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Archive for February, 2013

Tweaking the Budget

February 28th, 2013 at 04:59 pm

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 11:52 am

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 25th, 2013 at 05:19 pm

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 11:51 am

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 02:00 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 22nd, 2013 at 08:02 pm

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 01:46 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 20th, 2013 at 04:26 pm

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 19th, 2013 at 06:53 pm

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.