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Archive for June, 2006

Convergence

June 29th, 2006 at 07:48 pm

We had a little benefits fair at work today. My gym is a benefit, and guess what? - my trainer was there, working the info table! I got a couple of coworkers who had been complimenting me these past months to sign up with her and try it out. It's fun being the ad! She struck a deal with me - if I could get three people to sign up, I get a freebie. Only got two, though...that I know about.

But one my coworkers that I got to sign up came down to my office and we chatted about what you could expect. My trainer is very enthusiastic; annoyingly so at first. Then I realized that the opposite would entail not being enthusiastic, and that would be way, way, way worse.

Filled out the expense report for buying bowling awards. It came to $205, but we bought a lot of awards, and 5 of anything is going to be spendy. We'll see how the budget worked out for the event.

This is so rare, but I'm down to my last $6 this month. I even raided the tip box. Payday tomorrow, and it can't come fast enough.

Expense report

June 28th, 2006 at 08:39 pm

Filed my Nashville expense report today. Over $1000. Did pretty well with the hotel room, which was about 80% of the expense. The only added charge I put on it was the long distance phone call to DH. The wake up calls were free, apparently. Smile

I haven't filled out one of these in a long time, and I never filled out one for myself, so I had to brave the dreaded "you didn't know that?" embarassment E and ask around. Apparently tips are included, and food at the airport.

It brought back memories of one of my first jobs away from science. I was an administrative assistant and one of my tasks was to fill out expense forms for my boss. I was new to the "delights" of Raleigh, NC, so when I kept running into a lot receipts called Pure Gold, I thought "jewelry?" and pitched them. Turned, heh heh heh, they were receipts to the local strip club. I heh-heh-heh it because while the boss was mad and needed the bucks ...what could he do? Smile

Ah sweet naivete. Too bad you could only do that once. For the year or so that I worked for him, I figure he spent a 1-2K there at Pure Gold. Wonder what his wife thought of it...?

Deep Frugal, part 3

June 27th, 2006 at 10:54 pm

Food and sights...

Here's where the going got tough. What to do to satisfy three things: make frugal choices, eat in a healthy fashion, and do so in such a way that your co workers won't kill you (or worse, whisper about you back home)?

Can't say I did a fantastic job at it, but I did have a couple of principles:

1. Default drink was water or iced tea, and very rarely an adult beverage. I learned in college that it was way cheaper and far more entertaining to watch the drunk people than to be drunk yourself. I gave away one of my free drink tickets at the junket host party; that made up for the teasing I got for ordering water at the bar.

2. Since both meetings took care of lunch, that saved me a bit. Dinners I aimed for salads and food that Nashville specialized in, if nothing else for the experience. Loved the meat and three places. If nothing else I learned that fried pickles are weird but very, very good.

3. The Sights. That was really, really hard because you're either going or you're not; no frugal rates. I had to turn the frugal button off a couple of times.

My only tactic for the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B tour was to buy the package, and get as much out of it as possible. It was fun and I learned a lot...probably not 35$ worth, but you only live once. How many times can you claim to stand on the same square of linoleum that Elvis did?

It was equally tough when we were going from bar to bar, listening to the bands. The tip jar would come out - How much do you put in? I went for generous, especially if the band was good. I figured they were working hard for the cash.

Deep Frugal, part 2

June 26th, 2006 at 10:33 pm

In other words, not really. I checked in, set the mini bar key on the TV where it did not move. Why bother looking if you don't want to spend?

The hotel room was lovely and comfortable and a veritable minifield of temptations that "we will just stick on your bill". A CD player/alarm had a small rack of wrapped CDs that if you unwrap, you bought. Webtv-esque Internet access at $10/hr. 2 Fiji water bottles for $4/each were sitting right beside the icebucket (Reader, after taking a stroll in 95F, I nearly fell for that one). First-run movies for 11$ - 14$. Strung from the door knob came more temptations - room service and massage service and laundry service and breakfast in bed, and even on my last day, an offer for the hotel to pack a lunch for the trip back.

Luckily, I'm a great sleeper and I stay put when I do so. I'm pretty sure I don't spend money when my eyes are closed. Unfortunately, I'm a great sleeper and I stay put when I do so, and I've been burned by setting hotel alarms. I sprung for the wake up call.

And so it was during most of frugal land last week. I had to make choices. I'm not even sure if there was a cost for the wake up call, but since I wanted to wake up, I paid the insurance. The continental breakfast coffee just wasn't waking me up one morning, so I sprung for Starbucks (3$/drip - yikes!) I came on this junket with two coworkers - we holed up one night to watch a movie, then split the payments for 5$ of fun.

But you all would have been proud of me. I looked at the fiji water, then got some ice and hit the tap water. Smile

Deep Frugal, part 1

June 25th, 2006 at 10:53 pm

So getting to Nashville was a crazy adventure - a hopscotch from Seattle to San Diego to Dallas to Nashville. The Dallas connection was the crazy one, and I knew it would be crazy. In my purse went the just in case stuff: a pair of fresh socks, fresh panties, a bottle of water, 5 energy bars, 2 paperbacks, my Saturday paper, PDA, MP3 player.

The first rule of the airport is to think "prison". One checked bag, one purse, slip on shoes, no belt, no jewelry, all metal in the purse. Thankfully the metal detectors missed the underwire in the bra.

The second rule of the airport is that if you roam it with "needs" you'll spend money. The only need I should have provided for was to pack a lunch. I bought that for an uninspired $6 in San Diego.

As I said before I just made the connection in Dallas to Nashville; I had about fifteen minutes to get across the gigantic Dallas Airport. Yay for gym class. Ten minutes into the flight, though, after the relief that I made my flight came the realization that there was absolutely no way that my checked bag had made it. It tempered my relief until I realized something very important: all my clothes in that bag were at least 1 size too large, no one has seen me wear what I have on, and everything was Seattle summer-y, not Nashville summer-y. I cheered up at the thought of actually buying something.

At the Nashville baggage claim, my bag was missing, and so I stood with about 15 other people in various stages of high dudgeon, asking an airline rep to rescue their bag. One woman even threw a tantrum about her cell phone charger being in the missing bag. "That's my life they lost!" Here's a hint...if it was that big o'deal, it should have gone in the purse.

My turn with the airline rep. Many thanks to anna, jester of the bees for her customer service tips here and here that informed my tactics.

Me: Bad night, eh?
Rep (with a southern drawl): If you're here, the news is never good.
Me (low voice): To tell you the truth, I'm not that upset. You see, I've been at the gym for seven months now. All my clothes in that bag are at least one size too big.
Rep (laughing): Well bless your heart! So what did your bag look like?
Me: Carpet bag, green and kinda pink. No wheels. So I'm at [hotel]. Do you deliver? I don't have a phone...
Rep: We sure do, honey. No need for the phone, we know where that is. Do you have everything you need - toothbrush?
Me: toothbrush I have, but I need toothpaste.
Rep: Oh, let me get a little something for you...(returns with a little spa kit.)

So if you're a customer service rep, whose bag are you going to rescue first? Tantrum woman or woman with a funny story? Smile I got my bag at the hotel by 10 am the next morning.

The Junket

June 23rd, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Back from Nashville on the job-related junket. I learned a lot and had a bit of fun....

One leg of the priceline.com flight had a fifteen minute connection in Dallas, but I managed--by running! I was lucky. I saw the attendant make the final boarding call, heard my last name and I screamed - that's me! I'm coming! It felt a bit religious. Maybe it was because I was heading smack into the strap of the bible belt.

Most of the trip I felt like I was deciding on when to turn on/turn off the frugal button. Most of us had to develop the frugal button in the first place to get out of trouble, so this is definitely advanced "deep frugal".

I avoided the really dumb purchases easily, like raiding the minibar or buying $10 internet access (which is why I wasn't blogging) or grabbing the $5 Fiji water bottles. It's the non-so-dumb purchases with the co-workers, the rough calculation of how much fun I'll have for the price of admission.

I'll blog more later, get my thoughts in place. Just letting you all know I'm safe with stories.

Hardwick's

June 13th, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Ah... Before freecycle.org, before craigslist, before Overstock.com there was:

Hardwick's.

Hardwick's is another slice of old time, blue collar Seattle. How to describe? It used to be a used-hardware store, its four rooms stuffed to rafters with the concentrated squeezings of the hardware, tools, garden tools, kitchen ware, a bit of furniture coming from hundreds of yard sales. The stuff could be pretty good, but you had to paw through it. If you actually found exactly what you were looking for, you should have gotten an award or at least a deep discount on your next tetanus shot.

It was a mess. It was glorious.

Now Hardwick's is considerably cleaner, with a lot of new goods (items on consignment, things that didn't sell at Ace, etc) in amongst the old stuff. You can find things quickly now. The prices are still great, but the serendip is gone.

I just hope they still have the guy who hand draws the gift certificate on the bottom of the paper bag.

Lotta nuthin'

June 12th, 2006 at 09:12 pm

That was this weekend, and that's today. No economic news.

4$ in the tip jar. $35 in another Drp (dividend reinvestment program). Dropping stock prices excite me when I'm adding a bit of money to my stock position via drps; its not exciting me any looking at my 403B. Both of the two advances are in a 6-month CD or in ING, just patiently generating cash.

Inflation is going up a tiny bit, so I'm still happy with putting a *little* bit in I-bonds ($100/month), but it soon will be time to call it quits. I figure about 10K for that style of fixed income.

Fun spending right now is for work, if you can believe it. I'm in the prize procurement business for a little bowling event at work. I found a person at work even luckier than I am at a yard sale - she found a beaut of a bowling shirt. Best individual score prize, if you ask me.

Not so fun spending right now is for several weddings. Tis the season. I hate the wedding-industrial-complex, so I never look at the bridal registry. My imagination on where a gift like a silver fish fork will end up (eBay, the yard sale, husband's forehead, melted down for silver) will just depress me. Unless I come up with a more brilliant idea, I go to my fallback position and give a gift certificate to Hardwick's, a consignment hardware store.

Back to regularly scheduled programming

June 8th, 2006 at 10:05 pm

Only spent $4.50 today. $2 for a coffee and $2.50 for 1/2 a good tuna sandwich. Saved the first half of today's lunch from yesterday.

Put 40$ in the 3M drp. After 2 years, I now have 27 shares. Put $35 in a WEC drp two weeks ago, I now have 18 shares of that. Put $50 electronically in KO last week, I now have 72 shares of that. Dividends for this quarter are: $22.28 (KO) + $12.05 (MMM) + $3.95 (WEC) + $2.98 (MI) = $41.26. It's not a bad deal - I put in money in quantities that I don't miss and it generates reinvested money that I also don't miss.

Haven't heard boo on the 2nd property.

The trainer has raised the resistance weight on most of the machines. Where it was 20 lbs, its now 30 lbs. We are now being to do "future" exercises. She had me try to do several real man-style pushups. I could still only bend my elbows and dip a couple of inches or two. For the future, the trainer said. I surprised both of us by holding a decent full plank position for 45 seconds.

third salad recipe

June 7th, 2006 at 09:55 pm

yeah, I'll get back to the financial bits tomorrow.


Potato salad

2 lbs boiling potatoes (red, white, yukon gold...) the waxy kind.
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch green onion or 1/3 red onion, chopped

Other good options: peas, sliced hard boiled egg, chopped french-cut green beans, artichoke hearts, blue cheese

Dressing - 1 part light sour cream, 1 part light mayo, a bit of lemon juice, crushed dried tarragon, salt, pepper.

Boil potatoes until potatoes can be pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes, allow to cool. (Frugal step here: if you want to use frozen peas or green beans, put them in the bottom of the colander, so when you pour out the boiling water, you cook the vegetables). Let sit. Potatoes should be room temp or colder, and they should be dry so the dressing will stick.

Dressing: Beat sour cream and mayo together, add the lemon juice to get the dressing to the consistency of heavy ranch dressing. Crush tarragon, salt and pepper to taste.

Toss cold cooked potatoes and vegtables with the dressing. Let sit, covered, in the refrigerator for about 30 min. FYI - If you add blue cheese, it is delicious, but it will shorten the lifespan of the salad considerably.



Yeah, I promise to blog on more financial bits. I love the frugal aspects of salad - something creamy, something crunchy, a little protein, a little sweet, a little sour, and whatever great vegetables you have. Proportions in whatever you can spare. And you are lucky, you don't have to turn on the stove.

Whew!

June 6th, 2006 at 08:57 pm

I guess I'm the only person on the planet who would say "whew" in this situation, but...

Whew.

Turns out that DH did not mishear. Our French trip is going to be next year. Sister-in-law and her husband's trip is this year. Whew. Time to plan and dream a bit, time to learn some basic French, time to get the passport, time to get my figure sorted out Smile, and best of all for the frugal - time for the dollar to strengthen against the euro.

2nd of three salads

June 5th, 2006 at 11:12 pm

This is the time of year when the deal is this: DH grills something, and I make the salad... 2nd of three.

Black bean, corn, onion, tomato salad

Proportions can vary on this...

1 cup dried black beans
1 cup corn (frozen works well)
1 cup fresh chopped tomato
1/3 red onion, sliced thin

Dressing
3 parts olive oil
1 part lemon juice
chopped Italian parsely
salt and pepper to taste.
(additional options - chopped Italian parsely, oregano, chopped garlic, garlic salt...you get the idea)
Be aggresive with seasonings, the black beans are going to be bland.

Soak black beans for 2 hours, then boil them until tender, but still whole. (this salad is not good with mashable black beans!) Drain, then cool beans to room temperature.

Chop tomato, add a little bit of salt and allow to drain. Slice onion thinly and hold slices in salted water...keeps the slices from being too 'oniony'. If corn is frozen, cook then drain and cool to room temperature. (Microwave works well here).

Make your dressing (if you are dressing challenged, a good bottled Italian dressing will work here).

Dress the black beans first - they are the blandest and you'll need to give them time to suck up the dressing. Add corn next, toss: add onion next, toss; add tomato last; toss. Cover, let sit for about 30 minutes.

Great the second day, but tastes best when at room temperature.

Cooking spree

June 4th, 2006 at 09:31 pm

Did manage to get more and more of my old PDA onto my new one, but it still is a bit of a frustrating experience getting my finances back on. I'm working on getting the numbers right, one account at a time.

Lost a couple of things Friday night - an envelope containing a wedding invitation and my USB hotsync cable for my new PDA. Figures that once the alcohol comes out, I lose things. At least I kept my clothes on, and that was a triumph. Smile But losing things is definitely not frugal, because you have to replace 'em. So today was buying new hotsync cable - $24.99. Sigh.

When I got home I did the cooking storm. Three salads. I figured it would last for the week, but with DH kicking around the house all week, probably not...anyway, the first of three salad recipes.

Chopstick coleslaw

(Asian influence, thin long slices make it easy to eat with chopsticks)

1 cabbage, thinly sliced into strips
1 carrot, shredded
1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt

dressing: 1 tbsp ginger, finely shredded; 1 tsp chili garlic paste; 2 tbsp peanut butter (yes, you read that right); 1 tbsp light mayonaisse; 1 tsp fish sauce; 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar.

Optional additions: chopped peanuts, cilantro, salad shrimp (or even hydrated dried shrimp)

Slice cabbage, shred carrot, slice onion, combine all with about 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl to wilt cabbage shreds a bit. Let bowl of slaw sit for about an hour. In meantime, mix all dressing ingredients well - no lumps - then cover. After the hour, add dressing to cabbage, carrot, onion and toss. Cover, chill for 30 min. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve, if you like, with the chopped peanuts, shrimp and cilantro.

Has it been almost a week already?

June 2nd, 2006 at 09:53 pm

I ordered a "new" PDA from Overstock.com. I put new in quotes because it was listed as open box. Whether the previous owner just opened the box, breathed in it, then closed it again, or did something a bit more, is anyone's guess. The machine was wiped clean of data, came unblemished, it synced up, and its screen is in bright color...all for slightly over $100.

I went for broke and tried to load everything up from my old machine into my new one. Lost that bet - the screen froze up - so I wiped the new PDA clean again and loaded it up one program at a time. This weekend I redo a few months of my checkbook program. Not being able to figure out my accounts to the penny is making me feel naked. I really missed that.

We had dinner with some of DH's family, who noticed right away my changes. A bit of surprising news. DH's mom invited us to go to Paris, France. We thought it was for "next year" eg 2007...turns out that it's this fall, early October. Whee, but man now I've got to get that passport set up - as the French would say - tout suite.