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A transatlantic couple's muddling through their financesMy English Castle's Personal Finance Blog
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Weighing the Options

January 29th, 2020 at 01:17 am

It looks like my adjunct class on Women and Lit will not adequately enroll. But the director of that institution asked if I'd teach Urban Cinema that term. Ugh. I taught it once before, so I have some material ready; however it is not my favorite subject. It's not wonderful pay, but it would help with DD's upcoming college expenses. But it's a lot to balance with my regular teaching and admin at my "real" job. I think I have a few days to decide.

On the job front, I'm hoping my boss will let me know soon if he has indeed put me forward for a title change and more money. That would help me make the other decision.

Frugal month continues. I've been parking six blocks from campus and walking to avoid parking fees, and have found the cheaper coffee in the education building very nice. Small economies, but still.

My New Love

January 26th, 2020 at 07:52 pm

Well, I hate to admit it, but I am in love--with my Instant Pot. I resisted it a long time, and we're still getting to know one another. I said, "I don't need anything new cluttering up my life and my kitchen." But we've now formed a deep and delicious bond.

Yes, I thought my life was complete. But our recent bean soup interaction has proven to me that while I thought my life was full, it has so vastly improved.

Yes, I am in love.

Doggie Dental Dollars

January 25th, 2020 at 12:06 am

Our old dog had her teeth cleaned today. I'm so glad we had it done. You may recall we spent Christmas Eve at the emergency vet with her mouth pain. And while the estimate (with x-rays) was $975, no x-rays were needed, so it was only $666. She's home now and resting.

My DH also had an ear surgery follow-up today, but since it was post-op, no co-pay. We squelched the urge to go out to lunch, came home, and continued hacking away at last Sunday's ham. It's at the bone stage now, so quiche and bean soup are in the future. I've got the beans soaking now. And he should be able to go back into work next week--perhaps midweek.

Not much other news. Looking forward to the weekend--another snowy one here.

Back to Work

January 24th, 2020 at 03:16 am

First week of the semester down. My classes seem good, but I'm doubting whether taking on that adjunct class on the movies was a great idea in addition to my regular load. The good news is that it's just an eight-week class, and two weeks are done.

I've been continuing to mostly feed us from the freezer. I think we could go another month. Tomorrow's delights will include a 13-bean soup in the Instant Pot.

My DH gets the packing out of his ear tomorrow, so we're hoping his second ear repair has gone well. The first one was such a rousing success. In other medical news, out old dog is getting her teeth cleaned tomorrow. I'm reluctant to put her through general anesthesia at her age, but she's had such problems. I'm more nervus about that than DH's ear!


It's been a snowy day, and it's so beautiful. I'm looking forward to the weekend.

A Fun but Cold Saturday

January 19th, 2020 at 10:23 pm

I got some course prep done Saturday morning, caught up with laundry, and thought about tackling "the drawer of death" as my husband calls it. It's where insurance papers go to die as well as articles I somehow think I need to save and coupons, school announcements, and various horrors.

That's been pushed off for during today's football game. I figure it will be a bad game for us here in Cheeseland so DH and I will work through the drawer to distract us. I'm hoping to get through it, file the flex spending, and put things in their proper files.

So what was fun about Saturday? We went to a great birthday party for a dear friend thrown by her 85-year-old dad. They're also Brits so lots of UK talk, really smart people with interesting jobs, opinions, and fun. Great food and a beautiful flat overlooking Lake Michigan too. Unfortunately on the way out, I took a tumble on the ice, smashing the cake I had in my hand, and sliding into the street. I struggled to get up and cursed the fact that DH and I took separate cars so I could pick up DD from work. I can feel the wrench to my back a bit, but it seems much better today. Then on the way into the car, I fell again. I love snow, but ice--ugh.

Got home rattled but safe and sound. And at 1am, DH and I finished our 1000-piece jigsaw of the London skyline. We're such dorks that it was way more fun than it should have been.

So today is church, lots of cooking, more course prep, football and the drawer of death. Then here comes the semester.

Yikes! Where Did the Day Go?

January 14th, 2020 at 10:46 pm

I thought I'd have a solid day to prep for my class tomorrow night and get some other things done. But straightening out a situation with an employee's contract took (ugh) 18 e-mails and half the day.

My DH is bound for ear surgery tomorrow. His first ear was done about 16 months ago treating his otosclerosis and was 100 percent successful. But it means a 4am trip or the pre-op so it'll be an early night for us tonight, and my evening class starts tomorrow night at 5:30. Look for me sleeping in on Thursday.

Today wasn't a total waste. I used up the 7 pasta shells in the cupboard to make a 1/3 batch of stuffed shells for DD's dinner. And I made a big pot of chili for DD and DH to have tomorrow night.

Freezer excavation continues. Ground beef and roasted tomatoes from the freezer went into the chili and an Italian sausage and leftover broccoli went into the shells. But I bet it will be March before we get through everything. Especially with a ham still in the fridge. But if only everyone in the world had such problems, huh? We're lucky, blessed, and grateful.

Better get back to that prep!

More Freezer Food

January 11th, 2020 at 06:23 am

Tonight's freezer feast was pork chops in a ginger peach sauce. The peach sauce came off my jam-making spree of two years ago--and the jam was still lovely. I wish I could say it's getting less crowded in there, but there's still so much. But who can complain? It's fully of lovely food just waiting to be prepared.

I spent the day grading projects. I'm doing fill-in grading for a colleague for which the university is actually managing to pay me. They're large project for advanced writing classes, and while it's decent enough pay, I don't think I'll do it again. They're time consuming, and my break is already almost gone.

Then I ran out to have coffee with a couple friends, stopping for fill-in groceries on the way home. But it was pre-football, pre-snowstorm, Friday night frenzy. They were completely out of carts!

It should be wacky tomorrow if we get the kind of snow they predict. We're scheduled to have dinner with friends, but we'll see how that works out in blizzard conditions.

More Found Jewelry and Weekend Updates

January 6th, 2020 at 06:38 pm

Thanks for your input on the ring we've found. I've posted a notice on our local FB page, but no responses yet.

In a strange coincidence, last year my DH found a Tiffany bracelet in the cafeteria at work. At the time he posted it on their company intranet, but got no responses. It sat in their lost and found for a year, and now has been returned to him. When he brought it home, I looked inside to see it was engraved with three initials. Because he's a goofball, he had not looked. So this morning we contacted a friend who works in HR at the company (a very big life insurance company) and they've found four possible matches with those initials. An engraved Tiffany bracelet like that retails for $335, and it seems like it must've been a gift. I'll bet someone is missing it. HR has now contacted all four to see if they claim it. Stay tuned for more on our missing jewelry And if you're missing something, please contact me; I likely have it!


Weekend spending was very limited. DD and I did a quick Costco trip for school lunch supplies, but the freezer excavation continues. I defrosted two lonely chicken breasts and turned one into enchiladas with the help of some leftover cream cheese from a work event, a can of Ro-tel and some veggies. The weekend's turkey stock will host the other piece of chicken for some Tex-Mex chicken soup as we're long on black beans.

One highlight was bringing our reverse Advent calendar box to church. To support local food pantries, they printed up a list of a food item to deposit in a box for every day of Advent--ranging from cereal to beans, tuna, canned fruit, etc. Twenty four items filled up the box. The congregation filled over 150 boxes! It was really fun to see all giving.

Freezer Excavation and an Odd Thing

January 5th, 2020 at 05:52 am

One of my January--maybe into February--goals is to eat through the freezer. It's been too long since it's been really emptied. So to that end today I took out two more things to cook. So we had chicken thighs for dinner and I made two enormous pots of turkey broth from the bones of a turkey I'd roasted in November. There are enough thighs for another meal this week, and I'll make soup tomorrow and freeze the other half of the stock.

I'm trying to make it fun--a freezer scavenger hunt!

Now for the odd thing. I was cleaning out a summer purse (what? it's January?) and found what I thought was a circle clasp for a key ring. I remember picking it up sometime last summer, maybe in Madison or Chicago when we were out with our French student. I was about to throw it out when I looked a little closer, and I think it's a wedding band. But I have NO idea where I picked it up. My husband says he has a vague memory of it, but can't remember where we were. So what do I do with it? If it were in Milwaukee, I'd advertise in the free lost and found, but I don't think it was. It's got a few small stones and a jeweler's mark for gold inside. And it looks like it's been run over or been through the garbage disposal. Ideas?

A No-Spend Day

January 3rd, 2020 at 03:59 pm

Yesterday was a no-spend and eat from the freezer day. We needed something simple and lighter after all the holiday food. I made potato leek soup with frozen leeks from last summer's CSA and some potatoes which were looking a little sad.

We did some cat sitting work, and I worked on my fill-in adjunct work. My DH is still really struggling with his cold, so he's just hanging on.

Today we drop off some gifts, and since it's DD's last "official" day of school holiday, we goof around.

I had a small win with DD's trip to France. The auto-pay didn't go through and they charged us a $40 (!) late fee. No idea WHY the auto-pay didn't work, but I got them to waive the late fee. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

10+ Years on Saving Advice

January 2nd, 2020 at 04:03 am

In response to CCF's idea, I've spent some time thinking about the last ten years of our financial life.

While we'd paid our mortgage down to $35,000, we used the small inheritance from my mom to pay it off. Our biggest expense is our property taxes.

We've had challenges--mostly the uncertain job market for my DH. But things seem to have settled down for him, and his contract has been extended out a year. This is the happiest he's been in a job, and also the best paid. He doesn't spend much--except on that upcoming Master's degree. He takes the bus to work, and has a free lunch.

My financial anxieties have been patched by adjunct jobs along with my regular university teaching. I'm eager to give the adjunct jobs, but will hang on for the next few in order to help fund our next big expenseBig GrinD's university tuition.

She's 17 and a very low-maintenance responsible kid. She's paid all her university application fees from money earned in her PT job at the grocery store.

My biggest success has been automatically funding my university pension and retirement plan. My pay is peanuts, but this has been the reason I feel good about retirement. Years of auto-saving is the answer.

We've spent more than most on travel, but less on things that don't matter much to us like cars and toys.

I'm eager to downsize--tired of window replacements and cleaning gutters. I'd like a nice townhome or condo.

I've also found a lot of inspiration and some lovely friends here on SA. I don't have many frugal "real" friends, so have enjoyed following many of your lives.

Last Day of the Decade

December 31st, 2019 at 05:11 pm

Wow--I cannot believe how the years slide by.

I am so grateful for all of our blessings: healthy happy child, warm house, too much food, wonderful friends and family.

Off to pay property taxes today, buy some necessities, feed a friend's cat, then to dinner and a movie.

Thankful also for all the SavingAdvice gang. I feel like I know some of you so well, and have been so lucky to have you in my life.

Here's to a great 2020, friends!

Anyone Doing the Uber-Frugal This Year?

December 29th, 2019 at 07:32 pm

Thinking a lot about the new decade. There will be a lot of changes for us, especially with DD off to college and increased job stability for DH.

But first, Christmas. We spent three nights in Minneapolis and celebrated Christmas with my brother and his family. It was not as fun as last Christmas in London, but it was good to see everyone. Several complications caused by DD's working until 8 on the 23rd, then us driving five hours after that. The hotel room was a little more cramped than our similar one at Thanksgiving.

The worst thing was the problem with our 13-year dog. She's been having dental problems, and they've worsened. She wouldn't eat at all on Christmas Eve and couldn't drink either. This meant a fun midnight trip to the emergency vet in St Paul, but she got some relief. Between that and the follow-up visit to the regular vet on Thursday, it looks like an expensive stretch for dog teeth. She'll get a cleaning and possible extraction within a week or so. We're all tired now, but looking forward to cleaning up and doing some planning.

Determined to have some fun with the family until DD goes back to school, so we're off to see Little Women this afternoon.

Cool School Project

December 14th, 2019 at 12:27 am

Our DD completed a fun project for her HS math class. It asked students to find a job they thought they'd qualify for after college, estimate their income, taxes, SSI, Medicare, and health insurance deductions. They then had to find housing, estimate car, utility, food, debt repayment expenses. They bought housing after figuring down payment, insurance, property taxes etc.

She REALLY enjoyed the exercise, especially condo shopping, I think. She was especially delighted to put O in the "student loan repayment" column--even when her teacher wrote "really?" She told him that was her goal. And indeed that is our goal.

We're still waiting to hear from three of her five US universities, but her "safety" school is my employer. She's been accepted there and the University of Minnesota. The next batch should be out next week, then we start in on the British schools.

Tomorrow an update on the situations at my university. It's been quite the semester.