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Archive for May, 2006

R.I.P li'l PDA

May 29th, 2006 at 05:02 am

(personal digital assistant, not public display of affection)
Well, my little Handspring Visor gave up the ghost last night. I have my price book on it, and a checkbook program and lost the data from them both. I also used it to sync up a program called Vindigo, which I gives me maps, restaurants, services, and movie times. I bought the subscription for 25$ and I'm going to use it. Anyway, my little Visor failed to hold a hot sync and it started to flash - all of which I had a response to. Not this time. I had to wipe my data clean and it still wouldn't sync.

I'm a little bummed - my little Visor stood with me through thick and thin for over 4 years. Getting the data on it was the first step on my way to prosperity, because before I wouldn't even balance my checkbook. It did, however, last longer with daily use than the Handspring company did (it merged with Palm in 03); and I learned a lot of tricks to keep it going after support disappeared. It got me into the habit of being frugal, it got me here, and all it asked for was a couple of AAA batteries every three weeks. Sigh.

(Note to self - I wiped the Visor clean. DH is using it now. How's that for recycling?)

It was a bad day for electronics all around. I wanted to update the brains of my MP3 player and wiped out my music. Backups are frugal, backups are frugal.

On the other hand, it was a fantastic weekend for groceries. Mangoes went on sale for .40/mango, and right next to the mangoes, the strawberries were on sale for $2.00/lb (we are talking Seattle here). It meant I could make my favorite fruit salad. All it is, is:

Ripe Strawberries, cleaned, hulled, quartered...
Ripe mango, peeled, cut into chunks. (6 months ago Saveur had a photograph on how to do it efficiently, avoiding the pit)
Mix.
Cover for 30 minutes.
Enjoy. Any proportion of strawberry and mango is good.

The Reckoning

May 26th, 2006 at 05:26 am

I broke down and figured what I've paid so far to get in better shape - trainer, gym fees, chiropractic copays. Look if you dare - its high...


$5,154.85

Waaaaah!

I am feeling better, my posture's a lot better, I've lost a lot of inches, and I got a compliment from my trainer. She looks forward to our workouts and told me how rare it is for a client who comes in 10-15 minutes early to warm up and - our new thing - to roll out my knots in my legs. It means that our workouts together are for the full 60 minutes, or from my perspective, 70 minutes. Everybody else seems to go for about 45 minutes. I did my best old fart voice and said, "Harrump, I bought an hour's workout and by G*d I'm going to get one." Grinned while I said it of course.

Thanks folks for you all thinking I'm an fitness inspiration. I still wish it didn't cost so much.

Snoozy Wednesday

May 25th, 2006 at 04:28 am

Not a lot happened in the last two days. Bought a footlong sub, cut in four pieces and ate it over two days. The trainer commented on the high fat meats of the Italian sub, and I had issues with the second-day sogginess of the tuna sub. I tried the vegetable sub with cheese. That worked out fairly well.

I saved a few bucks at lunch yesterday and today because we had the coworker going away party at happy hour. The big issue for me was to keep it to one drink, one happy hour bite and go, which I managed to do. Service was pretty slow; I didn't wait for the bill, just put 10$ and went. Smile.

Took the brutal hill home Monday and today; yesterday I bought some canned goods on sale so lugging the 15 lb sack that 1/2 mile counted the same as the brutal hill.

I still have to do a little research for a $56 discrepancy with the landlord utilities payments. The check image I sent was accepted. Now I'll have to do a little more digging. I feel as if this is an old, recurring problem, like I'm going to break down and give them the money just to shut them up.

Remember they've got to make money too

May 23rd, 2006 at 05:11 am

All about sister today.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and for the last four years I've sent sister a salmon. One of the biggest salmon runs in Alaska happens on the Copper River around the middle of May. Once upon a time that salmon run was so plentiful and cheap the salmon caught were turned into cat food. Today salmon were priced @ the Pike Market for $15.99/lb. Gasp.

I've bought from the fishmonger for years, and as the anti-fish flinger he had the best, best prices and knew the most. He was sympathetic, assured me that more of the run will come in Wednesday and the price will drop. We struck a deal for me to buy in the future for about $11/lb. Just like a stock future, only with a fish.

Sister will get the fish on Thursday.

I walked away, remembering what a great uncle of mine said. "Remember they've got to make some money too." Make friends with your seller; otherwise you pay the tourist prices.

For non-fish reasons, sister called a couple of hours later. WiDNR 73; farmette 7. Turns out we might have an interested party for the farmette - a horse owner. Fingers crossed.

Collected my tip jar, added the crumbs from my wallet - $53 in savings this month.

A1 Grocery Tip

May 22nd, 2006 at 01:28 am

Its a tip that I put in Carolina Bound's comments. The full tip is a really simple, second nature tip to me now but it has helped me out of a few jams and it lessens the Embarassment and Easy Es in the grocery line.

Grocery stores like to trick you a little bit - or, rather, fleece you a little bit if you're not alert. Sometimes they put branded sale items right next to very similar items branded, not on sale; sometimes the sale tag is not right next to the item; sometimes a coupon is maddingly precise (on the 24 oz item, not on the 20 oz item).

If I am unsure whether I will get the sale price or the coupon price of an item, I put that item in the back corner of the cart. If a store runs out of something and I want to get a raincheck, I write the brand, the size, and the item on a slip of paper and put that in the back corner too.

When I unload groceries on the belt, the items on the back corner get unloaded last and I put a little space (3-6 inches) between the questionable items, the slips of paper and the sure-thing items. Not a huge space, just a little breather so that the cashier will ring up the sure-thing items first and you know when to be on alert.

Now when the questionable items come up, you can watch how they ring up. If they don't ring up as the sale price, you can return them quickly, with less fuss, because they are at the end. And the slip of paper on the belt will remind you to ask for a raincheck. Sometimes the cashier says, "oh item x can substituted." Cool. If the stock boy doesn't run to fetch it and you don't have the time, write it out on the slip of paper with the deadline.

You get what you want, you know when to be alert, you have your fight at the end. And now I've trained all the cashiers in Seattle to roll their eyes when they see that space. Smile

Well, which is it?

May 21st, 2006 at 11:58 pm

Second property recap:

Two days ago I got a quick, fairly frantic phone call from sister. According to sister's phone call, she thought that the Wisconsin Dept of Nat Resources (WiDNR) only wanted 7 acres, leaving 73 acres for the farmette. From her end: eeek. A little surprising to me - 7 acres would be just the creek and the banks, maybe, why not the whole watershed? - but I hadn't gotten any written proposal. I took the wait and see approach.

Sister emailed me last night. Just the opposite. WiDNR is interested in 73 acres, leaving 7 acres for the farmette. Again, I see no written proposal. Still have to take the wait-and-see approach.

Would love to see the pieces of paper but I have to be sanguine about it. The most important thing I learned from last November was that as the other heir, sister and the executors are going to have consult with me and show me the proposal sometime.

car

May 20th, 2006 at 04:08 am

DH finally called around. No body shop is very thrilled with fixing our car - its about 15 years old, and no one wants to touch anything much older than 10. Parts availability and blah, blah, blah. DH could have looked into it before I wrote the 2000$ check for him. But he's not a planner. Grrr.

The grocery stock is getting a bit low. Soon what we will need will be a lot more than what we can carry. Time to spend a few hours with Flexcar if necessary to load up. (The other twist is that, per the lease, we have only one parking spot.)

The other thought is that DH's mom wants to buy an new car for herself and give us the old one. I have to laugh - a white Buick with automatic transmission not his style. The "plan" is that around the time I'm in Nashville, DH will go to Montana and drive the car back. Ah well, okay free car and if DH isn't thrilled with AT, well, it means he'll drive it less. Fits the frugal ticket.

Of course, that means that I get the $2000 check back.

Love the online banking

May 19th, 2006 at 03:26 am

Got my sewer/water/garbage bill from the landlord today - $113.58. Not bad for two months. But the next letter indicated that we were two payments behind. Ha, I think not. But it has been 10 months since their last odd calculation. I think I'm training the new accountant.

Lesson 1# - I have an iron grip with my money.

I went to my online account with my brick and mortar bank, found my check number, and promptly came up with an image of my check for the exact amount of the previous payment with the account number & "Sewer/water" written on it and -- I love this part -- an image of the back of the check with the landlord's stamp clearly on it.

The only annoying thing is that I found the check for the other payment, but it was written over 90 days ago so I have to order it and wait 7 - 10 days for it to come in the mail. It would be sweet to get an image of it on my secured account, like how I get my bank statements. Maybe I'll suggest that. It's got to be way easier and faster than printing the image, putting it in an envelope and mailing it.

I'm not even going to bother with the innocent letter. Let the check image speak for itself.

One of the directors at our workplace resigned today to take another position. Not my immediate boss, but I worked with her, liked her, and I learned a lot from her. Three weeks ago I was in a very hot meeting where the COO was trying to track down a snafu, and she was mighty quick to point fingers at other people and other departments. The COO would have none of it, and I can't say that I blame him.

Another 6$ in the tip jar.

A nearly no-spend day. We had a little department brown bag lunch, walked to City Hall where we listened to some jazz. Frugal fun. All I spent today was a $1.75 coffee.

Same ol, same ol.

May 18th, 2006 at 05:32 am

Got inspired and added $9 to my tip box, and $40 to my DRP.

Solving ancient problems at work. Life seems thousands of times calmer than six weeks ago. Compared notes with the other two people who are going to Nashville on the same junket - my ticket was $100 cheaper. We'll see whether I'll be bragging about it when I take the trip. Smile

Today for lunch I picked up a .33/can of fruit/punch/soda. Frugal adventure. Note to self: Stick to water next time, sport.

Two weird things happened on the bus commute. In the morning, a control freak with a cell phone kept up a 30 minute conversation about how her boyfriend shouldn't smoke clove cigarettes in front of her, then on how the hike last weekend was fabulous. Bet she was on her cell phone the entire way... In the afternoon, our bus passed loads of bicyclists, one of whom was riding beside us on a 10ft high bike --wheels on stilts-- as we crossed the ship canal. "How would he stop?" said my seatmate.

The first number is a 1

May 17th, 2006 at 03:38 am

I'm under 200! 198 3/4. Lost another 1/2 inch on the waist, and another 3/4 inch from the hips. According to the original measurements, I'm very close to the loss of inches and loss of body fat 6-month goal that the first trainer set up for me. Except for the weight - he figured that I would be around 180.

Call me Ahnold. I guess I'm not a girlie-man girl. I turn fat to muscle instead of having it go poof.

Checked up on my 403B, the accounts where my vestments were weird. One was right; the other showed 80% vested, which was right before Feb 1. It take a little more work, but at least movement has appeared. HR didn't appreciate that I emailed my co-workers about it...so screw it. I can look at my accounts and I can report to my friends my findings. HR is not your friend, usually.

I'm going on the junket to Nashville, so I've booked the hotel and the plane ticket. I used Priceline to get the cheapest round-trip ticket I could ($435), but comes with a real Twilight Zone itinerary. Hopefully William Shatner is not flying the plane; bad enough when he has a window seat looking out at the wing.

Put 5$ in the tip box.
Gave DH $2000 to get the car fixed.
Pulled the last 740$ of gramma's gift to pay off the credit card completely, for now.

Know thyself

May 15th, 2006 at 05:23 am

Had a nice quiet day today. Did a little walking to drop off an item to the library, then back, taking the brutal hill again. I'm getting used to that hill, or at least I figure that since I didn't die the first time, I'll make it this time too.

I just realized that I'm not a good medium goal setter. You'll notice I don't set any monthly or weekly savings goal, nor have I set any Xlbs in Yweeks.

I'm good at the short sprint eg. "I want to try 10 minutes at Z level on the elliptical machine", and I'm good at the long haul with a vague eg. "I just want to save as much as I can." If you ask me my number that I need to hit before I retire, or what weight I will eventually end up being, I won't be able to tell nor will I really care. I think the correct answer to "how much should I have saved to retire?" is: All of it. Or when can I stop exercising and watching what I eat? is: Never.

I'm pretty comfortable with vagueness. Comes from the scientific/academic training. Plenty silly saying to my advisor "next Tuesday I'm going to discover X"; not so silly saying "by Tuesday I will run this experiment twice". The medium goal just frustrates me. To keep at something, for me, I have to be even. Frustration, or any strong emotion, is my enemy.

Another thing that motivates me that comes from the scientific/academic training is the pleasure I get is learning something new from careful observation. I dig the fact that the bath towel goes all the way around, or that after I stretch the knots on the sides of my legs, my walking stride is longer and looser. I'm going to learn some economics and how to buy 28 day T-bills. I want to find out how that works and how much I can make.

I guess I'm putting the "P" in my personality type - INFP.

Greenwood Art Walk

May 14th, 2006 at 05:41 am

Weekend 5 or 6 without the car; I lost track. Luckily we are now getting into spring and summer in Seattle, when all the neighborhoods have local events. This weekend was the Greenwood Art Walk, which was a juried show of artists set in local businesses all along Greenwood Avenue, the main drag of our little neighborhood.

DH and I walked over a bit of it this afternoon. The art was fun, but the best part was going into little businesses that you pass by in the car - the guitar store, the game store, the chocolatier, the coffeeshop, the antique store. The local wine shop had a free wine tasting. We bought two bottles - $18. I also bought a small painting of a Keith Haring-like bright cartoony sun for my office, which is in the basement - $25. Its the first piece that I bought from this sort of event. I figured I would get 25$ of enjoyment out of it.

A bit spendy, but it was our way to buy locally and support a local business if we buy at all.

2nd piece of property

May 13th, 2006 at 05:44 am

Sister called today. The Wisconsin DNR (WiDNR) is interested in quite a bit of it, but of course not really interested in the farm and the buildings. Sister's thought is to again split it, use a realtor, and try to sell the house, barn and 5-20 acres as a farmette, leaving the back 50 wetland acres to sell to WiDNR. The thought (maybe) would be that WIDNR would begin to restore the wetlands, making the farmette potentially appealing for a buyer interested in what a wetland would offer - a hunter, fisherman or birder. But real estate is chilly right now, so who knows?

The executors were trying to get a renter for the land this year. The month of May is not the time. It should have happened in January/February, but I suspect that they had hoped that the second piece would have sold by then and they would be done. City slickers!

Ah the weekend. Not that work is bad right now (not like the nightmare of late March), its just that on Fridays I have a low tolerance for ijits. You know the type, the ones that call or stop by to give you one of their projects that they've procrastinated on for the week, and then they have to gall to tell you to hurry up with your tasks so they can "supposedly" do theirs. Ahem, stop wasting my time then!

Gym was yesterday, lower body and abs. I'm still marveling at the fact that I can touch my toes and walk my hands to out to get into a push up position. The personal trainer tells me that the goal is to touch toes, walk my hands out to push up position, hold, do a pushup, walk back, straighten up again, then do a squat. Its nearly a full workout on a yoga mat. I'm supposed to drink even more water than I am, which I have to work on. I did change my walking route home. My normal route is to go up a moderate hill, but one block closer to home is far, far steeper hill, so I took that. I felt like a mountain climber.

More measurements next week. And I'm marveling in the fact that I can wear any piece of clothing that I own.
"New item?"
"Yes - from the house of chez baselle."

Another 4$ in the tip box, $35 in a DRP.

Decisions

May 11th, 2006 at 04:33 am

$5 in the tip box.

Decided to put in only $100/month into I-bonds this 6 month cycle. I like the idea of 1.4% fixed more than 1.0% or 1.2%, but I think I will see something higher than that in the near future. Just a feeling, 'cause I'm an INFP.

Did the footlong sandwich strategy for lunch. Bought a footlong, put every vegetable on it (I want a salad with my sandwich), had it cut in 4s. In other words, I bought 1st lunch and 2nd lunch for today and tomorrow. (I'm supposed to eat 2 small lunches slowly instead of huff down 1 large lunch). Washed it down with water.

Gotta love water. It does what you ask of it with no calories and probably at no cost to you. I think its even better than diet or unsweetened tea. You have to pay for it, and somehow a flavor conveys an expectation. I don't know how to explain it. If you get used to water, you have less of a craving for sugared soda or even diet soda than you would if you got used to diet soda. At least for me; YMMV.

Did gym yesterday. Balancing and upper body. I'm improving my balance each time. Now can balance myself on an air dome thingee and do bicep curls and shoulder presses. Exciting!

The junket to Nashville is getting more interesting. Apparently I can save my non-profit some money if I take a test and certify myself in special training. It smacks of taking a test for money, a situation that hasn't presented itself to me in twenty years.

I'm a ringer! Ha ha.

Yeah, I won't be doing that again

May 10th, 2006 at 03:18 am

Nice lunch today with a couple of my friends, including lawyer friend who had helped me tremendously during probate. Talk turned to word on how probate was going for me and I let it slip the amount of my two advances.

Semi-big mistake.

"Gee you should be buying us lunch," and during the drive back in front of a car dealership and a next-door scooter shop "how many of those could you buy?"

All idle kidding but with a bit of an edge. They are all my friends (who all make more than I do - hah!) and if I get this from good friends, imagine what I get from my contacts at large.

I learned my lesson: vague is good.

Tip boxing

May 9th, 2006 at 04:45 am

Put another 2$ in the tip box. I'll have to take a picture of it for Jeffrey's collection. It's been nearly two years since I started moving money through the tip box; since that time I've "rescued" nearly $1000 from my paycheck to my savings. Most months I collect 40$ or so. I had a couple of hot months above 50$ and I usually take a break from tip boxing in December, for obvious reasons.

Tip boxing is my version of the change jar, and now I have my habits with it. I keep my tip box at work, because 1.) I know that DH would raid it if it was at home, 2.) the bank is two blocks away, 3.) its useful for the 1$, 2$ surprise office collections, and a fourth reason below. Smile

My tip box is tiny (3 inches square inside) with a nice hefty lid so it doesn't hold much change. Besides, my bank is one of those that doesn't have a change machine or handles change well. So while I do throw change and 1$ bills in to prime it, what really makes my tip box work is making reverse change, and shorting myself.

I pull a pile of 6-7 ones and a wad of quarters from the tip box and replace it with a 10$. It frees up space in the box for the next round of ones and change. I never have to buy a stick of gum or something to break a bill at work, I just break one from my bank in my drawer! (my fourth reason)

After I do my several cycles of getting $1s and making reverse change for a month, I count what I have. Anything above 40$ I deposit during my lunch hour; anything below 40$ I make up from my wallet.

Then my tip box lays empty, until the clank of the first handful of change... The frugal cycle continues.

We got word that supposedly our 403B calculations would be fixed on the 15th. We shall see.

One of my groceries declared bankruptcy. Drat,it wasn't Safeway.Smile
http://tinyurl.com/gtof6

Pea soup, non-gym, yard sale weekend

May 8th, 2006 at 02:21 am

Put together a crock pot split pea soup this morning.
.88 worth of frozen smoked ham hock,
1/2 onion, chopped, leftover from a week ago
2 carrots, sliced
4 cups chicken stock
Dried parsely, 3 bay leaves
about 1 lb dried split peas
water to the level of "stuff"
(option) 2 chicken boullion cubes
salt/pepper
Turned crockpot on low.

A few groceries today - $28.51 for the usual, 2 jars of mayo, 2 cans of tuna, 2 lbs of frozen corn, 2 whole fryers, 1 bunch of celery, 2 lbs of carrots, bread, 2 lbs of fresh salsa, 1 lb of butter...and a very yummy pink frosted coconut flaked doughnut. Romaine lettuce prices are positively insane due to flooding in early April, but nothing is really a deal, according to my price book.

Yesterday, I woke up early (early for me) to walk to the nearest branch of my bank. I just wanted to deposit the $15,000 in person. All weekend, it was walking our errands - bank, weekend breakfast, library, 3 grocery stores, and a yard sale. I must have walked at least 5 miles total yesterday and today, and with buying groceries - 1 mile with 20 lbs of weight. Figured that I really didn't have to slip into the gym...I'm living the gym.

Oh yes, the yard sale - $1 shoes - they are those 1/2 tennis shoes, 1/2 clogs (they dip in the back). They were the rage a couple of years ago. They are bright white and looked like they were never used. Because I bought them, I tossed out a seven year old pair of sneaks with holes that I rarely wear. Also bought a $1 Burts Bee sample kit - 2 soaps, 1 cream, and the heavy plastic bag that I can use as a travel bag for my little soaps and shampoos. So 2$ total there.

Frugal sushi

May 6th, 2006 at 04:49 am

Sounds like either an oxymoron or a cause of death, doesn't it?
What happened to him?
Frugal sushi.
Oh.

That really holds true with the all-you-can-eat, fixed price buffet style sushi. There's a pretty infamous place in Seattle that a couple of friends got excited about, ate there, and swore about in the bathroom 6 hours later.

I had sushi for lunch today, so I thought about the concept as I ate. With rolls, you get a small amount of raw fish sometimes gooped up with condiments (spicy tuna is raw tuna smashed in a paste with hot pepper) rolled with rice. If you like raw fish its really not the way to go. Nigiri is the style with the little pad of sushi rice under the thinly sliced fish, what most people associate with sushi - okay, but when the fish is sliced so thin that you can see the rice under it...well, that isn't the way to go either. Sashimi is the sliced raw fish, the best stuff, and you will pay.

For lunch today I had the third way which I have been finding is the most frugal style of sushi: chirashi, strewn sushi, where slices of sashimi lay over a plate sized pad of sushi rice. And I got quite a lot sashimi for my buck. For 11$ I got 2 pc of egg, 1 shrimp, 2 lg pieces of clam, 1 pc octopus, 2 pc squid, 1 tsp of roe, 1 large hunk of salmon, 1 pc tuna, 1 pc herring, 1 pc yellowtail, 1 pc red snapper, 2 scallops. And the sashimi pieces themselves were about twice the size of what you would get if you got them as nigiri pieces. Nice.

Or maybe it was a reward from the sushi chef for not celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Saving log - $3 in tip box.

Received the second advance of dad's estate. DH will research what it would cost to get the car fixed.

End of the third week and still no fix for the weird vest calculations on the 403B.

Junket possibility

May 4th, 2006 at 02:53 am

The office is thinking of sending me along with a couple of other people to a conference in Nashville in mid-June. Been a long time since I was sent somewhere on a junket.

Got a ton of paperwork moved today.

Another 3$ in the tip box
Moved 50$ from checking to savings.

My after lunch fortune cookie:
"You will receive something unexpected in the mail."

All I got was Carnivale, season 1, disc 3 from Netflix. We'll see whether that counts. Maybe nothing in the mail was the unexpected thing.

Where's George?

May 3rd, 2006 at 05:43 am

Put another 3$ in the tip box, and as I was stuffing the bills in, I saw that the top one was stamped with www.wheresgeorge.com so I registered the bill for giggles and grins, just to see what would happen to it after I put it in the bank.

Got a huge stack of work in my inbox over yesterday. Waaa!

Did a frugal good deed. I went back to where I got my glasses to tell them of my many compliments and thank them. I caught the woman who helped me pick my glasses out so that was especially nice. She was thrilled to hear from me.

Day off and DH Car

May 2nd, 2006 at 02:51 am

Today was my day off, but I did hit my appointments with the chiropractor and personal trainer.

It was a chain of money mistakes, though. For the want of writing a check the night before, I had to pull money out for my chiropractor copay, and as I got my copay my bus pulled away from my stop. Still have my timing with buses - exactly 15 seconds too late! Five minutes late for the chiropractor, so a new customer was ahead of me. I was five minutes late for the trainer and no water, so I had to buy that. A big bottle - but $2.50! It's what you get for not planning ahead.

I made up for it. I knew I had good Szechuan leftovers at home so I didn't spring for lunch, but headed straight home.

DH and I had a long conversation about the car. The insurance companies are dueling and it will take up to six months for DH to get the money there to fix the car. These three weeks have been okay but DH needs a car to pick up temp work. We struck a deal. I will give DH the bucks to fix the car; he will pay me back with the insurance money or his mom's gift money. And if you don't DH, I joked, you will be living in the car.

The CD earned me 114$ in interest in April; ING increased its APY to 4.15%, new I-bonds have a higher fixed rate of 1.4%. I'll figure out in the next couple of days how I want to play that.