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Viewing the 'hit the road, jack' Category

Lovely Purchases

February 14th, 2016 at 06:18 am

I set out yesterday to buy a birthday gift. It's been cold, and of course, it started to rain minutes from the flat. I'm SO happy I put on my quilted vest under my raincoat. Folks here are always saying, "You're used to cold weather," but I never spend five or six hours outside in my daily routine. Here I'm always walking, walking to the tube, or walking and waiting for the bus. My fitbit is happy, but my feet get cold.

I haven't been to that great tourist trap Portobello Road for a while, so thought perhaps I'd find a small piece of jewelry for my BFF's birthday. I almost bought a small amber necklace, but wasn't completely sold. So I decided to head off to my old haunts in Muswell Hill as I've always had fun at their many charity shops. Two of my favorite tops were from one of them, so I headed there first. By this time, I'd been on the bus seemingly forever as there's no tube service there. And it started to sleet the moment I exited the bus. But my Air Ambulance Charity shop did it again. I bought the BFF a very pretty heart amulet for (wait for it) 2GBP, then found a gorgeous purplely grey shirt for 3.95GBP (less than $6). It was a great brand, Marks and Spencer's Per Una line, and I love love love it. You know, one of those things you put on and go "Yes!"

Fueled by my success I hit all the other charity shops there and even a couple (gasp) full retail. I bought another really cute shirt for 3.75GBP that I also love, then tried to figure the best way home. I think I was dizzied by my retail success, and I didn't pay much attention to the bus route. I'd read the numbered route, but got on the bus going the wrong way. I can't believe I did that, but blame the rain and cold. At least it wasn't going somewhere awful, so I got off again in Central London, grabbed a tube, bought some lovely food, got another bus home within minutes.

Refueled by tea and a cherry tart, I bought DD and DH's airfare. Everything that worked with their dates was in the high $1200s, but I found one with a stop in Manchester for under $1000. So--a lovely $600+ savings there. Skyped with them both, and we're all looking forward to us being together. All in all, horrible weather but great shopping. I'm going out for a stroll, but then will be home to prep for the week's teaching.

Sticking My Toe In from London

February 1st, 2016 at 06:44 am

I've been in London just over a week now;mostly things have gone very well. A student lost her passport and other minor calamities too, but all is well and I've been in the classroom for a week. DH and DD came over for his dad's birthday and left yesterday. It's been a bit of a whirlwind. They stayed in five places in six nights, and the hotel stays and meals out have added up as has the transportation.

They flew Aer Lingus to London via Dublin while I flew with students. We ended up in a London hotel the first night as my flat had tenants, then we were off to his hometown for the birthday. The coach fares were half the price of the train fares, but the ferry was pricey. And DH has a habit of treating his whole family to meals as a gesture of his affection, which I would not, but I figure that's not my business. His dad has moved to a care facility, so we thought we could stay at his house, but because the family was there from all corners of Europe, we stayed in a hotel two nights, had the party and various celebrations, then I returned to London while they stayed with DH's brother.

They came back to London midweek, and we toured Parliament with the students, had various meals with friends, and went to the George, a pub in Southwark because we'd read a book (Shakespeare's Local) on it over the summer, and I'd had fun times with colleagues before at the same pub. So, although we ate in a couple of nights, it's gotten bit expensive. This leads to my budget decisions. I'm trying to sort out how much an ordinary weekly expenditure would be for me. Meals out are very expensive as there's that nasty 20% VAT, so I've bought food for breakfasts and some lunch supplies, and have leftovers. We had a lovely proper tea at the British Museum with students, and I ended up taking mini quiches and some scones home--all of which are in my freezer now. So I'm thinking with most meals in, I can probably get by with 50 GBP a week. Although I can hear Scotish Girl laughing at my indulgent budget, I' hoping to fit theatre tickets and all meals out of that.

I have a few more things to buy: another pillow, a wall poster, computer cable, and some sofa pillows, The flat is lovely, but it's all black and white, and I need some color. It's eleven more weeks after all! This week has a day trip to Bath which is paid for, but I'll need to buy lunch that day. And it's too busy for the theatre this week, so if I can find some nice cheap seats either at Leicester Square or day tickets at the National, I'll spring for that next week.

I've also had to buy a phone as our UK old phone is pretty knackered and we find we need two. In previous years the university and our partners here have lent us phones, but that's not happened. I spent 65 GBP (about 90$) on a cheap pay as you go smart phone. It has some frugal apps, so I'll be trying those, especially the special offers on free coffee and 1 pd Monday lunches. Today I came home for lunch after classes, but am headed out tonight for faculty wine evening--my favorite night at a fancy wine bar with free nibbles for dinner. It looks like a no-spend day in London. How's that for a good start? I'll post photos on Thursday when things settle down. Happy February to all of you!

Counting Down

January 11th, 2016 at 08:26 pm

It's 10 days until we leave for London, so I'm in big countdown mode. Lots of things to eat up, lots of things to get done.

We've got a dog sitter lined up, I've hauled the suitcase up from the basement, and I'm going to officially start packing tomorrow.

I've been talking with a colleague about my willingness to take on extra work. The university situation is tenuous, and she's just had a class cut, cutting her income by 25% for spring. I mutter and curse the extra work, but I think she's right, it's fear motivated. So I'm hooked on work, hooked on saving money where possible, and realize it will probably always be this way. I will be happy when this Winterim class is done, Only eight days left of it and 8,000 papers.

In happier news, my MN friends are joining me in France at the end of February. My students go on a rather raucous bus tour of Scotland, and we're headed back to Nice. We got a triple room, a great rate at the hotel, and free breakfast (at 17Euros) for booking online. I'm flying British Air, and I actually am using my Avios points, so the flight from Heathrow cost under $100. I want to do some more traveling too, but will hold off on that until I get the semester sorted out.

It's so cold here. Ugh.

Balancing Act

November 30th, 2015 at 11:27 am

I've been trying to balance minimal household chores, cooking, and family time with the mountain of grading that is staring at me. Despite some frustrations, it's going pretty well.

We spent some time over the holiday discussing whether we could afford French camp for DD again this year. Those numbers and our weakening water heater has brought on another round of belt tightening. Oh, and there's the plane tickets to the UK for my father-in law's 90th. I've reset the frugal daily spending, making an impromptu dinner at home after Saturday's post-holiday driving, parked in the free zone enabling a long walk to class today, and brought my own coffee. If I can make that work for the next few weeks, we'll call the water heater fund started. Maybe Swagbucks can kick in $100.

It's all about the balance.

Half Price or Donate?

August 27th, 2015 at 08:19 am

I've got four (!) bags of books from my office makeover. I'm sure three of them are useless to anywhere except the Goodwill or library donation pile, but one has some more current stuff--albeit worthless on Amazon. So I'm debating the wisdom of a 15-minute drive to Half Price Books. I think I'll put it on my "maybe" list for the day while donations will be on the "definite" list.

My DH's tuition is due early next week. I hate paying $1500 for his class, but we're committed to his history degree. I just wish August had a bit more squoosh room. But always doing better than my university friends who are super super broke. I'll get a small check on September 1 from my adjunct work, but nothing from my primary employer until October 1. I finished up a textbook study for a publisher the other night which promises $125. I hope it comes soon!

And I bought a new carry-on bag last night at ebags. I've been looking for a wheeled bag that fits the new carry-on requirements and has a laptop compartment, and this Delsey fits the bill on all of those. It wasn't as cheap as I'd like, but I've had good experiences with my other Delsey luggage, and made Swagbucks rebates, ebags rebates, and will get some cash back. One of my biggest travel headaches of the past few years has been inadequate and nonwheeled carry-ons. So I'm excited. August cash flow be d---d.

Four more days of August, but an afternoon full of booooooooring meetings loom.

Feeling Very Off-Track

August 16th, 2015 at 08:19 am

I've been feeling very off-track lately. It seems like I'm not getting much done and am behind in housework and self care too. The house needs a solid pick-up, and I find a very full fridge and freezer hard to deal with. I think I officially have August-itis.

Causes? Uncertainty about DH's job (always and again), impending semester with lots to do, August-afflicted child who sleeps too late and hates the heat, travel hangover, delays in bathroom remodel bids, massive canning days that put off everything else, horrible edits and capstone projects that frustrate me, too many social obligations. I feel stuck.

Plan? Tomorrow (heat and aforementioned social obligation today) must be devoted to catching up. I may have to build in a reward to the child for helping me. Maybe even build in a reward for myself.

It's time to get financially back on track too. Back-to-school shopping was expensive as child now requires adult sizes. Yesterday I spent (ouch)$250 on jeans, pants, and shoes for her. The only upside now is if she outgrows those three pairs of shoes, I can wear them.

Tomorrow demands a list. Getting on that today. Wish me luck to get unstuck.

Working Away at those Goals

August 4th, 2015 at 11:31 pm

We all went over to the bathroom remodeler this morning to go over detailed plans with them. As I suspected, there's no way we can get an English-length (6 foot) bathtub in our 1960 house. But we spent an hour going over choices of tile, and they'll send us a bid in a few days. We had them bid both the family bath and our en-suite, but I'm not sure we can afford to do both now. It will be interesting to see their numbers. Even for our smallish bathrooms, I think it will be in the mid 20s.

DD and I hit Costco and Target to begin school supply shopping. We've done a brief inventory of last year's leftovers, so we didn't spend too much. I always keep a running list to see if I can beat the School-Pak boxes offered by the district--which I always succeed at. One year I beat their numbers by $70.

After the Costco hot dog for lunch, DD and I went to the dentist. Thankfully I still have a balance left on my flex card, so nothing out of pocket after the insurance and the flex. A month ago my kitchen sieve/strainer broke, and I was surprised to see how much they were. The OXO ones were $18, but I spotted one for sale on a local FB list for $3--which we now own. I roasted some garden zucchini and peppers to go with our black bean burgers tonight. We're trying to move from one to two meatless dinners a week, and I must admit, the dread zucchini has helped!

More accuracy checking work tonight, so I'm ahead of schedule with the project managers and editors.

Tomorrow DD and I are off to Minnesota again, the beautiful North Shore with my best friend. We're there until Monday and we're all looking forward to hikes, pie, and a visit to the Wolf Center in Ely.

I'm really enjoying these summer days. It's been a good balance of work and play.

London Again

August 3rd, 2015 at 08:44 pm

I've received the final go-ahead from my family and department, so it looks as if I'm going to London again next year, pending enrollments. I'm very excited, and we've already started some planning.

Not a lot of financial news. I put a $12 rebate check in the bank, had a haircut, took DD to pick up her school registration, dropped off batteries and a computer mouse for recycling, and then did some grocery shopping and hit the library. Tomorrow we go to check out the bathroom remodeling bids.

The zucchini keeps coming fast and furious so tonight we had zucchini quiche. I froze some over the weekend along with peaches.

Happy to have the windows open tonight and happy to have new library books and wonderful peaches!

Road Weary

July 7th, 2015 at 09:57 pm

I am home again after driving 1200+ miles to take DD and her friend to French camp. The trip taught me a few things including that my DD is pretty low maintenance. Her friend is not. My DD is used to our rules about food, stopping, buying junk, etc, and it was interesting to see their differences.

We spent $100 on Sunday's hotel, had a lovely dinner with some of my Minnesota friends at a place where kids eat free on Sundays. Again, my daughter was a star. Free breakfast the next morning saved us some cash as did the car snacks in lieu of lunch. I stayed with friends on the way back who made me an excellent dinner. So gas, hotel, and some road food was all that I spent--and I even managed to stay out of the outlet stores.

It's very quiet in the house without the kid around. I hope she's having a grand adventure.

Steering Back on Track

June 1st, 2015 at 11:31 am

After the Door County expenses, now comes DD's summer camp expenses. So, to keep things as much in line as possible, we're going to need some simple weeks with limited spending. We have lots of food around, and not a lot of obligations. DD and DH have been going out to Noodles or some such place on the nights I teach. It's more cash, but I feel strongly it's better for them. They spend more time in conversation rather than hurrying back to their respective screens.


DH is flying back to the UK to see his dad later this week. It's another slightly optional expense, but his 89-year-old dad is failing and they need time together.

So, as you can see, we need to hold it down. I'm always looking for ways to economize and stretch. Hit me with some new ones! This is the week to try things!

Financial Stall

May 26th, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Lots of expenses this week including DD's camp funding, DH's car's exhaust, and our increased food budget from a week with guests.

My dear governor's refusal to take Obamacare funding has caused a budget shortfall which has meant he has again squeezed the university. We've just heard our health insurance premiums will rise as will co-pays and deductibles in 2016, so I need to schedule all sorts of medical things this year/summer. This latest bit has really increased our desire to get out of here. It's a very ugly climate at the university right now, and many of my colleagues are taking retirement bonuses which help them but will hurt our ability to deliver in many areas.

Happily (sort of), I've been offered another adjunct class in the fall which will help, but really load on the work. I need to use the summer as wisely as possible.

I held off buying anything this weekend in Door County except for some nice meals and a couple of jars of jam.

In other minor news, I sold a shirt and sweater on FB today, adding $7 to my totals. And my radishes and lettuce look very happy.

Back Home

April 14th, 2015 at 08:58 pm

and trying desperately to find the nearest Underground station to take me back. But enough of my London-itis; let's get down to business.My long-awaited $2400 showed up and has been deposited along with a rum rebate. I made some cash today reading capstone projects, and am putting together a syllabus for my upcoming Bestsellers class.

DH has not unpacked yet, so tomorrow I'll unpack all three of us while weeping copiously. And do the taxes.

Three months after I filed it, the Sonicare toothbrush rebate arrived. That $50 will go into savings.

And I do promise photo highlights this week.