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DIY Landscaping

March 14th, 2015 at 02:43 pm

Instead of hiring someone to re-landscape our yard, we are taking the DIY approach. This weekend we are cleaning out the backyard bed, pushing it out a bit (to reduce the amount of grass, something I really want to do to reduce our water consumption), and creating a border using free bricks left over from our home's construction. Next we'll put in a few low plants (or annuals or perennials, we haven't decided yet but there will definitely be some milkweed for the monarch butterflies) in the pushed out area and spread mulch.

Republic Wireless Here I Come; Staying Relevant

March 11th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

After thinking about it for a long time, I'm finally taking the leap to Republic Wireless. The time has come when a smart phone has become pretty close to a need in order to stay relevant on my job (something that I keep pushing myself to do as part of the 50-plus crowd). Since I've decided to get a smart phone, I decided this was the optimal time to switch carriers; to use Republic Wireless you have to buy a phone through them.

I just ordered the Moto e phone, and will order a protective case and SD memory card from Amazon (cheaper than buying from Republic). I'm going to start out with the $10/month plan and see how that goes.

It will be only me; DH will stick with AT&T. He makes international calls on the go, something you can't yet do with Republic. (He uses Skype when calling internationally from home or hotel, but sometimes he needs to use his phone out in the field.) He also wants to see how things work out for me with Republic. A switch may be in his future, especially if they add an international option.

Thanks to Clark Howard and SA's Tabs (aka B-something) for their feedback on Republic Wireless and other low-cost providers.

Grapefruit Season

March 2nd, 2015 at 05:44 pm

DH bought a 15-lb bag of Texas red grapefruit for $3.98 today. I love grapefruit season in Texas!

What are the current seasonal deals in your neck of the woods?

Not moving ... for now

February 25th, 2015 at 05:44 pm

Our house is out of the price range of the friend who was interested in buying, so we are NOT moving. Well, at least not for now.

I will admit that I am relieved.

But based on discussions DH & I had, I think a long-distance move in a few years is likely.

At least it won't be a rushed situation.

Lazy Lunch for Less Than $1.50

February 14th, 2015 at 12:24 pm

DH is out of town, which means lots of salads & sandwiches for me. I like them, and I LOVE the fact that they result in little cleanup work.

When he leaves, I buy a 6-pack of romaine hearts and other salad fixings (other veggies, tuna, dressing, etc) so that I know I can always throw together a quick salad even when I come home from work tired and not wanting to cook.

Today's lunch was salad (romaine heart + tomato + yogurt caesar dressing) plus a whole grain bread round with margarine & a nice dollop of Sarabeth's.

No protein (except for the teeny amount in the yogurt dressing) because I had a salmon patty for breakfast, I'll grab a handful of raw almonds for an afternoon snack, and I'll probably have sardines for dinner.

As you can see, I'm not a big meal planner other than to make sure I have things on hand that fit with my lazy home "cook" (or perhaps I should say little or NO cook) mindset.

Eating economical and healthy foods at home can be done without much work and with just a bit of advance planning, even if cooking is not your "thing"!

It's Official I've Lost My Mind

January 31st, 2015 at 04:26 pm

After intense thinking & discussion, and a call to a RE agent, I told DH that selling the house is something I would consider.

He texted his friend and they are coming to look at the house tomorrow. Yep, tomorrow. Today has been a whirlwind of getting it at least sort-of "showing ready." Yea, 1 whole day. It's official. I have lost my mind. Big Grin

Deja Vu All Over Again?

January 31st, 2015 at 07:33 am

We have been approached by someone who has expressed interest in buying our house. This is a serious buyer, someone DH knows, a cash buyer.

We also have a strong lead on what could be an excellent renting situation.

When we made our last move, the really big one (Seattle to Austin), I swore it would be our last one until we moved in to a condo, retirement facility, or assisted living.

Moving is such hard work. I don't think anyone likes it. But I can't let that put me off.

We did buy in one of the fastest appreciating neighborhoods in what is practically a boom town. And so once again we are faced with the opportunity to make money on our primary residence.

Our expenses would stay pretty level. Overall quality of life might decrease slightly. Financially it would probably be a big plus, with so much depending on what happens to home prices in this area going forward.

On balance there seems to be more upside than downside, but I still need to do a lot of thinking. It takes effort to stay as emotionally detached as possible and reason with the side of me that thinks "WAAAH! Moving is hard!" It's like dealing with the side of me that thinks "WAAAH! Waking up early to make sure I get to work a little early is hard! Packing my lunch every day is hard! Homemade dinners and doing the dishes every single day is hard! Working & saving & being a responsible member of society are hard!" but on a bigger scale.

So often the hard thing is the right thing.

DH is pretty sure he wants to do it. The ball really is in my court.

Home Cooking and Color

January 26th, 2015 at 04:56 pm

Recently there was a post by a newer SA member who is trying to do more home cooking. It included some comments made by her children about the appearance of the food. Some of you suggested that adding fruits or veggies are a great way to brighten up a dish. I decided to post these photos of our dinner tonight as a form of encouragement to her.

There are a lot of gourmet cooks on this site (Lucky Robin, ceejay, Disney Steve, and Brooklyn Girl come immediately to mind.) I am NOT like them!

I have stated many times that I am a "lazy cook." I can do a big blow out fancy meal occasionally when the mood strikes me or I feel obligated, and I do know how to handle a knife and follow a recipe, but really I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

But we eat at home all the time. (Thank goodness DH likes to cook.) In the last month, we went out to eat exactly once.

I decided to share some photos to show how a bit of color can perk up a dish prepared by a lazy, non-gourmet home cook like me.

This is one of our favorite winter dishes, called nikujaga. It's braised meat and potatoes with other veggies (in this case onions, carrots, and edamame ... the recipe I use calls for green peas but I had an open bag of edamame in the freezer I wanted to use up).

3 photos:
1. straight out of the pot
2. picked out the carrots & edamame (to show it without color), which messed up the bowl
3. sprinkled the carrots & edamame back on top (bowl is still messed up but it shows what it would look like with even more orange & green, or if the veggies were used as a garnish on top of a bland colored dish).

Doesn't a bit of color make a difference? Not only does it improve the nutrition of the dish, I think it looks so much more appetizing.

So, there you have it. Adding a bit of color to your home cooking, even if you're far from being a master chef, really can make a difference.

Don't give up on your efforts to cook at home!

Coming to my Safe Venting Place

January 15th, 2015 at 07:11 am

Younique 3D mascara ... WHY???
Spend 30 bucks so you can look like you have big hairy insects stuck to your eyelids ... WHY???

And it's apparently so hot that counterfeit product is being peddled. The counterfeits are a big topic on my local community's on-line Facebook garage sale (swap) page.


OK, I feel much better now.

Still Dancing - 2014 Year-End vs. 2013 Year-End

January 2nd, 2015 at 03:09 pm

I completed our 12/31/14 net worth statement today.
During 2014, our net worth increased 7.8%.
Non-financial assets (house & cars) now make up 15.3% of our total net worth.
For another year we lived below the crossover point.
We are still balance sheet affluent.

This may all sound like a broken record from last year ... but we are still dancing.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance....I hope you dance.

2015 Look Ahead

January 1st, 2015 at 04:35 pm

Most of my financial goals aren't interesting, and many aren't new ... but here they are nonetheless.

Max out 401K, SEP-IRA, and IRA contributions: not new, not exciting, but oh-so-important to our future financial security.

Possible major expenditures:
- Re-landscaping of yard Phase 1 (I want to make it lower maintenance and lower water-consuming). We are already making plans and getting quotes. Initially I was looking at re-landscaping the entire yard but have scaled that back to a phased plan.
- New car for DH? Whenever he decides to get one, we are ready to buy. This may or may not be a 2015 purchase. For all I know our '99 Camry will keep chugging along for another 5-10 years!
- Vacation = West Coast trip to visit family? In 2014 we vacationed by car in Texas; 2015 will involve air travel.

Possible minor expenditure:
- I have been wanting to increase contributions to my niece's college fund as she gets closer to high school graduation. I need to decide if the increase will occur this year or next. (I make contributions to my niece & nephew's 529s three times a year. I will eventually increase contributions to my nephew's fund if he stays on a college track, but he is much younger than my niece.)

Some major changes or decisions that may be in the works:
- This is the year. DH needs to decide if he is going to pursue his dream or not. Much hinges on this decision, and it is all up to him. I have done what I can by making sure that the savings are in place to finance the dream should he decide to go for it.
- I am kicking around the idea of looking for a new job. There is one job I am definitely going to apply for. Not sure if I'll take it beyond that. My job is like most; some aspects of it are very good and some are not.

Hope you all are having a good start to the New Year. Last night was low key; I fell asleep on the couch long before midnight. Today we enjoyed a lovely open house party at our friends' house. I have not completed my year-end net worth statement; I will do that tomorrow.

Always Room for Improvement!

December 30th, 2014 at 06:54 am

I thought I had gotten really good at keeping track of gift cards. I have a special little box where I keep important things, including passport, cash, and gift cards.

Well, this morning I was shredding some old receipts and I found a Starbucks gift card in with them. I checked the balance on-line and it has 87-cents left on it so I put it in my wallet in a slot where I already have another S-bux GC.

I'm not sure how that gift card ended up in the receipts box, but my guess is that I wrapped a receipt around it after a purchase. Note to self: don't do that!

Just Slightly Over 463 Weeks

December 28th, 2014 at 03:33 pm

That's how long until our target retirement date!
I don't think retirement will mean that we never work again, but it will mean "work optional." I think I'll continue to work, but whether it is volunteer work or part-time paid work or some combination of both is TBD.

Austin ranked #3 on the most recent "top 25 places to retire" list from Forbes and was one of the bigger cities on the list. We like it here. So relocating after retirement may not be something that we even need to think about. We envision some day moving to a condo, and that would be the logical time to think about whether we want to stay in Austin or relocate. Because it is a single-story, our current home should be fine for at least the first several years of retirement and maybe longer.

Black Friday

November 28th, 2014 at 07:31 pm

We got our Target gift cards at a 10% discount this morning. Smile

I thought that would be our only Black Friday shopping but DH went to Dick's and purchased a dozen golf balls for $5. Excellent deal on something he buys regularly! These balls aren't one of his preferred brands, but he'll save them for times when the odds of losing a ball to a water hazard is high.