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Honking My Own Horn

October 30th, 2018 at 02:15 pm


Every year at my husband's current employer, there is a Halloween event that includes a chilli cook off and a pumpking contest. Two years ago we won the pumpking decorating contest (turned one into cookie monster thanks to pinterest).

Last year we didn't fare very well in either category.

This year I am proud to say that I won the chilli cook off! I found a simple recipe for a creamy chicken chilli in the crockpot.

Here it is:

Place two pounds chicken breasts in the bottom of crockpot.
Add drained can of corn and rinsed and drained black beans.
Add can of diced tomatoes WITH liquid.
Add one yellow onion chopped.
Add one green pepper chopped.
Season with one packed of dry ranch dressing mix.

Cook on high 3 hours.

Remove chicken breasts and shred. Return to crockpot and mix well with vegetable mixtures. Add on brick of cream cheese cut into squares, stirring til well blended.

Cook an additional 15 minutes.

I've never considered myself anything beyond basic in the kitchen. I'm pleased that my simple recipe was recognized and won.

Prize: Engraved ladle with our names on it.
And a $15 gift card to AMC Cinemas. I'm thrilled about that since I've forgotten how much I like seeing movies in the theater. Hello Date Night!

Happy Halloween!

Lost my grandmother

October 16th, 2018 at 10:10 am


Eight days ago my grandmother died at the age of almost 99. I was able to spend time with her one month before she passed, and I think that she might actually have waited to see my daughter. D arrived on Friday the 5th and had a really great day with G. The chaplain came and they had a wonderful 45 minute visit and my daughter got to pray over her great-grandmother. Saturday my grandmother was tired and they figured it was just the excitement of having D there. Then on Sunday she was tired, but in good spirits, having spent time outdoors in the Cafornia weather which she so enjoyed. They had her favorite dessert at dinner and the next morning my uncle and aunt were notified that my G passed away in her sleep.

My grandmother wasn't in bad health, but was definitely frail and having a hard time maintaining weight and had become more oxygen dependent. So while it wasn't completely unexpected, I had still hoped to see her again.

I am sorry that the other Laura lost her mom. And I hope that Lucky Robin's Dear Girl get a diagnosis and reliable medical treatment so she feels better.

I guess this was really just a lament post. Nothing here has changed one way or the other moneywise; we're still just moving along toward the future.

Prayers for everyone who needs them.

And then the ceiling fell in, or where I just laugh ...

June 7th, 2018 at 07:59 am


We had a plumbing issue with the toilet in the master bath. Twice it overflowed with tons of water. We were't home the second time and it took Offspring a bit of time to turn off the water valve.

It must've been a lot of water because the ceiling in my family room was stained the first day after and actually fell in the second day following.

And there is currently a gaping hole roughly 4' x 8'. DH removed the wall board and we've got the dehumidifier going, so it's not feeling musty or moldy.

Irony: I agreed to host a law school graduation party on Sunday for my cousin who lives out of state, but whose son lives in Chicago. My house is clean and it's being catered by Portillos. I've collected card tables and chairs from family and friends. I am renting a carpet cleaner on Saturday (we've two dogs, one very old who is having more accidents nowadaays).

My mother (who has strong Martha Stewart tendencies) said, "Oh dear. When are the repair people coming in to fix it before that party?" To which I just laughed. Since we're still running on fumes here and the money we have needs to cover oil changes and pet grooming.

I've my final appointment with the Career Counseling Center on Tuesday (finalize my resume) and we're still in the process of finding renters for the rental property.

At least my good humor was here and I didn't let my mother's aghast look that I'm actually hosting a party with a hole-y ceiling get my knickers twisty!

Smile

College book stores price match. Who knew?

April 10th, 2018 at 01:07 pm


I had a snafu with the last textbook I purchased online from Amazon. On the cover it clearly stated that it was intended for international students and not those in the US or Canada. Boo. I was so happy to get it at a reasonable price; after all the angst, I was able to use it in class and cannot quite actually determine what the differences in the text books are.

I was on campus at the bookstore today for the textbook for the two-weekend seminar upcoming. They only had new books for $105. While being helped, I said I could probably find it cheaper on Amazon, to which the worker said they price match. I ended up with the text book for $73.00 out the door. I was happy with that.

Who knew that they price match? I also found out that the eye doctor sells the contact lens boxes at warehouse club prices. I suppose it always helps to ask if they price match.

I guess this qualifies as "Saving while spending". I will need to Whack a Mole for this puchase (I am $23 short from the EXTRANEOUS FUND). But its fine. Spending across all other categories is at expected or less.

Win Some. Lose Others. Today was a Loss.

April 3rd, 2018 at 03:29 pm


I was riding high on the thrill of the economical suit purchase for DH.

And I was super proud that I got my required textbook in an earlier version for $35 on Amazon. It arrived today and ... big fail. It's for international students and not intended for use in the United States or Canada.
Topic: Methods of Research in Organizational Behavior. I thought that statistics were universal, but apparently not. The only way to remedy this is to see if I can take out a general methods textbook and try to supplement. It's required for tomorrow, I will limp along.

Also in an effort to corral expenses, I did not renew my Amazon prime today.

I did spend $33 at the grocery store and $25 in gas.

Prayers please for DH's upcoming test. It's a PET scan to confirm that a small nodule on his lung is really the "highly unlikely to be harmful" kind that his doctor thinks it is. DH does have some small nodules of insignificance on his lungs, this is a new one. His other CAT scan results were all fine, he is two years post-cancer diagnosis. I know logically this is probably nothing, but the anxiety and stress is kicking in. Anyhow, he needs to eat a particular diet tomorrow before test on Thurs.

That's all for now. Stay warm; hard to believe its spring out there!

Happy Easter/Spring and Hello April

March 30th, 2018 at 09:14 am


I closed out spending for March. The extraneous spending was higher because we had title/plate/registration/tax on the minivan my parents gifted us, I paid for spring sports for my grade schooler, Easter cost us $170 (that is the dinner and I spent $30 on each child getting them things that they need (summer clothes), I also had to pay for a textbook that I needed for this quarter and couldn't borrow.

I think that the rest of the year is going to fly for us since we are 4th quarter/2nd semester for everyone. I have 9 weeks left of the quarter and I think it should be manageable. The methods of organizational research class requires weekly check-ins with the professor (there are only nine of us in the class), so I won't be stressed at the end of it, and I read the syllabus for the two weekend seminar and I've already started what I can on that (journal article reviews and doing prelim background research on some OD topics).

I am going to attend a Speaker Lecture Series for free; I'm non-degree seeking (16 hour grad certificate) but they agreed to waive the cost. I'm looking forward to it and am glad I accepted the offer. More knowledge is always a good thing.

Looking forward to a low-spend April. It's a short month, I'm fairly organized, and I've been building a stockpile. And collecting easy and economical recipes.

Today we're heading to the Garfield Park Conservatory and eating at Chillis. I spend $50 on gift cards at CVS for Chillis and have $10 ECB. I also spent $50 on groceries at Target and got a $10 gift card. I'm hosting a brunch but it keeps getting smaller and smaller. I don't really mind much; I'm getting less and less accepting of other people's drama.

Enjoy your weekend and see you in April!

Grocery and Meal Plan Challenge for April

March 19th, 2018 at 10:36 am

The writing is on the wall and DH's official last day is 5/31 with his final check on 6/1. That being said, I need to cast some attention to the budget and spending. I will readily admit to being on money autopilot since I started back to school in January. We aren't over spending and I am tracking, but I am seeing that things can definitely be done smarter to conserve money if I just put forth the energy and plan and commit.

We had two trips to Sam's Club in the past month. One was for $270 (I used $100 of the tax return toward that) and the other was for $230 (I used $100 from DH's bonus for that too). We did stock up on toilet paper, feminine hygiene products x2, batteries, razors, dishwasher pods, and vitamins. Since our local Sam's closed, we did have to drive to suburbs north for the trips and we did fill up on gas while there.

My goal for April is $300 for all consumables. That's $10/day for a family of six. I'm planning on no processed food items and am on the fence about Gatorade since my boys are practicing daily for soccer/track/and volleyball.

I've been spending some time on websites reading about frugal meals and was wondering if anyone has any tried and true economical recipes that their families like?

Our cheapest eats lately have been: curried chickpeas and ground turkey with peppers. I've also made crockpot granola with success, and instead of Belvita bars for my daughter, we found a simple recipe for sweet potato pancakes that are very tasty and economical.

I've found a new recipe for quinoa broccoli bites. And am looking to expand my new recipes for this endeavor.

Thanks in advance!

Plan for April

March 15th, 2018 at 05:53 pm


DH's boss's last day is 4/30 with the final reduction in his current department is 5/31. The office will become a satellite office as the work has migrated to HQ, with a kick-back of some of the more complicated contracts for a final transition.

This means a finite number of paychecks. This thankfully coincides to a completion of my program and I would surmise that I should be able to find a job relatively easily or at least get a paid internship for the summer.

So the plan for April is to do a low-spend, uber frugal month challenge. There isn't much anticipated and it will be a month full of soccer, boys' volleyball and track. I won't need to outfit the boys with summer uniforms because they're set.

I'm going to see about borrowing the text books for the upcoming quarter. I'm using the library for books on tape and videos. I'm thinking that it can definitely be a practice run at economizing.

Definitely giving thoughts to how to contain costs while increasing savings.

Smarter in General

March 14th, 2018 at 03:27 pm

Thanks for all the feedback on where your sinking funds are parked. I also found a particularly helpful youtube vid about it at JennPlans. Thanks to Scottish Girl for recommending that. Since forever, I've been lumping all those things together into one EXTRANEOUS/MISCELLANY category (other categories in the budget are mortgage/utilities/consumables (food/household/personal care/pet)/gasoline. So that would be education/clothing/gifts/entertainment/etc. And that has been at around $300 a month.

I've tracked every red cent spent since 1/1/18 and feel that I have a fairly close estimate to what I have spent, yet I need to work some magic and come up with actual amounts for each intended sub-category.

Things that have helped with the money flow:

- I have two daughters who are at home now, and since the use of my car has increased, they contribute to gas and insurane payments. Since they both work (older nannies and models, younger nannies and dog sits), they pretty much cover all of their own expenses.

- Our medical expenses have been lower since we have a Flex Spend account set up and that should cover the next three months of expeses (so 1/2 year). We did not have that last year.

- We are still contributing 10% of DH's pay to 401K. I'd like to save more, but there is still uncertianty in our future.

- I took advantage of a CD (savings certificate) paying 4% (thanks FrugalTexan Laura for recommending the CU!)

- I'm parking the sinking funds into the Reserve Checking Account associated with the PNC Virtual Wallet.

- This is the first time that we aren't anxiously awaiting the check from DH's side job to cover some expense. It's rather nice to not feel the anxiety of Paycheck To Paycheck living. Best thing I ever did was apply the income tax refund to YNAB's income usage concept. I'm actually looking forward to April 1st when I will pay pretty much everything that isn't automated.

- I will declare April a Low-Spend month since I will be back in school (starting up last quarter on 3/26) and am taking one 4 hour course over two weekend seminars. I also plan on incorporating a simple but detailed meal plan for most of the month.

- We are eating healthier and it does cost more.

- I'm feeling desperate about lack of sleeping pill usage, but will ride it out. I've started training for a 5K in April and ran yesterday and today despite it being cold. I've learned that older daughter does not like to run in the cold. I'm hoping to take off another 6-8# this month. No sugar either.

- Today I made homemade granola in the crockpot. Nut-free since older daughter had her allergy testing done and lots of things came up. Frown

- Anyhow, just feeling smarter in general.

Where do you park your sinking funds?

March 12th, 2018 at 09:21 am

I never paid attention to these sorts of conversations before, because I was a financial mess and figured I'd never get to the pro-active point in money management since I was mired down by anxiety and reactivity.

Fast forward to current situation where we are much better and stable (despite uncertainties) and I have started a sinking fund for future car expenses. It's $25.50/month so that we can pay for three car registrations in February 2019.

So my question now is: Do you park your sinking funds in an additional external account that you make transfers to monthly?

Also, opinion on laddering CDs as a safety measure? This is something that my father did with my grandmother's funds years ago. Did Ima Saver do this too?

Any and all opinions appreciated.

Also what other categories do you plan for? All of our insurance premiums are monthly. I am thinking to add for gifts and maybe insurance deductibles in case of a car accident or incident.

Half Way Done

March 11th, 2018 at 03:04 pm


Today I uploaded the last of the papers which I needed to write for this past quarter. I've completed 8 graduate hours and am half way done with the certificate in Organizational Development and Change. I am confident that I will have a 4.0. I submitted a partial sample of my writing for this last paper and received positive feedback, so I am cautiously optimistic that this will be considered a success.

I have two weeks off and then will take the final two 4-hour courses, one Tuesday nights and the other in a two-weekend format. Upon completion I will at least have a current skills set that should make me marketable in the public sector.

On the money front, spending is within reason. I took $100 from DH's bonus and put it toward a shopping trip to Sam's Club. I stocked up on quite a few items and feel that everything purchased will be used. We're eating healthier, more fresh produce and less processed food. The athletes are eating more and everyone is back at home.

We are anticipating $115 from DH's side job with my biological father and for once we don't need those funds for necessary expenses. We'll put that in the savings. I am also expecting a $300 refund from an overpayment on my oldest daughter's Hawaii trip back in January. That will go to savings also.

I'm feeling a wave of relief not to have papers hanging over my head and have decided to continue a serious declutter of our house and I'm going to take up running again. It's been awhile and I really do miss the training that I did for a 5K a few years back. I'm a size 4 and may have to buy myself some new clothing items and lots are just getting ridiculously big. I actually fit into one of my daughter's sweaters (size Small) and it looked good and was comfortable.

I think the fog of winter depression is lifting, too, though this year I was really too busy to let it rule my life, though there were spurts of exhaustion and lack of motivation.

Here's to the turning of the corner.

Positive Changes

March 9th, 2018 at 01:55 pm


New beginnings with YNAB, and I'm seeing some progress (well, more like small steps) in a positive direction.

1) We transferred 10% of DH's bonus into savings. The balance is going for some car repairs and new doors at the rental property.

2) We established the first sinking fund and deposited $25.25. That's 1/12 of the cost to renew the license plates for three vehicles next February 2019.

3) The paycheck today is earmarked for the first half of April 2018.

4) I am very close to finishing up the third paper for this first quarter. I earned 2 A's so far, and got positive feedback on the draft I submitted for this paper, so I'm feeling that I will end with a 4.0. And I should add that these are real classes at an academic university; my previous academic run was in a seminary where everything was rather "fluff". I am proud of myself for making the decision and sticking with it. One more quarter and I will be done.

YNAB One Week In

March 6th, 2018 at 03:32 pm


I made the decision to use YNAB the way it was intended/recommended by living on last month's salary. I could never actually figure out a way to fund it since our existence is in all reality very paycheck-to-paycheck. I earmarked one month of living expenses from the tax refund to start it, and March's paychecks will be lived on in April.

It's interesting because I'm not "having to rob Peter to pay Paul." I paid an additional $18.50 on the mortgage to bring the balance owed to an even $218,475. All of the utilities for the month are paid. I used the FSA Debit Card to cover this month's medical/prescription costs.

DH's bonus is being deposited on Friday. With those funds we are installing a new front and back door at the rental property, having new garage door installed, and are attempting to reglaze the bathtub with the assistance of our handy man friend. I'm not sure the actual cost of those.

We are going to also to get two new tires and an alignment on our old '07 Dodge Caravan, this has been upgraded with an '07 Honda Odyssey from my parents. Also from this will be license plates renewal for the Dodge and my husband's Corvette. that will be $202.

I am almost officially done with my first half a professional certificate. I'm completing the final paper for the third class (I did receive two A's on two 2-hour graduate seminars). My motivation and enthusiasm are at a good level and I'm feeling proficient (it was a rough haul there with some of the weeks of being with nearing graduation MBA students and I'm a fledgeling).

So, hopefully the trajectory continues upwards in a positive direction!