This will be short, as I'm very busy logging in year-end gifts. But I have a small break.
I've been very sick the past few days. Either a cold or flu, but it really got me down. I spent two days in bed, which is very unusual for me. I had a fever that wouldn't break and my head felt like it was going to pop. Today I was better -- thank goodness -- because I think I would have been expected to work even if I were dead.
Before I went down, I had a day to myself. I finally got to see "Lincoln" and I used some gift cards to buy myself a welcome mat, lock de-icer, a candle, some socks, and a pair of PJ's for my granddaughter. Still have cards to use at Barnes & Noble and Banana Republic -- maybe tomorrow.
I was going to babysit the grandsons tonight, but thank goodness my kids decided not to go out. I don't think I could do it in my rocky state of health and after a day of work. (And might I add, what gives with no heat in the office? We really are the drek around here!)
I expect to get some gas on the way home and that will be my last spending for 2012. Then I can get started on my monthly and annual recaps. It's been quite a year for me -- a new home, a new granddaughter, a new boss, getting used to a big commute. I'm looking forward to a more sedate 2013!
Tonight I will park on the street. I finally did talk to the lady who owns my parking spot and told her I could not afford it. She said she wished she had known, but since neither one of us had the other's address or phone, it was pretty hard to get that done. I signed up to get email alerts for snow emergencies -- that is when I will have to move the car for snowplowing. It's a simple plan. Odd side of the street on odd days, even side of the street on even days. But only when it's a snow emergency, which is a snowfall of 4 inches or more.
It might be a bit of a pain, but worth $720, I think.
Archive for December, 2012
This will be short, as I'm very busy logging in year-end gifts. But I have a small break.
Christmas came and went without much drama. Christmas present is a little weird for me, with my kids celebrating much more materialistic Christmases than I ever did in Christmas past. It did seem like one of my sons scaled back a bit this year, which is good. Last year I was so embarrassed about my modest giving. This year I gave more, though I managed to keep my costs down to about what I did last year. Just more planning, more "snowflakes," as some would say.
I think next year I will set an "value" amount for each person and keep track of it. I did a lot of stressing this year about whether the gifts were equivalent in value. The actual costs were all over the place.
Boxing Day was more my kind of day. My son and I played a game which I had given him, and we had Chinese food and leftovers. At the end of the day I went to the grocery store for the first time in two weeks. I spent $25 on food (plus a bit more on kitty litter and paper towels). I think $25 would be a good number to shoot for each week. That would make my monthly spending about $100, and $25 worth of groceries seems to be easy enough to carry up the steps!
For my $25 I got three cans of crescent rolls (had a .55 off coupon for three), a pound of ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, 64 oz. of almond milk, coffee creamer, a dozen eggs, a liter of Dr. Pepper, a bag of spring mix salad, and a 3-lb. bag of cuties. I will use the beef and tomato sauce to make stuffed pepper casserole (already have the rice and green pepper). I will use some of the crescent rolls to make ham rollups for my grandsons, when they stay over on Monday night. I already have the ham. I have three quarters of a broccoli cheddar quiche in my fridge, and two cups of carrot-cauliflower cream soup in the freezer. The eggs and salads will serve well for dinner, too.
Most of my breakfasts will be Wolferman's English muffins, as I have a big supply in my freezer. Lunches will be leftovers from dinner.
So I think I am pretty well set. I am only working today and New Year's Eve this week, so I will have time for cooking and planning.
I had such an awful morning. I overslept, skipped my shower so I could catch the train, fell on the ice (raising a lump on my knee) and missed the train, the next train was cancelled. Then when I got downtown, there was a 40-minute wait before I could get a train to work. I got to work so late. But my co-worker gave me a plate of home-baked goodies which really brightened my day. Unfortunately I had just eaten a bagel which I got from Dunkin Donuts at the downtown station. I used the last bit of my DD gift card and only paid $2.32 for a bagel with cream cheese and coffee, but if I had only known I could have waited a bit.
I'm spending another $10 for lunch -- we are ordering in Chinese -- and I didn't want to left out. In fact, I'm looking forward to it very much! Oh, it's here! YUM!
On Saturday morning, my BFF called and said that she and her son's family were heading to Chicago. Did I want to meet them at the Aquarium? Sure I did! I took my grandsons and we had a fabulous day. It was so much fun to see how excited little children get about seeing fish! Of course, we saw the dolphin/whale show, too. This was the first time I'd ever been to the Aquarium and I was pretty impressed. Then on Sunday, I met the group again (this time without my grandsons) at Navy Pier. My grandchildren had already been to Winter Wonderland at Navy Pier, and didn't really need to re-experience it. This time, my BFF had a chance to find a quiet spot and catch up with each other. I also got the chance to really enjoy the stained glass museum.
So -- the cost? Whew. Parking alone for the two days was $38. Tickets -- $82. Food -- $33. I also found a darling hand-knit hat for my granddaughter for $27, and I spent $17 on gas.
Add to that, $5 spent on laundry in the early hours before I went into the city.
But it was just one of those things that you have to do when you get the chance! Making memories!
I had a really good evening with my grandsons last night. I was a little worried about watching them, because I was pretty tired during the day, but I got a second wind. I made mac & cheese for them, and we played games. They were a model of good behavior. Meanwhile Mom & Dad had a romantic Christmas dinner, just the two of them. It seemed like no time at all before it was time for them to go home to get ready for bed. It was my bedtime, too!
I drove to work today because I am invited to an "end of the world" party tonight (free dinner!). I was afraid the weather would interfere with these plans, but, although we got a little snow, the storm pretty much skipped us. Nevertheless, it IS cold, so I broke out my Nautica down coat for the first time. I think it's going to be great asset this winter.
My colleague showed me her Ugg boots, and they are certainly tempting. They look as warm as toast. I don't know about buying expensive boots right now, though, with the cost of the couch and three rugs looming. (Ha, ha, rugs "looming." I love my accidental puns!)
Only about half the crew is here at work today, and I suspect that not a lot of work will get done. I will work again next Thursday for half a day, then on New Year's Eve for half day. Even though the College will be closed, gifts will still be coming in, and they have to be processed before the end of the year. I will get a day off in January to make up for the time worked.
One of our donors brought in a big gift box of Wolferman's English muffins, crumpets, cinnamon rolls and scones. And jam. I mentioned to one of my co-workers how much I liked Wolferman's muffins, and she told me she would bring me some from home -- her family doesn't like them, and she got a gift box at home, too. I said SURE! I can freeze them individually and bring them in for breakfast each day.
I also got a gift basket of cookies from the catering staff, so that will be utilized for lunches next year. One on my New Year's goals, to add to what I put down the other day, is to be a lot more strategic about planning breakfasts and lunches.
Yesterday I went home from work not knowing if my boss would be back today. She had a run-in with Mean Girl (yes, she's still here, and more powerful than ever). Later she tearfully confessed to me that she thought she would be fired. When I left for the day, she had just been called into the big boss' office. All night I thought about what it would be like if she were fired, and whether my job was safe.
Today all seems to be well. She and the big boss came to an agreement, so we will stumble on. We really have to get rid of Mean Girl, though. If only the boss could see through her. She's poison.
It certainly made me think about what I would do if I found myself suddenly unemployed. I decided I would start to draw Social Security, even though I am only 63, and try to find a part-time job. I don't think it is viable to find a full-time job at the age of 63 in this economic climate. It was a scary evening, mulling over these things.
Today I contributed $7 toward a Christmas gift for my boss, and paid the Comcast bill - $43.
Outdoors the rain is starting to turn to sleet, and promising to be snow this evening. It may be a rough commute, but better on the train than on the highway.
When I get home, I get to babysit my grandsons, so Mom & Dad can have a "civil dinner together." I'll have to quickly hide the unwrapped gifts when I get home! I'm really tired (all that tossing and turning last night) but I'm going to do this for them. I'm going to let them unwrap a couple of Christmas books, and I hope that will keep them toned down, for a little while, at least.
I don't think I spent anything yesterday. That hasn't happened in a while!
I just volunteered to be Treasurer for a board I'm serving on. I figured, money, spreadsheets -- what's not to like? Seriously, no one was stepping up, and how hard can it be? I guess I'll find out.
I also just got a text from my BFF saying she will be coming to Chicago this weekend with her son's family. Tentative plans are to meet at Navy Pier on Sunday. However, may not happen, since I'm going to an end of the world party on Friday night.
Christmas shopping is done! I do have to make two ornaments, but I have the materials. It is my goal to finish them on Saturday. I'm making two Ninja warriors out of felt, using a cookie cutter template. Hoping they will come together easily.
It's looking like I will have a few days to just enjoy the season before Christmas. I do like it that Christmas is on Tuesday.
With Christmas shopping done, I can finally start thinking about 2013 goals. Here are a few:
Buy rugs for the living room, dining room and hallway.
Double-pay the mortgage every month.
Send extra funds to 1) replenish slush fund or emergency fund, if necessary. 2) pay more on mortgage.
$300 challenge in January.
Continue to pay credit cards in full every month.
Build up MyPoints rewards, Pine Cone payments, Swagbucks and Discover rewards for Christmas gift fund.
Establish a routine for making & freezing lunches.
There will probably be more as time goes on.
Our first winter storm is forecast for tomorrow. I am so glad I am ready with a warm coat, boots, mittens, scarf and hat. It will be interesting to see how it changes my routine.
Last night when I was waiting for the train, a huge, long freight train pulled up and eventually stopped on the track my train uses. After some time an announcement came on saying that my train would be using the middle track. This usually means going to the intersection to get on, because the middle track is fenced off from the station. But the freight train was in the way, so we all had to get to the other side -- which meant walking (fast) to an underground tunnel, and THEN getting over to the intersection. We didn't have much time and I was the last straggler to get on the train. I had visions of it pulling away before I could there!
Then this morning, I left the house a little late, and really pushed it to get to the station. I was walking up the steps as the train pulled up. Two very close calls. Not that it's a tragedy to miss a train, but the wasted time is so aggravating when I'm already gone from 6 to 6. Well, nothing like a little excitement!
This past weekend I went to my first Christmas celebration. It was me and my kids and grandkids, my ex and his wife, and my nephew and his family. Since I will see my kids/grandkids on Christmas Day, we didn't exchange gifts. I only exchanged gifts with my ex and nephew's family. Complicated, huh? I received a big gift basket with wine and fancy snacks, and a Barnes & Noble gift card. The gifts I gave were well-received. We had a great dinner that my DIL cooked. (Prime rib -- way too expensive but delicious!) It was a very good day.
The following day, Sunday, I was exhausted! But I did two loads of laundry (which involves lots of stair-climbing) and I wrapped a lot of gifts.
Yesterday I drove to work because of an office Christmas party after-hours. I decided to use the opportunity to haul a box of donations for Goodwill and some packages to mail. I also ran out to Kohl's at noon to buy a little something for my grandson. Well, I got carried away, and spent $75 on toys for both of my grandsons. (They were such good deals!) I am telling myself that I won't be able to do this much longer -- after I retire, my income will be sharply reduced. And I realized that my other gifts were very practical and educational but these are fun! Ah well, it's hard to be a frugal grandma at Christmas time. I have to remember I scrimped and saved all year to do this.
I got an email blast from my property manager saying that our homeowner's association was successful in getting our property taxes reduced. Since I haven't paid them yet, I won't really know the difference when I get the bill. But I believe I was figuring on about $3400 to $3500 for the year, so we'll see what it turns out to be. Supposedly I will get an additional break because of my age. That all has to be figured out in the new year.
Once again I paid double and then some on my mortgage. I won't be able to pay it off before I retire, but at least I will make a dent.
The bright financial spot of this season is the plethora of free food! All these parties, and treats in the office all the time!
I bought a bag of pistachios last night - $8 - and I think it is my last bit of Christmas shopping. Forgot to use my Walgreen's gift card! But I guess that's not really a loss, as there will always be other things to get at Walgreen's. The pistachios were $2 off.
So I'm finish with shopping, except -- I am a little worried about grandson #2. While I spent the same amount on both boys -- maybe even a little more on #2 -- he only has two gifts, while #1 has about five. They are too young to understand quality versus quantity. I may have to get some little somethings.
This morning we had our Christmas breakfast at work. It's very nice -- they set up omelet stations and provide a really nice buffet. Then there is a raffle for some nice gift baskets. I was really hoping to win a basket geared to games and toys, but, of course, didn't win anything!
I had some kind of bad digestive reaction to something I ate yesterday -- maybe cheesecake that sat out too long? I really thought I might not come in today, but felt so much better in the morning. I figure there will be days when I REALLY have to take off; might as well save my time.
Tonight I have to grocery shop, then make a cheese ball for tomorrow's family dinner. I also have to wrap gifts, and more laundry is beckoning, too. I am learning that the 3 1/2 hour commute, while not awful, is seriously eroding my home time. I did laundry last night, and loaded the dishwasher and that's all I did. My supper was cold bacon; I couldn't even take the time to warm up something.
But at least I didn't spend anything other than the pistachios and the laundry.
I didn't bring a lunch today, but with my good breakfast this morning, I might be okay with oatmeal for lunch.
I got a bill from the hospital that I just threw in my bag and haven't had the nerve to look at yet.
One of my co-workers was found sobbing at her desk this morning, and won't tell anyone why. And another is late because her grandfather had a cancerous kidney removed. So the atmosphere here is not very festive. I will try to find something nice to do for each of them today.
Last night after I boarded my train for home, we were told to get off -- there would be a an hour-and-a-half delay. A pedestrian was struck and killed on the track we were using and all lines north were delayed.
I went to Corner Bakery (seems to be my new hangout) and got a sandwich and drink. $11. I talked to my sons, who recommended that I walk to the CTA station and take the Purple line. I decided not to, since it was dark, and I didn't know where I was going. It was not much later that we boarded the train again, but they were correct -- it was an hour-and-a-half before I got home.
No one was complaining, and everyone seemed subdued. I don't know who died -- the news reports were pretty sketchy, but it was apparently a man who was not trying to catch the train, because the train that struck him did not stop in that area. So sad.
This morning, the news was all about a man who climbed to the top of a smokestack on one of the big downtown hotels, fell in, and died shortly after he was rescued. I hate hearing these stories at this time of year, though it is a tragedy at any time of the year! But incongruous with the holiday season.
Tomorrow is payday, and I'll be paying the biggest Discover bill I've had in a while -- $2,676. It's a combination of Christmas shopping, medical bills, car repair and move-in expenses. I would say next month will be better, but I'll be paying the balance on the couch and ottomans (not yet delivered) and buying area rugs.
The cover for my spare tire arrived yesterday. I will see if my son can put it on -- otherwise, I'll have to make a trip to Toyota. Seems like it should be easy, but you never know.
Today I need to walk to Starbucks just to make sure my gift card, which I'm giving away, is fully loaded. I know I have one that is worth $50, but I'm carrying several in my purse. I want to make sure I give away the right one! I wonder if the cafeteria, which sells Starbucks, can tell me?
Two more gifts to arrive in the mail, and I'm done. I do need to pick up some nuts to fill out a gift bag. I noticed that Walgreens was selling nicely packaged Wonderful Pistachios, so maybe that's what I'll do. I could use my gift card again.
That's what I like about blogging! I think of things as I write! Thanks for listening to my blather!!
I went to Macy's after work last night to use my $10 off $25 coupon. Macy's is a six-mile drive away, and I was tired, but I wanted to get this done. After picking over the socks, I finally took my purchase to the checkout, and was told that my coupon was only good until 1PM. WHAT? Time limits on coupons now? I'll admit I didn't read it carefully. I was so annoyed. I didn't buy the socks. The clerk told me I could come back before 1PM today and use it. Uh-huh. The only way I could do that would be to stay home from work.
I will have to either commit to reading every word on the coupon or give up trying to use them. This is the third time I've been unable to use a coupon because of its restrictions in a pretty short period of time.
I overslept this morning and missed the first train. I had to wait a while for the next train, so I bought a scone and coffee -- $3.75.
I DID get a free lunch yesterday -- roast beef, salad, pasta salad, crudites -- very nice! There might even be some left today, but I brought in the makings for a turkey sandwich anyway.
On the way home from the station last night I stopped at Walgreens to buy stockings. They had a display, but they were large and costly, and I was looking for something small. Then I happened upon a display of Christmas oven mitts. Perfect size! I bought two for $3.98 (but used my gift card, so free) -- and they will be just the right size for the little things I have to put in them -- and much more useful after the day is done! I was quite proud of my cleverness.
Well, the lovely weekend is over and it's back to reality. On Monday I was still coming down from my high but today I landed with a thump.
I could hardly get out of bed this morning. It was a little cold -- I'm learning that the radiators are not quick to start when the weather turns cold, though they do get very warm once they get started! Then when I went to the station it was a chilly walk, and I could have used my heavier coat and my heavier mittens. But it should warm up during the day.
Last night I sliced and cubed my cooked turkey breast and got it into the freezer before it gets too old to use. I did warm up a few slices for my dinner in the microwave with a little gravy, and I chopped up and sauteed all the veggies in the fridge for a side dish -- with the addition of sliced almonds, it was very good.
I brought granola bars for breakfast, but did not bring a lunch. This is kind of a risk, but there was a big party yesterday for the HR director, who is leaving. Their office uses our break room, and the (massive) leftovers are in our fridge. I figure there is a good chance their office will offer the leftovers to the rest of us on this floor.
If I don't get a free lunch, I will go to the cafeteria and get soup & salad.
I decided to make a cheese ball for the holiday dinner this weekend. I already have the cheese, cream cheese, onion, garlic and almonds. All I have to buy is some Worcestershire sauce and the crackers. It's pretty much foolproof, too, and everybody likes it.
I accepted a free trial of Amazon Prime and applied for the Amazon credit card so I could order some baking pans for my DIL super cheap. ($6) I may regret the Amazon Prime -- I order a lot at Christmas, but not so much otherwise. But I hear it's good for Kindle books and movies, too. I'll be sure my son gives me a lesson on how to use it optimally. If I don't think I'll get much use out of it, I'll cancel before I have to pay for it.
Another credit card -- what the hay. I'm in my forever home, I'm going to pay cash for my next car, I know I won't abuse my credit, so who cares how many cards I have?
I felt like one of my sons didn't have enough gifts in comparison to the others, so I bought a poker chip case ($22). I also spent $13 on gas yesterday, since I was driving in cheap gas country.
I have a $10 coupon for Macy's to use on $25 worth of merchandise (today only). I figure this will be a good chance to stock up on socks. I got four pairs from Lands End, but that will not be enough. My socks are disintegrating all at once! It must be all the walking.
For Christmas, I just need to buy a couple of stockings to gather up the little things, and then wrap everything. I'll use my Walgreen's card for the stockings.
In January, I am definitely doing some kind of financial challenge!
The girls' weekend in the city was a success -- and only $126! This year we did not stay in a hotel, but at a Hyde Park condo which one of my girlfriends is currently renting. It was very retro in an amusing way, but had fabulous views of the lake and the skyline. We only ate out three times -- dinner at the Grand Lux, high tea at the Drake, and breakfast at Bonjour Bakery. I spent $10 on a cab, but otherwise used the train, which was free since I have a monthly pass. I tried to pitch the museum idea, but it was a no-go -- they like to shop. So we thoroughly did Water Tower Place. I ended up buying three infinity scarves at Banana Republic -- one for me, and one for each of my DILs. That was $112, and that was all the buying I did. Now I feel like I'm done with Christmas shopping. Lots of wrapping to do, though.
The nicest surprise of the weekend, though, was coming home to find that my son and his wife had put up my Christmas tree, trimmed it, and decorated the house! What a pleasure it was! And I have to say, my little home does Christmas very well! Very warm and welcoming.
I was SO tired after the weekend. I did one load of laundry and went to bed. It didn't help that the weather turned cold and rainy on Sunday, just when I had to walk to the train station (and it was a good thirty-minute walk). I was soaked. But I had mac & cheese for lunch at Corner Bakery while waiting for the train, and the Christmas surprise at home to sweeten the day.
This morning I had another follow-up appointment from my surgery (all is well). So I drove, leaving the house at 6 to make a 7:00 appointment. Afterwards I picked up a scone and coffee at the hospital's cafe ($5). I was expecting to have to pay $5 for parking, but there was no attendant on duty, so I got a break!
I ALMOST lost a very nice earring, but was lucky enough to find it right by my car -- and not run over!
A colleague from another school took me out to lunch today to "pick my brains." I'm not sure my brains had very much to offer, but he bought me lunch at Portillo's, so I hope he got his money's worth.
This Saturday we are having sort of a pre-Christmas celebration. My DIL is making dinner, and then there will be a gift-opening for family members who will not be in the area on Christmas Day, namely my ex and his wife, and my nephew and his family. My grand-nieces will not even be around for that, as they are going on a Disney cruise with their grandparents from the other side of the family. Remember how I stressed about their gifts? I guess I will wrap them up and they can open them when they come back.
I am charged with bringing an appetizer, and I haven't decided what. Easy, cheap, and impressive -- that's all I ask!