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Archive for October, 2008

Coin Jar Update

October 25th, 2008 at 07:32 pm

$31.61 beginning amount
+09.74 deposit
-------
$41.35 ending balance

I had a bunch of ones in my purse today so I decided to go ahead and throw them in the coin jar when I cleaned out the change pouch. I also found a quarter and a dime on the floor of my room so added that in, too. I've met my new October change goal of $40 saved. I'm tempted to push for $50, but I'm not sure I'll be buying anything else in cash before next payday to make change with. All coin jar savings goes towards vacation costs.

Payday Today and Coin Jar Update

October 25th, 2008 at 12:04 am

$28.91 beginning balance
+02.70 deposit
-------
$31.61 ending balance

So I've officially met my goal of saving an extra $30 this month to put towards vacation. Since I still have a week left in the month of October, I'm going to up my goal to $40.

Today was payday and I paid the American Express card in full as I do every month. It is used for gas only. I also paid the car payment and the property taxes for the half year out of this paycheck. And the kids got their monthly allowances.

I will do a bit of grocery shopping on what is left and then figure if there is enough money to send the $150 deposit to ING or if I need to wait until next week. I still need to pay cable/internet/phone and garbage as well out of this check. Just have to sit down and write out the checks. Everything else was paid for online.

I took my son to the Doctor today and she is happy about the improvements in him since we changed his diet to one of no artificial anything. He's doing a lot better. Still a long way to go though.

What My Family Wants

October 23rd, 2008 at 10:17 pm

This is what my family wants for Christmas. They want to get a Wii. Now I am not intrinsically opposed to getting this gaming system, I just kinda think with the fact that we've got the NES, the Super NES, the original Sega, the Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Game Cube, plus various handheld games that the kids have gotten used over the years, why do we really need another gaming system?

But they all really want it and they all really wanted it last year, too, when it was new. There are used ones available. I won't buy one new, that's for sure. But really, why is this next generation so much better than the last? I don't get it. And won't they just put out some new system next year?

I told DH that the first thing we ought to do if he wants it that badly is to start calling pawn shops. The way people have been hit so badly in the wallet this year, it stands to reason that there are some overconsumers that had to pawn one of these babies. Last time he looked he found a purple game cube for $30 there, but I said we did not need a second one. Our main city has an inordinate amount (to me) of pawn shops, so if we can find one there, then I think I can definitely go for it.

DH is trying to tempt me with the idea of getting the Wii Fit. Well, it does look tempting, but I don't want to pay full price for it, either. I don't play video games myself. I used to, oh, back with Super NES but when it went 3-D with the 64 it made me dizzy and I quit. But using it as a work out system, I might be tempted back.

Christmas was going to be pretty tame this year since we are going to Disneyland end of February. We were planning on used video games from the used game stores and used books from the second hand bookstore for the kids. They aren't terribly picky as long as they get to play or read stuff they like. I'm kind of annoyed that DH is going back on that, when we said Disney meant a tamer Christmas. Just because he got a raise since we made that decision.

I don't know. Maybe I just need to loosen up. Or maybe he needs to remember we still have a lot of debt to pay off. I think if we can't find one in a pawn shop, I still don't want to pay $300 for a used one of a website. It won't hurt to wait another year for the used market on these things to drop some more. Well, it won't hurt me anyway. Probably just annoy me when they all whine.

Throwing Away Food Makes Me Cringe

October 22nd, 2008 at 02:17 pm

What is it about throwing away food that makes me feel so awful? Even when I'm doing it for a good cause it raises something in me that just makes it feel wrong. I suppose it's better that it feels wasteful than that it not, but every little piece of the money saver in me is protesting this turn of events.

My youngest child has just been diagnosed with mutiple food chemical sensitivities. I have to get these items out of the house. In some cases it is enough if he even touches the foods that they affect him. (Cheese powder covered snacks, for one). Oh, I know it's all less than good for you food anyway, but still...it's hard. Fortunately he is not here to see it all being thrown out.

He's agreed to go on the new diet, actually seems eager to do it if it will make him feel better and improve his mood swings (which are scaring even him lately). But that doesn't mean he'd react well to seeing the Captain Crunch, the Cocoa Puffs and the Lucky Charms go into the trash because of the food colorings or artificial preservatives.

I'm torn between saving unopened packages of food to give away or, knowing what I know now, just throwing them away, because really, no one should be eating these chemicals, especially the children most of the products are designed for.

It's a fight. Waste food, waste money, that's ingrained in me from childhood. I have to get past it. We've experimented in the past before with going organic, cooking completely from scratch, and I know I can do it. It's just...really hard with all the other changes going or right now.

Still, in the long run it's the best choice, the only choice I can make. Be wasteful in one area to improve all other areas of life. And make better choices with my food dollars from now on.

We're starting on the Feingold diet as a family. We've got enough information to start while we wait for our full packet to arrive. At least I've got enough healthy food in the house that I don't have to go shop for it at all. We can start tomorrow. And that's a good thing.

Coin Jar Update

October 22nd, 2008 at 12:14 am

It's been a very stressful week and at the moment I don't really want to talk about it. I likely will soon. I need to. But not now while it's fresh. Meanwhile, life grinds on. I'm almost to my goal of $30 in the coin jar for the month of October and it's only the 21st. Well, technically it's the 22nd by a few minutes. I'll definitely reach it.

$26.13 starting balance
+02.78 amount added
-------
$28.91 ending balance

School Expenses

October 16th, 2008 at 09:41 pm

I picked up all the art and science supplies that I should need for the entire school year according to the WAVA curriculum guide for both kids to the tune of $106 tonight. Yech. The good news is that should be it now on out of pocket expense. Everything else is provided by the state. I've still spent less with this than I would have done doing it all myself from scratch without state interference or support or whatever you want to call state run online homeschooling courses. *sighs*

The curriculum is really good though. Really, really good. I am so impressed with it. It is miles above what they are teaching in our local school district. My daughter is taking pre-algebra and enjoying it and doing well (90% or better). The district had her in a dumbed down math class of lather, rinse, repeat of the last few years of math because of all her absences, where she was not doing well at all (about 65%) because she was bored and didn't care. And it made her feel stupid. She sure doesn't anymore.

My son and I made a Beufort Spinner for science class yesterday and tomorrow we'll be making a Humidity Dectector. Should be an interesting lesson. I'm learning a fair bit about meteorology that I didn't know before.

We still won't get the actual books for another two weeks or so, though. We can only do the parts offered online. *sighs again* But this way we can ease into it, I suppose.

It Worked

October 16th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I talked yesterday of my plan to put our picnic quilts (since we don't need them until spring) up over the two windows in my bedroom between the shades and the heavy duty drapes to help fight against the cold, since my room is the coldest one in the house. And it worked. I didn't have to turn on the space heater and my room was still pleasant when I woke up in the morning.

And there were still hot coals in the woodstove, too so I didn't have to make a fire from scratch. I love when that happens. Most of the time the wood is burned to ash by morning, but every once in a while I luck out. It takes away about 20 minutes of prep time to get a roaring fire going again.

I have to go to the craft store today. I'm dreading it. I have a list though and if it's not on there I'm not buying it.

Major Household Purchases and Homeschooling

October 15th, 2008 at 04:54 pm

I think I am starting to get back into the swing of blogging again. I'm by no means back to the daily thing, but I'm moving along at a few entries a week, and today, well, this'll be my second entry.

In the last seven days we have made some major purchases for the house, the most expensive of which was a dresser for my daughter. We went the solid wood route and got her a very nice mission style dresser of solid maple. It is put together with joinery and not nails and is very, very solid. It should last her the rest of her life and is a real quality piece of furniture. Considering the plywood and cardboard things that are on the market these days and last about a year or two if you're lucky, and still cost about $250 a pop for one of any size, I feel like we did good for our five foot tall four foot wide dresser.

It was on sale for their 75th anniversary so the original price of $699 was marked down to $499. We paid the $50 delivery fee, plus tax and that brought it to $595. We decided to go with delivery fee because it included them setting it up in her bedroom, not just dropping it at the door, and also because we would have had to borrow a truck that only gets 12 mpg and by the time we spent the gas for the 50 mile round trip and hurt our backs bringing this heavy piece of furniture in the house, it would pretty much have been a wash. Why have the hassle when for the same amount of money you get easy? It was delivered two days after we bought it.

We'd like to get one for our son in a few years when he stops being so destructive to property in the way only adventurous little boys can be. "Hey, Mom, what do you mean I can't stand inside a dresser drawer and jump up and down?" kind of destructive.

We made two other purchases for the household, a new microwave and a new toaster, for $128 altogether. We don't need a fancy microwave as all we do in it is defrost or heat things up, or cook the occassional batch of hamburger for spaghetti. The only thing I insisted on was a number pad and not something that cooks in increments of 1 minute, ten minutes and 1 hour. I hate pressing the ten button 3 times for 30 minutes. It's just one of my things. Other than that, it was good.

The reason we bought a toaster, too was because our old microwave was a toast-n-wave, that is it had a built in toaster. I really liked that whole thing except for the fact that you couldn't use the toaster feature and the microwave feature at the same time. Which was annoying, because I like to be cooking my bacon or sausage in the microwave while doing my toast and cooking eggs on the stove all at the same time. It's called multi-tasking and I couldn't quite do it right with that machine.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I noticed that it was taking twice as long as normal for meat to defrost in there, and then it was taking longer to cook a can of soup than normal, and then that the toast was not getting as dark on setting four as it used to and if you wanted it that dark you had to put it on setting nine. Then sometimes it would stop rotating, or it would turn on the light without turning on the power, or it would start up in the middle of the evening when no one was in the kitchen. So we decided to replace it. I'm happy with what we got and it is all working quite well. The wattage is a little higher than the old one so I'm having to adapt a bit. Things that took 2 minutes before take 1:40 now, that sort of thing.

---------------------------------------

Today was my first full day of homeschooling on my own. DH flew back to work last night and so it's just me and the kids for the next 16 days. I think it went a lot smoother. My son and my husband butt heads too easily, so even when he is home to help, from now on I'll be fully in charge of my son's schooling and DH can just help with our daughter's.

I think we're going to settle down into a nice routine now. I just wish the books would hurry up and come. There's only so much we can do with the online classes until the books arrive and that could take up to three weeks they said. There are quite a few hidden costs, too. They keep saying you just use things you commonly find around the household for science and art, but I'm sorry, I don't commonly keep modeling clay, straws, toothpicks, construction paper, brads or paper plates in my house. *sighs* I was expecting the costs of printer paper, ink, pencils, notebooks, paper and all that. These little nickel and dime things are going to drive me nuts though.

Trying to Beat the Cold

October 15th, 2008 at 02:54 pm

My room gets colder than the rest of the house for some reason during the winter. It also gets hotter than the rest of the house in the summer. The second part makes sense because the sun sets on my end of the house in the evenings and it's over there a good portion of the day, from about 1:00 or so on. Which to me means it should also be warmer in the evenings during the winter, but it's not. It never is.

We use a woodstove as our primary heatsource with the propane as back up. The propane furnace is set to 60 degrees so that if for some reason the woodstove doesn't make it through the night or burns out, the house won't drop below 60. The nights are already below freezing, have been since about mid-September and if the crawlspace under the house gets too cold the pipes will freeze. It's usually not a problem, I haven't had the furnace kick on in years.

Not that that matters at the moment. What matters is how cold my room is. I have to sleep with my door shut because I can't handle the light from the skylight in the living room coming in and keeping me awake, which means my room doesn't get the nice woodstove heat. I do have a little space heater that I use if it gets depserately cold, but mostly I survive with several blankets on the bed, sleep in sweats and wear slipper socks. This week I've had to use the space heater the past two nights to be warm enough to fall asleep. It has a timer on it so it doesn't run more than an hour before shutting off.

I've decided to put blankets up over my windows to see if that will help. I already have shades and very thick, heavy night curtains over the windows, but I can still feel cold coming in there, so I am going to put our two thick picnic quilts up over the window frames with thumbtacks and see if that doesn't help keep the room warmer. I really don't like using the space heater because it's electric and my electric bill is running just under $160 a month.

I wish I could just fall asleep when I was cold, but I can't. And losing sleep right now is not an option, as I'm fighting a cold and need to be alert enough in the mornings to homeschool the kids.

Yet Another Coin Jar Update and Bills

October 14th, 2008 at 09:49 pm

I added $1.33 to the change jar today. This was change from some gift certificates to McD's that we used as it was drive DH to the airport day. So no out of pocket money spent and change recieved.

$24.80 starting balance
+01.33 amount added
-------
$26.13 ending balance

I also paid bills today online:

$1000 to monthly travel expense Visa
$942 to unsecured loan
$15 to credit monitoring service for DH
$15 to credit monitoring service for me

The monthly travel expense covers DH's tickets to and from Alaska, his hotel overnight, travel food, etc. This is almost a fixed expense. The amount varies from month to month depending on the cost of airfare, but any extra money goes into a fund to pay that expense if it ever tops over $1000, which it on occassion does in the summer. Then the money left from the lower winter amounts is still there. We don't get reimubursed for any of it. But it's still cheaper to live where we do and pay that, then it is to move to Alaska and live there and not have the travel expense.

I did buy some other stuff this week, so I'll do that in a seperate post tomorrow. Major household stuff. Too tired to add more in tonight.

Yuck...I Had to Buy a New Purse Today

October 14th, 2008 at 01:14 am

I hate shopping for purses. It sucks. I am not a twenty purse kind of girl. I am a one purse kind of girl. Give me a good, solid purse with lots of slots for cards and photos so I can avoid carrying a wallet, and a nice old shoulder strap so it can go around my neck and across my body for maximum usage of my hands (a must with kids) and I'm happy. If I can find it in some shade of red or burgandy I'm even more happy, but that's not a deal breaker.

The shoulder strap came off my old purse, the leather tore right through. I was pretty bummed because I've already repaired it twice with heavy duty thread and needle, and my stitches always hold but the leather keeps tearing. And I don't overload my purse, so I think it's just bad quality craftmanship, even though the rest of it is perfectly fine and still even looks new. It was only a $5 purse though, so I figure two repairs is all I'm giving it. It'll make a good travel toiletry bag now because of its shape, so I'm giving it a new life rather than just throw it out.

Anyway, the new purse does meet the qualifications of lots of slots and enough compartments to hold things in the places I want them held and not require a wallet. It's not red though. *pouts* Still, it's black and perfectly serviceable. And it cost less than $18 with tax. I tugged hard on the straps to make sure they were strong. It's not leather, which I usually like to get, but again, it's not a deal breaker.

I just wish Penney's hadn't stopped carrying the really good purse that I liked. It would last a good two years without falling apart and then I'd buy a new one in a slighty different shade of red. They had them for ten years and the last two times I had to replace a purse they didn't have that style anymore even though they still carry the same brand. *pouts harder*

I also added money to the coin jar today.

$20.62 starting balance
$04.18 added amount
-------
$24.80 ending balance

I'm well on track for saving $30 for the month this way.

Lots of Rambling Thoughts

October 12th, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Yesterday we filled up our gas tank at $2.89 a gallon at Costco. I really hope it keeps dropping like this. It's freeing up about $50 a month in the gas budget at the moment. It's only been a few months since I was paying nearly $4 per gallon. If this keeps up I'll be adding the difference left over each month to our vacation savings account. Which will make us reach our goal that much faster.

This is the first time that we'll be doing a fully cash vacation ever (not that we haven't tried, but we didn't fully succeed before) and I want there to be no reason at all to fall back on excess credit card spending, so I'm trying to save up 1/3 more money than I think we'll actually need. Anything left over will go to seed the next big vacation, which we'd like to be a trip to Italy in five years, but that may be a pipedream. We'll see.

I'm not saying we won't use our credit cards on this trip at all. They are convenient and we will, but we will keep track of every dime and not go over what we have in savings and then pay it back immediately when we get home. There's a big difference between using cards on vacation and abusing cards on vacation.

But so far, condo is paid for (free from Mom), airfare is paid for (free with airmiles), and we're saving now for food we will eat and the tickets to get into the theme park. I've got over $500 and aiming for about $1500.

Fortunately DH has hit that point in the year, for the first time ever, where they stop taking out FICA (I think it's FICA) tax. So for the next 12 weeks we'll be getting quite a bit of extra money in his paychecks. $800 will go the vacation fund, and $800 will go to the emergency fund. The rest will go on debt.

I know that I should probably put more on debt, but our repayment is going at a pace that I'm happy with and honestly we've never had this kind of freedom before, really. It's been nose to the grindstone for so long and this last year of ease has made it so much nicer.

In return for this, though, we've buckled down on all the excess spending, especially the eating out. We had gotten to a ridiculous amount of meals out each month. Probably around $400, going out twice a week or more. That is a lot of unnecessary and wasteful expense. Almost every meal is at home now, though.

Oh, I found a box full of stuff we were given at Christmas from our extended family. Most of it was that kind of stuff that you will never use and people just give you because they feel obligated to give you something, but it's never something useful. Anyway, tucked inside was $20 worth of McDonald's gift certificates. So that's two free meals out if we order off the dollar menu, that I can save for a couple of crazy town days and not be tempted to spend real money from the budget on.

Okay, guess that's about it then.

Economical Recipe--Braided Chili Loaf

October 9th, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Since I've mostly been posting boring things like coin jar updates lately, I thought I'd pass along one of my favorite meals. It's pretty fast and easy to make, despite the fact that you have to assemble a dough for it and there's a short rising time, and it's delicious and tastes good cold as leftovers the next day if you want to take it for lunch. Of course, we never have leftovers, but you might. I like it because its ingredients are alway things I have on hand in the pantry, fridge and freezer. I've left out the salt and substituted the sharp cheddar for medium (which is cheaper) with little discernable difference in flavor.


Braided Chili Loaf

1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Dough:
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cornmeal


Preparation Instructions:

1. In a skillet, heat oil. Saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the beef and break up while browning.

2. Pour off any excess fat. Stir in tomato sauce, chili powder, basil, cumin, pepper and salt.

3. Cook a few minutes until sauce is absorbed. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, milk, oil, garlic, salt, and most of flour. Stir, adding enough flour to make a soft dough.

5. Knead a few minutes. Keep dough soft.

6. On a greased baking sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal, roll out dough to a rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. Spread meat mixture down center of dough. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

7. Cut 1 inch strips along both sides. Fold strips at an angle across filling. Cover. Let rise 30 minutes.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until golden. Slice and serve.

Original recipe from Great American Recipes.

Coin Jar Update

October 9th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Cleaned out my purse and DH cleaned out his wallet of coins and added to the coin jar today.

$18.26 beginning balance
$02.36 added
-------
$20.62 ending balance

Another Storm, Another Power Failure, and Coin Jar Update

October 7th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

We lost power again last night again during a windstorm. Fortunately it was only for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, it didn't really affect us and we didn't lose any food because of it.

We've started using the wood stove for heat now anyway and will be for the rest of the year and through spring of next year, so we had heat. It'll be nice not to have a heating bill. All that work we did the summer of '07 will finally pay off. It's nice dry wood now and it heats very well compared to some we've had in the past.

I cleaned out my coin compartment in my purse today and had five ones so I added $7.12 to my coin jar.

$11.14 starting balance
$07.12 added
-------
$18.26 new balance

Not bad for only one week into October. All coin jar money goes towards vacation. DH says he put some money in there too, so the amount is a bit higher, but I don't want to dump and count it out. He doesn't think it was more than fifty cents.

Big Storm and Power Failure

October 5th, 2008 at 10:56 am

Well, I say big storm. Not exactly a hurricane or the like, but relatively big for our area. It was enough to knock power out through much of NW Washingtion, us included. It went out at about five, just when I was in the middle of cooking a lasagna. It went into the fridge with a bag of ice from the freezer so it didn't heat it up too badly in there.

First thing we did was clean off the woodstove and the surrounding area while it was still light. It's kind of been used as a catch all for the summer. It only took about 20 minutes to get it cleared and to empty the ash from last year. DH was supposed to have done that before we shut it down for the summer, but he forgot. Apparently.

Anyway, we didn't end up needing to use the woodstove because the temperature outside didn't drop below 58 degrees. But it's cleared now, so the few nights when it's dropped down to the 30's and 40's and I've had to use the propane will be a thing of the past. We intend to use the wood stove for the rest of the fall/winter/spring. We have all the free wood we cut up and chopped from the summer of '07 and it is bone dry now. So no more heating bills after the next propane bill comes due. It's got maybe 3 weeks of sporadic use on it.

We did end up going out for dinner in a little town down the mountain about fifteen minutes drive away, where they still had power. The place we wanted to go was packed so badly people were eating outside under the awning, in the rain. No thank you.

We ended up at a smaller family style restaurant that is tucked away from the main strip. It was good food and everybody cleared their plates, but the cost was still higher than I like to pay on a meal out for four. With tip it came to $63. Won't be doing that again for a while, but it was great service and delicious.

If we'd had the makings for anything that wasn't raw or didn't need to be heated up, we'd have done that instead. We were even out of peanut butter and bread, but I go shopping today to remedy that. We've been eating out of our cupboards for three months while we use up stuff that's been there for ages. Empty cupboards just happened to coincide with power failure. *sighs*

We had power back before we went to bed when they'd been anticipating not having it back until today some time. Not too bad, considering.

Emergency Fund Goal

October 1st, 2008 at 12:13 am

So we are slowly building our emergency fund back up. I met my primary goal of getting back up to $1000 last month. Now I'm setting a goal for $2000. I no longer do the $10 a week deposit, instead I now do $150 every four weeks and then if there is any little bits of extra money I'll send it along, too.

$1061.96 beginning balance
150.00 deposit
---------
$1211.96 ending balance

Only $788.04 to go. I reckon that'll take me five months to save up for, but I can do it.

Coin Jar Goal

October 1st, 2008 at 12:01 am

Well, it's been a long time since I've done one of these, but I thought it'd be nice to get back to it again. All coin jar money will go for vacation savings. I will save all coin and throw in one dollar bills, too. When I was doing this before I was averaging about $30 to $40 a month.

$7.94 starting change
$3.20 amount added from purse
------
11.14 ending balance