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Archive for January, 2017

January Recap

January 29th, 2017 at 06:54 pm

So here we are already. Just a couple of days left in the month! Sat down and looked over our budget and spending with DH, and overall we're pretty happy with how we did. We were over in a few areas, but there were also several things we hadn't accounted for at the beginning of the month - needing to get a new router, friends coming into town this weekend, needing to buy $50 worth of cat litter... you know. Our gas bill was also much higher than usual. Which is surprising. It wasn't even *that* cold this month. We'll see how it goes in February.

Took a look at my goals for January:

Net Gain of $1,750 in account - Actually, even with the unexpected spending, we're ending up with a surplus of $2,377!! Which is super exciting! We underestimated our income and had a couple of unexpected additions (HSA reimbursement, DH's trivia pay). So overall, really great progress there.CHECK.

Uber Frugal Challenge - I can't say this was entirely great, but we definitely cracked down on a lot of spending and were MUCH more intentional about it. This is particularly applicable to restaurant spending. It wasn't zero. But 95% of the month we cooked and ate at home. We had one date night, and the rest of our restaurant spending happened in the last two days because we had friends in town. There were some extras purchased, no doubt. DH bought a ticket to a soccer game, I bought some clothes from work yesterday ($28 for two dresses, a blazer, a pair of earrings, and a necklace) because it was our 50% off sale - and they're items I've been eyeing for months. Also, the AirBnB room for Lexington next weekend. So maybe not as "Uber Frugal" as Ms. Frugalwoods would have it, but I'm really proud of how calculated we were. So I'm calling it a win. CHECK.

Change phone plan - Nope. We really just need to get it done. Been procrastinating it forever.

Consolidate/put into forbearance gov't loans - Made some really great progress here, though it's not quite there.

Get HSA stuff figured out - CHECK.

Start GIS training (for resume building) - Not yet. Realized I had some technical issues, so I need to sit down and figure out how to install the software. Forthcoming.

Research networking opportunities in Louisville - CHECK.

Start putting together planning portfolio - Started compiling info, but haven't started actually building it out.

Edit screenplay - Still have a couple of days left in the month, and I'm hoping to get this done. Haven't quite started, but I did write an episode for a web series that a group of us is planning to shoot in the next month! So certainly haven't been idle.

***

So it was a pretty productive month! Even better - DH and I have been communicating much better about our finances. Which has been helping SO MUCH. He was really shocked (and happy) to see that we had such a high net increase for the month. He's on board with limiting our spending as much as possible again and only eating at restaurants when we have company. I'll have to rework the budget for February to include a few things we have coming up, but it shouldn't be too different.

Hope you all had a wonderful month!!

Jan 24

January 24th, 2017 at 08:27 pm

So - heard back from my banker friend, and it turns out that his company can't really get me a better interest rate on my loan. My credit score is fantastic (770!) and he said my debt-to-income is great too. But apparently being self-employed hurts my chances, at least with his company. However, he did give me contact info for a former coworker at another (bigger) bank, and said that I'll probably be able to get 6-7% through them. So there's hope yet for pulling things down. Though I might just wait until I secure a full-time job. I'm going to talk to her and see what she thinks. If it wont make a difference, then it makes sense to just do it now. But if it will, waiting might be worth it.

***

Went ahead and booked the AirBnB in Kentucky for the weekend after next. Requested the day off of work, which my boss said was fine. She hadn't actually finished the schedule, so it may not make a big difference in terms of my income regardless. One night in the AirBnB is only $50 after taxes, and we're splitting it. So it's the matter of gas, $25 for the room, and whatever I spend on food/drinks for 24 hours. For a much-needed getaway with the bestie I would say that's a steal. I'm super excited about it Smile

***

Had lunch meetings yesterday and today - though today I just had a cup of soup at Panera. All came out of my business expense account, so there's that. Brought enough leftovers home yesterday so that DH could enjoy them today.

Will possibly get a drink at the bar after class tonight. We'll see how everyone is feeling. DH and I have had a rough go of the last few days, but thankfully last night we came to a resolution and things feel good again. Other than just being exhausted (emotionally and physically). So I may not feel up for socializing. We shall see.

Making enchilada casserole for dinner tonight before I head out, which should last us a couple of days at least. Tomorrow I have a shoot, so I hope the weather holds out. The rest of the week will be a balance of work and friends coming in from out of town. Not sure what the plan is there, but I'm sure we'll find something enjoyable to do.

That's about it for today. Hope you're all enjoying your week!

Adulting Day

January 22nd, 2017 at 09:52 pm

That's pretty much what it's has become for me now that the boutique is closed Sundays - meal planning, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning. Feels good to get it done, and I usually work on Saturday, so it's nice to get it done.

Hit up Aldi, and I think was only a dollar or so over my budget. Spent $48.48. I think that's partially because we didn't end up cooking two of the meals from last week's menu... so they're on this week's. In the works:

- Chicken Lo Mein (I'll be making this tonight)
- Enchilada Casserole
- Chicken Alfredo w/ Linguine
- Steakburgers w/ Roasted Carrots
- Chicken Tenders w/ Tots
- Brats in a Blanket w/ Green Beans

I'm hoping the casserole will feed us 2-3 nights, actually - and we'll do leftovers and/or use the brats for lunch.

Tomorrow I'm taking a fellow BNI member out to lunch (because I forgot I needed to provide a "door prize" during my presentation this week). It'll be Mexican, so hopefully cheap. Also, we have friends that are in town for a wedding this weekend - which I forgot will likely alter our eating schedule. My guess is that we'll hit a restaurant at least once. But hopefully not more than that. We rarely get visitors, so it'll be really nice to see them. Just going to have to make the best of it.

Despite all of my best efforts to only eat at a restaurant once this month, it seems we're not getting away with it. DH has already gone out twice to grab stuff for lunch :/ And socializing makes it difficult. Sigh.

***

Talked to DH and let my banker friend know to start my loan application without DH's information - better to at least see what the picture looks like without before adding it in there. The fact that we got into a huge fight the other night (not about anything financial) helps me think logically about the whole thing. You never know.

He said I should hear back early this week, so hopefully it'll be news of decent interest rates. I'm only looking to do the $25k at this point - the process is easier and I'd rather not touch my government loans, just in case (though I wouldn't bank on it) there are options for forgiveness in the future.

***

One of my best friends from back home called and proposed we get together the first week of February - meeting in the middle, 4 hours away. Which I reeeeeally could use in my life right now. Waiting for her to send over the cabins/AirBnBs she's researched to see what the cost is. And I have to get in touch with my boss to see if I can get that Saturday off. Overall, not the best financial decision. So I'm feeling a bit guilty about it. At the same time, though, I think we could make it happen fairly cheaply. Split the cost of a room, bring our own food. I think all in all it would be fantastic.

I don't love that it's so soon, but with her babies and our schedule in March, it might be the only opportunity. So I'm still thinking that through.

***

Finished the Hobbit! Now to read the two books I've got from the library... Think that's about it for news!

Good and Bad News

January 19th, 2017 at 04:41 pm

At work yesterday our boss let us know that the store is no longer going to be open on Sundays - we extended our hours about 3 months ago, but the sales that day are so horribly low it doesn't even cover the cost of our being there. So it makes sense. I work for a non-profit, and it's no use burning up money that could be funding programs to employ us when there are no customers in the store. I'm obviously a bit sad to lose the hours - but at the same time I'm thankful to have a bit more time now that my photography is starting to pick up. It's a matter of losing about 5 hours a week. If I can use those hours productively, it'll balance out for the better in the end.

Also, I'm excited to have my Sundays back. As things have picked up, I'm finding myself needing to adjust again. When I was just running my business I had my flow. But cutting 15-20 hours out of my work-week, working on my feet on concrete has not only messed with my flow, but also my energy levels. Turns out I'm not as young as I used to be Wink

***

Filled up my tank yesterday. Shouldn't be doing any spending today. Had my BNI presentation this morning, and it went pretty well. Finished up a proposal for a fellow member who wants me to build her a website. Would be a great project. Have two shoots in the works for the next couple of weeks and 3 one-on-one meetings scheduled. So networking is going well.

Had a meeting with another member earlier this week - a banker. He's planning to schedule a shoot as well, and I started talking with him about my student loan situation. After sending over some information, it looks like I might have some options! I have about $40k in student loans, with interests rates sitting around 9%. He said we should be able to refinance somewhere in the range of 5-7%, so that's exceptionally encouraging. Fixed rate, a balance that actually goes down every month? Pretty exciting to think about. So I'm having him run some numbers and we'll see what happens. The only thing I'm a bit worried about is the fact that when I do refinance, my "student loans" I assume turn into mere "bank loans." I'm not sure how lenders look at that, and I'm curious if that affects anything moving forward. Either way, however, it feels like cutting my interest in almost half, if possible, is the only logical decision to make there.

The conversation about my debt with DH is always a strained one, for obvious reasons. I know he's willing to cosign, etc. But he has no debt outside of an auto loan, and I don't think either of us is naive enough to dismiss the (minute) possibility of the "D-word" at some point. Obviously, neither of us wants that - but we're also realistic and understand that we just don't know what the future holds. It's really strange managing money as a married couple. I feel like it's getting better, but it's just so emotional and complicated. I have faith, though, that we'll arrive at a place that makes sense and allows us both to feel comfortable in the decision.

***

No other news except that DH did finally transfer the money from his HSA to cover his dental appointment last month. So that's taken care of. Just need to start attacking some of the other items on my to-do list! Time to get to work!

Jan 17

January 17th, 2017 at 02:33 pm

No-spend day yesterday. Had a really productive day off, and made chicken paprikas for dinner. We have a TON of leftovers, so we'll have it for lunch/dinner today, and perhaps dinner tomorrow. I think the rest I'll freeze. Certainly don't want it to go bad!

I have a meeting with a potential client here in about an hour, then a possible shoot this afternoon (we're going to see what the weather is like later today). Acting class tonight, and I'll probably head to the brewery after - purchase one beer. Still within the budget. I just need to make sure to bring snacks to class. That worked really well last week.

Had an invite from a friend this morning - to possibly go out dancing this Saturday. Not sure what I want to do. Kind of hoping that it ends up getting pushed off to February. I think I'll decline if not. I have a shoot Saturday morning, then work in the afternoon. I'l probably be pretty tired.

That's about it for financial updates. Just trying to tackle these to-do list items! Hope you are all having a lovely week!

Meal Planning and Groceries

January 15th, 2017 at 06:50 pm

So the last couple of days have gone okay, financially speaking. Yesterday I managed to have all of my meals at home - which was nice. I had expected to need to stop and use the McDonald's gift card I have in between work and helping a friend with a project, but I had to run home and just ate some ramen. Then we got done earlier than expected and had a snack at home before heading out to see my friend perform. I did spend $5 on one beer for that (budgeted), though DH ran out and got Five Guys instead of eating at home. Busted. I was a bit peeved. We do have some money in the budget, but I was really shooting for ONE restaurant meal this month (date night), like we had agreed... Nothing to do about it now, though.

Meal planned and grocery shopped today. Was over the weekly budget by $1.76. I'll just have to adjust for next week. The menu for the week is as follows:

- Quiche (making that tonight)
- Tacos
- Chicken Paprikas
- Chicken Lo Mein
- Steakburgers w/ Roasted Carrots
- Chicken Linguine

I'm thinking that we'll have plenty of leftovers at least two of those nights - and I got stuff to make PB&Js for lunch. Instead of purchasing cottage cheese, I'm going to work on eating the oatmeal we had at home. Would have been under the budget, but I forgot we needed laundry detergent and I picked up a couple extra things - though nothing crazy or impulse-tastic. I've just been craving juice for weeks. And we're out of pickles (I like them on my burgers).

Other than groceries, today should be a no-spend. I've got the day off, and I think we're just going to relax around the house. I think I'll take a nice bath at some point. I started feeling like I was getting sick last night. A nasty cough started up. But I ran my essential oil diffuser all night next to my bed and I think it helped a lot. Maybe it was the placebo effect - I don't know, but I'm counting my blessings today. I have the world's worse immune system, and the weather has been so whacky that it's a miracle I haven't gotten sick yet.

Hoping to finish reading the Hobbit this week. Have another book waiting for me at the library. I've only got one shoot in the works for this week, so I should have enough time. It feels good to have today and tomorrow free of any obligations. I feel like I needed a couple of days to recharge after a really busy week.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jan 13

January 13th, 2017 at 03:38 pm

It's been a busy week. Had a shoot on Tuesday and THREE yesterday. Which is fabulous. I'll definitely be hitting higher than my target income from my business this month! Woo!

Which is good, because we had a couple of unexpected things pop up this month. The router has been taken care of and is still going well. But I got an email from our fantasy football commissioner... and I forgot that I had to pay everyone (I'm the treasurer, and they all paid me at the beginning. Now is time for pay outs). At first I was really dismayed because I hadn't really tucked any of that money away. But it turns out I had tucked at least half of it unintentionally in my Paypal account. So not too much out of the bank account. Neither of us won. Not sure I'll be playing next year. It made more sense when we were in town and actually watching games with our friends in the league (and by watching, I mean they watched and I ate food and socialized). Away from Ohio, I just kind of look at it once a week and stress when things aren't going well. So...

***

Our budget is still going well. Took a look at it this morning - and the only place we're over is in DH's discretionary budget. We each had $50 this month. The router was split between. He ordered a book and bought a ticket to a soccer game next month, so he's over by about $25. I'm sitting at $5 under. I paid $10 for parking downtown last night - we had a date night and went to see the symphony Smile

That being said, our Uber Frugal Challenge has been a bit of a challenge. We did budget for the date night, and we're still within our spending limits. The Frugalwoods don't actually budget - at this point, we need to babystep it. I work well with structure. Though, I was talking with DH last night at dinner about how I really enjoy the fact that we decided to do just one restaurant night - and did it up, so we really enjoyed it. Rather spending twice what we did on several smaller takeout trips or random nights out. I guess I'm approaching it as more of an "Intentional Frugal Challenge" than an Uber one, but we're still on course to hit our net gain. Even with the unexpected expenses popping up, we got an unexpected $250 this month (DH's trivia earnings that I hadn't accounted for and a check from dad for xmas) AND it looks like our income across the board will be more than expected, so I'm still hopeful.

***

Date night last night was fantastic. Things with DH and I have been really great since the start of the new year. We've been communicating so much more effectively, and the few little kerfluffles and disagreements that we have encountered were handled so much better than they have in the past. That first year of marriage was tough. But it's nice to see that we've learned a trick or two and that things are improving.

***

Not getting through my sidebar list nearly fast enough. Need to light a fire under myself. The time is flying by so much quicker than it used to...

That being said, off to get some things done! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Jan 8

January 8th, 2017 at 05:25 pm

We survived our first Tennessee "Snowpocalypse," which was a bit humorous for us northerners. I could still see the grass through the snow, and the store was shut down... haha. I enjoyed my unexpected day off. I'm sure I'll be missing the income, but ah well.

Did our grocery shopping yesterday - only spent $50 at Aldi, which was fantastic. If we can do the same next week we'll be in good shape, as we ordered our cat litter yesterday - $50 on Amazon. It was the cheapest option, but will last us 6 months. Did I mention we LOVE the Breeze system? No litter all over the place. It works out really well for us. Particularly because our litter box is tucked in the bottom of a small closet in our super small bathroom. I was worried that the large expense in this month would throw off our grocery budget, but we're left with $60/week for the next couple of weeks, and that's totally do-able.

Meals for this week:

- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Chicken Fajita Bowls
- Steakburgers w/ Broccoli
- Pork Loin Roast
- Pork Ramen w/ veggies & Egg
- Brinner (Omelettes)

On Thursday night we're getting dinner out and going to see the orchestra. That was our one restaurant trip budgeted for this month. Purchased the tickets last month, so we should be set there.

In good news, we got our new router - the one on the cheaper side - and it works like a *charm*. So hopefully DH's work days will be MUCH less stressful with less dropped calls and shoddy conference meetings.

Finished my first book of 2017! First Lord of the Rings. Will be returning it to the library today, picking up the movie I have on hold, and starting the Hobbit - backtracking, I know, but it was available for free borrowing on Amazon for a limited time. So why not. I'll put the second LOTR on hold here so it will hopefully be in by the time I finish the Hobbit. Our library system is fantastic. I don't know why more people don't use it.

At any rate, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! Off to work here shortly, so I'm out!

Jan 5

January 5th, 2017 at 04:49 pm

It's been a rather busy week already, and next week is shaping up to be a big photography week. I think I'm going to have 4 shoots on Thursday now (!) Which of course is awesome! One of those came from a referral from my BNI group this morning. Which is nice. My client from last week also purchased and extra photo - so that was another $50. Always very affirming when people love the photos so much that they purchase more than the originally paid for.

***

Following BNI I had another dentist's appointment. It had been (embarrassingly) several years since going, and I finally broke down a couple of months ago. Had to have a "deep clean" and today was a follow-up and light cleaning. I'll go one more time in April for a maintenance cleaning, and then hopefully my gum disease will be under control. But we're talking now about orthodontics. Turns out I have a cross-bite, which can lead to some nasty stuff down the road. They gave me a bunch of information and pricing on Invisiline today. I need to talk to DH about it. Even with insurance it's a hefty bill. And the man who had gone even longer than I had without seeing the dentist may have a hard time digesting something like that. He just doesn't value healthcare quite as much. That being said, I think he's got quite a bit in the HSA that hasn't been used and with him leaving his job within the next six months, it may be an option. We'll just have to see. Because he may need some additional work done as well. We really need to schedule some additional medical appointments before our insurance situation changes.

***

Techs from the cable company came out yesterday and it turns out they shouldn't have in the first place. It was really quite silly. They just had us hook into ethernet and see if the connection speed was where it needed to be. When it was, the diagnosis was pretty simple. Our modem is fine, the router just isn't working properly. Why they didn't suggest us doing that over the phone is beyond me. I feel a bit silly that we hadn't thought of that ourselves. But you know... I'm thinking about calling Comcast and asking them to refund the cost of the tech visit. They did nothing we couldn't have done ourselves, after all. Either way, we'll need a new router. DH priced a couple on Amazon, and they're not terribly expensive. We're going to try the cheaper option, and see if it solves the problem. It'll come out of our discretionary budget for the month.

***

Paid my remaining bills yesterday, but no spending outside of that. Will be the same today. I'll eat lunch before heading to work, then I'll cook tonight. And for the next few nights as well. I don't have any actual plans for the weekend outside of working, so the Uber Frugal Challenge should go pretty smoothly still. And give me some time to tackle some of the items on my January goal list.

***

That's it for me! I hope you're all having a great start to the new year!

Great start to the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 03:03 pm

So our NYE was pretty uneventful. We were supposed to go to a party, but it turns out we're both pretty lame. haha. We decided to stay in and relax. I didn't know the people at the party very well and it saved us the trouble of driving - or taking Uber, which would have cost us money. Also, we would have needed to buy something to drink ($10) and bring some kind of shareable snack ($10). So financially, it was the right move to make. We had our kiss early when we went to bed at 11:30. I think this is the first alcohol-free NYE I've had since I graduated high school. 30 really is making me boring Wink

DH and I went through our January budget and solidified it. So far so good. Paid a few bills - student loans, cell phone. Cancelled Hulu. Cancelled Netflix, but I think our friend is taking over the payments (he shares it with us). Need to pay my car payment still and a few other things. Will do that today.

***

Went to Kroger on the 1st to get food to cook that night (the pork roast I had bought had a really funky smell when I opened it. I don't think it was sealed properly, so we threw it out). So we bought dinner for the night, pork and cabbage. And a few odds and ends and made our list for Aldi - which I hit yesterday. And then Kroger again because I needed stout beer to make the Irish stew I had planned. So our total grocery spending for the week is $76. Which is right on track.

This week's meals:

- Pork & Cabbage (made)
- Irish Stew w/ Mashed Potatoes (made, delicious)
- Steakburgers w/ Broccoli & Cheese (MIL bought us a bunch of steaks/steakburgers for the holiday)
- Chicken Tikka Masala (got a sauce from Aldi last week)
- Perogies & Brats
- Chicken Tenders w/ Sweet Potato Fries (our "emergency" junk food)

Had quite a bit of leftovers from the stew last night. So we'll either eat that for lunches or not cook tonight. I try to include a mix of easier, convenient meals that DH can cook with more complex meals that I enjoy cooking. And always include one "emergency" frozen convenience meal that holds us over if we're craving takeout. Like a pizza or orange chicken from Trader Joe's. This week we went with breaded chicken tenders and sweet potato fries. Not healthy. And not always the cheapest -but realistic and WAY healthier/cheaper than what we would get with takeout.

***

We are doing the "Uber Frugal Month," and I have been reading along and doing the exercises. But I'm still making some minor tweaks. Like, we went to Starbucks yesterday, to sit and read, because DH wanted to and because we have gift cards from a year ago that we were able to use. DH has been more cooperative than usual in all of this frugality, and I like to embrace frugality as intention. Keeping it balanced.We still each have $50 of discretionary spending budgeted in, just in case. Hoping to keep that mostly unspent, though.

***

Speaking of coffee, though, I think our Keurig might be biting the dust. We don't actually use k-cups, but use the refillable one for regular coffee (well, my favorite Trader Joe's fair trade shade grown Ethiopian coffee. I've done the math. Still cheaper and better for the environment). But in the last couple of weeks it's been getting strangely weak. I bought some k-cups at Aldi yesterday to see if maybe it's the reusable k-cup pod, but it's still weak. Better, but weak. I've tried all of the Googling. Cleaning out needles, etc. But it looks like I may have to call them up. Not sure it's in warranty or not. We've only had it a couple of years. Hopefully they'll be able to do something for us. Not sure what our alternative will be.

In other things not working well, we're having a tech come out from our internet provider. We've been paying for a certain level of speed, but when we do the checks we're only getting maybe a 1/4th of what we're paying for. Which would just be annoying for me, but because DH works from home and has conference calls on the regular, it's been negatively affecting his day. Nobody can hear him, or it's completely spotty. It's a mess. The cable company was trying to get us to upgrade... but that hardly seems the problem if we're not getting what we're already paying for. So hopefully that will be sorted out. And the cost of the visit (while partially credited by the cable company) has been factored into our budget.

***

Today my plans are pretty chill. Have some editing to do from a session last week. Tonight I'm photographing a friend's performance. He wont be paying me much, but it's something. My alternative would have been going to see DH at trivia, which would have meant buying at least one drink. I want to support him while he's hosting (it's out of his general comfort zone), and I do so love trivia. But I also don't want to go by myself and never got around to wrangling people to go with. So it looks like making money trumps spending.

***

All in all, I'm thinking it's been a great start to the New Year! Relaxing, for sure. And proactive. Hope y'all are having a similar experience!