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Archive for November, 2011

Ending the Month

December 1st, 2011 at 02:30 am

Nothing spent except $1.76 on coffee today and my car tab renewal. I felt the need for a nice dinner tonight; we've been eating a bit too haphazardly lately--partly from frugality and partly from lack of time. Too much eating all the little bits of stuff left in the fridge. I'm all for that, but after a while, it feels meager. Plus it's the end of a long week for me with tomorrow only online classes. So we had a very nice pork tenderloin with dried cranberry sauce, baked sweet potatoes and broccoli.

While I have plenty of work ahead of me, I'm devoting tonight to cleaning up around here, laundry, and for once, a sparkling clean kitchen. Few things are more satisfying.

All that makes it easier to tackle tomorrow's mountain of work.

Running but Ruminating

November 29th, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I'm too busy to blog much, but have been thinking about a lot of things that will need to be sorted out once things settle down.
Some of them are how to stick to a better exercise routine, how to reorganize my office, whether I'll ever teach another online class after the headaches of this one, where wine belongs in my budget, and other mostly minor things.

But I had a very contentious class last night, and I've been thinking about it a lot. We read three Flannery O'Connor stories, all of which contain the "n-word."
My evening class is primarily African-American women, and we had a very difficult time discussing how a writer can have a character use that word, whether we should read those stories, the problems of conflating the author with the character, etc. In each of these stories the character that use the "n-word" is despicable and flawed. O'Connor punishes them: one character is shot, another is shown up as a pretentious buffoon, and another reduced to thinking of herself as a warthog (no, I'm not kidding) from the lower regions. But still, the legacy of that word troubles and haunts. We literally spent hours discussing it, at times way too vehemently.

I love these stories, but need to find a better way to communicate and teach them. Not financial news at all, but since they pay me to do this, perhaps it has a financial component. I wish I could think and work at the same time...

Catching Up

November 28th, 2011 at 04:21 am

I'm still working on school prep for this week, and hope to get some financial matters squared away. I need to drop off the 403b reduction at our HR office and pay some bills. After church I stopped at Walgreen's for their sale on instant coffee. My DH loves instant (is it the Brit in him?)and I've seen it regularly priced at $13 lately. I bought two at $6.99/ea and with another coupon and used my soon-to-expire register rewards. DD and also swung by Michael's for her "book-share" project due on Wednesday. I mostly restrained myself from any unnecessary purchases, but they had the cutest wrapping paper for $3, so I gave in to my wrapping desires. I love wrapping paper.

I feel like I spent a lot of time cooking this weekend. But we start the week with a couple meals worth of soup, ravioli casserole, and beef stew, not to mention another batch of crock-pot applesauce.

T-Day and Looking Forward

November 26th, 2011 at 09:50 pm

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. The nephews were all with their womenfolk and their families, so we missed them, but had a great time anyway. My brother and his wife are just wonderful; we're the same kind of low-key wine-drinking, PBS watching geeks, and we always enjoy their company. This was our first holiday for my brother and me without our mom, and it made it better to be together. I had time for breakfast with two of my Minnesota friends on Friday and then we headed home. We did the 12-hour round trip to Minnesota and back in 48 hours,so I guess it's no wonder I'm dragging a bit today.

I did swing by CVS after we got home last night and picked up a host of Black Friday freebies. Many of them will be stocking stuffers, some in the Advent calendar, and some will likely go to the food pantry barrel. The 16-year-old checker whooped and hollered in praise at how many extra bucks I earned and used, but honestly, it took no time at all.

The weather stinks--cold and rainy--so I made lentil soup and another batch of slow-cooker applesauce. I'm watching pennies carefully. We've made a photo collage free at Walgreen's that will go in with the other small things for our sponsored child in Swaziland.

I'd like a few more days at home. It feels good to potter around here.

Boom Goes the Budget

November 22nd, 2011 at 06:21 pm

Sunday night about 10, I heard DH yell, "I think we have a problem." While running after something in the yard, the dog instead caught the edge of the upended tomato cage. It sliced right through her right upper chest, and she was bleeding heavily.

After a most stressful five-hour jaunt to the emergency vet and almost $700, she's home, sewn up, and medicated.

I'm very thankful she's ok. I'm not so thankful about the bill. Today we go back for another look at the wound. Ah--the emergency fund.

A Slower Day

November 18th, 2011 at 09:51 pm

After all the energy expended these past few days, our house should be toasty and warm. But it's cold.

I've spent the past 36 hours trying to get control of school work and the budget, and I'm a little tired. DD had a dream about a bear in the garage(?) and slept between us last night. That's rarely comfortable as she's a flailing, muttering sleeper. So I started getting anxious, and the bear in the garage seemed like a wolf at the door to my brain at 3am.
I got up, turned up the heat, and read for a couple hours. Poetry seemed like the answer, and may I recommend Lorine Niedecker, an underrated wonderful poet. Her spareness was just what I needed, and I slept like a baby in the guest room for a couple more hours.

So today dragged. I got some grading done, but fell asleep after lunch. Now, refueled by caffeine and a raspberry turnover, I'm back it for a few more hours until bear-haunted girl returns from school.

I did slash (ouch) all our retirement plan automatic contributions. DH has upped the deductible on his car insurance. Back to grading.

Budget Meeting

November 18th, 2011 at 05:44 am

As scheduled, DH and I sat down and had a budget meeting tonight. He's a bit prickly about it and has never been much interested in our finances. I think the poor thing is just emotionally exhausted and a bit disheartened by the whole thing.

We found that if we dramatically slash our retirement contributions, we could indeed live on my regular university salary. It won't be pretty, but it can be done. So that's the plan. We bank his unemployment, look for a new job with lots of energy and also bank my night class money to build our cash reserves further.

I have to say, it really hurt me to log in to the retirement accounts and curtail them to that extent. Although I know it's right, it just feels so wrong.

We're doing the opposite of freezer cooking; we're doing freezer eating. I found two of last summer's lingering bratwurst (Milwaukee life) and a frozen carton of chicken broth in the freezer. It turned into an amazingly good soup from a blog called "Eatin on the Cheap." I tweaked the recipe a bit, but who knew two brats, three potatoes, an onion, two carrots and some chicken broth could be as good as it was. I wish I had more!

Hmm--What to Trim?

November 17th, 2011 at 05:34 am

I'm starting my "what to cut, shave, trim, snip, and other hair analogies" list.
Our goal will be cash preservation.
So, I think I'll pare down the retirement plan contributions since we have no match, increase the insurance deductible on DH's car which we should've done months ago, stop the mortgage principal prepayment, but what else?

We have no cable, but we're keeping Netflix streaming. I've considered giving up the Sunday NYT, but not yet. Kumon also stays. The grocery bill and the energy bill both need some scrutinizing. The prepaid phone is about as cheap as it gets.

Today I used the Mattel vouchers to buy toys for the Christmas donations at church with a little left for DD's stocking stuffer and some upcoming baby gifts.
I thought I might have a hard time using the voucher at Target, but checked with the service desk first, and they were happy to help. Between that and the coupon for free milk, it was a cheap day.

DH got the official news today. He'll be done at the end of the year. Tomorrow's list will be on more income generation and job search stuff. I'm a little daunted and welcome any advice you want to throw my way!

Some Small Windfalls

November 15th, 2011 at 05:58 pm

Four small but nice things happened that reminded me again of all the abundance around.

My dear husband found the long-missing Mattel gift certificates. They have a $65 value and some of that will go for donated toys while some stays in DD's Santa stash.

A former student who is graduating and moving to Florida came by my office with books yesterday. She gave me three of our textbooks, even after I advised her to sell them. She wants to clear out her apartment and be out by December 1. I have a copy for my office, one for reserve, and my bag copy, so I will sell these.

My officemate reads the Sunday paper in our office and left it for me--coupons and all. That means a double set in time for double days.

DH and I pulled the crabtree branches from the lawn waste pile and are cutting them up to dry for BBQ smoking. Thanks to Patient Saver for this advice.

It's another warm November day; long may they last!

The News From the Boss

November 14th, 2011 at 03:46 am

So, as we expected, it looks like DH's almost 11-year contract will end sometime shortly after the new year. They love him, want to keep him, but can't afford to keep him. Their budget has taken close to a $500K hit. He's indicated he'd work fewer hours happily enough, but his boss isn't sure there's money for that.

His contract with his agency specifies they pay him even if he's not working. But we're both relatively sure they'll dump him quickly if he's not. So he's already put the word out to former co-workers at other firms, to other parts of his current company etc. Later this week we'll revamp his resume. Emergency planning has begun.

Our US cash reserve is ok, almost to the 25K I wanted, but not quite. We should be able to get it there by his layoff. We've got more funds in the UK, but our goal is to live on my regular salary if we can. His unemployment and my second-job and freelance money will go to the emergency fund. All that would work, except there's those three months in the summer when I don't get paid. For those months, we'd rely on unemployment and my freelance and second-job money.

All in all, it's not that bad. We will hope his jobless state won't last long. We are again pleased that I am the insurance holder,and we have no worries or extra expenses there. We are both pretty frugal, and we will crank it down another notch, refiguring travel, entertainment, and Christmas expenses first.

I have some heavy work days ahead, so our budget meeting will have to wait until Thursday or so. Our freezer and pantry are full.

My dear mother always said when faced with bad news, celebrate the good. I bought a restaurant.com voucher (what a deal they are!) for a good Italian place and we went out for dinner and a movie last night. Have any of you seen "Margin Call"? I thought it was swell. Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci are spectacular. Jeremy Irons is as loathsome as he should be in that role. Going out was cheap and raised our spirits.

Making Soup

November 12th, 2011 at 09:50 pm

I've volunteered to roast a turkey for the meal-share Thanksgiving through my church, so the house smells delightful--just like Thanksgiving. They want the meat taken off the bones and the drippings frozen separately, so I've done that. I really do not like pulling rurkeys apart (why does that sentence seem so funny to me?). Residual bones and skin have gone into two soup pots which are bubbling away now.

I want to make crockpot applesauce, but that might have to wait until tomorrow. I also did a little CVS shopping with a $5 offer from Mastercard and a lot of double coupon purchases at the grocery store. I sense a lot of economic anxiety out there. Lots of detailed lists and counting coupons were in evidence throughout the store. And not all of it mine.

I'm still processing DH's job news, but we're going out tonight to see "Margin Call." I'll likely think through this all tomorrow on this blog.

Down this Road Before

November 11th, 2011 at 04:57 pm

DH is again nervous about his job. He's still a contractor, but he's been at the same place for more than 10 years. They put a hiring freeze on several years ago, and for a long time, he was the only contractor there.
But some of his regular tasks have been reassigned to employees, and he's feeling nervous. We talked it through last night and rather than worrying, we decided he should talk to folks. That's happening in a couple hours.
As usual, I'm bracing for the worst-case scenario. I've been super-freaky about grocery spending and utilities. But I did get my small challenge list done for yesterday with nice lentil soup, pumpkin bread, clean laundry, ebay listings,spelling-word quizzes--but no toy vouchers have yet to surface!

Need Some Simple Challenges

November 10th, 2011 at 08:53 pm

While I'd like to quickly pay off the mortgage, lose 20 pounds, have Michelle Obama's arms, and look 10 years younger overnight, I think I need some simple achievable goals for the next week.

Here are today's six:

Do two more loads of laundry

Finish lentil soup in the crockpot

List two things on ebay

Quiz DD on spelling words

Make pumpkin bread

Find the toy coupons I've misplaced

I've got more to blog about, but want to finish a couple of these before I come back!

Pizza with the Brits

November 10th, 2011 at 05:57 am

An old childhood friend of DH's turned up in town, and we all went out for pizza tonight. He had an interesting story: He was born in Tanzania, moved back to the UK when he was a teenager, met his wife in Morocco and now lives in Canada. I feel so boring!

My favorite part of the evening was the waitress' inability to understand a word either of the guys said. Neither of them have particularly thick accents--not heavy Northern or Cockney or Yorkshire---but she just stared at me every time they said anything to her--and needed me to repeat everything they said. We had a lovely dinner and it made up for the wet, horrible, rainy day here.

More on a new financial wrinkle tomorrow.

Flash Cash and Slow Cash

November 8th, 2011 at 09:07 pm

It's mostly been a day of catching up, but there's been some flash cash and some slow cash coming.

Two textbook publishers contacted me today, one from my current text and one from a competing text. The current text, though it's been out less than a year, is already planning revisions. They wanted feedback from me through a survey in return for $20 from Amazon.
Done!

The competing text publisher wanted me to do a survey and an intensive two-chapter review. While I know they're just trying to lure me back to their text, for the $400 they offered, I'll do it. I figure it'll take me about 2-3 hours.

Slow cash coming from a cheaper magazine offer for one of DD's magazines, a couple of good deals at the drugstore, and my goal sheet (not as fun as Paulette's!) that I'll do later this afternoon.


I've been overstretched and tired, but took a nap yesterday after teaching and took it easy last night. Onward!

Frugal Saturday

November 6th, 2011 at 04:28 am

What a satisfyingly frugal day I had. First a great church rummage sale. DD and I bought her five tops and five bottoms--two denim skirts, some jeans, and two pairs of shorts and seven virtually new books for $20. Great quality stuff--mostly Lands End. Plus I met another local woman whose son is in DD's class and who would be delighted at some of DD's hand-me-downs for her 7-year-old. Frugal karma!

Then to double-double coupon day with 10 coupons doubled and double the game cards at the local grocer. I saved a lot--and got free cereal and other items for the food pantry.

We followed that up with a fun post- Halloween event at a colleague's home. They're v creative folks and had fabulous food and great games and potion drinks for the kids. Someone asked why they chose this weekend rather than last--and the husband replied, "Because all the Halloween stuff was 80% off at Michael's!) I love it.

Friday Finally

November 4th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

As I predicted, I got sent to academic service hell as the new chair of a contentious committee. But it might be fun.

DD and I got the great Barnes and Noble 50% off coupon yesterday and spent it on some pent-up book desires. I'm still thinking of ways to get through this tower of papers and have some fun this weekend.

I got some sort of Office Depot rebate today, and need to dig through my bill drawer to find the mattel lawsuit coupons soon. And I'm finally whittling down the mortgage a bit more. Oh how I'd love to pay it off....

Interesting Day

November 4th, 2011 at 12:58 am

I met with students all day and spent nothing except a couple bucks on a gallon of milk (with coupon) on the way home.

Student meetings are always interesting enough, but I started talking to a colleague who is trying to get me interested in teaching several semesters abroad. I am interested, but needed to talk it through with DH. We decided that we would make it work, if I want to pursue the opportunity. Stay tuned on that one.

Next I was informed that I'm being unanimously elected the chair of a committee tomorrow. I protested, saying I am voting for anyone BUT me, but it's a very contentious committee in our somewhat contentious department, so perhaps it will be fun.

Then I picked up the food pantry collection barrel for the department and hauled it three blocks across campus. Normally that would be awkward enough, but it was folded flat about 5'X3', and it was very windy today. At one point I almost took flight.

Back to the somnolence of grading--

The Wonders of My Payroll System

November 3rd, 2011 at 03:06 am

Remember that $700 that the state overcharged me last month? Yeah, you probably do since I've been harping on it since then. Here's my odd update. Tuesday I scrutinized my paycheck, and wonder of wonders, they did refund the overcharge. Curiously, it seemed like I received even more money than I anticipated. Why? Because they forgot to take ANYTHING out for health insurance this month. Unbelievable.

I e-mailed payroll swiftly, and they confirmed it. They'll double deduct next month. Or something else that I can't even begin to imagine.

I'm still ages behind in grading and need to devote every spare minute to it for the next week or until I get caught up. I had three students not show up for an important exam today, and I'm debating whether to cut them slack. We had the hellfire and damnation talk in my writing class because of their horrible proofreading. One student today ended a letter by apologizing for any "incontinence" this may have caused a client. And he insisted his document was ready to be mailed. I think I scared them all; another student asked if I needed coffee or perhaps something stronger.

No money spent--no time for even coffee today.

November?

November 1st, 2011 at 04:21 pm

Oh my--how did it get to be November?
Do you all feel like that?

I'm swimming in deep water trying to catch up with grading and prep. But I'll get there, despite DD having ANOTHER day off school on Friday.

DH returned from England late Saturday night. He's emotionally spent and physically jet lagged. I expected that and feel for him. It's hard for him to get back in the flow of things--and we need him to do just that.

When I returned from my evening class last night, he was on the phone to Citibank's fraud alert folks. Someone has charged $600 on his card, and happily Citi spotted it. He'll have to go through all the hassles on a new card, but so far, so good.

I just realized I'd better go scrutinize my paycheck to see that the state has come up with my overdue $700!