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Tax Time

April 12th, 2006 at 05:39 am

Am I the only one who does taxes at more than one place?

I did 2 free online programs. It always amazes me how I can enter the same information and come up with 2 different numbers. Not largely different, but different none-the-less.

OUCH!! Gas

April 12th, 2006 at 04:15 am

$2.679 for regular. Just yesterday it was $2.599. I didn't get it yesterday because I thought I didn't have time. That will teach me.

Almost $30 for less than 11 gallons. I'm glad I don't drive much. My car is only getting about 22mpg because it's all city driving. The fastest I get is 45mph and that's for all of about 4 blocks (IF the traffic in front of me actually drives).

This on top of finding out that our electricity retroactively increased by 3 cents/kwh (retroactive to November).

Science fair update

April 11th, 2006 at 02:40 am

We finished the volcano. The only thing we bought was spraypaint.

We made the base using a water bottle which had the top cut off. Inserted a container which held single serving applesauce. Built newspaper around it, taped that down and then papier-mache over the top of that.

When the papier-mache dried, we spray painted it brown. When that dried, I poked holes in the volcano with a tiny knitting needle and we poked springs of rosemary and other plants from our yard.

Then, we made the poster. We did have to buy the posterboard. I printed headings using my computer. We walked him through the demonstration and talked about what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar - how it forms a salt (sodium acetate) and carbolic acid, which then breaks down to CO2 and water. The CO2 is what makes the bubbles we see. Carbolic acid is what they add to soda to carbonate it.

I put red food dye in the vinegar. Poured it into an old squeeze mustard bottle and mixed it. I put a label on that "lava juice".

It sounds like I did a lot and I did, but DS was right there helping and learning with me. I made him to a test run and give a shpiel about it. I hope he remembers tomorrow.

Hee, hee

April 11th, 2006 at 02:33 am

Well, I called it. He spent $35.

On the good side - he bought the stuff we needed for my clothesline and actually strung it up. AND he brought home chicken for supper.

He also bought himself some underwear (needed because he's lost a lot of weight and has only about 4 pair which fit). Then he bought aloe vera gel and some stuff I don't remember. An extension cord? We have several huge extension cords, so I don't know (I thought of "Men don't buy tampons").

So what will DH come home with today?

April 10th, 2006 at 10:32 pm

He's buying supplies to finish the science project - paint and posterboard. He's also supposed to buy bananas.

That's his list - should be less than $10 right? We'll see what's in the bags.

Frugal Science Fair

April 10th, 2006 at 02:21 am

So last week we got notice that the science fair is this Tuesday!!

Now, I knew there'd be a science fair so you'd think I could just start whenever and be prepared right? No, the teacher has to approve the projects and she won't do that until the date is announced.

This is one reason I really dislike this school. They think one week is more than enough notice for big events. We have to prepare the experiment and a poster describing it.

So, we chose a baking soda volcano. Today, we created the volcano. We used a water bottle with a half cup container (from single serve applesauce) in the top. Then we built around it with newspapar and papier mache. Now it's drying.

Tomorrow we'll figure out how to paint it. I've considered just gluing leaves and grass to it, but dh and ds don't seem to like that idea.

I guess we'll have to buy posterboard. I have no idea what to put on the poster. I guess a pic of it before it's painted, maybe a pic of a similar water bottle and half cup container.

Then? I don't know. We'll make it up as we go along.

AAAAHHHH Scholastic Books

April 10th, 2006 at 01:21 am

So we got an order form for my kindy kid. I generally just throw these away, but this time I actually looked through it.

I found a whole set of books we've been considering for about $1.50/book. These are a minimum of $3/book in the bookstores. You can't even find these used for less than $2.00/book (plus shipping).

Then, they had a book from a current series for less than half price. Another 8 books of a series we'd started for $2.50/book (these are about $4.50 in stores) and a book for $1.00.

Total? $62.80. For 36 books. I've heard that you can find these at garage sales, but I don't know if people here just don't buy books or what, but I've not found these at garage sales. Plus, when I do find a kid's book at a garage sale, it's usually torn.

This is sooo not in budget right now. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't give the books to the kids at school, if I could get them at home so they'd be a surprise and I could give them as a gift, well, that wouldn't be soooo bad.

Frugal garden containers

April 9th, 2006 at 05:45 am

Crown Tire planters:

(image copyrighted and used by permission)

Crown tire planters are nothing new. People have been doing them since the 50s. They are harder now with radial tires, but still possible.

To start:
1) cut one wall of the tire into zigzags

2) (this is one that having another person will help) turn the tire inside out

3) paint.

If the tire is still on the rim, this can be easier and creates a stand.

Line the tire with weed control fabric and then fill with soil and plant.

I had several of these in OKC. The one above is from my front yard.

DH and the master gardeners created ours. The first one took some time, but after that, they managed to do them in 15 minutes or so.

Trike-a-thon, or Who Thought it Would Be a Good Idea for an Early Morning Event

April 8th, 2006 at 11:44 pm

on a Saturday???

This morning was trike-a-thon at 9am in the park that is a ways away.

So, the alarm goes off at 7:30. We get up, eat b'fast and send the kids to get dressed. I get dressed, dh goes out to wrestle with the bike rack and the bikes.

Of course, the tires need air. Then, we couldn't find the helmets (we did find them). Then - oh wait, sunscreen! We need sunscreen, where is that? Oh wow, it's cold! It's only 68, where's the heat? It was still hot last night at 3:00 when I woke up sweating. Great, I don't have any biking pants, I guess I'll just freeze in shorts.

They planned a community breakfast afterward. We were asked to bring 5-8 cold drinks. We forgot to put them in the fridge last night, so dh stuck them in the freezer.

It turned out to be a decent event, but I'm tired. I was trying to keep up with 2 extremely fast kids. I thought they needed an adult with them, they didn't think so.

Profit sharing plan at work

April 8th, 2006 at 04:19 am

So, they will pay 3% of my salary into the profit sharing plan whether I contribute at all. I have to fully vest to take all their contributions with me, but that doesn't seem so bad.

So now, I have to decide what I want to contribute. It isn't entirely clear to me if my contribution will be pre or post tax. I have forms for both. I think, maybe, that's in case I want to put more away than I can tax free. I think. But I'm thinking that won't be an issue for me.

Free soda

April 8th, 2006 at 04:12 am

One of our clients brought in 4 packs of soda. It was a gift to the ladies who had helped him. They never took it home and it's been three days.

So today, I again got the shakes (our 10:30 clients came at 10:00 and I didn't get a snack until 11:30, I can't go that long without eating). I tried eating some sunflower seeds and chocolate chips, but it just wasn't helping.

One of my coworkers saw my hands shake and asked if it was a no caffiene thing or a sugar thing. I said probably sugar. The soda was hers and she said "that's there for everyone, go get one".

Clearly, I need to take some more food to work. My snacks work fine IF I can eat at 10:00, but if it gets pushed back too far, I can't get things in balance.

I have been tested for diabetes 3x (2x while pg and once before) and test as being fine, so I don't think it's diabetes, I think it's just a tiny stomach combined with a decent metabolism and so I blow through my food too fast.

I came home and snarfed some turkey and an eggroll. Then I had a glass of milk and some candy. Then, dh came home and I took a nap. Now, I feel great. Wide awake, but great!

My boss finally admitted they needed to hire another person. We've all been under stress to turn stuff out. I have a will that's been on my desk for a month. There's just more stuff than we can do in the time we have and stuff isn't getting done. AND they just took on a HUGE new client. So yeah, we need at least one more person. I think they should also look into figuring out a way to get me set up to work from home since I'm usually up at least an hour or two after everyone has gone to bed. If I had access to the stuff from work, I could easily get some stuff done and get closer to being caught up.

Frugal Garden Art

April 7th, 2006 at 04:03 am

This image is copyrighted but is used by permission.

Gazing globes are a big thing in gardens and have been for a few years. Once, they were only metallic and reflective, but now you find them in handblown glass and all kinds of other nice colors. The only problem with them is that they break so easily. Mow your lawn and hit a rock and there goes your globe.

So what can you use that is round, comes in all colors and patterns and won't break? A bowling ball. The above picture was actually taken in the garden of the President of the University of Oklahoma.

This was my house in Oklahoma City. The blue ball is a bowling ball. I had 5 balls or so, but that's the only picture I can find. People loved my "gazing globes".

I paid 99cents for them from thrift stores. You can often get them for free from bowling alleys (or so I've been told, I've never found one that would give them away).

If you have one and you don't like the color, you can epoxy pennies or glass tiles to them.

Low Energy Day

April 7th, 2006 at 02:38 am

Which sucks for work. I've got sooo much on my plate right now and I was so tired I actually had the shakes. I fought off going to the vending machine, though, so I'm proud of myself.

I ended up falling asleep on the couch. Good thing my kids are old enough to follow the rules of "STAY IN THE HOUSE" and "DON'T OPEN THE DOOR". DH woke me up when he got home and sent me to bed.

I did wake up in time for a pick-up meal and then I went out and mowed 1/2 the front yard. DH mowed the other half. Now we just need to work on the backyard. Unfortunately, we have johnsongrass back there and the reel mower won't cut it.

Digital Cameras

April 6th, 2006 at 05:04 am

I've spent the last year and almost half thinking I lost our digital camera in the move (our old one). I hadn't seen it, I mentioned it to DH once and he said he didn't know where it was, so I've been upset about it.

Yeah, turns out he didn't know where it was *right then*. He knew about where it was, he'd had it and put it away.

So, tonight he pulled it out for me, we replaced the batteries and he walked me through downloading pics from my camera.

I guess that sparked a little fire in him and he spent 30 minutes filling picture frames with pics he printed for christmas.

I'm a little upset. I was sure I had taken a bunch of pics, but I can't find any of them. BUT, now I have the camera and 32 megs total of memory. I'm ready to become a snapping fool. Of course, the camera is "only" a 2.1 megapixel (it's from 2000).

Frugal Family Night

April 6th, 2006 at 02:54 am

Tonight was Jenga. We were hoping for a quick game because we walked to the library after supper.

It wasn't quick. We got to 31 complete levels. Even the 5yo did great!

Walking to the Grocery Store

April 4th, 2006 at 04:22 am

This is supposed to save us money. If you walk 1) you use less gas and 2) you can't buy as much because you have to carry what you buy.

Our first mistake was getting a cart rather than a hand basket.

We needed milk, so dh bought 3 half gallons (we buy organic milk). Then he picked up a half gallon of organic orange juice. Then we bought cans of enchilada sauce and coconut milk. Eggs. Hot dog and hamburger buns. Then there was a special on pork (which we love). Then dh realized he needed eggs for popovers. $43 and about 30lbs later, we were done. Sooo much fun to walk home carrying 15+lbs of food. I have a great bag from Mexico - almost indestructible, but the handles really suck. They are too small to fit over my arm and up on my shoulder, so I have to carry all the weight with my hand. And the bag is too long to carry with my arm straight, so I have to keep it bent. My elbow is killing me.

DH uses a backpack and he had the milk and OJ. I think I need to get a backpack for these types of trips.

One Year Anniversary

April 4th, 2006 at 03:43 am

Tomorrow I've been at my job for one year.

I've learned a lot in that year. I had never written a will, a power of attorney, a medical power of attorney (didn't even know they were separate documents) and a directive to Physicians. Last week I put togther an outline for my boss to give a presentation on those things.

I also had never formed a business and didn't have the first idea what they'd need. Now, I've set up limited partnerships, LLCs, and corporations.

Along with all that knowledge, now I qualify for the profit sharing plan. Maybe some of you can help me figure this out:

"III. Employer Contribution Election

To help you make an informed decision on the level of your own salary reduction contributions, if any, your employer must declare the type of contribution it will make within a reasonable period of time prior to the plan year beginning January 1, 2006. Your employer elects to contribute to a SAFE HARBOR 401(k) contribution for 2006 of the type selected below:
... (3) A Nonelective Contribution equal to:

(X) (i) 3% (not less than 3% of your compensation)"

I think I'm missing a form, it goes on to refer to the SPD. I'll ask about that tomorrow. But does that sound like they contribute at least 3% no matter what I contribute? I need to see the SPD to figure out the vesting schedule and my minimum amount to get the full 3%.

I definitely want to participate. They have a deal with one of the local developers and they buy discounted real estate from him. Those notes are currently charged 11-13% interest (with 13% being the highest). We do our own foreclosures if anyone defaults (not a very high default rate, surprisingly) so the only expenses there end up being less than $100 for filing and service fees.

Beach Sunday

April 3rd, 2006 at 08:23 pm

Yesterday was the first time we've gone to the beach since christmas. Way too long.

It's a not completely frugal day - we use about 3 gallons of gas - which is $8 right now. PLUS, we have a fish place we love to stop to eat. It isn't too expensive - about $25 for the 4 of us (all you can eat fish for DH and I) with tip.

Yesterday was worse than normal. We stopped at the fish place on the way to the island, so of course we were starving when it was time to leave the island. Since we left at 7:00 and the kids go to bed at 8:00 and it's an hour drive, we stopped at a drive-in and spent $12.00.

But it was a great day. For once the kids behaved really well, no whining at all. I can't remember the last time we did something like that where there wasn't at least one meltdown.


Minimum income required?

April 2nd, 2006 at 05:50 am

On another board people were saying that it's very hard to have a nice life on $50k or less.

The median household income in the US (median means that exactly half make less and half make more) is $44k. So over half the households in the US are not living a nice life?

I just can't wrap my mind around that. We just now make $50k. This is the first time in our lives that we've had this much income. Yes, some years have sucked (the year that neither of us had jobs for 3 months and then moved 750 miles comes to mind). But for the most part, we've always had a good life.

We have more CC debt than I'd like. Most of it is from that year mentioned above, but we did have some before. So, technically we weren't living fully in our means. But, we've always had a positive net worth. If we had had to, we could have paid off all of our debt.

I told those people they were full of it. Half the people in the US are not living bad lives. Some people may be feeling that they don't have enough "stuff" but they have all their needs met.

I think it takes a lot of hubris to say that you HAVE to have more income than over half the nation to have a good life.

Terri Schaivo

April 1st, 2006 at 02:27 am

One year ago today, Terri Schaivo died.

One year ago Tuesday, I started working at my job. We still have clients tell us "I don't want to be like that" and we do a lot of Directives to Physicians.

This is such a simple document. And it doesn't have to be "right to die" as some call it. This document is about spelling out your wishes and it can be written however you like.

If you don't want to do the document - then at least have the conversation with your family. Make sure they are fully aware of your wishes. I've always known what my mom would like. My mom would like for assisted suicide to be available, she's even asked me to promise to allow her to drown herself in the tub if she gets like my grandma. When I was 12, I watched my mom and dad have to make the decision to allow my brother's body to die (he had no brain stem function).

My mom and dad are fully aware and supportive of my decision not to be kept alive through artificial means unless there is a very good chance (realistically) that I will recover. So is my husband.

I know it's a hard conversation to have, but you have to do it. Even if your decision is to be kept alive as long as possible, you have to tell your family.

You have to spend money to make money?

March 31st, 2006 at 05:02 am

Is this true?

I know our $20 challenge is about making money without spending much, but can we do it without spending anything? With using only what we have already?

This is where I'm getting hung up.
DH loves to teach. His working on weekends has been giving talks. They're part of his job, so he can't get paid for them, but it's something he likes and is good at. He wants to be an adjunct professor, but can't without a grad degree. This sucks.

I'm thinking that right now the only thing I could do that wouldn't require spending money is growing produce. And even then, I'd have to pay market fees to sell at the farmers' market (but I'm going to volunteer for their committee, so I'll see if I can get space for free or discounted).

DH also wants me to develop a market gardening talk. The only way our farmers' market is going to take off is to get small, "backyard", gardeners. The large scale operations are locked into contracts with wholesalers. And truthfully, the average backyard garden can produce enough produce to allow you to have a small retail stand. If we could get enough growers, and get them to branch out from tomatoes and peppers and go for diversity, we could have a great market. But people need to be taught.

Did I mention I suck at public speaking? That the thought of even calling in to a radio show leaves me in tears and shaking? Yeah.

Theatrical Marketing

March 30th, 2006 at 03:02 am

I mentioned the cool displays at Whole Foods in an entry a week or so ago.

I now have a pic to show:

That's the fish section. Doesn't that look cool? It was even better in person. It really looked like they were jumping out of a stream.

Home Haircut Day

March 30th, 2006 at 02:59 am

My boys were looking really ragged, so it was time to cut their hair.

We have really gotten our money's worth out of our clippers and scissors. Right now, we pretty much just use the clippers with a length guide and then trim the edges with scissors. I've actually practiced cutting with scissors, but the boys were too full of energy for that today.

Free plant(s)

March 29th, 2006 at 05:38 am

DH worked again on Sunday. He came home with 2 gorgeous cut orchid stems. One pink, one white. They are marvelous.

Then, he went back out and came in with a beautiful blue and white pot planted with a pothos. This poor plant seriously needs to be planted in a bigger pot OR I'm thinking of dividing it and making 2 (or more) plants out of it. I have the gorgeous pot it's in and another gorgeous large square pot that I've been dying to plant since I got it (1.5 years ago).

(pic from

Pothos is supposed to be extremely good at filtering impurities from the air. And it grows quickly.

The only issue will be keeping my cat from digging in it. The best tip for that is barrier methods. Plastic plates or aluminum foil work very well. They aren't the most attractive, but it does keep the cat from using it as a cat box.

Combining Sales and Coupons (or how I got paid a penny to take something from th

March 29th, 2006 at 05:28 am

Seriously. I was in our local grocery. They had these cooking sauces that DH has been wanting to try. They're made fresh and packaged, but not to store long term. So there were several packages reduced for quick sale. They were reduced to $0.99. Next to them was a pad of in-store coupons for $1.00 off.

I was fully prepared for them to tell me I couldn't use the coupon for the reduced price item. And that was fine, I would have understood. But they just ran it through.

So, free cooking sauce (which DH LOVES) and an extra penny.

Of course, this means we are about $50 over our grocery budget for the month. Which means we spent $2.82 per day for each member of the family. That doesn't include eating out, though. I need to add a couple of dinners out, but that adds another $80 for the month.

DH had to work today

March 26th, 2006 at 01:17 am

and he'll have to work tomorrow.

It's part of his job and he's salaried, so there's no extra pay for this.

BUT, he brought home tshirts for us, caps for the kids and 7 coupons for free blizzards (small) from dairy queen. I think we may have to use some next week. There's one that can be on our way home (I just have to take a different route).

The tshirts have a nice design, but they put it on the back. I HATE that. If there's a pretty design, I want to be able to see it and see people's reactions to it. If it's on my back, I can't see either.

No interest checking account?

March 25th, 2006 at 09:51 pm

My checking account is no fee, but also no interest.

In the beginning, I was more concerned with bouncing checks than I was with not earning interest, so all the money went into the checking account and stayed there.

After a year, I'm not fairly comfortable with the ease of transferring money from savings to checking online. I've not encountered any real problems (I have found, though, that they do maintenance at midnight which is my normal banking hour).

So, my new goal is to keep as much in savings as possible and only move it to checking when I know money will be coming out. Now, since several of my bills are automatic withdrawal, I make sure to keep a minimum of $400 in there and bump it up to $600-700 when I know to expect a withdrawal.

I know interest rates are low and this won't make much difference, but I'm messing with it anyway, why not make some money off of it, right?

Attorney Fees

March 25th, 2006 at 03:26 am

What are you paying for when you go to an attorney? His work or his knowledge.

We had a client come in today for advice on how to get her late husband's name off the deed of their house. It's been too long to probate (in TX you have to probate within 4 years of death) and there wasn't really an estate anyway.

The KNOWLEDGE my boss has is extensive. He's the smartest attorney I've ever worked with.

So, he knows exactly what she needs. She needs a document called an Affidavit of Heirship. He sends me in to get the information for the document while he takes care of an emergency client (I swear, we don't do criminal law, what is up with the clients with their "emergencies"?).

I take the information, go back to my desk, and 20 minutes later, it's done. I let my boss read it through, then sit on it for a couple of hours. I called her back and told her it was ready to pick up.

For that? We get $250. I'd say it took at total of 50 minutes (including the conference with her).

And the sad thing? If she had gone to another attorney she would have been charged at least $500.

So what are our clients paying for?

Gossip Day at work

March 24th, 2006 at 05:08 am

One of our workers has been out sick, she was back today, so she and I walked to the soda machine to have a gab session (it's down the block). $0.65 frivolous spending.

At my office, the ladies are supposed to take a turn during the week manning the phones and taking payments during lunch. At no time am I supposed to be alone in the building (safety issue).

Yesterday it was the sick co-workers day. Now if anyone else is gone a day and didn't make arrangements, she's always the one to stay. So, you'd think one of the other ladies would say "Oh, she's out sick, I'm sure she didn't think to ask someone to stay" or that they'd at least notice that everyone was leaving. Yeah right, that'd require them to be less than selfish.

So, they all went to lunch. Not a big deal, there were 2 other people in the office with me (we have 2 other attorneys who rent space and they have staff) plus one of our staff attorneys was still there (the boss's wife). So the attorney looked around and didn't see anyone. She wanted to go to lunch. She asked me if anyone else was there and I named the two people, so she went to lunch. Well, those 2 people were just late taking lunch, they left.

In all, I was probably only alone in the office 15 minutes and I don't feel particularly unsafe there, but it was frustrating. I'm really far behind and if no one is there, I'm constantly interrupted to answer the phone and take payments. I don't mind doing either thing and I often do them during lunch because I know it's hard for one person to do it all.

So, I unloaded on my sick coworker. She was LIVID. I have a feeling she went to the boss to let him know. I won't do it because there are enough hard feelings towards me. Besides, I suspect the wife probably told him. He was a little out of sorts today.

Frugal Family Fun night

March 23rd, 2006 at 05:28 am

Tonight it was Jenga. This is really fun with 5 and 7 year old boys. They're actually pretty good. We got up to 28 "stories", which I think it pretty good with 2 high energy kids.

DS1 and I also practiced a couple of yoga asanas. I practice until I can do a harder balance pose and then challenge him to try. He doesn't know they're yoga asanas, for him it's just a challenging move.

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