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Archive for April, 2012

What A Ridiculous Week!

April 28th, 2012 at 04:18 pm

This was a crazy-busy week. Glad it's over. The Husband and I were both working like crazy. We went to bed very early last night and slept late, which is 7:30 for us. Because of the busy week, the house is a mess! We were on survival for a couple of those days! Today we both have fun things to do, but we'll have a little bit of time to pull things back together with the help of the kids. I'm thinking tomorrow will be the day to be a little more thorough.

Dinners this week... I don't know which was which night! Can't remember!

Roasted Potatoes topped with poached eggs, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives from the garden. Super fast and easy... Heaven! We ate them with fresh pineapple and oranges.

Turkey burgers... homemade rolls, a bag of Trader Joe's fries from the freezer and salad.

Whole wheat noodles with spicy peanut sauce...

Meatball sandwiches... I make a *million* turkey meatballs at a time and freeze them. We just pulled a few from the freezer, cooked them in tomato sauce and ate them on homemade rolls. Everyone loved it.

**************************************************

Yep. I'm in the group who hasn't really posted the spending for the last week or two. I just got too busy. But I always track all those expenses, so if I have time this weekend I'll go back and post. Our biggest expense this month, besides the mortgage (and the taxes!!), has been transportation, as always (gas, tolls, public transportation). We had a decent month, food-wise, but I hope May can be a little better. I always say that!

Monday was Marvelous

April 24th, 2012 at 05:02 am

I like getting a little free money here and there. I use Ebates when I order things online. But in the last two months, I've ordered two things and not gotten my credit. Today, I took the time (all of five minutes!!) to contact Ebates about my orders. I'm hoping I hear from them soon. It's not tons of money, but they were good percentages for my running shoes and raincoat (huge hassle getting that raincoat! Wink )It will add a few dollars, I think.

I bought that iced tea today... the one that the crazy, rushed guy at the post office treated me to when he bought a 45 cent stamp from me for $2.00! It was wonderful. I like plain black tea, and the Tazo tea that they use at Starbuck's is YUM!

We had a delicious dinner. Pasta with a creamy cashew sauce and salad. I love Brianna's Blue Cheese salad dressing, and it makes even the most boring salad seem like something special... rarely goes on sale here, though.

Have a terrific Tuesday!

Need a New Iron, Sun Shade, Printer Ink

April 23rd, 2012 at 12:53 am

I think my kids bumped into the ironing board and knocked the iron off one too many times. It's gone for good. So now that's on my list of things to shop for. I have coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond, and the local hardware store, but I'll also check Target. Since the iron always seems to break because it falls to the floor, it's not worth investing in anything too high quality.

And I need a sun shade to put in the windshield to block the searing sun. The new car is a dark color. The darkest. Smile I'm thinking they aren't too expensive. I'll stop at the auto parts store (on the way to drop kids at activities) to check the basic price, and then I'll look at Target when I'm there to compare. I might have a coupon for the auto parts store.

And I mentioned last week that right at tax time I ran out of toner for one printer and ink for the other. It's all gone. So I need to start looking for bargains on that. Of course I could dash out to Staples today, but that's not going to happen.

Heat and Air Conditioning in the Same Month

April 22nd, 2012 at 08:54 pm

Last Friday, April 13th, the high here was 55 degrees. Brr! We turned on the heat.

This past Friday, April 20th, the high was 88 degrees. I thought about turning on the air conditioning, but we managed to hold out until it began to cool off.

Yesterday it was 90 degrees, and we turned on the air. It just got too hot. My breaking point is when it's over 80 in the house, and it hit that around noon. Today it's not quite as hot, and I think we'll be able to make it with no air conditioning. The rest of the week is supposed to be cooler... in that nice middle range where we don't need either heat or air. Thank goodness.

April is usually a month when our electric/gas bill is very low because of the mild weather. We'll see...

Red Light Ticket, Gas, Friends

April 21st, 2012 at 04:37 pm

1. Not mine. The Husband's. He said he was in heavy traffic, and when he looked, the light was green. As he got up to the intersection, the sun shined just right so that he couldn't see any of the lights at all (sun was behind him, reflecting off the lights). Traffic all around him was moving and he made the quick decision to move with it. Apparently the light had turned to red. He went back later and sat in a parking lot near the intersection and found that the yellow lights there are extremely short. He's writing something up to appeal. I hope it works.

2. Used grocery store Gas Rewards to get a 25 cent per gallon discount, which made the premium gas $4.00 per gallon. I filled up.

3. I went out with some friends for dinner and icy adult drinks. It cost $13.00, but it was therapy and well worth the money!

Refinancing?

April 20th, 2012 at 05:31 am

Today I convinced The Husband to call to get some info about refinancing the mortgage. He made the first phone call, at least, although we might not really get anywhere.

We bought our current house and the top of the market. I know. Ugh. It was a price we could afford, it was reasonable at the time, and it was a conservative purchase considering the other options at the time.

Now, however, we probably couldn't sell it for $120,000 less than what we paid. Ouch. It's always been our plan to pay off the mortgage as fast as possible, and we're continuing with that goal. But we are also debating moving to be closer to our jobs, and wondering what to do. If we move closer to The Husband's job, we could save a lot of money on commuting. A LOT. (Amtrak tickets, BART tickets, gas...) Currently, we're thinking we would just continue with the plan to pay it off and rent it, but we will see.

At this point, with no firm plans, I would be happy to get even a small reduction in the interest rate.

Eggs, Gas, Pretax Spending Account for Medical

April 19th, 2012 at 02:28 am

Today a local grocery store had eggs on sale for 69 cents a dozen. With the hungry swimbabies, we eat a lot of eggs. I dragged all those kids plus The Husband to the store... Yeah, it was limit one. But it didn't say one per person or one per household... just "Limit 1." So I assumed it meant per transaction. I gave everyone two quarters and two dimes and let them keep the change!! Smile Haha. They can appreciate a deal like this, so they were quite willing.

The new car is getting great gas mileage, especially on the long commute. Yesterday, I went to a Safeway gas station, used my club card to get 20 cents off per gallon, and got premium gas for $4.01 per gallon. Not really a deal, but far cheaper than anything else I could find. We are still debating/researching the "Use Premium Fuel Only" label. We have another car that said it required premium, but I gave up on that at some point long ago (said car has over 200.000 miles). I've heard different things from different people. Any opinions/advice out there on regular vs. premium gas?

Our pretax spending account... we over-estimated this year. I had hoped that I'd get a kid or two into braces in 2011, but they weren't quite ready. So today The Husband ordered a new pair of prescription sunglasses, so as not to waste the dollars. I've just emailed our doctors to request refills on all the regular medicines we take for things like allergies and eczema, and we have dentist appointments the first week in May. Unfortunately (fortunately, really), our health and dental benefits are so good that we don't pay much out of pocket, except copayments to the doctor. The last time we all went to the dentist, I think our insurance covered everything but something like $8.00 for six people. I have consultations for the two younger swimbabies at the orthodontist for mid-May, and may yet get them into braces in time to pay part from that account. For some reason, our pretax account isn't by calendar year. So we have until June 30. If only it covered pedicures... which are good for my mental health!

It's still sunny and warm here! The husband calls it "margarita weather!" So for dinner we're having guacamole, salsa and make-your-own burritos to go with our icy beverages!

Profit at the Post Office

April 18th, 2012 at 12:25 am

Taxes. Blech. It has NEVER been this much of a hassle.

I had planned to efile, as usual, but the money I was using to pay got lost out there in transfer outer space and didn't appear in our checking account fast enough. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just print and mail. We all used to do it that way, right?!"

OF COURSE, just as I was printing the return, the printer ran out of toner. Of course, it was my last cartridge. Of course.

So I emailed the return to The Husband, who opened his email at work today and printed the whole thing, and got everything organized while I was at work...extra copies, forms, etc. I stopped by his office when I was done working, signed, and went to the post office.

And here's where it gets good... because this is the kind of little stuff we love, right?!

I walked into the post office to drop my two envelopes into the slot. I had left a kid (old enough!) and my purse in the car. The line is a million miles long, and there was this guy yelling, "Does anyone just have a stamp I can buy?!" Everyone was ignoring him, so I said, "I have one in my car if you want to follow me there." So he did. And paid me $2.00. For one stamp. I tried to tell him that the stamp wasn't close to that, but he just said that I'd saved him and walked away.

I was tickled... he made my day!

I know. $1.55 profit. (Not like I can quit my job or anything!) Probably a little more because the stamps I have in my purse are Forever Stamps and they're Forever Old. Seems like we rarely mail anything these days. But it was free and easy money! I can treat myself to a Starbuck's iced tea if I want to...

Crossing Things Off of My List!

April 16th, 2012 at 07:02 pm

I'm trying to cross things off my list today!

1. I made some phone calls to change appointments.

2. I ran. Only 2 1/2 miles this morning, but I may go again tonight. I've been following the Boston Marathon and my friend who is running. I heard the weather was pretty hot, and was worrying about her... but she finished! So fast-- just over 4 hours!

3. I made a THIRD phone call to a professional organization to cancel a membership option and get a refund. Third call! So frustrating... but this time I got a confirmation email, so I'm going to hope that the $60 refund hits my account in the next day or two.

Still to do:
1. Go buy a few packs of seeds for the garden, and perhaps two more tomato plants. I'll go to the dollar store first, because I've found seeds there before... five packs for a dollar. If no deal, I'll just go to the local garden store. I got my plant tower set up with the terra cotta pots (I bought one, and scrounged the rest from my own yard and from a neighbor), and I want to plant herbs in it.

2. Pick up The Husband's cleaning. I would love to drop this expense, and I've gone back and forth over the years. But, he has to dress up for work. The dress pants last much longer when professionally cleaned vs. washed in cold water and ironed by me. And the shirts are $1.50 each, so hardly worth my time to iron. Still, it's not something I enjoy paying for.

3. Finish shredding! I've been going through our gigantic filing cabinet with the hope that I can whittle down the contents enough to get rid of it. The filing cabinet lives in the garage, but it's enormous... a behemoth steel tower! I've shredded a ton of things, most ridiculously old... paystubs from 2001, old tax returns, information on a vehicle we no longer own, insurance information from long ago... I'm saving a few select documents, in case we need to document anything, but most of it has become confetti!

Curses!

April 15th, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Usually I've done the taxes by Valentine's Day, if not earlier. We had an especially stressful few months, and I kept thinking about taxes, but put it off.

Now I don't care. It was just fine that I waited.

We owe. Big time. Just over $5000 between the federal and state returns.

Some things changed, and although I tried to make adjustments, it didn't work well enough.

1. In 2011, I worked full time for the first year since 1997 or so. I'm back to part time now, but may be full time again in six months or so. I've alternated between full and part time since 2006, but being full time the entire year made a big difference. Ouch.
2. I received a fellowship last summer. Seemed like a great deal at the time, but I was considered "self-employed" by the IRS, and the money I received was taxed A LOT!

Bleh. So I'll pay the IRS tomorrow, and will adjust some with-holding amounts for the rest of this year. Life goes on.

It's another gorgeous day here in sunny California. Besides finishing the taxes, we got some tomato plants in the ground, and did some chores like laundry and cleaning. Still to do: make the week's menu and bake bread. When that's done, I'm going to read!

Beautiful Day and Grocery Shopping

April 15th, 2012 at 05:37 am

It was an amazing day here. Blue sky, lots of sun... so after a delicious breakfast of homemade blueberry pancakes, vegetarian sausage and mochas, The Husband and I gathered the kids and we all went for a hike. Funny how it was raining and stormy a few days ago, and this morning we were packing icy water bottles and sunscreen to take with us.

We drove 15 minutes or so, and then hiked up a ridge (way, way up there!) We had beautiful views of a lake, valley, and creek below. We took the dog, and she loved it, too. Some members of our group were hiking in tank tops... it really warmed up! There were beautiful native California plants in bloom, lots of lizards to see (The Husband caught one with a long piece of grass-- a great trick!), and we all love the exercise part of it, too.



After we got home and took thorough showers (LOTS of poison oak on the trail), I went to the grocery store. Thanks to Monkey Mama, a certain nearby chain is back on my radar. It's actually not that close--- the closest store is about 10 miles away, and there are probably at least 7 stores closer. But they do have some good deals, so I'll need to watch and drive when it's worth it.

I did great there today! I had lots of coupons (only for things we would use anyway), and stocked up on fruit, four boxes healthy granola bars and pretzels for kids' lunches, body wash, five boxes cereal, tortillas, pizza toppings, potatoes, avocados, eggs, sour cream, cilantro, hot peppers, four pints Ben and Jerry's, goldfish crackers, Tide, dish soap and cat food... my total was $108 after coupons, and I got $20 in vouchers to use next time. One was the "spend $75, get $10" deal, and the other was "spend $30 on specific products, get $10." I walked out of that store pretty pleased. It was a lot of food for the money! Again, thanks to Monkey Mama for the heads up on those deals!

Dinner? grilled chicken, tortillas, lettuce, salsa, homemade guacamole, sour cream, mexican rice and grated cheese. Ice cream for dessert. Delicious!

Deals Today and a Deal From Long Ago

April 13th, 2012 at 02:41 am

Ugh. Today I drove to the Bay Area for work in the new-to-us car. Forgot that the other cars both have Fastrak, even though I was talking about it here the other day! I'm just in the habit of NOT thinking about bridge toll. I was already almost to the toll booth before I remembered, but it was too late to do anything. I didn't have any cash on me, as usual.

Bleh. So I got up to the toll booth and said (embarrassed), "Um. I'm a regular commuter. And I just got a new car, and I forgot to get a Fastrak. My other cars both have them...(stumble)...(mumble)..."

The toll lady wasn't really sympathetic. She handed me a "TOLL VIOLATION" card and told me to call the number. Grrr! Looks like there might be a $25 fine, but that I might get it waived by showing I have a Fastrak.

I stopped soon after at a Costco, and picked up a Fastrak. I won't be doing that again!

I went to CVS and did a little playing. I picked up a large supply of Claritin, some deodorant, a fancy razor, sunscreen, moisturizer and a handful of clearance Easter candy. The total was $83 something and I paid $34 and got $5.50 back in Extra Bucks. It took two transactions, but that was okay. The regular price for the Claritin alone was $24.99. And I've paid that before, when I've had a suffering swimbaby in need. Glad I didn't today!

A friend called and said she was going to a wedding and wanted my advice. It's a beach wedding, and she wasn't sure what to wear, both dress and shoes. After some discussion, I got some strappy black sandals out of my closet and took them to her so she can borrow them. She thought they were perfect. The receipt was in the shoe box, so I got to enjoy the bargain a second time. I had gotten them on a clearance rack in the teen section of Nordstrom in December 2000! They are a classic style, and I've worn them to many parties and weddings since then. I've definitely gotten my $27 worth, and I feel particularly pleased to help out my friend, who was considering buying new shoes just for the occasion.

Things I Want Right Now and What I'm Going to Do About It

April 12th, 2012 at 01:43 am

Feel like I always have a list...

Things I Want Right Now

#1 Boots.
Wow. I found the most amazing boots on sale at Macy's in Southern California a month ago. Did I mention they were amazing? The fit was perfect. PERFECT. I debated and decided that I didn't want to spend $120 even though they were AMAZING. When I got back home, I changed my mind, and I called the store and they were gone. I searched online... and the cheapest place I could find them was Shoes.com. And they are... get ready... $398. But they are the most amazing boots!

#2 Make Up.
I need a few items to replace things that have run out. I don't wear much, but I like my 5 products. I'm currently out of one (and going without) and about to run out of another.

#3 Clay Pots.
A friend gave me this really cool metal pole-thing that you use to stack pots in this clever, tilted, kind of arrangement. There is a 12 inch pot on the bottom, and then progressively smaller pots on top, for a total of five. I have the pole, which I think was pretty pricey (but it was a gift). Now I need the pots. I want to plant all the pots with different herbs.

#4 New Pillows.
Our bed pillows are lousy. They were cheap to start with and they're all squished-out and pretty useless. I've been wanting new ones since before Christmas, but I keep finding reasons NOT to buy them. The Husband and I each need two pillows.

#5 Gas
We now have three cars and three drivers and some car or another or all seems to need gas every day. I could just fill up, but I don't like to unless I'm pretty sure I'm getting a good price.


What I'm Going to Do About It

#1 Are you kidding?! $398?! WHO PAYS THAT FOR BOOTS?! I'm not a movie star for heaven's sake! I'll keep looking for something really similar, and continue to check clearance racks. Dang. Should have bought the pair I saw. Next time, I'll buy with the idea that I can return if I want to. And I would. I should have searched for an online price on the spot.

#2 I haven't done the couponing for this week, but I will check to see what kind of a deal I can get. IF not this week, maybe next week. I don't need it so desperately that I'm not willing to wait a few days for a $5-10 savings.

#3 I would go buy these today, if I knew where to go, but I really haven't done my homework. I know, pots aren't that expensive, but I want the cheapest price! I'm thinking Lowes might have decent prices, and I do have a coupon for there, but I don't want to commit just yet.

#4 I wish I knew why I keep putting this off. But I've survived a few months without, so maybe I can go a little longer. I will watch for sales and try to purchase them in the next month or two.

#5 Well, darn. I'll probably need to buy gas tomorrow. I check gasbuddy.com, but not everyone in my family is so committed to finding the best deal. I think they tell themselves, "It's only 10 cents more a gallon, and I'm only buying 8 gallons, so what's the big deal?" I'm going to make everyone get the app on their phones and try to convince them. As most of us know, those pennies add up to be dollars.

Daily Expense Challenge April 10

April 11th, 2012 at 03:06 pm

The kids are out of school on Spring Break, and we're not doing much, so I took them to see The Hunger Games. For a second time. A. Second. Time. Am I out of my mind?! It was the cheapest option of their ideas of what to do, by far, so I said okay. Yesterday was "cheap movie day"... although I'm certain there's a more official name. Anyway, the tickets were $5 each, so that was $15.00, cheaper than bowling, rock climbing, ice skating, etc.

Groceries... $21.90

Bridge Toll for the new car that doesn't have Fastrak, yet (but is going to get great mileage!)...$5

Gas (between three cars)... $80.62

The Husband had a stressful day at work, and had to sneak out between meetings for some ginger ale and Tums. I should stock some in his office, because I never, ever, never, ever, never-in-a-million-years would have paid $4.38 at Walgreens for that. Add to my To-Do list...

I was hoping that we could go away somewhere this weekend. Like I said, it's Spring Break, and we've got nothing planned. I was thinking of a quick trip to the coast or to San Francisco or just something to get us all out of the house doing something together. I got on Hotwire.com and there are some respectable deals there. Not sure if we will or not yet. The thing holding me back is actually the price of gas. I'm just sick of it. With the commuting that we do, I just hate paying for more gas. Perhaps the Hotwire deals will get cheaper as the week goes on to make up for the gas. I'm putting off making a decision.

Daily Expense Challenge April 7, 8, 9.... Ugh.

April 10th, 2012 at 03:09 pm

Well, at least we have a budget and I know it will all work out. Too many transactions! Makes my head spin!

It was a crazy weekend with a bit of travel, entertaining, treats for the kids, etc. It made me nervous as all the transactions were taking place, but I did know we had enough money set aside. Just would rather not spend it, of course. Blech.

April 7
Cleaners.....$17.45
Gifts/Treats for kids for Easter...... $68.47
My kids are older now, and this amount seems ridiculous, but of course I was certain to purchase either things they need or things they've been asking for that I might end up giving in on at some point, anyway. Swim goggles, new flip flops, $5 Jamba cards... I deducted some from the gifts category and some from clothing.
Gas.........$50.95
Groceries...$58.87
This included prepared foods from Whole Foods for lunch on the road.
TOTAL for the day: $195.74 Yikes!

April 8
Fastrak rebill.....$25.00
This is for our electronic bridge toll device. Years ago, we paid an initial amount, and now it rebills whenever the balance gets low, then charges us as we drive through. Fabulously convenient. I'm amazed that not everyone has one.
Food...............$56.92
This is not as bad as I'd expected. Like I said, I get overwhelmed by the number of transactions! This included grocery shopping for Easter, and was a little more because I bought food/drink items especially for guests that I would not have bought otherwise. My dad likes rootbeer, my step mom like a certain tea and I'd run out. We also had friends visit and we all got Jamba Juice and bagels and sat outside in the sun for lunch. It ended up being a decent deal. We got a dozen bagels and a few smoothies to share, and fed four adults and seven (big) kids.
TOTAL for the day: $81.92

April 9
Aaaah... back to reality!

I took four empty spice bottles to the health food store and refilled them with bulk spices... curry, cumin, thyme and turmeric. The total was $4.20. To buy all the spices in bottles would have been at least $12!

And we had breakfast for dinner, but we were out of milk and decided orange juice would be a nice treat. $9.08 for two gallons of milk and a carton of OJ.

TOTAL for the day: $13.28 Love that.

Credit Card Offers?

April 9th, 2012 at 08:54 pm

I still haven't added up the pre-Easter spending, but I'm feeling better about it. I did look at each transaction, and I can justify all of them. I prefer to not spend everything in each budget category every month. In fact, I rarely do. But I can do some "moving around" of money from categories I don't need this month. It is what it is! And we had a wonderful weekend! Saw friends and family and bought a fun new (to us) car. Life is good. I'm going to try not to beat myself up about it! Wasn't our last dime. If there is anything left at the end of the month in any category, it all goes to extra savings. Not sure there will be much this month (there was a chunk last month, so that's good), but we will see.

So... we haven't had credit cards for years. There was a point when there were so many games and tricks and even though we tried to follow the rules, we got screwed a few times. (Not big time, but I hated paying interest... and we got caught in the crazy way they calculate things by the number of days in a month. So it was off when the month had 31 or something...Meh. Made me mad!) So we closed all the accounts and have paid cash ever since. It has worked great for us, but I've been feeling a little jealous of all the credit card rewards that everyone is talking about.

Three offers came in the mail today. Chase for The Husband, and Bank of America for both of us separately. I'm tempted. Any ideas? Warnings? Suggestions? All of them are "spend $500 in 90 days, get $150 back." Each has a percentage of cash back for purchases, too. Hmmm... I'm not quick to make any kind of financial decision, including this one. But I'm thinking about it.

Why haven't I done the taxes yet?! Smile Not worried, yet!

Ugh! Too much spending!

April 8th, 2012 at 06:20 am

I haven't even added it all up. But it was a lot. I had not really planned to do the whole egg hunt thing, but my kids spent most of today talking about how much fun it is... So I did some shopping for treats. I mostly got things they can use... flip flops, swim goggles, sunscreen, etc... for the baskets. I hate spending, but I do have a little surplus in the gifts catagory. I have a few bags of candy that I got for nearly free a few weeks ago, so we're set.

Bought a $10 gift card for someone who donated lots of sports equipment to my children, just to say thanks.

Bought lunch at Whole Foods on the way home from San Jose, where we went to... oh, yeah... buy a car! Car is nice, will be great to have, just the model we wanted, low mileage, feel like we got a good deal, blah, blah, blah... when that check clears... ugh. It will hurt! Of course it's gone already...

Spend, spend, spend! Glad I won't be buying anything tomorrow!

Daily Expense Challenge - April 6

April 7th, 2012 at 05:22 am

April 6
$7.21 for six vanilla beans and three oranges... I made some delicious cupcakes which I'm calling "Creamsicles!" The cupcakes are basic vanilla, but I added 2T. grated orange zest for 18 cupcakes. The orange-vanilla bean frosting is made from Spectrum shortening, powdered sugar, equal parts coconut milk and orange juice, and the seeds from one vanilla bean. The Husband said that they will replace my chocolate cupcakes with espresso frosting as his new favorite... and they were definitely reminiscent of a 50/50 or creamsicle bar!

$21.76 for cat food, almond milk, rice milk, ketchup and beer... ugh. I sent The Husband to the store, which I try never to do... and he threw some gourmet microbrews into the cart. He called it "shopping tax." Thought he was so clever... Smile

$7.50 The Husband spent this for lunch...

$10.51 for gas. It was $4.29 a gallon, so I just got enough to get around town for a day or two and make it to Costco, where it will no doubt be cheaper than that!

I think tomorrow will be our biggest spending day of the month if it works out. We found a car (internet site), after much searching, and we are going to go drive it, and buy it if it's as good a deal as it seems to be. I'm glad we did a lot of shopping around and educated ourselves. We haven't been in a hurry and I just knew a great deal would come along at some point. And this might be it! And if this one doesn't work, there will be another. Yikes. Cash out. It needs to be done, and we've planned for it, but I still don't like spending it! Smile If it doesn't work out, all we'll need tomorrow is gas and 50 lb. flour at Costco!

Dinners...
April 1 Pasta with Cheese, Salad
April 2 Curried Vegetables with Indian Crepes
April 3 Spicy Peanut Noodles and Vegetables
April 4 Mexican/tostadas
April 5 Cheese Pizza, salad, and carrots and dip
April 6 Roasted Potatoes and Poached Eggs

Daily Expense Challenge - April 5

April 6th, 2012 at 06:13 am

I paid for the brakes today, which ended up being $499.13 when all was said and done.

I also paid $4.83 for a new brake light bulb for the other car. Big day for cars at our house.

The Husband spent $13.59 at Chipotle. It's complicated, but he sort of owed a friend. I know he was pleased to treat... Chipotle is one of the fast food places that I actually like. The ingredients always seem fresh and I love the lime-cilantro rice, although I'm certain I could duplicate it at home.

We ended up with cheese pizza and salad for dinner. The swimbabies are always thrilled with pizza and I was able to whip it up really fast, so it was win-win for us!

Well, the picture is sideways, and it's not fabulous quality since I took it with my phone. But the pizza was yummy.

Tomorrow I will definitely have to do some grocery shopping. We're out of milk and fruit. Those are the things we always run out of first!

Good Brake News! and What is for Dinner?

April 5th, 2012 at 06:23 pm

The car place just called with the estimate for my brakes. It's $460, significantly less than the $600 I had expected! And they found a screw in one of the tires and they'll fix it at no charge. And best of all, it will be finished in a couple of hours!

Hoping that will be all my spending for today!

I want to do everything I can to avoid a trip to the grocery store today, so I'm thinking dinner might be pancakes and smoothies or maybe baked potatoes and salad. I'm just not in the mood to deal with grocery shopping!

On my cooking list for today:
homemade goldfish crackers
homemade wheat thins
pumpkin bread


Daily Expense Challenge - April 4

April 5th, 2012 at 04:43 am

Today I had to buy parking permits... which irritates me to no end!! In our neighborhood, we must buy permits if we want to park on the street overnight. There is a good reason for this craziness, but I still hate paying. Some years we don't get permits, but we decided that we need them this year. The people living in the house across the street from us have SEVEN cars, and they often park some of them in front of our house. When this happens, there is nowhere for our guests to park and it's just irritating. I can't explain why exactly, except that seven cars is just nuts! And it does happen that sometimes people park in front of our house and block part of our driveway... which is even more irritating (I call the police and they will ticket or tow!)

So I spent $36.00 on parking permits today. Grrr!

I also spent $4.13 for a big bag of masa and an avocado. For dinner I made homemade tortillas and we had tostadas. I make homemade flour tortillas all the time, but this was my first attempt at corn tortillas. I do not have a tortilla press, and they came out a little thick and sort of rustic-looking, but topped with an avocado slice... delicious! We had avocados and salsa and just used leftovers for other toppings...potatoes, a few beans, rice, a few kinds of meat, lettuce, etc. Everyone made their own. One swimbaby even made a scrambled egg and stuck it on top! It was one of those nights when everyone got exactly what they wanted.

Tomorrow will be a really yucky day, spending wise. I'm taking the car to get new brakes. It's usually around $600, but of course I'm hoping for less! For years we've gone to the same place for brakes for this car. (The Husband does the brakes on the other car, but this one is trickier.) Last time we needed brakes, The Husband thought he found a better deal at a different place. It ended up being a hassle because they did something wrong and we had to take it back twice. As far as I'm concerned, that was not a better deal. So back to the original place today.

Daily Expenses Challenge - April 3

April 4th, 2012 at 03:23 pm

Yesterday, April 3, was a bit spendy...

Swimbaby to the doctor (money came from pre-tax medical not checking or cash, so it almost doesn't count!) $15.00

Clothes for Swimbaby #4 $29.59
New tube for bike tire $ 7.53
Groceries $27.35
Gas $20.66
I didn't fill up because the price was $4.17 per gallon, and I'm hoping to find a better price in the next few days!
Muffin Pans $17.22

I know it will seem crazy to some, but it wasn't to me... I make a lot of muffins and cupcakes. For several years I've had three 12-cup muffin pans. But they were mismatched and wouldn't nest. They took up a lots of space in the cupboard in our tiny house, where space is precious. So it occurred to me yesterday that I could just get some new pans that will nest. I bought two new muffin pans, and put the other three in the donation pile. Geez, if I'd thought of it sooner, I probably would have done it sooner!

Doesn't seem to bad. I was thinking I had spent more yesterday because it seemed like I took care of several things that needed to be done. I'm okay with the total! $102.35

Today will be less. I'm hoping to avoid the grocery story, but we're probably out of milk. Frown

Don't You Just LOVE "Under-Budget?"

April 3rd, 2012 at 09:06 pm

I somehow feel a sense of accomplishment when something costs less than the amount I budgeted for it. Which is good for me... because I usually fret and worry and feel lousy when something ends up costing more than the I amount I had budgeted.

And truly, this is not a big deal... but I budget $200 per month for our electric and gas. Of course, I really count on being below budget some months to make up for other months when I fully expect to go over. I decided on the $200 based on the average cost.

So for March 2012, the total cost was $176.21... a whopping $23.79 under budget! (not really whopping, but still...) The best part, however, is that our bill for March 2011 was $194.42. I tried to think of whether anything was different this March over last March, and I couldn't come up with anything at all, except that I've really tried to keep the thermostat set a degree lower than is really comfortable.

March is not normally a month when we are significantly below $200. April should be great! Whatever it was, I'll take the $23.79!

Happy Monday!

April 2nd, 2012 at 02:37 pm

Well the IRA contributions I made finally appeared in our accounts. Actually, I know they've been there a week, at least, and I'm thinking that there is a glitch in their notification system. Oh, well. No harm. IRA funded for 2011!

No new car, yet. We're not in an enormous hurry, even though sooner would be better. The Husband found a couple of deals on ebay/Craigslist/other online sites, but the cars weren't exactly what he had in mind. It feels pretty sweet having two cars that work fine, and knowing we have time to wait for the right thing. It's his deal, though. I expect that one day, he'll just show up after work with a car, which is fine with me. It seems that the cars that were leased new are pretty good deals now that they have 50,000-90,000 miles on them.

Must work on the taxes this week. I NEVER wait this long to complete them. I actually entered information into Turbo Tax in January, and it looks like we'll get some back from Fed, but owe the state about the same. I didn't feel compelled to finish that day because it's not a huge amount either way. I've been juggling withholding numbers for a few years to try to get things to come out even at tax time. This year I did pretty well. So I put it off. It's got to happen soon, though.

On the list for today: plan the week's menu and catch up on laundry after I run five miles!

Happy Monday!

Stocking Up to Last Until Summer

April 2nd, 2012 at 12:24 am

Spring Break is over for Swimbaby #1. She went back to college this morning with a suitcase full of supplies to last the rest of the year. She came home with a list of toiletries she needed and a second list of clothing wishes. I'm always nervous when I see those lists...

But we did great. First we checked the stash I have in the hall closet and found a few things, and then we made a trip to CVS, and one to Rite Aid. She isn't picky about brands, so we were able to get everything she needed at great prices... of course combining the UP/EB, store coupons, sale prices and manufacturer's coupons. Score! (I'm going to start keeping track of coupon savings like Retire@50. Love that idea! Wondering why I didn't think of it!)

Then I looked at the clothing list. She wanted a few new things for spring. We caught sales at the GAP, went to one consignment store and a TJMaxx. She got two trendy new GAP tees, two dresses, a purse and a cute tank top, plus a crazy-cute pair of new sandals. The total was $85, which I was completely okay with! I had actually planned to spend more if necessary. This kid rarely asks for anything and we had tons of fun shopping together!