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Archive for December, 2018

The Short Version

December 31st, 2018 at 11:07 am

Oh lordy, I wrote a long entry and then lost it.

Here's the short version:

My BFF has come and gone. We had a good time, and I spent a total of $67, which included gas, a new hat, kitchen items, gifts for the gift stash, one lunch out, and one movie.

I have been making lists of what I would like to do around the house next year, and here is what I came up with:

Sort old pictures.
Repair and paint a chair, paint a footstool and a shelf.
Organize papers.
Get dining room table repaired and refinished; replace or cover chair cushions.
Get carpets cleaned.
Update coverings on kitchen benches.
Reframe an old sampler.
Get an exhaust fan installed in the bathroom.

I will probably buy a computer, as this one is doing funny things and I always have my fingers crossed.

Another thing I would like to do is start practicing regularly on my recorder and get somewhat good at it. I think it would be fun to join a madrigal group down the line.

That's it! The short version!

Dinner with Friends

December 29th, 2018 at 05:45 am

Dinner last night cost me $21, just a little bit more than I wanted to spend. That brings my variables to 7%. It was a cajun-style restaurant, and I had gumbo and a small plate of shrimp and grits. Delicious.

I got home at about 11:30, because I stayed a while to talk with one of my friends. (The restaurant was so loud, talking was pretty much shouting and straining to hear.) I came home really tired, acknowledging to myself I can't keep those kinds of hours any more.

Snow was coming down on the trip home -- beautiful, but it made the roads slick. I swerved coming around a corner, but didn't lose control.

BFF said yesterday she would come today. At this point I just don't know. We talked a while yesterday, and it turned out that rather than being sick, she was in a funk, worrying and stressing herself about things she can't do anything about. She felt better after our talk, but I am trying not to pressure her to get on the road. I want her to come because she wants to come, and I don't know if she's at that point. And slick roads will certainly not encourage her.

I used my Instant Pot yesterday for the first time. I turned the leftover prime rib into Italian beef for sandwiches. The process was pretty easy, and the meat was delicious. I can see I will use this a lot, but I have to figure out a place I can store it. I have a galley kitchen with almost no counter space -- just one area the width of a dishwasher, where I already have a stand mixer and a knife block, and another about 12" wide, where I have my coffee maker. The cabinets are full. Very challenging! I may be able to fit it under the seat in the breakfast nook.

A neighbor of mine left me a package of cupcakes and cookies, beautifully wrapped. I don't know her very well and was quite touched. I will take her a jar of jam today. I'm glad I have something homemade on hand!

Food, Food, Food!

December 28th, 2018 at 05:33 am

As I suspected, BFF begged off yesterday. She was not feeling well. She may come today, but I'm not counting my chickens.

I spent $29 on the prescription yesterday, and $1.50 on laundry. Variables are at 4%.

I went over to DS' house and cleared their fridge of food that would go bad if left until their return on January 7. This was a request from DIL. I spent the whole morning processing the food. Here is what I did:

Added their eggnog to my eggnog.
Made pineapple smoothie and froze it.
Made stirfry from veggies and beef. Ate half and froze half.
Froze two avocados in chunks.
Baked and froze ready-to-bake French rolls.
Froze green bean casserole.
Froze cinnamon rolls.
Ate spinach salad.

Today I'm going to make sandwiches from the leftover beef, and eat the riced cauliflower.

There was a whole pumpkin pie I was directed to take. I ate one piece yesterday. I'll have another today and then freeze the rest. If BFF comes, I'll save a piece for her.

There is still a half jug of milk and a bowl of clementines over there. I'll probably bring them home today.

What a gold mine! So grateful to DIL that she thought to suggest this and didn't let all the food go bad.

Tonight I'm going to meet friends for dinner. They have chosen a New Orleans-style restaurant. I've looked at the menu, and I will probably have gumbo or a po' boy. Hoping to get by under $20, but it looks like that might be hard.

2018 Financial Wins and Fails

December 28th, 2018 at 05:12 am

Financial Wins


Bought a car with cash, first time ever!

Took a road trip to New England and stayed under budget.

Groceries averaged $88 per month, lowest average in six years (and maybe more!)

Property taxes were greatly reduced (52%) by Senior Freeze and Homestead Exemption.

Gifts/Charity was 79% lower than year before.

Spent 70% less on clothing than year before.

Brought in about twice as much extra income as the year before. ($2,250)

Dramatic drop in car repair costs – down by 98%.

Spent nothing on home repair or maintenance.


Financial Setbacks (I don't think they are really fails)


Fees/Services about 10 times the total of last year. Mostly due to warranty purchased for "new" car.

Utilities continually crept higher.

Insurance is about 34% higher due to newer car on auto insurance.

Gas expenditure was 23% higher despite several months of lower gas prices. This is explained by lots of chauffeuring of the grandsons.

Car purchase decreased my overall net worth by 7%.

BFF Watch

December 27th, 2018 at 06:35 am

I am hoping my BFF will come today. She was planning to come, but she texted me last night that she had a headache. She often cancels plans. I hope this isn't one of those times, but I have a feeling.

The kids are leaving today for Florida and they'll be gone for a week or more. I'll be feeding their cat and cleaning his litter box. The good thing is that DIL told me to PLEASE take the perishable food out of the refrigerator and use it, and I will!

Tomorrow I'm going out to dinner with some old work friends. The restaurant is about an hour drive away, but it's worth the effort to keep these connections going. One of them is visiting from her new home in Ohio.

Yesterday I transferred my prescription to Osco, which will save me $16 over what Walgreens was going to charge me. That was certainly worth it! I will pick it up today.

While I was out, I picked up a few groceries for $5, and did a load of laundry. Variables - 1%!

I'm thinking about my goals for 2019. I haven't developed them yet, but here are the things I'm thinking about:

A housework schedule
Better self-care
Cooking & baking from scratch more regularly
Adding (forcing) more vegetables to my diet
Practicing on the recorder
Early attention to homemade gifts
More cardio exercise
Better handling of mail and paper

AARP is bugging me to renew, but I think I will let it go. AAA also covers the the benefits I'm interested in -- mainly hotel discounts. The renewal fee is cheap, but I need to be even more careful. Because of course my main goal is get through this gap year! Eight months to go!

Christmas & Year-End Accounting

December 26th, 2018 at 04:40 am

I rose early yesterday morning and good thing! Because my grandson texted me to come over right away, and gift opening proceeded. The boys got lots and lots of stuff; it was crazy. My DIL comes from a background of lavish spending which is only enhanced at Christmas. And my DS is influenced by his father, who spends to impress. It makes for a Christmas which is uncomfortable for me, but it is their lives. I continue to hope they understand my need to be more modest in my giving. I felt particularly bad this year because I could not afford to give the college money, which I usually do.

They gave me an Instant Pot. It is not something I have longed for, but I will learn how to use it and make it work for my lifestyle. DIL also gave me an Instant Pot cookbook, to get me started.

I got great gifts from my Florida DS as well -- an assortment of little things rather than a big thing. It was altogether a very nice day for me.

The surprise was a pretty generous cash gift from my XH. I'm not sure what this is about, given our history, but the divorce, which was all his idea, pretty much devastated me financially for years, and I will take anything he gives me now from a sense of guilt, or whatever.

Today is pay day, and I paid my bills this morning. I also did my monthly recap and year-end recap -- since my payday signifies the end of the month for, even though it isn't the real end of the month.

Housing - $321
Gifts/Charity - $174
Utilities - $170
Fees/Services - $159
Groceries - $145
Car Repair/Maintenance - $132
Medical/Health - $86
Vet/Pet Supplies - $84
Gas - $38
Eating Out - $37
Household Supplies - $24
Vacation/Travel - $19
Furnishings/Equipment/Decor - $17
Entertainment - $15
Laundry - $11
Misc. - $8
Fares/Parking - $4

Grand Total - $1444

As for the yearly totals --

Furnishings/Equipment/Decor - $9660
Housing - $8556
Fees/Services - $2756
Vacation/Travel - $2402
Utilities - $2059
Insurance - $1232
Medical/Health - $1087
Taxes - $1079
Groceries - $1054
Vet/Pet Supplies - $699
Eating Out - $692
Gifts/Charity - $679
Gas - $643
Phone - $624
Entertainment - $460
Household Supplies - $276
Personal - $251
Laundry - $169
Car Repair/Maintenance - $160
Clothing - $152
Fares/Parking - $39
Misc - $25

Grand Total - $34,754

That big expenditure in the equipment category was my new-to-me car, and the fees were pushed up by my purchase of a warranty.

My net worth this year dropped to $201K from $215K last year. That is accounted for by the car purchase, too, as well as the current dip in the stock market.

2019 will be a rebuilding year, and I feel good about being able to do it.

Back in the Groove

December 24th, 2018 at 05:32 am

I did a load of laundry yesterday, but otherwise, no spending.

I unpacked quickly and went to bed early. I slept a long time.

My Celecoxib prescription needs to be refilled. I responded to a refill email from Walgreen's when I saw that they will charge the same GoodRx price I got last time. But that got me curious, and I looked at GoodRx and saw prices at Kroger, Meijer, Jewel, and Walmart that were cheaper. I'm on the fence as to whether to switch when I've already requested a refill. Seems rude. Anyway, I won't actually go get it until I get paid on the 26th.

My only Christmas-related task today is to figure out some clever way to give each grandson a $20 bill. I may just wrap them each in a big box, since I have plenty around!

I am still eating leftovers from the brunch, and I think I can put off any shopping till pay day.

Back, Home, Dragging a Little

December 23rd, 2018 at 10:47 am

Got home today around noon. It was a good trip, nice connections and conversations with both my brother and P. Had fun playing games with my niece and her husband, and wonderful meals, as usual.

The whole cost of the trip was $17 for gas and $3 for food on the way.

I decided, while there, to vacuum my car. I haven't done it since I bought it this summer, and the grandsons have done a number on it. Me, too, tracking in leaves and debris! I found a place to do it, but I was puzzled that I couldn't find a way to pay for it. I asked someone beside me, and guess what? It was free. Even if you didn't buy a car wash. I took my time and really swept up a lot of crap.

Not only that, but I found .11 on the ground where I was working! When I find .48 more I will hit $100!

The only down side of the trip is that I did not sleep well either night, even though I was on a nice bed in a private room. So I'm very tired today, and hoping I can catch up on sleep in my own bed.

Getting ready to Leave

December 21st, 2018 at 07:26 am

I'm going to leave for Michigan in a few minutes. My brother and I do not exchange gifts, but we will have a nice meal together. He spends Christmas with his kids and his wife's family -- I spend mine with my kids and grandkids.

Tomorrow I will have lunch with my friend P, who is the nearest thing I have to a boyfriend. He was my professor once, a long time ago, and we reconnected several years ago. He is now a good friend, but not a romantic friend. I really look forward to our lunches, as he is fun to talk to, and he is a really good person who gives me faith in humanity. I am bringing him two small gifts, a scarf and a jar of homemade jam. He always pays for lunch, and I want to do a little something for him.

I will probably head home after lunch. Even though I am pretty much ready for Christmas, I want to be around for any last-minute surprises.

Yesterday was a no-spend day. Variables are at 118%. And I'll probably have to get gas on this trip. The overage does not worry me. I have lots of extra income to add in next month, and I should be able to come in well under.

Easy Come, Easy Go

December 20th, 2018 at 06:26 am

Well, I added a $25 gift card to Amazon yesterday and I've already used most of it. When I got back from taking the boys to music lessons, I found a package for me in the vestibule. It was from a friend of mine, who apparently really wants to exchange gifts every year. We used to do it when we met for a pre-Christmas lunch or dinner, but she has moved far away. I thought the tradition would die out, but she mailed me a gift last year. I thought my thank-you-but-no-reciprocal-gift would end it, but she sent me a gift again. And it's a nice one. I guess this is really important to her. So I got online and ordered a gift from Amazon, which will arrive at her home on Christmas Eve. It was no money out of pocket for me, since I had just added the gift card to my account.

Hope I am not sounding like a Scrooge, but I don't even exchange gifts with my siblings, so it just feels a little over the top. Especially since we are both retired and struggling with budgets. Oh well.

Yesterday was a no-spend day. Just now I started a $1.50 load of wash. I will be buying a bow for a present today, and that will be it for Christmas, except that on the day I will give each grandson a $20 bill. That is in addition to $30 gifts from their Amazon wish lists. I have managed this with gift cards I earned and extra cash from mystery shopping.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Michigan, to spend the night with my brother and then have lunch with my friend P on Saturday. Looks like I may be dealing with rain, but not with the ugly storm that will disrupt the east coast.

Bit of Spending

December 19th, 2018 at 07:45 am

I bought a $40 gift card for DS & DIL's favorite Chinese restaurant. I spent $3 at McDonald's for a snack for GS2 after school and before cooking class. (Should have remembered to bring a snack, but I didn't.) I spent $11 at Goodwill. $7 of it was for a set of 7 new placemats. They coordinate with my tablecloth and they are in a gingko pattern, which is a favorite of mine. I was going to give them to DIL, but I'm on the fence -- not sure if they are her taste, and I love them! The other $4 was for small gifts and gift wrap.

My unexpected spending was $37 for a new light bar for the aquarium. Here's what happened. I was drying my hair and a fuse blew. I went down to the basement to reset the fuse, and when I came up, I saw that the aquarium filter had stopped. I had to prime the pump to get it going. In the process, I knocked the light tube off, and it fell to pieces. Luckily, nothing went into the tank. I ordered the light bar online at PetSmart, and had to drive about 1/2 hour away to pick it up, as the nearer stores did not have it in stock.

All is well. It does look a lot better.

I ordered a $25 gift card for Amazon from MyPoints this morning. I think I'm done with Christmas Amazon orders, but there will be birthdays coming up in February.

Variables are at 117%.

This and That

December 18th, 2018 at 05:01 am

No more spending yesterday after the doctor visit, other than $1.50 for a load of laundry.

I got payment from one of the mystery shop companies, and two more should be coming in shortly.

I'll be picking up GS2 after school and taking him to his cooking class. His class is near Goodwill, so I usually look through GW while he is in class. It isn't my favorite GW -- it's poorly managed (messy) and overpriced -- but every once in a while I still find a treasure.

My leftovers are relieving me from a lot of kitchen duty -- no cooking for a while! I just have to keep figuring out the best way to use them up.

Ortho Doctor

December 17th, 2018 at 11:59 am

I went to the orthopedic doctor this morning. The appointment was at 9:30 and I didn't get out again until 12. Most of the time was spent waiting, of course. They took more x-rays, and I scheduled my hip replacement surgery officially for April 2.

They gave me a ton of stuff to read.

Afterwards, I went to the gym and then got gas for $19. Cheapest fill-up I've had in a LONG time!

The copay at the doctor's was $50.

That took variables to 101%, and I have a week and two days to go till pay day. But that's December for you.

Christmas Brunch

December 16th, 2018 at 04:52 pm

Whew! The party's over. I think it went well, though there were some imperfections -- for instance, the biscuits I made were too brown on the bottom (even though I used parchment paper). I've had that problem before and I think it may be time to look for new and better baking sheets. But that was minor. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, and we had a good time afterward playing games and just talking.

I was very, very tired afterward, but I resisted the urge to take a nap, which would spoil my night's sleep.

Before the party, I spent $67 on groceries and $24 on household supplies. More than I wished to, but at a certain point you just want to get it all done and not worry about what it costs. Variables are now at 89%. I think I have just enough to buy gas for my trip to Michigan this weekend.

I have lots of leftovers. Most of them have gone into the freezer.

This is the official kickoff of Christmas for me and it was a nice beginning.

Cleaning Mode

December 15th, 2018 at 06:04 am

I worked hard yesterday and most of my efforts were in the kitchen. I cleaned the stove, oven, and refrigerator. I soaked the burners overnight in ammonia and used a baking soda paste overnight in the oven. Success on both scores! I also dusted all over the house, and I cleaned some glass shelves in the kitchen window and all the colorful glass vases that they hold. I still need to pay attention to the floors -- but that can come later in the day. I have to do that, plus grocery shop and do some prep with the food.

But first I have a recital to attend at 10, so I'm going to clean myself up and do that, then grocery shop, and take it from there. I have heard rumors of a second recital later in the day (because my grandson is playing in a duet with another boy, and they are performing for both teachers' recitals). However, I don't see it on my calendar, so I'm hoping it has been moved to another day.

I hardly slept at all last night. I don't know if it was anxiety about getting everything done or not. That's likely, but there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it.

Anyway, I'm going to grab a little relaxation before I get ready for the recital. It may be a long day.