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Archive for October, 2015

Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2015 at 01:13 pm

Halloween is not much of a blip on my horizon now. Living on the second floor of a gated building, I get no trick-or-treaters. Sometimes I tag along trick-or-treating with the grandsons, but I can go home when I get cold or my feet hurt. It is fun, though. Our neighborhood is full of big old homes where the residents really go all-out with decorations. And they dole out lots of candy.

I was thinking of putting together a little snack bag for the grandsons, but maybe they would like a little cash gift instead. They will certainly get enough candy.

Yesterday I stayed in all day. I'm not even sure what the weather was like, though the reports were that it was chilly. Today we will have rain (poor trick-or-treaters) and then tomorrow a warm-up. Woo-hoo!

I have to go back to work on Wednesday, and the car won't be ready. So I'll have to make the trip on public transit again. At least this time I will know the route.

My SIL and I just arranged to fly my sister home for Thanksgiving. My SIL gets lots of travel points because she flies from Michigan to Texas weekly for work. (Yep!) So the round-trip flight was only about $22. I will pick up my sister in Chicago and drive her to Michigan.

My sister, you may remember, is a compulsive spender and a hoarder, and she has almost been evicted several times. She never seems to learn; she blames her income, and has never seriously tried to cut back. But I still love her and I'll be happy to see her.

I heard a new note in her voice when I talked to her yesterday. She seems to be really trying now. She is using food banks (which she had to apply to use, so she is not taking advantage). She is buying clothes at Goodwill. It seems she has stopped trying to appear rich, so maybe there is hope after all.

Thanks to your comments, I am less worried now about the upcoming changes in Social Security. It seems there is a good chance I've squeaked by under the deadline, and, if not, I'll deal with it. It's a good thing I have this part-time job to build up a cushion!

Again, forgot the menu!

Breakfast: Cranberry muffin tops
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich, fries
Dinner: Vegetable beef soup, bread

Third carless day, and a little rant

October 30th, 2015 at 01:22 pm

So yesterday I walked to the library and then to the grocery store. The total walk takes about 35 minutes each way. It was cold and windy, but I was bundled up, and it didn't feel too bad.

I bought 8 items, which filled my tote. Honey, shredded cheddar, American cheese slices, beef stew meat, celery, a baking potato, raspberries, and sourdough bread. The total was $24.

I'm going to make a big pot of vegetable beef soup, which I hope will last a while.

I did a load of laundry yesterday, and will do another today for a total of $3.

My variables spending is 91%, with the month nearing its end.

My cousin sent me an article yesterday about a bill that's before the House, which, if passed, would curtail my Social Security income. Specifically, it would take away the option I am taking to draw my ex-spouse's benefit until I am 70, and then draw my own, thus getting a higher payout. I would be forced to take my own now, a lower rate that I would be stuck with for life.

I got really depressed after reading this. Just the thought of getting a "raise" in four years has been keeping me focused and determined. If the rest of my life is going to be just like this ... well, I will survive, but it is certainly austere. I can only hope it will not pass in this form.

But it galls me, really. They are going to fix the SS mess by punishing the poor? Why do the rich always get coddled? I realize the rich "pay to play" by making campaign donations, but where is our public sense of right and wrong?

Well, off the soapbox. All I can do is keep on, like I always have.

I keep forgetting to add my daily menu!

Breakfast: Cranberry muffin tops
Lunch: Vegetable beef soup, bread
Dinner: Scrambled eggs w/peppers & onions

Work and the Carless State

October 29th, 2015 at 02:29 pm

Yesterday I went to work, without my car. I had to take two trains and a bus, and also walked a bit. This is not the same train system I used before, so I am unfamiliar with it. The good news is that it cost me nothing, because I already had $$ loaded onto my card. The bad news is that it was crowded and stressful. For two of the legs of my journey I had to stand in the aisle and hang onto a strap. I was also very nervous about getting off at the right stop and finding my way to the next ride. I managed it all with minor errors -- I twice missed the planned train/bus, but there is always another.... I was very tired when I got home.

I worked 7 hours, plus took an hour for lunch. A friend met me for lunch at the museum. I treated her, and the bill was $18, but I will write it off. We talked extensively about my job and she gave me a lot of input. She was my boss years ago.

So today it is cold and rainy. I have to go to the library and return a book, and I will go on to the grocery store as well. I just have to make sure to buy only enough that I can comfortably carry for the mile I have to walk home.

This carless state is going to be an interesting experiment. Right now I'm feeling like it's definitely worth it to own a car!

Weekend Recap

October 26th, 2015 at 11:13 pm

I'm home again, and boy, am I tired. I was hardly able to sleep at my brother's house, because -- get this -- it was so quiet and so dark. I've become such an urbanite! I need noise and light to sleep!

I also had such a good time, I think, that I was over-stimulated. And since I saw my "boyfriend," my mind was whirling with conversations I am imagining with him. My nighttime mental conversations are great sleep-stealers.

Anyway. To recap, on Friday I attended the conference I've been planning with my board. It went really well, and the big surprise was that I was honored with a scholarship they created in my name! It will fund a beginning researcher to attend two conferences a year. I was blown away! I knew that I would receive some little gift because it is my last year on the board, but I didn't expect this! It was so awesome!

In addition to the $80 fee, it cost $14 to park. On the previous evening, we hosted the speakers for dinner, and while my dinner was comped, parking was $32! All of this can be written off my taxes, but it was still shocking. Others turned in parking receipts for $12 -- from the same parking garage. They arrived later than I did, but they must have done something else that I missed out on. Perhaps they used Spot Hero, or something.

After the conference I drove up to Michigan, and my weekend there was relatively inexpensive. Gas was $27, food was $5, and I spent $9 to see a movie. I also bought a birthday present for my SIL for $31.

My variables spending is at 86% (not counting business expenses).

Tomorrow I take my car to the garage to be painted, and I will begin my carless week-plus.

But mostly, I am looking forward to a very deep sleep in my own bed!

A Quiet Day

October 21st, 2015 at 01:03 pm

I didn't do much yesterday, other than work for a couple of hours, and I also did a lot of back and forth emailing with the board, getting ready for this conference.

Tomorrow I will drive in to work for the day, and then afterwards I will meet the board and the speakers for a dinner in the city. It will be comped. I do have to figure out the parking near the restaurant. I may have to use valet service. If so, I will write it off.

Then on Friday it's back to the city for the conference, and from there I will leave for a weekend in Michigan. My college homecoming, though I don't know how much I will get involved in that, since it is not a reunion year for me.

No financial news, I guess!

Today's menu:

Breakfast: English muffin, clementine
Lunch: Tuna salad, broccoli
Dinner: French dip sandwich, salad

Busy Day -- Board Stuff

October 20th, 2015 at 01:30 pm

Yesterday turned out differently than I thought it would. I was planning on staying home all day, doing some work, some relaxing. But I recalled that I needed to get the badge holders and lanyards to the young lady who is doing name tags for the conference on Friday. So I took a 25-mile trip to get them to her office. We also went out to lunch. Since we discussed board business, and our professional work in general, I'm counting the lunch cost (and the travel cost) as a tax write-off.

That took a big chunk of my day. I also had a long phone conversation with another board member. I have a phone meeting today, as well. Most of this is in preparation for the conference, and will settle down when it's over. Have I said I'll be glad when my term ends in December? Though I will miss some of the people involved.

I spent $9 on gas yesterday, simply because I decided to top off the tank in an area where gas prices are lower. I should never get gas close to home. Gas prices in my area are among the highest in the nation.

The lunch was $19, but since it's a write-off, I won't count it in the variables. Variables spending is at 78%.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Greek yogurt, banana
Lunch: Mini-pizzas, salad
Dinner: Tuna salad sandwich, veggies

Note: though tuna salad has appeared several times on the menu, I have not actually made or eaten any yet, since my plans tend to change. Hope this will be the day!

Expensive Day

October 19th, 2015 at 12:52 pm

I went to my grandson's soccer game yesterday, and afterwards took the family out for Chinese, making good on last week's promise. The total bill with tip was $62, a little higher than I expected, but the boys are old enough now to order their own entrees instead of eating off their parents' plates. That said, there were a lot of leftovers. I took home a serving of sesame chicken that I'll have for dinner today.

I also gave them $30 toward a school fundraiser. Whew! Expensive day, for me!

Variables are at 77% -- too high. But last month was low; I think it will even out.

I have a busy week ahead. Work on Wednesday, a board dinner on Thursday, a conference on Friday, and a weekend trip to Michigan! I may negotiate going to work on Thursday instead of Wednesday; it would save one trip into the city.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Egg & sausage burrito, clementine
Lunch: Mini pizzas, salad
Dinner: Sesame chicken w/rice, broccoli


October 18th, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I did my ten-items grocery shop yesterday. Items bought: Dishwasher detergent, coffee, English muffins, spreadable margarine, eggs, pantiliners, sherbet, salad, onion, and bananas. Total cost was $36. I also gave $2 to the guy selling StreetScene.

Another expenditure: I paid $80 to attend a conference. I am on the board for this organization, so I have to go. In the past, my employer has paid, but now I have to pay myself. The upside is that I can write it off on my taxes. I'm going to have to pay my membership fee, too, which I will also write off. This is totally legit; it is the professional organization that supports the work I do.

I worked on the spreadsheet for another hour yesterday. I meant to go back for another hour, but didn't do it, so I'll have to work a couple of hours today.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Granola & Banana
Lunch: Mini-pizzas, salad
Dinner: Tuna salad sandwich

Put In Some Hours

October 17th, 2015 at 01:53 pm

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working. I set the timer for one hour two different times, and I was surprised at how the time flew. The work I am doing is interesting, so when the timer goes off, I have to make myself stop. Overall, though, I like getting paid by the hour. It keeps me from spending too much time on wild goose chases -- always a problem when you're doing research.

I didn't go out all day. I was planning to -- I was going to surprise my grandson by joining him for lunch at school -- but I was doing laundry and lost track of time. I'll try to do that Monday.

My ears are getting stopped up with wax (I'm a waxer; it's hereditary). A friend is having hearing problems, and she wants to start with getting her ears irrigated -- she's never had it done. So I proposed that we go together. I thought we could just go to Target's clinic, but it appears that Medicare only covers it if I go to my doctor. So much for that. We do go to the same medical practice (though not the same doctor) so maybe we can still make it a joint project. She is very fearful of the procedure, though she will learn it's not painful, just weird-feeling.

Variable spending is at 62%, with 54% of the month gone, so I am catching up.

It's turned cold -- freeze warnings -- but thank goodness, the boiler is on and the radiators are working. Last year, the cold came early and I had some miserable days before the boiler was fired up.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Egg casserole, clementine
Lunch: Pizza bread, veggies
Dinner: Chipped beef on toast, veggies

Painting the Car

October 16th, 2015 at 01:38 pm

Well, I know what I'm spending my museum earnings on. I got estimates yesterday on the car, and I think I found my shop, but it's going to cost $3K. $300 more if I decide to replace a couple of banged-up bumpers. I really like the shop's owner, though; he seems very honest and straightforward, and his reviews on Yelp are excellent. I think he'll do a good job. He was very excited about my car, and even said he would like to buy it when I'm ready to sell.

The shop will need to have the car for at least nine days, and wouldn't be able to take it right away. I'm planning a weekend trip to Michigan on the 24-25th, so I'll take it in after I get back. It will mean I'll have to take public transportation to my job at least once.

The good news is that the car is internally in good shape, both under the hood and inside the doors, so once I get a good protective coat back on it, it should, with any luck, last the four more years I need from it.

While I was out, I stopped at Aldi and bought a few groceries for $6.

I didn't get any work done yesterday, which means today I have to devote two hours to it, or I'll start falling behind!

I think I got the insurance issue resolved, too. I finally spoke to someone who said she would fax the needed documents to the lender. I hope I will hear no more of it.

I also sent out the checks to my siblings and niece/nephews -- their share of my mother's unclaimed property. I'm hanging on to my brother's though, since I'll see him in person soon.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Biscuits & Greek yogurt & clementine
Lunch: Pizza bread
Dinner: French onion soup, veggies

First Day of Work

October 15th, 2015 at 01:20 pm

Okay, finally got the first day of work under my belt. I didn't know what time I was supposed to be there, so I got up at six and got on the road by 7:15. On the way there I realized I would arrive at the museum before it opened, and I had visions of just sitting in the parking garage, so I stopped for breakfast at McDonalds. ($3) As it turned out, I could have arrived earlier, but as it was, my 9 o'clock arrival was termed "perfect."

I worked for seven hours, earning $175. (Not that I have it in hand yet. I'm just keeping track.) I spent much of the day getting set up, getting my ID, etc. There are still a lot of glitches. I have to be issued a laptop so I can access the databases from home. My access to an important internet-based service is not working. Even so, there is work I can do from home, working on a spreadsheet.

They treated me to lunch, which was a big hamburger topped with apple, glazed onion, and bacon, and a side of mac & cheese! I didn't eat supper last night, because that was easily two meals' worth.

The plan is to work at home a few hours a day, continuing to update the spreadsheet, and go back next Wednesday. Hopefully, all the issues will be resolved.

Everyone was really nice, and I think this is going to work out well. I'm glad I will only have the commute once a week, though. It is 20 miles, and almost all of it on Lake Shore Drive, which is very, very busy in the morning.

I have missed two committee meetings and feel like kind of a schlump, but between the Florida trip and starting work, my mind has not been focused on my board duties. I will be glad when they end in December.

Today I have to resolve the issue with my condo insurance. Even though I have always been current on it, my mortgage lender seems to need information from my property management company, and the PM company is not answering my emails. I'll try calling today -- though getting a real person on any call is increasingly difficult.

I also may take my car in for a painting estimate, now that I know I have some extra income.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Biscuits & gravy, applesauce
Lunch: Toast topped w/guacamole & fried egg
Dinner: Chicken salad sandwich, veggies

It is really cooling off today. I hope the boiler will be turned on, or it's going to be a cold night! Another task today is to make sure that all the radiators are set on "open."

Two Snowflakes

October 13th, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Yesterday I got a settlement check for $5 from Diamond Foods. I don't remember the details, but I'm glad to have it! I also used a $5 coupon for Target, which I think I got after buying the diapers. I used it to buy Command hooks -- had to pay $4 out of pocket.

I used the hooks to hang my bulky necklaces that don't fit in my jewelry box. They make nice art on the wall!

I also bought gas -- $28. Ouch! I'm definitely back in the land of high gas prices. I believe it was 2.67 per gallon.

I didn't receive a reply from the museum, so I'm not driving in today. I'm going to assume that Wednesday is the right day. I wish I would get an answer as to whether it will be a half or whole day, though. I need to know whether my committee meetings have to be canceled.

I think I'm going to apply for a new credit card. PNC is offering $100 bonus for spending $500 in three months. That's pretty good. It comes in the form of a credit to the account. I can't really use the high-spending card deals any more, but even I can spend $500 in three months and not kill my budget!

This morning I replaced the buttons on a favorite fall jacket. I've noticed for some time that a button was missing, so I finally dug in my button bag and found a nice set of four that I must have bought for something else long ago. I feel quite virtuous!

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Quiche and apple
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich
Dinner: Toast topped w/ guacamole & fried egg

No Chinese, But Milkshakes, Yes!

October 12th, 2015 at 02:31 pm

My son had too much schoolwork to do last night (he's working on a Master's) so the Chinese was canceled. I did, however, take my grandsons out for milkshakes after the soccer game. I succumbed to getting one for myself, too. The total bill was $10.

Just realized that my boss at the museum asked me to come in on Wednesday, the 13th! Ack!! Which one does she want? I sent her an email. I may be starting tomorrow!

I made biscuits this morning. I wanted to use up the gravy I made yesterday from the sausage pan drippings. Not very successful.... The main problem is that they were overbaked, even though I followed the directions. My oven, apparently, runs hot. I scraped the bottoms and stored the leftovers. I'll use them up in some way. I also stewed apples and overcooked them! More like apple leather....

That brings me to today's menu:

Breakfast: Burnt biscuits w/apple leather
Lunch: Cheese quesadillas w/ guacamole
Dinner: Orange chicken w/rice, veggies

I walked to the grocery yesterday, mainly to get quarters, but I also bought some tortillas and an avocado, for a grand total of $3.50.

I'm really trying to use up what's in the pantry and freezer to keep costs down.

I also gave $2 to a guy selling Street Scene -- it's a program to help the homeless.

Variables spending is at 53%.

On my walk, I found .22 -- all in pennies! I also found .22 on my vacation, but it was two dimes and two pennies.

September Recap and My Cheap Vacation

October 11th, 2015 at 01:47 pm

September was a good month -- only 73% of my variables spent. Which is good, since October certainly won't be like that!

Housing - 677
Utilities - 146
Groceries - 130
Gifts/Charity - 98
Vacation/Travel - 94
Car Repair/Maintenance - 70
Personal - 53
Phone - 51
Entertainment - 42
Household Supplies - 40
Vet/Pet Supplies - 35
Eating Out - 25
Medical/Health - 20
Furnishings/Equipment/Décor - 13
Clothing/Accessories - 12
Laundry - 12
Fares/Parking - 10
Grand Total - 1528

Now, here are more details about why my vacation was so cheap. First of all, gas prices were low, especially in the South. They hovered around $2 a gallon. I never drove very fast, and I didn't have to use the air conditioning very much, as the weather was mostly perfect. I took along a cooler of food from home and did not buy any meals on the way down. I did buy coffee a few times. (I brought coffee, too, but it ran out fast.) My meals on the way back were economical -- a child's vegetable platter at Cracker Barrel, breakfast from the dollar menu at McDonalds, and my stop at Popeye's Chicken -- where I only bought onion rings, having a craving for something hot and salty -- netted me free ice tea and an apple pie, because my order got lost.

I only spent two nights in a hotel. I picked Choice hotels so I could earn a third free night to use later. Each of those rooms cost around $80, but I will get $100 back from BOA because of travel points I earned.

My kids bought most of the food for the week. I bought one lunch for myself at Jason's Deli and I contributed $20 toward pizza one night. Our activities were kid-centered and simple, so there wasn't much expenditure there.

I entertained myself on the trip with audiobooks from the library.

My goal was to beat the cost of an airline ticket and car rental, and I think I did it!

Today will be low-key. I'm going to walk to the store to get quarters. I'm going to drive to the downtown library to return my audiobooks. I think there may be a soccer game, and, if my kids agree to it, I'm going to take them out for Chinese tonight in thanks for watching my cat and fish.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Egg casserole, stewed apples
Lunch: Rice pancakes, sausage
Dinner: Chinese?

I'm Back!

October 10th, 2015 at 07:17 pm

Exhausted, but back! I got home about two hours ago, and after unpacking, and a little rest, I caught up on my financial tracking, because I was so curious to see how I did!

I spent $387, but I will get $100 reimbursed from my BOA Travel Rewards Card. I spent $136 on gas, $62 on food, $175 on hotels, and $14 on activities. There were some incidental expenses as well. I spent $8 on a lipstick for my travel bag, $12 on extra undies (I was afraid I would run out but I didn't -- oh, well), and I bought diapers, wipes and bottles for my grandson for $63.

I just totaled my variables, and I am at 50%. I really want to cashflow this vacation, but we'll see if I can still come in under budget. I've already promised $30 toward a school fundraiser. I'm also going to have to pay $80 for a conference, which I'll be able to write off on my taxes, but still, I have to put up the money now.

I'm going to start work on Wednesday! I know, I've said this so many times, I don't even believe it myself. But that is the latest word.

As for vacation details -- the baby is beautiful, strong and healthy. Doesn't sleep well yet, unfortunately, and the new parents are exhausted. I had a great time with my 3-year-old granddaughter. We just did simple activities like going to a corn maze, visiting playgrounds, going out for pizza, etc. The drive was uneventful -- a little rain, but good weather overall, good gas prices, too. I got to spend a little time with BFF on the way there and back. I also earned a free hotel stay sometime because I stayed both nights at a Choice hotel.

Now I'm ready to get some serious rest before I join the working world again!