Home > Archive: December, 2013

Archive for December, 2013

My Favorite Day of the Year

December 31st, 2013 at 04:46 pm

Because I get to do my monthly recap and YEARLY recap! Woo-hoo!

December was pricey, as expected. Here is the breakdown:

Gifts: 717
Housing: 660
Groceries: 233
Insurance: 215
Entertainment: 110
Fares: 109
Phone: 106
Utilities: 91
Taxes: 75
Vet/Pet Supplies: 40
Vacation/Travel: 37
Gas: 35
Eating Out: 28
Household Supplies: 27
Personal: 24
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor: 19
Medical/Health: 19
Laundry: 17
Total: 2562


Housing: 13,668
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor: 5,990
Taxes: 4,124
Gifts/Charity: 2,667
Fares: 1,443
Groceries: 1,414
Vacation/Travel: 1,364
Car Repair/Maintenance: 1,195
Utilities: 1,171
Eating Out: 1,048
Medical/Health: 995
Insurance: 919
Entertainment: 600
Clothing: 543
Phone: 491
Fees/Services: 454
Vet/Pet Supplies: 403
Gas: 367
Home Repair/Maintenance: 235
Household Supplies: 242
Laundry: 222
Personal: 214
Miscellaneous: 18

Total: 39,787


I seem to be stuck on a gift treadmill. I spend more than I want, but the gifts seem less than I want to give. When I'm retired, I'll have to lay down the law. Token gifts only.

The jump in groceries was due to several different entertaining expenses. And those were driven by my lack of time. When I have time, I can bake from scratch, etc.

The entertainment cost was driven by several Christmas events. They are not necessary, and I can bow out when I have to.

The phone bill was twice the usual. I paid Verizon at the beginning of the month, then paid Straight Talk after I got my new smartphone. I still need to investigate whether I can get a reimbursement from Verizon.

I was lucky this year to have fewer medical bills than usual.

I took two trips to Florida this year, one planned, and one unplanned. I suspect there will be more this year! I'm already planning a trip in February to help the kids with a garage sale and moving.

There are so many ways I'd like to do better! I'm really looking forward to some low-spend months ahead

The Root Canal

December 30th, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I mentioned some time ago that my son needed a root canal. Recently I learned that he had decided not to get it because of the cost. He is underemployed right now, and really struggling financially. So I made him make the appointment, because I feel strongly about taking care of your teeth. Especially teeth that I already invested in, with braces! I had him charge the cost on my Discover card, and he will pay me back as he is able.

The dentist would have offered him a payment plan, but I doubt it would be interest-free. Furthermore, I had already signed up for a special Discover cashback bonus for any charge exceeding $1000. Silly me, I thought it was a $300 bonus, but it turns out it is a $30 bonus. Duh! I must have been reading without my glasses! So, at least a $30 break, not a big deal, but at least it's better than paying interest.

I made it clear that I need to have it back in full by the time I retire. I am sure he will pay it back.

So I have a big bill looming on my Discover card, which I can't pay in full from my income. I have the slush fund. My other resource is the emergency fund. I guess I will tap it, though I hate to.

This will make me gazelle-intense about saving!

I bought my groceries yesterday just ahead of the cold front -- in fact, when I took the groceries to the car, the windows had already iced over. It took me three trips to get them all in -- I counted that as my exercise! Three flights up, three flights down, three times -- I call it good enough.

The groceries were $140 -- way more than my usual bill, but a lot of it is for the brunch. And I am assuming there will be leftovers. Also, about $15 was for household supplies, and $12 for pet food.

I've had such a lazy day. I have to get on the ball with my dailies! Yesterday I managed nine. Today, not so much. I think the sudden cold has paralyzed me. Even with the radiators on full blast, it's chilly in here.

Tomorrow I go to work. It will be an easy day, as I will just be helping out with gift processing, and I don't have to put in a full day if I don't want to. But I'll have to walk to the station, and it will be cold. And snow is forecast for tomorrow, too! Oh well, a good chance to really try out my traction coils.

When I come home tomorrow, the grandsons will be coming over for a sleepover. Luckily, my DIL's mother will be here as well, and she'll entertain the boys while I cook. (The brunch is not till 11, so I have all morning, too.) Not sure how we're all going to sleep here, but we'll figure it out!

Glad the brunch is for family -- they'll understand if it's not perfect.

The Cold is Coming

December 29th, 2013 at 02:45 pm

I hate to hear that cold weather is rolling in again, after some really warm weather. It will be cold when I go back to work the day after tomorrow, and it will be cold on New Year's Day when I have my brunch. Then I understand that we will have an extended period of cold, as well as a snowstorm in the following week. Zounds!

I have already decided that I will work from home on the really bad days. Others do it, and I have more of an excuse than they do! Yesterday, while I was filing papers, I found the login for remote access to my work computer. Hallelujah! It's been lost for a while, and I just couldn't remember how to get in.

I generally hate to file papers, but now that I have plenty of space for the papers, it's actually kind of fun. Yesterday I emptied a box of papers that I moved from my old place. Today I will tackle two baskets full which I have collected since I moved here. When I get that done, I will start to incorporate old files from old cabinets. It will feel good to get organized.

I think I will grocery shop for the brunch today, while the weather is still warm. That will give me plenty of time to prepare ahead of time, too.

I saw my niece and she mentioned that she might drive to Florida, so she and her kids might be a no-show. So it might turn out to be a small group, which is okay. This is a small place! It will be a challenge to figure out where to put the food -- and bodies!

After I get the grocery shopping done, I'll start working on my year-end totals. It's always fun to see how I did in black and white.

For some reason, I am excited about the new year! There is nothing really going on, but I always feel such a rush of hopefulness and expectation when the new year rolls around! One of my favorite New Year's activities is to go around the house with a notebook and make note of all the things that need to be addressed/changed/updated/replaced. I don't get everything done, but it gives me focus.

I'm off to shower, and then to the grocery!

Another happy day at home

December 28th, 2013 at 06:27 pm

Oh, how I hate that this will end! But I will have to go back to work eventually!

Today I made up a list of things I want to do daily. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I'm going to play some kind of game with myself where I get points for getting these things done. Not sure what I will do with the points yet -- maybe figure out a rewards chart for myself.

Here is my list:

Clean cat box
Make bed
Load/Unload dishwasher
Earn Swagbucks
Do MyPoints
Speak to someone new
Thank someone for something
Drink water (sip all day)
Process mail
Clean the "cat chairs" (where the cats always sit)

Kind of a mixed bag -- health, housework, money, and social interaction. Some of these I do pretty regularly and for some I need a push. I figure I'd better not make the list any bigger, or doing them daily would be impossible!

For rewards, I'm thinking about a fast food meal, a movie, a snack like ice cream or caramel corn, a mani/pedi. Just thinking right now. I don't want to mess up my financial goals with too many rewards. Or rewards that are too easily earned.

A haircut -- my big activity of the day!

December 27th, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I went to get my haircut today. Before hitting the road, I looked for coupons online, and found one for Fantastic Sam's for $10. However, I'm not sure I really saved money, because Sam's was about 7 miles away. Oh well. I needed to practice using my smartphone as a GPS. And it was a pretty day for a ride -- sunny and warm.

I've never been to this shop before, but I like the cut. I'll continue to go wherever I find the coupon, however. I'm planning to be a lot more serious about saving this year.

I love having these days off. I'm not really doing much, just piddling around, but it feels so good! It's going to be a brutal shock when I have to go back to work.

The walk to the station will be nicer, though, because one of my Christmas presents was a set of traction coils to wear on my boots. Why didn't I think of this? It's a whole different feeling, stepping out and knowing that I am so much more surefooted!

It was kind of funny how foot-oriented our Christmas was. I got the traction coils and a pair of miniature wooden shoes for my tree (I'm part Dutch and my hometown is Holland, Michigan). My son got a pair of high-tops and a bag of socks. My DIL got a pair of moccasins. Her mom got slippers. The grandsons each got a pair of shoes for school. Weird! I wonder what our theme will be next year?

A Couch Potato Day

December 27th, 2013 at 04:20 am

Today was the first time I stayed home all day on my Christmas vacation. While I've loved hanging with the fam, I really needed to regroup and relax all by myself. I caught up on laundry -- three loads. I did some housework. And I did fun things, like reading, watching movies, playing computer games. I was intending to go get a haircut, but at some point I decided I was just in for the day. I'll get my haircut tomorrow. My hair is in my eyes and driving me crazy.

I've made a commitment to have the (local) family come over on New Year's Day for brunch. Some have not seen my place yet, so that is the main reason I'm doing it -- also to pay back a little for all the times I've pigged out at the others'. I'm planning on a breakfast casserole, a fruit salad, sausage and bacon, and some kind of roll or pastry. I may also make the family punch, which is one can of pineapple juice, one can of frozen concentrated orange juice, one jar of maraschino cherries, and one liter of 7-Up. Easy and good.

I work on New Year's Eve, and I'm having the grandsons overnight that night, so the timing really isn't good. I'm kind of kicking myself. But I will try to get things done ahead of time as much as possible.

My goals for next year are the usual ones. I want to increase savings and decrease my waistline. I guess a new one is that I want to kick my leg/hip pain by following through on physical therapy. I can't start it, however, until I get my new insurance card.

Not much financial to report. I did have a rather expensive day at Navy Pier - $31, just for food. My other outing with the grandsons -- a visit to Santa at Macy's -- was pretty cheap, but involved a two-and-a-half hour wait. Yikes!

Logging in from my new smartphone

December 26th, 2013 at 01:36 am

Oops! I'm just learning how to use it, though. I think I'll like it when I get the hang of it.

It was a good Christmas. More materialistic than I would like, but then I am an SAer and a bit out of sync with the rest of the world!

Hope it's been a wonderful day for you and yours!

Net Worth Up

December 20th, 2013 at 03:26 pm

Well, my net worth has increased modestly this year by about $5,500. I've had some big expenditures this year, too -- furniture, rugs, computer, and a big tax bite. Barring any emergencies, I expect next year to be better.

Starting in January I will challenge myself to limit non-bill spending to $350. I'll try to do it for 3 months. It should give me an idea of how well I will manage in my first four years of retirement.

After last night's party, I stopped on the way home for gas ($34) and at the grocery store, where I shopped not for food but presents. I bought some fortune cookies, gift cards, and a sticker book and spent $68. Tonight I'll spend about $50 on a tin of caramel nut popcorn. Then I'll be ready for tomorrow's gift opening. This is the gift opening among those of us who will not be together for Christmas Day, not the REAL one.

I'm supposed to bring something for tomorrow's dinner, but haven't gotten my assignment yet! So I hope it will be easy!

I learned that one of my gifts to one of my grandsons has been duplicated by his other grandma. I will keep the game at my house, and try to find something else for GS. Just a small gift, but I have no ideas yet. I still have a few days, though, till the REAL gift opening on Christmas morning.

The party last night was mostly fun. Loud. I couldn't hear what most people were saying. There was a ton of food and my apple pie was mostly ignored. So frustrating to pay a lot for something and see it go to waste! I guess it won't really go to waste, since someone will bring it in to put in the break room. But now I wish I'd brought something cheap.

This is my last day of work until the 31st (all hands on deck for end-of-the-year gift processing). I'm really looking forward to some relaxing days at home. I really need a rest!


December 19th, 2013 at 07:42 pm

Well, last night, instead of finishing up my personal shopping, I shopped for our office's joint gift to our boss. I volunteered. I'm not quite sure how the words came out of my mouth, but they did.

I found a pair of hand-made earrings at Art & Artisan that I thought were lovely and that would suit my boss' style. Thank goodness, when I brought them in this morning, the others agreed. So just need to wrap it up tonight to give to her tomorrow. I'm out only $8 when everyone else pays their share.

I also picked up the pie for tonight's party. I settled on an apple pie on the advice of the piemaker. I explained that it would not be served until this evening and that it could not be refrigerated. And there could be no nuts. It's really pretty; the upper crust is decorated in oak leaf patterns. Or maybe they're holly leaves! The pie was $24.

This morning I went to City Hall to pay my wheel tax (city sticker). They did not make me pay the $50 late penalty, since I am a first-timer, so it was $75. That was a relief. I hate the very idea of paying $50 for nothing.

Then I drove to work, since I have the party tonight (in a neighboring suburb). I will have to get some gas before I go home -- and it just may be warm enough to get a car wash, too. On the way back, I'm going to stop at a big Jewel store along the way and buy fortune cookies for the grand-nieces' gift boxes.

I got the okay from my son to buy popcorn for his dad. He thought it was a good idea. I'll take care of that on Friday.

So, just one gift for the older grand-niece. I'd still like to get a scarf in her college colors, but I think getting something at Bath & Body Works will be easier.

Weather prediction for this weekend is either snow, rain, or freezing rain. That may mean icy roads, so I may not see my friend this weekend!

More holiday spending

December 18th, 2013 at 06:04 pm

In the past few days I spent $250 more in Christmas gifts for family members, mainly cash and gift cards for the cash-strapped members.

Tonight I have to pick up a pie from a local pie shop for the office Christmas party. It's a bit of a splurge, but I have so often been the recipient of free food at the office I feel I need to do something special.

Tomorrow morning I have to go to City Hall and get my "virtual" city sticker, which is $113. Unless they take pity on me and waive the $50 late penalty. I am a first-time applicant, so they might. I never got any notification that I had to do this.

UPS tried to deliver my new sim card yesterday, but of course I wasn't home to sign for it. I left my signature on their notification sticker, and I hope they will leave it today. Surely it's small enough to stick in my mailbox? Oh, it's probably packaged in a box as big as a breadbox.

Our office received more Christmas gifts from alumni -- yesterday it was chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolates, and a huge box from Wolferman's filled with muffins, scones, breads and jellies. I've tried not to make TOO big of a pig of myself.

I may have a friend visit this weekend. She is watching the weather. But if she decides to come, we will visit Navy Pier on Sunday. She is bringing her grandchildren. I may or may not bring mine, depending on what their parents decide. They want to take the boys to Navy Pier themselves, so they need to decide whether they want them to go twice. And, of course, whether they want me to pre-empt the fun! I'll abide by their decision.

With the gift opening getting so close, I think I may shop for my grand-nieces at the station. There is a Bath & Body Works which ought to yield something. As for my ex and his wife, I think they will get Garrett's popcorn. It's at the station, too! Then I'll be done, done, done.

Random Thoughts

December 17th, 2013 at 04:00 pm

Yesterday I earned $9 from Pine Cone and $50 from MyPoints. I ordered an claim code from Amazon, but it's too late to use for Christmas. That's okay, I order from Amazon year-round.

I bought a Christmas present in one of the station shops. Generally I don't shop at the station -- high prices plus higher tax in the city. But I found a pair of earrings on sale that will be perfect for my DIL's mom. At least I think so! $14.

I also bought another Mega Millions lottery ticket as part of an office pool.

I managed to miss TWO trains this morning! I got to work an hour later than usual, and I'll make it up at the end of the day.

Our first (of two) family gift openings is this Saturday. I am not ready. Still need a gift for my ex & wife, and for my three grand-nieces. I have cute little fabric boxes shaped like Chinese take-out boxes for two of my grand-nieces, but I need to put something in them. I was thinking maybe fortune cookies and a gift card. As for my college-bound grand-niece, I am clueless. She seems to have pretty much everything. Maybe a scarf in her new school colors?

I am supposed to buy a city sticker for my car, but I keep forgetting. I looked on the city website this morning, just to see if I needed to move my car for plowing, and I see I have missed the deadline for buying the sticker. Now I have to pay a $50 penalty. GRRrrrr! I could do it online, but I don't know my license plate number by heart, so I guess I'll have to do it tomorrow.

The interesting thing is that I won't even get a sticker. It's a stickerless system. Ever heard of that?

Busy Weekend

December 16th, 2013 at 04:23 pm

It was a pretty eventful weekend, starting with my train ride home on Friday night. To make a long story short, the scheduled train was disabled before it got to my station. We had to wait an extra hour and had to board at an intersection rather than the station because the train arrived on the center track. Which meant waiting outside. It was lightly snowing and some college students were singing carols (very professionally -- must have been part of a choir). So it was enjoyable, actually, until the train came and we saw that it was already standing room only.

So our group of 50-some people got on and packed the aisles, from front to back. (A lot of people got free rides, since the conductors couldn't navigate the aisles!) I was lucky enough to be offered a seat after someone got off at the next stop (one advantage of having silver hair!) But at the downtown station, I had already missed two connections and next one wasn't due for 40 minutes. I went to the food court and drowned my misery in nachos bel grande.

(One good note about the train ride -- I found a quarter on the connecting train home. There was another one between the seat and the wall in front of me, but I couldn't get it without making a spectacle of myself!)

I didn't get home until 8:30.

On Saturday, I awoke facing a day with tons of stuff to do and snow coming down at a steady pace. I managed to do three loads of laundry, make a run to PetSmart for kitty litter and water conditioner, and a long-overdue trip to the grocery store. I spent $73 for 32 items -- so, basically, three shopping trips in one, which was about right. I got virtually everything on sale, and got another 10% discount for turning in my Dominick's card. (Dominick's is pulling out of Illinois. Not sure why Jewel wanted the card, but I didn't want it). When I got home, I called my son and he helped me schlep them all upstairs. After a quick lunch, I drove to a neighboring suburb to attend my grandson's first violin recital. He played "Lightly Row" as a solo. He was calm, focused, and pretty much in tune! I was so proud of him! The rest of the concert was pretty fun, too. The teacher, a member of the symphony, played a piece of her own -- magnificently! One of the students was an elderly lady -- I admired her so much, for becoming a student so late in life and for gamely joining all the little ones on stage.

After the recital, I came home and finally put up my tree and decorations, and then pretty much collapsed. On Sunday, I did some housework and wrapped all the presents I've bought so far. I did a little cooking -- pork cutlets and broccoli cheese soup -- and then I went over to my son's house for dinner, where he introduced me to my new smartphone -- a Motorola Moto X. We ordered the sim card and set up an account with Straight Talk at his recommendation. It will be $45 a month with no contract -- pretty much unlimited services -- but I can downgrade if I find I am not using it much.

We have to wait for the sim card to come before it is operational, but I think I'm going to like it!

After dinner, my DIL's mother, who is living with them temporarily, came over to watch the last episode of Survivor. (They don't get CBS at their house). I didn't watch; I read till I fell asleep. We are comfortable enough with each other that it didn't matter that she let herself out at show's end, while I was probably snoring!

So it was a satisfying weekend, a good combination of work and fun, and progress made on the countdown to Christmas.

Full of Cheer

December 13th, 2013 at 06:58 pm

This morning was our annual staff Christmas breakfast. It was a wonderful spread, and I filled my plate. Feeling lucky, I bought $10 worth of raffle tickets -- didn't win anything, but I am okay with that -- my real purpose was to contribute. But then I did win something -- we all did! Our president announced that everyone was getting four extra days of vacation this year! That means a lot to me. I always use up all my vacation time, and I've already used a lot this year, what with the funeral and everything. Now I know I will have the time to go to Florida in February and help my son with his mammoth garage sale. And still might be able to take a day to visit my grandson in school -- and then go to Las Vegas in July!

It was payday, as well, so I paid my mortgage and Discover bill. Everything else is automated.

I also popped over to the campus coffee shop and bought a pastry and a $5 gift certificate for my student worker, whom I won't see again till the end of January. Sigh.

And last night I bought a lottery ticket. Only because I am going in with two other co-workers, and only for fun. The Mega-Millions jackpot is over $400 million.

I was mistaken that today was the day of our office party as well. That will be next week. So I didn't have to drive, thus saving gas, thus not having to make a dessert. It's all good.

Tonight we have a snow advisory. I hope it won't be too bad, because I really have to grocery shop, and tomorrow I really have to go to my grandson's concert (he's a Suzuki violin student -- too cute!) Plus, I have LOTS of laundry to do, but since that only involves a trip to the basement, I'm not too worried about that. Just hope the steps won't be dangerous.

I don't know what the temperature was today, but it felt downright balmy. (Not enough to melt the snow, however). I could take a winter like this, but they say the cold temperatures will return shortly.

Anyway, I really am full of cheer! It's been a great day and I'm looking forward to a great weekend! Hope everyone else is, too!

A Little Warmer

December 12th, 2013 at 03:47 pm

Despite the temps dipping to single digits and wind chill below zero, I had a warmer night. The radiators are working, just not getting hot. I was comfortable on the couch with a throw over me, and when I went to bed I added a heavy comforter that I don't ordinarily use. It was really warm -- I slept well.

The walk in did not feel terrible despite the temperature. But I think it was a good thing I wasn't out in it too long.

Tomorrow I drive to work -- party afterwards, so I need wheels. I'll have to buy gas when I get to my work town, and I hate the thought of pumping in ice-cold weather. Why is it that standing beside a gas pump always seems to be the coldest place on earth?

Tonight I need to make a dessert for the party. I'm thinking brownies, but I'm low on butter. Does anyone know if you can successfully combine butter and oil in a brownie recipe?

Just paid my semi-annual insurance - $215.

Tomorrow is payday. Looks like I'll be able to transfer $350 to savings. At Christmas time! Woo hoo!

Winter headaches

December 11th, 2013 at 03:41 pm

It was another cold night in my condo. I'm going to have to let someone know. When you can't even read in bed, because you can't take your hands out from under the covers, it's TOO COLD! I never had this problem before. I'm hoping the board hasn't taken cost-cutting measures because that could be hard to fight.

The news was all about the cold and snow this morning, but actually, it wasn't too bad. A better walk than yesterday. I voluntarily moved my car, so that snowplowing could happen, and that was the most difficult thing -- brushing the accumulated snow off the car, then finding a new place to park.

Free food! December is the month of free food for me. Not only do I have a free breakfast coming up on Friday, but I have a retirement party today, a Christmas party on Friday evening, AND so many gift baskets/packages have arrived from alumni that I have been given quite a bit of cheese (including brie) to take home, as well as pudding mixes and concentrated water-enhancers (from a company that produces them). I haven't bought groceries since before Thanksgiving. But I will this weekend.

This weekend will be busy with decorating, grocery shopping, gift wrapping and laundry. I'm not able to get anything done at night, especially now that the snow and cold has moved in. It makes me more tired than ever. And then being cold at home just drives me to bed earlier. I'm sick of winter already -- and it's just started!