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Archive for February, 2006

Octavia Butler

February 28th, 2006 at 05:21 am

I found out last night that one of my literary heroines died last night, a casuality of that stupid ice storm on Friday.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/books/260959_butlerobit26ww.ht...
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/obituaries/2002831388_...

Some of us are frugal because we want to see our net worth increase. Some of us are frugal because we want security. Some of us are frugal because we would rather have more time than money.

And some are frugal because they know that their talent is going to service a project, goal, or idea that is going to be un-mainstream, unloved, and unpopular. They bravely go and use their frugality to soldier on and avoid selling out.

And when a frugal writer of that stature actually gets something like a genius grant, it goes to buy a little house. Not even a car. A little house near a bus line.

R.I.P. Octavia. You're one of the last brave writers who made a poor but honest living strictly on their writing. No Harvard teaching gigs, no journalism, no upper-class parties where a writer tweets for his supper. Just you and your writing and your infamous wrestle with your writer's block.

4 pounds

February 26th, 2006 at 07:43 am

Measurement day at the gym. I lost four pounds. Heavy duty ab and core day. When I suck in my stomach, it moves quite a bit, and my clothes are now starting to hang. I have six more sessions with the trainer, so next week I'm going to have to come to a decision. Clearly, I like the support I get from the trainer and I get along well with her personally; but I can't afford the expense. Time to figure out a polite way to cut my expenses. My thought is that we have several workout routines (upper body, lower body, abs) that I can follow throughout several weeks, but I buy the services of the trainer once a week or once every two weeks.

Slip sliding around

February 25th, 2006 at 05:54 am

Getting to work this morning was an absolute mess. North Seattle had maybe an inch of snow, but what was underneath was a solid coating of black ice. Just walking on the sidewalk was bad; crossing intersections quickly enough to dodge sliding cars was a nightmare. The last little cross street had a wicked little hill of black ice right at the crosswalk. I almost fell there, but I fared better than nearly every car trying to make that intersection. All the drivers were trying to hit the gas to get into the intersection - a chorus of squealing, smoking tires. One car took four tries. When the car finally cleared the intersection, the driver promptly made a left turn into the grocery store. Sure hope the Starbucks coffee was worth it, dude.

Waited 45 minutes for the bus. My feet were cold, I wanted to read my paper and have some coffee to start the day. I gave up and crossed the treacherous street again, into a Tully's. Got warm, got an overpriced coffee, got an overpriced pastry, set my paper down, made a phone call to the boss, watched in the window as the... yes you guessed it, the bus pulled up and picked everybody else up.

How long do you think you'll be? my boss asked.
About forty five minutes, I said, a thin stream of steam coming out of my ears.

To hell with it, I thought. I've got the overpriced coffee, overpriced pastry, and had my paper. I'm going to enjoy them. Half an hour later, I finished and got back to the stop thirty seconds before the next bus came.

If routines save me money, this anti-routine lost me money.

Anyway, two hours late to work. (Stopped by the chiropractor before I got in to work.) Missed the phone survey. The only productive financial thing I did was the ritual of counting my office tip box money and depositing it into savings.

Spending log - 500$ credit card + 60$ copay chiropractor + 1.81$ coffee + 2.50$ pastry + 8$ lunch

Saving log - 41$ tip box + 35$ Drp + 40$ Drp

403Bling bling

February 24th, 2006 at 05:07 am

Life's rolling on.

Attended another little lunch and learn about our 403B's. Half an hour later, I was showing a co worker how to go into her account and rebalance it/ even readjust it. She'll teach her floor. Smile The hard part is figuring out where to go when you get into your account.

Apparently the dog mutual fund in our set is getting replaced in the beginning of March but in these last couple of months that fund has been barreling along. Rebalanced it just to take my profit before we pick the next dog. Smile

And they introduced the social choice fund. Someone asked about their criteria. The prospectus said basically it was whatever the fund manager picked as social choice. Ha ha. Talk about circular logic.

Changed my bus and have been doing my 1 mi walk now for a week and I've been pushing myself on the elliptical machines by keeping the same level of difficulty but trying to move faster. Tried the stationary bike for the last couple of minutes - what was a challenge in December now is not. Yay! Measurements on Saturday. Boo.

Nothing, no news at all from sister. Now that I've blogged will come news. Bought the I-bond for the month, two of my Drp stocks have declared dividend increases - about .04/ quarter/ share - good news there. I took one of the Pinecone invites and I now will be in a phone survey tomorrow. The money appears to good but if its going to take zillions of hours I'll have to rethink that. I will finish the month at 50$. Thank you God that February's short.

washer

February 21st, 2006 at 01:43 am

We have President's Day off, so I'm now listening to the sweet whirring sound of the washer working. We got the 20$ part today (thx United Parcel Service!), and DH installed it. The inside of the washing machine was interesting - the white box pulled away from the base like a very large computer box leaving the drum, the agitator, and the circuitry in the back. We apparently have a piece that was put in but has no dial and was sealed in. DH tells me its because we got the bare bones washer. "We get an another dial every 50$."

Took a fast 20 minute walk to deposit my BB refund into savings. DH sent me his bucks via PayPal.

Missed grocery shopping yesterday so I caught up with it today. No really fabulous buys; I bought a can of cream of chicken soup (the midwestern cooking genes are expressing themselves), bread, milk, and spinach. My downfall was bath salts. When its cold and flu-ey, I want the bath salts. But at $2.99/bath salt envelope, I might have to go 12-step on the bath salts.

Yesterday saw _Tristam Shandy_ at the matinee. Very, very dry, adult and funny. Matinee was 6$. I'm turning into a coot as I write that I remember when we thought 6$ was highway robbery for a regular Saturday night movie.

Spending log - 89$ groceries (49$ groceries/ 40$ money for next week).
Saving log - 20$ BBuy rebate + 40$ from DH

Best Buy Rebate

February 19th, 2006 at 04:12 am

Best Buy rebate came. I can't believe how painless it was - fill out the rebate form on the web using a couple of codes on the receipt. No clipping, xeroxing and fretting about it. I wish all rebates were like that. Plan on feeling the frugal burn and putting that check in savings.

DH (dear husband) will reimburse me some of the electric bill by Paypaling my account. Modern love and finances, eh? Since Paypal is doing better than ING, I might just as well keep that money in there and let it ride.

Washing machine is still out of commission, DH is waiting for a 20$ part that he figures will arrive on Wednesday. I'm just not into heading toward the laundromat, so doing my unmentionables in the bathroom sink and shaking/beating/airing out the tops, jeans, and t-shirts.

I've been finding a lot of pennies these days, on the floors of buses, on the street. With this cold snap (yeah, I know its 20-30F) it seems that everyone is getting out their heavy coats with shallow pockets. That's okay - more for me.

Tip box = box at work in my desk that I put a couple of dollars/change in. Its like tipping myself, but it does come in handy for office collections, etc. After about a month, I collect what's in my box and deposit it in the bank. Started this a year and half ago; saved about 900$ using this method.

25 minutes

February 18th, 2006 at 05:31 am

It took me 25 minutes today to walk my walk; only 20 minutes yesterday. I wonder if cold weather makes me slower.

Last night I went to a charity function. My ride and I got there early so I left to do some shopping. I discovered, to my chagrin, that I left my wallet in my jacket in the car trunk. Whew! It meant soda instead of wine at the no-host bar. Kind of an enforced no spend day. Losing the wallet can be a useful frugal technique. A friend came up to me and told me that she nearly didn't recognize me from the side - I had slimmed down that much.

Paycheck came; paycheck went. Our washing machine broke 2 nights ago. DH assured me that a small 20$ part broke and that he could fix it. We'll see. The electric bill got paid, as was the chiropractor and the credit card. I have about 200$ left until the end of the month. Luckily February is so short.

Put 3$ in the tip box.

Electric bill

February 16th, 2006 at 05:28 am

Called in sick yesterday, so the work piled up today. Did manage to get a couple of things done but I also managed to say, "I am swamped, go away...."

Walked home - it took 19 minutes. I panted on the hill, but I stopped only because I would run into a nut-ball car.

Best Buy will be coming through with the rebate in a couple of weeks; the paycheck arrived. Unfortunately, the electric bill came in too and it was 40$ higher than it was last year. Last year was freakishly warm and sunny; but no matter, time to twist DH's arm and have him chip in a bit.

Spending log - 500$ credit card + 183.56$ electric bill + 5$ lunch + 1.75$ coffee
Saving log - 40$ DRP

Nut and Nougat

February 14th, 2006 at 06:43 am

Got word from sister that Nut is a creditor because he wants us to fix the tractors. I'm confused. Are they the tractors he stole (well, duh, who steals broken items??!) or what he bought at the auction? What part of as-is do you not understand? Or is as-is, son of isis, living in denial, the main river of Egypt?

Nut is aiming for about $3000-$4000. Sister's lawyer is countering with $1500 if Nut goes away. If he goes away... of course as soon as dad's money hits our accounts its game over.

The nougat part is the ritual trading of chocolate for Valentines Day. We both got and dug into our chocolates before the day even began. The chocolates were a bit pricey - 20$/box - but you eat them and then when you run out (quickly) you stop eating them. Smile

Implemented the walk. The new bus route is interesting at early evening, and its also interesting that different buses have different personalities. My more direct bus is definitely commuter bus; new one is a bit more hip. It only took me 20 minutes of hard, fast walking to get home. In another month when it stays lighter, I'll take another bus route and get dropped off even farther.

Frugal Exercise

February 13th, 2006 at 06:03 am

So for this fitness challenge, my trainer suggested (prodded!) me to get 30 minutes of cardio training each day. I can make it to the gym sometimes, but I don't want to live there. I finally figured out a frugal way to do it. I'm going to go home on a different bus than I normally do, which will drop me off about 1.5 mi from my house. My job is to walk home as quickly as I can, no cheating on the hills. I've tried it today. It definitely takes me 30 min and I'm breathing hard most of the way. I made myself a little laminated card of calisthentics so when I get out the yoga mat and the rubber band with the handles I can figure out what exercises to do.

Thinking about Valentine's Day. Why oh why are all the holidays (except Labor Day and the 4th of July) at the back end of my paycheck? We have President's Day off and even that is in the back half of the paycheck. Smile

A freakishly good deal on red onions - .33/lb. Still have a ton of sister's cheese and now I have some milk to get rid of fast. Time for some simple, homemade mac 'n cheese. Nothing like the box type.

Wisconsin Farmhouse Mac 'N Cheese

2.5 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
milk
lots of grated cheese - sharp cheddar and colby for this. The drier the cheese, the better.

Preheat oven to 325F. In a casserole dish, melt butter, add salt and pepper, add elbow macaroni. Stir to coat macaroni in butter. Spread the grated cheese on top of the macaroni. Pour milk over the top, keep pouring until milk level hits the mid cheese line.

Bake uncovered 10 min at 325F, then drop it to 300F for 50 minutes or so. Ready when cheese is brown and bubbly and the macaroni is tender.

Let sit for 10 min after you take out of oven to firm up. Microwave leftovers with a little bit of milk.

Tomato chickpea soup

February 12th, 2006 at 02:36 am

Made some tomato chickpea soup in the crockpot. I love soup, and normally I make enough for an army because I'm using a giant pot on the stove. Now I want to make smaller quantities more frugally so I'm reworking most of my favorite soups for the crockpot. Should be cheaper to make and won't bust my diet - I won't feel like I have to consume quarts of soup to use it up. Anyhow...

Tomato Chickpea Soup

2 onions, chopped
28 oz can whole tomatoes
14 oz can tomato sauce
4 cup chicken stock or broth
2 cup dried chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) or 2 14 oz can chickpeas
1 tbsp powdered hummus*
1 tbsp olive oil
lemon juice (optional)
dried parsely, salt, pepper, water

*Can get powdered hummus at most groceries with a bulk foods section.

Soak dried chickpeas for 1-2 hrs in warm water. (can substitute canned chickpeas and skip this step)

Put chopped onions, chicken stock, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried parsely, olive oil in crockpot. Cover crockpot, set crockpot to high. Allow to boil. Stir when you think about it.

Boil soaked chickpeas to soften and loosen skin. Drain chickpeas and cool. Squeeze the chickpea out of its skin. (If you get the canned chickpeas, you can skip this step, too.)

Add chickpeas to hot/simmering soup. Add hummus powder to soup. Stir to mix - hummus powder will lump and you want it smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste, add lemon juice to taste to bring out the tomato.

Soup should be orange, thick, and done when the chickpeas are done. If you like it thicker, add more hummus; if you like it thinner, add more water.

IRS refund

February 11th, 2006 at 05:57 am

Is now in my savings account, at least 4 days early. Very nice, because what with the copays to the chiropractor and the fitness routine, this is really going to be February's new money. I plan to keep it in the savings account, and it will eventually roll up into a $300 I-bond.

So ends 2005 tax season.

We were asked at work to change our addresses (if necessary) on our medical benefit accounts using the web, which is good for me because now I know how to get into it. Time to take a peek and perhaps put some pages and settings into my password protected USB drive.

Work is piling up and now my coworkers are really starting to bug me. I'm getting better at not rising to the bait when someone stands at my doorway. Without looking up or away from my data I simply say, "not this afternoon. Come back later."

I did something that I've never done before. I went to a lunch place where I was seated off in the distance. I waited 5 minutes for water or chance to order. Nothing. I left. I never do that, but today was a frustrating day, it was a late lunch, and with just the menu on the table, I didn't owe them anything so I figured it was time to cut bait. Next place I went to I got my food in five minutes.

Saving log - 4$ tip box + 539$ refund
Spending log - 1.75$ coffee + 7.00$ lunch

Fitness (& Other) Challenge

February 10th, 2006 at 05:41 am

Not much ceremony to the fitness challenge. Got a before picture taken and was weighed with my shoes on because I figured that in the next weeks it will be a drag to take them off with each measurement. Still 205. Sigh. At least I have plenty of "before". And I'm going to be most toned 205 I can be. Did a lot of upper body work today.

Lunch with the lawyer friend, his partner and another friend, married. Lawyer friend and his partner have a difference of money management styles - lawyer friend lets the bills ride a bit and isn't so concerned about debt, while the partner is more like me, control and command - a problem now that they have a small joint account. They were asking for advice from the two of us married folks.

Me - straight separate accounts. If we meet our joint obligations, its not up to me to control his money, nor is it up to him to control mine. Other friend, married - joint accounts, discussion about all expenses, negotiate styles. So we were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

I can't say we helped my lawyer friend and his partner any. About all they know is that every couple manages money differently, and its usually a by-product of bitter experience.

Just another Wednesday

February 9th, 2006 at 03:50 am

Not much is happening financially. I'm waiting for: IRS refund, the BestBuy rebate, my paycheck for the back half of the month.

Used a BOGO coupon for both lunch and dinner, saved 6$, put the savings in the tip box. Still am fairly flush for the next few days.

Doing more of the free motion machines for gym interspersed with 10 sec of standup, hard biking. Lots of leg work, abs and twisting with weights. I now have a waist. Tomorrow is the first day of the fitness challenge, the before stage. Wonder what these measurements will be?

Today was just one snafu after another. Work is grinding yet again. Time to shut the door and hit the DND button.

Sigh

February 6th, 2006 at 06:59 am

Well, someone had to win and someone had to lose the Super Bowl. For us, we had some friends over that we rarely see, yakked away, watched some ads (nothing too memorable except that FedEx ad), ate pizza without guilt, got the house all clean, and we feel pretty sure that our friends won't have to drive through a riot. In other words, we got a lot out of today, even though the Seahawks lost. Lost 5$ in the football pool.

Yesterday, I found quite a deal at BestBuy. 1G USB drives were 69$, with a 20$ rebate. Even if the rebate bombs out, the price was still 20$ under what I priced them last year. I bought, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I can password protect files, so I'm going to use it to put electronic copies of my financial data on it. I put the pdf of my 2005 taxes on it already, and some of the ING Direct 1099 files. So begins one of my goals for 2006.

I was also pleasantly surprised that BestBuy has an online rebate application. Filled it out as soon as I got home.

I'm keeping an eye on my TIAA-CREF 403B mutual funds on Morningstar. TIAA-CREF's board voted to change the fee structure (despite the shareholders voting it down) on the three funds that I have, starting Feb 1, 2006. For stuff like that, the fees never go down Wink, so I'm watching my funds from Morningstar to see what the fees will turn out to be. If Vanguard has similar funds with lower fees, its rollover time. Disappointing, because I've had the TIAA CREF funds for over ten years, but it has to be done. Don't mistake my good humor for positive sentiment - positive sentiment and positive finances don't mix. Control what you can, let go what you can't. Everyone else does when they are handling your money.

Speaking of that, the auditor signed up for ING on my invite. She must have done it as soon as she got home Friday. Another ten for me.

Football pool part 2

February 4th, 2006 at 05:21 am

Got a copy of the filled out pool. I got some good numbers. Now everyone at work is looking at me as the luck magnet. Smile

One of our temporary auditors was maintaining two bank accounts in two different states. She was perfect for flipping her to thinking about an Internet linked account, esp after hearing about ING's new money program and the fact that she can send invites after she gets set up... she's even thinking about sticking her refund in there, so I sent her my last ING invite. I'm gambling that its really not my last one - the other co worker I sent an invite to a month ago still hasn't signed up.

DH is in the process of cleaning the house. We're having some friends over on Sunday for TV, yaking, and ads. We're expecting a windstorm this weekend, though, and the friends are coming in from about 40 miles away. They might be here for dinner and breakfast.

Got up very stiff and sore today, so I just walked, ate one lunch of General Tso's chicken, left a good tip. I'll work out tomorrow so I can chow down on chips and salsa guilt free.

Saving log - 0$
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $7.00

Nut popped up, saw his shadow...

February 3rd, 2006 at 07:23 am

and its six weeks more probate.

Got word from sister that Nut has filed as a creditor. Wonder what he thinks we owe him. I've got to be sanguine about this; as DH put it "everyone back there knows he's a nut - the sympathy is with your dad." Now its sister's lawyer's turn to do his stuff.

And I wasn't the only one to get bad news. My lawyer friend got his ATM password skimmed. He found out when he apparently bought something at my neighborhood Fred Meyer. "Geez," I said, "if you were that close, you shoulda stopped by."

I got my butt handed to me again in gym by the rubber bands with handles, aka the exercise cords. And now I can do the same things at home - my very own set of rubber bands with handles came in the mail last night.

Checked on my refund at the irs website. I should expect it to hit the savings account on Valentine's Day.

Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $5.51 lunch + $17.81 exercise cords (it was $9 with $8 shipping)

Saving log - moved $100 to ING + $50 to regular savings + 7$ tip box (tip box stands at $22)

Small slices

February 2nd, 2006 at 06:50 am

Lots of little financial bits - bit of everything:

1. Put 5$ in the Super Bowl pool. Unfortunately, I signed before my luck magnet did; plenty of spots but no guidance. I'm flying blind. -$5.

2. Got a little e-note from the website that I filed my taxes with. Filing accepted. I should get my $540 refund in my savings account in 2 weeks.

3. Congratulations all around that I made it 6 years at my job and I'm vested in the retirement program. (who would have thunk?) Difference between 80% and 100% vested is about $1500.

4. The executors gave my sister a mystery call. She asked me whether I got one. Nope. Wonder what it is - creditors slipped under the wire, or the sale of the second piece of property?