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Archive for February, 2013

Tweaking the Budget

March 1st, 2013 at 12:59 am

I'm not sure what we would have done this year if we hadn't managed to get the credit cards paid off when we did. We have lost $600 every 4 weeks to the 2% rise in taxes. Previously that money was going to pay down debt. Our plan for this year had been to start contributing to the 401K. Now it's going to pay for a government retirement program that has no chance of even existing when we are old enough to get anything back. I feel like they are taking our retirement away from us twice. One by not allowing us to have the money to provide for our own retirement, and two, by feeding it into a system that will be bankrupt long before we ever see our 60's or 70's. It is frustrating.

Our 401K is not the greatest, it has NO matching at all. But it is a tax shelter. Just one we can't afford to contribute, too.

I am trying to rethink a lot right now. The idea of cashflowing college for the kids is still, maybe, within reach. It would be so much better if there were jobs available. If I knew they could save a couple hundred dollars a month towards college I wouldn't worry so much. Even my niece, who did manage to get a job last summer, only gets about 3 hours a week because retail is practically moving backwards right now.

So anyway, changes I will be making starting after March is to eliminate the vacation fund of $100 a month. This one is going to just have to last us for several years. And that's okay. It's a luxury and vacations were completely financed by us (no vacation benefits). If we hadn't been saving so long for this one and already had most of it taken care of, I'd seriously think about cancelling it.

I will be cutting the laptop fund down to $50 a month and I will be cutting the appliance fund down to $50 a month. Both were previously at $100 each. Once I know what the property tax is going to be this year I can make an adjustment on my property tax fund. It has been approximately $1060 per year for the last several and our tax assessment went down. They should send out the bill soon. Right now I am setting aside $100 a month, but when I know what it actually is, I will cut it accordingly.

Once mid-April arrives I can turn off the furnace at the old house, which will mean no propane costs. Propane has jumped dramatically this year. We keep the furnace on until there is no chance of the pipes freezing. Also once they are done with the repairs to the old house I can have the water/sewer shut off, saving me $72 a month.

The four person cell phone contract we are on expires this summer. With DS being homeschooled there is no reason for him to have a cell phone anymore. He is always with me or his father or his grandmother. The only person he ever texts he can IM as well. Honestly I wish there were an unlimited texting only plan, no phone calls, because that would be the best thing for our needs. DH and I use Skype when he's in Alaska.

I think when we do move I am going to up our laying hens and start selling eggs. Just one of those sign in the front yard things. If I can make enough to pay for feed for them and some broilers that would cut our food costs dramatically. Also starting to seriously research rabbits. I've talked about it off and on, but it's time to get down to the knitty gritty on it.

If eggs pay for feed I can cut our grocery budget by $200 a month. Then maybe we could handle college and retirement.

I keep trying to keep myself focused on the fact that we are out of credit card debt and we are comfortable. It is mostly luxuries I am looking to cut. It is not necessities. But we've only gotten to have luxuries recently so it is hard to have worked so hard to get here and then feel like the benefits we should have been reaping have been snatched away. We feel the loss of that $600 a month. But I imagine there are a lot of people out there that feel that 2% even deeper.

After Hours Clinic

February 27th, 2013 at 07:52 pm

I had to take my son to the after hours pediatric clinic last night. He has an eye infection. They faxed in a prescription last night, but of course the pharmacy was closed because it was late. So I call them this morning and they have no sign of the prescription.

So then I had to call the doctor's office and then they had to track down who was on call last night and then finally re-faxed the prescription, so now I just have to wait to have it filled. Should be ready in a couple of hours, although how hard it is to stick a sticker on a squeeze bottle of eye drops that comes as needed in a little box, I do not know. It's not like counting out pills.

I really am wishing for the days when they would just write a paper prescription and I could take it to the pharmacy myself and know that it actually got where it needed to be. I also really don't like the fact that the doctor's offices don't want to deal with prescriptions anymore. It's been that way for over a year now. If you need a refill, you have to call the pharmacy to have them fax in the request. I don't really see the difference between calling the doctor and having them fax the pharmacy, instead of the pharmacy faxing them and then they have to send back approval. Seems like it actually takes more time to do it that way instead of saving time.

It is particularly frustrating right now, because I'm in transition between the old doctor's prescriptions and the new one's, so having them fax the new doctor for something he's not prescribed yet, doesn't work. I have to call the doctor anyway. *sighs* Let's just say it's been a long, frustrating morning on the phone.

Last night was the fourth doctor's appointment since the year began so we should be well on our way to meeting the first $500 of our $2500 deductible. I still need to make a couple of phone calls, one to the sleep doctor to see if there is anything further he can do about Aetna denying the sleep study. There are probably some bells and whistles that need to be jumped through.

Then I need to call the regular doctor about blood test results and schedule an appointment. Which I probably won't do until next week, because of DS's eye infection.

On the bright side of things this is my fifth day on the Paleo diet and I have lost 9 pounds. So clearly that's working. I miss potatoes though. I need to buy a few more fruits and vegetables for variety though. Apparently I am fine eating the same ones day after day if I am also eating starches, dairy, and grains, but when I am not, I get bored really fast of my cole slaw and broccoli (not the oranges though). This also means I am messing a bit with my 100 mile food shed, moving it to my west coast food shed instead (which technically I'm on anyway for the California oranges.

I saw some organic strawberries and canteloupe on sale but it is probably from Mexico. *sighs* I think it is still a bit too early to be from Cali. I went digging through the freezer to see if I could find any strawberries, but I guess we have used them all up. I am really wanting them, though. I don't generally get specific fruit cravings. I will try frozen blueberries today instead since that is what I have on hand, but I do want to buy some zucchini and peppers and an onion.

I dreamed about that farmhouse again. *sighs* It really is our dream property. I am trying to get over my impatience with life. I've spent too much time waiting for my future to start. I need to live within my present for now.

Paying the Bills and Organic Valley Milk Jug Jiggery-Pokery

February 26th, 2013 at 01:19 am

I created the March budget today and then set about "paying" the bills for the first week of March, which basically just involved me duducting all of the autopays that will come out of the checking account next week and actually writing out and mailing one check.

So bills that "went out" today are:

$153.00 Storage
__41.16 ADT security Old House
__46.63 Old House Insurance
__59.89 Car Insurance
__32.70 Life Insurance Me
__39.53 Life Insurance DH
__30.35 Electric Old House
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$403.26 Total out

I hate looking at that monthly storage bill, but what else are we going to do? Living in a space that is 1000 square feet, but having stuff for 1600 square feet does cause an imbalance. Hopefully the house will sell this summer (assuming the workmen ever get done) and we can buy something and move from here and not be paying storage fees anymore.

I will write Mom a check on the first for utilities, $300. I will have $90 go out on Friday for physical therapy. And I will pay out $25 on Friday to the kids for their allowances. Otherwise there will be no expenses due until I pay the mortgage on the 8th.

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I should not have to go to the grocery store before than, either. DH picked up milk today and I'm not drinking it so it will last longer. I was very displeased to see that Organic Valley milk is no longer coming in a full gallon size, at least at the Haggen by our house. It is 96 ounces instead of 128 ounces for 5.29 (was $5.99 for a gallon).

Why the heck would anyone want to purchase a jug with only 3 quarts in it? Half gallon or gallon for choices is much better. Honestly, I think they are trying to get away with selling less milk, but hoping people won't notice there is an entire quart missing from the jug. They've made the jug more square shaped, and redesigned the lid and the label, so I think they are hoping to pass it off as a full gallon jug for a while. I bet the price will go back up to $5.99 a jug in about a month or so, too.

It's like the switch from 16 ounce cans of fruits and veggies to 15 ounce, or when they made the big box of cereal narrower but retained the height and lowered the ounce size, hoping no one would notice. This kind of packaging jiggery-pokery does not fly with me.

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I added $1 to the coin jar today.

Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning for the Week

February 24th, 2013 at 07:51 pm

DH and I went grocery shopping this morning at the food co-op. I'm skipping going to the ranch this pay cycle, so I bought quite a bit more fish than usual, some rabbit, duck, sausage and a roast. I also stocked up on extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, and lots of veggies. I spent $153 on groceryies.

Because I am leaning towards Paleo eating this week (which means no cheese for flavoring), I bought some more flavorful foods. Also no grains and no starches, except carrots one night. The only oils I will be using are E.V.O.O. and walnut oil. I am seriously going to miss butter, but I need to give this diet an honest test run.

Anyway here's the plan for the week:

Monday:
Rabbit fried in olive oil
Cole slaw
Bananas

Tuesday:
Pan-fried cod
Cole slaw
Oranges

Wednesday:
Oven baked salmon
Broccoli/cauliflower
Pineapple

Thursday:
Roast Duck
Salad
Oranges

Friday:
Pork chops
Pear sauce
Cole slaw

Saturday:
Baked Codfish with a homemade mayo garlic sauce
Cole slaw
Bananas

Sunday:
Beef chuck pot roast
Broccoli/cauliflower
Carrots
Oranges

It does feel weird not to inlude pasta, bread, rice, or potatoes. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Because of my just under the borderline test for diabetes I am only eating one fruit a day. I want to make sure my insulin levels stay under control so that I don't have to worry about one day having to take it artificially.


I Hate My Medical Insurance

February 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Just got a denial of medical services from Aetna. Rolleyes Seems that they in their infinite wisdom don't want to pay for a sleep study for me, despite the fact that two doctors highly suspect I have sleep apnea. Of course Aetna knows all. /sarc. Well, I was going to call on Monday anyway and talk to the sleep doctor's office.

Apparently there are several hoops we will have to jump through to try to get them to reconsider. Aetna's just moved up the Evil Empire List list to second, right under the middle school that allowed my son to be assaulted so badly it took him 6 months to recover from the brain injury, and above Bank of America.

I don't know why Aetna cares so much anyway. We will still have to pay for it out of pocket because of our $2500 deductible. It's not like they'll be out any money. But if they approve it, it would at least count towards our deductible.

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I've started back on a diet today. I'm quitting soda cold turkey...well except I took a caffeine pill so I don't go through withdrawal. Despite everything else in my diet being pretty much unprocessed, the Pepsi Throwback habit was getting out of hand.

I am aiming towards the Paleo diet. I did a test this week and didn't drink any milk. Last night I had milk and within 20 minutes my throat hurt and my nose was stuffing up. That will make it much easier for me to give up dairy. Grains I could always give or take.

So for the next week I will eat nothing but lean meats, fish, eggs, leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other non-starchy vegetables, walnuts and fresh fruit (but not too much fruit). I will cook only with olive oil. And all dairy will be eliminated. I will miss cheese and butter.

It will be hard giving up homemade pizza but with the crust being a grain and the topping being cheese and processed meats it's not going to be a choice for menu planning.

Honey is okay in small amounts and since mayo is made with egg, oil, lemon juice, a bit of mustard (I'll use my own homemade), and some salt, I should be able to make my cole slaw dressing just fine. I'll just have to use olive oil for the oil instead of canola.

Bits and More Bits

February 23rd, 2013 at 04:02 am

I had physical therapy today, so spent $90 on that.

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Today was payday, but I have not done anything about it yet, other than distribute the children's allowances, $15 to the 16 year old and $10 to the 12 year old. Nothing is due until the 1st and it will come out of the account as autopays.

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I emptied DH's wallet of change. Wish I had done that before I made the EF deposit yesterday as with it I was able to roll both nickels and quarters. So, yeah, with next Thursdays auto transfer I will definitely hit the $3000 mark on the EF.

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My jaw still hurts from the crown.

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I need to call the sleep doctor on Monday and see if the preapproval came through for my sleep study. They were supposed to call me when it did and make an appointment, but it's been over a week now and I think somebody dropped the ball somewhere.

I also need to call the regular doctor and make an appointment to discuss my blood test results that my other doctor never really talked to me about, just put me on a new med.

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We have flooding. We have had a major storm today, lots of rain and wind. The basement is being pumped. I so do not ever want to live in a house with a basement again.


Second Crown

February 21st, 2013 at 09:46 pm

I went in to the dentist today to have my second crown started. This was on the other side of my mouth, but also the six year old molar. This tooth had a gigantic silver amalgam filling in it which is now gone. I am glad. I never liked having metal in my mouth and this was an old, old filling from before they talked about getting mercury poisoning from them. It feels like he gave me enough anesthetic to put down a small horse, but he still had to stop in the middle and give me another one. It is supposed to wear off somewhere around 7 or 8 p.m.

Anyway, the temporary crown is on now and I go back for the permanent one on March 7nth. Hopefully I am making sense here, as I am on a pretty powerful pain med, so if this rambles more than usual, that is why.

While I was there I finished paying off the first crown, $233.90 and I have the paper with what will likely be our portion for this one, $665.35. Not as much as the first one as we had less dental benefits left for 2012 as I had a porcelain filling to replace a cracked silver one and a sealent earlier that year. This probably uses all my dental benefits for the year (except for cleanings), but the dentist says everything is in great shape now and I shouldn't need anymore work done.

I talked to them about maybe getting the gap between my front teeth fixed. I never used to have one, but over the past five years it has gradually gotten bigger. They may be able to just fix it cosmetically with veneers or I may have to go to an orthodontist and get an appliance or something like Invisalign. I don't want to do actual metal braces. I know how much they hurt my daughter. I have a low pain threshhold in my mouth even though I have a very high one everywhere else. But the gap does bug me. I had perfectly straight teeth up until it started moving.

I'll need to have DH check and see if our insurance covers orthodontia. Otherwise I will have to save up for it. I know veneers can cost about $900 per tooth if we go that route.

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I cashed out at Swagbucks again yesterday for a $5 Amazon gift card.

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I added the AMEX cash back and my coin jar savings and the weekly $10 autotransfer I've had set up for years to the Emergency Fund, a total of $136, making the total in it now $2981.35. That leaves me with $18.65 to come up with to meet my February goal of $3000 in the EF. Next Thursday will be another $10 autotransfer, so that will leave me with $8.65 to scrounge up. I am so close.

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DH and I are still working on our meal plan for Disneyland. I think we are going to pack along a cheap crockpot. That way we can put a roast or a chicken in when we leave in the morning and have it ready for us when we come back at dinner time. Despite the condos having full kitchens they don't have crockpots, which I really think they should. It makes a lot of sense to have one in a place that caters to Disneyland goers. I will also pick up some of those crockpot bags to make it easy to clean. Usually I consider those a waste of money, but in this situation I'll splurge for them.

Things Change

February 21st, 2013 at 12:26 am

I just realized that our debt to income ratio is at 33.3%. You know, it's been a long time since it wasn't somewhere near 50%. Once the mortgage is paid off it'll be closer to 26%. I like numbers like that. I feel so much more freedom.

DH and I keep coming back to that farmhouse. We have discovered that it flooded in 1950 and in 2000. In 2000 it was actually high enough to get an inch or two of water into the house and the garage and barn both flooded since they are not up on foundations. Every other flood of the river it has not gotten as close as the barn.

Here is where it gets interesting. The city is going to put in retaining ponds. It is starting this summer and will continue doing so over the course of the next ten years to mitigate flooding issues the town has every couple of decades. So that will defnitely help keep flooding off the property.

So in thinking outside the box, DH and I had a thought. Because of the way the buildings are laid out, we could encircle the house, garage, barn and shed with our own levy. It wouldn't have to encompass the whole property. We could bring in topsoil and build up a three foot levy, planting it with grass, and leaving only the driveway clear. Then we could have enough sandbags in the barn that we could cover the gap of the driveway in case of flooding, which there is always plenty of warning of.

There would be access to the rest of the property by simply driving onto the grass instead of the driveway. And even with the sandbags up, we would be within walking distance to the grocery store and if the buses were running, the transit station is across the street so I could go into the main city if I needed to (it doesn't flood over there). If I took my van to my in-laws to keep it out of the flood zone, they could drop me back at the house or as close to it as we could get.

Lots of people near the river build levies and their houses did not flood during the 2000 storm or the 1950 one. It is possible this might be a worthwhile thing to do, especially if we can get them to lower the price on the house. We have found out that the previous owners died and that their five children have been trying to sell the house and property for over a year now. So if we could get it for $235,000 instead of the $265,000 they are asking for it we could afford to build that levy.

It could still be more hassle than it would be worth, except it has so many things that are just perfect for what we want. The only negative is the 100 year flood risk. Which is more like 50 years in actuality.

I don't know. It will require much thinking.

A Bit of This, A Little of That

February 20th, 2013 at 02:53 am

It sure doesn't seem like there's much to report in on now that I'm not trying to pay off a bunch of credit cards. The mortgage and the van loan are things that happen once a month.

I did go to Costco today and got my AMEX rewards coupon check cashed. I will go to the CU tomorrow and make a deposit of that and the coin jar money.

I also bought cheese, toilet paper, and a case of oranges while there. I spent $41.61. I didn't think about olive oil which I am getting low on, but I have half a bottle so I think I'm okay for another month. If not, I'll shlep myself over there.

I did price the S&W organic tomato sauce in the #10 cans. It is $2.59 for 101 ounces, so 2 cans would be 202 and $5.18. They have stopped carrying S&W tomato sauce there and have switched to their own store brand. Because of DS's allergies we have to be very careful on brands and ingredients. But if we were to buy their brand it would cost $6.99 for 12 15 ounce cans for a total of 180 ounces. So obviously the #10 can is a better deal. I hope they are not phasing it out completely and I will still be able to get the big cans for a while.

I did put up some sauce last summer, but the kids will only eat it mixed with store sauce. Next year I won't bother putting up sauce, it's not worth the labor if they won't eat it. I'll just put up diced tomatoes. It's just not cost effective, either, to do sauce. Anyway, I will be making a trip back to Costco at some point to buy several of the larger cans and then every time I open a can I am going to put what is left of it into quart or pint containers and freeze the rest. It is much more economical and I don't have to worry about the allergy issue.

I have thought of just recanning it, as well, since I've seen where people have successfully recanned the large containers of ketchup and mustard. Should be safe, though I might want to add a bit of lemon juice to each jar if I do that.

Speaking of mustard, I am getting low so I will be making a new batch soon. I am going to add some cayenne this time. I want it to have a bit of a kick. It was good last time, but a little mild for my liking and since I am the only one who eats it, I can tinker until I get it to where I like it.

Well, I suppose that's about it. Oh, I got 2 $5 gift cards from Swagbucks today. That puts my Amazon gift card amount at $100. I should have enough to cash out again tonight or tomorrow.

Meal Planning for the Week

February 18th, 2013 at 08:14 am

I am a bit outside my 100 mile food shed this week with both fresh pineapple and fresh kiwi, but not outside my West Coast food shed with the Cali oranges and orange bell peppers. We've been fighting sniffles for two weeks here, so a big boost of vitamin C was in the cards. And everything was on sale, so didn't bite the budget too badly. I may not be terribly seasonal on anything but oranges with the fruit but the veggies are in season except the canned green beans.

I still have frozen prunes, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, not to mention six kinds of jelly from summer, but some days you just want to go a little more tropical. I will be planting far more peppers this year to freeze and hope to be getting a couple of cold hardy kiwis once we move. They can grow in Seattle so I think they will grow here okay. If I ever have a greenhouse I will try to grow pineapple bushes and some miniature citrus trees, but those are still pretty unlikely to thrive here.

Anyway on to the food:

Monday--
Homemade pizza with homemade sauce, mozzarealla, orange bell pepper strips, ham, onions, and pepperoni
Pineapple

Tuesday--
Oven baked chicken
Baked potatoes
Cole slaw
Pineapple

Wednesday--
Braided chili loaf
Cole slaw
Oranges

Thursday--
Spaghetti with Meatballs
Green beans
Oranges

Friday--
Baked Wild Pacific Salmon
Broccoli/cauliflower
Carrots
Homemade sweet potato fries

Saturday--
Bacon cheese burgers
Homemade French Fries
Kiwi fruit
Cole slaw

Sunday--
Roast Duck
Roasted potatoes and carrots
Broccoli/cauliflower
Drop biscuits with choice of homemade jam

Major Shopping

February 17th, 2013 at 04:43 am

Today we did some major shopping. Mostly it was too replace things that are past re-mending (i.e. things that have already been mended once, often more than once).

We ended up spending $325.05 and supposedly saved $63.55 due to clearance and sale prices. DH got 3 pairs of jeans. He told quite a hilarious story of ripping out his jeans right before getting to the airport and having to mend them with duct tape because there were no sewing kits available. At least you can pass through airport x-ray machines with a duct-taped crotch. Good to know.

DS got a pair of Wellies, 2 sizes up, yikes, a pair of flip flops for vacation and summer and a new pair of tennis shoes. He also got several pairs of underwear. He's growing like a weed. He'll probably be as tall as me by the end of this year.

I got three shirts, slightly nicer than t-shirts, but not super dressy. I was happy to find one in kelly green. It is a hard color to find so when I saw it I jumped on it. There is a rather violent perdominance of neon colors in the stores right now. Painfully neon bright.

DD got a pair of flip flops, 2 pairs of sweats and a t-shirt.

Then for the household I got 6 new washcloths. I used to have 20 white ones, but my mother keeps stealing them. Just because she got the twenty pack of white ones from Wal-Mart once upon a time, she thinks all of the white ones are hers. Well, 4 turquiose, one hot pink and one bright yellow, should stop confusing her on that score.

I also bought a new sheet set for the king bed. The turquoise sheet finally gave up the ghost after a couple of sewing repairs. I plan to make linen napkins out of the side that isn't all ripped up. The replacements are a sort of bluish green sea foam color. Sheets are expensive. I got the moderately priced ones, but I still thought they were expensive for not all that much fabric.

The kids got headphones and batteries and DH got some body wash. We should not need to make any such purchases again for quite some time.

I added $3 to the coin jar today and sent $854 to the Vacation Fund. The puts it at $1119.65.

So if You All are Interested...

February 16th, 2013 at 11:44 am

...I've started a new blog. I will still be doing this blog, but some of the things that are less on the financial spectrum will be covered over there instead. Things like gardening and poultry and sustainable living, homeschooling, and eating from the 100 mile food shed as much as we can. I will probably still touch lightly on those things, because they do affect the budget and what we spend money on, but there will likely be a lot less chicken photos, etc.

Anyway, the new blog site is here if you want to follow:

http://whendidthisbecomeafarm.wordpress.com/

Surreal Payday

February 16th, 2013 at 02:03 am

It was a very weird feeling indeed to realize that with all of the credit cards paid off, I had quite a bit of money left over today. Of course it's going into the Vacation Fund, but once the trip is over, that extra money will be going to build the EF. Over the years we've had a little extra money now and then, but usually closer to $50 or $100. Never an extra $1000 out of one payday.

I have paid everything for the month. Nothing else is due until February 1. We have one more payday this month (the short one) and that will cover everything due between now and the next payday on March 8th. I set aside $240 of the money into savings for physical therapy.

Just for reference, any credit cards shown in the bill pay section are now paid off monthly. BoA is used for DH's travel expenses (flights, hotels, travel food, and his monthly allowance expenses). It also has autopay for our cell phones, Netflix, and our gym membership. It can vary from $1200 to $1500 a month. AMEX is for gas, eating out, and the occasional grocery trip (if I forget the checkbook). But mostly for gas. I paid both of these in full today.

Bills that went out today:

$1201.69 BoA VISA in full
__314.10 AMEX in full
__225.00 Chiropractic Family Plan
___90.00 Physical Therapy
____3.78 Labcorp (Medical)
__144.00 Water/sewer at the Old House
__418.85 Propane at the Old House
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$2397.42

I had the water/sewer money already in savings as well as most of the propane money. I will be adding about $800 to $1000 to the Vacation Fund. I am waiting until after we go shopping to have the exact amount. DS needs new shoes, DD needs 2 pairs of sweat pants. I could do with a couple of new shirts (somewhere between t-shirts and blouses, nice, but not fancy).

I added $10 to the Emergency Fund. That brings it to $2845.35. I received my AMEX awards coupon in the mail today. I have to physically go to Costco to have it cashed, though. Annoys me. But it will go into the Emergency Fund. It is $85.95. So I've decided to up my EF goal for February to $3000. I have $32 in my coin jar (added $10 today leftover from the past week), so to hit $3000 by month's end, I really only need to come up with another $36.70. I think I can do that.

It feels like I'm playing in an entirely different game now. I know we still have the mortgage and the van loan. I know we still owe Mom money. I know we still need to build the EF. But despite that I no longer feel owned, like I did with the credit card debt. I feel like our lives belong to us again.

After our March vacation we will put our heads down again and work hard on everything. Meanwhile, I will take the next month to breathe. We are in the light at the end of the tunnel. We can take a few steps before we step into the next one. Not going to go crazy or anything, no eating out five times a week or going out and buying crazy things. Just taking my foot off the gas and pulling into the overlook to see how far we've come.

Out of Credit Card Debt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 13th, 2013 at 08:01 pm



It is official. The tax refund hit our account this morning. I just paid off the Chase VISA. We are officially OUT of credit card debt! After 10 years of being in it, and the last 7 of working very, very hard to pay it off, we have fired our last shot at the Evil Empire and we sunk their battleship.

And now it's time to start to upgrade our rickety picket fence (baby EF) into a wall of stone. I added $1000 to the EF, put $1000 into the MacBook Fund. The other $1903 I'm not sure what we are doing with yet, we're waiting until after vacation, so I transferred it to ING with the rest of it, just so it's out of our account and can't be frittered away.

The new EF amount is $2835.35. I am adjusting my goal of $1900 by the end of February to $2900.

And cue music...

I'm walking on sunshine, woo ooo,
I'm walking on sunshine, woo ooo,
I'm walking on sunshine, woo ooo,
And don't it feel good!

Swagger

February 13th, 2013 at 07:44 am

I hit another 450 points today at Swagbucks, thanks in large part to a 50 point birthday award, so unexpected. So I cashed out for another $5 Amazon GC. Love it. This is really going to take a dent out of Christmas 2013 if I keep this up.

I added $2.83 to the coin jar.

The tax refund is supposed to be in the account tomorrow. Here's hoping it comes when they said it would, because if it is, in a little over 9 hours, we will be free of all credit card debt forever.

It's My Birthday

February 12th, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Today is my birthday and I can't say that 43 feels at all different from 42. We got pizza today since I didn't want to cook and spent $27.18. No cake though. Just didn't feel like baking one and the problem with cake is that it is then there every day for a week. I figured one bad food choice this week was enough. Since my Christmas present was so expensive we made it a combined b'day/Christmas present. And I'm still loving my hard ice cream maker so I am not feeling in the least little bit deprived. And DH comes home tonight at 8:30 so that's the best birthday present of all, anyway.

Tomorrow starts three days worth of appointments. I go to a consultation with the people that do the sleep study. Then Thursday, I go back to the new doctor, and Friday I see the physical therapist. I had to fill out a boat load of papers for the sleep study place. Oh, shoot, I keep forgetting to run over to the lab and ask them to shoot my new doctor a copy of my labs from December. I'll need to do that in the morning.

I'll also need to remember to tell them when we set up the sleep study about getting my new crown because I'll be on narcotics for a couple of days and don't want that interfering with anything.

There is not much else going on. The chickens are still loving their expanded space and Georgie hasn't gotten out on the driveway side for days, so no more chicken hopscotch. They do hop the other fence to go to the neighbor's yard when she doesn't have the dogs out, but she likes them.

Coming home is funny now, because they recognize the sound of my van. They come running (quite like that scene in Jurassic Park with the velociraptors) so fast I'm actually glad the fence is there. They are expecting treats now as we had some bread that went bad, picked out the moldy bits and gave them all the good bits over the course of a few days. Now they expect it.

We are getting about ten eggs a day. It helps that nine of them are pullets. That rate will slow down as they age. I still miss having duck eggs for baking, but the chicken eggs are pretty fantastic. They beat store bought by a mile.

Mortgage Under $14K

February 11th, 2013 at 11:03 pm

The mortgage payment hit the account today. New total is $13,943.05. $10K seems so close. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I can get excited about paying down the mortgage.

As for tax return, it's a waiting game. 2 more days supposedly for it to hit the credit union. Not that that stops me from checking! I've spent so much of 2013 just waiting. Patience is clearly not a virtue that I am particularly acquainted with. In fact people used to tell me to be patient and I would say, "I don't do patient." I still don't, or at least not very well. You would think with all the practice I've had I would be better at it.

If I can swing $1600 a month the mortgage would be paid off this year. But I don't know if I will do that, because I really do want to build the EF up. Maybe it's not all that necessary with the amount of work there is for DH right now, his job security is pretty high. But I'd feel better with at least $10K in the bank.

Swagbucks and Surveys

February 11th, 2013 at 04:48 pm

I received the $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks I sent for at the start of the month. I now have $90 of GC's built up in my account.

I will need another 90 points at ACOP to cash out for a $10 check. I almost made it the other day, but the survey got really weird. It was normal at first, asking things like whether or not I was going to buy a car in the next five years and what brand of peanut butter I use. I figured it was one of those surveys they do to figure out what survey offers to send you.

But then it asked if I was planning on buying any guns in the near future, which okay, maybe for a sporting goods store. They've had surveys for REI and WalMart in the past, but never really on gun buying habits (of which I have none).

It was the following question that made me back the heck out of that survey and close it down. It was a detailed list of government officials and sources of news media and whether or not I trusted them. Now I'm not much of a conspiracy theortist or paranoid or anything like that, but in light of recent events, there was no way I was answering those questions. I mean, what type of gun do you want to buy followed by do you trust the president on down through the mayor? Waaaaay too Big Brother for me.

So I'll just have to wait a bit longer for a more apple pie type survey to finish off my points level.

Meal Planning for the Week

February 11th, 2013 at 04:12 pm

I've got a lot of appointments this week, so I'm going to try to make dinners on the easier side of things. I need to bake today, though, both bread and rolls.

Monday--
Grilled pork chops
Fried potatoes
Canned green beans
Pear sauce

Tuesday--
Homemade pizza (ham, onions, bell pepper strips
Birthday cake

Wednesday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade fries
Cole slaw
Pineapple

Thursday--
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Canned corn
Salad

Friday--
Chicken
Sweet potatoes
Cole slaw

Saturday--
Braided chili loaf
Sweet potatoes
Cole slaw

Sunday--
Beef chuck pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Drop biscuits with choice of homemade jams
Canned green beans

Lunches this week are ham and spinach salads or wraps, chili, or meatloaf slices.

Breakfasts this week are lamb sausage and eggs, cucumber slices, and for DS pancakes and/or hashbrowns as well. He's almost 13 and the teenage boy appetite has now hit. Last week he was doing two pancakes, 2 eggs, half a plate of hashbrowns, and cucumber slices. I think he's visibly grown in the last 2 weeks!

Maybe It's Silly, But...

February 11th, 2013 at 01:57 am

Sometimes I worry that I will be at loose ends once the credit card debt is gone. I mean we've been in it for almost ten years. And I've been working hard to get out of it since I started blogging in April of 2006. There were ups and downs along the way as we added to and subtracted from the debt, but more or less it's gone steadily down.

And in a few days it will be gone. It's just been such a big part of my life for so long. I've had this goal, this huge, challenging goal that frankly, at times, I thought I was never going to meet. But now I am about to. And it's leaving me with an unsettled feeling, like maybe I won't be firmly focused and driven anymore.

I've got other goals, of course I do. There's college and there's the Emergency Fund and there's the van loan and the mortgage. But somehow I just don't feel as pumped about those things. Take the van loan for example. It's a lot and it's got a pretty low interest rate, but it feels "okay" because when I look out the window it's sitting there. It's tangible. And it doesn't bother me in the same way credit card debt does.

Maybe that's because credit card debt is so intangible. You are paying for the past, sometimes for stuff you don't even remember you charged. Okay, and I have scars on my body that remind of each and every medical procedure I went through, but that's it. The meals out, and hotel fees, and all the things we did to help the family get by while I was recovering, I can't see those as tangible. So I hated having it, this debt that seemed like it gave us no value after the original purchase. The van does give us value still and will for many, many years to come.

Maybe I just need to adjust my focus and make that seem as big a deal as the credit cards did? It's hard though. I mean how do you change that if it's ingrained like this? And with the mortgage, well, I dislike it, and it's so close to being paid off, but when the house sells it will be paid off and then we'll start all over again with a new house and a new mortgage, so how hard, really should I try to work on it.

College is a bit easier. DD is a junior and we need to save $7000 for her first year and $7000 for her second year at the local community college. I can see that as a tangible goal now. And if she follows the plan and joins the peace corp after the first two years before coming back to finish at the local university with a $7000 scholarship, we'll have plenty of time to save up for her third and fourth years and DS's first year at CC.

Investing in their educations seems both tangible and intangible at the same time. I don't want them saddled with debt, but at the same time part of me is wishing college weren't so darn expensive. Part of me is not wanting to decide between funding retirement and starting the kids off on the best financial footing we can. I just hope jobs are more available then, because right now I don't know if they'll even be able to work to help pay for school.

The Emergency Fund is what I really need to worry about the most though. I want it at $18,000 by the time we hit 2015. I want it double that by 2017. And sooner or later, we really need to start putting money into the 401K. DH's work doesn't match at all so part of me has wondered if it is even worth it. I suppose for the pre-tax dollars, but maybe it would be better to just save on our own. I worry about the stock market crashing again just as we get back into it.

The economy worries me. They fiddle with numbers so much to try to say things are better than they are, they print money that isn't backed by anything, and they say it's getting better out there, but all I'm seeing is people that have run out of their unemployment so they are no longer counted as jobless, but they still are. The lines at the food bank stretch longer and longer every week (it's near my daughter's school so I drive by it frequently). Food prices are higher, gas prices are higher, interest rates drop lower and lower on savings. Maybe I just think too darn much.

Maybe in another week I can refocus myself, figure out which things are really the most important. All I know for sure is that I don't want to start frittering our money away.

Tax Refund and Old House Stuff

February 10th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

DH just sent me a thing that said our tax refund should be transferred to our credit union on the 13th. DH sent it in on the 3rd, so ten days. That's fast. And not long to wait, just 3 more days. Of course I already paid the Chase bill on Friday, bringing the balance there down to $5000. I did set up an online account with them, so I could pay it off right away, or since there is no interest being charged on that account until July, I could dump it into ING until the next statement comes or even collect the interest through June.

No, I dont think I have the patience for that. I just want to be done with all of the credit card debt. Can you imagine? After all these years, in less than a week, we will no longer have any credit card debt. I am excited about that. It took 10 years of concentrated effort since the first of seven surgeries. Now we are almost there.

And the rest of the money will be sitting in ING for a while. I won't be getting DD her MacBook until August. And I will decide what to do with the rest of the money when we get back from Disneyland in March in case we go over budget. Then definitely some to the EF, maybe $1000.

And maybe buy 1/4 of a beef from the ranch. We can order in March for August delivery. There's also a local place I'd like to look into that does pasture-raised chickens. I would probably order 20. It's a big upfront cost, but I'll be able to drop my grocery bill to around $200 a month accordingly for milk, produce, baking supplies, and wild caught fish. And I could save the difference for the next beef.

I know that we can fit 1/4 of a beef (about 105 pounds) into our small chest freezer if we empty it, and 20 whole chickens would fit in our beneath the fridge freezer and on the one shelf in the big freezer of Mom's that she lets me use. I still want to buy a larger chest freezer, but not until after we move. Since I used the money for the freezer to pay off debt, I'll need to start saving for it again.

I guess after the last card is paid off I'll start throwing some money at the mortgage. I'd like to get it down to $10K left. I can probably do that before it actually goes on the market. After a lot of work on the house this weekend, it's now looking like May before they'll be done. Honestly, it didn't feel like so much needed to be done or fixed when we lived there. We had to pull out the carpet and the pad. They had stapled the pad to the floor every six inches. It took some doing to get it up. And under the pad was linoleum, stapled along the edges, not adhered down anywhere, and the edges were hidden by moulding. I don't even...

I will never buy that type of house again. Too many shortcuts and too much shoddy workmanship, too much rampant stupidity on the part of the builders as well as the previous owners. Cosmetically it looked fine, but take off the makeup and I'm not sure how it ever passed an inspection.

Hopefully soon it will be someone else's problem.

Erm...Oops

February 10th, 2013 at 06:20 am

Spent $32.41 on fast food tonight out of my miscellaneous category. Don't even ask. It was good though. At least until it hit my poor stomach. Won't be doing that again for a long, long, long time.

Say it with me..."Chicken nuggets are not food."

I added $7.59 to the coin jar.

Payday Spending and EF Update

February 9th, 2013 at 02:18 am

Today was payday. I added $110 to the Emergency Fund bringing it to $1835.35.

Bills paid out today were:

$1000.00 to Mom
__100.00 to Chase
__757.82 to Van loan
__570.00 Mortgage
___25.00 Kids' allowances
___44.87 Phone old house
___72.56 Internet
__110.00 Emergency Fund
___19.00 Garbage (HT)
___72.00 Water/sewer (HT)
__100.00 Property Tax (HT)
__100.00 Propane (HT)
__100.00 Miscellaneous and Groceries
---------------
$3071.25

I also set aside $90 for physical therapy. Both the mortgage and the van loan had extra sent to principal. When the mortgage hits it will put it just under $14K left.

I need to come up with $64.65 this month to hit my EF goal of $1900 by the end of February. I added $13.03 to the coin jar, what was left of my miscellaneous money from last week.

I also filled up the van with gas, $49.79, but that went on the AMEX which gets paid off at the start of every month now.

Other than milk, I shouldn't have to buy anything for the next week.

DS needs new tennis shoes. His feet have grown tremendously. I will inherit his current ones. They are very nice Nikes that just happen to fit my feet. Hand me ups, I guess. I will probably get shoes for him next payday, not this one.

My first mammogram went okay. I don't know what I was being such a scaredy cat about it for.

Medical and Dental Expenses Upcoming

February 8th, 2013 at 12:46 am

I'm going to have a lot of medical expenses coming up. They will be billed to insurance first, but I know they will be coming eventually because of our $2500 deductible. I'm going in for my first mammogram tomorrow. I should have had it done when I was 35 since my mother is a breast canceer survivor, but I never did. Now I'm almost 43 and finally getting in there. Not sure how much that is going to cost, but any sort of imaging tends to be spendy.

Then on Wednesday I go in for my sleep study consult. Thursday I have my physical (I think, could be a follow up). Then on next Friday I see the physical therapist. After that I go in to the dentist on the 21st to get the temperary crown on the right side. And somewhere in there I'll probably have my actual sleep study done.

I think we'll definitely be using some of the surplus of the tax return to pay for some of this. Hope it comes quickly. Those who have filed so far seem to be getting them back pretty fast. I was really hoping to put more of it in savings. Life never really goes as planned, though, does it? I can make payments at the dentist, they are very good about that, but the others will probably need to be paid for when the bills come. At least we can handle it though. At least we don't have to put it on credit cards. We have moved very far in the right direction.

Yoho, Blow the Man Down

February 7th, 2013 at 07:25 am

Or in this case the woman. The wind is still blowing here to the point that it made my van shake while I was driving today. I can hear it outside. It sounds like moaning and groaning. I'll have to use my fan on a higher setting tonight to block it out while I sleep.

I went back to the grocery store to get the stamps they forgot to give me. No problem at all since I had my receipt. I ran into my husband's aunt while I was there and had a short visit with her. I haven't seen her since last summer so that was nice.

I got the propane bill for the old house today. It was really high. I wonder if the workmen are forgetting to turn it down to 55 when they leave. I'll have to remind them, because this is a higher bill than any we've ever had out there before when we were living there 24/7.

This whole process is really dragging on forever. Now they're saying late April instead of March. *sighs* My mom is also pressuring us to put it up at $130K now. Last time it was $110K. I told her in no uncertain terms that we would price it according to what DH's uncle (the realtor) says it is worth and not with the idea that it's going to be any great sale that gets back all the repair money.

I honestly think we'll be lucky to get $100K. I wanted to sell it for $85K as is before all this repair work was done. I wish she would back off. It's not her house, it's not her sale, and it's not her money. I have told her to, but I don't think she is listening.

She's been really weird about money all around lately, freaking out about the gas bill and the electric bill (which we pay, not her) needing to be lower, yet insisting on using 60 watt incandesent lights in her end of the house (4 in the kitchen alone), leaving her TV on all day whether she is watching it or not, and keeping the furnace about 70 all the time. It's like she's got a bee in her bonnet and she won't leave it alone, but she's not willing to make any changes in her own behavior that lead to higher bills. Hopefully she will calm down again soon.

I think we all will be ready for the week long break in March when we go to Cali. I'm ready for some sunshine, that's for sure.

We had more dental bills come in. My crown is paid off, but this is residual stuff from DH and the kids that the insurance didn't cover, $233.90. I am thinking I should really reschedule my second crown until after vacation. It doesn't hurt anymore so I don't think I'm grinding on it at night anymore. Well, we'll see. My appointment is not until the 21st. Who knows? Maybe the tax refund will come in quickly and I can just pay it all up front.

I am glad that dental counts for the HSA, but I sure wish it counted for the $2500 medical deductible, because by the time I'm done here, I would have met over half of it. I suppose this is a very first world country problem to have. At least I can get good dental care and have dental insurance that partially covers it.

There is a particular person that is ticking me off big time on another site I frequent. Her behavior is very deliberate and she is doing it on purpose. I keep telling myself to respond with dignity and grace, to not let her get under my skin, and to be the bigger person. She is just wanting to get a rise out of me and if I give it to her, she wins. So I am being careful to be nice, but what I really want to do to her is play whack-a-mole. And I could. But I won't. Dignity and grace and kill her with kindness. And vent where she can't possibly find me.

It's Windy

February 6th, 2013 at 12:55 am

It is very windy today, and was blowing like crazy last night. Even though the temp is 50 degrees F today, it feels cold because the wind rips right through you. You can get an idea from this photo how stuff is blowing around in the new grassy area we've opened up to the chickens.



The turtle sandbox that used to be the duck pond was flat last night and now it's on its side. There will be a fair amount of cleanup when the wind stops. Not many of the chickens are willing to be out today, but I can't blame them. I saw a gust of wind pick up poor Ecru. She does not like it when she's not in charge of her own flying, as you can imagine.

We'd gotten in the habit of collecting eggs a few times a day when it was really cold and they might freeze. Still doing it even with the warmer weather. This photo is from the afternoon haul.



The colors are a little off, but in real life they are medium brown, pale green, pale pink, pale blue, and pale brown. The green one is from one of the Auracanas and the blue one is from the Auracana/Bantam cross. It's fun to have a rainbow of colors. We do get some darker brown ones and some white ones as well as a darker pink with reddish speckles from time to time.

I had physical therapy today so I took a dozen eggs to my therapist and an 18 pack to the receptionist at the same office. The eggs really build up when DH is not here. He eats 3 to 5 eggs a day when he is home. Physical therapy was $90.

I stopped at the grocery store and bought milk and stamps, but she forgot to give me the stamps and I was distracted by the kids so I didn't think about it, so now I have to go back tomorrow and go to customer service and get the stamps. Pain in the neck. I don't need them until Friday fortunately. There are only a couple of bills I still mail because they don't have an option of paying online or their websites are so screwy I don't want to deal with them and I'll be sending those bills in then.

Not much else going on here. Just waiting for Friday to come so I can do more financial stuff. Oh, and I sent for another $5 Amazon gift card since I hit 450 at Swagbucks, thanks in part to a 40 point search. That's my new highest. The previous was 29.



Chicken Hopscotch

February 5th, 2013 at 02:44 am

I'm thinking of inventing a new game. It's called chicken hopscotch. The rules are pretty simple, just avoid stepping on any lovely presents the birds have left behind from the driveway to the back porch. Extra points for particularly balletic moves in twilight conditions. If you drop anything you were carrying to avoid it, the chickens win the game. If not, you do. Since we put the new fence up there haven't been any of these lovely bombs. Until today. Today someone clearly got out. My money's on Georgie. She's lucky she is my second favorite.

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I added 66 cents to the coin jar today.



Budget, Vacation, and Books

February 4th, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I spent a couple of hours yesterday going over the budget and assigning items to the next three paydays. It is nice seeing a surplus after all bills are paid. It is nice knowing all bills will be easily met. It is nice knowing the money for vacation is right there.

I do not think I will buy parkhopper tickets until March. I am keeping an eye on ticket prices. Right now they have a sale on tickets from now until March 11, but they have to be used during that time period. I am hoping when March hits they will have another sale. The difference in price is about $200. We can buy them as close to the 15th of March as we want and just pick them up at the ticket booth when we get there. If not, oh, well. I figure we're still off season on March 16, but maybe not. All I can do is wait and keep checking. They didn't even have this special the last time I checked.

DH told me that Big Thunder Mountain will be closed while we are there for a major overhaul. I am bummed because it is one of my favorite rides. And the River Boat won't be running either. That's pretty much all of Frontier Land down. The pirate ship should be going though and the pirate island (used to be Tom Sawyer's Island) should be open.

The new Matterhorn cars look like they are better padded than the old ones. I hope they smoothed out the track so it's not so jerky. I will give it one try, but I will be very careful to protect my knee on it. That's the ride I bonked my knee on so badly the last time we went there and eventually it resulted in surgery. So the bobsleds get exactly one chance to prove they are worth it.

I ate something with BHT in it last night. I committed the ultimate crime for someone with allergies and did not read the label, because the last time I ate this item it did not have BHT in it. Well, six months can make a difference and I have spent the majority of today with my insides trying to become my outsides. Not fun. I hate puking. I also got hives. Benadryl would help if I could keep it down. I suppose this is what I get for giving in to a major salt craving.

I finally finished the book I was reading. It was good. It was called Last of the Breed and it's by Louis L'amour. I never, ever thought I would be reading a Louis L'amour novel because cowboy is not a genre I have much interest in. But this book was reviewed on a survival website I like to read for fun and for research for the novel I'm writing.

It was about an American pilot (with a Native American and Scotch bloodline) getting shot down over Soviet Russia and how he survived a year in Siberia. It was fascinating reading. I mean, I won't be purposely seeking out any more of his books, because again, I don't care much for the cowboy genre, but I can see why he sells so many books.

It was certainly a far cry from the two previous books I read, Changelings by Anne McCaffrey (1st of the second trilogy of the Petaybee series) and Catch Me by Lisa Gardner. Anne's books are always good. Petaybee is an arctic planet, so it has a lot of survival elements in it, too.

As for Catch Me, it was a fast read and a real page turner. I liked it, even if I found it predictable at times. Although the switching back and forth between first person and third person about drove me crazy. The premise was about a young woman who had two best friends. The first was killed on a certain date, and then one year later the second was killed in the same way on that same date, so the last woman spends the year learning how to defend herself and a couple weeks before the anniversary date of the deaths asks a cop to investigate her murder after she dies because she is sure she is next on the list.

It would make a great movie. There is some swearing in it, a light smattering of the F word, but nowhere near the distracting level of say a Tess Gerritsen novel.

And DH Filed the Taxes

February 4th, 2013 at 05:02 am

DH went ahead and e-filed through TurboTax. It cost $30. I thought he was going to wait until tomorrow so he could get the interest from the final CU savings account. He just added $5 to our interest income instead. Which is over what it would have been with less than $500 in it at any given time at .1% interest for the year. Just to be on the safe side.

The final numbers made the return be a bit more than I expected it to be. DH was just guesstimating when he said $8500. The real total is $8903. Now if we're lucky, like Secretary Saving, we'll get it back within five days. And if not, we'll get it in three to five weeks.

I'm hoping it will come soon because I just want the Chase card taken care of and the credit card debt done once and for all. I will try not to drive myself (and you guys) crazy about it, but clearly there are no guarantees that I won't. Wink

Hopefully this will be the last year we'll get such a tremendously large return. Last year and this year were because of medical expenses. I would really rather not have over $10,000 in medical expenses in 2013! Of course I have no idea what the sleep study will cost and if I have sleep apnea I'll have to buy the C-Pap machine which looks like they run between $600 to $1000. That will be completely out of pocket because of our $2500 deductible.

Maybe that will be what I use some of the tax return for. Well, at least we'll have the money to cover it if it comes to that.

Preliminary Run and College Musings

February 4th, 2013 at 12:28 am

DH took a preliminary run at our taxes. He is only waiting for the interest from one account. He will call on Monday to get it, but since that account never has more than $500 in it at any one time, it won't be very much. Right now it looks like we will be getting back $8500. That's a couple hundred less than last year, but DH had a bigger income last year because of a higher bonus.

Now before someone says anything about adjusting our withholding so we don't get so much back and have more during the year, we can't. DH already takes the legal number of withholdings. It is not like in the old days when you could claim 47 deductions. The laws are very strict now. And also, $6150 of what we are getting back is due to maxing out and using the full amount of the HSA this year. Without that it would be $2350.

Anyway, so I need to figure out what we will do with that money besides paying off the Chase card. Chase will be at $4900 by the time we get our refund back. So that will leave us with $3600. $1000 of that will go to purchase DD a MacBook, since I wiped out the MacBook fund to pay off debt. So that just leaves $2600.

I think I will let that money sit for a while in case we go over budget while at Disneyland. I don't know if we will or not, but I don't want to have new debt built up on one of the cards. So if we use it, we'll pay it off. Mostly I'd like to put $2000 in the EF. I am aiming towards getting it to $18,000, and then more slowly to $32,000, which will take a few years, especially with college coming up.

DD has agreed to doing her first two years at the local community college and then most likely doing 2 years in the Peace Corp before coming back to do a couple more years at the local university. The community college does offer Japanese. She'll be talking her 3rd year of high school Japanese next year, so college Japanese would help to reinforce that.

I just wish they taught Mandarin. They do offer it at WWU. Actually China is one of the countries that the Peace Corp works in, and the language training is pretty intensive before they send you in. Something like 5 hours a day for three months, if I remember right. But she isn't sure about China. She's thinking more about one of the islands or Africa. I don't want to push her in any one direction, because it's her life and her choice, but learning Mandarin would pretty much guarantee her a well-paying job in certain fields.

I just worry about the future of my kids. I want them to be able to get jobs they can support themselves on in a faltering economy. I can lead them to the proper areas based on their interests, but I can't push them in. It has be something they are interested in, otherwise it is a waste of both time and money.

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I added $10 to the EF, bringing the total to $1725.35. Just $174.65 left to meet my February goal of $1900.


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