Home > Archive: October, 2011

Archive for October, 2011

The Secret to Losing Weight

October 31st, 2011 at 07:53 pm

The secret to losing weight?

Eat at home. Cook your own food. Don't order food To go and don't eat at restaurants.

I think that is as simple as it gets when it comes to a weight loss plan. The irony is that we don't really follow any diet guidelines (er, fads). There is nothing uber healthy about our food choices. We don't cook everything from scratch - we make a lot of food we can throw together quickly. I do admit that we don't drink a lot of calories. (Mostly drink water - ocassional soda and juice, beer, wine, hot tea). I am not scared of white bread, white rice, carbs, red meat, or butter.

Anyway, I was astounded when I became pregnant with BM, dh got laid off, and he took it upon himself to whittle our food bill down and home cook all our meals. He lost 10 pounds in just a few months. For reference, he was underweight to begin with. He might have easily lost 8% of his body weight. (I didn't lose weight, overall, because I was pregnant. & I have horrible horrible eating habits, to boot). But yeah, that was VERY eye opening.

I've since noticed that every time I eat out a lot, I tend to notice it on the scale before I notice it in the checkbook. But there is a very specific correlation there. Every time we spend too much eating out, the scale is not very nice to me!

Anyway, October hasn't been pretty. I have been at a very nice/low weight since about the time we went to Hawaii last year. I think #1 - I was in great shape back then. & #2 - my metabolism returned somewhat back to normal post surgery in January. ("Normal" for me is a pretty high metabolism - much like dh). But this month I gained an easy 6 pounds or so. I was horrified by the scale this morning, after returning from Napa.

Gee, what have I done but eat out this month? On vacation for a week - no access to home cooking. Then, eating and drinking wine all weekend? Ugh.

The irony is that I am not exactly sure what it is. I mostly ordered tap water while eating out (just as I would drink at home). I had THREE meals this past week that were obviously big portions and so I took the leftovers to eat later. I don't feel like I was eating big portions. I had a salami sandwich for lunch and dinner last night (half sandwich for each meal). I had a wrap at Mimi's last week that I ate in two sittings - was filled with veggies, etc. I mentioned the burrito I turned into 3 meals because it was so HUGE. I only drank the equivalent of 2-3 glasses of wine, all weekend. There is no real apparent difference between the kinds of food I eat at home and in a restaurant, but geez louise my body sure can tell the difference.

For November? I am just going to eat at home, thanks. It makes ALL the difference.

I probably should have called this, "The Secret to Losing Weight AND Saving Money!"

This & That

October 27th, 2011 at 09:14 pm

**Heard in my house recently: "If you can't behave/listen, no more online math for the rest of the week!" Yes, I had to giggle when I heard dh say that to BM. No extra-curricular school work if you can't behave! Well, the threat worked...

On top of that, he has been going to math club 2 afternoons a week - also threatened. The math/accounting genes apparently run DEEP in our family. (Dh's family has a number of mathemeticians, and my family has a lot of CPAs. I've never thought of BM as a CPA type, yet, but this ordeal made me wonder).

**Interesting updates on my car. It was making a burning smell, with no other problems. The transmission fluid wasn't *low* but was close to low. So I put about a half quart in yesterday. It didn't do the burning smell thing on the drive home, like usual, BUT it had really cooled off yesterday. It has only been doing the "burning smell" when I drive home after the car sits in the sun/heat all day at work. (I have been trying not to drive it too much otherwise). So, I think it is likely the car didn't even get very hot on the drive home yesterday. Will keep an eye on it.

I also noticed, to my relief, that a little plastic piece had broken off some part of the engine. It didn't really do anything useful, and the assumption would be that it just fell out onto the ground. BUT, it would sure explain the weird burning smell every time the car heats up to a certain point. I looked around the engine for a long time and couldn't find it. But, I am thinking it is very likely that is the issue. Will see...

**Tons tons tons of road work being done in California. We have taken note not to drive between here and family at night - unless we want to sit in road construction traffic for 50 miles or so. So, anyway, I just read they are re-paving the stretch of freeway that I commute every day (about a 10-mile stretch). Long overdue. I saw specifically in the accouncement that all this was part of an effort to give more work to construction workers out of work, etc. I have mixed feelings about it. Sounds great, but where is the money for all this coming from???

**I bought some stock. Hell froze over and I bought stock!!! Actually, dh wanted to buy some netflix. It was a little deja vu from when we lost thousands in tech stocks. He seemed awfully bullish, and I was skeptical. BUT, I told him I didn't mind the opportunity to invest in stock without an official broker broker. (We never have - I would be prepared for some last minute stock buy if I ever get the itch - if I went through the process now). I also read equal parts "netflix is the worst investment every" to "buy buy buy" so I figure that's probably about as good as it gets. (If everyone things you should buy, it's probably overvalued, and it the majority thinks it sucks, it's probably a bigger gamble than I'd take).

I think this was a good reminder to invest in what you know. Like we couldn't have made a killing off of apple or amazon the last decade - you know? I am telling myself to pay attention on Facebook to what EVERYONE is talking about. Obviously hindsight 20/20 makes it appear easier than it is, though.

The agreement was we could put 1% of our portfolio in netflix, if dh agreed to keep his ears open - he pays far more attention to the news than I do.

& if it goes terrible, I know it will be 10 years + before dh asks me again. He was admittedly far more humble this time around.

My generally feeling is that I am pretty burned on individual stocks. (I am always reading in the newspaper how the dart board picks always win the carefully picked stocks, for one). BUT, my grandfather and father have made a good haul with some pretty good stock buys over the years. Since we will likely inherit some of their good fortune at some point, I mostly feel like, "Let's quit while we are ahead." Kind of the same way I feel about California real estate. If we mostly stand to inherit California real estate, and put most of our money into a house here already, why would I put MORE money in that basket?

I bought NFLX through Fidelity. My first choice would have been Vanguard, but I had to open a seperate brokerage account to do so. Bah! T Rowe was the same way. Fidelity let me buy stock the moment the fancy hit me. Their cost was the same anyway. We need to buy more stock to make a seperate account worthwhile. Maybe, eventually.

ETA: I also bought some Amazon. Mixed the mark a bit because I don't know what I Was looking at but didn't see the below-200 price when I checked it earlier this week. My dad mentioned it as a good buying opportunity and I agreed with the small price dip that still remained. I think the kindle fire will be hot, and Amazon is a GREAT company anyway.

Rewards Update

October 26th, 2011 at 09:25 pm

I was pleasantly surprised to see dh's 10,000 points from Citi. (He called to cancel card last week or so and they said they would give him 10,000 points if he stayed 1-2 months longer. I guess technically he only had to stay 1 week? I checked because the credit card month closed yesterday)

I also caught on "my" that Citi card has amazon gift cards. I didn't see them before. So I had my "doh" moment since I bought some other card and sold it for Amazon at 95 cents on the dollar. Last time...

I found it. It wasn't under "retail" so I didn't see it last time. Rolleyes There really is an Amazon reward! So I decided just to redeem $100 Amazon for myself. If dh got the e-mail code, we can put Citi back on the *kill* list.

2 other credit cards close next week. Should get:

$250 amazon gift cards from Chase
$300 gift cards from Citi

From Citi? Maybe zappos, kohls, and some cards I can trade in for cash. I can top off my mortgage goal with nearly $200 in cash. I buy new tennis shoes every couple of years on zappos - so next ones will be FREE. & I just love shopping at Kohls!

I'll pay off the $1500 Citi balance next week, too, and then ALL Of the cards can go back to the *kill* pile. (All the rest are done with - paid and done - waiting for rewards).

I see the end! Unless Citi/Chase offers dh more rewards. I don't expect Citi to offer squat to me.


$1230 cash (Chase Sapphire $1030 + Chase Frdm $200)
$1580 gift cards (Citi $500 + SW $515 + SW $565)
$ 500 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex)
$100 gift cards-Amazon- Citi for trying to close card
$300 gift cards Citi (may change some for cash)
-$99 annual fee (SW card)
+$99 annual fee refunded when closed card
-$69 Fee (SW card)
*Will they refund this one too?*
-$23 lost value for exchanging some Citi gift cards for cash and amazon gift cards
$3618 TOTAL

I expect to hit $3700 because we get 1% cash back on our CU visa, at the end of every year, & I expect we will get an annual fee refund from Southwest. I read somewhere those are usually pro-rated. (I've mentioned I've never paid annual fees before so have no experience in that category. I didn't mind paying those fees for these kind of rewards. Getting them refunded is just an unexpected bonus).

We always take advantage of credit card rewards/offers, but this is some huge annual record for us. The credit card companies were very generous this year!

ETA: Received Amazon gift cards today - $300 from Southwest. So, was a very fruitful rewards day!

Rewards - Out of Limbo

October 25th, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Citi's secure messaging system is really wonky. I remember having issues before. I replied to say, "Hello???" from my Friday request and it disappared into thin air.

SO, I e-mailed them again - copy and pasted - said no one answered me before. Eventually both those messages showed up as "Sent." Though they didn't show up for a while - they were in la la land somewhere.

So then I get a reply that they will get back to me in 2 days. BUT, if you scroll down I See a reply dated 10/21 that I SWEAR was not there this morning. Reply = DENIED.

I tell you, Citi does not like me! Whatevah.

It kind of simplifies things. I have to spend $16 by the end of the month. I've got 2 months of health insurance on there, and lunch today. I wasn't sure if van gas would be enough. Will fill up the tank this week, and hopefully get my $300 reward next week. No extra $200. Somehow I will survive. Big Grin

Kind of relieved I don't have to pre-pay another month of health insurance to get the extra reward...

Once I get my reward I will QUICKLY shut down this card. They don't want my business? What does it matter - you know I wasn't going to keep it anyway. It's just been kind of funny how they practically kiss dh's feet, while being pretty "meh" as far as me.

P.S. It is kind of mind boggling because I offered to spend $1000 more to get the rewards. So, basically, THEIR loss. "No, we won't give you any incentive to keep your card longer and to spend more money."

Paid the bills...

October 25th, 2011 at 02:54 am


Mostly in limbo while I wait for a response from Citi. They really don't seem to care much for me. Rolleyes Like, they seem to bend over backwards for dh. But when it's me, they can't even get back to me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt with the weekend, but this is getting ridiculous. They told me on Friday they'd get back to me in 24 hours. Will e-mail them again tomorrow (asking for more rewards).

Waiting for other cards to close for the month, to see if rewards points posted, etc.

When I was in Quicken I decided I should pay the online bills from checking - since November is coming up very darn quick.

I paid $340 to piano teacher, gardener, PG&E, County sewer bill and HOA. County is every other month. Some real exciting stuff there. Other than that, just the mortgage (next week when I get my paycheck) and pay off all the credit card bills at the end of next month - can't pay those until I know the final amounts for October. I should say that I *set everything to pay,* for next week. Automatic payments drive me batty. I like to leave the process somewhat non-automated.

I looked at everything closely yesterday and told dh I didn't think we had any money to spend in Napa this weekend. Not that we probably won't do one semi-nice dinner (funded by another account). BUT, when I paid the sewer bill I remembered my mom is sending me a check for her half the cell phone bill. She just sends it every other month - no particular reason - but works out perfectly with the one odd *every other month* county sewer bill. Then I remembered MIL was sending me a check for piano lessons and I had put that $100 to the mortgage. Doh. I just found $200 for the weekend. Woohoo! Well, will see what else comes up. Will maybe consider a $100 Napa budget, and at this rate MIL will probably slip us some cash, too (& we might just use that so we don't have to spend any of our money). We are mostly looking forward to the vegging out in our nice free hotel/hiking and beautiful landscape angle. But $100 can buy us some very decent meals.

Extra $200? Probably from reduced grocery bill since we were gone one whole week. Auto gas was nothing this month, post trip. Figured we'd give the cars a break after all that driving? Should probably put the $200 back into savings to cover vacation expense overages, rather than spend it on more vacation. I was just excited to find money I had forgotten about. Big Grin But reality is the credit cards close next Thursday (versus Monday the 31st - my month is a little long) and something will probably come up.

All this money reimbursing back and forth does make things more complicated. Oh well! I will adjust.


Tomorrow I am meeting my friend and the culinary institute for lunch. $10 for 3-course meal and soda or ice tea. I will probably treat since she took care of my cat while we were gone. I don't think I told my dh yet - he will be jealous!! We will have to have a lunch date there also, some time in November.

Free Stuff

October 22nd, 2011 at 10:39 pm

First, with all the gimmes that piled up at the end of last school year, I mentioned I should just say no to everything (this year) and put it to my mortgage. Irony? No one has asked for money, really. Maybe the economy is catching up with everyone. Phew!

No one has asked for a penny for soccer this year. Last year it was money for banners, coach gifts, on and on and on. (Er, they did ask for spare change - I don't carry cash or have change, so oh well!)

& then BM's 3rd grade class asked for $3 for Halloween. I think this is a new record low for money requests. I figured I'd send in $5 because someone probably won't send in anything. But, I won't gripe over $3.

Did the first grade really ask for NOTHING this year? They have asked for stuff, but none of this, "I bought a $200 gift for the teacher and you owe me $10" crap. I really don't recall any cash asking.

It's nice to see everyone dialing it down.


Walgreens has some nice photo offers that expire today.

11 x 14 posters are $1.99. Limit 5 coupons per account - something like that. My dad just went on this photo shoot field trip (was for fall foliage - but ended up more winter landscape). Anyway, I just asked my dad to send me full resolution on a handful of pictures, and to pick one more of his own choosing. I only had one full res picture here that I really wanted - from camping trip in July. This gorgeous picture I was thinking of getting a poster of at some point. So I ordered that one. They unfortunately don't print posters at the Walgreens I can WALK to. But, oh well. One minor drive and $2.15 with tax. Full price is close to $10, so not bad. I may end up buying some frames, but the pictures are GORGEOUS and practically free.

Also, free 8 x 10 photo collage, as usual. The DSi that dh bought and I mentioned has a camera and all sorts of photo effects. I will make a very silly collage for the kids. I am going through their pictures and some are just hilarious - others are really pretty with kaleidoscope effects - I should post one of them so you get the idea. Only down side is resolution is not that great - so no posters of any crazy kid pictures. But the collage will be perfect!

Here is some DSi art work:

I have no idea what this is - but it is pretty:

Rewards, Rewards, Rewards

October 21st, 2011 at 09:39 pm

The rewards Gods LOVE me this week. (Yes, I am sick of the subject too, but holy crap!)

My reward card just bumped up bonus by about $200 for new applications. I will e-mail Citi this weekend and ask if they will give me the new reward, since I have only had the card a couple of weeks before this shinier new offer came along.

Big Grin

If they approve, we will be getting to the point of about $3700 in rewards for 2011. I'd probably chuck the extra $200 to the mortgage and be done with that goal. Mortgage goal 2011 largely funded by rewards - no need to touch savings. Woohoo. This I did not foresee!

It will be tricky to reach points since I might have to spend $1000 more to get said points. Card is in my name only. The only thing I really pay for is health insurance. (Dh charges up 99% of our variable expenses - and the utilities are not big enough to make much difference). But, I can probably figure out something. A bunch of insurance is coming due, for one. I'd probably rather charge a couple of big things rather than take the hassle to move little things around. Regardless, I will be pre-paying some expenses in the next 2 months. I will be jumping through some extra hoops to get my points ASAP, but I suppose I Feel it is worth it because I expect this to be our last rewards frenzy for 2011. (But, who knows).

For reference, minimum wage is on the high side here. I'd have to work about 10 hours a week all year round to make that much money, minimum wage. Like a second job or whatever. Holy Cow.

This is the perfect example of MY kind of frugal. Other people see it as deprivation (frugality in general). I just see extra money practically falling from the sky. Big Grin


Dh wanted to buy his parents a kindle, and we decided to buy my mom one too. We also will get the Kindle Fire for ourselves, and dh got some new DS for the kids - DS3?. We bought a few other things, and still have enough amazon gift cards left over to easily fund Christmas and then some. Not that we buy much for Christmas - I think all these kindles will be the bulk of it. I've got amazon gift cards coming out of my ears, basically. All things Kindle and amazon will be free, with all these rewards.


P.S. Here is the link for the card. Annual fee is waived for Year 1. Spend $2500 in 3 months for $500 in gift cards. They don't have Amazon gift cards, but you can sell Wal Mart for Amazon gift cards at about $95 on the dollar, or for cash at about $90 on the dollar (Plastic Jungle). They have other retailers, too. I'll personally be stocking up on Kohls gift cards, and selling other gift cards for cash.

Text is and Link is

ETA: My info may be bad because I think Mr. mymoneyblog said he was able to redeem points directly for amazon cards recently. Interesting!

2011 Goal Update

October 20th, 2011 at 07:59 pm

Knock on wood, but the goals seem to be going good.

ROTH IRAs - I just checked where we were, and I only seem to be $300 short on maxing out. (I had estimated $1500 at some point, and already made a $500 deposit to lessen that shortfall). It seems likely I forgot to count AmEx deposits to our ROTH? Woohoo!

$300 from savings - will try to do before the end of the year. THAT is easy peasy. Though we won't max out until April.

Goal for 2012 is to contribute $9,000 from income ($750 x 12), earn $500 in credit card rewards, and pay 10% of overtime to get up to $10,000. Meaning, as long as I have a paycheck, it should basically be auotomatic from pay and rewards. It depends on our health insurance - I am assuming I get just enough raise to cover the usual crazy insane annual increase, and that I can stick with $750/month to ROTH. Will see...

Mortgage Goal - Goal is to hit $199,999 by 12/31.

We've gotten so many credit card rewards this year that I haven't touched savings for this at all. Since MIL just took over paying for piano lessons, I am adding $150 to the mortgage every month. This will leave me with a shortfall of about $412 to reach my goal. I expect $250 for Christmas work bonus and will apply it to mortgage. This leaves me $162 short. I doubt I will get this much birthday money, but might get $100. Birthday present to me? Extra to the mortgage! I expect I might need to transfer the last $62 or so from savings. Will see... I'd generally say that dh could make that money EASY PEASY on Amazon during Holiday season, but I mentioned before they banned all non-high-volume-sellers for the Christmas season. I could also convert upcomoing credit card rewards into cash, but I think I will leave as is since I have so little to come up with.


Cash Savings Goal

I was optimistic earlier in the year that we would FINALLY hit $30,000. I suppose it is a double whammy in that $30k is a pretty solid 6-month *emergency fund* while also being a level of cash we can't seem to achieve on one income, with kids. IT's a very meaningful goal to me - one that has been very elusive - so close but so far!

Anyway, I did transfer $500 to the ROTH and had almost $1000 in medical/dental bills, so I pretty much give up this year. (& I just said I had plans to transfer another $300-$400 out to reach other goals).

But, I won't give up. I think next April will be it! Overtime bonus in April. How many times have I said that before, huh? Well, no one in my household having major surgery would be extremely helpful... So I am hoping for that. I've got about $28k in the bank, today.

More Rewards?

October 20th, 2011 at 03:21 pm

I am glad I already very easily redeemed my $500 Amazon gift cards from Southwest, because dh's experience has been a real pain. For one, I know that is not always the case. & two, I know something is wrong there!

His points finally showed up yesterday (after a more thorough response from Chase e-mail - that also said he needed a new credit card to replace the old one, to straighten it out. ??? Whatever - he will cut it up and toss it!)

BUT, we couldn't redeem them. To make matters more frustrating, all their rewards were on sale yesterday!!!

The rewards are still on sale today, still unredeemable. He will call once he is up to try to order through the phone. We may be able to get $300 gift cards and have 1500 points left over. !!!

Today I e-mailed Chase and asked for those extra 25,000 points, since their phone customer service was so vague and not helpful.

I doubt we will get those points in time for this sale, but maybe I should hold off redeeming those for the next sale. I know they go on sale from time to time.

& so it goes on and on and on as more opportunities to earn more arise! If we can ever get these redeemed, we may be up $50 (for sale). Maybe I don't mind that it has taken so long to redeem - if we could have only gotten $250 before today. Big Grin

ETA: $300 amazon gift cards, shipped and on their way! What luck!


$1230 cash (Chase Sapphire $1030 + Chase Frdm $200)
$1315 gift cards (Citi $500 + SW $515 + SW $300)
$ 500 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex)
$100 gift cards Citi for trying to close card
$300 gift cards Citi (may change some for cash)
-$99 annual fee (SW card)
+$99 annual fee refunded when closed card
-$69 Fee (SW card)
*Will they refund this one too?*
-$23 lost value for exchanging some Citi gift cards for cash and amazon gift cards
$3353 TOTAL