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Archive for August, 2015

Productive, relaxing and fun three-day weekend

August 31st, 2015 at 05:16 pm

Just realized that I never posted this entry - this is actually last weekend, Aug 22 - 24.

My long weekend started out on Friday after work with an exciting evening of doing laundry ($5.25) and taking a long walk (free) in between cycles. Then I spent Saturday at home with no plans (NSD) since I needed some quiet time after a busy week at work. I both relaxed and puttered around the house getting things done - washed dishes, cleaned old food from the fridge, took trash ($2.50) and recycling to my local drop off, played the piano, vacuumed the house and snuggled with my cat. My good friend D came over on Sunday and we hung out and chatted on my porch all day. We eventually went into town to get her some takeout for an early dinner (she has low blood sugar and has to eat at certain times). She bought a frozen flatbread pizza to cook at my house. I am eating lightly, so planned on having a small dinner after she left, but ended up eating the leftover pizza, which was delish, easy and free!

On Monday, I took a road trip with my friend A to an art museum. It was a good day! The weather was clear and warm, the ride was uneventful, and the exhibits and grounds of the museum were fantastic. I love museums, especially art museums. I paid for gas ($17) and individual admission was $20 (high, but was worth it).

The one snafu was that I made the mistake of not discussing food/meals with A ahead of time. I had planned to bring snacks for lunch in order to continue my current light and frugal eating plan. I mentioned this in a morning text to A and she responded that part of the fun for her would be eating together at the museum cafe. I actually expected this, so wasn't surprised. She added that she was planning to treat me since I was driving. I agreed although I would rather have brought my own food because when faced with a menu of tempting food choices, all of my resolve to "eat lightly" flies out the window. It turned out that the museum cafe we chose had a very limited menu, so we ordered two sandwich meals to share (1 turkey/cheese and 1 ham/cheese) and each came with a bag of chips and a cookie. Honestly, the food was marginal, not all that tasty even though they used interesting local ingredients. I make a much better sandwich! We ended up eating outside on the lawn under a big tree and I could have easily eaten my own snacks while my friend ate her bought lunch, but we didn't realize the set up until it was time to eat. Plus, between the sandwich and the chips, I was quite full and a bit uncomfortable. I saved the cookie until later, but would never have eaten it otherwise!

If I had gone with my original plan, I would have brought my own healthy, light and cheap food and we could have split the $17 gas. A ended up paying much more for those two lunches then she would have for gas, but she's not as frugal as I am! She also treated us to soft serve on the way home. I would have not stopped and eaten it on my own. I need to learn to refuse free food...this is definitely a weakness.

A reminder to myself to discuss plans like this ahead of time and to stick more to what I want when possible, without being super rigid. Eating out is not all that interesting to me and is not how I want to spend much of my limited income. Now, if we had understood that there was another cafe in a remote location of the museum that we visited later, the meal would have been much better and it wouldn't have been a problem.

I'm happy to say that I was able to jump right back into mostly light and frugal eating habits since then. I'm exercising a lot (taking advantage of the warm weather before the snow flies!) and losing some weight. I have access to most of my wardrobe again. I was down to 3 pairs of pants that fit - one was a very old pair of hiking pants and the other two were pretty snug. Whew, I'm glad to have more choices again.

I continue to tinker with YNAB and I really like it! I got paid on Friday, August 21, so I entered both of my August paychecks (I get paid every two weeks) as income for September. I've been entering my September budget - how I'm going to spend the money that I earned during August (one of the goals of the YNAB program is to live off of last's months income. They also refer to "giving every dollar a job". Gotta love the lingo.). I will get paid again this Friday, September 4, so will enter that as October income.

YNAB doesn't work!

August 21st, 2015 at 05:33 pm

Just after I started to use YNAB, I made a quick trip to my local food co-op to grab two items that I knew were on last day of sale. I ended up spending $50! I thought my new found budgeting with YNAB would prevent such impulsive spending. Ok, guess I can't really blame a program for my own poor habits. Smile

Actually, I have been enjoying tinkering with YNAB, figuring out how it works and whether or not I will take the plunge and purchase it for $60 (I most likely will). It's fun!

Shout outs to Buendia and BudgetBrillance - thank you for taking time to share your YNAB experiences on my last post - very helpful. I have taken two of the live classes and continue to play with it. I still don't fully understand the entire process, but I assume that mastery will come soon enough. I know I will have to face some feelings of disappointment and anger when I realize how I have NOT been utilizing my money in satisfying ways or, in other words, have been wasting a lot of it. But I guess there's no time like the present to march forth and try again.
One thing that I have noticed is that when I track my spending, I tend to spend less! I've been a tracking machine this August, but consequently, I don't really have much to track.

My biggest challenge now is that I am moving into a very busy and stressful time at work that will last through early December. This is when I start to lose my grip and then it's hello stress eating. I spend too much money on takeout food (mostly lunch), junk food (why yes, I would love to veg out on the couch with a pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream after a long day at work...thank you for suggesting it evil subconscious) and buying healthy food that I never get around to preparing and end up wasting. I will also forget about YNAB and then my newfound budgeting skills will languish. My health, waistline and finances will suffer. Sounds very dramatic, but I know myself and my patterns very well. I will have to think about ways to help myself through this time so that I don't completely fall apart.

I've managed to shed a little weight in the last few weeks and would like to keep it off. I know that self care is all about daily routines and habits, but I'm not a "routine" person. I will just need to take it one day at time.

Ok, so now I will focus on today in a positive way. It's gorgeous outside. I'm having a productive day at work. I want to walk after work and then spend a quiet evening at home. I'll spend Saturday at home puttering and relaxing. My friend D is visiting on Sunday. I'm taking Monday off for a road trip to see an art exhibit with my friend A, which should be a fun and not too expensive day ($20 admission, maybe $10 gas and I am planning on taking food with me although my friend will probably want to eat out).

I've received more free food - a handful of small tomatoes from a neighbor's garden, a pint of cherry tomatoes from a work colleague, and two peaches from another colleague's tree. I also scored some leftover crackers, cheese and grapes from a work reception last week.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Started using YNAB - any suggestions about budgeting and tracking money?

August 19th, 2015 at 05:33 pm

After reading about YNAB in various SA blogs, I decided to sign up for the free 33-day trial period to see if I would want to purchase the program for $60 and continue using it. I am terrible at creating a budget, tracking expenses, assigning incoming money to specific goals, etc. So far, it seems like it might work as a way for me to better utilize my money, although it's only been about two days! It is fun to play with the categories and switch things around.

I'm curious how people keep track of or "store" money that's set aside for certain goals...for instance, a car replacement fund. If you have a fund that you put money into each month, does the money actually exist in a separate account, or is all non-spent money lumped together in one account, but differentiated on a spreadsheet? As in, say I have $12,000 in checking or savings and I know that $5000 is an emergency fund and $7000 is a car replacement fund. Or would the $5000 be in one actual account alone and the $7000 in another separate account, both of those being different than a checking account? I'm assuming that it could be done either way, but I'm curious how various people set up their accounts.

Also, one of YNAB's recommendations is to live off of last month's pay. I can do that, but I put most purchases on a credit card that then gets auto paid during the next month. So, money is being spent say in August which would be budgeted against August's available money, but then it's actually being paid in September? How does that work?

I'm not really sure if these questions are making sense. I imagine that once I play with this more I can figure it out, but I'm so curious how others manage money and what seems to work/not work for various people.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments - I'd love to get some ideas. Smile

free food week

August 13th, 2015 at 07:25 pm

I've unexpectedly scored a bunch of free food this week, so I'm glad I chose not to grocery shop immediately after returning from vacation last Friday.

My cat sitter stopped by Saturday for payment and brought a big bag of kale from her garden. Then I walked with my neighbor A and left her house with some yellow zucchini, a few cucumbers, two sungold cherry tomatoes (unfortunately, her tomato crop has blight, so there aren't many tomatoes to share), and a bunch of flat-leaf parsley (my favorite!).

I had a massage on Tuesday and my therapist gave me a big yogurt container full of fusilli pasta and homemade tomato sauce with fresh herbs that she had made for guests and ended up with too much left over for just herself. Yum! She also gave me a big zucchini.

Then I walked with my neighbor A again yesterday after work and picked a small bag of apples from one of her trees. They are sweet, crisp and delicious! I can't remember the name, but they must be an early variety. I have an old tree in my yard that has a bumper crop of small apples on it this year, but they are still very tart, not quite ripe yet. I also got some more flat-leaf parsley.

Sadly, the garden of a friend from whom I usually get a ton of veggies every summer is not producing very well this year, so that won't be a source. My property lacks a good spot for a garden, so I just buy the abundant local produce and enjoy any available free surplus from friends' and coworkers' gardens.

I've been able to feed myself with leftover travel food and items in my cupboard this week and have kept my diet light:

Breakfasts: white peach (delicious!), handful of almonds. Today I had one of the new apples instead of a peach. Same for Fri.

Lunches: salads Mon & Tues, then small salad and small portion of pasta w/tomato sauce with fresh kale added on Wed & Thurs. Rest of pasta with added kale on Fri and some chopped cukes.

Snack: Blueberries picked last weekend

Dinner: whole wheat pasta w/steamed broccoli and cauliflower, a little canned tuna, olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped flat leaf parsley each night. Dinner out with friends on Fri.

Late night snack: salsa & chips Mon & Tues, pint of chocolate milk Wed - leftover from Saturday's farm lunch (all totally unnecessary calories, so hope to ditch that habit next week).

Apparently I don't mind eating the same meals all week! I ordinarily wouldn't eat pasta two times a day, but I haven't taken the time to make a grain for dinner since getting the free pasta. I'll do that for next week's meals.

My only food spending was $1.99 for a can of tuna that I used/will use for four dinners this week and $7.26 for yellow peaches yesterday (last day of a sale, would have waited otherwise). I'll also spend $2.50 tomorrow for a dozen eggs from a co-worker's chickens.

I'll be unexpectedly going out to dinner with two friends on Friday. We were supposed to meet in one friend's newly renovated kitchen, but the other friend is on a staycation and wouldn't be in town for work. So, we're meeting out at a restaurant halfway between our houses. Bummer, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening in a home, not in a noisy restaurant! Plus, I don't want to spend the money for a meal, especially with friends who drink more alcohol than I do (I rarely drink). I'll make sure I take cash and chip in for my portion if they order big meals and drinks. We'll have a nice time together, though.

On Sunday, I'll be traveling about an hour away with some friends to visit another friend at a lake house. We'll do various lakey activities (all free) and share a potluck lunch. I'm going to make a dish using rice that I have and some of the free veggies and will also take some apples and blueberries, so no new spending. I'll drink water. Should be a low-spend (and fun!) day.

Food is by far my biggest discretionary spending category, especially when I get on poor eating kicks. I'd like to change that and start spending money on other things that I need and want.

anyone sign up for Sw@gbucks Visa checkout offer?

August 12th, 2015 at 03:17 pm

hi all - has anyone signed up for the SB Visa checkout offer for 500 SBs? You sign up and register a VISA card. But, I'm wondering if you actually need to use the account as part of the deal or can you just sign up? And are there any charges associated with said account? I'm not clear and wondering if anyone has done this and is it worth it. Thanks! Smile

weekend spending

August 10th, 2015 at 03:24 pm

Ugh - I overslept this morning!

This past weekend was mostly about decompressing after my vacation. The weather was amazing - sunny, high 70s, no humidity. The light is definitely starting to look like fall and I'm not ready for that!

On Saturday, I went for a long walk with my neighbor A, started to unpack and regroup at home, and then went for a boat ride on a nearby lake with A and her husband. It was a beautiful evening for an outing. We stopped for local ice cream on the way home, but I didn't have any money with me, so A paid. No money spent that day. On Sunday, I spent time with my friend M and her 7-year-old daughter J. We went blueberry picking ($8.04 for about 3 pounds) at a place with gorgeous views and then attended an event at a local farm, where we met up with my neighbor A and her husband. There was a live folk music band and the farm offered meals (local hamburger, hot dog or sausage or a veggie burger plus two sides and a beverage). I chose a hamburger with mac and cheese and a delicious cabbage salad that was made with the farm's own buttermilk dressing. We all hung out enjoying the food and the music and then A and I took an afternoon three-mile walk near a lake. I scored some free garden veggies when I dropped her off at home - three yellow zucchinis, 2 cukes and a bunch of flat leaf parsley.

The farm meal was $11 and then I bought a $2 giant cookie to split with A. This food spending was totally unnecessary - I should have brought my own snacks, but I didn't take the time to prepare. A goal this week is to spend $0 or very little on food. My fridge is pretty empty since I've been away, but I have the free veggies from A, a bag of free kale from another neighbor, the freshly picked blueberries, and some leftover travel food - two Jersey tomatoes, a few New York white peaches, some salad ingredients, some cheese, salsa and chips. I also have dried grains and other staples that I can prepare. I had planned to prepare some food for the week when I got home yesterday, but ended up falling asleep instead, so this morning I had to scramble to put something together for lunch at work. I made a small salad and packed a peach, blueberries and almonds. I just had the peach and some almonds for breakfast, will eat the salad for lunch around 1:00p and then will have blueberries and more almonds for a snack around 3:30. Hopefully I will refrain from buying a candy bar at that time instead. Not only do I not want to consume the calories and sugar, but a regular size Snickers bar costs $1.06 at the store near my office. Sometimes I get on kicks where I buy one there each afternoon. I think they are probably only 69 cents downtown!

So, looks like my weekend spending was $21.04, all on food. Not bad for all of the enjoyable activities that I did, I felt like I extended my vacation, but I would have preferred to have just spent the $8.04 on the blueberries. I was glad to reconnect with friends since I had been away and to enjoy my beautiful surroundings in these final weeks of summer.

A few things I'd like to do this evening after work:

*Walk for at least 30 minutes (and catch up with a friend via phone while I walk)
*Figure out how much I owe my neighbor who mows my lawn and pay him this week using leftover cash from vacation
*Write check for next payment of bathroom renovation and mail tomorrow
*Eat a light, healthy dinner
*Make lunch for tomorrow

Hope everyone is having a good day! Smile

summer update

August 10th, 2015 at 04:28 am

As usual, I haven't blogged in a long time, but here I am again.

I just returned home Friday from a two-week vacation. It was a fairly frugal venture visiting a college friend in the Finger Lakes and then spending time at the NJ shore with my family in the house we've had since the early 70s. I haven't added up expenses yet, but came home with leftover cash from the $200 I took with me, although I did charge some items to my credit card. The biggest expense was a cat sitter. 16 days at $10/day for a woman who lives around the corner from me. I gave her $190 total - $160 fee plus $30 tip. She watered inside and outside plants and visited my cat twice a day. Plus she keeps an eye on my house. Worth every penny. Knowing my cat is well cared for is the only way I can relax when away. Turns out my sitter didn't let me know that she raised her rates to $12/day, so she didn't really get a tip. I'll have to budget in the new daily rate next time I travel.

I dread returning to work tomorrow (well I guess today since it's after midnight!) after being gone for over two weeks. I am going to be slammed from now until November. Ugh. I hope I can get motivated. I pretty much let all thoughts of work disappear while I was gone. Now it's back to reality!

I am steadily gaining weight now that I've hit 50 and my metabolism seems to have taken a hike. I am spending way too much money on food and consuming too much and would like to address that.

I paid off my car loan as of August 3rd! I'd like to tally up total interest paid over the course of the loan. It was my first car loan since my father generously provided my first three cars. The first was my brother's hand-me-down Chevy Chevette in my late high school, college and post-college years. I'd still be driving that thing, but my dad bought me a new Honda civic (Lucy) in my mid-20s when I decided to move out west to be a ski bum in my mid-20s. I drove that for 10 years and then bought a VW Golf (Pablo). My dad provided the loan instead of a bank and I was paying him back when he died. My mom eventually forgave the loan, so I ended up only paying a portion of it myself. Then I bought my current Subaru Impreza (Sally) about 4 or 5 years ago. I just received the paid off car paperwork in the mail and must take it to the DMV to get my title. I have fairly low mileage on the car and I hope to drive it for a few more years, but I am starting to think about what might be next.

I had my main bathroom (my house has 1.5 baths) renovated last winter. It is a very small room and the project went way over budget and I still owe money on it. More on that later.

Guess I should go to sleep so that I'm not exhausted tomorrow. Frown