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Archive for April, 2006

Birthday thoughts

April 30th, 2006 at 05:09 am

You might notice that the age in my bio went up a notch.

Today was a rainy day in Seattle, which I love (I'd better!). I got paid yesterday. I've got Monday off (little quirky benefit of the workplace). I worked out today. DH treated me to my favorite Szechuan place that we can walk to.

Time to get philosophical. If you can't get philosophical on your birthday, when can you? Yeah, yeah, any other day.

I've learned in these last couple of years money-wise, and in these last couple of months health-wise, some strange little paradoxes:

You may decide to transform yourself in a flash, but to radically transform yourself you have to have to use the least radical of tools - a routine that you follow slavishly. Pay yourself first; 90% of everything is just showing up. Smile

Any purchase can be considered frugal if you can afford it, and you use the dickens out of it. Its frightening the amount of money I spent on the trainer and the gym, but to my defense, my attitude is that "I've bought it, I'm using it to the utmost." I've only cancelled twice, and my trainer has cancelled twice. I come in ten minutes early to warmup so to use the trainer's full hour. I bought her time after all.

Contentment is like peripheral vision; its never straight on. After the workout today, I waited for the bus. I walked to the bus stop in the pouring rain - which nicely washed the sweat from my hair - and as I waited in the overhang by Macy's, feeling my muscles still warm and loose, I ate a delicious breakfast bar. All my needs were met and I was content.

novel frugal food tip

April 28th, 2006 at 04:38 am

Last Sunday, I made chicken goulash. At least I tried to make chicken goulash. I grabbed what I thought was sweet paprika, a lot dropped in, and I thought...oh well, its sweet, no harm done. Unfortunately for me it was hot paprika. The dish was, quite frankly, inedible. Weaponized.

G*d I hate wasting perfectly good chicken.

Bites of yogurt between bites of weaponized goulash tamed the fire a little bit so I could eat some Sunday night. Monday night I caught a break - sour cream was on special at the very grocery I pass by on my 8th Avenue walk for $1.39/pt. I got two pints, mixed one in the goulash (keeping with the ethnic theme) and put a couple of tbsps on top. That helped quite a bit, but eating it is still a challenge.

Here's where the frugal tips come in:
1.) did not waste food
2.) culinary solution was a loss leader (yippee)
3.) tasty, but there is no way I'm eating seconds or have a ton of firsts.
4.) portions I'm taking of this are appropriate for a meal of an actual adult, not an eating contest champion.

I think I'll call it the hot pepper diet.

This morning I reached high for something in front of the bathroom mirror and I caught a fleeting glimpse of...the barest definition of the top two cans of an ab six pack. Maybe I'm imagining things.

15,000 more

April 27th, 2006 at 06:44 am

Sister asked for another $15,000 advance; sister's partner's brother (call him brother in law - BIL) is asking her to loan him a bit so he can fix up and help sell BIL's mother's house. Hmmm. Not something I'd do.

To even things up, the executors will be giving me $15,000 also. Now I have to figure out what to do with the second advance.

So many of us save and save and save to get out of debt, and as we do it we dream about what to do with [insert windfall here]. I'm sure right now you're thinking - boo hoo, I sure wish I had your $15,000 "problem". Strange, really, that it's way, way more fun to save small amounts of money and watch as those 1$s and 5$s and pocket change grow and collect interest, than it is to get a fat whopping check.

Suddenly that fat whopping check makes you second guess all your money moves. Am I that stupid to put it ... there? Not to mention that because someone died you got this. And then the fat whopping check has the nerve to make all your saving look puny.

Savings log - 3$ tip box.

Musubi

April 26th, 2006 at 05:16 am

Or omusubi. Rice, in a triangular ball with a filling inside wrapped by crispy nori seaweed. Don't make a face, they are great! I had several for the two lunches today - and generally at $1.29/musubi, ethnic frugal. I had a bbq ground beef musubi (a little more pricey at $2.39, but you want reasonable ground beef) for main lunch, washed down with a can of chrysanthumum tea $.59; the vitamin D I got from the sitting in the sun was free and priceless at the same time.

Then gym - crunches and balance, and squats with the medicine ball. The trainer is going on a M-F schedule, so no more Saturday gym unless I go myself. Smile I've now settled in with the new bus route. Since the nights are now so sunny, I've been thinking about taking a different bus that will drop me off 7 blocks further.

Second lunch was a salmon musubi and a ume (salted plum) musubi for dessert. Yum - the only problem I have with them is that there is a trick to open up the package. The dried, crunchy seaweed is wrapped so that it doesn't touch the rice ball and get soggy. There is a way to open and unwrap it in one sharp, clever motion but I always tear the seaweed.

Oh well, it takes frugal skills to eat a frugal lunch.

Saving log - 1$ in the tip box. Deposited the $47 savings from last month yesterday.

Scanning, scanning, scanning

April 24th, 2006 at 04:04 am

Yip, yip, yah! (crack of the whip)

DH told me that our scanner works just fine and it was ready to go on the desktop. And today, I loaned him my bus pass so he could go to his gym, so it was just me at home for a few hours.

Just a few things I've scanned and put on my password-protected financial USB drive:
SSN card
health insurance card (both sides)
eyeglass prescription
original lease from 2000
lease riders we signed in 2000
2005 1 yr lease
(gotta get the signed 2006 lease)
2005 1099's (-DIVs and -Rs)
2005 W2
Dad's will
Dad's death certificate
group insurance certificate
CD certificate

All I've got to do is find my out-dated passport (scan the old one and renew to a new one) and find my birth certificate. I know sister has one - we dug it out on the second day.

That reminds me - sister is in negotiation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WiDNR) - for the second piece of property. 25% of it is untillable wetland, and the WiDNR is interested.

Greenwood Garage Sale

April 23rd, 2006 at 05:32 am

I had no Saturday gym appointment with the trainer and it was the second Saturday without a car, so it was DH and I entertaining ourselves on foot. After a little grocery shopping of all light items, our plan was to walk to the library and back.

Just at the other end of our block lay the first yard sale of the day. It turns out that our general neighborhood - Greenwood, in North Seattle - was holding a gigantic garage sale extravaganza, with over 100 garage sales spread out over 30 square blocks.

I'm of two minds with a yard sale. I love a great deal as much as the next frugal woman, but if you can't put it to use immediately it doesn't matter if its $1 or $1,000,000, it feeds an underlying shopping addiction. Its a bit like commending an alcoholic on their frugality if they get drunk on MD20/20 rather than the finest wine.

Anyway, I must have had a taste for the shopping equivalent of MD20/20; we hit four sales getting to the library and we had a fine time pawing through other people's stuff. I bought 2 CDs for a 1$ apiece which I've ripped to put on my MP3 player, and a Patrick O'Brian novel for .50.

But that was it - I could have bought a jigsaw, a multitude of baskets, purses, and shoes, Thucydides' Pelopenesian War, brownies for sustenance, a woven pillow, a needlepoint pillow, about a thousand VCRs, three stools - bar or step. In other words, junk I didn't need.

The visit to the library and back again for a free mocha (my 10th drink on a card) rounded out the day.

Spending log - 33$ groceries (a month's worth of breakfast bars) + 2.50$ yard sale spending + 1.50$ bagel with the mocha.

Coming up on week 2

April 22nd, 2006 at 05:21 am

...without any car.

DH's car withdrawl symptoms seem to be passing quickly. After all, if he had a working car, he'd be buying gas and getting medical symptoms of a different kind! I secretly miss the car - out in the car with DH doing errands really sets the weekend off from the week. Now that we have to stay close to home or close to a bus line. DH is waiting for the insurance to settle out, so who knows? It might be quite awhile until we're out on the road again.

For you Seattleites - and a know that a couple of you are on this blog - I've been having a good time with Seattle Bus Monster http://www.busmonster.com. Its a mix of three great sites so you can see traffic cameras, color coded routes, and little icons of buses as they run along their routes, so you know where yours is at any point in time. If this gets on a cellphone, fantastic!

Worked out Tuesday by myself using the machines, and Thursday with the trainer doing calisthentics and balance moves. Been walking home from my alternate bus route every day as a habit. I noticed last night that the bath towel goes all the way around, if you know what I mean.

The chiropractor claimed that my eyesight improved because of the neck adjustments. "Stop it," I said, "if my eyes improve any more I'll waste 350$."

Ate a nice cheap lunch with lawyer friend. Lesson 1: get the special. We'll get there, we'll get there.

I have 42$ in the tip box so far this month, and will probably go to the bank with it on Monday, after adding a few more dollar bills to it. I will head into the next paycheck with about 150$.

Spending log - 1.65$ coffee + 5$ lunch (it was still 4.36$, but I tipped) + 2$ for a birthday gift collection.
Saving log - 6$ tip box.

Anybody else nervous?

April 20th, 2006 at 05:13 am

I monitor my stocks and mutual funds daily (yes, I know, too much but I like to know where I stand). I made about $1400 in paper profits in two days. Too much of a good thing too quickly, and for no economic reason.

I'm nervous. Anybody else?

3M's annual report and proxy vote came today. All my companies had a shareholder initative about CEO compensation. I voted for all of them.

Except for a morning coffee ($1.65), a nearly no spend day.

tell us, but don't tell us

April 19th, 2006 at 04:53 am

Mail call yesterday - the totals on the retirement and the 403B accounts for Q1 2006 came. Still looked like I was only 80% vested. One of my co workers, who was fully vested two years ago, had the same ratio. The fact that he saw the same thing...well, I felt better. Not that I'm not vested, but its not like I've read the HR manual closely. Who knows? Maybe I only get my vested bucks if I did all my tasks standing on one leg.

I suggested to him sending an innocent email to HR.

He must have done it because about 30 minutes later all the staff got a yea-yea-we-know-about-it email from the VP of HR. Gee, the problem has only been happening for a couple of months. We were promised that it would get fixed by the vendor in a couple of weeks.

It could be worse, though. At least it was a mistake and not the fee.

well, he asked so I told him...

April 18th, 2006 at 04:08 am

Lunch with the lawyer friend and his partner. Ironic that yesterday was ham day and today we went to lunch fundraiser at Hillel. $15, so there was no way I was going to eat enough brisket, kugel and gelfite to make it a deal, but it was nice (the cooking reminded me of college days) and it was for a worthy cause.

So at the end of lunch, over apple crumb, lawyer friend heaves a big sigh and asks, "I spend too much money. How can I can I save some?"

"Stop spending money," I said. "Stop traveling so much." (He had just come back from visiting family on the east coast)

"No really," he said, "I'm sick of this. How can I do it?"

"Get into a routine that you can live with," I said. "You then find ways to run your routine for cheap. And TV is evil."

His partner definitely agreed about the TV, but lawyer friend made a face.

Another minute later lawyer friend mused, "I watched the line at Starbucks - addicts lining up for a socially acceptable form of crack."

I planted a seed; we'll see if it sprouts.

Ham day

April 17th, 2006 at 06:24 am

Tomorrow will be the one week anniversary of no DH car (I haven't owned one in 7 years). He's surviving, but he really enjoys driving so its hard on him. We are within walking distance of 3 grocery stores, so no biggie on the basics. The problem is the lugging of said basics, so we'll have to invest in one of those wheeled wire carts. Kitty litter bag + hill/2 hands = long, slow trip. But today was just materials for easter dinner and easter dinner leftovers : ham, potatoes, milk, cheese. Today is easter dinner; while tomorrow is easter dinner au gratin.

Paid the electric bill - 160$! Yikes. I must be more diligent in trailing DH and turning off lights after him. We heat by electric (NW, land of hydroelectric power) so we also suspect that some of our heating bill is caused by our fireplace. We closed the damper, and lit a couple of candles in the fireplace to warm it up a bit. Our thought is if we can warm up the fireplace cheaply, the fireplace won't draw warm air out of the room, so the thermostat won't kick on.

After looking at my obligations for this paycheck, I've shored up my immediate savings by 100$ this month. I will buy a 300$ I-bond at the end of this month to still get the six months' worth of 6.73%. The next set of rates for I-bonds is really up in the air; the inflation rate is low, so maybe, maybe the fixed rate would improve. We find out May 1.

Got poi?

April 15th, 2006 at 03:52 am

Work is easing up. I'm swatting at big horseflies right and left, so I treated myself to lunch at the Uwajimaya Food Court and a browse in Uwajimaya proper.

Uwajimaya is a grocery/small goods store and a Seattle institution. Any Asian ingredient, and I mean any Asian ingredient, can be found there. One of the best deals in Seattle is the 3 for 10$ sale table piled high with very pretty bowls and sushi plates. Sometimes there's even a 3 for 5$ sale table - I snagged 3 small colanders a couple of years ago. What a coup! I use those all the time. Next to the sale table lay the regular priced bowls - its fun for me to keep track of when one set of bowls moves from one table to another.

I didn't buy anything. Just looking was relaxing for me - peeking at the little jars of wasabi infused fish roe, checking out the lamb patties for 4.99/lb (pricey, but 2$/lb cheaper than my usual grocery store), oohing and aahing at the fresh, real wasabi root for 56$/lb. Its nice to know that if I wanted to run a real Hawaiian luau, I've got the poi covered.

The paycheck got deposited today just like it usually did. At our workplace, the minutes of the management team are emailed to us. Today the email talked about retention and how they should recognize to retain the most productive staff. I wonder if they mean it, and whom they mean.

Put 13$ in the tip jar. Call it a do-it-yourself recognition program. With the advent of exercise, chiropractor, and trainer, I haven't put in my usual 40-50$/month for several months now. It seems so long ago, and I miss that.

Loser :)

April 14th, 2006 at 02:44 am

Measurement day today. I lost 4 pounds, putting me at 200 and 1/4 pounds. Knew I shouldn't have had that breakfast bar... Smile
And lost another 1/2 inch in the chest, hips, waist, arms, calves.

On the wrecked car front: insurance companies are talking. Talk about infinitely slow and infinitely fine.

Got the glasses this evening. I like them, they are very different in style. I look like I should be reviewing German existential films. I have to learn to tilt my head up slightly to read the fine print.

Sent 40$ to one DRP, 35$ to another. Managed to finish the end of the paycheck with over $200. Slowed down my lunch spending by buying a footlong, having them cut it into four 3 inch pieces, then lunched on them for a couple of days.

90% done with the last nightmare project; now its catchup booking of a lot of little projects and my "pile of shame".

Blam!

April 11th, 2006 at 06:42 am

Got home from work and found that DH's car was parked rear out, versus front out.

I didn't think much of it when I yelled, "you made it home alright?" I thought of the big immigration rally in Seattle this afternoon - it took me an hour and a half to get home.

DH was on the phone, intent. When he got off the phone, "did you see what happened?"

Turned out that DH's 20 yr old car's front hood now looks like Sofia Coppola's upper lip - folded up on the left into a sneer. DH got clipped 2 blocks from home, so luckily he managed to drive it back.

We'll save some gas money for a couple of weeks. And another piece of luck - I just got my Flexcar card renewed. 10$/hour, all fees, gas, insurance included.

The only uncalm family member was our 19 yr old cat who wanted to go out. We thought of all the liquids from the car dripping on the carport concrete pad that he could try and thought better of it.

The four E-s

April 9th, 2006 at 05:11 am

It has to be a mantra: Routine is my friend, routine is my friend. Just got done reading flash's journal of her week. Honestly, I know I would have taken (and have taken) the shortcuts that flash's DH did. It's frankly exhausting to keep track of your money and to make the proper financial decision every time.

I've found what works with me is that I have to eliminate the four E's of overspending. I miss one, and I spend.

Emergency: so important that most of us have a fund named for it. Smile Some emergencies are real (life and limb) and can't be helped, but there are many emergencies that are fake. Save your money for the real ones.

Embarrassment: It keeps grown men from buying just a box of tampons, grown women from negotiating properly for a car or even for a raise, and it keeps all of us from thinking - why should I spend money on this? - or from asking questions - or from thinking - no, I will not buy this - or thinking that everybody has more money than me, so why bother!

Emotion: If you're happy, you want to spend money to celebrate; if you're sad, you want to spend money to console yourself; if you are stressed, you want to spend money to get out of the situation. Turns out that functional psychopaths http://tinyurl.com/h2wqv make the best financial decisions. The amazing fact for most of us is that we can save the money that we do, despite our emotions.

Easy: easy monthly payments on a house or a car or a credit card which will keep you from seeing the total of what you are spending; easy to buy rather than insult the sales person (or embarrass yourself); easy to burn gas waiting for an upfront parking space.

Boring is beautiful, baby!

Ahhhhh....

April 8th, 2006 at 05:18 am

Back from vacation. It was a stay at home vacation, a break from downtown Seattle, a break from blogging, a chance to catch up on sleep, and a chance to get big errands done. It was a break from frugality, too. There were a couple of things I've wanted to spend some money on and I had researched the items for five months. So without further ado, my week last week.

Friday night - sipping one glass (two fingers) of rye whiskey with DH. It made me feel like I was in the middle of a film noir.

Saturday - gym. My current XL gym pants are flopping in the breeze. My plan tomorrow is to buy a pair of "merely" L gym pants. Made rice and black beans for the week.

Sunday - bought 2 pair of L gym pants (BOGO sale), and one cute L top that I had my eye on. 96$. Also, at the risk of sounding like one of Money Talk$ geek co workers, I bought an MP3 player - 20Gb and has a detachable battery. Pricey at 300$, but I expect it to last like my PDA has - 4 years.

And at the same mall, I found and bought 2L of passover Coke. Its the stuff with real cane sugar, not the high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. Best 2$ I spent this week.

Began to load my CD collection onto the MP3 player. And load, and load. It turned out that it would take 3 days, and in the end, my entire CD collection filled only 5Gb.

Monday - I've been squinting at my computer desk for the past 8 months through my glasses that I've had for 5 years. Time for an eye exam and, no doubt, new glasses. Optometrist was to come in tomorrow. Picked out new frames in the meantime today.

Oh yes - we got paid Monday morning. Shoved the 500$ back into savings.

Tuesday - Optometrist. It turns out, quite surprisingly, that my eyes had gotten better from five years ago. My thought is that my middle age farsighted tendency is catching up with my myopia. No one there bought that story, however, and I'll still need progressive bifocals. Other good eye news: no glaucoma, no detached retina, no macular degeneration. Insurance covered maybe about a third of it; the whole thing was still about 350$. Comes with magnetic clip on sunglasses, so its two for one.

Oh, who am I kidding? Sigh. Five years gave me sticker shock here. I'd do a medical flex account for this but since my modus operandi is to hold out for years then spend a bundle, that wouldn't work.

Wednesday - finished burning my CD collection. Discovered a new source for exotic CDs and tunes to check out - the public library. And kiddies: it might be old school but its legal.

Thursday - gym, and its only time I was downtown. I got a lot of compliments from the trainer on my stuff. I'd better at 96$! I look a bit potty in the new size but that's planned. I figure I'm only halfway to where I should be and I need to have a little bit of stuff to follow me down. No challenge for me to look thin in XLs and slack off.

Friday - snooze and library, read and coffee and snooze. Somebody must have slipped me decaf by accident.

With the exception of writing a $1300 check to catch things up, that's it for my week.