Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Blahs

I've got a case of the blahs. I'm pretty happy but lacking all motivation. My snowflakes sidebar is indicative of this. Outside of June/July when I had jury duty, we were moving Gamedad to live with us, and buying our house it's been a while since I made the little money.

It all boils down to a lack of effort. The 3 babysitting jobs were all parents calling me. Usually I have one or two calls, but I actively put myself out there, looking for jobs. Everything else is money that automatically comes in or based on work in October.

I need to slowly ease back into earning the extra income. But honestly, I have no clue how at the moment.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do You Black Friday?

Only once in my life have I been shopping on Black Friday before the sun came up. It was last year while I was working with a camera crew on one of the college football games, so really I was paid to shop...and that's why I avoid it.

I don't have a long list of people to buy for and my guys are pretty quirky. I looked through the fliers and didn't see anything that would make me leave my house when it was still dark. Well I saw a few things (read 40" flat screen for our room), but nothing that I should actually buy.

I'm not a morning person. I don't like the cold, especially standing around in it. And with every year I become a bit more like my mother. She hates crowds and avoids them as much as possible. I still love a great concert, but I can't handle crowds at the stores. Last year's experience confirmed what I have thought for the past few years- it's just not worth it to me.

I get caught up in the frenzy and spend money I otherwise wouldn't have. So I'll loose out on a few deals but save more money in the long run.

Have you been able to make Black Friday work for you?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


In no particular order, some of the many things I'm thankful for:

the two people on earth that love me more than anything (Gameboy & Mom)
my crazy extended family
the people that listen to me whine (otherwise known as my friends)
everyone who reads my blog
bloggers who keep me entertained and help me learn
a job I love 95% of the time
my experiences traveling
$1.64 gas
the internet
my house
the library

Hope you had a great day with people you are thankful for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mix tape!

Though I've been thinking about holiday gifts since mid October I've yet to take the plunge and you know, buy anything. I have a list of things I want to get for the husband and no clue on my father in law. What I'd planned for my girlfriends is still in the conceptual stages. Despite the failings to act in my personal life I have all sorts of ideas that I'll be sharing as we get closer to the holidays.

Mix tape
As a kid I remember thinking about the mix tape that a future boyfriend would make me. By the time I got to the dating age we were in the age of mixed CD's. The point thought is a mix of music that makes you think or someone or that you think someone would enjoy. When Gameboy and I were long distance I made a mix of what I listened to every night when we were on the phone.

If you want to take the mix tape/CD up a notch make a CD booklet. Lyrics, why that song makes you think of that person, and/or pictures special to you and the giftee make the mix CD extra special. Word art in Word makes this a bit more fun also.

So far Gameboy has gotten two (I've named them Vol I, Vol II) of these as Xmas/birthday presents. Out of all the gifts both years this has been his favorite because it's personal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gameshow Groceries

Grocery shopping is my household chore. Sometimes, even thought I'm happy to do it, getting out the door is hard. Yesterday was one of those days. A few weeks back Gamedad but a lot of unread newspapers in a big box and put it upstairs. This included the coupon circulars. So after procrastinating all day I sat down to weed through the box, separating circulars, newspaper for the worms, and the random glossy stuff for the recycling bin.

When I finally left for the store it was a little after 10. I didn't think much of it b/c the store closest to my home and the stores near our old place are all open 24 hours. Too bad I wasn't going to any of those stores... I walk in and it's blissfully empty, but there are boxes out for restocking here and there. No worries. I go through the produce section, mentally checking off my list. As I round the corner to get cereal the lights go off. Not totally dark, but to the overnight lights many business have. I realize I'm the only customer I can see and wonder if the doors are locked and I'm stuck for the night.

I found a guy stocking shelves and asked if they were still open. He said yes, but they'd be closing in 25 minutes. I think of what else I need and think I'll have enough time. Then I try to turn down an isle. Along each side of the isle there are boxes haphazardly thrown for restocking.

All of a sudden I felt like I was on some warped version of Supermarket Sweep, or any of those other early 90's supermarket shows I loved as a kid. Instead of light so bright they make your eyes hurt the lights were dim, even off in many of the refrigerated cases. Instead of try to spend as much money as I could (diapers, formula, and meat heavy carts always seemed to win) I had to spend as little as possible. All while dodging boxes. In a store I'm not familiar with.

In the end I came out ok. The whole trip (including 20 mins driving round trip) took just over 40 minutes, half of what we need for Thanksgiving is in the fridge/pantry, we've got 1-2 months of cereal for the guys, and I only spent $46 and change.

Photo credit:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

If you have to make a dessert for Thanksgiving this is an easy and relatively inexpensive one to try. A couple years back Dave Lieberman (Food Network) did an episode called Thanksgiving for $45. Since seeing the episode air I've made this pie at least 8 times, quite possibly more. During the holiday season it's my go to dessert.

You'll need

2 sweet potatoes, about 10 ounces each
1 3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers, finely ground)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted (regular will work in a pinch)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (whole will work in a pinch)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pie plate
glass with a flat bottom
mixing bowl

The first thing you want to do is wrap the sweet potatoes in a double layer of foil. Roast them in the oven at 350 for 1 hr 15 minutes. The goal is really soft tender sweet potatoes.

While the potatoes are roasting stick 15 graham crackers in the food processor or a big resealable plastic bag and crush them until they're really fine. These two steps can be done a few days early to make your life easier. You could also grab a prepackaged pie crust, but it's not nearly as fun.

Measure 1 3/4 cups of the graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup brown sugar into the pie pan. Mix lightly. Pour the butter over the cracker/sugar mixture and mix until it's evenly moist. Use your glass with a flat bottom to press the graham crackers into an even layer in the pie plate. I like to start in the middle and work my way out.

Stick the crust in the over for 10 minutes at 350 to firm up. Take it out when it's golden brown and smelling all sorts of yummy.

Grab your cooled potatoes. Unwrap the foil then peel off the skin. This should be really easy to do. Put the potatoes in the mixing bowl and mash with a fork/potato masher. The consistency you mash your potatoes to will be the consistency of your pie, so do a good job. If you have any pieces that aren't soft enough stick them in the microwave for a few seconds.

Mix the remaining ingredients into the potatoes. Dave says to use a whisk, but I tend to use a spoon. When the batter is smooth pour it into the prebaked pie shell. Put the whole thing in the oven and cook approx 40 minutes until it is set.

The absolute hardest part of this is waiting for it to cool before you dig in!

How much does this cost?
I keep most of the ingredients for this in the fridge/pantry year round. The only things I have to buy are the sweet potatoes, cream, and graham crackers. For one pie these will run me around $3.50 if I'm just grabbing things, less if I plan it out and buy things on sale.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkey time

This will be my third year doing Thanksgiving. That sounds a lot more impressive than it is because the past 2 it's only been Gameboy and myself. Year 1 we were sick on Thursday and actually made the big meal on Sunday. Year 2 we ended up working one of the Thanksgiving college football games. We had dinner with the crew (and my uncle who was heading things up) and made dinner on Friday.

This year Gamedad is involved and we've invited a few single friends to drop by if they feel like company. So far the menu is:

Stuffing (w mushrooms & apples)
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce (fresh with orange)
Sweet potato pie

We bought the turkey already (20lbs for $10). Everything else, except maybe the mashed potatoes will be procured this weekend. I also need to figure out some veggies, but that will be based on sales. The only other things is if I (as a vegetarian) want a main course. Really it will come down to what I see when I'm at the store. Gameboy went grocery shopping twice this month, so even though I didn't set a grocery budget, it's blown.

What are your Turkey day plans?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A mini rant

Dear Dog Owners,

I know you love you dog. You want to spend a lot of time with your dog. For some they are like children. This is all wonderful. But can we talk for a moment about bringing your dog everywhere with you?

I'm still hanging out at the dealership, but instead of sitting in the comfy chairs I'm standing and typing in the intake area. Why? Because someone just walked in with her dog. It's 9:15 and starting the day with an allergy attack is not my idea of fun. I also know kids who are terrified of dogs. Should I have to leave the comfortable waiting area or should parents leave kids who are scared of dogs home so people can bring their dogs everywhere?

So can we please take the dogs doggy friendly places, like the dog park and pet stores? thanks

A smile at the pump

Usually when I fill up, then drive a block and see gas for $.14/gal less I get upset. While I don't think it makes sense to drive all over town for lower priced gas, I like to spend as little as possible. But even though I saw cheaper gas as soon as I'd topped off on Sunday night I was ok. Why you ask? Because my fill up was $21.48!

Our gas prices have continued to drop, so today I could fill up for almost half of the going rate last May. This would be an easy time to slack off and drive for the sake of driving but I'm still going to still try to hypermile and plan trips for smart driving. I am at the dealership finally getting my car serviced so hopefully I'll be able to push my MPG up 1-2 more miles.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Helping a Friend

I have a good friend that is ready to take a few financial leaps. She's 28, about to buy her first car (currently borrows from her parents) and lusting over buying a house. We were in grad school together and she has a hefty student loan bill. The other drains on her finances are a cute, but extremely mischievous dog. In the 6 month's she's had her puppy she's had 2 of the worst diseases puppies can get, chewed her way through many leashes, and at times required a special (expensive) diet.

Back in February we talked about paying off our student loans earlier and I encouraged her to open an ING account. After we talked she sent a few extra payments in, but otherwise didn't really act. Now that the need for a car and house down payment is looming, and with all of the economy fun she's decided she needs some direction.

We talked about things on our walk from her local ice cream/gelato shop.* When we got back to her place we got her an ING account (earning her $25, me $10), started a budget at PearBudget, and discussed whether she should cash in some Treasury bonds. Her plan is to have some of her paycheck go straight to ING for savings and track what she spends over the next month. She doesn't have any problem paying off her credit card bill at the end of the month, but she said she pretty much buys whatever she wants. I have been spending a lot on things that I think are frivolous, so I'll be traking my spending with her.

*Honey lavender gelato- need I say more?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Yesterday's post is a good example of why I haven't been posting much this week. The majority of my free (and not totally wiped out) time has been in the early morning- which is not a good time for me. I tend to be whiny and see things in a negative light.

Work has been busy. Every time I feel like I've found my footing things get shaken up. That and I'm still learning to negotiate the political side of things. My position was open for a while and the council I work for just recently moved from a staff of 1 to a staff of 4.5. This equals a lot of requests for things, some of which I can do, some of which I can't. The fun part is telling folks with a lot of authority that I can't follow their request.

I've been working some outside of work and trying to get the house ready for winter. Clearly, not doing such a great job since yesterday's storm threw me off guard. I have been spending a lot of time in the car lately (or at least it feels that way). There are all sorts of things that I want to write about coming up in the near future.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Snow

In our household Gameboy gets up 1-1.5 hours before me. He's amazing about being quiet as he gets ready b/c I'm a girl who likes my sleep. So this morning, waking up to him exclaiming an expletive was a bit weird.

Groggily I asked what was wrong. Then he said the S word. Not one of the words little kids aren't allowed to say. Snow. Last year this would have meant rolling over and asking him to wake me 20 mins early to deal with traffic. But this year we are homeowners. We've discussed getting ready for the snow- buying salt and shovels, getting the scrapers in the car, and putting kitty litter in the trunk- but despite a trip to two home improvement stores on Sunday* it didn't happen. I blame it on the fact that I was wearing flip flops.

So today I am out of the shower before my alarm goes off. As soon as my hair is reasonably dry
I'll be headed to the big orange store 10 minutes away and buying salt and a shovel. Outside of the early part I'm irritated because I'm not figuring out the best price for items and blending that store into my regular routes to reduce gas consumption. I also have no idea about the environmental impact of salt or good alternatives.

What I do know is a pack of elementary school kids will be walking along the sidewalk in front of my house in around an hour and it needs to be safe for them and anyone else that crosses our property lines.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Moving Forward

Despite the fact that I'm sick, today is a pretty good day. The extra payment finally made it to the car loan folks. Usually I don't update the sidebars mid month, but since I sent the payment last month I figure it's fair. Half of the loan is gone! Just over $7,000 seems like a really manageable number.

The issue that had me seeing red is resolved. I'm still irritated about the situation*, but Gameboy's car has 4 good wheels and I have my car back. I think this week I'll be writing to their corporate offices. I didn't realize how attached to my car (really all the stuff I have in it) I am, but it's a relief. I was also unaware of how fast I like to drive. I always stay within 5-14 of the speed limit, but most of my driving happens on roads 45 mph or higher. 3 days of driving at 40 mph was killer.

On the house front we're financially ready to move on to the next project- finishing the closet. Our room has a beautiful built in, but the previous owner took the rods and boards. Today we tried, somewhat unsuccessfully to get the parts we need. We may have come across a solution and have a few other ideas to try. Getting the closet together will be the last step in unpacking, so any possible move forward is exciting!

Hope you had a great (and frugal) weekend!

*When we got tires in June they put on snow tires instead of what we paid for. That's right, snow tires in June. Then, instead of going down the customer is always right route, or really displaying any tact at all, my integrity was questioned by 4 different staff members.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Seeing Red

It's time for a post, but right now I'm too angry to write about money. Outside of the fact that 3 men at 2 different stores essentially accused me of trying to milk them for $270 in tires, when their chain made an error. Tomorrow I will try to resolve the matter, though it's pretty much assured that it will eat into work time that I can't afford to loose.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

It's finally here! I'm headed out the door in a few minutes to volunteer for my candidate. If you don't know where to vote or what to bring visit Rock the Vote. Also, in all of the states I've lived in electioneering withing a certian distance of the polls is not allowed-this includes wearing candidate gear.

I leave you with some cute kids bringing you the same message.

Happy voting!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Wrap Up

It's November 1, and I'm actually getting my October wrap-up done.
  • Get my Roth funds above 60%. I’d hoped to have this funded by the end of the year and without some crazy action I’m not sure if it will happen. 63! Getting closer by the day. I'm looking forward to the holiday babysitting season.
  • Decide where I want to invest my 2008 Roth money. My last Roth is with Vanguard, who I like, but am not necessarily married to. I’m also trying to decide on what type of fund, specifically if I should go with a socially responsible fund. I haven't made a final decision but I'm closer. I've read a few prospectuses and am getting there.
  • Only eat lunch out 3 times (not including lunch meetings). I did this, though I ate out way too much for breakfast/dinner.
  • Keep grocery spending under $300. $302.38- this is what I get for going on vacation and not over stocking meat. In the 5 days I was gone the guys spent $122.15.
  • Be mindful about house purchases- waiting until we can afford to buy outside of regular maintenance.I think I did ok on this. Though there was an immersion blender purchase...
  • Go 400 miles on one tank of gas. My mileage at the pump the 3 times I filled up this month: 386, 398.8. 400.1.
All in all it was a good month. Have you looked at the sidebars? Notice how everything except student loans has moved upward? It's really a beautiful thing. Once my check is processed the car number will be even happier! I think we'll be able to reach our current emergency fund goal this month and send another check to the car folks.

I'm still pondering goals for the month. Between campaigning and friends in from out of two I think I'm going to be pretty busy this weekend.