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Belated Thanksgiving Day weekend post

December 3rd, 2023 at 08:54 pm

So I accomplished one of my 2023 goals last weekend.  I completed the town's Turkey Trot 5k!  And I wasn't even last.  There were about 550 runners, and I was 3rd from last.  All 3 of the last in were women over 60 and I was 17/19 in that sub-group.

I'm taking my running back indoors for the winter but I'll probably aim to run 3 5ks next year.

Otherwise I spent a few hours of Thanksgiving Day with a friend's family.  It's nice not having to think about where to go (I have a standing invitation to Thanksgiving at her house), but I also felt as though I would have been fine on my own for the day.  

When I was in my 20s and on my own for Thanksgiving for the first time (I was in Michigan in grad school and my family was in Los Angeles and it didn't really make sense to go home just for the weekend, especially so near the end of the semester), finding a place to spend Thanksgiving was a big issue, and it was something that I worried about well into midlife.  But these days, I actually feel as though so much of my free time is taken up by thinking about things relevant to work and that I'd rather have some truly free time to myself rather than fulfill a social obligation.


Other news:  I still haven't made any additional progress in decluttering since my friend's visit in August--and, predictably, the dining room table is a mess again.

In particular, the "cat room" (storage room/someday guest bedroom/study/workout space) is a mess.

Meanwhile my best friend in town, who has been retired for over 15 years, has been feeding feral cats around her house.  One of those moved indoors a couple of years ago.  Another lives in a heated bed she keeps on her porch.  Both are females.  The indoor one is friendly and the outdoor one is not.

Then there is a young male who is very affectionate who has now moved into her cellar, who she refers to as "your (i.e., MY) next cat."  He seems interested in meeting her indoor kitty, which is a good sign.  Meanwhile it is my busy time of year and I don't have time to clear things out or organize!  My schedule is light the last two weeks of the year--maybe then?

I'm also still paying off Buffy's final expenses, and I had intended to adopt two kitties together so they could keep each other company because I do spend lots of time at work--especialy this time of year.  My heart is ready for more pets but the house isn't.  Unsure what I'm going to do.




May 21st, 2023 at 04:19 pm

I lost my beloved Buffy on Mother's Day.   I took her to the emergency vet on Saturday morning for an issue which resolved itself while she was there, but they said, "while she's here, why don't we just do an x-ray and see if anything we don't know about is going on?"  and they gave her a pain shot.  

It was more intervention than she could tolerate and she was not the same cat when she got home.  I waited 24 hours in case she improved--sometimes before after pain meds or being hospitalized, it took her 18 hours or so to get back to herself--but not only was she not herself, but she was hunching over (a sign of a cat in pain) and occasionally putting herself in her carrier to hide (a new behavior).  She did drag herself out to the porch to lie in the sun for a while and I did get a few minutes of purring from her when I was lying by her side, but it seemed kinder to put an end to what was clearly suboptimal experience and the sooner the better.  I tried to schedule an at-home euthanasia but the earliest I could get was Tuesday, and I didn't want to wait.

I have now been pet-less for a week, which is the longest period in 29 years.  My head's intent is to adopt another two cats later this year, towards year-end, but who knows what my heart will end up doing?  I'm still kind of numb and in shock and grieving profoundly.  I have loved all of my pets, but there are some who touch you more deeply.  A decade ago, Henry was my heart hound, and Buffy was my heart kitty for the past 9+ years.

Quick Kitty update

April 13th, 2023 at 06:01 pm

My Buffy was diagnosed with lymphoma on March 9th.  She started chemotherapy on March 17th.  She had her fourth treatment this past Tuesday.  According to the vet, it is typically the fourth treatment that puts them into remission.

We will see if she is in remission on April 25th and determine how to proceed based on that morning's ultrasound results.  Either the chemotherapy will continue for another 3 months, but at increasingly spaced intervals, or the vet will determine that she is not responding and we decide how to keep her comfortable for the longest possible period (which would only be another 1-2 months at most).

The third chemo dose was particularly hard on her, but I learned some tricks after that--like making sure I have an anti-nausea drug and an appetite stimulant on hand, requesting subcutaneous fluids to be administered at home to make sure she is hydrated, adding Prednisolone and Denamarin (which contains milk thistle and helps the liver clear toxins).  She will have that same drug on the 25th if we decide to proceed, but hopefully it will be managed better, plus I will know what to expect.

And if the results are not what I hope, I am steeling myself to not keep her around too long, just as long as her life seems to have quality most of the time.  I've learned that one day of not eating might be followed by a good eating day, so I won't pull the trigger too early, either.

Photo from a couple of years ago:

My kitty has lymphoma

March 10th, 2023 at 11:16 pm

Buffy, my kitty who turns 18 on the 30th, was diagnosed with lymphoma yesterday.

The two veterinary oncologists at my local clinic are booked out for the next 6 weeks so we have a consult with a veterinary oncologist next Friday at a clinic 70 miles away.  (This will incidentally be the furthest I have driven since before the pandemic.  I kinda stopped driving distances back then.)

I believe that the chemo can be administered locally.  

It's intestinal lymphoma and I think it's the large cell variety, which has the better prognosis.  I'm praying that we are just dealing with a 3-month course of chemo and then remission (although they never say that kitty lymphoma is cured).  Some varieties of cat lymphoma have a 2-3 year prognosis with chemo, and that is about how long I would expect her to live anyways.

She is my miracle kitty who was expected to die back in 2019 when she was hospitalized for 10 days.  She's been consulting the internal medicine specialist quarterly since then, so we caught this relatively early.  She did not have enlarged lymph nodes at her last check on 12/5.  Also her bloodwork is normal except for somewhat elevated neutraphils.

Yesterday when I went to pick her up, there was a Basset Hound named Albert in the waiting room.  Bassets are my "spirit animal" and seeing one felt like a good luck charm to me.  I pray it is.

I know that she doesn't have a long life span remaining in any case, but I've been walking around with a hard knot in the pit of my stomach since hearing the news yesterday.  If her lymphoma turns out to be more agressive, she could be gone in 4 to 8 weeks.  So I'm praying for longer with her than that.

May Day

May 1st, 2021 at 08:45 pm

I get a message about an "invalid page URL" when I log in, so I had been thinking for the past 3 or so months that I wasn't able to post--but then I discovered that, even if I get that message, if I just go to the blog page, I am indeed logged in.  So this is just a quick catchup for March and April of 2021.

-Work has been busy, as it always is this time of year.  Busy is good, but I am looking forward to things slowing down a bit over the summer.

-I am now deep into reviewing for my CFP exam, scheduled for July 8th.  I take a review course that starts June 11, and there's about a thousand pages of "pre-study" material that you are supposed to get through before the live review.  I'm currently about 400 pages in.  I started meeting (virtually) with a group of half a dozen other people preparing to take the exam at the same time, and that meeting starts off my Saturdays and usually gets me into the mood to dig deep and study for most of the weekend.  Not today, though.

-The biggest news is that my beautiful cat Bridget passed away on April 14th.  She was my quiet kitty and generally the one in better health.  I noticed in late March that she had developed a cough and that her appetite had decreased.  I took her for a vet appointment and they took x-rays and diagnosed possible pneumonia, possible pancreatitis, and some worry about possible cancers in both areas.  I opted to treat her with antibiotics for a week first to see what that did.  Her cough decreased, but so did her appetite, so I scheduled her for an ultrasound to get better diagnostic information.  I was thinking that I would get more information about what was going on and, assuming she had some kind of cancer, learn what the prognosis was and then baby her and keep her as comfortable as possible and have her euthanized after a weekend, a week, or a month.  But she passed there in the parking lot of the veterinary clinic while I was waiting for them to come out and get her (covid restrictions).  Bridget hated going to the vet with a passion, so she avoided her last visit.  The house seems strangely empty with just one cat rather than two.  But with all Buffy's health woes, I won't adopt another cat until she too is gone, for fear that the stress of a new companion would be worse than the stress of spending more time alone.

-I am now fully vaccinated (as of this past Wednesday) and will be going to dinner at a friend's house for the first time in over a year.  I also had dinner at another friend's on Monday, and braved going into an actual store for the first time since last summer. I'm also planning to start walking more regularly with a friend who is a "snowbird" and who just came back up to PA from her winter digs in Florida.  And I can start going back to grocery shopping in person after having had them delivered for an entire year!

-Financially the year is off to a good start:  assets up about 7% (including savings as well as income and capital appreciation), debt down nearly 9% (though I am worried about having to potentially replace the washing machine and about having a potentially expensive plumbing repair this month), and overall net worth currently up nearly 60k since the beginning of the year.

-Have to finish filing my taxes.  I drafted them last weekend but need to review the recovery rebate credit calculation.  Once those are done, I stand to receive about a $1,500 refund.

I wish I remembered how to add a picture since I would love to add one of Bridget.

Then (10 years ago) and Now

January 1st, 2020 at 08:40 pm

Ten years ago: I was just starting my first job in the financial industry, doing taxes for H&R Block, after leaving a 20-year career in teaching and four months of unemployment. Both my mother and my basset hound Henry were alive, but each had been diagnosed with the illnesses that would soon kill them. I also had Phoebe and Teddy, the cats. I was about to take my final CPA exam. My Net Worth was positive but lower than it should be for someone nearing age 50.

Ten years later, I have had ten different jobs in the financial industry (most of them in the first half of the decade), finished my EA, CPA, and am nearly done with the CFP certification. All 3 pets that I had a decade ago were gone early in the decade and I adopted Buffy and Bridget, two middle-aged kitties who had lost their owner (and who are now both seniors and ill). I still live in the same house, belong to the same congregation and have the same friends (of course, there are new ones, but the core group is the same), and I’m still concerned with eating well and exercising. I never lose as much weight as I want to but the good news is that I have generally stayed moderately active and within about 10 pounds of the same weight for the decade.

My Net Worth is about 3.7x what it was. The inheritance from my mother doubled my net worth early in the decade, and I’ve grown the accounts since then. A new car in 2012 was my biggest single-item expense of the decade, but cumulatively with five pets (the three back then and the two now), veterinary expenses have been the biggest “discretionary” category of spending, particularly the two, Henry and Buffy, who had more major illnesses. But the pets keep me happy so they are well worth the money I spend on them.

Now, looking ten years ahead I see both more of the same and more changes. I’ll continue to focus on both health and finances (which is why I named my blog “Fiscal Fitness”); I’ll continue to have pets despite the expense, and, for the next decade, work will remain a focus. But I’ll begin to mentally prepare for retirement as well. That change in mental focus shall be a challenge for the decade.

Win, Lose, and Draw

December 31st, 2019 at 01:52 am

-Kitties are both still here and happy, if not healthy.
-Completed 1.5+ CFP courses—and 1.5 to go.
-Was somewhat more active in 2019 than in 2018—about 10% more steps.
-Increased savings to more than 20% of income between 401k, HSA, and emergency fund.
-Did not increase debt despite unexpected ~10k in veterinary medical expenses and accelerating a 5k roofing project into 2019 rather than 2020.
-Work has generally gone well.
-Managed to tackle some deferred home maintenance projects.
-I managed to maintain a sufficient social life despite working long hours.

(Upcoming) Losses
Kitties now both have been diagnosed with what the vet terms their “life-limiting conditions.”

My vet appointment with Buffy last week was distressing. Whatever it is that blocked her biliary tract back in June is growing again. Without opening her up we don’t know if it is cancer or merely an “inflammatory process.” Surgery would cost 6-7k and Buffy turns 15 in March, which is the average lifespan for an indoor cat. If she were 5 years younger, I would go for the surgery, but I had a hard talk with myself and decided that it isn’t worth spending that much money on a cat whose likelihood of living more than another year is not high in any case. What I *am* doing now is that we added a third medication, one to keep her blood sugar in control, and I am treating her as if she is actively diabetic. She has been a diabetic-in-remission for four years. The prednisolone that helps her biliary tract/inflammation issues causes her diabetes to become active again, so we added a medication (not insulin but glipizide) that helps bring her blood sugar under control, but this means that I have to measure her blood glucose to make sure that I’m also not causing her to become hypoglycemic. We are both getting used to this new routine. My goal is to keep her going as long as possible without the trauma and expense of surgery. At some point, inevitably, though, the “thing” will block her biliary tract again and I will have to have her put down, and it could happen quite suddenly. So I am cherishing every moment with her.

Bridget, my other kitty, was diagnosed in the early stages of kidney failure. It’s early stages yet, so I’m not as worried. I’ve changed her diet and am looking into supplements, and will have her monitored more frequently. The last cat I had with kidney failure I kept going for 2.5 years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, Bridget doesn’t have the mellow temperament that that cat or Buffy have, and I fear that the stress of daily subcutaneous fluids would be more than she could tolerate and put me at risk of getting bitten. So I’m just praying that I don’t lose them both this coming year.

Thyroid issue holding stable, knock on wood—next ultrasound January 24.

Goals for 2020
1. Finish CFP coursework.
2. Regular exercise routine.
3. Do as much as I can realistically do for the kitties.
4. Continue to save 20% of earnings while reducing debt. Note that my company changed the timing of our annual bonus from 12/31 to 2/28 starting this year. If I were getting a bonus tomorrow, then the debt would be down to what I was hoping for, but that will be delayed. I am still feeling pretty confident that I will be able to meet my goal of being debt-free by at least a couple of years before retirement (which will give me a chance to spend a couple of years building up a bigger cash reserve).

Quick near year-end financial update

December 18th, 2019 at 11:50 pm

I've been updating the net worth spreadsheet I've kept for the past decade today, so it's time for a quick update, although the year is not over yet.

In terms of finances for 2019, there's still one paycheck to go, and one more vet appointment, which should be the biggest expense left this year. (That's tomorrow--please wish my kitty luck! After six months, I am hoping that we have finally gotten the medication balanced out to both keep her biliary tract illness from progressing too fast while at the same time preventing her diabetes, which is currently in remission, from becoming active again.)

In general terms:

Assets are up about 10%;

Debts are down about 2% (despite the big increase in veterinary expenses and accelerating a major home maintenance issue from next year into this year);

and Net Worth is up about 12%. That's the second-best year this decade that is due to my own efforts (I've had bigger increases but due to inheritance).

The only big financial changes were a large raise early in the year and the fact that both of my cats were diagnosed this year with what the vet refers to as their 'probable life-limiting conditions." Despite the diagnoses, both kitties' illnesses seem well under control for the moment with medication and diet changes, but because of the meds and the prescription diet and for the one cat, much more frequent vet visits, my pet care expenses have grown quite a bit compared to previous years. Both cats seem happy and are doing well and they give me a huge boost of happiness so the expense is worth it. The increase in costs is about equal to what the pay increase is, so in terms of my day-to-day living, it's just been a minor budget adjustment.

Overall I am satisfied. Yes, I would like the debts to be going down faster than they are, but I am making progress even in the face of some large unexpected expenses.

At the beginning of the decade, my "debt to equity" ratio was about 60% (right after the double whammy of leaving my former profession and losing that income at the same time that my mother was dying and I had a lot of travel expenses) and now it is 15.5%. I look forward to getting it under 10% but I feel confident that I will get there in the next handful of years--still feeling on target to have the debts paid off completely sometime between 2025 and 2027. That paves the way to have the freedom to retire (not actually likely at that point, unless something changes) or (more likely) to scale back on work.

Kitties and Net Worth

April 1st, 2018 at 05:27 pm

My last blog post was about my cat, Bridget, who has lost some weight and hair. (see; I can't remember how to insert images here). The home vet visit was traumatic (long leather gloves, a muzzle, and kitty screams were involved, sigh), but it revealed that her bloodwork is, to my great relief, completely normal. The vet thinks the hair loss is behavioral, so she is going on transdermal Prozac this week, and I've changed her diet to a hypoallergenic prescription diet. We'll give it two months and re-assess.

My other kitty is scheduled for a dental on 4/18 as her teeth are in bad shape. It hasn't prevented her from eating, though; she gained another .75 pound :^(. At least her diabetes continues to be very well controlled by her diet change--totally normal glucose.

On another note, I decided to change one of my annual goals from increasing my net worth to decreasing my debt. With the markets being so volatile so far this year, it seemed better to focus on the debt reduction, which is more in my control, than the net worth, which is out of my control.

If you count HSA contributions and employer matches, I am currently saving 24% of my salary, which is as much as I can reasonably afford while also paying off the debt.

This is offset by the fact that I have to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from the two IRAs I inherited from my mom, but so far it looks as though this year I may be able to limit myself to just taking the RMDs and nothing else, and the accounts generate more in income than I take in RMDs, so there should be some small growth in those accounts.

Overall, for Q1, my assets are down 1.43%, mostly because the losses in my retirement savings are greater than the contributions YTD. My debts are down 7.12% because at the beginning of the year, I took the RMDs and applied them to debt reduction.

Overall, my networth is down $2,225 from 12/31, or .42%.

In other news, I spent $450 to have a landscaper clear out and re-mulch my very overgrown yard and place weed barriers to reduce the weeds along the fence.

Something that I would like eventually to do is to hire someone to build me some raised beds to do a little bit of vegetable and herb gardening. I was fantasizing about that yesterday, but am not sure if I will do it this year or next. I think my next outlay of money for the house will be to hire some home organizing help. I went to a presentation by an organizer last week and actually made some progress on my own this weekend, but there are certain areas of my house where I need a coach and some assistance to inspire me to get through in the very limited amount of time I have to deal with this. She charges $235 for a 3-hour session and I will be scheduling this for May, I think.

After putting that goal of "creating a peaceful and inviting home environment" in my sidebar year after year, I think I may actually make some progress towards that goal this year!!

Six month balance sheet review & Remembering Henry

May 31st, 2015 at 07:23 pm

Just looking at my balance sheet today compared to six months ago (11/30/2014). Overall I have a nearly 25K net increase, of which half is in retirement savings (and that increase is pretty evenly divided between new contributions and capital appreciation).

Of the other half, 5,000 is a net decrease in debt (which has been transferred from credit card balance transfers to a personal consolidation loan) and the rest is an increase in savings (some ready cash and the rest in my HSA).

Nice to see progress and especially to feel like it is progress that will continue, rather than a few steps forward and a few steps back. Of course, we'll see if there is any big market correction this year, but at least for the factors under my control, I am feeling positive.

Also, for those of you who have seen me on here for a long time, yesterday was the five year anniversary of Henry's passing. Hard to believe it has been five years. I always told him his middle name was "Retirement," since during the 4 years I had him I ended up putting the amount that I otherwise would have put towards retirement towards medical expenses for him--but he was well worth it for the love and purpose he gave me during some pretty tough years.

Catch-Up Post

July 28th, 2010 at 03:51 am

I haven't blogged here in ages, but I thought I'd update.

Those of you who know me from my earlier posts (most active about 3 years ago) know that I have spent a lot of time and money on behalf of my beloved basset hound, Henry. Henry developed cancer just about a year ago, and during the past year I got myself back into debt trying to save him. It didn't work--I had to have my beloved baby put to sleep on May 30--but I bought him about six months, during four of which he felt really good, acting years younger. I have no regrets about the debt. But it will be a while before I adopt another dog. I'll do some fostering and other work for basset hound rescue in the meantime, though.

My mother has also been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness this year. She spent five months in a nursing home and only just returned home, where she needs a home health aide much of the time. I've had two visits out to see her and that has also cost some money, time and grief.

On the positive front, I'm making good progress on my career goals. I've now passed all four CPA exams and have completed about 20% of the experience requirement (one year of full-time work) working at a CPA firm. I still need a full-time permanent job, but I'm happy with where I am. Good thing, too--I turn 50 in a month, and making the career change successfully was a goal I set for myself when I turned 40. I'm not 100% to where I wanted to be, but I'm 90% there and feel fairly confident that I'll be where I wanted to be (full-time regular staff accountant position) during the year that I am 50.

I had also set some health goals this year, and could make better progress on those. The triple whammy stress of two family illnesses and being unemployed for much of the year definitely worked against me here! But I've lost a couple of pounds and maintained my walking schedule up until the last month of Henry's life, and am getting ready to get back to more of a focus on fitness now.

Every "decade" year of my adult life (20, 30, 40, 50) has had a major life crisis, but in each case, the crisis has been over by my actual birthday. I'm hoping that I'm done with crises for the year and can go back to focusing on more ordinary life goals--getting the full-time job I want, keeping fit and happy, and getting out of debt yet again.

Crossing the Line into Debt

October 21st, 2009 at 07:45 pm

Around 20 years ago, I got myself seriously in debt--about $13,000 worth. To some, that may not sound like much, but my income at the time was about $16,000 and my assets were nonexistent, so percentage-wise, it was serious. It took a few years to get myself out of that debt--about 4 years to wake up to my poor money-management habits and about 3 years after that to nix the debt. Since that time, I have remained debt-free--other than acquiring a mortgage, which at least comes along with a substantial asset.

I'm getting dangerously close to crossing the line right now, however. The amount of my total cash balance is close to the amount of my credit card bills, and for the first time in years, I will be carrying a balance on a credit card that isn't paid off within a month or so.

I hate that I've had to put so much on credit cards, but $3500 worth of car repairs on a car that is generally in good shape and $5000 worth of vet bills for the hound who gives me a reason to wake up in the morning were non-negotiable expenses. (I'm afraid Henry will be my last dog for a while, though--this is his second costly medical crisis in the 3.5 years I've had him, and odds being what they are, he'll have at least one more costly crisis before he goes.) I paid much of that out of savings, but now I am getting to the point where I am reluctant to completely empty the coffers in order to pay the bills.

At least at this point, I am much more financially aware, and I have a positive net worth. But I am unemployed, the job market is tight; I am looking for entry-level work in a career field new to me that will mean that my first year's income will be relatively low (although the potential for growth in income is
much greater once I am established).

This is a real tipping point, and it scares me.

Home Repair Decision

June 5th, 2008 at 02:00 pm

Now that I've been a homeowner for 2.5 years, I have my first major home repair to make--the gutters on my front and back porches have rusted through (they're old steel half-rounds).

So I've been getting estimates--I contacted 5 contractors; 4 have been by so far, and I have 3 estimates in hand.

In any case, I'm going to get seamless aluminum "K" gutters--no need to worry about rust again.

The choice seems to come down to either spending about $600 for .027 gauge "industry standard" gutters, or spending about $1200 for .032 gauge gutters--he showed me a piece of one and it really does look much more sturdy than the typical gutter. The .032 gutters come with a 10 year warranty on workmanship and 20 years on the parts.
I need to call back the contractors for the .027 gauge gutters and ask about a warranty, since neither contractor whose estimate was in this range spontaneously mentioned one.

As I'm writing this, I'm convincing myself to go for the $1200 gauge gutters, at least in the front. The front porch has a roof that still is under warranty for another 10 years and is in good condition. I'm not sure about the condition of the "soffit" or section underneath. The back porch has a stationary aluminum awning which the gutter hangs off of--it's attached to wood strips that are screwed to the awning supports. The awning supports are beginning to rust a bit, and one contractor (the one who hasn't gotten back to me yet) said that he recommended replacing the awning instead, and said he'd give me the name of the contractor. He tried to scare me that during an ice storm it could collapse on my dog. While it might need some new supports on the far side of the porch, the awning itself is perfectly good, and it is firmly attached to the house, so I just vowed for the moment to get a roof rake before next winter. I'm hoping to have that awning last another 10 or so years--if I'm still in this house (and the only reason I wouldn't be is if DBF & I get married), I'm hoping to renovate the kitchen and expand the house by about 3 feet into the patio, which would entail redoing the concrete patio as well.

Also this summer I need to have the roof silvercoated, the furnace serviced, and I desperately need new glasses (it's been 4 years and I'm reading thru scratches). That's at least $1000 in additional expenses there--and, to be prepared, I should probably expect about another $500 in unexpected expenses, either a big car repair or a big vet bill. Praying neither comes to pass, but I can't ignore history, and I haven't had either of those since a $500 vet bill in February, and I usually experience about 3 major "unanticipated expense" events a year. (Hopefully the laws of probability will work in my favor--if things work out to average, I'm still way ahead in expenses paid on based on the $8000 I spent on Henry the year I adopted him!)

Also I really should travel to L.A. and visit my mother this summer--another $500 expense.

Summers always end up being pricey, and this summer my income is low, which means that some of these expenses will get paid for out of savings. I have one more year on my job and then need to make the big career change, so I hate going into savings to do this--which is the one temptation to go for the $600 gutters. They might not last as long or look as pretty, but that's about what I had originally planned to spend (based on the first estimate that I got way back in March when a contractor was working on a neighbor's roof).

March roundup

March 29th, 2008 at 09:08 pm

Well, March was a spendy month; I spent about double what I spent in February (gulp). Much of the addtional spending was justified but still I hate to see so much variability--and I *really* hate it when my spending for the month surpasses my income for the month, even with the tax refund.

Extra spending was as follows:

$600 another expensive vet trip for Henry and his allergies
$165 getting a broken tooth fixed at the dentist
$500 buying the beginnings of a new professional wardrobe as I prepare to transition from academia into the corporate world
$200 in professional expenses (books, software)
$100 stocking up on wine, beer, sodas and extra food for a party
another $200 in extra food expenses--not that the food was wasted, but that it was eaten out or bought prepared, thus unnecessarily expensive
$82 to buy 200 "forever" stamps before the price increases on May 12
$132 prepaying an extra month early on my home gas bill--they changed the date the bill was due and refused to change it back, and I really like to pay my bill immediately after my monthly paycheck arrives and not a week before it arrives, so I decided to get a month ahead to avoid any late fees.
$90 extra prepayment on the mortgage to get it down to 89K.

As so often happens, financial and weight control go together--I slacked off a lot on exercise during March, and gained back 2 pounds. Still down about 7 from the end of last year, but I can feel those two pounds.

So the goal for April is another personal "challenge" month to see how close I can keep my monthly total spending to about $2000. No "extras" this month (unless I get a job interview, in which case I still need a professional pair of shoes), and I need to start back shopping more at Aldi's and Giant, much as I hate them, rather than at my beloved Wegmans. And I pulled out the pricebook I put together two years ago--time to update it since the last time I used it was in 2006. Should be interesting to see how food prices have changed in that time.

And it's a challenge month for health, too--I've joined an online "April Boot Camp" challenge on Leslie Sansone's walk club board, the goal of which is to lose 8 pounds during April. So I'll tighten up and refocus on fitness, too. I just started another round of "First Strides," the local women's walking/running program (that was another $40 out the door); those two workouts a week with other people (in addition to the two mornings a week I walk with my friend Anne) should help keep me from slacking off).

Grocery & other weekly spending

February 16th, 2008 at 08:01 pm

After spending $130 at the grocery store last week, I was going to try not to spend anything there this week.

No go on that. All the things that I use the most--soymilk, sliced turkey breast, cereal, fruit, salad fixings, frozen burritos--were used up, so I did replace those. That "basic grocery shop" used to cost me about $35/week if that was all I bought. Now the same basket of goods costs $40/week. Inflation.

Only 1 no-spend-day during the week, but 2 more this weekend, for 8 days out of 17 so far this month total. The kitties ran out of litter and I ran out of feminine protection. Both are items that I order in bulk online, saving money over the long term but requiring an inital outlay, so that was about $100 out the door, but now I'm stocked up on both for 6 months.

I also ordered tickets to a play on-campus for my sweetie & I to attend as a late Valentine's celebration. That wasn't too bad--community members pay $15 per ticket, but as a member of the campus community, I can go for $5/person, so that was $10 out the door.

Total spending so far this month $732, still on track to bring the month in at about $2000 total, barring any household/car repair or medical emergencies. I *thought* I was going to have a big vet bill for Henry, but we managed to avoid it. He has a wart on his nose and scratched it so that it began bleeding intensely--I look up and there's blood EVERYWHERE and it's still pouring down his face. Fortunately applying pressure (and hydrogen peroxide) to the spot managed to stem the bleed. Darn wart's still there, though.

First Month Assessment

January 28th, 2008 at 03:14 am

I'll do this now, since I get busy during the week. Also, I started my fitness and diet plan on Dec 27, so it really IS a month.

So far: 7 pounds down (about 3% of my weight). I've exercised all but 5 days since starting. Food spending was about 10% lower than last year's monthly average; I should do even better in February, when I won't have out-of-town company coming to buy for. I ended up buying food [bagels & cream cheese, tortilla chips] that the visitor didn't eat and which I just gave away to my boyfriend because it's not on my health plan right now.

In terms of savings goals, I haven't saved *anything* so far--in fact, I overspent in January--$220 on exercise DVDs and equipment and new walking shoes, an unexpeced $500 vet bill (well, not totally unexpected, as Henry ends up with about 4 of these per year; just not expected this month); over $200 in textbooks for the school term, and $116 for a new 3 handset phone system when my old cordless phone died. Some months are like that. Everything was put on the credit card, which I pay off in full each month. My goal for the next month, however, is to limit expenditures to basic bills, food, gasoline, and any emergency medical/vet bills that arise--in other words, I'll eliminate discretionary spending other than that which I routinely get billed for (the $19/month gym fee; the minimum $5.23 most basic Netflix subscription) and see if I can thereby catch up on my planned savings.

The other big goal for the month is working towards the career change. I've got a big hurdle in the next 2.5 weeks: I finished last semester with an incomplete in a critical course, and now have just 2.5 weeks left to complete two exams and the papers. I wasn't able to focus on working on this last month when I found my job unexpectedly up in the air, and the past week, I've been feeling on the verge of a cold and end up going to bed early each night rather than studying. I'm going to be pretty frantic until my Feb 16th deadline.

My, but it's been a spendy month!

January 13th, 2008 at 12:44 am

My almost month-long vacation (college school break) ends on Monday. Something I've found as I've been tracking my expenses for the past few years is that I typically end up spending a lot more on my time off. It's the only time I have to devote to thinking about household purchases, so that's always a big category when I'm on break.

Here are the "extras" I've been buying:

Replacements for broken items where the cost of replacement beats the cost of repair

-new phone system (3 handset Dect 6.0)
-new shop-vac (which I use for my general purpose vacuum cleaner)

New items to make life more organized
-shoe rack for where I end up tossing my shoes in a corner of the living room. Now they take up less space.
-kitchen trash can--old one was too small and I'd have to empty it too frequently so I converted it to hold my birdseed supply outside since the lid has a nice tight fit. For the past year & a half, I've been putting trash in a bag in half of the kitchen sink--it needs to be kept out of the dog's reach (he's a basset and can't reach that high). But I got tired of having the trash be the first thing I see walking into the kitchen. Now I have a nice shiny stainless steel can that the dog won't knock over or be able to get into.
-a few plastic storage boxes for the accumulation of books and notes from the past semester.
-breadbox--to put in bread and my dog's assortment of treats and meds which have been scattered out on top of the counter or on top of the refrigerator. Hiding the mess.

New things generally related to self-improvement or self-care
-New walking shoes. I buy expensive ones because I've had foot problems in the past and it's worth it to me to pay for the quality & support. I'm re-inaugurating my walking program that I was lax on last year.
-Two textbooks for classes I'm auditing this term.
-A portable CD-player. I've had bad luck with MP3 players and wanted something to play podcasts and audiobooks on, so I got a CD player that plays MP3 format to entertain me while I walk.
-Half a dozen fitness DVDs/videos--bought used or as overstock so I didn't pay full price.
-I also got a heart rate monitor & blood pressure measuring device but those were paid for by my credit card rewards, so didn't take any additional cash out of my wallet.

other large expense
A $140 vet bill for Henry's skin infection, and another $150 for a 6-month supply for one of his meds

On the positive side, my gas (heat) bill was actually really LOW this month because I pay on the budget plan and January is when they rebalance and set it to zero. I'd previously overpaid so this month's bill was only 20% of the usual bill. Also I've mostly been avoiding eating out and am focusing on healthy eating, so the food bill will come in (as planned) lower than it has been.

Once I go back to work, the "extras" spending will stop, and I think I'll make February a no-extras spending month and limit expenditures to food, fuel for the car, and the usually monthly mortgage and utility bills.

Birthday & a new School Year

August 27th, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Friday was my birthday. I had planned to to take myself out to breakfast, then go in to work, and in the evening, get taken out to dinner by my boyfriend, but my plans were changed when my beloved basset, Henry, started the day by throwing up and refusing his food. The food refusal was alarming, as this dog is nicknamed "Henry the Hungry" and "Henry the Ate and ate and ate." He didn't seem otherwise actively distressed (as he did during his gastric woes of last summer), but he was quieter than usual. When we were sitting on the porch and a neighbor greeted him, he just lay there--no tail wag. Then he had an episode of diarhhea. So I called the vet and they had an appointment open right away. An exam revealed that his vitals were normal, and bloodwork showed all values in normal range for blood, kidney, liver, etc (which was reassuring to know in any case since he has been on prednisone for nearly a year). No parasites, either. However, while we were there, he had another bout of diarhhea--and this one was almost pure blood and mucous. The vet suggested that his IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) had re-emerged, though this time with lower GI tract symptoms rather than upper GI tract ones. A call was made to his internal medicine specialist, who prescribed an antibiotic. I cancelled almost all my plans and (since classes hadn't started yet and I thus had the luxury to do so) stayed home with him all day. Tom picked up Chinese takeout and a video and came over for a quiet evening in. Henry was lethargic most of the day, but, after a long nap, felt well enough to take his afternoon walk, and his tail was wagging when he saw the neighbor kids. It took another 24 hours, during which he fasted without complaint, before the occasional bouts of throwing up stopped and before his appetite reemerged.

Since my attention was preoccupied with Henry all day Friday and Saturday, I had to spend Sunday frantically working on syllabi for the start of the school year--a chore which I will finish as soon as I finish this entry.

Classes started this morning and we're off on another school year. It's scary knowing that it's possible that this is my last year of full-time teaching, but who knows what the year will bring?

A present for myself (and a bath for Henry)

December 30th, 2006 at 01:46 am

My Christmas present arrived today--a (7-cup) Cuisinart, along with an extra "thick slicing" blade for soft veggies, and also an OXO salad spinner. When I first put everything in my cart, the total was about $170, but I'm actually only paying $40 for all of this!

First got free shipping--that took about $26 off.

Then used my $50 gift certicate (which I received for being a "community leader" at a discussion board on another online website).

Then I noticed that was having a promotion in Kitchen & Housewares, where if you bought $125 worth of goods, you'd received $25 off. Hence the extra blade and the salad spinner--that brought the "goods total" to $145, more than the $125, but they were both goods that I truly wanted.

Finally, I gave in and opened an VISA for an additional $30 off. My other credit card bill is down to $355, which means that I should be able to pay it off in full in January (barring any more emergencies). The new card is a "rewards card," where I get back 1% for general purchases and 3% for purchases made on, payment being in the form of a $25 gift certificate that gets issued automatically when I've spent $2500 on the credit card. I'm planning to pay this card off in full every month and will transfer money from my savings into my checking account to make sure I can do this. I won't be using it for emergencies, except maybe during the first 6 months when the card has a 0% rate.

Total bill after all the deductions: $40.06.

The Cuisinart, by the way, replaces an identical one I sold at a garage sale 10 years ago. I sold it because I was moving and didn't use it much. I've regretted the decision since. I might not use it *much* but it is indispensible for some things. I've probably bought $50 worth of cheap slicinng and chopping gadgets during the intervening 10 years which I can now purge from my kitchen because they not only take up space but never worked as well as the food processor.


I also splurged and paid for Henry to have a bath. He needed one and I need a pro to cut his nails. He's doing pretty well these days (and he looks quite dapper in the scarf they tied around his neck after the bath). The Prednisone is generally working, although an initial attempt to lower his dosage failed and we're back up to the inital dose. He's handling it better this time around, though--no more peeing on the rugs like he was doing the first month on the drug. The drug makes him hungry and lethargic, so he's gained 12 pounds and takes shorter walks, but the digestive woes are under control and he should be off the Prednisone by April or May and we can work thn on getting the extra pounds off and the walking mileage back up.

A couple of small victories

December 29th, 2006 at 03:25 am

Since Henry fell ill this summer, my wallet has had a hole in it that has been immune to being patched. I'd expected that a fairly young dog would cost me about $80 a month to feed, supply, and provide veterinary care for. Henry has been diagnosed with 3 chronic condittions that require 3 monthly medications for life, plus an expensive veterinary diet that I expect him to be on for life since the other conditions apparently derive from his food allergies. Even buying his medications online 6 months at a time, his monthly maintenance cost is now about $250 just for meds and food. Hopefully with the diagnosis and treatment, the outrageous vet bills will go down. Between the startup costs of getting the dog (whom I DID have checked out by a vet first...he had no problems until I'd had him for five months), the vet expenses, and the maintenance, he's cost me about 15% of my salary for the year (in other words, my retirement contribution and my emergency fund.) My baby is well worth it but it's frustrating nonetheless--and I worry terribly about what happens when the contract job I am on ends in August. My income could take a significant hit.

So any savings is good. I have two small victories to report, one pet-related, one not. The pet-related one relates to the weekly urinalysis the vet has been charging me $30/week for. I bought some pH strips (which cost about 10 cents each) and will start doing the weekly reports myself most of the time. I paid for one last urinalysis today just to calibrate my strips against their reports--mine were .25 off, which is close enough (given the scale of these measurements) to accept most of the time.

The other savings has to do with a personal purchase. I've spent a good deal of time the past couple of weeks evaluating various software packages for doing mindmapping, which I've decided will help me be more productive in my teaching and other work. The first time I'd tried to download a freeware program, I'd had no luck, and I gave up and instead became enamoured of a commercial program that would cost me about $100. But I was motivated to try and download the freeware program again, and this time I got it working and am quite happy with it, thus saving myself that $100. (Now I can buy that new pair of walking shoes--the old ones are a year old and I put about 600 miles/year on them, so they are in need of replacement. A good pair of shoes is less costly than podiatrist care!)


November 13th, 2006 at 12:03 am

Yesterday was sunny, so I spent about 3 hours putting the garden away for the winter and lugging 8 leaf bags full of trimmings over to the local compost center. Then in the evening, my sweetie took me out to dinner--the first time we've seen each other in a month, since he's been so busy with web design jobs and I've been hovering over Henry.

Today it was gray and drizzly, so I've been doing indoor jobs--mostly preparing for the week ahead at work, plus doing a little cleaning. I'm having an overnight house guest on Tuesday, so I've got to make sure to do at least 2 more hours of cleaning before she arrives. Somehow it's easier to clean even inside when it's sunny.

I looked around online and found a place where I'll be able to get Henry's medications that he'll be on for life for $43/month (plus shipping & handling). That compares to $73 if bought at the local vet. I'll purchase a 6 month supply with my next paycheck.

Henry's also been put on prescription food, and that's expensive too. Looks like that will cost over $100/month. There aren't as many places that sell pet prescription food online as places that sell the prescription meds, and the places that I could find that carry his prescription food are out on the west coast, meaning the shipping cost will be high. So I don't think I'll be able to cut the cost below that. I spent about 10 days home-cooking for him and that was costing about $5/day, so the vet food is less expensive than that.

I'm greatly looking forward to getting Henry off of Prednisone--or at least, to decreasing the dose, since he's slated for a 6 month course to fully get the inflammation under control. But two more weeks and I get to cut his initial dose in half. Hopefully that will cut down on his incredible raging hunger. Unless he gets about 3000 calories a day (for a 72 pound dog--that's twice what he needs) right now, he starts whining and within half an hour builds up to outright howls, and when I'm not home, he starts pulling stuff off of the shelves...not at ALL his typical behavior. Mon-Wed-Fri I can limit myself to 4.5 hours away from the house at work, but Tues-Thurs are full days, so I've had to hire someone to come in and feed him and let him out mid-day.

I'm really praying that once I can cut the dose in half the 'roid-rage hunger and execessive drinking/peeing will subside to a reasonable level, since it will be another 5 months until he's off the prednisone altogether.

Geez, if not, he'll probably be a 92 pound rather than a 72 pound basset hound.

At least the $$s going in the right direction

November 7th, 2006 at 02:46 am

October was a perpetual money drain...I spent well over $6000, nearly 3 months' worth of normal expenses, in one month. That's over $4000 in veterinary expenses plus the usual household expenses.

Things are beginning to get back to normal. Henry is recovered from surgery, we have a diagnosis, and he's on meds which are beginning to help. Still awaiting the full results from his food allergy panel so I can figure out what to feed him over the long haul. It turns out that he's borderline allergic to the ingredients in the vet-prescribed food he *had* been eating, so I've been feeding him ground chicken and mashed potatoes until I get the full report from the vet. One of the meds he is on is prednisone and it is making him VERY hungry. He asks for a snack about every 90 minutes (or less) when I'm here. I give him just little bits but he's going through about 1.5 pounds of ground chicken (which cooks down to just over a pound) each day. I also decided to hire a pet sitter to come in and check on him during my two long work days each week, since he's now making mischief and getting into trouble by looking for food when I'm gone too long. The higher dose of prednisone is for a month, then we cut the dose for another 4 months and taper for the final month. I'm hoping that once we get to the lower doseage his appetite is a bit more under control! Between food and the medications he's now been put on for life, he's turning out to be an expensive pupster...but a very loved one!

I managed to pay off a big chunk of the debt that had grown on my credit card through all this...I should be out of debt by years end and then back to accumulating savings--as long as nothing else goes wrong!

No-Spend Day

October 22nd, 2006 at 10:56 pm

It's been a while since I had one of these, I think. Most expenses have been related to the dog and his surgery, but a smaller subset (eating out/buying prepared meals and renting videos) have been devoted to keeping me together and sane while being his nursemaid and working full-time-plus.

Henry is mostly feeling back to himself, though he's still having the occasional bout of the digestive problem that led him to surgery in the first place. That was diagnosed by biopsy and on Wednesday we'll get the details and get him put on the right medications to hopefully stop the episodes altogether. I'll also be looking for the right diet to keep him on now that he's been diagnosed with a chronic digestive ailment. This means additional expense because we'll end up doing some combination of an ultra-premium food and home cooking, I suspect. My buying food in 40 pound bags and stockpiling bisquits when they went on sale means only that I have about $100 worth of food to donate to the local shelter. But anything to keep my baby healthy!

Not yet ready to do the bills and face all the damages--I'll map out a plan by the end of the month for the additional $4000+ in unplanned expenses Henry's illness has cost me.

One step forward, two steps back

October 16th, 2006 at 02:55 am

After a week devoted mostly to my dog Henry and his surgery (and incidentally to work), I finally stopped and tallied the week's and the month's expenses. My usual monthly outflow is 2400, and that was the price of Henry's surgery, so I doubled expenses there. Then there have been ancillary costs--things like additional meds or things to keep Henry from scratching at his stitches, plus stuff for me--a bit of money eating out because between the dog and my cold, I've not been cooking; money renting DVDs since sleep has been erratic and sporadic, etc.

Henry is finally done with the post-surgical pain, but he is beginning to lick and scratch a bit at his stitches, which is a no-no. Still have yet to get the biopsy results but so far he's only had about one minute of one of his digestive "episodes" since the surgery. Since I've been sick, I stayed at home all weekend monitoring Hen, catching naps when I could, doing a bit of prep work for the week, and finishing going through the second season of Grey's Anatomy (a show I hadn't even heard of 10 days ago, which I've now seen two complete seasons of).

Life has been "abnormal" in many ways since Hen's illness (not least of which has been that I've been sleeping on the living room floor to keep an eye on him). Hoping things move back towards normal and the high level of spending normalize this week.

Henry's out of Surgery

October 10th, 2006 at 04:59 pm

The surgeon called himself just now to say that things went well and that Henry (basset hound) is already awake. The biopsy results will take 3-4 days. Henry will stay overnight in the hospital and I'll be calling to check on him every few hours.

I can tell I've been stressed because I'm developing a cold. My throat has been getting scratchier thoughout the day. I was going to ask my boyfriend to stay over tonight to comfort me but I don't want to make him sick too.

I'll get to bring Henry home tomorrow after work. Praying for a quick recovery, not too much discomfort, and good news from the biopsies!

Henry Basset Hound is having surgery today

October 10th, 2006 at 12:18 pm

My Henry is going in for surgery this morning. Hes going to have two large bladder stones removed, biopsies done on his G.I. tract because of repeated bouts of tummy ache/nausea, and a gastropexy (tacking the stomach to the abdominal wall so that if he starts going into bloat, he wont torsion). Hes otherwise in good health so should pull through the surgery well, but its a pretty big operation (10 incision). Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully the surgery will fix things but at least it will give us a better idea of what steps might be next if the initial pre-bloat symptoms continue and will prevent the symptoms from becoming life-threatening.

The surgery is costing $2400--on top of the $1300 I've already spent on diagnosis, medicines, foods and vet visits for this problem. My mom is loaning me some money (and giving me a bit) so that I don't have to put this on a credit card--which is the only real option given that I wiped out the emergency fund over the summer and have only had one paycheck from my full-time job so far, which has gone towards paying off accumulated credit card bills.

I have $3600 in debts between what remains on the credit card bills and what I'll owe to my mom that I want to wipe out by the end of the year. I was looking at a nice winter coat in the Lands End catalog, but I think that's just going to have to get put on hold. The living room rug (because the floor is cold) and a new pair of walking shoes are other expenses that I'm going to move forward with. And hopefully the surgery will mean an end to the big vet bills.

Off to go rub that wonderful belly of Henry's since he'll be too sore for belly rubs for the next couple of weeks (he's a dog who flops over for a belly rub almost as soon as he's getting attention from someone--it's funny taking a walk with a dog who spends a portion of that walk rolled over on his back on the sidewalk when he meets someone who offers a pet!)

Quick Entry: Dog Health Woes

October 6th, 2006 at 12:22 pm

My Henry (basset hound) has been sick and that's been taking most of my free time, so I haven't been here much. We have a surgical consult on Monday. The surgery should help but by itself won't stop the initial symptoms, which could be due to diet or pesticide exposure (not at MY house but while walking). Bills are adding up: so far have spent about $1300 on this illness; the surgery will probably double that. Also Henry woke up one morning with a bad limp--it's gone now but I also invested in a child's wagon so I can get him out to the car (it's a ways and I felt horrible making him walk it when he was in pain) and a set of portable carpeted dog steps so that he doesn't have to jump up onto the sofa and risk injuring his joints. This is SO like me: I'm generally conservative with my money and then my dog gets sick and all thoughts of thrift are out the window. So the credit card bill is back up again, and that's still before the surgery.

A $486 tummy ache

September 13th, 2006 at 04:25 am

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.