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Archive for June, 2009

July goals

June 30th, 2009 at 05:07 pm

OK, I think I've got my goals settled. I decided to add two more categories, "Side hustles" and "Other," to allow for more flexibility. I won't necessarily give myself a goal in all eight areas every month; in fact, this gives me more room to be creative and think of goals that inspire me.

So, for July, my goals are:
1. Debt: Pay off at least $2,000 of debt. This will be a bit of a stretch, but I think attainable.

2. Savings: Save at least $800: $125 for AS's retirement, $675 for the baby/emergency fund.

3. Fitness: Swim at least three times in our rooftop pool. No time or duration requirements; just get up there and at least swim a little bit!

4. Environmentalism: Try to get off some junk-mail lists. We did the thing a couple years ago where you sign up to get taken off junk-mail lists, but we still get lots of credit card and other offers. I'll try to call each company and request to be removed from their lists as junk mail comes in this month.

5. Creative/crafts: Two goals this month; I have to finish the first one for sure, and the second is if I feel inspired.

First goal: Some super-secret crafts goal for AS for our 12-year anniversary. (We agreed this weekend to give each other handmade presents. I won't be able to talk about it till I give it to her, since she reads this blog, but I have one or two ideas floating around.)

Second goal: Start new blog. I know, I know. I already have this blog and one where I blog my thoughts about trying to get pregnant. But I want to try and make a money-making blog. I think I know what I'm going to do, but in this case I don't want to write too much about it until I've made some progress.

6. Philanthropy: Free month. If I see a charitable opportunity I may take it, but no specific goal.

7. Side hustles: Perform more tasks on Mechanical Turk. It's this thing on Amazon.com that I learned about from either The Simple Dollar or Get Rich Slowly, where you do small tasks online for pennies. The money gradually builds up and they pay you once you reach $10. I started it this month and made almost $2, but I had to stop and devote all my time to the RFE for NT's residency. Which brings me to:

8. Other: Finish compiling evidence and send out RFP by second week in July. This is an absolute requirement for NT to stay in the U.S., so I wanted to put it up there as a concrete goal and make sure I get it done in time!

June goals review

June 30th, 2009 at 04:13 pm

1. Debt: Pay off at least $1600 of debt.
Progress: DONE! $1804 paid
Balance as of 6/30: $395,579
Goal balance was: $395,783

2. Savings: Save at least $1440
Progress: DONE!
* $620 to the emergency fund
* $120 to AS's retirement
* $700 to the Wisconsin vacation

3. Fitness: Try out my new personal-trainer Wii game.
Status: Failed (unless I try it out tonight, which I'm not sure I will)

4. Environmentalism: no goal this month

5. Creative/crafts: Crop art. DONE! Created a beans-and-grains version of the Obama symbol. Smile

6. Philanthropy: Hold a vegan bake sale and raise money for a charity.
Status: While I started doing the research and recruiting friends, I soon discovered that Minneapolis ordinances are very strict concerning food sales, so I would be unable to hold a bake sale. One charitable act that came up randomly this month: donated $10 to a walk to raise funds for lupus research.

So overall, I completed 3 out of 5 goals, and one I was unable to complete through no fault of my own. (The fitness one, though, is down to pure laziness. Smile)

Another June payment toward debt

June 30th, 2009 at 03:27 pm

One of AS's student loans hit today, with $60 going to principal.

That means we've paid $1804 of our debt this month, exceeding our goal of $1600.

That's the last payment that will come today, and I don't think I'll do anything else toward my June goals (unless I work out tonight, which considering my recent lack of any desire to do so is unlikely), so I'll write a wrap-up of my goals shortly and set some for July. (I haven't really decided on them so I'm not sure how specific or fleshed-out they will be.)

Prepaid plan costs update

June 29th, 2009 at 04:43 pm

So I switched to prepaid in late March, meaning it's been 3 months. I initially paid $241.63 to get us set up with phones and minutes.

NT's phone is with Net10, and he started with 60 days of service. So we had to buy more minutes for him in late May, at $32.65 for 300 minutes and another 60 days of service. (He hadn't used up his previous 300, but they roll over as long as you re-up in time.)

AS just used up her first 1,000 minutes, so I bought her another 1,000 at $107.40. (We hope to get this batch to last longer than three months; AS has gotten much better this past month at controlling her conversations with her mom, and at insisting that she call her mom via Skype vs. her mom calling her.)

So our total cost so far is $381.68.

So far, if I divide our total cost by 3, our new plan has cost us $127.23 per month. However, we have a good chance of gradually getting that average down. I've barely used any of my 1,000 minutes and I don't need to re-up until March of next year unless I run out of minutes before then.

(Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My goal is to get my average cost below that, preferably to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 will be a savings.)

More money toward debt

June 27th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

One of AS's student loans hit: $113 went to principal, increasing the amount we exceeded the June goal: $1744 toward debt instead of $1600.

NT just got news in the mail that he's getting some kind of payment from one of his pension companies: 214 pounds if he agrees to have his fund rolled into a new company or something. Sounds good to us, so all we have to do is send back confirmation and they'll mail us a check (or cheque, I guess Smile). I don't know when it will come, but then we'll mail it back to his mom to put in his UK checking account (to avoid currency conversion fees) and we'll put it in our baby/emergency fund.

No other money news for now. It's a hot, lazy Saturday and I'm just trying to get my banking done before we go over to our friends' house for dinner. (Yay, not cooking! Smile)

Refreshing drinks for summer

June 25th, 2009 at 06:03 pm

Summer is definitely upon us in Minneapolis, in all its oppressively hot, stormy glory. So it's no wonder my mind has been on fresh (and refreshing) beverages to keep on hand in the fridge.

Here are my ideas. Do you have any to add?
Sweet tea
Fresh-squeezed lemonade or lemon-limeade
Arnold Palmers (half tea, half lemonade)
Agua fresca

(That last one is a relatively new concept for me, so I'll explain):

A Mexican beverage consisting of water, fruit flavoring and sweetener. So far I've made tamarind agua fresca from a flavor packet I found in the Mexican section of the grocery store; must add 2-1/2 cups of sugar for a whole pitcher because tamarind is TART. It was really, really good though. Going to try and find tamarind pods to boil per recipe on mexicangrocer.com.

I've also made cantaloupe agua fresca. Take a whole cantaloupe; put half the flesh plus 2 cups water in a blender and liquify, pour in pitcher. Put other half of cantaloupe and 2 more cups of water in blender and liquify; pour in pitcher. Add 1/2 cup of sweetener of your choice and then add up to 2 cups more of water; depending on size of pitcher/cantaloupe, you may or may not have room! This drink tastes amazing on its own or shaken with tequila; I'm thinking about calling THAT drink a "cantelita"!

Happy belated blogoversary to me

June 23rd, 2009 at 06:39 pm

Darn it, I missed it again! My two-year anniversary of being in this community was Sunday.

Once again, I have to thank all of you for reading about my journey, offering encouragement and advice, and sharing your own financial lives with me so I can learn from them and hopefully help you too.

With your support keeping me focused, I've paid off over $62,000 of debt, increased my household's net worth by $40,000 despite the market, and created a budget that I stick to and a set of financial-management skills that should carry me in a positive direction for the rest of my life.

It's a never-ending journey, so I would love to be part of this community for years to come!

June 2009 net worth update

June 23rd, 2009 at 03:40 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $4,241
AS's 403(b): $2,888
AS's CD: $500
AS retirement savings: $240
CJ's 401(k): $23,091
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $3,665
---
Total Assets: $490,575

Total Debt: $395,752

Current Estimated Net Worth: $94,823

May 2009 estimate: $92,118

Change in net worth: +$2,705

Summary: Numbers changed favorably, though incrementally, for a small improvement in net worth. Inching toward that $100K mark!

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.50 per British pound.

365 days of dinner: June 12-20, 2009

June 21st, 2009 at 08:14 pm

Friday, June 12, we had a spicy pasta bake with garlic baguette:



On Saturday, we had a tamale-making party with a few friends. It was my first time making tamales, which was easier and funner than I thought it would be. The only problem was that the farmers-market jalapenos I bought and roasted to put inside the tamales were so hot, everyone could only eat a couple each. We also had mollete (refried beans on an AS-baked bolillo roll), guasacaca (Venezualan avocado dip) and a mango rice pilaf that NT just made up (he's awesome like that). Unfortunately, I only took a pic of some of the tamales, right before they went into the steamer:



Sunday NT did all the cooking. He made this salad with blackened cherry tomatoes tossed with balsamic vinegar, Bacos (did you know Bacos are vegan?) and vinaigrette. Yum! The main course was a fantastic risotto with Thai green curry, edamame, mushrooms and a topping of fresh cilantro that we grew!




On Monday, June 15, I was making penne marinara, and to make it unique decided to try making "beanballs" from a Veganomicon recipe. I didn't get the texture quite right (they were kind of falling apart) and I scorched them somewhat while pan-frying them, but the flavor was fantastic (actually the burnt bits were the most delicious), so I may try them again, with more gluten flour, and try baking them to see if that helps them hold together better.



Tuesday, I was meant to cook, but we got the request for more evidence from USCIS, so I was busy freaking out and digging out paperwork. So NT stepped up to bat and made Memphis BBQ tofu (from the Vegan Dad site), steamed asparagus and potato salad.



Wednesday, June 17, our friends weren't able to come over (they were bringing dinner), so AS and I scraped some spending money between us and treated ourselves and NT to Thai food from one of Minneapolis's favorite mini-chains, Sawatdee. We had spring rolls, pad thai and massaman curry:





Thursday I made a massive taco salad, with burger crumbles, leftover refried beans and guasacaca, black-eyed peas, tofu sour cream, etc., etc. So good, but I'm ashamed to say I finished mine while NT and AS left some in their bowls. Hey, it had lettuce and tomato, therefore it was healthy!



NT got off work early on Friday, so when I got home he was making fresh pasta with CSA spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. He topped this dish with homegrown basil.



Last night, June 20, we had friends over. They'd just gotten back from Tanzania and wanted Thai food, but since we'd just had that, we talked them into getting food from Kindho, our now-favorite Vietnamese restaurant since Lotus on Hennepin closed down. They also have some Thai elements in their food so it worked. At AS's request I also made tofu spring rolls and Lotus-style dipping sauce for everyone.




Woo hoo! I'm all caught up!

Met June savings goal!

June 18th, 2009 at 02:23 pm

Today on the regular biweekly deposit, I put $725 into savings. The original plan was to put it all toward the Wisconsin vacation, but we're scaling back by $100 to help compensate for my upcoming furlough, so I put $625 toward Wisconsin--fully funding the vacation at $2900--and the remaining $100 toward the baby/emergency fund. (I will deposit $100 less to the EF next month, if you're wondering where the $100 actually gets removed from our budget.)

So that's most of my goals taken care of. The only ones I haven't met are my fitness goal--no excuse for that but laziness--and the philanthropic goal. I did go so far as to get a friend interested in helping me, brainstorm locations and look up Minneapolis law on bake sales--and there my goal stalled, because apparently you need an $80 license and an industrial kitchen--no home-cooked food can be sold to the general public in Minneapolis. Sigh. But at least I did something slightly philanthropic this month: donated $10 to lupus research in the name of a co-worker who has the condition.

Reached June debt goal! Green card stress

June 17th, 2009 at 06:23 pm

Well, my personal loan payment hit today, and almost the whole payment went to principal! $614, to be exact. So that means I've paid $1631 off this month, exceeding my goal of $1600. And I may still have another of AS's student loan payments hit yet this month.

Even more exciting for me, the personal loan, which is my highest-interest debt and a $623 monthly drain on the budget, is now under $10,000! Yep, it looks a lot prettier at $9,803. Even more incentive to snowflake the hell out of it, now that I can see the end in sight.

I've been meaning to write a blog entry about "side hustles" (thanks to Frugal Dad for the cute term), avenues for extra income that I'm thinking about pursuing, such as creating blogs to make ad revenue with. But we just got an RFE (Request for Evidence) for making NT's U.S. residence permanent, so I'm going to be throwing all my energy into creating an exhaustive packet of evidence to send off to them. Don't want to screw this up! I will talk more about side hustles once this task has been taken care of.

Progress on the June debt goal

June 16th, 2009 at 02:14 pm

One of AS's student loans hit, with $76 going to principal. I also tallied her student loan debt and realized she is only $451 away from getting it under $30,000. Nice! I like symbolic turning points.

$1017 down, $583 to go on June's debt goal. I should wipe that out in the next day or two, since my regular personal loan payment will be nearly all principal thanks to my two snowflake payments this month. But if not, AS has another student loan payment near the end of the month that will tip us over the edge.

365 days of dinner: June 1-11, 2009

June 15th, 2009 at 04:18 am

Time for some more dinner pics. Let's see how many I get done before I get tired!

Monday, June 1, I had a completely bland white beans and grain dish and some steamed broccoli. NT and AS also had these tomato-rosemary-olive tarts (I can't remember their exact name, but they're from this great cookbook called Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone).



Tuesday, last day of my cleanse, I had a lentil-buckwheat salad, and AS and NT (lucky bastards) had veggie "chicken" parmesan over spaghetti.




Next day, June 3, to celebrate the end of my diet, AS made me vegan Rice Krispie treats! Very exciting, since marshmallows have gelatin and I haven't had one of my favorite snacks in years. I won't show them because they didn't stick together enough, but they tasted sooo good, we all just ate handfuls of it. Our friends came over and brought dinner, so we had two lovely curries and roti, and NT heated up these neat roulade appetizers we got at the Indian grocery store a few weeks ago--greens and chickpea flour rolled up together and cut into little rounds. Everything was especially good, possibly because I was so happy to be eating spiced food again. Smile



Thursday, June 4, I made fajitas with zucchini, yellow bell pepper and pinto beans:



On Friday, we had an easy dinner of veggie burgers or chicken patties, with a salad of some of the veggies we got from our very first CSA box of the year!




Saturday, June 6, we had a couple of friends over, and we had build-your-own-salad (which I forgot to photograph) and pizzas. They were impressed by AS's homemade crusts!



We had so much fun that night that we were fairly tired and hungover on Sunday! Luckily we had planned for spaghetti. I gave AS rough instructions for making marinara sauce and she did it herself. It was delicious!



Monday, NT and I teamed up to make Italian marinated tofu, steamed asparagus and chickpea-quinoa pilaf:




Tuesday we had my favorite dinner, Pasta della California topped with veggie buffalo wings. We also had a side salad (can you tell we're getting a ton of lettuce from our CSA?):



Also, NT made this bizarre-but-it-totally-worked Vegan Dad recipe: pineapple dessert pizza with jam sauce and chocolate chips. It was great for breakfast the next day, too!



On Wednesday, we were going out later and wanted something quick and easy, so we made tofu hot dogs with Bush's baked beans and salad.




Thursday, June 11, I made Slivered Seitan and Broccoli stir-fry from the book Vegan Fire and Spice. We had barley on the side (since the cleanse, we've decided to try having different grains from white rice once in a while). Another success; my new cookbooks have all been great so far! We also had steamed Chinese dumplings that we'd picked up frozen on our big shopping trip a few weeks ago. You can tell from the lighting that it was finally warm enough to eat out on the balcony again.




OK, that's all I have loaded onto the computer, so I'm going to stop for the night.

Once a bug hits me...

June 11th, 2009 at 08:57 pm

...it's hard to fend off! I feel like I'm writing way too many blog posts, but I'm just so full of energy lately. My chronic condition is nearly healed up and hopefully going away for good, and so I just feel more energized than I have since early March!

Anyway, the "bug" that's got into me is the debt payoff bug. I made a very sensible decision, I thought, to stop accelerating debt payments and start saving up money, and with AS's layoff and my and NT's furloughs, and no real job security in the near future, it still is the sensible thing to do.

But but but...if I'm able to transfer $2000 of my higher-interest personal loan balance to a lower-interest student loan debt, which won't come fully due until 2012, I'll be able to bring my personal loan balance to about $7817 by the end of the month.

After that, with regular payments and by adding $200 toward principal each month, I could have that paid off in 10 months. Thus eliminating my highest-interest debt, and thus freeing up $623 per month in the budget.

I was staring at that potential new balance, $7817, when a new thought struck me. I'd just been marveling over my new ability to squirrel money away, here and there, in little bits, for various future (potential and real) needs. I suddenly thought, I wonder how much I've really got, here in the U.S.? Because some I keep in savings, and some I keep in checking, and I think of it as separate little sums, not as a great big lump of money.

So I added it up. Wanna see? In checking, I've got (or will have by Monday, when payday hits):
$784.60 AS medical fund
$390.50 CJ/NT medical fund
$80 for future (Feb.) home insurance bill
$21 for future (Sept.) bus pass
$100 for future (July/Aug.) student loan interest payment
$725 for savings ($100 for EF, rest to vacation)

And in savings, I have:
$1,900.00 for vacation
$112.71 for home improvement
$2,954.39 for emergency/baby fund
$210.41 for NT textbooks
$240.00 for AS retirement (to be rolled into CD eventually.

That's $7518.61! Less than $300 short of what I'd need to pay off the personal loan next month.

If that were paid off, I'd have the $623 that used to go to that bill, plus $852 that goes to savings every month, for a total of $1475 per month. If I put that toward making up all the above totals, it would take me about 5 months.

Of course, then it would be December, and I wouldn't have Xmas gift money saved up because all the savings would be going to make up lost ground. And if another of us lost our job or got more furlough, we wouldn't be able to make it up nearly that fast. We would be left without a safety net for a couple months while we rebuilt savings, medical funds and future bill funds.

So I know it's probably not a good idea to totally drain my savings and start over. But still, would you be tempted to throw caution to the wind once the loan balance got down to that level and it was possible to get rid of it in one fell swoop?

Progress on the June goal

June 11th, 2009 at 02:28 pm

I have to say, it's really exhilerating paying extra on my debt again, even if it is little dribs and drabs! I'm sketching out several ideas for possibly bringing in a little side money and putting that toward the debt as well. I'll elaborate in further posts as I start to figure out what I'm doing.

Anyway, the money from the change jar hit the personal loan today. $74 went to principal (almost all of it, since the last payment paid all the interest that had accumulated). So $941 down, $659 to go on the June debt goal.

Prepaid plan costs update

June 10th, 2009 at 08:27 pm

So I switched to prepaid in late March, meaning it's been 2.5 months. I initially paid $241.63 to get us set up with phones and minutes.

Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My goal is to get my average cost below that, preferably to $50 per month.

NT's phone is with Net10, and he started with 60 days of service. So we had to buy more minutes for him in late May, at $32.65 for 300 minutes and another 60 days of service. (He hadn't used up his previous 300, but they roll over as long as you re-up in time.)

So our total cost so far is $274.28. AS will probably need more minutes soon; a few calls with her incessantly talky mom has drained her 1000 minutes much faster than we planned. I'm trying to get her to use Skype, a computer-based calling function that costs next to nothing to use. But it's malfunctioned once or twice, and then her mom flips out when she talks about using it, like trying to cut back on phone costs means we're in the poorhouse or something. (Her mom is one of those chaotic financial people, so we don't worry about her opinion, but she can be very forceful about her flipouts, so AS sort of has to manage her.)

So far, if I divide our total cost by 2.5, our new plan has cost us $109.71 per month. However, if AS can rein in her mom, we have a good chance of gradually getting that average down. I've barely used any of my 1000 minutes and I don't need to re-up until March of next year unless I run out of minutes before then.

We'd decided to keep NT's T-Mobile phone when we switched him to Net10; AS and I are both on T-Mobile prepaid, and I worried about a phone breaking (since we can't just trade it in and get a free one in exchange for signing another multiyear contract, which is what we'd do in the past). Really glad I did that, because AS's phone stopped working the other day, and she was able to transfer her SIM card into NT's old T-Mobile phone and keep going. Now, of course, we have to worry about what happens if that one, or my phone, breaks, but hopefully we've bought ourselves some time.

Hmmm...I should look into selling AS's broken phone. I could probably get a buck or two.

Progress on June goal; newish approach to debt

June 10th, 2009 at 02:27 pm

I sent the money that was set aside for NT's bus pass to the personal loan, because his student loan will cover the bus pass. $20 went to principal,making it $867 down, $733 to go on the June debt goal.

I've decided to shift my strategy slightly again, putting extra income toward this loan instead of the EF or the vacation fund. I may have an opportunity to use student loan money to pay it down about $2000, and that has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have an informal goal to pay the loan off by the end of the year, which I don't think will happen, but it doesn't hurt to strive for it.

Whenever I do pay it off, it will be an extremely exciting addition to the Old Debt Graveyard!

Adjustments...again

June 9th, 2009 at 02:28 pm

We got together as a family last night and decided where we were going to cut money to make up for my five days of furlough. It was nice to share the responsibility rather than just say "OK, now you can't have this or this for a while." We decided to cut $100 from the monthly grocery budget for five months, and to shave $100 off the Wisconsin vacation budget, and I'm just scraping the other $42 off future emergency fund savings.

I still wanted to make my savings goal symbolically, so I'm taking $100 of what I would be saving in June for the vacation and putting it in the EF, and reducing future EF contributions by an extra $100, so it comes out the same. Just a way of tweaking it in my mind so I don't miss my June savings goal.

We also counted the spare-change jar and found it had over $70 in it! We decided to throw that at the 8.99% personal loan, because once we get rid of that we'll free up over $600 per month. It might happen sooner than I thought, because it looks like NT got $2000 too much financial aid this school year, and if that's the case I'll put that money toward the personal loan rather than paying down his lower-interest student loan.

While I was on the subject of trying to get rid of that loan, I brought up that I want to put $200 less toward savings each month and put it toward extra principal payments on that loan instead, and they agreed. I don't know if we can knock this loan out before the end of the year, but if I put all extra windfalls toward it, it's a remote possibility!

It's very very hard, with planning for a child and all these attritions to our income, to decide whether to put extra money toward debt or savings. I'll probably waffle back and forth every few months as different priorities weigh on my mind in different ways.

365 days of dinner: May 24-31, 2009

June 9th, 2009 at 05:09 am

OK, so waay back to Sunday, May 24. We went to an all-day hip-hop festival and mostly scrounged food we'd snuck in, out of a backpack. One thing we'd brought was some Southern Fried Tofu. When we got home, we didn't feel satisfied with the bits and pieces of food we'd had, so we ordered some nice Pizza Luce pasta and sandwiches and had it delivered. (OK, both of these are old pics being repurposed, because we didn't think to take any photos during or after this exhausting event.)




To make up for missing Sunday dinner, I took a picture of Monday brunch (we had a leisurely meal since it was Memorial Day and none of us had to go to work). We tried out three recipes from our new exciting cookbook, Vegan Brunch. I would say the Tofu Denver Omelet and the Individual Hash Browns were promising, but I need to perfect the techniques for both. I thought the Brooklyn Coffee Cake AS made was divine, but she said she would change it up a bit next time. Still, the cookbook is VERY exciting, and I've made a recipe since then that turned out absolutely perfectly, so I think it's a matter of refining technique.



Monday night we had a crazy-looking (but tasty) vegan "fish" that we picked up at United Noodle, a great Asian grocery store in Minneapolis. We had it with green bean salad and wild rice/brown rice pilaf:



Tuesday, May 26, I began a cleansing diet to try and speed recovery of a chronic condition I've had for a few weeks. (It appeared to work, by the way; I've been healing much more quickly this week!) So I would have a simple meal of grain, beans and vegetables, and NT and AS would have that as a side dish, with some accompaniment. So this first night I had barley, collards, mushrooms and white beans, and AS and NT also had veggie sausages in a red wine gravy.




Wednesday, I had kale and adzuki beans with kasha (buckwheat groats), NT had tofu in peanut sauce on the side, and AS had teriyaki salmon with hers.





Thursday, May 28, we had millet and yellow split peas and a grilled portobello mushroom. AS and NT had cubed vegetarian ham on theirs.




Friday I had red lentil and bulgur pilaf, and steamed broccoli. NT and AS ordered pizza, and also had some of the steamed broccoli.




Saturday, May 30, we tried a multigrain porridge with soymilk, fresh blueberries and quick-stewed apples. It was soo good! The porridge had rice, millet and several other grains.



That night, I had...oh, some other combination of beans and grains. I can't remember what they were, but it tasted pretty good. I also had oven-roasted Brussels sprouts. AS and NT repurposed the rest of the veggie ham with a mustard sauce.




Sunday for lunch we had a black bean, quinoa and mango salad with grilled corn on the cob:



And Sunday night I had lentils and spinach over buckwheat. I think AS and NT had a potato-and-burger crumbles hash, but I forgot to take a photo of theirs.



Phew! OK, at least I got through May. Now I have to get to bed.

More furloughs; progress on my creative goal

June 8th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Now my job's getting in on the action...I've dodged three rounds of layoffs in the past two years, but there's no dodging companywide furloughs. We each must take 5 days of unpaid leave.

As with NT's job, my company is spreading it out to try and cause as little pain as possible. We're losing July 2, Sept. 4, Oct. 9, Nov. 25 and Dec. 23. They're all near holidays, so they'll result in four-day weekends in most cases, which is the nicest possible way to get furloughed, I must say!

I estimate that my weekly take-home is about $642, so that's how much we must weed out of our budget. We can do it gradually over the course of the year, so assuming this is the last of it, it's not that bad.

Two of the dates listed are ones that NT must take furlough on, so that increases days off together. Well, one of them I was going to take off, but now I can't take PTO for it, so that does give me one more day of PTO that I can take somewhere else.

Also, progress on my creative goal: I made a bit of "crop art" yesterday! I wanted a simple but interesting design, so I picked the logo that President Obama used during his campaign. I think it turned out OK, but there were spaces between the little grains in some places that were hard to fill in. I'll have to look around online and see how most people handle it. I tried putting tiny drops of glue and tiny bits of grain in, but sometimes the glue drops were too big for the tiny spaces and overwhelmed them. Anyway, I owe photos of dinner for like a month, so at some point hopefully I'll also post pics of my "art."

Oh and anyone who likes my dinner pics, I have been taking photos faithfully, but as I get further and further behind on posting them, I put it off more and more. LOL. But I feel I'll get a burst of energy one of these days and do it.

Progress on June savings

June 4th, 2009 at 02:55 pm

I put $75 into savings for our vacation, so that makes $715 saved, $725 to go for my June goals.

We've been looking over our options for the Wisconsin vacay, and NT is pretty confident we'll come in way under $3000 for our total spending. I'll still hold that money and if we don't use in in WI, we can put it somewhere else. Debt repayment, future vacations (NT does want to get back to England maye next year), summer fun (state fair or RenFest)...we won't have to decide until September, when the vacation's over and we see how much (if any) is left over.

More progress on June debt goal

June 2nd, 2009 at 03:18 pm

The U.S. mortgage hit, as well as my credit card payment. (Whoa! I almost wrote "one of my credit cards" and then realized I only have a balance on one card and have done for a very long time. Crazy flashback!)

Mortgage: $278 to principal
Credit card: $209 to principal
Total: $487

That makes $847 down, $753 to go on the June goal. Unfortunately, that's all the progress we'll be making until the next paycheck period (the 15th). On debt, at least. I hope to make progress on the other goals before then!

Progress on June goals!

June 1st, 2009 at 04:45 pm

Ahh, the first of the month. This is when most of the action on my budget happens these days.

So NT's three mortgage payments hit: $252, $52 and $56 to principal. $360 down, $1240 to go on my June debt-repayment goal.

Since those are his only bills taken out of the UK account, I transferred the remaining money from his checking into his savings, to be held for the baby/emergency fund. I transferred 260 pounds, or US$520 in my calculations.

And I transferred $120 from my checking to my savings for AS's retirement. I'm putting aside a little each month, and when her CD comes up, we'll roll that as well as what I've saved into another CD or a Roth IRA.

So that's $640 down, $800 to go for my June savings goal.

June goals

June 1st, 2009 at 04:05 pm

Time to do my June goals. I feel kind of like I'm improvising, because I've thought a little about them but nothing very organized. OK, here goes.

1. Debt: Pay off at least $1600 of debt. Glancing at my minimum payments this month, this seems like where I will get. If I use the bus-pass money I set aside, I may be able to exceed, but not by much (it's only $84).

2. Savings: Save at least $1440. I'm going to be able to put $520 to the emergency fund (via NT's UK account), $120 aside for AS's retirement, and $800 to the Wisconsin vacation (thus fully funding it to $3000).

3. Fitness: Try out my new personal-trainer Wii game. I didn't accomplish this last month, and my health issues continue, but I'm trying to have a more upbeat attitude and not let it get me down, so hopefully I can achieve this.

4. Environmentalism: free month. We're continuing our current green activities and haven't fallen down on any of them, and I don't have any new initiatives in mind, so there's no specific green goal this month.

5. Creative/crafts: Start that crop art experiment! I almost started this weekend, but I just ran out of time. I think I'll be able to do it this month.

6. Philanthropy: Hold a vegan bake sale and raise money for a charity. This one's a big maybe; I'll need help to pull it off. But my favorite cookbook author, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, is encouraging fans to hold vegan bake sales sometime in the week of June 20-28, to both raise awareness of the possibilities of delicious vegan cooking and raise money for a favorite cause. If I pull this off, the cause I raise money for may depend on what establishment lets me set up a table on their sidewalk; I've got several in mind, from the anarchist/punk/activist bookstore Arise! to the Twin Cities Green environmental boutique to Urbanimal (a pet supply store) and so on. I think I have favorite causes in common with these and other businesses, so we'll see what I can come up with.

Review of May goals and progress

June 1st, 2009 at 03:18 pm

Wow, May flew by! Progress on my goals was a mixed bag. Things that were already pretty much automatic, like paying debt, adding to savings and donating to charity, went off without a hitch. But where I needed more focus and effort, I fell down in some other areas.

I did have a last-minute burst of creative energy this weekend and put together two necklaces! I took some photos but didn't bring them with me to work; perhaps I'll add a pic when I get home tonight.

Anyway, below is a review of my goals and whether or not I succeeded:

1. Debt: Pay off at least $1400 of debt.
Progress: DONE! $1438 down
Balance as of 5/29: $397,383
Goal balance: $397,421

2. Savings: Save at least $1700 ($120 for AS's retirement, $1500 for the Wisconsin vacation, and $80 for the baby/emergency fund).
Progress: DONE! $1740 saved

3. Fitness: Try out (and hopefully continue to use) my new personal-trainer Wii game. Progress: none.

4. Environmentalism: Replace leaky shower head and faucet with low-flow system. (Possibly attend condo board meeting for eventual suggesting of composting.) Progress: NT installed shower head; still need to address leaking.

5. Creative/crafts: Make necklaces with the beads and supplies I bought last month. Do some practice crop art!
Progress: Bead necklaces done.

6. Philanthropy: Donate money to hospital charity.
Progress: DONE! $25 donated to cancer research.