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Archive for February, 2012

Odds and Ends

February 29th, 2012 at 04:47 pm

I added $6.29 to the coin jar.

Mom wants us to skip paying her this month so that we can pay off the rest of the physical therapy bill without having to dip into our savings. Apparently she is better off than she has led us to believe right now. Now that she is getting Dad's social security benefits (which had been going to the nursing home) since he died instead of her own, she's got more money coming in than before.

She also wants us to skip paying her next month and hire a cleaning service to clean the old house once we get the last few boxes out of there. I really don't like doing that because it feels like we'll owe her forever this way, but it does take a burden off of us if we can use that extra $1000 each month for needed things. And it would be nice to have someone come in and deep clean the place. Like one of those services apartment complexes use when someone moves out.

Taking DS for a doctor's visit today. We've hit the deductible now so it should all be covered but 90%.

Bit of a Rant

February 29th, 2012 at 06:30 am

I'm getting irritated at the IRS. Yeah, who isn't? But seriously, it's only supposed to take 3 days from the time they process your electronic tax return for them to say when to expect it to arrive in your bank account and it has been exactly one week since they said it was processed, and yet the website keeps saying that information is not available. Really bugging the heck out of me.

It's the planner in me. I don't like not being able to plan when I can send that money in to pay down debt. I know any date they give me probably isn't guaranteed, but I'd sure like to know when to start looking. The whole purpose of e-filing is it is supposed to be faster and more reliable than the mail, yadda, yadda, yadda. But it still feels like it's moving at a snail's pace. I already resent the fact that we had to pay for it since it wasn't a 1040EZ, they could be a little quicker on their feet.

It shouldn't be hard for them to process it. We didn't itemize. We only did the standard deductions so it shouldn't flag it for any reason. Just get it in there or fix the website or whatever, because you are really doing nothing to encourage faith in the government, here.

DH Got a Job Offer

February 29th, 2012 at 03:00 am

Not one he applied for, just one that was offered to him. And it's not what I would consider all that great, just good. Where he's at he has work for 2 to 5 years at a high rate of pay. He's finally on a 2 on 2 off schedule. The medical benefits aren't great but they are decent. The 401K has no match at all, but it exists. The yearly bonus is 5% of gross pay for the year.

The other job would be a pay cut. It would be a step backwards in the work he does as well. There'd be no guarantee what type of schedule he would work but it would likely be back to 3 on 3 off or 4 on 2 off. No idea about bonuses. The benefits are excellent, top notch for the industry. And the 401K is really, really good. Plus it is an almost unheard of type of job security in his industry. Basically he'd be set for the rest of his life in this company and barring something really stupid, never have to worry about his job again. And he could move up to what he's doing now if an opening came up.

The thing is, if we were out of debt I would seriously consider it. So would he. Just for the security. We already live on less than half his income, the rest goes to debt repayment. We had a good talk and we are even more determined to finish paying off our credit card debt this year and get the house fixed up enough to sell it. We sell the house and we dump the money into paying off the car and whatever is left we start saving for the downpayment and college. Then we are debt free completely and cashflowing college.

My mother has been intimating that we should just stay here at least until my sophomore graduates from high school. Mom may drive me crazy sometimes, but I worry about her being on her own, and not sure she could afford to heat this house without us paying the gas and electric, plus we pay the garbage and internet. If we move out I'd want my eldest sister to move in again. Mom's not ready for assisted living, but she does tend to forget to drink water and gets herself dehydrated, especially in the summer, and she does fall a lot even if she's never seriously hurt by it (strong bones).

We are also talking about getting a smaller house possibly when we do buy so we can have a smaller mortgage. Just a three bedroom instead of a four. After all DD will be going to college and she may need a place to crash during summers, but after graduation she plans to go teach in Korea, so she won't need a permanent bed to come back to. The other thing I have considered is that setting her up in a small one bedroom somewhere for the summer, or having her stay at with my mother, might be cheaper than taking out a bigger mortgage for a bigger house. I just don't know, but it is something to consider.

Plus, DS will start college the year after she finishes so is there really any point in having a large house at this stage in our lives? I mean, all a large house really does is encourage adult children to move back in. (Yes, we are a case in point, I realize that, but our reasons were medical and medical debt, not just because it's easier). I suppose that is enough musing for one night.

Pantry Quest Day 5, Chickens, and Garden Planning

February 29th, 2012 at 02:06 am

I had the leftover crockpot soup for lunch today while my daughter had her standard take to school lunch (whatever leftovers look good to her plus a wrap) and my son had hot lunch. He has it three to four times a month on nuggets, green beans, and mashed potatoes day, so every six or so weeks we deposit $15 into his account. I don't consider this outside the pantry challenge as the money was already in his account. Oh, and pancakes and eggs were for breakfast.

Today I made a simple pot of cappellini pasta for dinner. I almost opened a new package, but my sharp-eyed daughter noticed we had an open package with half a pound left. We used two cans of tomato sauce from the pantry and a pound of hamburger from the freezer. Not very fancy, but the kids like it more plain. We have leftovers and the kids eat pasta leftovers more readily than any other kind. I also made my simple cole slaw and opened a can of pineapple. At one point I must have bought two cases of pineapple from Costco so we have quite a bit to get through.

Tomorrow I really do need to remember to go to the store and get brown sugar and peanut butter. I will remember to get the milk, but I am sure I will forget the brown sugar and peanut butter, two things we actually need pretty desperately.

Tomorrow's breakfast is going to likely be cold cereal. I have three boxes of Joe's O's, but really only the space to keep two, so one of them needs to get eaten up. We'll have eggs with it.

I am really proud of the chickens. They are still laying well despite the cold and dark weather. Mom is talking about getting some new chicks soon and buying a brooder. She would keep that in the garage until they were big enough and the weather was warm enough to introduce them to the rest of the flock. It would be nice to extra eggs again. When DH is away, we do okay on eggs but when he is home we tend to run out and have to actually buy them sometimes.

The kids are trying to convince her to get ducks again, but they are really such a big pain and they don't behave as well as chickens. I think she should get a turkey. There are a couple of people in town who have small turkeys and they do really well in a chicken flock apparently. I want her to get more bantams, since of the four types we have the bantam's eggs are the tastiest, but she wants to get some chickens that are different colors than the ones she has. She wants a pretty flock. Oh, well, they are hers, so I guess she gets to decide, but I would go for the yummier eggs, if it were my choice.

She gave me the seed catalogue today and wants to know what I want out of it. It's Johnny's and boy do they have such a huge selection it's going to be tough. I know I want lettuces, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, basil, oregano, majoram, thyme, rosemary, parsley, green onions, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, snow peas, mini-cabbages, corn, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes, but really, the specific types may be harder to narrow down. Faster growers, certainly, but other than that, I don't know. I should see if there is a variety of sweet potato that will grow here. It probably doesn't get warm enough for long enough, but it's possible.

Overnight Cooking--Pantry Quest Day 4

February 27th, 2012 at 06:16 pm

So last night I threw all the ingredients in to make the soup Frugal Foodie posted last night, only I used quinoa instead of barley, and instead of two cans of diced tomoatoes with garlic, I used one can without garlic, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and a small jar of salsa, because that is what I had. I also used multi-colored baby bell peppers instead of one green bell pepper because I had a bag of them, so about a cup and a half of that diced.

I had about a pound of leftover pot roast so I didn't add any stew meat to start with and I threw the cut up pot roast leftovers in during the last hour of cooking. I also added a tbsp of dried basil and oregano each,1/2 tbsp of dried marjoram, and 1 tsp of fresh ground black pepper to adjust it to my tastes. It leaned more heavily towards Italian flavors after that. It was salty enough from the broth, tomato sauce and tomatoes to not need to add more.

It turned out really well. I put it in containers to cool for an hour and then put it in the fridge. I will freeze half of it, and the other half put back in the crockpot to warm up right before I pick up the younger one from school and run a couple of errands and it should be heated through by dinner time. I'll start a batch of bread going in the bread machine later and have its baking finish up about a half hour before dinner time so we can have fresh bread with the soup. If the kids decided they don't like it they can always have canned soup and I'll just freeze the excess for me.

I am really enjoying the challenge of eating as much as possible from what is already on hand in the house. I think it will make not only a difference in the pocketbook, but in the waistline. We've been eating out a bit lately and it's starting to show.

Pantry Quest Days 2 and 3

February 26th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

So my bid to eat mostly from the pantry or freezer, supplementing with fresh greens/veg and fruit for the next month or so is going well so far.

Yesterday I used one of my Rustic Crusts to make a pizza. Not quite as good as a homemade crust, but about ten times better than anything else out there and certainly better than that other really well known pre-made crust in a plastic wrapper. It was a parmesan herb crust which I like even better than the plain one.

I made my own sauce by adding basil, oregano, thyme, and marjoram to a cup of tomato sauce. I have plenty of cheese on hand so used 2 cups of shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of extra sharp cheeddar. We had some Canadian Bacon in the freezer so I thawed that out the night before. I ate the leftover slice for lunch today and the kids ate leftover baked potato soup.

For dinner tonight I thawed out a pot roast and threw it in the crockpot. It'll be done at 6:00. When it is around 4:30 I will throw a couple of potatos and a sweet potato into the oven to bake. Then about ten minutes before the roast is done I will make the broccoli. I'll slice up a couple of oranges for the table and that should round it out nicely. There will be leftover potroast for lunch tomorrow.

I am hoping to only have to use half of my grocery budget this month by relying mostly on what's on hand. If I didn't want fresh veg and fruit and milk I could do better than that. We just really don't care much for frozen veg (other than frozen corn on the cob or frozen potatos) and the only canned veg we like is green beans. I do have some canned pineapple and pears that will get used up during this month, though.

I do need to go buy some brown sugar and peanut butter though. I forgot to get them both and they are pretty necessary to our monthly cooking/eating habits. I will buy some tomorrow when I pick up milk for the week and hopefully I will be able to keep it to that until next week.

I am just glad we don't have to buy eggs. The chickens keep us well supplied and homemade pancakes and eggs or toast and eggs or muffins and eggs never seems to get boring. I do need to sit down and figure out meals for the rest of the week. DH comes home on Wednesday so amounts will have to go up. I'll probably do one spaghetti with my special homemade sauce and my special meatballs and then I can do meatball sandwiches on the next day with the leftovers. I'll have to make homemade buns, though.

I'm going to make blueberry cornbread muffins this afternoon. The house will smell so wonderful and make staying in on this cold, snowy day so much nicer.

Another One Bites the Dust

February 24th, 2012 at 06:20 pm

Why is it just when you finally get one kid well enough to be back in school for a day or two, the next kid in line thinks it's time for them to be sick, too? All I really want is one day to myself right now. One day. Really. Is that so much to ask. One day where maybe I can sleep and get well and not be running around with a low grade case of the yucks? Or even, you know, one night of uninterupted sleep?

I am very glad payday is here. Not for any specific reason other than that it means another step forward on my march towards financial freedom. I have the propane bill to pay, but most of the money for that has been set aside already. The water bill for the old house is due I wish they would switch to metered already, they said they would five years ago when they installed the fancy new meters we had to pay extra for and we are still on a straight rate out there. Since no one is out there more than once a month or so the water almost never gets used. I'll turn it off as soon as we're done cleaning out there.

All of the autopays will come out the first few days of the month, the insurances, storage, and security system. I'll pay the AMEX and the mortgage. And I'll see what I can squeeze out for medical.

I need to do a minor grocery run for things like milk, brown sugar, yeast, potatoes and some fruit (still have most of a case of oranges from the last trip to Costco). Also a quick run to Trader Joe's for dried mango slices, additive free bacon, and additive free all beef hot dogs. I am well stocked on fresh veggies (red and green cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, peppers, broccoli, onions, scallions, celery). My freezer is doing great on protein. I am well stocked on chicken. I am well stocked on hamburger. I have one beef pot roast and some stew meat (for either stir-fries or chili). I have a couple of game hens.

I would like to get some codfish since they are having a major seafood sale for whatever that thing is that the Catholics do right now where they give stuff up (a lot of times beef, apparently) for a month. I was hoping for a good beef sale, but that's not in the cards right now. Maybe there will be a marked down for quick sale steak or two, but otherwise my grocery dollars are going to be as stingy as I can make them the next four weeks.

I think I will make baked potato soup today. I have all the ingredients and it is such a feel good food for such a nasty, rainy day with under the weather children. Either that or my all meat chili. Another feel good food for a day like today. If I make the potato soup today I will at least char the peppers as well for the chili.

I started my quest to eat mostly from the freezer/pantry right now last night. I made two Cornish game hens. We cut them in half and everyone ate half of one. We also had canned corn and canned green beans to round it out and an orange.

Ran the Numbers

February 23rd, 2012 at 04:37 pm

And so far this year I've got $2434.68 that has been processed that applies to the deductible and $65.32 to go to finish it off. I have to renew my blood pressure medicine on Friday so that should take it past the $2500 cap unless they process one of the remaining PT appointments first, and then they'll start paying the majority of my prescriptions again and my doctor visits, thank goodness! It's hard to believe we have spent so much on medical already this year and this doesn't count the chiropractor or our portion of the glasses we have to pay for (though those do count toward the HSA).

Physical Therapy Bill Finally Came

February 23rd, 2012 at 02:42 am

I finally got billed for physical therapy from 1/1 to 2/16. It's a whopping $1689.32. I think I have 2 more sessions that have not been billed. I at least have today's which was my last one. The aquatherapy was a lot more expensive than the regular kind. I only did five of those this year. The ones I did last year were covered 100% since I'd hit my out of pocket cap for the year. Still, they cost $200 more per session than one on land. I really don't see why as you are using less equipment and not using the expensive machines.

Oh, well. All of it has done so much for me. I still have pain issues with standing for more than a few minutes at a time, but not with walking. And the standing will come in time if I continue to strengthen my back.

I have $1000 saved in my medical fund so I just need to come up with the $689.32. I will see what kind of payment plan the hospital offers. In the past for bills up to $1000 they have offered 90 days at low interest (3% or something) and then a higher interest rate (18%) after that. We can pay off the $689.32 in 3 months time. If not, I guess I'll take it out of the emergency fund. I don't want to, but if I do, it'll be my priority to replace it. I'd rather do that than take it out of the tax return or put it on a credit card (obviously).

The nice thing about having an emergency fund is having choices. With this bill I'm getting pretty close to the $2500 deductible. Things will get easier after that and I will also be able to start saving up for next year's deductible. I budget $500 a month for medical. Not all of it is processed through insurance (like the chiropractor, which we can claim on the HSA, but not on the insurance because we go with a family chiropractic plan that allows us weekly visits for each of us and not the one visit per month the insurance allows for). Once we are through with the deductible we'll be able to save $100 to $200 of that $500. The rest pretty much gets spent monthly.

Hmm. I did go to Costco and get the cash back for my Costco AMEX this morning. I was just going to put all of that in my emergency fund, but if I take that $177 then I will only need to come up with $512.22. That I can do in 2 months. Maybe I won't need to dip into the EF at all, just stop contributing the $100 each month I normally put in for 2 months. That leaves $312.22 and I can scrape that up. Just cut out our rare few meals out and cook more out of the freezer and pantry and less from the grocery budget for a couple of months. I think I can do it.

One of the great things about blogging is that sometimes I will see something like this bill that at first seems really hard and maybe a bit insurmountable, but if I reason myself through it, I realize it's doable after all.

DH Finished the Taxes

February 22nd, 2012 at 06:57 am

We will be getting back $8,425. $8000 goes straight the BoA and the $425 is going to pay for DD's driver's ed class. He says they will be processed on 2/23. He didn't get a when to expect it date, though. How long does it usually take when you e-file?

Odds and Ends

February 22nd, 2012 at 03:26 am

I added $3.33 to the coin jar.

I paid $700 to the credit card debt.

I still haven't made it to Costco to cash my cash back check from the Costco AMEX card. Seriously inconvenient that you cannot cash it at a bank. I think they want you to spend the cash there, but I'm not going to.

I've done some more research and I think we'll aim for the summer of 2013 for sending DD to the total immersion Korean language camp. I know if we sent her this year and next we could get 2 years worth of language credits for high school, but it would mean paying less on debt repayment right now, and I just don't want to do that. I figure we can send her the summer of 2014 as well and she can get college credit that year, as it is also offered.

My mother has offered to take DD around and introduce her to some of the neighbors in the area that have young children and need babysitting. I think it's about time she started earning money beyond her allowance. She is really good with kids. If she can get some good sitting jobs this summer she might earn some serious money. I know I did. The local fast food places around here just are not hiring kids anymore. There are too many older, far more dependable workers filling those positions.

I need to call DH and see if he filed the taxes last night. He was supposed to, but he procrastinates things. I want to find out what the final number was. His last estimate was somewhere between $8100 and $8400. Most of that is from the HSA we maxed out and used all of last year.

The grandparents' house was supposed to close on the 20th, but I don't know if they did, being as yesterday was a holiday. DH was going to call his mother and find out. I need to find out if he did. It would be nice to know when that money can be expected. Between the tax return and the inheritance it should be somewhere between $15,500 and $16,000 and that will make a serious dent in what's left of our credit card debt. We might then be able to get a 0% card to transfer the remainder to while we pay off what's left over the next few months.

Has Anyone Sent Their Kids to Concordia Language Villages?

February 21st, 2012 at 01:53 pm

I am thinking of sending my daugher to the four week Korean Immersion camp this summer. It gives 180 hours of language learning which is a full year of high school language credit. They offer it in several languages. She's already in her second year of Japanese (will probably take a third if they offer it, depends on how many kids sign up) in which she gets A's and she wants to learn Korean and Mandarin with her ultimate goal to teach English in Asian countries for a few years and then move into interpreting, either documents, or orally at the business or diplomatic level. We plan on buying her the Mandarin Rosetta Stone program soon.

The cost is $4050, though they do offer partial scholarships. It's only up to $300 per session and I think we won't qualify as DH's income is too high, unless they don't have enough kids applying for it. It's need-based first and then opened up to everyone afterwards from what I can tell.

DH should be able to get low cost or free airplane tickets with his miles or a companion fare, so that won't add too much to it. He might have to spend a night in a hotel on both ends, though, so that's probably another $300 plus car rental or transportation of some sort to and from the camp itself.

Mostly I am just concerned whether anyone has sent their kids to one of these things and what type of an experience it was for you and them. Concordia is supposed to be a good name and they have week long, two week long, and 4 day family camps as well as the four week immersion for credit ones, so I thought others might have done it. It's in Minnesota.

I think it would look good on her transcript when she goes to apply to college, even if it turns out the school won't accept it as credit. We will find that out before we talk to her about her going. I'm not sure I'd send her for the four week one if it's not credited, but the two week one (would cost half) would still look pretty good on her college application, especially if she were to go next year as well.

I Made a Really Good Soup Today

February 21st, 2012 at 04:54 am

It was fast, too. I saw some tips for making a quick chicken noodle soup using these teeny little pasta noodles that look like the type used in school lunches circa 1979 in chicken noodle soup or what they have in Mrs. Grass's Noodle soup. Well, I didn't have those, but I had Capellini (Angel Hair) that I broke up into inch long pieces.

Anyway, I brought some free range organic chicken broth (I bought on a really good sale, 16 ounce box) to a boil and dumped in the noodles. I then quickly cut up a boneless, skinless chicken thigh and dumped it into the boiling broth at the five minute mark. While that started cooking I quickly diced a scallion. I grated half a carrot on my big cheese grater. As soon as the chicken was opaque I dumped in the carrot shreds, added a few grinds of sea salt and pepper and let it cook another minute. Then I added the scallion and turned off the heat. I let it set a minute for the scallion to cook in the broth and then it was done. It was really good. I did miss celery, but that doesn't really shred.

I like my noodles limp and not al dente so if you like them al dente you could boil for a little less time. The chicken only takes five minutes or so, so change your plan accordingly, by having everything ready to go at the start.

It really didn't take that long. Maybe 15 minutes from start to finish, including clean up time. I know a can of soup only takes a few minutes, but to have fresh soup in very little time was quite nice. It also served all three of us and usually one can serves 1 person around here. Since most soups cost at least a dollar a can and the healthier soups $2 to $3 now, I did well on cost of ingredients versus 3 cans of soup. And no MSG or major amounts of sodium, either.

Sighs...If it Seems too Good to be True...

February 20th, 2012 at 03:49 am

...it probably is.

I saw someone on the forums saying there was a 1.8 percent CD at IGOBanking. It sounded way too good to be true. Well, they do have it, if you lock your money up for ten years. The rates for 1 year aren't even comparable to my ING savings account, which is at .8. This was at .35. Even the five year one was pretty low.

Now maybe interest rates aren't going to go up at all in the next ten years, and maybe it might be a good place to park your money if you didn't think you could make more with it anywhere else. But for ten years? I'd rather take a ten year gamble on the stock market earning more than 1.8 percent.

Coin Jar Update

February 17th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I added $8.94 in ones and coins to the coin jar after cleaning out my purse from this week's spending.

I got all the bills mailed off that needed to be mailed and went through the drive-thrus of the places I needed to pay bills in person yesterday, so that's all caught up. I do need to make a payment on Tuesday to one more place, but that's it.

Finally

February 17th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I used to have such good luck with surveys, back when I did them before. Nowadays, unless it's a parent survey that I pass on to my child, I rarely qualify. Well, today I finally got a good one from ACOP, and will be seeing $8 added to my account in 2 weeks. I could have gotten a second one, but I accidentally did it in IE instead of Firefox, and it blocked the pop-up video I would have needed to watch. When I tried to disable it it kept thinking I was hitting the back button. That one would have been $4. Oh, well.

I think it's time for me to sign up for MyPoints again and maybe that SwagBucks thing. I'd really like to bring in a little extra again to build up the Emergency Fund faster and to have some gift cards to pay for other things. How does SwagBucks work, exactly? I know there are some veterans of it on here.

Getting My Act Together

February 16th, 2012 at 04:32 am

I have been procrastinating something fierce this last week, but finally sat down tonight and did the bills. I should have done them on Friday. It's not like anything was due before the 17nth and those are all bills I can walk in or drive-thru for. But I'm not usually this far behind. I feel like a ditz.

Okay, some of it has been severe stomach upset since Sunday night, but that doesn't account for not doing it on Friday or Saturday. I think it's time I go see a gastroenterologist because this has been happening too often to be just a virus or food poisoning. Maybe it's an ulcer or something else along those lines. I did have one when I was 20, I just don't remember throwing up all the time, just tons heartburn. This time I've got both and it's been pretty steady since the beginning of December. Maybe I can get something stronger than OTC fake Zantac. I'm really tired of barfing. And no, I'm not pregnant.

I hope this isn't going to be another expensive medical year. I'm so tired of medical. I had to get a prescription today and it's gone up $12 from last month. $106.05. Hopefully this will be the last month I need this one. I will be so glad when I hit my deductible again.

Anyway, I have balanced my checkbook and entered everything into the spreadsheet, so I shouldn't have to worry about anything financial again until the next payday on the 24th. Which is a good thing the way my brain feels.

Hmm...Just Thinking

February 16th, 2012 at 12:47 am

There is an itty bitty house on a double lot going for $145,000. It's around 418 square feet, set up like a studio apartment. But it's on an otherwise empty double lot. It is in an ideal location. It couldn't be in an anymore perfect location. 2 blocks from the grocery store, less than a mile to each child's school, near the library, near our credit union, on the bus line.

Running the numbers, a 10% downpayment would be approximately $15,000. The monthly payment at 3.4% would be less than $600 a month. It is currently rented at $700 a month. We could come up with that downpayment pretty fast if we pushed. We could make the monthly payment easily on our own without a renter. I don't really want to be a landlord, but I'm not adamantly opposed to it, either.

We could work on paying it off while we live here and then build a house to suit us. I think if we paid the regular payment plus the amount from the renter on top, we could move pretty quickly on paying it down, especially if the old house sells, then get a construction loan to build.

Also, the itty bitty house currently in existence might be an ideal place for DD to live while going to college. Or just nice for storage or something.

Anyway, just thinking aloud, really. I know we still need to pay off the credit card first and then save up for a downpayment. It may not still be there when we'd be ready. The house has been for sale for a long, long time, though. You never know, and it might be the way to go. Certainly an option to consider anyway.

My CU is Offering Good Rates

February 15th, 2012 at 05:10 pm

I decided to look up what my primary credit union is offering on mortgage rates last night. I was really surprised to see them offering 3.097% for a 15 year mortgage and 3.397% for a 30 year mortgage. They also have 20 year, 25 year, 10 year, 5 year, and 40 year (ouch) mortgages for similar interest rates. I was really surprised. I mean, I know (in my head) that they have always been good, but I didn't realize they were that good.

I hope they still have such low rates next year. They are also offering these loans for as low as 3% down with 1.5 points. I don't like that idea so well. I don't like seeing it go below 10% downpayment, and of course 20% is preferrable. Of course, they have much stiffer requirements on who can actually get these loans than your standard bank, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable to see them offering 3% down because of all the foreclosures and short sales in this town. I don't want to see my financial instituition become insolvent.

Emergency Fund Update and Goals

February 15th, 2012 at 07:38 am

I deposited the $35 from the coin jar into the safety net portion of the EF. That brings the Safety Net portion to a grand total of $779.13 and the full EF to $4039.47. The goal was to hit $4250 by the end of February, but I'm not sure that will happen this time.

I still need to $220.87 to get my goal of $1000 in the Safety Net. This is just a slow goal that gets topped up with squirreled away money.

My goal for the month of February should be hit by the AMEX cash back money or come pretty close. I need to come up with $210. $177 of that will be cash back, then I need about $34 this month and still half a month to find it in. I have not deposited my usual $100 a month for February. That will come out of the check on the 24th. Goal for March is $4500, for April is $4750 and May is $5000. Once the EF is officially at $5000 I'll focus on using the coin jar money and any extra money and throw it at what's left of the debt after we get our taxes back and our inheritance money.

Laptop Fund, Car Expenses

February 15th, 2012 at 07:16 am

The laptop fund is now fully funded. I am going to start saving up for the next one, though, at the lesser rate of $100 a month. There is just too much that might go wrong with 3 laptops and a netbook in the house. And my computer and the netbook are the only ones with service contracts because the two of us tend to drop things a lot. I've used mine already. It's paid for itself and then some and I have another year and a half left on the contract. I imagine I will at least need a new battery by then, though it's still holding it's charge. That was always the nice thing about the Vaio batteries.

DH got tabs for the Crown Vic yesterday. It ended up costing $42. It's supposed to be $33 according to an initiative several years ago, but they're always finding some way to creep it up. So now I just need to worry about getting the brakes fixed. The steering fluid needs to be flushed as well. I am saving up partially for it and then using the tax return money to make up the difference.

Coin Jar Update

February 14th, 2012 at 02:07 am

I added $16.77 to the coin jar. DH left for the airport today and before he did he cleaned out his wallet. He'd been hoarding ones. I had a few myself, so between us there were 14 and the rest was coins.

I was able to roll quarters so I have enough to make a deposit to the safety net portion of the Emergency Fund and should be over that way tomorrow, so it's well timed. The deposit will be $35.

Cash Back

February 13th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I got my cash back check from my Costco American Express card. The only thing I dislike about it is that you have to go to Costco customer service to cash it. Finding the time to drive over there can be a pain and they are always so crowded it can be hard to find parking, even with a handicapped parking permit! I'd prefer just to take it straight to the bank. Still, that's $177.78.

I haven't decided what to do with it yet, but I am leaning towards the Emergency Fund.

On Turning Fifteen and a Half and Forty-Two

February 13th, 2012 at 01:42 am

So, I had to get a new driver's license this year. DMV is still the oh-so-enjoyable experience it ever has been. $25 for that and now they make you take your glasses off to have your photo taken. Something to do with facial recognition software. If I had known that I would have at least put concealer on under my eyes. Glasses really hide the dark circles. Still this picture is 50 times better than the last one.

While at the DMV I suddenly realized that DD turned 15 and a half on the tenth, which means she can now test for her learner's permit. Oh, my is that going to be an interesting experience. She downloaded the .pdf file for the book and has been studying it all weekend.

So the time has come to start saving up for a brake job for the Crown Victoria. We've just been letting it set, because we rarely need two cars, but it needs $800 worth of work. We figure she can use it when she gets her license to drive herself to school and back. We haven't wanted to sell it since there are a few rare occasions when it is nice to have it and we knew there'd soon be another driver in the household.

It's also probably better to learn to drive in it before she learns to drive the van. It's a nice, safe car that is easy to drive and easier to park than the van. Once she has experience with it, we will let her learn to use the van. So we decided we'd take the money for the brake job either from the inheritance or the tax return, whatever comes in first. That and her driver's ed class will be the only non-debt repayment that we've allowed for out of either of those sources of money.

$800 seems a relative bargain to get our 20 year old (in otherwise excellent shape) car drivable again.

As for me, I turned 42 today and it has been a great day. My husband bought me a lovely glass rose tea light candle holder (and some books off half.com that should be here sometime soon) as well as the talking scale I wanted (but that he opened last week, forgetting it was my gift). DD made me a calighraphy water color of a sea horse. And my mother and son deep-cleaned the living room so DH could bring the treadmill in from the garage so I can walk on days the weather is cruddy.

The grocery store bakery happened to have a set of white cupcakes with white frosting that they hadn't gotten around to putting sprinkles on so we got that for my cake. And we're having my favorite tacos for dinner (that I didn't have to cook).

Last night was great, too. DH and I went to Outback for a pre-Birthday dinner. I had $42.05 worth of gift cards. Dinner cost $47.55 and we left a $10 tip because the kid was amazing. I had Kookabura wings (mild), celery with bleu cheese, a side of mixed vegetables (they have the best mixed veggies!), a bowl of baked potato soup (I meant to get a cup but said bowl, so DH and I split it instead) and a glass of Strawberry Lemonade. Oh, and maybe 1/3 of the rye bread. Delicious. I brought home half the Kookaburra wings and celery with their scrumptious blue cheese, which I will use up on extra celery I have here.

On Taxes

February 13th, 2012 at 12:34 am

So if you efile your taxes how is the question of signatures handled? DH didn't get the taxes done so he is thinking of just doing them while up at work and efiling even if we have to pay a bit to efile. I'm assuming you don't need a signature with efiling? Is that so? Because he wouldn't have mine for the return obviously if he is doing it from Alaska.

AWOL

February 9th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I've been walking around in a fog for the last few days. A few nights of insomnia will do that to you. I finally slept last night and have my head on straight again to think about finances. It's not like I was going out and spending or anything, I just wasn't focusing enough to write too much.

My birthday present came and my husband, forgetting that it was my birthday present, opened it and started using it before I even had the chance to see it. Now I won't have anything to open on my birthday. I was more than a little annoyed with him. Okay, he would have had to set it up for me anyway, but I could have at least opened the box.

In the old, old, old days I would have used this as an excuse to go out and buy myself something else. I am glad I don't have that mindset anymore, but the thought did cross my mind. What's up with that?

MIL agreed to watch DS and DD will be going to a birthday party so that DH and I can go out to eat for my birthday. Well, the day before my birthday, as I want to spend the actual day with the kids, too. We will be going to Burlington. Maybe I'll have us stop by Krispy Kreme while we are there. That's a rare treat. Just a doughnut though, not a dozen! Don't need them in the house.

I need to make a bill paying post and update a few other things, too, when I get the chance.

Odds and Ends

February 6th, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Friday we went shopping at Costco. I picked up a few items for my mother while we were there. It cost $67.11 and she paid me back today. I kept the $65 in my purse, but added the $2.11 to the coin jar.

We spent a good $230 at Costco ourselves, mostly because I did not want to go back there again any time soon. I may be walking almost normally now, but after a trip there I was limping and had to ice for several hours afterwards. It is just too big a place to try to manuever through when you are disabled.

So I doublestocked on some stuff, toilet paper, Ziploc bags, medicines, etc. Most of the cost was that, though I did get a big bag of precut broccoli, some hamburger patties, pancake mix, a case of oranges (after opening the box and checking every single orange for mold), and some chicken thighs as they were .99/lb. Since they come prepackaged in family sized servings, I prefer to buy them at Costco if the cost is low enough, so I don't have to do any extra work. It had been running $1.59 for the last year or so, so it had been cheaper for me to buy it elsewhere in bulk at .98/lb and package it myself.

I wish I had realized we were nearly out of brown sugar though or I would have bought some there. I have about a half cup left after making the marinade today. Now I'll need to wait for a sale and it's not really baking season so I may have to pay a higher price. We use it too much to go too long without it. I should root around and make sure I don't have any in the cupboards. I had quite the stockpile at one time.

DH had to run DS's viola down to the school as he forgot it today and then he is to swing over to the one CU and get the amount of last year's interest for our taxes. He needs to get those done this week so we can get them sent in before he leaves on Monday.

The closing date on DH's grandparents' house was moved from January 30th to February 20th. Even though the people had put in an offer and had the inspection done, they then had to have the bank approve and do it's own inspection, which is taking a while. They were preapproved before the offer and figured that was enough, hence the earlier closing date. First time homebuyers.

Hopefully it will actually close on the 20th. I don't know how long it will be from that point until DH gets his share of the inheritance. Not too long, I hope. No one has contested the will and it was divided fairly with 5% going to each of four grandchildren, and 40% going to each of two children. The family is more or less amicable.

I got the book I put on hold from the library today, The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather that someone here on the blogs had gotten not too long ago. I am really looking forward to reading it. The author lived on $40 a week for food after her husband divorced her and she lost her job. That's about $160 a week for a family of four if I extrapolated it out. We spend about $150 a week for the four of us, so it's pretty close and I thought maybe I could find some actual useful ideas in this one. So far I'm liking it, but haven't got too far yet.

All right, I've procrastinated my bills long enough. Time to grab the bull by the horns.

Meal Planning

February 6th, 2012 at 08:34 pm

DH has really been a dear with helping me with meal planning since he got home. It is so much easier when I've got support in place and someone to do half the work. Tonight's dinner is teriyaki beef skewers with leftover stir-fry vegetables and various other leftovers. I have some corn and some potatoes and some broccoli that all need using up so they'll go on the table as well. DH cut up the flank steak while I mixed the marinade and inventoried the fridge for leftovers.

I've got some milk that is about to hit the sell-by date and there is no way we will drink it in time, and some sour cream that has, so tomorrow we will be making baked potato soup for dinner. I have all the ingredients for it, so not even a last minute run to the store. And chicken and a new batch of cole slaw will round it out.

Then I think chicken enchiladas and rice on Wednesday to use up the leftover chicken. I'll add some sort of green vegetable. Maybe green beans.

Thursday I am not sure about. Maybe pork chops and fried potatoes and salad. The pork chops are getting close to when they don't want to keep in the freezer any longer, so that would be a good thing to use up.

I'm thinking about potroast for Friday since I am going to be busy during our usual meal prep time. If DH will remember to put them in since I'll be away from the house, we can have baked sweet potatoes, too. And then finish off the cole slaw.

Saturday I am hoping to slip away for the afternoon with DH so we can go out to dinner alone as a birthday present to me. My birthday isn't until the 12th, but he leaves that evening. We'll celebrate with the kids on Sunday, but I'd just like it to be me and DH on Saturday. I have $45 worth of Outback gift cards from Christmas time, which should cover things or most of things. I usually only eat an appetizer (kookaburra wings and celery sticks) there as my meal and add a baked potato and side of mixed veggies.

It is nice having the whole week planned out in advance so that I don't have to worry about what we are going to do at the last mintue.

House Hunting

February 6th, 2012 at 03:14 am

We went to look at a couple of houses today. Still not ready to buy by a long shot, but really just wanting to get a look at some of the houses that are out there.

I really liked the first one, except for the fact that the Master bedroom is on the second floor. There is a bedroom on the first floor, but it is small and the bathroom is only a shower stall and it's off the kitchen, which is not anywhere near the bedroom, but about as far as you could get. But it was beautiful.

I really wish it had been laid out differently, but I know that what I want in a house is a master bed on the first floor. I'd prefer no second floor at all, but that's not always easy to find.

It's in the perfect location. It's one block from our favorite grocery store, one block from our main credit union branch, two blocks from our favorite restaurant, within walking distance of my daughter's best friend's house, and it is in the same school district and they'd be going to the exact same schools.

After that we went to a new housing development on the outskirts of town. We really liked one of the model homes and it's under $300,000. It had the kind of open floor plan we like where the living room flows into the dining room flows into the kitchen. The yard is small enough to maintain easily (with a push mower even), but big enough to feel like a yard.

The Master Bedroom is sizable and on the first floor, the master bathroom is sizable. No tub, but doublewide shower stall with built in chairs, dual shower heads and totally handicapped accessible. There is a second bedroom/office on the first floor as well, that would be perfect to put the piano in and the treadmill and the desktop computer. There was an alcove for a washer and dryer and a two car garage.

Upstairs it had two decent-sized bedrooms, a bathroom with a tub, and a large alcove area between the bedrooms that would have been big enough to fit a double bed in or a couple of desks.

It was really, really nice and would have met all of our needs...except it's not in the same school district, since it's technically outside the city limits. I'm not even talking about the two schools they go to, but the entire district. And let's just say that the Meridian school district is not known for it's high educational standards.

I'm a little bummed as they will be building houses there for the next few years so in a year or so when we are ready there would be something available in the floor plan we want. But I can't see ripping my son away from his best friend. He needs her too much and she really needs him, too. They've both been bullied so much in the past so finding each other and being a support to each other this year has made a world of difference for both children.

Oh, well. We'll find something, eventually, in the area that we want. It'll be the right house at the right time. I'm sure of that.

That Reminds Me

February 5th, 2012 at 01:23 am

My mortgage payment hit, too. $84.99 went to interest. $290.87 went to principal. The remaining balance is $18,253.41. The next payment will put me under $18K.

I keep thinking about how the next time we have a mortgage things are going to change so dramatically. Having bought a house in 1998 when prices were low has meant a small and easily manageable mortgage payment for years. The very idea of having a mortgage of $1500 seems staggering in comparison.

Part of me thinks maybe we should just save longer for a downpayment. Although our current living situation can sometimes be annoying, it is doable for as long as we want to stay here. We could stay an extra year and save even more money for a down payment. Even when we do put our house on the market (hopefully this summer), there is no guarantee it will sell quickly or at all, so an extra year of saving may well be worth it. DH and I are beginning to talk about it. I guess we will see what happens.


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