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Archive for July, 2017

How I Made $75 on a Bad Day in London

July 29th, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Hello from London! Everything's great now, but we had a bad first day. Our flight was late in Heathrow, so I started texting the airbnb host to say we'd be late. When we arrived about 90 minutes than planned, there was no one there. No answer to our texts. no response to the emergency line call at airbnb. My daughter wasn't feeling well, and I was upset. We waited and texted her for another two hours as it started to rain with us outside the flat, our huge suitcases, and two tired girls. I called some British friends, my husband called airbnb, and together we all decided the only thing to do was try to get a hotel. Happily this was my old neighborhood in London so I knew the nearby spots, and managed to wangle a room for the three of us about a mile away. We even managed to take the bus there. Later that night I got a almost panicked, very apologetic call from the host who was relying on a friend to let us in--and didn't get our texts until much later. The girls and I crashed, ate great ramen, saw the Changing of the Guard in the morning and still managed to meet someone who let us into the flat, grab a bus with the suitcases, haul them up four flights of stairs, and meet my DH on time. So where did the $75 come from? The host is reimbursing us (without my asking) for the first night. The $75 is the difference between our airbnb and the hotel cost. And we had a nice free breakfast at the hotel. Annoying--but when we got in the flat, it was great, and found a big box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco waiting for us. We went off to the Globe last night for an absolutely spectacular performance of 12th Night. We went to a wacky Alice in Wonderland thing today and up the London Eye--which my family did a decade ago. My DH and I took a photo at Waterloo Station where we first
met. Lots of fun already. But London is expensive, so as they say--every little bit helps.

Maybe Uber-Expensive Month?

July 24th, 2017 at 09:01 pm

I just paid the down payment on the bathroom remodel and signed the contract. Yeesh--$8000. And went out to breakfast with a friend, bought various odds and ends for the UK trip, paid DD's $178 school fees, and bought a street map of Paris. All good, most necessary (not the breakfast, but it was delicious). DH and I had a long chat last night about trimming expenses in the UK. We're hoping to eat two meals a day either at the flats or picnic-style. I'm a cheap-o Londoner, so I'll put my grocery store skills to the test. I found all my British shopper cards, packed some reusable grocery bags and a tiny cool bag. My DH will carry anything in his backpack; it doesn't bother him at all while I HATE hauling stuff around. I have to remember some empty water bottles.
Anything frugal today? Free deodorant and toothpaste with various CVS offers and almost free pens at Walgreen's. Still eating through the fridge. Two days!

New Book: The Financial Diaries

July 23rd, 2017 at 04:24 am

I heard this broadcast on our university radio station this afternoon. I thought it was well worth a listen: http://wuwm.com/post/financial-diaries-profiles-budgeting-struggles-working-families#stream/0

Our First Foray

July 21st, 2017 at 06:06 pm

We're joining together with some folks from church to serve dinner at a local AODA halfway house tonight. We've talked about it for a while, but they had an emergency opening in our three monthly dinners there, so we signed up. One family is bringing chili and cornbread, another desserts, and I thought a big fruit salad and some veggies and dip would be a nice addition. It should be a good experience for all of us. I'm aware sometimes of the bubble we live in most of the time. One of our members is on the board and she has shared some amazing stories.

All of this prompted a big shopping trip to Costco yesterday for fruit and veggies. But 85% of them will go out with us tonight, and I'm helping a friend move tomorrow and will bring the rest with me then.

Packing for London now!

Drawdown Days

July 19th, 2017 at 05:04 pm

We're at T-minus six days until London, and I seem to be drawing down everything. I've moved some items from the fridge/freezer to the downstairs freezer to ensure they stay super cold while the dog sitter is here. It can be a tricky upstairs freezer drawer if you're not used to it. I'm trying hard to use up all the fresh food and excess around here--and still working our way through DH's huge purchase of six packages of sliced cheese. Luckily everyone likes a grilled cheese sandwich around here. I'm moving our clean clothes that will be packed out of the closets and drawers into the guest room to start packing tomorrow. The gift cupboard is being drawn down as I have several gifts for friends and family to pack.
I've listed "return all library books" on the calendar for the weekend. I arranged haircuts for both DD and me for Tuesday and finalized our airport transportation. Tomorrow will be an errand day as I have stuff to donate and buy. I have another colleague lunch today. Tonight I also need to doublecheck I've made printouts of all our papers, tickets, reservations, etc. I'm fretting that I didn't rent a large enough car for our countryside time. Anyone have a Jetta station wagon or know anything about their size? There will be 4 of us and four large suitcases. Do you think we need a bigger car? The rates go up quite dramatically for larger rentals, but we'll be driving to Cambridge, then to Southhampton as well as around the Isle of Wight.

Who Says There's No Such Thing?

July 18th, 2017 at 01:14 am

No such thing as a free lunch? I had one today thanks to one of my university friends who had gift certificates to a fancy French place and took a few of us out for lunch. Yum. A nice glass of Vouvray and a Salad Nicoise followed by a fruit tart divvied amongst several of us. I spent the morning with my summer teaching group discussing a book about learning styles. It's always fun to hang out with faculty from other disciplines. It helps us all. I had to pay for parking as the streets around the French place were all torn up, but it was only $1.50. And I fed the family from the freezer for dinner. I could get used to that kind of a day.

Party Time!

July 15th, 2017 at 09:01 pm

Oh my word--I wish I was one of those people who entertained without stress. My poor DD. This was her first birthday party at home in years, and she must've caught my nerves. She was awake at 1am the night before fretting over having chosen what she feared was the "wrong" flavors for her ice cream cake. She worried about the guest list; she threatened to cancel. My maniacal cleaning probably didn't help. For some insane reason she thought she should invite friends from 5-11, plus I had to drive 45 minutes south to pick up her friend who has moved. So how did it go? Fabulous. People told her it was the best cake they ever had--a Baskin Robbins Oreo ice cream cake. Four pizzas, endless bags of snacks, our new patio lights, games and chatter until their parents hauled them away. One girl slept over and they weren't up until 11. Her first party with BOYS.

DH and I sat outside for much of it, admiring our new patio lights and enjoying a nice bottle of rose'. I'm exhausted, but the whole thing probably only cost $125 or so. England in 12 days.

The Shock! A NSD Followed by a Mini-Rant

July 13th, 2017 at 04:51 am

Unbelievably, I spent nothing today. I cleaned the house a bit, weeded the front paths, interviewed a dog sitter, used lots of fridge contents, and did a textbook review.

A number of financial things occurred that are worth thinking through. I spent 90 minutes or so with my prospective dog sitter for our UK trip. She's a former London student, 24, recently graduated, and I trust her. Despite my offer to pay her $25/day for house/dog sitting, she wanted nothing. I can't do that; it's silly and she needs the cash. But she absolutely refused the $400 it should cost, and we came to terms at $250, so that's a nice savings. I know she likes Starbucks and qdoba, so maybe I'll also get her a gift card. The house cleaning reminded me yet again of how much we need a bathroom remodel. Feel free to tell me to stop fretting about this and do the darn thing. Even sparkling clean, it's a horror of 1960 pink beige tile, and there's nothing remotely retro cool about it. Spending the cash makes me queasy, but I have payback plans. And we have the cash.

The textbook review took less time than I thought. The slightly disappointing news is that they pay again with a Tango gift card. I finally used up the other Tango gift card at Target.com with the dehumidifer and iron, and Target.com is really the best place to spend it. So I'll be doing some more Target grocery shopping online come fall. I miss the Redcard 5% savings, but I guess it has to be done.

Now for the rant: I called both Chase and Citi to put a travel alert on our credit cards for our UK trip. Although I'm not a fan of the top management of either of these companies, Chase's credit card services are nothing short of wonderful. You always get a person, not a computer or roboscreener. They're always pleasant, and it's always a nice interchange.

Citi? UGH. I hate them. First, a roboscreener with horrible voice recognition. When I said we were going to the UK, it heard Ukraine. I attempted three or four corrections to no avail, finally shouting at it, and asking for a person. Yes, it was as stupid as it sounds. All I need is an international scam artist with my Citi card in the Ukraine. My DD was hysterically laughing through this transaction, and it got no better when I finally got a human. Despite my insistence that I only wanted to file a travel alert, she tried to sell me half a dozen products. I know they have to do this, so I tried to be as pleasant as possible to her, but grrr--I HATE Citi. It's always that way. I'll dump them when we get back from the UK(raine). End of rant. Onward.

About to Throw in the UF Towel for the Month

July 11th, 2017 at 09:34 pm

Sunday our basement dehumidfier failed. From my google of the serial number, it appears to be 37-years-old and was here when we bought the house. We tried a bunch of fixes, but it was a goner. Also a goner was the $179 paid for a new one.

And then DD's birthday--not lavish, just an ice cream cake and pizzas for her party. And I may've bought some patio lights at Amazon today for Friday's party. And we took her out to dinner last night and there were a few books and some cash.

And I bought some theatre tickets for London, and had a bra fitting, and bought an expensive bra there. I could go on, but it's just the wrong month for me to be UF. My next best shot is October or November. Better to be just sensible, not frustrated, and have fun.

Food and Fun

July 10th, 2017 at 02:03 am

Yesterday I stuck to my grocery $30 as we didn't need much. I got a free can of beans, and thanks to a generous soul leaving a coupon in the freezer case for skinny cow ice cream bars that doubled, I also got free ice cream bars. We did spend a bit of cash on more London tickets. I bought tickets for DD, her buddy, and me for something called Alice's Adventures Underground. I opted for the matinee to save 15GBP each which I promptly spent on tickets for the London Eye that night. We've done it before, but my DD was about 5 or 6, and she'll be 15 tomorrow.

I went to see a friend's new house today. Very cute house and I'm again amazed at the difference paint makes. I spent another 43 cents on ginger for our stir-fried pork tonight, and then came home and cleaned closets. It was actually fun. I've got some more household tasks tonight--but they'll have to wait until after Masterpiece Theatre!

Uber-Frugal Fail

July 8th, 2017 at 02:36 pm

I had meetings at the university yesterday, and I'm pleased to say that one of my spring semester students won a writing prize. DD and I had our traditional Friday summer lunch out--frugalish with coupons and a Noodles gift card we're using.

The frugal fail came at the mall. I wanted to pick up a baby gift from the Hanna Andersson store for my niece. I used to shop their outlet all the time when DD was little, and their clothes are so cute. I did fine there--and adorable jacket with a snail embroidered on it and a sale shirt. But I made the mistake of going into Loft and trying a few things on. After successfully avoiding buying anything there, I promptly went home, found everything I tried on for MUCH cheaper on their website and bought it. Granted it was less than half the store price, I got free shipping, and 2% back from SB, but I probably didn't NEED it. And it was only $64 for four things--and a black summer cardigan is useful--oh I'm going to stop rationalizing and call it a lapse.

It will be better today. I may limit the grocery spending to $30 and focus on eating through the fridge. But we need milk, eggs, berries, etc.

The 9+ hours in the car on Wednesday have made me achy, and I need a walk. I also need to iron, enter grades, and so some tidying.

Home!

July 6th, 2017 at 05:49 pm

After a very long drive from west central Minnesota yesterday, we're home safe and sound. Sometimes I think we take these long uneventful drives for granted, but about halfway home yesterday we saw a young man on the side of the interstate with his car engulfed in flames. We could hear the sirens coming, and he was quite a distance away from the car talking on his phone. What a bad day for him, but he looked unhurt. We spent about $18 on lunch, another $8 on beverages (mostly icd coffee to keep me going), and $30 on gas. I bought my favorite Norwegian lefse for a couple friends, spending $30 there. Despite packing snacks and water, we did spend a fair amount on road food, so I'm planning on an NSD today.
There's all the food DH buys when we're away to use up. That might keep us going for a week at least and we need to start to draw down upstairs freezer food before our UK trip. That should keep us uberfrugal for a few days.

I cashed out $25 in Swagbucks, need to deposit my adjunct check, pick up the CSA box and a piece of marble someone is giving away. I'll either use the marble for pastry making or in the garden. It's hot and humid here so it may be a great afternoon to spend tidying the basement.

An NSD Here

July 2nd, 2017 at 11:03 pm

It's been a lovely Sunday at the lake--lazy and full of sun. We went on a pontoon boat ride, played cards, ate marvelous leftovers. Tomorrow I'm taking the girls into town, so there will be some spending, but it's a cheap vacation when you're staying with relatives and cooking your own food.

Modified UFM for Me

July 2nd, 2017 at 04:46 am

Yep, I can only do a modified this month--I'm at my brother's in MN, and have committed to a few things here as well as DD's birthday later in the month. But we will "eat the fridge" and the pantry--and eat ALL the food. I'll be happy if I can hit 15/31 days as we leave for the UK at the end of the month.

In other good news, I got an offer for a textbook review for $300, and am still (ha!) using the Target gift cards from the last one. Today I ordered a new iron to replace the one I dropped last week and a few things for DD's birthday from Target with no cash outlay. But I did spend $30 on minigolf and dilly bars for DD, her friend, and my brother and sister-in-law.

I also cashed out $25 in SB which will go into the 100K Fund.