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Archive for September, 2006

Coupons from Kashi

September 25th, 2006 at 03:51 pm

Kashi was kind enough to send me several coupons for Silk soy milk after I made a comment in response to one of her posts. They arrived last week and I've used two so far. There are still 4 or 5 more that expire on the 30th. I'll buy as many as my refrigerator will hold at that point, since I go through a half-gallon about once every 3-4 days, and will get through all of what I buy by the expiration date in November.

I wonder how soy milk freezes? I could use all the coupons if I knew that it would freeze well. I'll have to do some research on that. If not, I anticipate that I'll be able to make room in the fridge for at least 3 additional half-gallons by that point.

Cooking, Cleaning, Grading

September 24th, 2006 at 07:17 pm

I did a bit of grocery shopping this morning (plus 23 minutes on the elliptical at the gym), then cooked in the afternoon while grading (I gave three exams last week). For the week, I made a Portuguese potato-kale soup with sausage, roasted squash/carrots/brussels sprouts, and baked apples, and a big salad. Groceries also included a nice crusty Italian bread, a loaf of pumpernickel, deli-sliced turkey and cheese for sandwiches. I also have a couple of pieces of salmon in the freezer that I'll probably cook up over the week.

Unfortunately the plastic container that I transferred the soup to started to leak and I lost about 1/3 of the broth and made a big mess in the fridge before this was discovered.

I also cleaned the floors, did the laundry, and cleared the tabletops of their clutter accumulation, plus left the kitchen cleaned up for the week ahead.

I've finished grading one exam and am now pretty wiped, so I'll go to bed shortly. The term really gets busy once grading kicks in.

To my disappointment, I didn't get to go to Rosh Hashanah services (although I did make a R.H. dinner at a friend's house on Friday night) at all because I made the grading a priority; nor did I get to go at all to the "Celtic Classic" festival going on half a mile from my house.

One of these years my life will find more balance. Until then, I muddle through as best I can. I do feel that I've been giving the social and especially the spiritual short shrift of late.

Free trial at BJ's Warehouse

September 23rd, 2006 at 01:43 pm

About a month ago, BJ's had a "free week visitor pass" in the paper and I went and looked around. Had to register at the desk, and could have bought things except at a 15% non-member premium, or else joined. I didn't opt to join then...so this week they sent me a pass for a 2-month free membership. Of course, as soon as I registered to get this, they tried to get me to join at a reduced ($30 as opposed to regular $45) fee. I asked how long that promotion was good for, and it's good until December, so I'll use my two free months and see if it's worth my while to join.

Between the full-time job and the part-time job, I've been a bit too busy to blog here much. Oh well, I'll continue to drop by, read others' blogs and put a short entry here occasionally.

A wonderful present, but....

September 13th, 2006 at 06:22 am

One thing that got overshadowed yesterday by my dog's illness was the package that arrived in the mail from Amazon.com. My sister had emailed me a week ago and told me to expect a package from them--a slightly belated birthday present.

For a few years now, my sister and I have settled into a "routine" of birthday and holiday presents. For the holidays, I renew a magazine subscription for her, and for her birthday, she'll usually let me know about one or two items available on Amazon.com that I then order for her for about $40. And my sister will often buy me a decent pair of earrings, since I have pierced ears. The problem has always been to keep it down to just one pair (since she can't abide the thought of buying "cheap jewelery.")

So--the package. I've been talking for a while about wanting an MP3 player, as I've gotten hooked on listening to audio books and my library now offers ebook downloads. For me, it's been a fun kind of thing to dangle in front of myself as I got through my difficult summer without an income--I told myself that I'd buy it after the debts were paid off. Obviously I'd talked of this plan to my sister, since exactly the model I'd decided on was in that package.

It's lovely to have and I'm sure I'll get good use out of it--but I do feel a bit like the wind was taken out of my sails and a bit ambivalent that she's ramped up the spending on gifts a bit. I've checked out the price and she spent $70--a good deal more than our gifts have cost of late. I'm such an ungrateful wretch--worrying more about how much it will cost ME to buy her an equally valuable present the next time gift-giving comes around.

For my sister, giving a gift is to be something personal and symbolizing her caring for the person. I guess I'm miserly but to me presents really represent mostly obligation. Every once in a while I'll delight in buying someone a gift that is "just right"--as when, five years ago, I bought my boyfriend a nice down comforter and duvet set for the holidays because I knew how cold his bedroom gets in the winter and that the comforter would keep him much warmer than the pile of blankets he was using. I guess the problem is that finding such a "just right" gift for my sister will be difficult--and out of my price range if I find it. Her tastes are MUCH more expensive than mine.

A $486 tummy ache

September 12th, 2006 at 09:25 pm

Poor Henry, my basset hound, has had a tummy ache today. He was fine when he woke up, but his first taste of food this morning sent him running outside to start desperately eating grass. He was drooling copiously and the initial meds I tried giving him had no effect, so after 3 hours of periodic bouts of tummy upset, I canceled class and made a vet appointment.

The vet said his vital signs were good and offered me two options: give him a shot to calm his tummy and take him home, or do an x-ray and blood work to see if there was an underlying problem to deal with. Since Henry has had episodes of this type before (though not so badly), I opted to have the tests done so that I know what I'm dealing with.

The good news is that x-ray only showed gas in his digestive system and no problems. Blood work indicated that kidneys, pancreas, and liver are fine.

The x-rays also picked up two large bladder stones which have to be dealt with before they cause problems plus indicated that his hips are not in great condition (arthritis down the line). Plus he has an ear infection. So I left today with two tummy meds, two ear meds, and chewable glucosamine, plus a week's worth of special low-residue food.

Henry has been doing mostly ok since he's been home but has had two short bouts of his tummy bothering him. He's sleeping now. Nothing upsets me like my dog being sick (Bassets are vulnerable to Bloat, which is deadly, and he was displaying some of the symptoms). I'm exhausted but wired and hope that *I* sleep tonight--I really need it.

Taxes

September 10th, 2006 at 09:31 pm

Damn, wrote out a long entry which not only didn't get posted but now there seems to be an entry in my blog which includes ALL of the prior postings, without spaces. Yikes.

Anyways, the gist of the longer post is this: considering a part-time job offer (on top of full-time work), I realized that the true value to consider was not the salary offered, but how much of that salary I would take home after taxes. Since my full-time job puts me squarely in the middle of the 25% tax bracket, that's 25% to the feds, then another 11.75% for social security, medicare, state taxes, local taxes, and state unemployment taxes. That leaves 63.25% of the offer as the value in question. Looks like a lot less, then.

Seems silly to me to tax income--decreases incentives. I'm beginning to see the wisdom of plans that suggest taxing consumption instead.

Came across my budget from 8 years ago

September 8th, 2006 at 07:00 pm

When I picked up one of my old financial planning books ("How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"), a piece of paper fell out, and on it was my budget from January 1998. Interesting to compare now and then.

My circumstances are very different: I live in a different state, have a different job, own a house rather than rent, am now in a committed relationship, and I have three pets rather than one. I'm still adjusting my budget to new circumstances since some of these changes (home & two of the pets) are fairly recent, but still, the comparison is interesting.

I make about 60% more--but that's both because I'm at a higher paying job and because I have a second part-time job in addition to the main job, which I didn't before. So taxes of course are proportionately higher. And I save more (30% more) and give more to charity (117% more), but my gift-giving has stayed about the same (I'm a notoriously bad gift-giver, alas).

Going from renting to owning makes a huge difference--my monthly housing + utility expenses have gone up from about $700 to about $1022, a 46% increase--but at least I'm building equity now. Household expenses are up, too, from $20 to $50/month as there's more to buy with a house, especially as a new owner--plus that includes repairs, which I never had to worry about before.

The other big increase is education expenses. I've gone back to school the past three summers, working very slowly on getting a certificate in accounting to add to my credentials. Mostly I take these classes at the community college, but just this year, I finally qualified to take classes for free at one school that I teach at, so that is helping hold those costs down some.

My grocery expenses are up about 24%, but eating out expenses have held steady. That increase could be accounted for by inflation--plus here in PA, I have much nicer grocery stores available to me on a weekly basis than I did when I lived in rural VT, so I buy somewhat more upscale ingredient indulgences--one of the ways I hold down the restaurant expense.

Transportation costs are up 52%--I have a newer car, but when I lived in VT, I lived literally right across the street from where I worked, so I only drove my car to do errands on the weekends and to travel. Now I commute 16 miles daily--but I also travel less. That is reflected in a nearly 80% *decrease* in my entertainment expenses (since I budgeted in travel with entertainment). Owning a home and 3 pets and having a relationship--not to mention more than one job!--I've become much more of a homebody than I was.

The other big decrease in my spending is in my "unreimbursed business expenses." As an academic, I can justify many of my nonfiction book purchases as research materials, and I used to do so quite a bit more than I do now. I still spend about $50/month on books and films for use in research and teaching--but I used to spend about three *times* that amount, so that's a big decrease.

So--lots of increases, a couple of decreases. I do miss the travel and "culture-vulturing" I used to do, and some day will have to do more of it again. The biggest increase over the past several years has been in my overall net worth, so that is satisfying.

Hallelujah!

September 8th, 2006 at 06:55 am

The long drought is over! The first paycheck since May 20 (that's 112 days ago, folks) is sitting in my checking account this morning!

It's the one from my part-time teaching job, which pays on a biweekly schedule. My "real" paycheck for the full-time job arrives on the 20th--it comes monthly. Most years, I get my 9-month salary budgeted out over 12 months for me, but this year it wasn't since I was only part-time last fall and didn't go back full-time until January.

I knew I had to budget ahead for the summer, but came up about $2400 short because of tuition expenses (I took 3 courses over the summer), a major car repair, and a big vet bill. That $2400 has been sitting half on a credit card and half as a loan from my mom. Now I can begin to pay off the credit card--I'll pay it in full when the real paycheck arrives--and then, next month, begin to start putting money back into the depleted emergency savings account (Mom is expecting repayment in December; that gives me 3 months in which I can put some money towards that debt and some towards savings, and then begin to put the full amount in the emergency fund as of Janaury.

I feel quite relieved to know that the income stream is flowing again.

Another part-time job opportunity

September 5th, 2006 at 09:44 pm

One thing about academia is that decisions are generally are made pretty far in advance. At the beginning of the fall term, departments finalize the teaching schedule for the spring and are well along on any job searches for the next fall. Thus it was that I arrived home to a call inviting me a teach a class next term at School Y. I currently have a full-time but temporary job at School X and this term am teaching one class part-time in the Evening College at School Y. The Evening College and the Day Division at School Y are run separately, so I very well may be asked to teach another part-time class in the evening at School Y. That would be two courses on overload at Y, on top of 3 classes plus supervising honors theses, advising, and committee work at School X. Since I have no idea what I'm doing for income after next August 20th, more money is always nice. But then I kind of have to hope that I only get one offer, not two, from Y. Doing two courses on overload will be a bear. But I hate turning offers down, since there's going to come a time--might not be next fall, but could be the fall thereafter--when I'm back fully on the adjunct, patch-together-one-course-here-and-one-course-there
path, and saying "no" means that somebody else gets rotated in.

I'll have to think about this...sitting here at 12:30 a.m. after putting in a full teaching day and spending 6 hours preparing my night class for tomorrow, my brain is all but fried.

Offers of employment are always better than not having offers of employment, and if I overload heavily in the spring, then I'll feel freer to completely forgo teaching next summer and to again concentrate on taking classes as I attempt a mid-life career change.

One other good point about an offer from School Y: it's only 1.5 miles from home. Last fall, I taught 5 classes at 3 different colleges and commuted 250 miles a week. The driving was in itself exhausting. School X is 8 miles away; even if I taught 5 days a week at X and 3 at Y, I'd be putting in less than 90 commuting miles.

Also have to take the dog's schedule into account. He had me by his side almost continually all summer and things are hard on him now that school is in session. He's over there whining for my company, so good night.

Chores Day

September 3rd, 2006 at 04:01 pm

Finally sitting down to work (no holiday for me tomorrow...no college I ever taught at or went to ever had Labor Day off!) after spending the day doing chores:

swept/vaccuumed the floors

decluttered the dining room table

gave the bathrooms a good cleaning

cleaned the kitchen sink

made a crockpot dinner (ate tonight plus have 3 more portions for later this week)

pulled a bunch of weeds

mowed the lawn

bought 3 bright yellow chrysanthamum plants to replace the begonias and impatiens I bought the beginning of the summer, which are looking pretty spent

put up Redi-Shades over four more windows for more privacy along the sides/back of the house (I only put up shades in the front when I moved in 10 months ago). I'm hoping to buy some nice *real* bamboo or wood blinds for the dining room by the end of the year. I'll put up blinds (which I vastly prefer to curtains) gradually room by room. For $4 apiece, the paper Redi-Shades are a great value and actually look quite nice--my neighbor, who's only seen them from outside the house, complemented me on them once!

Also went to the gym and did a full body weight circuit and walked the dog 3 times today (total 1.75 miles, which is the furthest we've gone in a day since the weather heated up in June).

I only got five hours sleep last night. Hoping to put in a good 2-3 hours on class prep for Mon & Tues before bed.

Making it to the paycheck

September 2nd, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Now that September's here and the prospect of a paycheck is in sight, some of the tension over mounting debt is loosening--maybe a bit too much. After all, I don't want the credit card bill getting too much bigger before I pay it off! I *did* find a great deal on 8 o'clock coffee and bought $10 pounds for just under $30 today. I already have about 3 pounds at home from an earlier (not quite as good sale). Coffee addict though I am, I think I'm good on coffee at least through the end of the year.

The first paycheck from my part-time job arrives Sept. 15; then a full-fledged infusion of cash comes with the first regular paycheck on Sept. 20.

I've done a little grocery shopping the past couple of days; I'm hoping I can pretty much make it to Sept. 15 without too much additional grocery spending (I know that I *will* need about $30 more for soymilk, sliced turkey, and yogurt, my basic staples.

But I've got about 6 frozen chicken breasts, 6 frozen turkey meatballs, 2 veggie burgers, 3 salmon patties--there's 10 meals right there. Just bought a big box of oatmeal so that takes care of breakfasts; also bought a loaf of bread and will bake one next week. I froze half a batch of split pea soup (about 3 meals worth) 10 days ago, and there's still 2 pounds of spaghetti and half a pound each of red lentils, brown lentils, and split peas, so it looks as though more pasta and more bean soup will tide me through the last of this really lean patch.

I know that there will be some "rebound" spending once the paycheck comes--hopefully not too much. One thing I know I'll buy once money is in the bank again is a bit of clothing--I'm in need of some new lingerie and the walking shoes I've been using since January are absolutely without spring. I'll try to let those be my "rebound splurge."