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Archive for June, 2012

Cleaning Out

June 30th, 2012 at 04:16 pm

Well, there could be a move in our near future. While I'm not sure of the details, yet, I'm using it as an excuse to clean out BIG TIME!

We have lots of books, for adults and for our Swimbabies, but we really don't need them. Into the pile they go! Not all of them, but I'm shooting for half. As I empty bookcases, I've been able to cut down on the number of those... so into the pile they go, too. We had quite a few DVDs, mostly given to us, but now that we can watch pretty much everything online, I don't see a reason to keep those, either.

And while I'm going through things, why not hit the closets again? I added some of my clothes and shoes to the pile... things I haven't worn in a long time or that I have never felt that comfortable wearing.

I imagine we will have a yard sale in a few weeks. The last time we had a yard sale, I swore I would never do it again. But because we have so much stuff (several pieces of furniture), it will at least mean less to haul to the thrift store. And of course, if we make a little money, I'll send it to my secret savings, and y'all know that will make me happy!

I'm motivated by the idea of traveling lighter. We just don't need all the STUFF. And I certainly don't have time to clean it all/dust it all/read it all/wear it all. I've enlisted the help of The Husband, and we're going through the garage, too. If we don't love it or use it all the time, out it goes!

I just keep thinking of how much easier it will be when we move. And if not in the near future, certainly in the next three years The Husband will be transferred.

I love watching the pile grow.

Swagbucks

June 28th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Just got $10 in Amazon cards. I don't spend any time on Swagbucks... really I just get on first thing in the morning, do a quick search or two, snag my bucks and move on with the day... to check email and bank balances. I doubt I spend 30 seconds a day, but maybe that much. It pays off with $5 a month in Amazon cards... for maybe 15 minutes work? Tax free.

I know people use it more and earn more, but I'm okay with this for now.

Any great Swag tips? I'll consider doing more if it's really profitable!

Today: Computer and Yesterday: Groceries

June 27th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Today I spent the day working at my computer on a project. It's more like a side job, related to some consulting I do ... anyway, I did lots of graphics work, set up a blog and an actual "dot com," and created Twitter and Facebook accounts. The last connected piece I want to get done is a Pinterest account, so I can get everything linked. Am I leaving anything out? It took a long time to get it all done. I've been needing/wanting to get this done for a few months, so I'm glad I can cross the set-up off the list.

Yesterday I went to the regular grocery store and to Costco. I've mentioned before that I ALWAYS spend right about $100 at Costco. It's crazy. Even if I buy something extra, I need less of something else and it just works out. This was no exception. I spent $106. I bought 25 pounds of flour, chicken, Tillamook cheese, 5 lbs. carrots, Laughing Cow cheese(4 pack), ground turkey(4 pk), a pineapple, wheat bread, sourdough bread, flour and corn tortillas, lunchmeat, and a twin pack of Sabra hummus, which is our favorite. I often make my own bread and hummus, but with all the kids home for the summer, we are going through everything faster than usual. It did seem like I got a decent amount of food for the price this time, which is always good!

Summer Movie Express

June 25th, 2012 at 09:34 pm

Regal Theaters have a summer movie program called Summer Movie Express. They show older (like on DVD, but not as old as black and white!) movies every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for $1. They show two different movies each week.

My kids like to go. It's festive and fun, and I can deal with the $!, since it would cost money to rent the DVD, too. It makes it easy to take the kids' friends with us, too, if they want to go.

Tomorrow the kids are seeing Yogi Bear, and next week they are showing Hugo, which is a movie based on the book Hugo Cabret. They're even showing the movies next week on Wednesday (the Fourth of July), so we will take the entire family since The Husband will be off work.

You can just search for "Summer Movie Express" to find theaters and times.

I know they hope to make a mint on candy and popcorn, but we don't do that. Smile

Replacement Burger and Fries

June 25th, 2012 at 01:27 pm

We don't normally eat out much, and we are generally not fans of fast food. But a couple of weeks ago, we were on the road, driving a long distance. We stopped and got burgers, because it was fast, we were hungry, and we wanted to drive through and get home. (Just two of us in the car.)

Normally the food at this particular place is especially yummy. But this time, things were assembled sloppily and there was sauce and drippy things all over. And the worst problem... the fries! They were cold, limp, and unsalted. And there wasn't any salt in the bag!

Because we always cook at home, I'd actually looked forward to this meal. And I was really disappointed. The quality just wasn't there like it usually is. So, I sent an email to the company.

In today's mail was a letter from the company. Inside the envelope was a letter of apology and enough coupons to feed all six of us dinner. I should probably save it for another time when we're on the road, but I am feeling a bit lazy today, and we're going to cash them in tonight!

The Swimboy says, "Love free food!" But really, in this case, I paid for food that we didn't eat. So they owed us. Wink It just makes me feel good, though, when businesses are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and try to make amends.

Professional Dues and Job Applications

June 22nd, 2012 at 11:30 am

I need to spend some money for annual dues to my professional organizations. I've been putting it off a little bit. I need to pay two organizations... one is $39 and the other is $49, if I opt for the cheapest option of both, which I think I will do this year. I just need to decide that I'm ready to part with the cash! Smile Of course I will write those expenses off at tax time. Perhaps I'll submit those today. How much do you have to pay for membership in professional organizations?

Wouldn't you know it? Just when I posted about having my resume all ready to go, I got leads on four jobs I would LOVE that are slightly different from what I've been applying for. I will need to create another version of my resume... working on that today. I submitted seven applications yesterday! But with the job market the way it is, I'm trying hard not to get my hopes up about anything! I am not without work, so I'm trying to be thankful for that. I'd just like something different... better paying and more interesting are my goals!Wink

Thankful

June 21st, 2012 at 08:20 am

I'm feeling thankful about a few things on this sunny, breezy, cool morning:

* I won't have to turn on the air conditioner today. I have a no-cook meal planned, and it's supposed to be 15 degrees cooler than yesterday... money in the bank!Smile

* That espresso machine is still going strong. I made a delicious vanilla latte, and I've been enjoying it while sitting on the couch. Peaceful.

* I am applying for new jobs for a variety of reasons. But I'm thankful to have my resume completely and ready to go. It makes it easy to apply. Fingers crossed!

* Tomorrow is pay day, but it doesn't really matter. There is plenty of food in the house, the cars are full of gas, the bills are paid, I'll pay a couple of things tomorrow, and no one really needs anything. Not that it won't get spent... but it's nothing urgent. Other paychecks come in next week and the week after.

* Three of the Swimbabies have jobs of some kind. They are hard workers, and are valued by their employers. I'm proud of their efforts and reliability.

* It's summer!

June 19

June 19th, 2012 at 11:29 am

My check from secondspin.com arrived. $21.94! Not really a lottery win, but that was the first time I'd used secondspin, and I was trying it out to see how it all worked. It was easy, and fast, and I will do it again! We have tons of CDs, but all our music is on our iTunes now, so there's no reason to store all those CDs. I already have plans for the armoire where they are kept!

The Swimbabies just cannot get enough homemade pizza! I think I could cook it three times a week for dinner and no one would complain... and that's fine with me! If it's not too hot, that is. It's so inexpensive to make, and everyone is happy. Last night we had a variety of toppings in different combinations. One Swimbaby only likes plain cheese. But other pizzas had mushrooms, olives, red onions, pepperoni, feta, fresh basil leaves from the garden, and sun-dried tomatoes. Easy. Cheap. Love.

I changed my investments in my IRA. I didn't realize that I'd had them set pretty conservatively. I understand the risks/benefits of changing. I know I could lose tons of money, but I have 20 years until I retire, more or less. So I went for it. In the first day after changing the investments, my account went up $100. Not a life-changing amount, I know, but I love to see balances go up! If it starts to go down at a rate I'm not comfortable with, I can always change it back.

The cash reward for our new, tiny car load hit our checking account. It was such a sweet deal to get $200, when we won't pay that much interest over the life of the loan, assuming things go as planned and we pay it off in December. And I have no reason to think that everything won't go as planned. Smile

Ideas for the heat?

June 16th, 2012 at 02:25 pm

It is crazy hot here. CRAZY. It was over 90 degrees at 10:00 this morning! And it's over 100 now. I'm pretty stingy when it comes to the air conditioner, but we turned it on at about 10:30. Crazy hot!

I just don't want to deal with it, so it's been an inside day for us. We've been reading and watching movies and working on a few projects around the house. I may go to the gym in a while, but I dread walking from the house to the car!

Tonight's dinner was supposed to be home made pizza, but it's way, way too hot for that. I'm not sure what we'll do instead, but it might be nachos, which are still a little "festive" (we tend to cook something fun on Saturday nights), but won't require the oven.

What delicious meals do you make when it's hot out? Any creative ideas for activities? It's really too hot to go to the pool, even. Searing.

My book club met yesterday and the food was great! We always do a potluck and it's interesting to see what people bring. Someone brought deviled eggs last night. I always forget about those, but they are cheap and tasty and would be a great addition on the nights we eat salad for dinner. Someone else brought lots of expensive, gourmet cheese, which I loved!

Someone told me about cash4books.com, so I decided to try it out. I entered UPCs for about 8 books, but only one was on their "buy" list, and the price they were offering was 47 cents. Ridiculous! I have lots of books that I no longer want, but I will likely try half.com again or just give them away to people I know or donate to the local library.

May Budget Review--- Fun!

June 15th, 2012 at 10:10 am

I just did the review of everything we spent in May. I made some changes to our car insurance, so it was less than usual, as were the gas/electric, water, home/cell phones, and transportation. I was pretty darn careful all month, and it paid off! Also, we barely touched the amount I allot each month for clothing, which was nice. Sent the surplus to savings.

On the other hand, it was a Swimbaby's birthday, and said kid really needed a new bike. She's had nothing but hand-me-downs in that department for her whole life... and while that's not bad, she's never gotten to pick out her own bike or even choose a color. Well, we are out of hand-me-down bikes, so we let her get a brand new bike. She's a kid who is responsible beyond her years with everything, so I know the bike will be locked and cared for. She contributed some of the money she got from relatives, and we paid $120 toward a very nice bike.

It is a constant struggle to get the food/household bill lower. Maybe I just have unreasonable expectations! Smile I budget $650 a month for food/paper products/personal care/pet food/shampoo/laundry soap... all that kind of thing... for six of us plus two cats and one small dog. More often than not, we go over, but almost always by $50 or less. I know I could raise the amount, but my goal is to keep those expenses as low as possible. Going over isn't really a problem, because I have a couple categories in the budget that are very flexible. We don't eat tons of meat, but I do buy tons of milk and organic produce.

Last month we spent too much on cleaning, as in "Taking The Husband's clothes to the cleaners." Our favorite cleaners suddenly closed, and we quickly just went to another one we knew of. Their prices were double! I need to find a new cleaners. This week.

We did well in the transportation category, which for us includes bridge tolls, Amtrak tickets, gas, and BART tickets. We have three cars and three drivers. We even had three day trips to the beach (with the crazy gas prices we've had!), and still did okay. I'm hoping transportation costs will go down even more in July. Probably not for June, due to a couple of planned trips, but July looks good.

I'm not expecting the June electric bill to be great, either. It's been hot, and I've run the air conditioning at least a little every day this week.

Ooooh! Did I tell you?! I love data!

Bits: Homemade Coffee and the Garden and Second Spin

June 14th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I love a good mocha or vanilla latte.

Several years ago, The Husband invested in an espresso machine. It's a Gaggia, and it was not cheap. I don't remember how much it was, maybe $300?


I wasn't on board at all. But that was 8 years ago... It turns out that it was a great purchase. Most days, we make our morning coffee drinks at home. The days when we don't, it's usually because the Big Boy Swimbaby has gotten up in the middle of the night and consumed the last of the milk and there's not enough time to run to the store before starting the commute!

We make our own vanilla and chocolate syrups, and our homemade drinks are better than Starbucks. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn down a coffee drink from Starbucks, but it's nice to make them at home.

On the weekends, and on holidays when we have lots of family around, The Husband can make a bunch of custom drinks for everyone. Half-caff, nonfat, whole milk, no-foam, etc. The milk steamer part of our espresso machine is a favorite of the Swimbabies. He makes foamy hot chocolates for them, and they love it.

I just made myself an iced vanilla latte and it is yummy! Wish you were here!

The garden is growing well. We have lots and lots of green tomatoes on our many plants, but none are changing color yet. We've got lots of basil growing, and I'm hoping to make many cups of pesto to freeze. We're having a few very hot days (supposed to be over 100 tomorrow), and that usually helps get everything growing and ripening.

Not a fortune, but I did just get notice that my $22 check is on the way from SecondSpin.com. I mailed a handful of CDs that I no longer have need for, and I plan to send lots more. All those CDs are already in our iTunes, and I would rather have the space! I'm really in a cleaning out mood!

Paid Some Bills, Ebates, Car Refinance Rewards and Hot!

June 13th, 2012 at 03:00 pm

Not much happening... I paid some utility bills and the car insurance bill online. Whenever I do this, I'm always thankful that I have the cash to pay it. Always.

I noticed that some gifts that I'd purchased through Ebates were not credited to that account, so I emailed them. It's "just" a few dollars, but we all know how those add up. I thought to check because I was purchasing some *unmentionables* for a Swimbaby, and thankfully remembered to go through Ebates... so I should get a few more dollars back there, too.

The only debt we have is the mortgage and the recently-purchased-new-to-us car loan. I've mentioned before that we don't have/use any credit cards, so were a little concerned about lack of activity. We financed a very small portion of the car purchase, just to put some positive activity on the credit rating. I know there are mixed opinions on this, but we decided that it would work for us. So after we paid the first payment, we refinanced to The Husband's work credit union. They gave us an interest rate 3 full points below the other bank, gave us $100 for refinancing with them, and gave us another $100 for opting for payroll deduction. There is not a chance that we'll have paid $200 worth of interest before the loan is paid off. So we will have that activity we wanted (and were even willing to pay a little for, if need be) PLUS cash. Car loan will be paid off in December or sooner if I feel like it. I want to let it go six months. Win-win-win.

As I was writing this, I got the email from Ebates that they already credited the cash. Nice!

It's very hot here. I'll be making wraps for dinner tonight... hummus, spinach, couscous, avocado, shredded carrots, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette. It's one of our favorite summer dinners, and I'm looking forward to it.

Donuts, Parties, and Costco thoughts

June 10th, 2012 at 11:33 am

I made baked mini donuts for breakfast... with two glazes. Pink, because the Swimgirls like pink, and chocolate, well, because it's the best. Wonderful vegan recipe with very little fat. They were a huge hit!



Today we have graduation parties to go to, and I need to get ready for just a couple more days of school. That will entail catching up on laundry, making some bread/rolls for lunches, and making a menu and grocery list.

We have had a Costco membership for years. It's worked well for us with so many kids. But now, we're eating much less meat (even chicken, which is about all we buy there), and much less everything, really, and I'm not sure that it's worth it. They raised the prices, so I don't think I will renew next year.

Red Light Ticket... Unbelievable!

June 9th, 2012 at 09:27 pm

I'm still shocked that The Husband convinced the powers of the court to dismiss the red light camera ticket... even more amazing is that the refund, which they said would take 6-8 weeks, arrived today! $500 and it will go straight to savings!

I spend $8.00 to go see a movie with friends today. It was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I loved it. Beautiful scenery in India, and a charming story. Nice afternoon.



Busy, Busy, Busy!

June 8th, 2012 at 08:25 am

Busy! All capitals! Busy!

We've just had too much to do around our house for a few weeks. I've been paying the bills, tucking what I can into extra savings, dropping off and picking up kids, working, cooking, and living. Next week things will slow a bit when everyone is done with school.

The Husband fought that red light ticket AND WON! We were stunned! Thrilled that we'll be getting a refund of that ridiculous $500 fine. The letter he got in the mail said it will take 6-8 weeks for the refund. A little annoying, since the check cleared within 48 hours when he paid! But it's coming back, at least.

Yesterday, I got $20 cash in survey rewards in the mail. I popped that check into an envelope and it's on it's way to my semi-secret-I-never-touch-it savings account. Small amount, but it feels good.

Also yesterday, there was a big package that was delivered for me. I was confused, because I hadn't ordered anything recently. Turns out it was from Pinecone Surveys... two frozen pizzas that they wanted me to try. The timing was perfect. I was exhausted from a hectic day at work, and the kids wanted pizza. We cooked it and ate it, and I'll report on it in a couple of days. Sweet!

Have a great weekend, everyone!