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Archive for December, 2011

Grandparents' House and Our Old House

December 31st, 2011 at 10:18 pm

An offer was put in on DH's grandparents' house pending inspection. The inspection has been finished and they are now at the talking stages. The house is free and clear. We had thought maybe they'd have to pay the government back some money from when the grandparents were in the nursing home, but I guess between rental from the house and social security, it covered their nursing home bill as they went.

Anyway, the will stipulates that each of the grandchildren will get 5% of the estate. The house is the only thing left of the estate so if it does sell, DH will be looking at about $7000 to $8000 in inheritance. So will his sister, which will help her immeasurably right now.

It's been a long time since they died, but the house has only been on the market since October. There is a second offer on the table if the first one falls through. I like those odds. The house is move-in ready so closing would be as long or as short as the new owners want. A fast closing would be great, but I'm certainly not going to count any chickens before they hatch.

I'm not sure what we'd spend it on. I guess it depends on how much is left on the credit card after we pay the bonus money and the tax return money to it. I would like to put in new carpets and doors out at the house and do a little touch up painting so we can get the dang thing on the market finally.

I still haven't heard whether or not the HOA was dissolved or not. I've been setting the money aside each month for dues. Normally half year dues are due at the end of January. I haven't gotten any bill yet and it usually comes around Christmas time. We'll have to ask the neighbors next time we go out. It's not much, $100 every six months, but if we don't have to pay it, it can go elsewhere.

On Tuesday we are going to run $2500 through the HSA account and then we will pay $5000 to BoA VISA. It will be nice to see that number drop so substantially. I'll also be making a mortgage payment, paying the AMEX, the electric for the old house, and the tae kwon do payment. I've got a couple smaller medical bills to pay as well. I need to balance the checkbook first though and see exactly where we stand right now.

Still in Pain

December 30th, 2011 at 05:55 am

First the financial stuff. I added $2.33 to the coin jar today. I paid the water/sewer bill for the old house ($144 for two months, set fee, really wish they'd go on metered) and the propane bill for the old house ($116.25). We finally turned the furnace on about a month ago out there. It is on 55 to keep the pipes from freezing.

I paid $90 for a deep tissue massage today and the monthly family chiropractic plan of $215. It wasn't due until January 3, but he is raising it $10 as of the first, so if we paid early we could get one more month in at the old amount. I'm not upset at him raising it. It's been $215 for the last five years.

I think there is going to be quite a bit of medical expense next month. Fortunately I have the full amount of the deductible ($2500) saved up already. I wasn't wanting to spend it that soon, of course, but I have it set aside, and that is what matters. It won't break us and it won't wipe out our emergency fund.

I am still having a lot of pain right now, hence my quietness the last few days on here. There has been some improvement. The low back isn't as bad and the right side has let up, but the left hip is killing me, along with the piriformis in particular, the psoas muscle, the IT band, the quads, the hamstring and the calf muscles. I am learning far more about the anatomy of the hip and thigh than I ever really wanted to know.

Of course the knee is it's usual self but the rest is actually far, far worse right now. The physical therapist thinks we just went too far too fast and that the hip issues may have been causing all of my knee problems for the last year. I am torn between wanting it to "just" be muscle strain or something serious that can be fixed with more than time and rest.

I will be seeing a PA at my orthopedic doctor's office on January 4th to rule out anything more than muscle problems in the hip. Not my own doctor, or even my doctor's PA, which annoys me, but I would have had to wait until January 30th to see mine, even with such severe pain. My opinion on that is pretty...colorful.

Fortunately my general practitioner will prescribe the needed medications. He knows how much I hate narcotics and will avoid them until I absolutely can't. I've done pretty well with ibuprofen and ice during the day, but unfortunately I need the stronger stuff at night or I won't sleep (fortunately only the 375/5 mg, not the 750/7.5 mg which leaves me looped out of my head), and an 800 mg muscle relaxant. Either way, I'm not driving anywhere.

I'd really like this to be over now. I am so tired of being in pain. I miss my active lifestyle.

/whine

Coin Jar/Emergency Fund Update

December 27th, 2011 at 05:18 am

I haven't actually spent any money since Friday to have any change to put in the coin jar since I've been pretty much flat on my back in bed or on a recliner until today, but DH has so I raided his wallet (with permission, of course!) and took all his ones and all but two quarters of his change (for parking meters). I ended up with $11.18 to put in the coin jar.

I also transferred $100 to the emergency fund at ING, bringing it to $2863.08 and the total EF to $3571.61, so I have hit my end of the year/December goal of getting the EF to $3500. Yay. Next short term goal is to hit $4000.

I've already earned $4.50 in interest this month according to ING's daily running thingy, so I'm pretty sure I'll get at least five bucks to add to the EF from that by the end of the month.

Some people make fun of nickeling and diming your way to savings, but it certainly works for me.

Christmas Went Well

December 25th, 2011 at 09:34 pm

First off a Merry Christmas to all my celebrating SA friends and a lovely 25th of December to the rest of you.

I think we had the best Christmas ever with the in-laws this year. We went there yesterday and it was just so wonderful. It was the first Christmas without yelling. Usually SIL and ex-BIL or ex-BIL and eldest neice or SIL and eldest neice would get into and pretty much ruin the day for everyone else. SIL's boyfriend is a very nice man. I hope they make it work.

This is our fourth Christmas post ex-BIL and the first Christmas the SIL and neice did not have a big blow up. There were a couple of potential blow outs that could have happened, but either my daughter or I recognized the signs and acted accordingly.

Youngest neice was teasing eldest neice about being held back a year and not being as smart as her and I jumped in and put a stop to that. The year before eldest neice was held back was the toughest of her life with the divorce and being severely bullied at school. Youngest neice hadn't known about the bullying (she was too young then) and it made an abrupt about face in her behavior. Other than that everyone was happy. It was so nice.

Christmas at home has been nice, too. And the list of loot makes me quite happy, too, because no money was wasted this year on things people had no use for or didn't want.

I personally walked away with a new crockpot to replace the one that cooks everything on high regardless of the low setting, an LED candle, a music CD I wanted, an Alaskan Ulu knife (should make chopping onions so much easier) and a Belgian waffle maker. Then in my non-practical presents (that I still wanted) I got series six of the new Doctor Who and two collectible action figures (yes, I'm a nerd). I got Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor in his cowboy hat. They still haven't made a Rory doll, but if they ever do, I want one.

The kids were all happy with what they got, though a couple things haven't arrived in the mail yet. DH was happy to, though again, he is waiting on one thing that had to be special ordered. But we are all so happy that there was no fighting this year, we could have received no gifts and it wouldn't have mattered. It was just a good family time. And that's the best present of all.

Last Minute Perfect Gift and Oh, My Aching Back

December 24th, 2011 at 05:09 am

Well, we came up with the perfect gift for DH's eldest neice who is impossible to shop for (at least in the amount we are willing to spend on her). It's not one she asked for, but it's something she is dying for. And it's in our price range. Right now, neither of her parents can afford the extra cost for her to take her driving test and then pay for her license if she passes. So I made up a little card saying that we would pay for her first driving test and her license.

I put first in there just in case she doesn't pass the first time, though that's more to tease her than anything else, because by all accounts she is a cautious, careful driver. I talked to her parents first, to make sure it was only money and not them not wanting her to take it yet and using money as an excuse (though I thought that unlikely). She is already on their car insurances so it isn't an issue of that, either. So DH will go with SIL and neice to the DMV the day of the test and pay for it. We won't give the money directly.

Younger neice was easier to shop for (a couple of DVD's and a CD she wanted). We settled on a Target gift card for SIL. She wanted shoes for work and a new top and pants for work. She also needs things like shampoo, toothpaste and general toiletries. Things food stamps don't pay for. So we put on enough for the clothes and the other and anything left over she might use either on food or some other thing she needs or even just wants.

SIL is doing much better. She sounds like she's back to normal over the phone and she was out Christmas shopping today with FIL so she must be worlds better. Hard to believe she was just in the hospital.

I am not doing quite so good. Today during physical therapy my legs just collapsed on me. I was in the pool and it was only 3 feet deep, so not too bad a deal. I've got severe pain in my low back and both hips and then it radiates down the quads and the IT bands on the sides of the thighs (knees are fine, surprisgingly). I got them back under me again and managed to get out of the pool. PT got a walker and I used it to go and change which was horrifically painful.

PT decided to call the session quits and did an ultrasound treatment and then some soft tissue massage and then put a ginormous ice pack on me for ten minutes. I had to use one of the hospital walkers to get out to the car. I am really, really hoping it is just a pinched nerve and nothing horrible like a slipped or ruptured disk.

I made it into the house okay between DH and my cane (though it was pretty excruciating) and put ice on again and didn't move until 3 hours later. We managed to get me to the chiropractor and I had an adjustment (hurt like blazes) and it was really out, but after an hour the pain eased up a little, from like a ten to an eight. My regular doctor called in a muscle relaxant for me and I took that with my hydrocodone. That is helping a little, but not so much as one would think it should. I'm down to about a seven on the pain scale.

I put a call into the specialist who prescribed the physical therapy for my knee, whose nurse was supposed to call me back. I called at one and it is now nine, so I'm thinking I won't hear anything until Monday. *grumble grumble* Physical therapist said to either lay flat or all the way back in a recliner for the next two days. Oh, this will be a fun holiday. I was going to make my Christmas lasagna tonight, but that ain't happening. Oh, well. In-laws will have turkey.

Fortunately the front seat in the van reclines almost fully. DD will have to sit in the third row, but oh, well. At least we can transport me in less discomfort than upright. And then I will go straight to one of the in-laws' recliners. I am taking my icebag with me. It'll be kind of nice to be waited on hand and foot instead of in the kitchen all afternoon, but I would trade it for mobility and no pain any day.

Oh, well. I will still try to have the best time I can. And if I don't get on again between now and Christmas, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and happy celebratory season to those who don't.

Emergency Fund Update and Musings

December 22nd, 2011 at 09:47 pm

I took the money from the coin jar and deposited it into the safety net portion of the EF that is kept at a local CU. It was $35.50.

$3426.11 Total Emergency Fund
+__35.50 Deposit to SN
--------------------
$3461.61 Total EF

The safety net is now at $708.53. I will stop building it at $1000, so I still need to come up with $291.47 to get that where I want it to be, but this is an open ended goal and I am happy with the slow build up using coin jar money or the occasional rebate check.

Really, I just want enough in the safety net to be able to survive a few days at a hotel if the house burned down or a tree fell on it, or something. Or if I had all four tires slashed or something. After a few days any transfer from the main account would arrive, so $1000 feels like a good number to have locally.

I need to still come up with $38.39 to meet my December/end of the year goal of getting the EF to $3500. I still have $67.35 in my unallocated funds portion of the Holding Tank so I may use that if I need to.

A Stressful Couple of Days

December 22nd, 2011 at 09:13 pm

After not sleeping for 48 hours I got about 9 hours of sleep. I still feel quite tired, but much more alert than yesterday. DH's sister was allowed to go home, even though she looked like death warmed over. I haven't seen that kind of pain on her face before, and I was there when she was in heavy, unproductive labor with her first child, so that is saying something.

According to all the tests her heart is healthy and she didn't have a heart attack. And they don't know what she did have. It was possible there was a blood clot and they just couldn't find it. A lot of other things are possible, too. I really am kind of annoyed at the hospital for sending her home without finding what caused enough pain for them to give her four doses of morphine in 18 hours time.

I had physical therapy in the pool yesterday morning. It seems to be improving my knee, but it is killing my low back and left hip. I've been alternating heat and cold on it, but the muscles will not relax. I think I'm going to call the doctor when he gets back from his lunch break and ask him about a muscle relaxant, because this hurts far more than I want to cope with and the hydrocodone makes me sick to my stomach and it's not a medicine I want to take very often, especially when it was prescribed for my knee pain, not my new sudden back pain, which started with the first pool therapy session and has not stopped.

DH finally got home late yesterday morning and then we spent a fair amount of time at the hospital to see his sister. After that we did some banking. The bonus check had fingerprint security requested so it didn't get deposited until yesterday after all. But they said there was no hold on it, as they've been taking that company's direct deposits for a year with no worries.

I am tempted to send $5000 to ING to sit in that account for the twenty days earning interest before transferring it back to pay on the debt it is earmarked for, since that bill doesn't come due until the 21st of January.

Prayers, Again

December 21st, 2011 at 05:30 pm

It's like a roller coaster around here. Up and down, good news, bad news. I could really use a level playing field right about now. I never really believed that old saw about bad things happening in threes, but this is the third time this has happened to someone in the family in two years.

My sister-in-law was admitted to the hospital last night. Mother-in-law called at ten last night. So far today they've run three MRIs, an EKG, and something else...CaT scan, maybe. I don't know for sure. They might be looking for blood clots. I got it second hand from DH who talked to his mother right before he called me. They gave her nitroglycerine.

I feel so bad for SIL's kids. Their father is the one who had two heart attacks last month. Now their mother goes in to the hospital for chest pains? Everyone was hoping it was just an anxiety attack, but underneath it, we all know that FIL had a myocardial infarction just two years ago (which burst, fortunately, while he was in surgery or he'd be dead) and heart problems can be genetic. So we are all pretty freaked out. But what are the odds? FIL, Ex-BIL, and now SIL? I know they say bad things happen in threes, but seriously?

I do not know how SIL is going to afford all this. She has no insurance. She barely makes above minimum wage and of course has no sick pay. She's already not getting child support this month and last because ex-BIL can't return to work until January. We've been helping where we can, but we can't give her that much money. A couple spare hundred dollars helps with groceries and elecric bills, not major tests in a hospital. She may lose her house (which is a subsidized mortgage and in-laws were already helping pay the mortgage) and have to move in with her parents.

DH is going down to the insurance office when he gets home and taking out both short-term and long-term disability insurance. I've had it with all this business. Life insurance is not enough anymore for me to feel secure. Not with those genetics. I'm hedging our bets right now. And darn it, but he is going on a diet and starting an exercise program whether he wants to or not. He's already got high BP. I am not going to lose him to a heart attack.

Also, DH's plane from Seattle to home has been cancelled, because the weather here is bad. *looks out window* No, it's not. Something about a low cloud ceiling and the plane from Hawaii circling the runway and not being able to land, so the plane from Seattle isn't even going to take off and try. It's mildly overcast. Come on, planes, this is why you have technology. So you can land even when you can't see the runway. Urgh. They are offering them ground transportation, which means, traffic permitting, he should arrive here right around the time I am starting physical therapy. I guess he can sit at the airport for an extra hour. They have wifi, so he'll be fine, so long as his sister doesn't up and die while he's sitting there.

Bonus Check Just Arrived!

December 20th, 2011 at 09:37 pm

Okay, so the bonus check came and though it's not as high as rumored (which was 10% of yearly income), it's still pretty high at 5% of yearly income.

Before taxes the bonus was $7203. After taxes it was $5297.81. And we should get most of what was taxed back with our federal tax return since DH has already hit the cap on income tax withholding for the year in early November.

Our tax return is going to be huge between this and our medical stuff. And all of that will go to debt repayment, just like almost all of this.

DH gets home tomorrow, but I will deposit the check without his signature. They will let me do that if I don't try to withdraw money right away. I'm sure the CU will want to hold it for a few days anyway to make sure it clears, so the sooner it's in, the sooner it clears. Also, I don't like keeping anything of value at home as it is always at risk for a break in.

Figuring Things Out

December 20th, 2011 at 08:02 pm

Okay, so, as I've mentioned before I've been saving for this patch where DH will be off work for 4 weeks. So far I have saved $4,483. After running the numbers and setting up the January budget, It looks like we might be able to get by almost completely on the next two paychecks for the majority of the bills between now and the first January paycheck which will be on the 26th. We need a total of $5,200 to meet bills, plus the amount of debt repayment needed.

The next two paychecks should provide between $4800 and $5,100 depending on what they take out for medical. And I know that first January paycheck will have the full medical deduction taken out of it, so need to plan accordingly for that throwing things off.

So my plan for the $4,483 tentatively is to use $2500 for the HSA, which is the amount of our deductible. That will leave us with $1983. If all goes well, during those four weeks and nothing unexpected crops up, I will then put $1000 of the remainder into the Emergency Fund and then when I am sure of where things shake out, I'll add whatever is left to debt repayment. We've had to skimp a bit on debt repayment while saving up the $4,483 so I'd like some of it to go back towards it.

Logging Friday's Bills

December 20th, 2011 at 07:49 pm

And I've managed to procrastinate it all the way until Tuesday, but here are the bills I paid from the most recent paycheck.

$1300.00 to BoA
__300.00 to Mom for utilities
___44.89 landline at old house
___65.56 internet
__757.82 car payment (plus extra to principal)
__243.46 Laptop Fund
__115.25 Medical
__150.00 Groceries
___12.00 DD allowance
____7.00 DS allowance
--------------------------
$2995.28
-_100.00 to the Emergency Fund
---------------------------
$3095.98

Not Really Much of Anything, But a Little Bit of Everything

December 20th, 2011 at 05:47 am

I added $4.10 to the coin jar today.

I put $5 in a Salvation Army kettle.

I spent $10.90 at the grocery store.

I got gas today. It was $3.249 per gallon and I put in 16.213 gallons @ $52.68.

I am out of cash until Friday, but I have $67 in the checking account.

The bonus check did not come today. I thought it had, but it was only DH's paystub from Friday arriving in the mail (as we have direct deposit). Way to get my hopes up and watch them fall. DH will probably be home (Wednesday) before it shows up, but I live in hope.

I am mostly over my cold, just still have the cough lingering. My knee feels better but my hip hurts like blazes. These new physical therapy exercises are hard on it, but do seem to be strengthening my knee.

Finished Most of My Christmas Shopping

December 18th, 2011 at 07:46 pm

I spent a nice leisurely morning on the internet and bought presents for both of my children and my husband. I did well and stayed within our Christmas budget. While I was at it, I ordered two things for my birthday in February that had no chance of shipping in time for Christmas. DH has one thing he wants to get at a local gaming shop in town so he will go down there and pick that up in person when he gets back, but for immediate family, I'm done. We also have his parents done. Since I don't exchange with any of my birth family (a decision made long ago), I only need to buy stuff for destitute SIL and her two children.

I know that the youngest wants a Green Day CD, but not which one. The oldest wants everything that is expensive (like an I-pod), but doesn't mind used. Normally I just buy her jewelry. Once DH is home we may scour the pawn shops in the hopes of finding an inexpensive used ipod that works. These girls won't get much this Christmas as their mom is barely making it and their dad just had those heart attacks and can't work again until some time in January. So not only no income from Dad, but no child support from the dad this month, which makes things even tighter on the mom.

I am wondering if maybe we should go a little expensive for the girls this year. It's not like we couldn't swing a couple of dream gifts for them. I know younger neice would like a used DSi. Normally we only spend about $25 to $30 each on them, but considering it is such a bad year for them and we are in such a good place...I don't know. I'll have to talk to DH about it and then talk to SIL about it, because I don't want to damage her pride. Yet, she was willing to take money from us when we offered it, so maybe she would be okay about it.

I'd also like to get another $100 to SIL next payday to help with her bills. As for a gift for her, I don't know. I'd really like to get her something helpful, but all I can think of that is helpful is more money or grocery store gift cards. Maybe a Target or WalMart gift card (since both of them are now remodeled to be grocerers as well). That way if she needs something specific, like an appliance, she can pick one out and if not, she can still use it to buy groceries, toiletries, or needed clothing.

I Hate to Do It

December 17th, 2011 at 07:10 pm

I really, really hate to do it, but I am going to have to raise my grocery budget. I spent so much time getting it down from $800 a month to $500 a month, so to raise it just feels like I'm taking a step backward. I know that I'm not. I know that it is that prices on real food are rising and that real food seldom has coupons. But it just annoys me so much.

It's like the year I spent getting my electric bill down by doing things like line and rack drying my clothes, cooking more than one thing in the oven at a time, replacing all the light bulbs in the house with CF ones and making sure lights weren't left on all night or radios, TVs, and fans weren't left on all day. I got my bill down to $90 and then a few months later they raised the rates and it was right back up to $109 again. It was so frustrating.

I know it's not me or my shopping habits. It's simply that the cost of food is going up and there just isn't really any other option (for now) but to pay higher prices or go back to eating manufactured foods. Well, I won't do the latter. We have too many allergies.

I've been keeping track of prices the last few months just to make sure that what I've been seeing is real, and I haven't just been hitting a high price week at the stores. But it is. Milk has gone up 50 cents a gallon. Chicken has gone up 30 cents a pound. Beef has gone up $2 a pound (except hamburger which has gone up $1 a pound). The all beef hotdogs I buy at TJ's have gone up 50 cents. Pork has gone up 20 cents a pound. Turkey is up 50 cents a pound (not counting the on sale for the holidays whole ones). I'm assuming eggs are up, too, but we have chickens so I don't pay attention to that much. Butter is up by $1 a pound. So are most of the cheeses (though they do still go on sale). Yogurt is up from $1 to $1.25. Ice cream is about $1 more per container. The fish counter scares me. It's not worth buying fish anymore unless you buy the whole fish and have it filleted in the store (much cheaper and they let you take the backbone, head and tail for making chowder since you've paid for the whole fish).

It's not just meat and dairy prices, either. Canned goods have risen anywhere from 20 cents to $1 more per can. Frozen foods are up about $1 a box or bag. Fresh produce, well, you can still get cheap bananas, oranges, onions and cabbage, but forget cheap potatoes or apples. They don't exist anymore, not even in this prime apple growing state. Most apples are $1.29 a pound and the specialty apples are closer to $1.79. I can still remember when you could get a couple kinds of apples for 29 cents a pound. And it wasn't my childhood. It was only ten years ago.

Even broccoli and cauliflower, which should be low right now are over $1.50 a pound. Although the $2 lettuce seems to be a thing of the past (mostly because people wouldn't pay it) I am keeping a sharp eye on it. I am eyeing unfamiliar vegetables like mustard greens, kale, and chard simply because the prices are lower. I will be looking up recipes to see if there is anything I might like with these veggies. I am making sweet potatoes more often because regular potatoes have gotten so high.

But even so, I have decided I will have to raise my grocery budget from $500 a month to $600 a month. Hopefully that will be enough to make up for the rising prices. And hopefully the prices will hold steady for a while. Because I'm tired of the only beef we ever eat anymore being hamburger or pot roast.

Next fall I hope to order half a beef and maybe a lamb. At least I'll be able to get some decent prices then. For now, meal planning will get more strict, I'll have to make more stews, chilis and stir-fries and less of the traditional big chunks of protein with two sides meals. Hopefully I can keep it to $600.

Emergency Fund/Coin Jar Update, Bills Done

December 16th, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I transferred $100.00 to ING today to the Emergency Fund.

$3326.11 Starting EF
+_100.00 Deposit
-------------
$3426.11 Total EF

I need to come up with $73.89 to hit my December/end of the year EF goal of $3500.

I also added $12.87 to the coin jar, which was what was left of my cash from the first half of December. There is probably enough in the coin jar to make a deposit to the Safety Net portion of the EF, but I won't be going by there until Monday, so no point in counting it up right now.

Today is payday so I will do my usual payday post either tonight or tomorrow. All the bills have been paid or mailed and entered into the budget spreadsheet, but my hip is bugging me a lot after physical therapy so I don't feel like typing it up at the moment.

Bonuses were mailed today. Now it's just a waiting game.

Marking Time

December 15th, 2011 at 06:00 pm

Do you ever feel like you're just marking time, waiting for something to happen? Right now I've been feeling that a lot lately. Like I've been marking time, waiting for payday to come this week, so I can get on with things. Even though we are not living quite paycheck to paycheck anymore, with money in the bank, I still have to wait on some things for payday. Like debt repayment. And tomorrow I get to make some.

This week has dragged by, not helped by the fact that DS was sick all week. He went to school today for the first time on the condition that he call me if he starts feeling yucky and needs to come home. I excused him from PE today so he can just sit it out and be a zombie all day if he needs to be.

Of course, I also feel like I am marking time, waiting for the yearly bonus to arrive. Checks are to be mailed on the 16th. In the past when they've mailed a check it's arrived on the day that it was supposed to be mailed on, so a part of me can't help hoping it will show up on Saturday, though the more practical part of me knows it may be a few days longer. I just want to know the amount so I can plan how much debt gets paid off from it.

I'm also marking time until DH comes home, which is Wednesday. And of course marking time until Christmas. I'd kind of like to get this mentality out of my head and just enjoy the next few weeks.

I added $5.43 to the coin jar this morning. I have $44.49 left in checking and $15 in cash until tomorrow. That gives me enough to go ahead and buy the pure maple syrup for DS that we ran out of. I hadn't balanced the check book yet this week and didn't realize there was still that much in there.

Syrup is about $18 or $19 a jug for the kind he uses. He'll be happy to have pancakes again tomorrow morning. I was going to make some homemade syrup but then I got sick and didn't. He's been eating toast with his egg the last three mornings, but he much prefers pancakes and being as I've been buying bread instead of baking it lately, pancakes are much cheaper to make as well, even with the cost of syrup since he doesn't use that much, and the cost of his special bread is $5 a loaf.

*yawns* Okay, I'm going back to bed. Maybe a nap will help fight off this lovely cold DS was so kind to share with me.

Not Much Today

December 14th, 2011 at 05:02 pm

I found a quarter this morning and added it to the coin jar.

I checked my interest at ING for the month so far and based on that I should earn $5 in interest. Maybe a bit more as I intend to send some money there on Friday and on the 23rd as well. Won't be to much more, though.

Has anyone heard from ThriftyRay lately? Feels like it's been a while and she was really sad last time she posted.

I had my first physical therapy appointment with the new place on Monday. It went well. We will be doing pool therapy for the next 3 sessions, then after that we'll be back on dry land again. I like the therapist. He's an older man, probably in his mid to late 60's. His hair is pure white. It's the color I want my hair to be when I am a little old lady.

Homemade Stir-Fry Kits

December 13th, 2011 at 12:59 am

Last night I assembled some homemade stir-fry kits. These are similar to what you can buy in the store, generally in the Asian section of the freezer aisle, but of course I get to choose the ingredients and make sure that everything is just to my liking.

Because I happened to have 5.5 pound bag of stir-fry veggies on hand I used that, but any fresh veggies cut into strips or any pre-frozen veggies will do. First I will show you how I made my kits and then I will add some recipes for making them from scratch.

First I started with 3.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs (after shrinkage this will make 3 packets). You can choose white meat if you prefer it. We like dark.



Grill chicken pieces or cook in a pan. I used a George Foreman grill. I seasoned with salt and pepper only, however much you'd normally put on. Then I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.



Once the chicken has cooled, place approximately 1 pound in a baggy. You can use a freezer baggy, but I used sandwich ones because they will be placed in a larger freezer baggy at the end of assembly.



Put two cups of your vegetables into a baggy.



Put one baggy of chicken and one baggy of veggies into a gallon size freezer bag.



For your sauce you have a couple of choices. For a dark sauce combine 1 cup of soy sauce (I use a gluten free, low sodium, no preservatives type), 1/4 cup of honey (or 1/4 cup brown sugar), 1 inch of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or 1/4 cup ground ginger), and 2 large cloves of garlic peeled and minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 tsp dried garlic). I usually use fresh on the garlic and ginger, but I was out of fresh ginger. I had some leftover sesame seeds from the last time we got takeout so I dumped a tablespoon of those in, too. For a light sauce use chicken broth instead of soy sauce.



Combine ingredients for sauce in a bowl and whisk together. Whisk the sauce for each packet by itself. If you combine it all together you may not have an even distribution of ingredients as the honey can make things sluggish. You can either dump this into a baggy or pour into a 1.5 cup plastic container. Freeze the sauce upright before placing in the gallon size Ziploc with chicken and veggies. Your kit is complete. I don't have a photo of this final step as my camera batteries died.

When you are ready to make this, first take out the sauce and put it in a hot water bath to thaw. It probably won't be completely frozen if you use honey. Heat oil in a wok or deep saute pan on medium high heat. I use peanut oil or olive oil depending on what I have. When oil is hot add the frozen chicken packet and stir for 3 to 5 minutes until chicken is thawed and hot. Add frozen veggie packet and stir for about 3 to 5 minutes until veggies are thawed and hot. Your sauce should now be thawed. Dump into pan and stir for one minute. (If you want a thicker sauce you can add a tbsp of corn starch now, but I don't bother). Turn heat down to low and cover, simmering for 2 minutes. It's done.

For my family one of these stir-fry kits would be enough to feed me, my 15 year old daughter, and my 11 year old son. If DH is home I would make 2 packets and there might be a little left over for his lunch the next day.


Other recipes to prepare the same way:

Pork Stir Fry

1 pound cheap pork loin or boneless chops, grilled (s&p) and cut into bite sized pieces
4 green onions
6 ounces snow peas
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut thin on the diagonal
8 ounces fresh or canned bamboo shoots

Sauce:
1 cup low sodium, gluten free soy sauce
cup brown sugar
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes


Beef and Peppers Stir-Fry Kit.

1 pound chuck steak, grilled (s&p) and cut into bite sized pieces
1 white onion cut into strips
2 cups of bell pepper strips (red, yellow, orange)

Sauce:
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup low sodium, gluten free soy sauce
cup honey
2 tbsp sesame seeds


Chicken and Vegetables Stir-Fry Kit

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, grilled (s&p) and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups mixed vegetables (snow peas, carrots cut on the diagonal, broccoli, cauliflower, celery cut on the diagonal, 1 can water chestnuts)
1 regular yellow onion cut into strips

Sauce:
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup low sodium, gluten free soy sauce
cup honey

FM, TJ's, and Meal Kit Cooking

December 12th, 2011 at 01:40 am

I spent $17.70 at Fred Meyer today. DS got his pillow and DD got her box of hair dye. Had a coupon for the hair dye. Then we stopped at Trader Joe's and got their nitrate/nitrite free pastrami, black forest ham, and roasted turkey for school lunches. The regular roast beef looked weird (kind of shiny and scaled) so we got the pastrami instead. I still have plenty of tortillas and baby spinach for wraps which is what they like in their lunches these days.

We also got a bag of peppermint taffy (no artificial ingredients or food dyes). All of the other kids have been bringing in Christmas candy and DS wanted something he could have that he's not allergic to so he doesn't feel so left out. This fit the bill. I spent a total of $15.56 there.

Has anyone else noticed that often cashier's fail to give you your total at the end of checking your groceries these days? It happened at both FM and TJ's today and I have noticed this more and more of late. Only one of these had a easily viewable screen for me to see the total on. The girl finishes checking and then starts wiping her stuff down without ever telling me the total. I don't like that type of customer service. Maybe they are so used to people just swiping their cards, but what about those of us who still use cash or write checks? It's not as bad as the checkers that talk to each other over your head and never greet you, but close.

I should be able to stay out of the stores until Friday now. That is the plan anyway, though I might have to buy bread. Or just download the manual for the bread machine Mom gave me and make some.

I made broccoli and beef stir-fry for dinner. It was the last of the bagged kits. I'll be making them from scratch from now on, but I am going to make my own kits, because it's really the prep work that takes the time. If I pre-do all the prep work then I will still be able to have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, which is quicker than driving to pick up a pizza or burgers and much, much healthier. I've got some time tonight so I will make up some of my own kits. I will let you know how that goes.

I Forgot to Mention

December 11th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I have been taken off my most expensive medicine. The pills cost $150 a month until the deductible is met and $60 a month after, so I had been planning I'd have to have $150 to set aside each month for that come January. But at my appointment yesterday the doctor says I no longer need it. It was planned into the overall HSA money in next year's budget, so it will stay there anyway, but now it can be used for other medical reasons.

This means I am down to two prescriptions that I take daily and one that I take only occasionally as needed. Considering a year ago I was on five, I am very happy.

Also, I added $2.60 to the coin jar.

It's Been a Long, Spendy Weekend

December 11th, 2011 at 08:20 pm

I'm glad I have all day to rest because we have been running since 10 a.m. Friday when I picked up my daughter from school and the two of us went down to VM for another surgical followup appointent. I have been given a clean bill of health for that and have been told it was my final followup. He said I've healed so well he can hardly see the scar, so that was wonderful news.

Driving wasn't too bad. We arrived in Seattle close to noon. I paid for valet hospital parking $10, because it is only $2 more and it is very much worth that $2 to me to not try and park the mini-van in those narrow little slots and then have to navigate traffic on foot back to the hospital. Plus there is no elevator in the parking garage and I still have such difficulty on stairs. I didn't want to set myself up for a painful knee for the rest of the weekend.

We ate lunch in the hospital cafeteria. This weekend has been long planned for and the money set aside so even though we ate out this weekend, I don't consider it part of the no eating out thing I'm doing, even if technically it is. Anyway, we spent $23.22 on lunch. I had the pot roast special which was roast beef, baby red potatoes and my choice of broccoli or mixed vegetables. I chose mixed veg. I also got an orange and a drink. My daughter ended up with a mega slice of pizza, a bag of chips, a chinese bean thing (not sure exactly what it was) and a soda. They've raised the prices since the last time we ate there.

It was one by the time we were done eating and we decided to go up early, even though my appointment wasn't until two. Sometimes they will take you early. They did, after ten minutes and I was out of there by two. It took a little bit to get our van and then we hit the road. Traffic wasn't too bad and we were in Marysville by three thirty, where we stopped at Fashion Bug.

DD got 2 pairs of jeans, a hoody, and 4 camisoles and I got 3 sets of long sleeved pajamas with full length bottoms and one long-sleeved thermal shirt. I remembered to bring my coupon. It cost $275.83. A bit pricier than I had hoped for, but still 100 times cheapter than the same clothes if we'd got them at Lane Bryant.

After that we went to our hotel and checked in. Hotel cost $124.05 after taxes. It was a nice enough hotel, but the walls were pretty thin and you could hear everything that went on in the hallway. We won't stay there again because of that.

DD and I walked over to Arby's which was just next door for dinner and I spent $17.96 on dinner. Prices have gone up since the last time I ate at an Arby's or else it's just far more expensive there than at home.

For breakfast we ate at an IHOP around 11:30 for $26.32 and that included a 20% tip. We got the breakfast sampler and split it and added a couple more sides to round it out for the two of us.

We stopped somewhere along the way at a Haggen to buy some cold medicine. I can't find the receipt but it was under $20 for some ibuprofen, cough drops, and cold medicine.

Then we went to Burlington and went to the outlet mall and got new tennis shoes for DD, $53.54. A boy's size 12. She's going to end up with feet like her father's I'm afraid. Then we went to The Avenue and DD got three tops and a bracelet for $36.42.

Then it was time to eat so we went to The Outback. We ended up spending $62.43 with the tip. We brought back half an order of lambchops, mixed veg and a bowl of baked potato soup for DS, who stayed with grandma during this time. He was very happy to see it. He loves the food from there, but we go so rarely because of the location and the expense.

So it was a very spendy weekend, but we didn't go over the set budget. DD and I really enjoyed the time together alone and we got some much needed items. I think the long pajamas are working, too. Last night I only needed to have the heater on 70 instead of 76 in my room despite the fact that it was well below freezing.

Today I have to go to Freddy's. DS needs a new pillow and I need to pick up milk and a few other items, so this way we only need to go to one store. I plan to keep it under $60 and then a quick stop at TJ's for the lunch meat DS needs and then no more spending until Friday.

And I am most definitely back on the no eating out challenge until the end of the year.

Bonus and Taxes

December 9th, 2011 at 06:28 am

DH says that bonus checks will be mailed on the 16th. Still no word on what his percentage will be. I'll probably know before he will because it'll arrive in the mail before he comes back home on the 21st. They will tax it at 25%, because they do that with bonuses, but he will get most of that back when we file our tax return. He's already met the one tax cap for the year anyway.

He also did a preliminary run at our taxes. Of course until he knows about the bonus amount it won't be completely accurrate, but with just the information we have now, we're looking at around $8500. Now before someone starts on about changing our witholding, a good portion of that is due to medical reimbursement.

And the part that isn't, around $3,500, well, it wouldn't matter. DH works 26 weeks a year, but he is taxed as if he worked 52. It is stupid, but it is the way it is for slope workers. We have tried numerous times to do something about it, but until they change this particular quirk of the tax code there is nothing we can do about it. They take out what they take out and that is that.

Still, it means a fairly massive payment to debt come March. And if the bonus is the rumored 10% of a year's salary, we just might be out of CC debt entirely between the two. Which would be awesome.

We need to look into the sales tax deduction as well. We have no state income tax so we are allowed to deduct sales tax, but we never have because we have never itemized. It was never more than the standard deduction in the past. It might actually be worth it this year to do so. And if it is we can take the sales tax deduction. We have bought some big ticket items this year (including the car). That could push our return even higher. It sure would be nice to temporarily get the governments' hands out of our pockets for a minute or two.

Emergency Fund Update

December 8th, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I deposited $35.50 from my coin jar into the Safety Net (the readily accessible part of my EF) savings account at CU#2 yesterday.

$637.52 Beginning SN
+_35.50 Amount Added
------------
$673.03 Ending SN

This brings the total emergency fund to $3326.11. $173.89 to go to hit my December/end of the year goal of $3500.

I also added $5.13 to the coin jar today.

Music to My Ears

December 7th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

DS came into my room a minute ago and said, "Mommy, what's my Christmas budget this year?" I so love the fact that my kids know we set a Christmas budget, and other types of budgets, and want to work with us to stay within that budget. When I told him the amount he frowned for a moment and then his face lit up and he said, "I think I can get what I want if we buy it used!" I also love the fact that my kids don't think it's a bad thing if their Christmas gifts are used. In the past this was more because it meant they could get more stuff, but nowadays it means they can get better stuff that is still of high quality.

So many parents hide the facts of budgeting from their kids and I worry about what that means when these kids become adults and try to stand on their own two feet, but have no idea about bills, or living within their means, or what credit cards can do to your available income. Every day, in so many different ways, I teach my kids these things. We don't hide the truth of our money situation from them. It's surprising how much this cuts down on the "I wannas."

DS saves up his allowance and his can money (he collects aluminum cans from the neighbors for recycling) for things for long periods of time. It took him 9 months to save up for his 3DS and he treats it like it is priceless because he had to work so hard to get it. Before that he saved up for five months to buy a used DSI from a pawn shop. Right now he is anxious to turn in his cans, but he knows he will get a better price if he waits until he has 50 pounds. DS has learned the value of waiting and I used to think he was the most impatient person in the world.

DD is learning these things more slowly. She tends to want to spend her money faster, but she works very hard and at least understands the concepts of saving and budgeting for bigger expenses. And the great thing is she seldom asks for things anymore, figuring out how to spend her allowance and baby-sitting money to get what she wants faster (usually by buying used or bartering with friends). I overheard her explaining budgeting to one of her friends who had never even heard of the concept at age 15. Wow.

Milk and Money

December 7th, 2011 at 06:16 pm

Stopped to buy milk this morning. I had my coupon from the Organic Valley website (they let you print two a month) so didn't have to pay full price. $5.32. I put the change, $4.68 into the coin jar. I will definitely be making a deposit today. My envelope is so fat with ones I can barely get it closed. I'm starting to think my goal of $3500 in the EF by year's end is going to be too easy to hit. Well, if I do, I guess I'll rethink it.

Mortgage and Rolled Coins

December 6th, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Mortgage details finally posted to the account and the amount left on the mortgage is $18,833.82. So of the last payment $87.64 is interest and $288.22 is principal. I still remember when those numbers were pretty much reversed and it is much nicer to be on this end of things than they other. It is really tempting to throw an extra $100 to principal every month, but it's the lowest interest rate we have (except the car) and it feels silly to put extra money there. Yet at the same time, it's close enough to being paid off to taste it. *sighs*

I had enough in the coin jar to roll dimes and pennies and combined with my ones I'm over the $30 mark so I have enough to make a deposit tomorrow. It's a self-imposed limit, otherwise I have the mentality to run over and deposit far more often, which isn't worth the gas. I need to go that direction tomorrow anyway, so I'm not even making a special trip. I am confident I will have the EF to $3500 by year's end.

Back from the Doctor's

December 6th, 2011 at 08:55 pm

He doesn't even want to do surgery. He says it only has a 50/50 success rate with my injury. He also said it wasn't a torn and my doctor had read the MRI wrong. So he is recommending a different type of physical therapy for me instead.

I guess if it works that's a good thing. And it also means that that $2500 set aside for next year's deductible can just sit there and be whittled away slowly instead of all in one big chunk. Might even earn a smidge of interest off it. I just hope it works. I'm tired of being in pain all the time.

Barely Awake, Meal Planning for Day 1 of No Eating Out Challenge

December 6th, 2011 at 04:21 pm

Though I got at least six hours of sleep last night, it does not make up for the less than three the night before. Today after my doctor's appointment I am taking a nap. I meet with the knee surgeon today so cross your fingers for me that I can get in for surgery this month and not have to wait until January or February on the new deductible. I would really prefer not to have to hand over $2500 right out of the gate.

Was extremely tempted to break my no eating out challenge this morning on day one, but didn't. I wanted to go to McD's and get a large hot chocolate because it was just so cold this morning. And an egg McMuffin. I do not need either one of these when I am trying to eat healthier right now and lose another 10 pounds. I resisted. Instead I am having chicken sausage, oolong tea, and cucumber slices for breakfast. Much more satisfying and definitely much better for me.

I found a New York strip steak that I got on mark down a while back in the freezer so I am having that for lunch with a lettuce, baby spinach, and e.v. olive oil salad.

Dinner will be roasted turkey thighs and necks that were marked down after Thanksgiving, baked sweet potatoes, and green beans. We all love turkey necks here. They are so tender. Most people just throw them in the gravy or use them for soup stock because there isn't too much meat on them, but they are wonderfully delicious roasted.

Coin Jar Update and No Eating Out Challenge

December 5th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I added $5.67 to the coin jar today. I also spent $14.33 for DH and I to have lunch at Boomers Drive-In. They claim to have the best burgers on the planet. I don't doubt them.

I'll be starting a new no eating out challenge for the next two weeks, as I've been lax on my diet for the last three. I'm still holding at 45 pounds lost but I have a bit still to go and restaurant food is not your friend on a diet.

The new smaller jeans I bought, I am thinking maybe I should have gone down one more size as I had to hitch them up today.

If anyone wants to join me on the challenge let me know and we can root each other on.

Just Out of Curiosity...

December 5th, 2011 at 04:38 am

...would you consider buying a house where the carpets are completely ruined by paint and possibly ground in food and soda stains, the majority of the doors had been kicked so they had holes partway through them, every interior door needed to be reframed, and both inside and outside needed to be painted but was otherwise sound? Now...what if it was selling for half of it's assessed value? The owner's are selling as is and don't want to put in any more effort at all (was inherited and they don't want it).

It is not something I am considering (we are not handy), but I am wondering what people in general would do. It is a 4 bed, 2 bath, 1600 square foot rambler selling for $50,000. Good roof, walls, and foundation. I guess I am just shocked that no more effort is going into it, but then again, maybe someone would still want to buy it. It's assessed at $97,000 and in an okay but very remote area.


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