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Archive for March, 2009

March spending totals. Ugly again, but I am still keeping at it.

April 1st, 2009 at 02:40 am

ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES
rent $951.00
student loan $141.00
electric bill $52.00
gas bills $12.05
groceries $368.54
hygene (toothpaste, shaving, etc.) $19.26
laundry $10.00
Medical/dental $473.48
pet food/litter $65.61
gasoline $200.18
tolls $250.00
tickets/fines $125.00
NECESSITIES TO US (won't give up unless emergency)
triple play $149.72
Gifts $39.75
grooming $38.08
game subscription $40.00
all food and drinks at work $246.73
OTHER
clothing $431.85
household (linens, utensils, decor etc.) $242.58
ENTERTAINMENT
eating out $290.22
--------------------
Ski trip
Ski week hotel/lift/sometimes food packages $1,162.19
Ski week eating out/drinks $473.22
Ski week other (wax, lesson, thermals) $330.17
--------------------
transportation other $18.05
airfare for our future trip to Hawaii $518.00
ROTH $600.00

$7,248.68

If I spend less in one category, I end up spending more in another.

I am a champion procrastinator. Need accountability for my "to do" list

March 29th, 2009 at 09:36 pm

1. Submit out-of-network insurance claim for reimbursement

2. Bring new clothing to the tailor for hemming

3. Get a haircut

4. Look through drawers and assemble all gift cards in one place

5. Do laundry

6. Semi-annual dentist visit

7. Spring cleaning - bathroom

8. DH goal - sumbit FHSA claims

9. Find out from the tax unit the status of our tax review

10. Register for the next semester language class

And the most challenging part - it all has to be done before Sat, because we are going away to Atlantic city for the weekend.

I thought if I posted this list here, I'll be embarrassed not to do any of it again.
I hate some of these tasks.

Hotel choice - still have doubts

March 29th, 2009 at 04:15 am

It is hard to choose hotel based on reviews. There is always someone who is unhappy and they always sound believable with valid concerns.

I am getting dizzy from looking at so many.

So I have finally booked one, though it is fully refundable for few more weeks, so I can still keep looking.

I got this one:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hnljw-jw-marriott-ihilani-resort-and-spa-at-ko-olina/

Using "5th night free" promotion we average $262 before tax for an oceanview room, so that is what we did.
Unfortunately that hotel does not allow government rate for leisure travel - at $177 it would be great. Sigh. Most Marriotts allow it, but not this location.

If we get the cheapest advance purchase rate, it would be $249 per day for a garden view room. $299 for oceanview. The view is not worth $50 a day to me, but it is worth $12.

Parking at $29 per day is steep.
In comparison, cheapest car rental I could find is $31 per day - including tax.

Since it is a resort, we are not entitled to free breakfasts we would get in any other Marriott as gold members (we just lost platinum status). Frown

I am not completely sure about my choice, but I could not find a better one so far. Does anyone have suggestions?

At that price we had to go! to ..... Hawaiiiiiiiiiii!

March 28th, 2009 at 05:31 am

A roundtrip flight to Hawaii from NYC (that is a long flight) for $417 plus tax = $459 pp total

The $400 certificate DH got for volunteering off the over-booked flight was expiring in August.

so $918 - $400 = $518
5% cashback Discover gives this month for airline purchases -$25.9 = $492.1 for both roundtrip tickets.

That is $246.05 per person! So I booked it! We are going for a week in May.

I was not even planning on going anywhere, but with this deal I could not resist.

I am working on a deal for a nice hotel now. And from what I see there are some deals to be had right now.

We go away often and spontaneously - always with great deals. Being flexible with destination is the best money saving vacation tip - we just go where and when the great deal is offered (if we are interested in the destination, of course).

Between looking for hot deals and using travel reward programs, I think we pay a lot less than an average person for a lot of our trips. That is why we can go more often.

Amazon kitchen purchases today

March 26th, 2009 at 03:25 am

First grocery purchase:
McCANN'S Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal, 28-Ounce Tins
a set of 6 - free shipping, and they had a coupon for oatmeal, so it came to $4.29 per tin.
That is a really good price for this oatmeal, at least around here.



I've been making it in a slow cooker, so we've been having it all week and intend to keep it up. This should last us over 2 months.

Than I got an electric fondue set that can make cheese or chocolate fondue, or even hot-pot. I like being able to control the temperature by just turning the dial. I am looking forward to some romantic evenings with cheese dipping, wine, candles and conversation.
I did not buy the most expensive/pretty one, I got the best value one with good reviews.

And the last thing I bought was a glass pitcher with ice container and lid. I will start keeping ice tea and ice coffee in the fridge during the warmer months. Or sangria!

So the pitcher and the oatmeal are money-saving purchases. The fondue I guess is a treat. But it costs much less than one fondue meal at a restaurant.

Looking at my last few posts I think I am a little obsessed with food now - must be the side-effect of trying to eat healthier and cooking almost every day.

buying enough sirloin for 2 meals would be cheaper.

March 23rd, 2009 at 08:18 pm

Grocery shopping on lunch break:

string beans 0.47lb $1.41
1/2 dozen eggs $3.49
potatoes for the salad 1.15lb $1.14
cucumbers 1.45lb $2.16
grape tomatoes $1.99
beefsteak tomatoes 1.72lb (price mistake?) $1.70
can of wild tuna $3.49
olives 0.45 lb $3.67
mustard $3.99
rye roll $0.85
romaine hearts $3.99

6 limes (for margaritas) $1.98
strawberries (desert) 16oz $2.99
Total: $32.85

This will make:
to make Greek salad for 2 today (I still have feta and onion at home)

Nicose salad for 3 Tuesday (2 for dinner and 1 for DH to take for lunch next day)
after which I will be left with 3 eggs and the rest of the mustard. (Unless I choose to make popovers with the salad, in which case I'll only have mustard left)

No wonder I want to drink margaritas!

More workplace lunches

March 20th, 2009 at 02:22 am

Price ranges from $4 to $6.
Cooked fresh and served hot.















It is great - because I also learn new dishes and sometimes make what I like most at home.

Steel cut oatmeal for breakfast!

March 18th, 2009 at 02:54 am

I just discovered that you can make it in a slow cooker!

I am going to set it up before going to sleep and have some ready and hot for me and DH tomorrow.


(this is not my picture - not yet)

It is not really to save money - I usually just get a 75c pumpernickel buttered bagel for breakfast with gourmet coffee I make at the office.
That kind of oatmeal is actually more expensive. But it is much healthier.

I wanted to have this for breakfast for a while, but there is no way I can make time to actually cook it (and I do not like instant one) But if I wake up and it is ready to serve - that changes the equation.

I will also add some pecans and maybe a touch maple syrup we bought in vermont.

Or, I wonder if I could put dried cherries into it instead (to cook with oatmeal for 8hrs?) If anyone knows, please post. I use dried cherries in jeweled rice but that is only cooked for 20 minutes. I wonder what will happen to them after 6-8hrs?

I bought the slow cooker few month ago and cooked barley soup with it once. Until now I did not know what else to do with it. Now, if this works, I'll use it few times a week!

Can't stop thinking about it.

March 16th, 2009 at 03:50 pm

I love the neighborhood (though right outside the gates it is Jersey City and its litter).

But inside...
The view from that condo was like this:







I would feel like coming back to a resort destination every day after work.

I love this condo!!! - but we'll have to live like on minimum wage.

March 15th, 2009 at 01:15 am

We saw a condo in Jersey City today - 20 minute ferry ride from Manhattan. It is in a good location (most of the Jersey City is not so good).

It is lovely - a balcony with a great view, spacious, lots of light, 1.5 baths, washer/dryer, huge living room.
1.5 bedrooms. I could really see living there, waking up, there... getting ready for work... It can be home.

It reminds me of my childhood apartment - european style building, windows, lobby, grounds...

It is, however, quite expensive:

$1,850 monthly mortgage payment (430K mortgage with 20% down at 5% interest)
$878 monthly maintenance
$645 monthly taxes

$3,373 house payment

than there is commute. DH commutes to a job 47 miles away. (it should not really change much - the place is a little further but he won't have to go through Staten Island and its traffic).

I'll have to also get a ferry pass - $290 a month.

We will have to cut down on a lot of expenses - really count everything we spend on, including groceries, including every purchase. We'd be living like poor people but in a lovely place. Can I handle such simplicity? What matters to me more?

This is the best place I have seen since starting to look at the apartments over 2 years ago.

I really really want it. But DH has concerns regarding high cost and I understand him. It is a huge decision and we want to make a right one. But it is beautiful. I'd feel like going home to a resort every day.

Lunch with DH - $62

March 13th, 2009 at 09:30 pm

$62 - but it is a rare opportunity. We work more than 1.5 hours away from each other over 3 hrs roundtrip.

But since DH had his eye exam yesterday in Manhattan (4 blocks form my work) he did not go to work and we met for luch afterwards.

We had a bussiness lunch in a steak house half a block from my work
It included for each a salad, an entree (one of which was nice steak with mash potatoes and vegetables and the other was the best juicy siroin burger...) and cheesecake. So with the tip the bill came to $62 - good deal for that kind of place.

It is so strange to have lunch together in the middle of my work day. We do it about 3 times a year - when DH is in the city for appointments and I love it! It makes the day feel almost like vacation day.

Today is Friday, so we are going out, but to an inexpensive place. It is famos for empanadas (we got to love them during our travel in Argentina) I especially loved the ones in Salta... ymmm.

Lunches at work - more photos

March 12th, 2009 at 03:07 am

My co-worker heroically continues to cook every lunch hour. We get a menu from her every Friday and choose which meals we like and which days we would like to skip.


I love kosheri! It is so satisfying.


we have a panini press at the office.
















Sometimes even desert.

Have to last 21 days on $1,700

March 11th, 2009 at 02:57 am

We spent so much during the first 10 days of the months that with 21 days left to go we are down to only $1,700 left to spend - otherwise we will be spending more than we make.

This amount has to cover everyday expenses including the most expensive line in our budget - commute. Tolls for DH's commute to work are exactly $20 each workday day ($10+$8+$1+$1). Than there is gas (he works 47 miles away, and the traffic is horrible for a chunk of it).

Than groceries, food at work, a weekend with friends maybe, and everyday life.

And there will be additional chiropractor visit(s) and he does not take my insurance. I am still in a lot of pain - having trouble even getting up by myself. Advil, anti-inflammatory cream, and heating pads did not help relieve it. I took a vicodent an hour ago. That helped somewhat - now I can lay down and get up by myself and don't feel as much pain(still feel enough) and now I can feel the tension itself. I am a little tempted to take more to see if that can lessen the pain even more.

Slept badly -- lots of pain and $193 of unexpected expence today

March 10th, 2009 at 06:43 pm

I woke up with a pinched nerve, only able to carry my head crookedly to my left shoulder.
I went to work anyway, but the pain got worse.

So my boss have me the name of a chiropractor, and was able to get an appointment in half an hour.

$165 for the chiropractor (does not take insurance)
$28.48 for a reusable heat pad with straps and a bottle of advil.

Chiropractor made me able to at least turn my head, but my muscles are spasmed and still hurt a lot.

I remember that I have some vicodent at home - I filled a prescription after my root canal but never used it.
I think this is the time of need - it hurts more than after the root canal.

I am too young to have these kinds of problems!

But at least I can afford to deal with it. I am glad that our budget is not so tight that we wouldn't be able to pay some bill if this happened. Or that my job will not even count few hours of to see the doctor and I can do it any time I need. Trying to look at the positive side (since I can't look at the left side).

Cost to make salad at home for 2 ppl - $14.21

March 10th, 2009 at 02:43 am

I made a greek salad for dinner today:

This was the cost:
2 beef stem tomatoes $3.92
cucumber $0.5
1 onion $0.56
parsley $1.29
greek feta .46 lb $4.22
olives .71lb $2.87
1 small portugese rye bread roll $0.85

total: $14.21

Everything was used up except for parsley and 3 olives, so this is the true actual cost of making a salad at home.

Yesterday we paid less for getting one large dish to go from an ethnic restaurant and splitting it at home (I believe that actually resulted in a right portion size).
So cooking is more expensive (more healthy though).

I got 2 blood oranges for a snack - $1.29 each orange (and they are small!) and a mango at $1.49.
Eating fresh foods is not cheap. And there are no coupons for any of it.

Back from our ski week. Spending and its justification.

March 8th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Every year since we live together (3 years now) me and my husband go on a 9 day ski trip (one week plus 2 weekends).

It is more than a vacation - it is a winter tradition we established for our young family and don't want to give up. We drive through VT, from one ski mountain to the next all the way to Jay Peak and we always look forward to it.

We do long ski weekends here and there, but we only do the 9 day long one once a winter. This is the first winter I kept track of our expenses. Naturally, the total was more than I thought it would be. But this is helpful in order to plan for the future - if we buy a house and don't want to give up this tradition, we have to plan and save for it.

So here are our totals and my justifications for it:

Day 1
gas $21.51
Brooks Brothers suit for DH - he really needed one for work - the only one he had died from old age. On sale and with 10% off coupon on top $291.15
dinner $83
anchini (softest towel set and a bath mat at gigantic clearance - store closed 3 days later) $28.89
rite aid water $2.98
rite aid other $14.1
motel $93.38

Day 2
Breakfast $32
Dinner $57
Luxury hotel at the government rate $134
gas $26

Day 3
Breakfast $30
B&B 2 day package - included lift tickets and breakfasts $478
Dinner $76
water $4.49
beer at ski lodge $11.5
2 arctic weight ski thermal tops (it was cooold) $85.12

Day 4
gas $16.05
diner $76
2 beers at ski lodge $12.5

Day 5
water, snacks $8
drinks at pub $17
Thermal bottom for DH and hat for me $63.82
Thermal bottom for me and hand warmers $65
ski socks, warmers $23.23
2 day slopeside hotel package - included 3 day lift tickets, 2 days of breakfasts, dinners, and tips!) $466.44
2 items of clothing - one is a gift for mom $71.98

Day 6
ski wax $30
private ski lesson $94
bar $21

Day 7
dinner $44.73
motel $84.75

Day 8
breakfast $30
maple syrup $14.75
crabtree and evelyn shaving soap for DH $19.26
ann taylor (amazing sale for everyday work clothing) $69.3
Escada (2 beautiful vibrant red items at 90% off) $80
Normally I could not shop at Escada, but this time sales were just unbelievable!.

coffee shop with wi-fi where DH wated while I was shopping) 8
Burberry (causal pants and 2 shirts for DH and 1 shirt and hairband for me) $186
gas $23
dinner $35
starbucks break on the long drive back $5

We did not ski on that last day and went home a day earlier because of bad weather condition - it suddenly warmed up and rained.

So $3,034 is the total. It could have been around $2,300 without the shopping - but it was such an opportunity - I've never seen these prices in NYC and we are set for spring season now.

It was a very enjoyable vacation. I will plan $2,600 for the next year (less shopping).

February spending tracking results

March 2nd, 2009 at 02:31 am

It was a very difficult month emotionally, but I'm trying to get back to normal.

These are the totals. While I tried very hard and did save a lot of money on discretional things like clothing for me (we only bought a Brooks brothers suit and 2 pairs of pants for DH on sale), eating out, lunches at work, etc... And most of this eating out was emergency-related. I found out there is such thing.

We also spent less on gas and tolls due to DH's work travel and days off we took off work... But we spent a lot of month for necessities: help to family and we pre-paid car insurance for 6 months.

ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES February
rent $951.00
student loan $141.00
electric bill $60.50
gas bills $14.15
groceries $204.89
household supplies (bounty, bulbs, etc.) $16.26
hygene (toothpaste, shaving, etc.) $10.24
laundry $13.50
Medical/dental $16.78
dry cleaning $27.25
pet food/litter $23.82
car insurance $1,400.00
gasoline $99.68
tolls $200.00 (about)
tickets/fines $160.00
car maintenance $53.58
parking meter $10.50
NECESSITIES TO US (won't give up unless emergency)
triple play $149.72
Help to the family $1,148.56
grooming (haircuts, skincare, make-up) $48.10
game subscription/books/itunes $48.00
all food and drinks at work $192.58
OTHER
clothing $383.97
house other (linens, utensils, decor etc.) $75.47
ENTERTAINMENT
eating out $398.26
alcohol $60.25
Starbucks $8.00
skiing/weekend getaway 89.38
savings ROTH $393.00
miscelaneous $69.61
$6,468.05