Thursday, August 25, 2016

An extra $110!

Received my new credit card bill this afternoon, and noted that my rewards points are getting up there, so I called and had them convert them into a cash credit on my next statement: $110.68. Nice freebie.

Recipe share: Hellmann's black bean quinoa burgers


Thursday's vegetarian meal; trying something new!

http://www.hellmanns.com/recipes/detail/50662/1/black-bean-quinoa-burgers

I'll skip the additional mayo topping, salt and cilantro (we can't eat it as it tastes like soap to us) and serve the pan grilled burgers on toasted buns, with choice of lettuce/tomato/red onion/condiments. Side will be leftover potato salad.

Here's what the patties looked like, when formed:
The white color was a bit off putting.

Now cooked:
Better color, the cheese helped.

Final review: not bad, glad I added extra black pepper, no salt garlic-onion seasoning. I found the outside to be pleasantly crispy, due to the oil in the mayo and the cheese, but they didn't hold together 100%. Next time, I'll skip the mayo and substitute an egg or 2, my usual method.

I did it!

Image: http://www.oursaviourslutheran.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Goal-Achieved.jpg

The last few months have brought several changes to my homefront, and I've been very much proactive in trying to achieve my financial transition goals, as I move from a now former career, into a new phase of my life.

I initially based all of my decisions on the income I had coming in from the aforementioned job (based off of take home pay, after insurance premiums and deductions for taxes, union dues etc) plus child support, which ended in June. At that point, while living frugally, I was able to save 19.9% of income. With the loss of C/S, my savings rate would drop to 9 %. Better than most, from what I read, but not within my own personal comfort zone. Changes were required, regardless of as yet unknown at that point, upcoming and unexpected job changes. Back in late Winter/early Spring, the decision was made to move to the city North of where we were, for a variety of reasons, with one being to reduce my cost of housing.

We moved in mid June, taking possession of the condo rental June 1, but awaiting the twin's high school graduation before residing here. This gave me a 2 week window of time to clean, get some painting done, move smaller items. With the move came a change in utilities:

-gas stove,dryer vs all electric, brand new appliances (exception being the washer and dryer)              -eventually gas heat vs oil and wood
-electric heated hot water (don't understand why an on demand, gas water heater wasn't chosen!) vs oil fed boiler heated hot water
-somewhat smaller unit (2700 dropped to 2300 sq feet)
-10 year old construction vs a very energy efficient 1976 home
-central (electric) A/C vs window units only used in bedrooms at night, as needed. The former rental also had a whole house fan, which was awesome
-different cable/internet company, but we are on a promo rate
-trash/recycling removal, snow removal now covered by the complex

With the move, as the utilities have been settling out, my savings rate increased to 32.4%, based off of just my take home income.

Meanwhile, I accepted a 6 month full pay severance package with medical insurance plan for a full year, at the active employee rate. I responded to this turn of events.

I reduced whatever I could, asking the kiddos to pick up more, if not most, of their expenses. One  more kidlet flew the nest (with the door open to return, under my rules/expectations).  I continue to cook, use energy conservation measures as before. For now, we're a family of 3.

I've sought alternative resources to cover some expenses, and continue to explore more.

To date, I have reduced my total living expenses, from soup to nuts, by 55% compared to what my total living expenses were while residing at the former rental home in another town. As a result, my savings rate has soared (at least for the next 8 months) to 49.9%. I have more than doubled what I am able to stash away, in cash figures, not just percentages.

Additionally, I am actively seeking employement. I have submitted 6 applications, and await a response. Any income I make within the next 6 months will be pure gravy=additional savings.

Effective March 1, I will be on early retirement from my former career. Taking an early retirement means a reduction in benefit percentages based on my salary as the benefit will be for the rest of my lifetime. If my math is correct, I should be able to cover all of my monthly expenses on that reduced income. I fully expect to continue to work in some capacity, and any supplemenetal earnings will continue to go towards savings. I  must have a position that offers full medical in 12 months, when I will be dropped from my current insurance plan.

Taking early retirement also means taking a step towards better health. My rhumatologist suspects (99% sure) that I now have psoriatic arthritis on top of osteoarthritis. The high stress of what had become a toxic work enviroment may very well have triggered this. My Dad suffered greatly from both Psoriasis and osteoarthritis, which his side of the family is riddled with.

I am very much at peace. Although some changes (job) were unexpected, I remain very pragmatic in my approach to life. Many have commented that they haven't seen me so happy and relaxed in a long time. It was the right decision for so many reasons.

As DS#1 says, "I've got this!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Planned over Wednesday

Over the weekend, I intentionally purchased extra new potatoes at the farmer's market, cooking them for Sunday supper. This morning, I turned these planned overs into part of tonight's supper for 2:

 a half recipe of Mom's potato-egg salad which will accompany
sandwiches, made out of sale cold cuts that I froze: choice of low salt turkey breast or Buffalo chicken breast. Usual choice of condiments, sliced cheeses, lettuce, tomato. I also made a pitcher of generic lemonade (Aldi's powdered mix pouch). Keeping it simple.

Getting a rein on electic costs

Image: http://financialtribune.com/sites/default/files/field/image/05_Electricity%20-%20270.jpg

Finally, a month where the electric charges are for JUST this rental, including no charges from the former rental. While my electric bill was very reasonable at the former home (budgeted $100/month), my past few bills have been ridiculous, but if compared to most, totally normal. I aim to continue to be conservative.

A few things have come to light:
June 573 kwt, $255.65 for  a partial month as this was our transition month
July 1210 kwt, $248.95
Aug 1320 kwt, $223.03

When we first moved in, a realtor who also lived in the complex told me to expect $200/month for utilities.
I also realized that previously, my past 2 rentals had hot water supplied by oil fed boiler systems to the tune of $90/month. Hot water needed to be factored in. Also, the appliances here are 10 years old (dishwasher is a replacement, as is the washer-looks like it was acquired second hand. It works fine, no issues. The dryer, only used for towels, is powered mostly by natural gas-those bills have a $25/month budget for now)

So, keeping $90 for hot water plus $100 for electric, I aim to get my bill down to $190/month. Also toss in unusually hot, humid weather, multiple heat waves-the central A/C has been in overdrive. We've recently been blessed with cooler weather so it's been off for several days. Even with windows closed to noise for the night, the house has been about 72-76 degrees.

Tuesday: Swiss steak

We hadn't had this in a while, made for a nice change: Swiss steak over egg noodles, roasted Butternut squash, steamed beets.

I made a phone call

Image: http://blog.learnhotenglish.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/10/phone-phrasals-I.jpg

DX helped DS #3 get his license back in May, yet failed to discuss this with me. Fast forward, and apparently DMV automatically contacts one's auto insurance company, alerting them to a newly licensed driver in the family. Although DS would never be allowed to drive either my or DD's car (we rely on our cars for work and can't afford any accidents due to an inexperienced driver), we had to sign a document to this effect AND had to pay $145 for an excluded driver. @@ Technically, X should have DS on his policy-really not my problem.

Fast forward, same DS decided not to move to the city with us, choosing to move in with Dad, and use one of his many vehicles. I remembered this stupid $145 fee the other day, so I called the auto insurance company and asked why we had to pay it, as DS never moved with us back in June. Turns out, I can get it refunded. Had I known, it would have been in effect starting in June, instead it is in effect as of Aug, so I eat 1/2 of the original fee, the remainder is being refunded to my credit card. So approx. $75 back in the coffers, the other 1/2 DS owes me.