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This and That

September 9th, 2019 at 10:52 am

Life has been so busy lately, and I have not had the chance to write to read all of your blogs.

Work things are going fine - it's getting really really busy both at my regular job as the summer comes to an end, as well as at my SE job. I turned away a client today because I have no more room till October for new people. I think I'll be able to net $3000 in my SE job this month after taxes and expenses. This is my last month working full time at my regular job. So, I think September will be my largest income for a few months while I build up more clients in the SE job.

I got a thingy in the mail for Key Bank - $400 to open a checking account. Needs a $500 deposit within the first 60 days, and no other requirements as far as I can tell. It does have an account maintenance fee, but that can be waived by maintaining a $500 balance. I'm thinking I might apply for that, and then close it after 6 months. Closing it sooner than that earns an early termination penalty.

I applied for the Equifax Settlement since my data was compromised. I also am glad I am systematic about things because I have the receipts and things from when I froze my credit immediately after.

I temporarily unfroze my credit at the beginning of 2019 when I started to look for houses. I had them all set to freeze again on 10/1/2019, so my goal for this month is to run all three reports and to check to see if there has been any unusual activity before they all get frozen again.

It has been cool and rainy here this past week. This means that some of my plants are starting to get moldy. I took out some plants this weekend. My tomatoes still have plenty of green tomatoes, but I am out there each morning harvesting any that are ripening. I took out my peas, and the sweetmeat squash that gave me ZERO squashes, and dug that garden bed over. I also added a bunch of dry leaves and half my compost barrel into it and mixed it all in. My harms hurt after that! But, it is ready for the winter. The leaves will finish composting, and then in the spring, I will add some composted chicken or steer manure to it, and it will be ready for another season. I have two other garden beds, and once I have taken the tomatoes, peppers, beans, and lettuce out, I will similarly prepare them for winter. I think I might plant some kale and cauliflower for winter crops in one of those beds.

Eating has been good off-and-on. I am eating mostly low-carb although there certainly have been days when I don't. Also, while I am eating low-carb, I don't think it's very low-calorie. :-( More fine-tuning to happen. But, my blood glucose numbers are better than they were last month. I also have been doing some physical activity most days this month, and plan to keep doing that. Today is square dancing (every Monday for 1.25 hours)

I also restarted doing my daily self-care practice. I don't know why I ever stop doing it, because I do get out of the habit every so often. Basically, I create a monthly calendar with one item of self-care each day. The goal is to complete the activity for the day no matter what. Some things I have already done this month are: go for a walk by the river, gave myself a pedicure, a face mask, had coffee with a friend, had brunch with another friend, wrote in my journal. Today's was to not be on my phone while I was on the bus. I looked out of the window and did some deep breathing instead. It was wonderful.

I'm counting days to this weekend when I go away on my mini-vacation. I have been waiting for a couple of months for this break. Since I work on Saturdays for my SE job, on the occasions when I get a 2-day weekend, I am ecstatic!

Off to catch up on other blogs now...

Payday Update

August 30th, 2019 at 11:38 am

Got paid today. Yay! I love payday. Quick updates:

1. Paid $1400 towards the last credit card. Looking forward to being done with this card in December.

2. Paid $233.46 extra to mortgage bringing it to a nice even $2000 payment. Every little extra bit counts.

3. Added $200 to EF

4. Sent in my taxes for the 3rd quarter.

5. Got a $40 gift for my friend who came by and helped water my garden while I was gone, put out the trash, let the meter reader in, etc.

I calculated how much SE income I actually lost while I was gone. $2080.18 in gross, but I save 40% to go towards taxes, so would have lost $1248.11 net. I will adjust my budget for the 2nd half of Sept, and the 1st half of Oct to reflect this.

I contacted all the people who wanted to see the old car while I was gone and let them know that I was back and could show them the car. No response yet. Maybe they all found other cars. Hopefully I will get a few more people interested.

True to what I had promised myself, I am trying to take better care of my health. For the last two days, I have been eating low-carb (I have diabetes), and I am certainly feeling the withdrawals - not so much in terms of hunger, but in cravings, and some headaches. I plan to do some meal-prep this coming week, and also will go for a walk and maybe a hike if it's not too hot or humid.

Small Updates

August 28th, 2019 at 10:26 pm

I returned late this evening from the Midwest. My dad is still in hospital, but will likely be discharged tomorrow. I returned home with a great sense of relief. When I left home, I had just been told that there was a high likelihood that he would die. I took my passport with me in case I had to fly home with his body. I didn't know how long I would be gone. I am back 9 days later. Thank God!

I also came home to a couple of nice surprises. The first was a very belated housewarming present from someone I know - a set of dishcloths, and a framed photo. The second was quite unexpected. It was a check for $91.94 from a class action settlement that I did not know that I was part of. A few weeks ago, my friend received a check and told me about it. The gas station chain BP was in a class action settlement for some undisclosed debit fee charges in Oregon and has been sending these checks to people who purchased gas in one of their ARCO gas stations in the state of Oregon. Had he not told me about it, I would have thought that it was weird that I got a check from a lawsuit that I did not know anything about. But, it was a good surprise to come home to. It's a nice big sum too.

My total costs for the trip were $899.46. Of that, $782.77 was travel/transport, and the rest was all food. The nice surprise check will go some way in alleviating the burden on next month's budget.

I also came home to a note that my mortgage servicing company is changing. GRRR. I know this happens a lot with mortgages. But, it is really inconvenient to keep making new accounts and setting up or cancelling auto-pays. Minor inconvenience, really. But, an inconvenience nonetheless.

For the most part, things here have survived. Much of my garden is on an automatic watering system. A friend came over to water the rest. My houseplants also mostly survived. I think my nerve plant, and a purple shield may have died. I watered them as soon as I got home. We'll see if they can be revived. Some lettuce and some herbs are looking like they may go to seed any time. I will prune them tomorrow or the day after. The first thing I did when I got home was to go into the garden and pick all my ripe cherry tomatoes - I have tons!

Here are the things that I am doing to celebrate my father's recovery and my sense of relief:

(1) Get a massage on Friday - I had to reschedule a massage anyway since I had gone out of town. But 9 days of sleeping on a hospital couch in my father's room and waking up every hour in the middle of the night when the nurses came to check on him while he was in ICU was brutal on my back and on my body.

(2) I bought myself a couple of pairs of pants and a couple of shoes that I wanted. I did need to buy these things anyway. But, they feel extra nice now because I can now allow myself to care about these things. For the past 10 days, everything other than Dad's life seemed so trivial.

(3) Not being at work, I lost track of days and only just realized that Monday is actually a holiday. It feels like a totally unexpected holiday!!!! I will go for a nice day trip somewhere.

(4) The second week of September, I had planned on taking a weekend break and going to the coast. I had budgeted for this already. I could change these plans and allocate that money elsewhere in my already tight budget for next month. But, I won't. I will go and enjoy myself and take pictures and send them to my father and tell him that I will go to those places with him the next time he comes to visit. He loves lighthouses, and I will take him on a tour of all the lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. I just want him to be alive and well, and to be able to see him again.

Unexpected Scary Things

August 25th, 2019 at 09:47 pm

Early last week, I got some really scary news. My father, who was visiting my sister was taken to the Emergency Room with severe difficulty breathing. I won't go into health details, but the first day, the doctor talked with my sister (and me on the phone), and let us know that there was a high likelihood of death. I flew to the Midwest to my sister's immediately. He was in critical condition, was in the ICU for 5 days, and then moved off ICU but is still in the hospital. He will probably be released in the next few days time. He has had surgery, and is making a recovery for now. He will need to continue care for the rest of his life and make lots of medical and lifestyle changes. I thank God that he is better now.

However, this experience has taught me many things and had a considerable impact financially.

1. As I had mentioned before in the blog. I am not originally from the USA, although both my sister and I now reside here. My father was visiting, and does not live here. We come from a country where he has access to free or cheap healthcare (depending on whether he picks a government hospital or a private doctor). But, he does not have insurance in the US. We don't know what the bill for this hospital stay will be. It is very likely to be an enormous amount given how long he stayed in the ICU and the hospital and how many procedures he has had done. A social worker from the hospital came to talk with us about applying for a program that may cover at least a significant portion of the final bill. But, we don't know if our application will be approved, and we don't know how much of the bill will be covered. Quite honestly, we are all quite terrified of the bill. Last year, my sister was in the hospital for 5 days (not in ICU), and had one small procedure done, and her bill was $96,000. She had insurance, and so it ended up being only $2,000 out of pocket for her. I shudder to think how much my father's bill is going to be. I love this country and have made it my home, but I hate the fact that access to affordable healthcare is unavailable here. I won't get too political here, but it boggles the mind how people can think that something like health care isn't a basic human right. I work in the medical field, and benefit personally from the high costs of healthcare, and even I know that health care should not cost as much as it does here.

2. Traveling here and related expenses for me will end up being about $1000. About $800 of that is last-minute tickets. I didn't know how long I would have to stay, so this ended up being two one-way purchases. I had $237 left in my travel budget for the year, and made $500 more this month in SE income. Both those will go towards these expenses. The rest will be paid out of next month's budget. I hope that I sell my old car when I get back home, and that will help a bit also. It's a measly sum compared to being able to be with my father and sister at this time, but it is money that I would otherwise not have spent.

3. I got a really good sense of what it would be like were I to have to unexpectedly take time off work when I am fully self-employed. Taking 1.5 weeks off will mean that I will take home about $700-800 less next month than anticipated. And this is when I do part-time SE. I will of course, still get paid my salary from my full-time job. However, when I have to take time off once I quit, it will mean more income lost, and no salary to help. This is all the more reason for me to make sure that I have my $10K saved in EF before I quit, and another $10K in slush fund money before I get serious about mortgage repayment.

4. I recommit to taking good care of my health. The only major illness I have at the moment is diabetes. But, that and family history puts me at risk for a host of other diseases as I grow older. This week has been a blur since we've been living at the hospital and eating out, and also unfortunately eating for comfort. But, I don't want to be in the position my father is in one day. I don't want to have to pay horribly heavy healthcare costs as I grow older. When I quit, I will have to buy my own health insurance as it is, and I don't want to also rake up heavy medical bills apart from that. I don't want to be sick and lose income as a result. And I know that poor health leads to heavier financial burden over time. For all these reasons, I will have to go back to maintaining my diet and exercise when I return home.

5. This will mean more frequent trips to my home country to visit my father and mother. They are old, and my sister and I will be going there more frequently not only to see them more often, but also to help them settle some of their affairs, sell some property, and to figure out some financial aspects of their lives. My father was the one who took care of all this for most of their lives and now that he is so infirm, things need to be put in order soon.

6. I got four more calls from people wanting to buy my car, but I am here, and cannot sell it. Hopefully some of them will still be interested when I get back.

I return home on Wednesday night. I can't wait to be back home. Now that relief has sunk in that my father will not die, I can't wait to be back home, in my own bed, in my own home, in my own comfort zone. I have been holding it together, and can't wait to get back home so I can just relax and cry, and zone out, and just be.

Reworked my Budget

August 18th, 2019 at 09:56 am

One of the things I enjoy the most is working on my projected budget for the next several months. I really nerd out on this, and it gives me immense joy. Maybe I should have been an accountant. But, I think it's working on MY numbers that brings me joy. I doubt that managing other people's money would make me as happy.

Anyway, now that I have purchased a car, I can more accurately budget out until April to see what's possible. It may not happen exactly like this because of my variable income. But, with conservative estimates of what I might be able to bring in, here is what I can accomplish:

By end of 2019:
* Pay off my last remaining consumer debt. Another $9,300.
* Save $2,000 towards my 10K EF goal.

By April 2020 when I leave my full time job, here is what I can accomplish:
* FEBRUARY - Pay up to $1,000 on expenses on the cruise. I've never been on a cruise, so don't know what to budget. Some of the port excursions and other things look a bit expensive. I don't think I will go over $1,000 anyway for both my sister and myself. She will offer to pay, but this is a birthday trip for her, so I want it to be all expenses paid for her. The only thing she will be paying for is her flight to Florida.
* MARCH - Pay $1,200 for auto taxes for the year (I am not sure how much it will be. This is a little over what I am paying now yearly for auto taxes)
* MARCH - Roll any income tax savings into the EF
* APRIL - Save $10,000 EF
* MONTHLY - Keep paying $250 extra each month towards the mortgage
* MONTHLY - Leave $300-$400 wiggle room in each month's budget for unexpected expenses. Anything that doesn't get spent will get added to a Global Slush Fund for the year which I hope to get to $10K by August of 2020. This will prevent me from having to dip into my EF for anything I need to take from savings. At the moment, the EF is the only major savings I have that isn't jointly held with my sister. So, that's where I pull money from. But, with a large Slush fund, I shall be able to leave the EF only for emergencies.

By end of 2020 (in addition to the above):
* Save $10,000 in a global slush fund
* Save $2,000 towards my 10K EF goal.
* Pay for ductless heat pumps for my house (around $6,000)
* After the above are accomplished and paid for, throw any remaining money in the budget towards the mortgage.


P.S. The person who was going to come and see my old car fell through. They messaged and canceled and said they found another car. I did get several scammers offering to pay me in cashier's checks, or to mail me checks if I would ship my car to them. Blocked all of those numbers.

Friday Updates

August 16th, 2019 at 02:13 pm

I don't really have any major updates. Just thought I would list a few things:

1. Bought a birthday gift for my brother-in-law, and used the $70 gift balance I got from applying for the Amazon Prime card. So, the total came down to $37.14. Nice savings.

2. I got a check from a class action settlement I had joined about 2 years ago. It was a measly $4. But it's something. Maybe that will pay for a coffee someday. Deposited it. I love mobile check deposits. Why didn't they invent that years ago??

3. Listed my old car on FB Marketplace (free) and on Craigslist ($5). KBB said $987, and I listed it for $950 OBO. Already got one interested party contact me via. Craigslist.

4. I purchased a bed online, and did not opt for the "expert assembly", thus saving $85. I have a friend coming over today, and we both will put it together. I usually am good at putting together furniture on my own, but this is large enough where I could use an extra pair of hands. I'll make dinner and offer some of my garden produce as a thank you.

5. This was my busiest week in my SE job. Next week will be packed as well. I have decided to not take on any new clients for the next month. I have mixed feelings about this. I am happy because people keep wanting to hire me, so I feel more and more confident about leaving my full-time job. I am anxious because I go down to 0.8 FTE in October, and am putting some pressure on myself to fill up those slots before it's even the end of August! Also, I am still really trying to get the hang of this variable income thing and appear to be tending towards overloading myself whenever possible to offset the slow weeks. I know it will all work out in the end. Being able to say no to additional clients feels like a privilege to have, and is a milestone in my new business.

6. Picking up my new car today. I'll charge the 1045.24 in repairs to my credit card so I can get the points, and then pay it off before the next billing cycle. Can't wait to drive in it later this afternoon.

7. My tomatoes and beans are going nuts. My counter is getting fuller and fuller with produce, and I am going to spend some time this weekend processing and freezing or maybe canning some of it. The zucchini, squash, and snap peas are slowing down. My sweetmeat squash looks like it won't yield anything. I'm also going to plant kale and cauliflower this weekend for winter crops. I also have a low-bush blueberry that I want to transplant into a large pot. What's the best time to transplant blueberries? Anyone know?

Have a lovely weekend.

Bought a New-To-Me Car

August 14th, 2019 at 03:00 pm

Thanks, everyone for advice and feedback on my last post. I decided that I was going to keep looking, and then if I found something that I really liked, I would buy it, and if not, then I would renew my car tags and wait till next year to buy a car.

It happened really fast. I saw a car yesterday posted on Craiglist. It was a year older than the parameters I had in mind - it's a 2009 car. But, it had really low miles (58K - I was looking for something under 110K). I called the guy who told me that it's his mother's car and she's going into assisted living, and is selling her car. We planned to meet this morning for me to look at it.

This morning, I looked at the car - it's beautiful inside and out. Test drove it, and it drives really well as well. Before I took it to a mechanic for an inspection, I bargained on the price and agreed upon $6700 (down from asking price of $7000, CarFax recommended private party price was $7600). Then, I took it to the mechanic ($109), who checked it out and said it was a good car and he recommended that I buy it. It does need new brake pads and rotors, a rear mounted brake light (which costs $429 for some astounding reason!), and about half a dozen other minor things. The total estimated repair bills add up to $1045.xx. The mechanic said I could use that to bargain down the price again, but told me that he would recommend buying it even if they don't lower the price because it's in excellent condition overall, and that it's hard to find a car like that at such low miles.

So, I bargained again, and they said $6500 was the lowest they could go. We agreed upon it, and went to the bank where I withdrew the money to pay them. I then went straight to the DMV with the title and bill of sale, and registered it in my name. Then I called the insurance and added it to my account. I hope to sell my old car in the next few weeks. If I do so, then my insurance will go up by $511.xx. My new car is now at the mechanic's getting all the repairs and replacements. I will have it on Friday.

It cost me a total of $8258.73 (car price, inspection, repairs, registration/title change, insurance increase). The car came with the old license plates and the tags are good till 9/20, so I don't have to worry about paying to renew them for another year.

I priced my old car on KBB and it looks like their private party recommendation is $987. I will list it tomorrow, and hopefully will sell it for at least $800. That should offset some of these costs.

I am grateful to be able to purchase the car outright without having to take out a loan or pay interest on it. My total cost for the car was $1200 more than I had anticipated, but I also got a car with 50K miles less on it than I had anticipated, so I am happy with that. This does mean that my savings are now almost completely depleted since I took out $5k from it. I do have $2.5K in my joint EF with my sister to fall back on if need be, and another $8K in my business account that I had saved for taxes. I hope I shan't have to use either of those. And I will still be able to meet my 10K goal by April as planned.

That was a long post. However, it feels good to have written it all down.

Have a lovely rest of your week, everyone.

Waffling

August 11th, 2019 at 10:46 pm

I am going back and forth trying to decide if I should buy a newer car sooner or wait till next year. My car's tags expire in November, and I don't want to renew them just for another few months more. I saw a posting for a car in town that looks good. $7000. 2012 Kia Soul. 90K miles. Claims to be a single owner. It's too late at night to call. I'll call tomorrow and see if it's still available. I am so indecisive.

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I was buying something on Amazon and decided to apply for the Amazon Prime Visa Card. Was approved, and got a $70 Amazon Gift card instantly. It gives you 5% cashback on Amazon Prime purchases. I've seen it promoted for years, but never applied.

I froze my credit after the Equifax breach. Unfroze it when I started to look for houses so I could apply for a mortgage. I plan on re-freezing it again, so glad I got approved for this card. I don't need to keep my credit unfrozen any longer.

To-do list items for August are to apply for the Equifax settlement claim, and also to freeze my credit with all three bureaux.

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It was a relatively inexpensive weekend. I spent $40.06 on groceries.

Did some meal-prep for the week. It's going to be a super busy week, and it will be wise to have lunches and dinners ready. I have one work dinner that I think I can stretch into two meals. I also have one lunch planned with a coworker this week. The rest of the meals will be homemade, hopefully.

I made some zuchhini lasagne, but it was too watery. I tried salting and squeezing the zucchini slices first, but they kept breaking, and I was not able to squeeze out as much water as I do when I make zoodles. The lasagne was tasty-ish. I think I'll stick to making zoodles in the future.

I also boiled some eggs, chopped some veggies for sides. I think I will also make a bunch of salads. I have delicious lettuce and tomatoes from the garden that need using. Chocolate chia pudding for dessert.