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tax day decision

April 18th, 2017 at 07:01 am

As usual, I have procrastinated on my taxes until the last minute.

My taxes are actually pretty straightforward and I entered all of the info into turbot@x late Sunday night. At the moment my federal return is $107 and state return is $16. It’s pretty much a wash since the cost of filing is about $90!

The reason I always wait so long to actually file is because I can never decide if I should contribute to an IRA. And, if I do, which one should I choose – traditional or Roth? I already contribute a lot of money through my work retirement plan. I just did some research and discovered that between my paycheck deductions and my employer contributions, a total of $38,479.08 went into my retirement account during 2016. I think my salary is just shy of $70K. Seems like a substantial amount!

But, then I wrestle with the IRA contribution. I have a very small ($15,726) Roth account because I usually contributed to a Traditional IRA in order to get the tax break. That account is fairly small, too ($70,188), considering the number of years that I’ve had it, because I never took the time to properly invest the money. Frown I’d probably be able to retire at this point, if I had done so!

So, the question is, do I put money into my Roth IRA (up to $6500 since I’m over 50) so that I have a bit more non-taxable income to draw on when I’m older? Or should I use the money for house projects and other current needs/wants rather than putting so much towards retirement? I could also contribute to the Roth and decrease my 2017 retirement contributions through work if I decide that I need more cash flow this year.

Definitely not a problem to complain about, I just feel confused each year by the decision and it weighs on me until I finally make a choice at the last minute. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what I choose to do…life will go on either way.

I just called the firm that manages my retirement accounts and found out that I have until 10p tonight to make a contribution. Now I can procrastinate all day! Frown I also found out that I contributed $1700 to my Roth and $300 to the traditional for 2015 (on April 15th, of course!). Seems kind of random!

Each year, I think about setting up a monthly auto deduction in order to avoid this situation, but then I forget to do it.

Hope everyone else is long done with their taxes and can enjoy the day! Smile

Net Worth February 2017

February 13th, 2017 at 06:39 pm

I decided to figure out my net worth while the market is high and before an inevitable correction occurs.

I think I got everything in the tally below.

403B 577,952.48
Trad IRA 69,645.96
Roth IRA 15, 617.66
brokerage 60,840.73
cash 80,002.50
house 200,000.00
total 988,441.67

Wow! I wasn’t expecting that figure. I haven’t calculated my net worth in a long time.

I don’t have any debt, but I am going to need to sink some money into my house at some point – at least 35 - 40K for a new septic system and other necessary repairs.

But, I’ll enjoy the current balance while it exists. Smile

decluttering is hard to do

December 27th, 2016 at 05:42 pm

Don’t take my stuff away from me, don’t you leave my heart in misery. Smile

During my holiday break, I’m attempting to tackle some mounds of clutter that have accumulated in my house over the past 12 years. It is so hard for me to get rid of stuff!

In a recent post, I shared photos of boxes in one of my closets and commenters wanted to know what was in them. Well, those boxes mostly contain piles of unmade decisions.

Of course, I’m breaking all of the cardinal rules of decluttering. My house is a disaster as I move from one area to another pulling stuff out and sorting. I just can’t focus on one thing at a time although I know I should. Oh well – it is what it is, as they say. Smile

Something I struggle with is the fact that I want to donate and toss everything, not try to sell any of it. I feel guilty that I’m not trying to make some money and that I’m taking the easy way out or something. But, I know that I won’t ever get around to selling and, honestly, nothing is worth much. I’m trying to focus on the time and space that I will gain and feelings of freedom and relief. I’m also trying to let myself feel sad and disappointed about the money that I may be missing out on. There are pros and cons to each way of decluttering. Getting stuff out of the house is my main goal. I admire my fellow bloggers who sell items on eB@y and FB and at yard sales. At this point, I just can’t wrap my head around organizing any of that.

I also worry that once I clear out the junk, I will have the head space to deal with selling and then I’ll be disappointed that I don’t have anything to sell! It’s a vicious cycle that spins in my head.

So, I’ve made the decision to donate usable items. There is a consignment shop in a nearby town where I thought about taking some decent clothes, but it turns out that they only give store credit, not cash, for sold items. There are consignment shops in the closest city to me, but it’s almost an hour away and I don’t get there much these days. So, I’m going to split my stuff between three thrift shops in the town where I work. One supports the local hospital, one gives grants to local non-profits and one helps families in need. So, I will at least be giving back to my local community with the donations. Oh, and I have a few items to donate to the local animal shelter, too.

If I can acknowledge and then tolerate my uncomfortable feelings about “giving it all away” and do it anyway, then I will be free! I have to get things moving along – I’m stuck in so many ways and time is flying by. Life is short.

If anyone reading this has decluttered by donating and tossing rather than selling, please share your experience in the comments. I don’t know why I’m struggling with this scenario, but I am and I’d love to hear others’ stories.

Part of the problem is I imagine that if I lose my job, then I will regret not having the discarded items to wear, use or sell. I seem to be missing the belief that I can persevere and take care of myself no matter what happens in my life.

A few years ago, I got rid of a bunch of stuff by using a personal organizer whom I paid to help me sort and discard, and I seemed to have lived through that experience. Now that I think about it, once the items are gone, I probably won’t remember any of them since my post-50 memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Smile

OMG, my mind is still arguing with me about the consignment clothes…keep them and take them up to the town that has consignment stores. I also started to look on line for places to sell books and CDs. Most of my book titles aren’t sellable and the CDs would net about .40 each. I don’t have that many, so I don’t think it is worth my time to punch in the IBN or barcode for each item.

I’ve been going through clothes and toiletry articles and some boxes with papers and other various junk.
So far, I have gathered:

One bag of garbage and a small box of recycling that I will dispose of on Saturday

One bag of clothes and shoes to donate to local thrift shops

One bag of worn out clothes for textile recycling

I have to go to town for an appointment on Thursday and will drop those two bags off during that trip.

I also have a big box of clothes that I would have tried to consign and am now deciding what to do with.

I feel kind of embarrassed to share all of this drama and craziness, but this really is a very difficult challenge for me. I’m hoping that I’ll read this post next December and realize that not only did I accomplish my goal of doing some decluttering and my house is easier to live in, but that I survived giving the stuff away (and without the potential extra money) and that I’m ok. And, that if any feelings of loss, sadness, regret and anger about it surfaced over the year, that I felt and accepted them with compassion and kept moving forward as much as possible.

Back to sorting! Smile

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc.!

December 25th, 2016 at 11:30 pm

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season in whatever way you celebrate.

I spent most of the weekend relaxing by the tree with my cat. Smile

It is very late here and time for bed. To all a good night!


my christmas tree 2016


my sweet pea loves the tree!


christmas joy, 1965 style Smile





How is the weekend already over?!

December 11th, 2016 at 09:28 pm

Weekends go by way, way, way too fast. Frown The last two days were fairly productive and relaxing. I was mostly home, puttering around while listening to Christmas music and playing some on the piano. I love Christmas music!

As planned, today I prepared food for the week. For lunches, I made four salads (Thursday is a holiday lunch out at work) – lettuce, spinach, red cabbage, carrot, celery, baby bok choy, and shredded beet.



I will add a piece of roasted sweet potato and some chunks of feta cheese (had both on hand) to each salad and dress with a basic Italian that I bought Friday on sale.

For breakfasts, which I don’t always eat, I’ll chop up hard boiled egg and serve with steamed broccoli and carrots over cooked oats with olive oil, salt and pepper. I cooked the eggs and washed and chopped the veggies, so they are all ready to go. I also washed off grapes to use for snacks.

For dinners, I created some vegetarian pea soup. I cooked the split peas in water, but then dozed off and they scorched! Thankfully, I caught it in time and was able save most of the peas. I added more water to create a broth. I tried something different by roasting in the oven chopped onion, carrot and celery drizzled with olive oil and adding the mixture to the pea soup. It tastes great! I’ll eat this over sorghum that I also cooked today. I might sprinkle on some paprika for a smoky flavor. I was happy to use up celery and an onion that were almost past their prime. I also roasted some old Brussel sprouts and squash seeds that I’ll use for snacks.

After making the pea soup, I realized that I had some black beans in my fridge that needed to be used up soon. So, I sautéed chopped carrots and celery in coconut oil, added the black beans and their liquid and lots of cumin, thyme, salt and pepper. After heating, I spooned it over some of the sorghum and stirred in fresh spinach, chopped scallions and feta cheese. It was pretty good – I love cumin. I’ll eat the rest of that concoction tomorrow night and then the pea soup starting on Tuesday evening.

Since I brought home some free desserts from a holiday party last night, I decided to forgo making an apple crisp as originally planned. I don’t need more dessert options than I already have. I thought about making applesauce, but just didn’t want to spend the time.

So, I’m excited to have healthy food prepared which will save time and money this week and should last into the weekend. I need to work on shortening prep time, though. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today – prepping, cooking, and cleaning up. Ugh. I can see why people spend money to eat out. It’s so much easier! I recently bought an instantpot, but haven’t had the energy to break it out of the box and learn how to use it. That might help.

I imagine part of the problem is that my kitchen is very inefficient and so am I. I need to bite the bullet and start the process of renovation. I’m considering taking out a line of credit (not sure if that’s the correct term). I have money in savings that I could use, but I don’t want to lessen my liquidity. When I read other blogs, it seems like people with loans are super motivated to put all available money towards paying them off, which might be a better option for me than saving the full amount needed in advance. I’d probably end up using some savings to pay off the loan, but only if I felt ok about it. Having the goal of paying off a loan might help me to focus on my money management. I’ll have to ponder this.

While I’m thinking about healthy food prep, I’m making a note to myself here that I haven’t been sick yet this fall/early winter. I’ve seen a lot of colds and other illnesses going around, but so far I’ve been very lucky and haven’t caught anything.

I finally tackled Christmas tree decorating this weekend. I put up the tree right after Thanksgiving and did the lights, but have not had the motivation to hang the ornaments.



Oh my, I didn’t realize that this photo was so blurry!

I was hoping to do some decluttering this weekend, but I didn’t. I got rid of garbage and recycling from some sorting I did in the past few weeks, so that’s something! I also straightened up my office, which was a complete disaster (embarrassing photos below!). It’s much more functional now, but it’s kind of a false scenario. I have done this many times – organized my office, but without getting rid of anything. I shove items into boxes with the intention of sorting later, but never get around to it. I eventually revert back to messiness and the cycle starts again. Having the office tidy feels good and gives me a clear space to start sorting, but now I need to commit to starting the process – a little at a time. I struggle with letting go of stuff – I can always come up with a good reason to keep something.


office before

office before

office before

before

before

office after

office after

office after

reality - so many boxes of junk to be sorted!

It’s supposed to snow up to six inches tonight and tomorrow morning, which reminds me that I haven’t put my snow tires on yet. Darn. I was going to venture out into the shed this weekend to find them. I’ll have to remember to do that this week and to make an appointment. If the roads are dicey, I’ll work at home in the morning, which is fine with me. Smile

Yikes, it is really late and I should go to sleep!


foodstuffs

December 10th, 2016 at 07:52 pm

The past few weeks have been very busy and stressful at work, so I am glad it’s the weekend. My company’s holiday party was this evening. I met up with two friends and their husbands. We had a nice time and the buffet dinner and beer/wine bar were delicious (and free!). I came home with some yummy desserts to enjoy later. Smile

Like CCF, I’ve been avoiding stores recently! In my case, food stores are my downfall. I find it very easy to buy food – it’s comforting, familiar and fun for me. But I end up wasting a lot of food and money. So, I’ve been staying out of my favorite food stores and eating what I have on hand. But, I was running out of fresh veggies, so I went shopping last night after work at the local health food store.

I bought salad ingredients for this week’s lunches. My small department will go out for a holiday lunch on Thursday, so I will only need four salads total. I was out of dressing and my favorite was on sale, so I got a bottle. I will probably buy a few more before the sale ends. I also bought some cumin, chili powder and thyme in the bulk spice area.

A few weeks ago, I bought some organic red grapes at my local health food store and they were terrible – very strange tasting and bitter. I finally remembered to talk one of the produce people last evening and she suggested that I take two bags for free to make up for the inconvenience. I knew that I couldn’t use that many grapes, so I asked if I could take one bag of grapes and something else. I ended up with four organic red pears and two organic kiwis. That’s a lot of free fruit! Well, a lot of fruit for $4.79 which is what the original grapes cost. I also took two free clementines from a plate of fruit that was left in the lobby area of my office yesterday.

I also finally remembered to return some shampoo and conditioner that I bought on sale a few months ago. I didn’t like them at all! Thankfully, I had the receipt and was credited $10.68 toward my grocery bill. Yay!

I had a rain check from September for organic olive oil for $9.99, so I got two bottles since I’m almost out of olive oil. I checked to make sure there wasn’t a better sale before using it. I learned that the rainchecks for this store never expire. Unfortunately, I recycled a small pile that I found in my office recently because I figured that they were too old to use. Frown

I purchased four cans of food – kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas and corn, all organic, for a food drive at tonight’s party. There were a lot of donations which will help the local food shelf.

There was a local brewer serving samples of his beer, so I tasted four different varieties.

After I finished shopping at the small health food store, I went to the larger grocery store to get local butter, which I thought would be on sale. It wasn’t, so I returned to the first store and bought one stick of organic butter for an apple crisp that I want to make. I found two dollars on the floor in front of the register – yay! Then I found a penny as I was leaving the store. This morning I scrounged up .49 to add to the found $2.01 to pay for my $2.50 trash disposal fee. Smile

Grocery purchases (all produce and olive oil is organic):

2.99 lettuce
2.47 half a head of local red cabbage
0.64 baby bok choy
1.50 local spinach
0.48 one local carrot
2.00 broccoli

free red grapes
free two kiwis
free four red pears

3.75 raisins
0.62 bulk spices

19.98 two bottles olive oil
2.69 salad dressing

6.16 four cans for food drive

2.99 favorite Belgian butter (only available once a year and was told they were sold out last time I was there. Saw one package last evening, so I snagged it – so delicious!)
1.50 stick of butter

(10.68) returns

37.09 TOTAL

After shopping, I went home, heated up some free frozen flatbread-style pizza from a work event last week and steamed the last of my cauliflower and broccoli from the last time I went shopping. I also had some leftover popcorn and a chocolate cookie that I saved from a holiday stroll the night before. The town where I work hosted a holiday evening on Thursday. Stores were open until 8 and many offered special deals and served snacks and drinks. I, of course, wandered around for the snacks and drinks. 

This morning I prepared a crispy fried egg served over oats with steamed broccoli and carrots for brunch, had some popcorn for an afternoon snack and then enjoyed a big dinner at the holiday party.



I’ve been eating homemade applesauce that I got from a friend last week and free cider left over from a recent work event. I think I’ve figured out how to keep cider from fermenting so quickly – keep the lid off in the fridge – seems to have worked this time.

I have been successful at packing lunches for work most of this year! This really helps me to save money and maintain my weight. I hope to continue this trend. It helps if I prep food in advance each week, but that doesn’t always happen.

Tomorrow, I’ll make the salads for work and perhaps a small pot of pea soup with ingredients I already have on hand. I’ll cook a grain (maybe sorghum?) and maybe make an apple crisp with some of local apples that I have in my fridge (free from a few work events and a friend’s tree). I did just have to get rid of about six spoiled apples that I never got around to using. I’ll also hard boil some eggs and wash and chop broccoli and carrots so that they are ready to go when I need them. That should take care of food for the week. Smile

weekend in nyc

December 8th, 2016 at 11:07 am

I took a fairly spontaneous trip to New York City this past weekend and did it as frugally as possible! The main reason for my visit was to see an Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit, which I’ve known about for a year as it traveled the world, but it is only in NY from November 18 – December 11. Such bad timing with Thanksgiving and the holiday season in that window! This weekend was the only chance for me to go.

I haven’t been to the city during the holiday season since the 1980s, so I thought it would fun to go for the exhibit and then walk around and enjoy the festive atmosphere. A friend was tentatively going to join me, but she had to cancel, so I decided to go by myself. The best way to get to NY from my area is to drive anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours and then take a train into the city. For an overnight trip (it’s just a tad too far to make a day trip worthwhile), the best option is to drive for 2.5 hours and then train for about 2.5 hours. But since I made my travel plans so close to the weekend, the best train times were either very expensive or sold out. So, I opted to drive to a commuter town closer to the city and take a train from there. Parking at the station is free on weekends, and the ride costs $8.75 one way and is just under an hour.

I didn’t want to invest a lot in lodging and thought I would have to stay outside of the city. But, after some research, I found a room in a basic little place in Chelsea that had good reviews. One drawback was shared bathrooms, but it was significantly cheaper than the cheapest hotels with private bathrooms. I opted to pay $10 extra for the choice to cancel up until 6:00p the day before in case I changed my mind about taking the trip. The total cost for the room was $168.74 including all taxes. It worked perfectly for my needs, was in a great location and I liked it! Very clean and the staff was friendly. My room was Spartan, but the young owners made the place as hip as possible so there was some creative flair.

I practiced packing light, which is difficult for me! I wanted to walk from Grand Central to my lodging and was able to utilize the backpack that I bought for a walking trip in Portugal that I took in October. This was so much nicer than dragging luggage through the city. The hotel room had a fridge, so I took some food that I already had on hand – two salads, rice and roasted veggies, hardboiled eggs, apples, applesauce, peanut butter, and some walnuts, almonds and raisins.

Leaving my house on Saturday morning at 7:00a, I drove 4.5 hours to the train and was in the city by 12:45p. I love New York! I exited the station and started walking down Park Avenue taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. The first time the Empire State Building comes into view is always exciting. It was a gorgeous brisk sunny day. I strolled around for a bit and stopped to eat one of my salads at a café table on Herald Square across from Macy’s, which was all decked out for Christmas.



I found my hotel, checked in (my room was ready early), dropped off my things and headed back out. I walked along the High Line, then down into the Village. I wasn’t going to eat any meals out, but decided to splurge on a burger and a beer at The Spotted Pig in the West Village. I’d heard that their burgers were really good, but that the place gets crowded. I was able to snag an empty window stool and just made the cutoff before the kitchen closed at 4:30p to prepare for dinner. The burger was delicious and the fries were amazing – super thin shoestring fries with garlic and rosemary. The local beer was good, too. Yum! I filled up fast and took the leftovers to go. Total cost of the meal was almost $42.93. In retrospect, I wish I had skipped this meal or just ordered fries and a beer and put the money towards something else that would have brought me more joy than eating out.


A rare unoccupied section of the High Line





I then walked over near Chelsea Piers to the photo exhibit, which was free. It was mostly digital, which was fairly disappointing, but I enjoyed it. I left when it closed at 7:00p and returned to my room for a quick bathroom break. Then I headed back out and walked up to Times Square to marvel at the over-the-top media, then on to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, enjoy a light show at Saks Fifth Avenue, and walk through Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. So many people! Everywhere I went, the streets were packed, but I noticed that I didn’t see one incident of aggression, arguing, or rudeness. I then headed back to my room. By this time it was about 11:00p. I was exhausted after walking all day. I wonder how many steps would have been recorded if I had a fit bit? Smile


times square


light show at saks


cool dress - saks


the tree


offering candles at saint patrick's cathedral



The next morning I slept in for a bit, then relaxed in my room and ate my other salad and an egg for brunch. I packed up my stuff and checked out around 11:30, leaving my bag with the front desk. I then walked over to the Fifth Avenue and then up to Central Park, about 30 blocks. So many fun window displays! I noticed lots of police as I got closer to the park and realized that I was going to pass Trump Tower. I decided to go in, through all the security of course, and check it out. Yuck.


ny public library lion decked out for the holidays


saint patrick's by day


dolce & gabbana display


i need new sneakers!


central park

I then continued on to the park where I strolled around for a bit before catching the subway back to my hotel. The subway cost $3! I found a dime in the change slot when I got my receipt from the ticket machine, but then I lost a dime in my car yesterday! I felt old as I remembered when the subway used to be a dollar. Smile I grabbed my bag and walked back to Grand Central for the train out of town. Then I had a very long 4.5 hour drive back home. In the dark. Yuck. At one point, I stopped for some fries at McD’s.

I really enjoyed my time in the city, although I miss the grittiness of 80s New York – it’s pretty tame and homogenized now. The consumerism around Christmas was intense!

I broke my 23-day no-sugar streak last week with some really good (free!) cookies left over from a work event. I got a craving for a chocolate caramel candy bar on the walk back to my room on Saturday night, but didn’t pass any drugstores. There was a 7 Eleven on my block, so I spent $2.60 on a small candy bar. The next day I found a 2 for 1 sale on a bigger size of the same candy bar at a drugstore. Well, 2 for 1 if you had the store’s courtesy card, which I didn’t, but the guy at the register gave me the deal anyway. Smile I ate one on my walk to the train and on the train and the other during my long car ride, but the caramel had leaked and the bar stuck to the wrapper so it was hard to fully enjoy. I should have skipped all of the candy bars and ate the apples and nuts that I brought with me! I did start no sugar again this week and am on day 4. My work holiday party is Saturday, so I will break it again if the dessert selection is worth it. Smile

I tallied up my expenses and my weekend cost just under $300 – not bad for 24 hours in NYC!

42.87 gas
17.50 train roundtrip
11.10 highway tolls
3.00 NYC subway

1.00 lit candle in St Patrick’s

168.74 lodging

43.00 Saturday early dinner
5.53 3 caramel candy bars
2.82 McD’s fries on ride home

1.17 Repub Wireless temporary data upgrade (my phone plan costs 11.47/month for cell calls and text, but only wifi for data. I upgraded to a 3G data plan for the two days for only $1.17. Was so convenient to have full data while finding my way around the city).

TOTAL SPENT 296.73

productive weekend

November 28th, 2016 at 10:47 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed my quiet Thanksgiving staycation and I am so sad that the break is already over. I put the lights on my Christmas tree on Saturday night and barely had enough because the tree is larger than I realized. I made do with what I have because I didn’t want to venture out to the store yesterday and I think it looks ok. I thought I'd start trimming the tree last evening, but never did, so I will do that this week when I can find pockets of time.

I dedicated time Saturday and Sunday to decluttering. I want and need to get rid of a lot of junk that has accumulating in my house and is weighing me down. I started to tackle my office, guest bedroom and my clothes closet. Ugh – I always make the same mistake of working on too many areas at once. Now the house is in disarray and I am back at work. I am not sure when I will have the time or energy to focus on this project again. Ideally I will spend a little time each day going forward, but the reality is that I won't do this consistently!

I have a bag of clothes to donate. The trick will be to actually take them out of the house. I started this particular bag a few months ago and it has just been sitting in my bedroom. I think there might be a local organization that recycles textiles, so I have a bag of unusable clothes, too. Uh oh, I did some quick research and it looks like textile recycling is no longer an option in my area. This is a tricky situation for me. I have had a stash of these unusable clothes in my back room for years because I had heard of textile recycling, but wasn't sure where to do it and I couldn’t bring myself to just throw them away. (Update – called a local thrift shop today and they DO still collect for textile recycling! I'm going to take both bags of clothes there this week!)

The reason I have so much junk is that my own mind is a master at talking me into keeping anything that I try to get rid of (might need it someday, could use it for this, etc.) AND I have a serious aversion to throwing things away and adding to a landfill. I also hold onto things with the idea that I'll have a yard sale, but I never do and probably never will. How can I let go of stuff that I could possible sell? But then I don't try to sell it. It's a vicious cycle!! A few years ago I hired a woman to help me get rid of stuff. She was great and very compassionately helped me to sort through a lot of items and took my discards with her to drop off at a donation center. She even agreed to take the boxes and bags to the car herself because I was afraid that I would see something and want it back! I've thought about hiring her again, but I'm going to start out on my own and see how far I can get.

I have some old sheets and towels for the local animal shelter – items that are on their wish list, so I hope they will take them. They were closed today, so I'll call tomorrow to inquire. I also added three rolls of toilet paper and one roll of paper towels from my paper products stash to that box since those items are also on the shelter's wish list.

I found $70 while cleaning out a purse, which was a total surprise because I rarely carry cash so I don't usually find money in pockets or purses. My best guess is that the money is from my birthday in late September. I bought concert tickets for a group of friends and it might be part of the reimbursement that I collected. Cool though!

I also refound a $1500 check from my 2015 flex spending account in a stack of papers in my office. I need to deposit that check and work on the paperwork for my 2016 flex spending which will be another $1500. I will most likely get a specialized mouth guard from my dentist in the next few months which will cost about $2000 and won't be covered by insurance. Frown I plan to use part of the $3000 total flex spending reimbursements towards this expense.

I wish I had kept track of snowflakes and found money for the year. Two recent ones:

$125 cash from sw@gbucks over the past two months
.16 found in parking lots last week

I also found $10 in a washing machine at the laundromat a few months ago! That was exciting! Smile

I’m on Day 23 of no sugar!

Goodness – it's very late on the east coast - time for bed!

Black Friday

November 26th, 2016 at 06:36 pm

My Black Friday was low key. I got my Christmas tree at a local farm - total cost was $44.94 - and it's beautiful! My friend M, her 8-year-old daughter J and I found the perfect one in a field, cut it down and took it to my house to set up. Unfortunately, the basic stand that I have been using for many years would not work with this tree. M has helped me to put up my tree for years and this was the first time we failed! The trunk was too short and the tree too heavy for the old stand.

She had to leave, so I drove to the local hardware store and bought a new-fangled stand for $31.79, took it home and tried to set up the tree myself. It would have worked, except that in order to center the tree in the stand, I needed to be able to lift it straight up once I got it upright in the stand, but it was too heavy. Thankfully my cat sitter happened to be home and she was able to come over and help me finish the job. The stand is so easier to use and much sturdier than the old one.

It is interesting, I will suffer with an inferior product as long as it "works". I have wanted to get a new tree stand for a while, but it was so hard to replace the old one even though I know there are many new designs that are far superior to my old metal one and worth the investment.

The tree and stand didn't even actually cost me anything and it was still hard to pay. My mom likes to give me money for my tree. This year was the first time in a long time that I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom and my brother and his family in my hometown in southern NJ or that they didn't all come north to my area to celebrate with me. My mom decided to go to Florida early, so I stayed home to enjoy a much needed five-day break. My mom mailed a check for the tree, but also added money for me to go out to dinner for Thanksgiving because she felt bad that I didn't have plans. I then decided to make plans with M and her family and our meal out only cost $5 each. So, the $125 check covered my meal, the tree and the stand with 43.27 left over. Thanks Mom!

Usually I buy local chocolate milk (I like to call it liquid crack) to heat up, local whipped cream and some snacks for our tree day, but I was on day 19 of no sugar (today is 20!) and M didn't have as much time to hang out as she usually does. So, I didn't bother getting anything and thankfully little J was fine eating slices of local Macintosh apple (free from a recent work event I hosted) with freshly ground peanut butter that I had on hand when she got hungry. Whew.

I bought an InstantPot pressure cooker from Am@zon yesterday - on sale for 68.95 from 129.99 with free shipping. I had $60 worth of languishing Am@zon gift cards from sw@gbucks, so my total cost was only 8.95. I hope I like it!

My total Friday spending was $85.68 and it was all money well spent.

Today I only spent $2.50 for garbage drop off. I hadn't disposed of trash and recycling for over a month and I was glad to get rid of the buildup. I ate the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and made a box of Annie's mac and cheese from the cupboard with steamed broccoli and cauliflower for dinner. It has been gloomy here all week and I was in the mood for comfort food. I also enjoyed free local apple cider left over from my work event.

Time to put the lights on my tree. I usually invite my friend D over to help, but I'm in the mood to be alone this weekend. My tree is quite tall, so I am hoping that I will be able to do the lights by myself tonight.

I've been listening to Christmas music all day while tackling some decluttering. I really need to get rid of unnecessary stuff!!

Hope everyone is having an enjoyable weekend.

happy thanksgiving!

November 24th, 2016 at 03:32 pm

Hope my fellow american bloggers are enjoying a day off and a delicious meal.

I had a record frugal holiday this year...a $5 full Thanksgiving meal (and got some leftovers to take home!) at my work place with some friends followed by free cross-country skiing on early snow at a local place that was closed for the holiday. Super casual and relaxed day.

Now I'm home with my Christmas candles lit in the windows and I'll get my tree tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving! Smile

back from vacation, back to reality

October 24th, 2016 at 01:42 pm

I feel very lucky to have just spent the last two weeks away - 12 days in Portugal, 2 travel days and 2 days with my mom in NJ. I took a walking tour on the southwestern coast of Portugal - it was amazingly beautiful and challenging. I was with a group of 13 women and we walked over 90 miles in 9 days. We also ate and drank a lot of delicious local food and wine.

I haven't yet figured out the total that I spent on the trip, but it was worth it. On my way home from Portugal, I stopped in NJ to spend two days with my mom. It was fun to rehash the trip with her. Who else would look at my many photos? Smile I returned home on Saturday evening, snuggled with my very lonely cat all day Sunday, and started back at work today.

Now it's time to get back to my routine and to get a grip on my finances. I spent A LOT of time preparing for the trip - walking, buying gear, deciding what to take, packing, and making sure everything at work and home was taken care of before I left. Consequently, I ignored many other parts of my life and now need to refocus.

I think the first item I will tackle will be returning the many hiking shoes and boots, rain gear, backpacks, luggage and other unused miscellaneous items that I bought. I have at least $2000 worth of gear that was charged to credit cards. Some will be returned via mail, some to stores. I can't wait to get rid of it all!

I made it through my first day of work and now it's almost time to go home. Yay. I am very tired. I look forward to catching up on all the blogs. I'm sure that a lot happened while I was gone. Smile

I will post more about the trip, but in the meantime here is one photo of the coast of Portugal.



weekly spending

September 9th, 2016 at 12:22 pm

I only spent $1 over the three-day weekend and that was for trash disposal. And I only drove a mile, to dispose of said trash, during the entire weekend, so I didn't use any gas. A truly frugal weekend!

I did buy a plane ticket to Portugal very, very, very late on Monday night, so I'm going to count that as spending on Tuesday, since technically it was. Smile

Monday - NSD

Tuesday
Plane ticket
Fare: $963.06
Window seat: $64.90 (I can't believe you have to buy seats now! The only free seats left were a few in the center and I need to lean against the wall in order to sleep without hurting my neck with head bobbing, so it's worth the extra money, but still…)
Last leg of the trip: $5.60 plus 7500 frequent flier miles
Total plane ticket cost: $1033.56

Hotel in Portugal purchased online - 1 night - $190.15

Wednesday
Gas - filled tank (5 cent/gal discount for cash) $28.38 (saved .68) Smile
Food at my favorite local market
Peaches $4.13 (1.66 lb @ 2.49/lb - I think I got 5, still so yummy!)
jar of local salsa on sale 3.99 (I hope it's good!)
local uncured hot dogs $4.99 (these are in the freezer for quick future meals)

Thursday - no spend day
Free lunch - work meeting at restaurant (and brought home leftover ½ brisket beef sandwich)
Massage – was supposed to be 90 minutes, but I totally forgot and showed up late, so was probably a little less than an hour (free with insurance)

Friday (today)
Dry goods at grocery store
Paper towels (6 rolls) and can of bathroom cleanser $6.93 total

$1272.13 – total spending for week. If I remove the travel costs, I only had $48.42 in discretionary spending.

I have enough food at home to feed myself for the weekend and probably most of next week, so I am going to avoid going to my favorite food store after work. I plan to spend most of tomorrow driving to the closest shopping area (about 50 minutes away) to purchase items for my trip. I need to look at hiking boots, day packs and luggage, plus some other small items. I believe it will be a fairly spendy day. I will eat a big breakfast before leaving and pack food to take with me so that I don't have to spend time or money on lunch.

I took a 90-minute walk after work on Wednesday and I hope to do walk for at least 60 minutes after work today, if I can drag myself out the door.

Woo hoo – TGIF!! Smile



Had a good week, but…

September 5th, 2016 at 07:18 pm

…I refuse to accept that it’s September! Smile

I am usually am excited about the coming of fall and winter, but as I get older, I find that I do not look forward to the colder weather and all that it entails. Summer is just easier.

It was a good and mostly frugal week overall. I worked all week. On Monday and Wednesday evenings, I walked for an hour with my neighbor and friend A on our road (free). She gave me a tomato, some basil and a pottery platter (useful free stuff). I took a solo 70-minute walk on some quiet trails on Thursday evening right after work.

On Tuesday, I had a late afternoon chiropractor appointment (covered by insurance) and then I met my knitting group at our favorite lakeside state park for swimming and a potluck. There's a $3 entrance fee, but I bought a punch card a few years ago that I haven't finished yet, although I'm now remembering that the collection booth was empty and I had no cash to put in the fee box. Oh well, I was only there for about 2 hours before the park closed.

I prepared a cold green bean salad which was a big hit - lightly steamed green beans with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, flat-leaf parsley and scallion greens, and chunks of feta cheese. I made a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, salt and pepper. The greens beans and cherry tomatoes were free from a neighbor's garden. I have parsley and scallions growing in containers and I bought a red onion and the feta. I had all of the dressing ingredients on hand. The dish probably cost about $3 total and was enough for a potluck with 7 people and I had leftovers for a few days.

It was a beautiful evening and most of us swam and then we ate and talked until sunset, when they kicked us out of the park. It was a fun, satisfying and frugal evening.

On a side note, the lakes and rivers in my area are very low this summer due to an ongoing drought, but the swimming was still good. I hope to host our end of September gathering, but I haven't claimed it yet. That's my usual month because my birthday is in late September and it's fun to have everyone over around that time.

I had a massage (covered by insurance) after work on Friday. My biggest expenditures were, as usual, food! I have received tons of free produce this summer, but I'm still buying way too much food. I'm so tempted by the bounty at this time of year.

Labor Day weekend was super quiet. I've been on the go all summer and wanted three days at home to relax, organize and clean. Ah, the life of an introvert! I was really hoping it would rain so that staying in wouldn't seem so weird, but, alas, we had three days of glorious weather. Oh, well.

I only spent $1 all weekend when I drove down the street to drop off my trash and recycling on Saturday morning. A small bag of trash usually costs $2.50, but I had a tiny grocery bag that the woman only charged me $1 for.

My neighbor is a car washing fanatic and let me use his shop vac to clean out my very dirty car. I think that early December was probably the last time it was cleaned. What a relief! I also did some exciting sorting and organizing of Tupperware, clothing and my office, which was a disaster.

I just have too much stuff and I can't seem to get rid of any of it! Some sort of mutant depression-era mindset took hold of my brain at some point and has held me hostage ever since. I try to declutter and somehow come up with a reason to keep everything.

I've tried the "what brings you joy" method as CB suggested in a comment, but that doesn't seem to work either because I’m so out of touch with what makes me happy. It's very interesting to observe, but kind of torturous to live. Frown

My main goal for the weekend was to nail down my travel plans and plane ticket for a walking tour I'm taking in Portugal this fall. Oh my, it's now 10:00p on Monday evening and I'm still undecided. Meanwhile the prices keep rising! I have a few different scenarios and I just have to choose one and soon because I'm tired of thinking about it.


good weekend, and cheap!

August 31st, 2016 at 12:31 pm

After work on Friday I met my friend M in a nearby small town where we walked for almost an hour and then chatted for a bit on a park bench before parting ways. I was on day 12 (I'm now on day 17!) of eating no sugar, so that negated any desire to splurge at one of two local ice cream establishments. It was a free, healthy and satisfying evening activity.

I spent most of Saturday at home cleaning up and relaxing. M's partner and daughter were away for a few days and she loosely suggested doing something. She ended up contacting D & T, old friends of ours who we haven't seen in a very long time, and they were free and invited us over for dinner. We made the hour trek to their neck of the woods and on the way we stopped at a beautiful swimming hole for a dip in the icy river, which felt so good on a hot day!

We continued on to our friends' house and the four of us and their dog went for a long walk on a quiet dirt road. We then hung out on their deck, which affords a gorgeous view, drinking beers and eating chips and tomatillo salsa that M had made with items from her garden and tomatillos from a friend. The salsa was so delicious and I chowed down.

Then we had dinner - grilled sweet corn on the cob, grilled corn tortillas with black beans, rice, cherry tomatoes, cheese, scallions, parsley, salsa, and a big pile of steamed green and yellow string beans. All of the produce except the corn was from T's and M's gardens. We finished the meal with local grapes that I provided and wild blackberries that T had picked in the woods.

It was really fun to see D & T again. Time really flies. They were two of my best friends back in the 90s and early 2000s. But they live an hour away with a mountain in between and, at some point, I just got busy with work and life and depression and didn't have the energy to drive as much as when I was younger. They had a son and our lives went in different directions. But, over the past few years we've managed to connect once in a while, but I haven't hung out at their house in a very long time. Back in the day, I'd go over for dinner on Friday evening and end up staying until Monday morning...I was the guest that wouldn't leave! At the time, I lived in an apartment and it was much more fun to gather at their beautiful house, so I visited them more than they visited me. Anyway, the passage of time and the losses that occur with that reality make me feel sad.

If our Saturday visit hadn't been so spontaneous, I would have shopped and contributed more to the meal, but there are no good food stores on the drive to D & T's place. I brought four beers that I happened to have in my fridge, some local grapes that I bought on Friday, and a can of black beans from my cupboard that didn't get used. I also brought some leftover salsa that I had in the fridge just in case the salsas that M and T made were too spicy. They both love the heat and I'm a wimp! We would have stopped to get the corn, but we weren't going to pass any farm stands, so D picked it up on his way home from an earlier outing.

The food was all so fresh...I love this time of the year and most of my friends are dedicated gardeners and healthy cooks. A different friend D invited me over a few weekends ago for soft tacos made with local beef and some homemade cookies and cream ice cream. Yum!

I spent most of Sunday annoyed at myself for one of my more unsavory financial flaws. I have a tendency to overbuy when I clothes shop because I have a hard time making decisions in the store. I spend a ton of money with the intention of returning some of the items once I get home and try things on. In late July, an old college friend C spontaneously texted and invited me up to his cabin on a river in northern Quebec for a few days. I said yes and then, I'm not sure why, went to TJ M@xx to look at clothes.

I ended up spending about $360 because I was in a rush and couldn't make decisions. I took a few things on my trip and only ended up wearing one item, which I really like. Then the bag sat in my house for 29 days until Sunday, which was the last day to return items for a refund. Ugh. I finally tried things on and decided what to keep. I was annoyed because at 7:00p (I had procrastinated all day) I had to drive to the town where I work on a non-work day to return the unwanted items! I couldn’t wait until Monday and do it while in town for work because I would have missed the 30-day refund period. I returned about $170 worth of clothes. Oh, well, live and don't learn Smile because I'm sure that I will do it again.

While in that section of town, I stopped at a grocery store that I don't frequent because of its inconvenient location and bought cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese for tomato season, and baby wipes. TMI alert, but because of a previous health problem, I need to use "wipes" in the bathroom and the conventional brands irritate my delicate skin Smile. So, I've been using natural brand baby wipes for years and this particular grocery store sells them in bulk. I tear them in half before using to make the quantity stretch.

I spent $16.80 on those three items, making it a low-spend but enjoyable weekend.

dental blues

August 28th, 2016 at 06:10 am

I had a dental appointment on Thursday and I feel bad because I was a good 15 minutes late. Woops. It's a long drive and I need to plan to leave earlier next time. It was scheduled as a routine cleaning, but the billing office had checked with my insurance company to see if they would cover full x-rays, which hadn't been done in many years. Wow, that procedure is completely different - the hygienist took digital x-rays as I sat in the dental chair in the room where she did my cleaning. Apparently they will be covered and I really hope that's true! I was informed that I have four cavities, three on the bottom on one side and one on the bottom on the other side. The fourth one is under a crown, which will need to be replaced in order to deal with the cavity. Ugh - that's a lot of novocain, drilling and soreness in my future. The silver lining, of course, is that I have dental insurance, for which I feel very grateful. Their estimate of what I'll owe out of pocket is between $800 - 1000. They are waiting to hear back from my insurance company to see what my actual estimated OOP will be.

Technically, the work could be done in two appointments. The first would involve removing the crown, taking care of all four cavities at the same time and fitting a temporary crown. Then the permanent crown would be installed during the second appointment. I would need to have the temporary crown in place for three weeks. I am taking a 10-day walking trip in Portugal starting in October and I don't want to travel with a temp or new crown. So, I've scheduled an appointment in September to tackle three of the cavities, then I will schedule two appointments for after my trip to take care of the fourth cavity and crown. Blech.

According to my dentist, one of the reasons that I develop cavities quickly is that I grind my teeth at night. I have a mouth guard that he made for me years ago, but he has always wanted me to invest in an alternative mouth guard scenario which runs about $2K and is not covered by insurance. I have resisted for years because I didn't want to pay for it and I wasn't sure if it was legit. I need to do some research, but I'm starting to lean towards going for it and I'm regretting not acting sooner. I mentioned it to the receptionist and she said that some patients can be referred out to another dentist who works with a similar method who can bill medical insurance and have this method at least partially covered. I think that my insurance company paid for my original mouth guard under medical, so I'm going to call and ask if I have options. We'll see if I follow through on this.

I did start looking at hiking boots/shoes after my appointment, but I'll save that scenario for a future post. In response to comments on my previous post, I see that "breaking in" new boots is no longer the correct term. In the past when hiking boots were leather, they needed to be broken in to stretch and soften the leather. Now that most are made of soft materials it's more a period of getting used to them and making sure that they are comfortable, which is what I want to do before my trip. The tour is 10 days of walking/hiking for 10 - 18 miles a day, so supportive and comfy footwear is a must!

I didn't spend any money on Thursday besides purchasing three pairs of boots, at least two of which will be returned, so I'm not sure what that total will be yet. I am happy that I quickly packed a lunch to eat after my dentist appointment and before my boot shopping. I was able to eat healthy food and avoid spending money on lunch in town. That decision is also what made me late, so again, I'll need to plan better next time.

A few groceries were my only purchases on Friday. They were expensive items, though, but worth it. The Pennsylvania peaches that my local natural food store has been carrying are amazing - so delicious and juicy, so I've been splurging on those for a few weeks. And a local vineyard grows a very tasty table grape that is only available for a few weeks and sells out quite quickly. I noticed them when I went in to get more peaches, so I grabbed a bunch of bunches. Smile

Groceries 38.99
2.94 lbs peaches (5) @ 2.49/lb 7.32
2 lb local grapes @ 4.99/lb 9.98
bulk whole wheat organic pasta 2.23
32 oz organic olive oil (on sale) 12.99
small bag bulk nutritional yeast (for popcorn, saw recently that a few other bloggers enjoy it this way, too!) 1.36
I met a friend for an hour walk n' chat in a nearby small town on Friday evening and then came home and relaxed with my cat.

Found a dime last weekend and a quarter this week. I always think of CB when I pick up found money! Oh, a few months ago I found a crumpled $10 bill in a washing machine at a laundromat! That was fun. Smile

first financial task finished

August 25th, 2016 at 07:34 am

I started with the easiest assignment from yesterday's financial consultant meeting. I created my SS account, downloaded my most recent statement and uploaded it to my retirement plan website so that the advisor can review it. I do qualify for SS benefits and Medicare, so that's a plus!

According to the summary, at my current SS earnings rate, if I continue working until...
my full retirement age (67), my payment would be about $1,928 a month OR
age 70, my payment would be about $2,475 a month OR
age 62 (early retirement), my payment would be about $1,248 a month

I do still look at this as a bonus to whatever I save on my own for retirement, because part of my future fantasy is to work part-time as I approach 60, so I don't foresee making my current salary all the way until I'm 67 to 70. In that case, the payment would be much lower - maybe $1000 a month?

Also, this sentence appears on the statement: Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

Yesterday was a low-spend day, only $24.77 to fill my gas tank. I paid cash and saved 5 cents a gallon, which was a bonus because I rarely carry cash! I need to remember to use cash for gas rather than my rewards credit card with 1% cash back. The total cost was $25.34, so I saved 57 cents by paying cash. If I had charged it, I would have earned 25 cents cash back. My impulse is to go for the cash back (free money!), but in this case paying in cash is a better deal. I should probably investigate cards with higher cash back bonuses - do these exist?

I'm working at home this morning and then have an afternoon dentist appointment, which is about an hour away. I started seeing this dentist many years ago because he incorporates holistic elements into his practice. I really like going there, but it's so far! I had my last cleaning scheduled for January, but had to cancel due to busyness. I forgot to reschedule for months and by the time I remembered, they were booked until late August. The visit will cost $25 to cover my dental deductible. I hope he doesn't discover any cavities or other problems, but he probably will. My teeth are very susceptible to cavities. Frown

I live in a very rural area, and the dental office is just outside of the "big city', so I hope I have enough energy to try on some hiking boots while I'm up there. I'm taking a walking tour in Portugal this October and need to buy boots ASAP so that I can break them in before the trip. I also need to purchase my plane ticket.


financial advisor meeting

August 24th, 2016 at 01:27 pm

I met today with a financial advisor who was assigned to me from my work's retirement plan company now that my account has reached a certain value. Wow, I am feeling overwhelmed. It was a good meeting, but very thorough. I was asked lots of questions designed to get me thinking about my future goals so that he can figure out what I might realistically have money-wise to support myself and my desires. I find thinking about the future to be very difficult because, of course, it involves aging and/or death, things that I just don't want to face, but know that they are an inevitable part of life. I also found that I was anxious because at this point I'm not clear (even remotely) how I want my future to look and I felt like I should know and only share a concrete plan. So, the meeting was beneficial because it did force me to start entertaining ideas and think about my desires.

One of the questions he asked was what I wasn't doing now that I would do if I had more disposable income. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't really come up with anything! I deal with depression and a lot of my needs and wants have been internally squelched and I'm not readily in touch with them. I would like to travel more and probably spruce up my house a bit. I'll have to think more about that.

Based on this initial conversation, the advisor will start to run my numbers through his models and come up with various scenarios. I have no idea what to expect.

I have been assigned some tasks which include:

Create a will and assign beneficiaries to my retirement accounts! I realized that the reason I'm procrastinating on this is that I don't know who to assign as executor and I'm not really sure who I want my assets to go to. I'm single with no children, so I don't have the obvious choice of leaving it to my immediate family. I will most likely name my three nephews and my niece as heirs. I might also add a few of my friends' children who I am close to (one is almost 30, one is 20 and the other is still a child, all from different families). And maybe some to a charity - I have to think about that. I don't have a huge sum of money, but I definitely have assets that I would like someone I know to use if I can't.

Increase my insurance coverage. I was surprised by this one. His reasoning was that as a single person with fairly low insurance coverage and some non-retirement assets and a house, that I could be sued and lose a lot if I have an auto accident. He also felt that I could get better rates by getting some quotes and that, in the end, I might not pay much more for increased coverage, but would have better protection. He also suggested increasing my homeowners insurance coverage and adding a line for identity theft coverage (I guess this is somewhat new) and an earthquake rider which would cover any foundation problems like cracks caused by earth shifts, not just actual earthquakes. Insurance is a tough one for me because I feel angry to pay for something "just in case", but it doesn't make sense to have inadequate coverage, so I guess I will look into it!

Register on the social security website and start to get an idea of what my future benefit might be. I've never really considered SS as part of my retirement plan because my first 10 or so years out of college consisted of odd jobs while I skied and bicycle toured and worked on an organic farm (before it was all the rage!). I didn't have any school loans, so I decided to do some active adventures while I was young and healthy and debt-free. So, I doubt that I have paid all that much into the system, but I guess I'll find out. Plus, who knows if SS will exist when I reach my mid 60s?

I should mention that the financial planning advisor is a free benefit and that he is salaried, so is not focused on trying to sell financial products. It was very helpful, but now I need to take some action and make some decisions and that's when I usually start to hide my head in the sand and procrastinate.

Phew, that's enough financial thoughts for now - my office is getting really warm and my head is spinning! Maybe I'll go for a walk and get some fresh air.

EDIT: Just realized that the sidebar description says 40-something for my age. I thought that I updated this, but I guess not. I just corrected it - I am now 51, soon to be 52.

Retirement account milestone

August 20th, 2016 at 04:35 pm

Summer is flying by! I haven't checked my retirement account balance in a while and it finally hit the $600K mark! As of Friday, the total is $611,412.18. That includes my work 403B plus a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. I have a free meeting this Wednesday with an investment advisor from my retirement plan's firm. I need to collect some paperwork and information before then, but I'm procrastinating.

I've been enjoying watching the Olympics. I don't have a television and I don't have a cable subscription to be able to stream the games online. But I did some research and for $8 I bought a month of a VPN. I choose Canada as my country when signing in and this allows me full access to CBC's coverage. It’s been great except that I miss the N B C Olympic anthem. Smile I used my mom's cable subscription info to watch the last Olympics, but I couldn't find the credentials and she was away when they started, so I splurged and spent the $8. Smile It's been worth it.

I haven't been paying any attention to my finances and have been carelessly spending money this summer. Not anything too extravagant, but spending a little here and a little there is probably adding up. I never made the decision to sign up for the new web-based YNAB and I haven't been using my older version for budgeting or tracking spending. I still feel annoyed that it switched over to a yearly subscription and I can't seem to decide whether or not to make the switch. Frown

I'm treating myself to a walking tour in Portugal this fall. It's definitely a splurge, but I have had quite a few friends and acquaintances die over the past few years and have decided that I want to start making sure I live even while I save for the future because you just don't know how long or short the future may be. I'm embarrassed to say, though, that I haven't bought my plane ticket yet and now I'm terrified to look at the prices. Doh. I've been struggling with massive depression this summer and one of the consequences for me is procrastinating on decisions. I hope to figure it out this weekend and I'm going to have to accept whatever price I end up paying. Life will go on.

I'm off to have an exciting Saturday night of cleaning and watching the Olympics. Smile

exciting friday night

May 6th, 2016 at 05:54 pm

I'm home lying in bed typing this entry on my laptop. I made myself some yummy nachos for dinner and ate them in this same position while watching the latest episode of Nashville for free on Hulu! I don't typically like country music, but I love that show! A quick calculation shows that my plate of nachos cost about $4.75 to make. It's taking all of my willpower not to go into the kitchen and make another batch! I'm now lying here trying to muster up some motivation to clean my messy kitchen. It is an unbelievable disaster area at the moment. I don't have a dishwasher and have PILES of dishes lying around everywhere. To top it off, the dirty dishes are not limited to the kitchen. Oh my, it's embarrassing to admit this all out loud. I'm going to have to set my timer and tackle the mess a few dishes at a time. I've been trying to get it cleaned up for weeks and it's just not happening. I won't even get into describing the current state of my fridge - I'll save that for another post! Smile

Today was a no-spend day. I exercised at home before going to work - a mix of light jogging on a mini trampoline, dancing, yoga and arm reps with light weights. Meals consisted of half of a free hummus and veggie sandwich and a glass of apple cider for breakfast (both leftover items from a Wednesday work event); a free lunch during a work event today (half a tuna sammie and half an egg salad sammie); a free small bag of potato chips as a snack and the nachos for dinner (I already had all of the ingredients on hand). I may chop up half of an apple and top it with freshly ground peanut butter for dessert. I got a massage, which was covered by my insurance, this afternoon (I am very grateful for this benefit).

I hope to tackle a little bit of the kitchen tonight and then attempt to go to sleep fairly early. I'll be out most of the day tomorrow, so won't have much time to clean. I should probably invite someone over to dinner very soon - that will force me to get an organizing grip. It would have to someone I don't very well though because most of my close friends have experienced my disarray at some point, so I wouldn't be as determined to solve the problem.

Oh no, my sweet cat has just curled up under my neck and is making it very difficult to get up! I am feeling very warm, comfy and sleepy...

Happy Friday everyone Smile

odds and ends

May 3rd, 2016 at 09:13 am

I'm having a hard time getting back to my finances after ignoring them for many months. Thankfully, most of my bills are on autopay, so I haven't missed anything so far (I think!). I guess I'll start here with yesterday's spending:

Hair coloring at salon: $90 + $20 tip = $110 total. My hairdresser gives me an amazing head massage while washing my hair and I really enjoy my time at her salon, so I always tip her well.

Gas: $32.70

Kind of a spendy day, but nothing unplanned. Today should be a no-spender. I will eat my packed lunch and then take a walk during my break with a work colleague who is retiring soon. I will go straight home after work and eat leftovers for dinner. No packed lunch needed tomorrow since I'm hosting an event that will provide a vegan lunch. I hope there is enough for everyone - I got more RSVPs than I expected.

This weekend I hired an arborist to remove an apple in my yard tree that fell over last fall. He'll hopefully do the work sometime this week once the rainy weather stops. I'm so sad, I love that tree and it's still alive, but it can't be propped back up. One half is still standing, so he's going to do a quick prune of that one. It has a lot of deadwood, so he's not going to spend more than an hour because it may eventually blow over in the wind since the other half of the tree will be gone. The total cost will be $175. He'll remove and chip the fallen tree, prune the remaining half, and do a few tiny prunes to an ornamental tree in my front yard. He'll even chip my crispy Christmas tree that has been blowing around my back yard since late January! I also have a sugar maple near my house that's on its last root. The estimate to remove that tree is $225, so I'm going to wait until fall or next year to deal with it. I have so few trees in my small yard and I'm not ready to lose two at once!

The reason it has taken me so long to deal with the fallen apple tree is that part of me feels like I should deal with it myself - pay my elderly neighbor to cut it up with his chain saw or put an ad in a local craigs-like-list or something offering the free apple wood to anyone who wants to come cut up the tree and haul it away. I guess I could have had my neighbor cut it up and then put the wood pile by the street with a "free apple wood" sign. Oh, well, too late. I feel most comfortable paying a fully insured, knowledgable professional to take care of it at this point, especially since part of the tree is still standing. I also didn't bother getting more than one estimate. The arborist is a work colleague's husband and he was quick to return my call, visit the house, etc., so I just went for it rather than delay further. We also have friends in common who recommended him, so I like giving the money to someone I have connections with. We'll see how it goes! Honestly, if the fallen tree wasn't visible from the road or so close to my neighbor’s yard, I would probably leave it there and let it take root and continue growing! But, it's an eyesore, so best to get rid of it. I tend to procrastinate on dealing with problems like this, so I am kind of glad that I took action and it will soon be solved even though I don't want to say goodbye to the tree or spend money to deal with it!

OK, kind of a boring update, but it's a start! Hope everyone's week is going well so far. Smile

rainy monday

March 28th, 2016 at 08:16 am

Wow, as usual time has flown by since my last post! I started to catch up on blogs this weekend and there is a lot going on in everyone's lives!

Today is gray and very rainy and I'm totally unmotivated at work.

I've completely lost track of my finances and using YNAB. This first happened when I visited my mom in December to help out with her breast cancer surgery and recovery and I haven't yet signed in to YNAB to begin again. Maybe this week? I also haven't even remotely started my taxes. I keep forgetting! Update - I just this moment logged into TurboTax through the Fidelity website and started my 2015 return! I don't have any of my tax forms with me at work, but I reviewed and updated my personal info that imported from last year's return. I have now started my taxes! Sometimes that first step is the hardest - remembering my username and password, signing in and starting. (I somehow did remember my login information and I just recorded it in Evernote for next year.) Overall, the taxes shouldn't take very long to do, I just get stuck on the decision of whether or not to contribute to an IRA and, if so, should it be my Roth or traditional? First world problems.

I did recently notice that YNAB has changed to a web-based system that has a subscription fee. Has anyone made the switch? I'm curious if it's worth the investment.

Now I have to decide if I'm going to wipe the slate clean on YNAB and start over or attempt to fill in the past few months? I think that they recommend starting over (it would definitely be easier), but I hate to lose the data that I already have recorded in there. I wonder if there is a way to save it?

In other financial news, I was able to develop a grip on the morning of March 14 and pull together the paperwork for my 2015 flex spending account. I emailed it to my insurance company later that afternoon. The submission deadline was March 15 and I had $1500 in my account! I checked my P.O. box this weekend and the $1500 check was there - yahoo! I think I've already hit my deductible and OOP costs for 2016, so I should probably look into submitting paperwork and get the 2016 money now. The likely scenario will be that I get around to doing it on March 14, 2017. Doh.

I just did some research and discovered that my flex spending contribution for 2016 is $1500 again. Ugh. I must have chosen that amount when I thought that I would be getting new glasses during 2016. I ended up deciding to get new glasses in December 2015 because my vision plan allows for new glasses every two calendar years. (The plan contributes to the cost of frames and lenses, but doesn't cover them completely.) Getting them in December 2015 rather than early 2016 means that I can upgrade my prescription sunglasses in 2017 rather than having to wait until 2018. My total deductible/OOP is $1100, so I will have to figure out how to spend the other $400. We thankfully have a new policy that allows up to $500 of unused flex spending money to roll over into the next calendar year, so I can do that if I don't have any other coverable expenses in 2016. Phew. I just have to remember to check if I have excess 2016 funds before choosing my 2017 flex spending amount in November, so that I don't end up with too much money in my account.

BTW, my mom is doing really well. In December, she had surgery to remove a tumor in her breast. She took a few weeks to recover and then decided, with her surgeon, to go to her place in Florida for the winter and do her radiation treatments down there. That was a good call since she has so much more energy and motivation (and fun!) in sunny Florida then in wintery NJ, although it was a mild winter in the east. She has finished her treatments and feels good. She will have to take medication for the rest of her life and have regular follow up mammograms because the cancer will most likely return at some point, but for right now she is healthy and enjoying life at 81 (82 in April). I'm so glad that she decided to get an iPhone about two years ago because we text quite frequently, which is easier than talking on the phone. We can keep in more regular touch this way and then talk on the phone once in a while. Plus it's fun to send photos back and forth and she's just getting into using emojis, which is very cute. I was supposed to visit her during late March, but decided to go in mid-April instead. I need to get a plane ticket! I'm scared to look at the current prices since I've delayed for so long. Ugh - I need to do that today.

Happy Monday everyone!

Emerging from my holiday stupor

January 6th, 2016 at 07:34 am

Phew, I think I'm starting to come back to life. My work was closed December 23 - January 3 and I worked from home on Monday. I spent much of my break lounging around in new comfy fleece pajamas binge watching movies and TV series with my cat. I was hoping to get a lot done while off from work, but I guess I needed to decompress.

I was back in the office yesterday and somehow managed to drag myself to the gym around 2:00 p.m. for an hour walk with some light jogging on the treadmill and 15 minutes of yoga stretching. I'm in a bit of a slump and exercise is going to be essential to help me get back on track. I also somehow woke up early this morning and went to the gym for the same hour treadmill/15-minute yoga routine before work.

Looking back in time, I had a whirlwind visit from my mom, brother, sister-in-law and nephew for Thanksgiving. They arrived at my house on Wednesday at 6:00p (somehow avoiding holiday traffic!) and left at 6:00a on Saturday morning. Whew! We had a good time. My mom and their dog stayed with me and my brother and his family stayed at a local inn. The weather was unseasonably warm, so everyone but my mom went for a hike on Thanksgiving and then we all had dinner at a restaurant that provides a fabulous spread with no work involved!

My mom was supposed to stay with me for a few extra days and then I was going to drive her home and stay for a bit for her breast cancer surgery and recovery. She changed her mind and decided to return with my brother because she was feeling anxious about the surgery. So, I drove alone to her home (my hometown) on December 3rd, her surgery was December 4th and I returned home on December 12th. Surgery went well and she recovered beautifully, but it took FOREVER to get the pathology reports. This was nerve wracking because cancer was found in her first lymph node, so they had to remove other nodes for testing. Thankfully no cancer was found in her other lymph nodes! So, my mom has now gone to Florida for the rest of the winter and will have radiation treatment and take an inhibitor drug indefinitely. Whew. We were all very relieved that the cancer was treatable, at least for now. If it had spread, she would most likely be too old to endure chemo, so we were very lucky. My mom is amazingly healthy for 81 and I’m glad that she can continue chugging along for now. I'm trying to appreciate any time that we have left together. I'm so grateful that she got an iPhone about a year ago because it's been a lot of fun to keep in regular touch via texting.

I'm completely out of touch with my finances, but I think my spending has been fairly under control except for a few recent binges at TJMaxx. I hate to try things on while shopping, so have developed the bad habit of buying a bunch of items, spending hundreds of dollars, and then trying them on at home. Inevitably, I end up returning many things. I basically just avoid most stores, but then when I do visit, I go crazy!

I have enough food on hand to get through the week, so will probably do some light shopping on Friday. I also need to get cat litter that day.

Today's meals:
Breakfast - hard boiled egg; steamed broccoli, brussel sprouts and carrots; parsley, olive oil, salt. homemade applesauce
Lunch - leftover fish taco, mushroom barley soup, pear
Dinner - whole wheat pasta w/steamed broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and tuna, scallions, olive oil, salt & pepper.
Applesauce for any sweet cravings!

For my own memory, I weighed myself on Monday: 146

Happy New Year!

January 5th, 2016 at 07:59 am

Happy 2016 to my fellow SA bloggers!

Once again, two months have flown by without a blog entry from me. So popping in for a quick hello to begin again. I completely lost touch with YNAB and my finances, so will need to refocus my efforts.

My holidays were quiet, which I needed, and I am now back to work after a two-week break. I could use another month or so! Smile

I'm very happy that the photo problem is fixed! So, I'm including a snap of my tender girl - Jubilee.

YNAB three-month assessment

November 2nd, 2015 at 06:41 pm

If anyone is considering purchasing YNAB, feel free to use my referral code link to get $6 off! http://ynab.refr.cc/X4CF4XD (copy and paste into browser)

I've officially been using YNAB for three months now and I love it! Dare I say that it has been life-changing for me? I have been wanting/trying to track my spending, create a budget, determine how much I earn a month, where it goes, where I would prefer it to go, and is it enough for me to realistically live on for many years. YNAB has made that all possible!

I assume that I could have used one of many available budgeting programs and also gotten positive results. I just happened to choose this one, based on the experience of some fellow SA bloggers, and it really works for me, so I'm sticking with it. I think having the YNAB online support system (free classes, message boards and their philosophy) helped me to learn how to quickly and fully utilize the program and kept me interested and focused in the beginning.

When I started using the YNAB 31-day trial, I didn't match my YNAB checking account total with the actual amount in my real checking account. I started in August, so I just entered the amount of my two July paychecks into YNAB and budgeted from there just to try it out and get things going. I had some cash on hand from an early August vacation, so I used that for some of my spending, but recorded it as money that was withdrawn from checking because I wanted to get an exact accounting of what I spent during the month. I used the program like this for a while and, oh my, it took me a long time to figure out exactly how much I should have in checking to match my YNAB balances. I FINALLY figured it out last week, shifted money around and now my real accounts match my YNAB accounts. Yay! It should be quite easy to maintain the system from here.

I love being able to see how much I have available to budget, how much I've spent, how I've spent it and how much I haven't spent or budgeted. It's providing me with the tools to plan my budget rather than just randomly spend. It's so easy to move money around as the month unfolds and my priorities and reality change. Since I'm not sharing a budget with anyone else, I haven't utilized the phone app although I did download it. I have a wifi data plan, so it's not always readily usable. I just update YNAB at least every few days with new purchases. And since tracking has caused me to spend less, I sometimes don't have that much to update throughout the week!

The benefit I am enjoying the most by finally managing my money is the peace of mind that I've gained. Financially, I'm doing fine at this point - in fact, I am doing quite well. But, I wasn't taking the time to get to know my own financial situation and really manage it carefully on my own behalf. Using YNAB is helping me to do that. I honestly don't always like what I see, but living in reality feels more calming than ignoring it and unconsciously moving through life. Although I have to admit that knowing exactly what I have and what I can and can't do with it feels a little boring - I think I sometimes like the excitement of the unknown even though it doesn't serve me.

I really hope that I can keep focused on using YNAB - I have a tendency to get excited and immersed in something and then suddenly lose interest and forget about it. My blog archives illustrate a good example of this. Smile

In other news, I had a day with no unplanned spending, ate mostly healthy food except for some free candy from a co-worker (argh), and I walked for an hour after work and then did some yoga stretching when I got home.

Today's menu:
Breakfast - apple (free from neighbor and super tasty!) and fresh ground organic peanut butter, a few almonds
Lunch - rolled oats w/steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots (free from neighbor), hard boiled egg, olive oil, salt
Snack - homemade applesauce
Dinner - Boca burger (from freezer) and steamed beets (free from neighbor)
Junky snack - 2 free bags of butterfnger peanut butter cups, which should be labeled as crack - so addictive. Did I really need to eat both bags today? Smile

Tomorrow's menu:
Breakfast - apple & peanut butter, hard boiled egg with salt
Lunch - free at event I'm attending - I hope it's tasty
Dinner - Boca burger (from freezer) and steamed beets (free from neighbor)



enjoying some productivity

November 1st, 2015 at 03:45 pm

Now that I've recovered from my big work events and I'm not quite as worried about my mom's health, I have been a bit more productive. I was supposed to attend a conference in Minneapolis in late October, but I told my boss that I couldn't swing it energetically. I felt bad because she really wanted me to go and I felt disappointed because I don't travel much for work and it would have been a good experience. But, in the end, I am really glad that I opted out and gave myself the chance to regain my energy.

I've been able to get my house back into reasonable shape. The main rooms are neat and functional and I've cleaned out most of the old food from my fridge. I had serious food overload due to lots of free garden goodies and work event leftovers. I hated to waste some of it, but I just couldn't find the time to use it all when I was so busy.

Overall I've kept unnecessary spending to a minimum, was able to cash flow my property taxes and am now putting any excess new money in a winter heating bill account (since I did not prebuy oil this year) and a roof repair account. I FINALLY mailed back a roof repair proposal given to me by an extremely busy roofer who specializes in slate and I hope that he can fit me into his winter schedule. I have sat on this for four years now and while I'd like to spend a lot of time regretting that choice (it's what I do best!), I'm going to celebrate that I finally moved ahead. If I don't hear from him within a week, I'll call to check in.

I started exercising again - walking for at least an hour six times during the past ten days, plus I walked a lot last night while trick or treating with my friend M, her daughter J and some of their friends. I was feeling very lazy today and had a headache after one glass of wine last evening at a Halloween party (I'm a lightweight!), but somehow motivated to take a walk just after 4:00p. I had planned to go for 30 minutes just to get some air, but then encouraged myself to keep going and walked for an hour. Yay! I then did 20 minutes of yoga when I got home. I haven't been taking the time to stretch and can feel my muscles getting tight. I love weekends, especially those that contain an extra hour! It's supposed to be fairly warm tomorrow, so I will plan to walk for at least 30 minutes in the late afternoon or right after work. I hope I can stick to the goal in the face of early darkness.

October snowflakes included a $6 referral rebate (thanks CCF for using my referral code!) from YNAB, $125 from Sw@gbucks and $5.38 cash back rewards from a Chase card. I also found .36 over the past few weeks!

I'd like to keep my eating very simple this week - no or low spend by using up food that I already have. Today, I made some hardboiled eggs (.21 each) and I'll have one each day with rolled oats, steamed broccoli, olive oil, salt & pepper for breakfast. I also made some sauce from some apples I picked from my tree that have been sitting in a back room for quite a while. I thought they would have rotted by now, but most of them were still good, past the eating stage, but fine for sauce. I hope to scrape together bits of stuff to make a salad for lunch tomorrow and I will get a free lunch at an event I'm attending on Tuesday. I need to figure out what to have for the other three lunches this week. I found three Boca burgers in the freezer, so I think I'll have one of those with steamed beets and carrots for three dinners.

I have a bag of free tomatillos that I need to process ASAP. I'll have to buy onions, canola oil, garlic and cilantro to make salsa this week. I'd really prefer to stay out of the store - that's the best way for me to curb my spending! I guess I could chop and puree the tomatillos and then buy the salsa ingredients later this week. Maybe even freeze the puree, but I'm not good about using freezer items. I love tomatillo salsa and want to enjoy it!

Back to work tomorrow. I'd love to have one more day of weekend time.

October spending and update

October 31st, 2015 at 02:02 pm

Happy Halloween!

I just remembered that we have an extra hour tonight with the time change!

First of all, an update on my mom's health. She was diagnosed with early stage 2 breast cancer and had an appointment with a surgeon last week to learn about treatment options. Thankfully my sister-in-law was available to go with her to really listen, take notes and advocate on her behalf. My mom tends to be anxious and only hears negative things. From what I can gather, this is not uncommon for someone of my mom's age (81) and sounds very treatable with a lumpectomy and radiation. It remains to be seen how the radiation will affect her. She's very strong and still fully living life, so hopefully her body will be able to handle the treatments. My SIL is taking her for a second opinion this week and then she'll choose a doctor, set a surgery date and begin the process. I feel sad that my mom is facing this, but I feel relieved that it sounds like a fairly positive prognosis. When my dad was diagnosed with ALS 16 years ago in his mid-60s, the doctor told him that there was nothing they could do and advised him to get his affairs in order. It was brutal.

We haven't decided on Thanksgiving plans yet. I've gone to visit my mom in my hometown the past few years and for two years before that, she and my brother and his family made the trek to visit me. I'm torn on which I'd prefer this year. My mom is talking about visiting me, but she may be recovering from surgery and unable to travel. I'm flexible, so we'll have to see how it all plays out.

Spending was a little higher in October than in the past two months since I started keeping track of my finances in YNAB. I had money from three pay periods available to spend in October - two from September and one from early October. October was a three-paycheck month, so the funds from the two later checks will be used for my November budget.

October breakdown

regular monthly expenses
landline/DSL/wireless 87.97
cell phone 11.53
skype 2.99
electricity 51.15
insurance - car & home 115.37
hair appt 105.00

everyday expenses
healthy food 76.68
junk food 25.32
gas 94.29
medical 120
entertainment 12.40
eating out 54.25
toiletries 11.22
trash 5.00
clothing 24.30
laundry 10.75
cat 24.46
household goods 1.05

miscellaneous
driver's license renewal (four years) 48.00
online dating* 101.94
stamps 1.47
small architecture book 7.40

property taxes 549.73 (added to cash left from Aug & Sept for a total of $1895.25 paid on Oct 1)

debt
bathroom renovation 500.00 (1684.48 balance remaining which i plan to pay off by January 1)

TOTAL $$ AVAILABLE FOR OCT: 3051.29
TOTAL SPENT: 2034.87
TOTAL REMAINING: 1016.42

*This charge was for my profile on a dating site. i forgot to go thru the cancellation process to get a steep discount and my credit card was automatically charged. I didn't have the energy to call and cancel, so I just accepted it. Maybe I'll be motivated to actually interact on the site and go on some dates! I reactivated a year ago and have basically ignored it.

So, essentially, I have the extra October paycheck amount leftover - yay! I plan to roll that into the following savings accounts:
heating oil account $100
2016 property taxes $167
Roof repair account $749.42

This is all based on my net monthly income. Contributions to my 403B retirement plan get withdrawn automatically each pay period. I'm trying to determine if my take home pay is adequate to cover my actual living expenses or if I should decrease the amount I contribute to retirement in order to live more realistically today.

I'm mostly satisfied with my October spending except for the $25.32 for junk food and $54.25 for eating out which includes $19.65 total spent on three take out lunches. When I get stressed I tend to comfort myself with eating. Overall, I'm pretty impressed that the amount wasn't much higher given the combination of intense work stress in early October and finding out that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's actually quite an improvement over past compulsive spending on junk food. But, I would like to learn to take that money and spend it on other things that could provide comfort and joy in my life. I tend to be miserly with myself and for some reason, food is the one category where I seem to be able to spend freely. It's a comfort zone for me and I'd like to stretch into new zones.

Well, I'm off to meet my friend M and her daughter J for some trick or treating! Boo! Smile

mums & pumpkins & snowflakes

October 15th, 2015 at 09:16 am

I'm starting to emerge from my stupor. Last evening, I stopped by a casual friend's house on my way home from work to drop off $10 that I owed her for a group gift. She was just about to sit down with her husband to eat chicken stew and broccoli and they invited me to stay. We had a great time - delicious food and fun conversation and I didn't have to worry about feeding myself when I got home. Good timing on my part! Smile

The interaction and free food gave me some energy, so I set my timer for five-minute increments throughout the evening and was able to tackle part of the mountain of dirty dishes (I don't have a dishwasher), piles of dirty clothes and clean laundry that I had hung up all over the house to dry over a week ago! I was still very tired, so took a lot of breaks to numb out with streaming TV shows on my laptop. I had to do a quick work project early this morning before a dermatologist appointment (my skin scan was clear - yay!), so I didn't have time to continue Operation Clean House. I won't have time this evening, either, because I'm meeting my friends E and J for a light dinner and musical performance in the "big city" which is about 45 minutes from my house. J will pick me up and drive, so I'll offer her some gas money. We bought the tickets (about $30?) earlier this summer and I hope that dinner will be about $15. It should be a fun evening with friends and they have been very supportive about my mom's diagnosis.

I decided in late September to forgo buying mums and pumpkins this fall because I knew I would be super busy and wouldn't really be around to enjoy them. Plus, I wanted to use the money in other ways. It turns out to have been a good decision to make! My friend M and her daughter gave me a large pumpkin from their garden for my birthday two weeks ago. Then I ended up purchasing a bunch of mums and pumpkins for my work events last week which I then distributed amongst myself and colleagues to enjoy after the events were finished. So, I now have four pots of beautiful mums of various colors and sizes and three orange pumpkins adorning my front steps. All for free!

I will have a few snowflakes coming in. I'm waiting for $25 from recently redeemed Sw@gbucks through P@ypal, for which I received an additional 55 SBs for my birthday. I currently have enough SBs for another $50, but will wait until after October 19 to redeem in order to get any possible "swagups" from recent challenges. I just remembered that I did a personal computer task for my boss' side business, so I need to charge her. I think it will be $25. I should think about what to do with these various snowflakes so that I can utilize rather than squander them.

I want to gather and process receipts and paperwork for my 2015 medical reimbursement account in the near future. I just looked up my account and didn't realize that I had chosen to set aside $1500 this year. I will need to figure out where to put that money once I claim it.

Somehow this weekend, I MUST find the paperwork for the roof repair and maintenance estimate that I got years ago and then had updated a few months ago. The roofer is a super busy slate specialist and I have to get on his winter list of projects in order to get the needed work done.

I am so happy that tomorrow is Friday! Smile

feel like a zombie

October 14th, 2015 at 10:40 am

My intense work craziness is over and I am so relieved. I organized and executed four large events last Thursday and Friday, all of which were successful and well attended. Yay me! Definitely a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, things ran smoothly and the powers that be seemed satisfied.

I was exhausted all weekend and pretty much laid around sleeping and binge watching TV shows on a laptop. I did get outside for long fall foliage walks on Saturday and Sunday with my neighbor/friend A and attended part of an outdoor concert on Saturday evening with my friend M. The music was festive and fun and I jumped around and danced for an hour. A great stress reliever!

I then found out on Monday that my mom does indeed have cancer and is looking for an oncologist and surgeon as the first step. I believe she has an appointment with a doctor on Monday, so that's a start. I'm very sad and upset by the news, and I will be there to support her no matter what the outcome. Now that my big events are over, my work schedule will be much more flexible and I may even be able to visit my mom and work remotely. Thankfully, my boss is a breast cancer survivor and is very understanding.

I thought I would have more energy this weekend to get back to my neglected life, but I was just too wiped out from work and my mom's news and I still am. My house is a disaster and I hope to straighten up and clean in increments this week because I don't have the energy to tackle it all at once. I haven't made much headway the past two days, though. I slept in today and didn't get to work until 11:00a.

Thankfully I didn't resort to mindless spending during my busy time. I bought one take out lunch last week ($6.55 for Chinese food - totally worth it!) and on Sunday I succumbed to a craving for Cape Cod potato chips and a half gallon of local chocolate milk ($5.98 total). I bought healthy food at the market on Sunday ($31.29, including $10 olive oil), but haven't gotten it together to make lunches for this week yet. My boss treated me to lunch at an Indian restaurant on Monday and I had a tiny leftover wonton soup in the work fridge that I ate yesterday. I then had a hair appointment at 4:00 and my stylist, who is a generous and nurturing woman, made me two bags of microwaved popcorn because I was hungry and gave me an extra-long head massage because I was stressed! Hair coloring total was $105 ($85 + 20 tip). I just had Chinese takeout today for lunch ($6.55). Not ideal, but it is what it is, as they say. Maybe I'll get a grip this evening and make salads for Thursday and Friday lunches.

I weighed myself on Monday and seem to have maintained my recent weight loss, but I will need to get back on course soon or the downward spiral will begin again and I will gain it all back.

I haven't kept up with YNAB, but will hopefully get reacquainted this weekend.

Guess I should motivate and get some work done today! The fall colors are spectacular in my area, so I'm trying to enjoy those as much as possible.

Thank you! and low spend

October 7th, 2015 at 06:47 am

Thank you for all of the supportive comments on my last post - I really appreciate the many kind thoughts and words.

My mom had her biopsy yesterday and for some reason the doctor said that he thought it was probably stage 1, slow growing because of her age, and treatable. This was based on his experience, but seemed kind of odd that he would predict. Anyway, she won't get the results for about 5 or so days, so I'm just going to wait to for those and see what's next. Hopefully it's something that can be dealt with. My mom is 81, but still pretty strong and healthy.

I am in the heart of my work storm - these next three days are the culmination of all my recent busy-ness. I can not wait until Friday at 6:00p when it's all finished and I'm free from this particular project. Lots of work will follow as always, but not quite so intense (I hope) for awhile.

I'm holding together pretty well. Definitely no time to spend money! Keeping YNAB updated, but will look more closely at it next week to see how I want to budget the rest of October's funds.

Thanks again to the SA community. Smile

October spending and upsetting news

October 4th, 2015 at 06:55 am

So far, so good for October spending. I filled my car with gas and had to purchase some needed household supplies yesterday. Electricity and phone bills will hit soon and I will have to pay a monthly medical statement as well as my lawn mowing guy.

I think that October will be more spendy than the last two months, but I hope to have some leftover money that I can put towards paying off my bathroom renovation. I still owe almost $2700 to the guy who did it and have been paying $500 a month since June. The project went way over budget and he was willing to accept monthly payments, but I feel bad about it and should just bite the bullet and pay it off ASAP. My goal is to be finished by the end of the year. I've never actually sat down and added up the total renovation cost - it just seems too overwhelming, but maybe someday.

The $1,895.25 check for my property taxes cleared, so now my checking account balance is a true reflection of available funds for October. My next two October paychecks will then be applied towards November expenses.

October non-bill spending so far:
Gas $33.79
Birthday lunch with friends $12.10 (I just noticed this charge on my card which was supposed to be $14.60 including tip. I was really stressed from work that day and must have written the tip and total only on my copy of the receipt. Ugh - I don't like to stiff waiters! I may try to get to the restaurant this week and drop off $3 for the guy.)
Kitty litter $12.70 (2 20lb jugs on sale) - this should last for a while, although I may get some more before the sale ends. But, do I want to have money tied up in stockpiled kitty litter? It does go on sale fairly regularly.
Dish sponge $1.05

The rest of this week should be low spend. I will be working a lot towards two days of big work events on Thursday and Friday. I have plenty of food on hand that needs to be consumed. I should go to TJ M@xx for a new outfit to wear for at least one of the event days, but am hoping I can pull something appropriate from my closet. I'm not in the mood to shop.

My mom called yesterday to let me know that a mass was found in her breast during a recent mammogram. She is having a biopsy on Tuesday and the results will take a week. I feel so sad and upset. She's 81 and I know that every day is a gift at this point, but I wasn't expecting breast cancer to appear at this late stage of life. I don't know if someone her age can even go through cancer treatments. Losing my mom will be devastating for me. I'm single with no children and she is the person that I'm closest to, even though we only see each other two to three times a year.

Since turning 50 in 2014 and losing a few friends to accidents and diseases this year, I have been grappling with my own aging and mortality, the unpredictability and fragility of life, not to mention having serious regrets about past decision and many roads not taken. I have struggled with depression for my entire life and spent many years quite frozen and just let time pass by without taking action on my own behalf. Now I feel very alone in the world and have no direction or goals, I'm basically just living day to day. And something like my mom's health news has the potential to shut me down again.

I ended up binge watching tv shows and movies on my laptop while eating comfort foods all day and late into the night yesterday, which I haven't done in a long time. I hope I can find the strength to help myself stay focused on reality and maintaining healthy habits and avoid getting lost once again.

Finances are related to all of this because since I don't have specific goals that I'm working towards, I fritter away money rather than use it to make things happen in my life. I've always had a vague notion of retiring early, so I generally "saved" money, but didn't really believe that I could ever pull it off, so didn't create a plan and fully commit.

Signing up for YNAB and really looking at my financial situation has been a step toward figuring out how to decide what's next. For as long as I'm alive, I'm going to continue to grow older and will have to make decisions with that reality in mind. Where do I want to live? What do I want to do with my time? How long will I need to work? How do I live in a way that's satisfying to me now and not only plan for the future? These are all questions that I don't have answers to and I'm not really sure how to think about them and make decisions. And I will most likely be doing all of this thinking and deciding alone.

I fear that I sound whiny so early on a Sunday morning, but these topics have been weighing heavily on my mind and I've been thinking about detailing them in my blog as a way to get thoughts out of my mind and down on "paper" to sort through. My mom's news has spurred me to start writing about it now, rather than wait.


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