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Archive for December, 2015

Year-End Recap

December 31st, 2015 at 06:32 pm

My total spending this year was $29,662. That compares well with last year, which was $34,004. Here is the breakdown, largest to smallest. The first number is the yearly total, the second the monthly average.

Housing - $8,124/$677

This is the cost of mortgage payments and assessment fees.

Gifts/Charity - $3,664/$305

This includes $1,500 paid to college funds for the grandchildren. The rest is birthday gifts, donations to charity, handouts, incidental gifts, postage for mailing gifts, cards and gift wrap.

Car Repair/Maintenance - $3,658/$305

This includes the cost of painting and repairing the body of the car this fall, which was around $3,400. The rest was oil changes and car washes, and in May I paid $120 to have the sunroof drain cleaned out.

Utilities - $1,738/$145

This includes cable, internet, gas & electricity. My utilities are low because I have radiator heat which is included in my assessment fees.

Property Taxes - $1,700/$143

They were $2,264 last year. That's what turning 65 will do for you!

Furnishings/Equipment/Decor - $1,577/$131

Last January I bought a $1000 mattress and box spring set. Also in January I bought new sheets, a coffeemaker, a suitcase, a tablecloth, a floor steamer, and some cookware. Since then this category has been minimal.

Groceries - $1,475/$123

Just a bit lower than last year. Only food is counted in this category.

Vet/Pet Supplies - $1,092/$91

This was high, about double what I paid last year. I paid the vet $589 in August to treat and then put down my cat. In November I had adoption fees to pay for my new cat. The rest was cat food, kitty litter and aquarium supplies.

Eating Out - $849/$71

Almost exactly what it was last year! The biggest bump was in June, when I did a lot of social eating out prior to retirement -- and a lot my eating out that month was paid for by others, so I did a lot of dining that month!

Vacation/Travel - $840/$70

This was a lot lower than last year's $179 average. The biggest expense was my road trip to Florida in October.

Medical/Health - $836/$70

A bit lower than last year. No medical emergencies this year. The biggest bump was in August, when I had to pay out of pocket for my semi-annual checkup at the dentist.

Fares/Parking - $623/$52

About half what it was last year. Obviously, I am not buying monthly train passes any more. It should be even better next year.

Phone - $608/$51

Entertainment - $448/$37

The biggest chunk was paying for my subscription last April.

Fees/Services - $404/$34

License plate renewal, wheel tax, beach pass, etc.

Gas - $403/$42

Should get better and better, as I drive less and less. Last year my average was $53 a month.

Clothing - $307/$26

This seems to have been mostly socks, gloves and items bought at Goodwill. About half what I paid in this category the year before.

Insurance - $282/$24

This seems wrong, but I think I must have pre-paid my semi-annual premium in December of the year before, rather than waiting for the withdrawal in January. The previous year's insurance total was more than double.

Personal - $237/$20

Just a bit higher than last year. This category is mainly haircuts and nail care.

Household Supplies - $209/$17

All the grocery stuff that isn't food -- except for pet food, which goes into Vet/Pet. Just a bit lower than last year.

Business - $200/$17

Just a few things I can write off - professional association fees, etc.

Laundry - $189/$16

Exactly the same as last year.

Home Repair/Maintenance - $160/$13

Basically, this was getting my windows washed.

Miscellaneous - $30/$5

This boils down to be books of stamps. It seems like everything else has its own category!

I'm pleased. My splurges, such as they were, were reasonable and practical. I had a good year. A happy year. I retired, I welcomed a new grandson, I visited friends and family, and I even have a man friend! I'm looking forward to an equally good -- or better - 2016!

Last Day - Maybe

December 31st, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Yesterday was my last day with museum -- maybe. As I was finishing up my project, my boss came into my cubicle and asked if I was going to be around next year and available if she needed me. She can't offer me anything until they know what their 2016 budget is (why don't they know already???) but it sounds as though a renewal of my contract is definitely a possibility. Despite my frustrations, I will take it if offered. It's money, and I will need it, for my trips and my gap year.

I ended up donating about 3 hours of my time to finish the project to my satisfaction. I don't like to let things dangle unfinished. And I was so close.

Today I need to create the invoice and email it.

Also, since it's the last day of the year, I need to take some items to Goodwill and make a donation to my college. (I'm going to cheat and not count the donation in this month's variables budget, though. I don't want to go above 100% and I can easily make it up next month. Yes, I'm playing a game with myself.)

I'm also going to start on getting ready for the brunch, at the very least writing out a list of things I have to do. I can make a few things ahead, but for most I'll have to do a grocery trip first. And I won't do that until tomorrow.

Turned out I had a half a tank of gas, so there was no worry there. I had to hack off big chunks of ice from my car! I didn't realize how much it had built up.

My only spending yesterday was $1.13 at Starbuck's. I used a $5 gift card and bought breakfast on the way to work.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Pizza
Dinner: Egg salad sandwich


December 29th, 2015 at 01:33 pm

I just earned a couple of snowflakes. I did a survey for my doctor's office, which will net me a $5 Starbucks card, and I switched a prescription to a mail-order service, which will save me $8.11.

10 more hours to work. Five today and five tomorrow. Tomorrow I will drive in for my last day, and then will send in my invoice.

Then I will focus on the brunch, and after that, my new year!

I already know I am going up to Michigan to visit my brother. He and his wife have some work for me to do, but I doubt that I will charge them, given all they have done for me. I may have said this already!

I hope to see BFF. And I hope to get back to writing my novel. I'm not sure how much of it survived my computer breakdown. I know I saved variations of it on a flash drive and on the cloud, just not sure exactly how much of it was properly saved. Not a big problem, since it needs tons of revising anyway.

I'm also going to take up my C.S. Lewis reading again. I'm hoping to see my friend, the scholar, in January.

And in a couple of days, I get to do my yearly recap! What fun! I've spent 100% of this month's variables budget, but I have reserved $1712 of it since March, which is much better than I expected. My recap will examine what I've spent in what areas.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Toast & Peanut Butter
Lunch: Omelet
Dinner: Cheese quesadillas & salsa

Thinking Ahead

December 28th, 2015 at 02:02 pm

I have been thinking about the upcoming year, and what my aspirations are. I don't want to make resolutions or even set goals -- I guess I am more interested in continuous improvement in small increments. Even before TD posted about her "theme" I had already decided on a theme, which was coincidentally her last year's theme -- attentiveness/mindfulness. I just need to be more aware. To listen -- not just to people, but to the events in my life. To pay attention to what is happening around me and to me. To have my brain turned on, for Pete's sake! I spend too much time daydreaming.

Financially, I know that there are three things I have to save for. The Key West trip, the cruise, and my gap year. My gap year is the time between my last stipend from the College and the first "upgraded" Social Security payment, when I switch to my own benefit. I think it will be actually a little more than a year. I will need to make up $275 a month. I have two and a half years before it begins.

That sounds pretty formidable, given that my income is pretty low. That's where I'm hoping that mindfulness will create new revenue streams, and new ideas about cutting corners.

Today I tackle the last 15 hours of work. I was going to drive in today, as I am so much more focused there (and can use a better computer) but the weather is not cooperating. An ice storm is predicted, so I am going to stay off the roads.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich, applesauce
Dinner: Veggies & pita bread

Washing the bedding

December 27th, 2015 at 04:05 pm

Well, I'm washing all of bedding today, including the sheets I just put on. One of my cats threw up on the bed, and it soaked all the way through to the mattress pad. Luckily, it didn't get on the mattress. I had to wash the sheets, the pad and the comforter. I spot-cleaned the quilt that was serving as a counterpane.

Since I was washing all that, I decided to wash the dust ruffle (which hasn't been washed in a while!) And since I had to wrestle with the mattress to get it off and on, I turned the mattress. I'll try to remember to do this every New Year's. The laundering will cost at least $3 -- may be $4.50 if the comforter has to go another round, as it probably will.

My son has urged me to switch my cats to wet food. He said it solved some behavioral issues with his cat, and he thinks it will help Iggy. Heck, Iggy may be used to wet food already, for all I know! So I started yesterday, and they were both delighted. It sure is stinky, though! And at .60 a can, I'm going to have to figure out how to get it more cheaply.

So I went to the grocery store yesterday to get the cat food, and I also bought a box of wine, some sourdough bread, and some kitty litter. All were on sale. I even sent in a $3 rebate on the wine, which I will add to my snowflakes. The total cost was $34. Variables spending is at 99%! But I still think I may make it. I only have to go to the museum once, and I have enough gas for that.

Today I'm going to repurpose some leftovers from the Christmas dinner. I'm going to make corn chowder out of the corn casserole, and I'm going to add turkey to the rice dish to make it an entrée. Then I will freeze in portions, as there will be way too much for me to eat very quickly. I'm hoping that January will be a very low-cost month, grocery-wise.

I do have to get ready for the January 3 brunch, though. Plans that are swirling around in my head are: breakfast casserole (eggs, sausage, veggies), sweet potato muffins, pumpkin tarts, fruit bowl, creamed onions, cheddar bay biscuits, and -- I don't know the name for it -- crescent rolls baked as a square crust and topped with a Ranch/cream cheese spread and cut up veggies. Punch, coffee -- I think that's it. These items will use up a lot of things I have on hand, but I will have to do some shopping.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/cranberries & nuts
Lunch: Corn chowder
Dinner: Turkey rice dish

Ah, Christmas Past!

December 26th, 2015 at 01:10 pm

I love Christmas, but I'm always relieved when it's over. I love to kick back and recuperate from all the fuss.

It was a pretty good Christmas, all told. I think my gifts were appreciated, and I know I appreciated what I got! We had an exceptional dinner, cooked by my DIL. I played games with the grandsons (though they were mostly intrigued with their new videogames).

My son booked cruise tickets for their family, and the two mothers are invited to come along! This won't happen until next January (2017). Of course I will pay my own way, and so will Other Mother. It's a Carnival cruise going from New Orleans to Mexico. I've never been on a cruise in my life, so I'm excited! It means saving up for TWO vacations in 2017 -- my Key West trip with the girlfriends, and the cruise. I see lots of penny-pinching in my future.

My computer has been fixed. My son took a look at it, and he was able to do what the Geek Squad couldn't do. Everything looks a little different, but all my files were saved, and we were able to reinstall the important apps. So that was a great money savings there, because I was all ready to buy a new one!

I'm starting over on my snowflakes, since I took $1200 out to split among the grandchildren for college funds. I have $17.16 to apply to next year. This includes some cash back from Discover, a $5 rebate from Walgreens, and some found money. I found .28 in the last couple of days!

I only have 15 more hours of work to get in. That should be easily done. My variables spending is 95%, and I think I can come in under 100%. Only five more days, and I have plenty of food. May need gas.

I'm really looking forward to a frugal 2016!

My Computer!

December 22nd, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I'm using my work computer right now, because my own is showing me what I believe is the blue screen of death. As far as I know I didn't do anything at all to bring this on, and the computer is only a couple of years old. I'm really bummed. The last thing in the world I want is to buy a new computer now.

I worked for six hours yesterday. I heard nothing from my kids, so I don't know if the museum trip is tabled, or what. I'm going to try to get in six more hours today.

I took care of putting the college money in the 529, which is a Christmas gift. I ordered crazy socks for my son -- ten pairs for $59, which includes shipping. I hope they will arrive before Christmas, but if not I'll do some creative IOU.

I heard from my Florida son that their package had arrived so that was a relief. It had a check and gift card in it, as well as little gifts, so I was hoping the porch pirates didn't get it.

Iggy was pretty bad last night, especially in the early morning. I got up at four, because there just didn't seem to be any point in trying to sleep. In addition to his yowling, he has the stinkiest poops I've ever smelled. And they are loose. I wonder if he has discomfort when he's relieving himself, and that's why he yowls.

I don't know when I'll get to the vet, with this work hanging over me. Going to the vet takes a half a day.

I made one decision yesterday that eased my mind. I decided I would not host a New Year's Day brunch this year. I'm going to have it instead on January 6, Twelfth Night, which is a Sunday this year. That will give me plenty of time to get ready, after all the work is done. I've always wanted to have a Twelfth Night party, anyway! Maybe I'll make that my tradition!

Pay day is tomorrow. I have lots of things to settle up. I wish my computer were working.

Well, time to do some real work.


Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Lasagna (yes, it will last forever....)
Dinner: French onion soup? Quesadillas?

Girls' Weekend

December 21st, 2015 at 02:51 pm

Girls' weekend has come and gone -- so short this year! Next year we are going to do something more substantial. We're talking about a long weekend in Key West.

We went to a Christmas symphony concert, had dinner in a ritzy bistro, did a little shopping, lots of talking, a little tipping of the wine bottle.... The cost was not too bad. $43 for the concert, $36 for dinner, $23 for gas, and I spent $89 on Christmas shopping. I got a nice top and necklace for my DIL, a tree ornament, and a game for my DIL's little niece, whom I really don't know, but she and her father will be joining us this. I still have to get something for the dad, really clueless on that; I will let DIL suggest something. I also want to get some crazy socks for my son, and then I will be done.

I am now waiting on word from my son & DIL on whether we will go to the museum today. It has been mentioned; however, they don't know that they're getting a membership for Christmas, so it's kind of awkward. I wouldn't want them to have to pay anything today, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. I'm kind of hoping they'll decide not to go today. But if they do, I'll give them one of the membership cards and pretend like it's a complimentary pass. Hope it works and I don't get busted.

I have some work to catch up on. I'm not going to stress it, though. I will work on Christmas Eve if I have to. I might even put in some time on Christmas Day, after all the festivities are over.

My cat is no better about his noisiness at night. I'm really suffering from lack of sleep, because I no sooner drop off than he's yowling again. I'm going to take him to the vet, but not today -- at least, not until I know whether this will be a museum day.

Oh, I forgot to say, one of my girlfriends gave me two pounds of organic ground beef! Her grandsons are active in 4-H, and they had a ton of meat in their freezer. That was a nice surprise. It's become so expensive I haven't bought ground beef in a while.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Biscuit & honey
Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Eggs & ham

Slow Day

December 18th, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Well, I got in five hours of work today. Had to quit because the internet was so slow, I couldn't navigate. Maybe I can make up some time on Sunday afternoon, when I get back from girls' weekend. Yes, it's going to be a short one. Leaving Saturday morning and coming home Sunday morning. We girls just have too much to do.

I just bought a bag of cat chow to make sure the kitties will have enough. Yeah, it's only one day, but Iggy eats like there's no tomorrow. The chow was $14.

I have to clean the fish tank and pack. I wish I didn't have to clean the fish tank, but it's been a while. I really should.

I really just want to stretch out on the couch and read.

I can't believe we are so close to Christmas, and I have so much to do. I hope the girls want to shop this year; it would help out if I could get some done on Saturday.

Only 36 more hours to work. That doesn't sound too bad. I do look forward to that big check!

I got a notice from SS today telling me what my payment will be in 2016. It is the same, no mention whatever of the changes that were recently passed into law. I am cautiously hopeful that I am grandfathered in, and will continue to collect the spousal benefit until I switch to mine in 2020.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Biscuits
Lunch: Lasagna, sautéed mushrooms
Dinner: Veggie sandwich

Back to Reality

December 17th, 2015 at 01:46 pm

Weather-wise, that is. It's cold today (though still warmer than average). We've had an unusually warm winter this year. But last night, standing at the gas pump, I was shivering in the wind, and I remembered, oh yes, this is winter.

I've put in 11 hours in the last two days. Yesterday I went to my old workplace's Christmas party. It was very nice, and very good to see most of the people. I felt kind of bad that I didn't take anything, but I was told not to -- and really, there was tons of food there -- many, many leftovers.

While out in the suburbs, I got cheap gas ($20) and dropped off a bag at Goodwill. "My" Goodwill is not very close.

I spent $6 on food yesterday at work. I also gave $10 to a homeless man. The joy on his face was worth it.

I have 47 more hours to work.

I've spent 92% of my variables budget, but of course Christmas spending is throwing it off.

Well, I guess it's time to get back on the clock.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Biscuits
Lunch: Scrambled eggs & ham
Dinner: Veggie burger

9 Hours!

December 15th, 2015 at 01:22 pm

I drove into work yesterday - early - and I got 9 hours in! And someone came from IT and reinstalled my remote link. It worked at the museum -- I haven't tried it yet from here, but I am hoping. I want to get in a lot of hours today, because I want to go to a Christmas party tomorrow. It starts at 4, but it will take about an hour to get there. My old workplace. It will be fun to see old friends.

I spent about $8 yesterday on food, even though I brought my lunch! I bought breakfast, got a bottle of water, and got a cookie. I needed this stuff to keep going -- the project I'm working on is so tedious. And I was freezing! Even though the temperatures outside are unusually warm, in the museum it is FREEZING! With any luck, I'll only be going there a couple more times.

Today I have to mail a package and do some laundry, but I should be able to focus on work. I'm really starting to feel now that I'm going to get it done.

I guess that's it. Life is work, work, work. But I'll have fun tomorrow evening, and on my girlfriends' getaway this weekend.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Veggie & bacon omelet
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner; Lasagna

Christmas Shopping

December 13th, 2015 at 12:14 pm

I really hate Christmas shopping, I have to admit. I hate to spend the money and I never feel like I'm getting anything anybody wants.

That said, I got some done. A book for my BFF: $18. Christmas napkins in caddies for the girlfriends: $30. A "Frozen" snackeez for my granddaughter: $10. A water bottle for my DIL's mom: $26. A rainproofing umbrella for my son: $24. Veggie crispers & scrubber for my DIL: $23. Night vision goggles for my grandson: $10. Sketch projector for my other grandson: $15. A toy for my son's dog: $5. (I promised) A $100 Target gift card for my son & DIL in Florida, who are buying a house. It's a good beginning.

I also bought myself a humidifier because it was half-price - $25. I got a box of filters for the aquarium: $25.

Then I stopped at Aldi and spent $27 on: eggs, tuna, gravy, pumpkin pie mix, mushrooms, sourdough bread, spreadable margarine, muffin mix, two jars of jelly, almond milk, peanut butter, crescent rolls, kitty litter and a poinsettia. The poinsettia was only $4, but I went back and forth about it. Finally got it, and I'm glad -- it looks so pretty in my dining room.

Before I went shopping I had the meetup with the incoming treasurer. We had brunch after switching the account; my share was $17. We went to a restaurant that caters to vegetarians, so my eggs benedict were served over spinach and tomato rather than Canadian bacon. A little strange, but healthy, I'm sure. This I will write off as a business expense.

I haven't figured out yet what this has done to my variables budget, but I knew December would be bad.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Hot Pocket
Lunch: Turkey Manhattan
Dinner: Lasagna? (if I make it)

Sabotaged Myself

December 12th, 2015 at 01:52 pm

I only got in four hours yesterday, and I can't make it up this weekend. Why? Because I accidently deleted the link that connects me to the museum! How could I do something so stupid? Well, after leaving the computer for about an hour I came back to find the link disconnected. I tried to connect, and it wouldn't let me in. I saw that the "Disconnect" and "Connect" were both grayed out. So I tried "Exit." Whoops. The icon disappeared. Now I can't work at all until I can go back to the museum and have them re-install the link.

That puts me only two hours behind schedule, which I can make up next week.

I took a walk to the post office yesterday, to pay my last bill as board treasurer. On the way, I stopped to look at a cart outside the rare book shop (which also has a lot of non-rare used books). What did I see but an advance copy of Elizabeth George's new book, A Banquet of Consequences. It's published now, and I could get it at the library, but I decided I wanted it NOW rather than endure the wait list. It cost $6.50. After I'm done, I'll pass it on to my sister, so it's not a total waste of money.

At the post office, I bought a book of stamps - $9.80. And I stopped at Walgreens on the way back to look at hair dryers. My hair dryer died yesterday morning, after a very long life. I honestly can't remember when I bought it, but it was ages ago! I should have gone to Wal-Mart to get the best bargain, but I saw a Conair at Walgreens that was marked down to $14.99. I don't know if that's a decent price, but it was worth the price of not having to fight traffic (both car and people) to go to Wal-Mart at this time of year. So I bought it.

Today I tried it out, and I was just thinking, wow, what power! When poof! Out went the lights. My tricky old-house wiring will not take too much of a load. I went down to the basement and flipped the switch, then I tried again with the lights and TV and Christmas tree and aquarium turned off. It was fine. I'll have to remember to turn things off before I use it. What a pain.

But the big news today is that I slept last night! I heard Iggy only once, and that was early in the night. I don't know if he was quiet, or if I was so tired his noise didn't wake me. I did try to play with him yesterday. He really wasn't interested, but he wanted lots of love, so I gave it to him. Which makes me think it is an emotional problem, and I just need to make him feel loved and secure.

I found .30 on my walk yesterday! A quarter and five pennies. That's unusual, especially since they were spread out in different places.

Today I have to go to a suburb about 30-40 minutes away to meet the incoming treasurer at the bank. We are going to switch my name to hers. I would like to say that I will be done then, but I have a ton of papers that have to be organized before I give them to her. I've procrastinated terribly. I'm going to try to get it done tomorrow, as long as I can get some Christmas shopping done today.

Anyway, we're going to have breakfast afterwards, though I've been up so long it will be more like lunch for me. Then it's off to a day of making decisions and buying. Since next weekend is girls' getaway weekend, and I have to work every weekday, I'm down to the wire on Christmas shopping.

I can't wait till January!!!!

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Toast & peanut butter
Lunch: Whatever
Dinner: Cheese quesadilla, veggies

Another Day

December 11th, 2015 at 01:33 pm

I worked six hours yesterday, all spread out between 6 am and 7 pm, with substantial breaks. It was much less tiring than going full-steam ahead. If the remote link works, I will do that again today. 71 hours to go.

I cooked off some vegetables yesterday and added turkey cubes, mozzarella and cream cheese. Today I'll put the filling into crescent roll pockets for my own version of homemade hot pockets. Hope it will be good, I'm looking forward to it!

My yowling cat interrupted my sleep a lot last night. I looked around on the internet for solutions, but didn't find anything I didn't know already. I know I do need to rule out physical problems, but he was checked out by a vet just before I got him, and, frankly, I don't have time this month to take him to the vet. I also think it would freak him out more, because he would think he's being passed on again. I'm going to try to engage him more today, see if that helps.

I'm looking forward to two days of freedom this weekend! But lots of Christmas stuff to do.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Omelet
Lunch: Homemade hot pockets
Dinner: Turkey Manhattan sandwich