Sunday, January 31, 2016

Frugal Successes and Failures: Sunday 1/31/16

  • Happy last day of January!  Our temps are warming up, it'll be 72F today and warming up to 82F on Tuesday.  I did turn the heat on last night since Greg wasn't feeling well and our son had complained about being cold too.  As for me, I had another hot flash last night but it might have been that I was dehydrated because I didn't drink much yesterday and then had all that Chinese food that's loaded with sodium.  I drank so much water last night!

  • Our New Kitty came to us with a black spot under the chin which I thought was her hair color at one point and no one, including the vet and techs who examined her during the visits remarked on it.  But it keeps spreading so it's obvious she has some kind of skin disease, although only on her chin.  I made a reminder in my calendar to call the vet's tomorrow to have them look at her.  Oh!  I just remembered that I had decided to go to the low-cost clinic so maybe it's a perfect opportunity to start transitioning to that clinic!  See? writing this blog is definitely helping me with my frugal efforts.

  • So last school year my daughter participated in the local Optimists' Club essay contest and won the speech competition for her category in our district.  They have to present it in front of a panel and then present it in front of visitors as a way to practice for regionals.  She didn't win regionals but she won a $300 Amazon gift card for the district win.  She also found out that she could have entered the essay competition as well but she didn't know that as the rules stated that you could enter only one contest.  This year, she had decided on not participating at all because she didn't think she'd have enough time to write the speech and memorize it since she has college classes, the SAT and ACT tests to study for, etc.  I was disappointed because I so enjoyed seeing her present her speech last year (she allowed me to come see her present it for visitors after she had won but had refused to let her dad watch her present during the actual competition because she said she would have been too nervous!) and I pointed out that she was giving up a really good chance of winning again because this contest isn't well known so the odds are excellent.  I guess that must have changed her mind because late yesterday afternoon she announced that she had contacted the contest's administrator to ask about entering both the essay and speech competition (yes, she is allowed to do that) and found out that the deadline for submitting the application and speech was last night at midnight!  So she stayed up late to write her speech and submit it.  She has to present it in March, I think. She had heard last year that this year's prizes would be much larger than last year, so here's hoping!

  • Greg got up at 6 a.m. to drink some OJ and then went back to bed but I was wide awake so I got started on Bing and Swagbucks.

  • Bing: earned the maximum of daily credits (I know it's repetitive to read the same thing day, after day, after day, but typing this every morning helps me remember to actually do those activities!)

  • Swagbucks: my 1st goal today was 90 SB.  I was able to qualify for a 60 SB survey right off the bat so between that, Ngage, JunoGroup and SBTV, I had reached my goal  by 7 a.m. and qualified for tbe Monthly Master Bonus of 300 SB, yay!  I'll get the bonuses around 2/4, I think.  That should put me nicely ahead for my next SB gift card :)  Did you qualify for any bonuses this month?

  • Taking a leaf from my friend Alison's book, I signed up for the MobiSave app.  I was hesitant because some of the reviews weren't glowing and those people complained that offers "disappeared" from their line-up when they went to redeem their receipts, and also because Paypal is the option to cash in... I emailed them and they said that they might have more cash out options in the future so I was thinking that I'd just keep accumulating money in my account and redeem it once another option than Paypal was offered but apparently a "plus" of MobiSave is that they transfer the money to Paypal several times a day so it shows up in your Paypal account instantaneously.  Well, great, apart from the fact that I don't ever use Paypal anymore and I don't want my Paypal account linked to my checking account either.  But the more I thought of it, the more it sounded like lame excuses for not taking free cash so I signed up anyway. I remembered that Alison said she used Paypal at the Home Depot checkout (and I remembered seeing that option there too) and then she told me she also uses it at Wendy's. Plus there are lots of websites that let you pay via Paypal too so...  I checked the FAQs on the app (weirdly I couldn't find any FAQs on their website) and they state that all the offers get reset at midnight during the night from Sunday to Monday so maybe that's why people say offers are disappearing... they don't close their apps and when they bring them back up, they're still seeing the previous week's offers instead of the current week, but that all refreshes when they go to try and redeem a receipt.  Anyhoo, I put a reminder on my calendar to upload new offers every Monday morning and I'm hoping that the offers for Post cereal, bananas, and apples are all still available this coming week!  Thanks to Alison for clueing me in and being so patient with my questions.  I only wish they had a referral system but they don't :(

  • I unlocked new offers on my SavingStar app this morning and printed coupons via Swagbucks, Redplum, Smartsource, Target and CVS.  I uploaded an app-only coupon to my CVS ExtraCare account.  I uploaded new digital coupons to my Publix wallet.

  • Ooooh, I logged into my Discover account to see which deals were available and there was a printable coupon for Aunt Annie's!  "Buy any flavor pretzel nuggets and get a free pretzel".  Ohhh, I'm going to Walmart on Wednesday and there's a brand new Aunt Annie's located right inside the entrance!  And it'll be a new month so I have a clean slate as far as eating out!

  • Greg downloaded a free app to his Kindle Fire.

  • Susan will be pleased to hear that I only had to compost 1 of the serrano peppers that I had harvested.  I reused a sandwich bag that I had washed recently to freeze the others :)

  • My lunch was the rest of the Hearty Beef Stew leftovers from several days ago, a bowl of butternut squash soup from a couple of nights ago with some oyster crackers (I should have used some of those fried wontons strips that came with Greg's soup last night.  We never eat them and I always forget to tell them not to give us any!) and a small cup of Dole Frusion fruit/veggie mix (peach mango in veggie juice, I guess).

  • I spoke to my oldest son for a bit on the phone since I needed to ask him about his Jazz Workshop concert on Tuesday.  The good news is that it will be streamed live so if you're interested in listening to some jazz on Tuesday night, go to  The jazz groups will be playing starting at 8 p.m. EST  My son's group will be the last so probably around 9 p.m. EST. They will play 3 tunes.  My son is the tall redhead trumpet player :)  If you do watch it, please let me know what you thought of the performance!  The UCF Jazz Studies program is pretty renowned in jazz circles thanks to their amazing director, Jeff Rupert, so it should be a good show. In addition, my youngest son and I will be attending the Flying Horse Big Band Concert at UCF on Friday, but that one won't be streamed since they raise money with the full concerts.

  • While at the Civil War reenactment yesterday, we were given a flyer about a Military Vehicle Rally and WWII Battle Reenactment taking place in the same location during the last weekend of  February.  The flyer said the event was free to all. Yay!  So I put it on my calendar but emailed the coordinator to find out the exact day and time of the battle reenactment so we don't miss it.  

  • Greg went to get his haircut and remembered to pay with a credit card (Mastercard, 1% Rewards) since there was a $7.99 sale going on and we didn't want to waste a $9.99 credit on our Great Clips prepaid card. He charged the $2 tip as well.

  • He also stopped by Publix to get himself some more OJ since his throat is still scratchy.  I had instructed him to get the Publix brand (cheapest) and to pay with American Express (3% Rewards at grocery stores) and he did just that and didn't buy anything else even though he had really wanted ice cream!  Yay!

  • Meanwhile, I inventoried my fridge and pantry and put together a menu for the upcoming week, using items that we already have on hand.  Woohoo!  Yes, I'll still go grocery shopping because we'll need bread and fruit and I always am on the lookout for bargains anyway.  I think I might go shopping on Tuesday again but I'm not sure.

  • Looking for a specific cookbook on my cookbook shelf (it is to be noted that I tried decluttering my cookbook shelf last week but after looking at all my books, even the ones that I never use, I decided to keep them all! Yes, I have attachment issues when it comes to cookbooks.  My kids will start families at some point, I presume, so who knows if they'll want any of them.)... well now I've lost my train of thought... oh yes.  So looking through my cookbooks I found The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving that I had bought myself last year but that I haven't used yet.  Since I'm planning on harvesting our oranges this week, I thought I'd look through the book for some inspiration of what to do with them beyond plain marmalade.  I realized that I had never finished going through the whole book and there are tons of recipes well beyond pickles and jams!  One recipe that I look forward to trying is Microwave Orange Curd with Candied Peel.  Doesn't that sound good?  You can use it as a topping on scones apparently and you can freeze it if you're not planning on using it right away. Perfect!

  • I submitted my Publix receipt from yesterday to Kellogg's Family Rewards since I bought 2 packages of Keebler cookies (on BOGO) and noticed that I had been credited for all the points for my CVS purchases on Tuesday and earned one of the (10) 1,000 KFR bonuses that we can earn from now until the end of March (buy 10, get 1,000 points). I'm also just 2 punches away from the 2nd 1,000 bonus reward and since I bought 2 boxes of cookies yesterday, I expect that I'll get that bonus once they process my receipt. This means that I'll be able to order new $1.00/1 coupons next time Special K is on sale somewhere so I can continue to stock up. Yay!

  • While I was logged in to the KFR site, I also printed the new coupons that are available. My kids eat tons of cereal so I always print tons of cereal coupons :)

  • Then I got an email telling me they had processed my receipt so I checked my account and I earned the double points bonus for uploading a receipt (I thought it was only for Winn Dixie receipts!) although each of my boxes of cookies was worth different points. Had I known, we would have gotten the same boxes that were worth 100 points each, lol.

  • I took the survey from my daughter's RaceTrac receipt from yesterday and wrote a long compliment about their sollicitude and generosity when she locked her keys in her car.  I earned a survey reward code for a free bag of TasteWorks chips :)

  • I took (2) Driscoll's Consumer Advisory Panel surveys and printed four $1.00/1 coupons for my grocery trip this week.  Unfortunately, I had messed with the margins in the printing options earlier today so my first 2 coupons printed a little truncated.  I emailed Customer Service before I realized that it was my fault so when I realized that I had caused the problem, I emailed them again with an "oops".  Then I printed the other 2 coupons. I compared all coupons and I think that I might be OK because it seems that the whole bar code might have printed anyway.  I'll have to buy just 2 containers and hand the truncated coupons to the Target cashier to see if they scan and if not, I'll just swap them for the other two.

  • For tonight's omelette I used most of the rest of the bag of Potatoes O'Brien, a container of baby portabella, some sliced ham, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk and the rest of the shredded Monterey Jack/Cheddar mix from early last week.  I had to pick out a few shreds that had gotten moldy.  I cooked the veggies and ham on the stove, poured the eggs/milk on top, topped with cheese, and baked it at 350F in the oven for 20 minutes. Since I was using my cast iron pan, it was easy!  I made a large salad to go with it with the rest of the lettuce from our garden, grape tomatoes, the rest of a cucumber, some olives and some croutons.  It was delicious, Greg really liked the omelette and I have some leftover salad for my lunch tomorrow. I'll pick the meat that's left on the rotisserie chicken that we ate on Friday night and add it to the salad.

  • I poured the crumbs from the bag of croutons into my bread crumb jar.

  • Greg and I came across "American Ninja Warrior" on NBC and totally got hooked on it.  Dang it, I should have been pedaling on my bike during that because I was completely pumped up, lol!

  • Nothing.

  • I should have remembered yesterday that Greg needed a haircut and suggested that we go right after our outing so we could have had a No Drive Day today, darn it!

  • I had to throw away a few moldy cheese shreds and the last chunk of summer sausage as it was too far gone to save it.

  • Fed the cats
  • Signed up for MobiSave
  • Printed coupons and uploaded new offers to apps
  • Followed up with my oldest son about his Tuesday concert
  • Inventoried my fridge and pantry and did a dinner menu plan for the week
  • Filled out a couple of consumer surveys to earn freebies and coupons
  • Clipped all coupons
  • Prepped the kitchen wall calendar for the month of February - hey! 2016 is a leap year!
  • Cooked dinner

  • Signed up for a new rebate app, which hopefully will allow me to save even more.

  • I found out that Greg's cell phone will no longer be under contract as of 5/24/16.  At this point we should be able to save $15 per month on his line, if they still offer the same discount as what my son and myself have on our phones on the same family plan.  I have been thinking, though, that although I like having a smart phone, there's really no NEED for me to have one and I'm wondering if I could just have a pay-as-you-go deal because I'm pretty much always on WiFi. I almost never use the phone to make or receive calls and I have a digital camera that takes better pictures.  The apps can all work on Wifi.  I really need to think about this.

  • Liquids:
    • 2 cups coffee
    • 1 cup water
    • 1.5 cups instant coffee
    • 1 cup water
    • 1.5 cups decaf coffee
  • Food:
    • Breakfast:
      • 1/4 cup granola, 1 banana, 1/3 cup whole milk
    • Mid Morning Snack:
      • nothing
    • Lunch:
      • Rest of hearty beef stew, bowl of butternut squash soup, fruit cup
    • Mid Afternoon Snack:
      • poptarts (!), string cheese stick
    • Dinner:
      • 1/4 of a Spanish omelet, garden salad

    • Evening Snack:
      • nothing
  • Weight:
    • Didn't weigh myself as I forgot to bring the scale downstairs!
  • Exercise:
    • Didn't exercise...again!
Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!

My 2016 Frugal and Financial Goals: January Update

Insanity Doing The Same Thing Over And Over Again And Expecting Different Results |

Here is the end of January, so I thought I would write an update on my progress as far as my frugal and financial goals for 2016.  I made some progress on several fronts, although not as much as I should have.  Still, progress!

1 - Emergency Fund: I calculated that our barebones expensed would be $2,600 per month if we had to cut back in case of a job loss ($1,225 of it being our mortgage payment.)  We have well over 6 months of living expenses saved up.  I think it's time for us to start looking in putting the extra money in a CD that would earn more than what it's earning sitting in our savings account (i.e. almost nothing!).

2 - Investments:
    1. I got a snapshot of our current investments and their performance by looking at our statement accounts and reporting the information into a Financial Report spreadsheet.
    2. I have started reading "The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing".
    3. I have been reading issues of Kiplinger's magazine and printing articles that help me understand investing better.
    4. I have identified a financial consulting firm that I would like us to interview as potential financial planners for us.  Greg has agreed to meet with them. I need to go over the Financial Report that I completed with him first, though, so we're both on the same page when we meet with them.
    5. I have printed a couple of articles and a brochure from the SEC about the questions to ask when interviewing a financial planner.

3 - Retirement:
  1. Greg's new Roth 401(k) deductions started but I was too late in submitting the new savings rate to the company for it to hit the 1st check and then I had miscalculated the whole thing. We're still on track to save the $18K that we are allowed, but instead of being spread equally across all pay periods, we'll pay a little more per paycheck and will be done one paycheck period early. So the last paycheck of the year will be larger because of that.
  2. Old 401(k): I haven't investigated rolling it over.  However, it is now administered by Vanguard so I think the fees are lower than they were before. I need to see if it's feasible to change the investment elections for it.
  3. IRAs: I haven't done anything about it. I need to complete our tax return first to see if we will qualify for Roth IRAs in 2015 and, if so, get Greg to put the balance of the money still owed to my Spousal Roth IRA to bring it to $5,500 for 2015. If not, Greg needs to move the money back into regular IRAs, and then I need to complete the tax return for the final time.
  4. My old IRAs: I printed an article that suggests doing... something with them and right now I can't remember what it was!  But I haven't done anything about it.  I'm waiting for a financial planner to advise me, if indeed we get one.
  5. Disney Pension: I had already pretty much decided NOT to take the lump sum and I printed an article from Kiplinger this week that had a chart to help me decide and confirmed my decision.  So I will be keeping it as is, but I do need to understand the paperwork that Disney sent me because I'm not sure if I need to make an election or just let it sit as is.

4 - Taxes:
  1. I haven't looked up when stock options will vest in 2016 yet. I need to do that and add the dates to my Google Calendar.
  2. I have been tracking Greg's paychecks in an Excel spreadsheet to make sure that I understand what is happening with all the deductions and also the income reported.
  3. Health FSA: one of our claims for dental work done in December but charged to our FSA Debit Card in January was denied by the FSA Administrator so I had to call them and the rep said he would resubmit it and that close to 100% of all resubmissions were approved. I haven't heard from them.  We haven't had any health expenses in January yet.  I need to stop by the dermatologist's office to ask for a prescription for the CeraVe sunscreen that they recommended and that I bought so I can try to submit the CVS receipts for them for reimbursement.
  4. I haven't looked for an accountant, but some of the financial planners at the firm that I'm interested in are CPAs, so I'm hoping that they would be able to help with that too if we hired them.
  5. I haven't done any additional research into tax credits for our new windows installed in 2015. I had researched them back in early 2015 and hadn't found any, but I should check again.  I'm thinking that the software that I will use to do our taxes will probably prompt me for this anyway.  The $400 Duke Energy rebate would necessitate them coming to do a Home Energy Check, apparently. I need to call them to see if we would still qualify if the windows were already installed (and if the windows we got do qualify, which I think they do).
  6. We have started receiving tax documents. I need to make a chart of what I have gotten and what I still need and then start working on figuring out our tax return.
  7. I need to read the article that I printed from Kiplinger about opening a Health Savings Account on our own since Greg's employer doesn't offer that option.  This is a way to defer taxes on part of your income, apparently.  I don't know anything about it so I need to research this.

5 - Expenses
  1. Large Expenses:
    1. Mortgage: We are continuing to send an extra $925 a month towards our principal and hope to be able to continue so as to pay off our mortgage  in 50 months or so.  We received our escrow analysis and due to it being slightly overfunded, our regular mortgage payment will be reduced by $34.30 starting on 3/1 so I will start sending an additional $35 towards the principal at that time. I put a reminder to set it up on my calendar for next week. I also printed an article from Kiplinger's that explains exactly what to do when you get ready to pay off your mortgage.  We also received our mortgage tax statement that shows our pay-off balance, and it's over $2K more than the balance shown on our monthly statements so if this is maintained over the next 4 years, we would pay off our mortgage in 51 months instead of 50.
    2. Car maintenance:
      1. This month we replaced the tires both on my SUV and on Greg's truck, at great expense (close to $2K! That's insane!) 
      2. I'm tracking the mileage on the family car so I'll know when we reach 60K miles so I can schedule the maintenance.
    3. House maintenance and repairs:
      1. We discovered that when the wind makes the rain fall sideways, water infiltrates the vents above a couple of the windows and causes water leaks into our entry room.  One of the new ceiling tiles now has water stains!  Grr. Greg is planning on building baffles for the vents.  He took the measurements but hasn't started building them yet.
      2. The downstairs toilet flushing mechanism needs to be adjusted or replaced as sometimes the water keeps on running. Just a little but it's a waste of water and money anyway.
      3. I researched several models of refrigerators, both Energy Star and not, in a price range that I would be willing to pay.  Our current refrigerator is a Whirlpool Estate 21.9 cubic foot side by side refrigerator that we got at ApplianceDirect 14 years ago for about $650.  It uses 671 KWh/year.  It has fully adjustable glass shelves.  The ice maker is no longer working. It's not a big deal.  The cheapest Energy Star models that I looked at were double the price and didn't seem to be consuming much less energy. At least, not enough to recoup the price difference in 10 years.   Also, the shelves weren't fully adjustable.  I found a conventional Frigidaire that looks exactly like our current fridge and is priced through 2/2 at $749, although we would have to go pick it up from South Clermont ourselves.  It's a 26 cubit foot model and used about 25 more KWh/year than our current one.  Since ours is working fine (aside from the ice maker), I've decided to not replace it at this time.   I'm very disappointed that Energy Star fridges don't save much more energy than my current model!
  2. Every Day Expenses:
    1. I did buy new scented candles that I didn't strictly need and a raclette set that I had been meaning to purchase before Christmas.  I also bought shirts for Greg, our son, and my daughter.
    2. I bought several items second hand from thrift stores this month: furniture for my middle son, glasses, exercise shorts, and an above-the-range microwave for us.
    3. I updated my credit card chart to track which ones we should use at each type of store, and made wallet-size cheat-sheets for Greg and myself.
    4. I have been keeping track of every single expense that we had both in our checkbook/budget and also in separate spreadsheets where I can track everything by category without the hassle of YNAB.
    5. Utilities:
      1. Water:  I haven't been gardening so no watering has been taking place.  Indoors, I have been reusing the water from boiling eggs, the dehumidifier, and the shower to water plants and flush the toilet. I have also made sure to run the dishwasher when it is completely full, as well as the washing machine.  However, we have several leaks that need to be addressed.
      2. Electricity:  I purchased 40 LED bulbs and 4 LED night lights. Now all our bulbs (except for appliance bulbs) are LED or CFL since I replaced incandescent bulbs (in closets, mainly) with CFLs that I had replaced with LEDs :)  We haven't had to turn the heat on in a couple of days, but we did have the heat on for several days mid-month since it got pretty cold. However, I turned off the heat when the kids were at school and Greg at work.  I used the crockpot and microwave a lot and since I went on a diet I haven't used the oven as much. Also,  I have remembered to bake several pie/loaves at once in order to make better use of the electricity.  I did use the dryer more than in previous months.
    6. Gas for the vehicles: (UPDATED) as of 1/31, we spent $319 for 3 vehicles.  We had only 2 No Drive Days this month  (when none of the cars were used at all) but since my goal is 7 days for the whole year, I think that was pretty good. Greg worked from home a couple of days. I picked up a copy of the bus schedule but since the only time I go into Clermont is when I have the cats to take to the vet's or when I go grocery shopping, taking the bus would be very inconvenient.
    7. Food expenses: I spent about $238 in groceries and my savings rate was a little above 67% , including the gift cards that I used and all rebates.  We did much better, as far as eating out, than last month.  We each took our kids out to lunch to celebrate birthdays and a move, we paid for my daughter to have dinner out with friends one night and Greg bought lunch once because he didn't want to pack a sandwich. So we ordered in on Saturday when Greg wasn't feeling good and I didn't feel like cooking.  We spent about $136.  I put $10 in each of the kids' school lunch accounts, so $20.  So our total food expenses for the month was $393 but my budget was $500.  I earned $75 in Swagbucks gift cards and $100 in American Express Rewards that I redeemed for Walmart, Target and CVS gift cards to purchase groceries.
    8. Entertainment:  I read that Netflix was going to raise their price by $2 to $4 a month starting in March so I figured that I would cancel Netflix and keep Amazon Prime instead.  However, there are a couple of Netflix-exclusive shows that I really like so now I'm rethinking this and might keep both, after all.  I do watch Netflix more than Amazon Instant Video.  Got to be thinking about this some more...  I haven't called Brighthouse to investigate a lower rate for our cable internet access.
    9. Cell phones: I had to add a 1-month international plan for Greg's phone since he's going to spend several days in Canada. Otherwise, there hasn't been any changes.  I don't like paying as much as we're paying but we do have 4 lines on our plan, including 3 smart phones.
    10. Car insurance: I haven't done anything about it yet.  We had to use the Roadside assistance coverage twice this month (once for my flat tire and when my daughter locked the keys in her car).
    11. Education: my daughter and I met with the foundation director and clarified everything about her college scholarship.  She signed up for 2 SAT tests and an ACT test.  She scheduled 2 college visits (I will be taking her to one and her dad to the other). (UPDATED) She will also be competing in this year's Optimists' Club Speech and Essay contests to try and win some scholarships.  As for my youngest son, he and I had a discussion about his future education past high school and are exploring interests and careers at the moment.  Enrollment in the Florida Prepaid plan ends on 2/28 so I need to get my butt in gear if we're going to try to do this. Getting Greg to agree will be the most difficult part.  My middle son is now waiting for me to figure out our tax return so he can fill the FAFSA form and see if he will qualify for student loans.
    12. Pets: I took all 3 cats to the vet's this month (spaying and suture removals and also vaccines for new kitty and weigh-in for the 2 other cats, along with an eye exam for our male cat).  The cost was pretty astronomical!  I contacted the low-cost clinic and found out that they do sell prescription food that is very similar to the brand my cats eat so I will be taking them to that clinic come August when the next check-ups are due.
6 - Health
  1. I started exercising most days on 1/11 and I have lost about 4 lbs.  I haven't been counting calories, though.  My plan in the coming month is to start using MyFitnessPal again.
7 - Found Money Update: In January I "found" the following money:
  1. I ordered $75 in Swagbucks gift cards ($50 at Walmart, $25 at Target)
  2. I ordered $10 in Bing Rewards gift cards (Amazon)
  3. I ordered a $100 CVS gift card from American Express Rewards
  4. I received $14.98 in Discover Rewards on my card and Greg received $8.57 on his.  We will use those on Amazon.
  5. I received $4.00 in Amazon Visa Rewards
  6. We accumulated $4.29 in Mastercard Gas Rewards (which will be issued in March or April)
  7. I received $5.00 in Kohl's Yes2You Rewards
  8. I earned $26.75 in CVS ExtraCare Bucks
  9. I earned $0.99 in Walgreens Register Rewards
  10. I redeemed a Dunkin' Donuts Perk freebie coupon for an extra large coffee
  11. I redeemed RaceTrac survey reward codes for 1 hot dog, 10 Monterey Chicken rolls and a bag of TasteWorks chips
  12. I redeemed a Dunkin' Donuts survey reward code for a free donut
  13. I earned $1.00 in Amazon Digital Credits
  14. I found $21.41 in cash ($9.07 in my purse, $11.62 from the 2015 Change Jar and $0.72 in change that I found in parking lots and our guest room)
  15. I cashed in $137.41 that I had in my Upromise account. My plan is to invest it to try to grow it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frugal Successes and Failures: Saturday 1/30/16

  • I can't believe that we are at February's door already.  Time flies!

  • I love my husband and he loves me but we definitely sleep better apart... I elected to fall asleep on the couch last night and he elected not to wake me to up go to bed (thanks, honey!) so we each had a good night.  Aside from the fact that I experience a huge hot flash and all I could think is that I was so glad I wasn't in bed under a comforter, a sherpa blanket and next to Greg who is like a furnace at night!  It was in the 40s last night but we didn't turn on the heat.  I'm in the living room with a T-shirt on and Greg comes down complaining that it is freezing down here (it was 64 at the time, now down to 63) and goes to put on mittens!!  Then our son got up and had his sherpa hoodie on with a furry hat too. He said it was freezing and he couldn't find his robe.  What is up with my men?!

  • It's going to be lovely today: sunny and 70 for the high.  We're going to the Civil War battle reenactment this afternoon, which we are looking forward to.  My daughter begged off because she has studying to do.  So yesterday Greg said he was looking forward to the kettle corn and I said "no-uh, I'm making kettle corn at home and we're bringing that, we're not standing in line and paying $8 for $.25 worth of popcorn!" so he said that "frugality was taking the fun out of the weekend", but he was joking. We had a good laugh about it.  I need to get my butt off the couch, go do the dishes and make the popcorn too!

  • Bing Rewards: aaack!  I forgot about Bing!  Brb. Ok, done.

  • Swagbucks: 1st goal of 100 SB.  I did qualify for a 50 SB survey so that helped.  I had a "Discover" offer in my inbox that didn't expire for 7 more days according to my calculations (as of last night the expiration date was in 8 days) so I was planning on redeeming it today; It was for 15 SB to print some kind of coupon for Superbowl Sunday. Well, wouldn't you know it that today it showed "expired"!!  So I emailed Customer Service. I didn't have a screenshot from yesterday showing the expiration date, so I took a screenshot of today's inbox, we'll see if that helps at all.  I told them that if they're going to make the offers expire at other dates than the stated expiration date, then why bother posting an expiration date at all?!  That really annoys me.  Update: they credited me with the 15 SB.  Yay!

  • I'm making a Spanish Omelet for dinner tonight and a salad.  The original plan was to make an omelet and roasted potatoes, but since I found out that I have O'Brien potatoes that I can add to the omelet, I don't need to roast them separately.  I might make rolls when I come back from the Civil War reenactment, I'm not sure. Or maybe corn muffins from a Jiffy mix that I had gotten for free. That's more likely.

  • I discovered that Greg, when he took his team out to lunch on the company's dime both last week and this week, wasn't able to use his business Amex because the restaurant in question didn't accept it. So he used our Mastercard and will submit for reimbursement. We earn 1% in Rewards on that card so we'll make a small profit. Sweet!  However, he was upset that the cheat-sheet that I gave him indicated that we should use the Amazon Visa card at restaurants since we earn 2% back with that card, but that he doesn't have an Amazon Visa card. I hadn't added him as an authorized user on that card when I applied because he already complains that his wallet is bulging... and why would he be in a restaurant without me?  lol.  I offered to get him one but I was right, he doesn't want another card in his wallet.

  • I reached my 1st Swagbucks goal before 11 a.m. Woohoo!

  • Upromise sent me an email about what I earned in 2015.  I didn't think I had earned anything since I mostly used SavingStar (they share the same offers) but apparently I did earn a little over $20.  I logged in to my account to see how much I had accumulated since the last time I had cashed in (YEARS ago) and I had a little over $137 available!  So I requested a check for it (i really never use Upromise anymore) and I'm considering opening an E*Trade account with it and investing it to see how well I might be able to do (or a Vanguard account, I need to investigate the costs and minimum amounts for purchases).  I would use that money for our youngest son's higher education since that had been the original intent with Upromise.  It should take about 45 days to get the check, apparently.

  • I ran a very full load of dishes in the dishwasher and washed the pots and pans by hand. I borrowed my son's portable speaker and watched an episode of "Battle Creek" on Netflix to make the time more enjoyable.It worked!  I used my homemade pot scrubber (made from saved mesh bags) to wash the pots and keep my dish scrubbers free of gunk.  I used the last of the Ecover Rinse Aid that I had so my next project is to make my own. I have a notebook of DIY cleaning product "recipes" so I'll be perusing that.  Update: well, I didn't have a recipe but I did find several websites that recommend just putting white vinegar in the rinse aid compartment, and even suggested putting a drop of food coloring in there too so it's easier to see when you need to add more (smart!). However, a few people commented that the acid in the vinegar will damage rubber compartments (newer dishwashers apparently have rubber parts in their rinse aid dispensers) and rubber seals.  One suggestion was to just put a small cup of vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher but that doesn't help the seals.  Our dishwasher is almost 15 years old, but I don't care about replacing it any time soon and I rarely have room for a cup of vinegar in the top rack.  So I guess I'll just be buying rinse aid at the store.  The Ecover was left over from when my friend ran an organic and all-natural co-op so we got great prices from Frontier due to doing group orders. But that co-op folded so I'm stuck with regular stores.  I'll start printing coupons for Jet-Dry, I guess :)  Our water is pretty hard so my glasses are coming out with a white film on them. Ugh.  I'll plan on buying it from Target since I had invested in a $300 gift card (that cost me $270) back at Christmas time.  So that money has already been spent anyway and was meant for purchases such as these.

  • I popped 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels in the air popper and mixed it with melted coconut oil (Trader Joe's brand, ftw!) and 2 tbsp of sugar.  I have been keeping bread bags throughout the year so I unearthed 3 bags come hamburger/hot dog buns (wide openings, not as deep as loaf bags and they still had their bag clips on them) and split the kettle corn between the 3 bags. That gave us about 4 cups each, which isn't a ton but I think is enough.  I put those and 3 bottles of water (that I had bought for hurricane season last year) in a string bag that I'll bring with me this afternoon.

  • In refilling a plastic jug of popcorn kernels with kernels from an Aldi bag, I spilled about 1/4 cup of kernels all over the floor... on ceramic tiles so they bounced everywhere!  Sigh. I hadn't swept yet so I got on all 4 and picked them up kernel by kernel, while my male cat watched with an interested look on his cute wittle face because he thought it was cat food (again).  Then I popped those kernels (my 2nd batch) and turned around to deal with the coconut oil.  Somehow the air popper managed to turn itself slightly at the end of that batch and I ended up with kernels all over the unswept floor. Dang it!  I picked up the largest ones (no dirt on them that I could see) but the rest will have to be swept with the rest of the dirt/cat hair.  Arrgh.

  • I gave Greg the choice between the Alfredo pasta with shrimp that he hadn't eaten for lunch yesterday and the beef stew leftovers and he said he didn't care so I had the Alfredo pasta and the rest of the cantaloupe.  Our son had the Monterey Chicken roll and Nacho Cheese TasteWorks chips that I had gotten for free on Wednesday and that he had completely forgotten about.  I asked my daughter to make sure to finish the grilled chicken strips that I had cooked for her last weekend and that she never finished.  There's also chicken left over from last night and lunch meats (turkey, ham) to make a sandwich.

  • I brewed myself a cup of tea by reusing the teabag from Greg's breakfast.

  • Greg downloaded a free e-book from Amazon to his Kindle.

  • We drove to Renninger's to attend the Battle of Townsend Hall reenactment. Greg and our son are big Civil War buffs and even more so since I have researched Greg's ancestry in my genealogy research and discovered several ancestors and cousins who fought in the Civil War, on both sides of the conflict, with some of them being quite known.  Greg and our son and at times myself have visited several of the actual battlefields and forts in several states.  We always listen to Civil War songs in the car on the way to the battle as we bought a CD from the band who always plays before the battle and also narrates the battle (the 97th Regiment String Band) 13 years ago.  We sing along to the songs and have a great time before we even get there!  It takes us about 45 minutes to get to Mount Dora, where Renninger's is located.  This is a fictitious battle as no civil war battles were fought on Florida soil (that I know of).  This was our 14th year to attend and every year the event is different.  We had a great time!  The weather was gorgeous, we got a great spot despite the crowds and the organizers did a great job to ensure that spectators all over the perimeter of the battle field would be able to see the action.  

Before the battle started, we located the spot where we wanted to put our chairs and Greg stayed with our stuff while our son and I walked to the band.  We had decided to buy another one of their CDs. I had priced them on Amazon before we got there but they were almost $20 and Greg said we should just buy them directly from the band so they keep more of the money. When we got to the display, they were advertised for $15 each so we had already saved $5, woohoo!  We immediately picked a CD of Irish song (from the American Civil War) since our son is a huge fan of Ireland and its music.  Then I decided to get a 2nd CD and handed the attendant $30 but he told me the CDs were on sale today for just $10 each!  So I ended up getting 2 CDs for what I would have spent on Amazon. Awesome and we listened to one of the CDs on the way home.

We got there right before the battle started so we didn't visit the encampments. We used to do that when the kids were little, and we would ask questions of the reenactors and artisans. Now that our son is older, he's more into the spectacle of the battle than anything else. There was a mixture of infantry, artillery and cavalry and there were several Black americans participating as well, both in the infantry and cavalry, as well as women reenactors (also playing soldier roles) and a mixture of old and young.  

The battle raged on for almost an hour!  There were a couple of ladies sitting on the ground next to my chair who asked me if I had ever attended one of those events before so I explained that we have come every year for the past 14 years (I brought my kids before meeting Greg) and was able to give them pointers so they could make the most of everything. They were like little kids and had a great time too.  

At some point during the battle, a reenactor was helped by another to a nearby tree where he laid down. He was wincing while he was being lowered to the ground, and I thought "kudos to you, old dude, for acting so convincingly for our enjoyment!" and kind of forgot about him as the battle raged on in front of us, with several rebel charges and Yankee counter-charges happening.

Then the weirdest thing happened: one of the Yankee commanders told the Rebel forces that had crept next to them to back up.  So they did.  I was telling Greg "well, that's odd, why would he do that?!" but Greg had no clue.  Within a few minutes, a cease-fire was called and everyone started making hand gestures, telling the people who were still firing to stop firing and silence descended on the field.  Everyone was wondering what had happened!  Well, it was the old guy at the tree near us.  A medic appeared, then a firefighter from a neighboring county, and they were checking one of his ankles. Apparently his wincing hadn't been acting, he actually had gotten hurt!  They helped him off the field (he was right there at the edge of it so it was just a matter of them ducking into the rope, but and ATV with an Emergency worker arrived from across the battlefield and I guess they took him to the First Aid tent. As he was leaving the battlefield I clapped for him as we do when injured football players leave the field but no one joined me :( I felt bad for him that he had his fun ruined by a sprained ankle!

The battle resumed and the cannons were fired and soon we had "real" casualties on the field.  Little kids and adults alike were exclaiming with each explosion and manoeuver.  It's gruesome to make a spectacle of such horrible events but I guess it's not much different than a bunch of kids playing war on the playground and we all had a good time.

At the end of the battle (the Yankees won today, they always win on Saturdays and then the Rebels get to win the battle on Sundays), after the final cease fire was called, bugle played taps (everyone took of their hats) and then all the dead rose again!  Thunderous applause rang for the reenactors and their horses. A job well done!  We left to go visit a few suttlers then, but it is customary for all the reenactors to line up at the edge of the battlefield on the far side from where we were and to fire their weapons all at the same time. It makes a terrific noise!  We used to make sure to be there for that when the kids were younger but these days we just skip it.  We didn't buy anything from the suttlers.  Our son would have loved a canteen but decided that they were too expensive.  On the way to the car, I decided to treat ourselves to a funnel cake (since we're not driving to lake Worth tomorrow) so Greg and I got to eat a little bit of it with our human locust of a son eating the rest :)  It was delicious if pricey.  I completely forgot to take a picture of the suttlers or the funnel cake, though.

We played one of the new CDs in the car while waiting to get out (there was a lot of traffic exiting). As we were finally getting on the road, I saw that my daughter had texted me to tell me she was stopping at the RaceTrac station in Clermont to get gas so I texted her back that we were on our way home.  Then she texted me right back to say that she had just locked her keys in the car AGAIN while we was at the pump!  Thankfully this time she had her phone and her wallet with her, just not the keys. Arrgh!  She had already called USAA Road Assistance and they gave her an ETA of an hour.  I'll tell you, we're getting our money's worth, finally!  3 calls in a month.  I was worried about her standing alone at a gas station in the late afternoon so I told her to make sure to tell the attendant why she was there and told her that if I got home before the locksmith got there, I would get the spare keys and come meet her (we're about 15 minutes away from that station).  In the meantime, the attendant came out and offered her a free fountain drink and for her to wait indoors instead of outside. How kind!  I will note that when I take the survey from her receipt. By the time we got home, the locksmith had called her and said she would be there in 15 minutes so there was so reason for me to go meet them, and my daughter finally got home safely. 

In the middle of all that, right as I was texting her to stay safe, Greg had to hit the brakes hard and swerve to avoid the car in front of him who had almost rear ended the car in front of it when that one decided to make a tight right turn quite suddenly and without signaling!  We were so lucky that the truck's brakes are very good, that Greg was being vigilant and no tailgating anyone (not that he ever does) and that no one rear-ended us either! 

  • I checked the mail and found some more tax documents (greeaaat!  That's sarcasm, in case you can't hear it dripping from my words) and a box of samples from  I'll donate the cat food sample to my local animal shelter, Greg or I can probably use the ZZquil at some point, and the sample of fancy French oil... well, I just don't know what to do with it.

  • Close to dinnertime, Greg said he wasn't feeling good and wanted to drink OJ to head off a possible cold but we didn't have any so I decided to go get some at Publix. Greg just wanted soup for dinner and was craving hot and sour soup from the Chinese restaurant, so I decided to just pick up dinner for everyone. I got the kids subs from Publix, a couple of packages of Keebler cookies (on BOGO) and half a gallon of OJ for Greg.  I got him the soup he wanted from the Chinese restaurant and also food for myself.

  • On the way home I stopped by RaceTrac to gas up the truck and redeem the last survey reward code for a roller grill item. I got a Monterey Chicken roll for our son.

  • Greg and I watched the 1st episode of "Fargo, Season 2" on Amazon while we ate dinner.  I had purchased the season at Christmas time at a reduced price. 

  • Gas to drive to the Civil War reenactment (45 minutes away) and the entry fee for 3 "adults" ($18).  We drove Greg's truck since he loves driving it and doesn't like driving the family car (he drove a Ford Focus for years and he's still sick of it!) and my daughter wants to drive to the gym today anyway.

  • We bought funnel cake at the reenactment ($6).

  • I bought us all dinner since Greg wasn't feeling good and I didn't feel like cooking. We're way under budget for January so I thought it was OK to splurge a little.

  • No failures today, hopefully.

  • Fed the cats because New Kitty was begging for it
  • Shooed the male cat away from New Kitty's food
  • Put the cat food away (if you won't eat your food after 30 minutes, then you can wait until tonight!)
  • Organized the dirty dishes so it'll be easier to load up the dishwasher
  • Ordered a check from Upromise
  • Did the dishes
  • Made kettle corn for this afternoon's "field trip"
  • Attended the Civil War reenactment with my family
  • Picked up dinner for all of us
  • Gassed up Greg's truck

  • Hmm, I didn't do anything today.

  • Liquids:
    • 2 cups coffee
    • 1 cup black tea
    • 1 cup water
  • Food:
    • Breakfast:
      • 1/4 cup of granola with a banana in it, 1/3 cup of whole milk
    • Mid Morning Snack:
      • nothing
    • Lunch:
      • Alfredo pasta with shrimp, cantaloupe
    • Mid Afternoon Snack:
      • homemade air popped kettle corn, 3 small pieces of funnel cake
    • Dinner:
      • wonton soup, 1 eggroll, General Tso's chicken with rice, 2 fortune cookies
    • Evening Snack:
      • nothing
  • Weight:
    • I didn't weigh myself again, this morning.  What I ought to do is bring the scale downstairs so I can weigh myself when I want/need to without waking Greg up if he's still sleeping like he was this morning.  
  • Exercise:
    • Didn't exercise today, again.
Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Frugal Failures and Successes: Friday 1/29/16

  • Happy Friday!  The rain finally stopped here and we should have a cloudy day with temps in the mid 60s.  I'll take it!

  • My main goals today are to vacuum and sweep the house, put the laundry away, and read some of my investing book. If I could get around to finally finishing my Financial Report, that would be awesome.  I almost stayed up all night to work on it, but I recognized that 2 really late nights in the week wasn't a good idea so I went to bed.  OH MY... I just realized that I never pt the Christmas stuff away and it's still strewn about the spare bedroom... aaargh. Well, I guess I know what I'm doing first!

  • Hey!  It's Friday and I don't have a Food Waste Friday post going on because... we didn't have any food waste!  Woohoo!  Oh wait...

  • My son informed me tonight that he doesn't want to go to the Miniatures Show in Lake Worth on Sunday.  I'm very disappointed!  He wants to spend the day at home because he and his dad are planning on playing Bolt, a military strategy game.

  • We haven't had the air or heat on for several days now. Sweet!  I peeked at the weather forecast and we're supposed to have a couple of days in the 80s next week so we'll see if we can get away with not turning the air on.  It might get muggy though because it's supposed to rain the previous 2 days.

  • Greg and his team are going to try to go out to lunch today, paid for by their boss as a reward for finishing a project.  However, he asked me to pack him a lunch anyway, as a back up.  I packed him leftover Alfredo pasta with Shrimp, 2 hard-boiled eggs and a yogurt.  Update: they did go out to lunch so he brought his packed lunch home and we put it back in the fridge.

  • I packed the Thai Green Chili that I cooked yesterday in a freezer bag and stuck it in the chest freezer. I never did make rice to go with it, but rice is quick to cook in the microwave so it's OK.

  • I defrosted a loaf of bread since we were almost out and replaced it in the freezer with 1.5 loaf of chocolate chip banana bread that I baked yesterday.  I left 1/2 a loaf out for my youngest son's snacks. He promised he would eat it. I reused cereal bags to freeze them and sealed them with a piece of masking tape.

  • The kids packed their lunches to take to school.

  • My 1st Swagbucks goal todays is a measly 50 SB.  Woohoo!  I wish that would happen on Sunday, the last day of the month so I would need to meet my goal that day to earn the last bonus, because I'm going to be away all day.

  • I earned the maximum of daily credits for Bing Rewards.

  • Redbox emailed me 2 "Rent 1, Get 1 Free" codes whereby I could actually get 2 free movies this weekend, so I texted my middle son to let him know, in case he wanted them.

  • I forgot to mention, in yesterday's post, that my youngest son once again attended the free Algebra Tutoring session offered at his middle school after classes. He stayed for the whole thing and once again came home enthusiastic about it since he was able to do his homework and ask questions/get explanations at the same time.  He was planning on attending again today but called me after school to ask if he could skip it today since he doesn't have any math homework. Hmm... I said yes.

  • So thanks to my daughter (not... see "Failures"), I got to save yet another inner cereal bag to reuse as a freezer bag.

  • I reused water saved after boiling eggs last week to water my indoor plants. Let's see how they're doing...
    • The zombie celery is regrowing again (the "again" is redundant but conveys the fact that it's the 2nd time that it grows from that particular root!)

    • The basil cuttings aren't growing any roots but they started to flower!

    • The pineapple that has been regrowing roots for several months still hasn't been potted and I think there are 3 tops in there now.

    • The newest pineapple top is indeed regrowing roots. Yay.  I'm going to be so in trouble if all those pineapple plants end up making actual pineapples because I'm the only one who really eats them!  But it would be so awesome. I have several plants who turn 3 this year so I should have a pineapple crop this summer, according to my calculations!

  • I have some dishes to do but not nearly enough to fill the dishwasher so they'll sit there until tomorrow morning and I'll do today's dishes at the same time.  Running a full dishwasher is more water and energy efficient.  Washing dishes by hand isn't very water efficient (and why do manual work when I have a machine that can handle it and is better at it than I am?)

  • Dang it, I did it again!  I navigated to another tab while my Swagbucks Search was loading (it can be so s-l-o-w sometimes, it drives me bonkers!) and almost missed out on the 5 SB that I was awarded. Luckily I came back to that tab before the CAPCHA expired. Phew!

  • I ran the dehumidifier in the downstairs bathroom. It was so humid in there that it took a full hour to go down to 55% humidity on  the HIGH setting!  When it was done, I had to dump the water down the toilet because I didn't need it for anything.

  • I cut up and peeled the butternut squash that I was going to use to make soup for dinner, but realized that I had forgotten to defrost homemade chicken stock so it's defrosting right now. 

  • I saved the seeds and I'm soaking them for a bit. Later on I'll spread them on a cookie sheet to dry and I'll season and bake them for Greg.

  • In the meantime, I decided to go empty the countertop composting bin into the larger one outside. I hadn't been in the garden for a while and with all the rain we have had lately, several of my pots and bins were completely under water, including my 2 remaining lettuce bins!

  • There is a draining hole in each bin but it got clogged up with dirt so I used a small bamboo stake to try to unclog them.  The one bin started draining fast, but the other was leaning the opposite way of the side where the hole was so I sweated and grunted and finally was able to position a brick under the opposite end, raising it so it would drain... or so I thought!  The dirt was just mud at this point so it just wouldn't drain.  I decided to harvest all the lettuce instead of letting it rot. Guess who's having salad for lunch and dinner?  Oh yeah. I got a big bag of it :)

  • I was also able to harvest 4 grape tomatoes and several serrano peppers that had ripened. Yes, Susan, I will process them today so they don't rot on my countertop!
OK, I lied... I'll process the peppers tomorrow!
  • While I was rinsing and spinning the lettuce at my kitchen sink, I noticed a yellow orb in the strip of grass between our neighbor Jeff's house and ours, down the hill from his small grapefruit tree. I have an open invitation to pick his grapefruit and oranges since he and his wife don't eat them so there I went, in my crocs and PJs, to inspect the grapefruit that had been knocked down by the rain yesterday.  It was just fine so I brought it home, along with another that I found growing on the tree and 6 plump oranges picked from their trees as well.   I was about to go harvest my own oranges when I stopped myself: I'll be gone this weekend so there's no reason to get them yet. I'll get them next week when I have plenty of time to make orange marmalade.  I also want to try and make candied orange peels this year so I have them to put in cookies and chocolate candies at Christmas time... and in the nasty Bear Naked granola that I bought last week (yuck that stuff is awful... and I have 6 bags to eat!)

  • I reached my 1st SB goal by 10:30 a.m. without having to mess with surveys, always a plus. Yay!

  • Zinio emailed me that the March issue of Kiplinger's Magazine is now available and it's... January 29!  I don't get that, but hey, I'll take free financial help!  I added it to My Magazine Collection so I can read it on my recumbent bike at some point.

  • I received my $100 CVS gift card from the American Express Rewards program. Yay!

  • I had heard this morning that the Great Clips locations in Ocala and Gainesville are having a haircut sale for $7.99 this weekend.  Greg is planning on getting a haircut this weekend so I told him to see if the sale was going on at our salon too because, if so, using our prepaid card would be a waste of $9.99!  He agreed and later on I got an email from Great Clips alerting me to the sale. So I forwarded it to him with instructions on which credit card to use.  $2 is $2.  I guess we should ask if they could just deduct $7.99 from the prepaid card... but I don't trust that the cash registers don't automatically deduct $9.99 from the balance when you run the card.

  • So I was looking around the kitchen, looking at tasks I could be doing and decided to crumble a thin heel of wheat bread that wasn't suitable for sandwiches and toast it into bread crumbs. I put the bread crumbs in the toaster, rinsed the butternut squash seeds and set them up to drain, and then decided to go put on my exercise clothes.

  • I went upstairs, put on my clothes, made our bed, put the laundry away, and unpacked one of Greg's new plaid shirts that had come in from Kohl's. I sent him a text asking him to make sure to try it on tonight without taking off the tags because if it doesn't fit, I'll need to return all 3 shirts. Update: the shirt fit great, yay!  I saved the silk paper to use as tissue paper for a future gift bag.

  • Leaving our bedroom, I smelled a burnt odor.  Weird.  I was not cooking anything!  As I went down the stairs, the odor became more pronounced and I started to feel my heart beat faster as my mind was going through the possibilities: did I turn the cooktop on by mistake?  Is it an electric fire?  What?!? and then I see that alllll the way down the hall, my kitchen is smoky..;.. so I'm running towards the kitchen, yelling (to no one in particular because what did I expect the cats to do?  They looked at me like I was an idiot!) "something's burning! something's burning!" and when I got in the kitchen... I realized that it was the toaster oven. I had completely forgotten about the darn bread crumbs and they were carbonized.  Ugh. But thankfully, nothing had caught fire!  So I opened the windows and turned the furnace fan ON.  The cats are loving the opened sliding door, despite the screen lol.  I swear, I get distracted so easily these days, it's pathetic.  I need to focus.

  • Otherwise... between that bout of running and the lifting the very heavy bin full of dirt and water... can I call this my exercise for the day?  No?  Darn it.

  • I couldn't find Greg's tea bag anywhere so I texted him to find out if he took it to work by mistake (he usually doesn't finish his large cup of tea so he packs it in a travel mug to drink on the way to work), He doesn't remember what he did with it either; so instead of brewing myself a cup of black tea this morning, I used a tea bag from a box that a friend had given me a couple of years back when she was cleaning her pantry:  kiwi/peach green tea.  It smells lovely but doesn't taste very good. No matter,  it's still free. I don't think I'll be able to get a 2nd cup out of it but I'll try. Update: well, I didn't try. The first cup was just too bad.  I may have left it to brew a little too long.

  • My lunch was the rest of the Alfredo pasta with shrimp from last night. I absolutely HATE cooking the Barilla Pronto pasta, it might save time and electricity but it wastes food and actually I spend more time scrubbing the pot because all the pasta always sticks to the non-stick pots!  Last night, I scrapped all I could and that's what I'm eating today.  I also made myself a salad with some of the lettuce that I harvested, the 4 tomatoes that I harvested, some more grape tomatoes from Aldi, some cucumber from Walmart and some not-so-fresh mozzarella from my fridge that was starting to turn orange around the edges (I cut off those parts).  I had some Chinese Cabbage Salad dressing in my fridge that I had made weeks ago and it smelled fine so I used some of that instead of mixing some vinaigrette.  I finished the meal with the last 2 mandarins.

  • With the windows open in the kitchen it got pretty chilly so I closed the windows and moved to the living room.  It still smelled like burnt toast in there so I lit up one of the new Snowflakes & Spruce candles from Bath & Body Works. We'll say that's the one we're giving each other as an early Valentine's Day present :)  We just love the smell.  I should be productive but I've found the blog of a Florida family who moved into a camper trailer due to unemployment so I've been reading that while sipping on my tea.  Yes, I know, I know. I need to put the Christmas stuff away, vacuum, exercise.... argh.  There is still time :)  I put KUSC on so I have lovely classical music playing in the background and New Kitty is happy because she gets Greg's chair while he's gone and has company with her in the living room. I had to yell at her because she keeps on trying to do her claws on the carpets even though we have MANY scratch posts and cardboard scratchers throughout the house.  Rascal!  Good thing she doesn't hold a grudge.

  • I did nothing but read a blog for a couple of hours and then I went to put the Christmas stuff away. I went through all the boxes and threw away what was broken and pulled what we weren't using. I now have a large trash bag full of Christmas-themed stuff to donation to the thrift store. Won't they be happy to see this coming in February... not!  But I don't have any storage for it either.  Everything fit neatly in one of the small closets of the guest room, which is so much better than to have them in the under the eaves cramped space that we call our "attic" because it's all the way on the other end of the house.

  • I put the spare twin mattress back on the bed (we don't have room to store it either so I just plop it on top of the bed mattress when no one is using the room), made the bed and swept the room. I should dust it too. The upstairs gets so dusty.  Our ducts are horrible, probably full of holes too since they're in the crawl space.  

  • In sweeping the room, I kept on finding change!  I ended up with 13 cents, which I deposited into my 2016 Change Jar. Cash-ing!  I also found food wrappers behind the furniture, grrr, some things never change!  There is a trash can right in the bedroom!

  • I had to dice an onion for the butternut squash soup so I used half of it in the soup and I froze the other half.

  • For dinner, I remembered that I still had the Publix rotisserie chicken that I had gotten for free, in the fridge. So instead of making the paninis, I warmed up the chicken and served it with the butternut squash soup. I offered oyster crackers to add to the soup since I didn't have any bread to serve on the side, and everyone liked that.

  • I went through the Crockpot's Slow Cooker Recipes library book and made a note of which recipes I want to copy and eventually try.  There were several. I really liked that there is a picture for each recipe.

  • Nothing today

  • My daughter finished the box of Special K Red Berries that she just opened yesterday morning!  When I questioned how she had eaten a whole box of cereal in 24 hours, she said she had had it for snack yesterday.  I'm very displeased about this because, forget the fact that I shop the sales, use coupons and gift cards: a box of Special K Red Berries costs on average $4 at most stores.  In less than 2 years she will be living on her own and managing her own food budget.  She needs to learn now that eating a $4 box of cereal in 24 hours is untenable when you are on a budget. We have many other options for snacks (fruit, PBJs, popcorn, to name a few) so I pointed this out to her.  This is exactly what I feared would happen if she saw how many boxes of cereal I have in stock.  So I guess I have to find a way to hide them from her from now on.  It's irritating to have to do this but it's a lesson she's got to learn for her own financial well-being!

  • Cooked breakfast for Greg
  • Packed his lunch
  • Set the breakfast table for the kids
  • Froze the Thai Green Chili that I cooked yesterday
  • Froze the banana bread that I baked yesterday
  • Took a short survey about the YMCA after school program offered at my son's school
  • Ran the dehumidifier in the bathroom
  • Harvested some veggies
  • Made our bed
  • Put away the laundry
  • Went through and put away the Christmas stuff.
  • Set aside Christmas items to be donated.
  • Made the bed in the guest room
  • Swept the guest room
  • Cooked dinner
  • Finished our Financial Report

  • We received our tax documents from our mortgage company today.  Interestingly, there was a section at the bottom of the documents showing that, were we to want to prepay our mortgage right now, we would need to give them $80,024.87.  I say "interestingly", because our latest mortgage statement shows that we now owe $77,767.01 on our mortgage.  That's a difference of $2,257.86.  Of course, the monthly statement always makes sure to tell you that it is NOT a payoff amount, but still.  Today's notice states that the amount of $80,024.87 "includes principal interest, penalties, late charges, advances, any other charges related to the loan, and any foreclosure or bankruptcy expenses incurred to date under the mortgage."  Elsewhere in the document it also states that we can prepay our mortgage without any penalties.  We don't have any foreclosure or bankruptcy, we didn't take any advances, never occurred any late fees.  So this leaves the nebulous "any other charges related to the loan."  After the fiasco with the MPI last year, I'm not surprised that greedy USBank is once again screwing us over.  I cannot wait for our mortgage to be paid off.  Cannot wait.

  • I completed our Financial Report so now I have an idea of our Net Worth and how all our investments are performing (not well!).  Now we have to take action, either on our own or trust a professional to help us.

  • Liquids:
    • 2 cups coffee
    • 1 cup green tea
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup decaf coffee
  • Food:
    • Breakfast:
      • bowl of granola with skim milk
    • Mid Morning Snack:
      • Hmm, I think I ate something but I can't remember what. Oh yes, a slice of chocolate chip banana bread!
    • Lunch:
      • salad with mozzarella cheese, leftover Alfredo pasta + shrimp, 2 mandarins, slice of focaccia bread
    • Mid Afternoon Snack:
      • Popcorn with coconut oil and sugar
    • Dinner:
      • Butternut squash and rotisserie chicken
    • Evening Snack:
      • 2 small slices of marzipan stollen
  • Weight:
    • I didn't weigh myself today.
  • Exercise:
    • I didn't exercise either.
Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!