Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Frugal Hits & Misses: March Report

     We scraped the emergency fund's bottom this month, thanks in part to property tax due, medical expenses and our new business relationship with Lord & Richards. The Brick needed an emergency root canal done, and both of us got to go see our favorite person: Doctor Kasunic at Castle Rock Physicians. This last ordeal was made even more interesting by Bright Health, our insurer, alternately telling the doctor's office and the pharmacy that yes, we were insured...no, we weren't...yes, we were. By the time they got done, I wasn't sure anymore, either. (We are, actually.)
     My appraising and teaching, as well as a few piano lessons to fill in the cracks, helped keep us out of serious trouble...that, and God's grace that we didn't have many bills, other than the ones mentioned. The Brick's pension pays the major stuff, and our HSA account helps out, too. We are still trying hard to live on just those sources of income -- and not take anything out of the retirement accounts. But it wasn't easy this month.

April will be easier, at least financially.. I have a day appraising in Pueblo for the quilt guild show there, and a 2-week tour soon after that to lead 21 enthusiastic Australian quilters through Paducah, Nashville and elsewhere. Both those gigs will help start filling the emergency fund back up. 

      The house will go on the market soon... and we'll be selling our Outback in May, after we head for North Carolina for a week. (I'm teaching again at the John H. Campbell Folk Art School, and the Brick is going with me.) 
     Those sales will make all the difference in the world.

Patience, patience...   (Pinterest)


*Covered the contributions we normally make every year. (Oops, one to go -- that will happen in April. Then we're all paid up for 2018, except the monthly tithe.) Paid the trailer loan again in mid-month, plus an extra $90 on the principal. Except for the loan, we didn't pay interest anywhere else... again.

*Kept our use of the electric fireplace, space heater and other utilities minimal. Our wood is gone, except for bits and pieces in the backyard...which I've been gathering up in a wheelbarrow. It makes the yard look better, and the doctor said at least 20 min. exercise a day. There's nothing like a fire in the fireplace, even if it's small.
     I've used the washing machine a lot, but not the dryer. (3-4 times a month, if that.) I like the smell of wind-dried clothes too much. This month's high winds have been trying to send whatever's on the clothesline to Kansas...do people there need them worse than us?

*From 'Sally's' (Salvation Army) in Boulder: a warm teal nightgown ($2), t-shirt ($1) and black-and-white plaid shirt ($2) -- plus a beautiful heavy silver mother-of-pearl cuff bracelet ($2). All for half-price! I had to pay full price for the popcorn popper I also got, but $3.42 is bearable.  :)

*A $35 Pendleton wool shirt -- purchased by the Brick via Ebay. I realize the price isn't that outstanding -- but it was certainly better, when the seller took more money off because the shirt had a hole in it. Once I fix that, the Brick will have a quality shirt that should last for a long time.

*Several appraisals...including finishing a long-overdue report. Two small restorations. Working on one more - and this one's bigger. But it's had to stay on hold until the book is done.

*Worked on the book -- over and over and over. Only needed to order one book (via Amazon) -- got the rest of research books from library, or my own collection. (There are books scattered EVERYWHERE throughout this house, sorted in piles by subject. Dozens of books. Ergh.)

*Ate a fair amount out of the freezer and pantry. The frozen peaches and chopped onions are really coming in handy right now.

*Not much from the grocery store -- but 99-cent catfish nuggets come to mind, 99-cent boxes of cereal, pork loin roast for $1.60/pound (which went into a big pot of green chili) and pork chops for $1.29/LB. Cans of frozen limeade and lemonade (for Daughter #2's and Son #1's wedding in June) -- 25 cents each. (Yowza.) The grocery stores had a lot of good sales this month -- are people holding back because they're waiting for tax refunds, so the grocery moguls need the cash??

    Our Friday/Saturday store did its best to keep up, too, including several British items (which we'd seen for sale in Ireland for MUCH more), 8 eggs for 48 cents a carton, and peppers from 5-20 cents each. (Also into the green chili.) Head lettuce for 35 cents, tomatoes for 25 cents a pound...and surprisingly delicious 'smokies' baby sausages (8 oz) for 50 cents! He even threw in 10 extra for 25 cents each.

     I held back from buying corned beef for St. Patrick's Day. In our neck of the woods, it was either $7.99/lb (from the deli) or $2.47/$3.99 lb (from the meat dept.) Almost as much as steak! We had colcannon, instead.
     Spiral-cut ham is a big favorite at our house. Yes, it's more expensive, but I am convinced it not only tastes better, but goes further and lasts longer -- for $1.27 pound. A steal in these parts.

I got some other items at deep markdown (50% off, then 50% off of that) for the wedding. They'll keep nicely until then.

*Started with Lord & Richards. Will tell you about that soon.

*Did a teaching gig in Cheyenne, WY...I'm headed back in August to judge their competition, and also do some appraising. I love those girls.

*Earned a $25 Amazon gift card via Swagbucks.  (The Brick earned another $25 card by doing a ten-minute survey via Craigslist.)

*Started watching Designated Survivor and Walking Dead again. (For free, that is. The Last Ship is coming...but not airing yet.) We found a new show that looks intriguing: Counterparts. The Brick continued to catch up on Blindspot.

*Brought home doggy bags several times - used BOGO specials at Red Robin, and other lunches someone else paid for. I noticed on our credit card bills that totals for eating out were extra-reasonable this month. We used a LOT of coupons and specials.
     Example: Sunday's lunch at Smashburger. We had a BOGO on entrees, bought two $4 French onion burgers, and shared the upgrade. (The Brick likes his pop or beer when going out to eat.) Total: approx. $8, for two full eat-out meals of burgers with fries and a drink.

*Given some veggies by our friends down the street. (We passed on some of it to other friends, who were very pleased.)

*I bought a few videos and a book at the library's used booksale room... no visits to the thrift shop this month, except the Sally's gig. We did do at least two large donations, while starting to clear out the house. (I figured we were donating so many items, we didn't really need to replace anything right now.)

*Swapped piano lessons for two  drawings I needed for the book. (The photos they were based on were either too blurry, or I couldnt' get permission to use them.) Thank you, Little Chris. (He's actually a good bit bigger than his mom, Big Chris. But it amuses us to call them that, and they gracefully put up with our silliness.)

*Got a $25 giftcard from Safeway -- but I had to work for it.

*Friends took us out to Rodizio Grill -- and wouldn't let us pay a cent for it. The sweethearts. We're headed to their house to watch the Michigan/Villanova basketball championship game. (Update: Michigan lost. I don't want to talk about it.)


*Sold two items on Amazon, but had to refund money for both. Did you know that magazines cannot be sent using media rate? (I didn't, either. How do the publishers do it?) Anyways, the post office wanted $12 and change to send a $5 Oprah/first issue magazine. I refused, and tried sending it media rate. (I'm SURE I've done this before.) It came back. Rather than lose more money, I just refunded the entire shebang.  (The other, a book, disappeared into the maw around here. Sigh.)

*The Brick's bill for the root canal: $525. That's with insurance kicking in. Ouch.

*Didn't get any greens planted.  I still hope to. It's been extra-warm this spring; the two snowstorms we got this month quickly melted. We've only had a little rain down on the flatlands, though the mountains have gotten a lot more moisture. Even they are a little dry this year.

*Two relatively expensive events: a whiskey tasting and Easter brunch.  They were worth it: we got to spend time with Daughter #1 and her boyfriend, and the food was delicious. They did give us a 'friends and family' discount, which was nice of them.

*Had to take a USPAP class, in order to keep my training current: $150, plus $17 for parking. (It would have been more, had I not brought lunch with. So glad I did -- because I had time to spend with several other experienced (and wise) personal property appraisers.
     Dreading the fact that I have four more classes to go-- the cost, not the classes themselves. They're all going to be more expensive and time-consuming than this one.

*Bought more photos for the book. Thankfully, these are the last. I'd estimate I have about $450 invested in photos...the cost is not that different from my other books, actually. You have to pay first, then hope the royalties eventually pay you back. This figure would have been far worse, had the Brick not been a terrific photographer. (Borrowing Daughter #1's photography equipment helped a lot, too.)
     One of the postcards I bought arrived bent -- and the Ebay seller apologized and refunded the price, without even being asked! Now THAT'S a quality businessperson.

*Had to pay for extra meds. Plus doctor appointments for both of us.  At least I'm feeling some better.  It took us part of March to start recovering from that nasty flu in February.

As the Frugalwoods keep reminding me, this saving-money business is an ongoing process.  Sometimes what you save on eggs and pork chops is eaten up in medical expenses. But if you stay strong -- and consistent -- it all evens out. 

Here's February's report, in case you're curious. Plus March's report from last year.

                 After a long winter, Spring is definitely on its way here. Sort of.

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