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Archive for April, 2013

April Recap and Paper Woes

April 30th, 2013 at 02:11 pm

Iíve said it before, but what a month!

Total spending this month was $5368, roughly double what I bring home. Even a bit more.

I didnít go into debt, but my savings have gone down by $3,000 since January. I guess thatís what itís there for, but I hate it. I really want to start building it up again!

Here is the breakdown:

Incomes Taxes - $2587
Furniture/Equipment/Dťcor - $1148 (mostly for new computer)
Housing - $1039 (includes more than double payment on mortgage)
Entertainment - $190 (includes subscription)
Fares - $110
Groceries - $99
Utilities - $97
Eating Out - $77
Medical/Health - $77
Gifts/Charity - $49
Vet/Pet Supplies - $38
Laundry - $23
Household Supplies - $17

Categories with ZERO this month Ė Insurance, Fees & Services, Phone, Home Repair & Maintenance, Gas, Clothing, Car Repair & Maintenance, Vacation & Travel. So there has been quite a bit of scrimping in order to pay for the big items.

In other news, I found a dime yesterday!

I also saved myself $50. I was asked to take my latest lab results to my new doctor (appointment this Saturday). My old doctorís office sent me forms to request them Ė with a $50 fee. I went through my papers last night and found the lab results that were mailed to me last year. Once I see the new doctor, his office can request my other records and I wonít have to pay the fee.

Going through my papers made me realize just how bad a mess they are in. Moving didnít help. But now I have the ďnewĒ four-drawer file cabinet (hand-me-down from my son) so I CAN get a handle on them; I just need to do it. But first I will have to invest in legal-size file folders. I didnít realize the new cabinet was legal size. Thatís good in a way Ė it will offer more room for those longer documents.

So I will have to commit to going through papers every day once I get the file folders. And I will have to return the letter size manila folders I just bought. I really hate filing, but having a roomy cabinet to put things in will really make a difference, I hope!

Martha Washington Geraniums

April 29th, 2013 at 04:02 pm

Spending this weekend:

$6 - Laundry
$20 - Groceries
$65 - Flowers
$5 - Lunch

I went to Aldi for my ten items, and I bought dried cranberries, croutons, flatbread buns, applesauce, bread, cheddar cheese, bagged salad, wine, creamer, and yogurt. As you see above, only $20.

Then I went to Home Depot and spent $65 on flowers -- that was six pots of Martha Washington geraniums to put in my flowerboxes on the landing. Kind of a splurge -- but they look beautiful, and it is my only gardening. I watered them with the water I took out of the fish tank for the weekly cleaning -- a tip I picked up from Dollar Stretcher.

I hope there will be enough sun. There were no impatiens this year, so I had to choose a sun-loving plant.

After shopping I was hungry so I splurged again on lunch at Steak N Shake -- but I was pretty frugal in what I chose. Normally I would get a Frisco melt and a shake, but this time I got a double steakburger and ice tea. Probably about half the cost.

I also earned another $5 on Swagbucks.

Can any fish experts out there tell me if there is such a thing as too many snails? I started with ONE and I now have too many babies to count. How did that happen? Really, they are all over the tank.

Oh, I wanted to add -- I baked some crescent rolls with a filling of ranchero sauce and cheese -- they will be my breakfast treats this week. I bought the ingredients for muffins but didn't get around to making them. Maybe next weekend.


April 26th, 2013 at 01:38 pm

Once again I avoided Corner Bakery. I waited until I got to work to eat and had oatmeal. That didn't seem to do it, so I also ate the granola bars I had packed for lunch.

I wonder if all the walking I do actually makes me hungrier.

I love it that it's Friday! I dressed down, wearing a jeans jacket over a T-shirt and pegged pants. It makes me feel so much better. I don't ever push the dress code except on Fridays.

Not that I really dress up a lot on the other days. All winter long I mostly wear sweaters and pants and in the summer I wear short-sleeved tops and pants. A suitjacket is a once-in-a-while thing. I stopped wearing dresses and skirts after I broke my ankle -- my ankle is now a bit bigger than it used to be and scarred from the surgery -- I figured it was a good excuse to wear pants!

Our dress code is fairly relaxed but there are some fashionista's on the staff who tend to raise the bar.

This morning I finished reading my book while on the train, so I picked up a paper that someone else had left. I started the Sudoku puzzle and realized that it is a good thing to do on the train -- my mind was engaged and the time went fast. I didn't finish it, but I probably would have if I had started it at the beginning of the trip. Now I just need to look for a cheap puzzle book -- or keep looking for discarded papers!

I had a good meeting with my boss yesterday and was complimented for working ahead on projects. This is not my "mean girl" boss, who is actually one level higher. I have to meet with her next week. It's always so discouraging to talk with her, but I am not alone -- many others feel the same way. The trouble is, everyone else leaves, but she stays! She is sitting pretty and she knows it.

That said, I am feeling more secure in my job than I was a week ago. I have thought it out, and I am pretty sure that even if mean girl is unhappy with me, it would be too much trouble to replace me. I just have to find ways to keep feeling upbeat when I get the occasional snide remark, etc.

I do so look forward to retirement, though. Only two years, three months, and sixteen days!

CVS Freebie

April 25th, 2013 at 02:06 pm

Yesterday I took a coupon for a free drink or candy (up to $2 in value) to the CVS in the station between trains. There was a long, long line of people with the same idea, all holding one bottle, or one bag of candy. Pretty funny to see. Luckily, the line moved fast. I "bought" a diet coke, and made my train just fine. The cashier seemed greatly annoyed, but hey, it's her job to carry out the store's policies and promotions.

I bypassed Corner Bakery today. There were treats at work (I thought there might be -- left over from yesterday's Admin Asst Appreciation Day.) So I had a free breakfast.

I also had an insight as to why CB is such a temptation. The second train is much, much less crowded than the first, and I have this kind of "celebration" feeling when I make the switch. Bringing a fresh breakfast on board just kind of expands the celebration. And of course, by that time I've been awake for almost two hours and I'm hungry.
But as others have pointed out, I can always bring my own. I do pack my lunch every day, after all. It's just a matter of getting into the routine.

I think I may do the challenge of eating on $1.50 a day -- but I will do it my way -- I will use the food I already have on hand but figure up the daily cost. I don't want to buy new packages of stuff I already have.

Should be interesting!

A rainy day in the big city

April 24th, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Lost my entry -- forgot to copy it.

Here is the brief version --

I walked around in the rain for about an hour yesterday in downtown Chicago. Finally got my bearings but was late for my appointment. Thank goodness it was warmer than it is today!

I gave away $5.50 to street people and found .27 on the sidewalk.

I put $5 on my CTA pass and bought lunch for $3. Once home, I bought six filter cartridges for the aquarium for $17, which saved me about $5.

Breakfast at the downtown station this morning - $4. I WILL address the muffin problem this weekend.

It is COLD today, and I'm tired of it!

A wet day in the big city

April 24th, 2013 at 02:08 pm

I spent yesterday afternoon in the city, much of it walking around in the rain. Why is it nothing in real life looks like it does on Google maps? I thought it was so clear and easy, but I got lost anyway. Finally made it to my appointment but about an hour late.

I did find .27 on the sidewalk.

On the other hand, I gave $5.50 to panhandlers. One was collecting to save the Hull House, the other needed change for the CTA ticket machine, so they weren't specifically panhandlers, but "unknown people on the street who need money." They were very grateful, which made it nice.

I put $5 on my CTA pass, and bought lunch for $3. After I got home I went to PetSmart and bought six filter cartridges for the aquarium, $17. Those should hold me until at least October.

This morning I got breakfast at Corner Bakery for $4. It's not so much the muffin as it is the experience. When I hit the downtown station, I've already had a walk, I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm usually dreading the day ahead -- it's so nice to have that warm, crumbly muffin and fresh coffee on the second train. So I don't want to cut it out of my life, just save it for the days I really need it! I for sure don't want to tote my own coffee, as I already have too much to carry, but I could manage a muffin in my bag once I get into the routine of making them.


April 23rd, 2013 at 01:15 pm

I used my last stamp yesterday so I had it in my head to buy a new book. When I was at the downtown station, I asked if there were a place to buy stamps, thinking it would be a good use of my down time between trains. I was expecting a surcharge, but they actually charged me $13 for 20 stamps! I didn't realize until my credit card had already run. Lesson learned. Buy stamps at post office!

I really don't use them much any more, except for letters that I write to my son in Florida. I think real mail is a little more special than email.

Today I am going downtown at noon to scout out a venue for an event (for my professional organization). I'm in charge of the planning for this one, which makes me a little nervous, so I want to see this place in person. After I get to the train station I will still have a 35-minute walk -- or I can figure out how to take the El. If it doesn't pour, I will walk. I have my umbrella.

Last night I noticed that even though I had done my weekly tank cleaning the day before, there was a lot of crud floating around in the water. It occurred to me to check the filter. Gross! I cleaned it best I could, but tonight's errand is to buy a new filter. I hope it will be simple to find at PetSmart. These fish are pushing my learning curve!

What I Really Bought

April 22nd, 2013 at 02:05 pm

My actual purchases were not too different from my list. I bought Club crackers (my favorite), a big combo box of Nature Valley granola bars (on sale), a can of pizza sauce, Cascadian fruit & nut granola (on sale), blackberries (on sale), ice cream, a bath pouf, cat litter ($1 off coupon), dry cat food (on sale), and a package of file folders. $40 in all. They say I saved $6 on this trip.

What I left off was the wine and the pop. When I saw the blackberries I couldn't resist, so they were an add-on.

Other spending -- I got a $5 prescription and spent $3 this morning on a muffin and coffee. I do tend to treat myself on mornings when I've had little sleep and getting up is rough.

Later today I will buy next month's train ticket.

I had a nice afternoon with the grandsons in the park, and then at their house playing Yahtzee. One is really too young for the game, but loves throwing the dice. The other got two Yahtzees! I think he's a natural!

OK, I'm really hooked

April 21st, 2013 at 12:58 pm

For some reason the Swagbucks games are not working this morning. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to the site and tried to start Mahjong Dimensions. I'm hooked. I read in the comments that some people have beaten the third level and I want to, too!

I've had trouble with the Worldwinner games, too -- I often get an error code in mid-play and the game abruptly ends. I used to think my computer had something to do with it, but now that the same thing is happening with my new computer, I know it must be on their end.

It's probably a sign that I shouldn't waste so much time on games!

I'm planning my big outing of the day -- grocery shopping! I remain committed to picking out ten items only. I have a full pantry and freezer, so it really makes sense to shop sparingly -- also makes it much easier to carry the load upstairs.

This is what I have on my list so far: cat litter, cat food, manila folders, crackers, bath pouf, pizza sauce, pop, ice cream, granola, granola bars, wine. That's 11 items, so I'll have to make some choices. The only item that's going into a planned meal is the pizza sauce. I'm going to use that with some leftover garlic bread and mozzarella cheese to make mini pizzas.

I'm going to make some tuna salad today. That, the mini pizzas, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches will be my dinners this week. I also have spaghetti sauce in the freezer, but I suspect I will not have to get into that. There are a lot of lunches in the freezer -- not frozen dinners, but leftovers from dinners I have made. So I don't have to worry about buying lunches.

A quiet Saturday

April 21st, 2013 at 12:18 am

I did my laundry this morning -- $6. I had four loads because my red load was ready to run. Other than that I didn't leave the house. My son stopped by to drop off my car keys and offered to take me to the library with the boys, but I hadn't showered yet. It's just been that kind of day -- couldn't get going.

I did empty and fill the dishwasher, and I made a fancy cheese mixture for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I had one for lunch, and I realized I'd really rather just have the plain cheese. But I'll use up what I have made. I'll bet it will be good on hamburgers.

I'll do my grocery shopping tomorrow -- this time at Target, because I need to pick up some manila folders. It's way past time to get my files organized.

I watched a couple of episodes of Mad Men and tonight I'm watching "The Raven" with John Cusack, who happens to be a local! Can't say I've ever seen him around, though.

I also swept all the floors and collected the garbage, though I haven't actually carted it to the dumpster yet.

I'm getting used to my new computer. I like the keyboard, and I like to use the touchscreen to power down. I've learned how to go to my desktop and just ignore the apps page that comes up automatically. I'm thinking of carrying it on the train so I can write a little while I travel, but it is not particularly light. My train bag is already heavy.

Well, time to feed the fish. They are eying me hungrily!

The aftermath

April 19th, 2013 at 02:13 pm

Well, after yesterday's torrential rains, everything seems relatively dry today, though the sky is gray. And it's cold. There were actually flurries in the air when I got off the train this morning. Will spring EVER come?

Yesterday's "productive" day did not materialize. It felt so good to get warm and dry that I just got lazy. I watched a few episodes of Mad Men and played a lot of Mahjong Dimensions. (Enough to know that I will NEVER beat the game!)

Nice to know I just have to get through today and then I have a real weekend ahead.

I am loaning my car out today. My son and DIL took their car to the shop, and asked if they could have the use of my car today while theirs is being repaired. I said "Sure!" My car mostly sits during the week. I should get extra keys made so they could use it in case of emergency at other times. And they could move the car for me if I forget about the street sweeping!

Another nickel!

April 18th, 2013 at 03:14 pm

I'm finding a lot of money lately. Yesterday, a nickel in the middle of the road while I was crossing. Just about in the same spot where I fell last week, so was the road giving me compensation? Smile

I am at home today because the suburb where I work is experiencing flooding. I didn't know before I got on the train, so I walked through heavy rain, got pretty soaked despite my umbrella, and then got on the train to Chicago, which was stalled outside the city for at least a half hour. Turns out the station had lost power and they had to do manual switches. While I was on the train, my boss called and told me about the flooding and that I should not come to work. I said fine, I'll hop on a train home. Not so easy. After I finally got to the station, the schedule was so backed up that the train home was a least an hour behind. I didn't get home until after nine. Just for reference, I leave home at six, so that was three hours of commuting and going nowhere! I was lucky enough to have some bread and bacon in my bag -- it was going to be for my breakfast at work -- so I had something to eat. I did buy a coffee at the station ($2).

The worst part was that I was cold and wet the whole time. So nice to be home!

I will try to get some things done at home and make it a productive day. I've tried to find out how bad the flooding is at the college, but all I see is a notice on the website that it is closed and classes and all activities are cancelled today.

I'll also spend some time on Swagbuck to earn my next $5!

Found a a dollar

April 17th, 2013 at 01:35 pm

Yesterday I visited CVS between trains, and, while I didn't buy anything, I did find a dollar on the floor. I asked the two men who were standing nearby if it was theirs, and they said no. One said, "You win! Just don't buy a lottery ticket!" So I happily pocketed it.

Yesterday's strategic planning retreat was very good, but I got wind that my (mean girl) boss is unhappy with me -- it is impossible to do anything right for her, so I don't feel guilty, but I feel stressed. I feel my job is a bit in jeopardy. I think she imagines that if she replaced me with someone younger and more compliant, all the problems would go away. Unfortunately, the real problem is her direction. We'll see what the next few weeks hold. I have a meeting coming up with her that will not be pretty. It makes me so sad that I am finishing up my last few years of work so unappreciated, and it is so unfair!

The irony is that I've been asked to take part in a panel presentation for a professional workshop in another state on the very subject I'm under fire for. (I really do know what I'm doing!)

I suppose that if I do lose my job over this, I will have to draw social security early. I just can't imagine that I could find a new job at this age. But perhaps part time work would be a possibility. Just hope it doesn't happen.

Not so great dinner outing

April 16th, 2013 at 08:24 pm

Went out to dinner with my son's family last night. I probably should have declined the invitation, as I was very tired, not hungry, and not feeling like spending money. However, I wanted to see the grandsons. Ironically, they were tired themselves and not feeling social, so it was all pretty much a bust. I spent $12 but came home with enough leftovers for two lunches.

I paid my mortgage plus extra this morning. The computer cost hit at a good time; I'll have a whole month before the bill is due, so plenty of time to conserve my spending. I will be able to to pay it in full from checking next month, but if the rug payment hits on this cycle, too, then I will have to raid savings.

Yesterday I brought in enough leftovers for lunch to serve for two days. Today I forgot there was already lunch at work, and I brought in yet another lunch. Forgetting that I got a free lunch today because we had a planning retreat. So now I have two extra lunches at work! Plus the extra food at home from last night's dinner. Oy! Too much food, too little time. I'll have to freeze some.

I found a nickel in the parking lot last night!

So I was doing my taxes....

April 15th, 2013 at 05:30 pm

I actually had my federal done, and was just planning to finish up the state form, when my computer presented me with the black screen of death!


I completed the state tax by hand, and I do have the two checks sitting here on my desk waiting to be mailed.

But the laptop was a goner. I've had it for three years and it's given me nothing but trouble. I had the motherboard replaced once. I wasn't going to do it again. So I went to Best Buy ready to shell out the cash for a new one, and boy, did I!

About $1080 later I have a new Sony laptop (will never buy HP again!) The base price was $799, but after adding on the Microsoft Office, the tech support, saving my files from the dead machine, and so forth, it crossed the $1000 mark.

As I told a co-worker, it's not even any fun to spend money this way. It's not exciting to get a new computer -- in fact, it's a little annoying, because now I have to learn Windows 8. Anyway, I hope this one lasts a while.

The stars are not aligned for me, because I also learned today that I had a past-due bill on my Citi card -- which I never use. I got it just for the rewards and I should have canceled it. Apparently, I charged my subscription on it last year when I was trying to boost my spending to the required minimum -- and they charged it again this year for the renewal. I got the renewal notice email from them, but didn't pay attention to what card was being charged -- I just assumed it was my Discover card, the one I use most often. Well, somehow I ALSO missed the notification from Citi that I had a bill -- so my subscription has cost me $20+ more than it should have. ($177) I'm so bummed.

My other spending hardly amounts to anything in comparison -- $42 for groceries, $3 for birthday cards, $3 for breakfast this morning, $4.50 for laundry.

I will say I am happy that I have savings to cover this.