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Archive for January, 2012

Quiet weekend off but educating myself about IRAs and other investments

January 22nd, 2012 at 10:05 am

I'm off again this weekend. Oh my, this is the third one in a row! I work the next few but sure have enjoyed these breaks.

I was off Friday, too, and a friend and I went out for lunch then to the tiny asian market in our town where I spent $16 on some things I want to try then to a newish coffee shop that opened a piece down the road. I spent $3 there. The owner of the shop said she recognized me, asked if I work at a particular Starbucks, and told me how impressed she is with the service I give and experience I seem to have. Aww, that just made my day! She basically offered me a part time job, too, but it won't start until May if it happens. I think I'd like that, though. I gave her my number and told her to call me if she needs some part time help.

I stayed home yesterday so it was a no spender and later today I'm going to a friend's house to watch football. I'll probably buy a Diet Pepsi to take with me but other than that, there should be no spending. Yaaay! Speaking of Diet Pepsi, if I get one it will be my 4th in 3 weeks! I've cut way back on them.

By the way, I still haven't had a smoke. Today is day 37 and I haven't spent about $314 on cigarettes!

Okay, so someone I know online is educating me a bit about Roth IRAs and other investments. You know, over the years I've tried to learn a little here and a little there about investing but I've never been able to put it to use. Or rather, I simply didn't put it to use. I won't be able to act on this until later this year but I plan to open a Roth IRA, most likely with Vanguard. I did check my 401(k) this morning and found out it relied too heavily on common stock so I changed that. Meh, it's something.

I've spent a good deal of today reading about IRAs but now it's time to do laundry and clean the place!

Day 34 of not smoking:how did I afford it?

January 19th, 2012 at 02:33 am

34 days without a cigarette and I'm $289 dollars richer! Sort of. Actually, I don't know how on earth I managed to afford cigarettes since I can't imagine having spent $289 in the last 4 weeks. I don't have it to spend so how did I do it? Misplaced priorities, no doubt. Oh well, I'm working on that slowly but surely and at least I'm not blowing money on smokes anymore.

I haven't heard from the management at the kitchen store where I applied for a part time job. Hopefully they'll get in touch with me soon. It would be great to earn another hundred or so a week.

I haven't spent much money the last few days. I've been taking my meal to work with me and haven't gone anywhere or done anything spendy. I do have to go to the grocery store this morning for a couple of things but shouldn't spend much at all.

All in all it's been very quiet and very non-expensive since Saturday. Gotta love that!

Monday musings

January 16th, 2012 at 04:58 pm

Well, let's see....

Saturday I had to spend $100 on a car battery. I was out and about and the bleepin' van wouldn't start. It was the second time in 3 weeks so once I got it running again I headed straight to an auto parts place and bought a decent, mid-grade battery. Ahh, the joys of the emergency fund. Wink

Sunday was a no spend day. Sammy (the cat) and I cuddled on the couch most of the day watching Law & Order re-runs. It was heavenlyl

When I woke up this morning I realized today is Day 31 without smoking. I haven't spent about $263 on cigarettes. Nice, huh? Go, Denise, go, go! In addition, in the last two weeks I've had only two diet drinks. I'm on a roll, y'all!

I forgot to take my lunch to work so I spent about $4 on a sandwich and drink. Meh. I'll remember it tomorrow, I'm sure.

After work I went by the mall and took a quickie resume to the manager at the kitchen store. Apparently they terminated a part time employee today so I'm hoping they call me for an interview. I think I'd like 8 to 16 hours a week at a kitchen store. Hey, it's more time out and about and a little extra money and both of those are good things, yes?

And I got home this evening and found a brand new oven in my kitchen! My burners weren't working properly lately and maintenance came to check it and left me a note saying they'd order a new oven. I figured I'd be lucky to get a "new to me" unit and would have been quite happy with that, thanks, but to get a brand new GE oven is awesome! It's level, the burners don't wobble, and it seems to work beautifully! I imagine I'll be in the mood to play with it soon, probably this weekend. I can't wait.

Hmm, I guess that's about it... no smoking, kind of spendy weekend because of the battery and a new oven. Yaaay!

Miscellaneous stuffs

January 12th, 2012 at 06:53 am

Well, tomorrow makes four weeks since I quit smoking. Four weeks already? Yes, indeed! It's hard for me to believe but it's true. In that four weeks, I'll have not spent $238.00! I'm pretty proud of myself to be honest but know I'm not out of the woods. I have to stay on guard, all day, every day against that one cigarette that can undo the progress I've made. Meh.

Tomorrow is pay day. I have to pay the internet, electric, and post office box bills, get cash for the next two weeks of food and gas, and save every bit of money left to go to rent and insurances due in February. The hours at work are being cut again. This week I'm scheduled for only 31 but it's going to be more like 29, I think. I have two houses to clean next week, though, so the money from those will come in very handy.

I'm off work today and Mom and I are going to the Alzheimer's support group meeting. Oh joy! Those meetings are emotionally exhausting but good, also.....

Interesting opinion piece on U.S. and meat consumption

January 11th, 2012 at 06:24 am

I read this and thought it was pretty interesting. Apparently, meat consumption in the U.S. has decreased substantially over the last five years.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/were-eating-...

I'd say I eat less meat than I did five years ago and less than a year ago. I still eat a lot but between the cost of it and my own attempts to simply my life and change a few things, I rely less on meat than I did.

Are you eating less meat than five years ago and a year ago, same amount, or more?

25 days without smoking, another NSD & my fridge is leftover free!

January 10th, 2012 at 03:45 pm

Today is Day 25 smoke free. I've not spent $212 for cigarettes and I feel great! I'm sleeping better and surely smell better. I've finished my main wall washing project but every two or three days I wash another wall. I do this to keep the place smelling fresh and to remind myself why I had to wash the walls to begin with. I suppose it's a form of doing penance.




And I'm very excited that today has been another No Spend Day and a No Leftover Day! Why? Because to have two NSDs in a week, much less in a row like yesterday and today, and to have a refrigerator with no leftovers, not because I threw them out but because I've cooked less and eaten any leftovers, show that my focus and hard work are starting to pay off.

For some people, having a NSD might not be a big deal but to me it's almost monumental. Not necessarily because I overspend on big things or a lot of things but because it's been my habit to spend small amounts almost every day. You know, I get a drink or two while at work, maybe a quick breakfast, and perhaps an inexpensive lunch because I forgot to take mine. And while I don't spend much when I do that, perhaps $8 or $9 for the day, it adds up. If I do that three days a week, I've blown $24 to $27! Over a month, that's enough to pay my electric and water bills and buy some groceries.

So, I see this week as evidence that what I'm doing is working. I have a long way to go until NSDs come easily and seem natural to me but I'm closer today than I was yesterday. And that's what it's all about.

I owe, I owe...

January 10th, 2012 at 04:57 am

but not much. Wink

I work today but it's another relatively short shift. I do get a meal period and a break so I have the last of the King Ranch Chicken, some cheese, and my last chocolate mousse packed to go with me. I already ate breakfast so with the snack at about 10:30 or so I should be good until 1:00 when I get lunch. I also have a couple of crystal light drinks so I shouldn't need to buy anything.

I'm trying for another no spend day. I don't know that I'll achieve it but I think I can. I've had three so far this month and would like several more.

Have a beautiful day, all!

A 23 day frugal living challenge! Am I up to it? Are you???

January 9th, 2012 at 02:44 pm

I've been following this challenge for a few days and finally decided to join in.

I'm not sure how well I'll do but hey, any improvement is good, right? As the creator of it says, one needn't do every single day of the challenge if that doesn't work for some reason. I'm all for trying new frugal ideas and if some of them stick with me, that's great!

http://frugallysustainable.com/2011/11/23-day-frugal-living-...

I think it's a really neat challenge. Interestingly enough, I basically started this challenge a few months back without even knowing about the challenge. Wink I've been on a learning trip of sorts and some of the things I've been working on are in this challenge.

Day 1: Redefining Frugality - I started that several years ago and my views on frugality are still evolving.

Day 2: How To Develop The Frugal Living Habit - I started seriously working on this almost 19 months ago. It's a constant process for me.

Day 3: Downsizing Your Home - Well, I live alone in a one bedroom apartment. I have less than 550 square feet and for now that's as downsized as I can get. There are a few things I can do to help reduce clutter, which I hate, and I've been working on that issue. I have very little clutter but I still have too much 'stuff' and I'm getting rid of it, one thing at a time.

Day 4: Reducing Household Bills - I've blogged here about getting rid of the cable TV, downgrading the cable internet, downgrading my Netflix membership, canceling my subscription to a particular website, etc. etc. etc. My car is paid for and I have very little debt. I'm under contract for my phone and might pay the fine to get out of that but if I do it's going to have to wait a bit. I'm steadily working on #4 just like I'm working on 1 through 3!

I'm going to dive right in and see how the water is. Anyone game for joining me?? Smile

Another NSD & a change in my menu with ideas needed

January 9th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I got off work at 1 and came straight home. I haven't spent a penny today! I didn't buy any coffee or tea at work, no food, nada! Unless I have to go out for some reason I should be at home the rest of the day, not spending money. Smile

I took a breakfast sandwich and ate it when I got a couple minutes. I sure am glad I took it, too, because I got very hungry and would have bought something if I hadn't had that sandwich.

So now I'm at home. The other package of boneless ribs the boss and I bought is thawing. She's requested some cooked in a way other than how we had them for New Years so I'll do something with them this evening. I'd like to use the slow cooker and am considering marinating them in Dale's then sprinkling them with garlic powder and pan frying them a bit before putting them in the slow cooker for the night.

I'm open to other ideas on how to prepare them but whatever I do it needs to be done tonight as I have to be at work at 7:30 in the morning.

2 NSDs, cooking for one, odds & ends

January 8th, 2012 at 09:42 am

Wednesday was a no spend day and yesterday was another. Awesome! I can't recall the last time I managed that but hope I have many more in the future. Smile

Today was destined to not be one because of the laundry. I went to the washateria this morning but it was closed. I needed to burn about 20 minutes until it opened so I drove to Albertson's and am glad I did. They had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.79 lb so I got 2 packages of those. They also had boneless sirloin steak for $2.99 a lb so I got a few of those. When I got home I divided it all into one serving portions, used the vacuum sealer, and now have plenty of meat in the freezer again. I hadn't planned on spending that $20 but my supply of meat was getting very low and I don't pass up a good deal on meat, especially when I'm so low on it.

When I got home I put the clothes away (by the way, I spent $2.50 on the laundry) and ended up getting sidetracked by canvas bags. Yes, canvas bags. I had several in the closet and they all had stuff in them and for some reason it was bothering me to not know what all was in them so I cleaned them all out, threw away the old trash, gum wrappers and whatnot, put away other items, etc. and now I have them all hanging together on one hanger. In the process of going through them I found my iPod headphones I thought I'd lost, several small bottles of bath/shower gel, and 15 cents. It was almost like Christmas! Wink

I spent some time yesterday looking at "cooking for one" sites and am dismayed how few helpful ones there are. I found a lot of sites saying that's their purpose but they don't give a lot of practical information or actual recipes. Contrary to what one would think, it isn't always as easy as cutting a recipe in half or thirds or whatever. Yes, it often works that way but not every time. I did find a few sites with helpful information and recipes, though, and will spend time today pillaging and plundering.

Tonight's dinner will be the turkey ham and cabbage from my menu but I'm going to change it a little. I have about 3 ounces of chicken broth languishing in the fridge so I'm going to use that with a bit of butter and olive oil to fry the cabbage, onion, sweet potato, and turkey ham all together. I might pass on the green beans but am not sure about that yet.

I work tomorrow but it's a fairly short shift and I don't get a meal break so I shouldn't need to take lunch or buy anything there. I might even be able to make it a NSD!

Menu for January 8th - 14th & a new goal

January 7th, 2012 at 07:16 am

I know that menu planning helps me stay within my food budget and eat better so I'm returning to that and am going to work hard to take it seriously. It might seem silly for a household of 1 but it is what it is and I need to take whatever actions necessary to keep the food budget under control and still eat nutritious meals.

Since my very recent epiphany that I love to cook but don't necessarily love to eat after I've cooked, I've decided to concentrate on cooking very small amounts of food and not preparing a new dish unless I have no leftovers or the ones I have are planned for in another meal. Over the last year or so my skill (to me it really IS a skill to cook for one and not a horde or even just two if that's what one is accustomed to) in those has improved but as evidenced by the containers in my fridge I'm not yet proficient and improving that area of my kitchen life has become a goal for 2012.

Breakfast today was the last of the mexican stew (I think I hear a choir of angels singing in the background!) and I get the feeling fried cabbage and onions might be in my future for this evening!

The rest of the week I'll have, in no particular order:

Stir fried chicken and vegetables with a small amount of brown rice (had this tonight)

Pan fried tilapia with 1/2 a baked sweet potato and salad

Large salad with chicken, tomato and plenty of cheese

Pan fried sliced turkey ham with baked cabbage, 1/2 a baked sweet potato, and green beans (had this)

Vegetable soup with homemade noodles

Tuna patties with salad and spinach

Whatever leftovers are in the fridge (had this)

Now, I think it's okay to change the plan a little. You know, I'm not in the mood for spinach so I have green beans with my tuna or I'm not in the mood for tuna so I have boiled eggs but I've decided it's not okay for me to decide I don't want tuna and prepare a five course meal including cornish game hen and scallops. Wink There's nothing wrong with a meal like that but I need to plan for it. I think that's a fairly reasonable request - does it seem so to you???

Saturday evening edit - I decided to have the stir fried chicken and vegetables tonight and succeeded in preparing just enough for one meal. I did make a little bit extra brown rice but it will get eaten tomorrow morning.

I paid close attention to how much of each ingredient I used to ensure I wasn't preparing too much and it worked well. I used one boneless skinless chicken breast, 1/3 of a yellow squash, 1/3 of a zucchini, a very small amount of chopped onion and chopped red bell pepper and a few baby carrots. That seemed to be the right amount of those ingredients for one good sized meal. I'll have to remember that because it seems to me that slightly smaller quantities with liquid and spices would be right for soup.

Thrifty eating, another $5 a month cut out, cable gone & a weekend off!

January 6th, 2012 at 08:29 pm

I worked today and took lunch and a drink but still ended up buying a drink while there. I also had to get half and half (a requirement for my coffee!) so this evening I went to Albertson's and spent $12 on a few things. I still have $15 in my grocery budget to last til the end of next week so I'm doing fine on that.

Dinner was more of that delicious Mexican stew and a bit of the King Ranch Chicken. It was a very good meal but I'm so thankful there's just a little of that stew left! I'll probably have it for breakfast and finally be done with it.

I changed my Spotify subscription to the $4.95 a month plan so that cuts out another $5 per month. That isn't a lot but it all adds up, right? Between not spending money on cigarettes and the other changes I've made, my monthly outgo should now be about $346 less.

346! That's a substantial difference, y'all!

The cable company sent their tech out this evening to disconnect my cable television service so that's done.

And I'm actually off this weekend. It's not often I get a weekend off so I'm going to savor this one and relax. And probably look for other places and ways to cut expenses!

Finally had a NSD, $1 bill challenge, 3 weeks of not smoking & more

January 6th, 2012 at 03:59 am

So yesterday I finally had a NSD! I didn't even leave the apartment except to go out on the patio to enjoy the absolutely stunningly beautiful weather we had! I just checked my calendar and I have no bills due today. I don't need gas in the vehicle, don't need to get groceries, and if I can refrain from buying anything at work, I can get another NSD. That would be fun.

Here it is the 6th of January and I have one little dollar bill for the $1 bill challenge. *sigh* I've been staying out of stores, don't stop for cigarettes anymore, etc so I haven't had need for any bills, I guess. Wink

But hey, today makes three weeks since I've bought/smoked a cigarette! That's equal to $178 not spent on those things and that's a neat way to end my week!

Interesting that although I canceled the cable TV service a couple of days ago it's still working. I'm not watching it, though. I figure I need to get used to not having it so I just leave it off, flipping it on in the morning to see if it's still working. It is as of an hour or so ago. The change was supposed to be effective immediately but I don't know much about this stuff so I'll let it go a few days to see what happens.

The mexican stew and king ranch chicken in my fridge are going to work with me today and I hope both containers are empty when I clock out! I have the feeling they will be. I just have to come up with ideas to keep me from cooking when I have a fridge full of leftovers to eat.

That's about it for yesterday and this morning. Nothing too exciting other than the Quit. Smile

Thursday epiphany - seriously!

January 5th, 2012 at 04:30 pm

I had an epiphany today - not in the religious sense but in the "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." sense. (Thank you, dictionary.com!)

I was looking in my refrigerator for the cheese I needed for the King Ranch Chicken written about at homesicktexan.com (Thank you, CCraw!) and as I looked at the five containers of leftovers that need to be eaten it hit me - I love to cook but I don't necessarily love to eat what I've cooked! Let me repeat that. I love to cook but I don't necessarily love to eat what I've cooked. Slowly now. I-love-to-cook-but-I-don't-necessarily-love-to-eat-what-I've-cooked. The light bulb went off as I looked at the stacks of food that were soon going to have to make room for the leftover King Ranch Chicken and I almost fell over. How could I not have seen this before?

I love to cook but the eating of what I cook is often simply a chore to me. I eat enough to judge the recipe, rip it up, spit it out, etc. but I don't actually dig in and enjoy it. I don't savor it. I don't linger over the scents and flavors like I do food that I don't cook. I basically eat it without paying much attention to it because by the time it's ready, I'm bored!

It explains so much;the almost constant overflow of food languishing in the fridge, the overspending on the grocery budget, the leisurely pace at which I grocery shop when all other shopping means I run in, grab what I need and get the hell out, perhaps even the lack of interest I have in plating and presentation of the food. Of course, the latter can also be explained by the fact that I feed just me. But still. Do you see where I'm going with this?

It might not seem to be much of an issue but it is when one is opposed to waste and on a limited budget. Today I made King Ranch Chicken when I have two containers of chicken and dumplings, a large container of mexican stew, and two containers of beef and barley soup. I didn't need to prepare another dish! But I did. And now I have six containers of leftovers in the fridge.

I dislike how most food tastes when it's cooked, frozen, then reheated though I don't mind it with soups and things with very little to no meat. So freezing everything isn't the answer. The answer is apparently to make smaller amounts, make myself eat what's in the fridge before preparing more, etc.

If you have ideas on this, please share them with me as I absolutely have to get this under control.

Now that I'm aware of this I might find it easier to control it but I need some input and suggestions. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the food that's in the fridge now. The mexican stew will be fine in the freezer but not the other stuff. Oh wow, how could I not have seen this??

WANTED: Your favorite quick homemade meals

January 4th, 2012 at 08:51 pm

One of the budget busters for me is food. Not necessarily my daily food but eating out and 'convenience' foods bought because I'm tired, hungry and my cranky pants are just too darn tight. I have the eating out issue under control for the most part but still need ideas for quick homemade meals.

It would be great if they were also healthy but even if they're not I can probably play with the ingredients enough to make it healthy.

One of my favorites is what I had this afternoon before I headed to work: pan fried tilapia with mukimame. It takes less than 15 minutes to make and is so much tastier than a hamburger, not to mention a lot healthier, too!

So, what are some of your favorite quick homemade meals?