Sunday, July 15, 2018

And in Other Life Happenings

I'm writing this post sitting in a McDonald's while my daughter is taking her ACT test. I was going to go to a coffee shop, but it was crowded, plus, I was a bit hungry and couldn't see spending $2.00 for coffee, plus another $3-$5 for a breakfast  pastry or sandwich. For under $2.25, I have coffee and a breakfast biscuit, plus still have free WiFi. Yes, McDonald's but their coffee is pretty decent, and a breakfast sandwich here or one reheated at a coffee shop is probably about the same quality.  I ran the few errands I had and could do in this town, and taking advantage of some time to do some household admin, work on my book, and, read some blogs. This is a random life happens kind of post. Thanks for joining me. 

For those that thought my coffee hack was a silly waster of time and  just go buy a new coffee pot for heavens sake, I get it! Sometimes it is just silly to try and save money and limp along with weird little hacks. This time, I was ready to commit to buying a new coffee maker of some sort, so this was only going to be temporary. But, Anne asked me if I had reset my Keurig after trying to clean out the hard water deposits that may have been the culprit. Eureka! A few more water cycles and fresh water to get the last of the vinegar out and I have a single use coffee maker working quite well again! I feel this odd sense of accomplishment that I didn't succumb to spend, spend, spend, replace, replace replace. If I want to buy something, hacks are a great tool to "buy" a little time, while trying to find a more permanent solution or use. 

While the project manager situation is still not resolved, and by resolved, the best I can hope for is getting him back for two weeks in July to do a more thorough knowledge transfer, the payment issue was resolved. Apparently it was a simple fix-a line of code to tell System A, that system B had made the transfer to System C, and System C made the payments,was missing. Had someone in IT understood how the systems intersect when the issue first surfaced, it could have been resolved as soon as identified. Instead, we spent over a week with people digging around, retracing code, being stumped, and ultimately figuring it out. My sleepless nights aside, I would estimate the cost of wasted staff time, multiple people, multiple hours, in the thousands. 

I never did find the oversized white shirt in thrift stores. I've been looking since spring. When in the big fancy grocery store in this town where I picked up laundry soap and TP on special, plus a fresh baked artisan Ciabatta bread, I looked in the "boutique" section. right on the rack was exactly what I had in mind, and clearance at $16. While much more than I was hoping to spend, it is a nice linen shirt that will be perfect for the rest of summer alone, as a cover up over a sleeveless shirt, or even as a light jacket. In fall and winter, it will work as a dress shirt under a suit jacket. To me, it was a bargain. There is a big Goodwill here, so when I leave McDonald's I'm going to take a look. I'd still like another cotton dress, one that could be casual with tennis shoes, or appropriate for a meal out with some sandals. I'll keep you posted if I find any worthy options. 

I like doodling math calculations and figuring out future spending needs. I still would really like to retire in nine years, DH in five, the summer after DD2 graduates college. While we have had experts calculate that we will be fine, there are investments in life I'd like to keep making after retirement that makes me think we need to bring in some additional income between my age 61 and age 67. Health insurance, and the big unknown of that cost is the culprit that makes me distrust our saving rate. Ideally, if we could either save or combination of save or earn approximately $675,000 by the time I am 67, in 14.5 years, any twinge or early retirement fear will go away. Considering the years DD2 is in college may be a spending/savings draw, we likely have no possible way to save that kind of money. Therefore, I'm noodling all the way we can have more passive income streams, or second career opportunities that we can do anywhere.  That will be part of DH's role in his four years of retirement before me-to figure out some of this stuff. He's good at it, but works too many hours now, plus has extended family commitments, and his own daughter to occupy his time and mind. Keep tuned. But hay, if you could encourage a few more readers to join you in following me, maybe I can grow this audience and have one of those careers as a Digital Nomad that the younger generation has mastered.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

On the Frugal Front

July is whipping our buts financially. Between work stress and meetings on the go, the 4th of July holiday, and pure lack of planning on my part, our household and grocery (H&G) and food budget is quite out of whack. We have spent $301.50 on groceries and household so far, and the month is less than half over. I'm out of town Monday through Wednesday next week, so need to shop and plan easy meals both DH and DD2 can eat with little fuss, so that will take a bigger bite. I've also had more meals than I'd like purchased for work. Some months are like that. The heat will surely impact our  electric and gas bill though we may not see the impact until the new budget cycle is recalculated. Gas for the car has been all over the map, up then down, then up again. We all need new comfortable shoes before the trip and I've decided I'm going to splurge and get my feet properly fitted, and buy the exact sandals that will keep my feet happy pounding the pavements of Europe. To off set all these costs, I still am looking for frugal gems. I found five frugal things for the week.

  1. Even though I bought several foods for convenience because of the hectic week, I earned $0.10 cents per gallon off on my next fill up of gas. I typically have a 5 cent coupon, and often 7 cents, but the added bit helps with fluctuating gas prices. 
  2. I had a free lunch on Tuesday at work through the wellness committee. These are rare and the programs are often iffy, usually a sales job, but this one actually had a nutrition workshop. Lunch was croissant sandwiches, hummus and veggies, and a banana.
  3. I took my girls out for coffee and breakfast items last Saturday, using gift cards. The girls knew the answer to the trivia question and we received a small discount. What is the name of the dragon in Disney's Mulan. No prize if you guess it, but play along. 
  4. To make up for my over priced meals on Tuesday and Thursday, Monday and Friday I packed leftovers. I ate the Israeli couscous and the over cooked in the crock pot dry pasta-no complaints. I keep reminding myself, croissants in France, pretzels in Germany, and waffles in Belgium.
  5. Because Pup is going to be a "guest" for two weeks, we are getting a $3 per day discount, plus she is willing to have him come super early the day we leave, saving a day. All together, this saves $68. 
It all helps. Last night DH and I had BLT's and coleslaw and ice cold beers left from the 4th of July holiday week. It cooled down enough after the rain that it was nice to be on the deck. DD2 worked, and then got right to bed. I'm dropping her off for her test instead of her driving herself as she is a little nervous going to the high school a town closer to St Paul. I suspect there will be kids from all over the south metro area, trying to fit one more round of scores in before they start applying for colleges in the fall. After that, she works again tonight at 5:00 and tomorrow at 11:00. She has really developed a good work ethic, picking up the shift today. She has a savings account, but we need to get her a checking/debit account so she is prepared to live away next year. She is going to have a good amount to start the account with as she has spent very little of her earnings and tips. It will be a worker bee weekend for me before packing and leaving on a business trip. There is a break in the heat coming, so time outside is a must for the weekend as well. Enjoy your Saturday. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Feeling Good Friday-Keeping it Together Edition

My insomnia this week at least has an identifiable root case. You may recall my story about our IT department deciding not to renew the contract of my project manager, and only giving a two business day notice? Well, a major problem happened with the fiscal year change over, and surprise, no one remaining has any knowledge, or enough knowledge to pinpoint where in the system the trouble  is stemming from. Therefore, no one can begin to resolve. right now so $1.5 million dollars in payments are floating somewhere in command sphere between our software for the program and the system that makes payments happen. If not resolved by Monday, add another million to that total. It's a situation that ultimately I can't resolve, but it is my stakeholder base impacted. 

On a slightly positive work note, the system didn't crash for my team with new payroll codes, always dicey with the change of fiscal year. A poor colleague though had nearly eight hours off and on with HR and Accounts Payable trying to get her teams time sheets to go through the system without error. Technically my card and one other staff should have erred as well because I learned after they processed, a wrong code was in the default set up by AP. D, my colleague, had a very rude message from the supervisor in that area stating if she didn't have them corrected by 12:00 Wednesday, no one in the division would get paid. Sorry? You're the part of the division  who screwed up the set up which originated the problem and you threaten no one will be paid-unacceptable. She didn't sleep well either that night. Now we wait and see if everyone gets paid next Friday. 

There must be something good going on, while trying to keep it together. Let's look for that, shall we? Just a note before you read, there is nothing on the health front this week. I know I need to make it  priority, but it wasn't. I'm up and typing this post, so that says something though. 

  •  It stormed last night for about an hour hard and we lost power about 8:15.  I could work from the lap top as the battery was fully charged and spent two hours on my book. I did some reworking of the order of the story and added more narrative. How long does a book, really a loosely connected collection of short stories, with one central character, need to be? 
  • DD2 got her AP exam tests back on Monday. I'm so proud of her as she got a 4 on the English Comp and Literature, and a 5 on the American History. She thought she would do well enough for college credit or pass on the English side, but was ecstatic to learn her history score. Both her top schools right now accept these scores for college credit. She also received a notice form one of the two schools that she has priority consideration and will require no application fee, is fast tracked for scholarship consideration, and automatically is invited for a choir audition, no preview recording needed, because of her All State honors. We'll see how much they want her when the actual scholarships are awarded.
  • Despite the IT stress at work, my immediate team is starting to gel. We had a six hour mini retreat yesterday, having lunch and a team building exercise, followed by deep dives into the transition between fiscal years, planning for next year, and starting to look at a 1-3 year plan. 
  • We have arrangements for pup for the trip. We decided it would not work out for our friends to have him. he has more energy than both their dogs together. Apparently after their play date, their little guy was having  peeing accidents in their house. A woman I know from volleyball has a kennel/doggie day care and she ended up having an opening. Because it is more like doggie daycare and less like boarding, there is very limited space. It worked out well with the timing of her own families vacation. His care while we are gone is my one angst about the trip, but I feel relieved now.
  • One smidge health related positive. I went to another Wellness Team talk-I think it was actually the same one as last years. If nothing else, it upped my commitment to get sugar, white flour, and, processed meats out of my diet. 
There, I came up with five. Hopefully next week the positive things related to health and well being will flow. I realize most of these were not specifically health and well being, but the counter definitely would have felt like unneeded weight on my shoulders. I hope you have a positive and wellness focused week. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Coffee Hack

When was I last writing about my coffee pots being on the fritz? I'm at it again, the decision to buy a new coffee maker or not. I'm trying to decalcify the Keurig, but so far, not having any luck. It might truly be the tubing inside is shot. Not wanting to spend any unnecessary money right now, I'll limp along with the slow big coffee maker or for my daily cup of Joe, this little pour over hack. Pour over filter coffee, made one cup at a time is the new thing in some coffee shops and at a premium price. I have filters; I have coffee; I can hear  water in the tea kettle. I decided to give it a try. Here is my simple hack of using a 12 ounce jelly jar, with the lid to secure the filter from slipping. It did the job. 

I know I could go out an buy a $15 to $20 coffee maker, or buy a French press for about the same. I want to make sure though I'm not just throwing money without getting what I really want. I keep the coffee makers on my counter, so aesthetically, I want to like how it looks. I have a couple gift cards, one for Kohl's and a VISA gift card. Once I decide I can put them to use, but layered with other perks and savings. Until then, this will do for my morning cup. It is tasty.