicious! It made enough for two meals.

I was going to make sauteed chicken breast with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner, but my Fitbit told me I had already eaten enough, so I skipped dinner. It wasn't hard, because I actually wasn't too hungry. I'll make the chicken and sprouts today.

I got my check from the credit union, so I'll be depositing that today, then tomorrow, when it clears, I'll pay the big Christmas Discover bill.

I hung some pictures and replaced some ceiling bulbs yesterday. While I had the ladder out, I decided to tackle hanging a drapery rod. After looking over the hardware and the instructions, I decided I do indeed have to wait for my son to do it.

Once I get those curtains hung, I also want to replace the shade in that window. Right now I have an accordian shade that doesn't go up very far. I want to make a rolling shade out of fabric. Has anyone here done that? I wonder how difficult it is. I'm not very crafty. Maybe a Roman shade would be better? I already have the fabric, which beautifully coordinates with the curtains I bought this summer at a garage sale. I think the window will be stunning, if I can ever get it done.

Happy New Year!

December 28th, 2017 at 04:49 am

So, my new year (financially) has begun! My first spending in my January budget was $23 at Aldi and $28 at the gas station.

My ten items at Aldi were: tea, coffee, graham crackers, granola, club crackers, flour, spinach, frozen pizza, frozen chicken breasts, and white vinegar.

In keeping with the pantry challenge, I'll try to make that my last grocery shop in this budget cycle.

The gas was $2.40 per gallon, about as good as I can get in this area. I get a .03 per gallon discount for using my Food4Less card.

That puts me at 7% on my variables, which have been reworked for 2018. I am working with about $10 less per month. Assessment fees went up, and utilities went up a little, but taxes/insurance were less than the year before, so I made that adjustment, and came out with only the $10 reduction.

Today I'm going to use up some leftover sloppy joe filling, as well as chopped celery, onion and Brussels sprouts, in fried rice. I got free shaved Brussels sprouts from my DIL before they left town. I had some in a salad yesterday, but I need to figure out how to use it up faster. May just steam and eat as a side dish.

It's VERY cold here, and I would just stay inside, but I have to go out to feed my son's cats, so I might as well go to the gym, too. I will wait till it's light, though!

It's Pay Day!

December 27th, 2017 at 06:51 am

I'm getting ready to head out to the gym, but I'm reveling in PAY DAY! Weird, pay day is more exciting than Christmas.

I paid my mortgage and a Chase bill. I'm holding off on the Discover bill until my check arrives from my credit union. (End of year expenses required some moving about of funds.)

I saw that I had forgotten to add my insurance premium to expected expenses, just an oversight, but glad I caught it.

After the gym I'll stop at Aldi and get a few items.

So, I've been thinking about how to cut expenses in my gap year (which doesn't actually begin till July.)

At first I was going to do a gift moratorium, but I decided that would feel too bad, so I'm going to give token gifts of $10. Of course, I will explain to all the circumstances.

I will not contribute to college funds in 2018.

I will observe a clothing moratorium. Will not buy anything unless it is an actual, incontrovertible need.

I will not eat out unless there is a social benefit. On those occasions, I will order cheap.

I will work harder to stretch food at home. I will make more from scratch.

I will be more mindful to run full loads of laundry.

I will stretch out haircuts by doing a bangs trim myself.

I will drive less and walk more. I will also use the train more.

I will continue Goodwill shopping, but will not buy books (use library instead.) I will only buy items to resell. If I find "wants" I will ask BFF to buy it and give it to me as a gift later. (We already do that a lot.)

On the income side, I'm going to start selling things on eBay. Any little income I can generate will be helpful.

Nothing big, but all of these things combined, along with "gazelle-instense" mindfulness should get me through.

The Day After

December 26th, 2017 at 05:43 am

Whew! What a day it was! I got up at 6 to go over to my son's house. The kids opened a mountain of gifts. There were a few meltdowns, especially when GS1's "fitbit" (not the real thing) wouldn't work properly. He was mainly overexcited and overwhelmed. They would do well to downsize Christmas, I think, but they are very influenced by other relatives and they are caught in a keeping up with the Joneses kind of thing.

After the gift opening we had homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Then I took some time to shower and clean up, and we went to my nephew's house for Christmas dinner. We spent the rest of the day there.

For my part, I got a real fitbit from my kids, some other fitness-related gifts like a water bottle and a foam roller, some pictures, ornaments, and more hand cream! (Guess I've complained about rough hands.) I never asked for the fitbit, but I'm delighted. It will really help me tackle my creeping weight gain, which I hope to eliminate this year.

I always enjoy Christmas, and I always enjoy seeing it come to an end and getting back to normal!

Planning to go to the gym this morning, but the car is covered with snow and the temperature is really low. It might be really hard to clean off the car. But I guess I have to do it sometime.

I'm looking forward to pay day tomorrow and a fresh start for the new year.

Because I won't be spending anything today, I did my December recap, and here it is:

Gifts/Charity: $1669 (this includes $1080 for college funds, earned in snowflakes)
Housing: $695
Medical/Health: $345
Utilities: $262 (Comcast bill came twice)
Fees/Services: $214 (wheel tax, I-Pass, Amazon Prime)
Vacation/Travel: $190
Groceries: $132
Entertainment: $107 (includes $95 for Art Institute membership)
Phone: $52
Eating Out: $44
Vet/Pet Supplies: $42
Gas: $25
Personal: $18
Car Repair/Maintenance: $14
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor: $11
Laundry: $9
Household Supplies: $6
Fares/Parking: $1

Grand Total: $3847

Now -- December begone!

Christmas Eve Plans

December 24th, 2017 at 10:05 am

More baking today. My grandson is coming over in an hour and we will make a Christmas cake together. This is a cake he has imagined -- green cake, white icing, red decorations. I've just checked to make sure I have enough flour and butter. I don't have much in the way of cake decorations; I hope he will be satisfied with the marzipan fruit and plastic holly. And sprinkles, of course. If not, we'll take the cake to his mom's and see what we can find there.

The snow is coming down outside. I don't want to drive anywhere -- actually not until Christmas is over! I will walk over to my son's house this evening and then again tomorrow morning for the gift opening. After that, tomorrow's plans are in the air. I believe DIL will make a Christmas dinner, but I'm not sure. She also mentioned going out in the evening with my nephew's wife, so I'm unclear whether both things will happen.

The bread I made yesterday is rather coarse and dense. I always seem to have this problem -- the bread doesn't rise enough. And believe me, I gave it PLENTY of time. It must be that inside the cool oven is not warm enough. Bread is so tricky. But I will eat it! I'm just not going to offer the second loaf as a gift.

Wishing everyone here the best Christmas ever! And I hope Hanukkah was the greatest ever, too. Peace on earth to all!

Yeast

December 23rd, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Ah, I couldn't make it a no spender, because I had to buy some yeast. It was $2 for six packets.

I made bread from scratch this morning, but it did not rise. I was worried that the yeast was too old, and I was right. So I read that you could work fresh yeast into a failed loaf and I decided to try it.

I still don't know if the dough will rise, but the new yeast was definitely a lot perkier when I dissolved it. Here's hoping. I love homemade bread, and the extra loaf would make a good addition to Christmas dinner.

I finally got my bill for the assessment fees. It was $1 cheaper than I thought it would be, so woo-hoo! $392. I adjusted my variables budget for next year. From January to June, I'll have $690 to spend, and from June to December (and thereafter until August 2019), only $515. This year the monthly spending amount has been $710.

Later on I'll do a post on how I intend to make cuts and get through those lean months.

When I went shopping for the yeast, I found a nice man's ring in the parking lot. I turned it in at customer service. I hope the guy who lost it will realize he lost it at the store, and come back for it.

Variables

December 22nd, 2017 at 10:09 am

My variables are up to 105%, and that's with the removal of Christmas spending, and a combination of fees (wheel tax, I-Pass & Amazon Prime) that totaled more than $200. I have five days to go till pay day.

My gas level is hovering just below one quarter tank. Ordinarily, I would fill it up, but I am wavering. I really don't want to add more to variables. Can I make it on the gas I have? I don't really HAVE to drive, though I should go to the gym daily. I would hate to miss five days in a row.

So I think I will go on Sunday and Tuesday, and I think I should be okay, gas-wise. I don't have to do any grocery shopping, and the boys will be out of school, so I won't have any pick-up duty. (Though it's possible I could be called upon today.)

I can actually spend $13 and still be even for the year, so if the needle drops to rock-bottom, I can put $13 in the tank. It would just be nice to come in under for the year.

This may seem ridiculous, when I actually have plenty of money available, but it's very important to me to meet my goals on variables spending. This is how I know my money will last, and that I will have the cash in savings when I need it.

I'm still waiting to hear what my new assessment fee will be in 2018. This will decrease my variables budget a bit more, which is clearly already a challenge!

And then there's the gap year coming up in July. So my main new year's resolution this year will be to focus on new ways to cut expenses.

Freebies

December 21st, 2017 at 12:01 pm

It's been a no-spend day, and I even got some freebies. DSW gave me a gift box for being a special customer. I guess I did buy quite a few pairs of shoes this year!

The gift box included a mug, a portable charger, a fleece blanket, some chalk, some drinking straws, and some earbuds. Most of those will be regifted. I wanted to give my son a few little things in addition to his big gift, and the charger and earbuds will be just the ticket! My grandkids will get the straws and the chalk. I would give away the mug and the blanket, but they're clearly branded "DSW."

I shifted around some money in my accounts yesterday so I could pay the grandkids' college funds. The check to the Florida grandkids was mailed this morning. As soon as I finish this, I'll take care of the local grandkids. For them, I give directly to an education savings account and it's a little more complicated.

It wasn't strictly a no-spend day since I did a load of laundry in the morning.

I am really ready for an uberfrugal month! December wears me out with all its financial demands.

Back in Town

December 20th, 2017 at 04:54 am

I'm back from my brief trip. I spent $28 on gas, $4 on food and $7 on a car wash. (Sloppy road!)

I had a lovely lunch with P in a new restaurant that was excellent. He appreciated his little gift, especially the wrapping paper! Just like a kid.

My cough got worse and I didn't get much sleep on Monday night, but I got through the day and now that I'm home I feel much better.

I have one more gift to wrap, cookies to bake (not yet, though!), and I need to distribute the college money for the grandkids. Not bad, with Christmas still five days away, and having been sick for a while!

Today I'm going to be watching for an email from my property management company. Assessment fees are going up, and I have to change the amount that will be automatically withdrawn from my bank account. But I don't know the exact amount yet. Supposedly today we will get an e-bill. I expect it will be somewhere around $393.


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