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Archive for December, 2016

Checking In

December 31st, 2016 at 03:01 pm

PHEW!

Survived the end-of-year work crunch. So crazy behind on everything still, and the deadlines are piling up. (Lots of new government rules and deadlines that affect me next year). It's just going to be one of those years. I Can deal because I know the *crazy* workload is only temporary. I keep telling myself that at least next week is not a deadline week. Hoping to at least feel more "caught up" before I get thrown into January deadlines. I did also decide to "turn off work" for the long weekend. I just need to regroup and spend some time with my family. I expect this is the last weekend that I will have off until May.

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MM has decided to attend his assigned high school next year, or the one closer to our house. That makes life so much easier for us. Phew! We still do have to figure out the transportation. He is VERY independent and if we lived somewhere else I'd just let him ride his bike. But it's so dangerous. For whatever reason there is no public transportation options. I want to give him his independence. But... If MH is dropping DL off at school anyway, right by his work, it makes more sense just to get MM to school safely. So I guess I am a little frustrated on the "independence" side of things. But otherwise, both their schools and MH's work are all close together, and only about 2-3 miles from our home. It should make life much easier for the long run. & they can get themselves to/from school if need be.

I guess it's relative. Some of our neighbors are choosing another charter school a couple of blocks from our house, for the convenience factor. I guess convenience is a factor for us, but not *the* biggest factor. But... I've never considered schools more than 3 miles from our house. A client was telling me this past week that her kids were choosing high schools 15 miles apart. It would have to be a really stellar school/situation (or lack of other options) for me to make a choice like that. So while I wish MM could just take the public transit to school, she made me appreciate how simplified our situation will be next year.

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On the Christmas front:

My parents were sick and so we didn't see them. Frown My dad had wanted to take us out to lunch on Christmas Day (something different). We've tentatively rescheduled for today.

I think the "no tree" thing was probably just a one year break. So I am not even looking at the sales, for smaller trees. DL(11) decided in the end that he missed the tree. I think we can oblige him next year. This year was just too crazy.

Oh, and the in-laws... Had some wins with them.

For whatever reason, MIL accepts MM(13)'s minimalism. I believe that all he received was a gift card and some cash. (Which is AMAZING!!) She can only accept that in him. She won't accept it in me. She won't listen to my SIL, whose kids drown in gifts from both sets of grandparents. (I don't know that SIL is a minimalist, but the last thing her kids need is more stuff). DL(11) collects video games and cows, and MIL seemed to delight in buying him piles of that stuff. Which is really fine. I was impressed she was able to do that while letting it go with MM. I think she just had *no idea* what on earth to get MM, honestly. (Oh, and he did get some parts for his new computer. I knew there had to be something else! But still, it was all stuff he specifically asked for and was more in the useful realm).

As to the charity gift? Meh. It was kind of over the top. I've brought up my MIL's insanity before and get all sorts of well meaning comments. But it's like, "Why not ask for cash instead?" & stuff like that. Oh, they give us cash. It has to be cash AND gifts. I guess all this to say, they didn't scale back. So now it is: cash + gifts + cash to give to charity. I know that charity is where my SIL has been trying to steer MIL. Like we have enough crap, so let's do nice things for people who actually need it. I'd say she didn't *get* it. But I do hope that it is a step in the right direction. MIL completely HATED the idea 10 years ago, so it is definitely a step in a better direction. She just didn't seem to get the memo that "less gifts" should be part of the "more charity" plan.

We did choose a charity to give $500 too ($500 from in-laws). & then we doled out my work bonus ($200) to 4 charities like we always do. Don't get me wrong. It was really nice to write a bigger check for a charity that we support. It was a WONDERFUL gift.

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I've updated my sidebar for 2016 financial goals. I'd say that 2016 went very well.

On the spending side, all I can say is that we are VERY consistent. We spent $85 more than we did last year. HA! (Can't say that we planned it that way). Some categories were the same or within a few dollars.

As to 2017, I won't know our income for another couple of weeks, so will hold off on any goals or budgets or plans until then. I expect things to mostly be the same as 2016.

I'll do some financial updates later, re: 2016.

Some Small Savings & Christmas Stuff

December 14th, 2016 at 03:53 pm

**We received a $5 statement credit for checking AmEx account on mobile app.

**I bought ahead $100 of Target gift cards, 10% off. MH later asked me if we should buy up gift cards for kids' to gift for their friends' birthday parties. Smart! We bought 5 Target gift cards during 2016, so I just bought up 5 ($15) gift cards at 10% off.

We probably could/should have done the $300 max, but we already get 5% off our purchases and it is a bit of a hassle. This is the first year we even took the 10% deal.

**I did also get MM(13) switched over to our cheap dentist from the pediatric (not cheap) dentist. I expect this will save us at least $400 per year. DL(11) is not quite there yet, but probably soon.

**The saga of DL's extra tooth is finally over. Phew! We were told maybe 3 years ago that they might have to do surgery to remove it. But we have been waiting (& waiting) and it finally erupted (broke the skin) on its own, without causing too many problems. So he had that tooth yanked this week.

It's one minor win. I expect he will cost me tens of thousands of dollars for the long haul. He has all the teeth/jaw problems that I had. So... I will take any win I can get.

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**We are doing virtually nothing for Christmas.

I generally don't do much because my work is so busy. But this year is just insane busy, starting several weeks early.

I think that's compounded with us just having a crazy year in general, MH being so busy, and being on a general downward trend of Christmas spending.

The kids and I grew up in homes that didn't make a huge materialistic deal about Christmas. So... I am pretty sure that *MH* is the one that broached the subject, but we had discussed not getting the kids any gifts this year. Well, *he* did grow up in a house that made a huge deal about Christmas, so he's been very wishy washy about this. To us and the kids, he clearly has issues. As of this moment in time, we agreed to get them one "need" gift each, and some stocking stuffers (food). I think that's probably where we will land, but lord knows. (& when he said, "no gifts", I figured we'd still be doing stockings/treats, so we seem to be on the same page on that part).

As to the kids, they could care less about if we get them any gifts.

The kids also insist that they don't care about our (plastic) tree, and so we decided not to put it up this year. I don't know if this is more of a break or a more permanent decision. I would like to buy a smaller tree, but will probably let it go for this year and will shop the after-Christmas sales. We might not bother decorating at all. Lord knows I won't be around much to care either way.

Gifts I bought for my parents: a concert ticket for my dad and a charitable gift in my mom's name.

& we always take my Christmas bonus ($200) and each pick a charity to donate $50 to.

For the in-laws, we already bought a big gift, since they generally go big. MH always has some electronic toy or whatever in mind. They will give us more cash than we spend for all of Christmas, so I figure money is no object for their gift.

But... Hell has frozen over! MIL announced a week or two ago that she was going to give us $500 to give to charity. I don't think she has any idea that we already do this. In fact, I told most my friends and relatives (about 10 years ago!) that I'd rather them donate to charity than give me gifts. Everyone was very receptive to this, except my MIL. She was NOT Having it. So... I have no idea what on earth happened, but I guess it's a Christmas miracle. Big Grin (She seems to be toning it down on the gift side of things, though I never for sure until it's over. I am not holding my breath on that part. But... I just feel like she actually gets it on some level, that she would do this. Less emphasis on the stuff).

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I've spent virtually nothing this year (on myself or on retail). Since I had a few days off around my birthday, I went shopping. WAY behind on allowance spending. & not that I need to spend it all (because I won't). But I updated my wardrobe a bit.

I also found a beautiful table cloth for $30 that goes very well in our formal dining room. You never know if these things will look as good in person, but we put it up yesterday and it is just perfect! I also bought a "Christmas" table cloth and we put it over, for now. I had a couple of Christmas items stored in the china cabinet, so just put those out to anchor the table cloth (the table is over 100 inches long). & I found my Christmas tree scented candle, so we ended up with a little Christmas spirit. I set up a Christmas table for us to put our gifts on.

I had bought a very pretty table cloth (last year) which wasn't practical and I just decided to donate. I also donated a few sweaters, to make room for some new ones.

Oh, and that reminds me. MM is outgrowing his clothes like crazy. DL didn't want most of MM's old shirts, so I had a pile to donate. Plus I took out all of the "baby" hangers from their closets. I had already given MM some of my hangers for his uniform shirts, but otherwise they don't bother hanging up their clothes.

I bought an electronic toy last January that I knew I would most likely sell. I think it was $150 retail and I paid virtually nothing for it because I used credit card rewards. I sold it yesterday for $85.

We went by the school Dicken's fair briefly over the weekend. I ended up picking up a very cool tie dye shirt for myself. I didn't get her business card, and I could kick myself. She had some really neat tie dye. Very talented. If I had more Christmas shopping to do, there would have been some good gifts.

MH and I snuck in a nice lunch date. We've been doing that some on the weekends. Is unusual for us (to go out, to be spontaneous, or to even eat out). But since we didn't invite the kids, it was more of a reasonable expenditure. I had a perpetual headache and I knew it was work stress. So I decided to relax Saturday. Sunday I worked all day. I *might* take Sunday off for Christmas with MH's family. (Not sure where I will be with work and I am fighting off a cold. If I get sick at all I will need the time to catch up). & not that I'd work *all* weekend, but I just won't be able to get much done if I go out of town all day. I may need a mental health day (or physical health day) at home. I will take Christmas Day off. Otherwise it's just work work work, for me. MH's last day of work (for the season) should be Friday. So he can take care of the kids' crazy schedules. All 3 schools have completely different breaks, and 2 have weird final schedules (next week). MH will be home for a month.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 2nd, 2016 at 03:43 am

Thanks for the great recipes!

Here is mine:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Fold in oats and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded measuring tablespooonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The dough freezes well for later. This recipe makes 3 dozen cookies, but the recipe came with the recommendation to bake half and freeze the rest of the dough for later. Or double the recipe and freeze more.

These are pretty much the only cookies I make. I've forgotten all other cookies. These are just too good!