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Archive for June, 2012: Ceejay74's Personal Finance Blog
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Archive for June, 2012

June 30 fitness results; the end of CC rewards?; a timely windfall

July 1st, 2012 at 04:46 am

10-min. workout: 20 min. cumulative biking during grocery shopping (some of it with a heavy backpack)
Final monthly tally: 24 out of 30 days

Calorie counting: Estimated 2240. (My target is 1280-1400.) I'm hoping I overestimated (was at a party and ordered delivery, so it's harder to tell), but I think this is about right. Man, it is SO easy to overdo it on any kind of festive day.
Final monthly tally: 28 out of 30 days (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Not so much. We came home from a party and ordered food; at least I kept it to much more of a minimum
Final monthly tally: 27 out of 30 days

***

I was looking for credit cards with good cash rewards that we haven't applied for, and there are very little. I almost had AS sign up for a Chase Sapphire double-dip before I even find out if mine worked, but this time I noticed explicit notes in the Ts & Cs about how it was for first-time customers only. So I didn't bother. Interested to see whether I get mine now.

So we've signed up for a Citi Dividend (one for NT and one for AS; $150 back for spending $500) and I for a Capital One ($100 back for spending $500). I'm going to apply for the same Citi Dividend as soon as I close a Citi card I already have open. Together, this may mean $550 back for spending collectively $2000.

But after that, there will be NO publicly mentioned large CC cash rewards with no annual fee that we haven't all three applied for. So I think we'll take it easy, scaling back to one or two cards per person, and just earn the regular rewards. (Unless the big money-makers come back, of course.)

***

Friday our June 30 paychecks hit, and I noticed NT's extra pay didn't show up. $150 possibly down the drain, if they don't pay him for it on his regular paycheck. However, the financial gods smiled on us and sent AS a $415 refund check from the doctor regarding the pregnancy/labor. That more than made the shortfall of NT not getting paid for that day. We weren't expecting this AS refund so it's as good as money to us. I'll use it to take some of the bite out of this year's necessary expenses.

I'm practically falling asleep as I write this, so I'll give my monthly goals tomorrow.

June 29 fitness results

June 30th, 2012 at 01:56 am

10-min. workout: Yes! Went down and up the stairs of my condo for 10 minutes.
Results so far: 23/29 (23 out of 29 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1952. (My target is 1280-1400.) Whoops! Going to a food truck for lunch really blew it for me.
Results so far: 27/29 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success! Not even tempted.
Results so far: 26/29

Pretty pleased with my work this month, and with my better level of fitness, but not so much the scale. I know the scale is only part of the story, but you'd think the weight would come off if I increase my activity and decrease my eating. Sigh. We'll see how I feel at my weigh-in Sunday night.

June 28 fitness results

June 29th, 2012 at 03:58 pm

10-min. workout: Yes! Hopped on the Wii Fit for 17 minutes of step aerobics, hula-hooping and boxing.
Results so far: 22/28 (22 out of 28 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1406. (My target is 1280-1400.) Nice! Two light days in a row. If I don't blow it this weekend, hopefully I'll show some nice weight loss at my Sunday weigh-in.
Results so far: 26/28 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success! Not even tempted.
Results so far: 25/28

June 27 fitness results + several pieces of good money news

June 28th, 2012 at 09:14 pm

10-min. workout: Yes! A mix of various strength-training exercises.
Results so far: 21/27 (21 out of 27 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1062. (My target is 1280-1400.) Whaa? It really felt like a normal eating day with a slightly heavy dinner, but I checked my guesstimates a couple of times and didn't forget anything. AS pointed out dinner had a bunch of fiber-rich root vegetables, so maybe they made me feel more full.
Results so far: 25/27 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success! Even though I knew I was under my calorie count, I just felt no urge to do so.
Results so far: 24/27

***

You know how Thriftorama says she just has to post a wish on her SA blog and it will come true? I just have to whine about not having enough money to make money mysteriously come my way. Smile

First, I got a letter that our mortgage escrow payment is going down by $1.70 per month. Not much, but I'll take it!

Then, AS had her annual review and learned she'll get a $2,000 raise (and 6 more vacation days!) starting after parental leave is up! I usually calculate we'll get 50% of a raise, since otherwise the tax bite tends to be over my estimate. This way it's always better news than I plan. Wink So I'm estimating another $84 per month in the budget!

And finally, NT let me know that he'll be working a Saturday, which isn't fun, but they'll pay him for it since he's only working three regular days that week. Also, he reminded me that since their fiscal year (and thus their paid time off) resets in July, he'll go back to full pay sooner than I had calculated. Estimated one-time cash influx from this: about $479!

All this extra money is getting socked away for healthcare expenses, which is fine because it makes our upcoming expenses that much less scary! Smile

As for AS's raise, once we learn what our mortgage payment will adjust to in November (should find out around the end of September), we can see whether we'll need that money to cover a higher mortgage payment or can allot it to something else.

PS: Phew, I would've lost this entry except I always Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C before I hit Save and Publish.

Big brain dump: fitness results, debt goal reached, and more.

June 27th, 2012 at 05:12 pm

First, fitness results for the past two days:

June 25

10-min. workout: NO! I've been uber busy and hopefully burning some calories, but haven't had time or energy left at the end of the day for a workout.
Results so far: 20/25 (20 out of 25 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1522. (My target is 1280-1400.)
Results so far: 23/25 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success!
Results so far: 22/25

June 26

10-min. workout: Nope. Same as above.
Results so far: 20/26

Calorie counting: Estimated 1567.
Results so far: 24/26

No night snacks: Success!
Results so far: 23/26

***

AS's student loan payment hit. Also, some money from the UPromise program hit! (I signed up for it but don't really get how to use it, but apparently I managed to rack up about $15 that transferred over to AS's student loan. Sweet!) All told, $142 went to principal. That means we paid $1069 of debt this month, exceeding the $1000 goal. Yippee! I'll take what I can get, because it's been a rough summer financially and it's only going to continue.

***

As I mentioned, we've had an expensive couple months and more to come, which is kind of painful when we're on reduced pay and already trimmed extra debt repayment and most travel out of the budget. We've got dental surgery and one other outpatient surgery for NT coming up, $700 for the teeth and $?? for the other. We've gotten insurance letters indicating we might owe about $2000 more for SL's birth -- darn! We'd already paid over a grand and I was kind of hoping that would be it. We have $2500 in our medical EF and another couple hundred in the checking account allotted to medical, but it looks like we're going to be wiped out completely and still have to come up with more money somehow. Years of medical savings have been decimated in just a few months, thanks also to my teeth problems, my skin problems and the cat's UTIs.

We also need to replace a window which is going to be about $300. Desperately hoping to cashflow that somehow so we don't have to resort to using our EF, which already is less than we started the year with.

One fun expense that's scheduled and we do have the money for, but isn't set in stone, is an August road trip (about $600 for hotel and car combined). Worse comes to worst, we could cancel that and harvest that money, but it's one of the few fun mini-trips we're able to take this year, so I'm hoping we find another way.

I'll be super glad when parental leave is over (in terms of money)! Then we'll have a big travel budget and big extra debt repayment line item, both of which can be dipped into when absolutely necessary for other things. Meanwhile, we just have to figure out a way to pay for everything.

I do have a small travel budget surplus since it sounds like none of my siblings are taking me up on the offer to fly them out here for a visit. (The one that is coming insisted on paying for everything herself.) I was hoping to keep it all for travel or other fun activities (like hiring babysitters for date nights), but the way things are going it might have to go toward yucky bills instead.

I also thought we should try to tap some credit card offers to ease the pain of the above. NT had $105 from a recent credit card so I'll put that toward medical expenses. If my Chase Sapphire double-dip works, I should be getting $400 in August that I can hopefully use to help pay these bills.

I asked NT and AS to each apply for a Citi Dividend card, which has a good $150 bonus if you spend $500. If they're both approved, that's another $300 we can use to these expenses. I might apply for that card, too, if it's still available once I'm done qualifying for my Chase Sapphire reward. If not, Capital One usually has a $100 bonus if you spend $500 offer available, and that would be better than nothing. Heck, the amount we're needing to spend, I might as well apply for the Citi AND the CapOne! If I did that and was approved, that would be another $250 we could put toward the medical fund.

Unfortunately, I think if any of us get holiday bonuses at least some of it will need to go toward bolstering our savings. It sucks to see it take such a nosedive! This is the first time it's happened this much since we even started HAVING savings (which granted has only been a couple years).

***

Anyhow, on a brighter note, I've started implementing some of your excellent suggestions about rearranging the house! I decided to start with the kitchen, since that was something I could do on my own. Some of the others will need the input and skills of NT and AS to complete.

I Freecycled some stuff (the George Foreman grill, the fondue set, some extraneous dishes) and rearranged a lot of the cabinets. I adhered to the no-mixing-food-and-utensils rule that some of you suggested. Sometimes a cabinet will have mixed use, but each shelf at least has a discrete purpose.

I moved a lot of the countertop stuff into cabinets, moved the coffee stuff into a corner where it's less imposing, and cleaned everything but the daycare calendar and the menu off the fridge. I moved AA's sippy cups into the cupboard and put away that big glass bowl they were in. I moved silverware and napkins over closer to the table and dishwasher, and the coffee appliances are now directly under the coffee itself. Everything makes a lot more sense and the surfaces look a lot cleaner. I'm holding off photos because we need to get some different sizes of storage containers for some of the stuff that moved, so I want to wait until the interior of the cupboards looks more organized. Plus we're still in the process of Freecycling and getting rid of things, so some of the surfaces are temporarily cluttered with stuff that's about to go away. When I do post, I think you'll all be pleased!

I also decluttered AA's toy shelf to some extent and hid the free-weights that were visible under the couch. We're still going to try and store stuff under the couch and bed, and we're going to test out covering the shelves with fabric we already have. If we like the effect but the fabric doesn't quite go with the room, then we'll know it's worth investing in some better-matching fabric. We just have to buy some Velcro and cut the fabric to try it out. (And AS will probably want to hem the fabric so it doesn't look too rough.) I'll post pics as soon as we get this all done.

That's all for now! I have to go tackle a big pile o' work.

Fitness results for June 22-24

June 25th, 2012 at 02:29 am

June 23

10-min. workout: Yes! Biked 16 mins.
Results so far: 19/22 (19 out of 22 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1543. (My target is 1280-1400.) Not too bad considering one of my meals was from Burger King on the road!
Results so far: 20/22 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success!
Results so far: 20/22

June 23
10-min. workout: Yes! Did a melange of crunches, squats, jumping jacks, etc.
Results so far: 20/23

Calorie counting: Estimated 2136. What can I say? Vacation eating.
Results so far: 21/23

No night snacks: Failed, sadly. It wasn't late night snacking, but I had a choco-dipped pretzel, a peanut butter meltaway, and a cherry cream soda. Enough for a meal on their own!
Results so far: 20/23

June 24
10-min. workout: No, I don't think I'm going to manage today. I'm headachey and unmotivated.
Results so far: 20/24

Calorie counting: Estimated 2373. Two killers: Belgian waffles for breakfast & pecan pie for lunch dessert.
Results so far: 22/24

No night snacks: Success! Just counting up today's calories made me lose any temptation to add more.
Results so far: 21/24

Well, I just weighed in and my weight held steady, so at least I restrained myself enough to not lose ground. Vacations are hard!

June 21 fitness results; gearing up for (hopefully) low-key vacation

June 22nd, 2012 at 05:16 am

10-min. workout: Yes! I was making a casserole, so while it was baking I jumped into my exercise clothes and did 5 minutes of jump-roping and 5 minutes of lower-body weight training.
Results so far: 18/21 (18 out of 21 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1387. (My target is 1280-1400.) I can't believe it -- I had wine AND a night snack (one of my allowed exceptions), and still came under my top number. In fact, without wine and a snack I was at less than 1100, and didn't even feel hungry. But I figured it wouldn't pay to go too far below my target, so I deliberately added some calories.
Results so far: 19/21 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success! Since I was so far under my calorie goal, I did have an apple with dollops of peanut butter, but those are within my challenge parameters.
Results so far: 19/21

***

Tomorrow we're off on one of our brief, cheap vacations we've planned this year. Leaving around 5 p.m., we'll have drive-through for dinner and arrive at the cabin hopefully by 8. We're going to English Castle's state, just across the border, to some riverside cabins near Buffalo City, Wisconsin. Checkout is 10 am Sunday, and then we'll just make our leisurely way back home, maybe stopping off at some places (scenic or cheese-selling!) along the way.

This was going to coincide with the CSA farm's strawberry social, but with the weird weather their strawberries peaked too early and they moved the social up to last weekend. We'd already made plans for the Governor's Mansion & Father's Day, so we decided to just keep this cabin and find something else to do. We'll be looking for pick-your-own farms nearby; I've already printed out directions to one.

Other than that, we're bringing pancake fixin's, spaghetti & a jar of tomato sauce, and some veggie hot dogs w/ buns & condiments. We have to pick up our CSA share before we leave, so we'll bring some of the more perishable veggies with us and have them with either the spaghetti or the wienie roast.

It's SL's first trip away from home overnight, so we're looking for a low-key trip. We did the same when AA was about this age; we went to a nearby small city overnight just to test that we could do it. Honestly it's not as stressful this time because we're so much more practiced at being parents. They won't have a travel crib at the cabin, so we're just bringing the Moses basket that SL sleeps in most of the time. AA will be fine on a low bed or on the floor, depending on how the cabin looks.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter when we get on the road, so we haven't done much prep. But I'm hoping to get off early (summer hours) and be ready to hit the road by 5 pm. I suppose that means I should stop nattering and get ready for bed. Smile

Thank you thank you thank you! It's been an amazing 5 years for me

June 21st, 2012 at 06:01 pm

Today is my 5-year blogoversary! I'm such a dork I put it on my calendar so I wouldn't miss another one. Wink

As many of you know, I started this blog in pretty bad shape. My shape's not perfect yet, maybe never will be, but I'm so much more in control of my finances, my current cashflow is great, and my future actually looks pretty stable!

This blog has been instrumental because it's given me a place to be accountable for my decisions, to weigh and sort various notions and find the ones that work best for my family and our financial health.

If I were just blogging in a vacuum it may have been much harder. It's the give-and-take, the respectful criticism, the heartfelt praise, and the feeling that attention is being paid that has made it easy to keep blogging here.

So THANK YOU. You helped save me and my family!

June 20 fitness results

June 21st, 2012 at 04:41 am

10-min. workout: Yes! I did an upper-body free-weights workout and some crunches.
Results so far: 17/20 (17 out of 20 days)

Calorie counting: Estimated 1570. (My target is 1280-1400.) True story: My food count came to EXACTLY 1400 calories. The wine I had with dinner (and during my kitchen photo session) was what did me in.
Results so far: 18/20 (my goal is to track, so even if I go over my target, it counts as a success)

No night snacks: Success! I feel a bit peckish but I don't want to go over my calorie range any more than I already have.
Results so far: 18/20

Kitchen storage pics

June 21st, 2012 at 12:46 am

I can't believe I did this. LOL. snafu asked for it! This makes me tired just looking at it. Smile Of course you don't have to pore over all of these, but if you see anything that jumps out at you that you'd like to comment on, feel free. But as stated before, be gentle. This is our home that we love! Smile

To make sure I photographed EVERYthing, I first opened all my cabinets and doors. So then I had to take a photo of that. I don't know if it gets across just how weird it looked:


These are the drawers within the kitchen island. They hold 1) large utensils, measuring cups & spoons, 2) foil, saran wrap, potholders, etc., 3) pens, pads, random tools, etc. (junk drawer).


This is AS's baking cabinet, also under the kitchen island, holding mixing bowls, cooling racks, cookie cutters, sifter, etc.


The big double cabinet under the kitchen island holds pots & pans, pot lids, cutting boards, colanders and steamers.


This hard-to-reach cabinet is over the fridge. It holds seldom-used things: fondue pot, cupcake carrier, deep fryer. We do use these things, but only once or twice a year. I also see a couple bowls and a baggie cleaner that we haven't used in a long time. In front of it we've put the food processor as well as AS's pumping bags, bottles and other supplies.


This cabinet is over the microwave to the right of the fridge. Bottom shelf: bowls and plates. Middle shelf: coffee, tea, some baking ingredients. Top shelf: pasta maker, tortilla press, tortilla holder, kitchen scale, more baking ingredients.


This is the corner cabinet. Bottom shelf: cookbooks. Middle shelf: cookbook holder, some baking supplies, straws, some snacks for the toddler. Top shelf: crockpot, plastic cups, milk steamer/thermometer that might be for the espresso machine.


This cabinet is between the corner one and the sink. Mostly condiments, plus two martini pitchers.


Cabinet over the sink. As you can see, cups, mugs, cocktail glasses.


The cabinet to the right of the sink, over the dishwasher. Spices, canned foods, Asian noodles, drink mix. (We worked VERY hard to find a spice cabinet arrangement that worked for us; this one is pretty functional compared with our other attempts.)


Under the sink (the child-safety cupboard): cleaning supplies & garbage bags.


The drawers to the right of the fridge under the microwave. Bottom: napkins, some random tools like potato ricer, funnels, etc. Middle: bulk foods such as grains, beans, nuts & dried berries. Top: utensils.


This is the lazy-susan cabinet under the corner counter. Large space but very hard to get into the depths of it. Close-up pics to follow.


Right side of lazy-susan cabinet: cereal, cat food, pastry board


Left side of lazy-susan cabinet: tupperware, more cereal, bibs. In the lazy susan are pasta, pitchers, lunch containers.


Middle of lazy-susan cabinet: waffle iron, George Foreman, oh and some Girl Scouts cookies we seem to have forgotten about. Smile


Cabinet above the stove: high up, but not impossible to get to if you drag a chair in. Chips, breakfast bars, salad bowl, popcorn bowl, salad spinner, serving bowls. A bunch of lesser-used but still occasionally necessary spices.


Since we store some stuff out on counters, I took pics of that as well. This is in the corner between the microwave and the sink. Salt, rice, sugar, couple of snacks, flour, onions, toaster, Clorox wipes, tea kettle.


Counter above the dishwasher: Coffee supplies. Coffeemaker, espresso machine, coffee grinder, steam pitcher, flavored syrups. Also, vitamins and other medicines for mama and baby, so they're easily remembered in the morning. Smile


Drawer under the oven: baking sheets, muffin tins, loaf pans, etc.


I also took this pic of the bottom of the fabric storage, because here we keep the Kitchenaid mixer and mixing bowl.


Not pictured because it was in my previous post: the kitchen island which holds the Vitamix blender, the fruit bowl, and a pretty punch bowl that has turned into a repository for sippy cups, baby nail clippers, and some random bits of candy. Smile

Sigh. So there you go. I have noticed a few random things during this process that we could get rid of, but most of it we do use, with varying degrees of frequency.