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Archive for April, 2012

Open houses

April 30th, 2012 at 06:31 am

I went up to spend the day with my son's family yesterday. We went to lunch at a taco place and I spent $7.70 on soup and a fish taco. After lunch I wanted to look at some open houses in the area. I had three on my list. The first was a one-bedroom 2d story unit just down the street from where my son lives. Although it was one-bedroom, it had a 12x12 dining room, a 12x7 office and and 12x5 sunroom, so it didn't feel tiny. The kitchen and bathroom were both unexceptional, and the bedroom small -- 11x11. No parking available -- I would have to find a place on the street every night. It was $133,00 and had just gone on the market. Association fee was $308 monthly and taxes were $2,294 annually.

The second was in a gorgeous old building. It had two bedrooms, but one was really an old parlor; I would use it as a dining room. It had a nice big kitchen, washer-dryer hookup, tiny bedroom, nicely painted and remodeled throughout. It was only $70,000. Why? Scary neighborhood. I couldn't do it.

The third we didn't even go into, because the neighborhood and building looked so bad.

So really only the first is a possibility, and it is a little high for what I can afford. I will watch it, though! Maybe the price will come down.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: granola w/skim milk
Lunch: chicken tortilla soup and fish taco
Dinner: honey-glazed pork chop, roasted sweet potatoes and chick peas.
Snack: S'mores. (or as my grandson says, Shmores.)

Daily expenses challenge

April 28th, 2012 at 01:33 pm

Yesterday I donated $100 to the National Brain Tumor Society. My son and his wife are taking part in the Race for Hope (I did it last year). I figure I'm saving so much money by not going to DC that donating $100 is a savings.

I also paid the water bill - $26.

Today I did my grocery shopping - $19.68. Items bought: milk, bread, 3 boxes of fruit & grain bars, can of tuna, bag of popcorn (not microwave), wine, jar of alfredo sauce, eggs, and a bag of coconut.

I bought 3 boxes of of fruit & grain bars because I had a coupon to get one of them free.

Ordinarily I would make alfredo sauce, but this was only $1, cheaper than what I would have spent for the ingredients.

The coconut is to go into homemade granola. I was supposed to buy almonds, too, but I balked at the price. I have walnuts on hand, and they are better for me anyway.

I also bought a bottle of Ultimate Flora for $23.99, a bag of cat food for $5.29 and 3 cards for $7.49.

Then I went to Dollar General with my $5 off coupon (had to spend $25). I bought two jugs of kitty litter, maxi pads, Advil, liquid soap, coffee, and Ziploc bags. (The coffee doesn't count in my food bill because I'm taking it to work). $26.

Then I bought gas -- $38.72. The price of gas has plummeted to to $4.03 per gallon -- probably still the most expensive in the nation.

I made a stop at the library and took out two new books, and for $2 checked out a recent DVD -- "My Week with Marilyn."

That reminds me, last week I checked out a really good movie, "A Better Life." It's about a father who is an illegal immigrant struggling to make a better life for his son. Very moving and realistic. I couldn't help but compare it to "Pretty in Pink" which I had recently watched on the TV Guide channel. It was also about a family with financial problems, but so fake in comparison. You just couldn't believe Molly Ringwald was really poor.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/ brown sugar, coffee
Lunch: Ziti w/ground beef and marinara
Dinner: Corn pone pie (chili topped w/cornbread), milk
Snack: Gingersnaps

Today's meals:

Breakfast: Apple pancakes, coffee
Lunch: Corn pone pie, milk
Snack: Fruit & grain bars

Dinner (planned): Grilled cheese sandwich, sliced peaches, green beans, wine

Financial Talk

April 27th, 2012 at 06:48 am

Yesterday I attended a financial talk presented by our wellness program. It was pretty much the standard stuff -- lots of encouragement to save for retirement, not much info on budgeting or how to save on a small income. It did encourage me to take one step -- I called TIAA-CREF and closed the money market account that wasn't earning anything, and I arranged to have 5% of my paycheck go into my new retirement fund. My employer already puts in 5%, so in essence, I am "matching" my employer. Smile

The new fund will never pay out very much -- it is so small, and I have so few years left, but it is better to put the money there than into something that's earning nothing.

I'll put the $989 from the money market into the credit union and that will become my personal savings for a down payment (along with the $65K in stock). It will be harder to put money there with 5% of my income going into retirement, but it will remain really important to save for a down payment. The bigger I can make it, the less I will have to pay in a mortgage. I would LOVE to find a foreclosure that I could pretty much pay cash for, but that would take a lot of luck.

A free lunch was provided -- mini ham sandwiches and crudites. At the end of the lunch, the organizer encouraged us to take leftovers, since the department had already paid for the food. So I took two more little sandwiches and put them in my freezer last night.

Also, yesterday, I went to the book talk by Sara Paretsky. I went early and had a seat right up front. She gave a prepared talk, which she mostly read, so I didn't get a sense of her as a person until the Q&A session. Clearly writing, not speaking, is her venue. But she seemed so nice, like a lady you might meet at a garden club or a mother-daughter tea.

One interesting thing she shared was that when Disney made the movie "V.I. Warshawski" they bought the rights to that character, unbeknownst to her. Because the movie flopped, they are not interested in making another, but no one else can make a movie using that character. That's too bad, not only for her, but because many of her books would make wonderful movies.

So just another lesson, always read what you're signing!

No spending yesterday.

Meals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/ brown sugar
Lunch: Ham sandwiches & crudites, iced tea
Dinner: Meat Loaf and Potatoes, cherry tomatoes
Snack: Gingersnaps

New pants, free lunches and a book signing

April 26th, 2012 at 07:11 am

I made my weekly trip to Goodwill last night and spent $18. My biggest purchases were two pairs of pants. I tell you, pants are usually SO hard to find I grab 'em when I see 'em. The two pairs were $7, so I couldn't pass them up, even though I really do have enough pants right now. (So I will probably retire a couple of old pairs to the dirty-work category.) One pair is olive green twill; the other is gray, cropped. Both very new-looking, if not new.

I also got 3 Easter pails for next year (might as well start early, huh?) along with a couple of Easter finger puppets. I found a new plaid scarf to give to my DIL (if I don't decide to keep it myself), a Cranium card game to keep at home for the grandkids' entertainment, a ceramic Santa for my collection, a beautiful Christmas gift box, and a lined flowerpot that looks like wood (but probably isn't). I was really happy to find the flowerpot -- it was badly needed for a plant at work, and I was just on the point of shopping for a new one. (The horror!)

For my free lunch yesterday I ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I ate half and took the other half home. I'll have it for dinner tonight. Today I get another free lunch for attending a financial talk (part of our work's wellness series -- not a marketing ploy).

Tonight I am going to attend a lecture by Sara Paretsky. When I was at Goodwill last night I looked for a book by her so I could get it signed, but I couldn't find one. So I'll skip the signing part, which can often be a long, drawn-out process. Kind of nice to meet the author face-to-face, though!

My only spending yesterday ...

April 25th, 2012 at 05:50 am

was $1.50 for a Dr. Pepper from the vending machine. And I shouldn't have, but I needed a boost after the stress of doing a hurry-up last-minute project for the boss.

Heard the news about the projections that Social Security will run out, what, in 2033? Eeek! I'll be 84, and I'm planning to still be around! Wish I didn't have to rely on it as the bulk of my income, but that's the way it's gonna be. Guess my only recourse is to keep squirreling it away.

Free lunch today! And it will be a good one. The official good-bye party for a departing staff member, it will be at an uptown restaurant with great salads and sandwiches, and the office pays. I'm getting hungry already.

This and that

April 24th, 2012 at 09:20 am

Yesterday's spending:

Lab bill: $27.00
Flowers for aunt: $65
Water bill: $26
Booth rental: $83

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Banana bread
Lunch: Ziti w/ground beef & marinara
Dinner: Egg salad on crackers, peanut soup
Snacks: Cereal, oatmeal cookies

The flowers I sent to my aunt were pretty expensive, but I really thought the daisies and yellow roses would be just the ticket for her. So cheerful. I ordered them on FTD through MyPoints, so at least I got some points.

Speaking of which, I have earned enough points now for my $50 Amazon card -- just waiting for the credits to come through.

I've been invited to a wedding in Florida this September. The bride is the daughter of my ex-husband. She was born after we split up, so she was never my step-daughter. But she is my kids' half-sister, and we have had a cordial relationship. I am quite touched that I am invited to the wedding. I will try to go. It will be a nice September vacation! And my aunt and uncle live nearby, so I can get in a visit to them, too.

I put in a request to attend a conference in Minneapolis this August. I don't know what my chances are for going -- the College is not conducive to extra expenses right now, but I thought I might as well try. Besides it being a very worthy conference for my profession, I would get to see a friend who lives in Minneapolis, maybe even stay with her a few days after the conference is over. We'll see.

My weekend

April 23rd, 2012 at 07:01 am

After my run to Dollar General on Saturday morning, I did not do any more spending. Spent most of Sunday inside -- got some cleaning done, and a lot of reading. I read a whole Nevada Barr book in one day! She's the kind of author that's hard to put down.

I also boxed up a lot of books to take to Goodwill. I wanted the shelves clear to display some pretties. I put the new Spode plates in the hutch. I rearranged the grandsons' toy area.

On a trip to the dumpster I found a perfectly good plastic bucket and a wire wastebasket. I took them booth home and cleaned them up. The bucket is storing little toys, and I'm using the wire basket for used towels. I'm such a scavenger!

I made two loaves of banana bread, but I think I may toss them. First of all, I dropped eggshell in the batter, and even though I thought I picked it all out, I keep biting into it. So gross. And it is a little overbaked and just not very tasty. I hate to waste everything that went into, but - ick.

This morning I got a message from FlexPro that my payment to the radiologist was denied for low funds. I admit I wasn't keeping up on it, but boy, that went fast! It's only April!

After applying for the Chase rewards card I have heard nothing at all. Not even a confirmation email. My credit score is 950 -- I'm assuming that's good? I've never paid attention to credit score, but I thought higher was better than lower.

My aunt has been in rehab following a fall; she was in rather poor health before that happened, and her daughters have been very concerned about her health. This morning I heard that she is doing better. It is almost her birthday. I'm going to send some flowers.

Saturday's meals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal/banana pancakes
Lunch: Sloppy joes, celery sticks, iced tea
Dinner: Chicken noodle soup, English muffin, wine

Sunday:

Breakfast: Banana bread
Lunch: Chicken noodle soup, egg salad sandwich, sliced peaches
Dinner: Pizza slice, milk

Surprising difficult!

April 21st, 2012 at 08:09 am

What does it say about me that I was really excited to try out Dollar General for my grocery shopping this week (I had a coupon for $5 off if I spent $25). Perfect! I want to spend $20, and that's like getting $5 free.

I knew their stock was limited, but I found it surprisingly difficult to select $25 worth of food that would not be foolish or wasteful. (And I admit, $3 went to dishwasher gel, which was kind of a cheat).

Here is what I got, food-wise, for a total cost of $18.94:

Bag of seasoned croutons
8 hamburger buns
Bag of ginger snaps
Can of diced tomatoes
Can of beef ravioli
Box of instant pudding
2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
Can of mandarin oranges
Can of tomato sauce
Box of mashed potato flakes
Box of raisins
Package of oatmeal cookies
Box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Jar of sliced peaches
Jar of sliced pears
Bottle of Ranch dressing
Small bottle of olive oil
Can of kidney beans

Okay, that is a more than I usually get, but certainly a different kind of food than I usually get!

With the ground beef I have in the freezer, I have the ingredients for chili. And I can use a lot of these items for lunches.

When I checked out, I got another $5 off coupon for next Saturday. At first I thought, no way, but then I decided that this time I would use it for non-food items.

It was an interesting experiment.

I do believe that yesterday I did not spend anything.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Apple pancakes, milk
Lunch: Chicken medallions in teriaki sauce, green beans
Dinner: Homemade chicken noodle soup, English muffin, wine

I just keep spending

April 20th, 2012 at 06:11 am

Usually I have more no spend days than not, but this month something has been trickling out every day. Yesterday I had to refill a prescription - $5. I had to wait around for it, since I was completely out and had to take one before bedtime, so while I was waiting I bought 2 bottles of calcium on a 2-for-1 deal, a birthday card, and two bags of Tootsie Rolls for work, which were on sale. Altogether - $16.37.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal raisin breakfast cookies, banana, coffee
Lunch: Ziti with ground beef & marinara
Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwich, green pepper strips, wine
Snacks: Toast & jelly, crackers

I started reading In the Garden of Beasts last night and I think it's going to be very good for a non-fiction book.

Next week is shaping up to be interesting. I have two free lunches coming up -- a good-bye lunch and a lunch provided along with listening to a financial talk -- it's a benefit from Human Resources. That lunch is advertised as "small sandwiches and vegetables" and they said you could bring something, too. So I'm guessing it will be a small lunch, but hey, it's free, and the topic is right up my alley.

Also, on Thursday night, the mystery author Sara Paretsky will be giving a talk and doing a book signing. A free event. This time I won't invest in a book, but I will enjoy the talk. She's a very interesting author who sets all of her mystery novels in Chicago, so it's always fun to spot the "real" places in her books.

A mishap

April 19th, 2012 at 05:38 am

I did my usual Goodwill shopping last night, and found some terrific things. Best find -- five Spode plates in historic blue and white patterns. They all had removable plate hangers on them, which come in handy for the booth, as well. My aim was to put the plates in the booth, but I think I may keep them and display in my hutch. I really love them. I also found five new photo boxes in cheerful Parisian patterns. I've been collecting photo boxes for the big family photo sorting project I need to do when I have lots of free time, but these are so cute they could serve as gift boxes. I found four brand-new Disney princess chapsticks, which will go in the take-out purses I bought for my grand-nieces last week. And I found a beautiful Lenox picture frame. And here comes the mishap. I dropped the frame in the parking lot and it shattered to smithereens! Not only had I splurged and paid $8 for it, I was already dreaming of how lovely my son's wedding picture would look in it. It really made me sad.

Overall, my spending at Goodwill was $47.

I also bought a Dr. Pepper from the vending machine - $1.50. Just because I needed a pick-me-up.

My $20 grocery shopping for this week will be a little different than usual. I have a coupon for Dollar General to buy $25 worth of merchandise for $20. So I'll see what I can get. They do have groceries, though somewhat limited stock.

I picked up the student newspaper yesterday and found a coupon for the local Qdoba for half-off one entree. I can use a coupon like that -- so many are for two dinners for the price of one, which is hard for a single person to use.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Granola w/skim milk, coffee
Lunch: Pizza slice, raw cauliflower & dip
Dinner: Cobb salad w/ chicken
Snack: Toast & jelly

Yesterday's spending

April 18th, 2012 at 10:16 am

$23 Dinner
$15 Contribution toward good-bye gift
$6.30 Postage

Breakfast: Muffins and banana
Lunch: Ziti w/ground beef & marinara
Dinner: Arepa de Ropa Vieja (Cuban beef on polenta), mangaso (cocktail), 1/4 of a slice of chocolate mousse cake

We had a wonderful dinner last night at a Latin American restaurant in Oak Park. But the really cool thing was that it was Tax Day, and we got to choose our own prices! We tried not to be TOO cheap, though I think we underpaid. My $23 portion was for my dinner and 1/3 of the guest of honor's bill.

When we left the restaurant, the Channel 2 news truck was parked outside, but we didn't get an interview. Darn! I was all set to be entertaining. (NOT!)

My co-workers and I love this place so much we're going to make it a regular thing. We're especially looking forward to eating on the patio.

The money I spent on postage was to mail the big T-shirt to my big brother-in-law. The postage cost more than the shirt. But anytime I can find a 4X shirt cheap, it's worth the postage. They are super-expensive in specialty stores.

I also mailed a book I sold, but I don't count that as spending. That's an investment. Smile



Yesterday & today

April 17th, 2012 at 06:05 am

Yesterday's spending --

Radiologist bill - $131

Yesterday's meals --

Breakfast: Granola w/milk, coffee
Lunch: Pizza slice
Dinner: Cobb salad w/chicken
Snacks: Muffin, toast & jelly

Tonight I'm going to my favorite Mexican cafe. Another farewell dinner, I'm afraid. Since Mean Girl has taken the helm, three people have quit. So far I am holding my own with her, but knowing that I will retire in a few years helps.

Tonight's dinner is just a few of V's best friends at work; next week will be the "official" good-bye lunch. I'll be chipping in for a little gift as well.

I am so sorry to see these people go. It seems like all the best ones are leaving. Why do workplaces have to be so crazy? Specifically, why does the most unlikable person always get the promotion? Meanness is NOT effectiveness! Quite the opposite.

I sold another book on half.com, one that's been on the list for a long time, so I guess it pays to hang in there. So today I'll make a post office run to mail that and the shirt I got for my brother-in-law.

I cashed in my Citi points for $150 in Amazon gift cards and a $100 Walmart card. Amazon for gifts, and Walmart for groceries and toiletries.

I haven't heard yet whether I qualified for the Chase card, but I suppose it takes some time. I'm going to try to hold off on charging anything till I get it, since I will have to average $1000 per month.

Yesterday's spending

April 16th, 2012 at 06:20 am

Yesterday I spent $28 on a book, "In the Garden of Beasts." I was at a lecture & book signing by Erik Larson, and it was PACKED! Even though I got there early I had a seat in the back -- then I had to give it up to a Trustee. Why can't important people come on time? Bleh. So I ended up standing up in the foyer, watching and listening through glass. Halfway through, the nice man who was selling the books gave me his chair, so I didn't have to stand up the whole time. The good part about being in the back, though, was being at the front of the line for the signing part. I had the author dedicate it to my son, and I will give the book to him. But I'll read it first, of course!

It was a good lecture -- he was a very engaging speaker.

Meals:

Breakfast: Veggie scramble, iced coffee with creamer
Lunch: Lasagna, salad, iced tea
Dinner: Chicken teriaki, egg foo yun
Snack: granola w/ milk

I did it!

April 15th, 2012 at 09:13 am

I applied for the Chase Sapphire card -- 40,000 points for $3000 spending in 3 months. I just finished up my Citi obligations, but I haven't cashed in the points or cancelled the account yet. I would never have done this without the encouragement of you good folks out there!

Now I need to gear myself up for spending $1000 a month again -- but not wastefully. I wonder if I can charge my rent?

I did my grocery shopping yesterday. I spent $20.04, and got granola, dried cranberries, wine, milk, a pound of ground round (ha, ha, three rhymes), bag of salad, shredded cheddar, bag of yellow onions, a green pepper, and 2.3 pounds of bananas. I had $4.50 in coupons, but wasn't credited for them and had to go back. This happens often. I need to stay awake while checking out! For another $2.50 I got some body wash. Then I stopped at Dollar General and bought two birthday cards and three spools of thread for $2.

I also paid my rent - $1132. And my credit cards. But I won't log those payments, because I log the items as I buy them.

Then I transferred $250 into savings.

Yesterday's meals:

Breakfast: Egg casserole, hot chocolate
Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Salad, Wine
Snack: Granola w/milk

I divided my take-home ziti into four packages and put them in the freezer. Today I have to cook some chicken I thawed, and I want to make some teriakyi sauce. I planned to make granola this weekend, but I had a $1.50 coupon to buy granola, so I will wait on the homemade.

Good news!

April 14th, 2012 at 08:31 am

I'm gonna be a grandma again! My son who got married in 2010 is gonna be a daddy! This is their first child. The due date is November 19. They do not want to know the sex of the child beforehand, so that will be a surprise to all of us.

They gave me the news last night when we were out to dinner. The waiter was so tickled he bought dessert for all of us!

I am really happy because my son had told me previously that his wife might not be able to conceive because of medical problems she had when she was young. Apparently not a problem! She will have to be careful because she has a bad back, but I am sure everyone is going to rush in to help and never let her lift a thing!

Spending yesterday --

My share of the dinner was $16.45. We went to a restaurant called Maggiano's where, if you order a "classic pasta" entree, you get a take home box of a different pasta. So I ordered lasagna, ate only half, and now I have a half-order of lasagna and a full order of ziti. This will go a LONG way toward feeding me this week.

Yesterday's meals --

Breakfast: oatmeal with brown sugar, coffee

Lunch: spinach & mushroom quiche, cut-up fresh fruit, muffin (all free at work; lefovers from scholarship breakfast)

Dinner: lasagna, bread & oil, spinach salad, dessert bites (creme brulee, chocolate cheesecake)

Yesterday I read an article about insomnia. I read it with great interest, since I was just coming off a terrible night's sleep. The advice of this author was to get up and do something rather than lie there and wish for sleep. That's contrary to what I've heard before but it's worth a try.

I slept very well last night, despite the excitement, so fatigue does win out in the end!