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Archive for October, 2015

Some Crockpot Recipes

October 31st, 2015 at 08:09 am

I was trying to link a few recipes for Jazzy but I Was having technical difficulties. Will try again in my own blog.

Historically I really like the crockpot365 website, but it looks it has been archived and is a little less user friendly. Still, you can use the index and scan through for interesting recipes. Each recipe had been reviewed:

http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2007/12/alphabetical-listi...

My dh got on some recipe list otherwise - I will ask him about that. Most of these are fairly new recipes we have tried but really liked:

This first one had way too much cheese. I believe we completely cut out the cheddar cheese the second time we made it:

Artichoke Pasta
http://funnyisfamily.com/2013/12/crock-pot-thursday-chicken-...

This one is a little more work (post crockpot prep) but is worth it!

Chile Colorado Burritos
This link is not working? Copy and paste I guess.
http://www.chef-in-training.com/2012/08/smothered-chile-colorado-burritos-crock-pot/

& then some others...

Cashew Chicken
http://12tomatoes.com/slow-cooker-cashew-chicken/

Balsamic Chicken
http://damndelicious.net/2015/08/14/slow-cooker-balsamic-chi...

Hobo Dinner
http://www.themagicalslowcooker.com/2015/08/27/hobo-dinner-i...

Lots of Snowflakes/Snowballs

October 25th, 2015 at 08:20 am

I am piling up some nice bank & credit card rewards to finish out the year:

**No sooner than I mentioned that I need to pay more attention to checking rewards (now that we have direct deposit), we got a $300 cash bonus offer. Woohoo! We will set that up next weekend.

**Dh is getting a $200 bonus for spending $500. It was a direct mail offer for a brand new credit card offering.

**We bought an appliance from Best Buy a couple of months ago and Citi sent me an e-mail about Price Rewind. I guess they monitor the sales prices of the same item online for 60 days and refund you the difference if they find a cheaper price. For most of the 60 days there was a $5 refund showing, but I just checked on Friday and now it's $85. !!

The thing that is extra sweet on this is that we went with Best Buy because it came with free installation. In the end, I don't know that we paid more than $5 than anywhere else (as evidenced by the first month or so of the Price Rewind - we bought on a sale weekend). But in the future, we could make the decision to pay more for free installation and still get a Price Rewind if the product is sold cheaper elsewhere without installation. A strategy to keep in mind...

This $85 is not in the bag. I have to upload my receipt and they have to check that the $85 refund they found is legit/comparable. But I am excited about the potential snowflake.

**Yesterday I received $70 auto insurance refund, for dropping the full coverage on our older vehicle.

**Oh, and the biggest snowball of all...

Dh was hired for 7 months out of the year, per his offer letter. He had to ask a few times to get a Holiday schedule. Once he got that he started asking more questions about the seasonal schedule. I was guessing he probably would not work Thanksgiving week. He had been told there would be no work in December or January. But this was apparently not true. !! So I am glad he asked. It's a bit of a bummer since we thought he would really ease into things more slowly. But since he asked far enough ahead of time I think he is mostly okay with it. It's the summers off that are important to us, and for now they won't give him any specifics but said that they do get the summer off. Oh, and as to winter they are VERY family friendly and flexible. So he gets the holidays off with the kids regardless, and it shouldn't be any problem to get their other winter break off. They were just kind of like they work those months, but he can take whatever time off he needs.

It would be nice if they had been more clear. Dh already moved his dentist appointment and jury duty to December, thinking he'd be free, so he will ask for time off for those things as needed.

It seems he will probably be working 9-10 months out of the year, which is more money than expected. For now it's actually complicating our taxes quite dramatically and is giving me a headache. I will figure it out in January. Will see where dh's head is at and what our incomes will be at that point. & I will have to run the numbers. The reality is far more complex than any cookie cutter advice on the internet. I don't think it would be so complicated if I had a crystal ball. But we have to balance what we want/need now and what we guess the future will look like. I can't even muster up the mental energy to figure it out until I know for sure dh is working next year. & so we figure it all out in January.

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Spending:

**Dh ordered a new cell phone. Is kind of his working splurge I guess, though honestly he'd buy it anyway. I had just told him earlier in the year that it would be easier to wait until December. (Basically, let his parents pay for it, with the Christmas cash they will give us).

Of course he couldn't wait, but since it wasn't to ship until next month I was fine with it. Won't have to pay for it until December.

Anyway, people are saying online that they shipped early. Dh doesn't think it will ship until after Tuesday when our credit card cycle closes, but I am betting money it will ship Tuesday. It's not that it really matters - we have the money - it just messes up my flow!

If he likes the phone then he may give his old phone to my dad. Thank Goodness! He keeps hoarding phones and driving me crazy. I think this is the only way I can get an old phone out of the house. (He's otherwise hoarding them "for the kids some day").

**Speaking of hoarding electronics...

I got a new kindle yesterday. I guess Kindle is one of those things you already have or you don't want. So this is an easy raffle or auction item to win.

We put a $150 bid on a whim, for an ads-free paper white Kindle + $75 Amazon gift cards. The total value of which was basically $200.

We didn't really expect to win, but figured what the heck.

{Dh already won a FREE Kindle Fire this year in a raffle. We noticed no one was putting their tickets to that so we just went "all in" for the Fire, and won. We have never paid any cash for any of our Kindles before; one raffle and credit card rewards otherwise}.

In the end, we did win.

I suppose the plan is to phase out my Nook. My Nook does not have the backlight so this is an upgrade I did want eventually. Dh has been wanting me to switch to Kindle forever. The new Kindle has fixed everything I didn't like about the original, BUT it's still less compatible with our library system. So I like the idea of having the Nook around to easily borrow library books (without dh having to do all this stuff to get it to work) and we will probably keep it a while in case BM ever wants an e-reader. (BM isn't interested so far, and dh already gave LM his old Kindle).

I also have to check the balance on my B&N gift card and should probably use that up. It was a credit card reward I just had on hand for e-books that I couldn't find at the library. I don't remember the last time I used it or what the balance is, so should probably just use it up and be done with it. When I initially got my Nook the library selection wasn't even a small fraction of what it is today; I haven't been buying any e-books in recent years.

Update: I have $25 to spend at B&N. I will try to find something useful to spend it on.

Vacay Wrap Up, Dropping Insurance

October 18th, 2015 at 08:23 am

Since the monies received from in-laws covered our entire trip, I just forwarded those monies to the credit card this week. Paid and Done!

A Rough Breakout of costs:

Airfare $2,000 (paid for a while ago)
Eating Out $450** (9 days)
Zip Line (2) $380
Car Rental $ 230
Kitty Hotel $ 180
Private Surfing Lessons (1) $150
Snorkel Gear/Boogie Boards RENTAL (4) $150
Hotel $82 (charged taxes/fees, which was unusual - we used "free" timeshare)
Souvenirs $40 (Hawaiian shirts for kids, candy)
Parking $25 (2 state park type places)

Total = $3,700-ish; $1,700 balance paid this week

**Generally tried to eat out lunch every day and eat dinner in (we had a condo/kitchen). Lunch was never under $40, even at the Taco stand or deli. Spent $200 total on two meals - neither was worth it.

Groceries ($200) and gas ($30-ish) will be absorbed in our regular budget.

Tried to be frugal by not checking bags, getting a ride to airport, not paying for hotel, etc. Good airfare deals never materialized, and I didn't end up jumping through the credit card hoops to do better. Splurged on most the rest. It was easy to splurge on excursions since BM was really the only taker. I think we easily could have kept the trip to $3,000-ish and would have been just as happy (left to hike, snorkel, beach). But we have one daredevil in the bunch and were able to appease him.

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Payday was this week and I had $2,500 for savings.

Dh has received 2 small paychecks, which we have done nothing with, since we seemed to have over-spent last month. He should also receive $500-ish in a couple of weeks and I will add that to savings this month.

I expect to just tread water the rest of the year. $5k due for property taxes, and lots of insurance due the end of the year. Plus we seem to have a lot of big expenses popping up.

I am hoping that by Jan. or Feb. that we have cash savings where we want it and IRAs fully funded. I am hoping to really avalanche our investments next year. (Hoping to stop throwing so much to build our cash savings up or to cash flow splurges, which leaves more for investments. Plus dh might be working, which will just add to the avalanche).

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It's crazy hot here. We've yet to turn off the AC this year, which is insane. It's a little cooler today and so I hope we can turn it off now.

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This week I canceled the collision/comprehensive insurance on the van. I probably should have a long time ago, but have been dragging my feet. I Feel confident about this today though because the value of the vehicle is in the range of our deductible anyway, and we are starting to think seriously about replacing it. This will help offset some of the higher collision/comp. costs on our newer vehicle. (We had dropped these coverages many years ago on our older vehicle that we replaced).

Historically we mostly drove low-value cars and had a general rule not to even bother insuring cars under the $5k range (which would cover our first couple of car purchases). I guess dh's 2001 Ford was probably the first car we ever had full coverage on, since we bought it in 2002. & then we got full coverage on the van when we bought a 2005 model in 2006.

Anyway, my dad can be crazy cheap but he was in an accident a couple of years ago and they gave him enough cash to replace his 2002-ish vehicle with like a 2010. It was just a weird situation and he made out really well. (This was post retirement, and he got a free significant car upgrade out of the whole thing). I asked him why on earth he even had full coverage on his old car and he told me he had been using a lot of rental cars (traveling a lot) and found it easier to keep coverage on their newer car. Fair enough. I guess we have been thinking along those same lines.

It was probably overkill for us both to keep full insurance on both our cars for our vacation, but I knew we'd both be driving the rental and I figured I'd just drop the insurance when we got back. I remember feeling nervous when we dropped the coverage on dh's car (not that it mattered financially but just didn't want to jinx it), but we waited so long this time I feel very "meh" about it this time around. It helps to be in a space where we are already ready to move on from the minivan anyway. If it runs good for 5 years, that's great, and we haven't identified a replacement yet. But if we saw a good car we may be ready to ditch it.

Vacay

October 10th, 2015 at 08:50 am

Our vacation has gone pretty well. Downsides... I know I promised dh we could go to DC next year (last year that kids have a fall break together), but I am so DONE with flying. That's it! Just one more trip. I just find the security to be ridiculous and useless and I just can't stand it, but on he way here we encountered a nasty TSA agent who tried to break our laptop. I am not much for traveling anyway and I think TSA just seals the deal for me. Just icing on the cake on an experience that I do not enjoy anyway. D.C. 2016, and then I don't care if I ever fly again. The other thing is that, "Maui not that crowded" is relative and means "crazy crowded" by our own standards. For reference, when we went to Kauai the same time of year we hardly saw another sole on our entire vacation. So I suppose I was not prepared for how crowded it was. I understand it's 10 times worse in summer, but I don't enjoy fighting for space everywhere I go, even if this is relatively "not so crowded".

Those were the downsides, though everything else went pretty well.

By some miracle, we squeaked by and in the end don't have to pull any money from savings to pay for the trip (was planned to). Unless I am forgetting something! Will see... For now, we are coming in at about $3,600 for the entire trip. The airfare was $2,000, and so I did already pull $500 from savings to pay for that. ($1,500 is our annual vacation budget and I had to pull another $500 out to cover airfare). That would leave me about $1,600 to cover, that we spent in the past week. BUT the in-laws had given us $1,500 for our anniversary and also slipped us $200 cash for the trip. So even if I forgot something, I think we are pretty well covered. Didn't really plan it that way, but it's just how it worked out!

The food has been absolutely divine. Definitely the highlight of the trip**, and we ate out more because of that. (In the end, not even one fast food run to stretch our dollars. The food was just too good).

**I guess the scenery wasn't so bad either.

The one thing we did that saved us the most money and that I am happiest with is that we skipped the luau. Technically the kids have been to one when they were babies. I kind of felt, "They need to experience a luau," but I let it go. I know the food would be crappy and expensive and for whatever reason felt an obligation though the kids would probably just be bored. So we let it go and saved $200+. Looking back, I am so happy with that decision. More money for what the kids really wanted to do.

This & That

October 8th, 2015 at 09:21 am

**I did a small de-clutter this week. Found a $5 Starbucks gift card (I don't drink coffee) and so gave it to a co-worker who has been going through a really rough time.

I have no idea where it came from but I am sure I was just saving it for Christmas. (It might have been a Ting reward?)

As to the co-worker, it just seems to be crazy insanity this year. I wouldn't know where to begin with that, but it's the story of my circle this year. Death, near-death, natural disasters, etc. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

She was SO appreciative.

**We ran through all of our Ting credits so I guess we will have to pay the rest of the year. I would guess that we will probably pay about $180 for cell service this entire *year*.

**So, I wasn't really sure of the odds that we'd adopt this second cat (a stray we found). But it's been a couple of weeks? I think they odds are looking pretty good. The shelter is full and they are offering all pets for $0 for a while. We will have to go see how he was medically evaluated, etc., but if it looks good the final hurdle is getting two cats to get along. They are both pretty mellow and friendly and so I think it should be okay. But any tips are greatly appreciated. Growing up we always had 2 cats and none of them EVER got along. But in this case it's 2 indoor cats (less cat turnover since they don't run away or get hit by cars) and they are both of similar age (best that the shelter can guess anyway) and have similar personalities. They did meet when we found the stray and were surprisingly mellow with each other. I don't know how much I should read into that though. For my cat it was curiosity that took over. The other cat was just starving.

2015 Rewards Update

October 1st, 2015 at 08:10 pm

2015 TALLY:

$525 Gift Cards (Citi, dh)
$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
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$725 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

September Savings & Spending

October 1st, 2015 at 06:52 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $33 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $3 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Redeemed $50 AmEx rewards as a ROTH contribution.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$ 30 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

+$1,500 cash gift (to savings)
-$1,500 to pay off medical bills

I suppose that last part was a wash.

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$ 385 auto insurance (other vehicle)
-$ 325 Life Insurance
-$ 120 School Lunch for 6-12 months

{I'll be draining the "short-term" part of our savings in the next month or two to pay property taxes}.

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LM has hit $500 in his savings account! I can't tell you how motivating the 7% accounts have been for the kids. Now that they both have $500 that is the max that can earn the 7% interest on.

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Dh did receive a $125 focus group payment this month but I didn't snowflake it. We seem to be in the hole this month. Spent more than we should have.