money


I appear to be entering a stage of mothering where I have great difficulty in getting anything done on the computer. Luckily for us, the money I make from writing is all extra, and we’ve been able to live entirely on Chad’s income.

I’ve discovered an obvious fact: if I spend less, I have more money in my wallet, which right now is a heck of a lot easier than working to get more money. My new favorite motto is “The best way to make money is to not use it!”

A not-obvious way of spending less is cooking more, and cooking outside the box. Making things I don’t normally cook keeps me interested in my own food and helps quiet that desire for eating out.

Because of my new friendships with raw foodies (they eat raw AND vegan), I’ve been exploring some raw recipes. Here’s one that was a great hit with even the omnivores at Christian’s birthday picnic. It’s call Not Tuna Pâfrom Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet. Once you get past the initial strangeness of soaking your nuts, this recipe is super fast and easy. I soak my nuts all for the same amount of time and in the same bowl. If I can’t get to them right away (within 8 hours I mean), I rinse them, put them in fresh water and put them in the fridge until you can use them.

Not Tuna Pâ

1/2 c soaked raw sunflower seeds

1/4 c soaked raw raw almonds

2 T water

1 T fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 T minced celery (didn’t use this as I didn’t have any on hand)

1 T minced onion (I used more)

1 T minced fresh parsley (I’ve made it without, but people seem to prefer the taste with parsley)

Blend all together in the food processor. (The original recipe calls for stirring in the celery, onion, and parsley separately, but it was easier and faster to do it all at once – I also added more fresh lemon juice and salt to taste without measuring.)

Serve with … something raw, like carrot sticks. If you’re not a raw foodie, this recipe tastes great on crackers too.

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We’ve finally cashed in all of my brother’s citibank thank you points (earlier post about this) for two ipod touches (8 gig for me, 16 gig for my sister); a $100 gift certificate to Bloomingdale’s for Bella (she got her white Hudson jeans yesterday); a $50 gift certificate to Macaroni Grill (had the seafood linguine – yummmmm); and a $40 gift certificate to Chili’s (had hamburgers there last weekend).

To top that off we also got over $8000 back in taxes. I recommended starting two IRAs with Vanguard for $3000 each and using the rest for Thailand. Chad thought we might put the whole sum aside for a new car savings. We compromised and put $1000 aside for my IRA, $1000 for a new computer for Chad, $1000 for life incidentals for Bella (if she needs tennis lessons or decides to run track etc), and $2000 aside for a trip to Thailand!!! (That doesn’t add up I know, but I can’t remember the whole list at the moment.)

Chad has decided that he does not want to spend his vacation traveling somewhere hot and crowded, so it’s just me, Christian and Bella, who are down for Bangkok. And it may end up being just me and Christian, as Bella is insisting that she needs to take a summer class at the local community college to remain a viable candidate for a UC school, and she has also been invited to spend ten days traveling with a good friend (location still undecided – her friend has an aunt who is letting her pick the travel destination!)

Finally I did not recover my new camera, but Chad counted out all my stored change and there was enough for a replacement. So I’ve got a new camera again.

Lots of excitement and big smiles around here (caressing new clothes and surfing the net while on the can and such).

Three unlucky things happened today – and I hope that’s the last of them.

First when Chad met me at LA Union Station (he biked, Christian and I took the train) he told me that somewhere along his route one of his bike locks had bounced off. It’s a shame because it was a combo lock and will probably never be useful to anybody again.

Then when I bought Chad his Metrolink ticket I inadvertently purchased a nonrefundable round trip when (obviously) he only needed a one-way. That was a minor thing but cost us about $8.

Finally, and most sadly, I lost my new camera today. It was a 10 megapixel Canon Elph and it was Chad’s  early birthday present to me.

*muffled sob*

At one gallery it was hooked to my belt and at the next gallery it was not. I think it may have dropped off on the subway when I sat down and there is about 1% chance that somebody honest found it and will turn it into the lost and found. Chad thinks it was pickpocketed and there is zero chance of recovery.

sigh. deep sigh.

He’s out in the living room counting my emergency stash of change (that I keep sorted by denomination in plastic juice jugs – I actually know somebody whose house burned up and the change she kept in glass jugs had exploded and was impossible to recover, while the change in the plastic jugs was kept safe: the plastic melted and became a form-fitted plastic sack around the coins.)

There goes the new mattress I was saving for.

I am so susceptible to advertising and promotions that I should just stop going into stores.

A couple days ago I was riveted to the Vita-mix stand at Costco. The guy was making a fruit smoothie, which I like to do at home, but then my eyes widened – he was throwing in entire strawberries, stem and all, whole apples, and even a pineapple barely peeled, but still with its core. The smoothie was delicious. And then he threw in more strawberries with ice and made instant strawberry sorbet. And then he made baby food that Christian gulped down ravenously – out of raw zucchini, carrot and apple. And finally he made a piping hot tortilla soup. This amazed me most, because he started with all raw ingredients and had the hot soup in our hands in 8 minutes.

I thought to myself, I HAVE TO HAVE A VITA-MIX. My monkey mind just went nuts trying to figure out how to come up with the $375.

We would eat so many more vegetables and fruit with one of these babies! We could eat more raw food and certainly I would never ever waste anything from my CSA basket again. I went home despondant – Chad had admonished me to be more “fiscally responsible” just the day before and now I was going to say that I wanted to buy a $400 juicer? I thought about just squirreling away twenties and waiting until I had enough.

And then suddenly I realized I had enough!

If I put the $200 my mom gave me at Christmas for new eye glasses (I have a perfectly good pair, but was just looking for a fresh look), plus the $100 I got for trading in the sweater my brother gave me, also at Christmas, (it was a lovely sweater, but I put it on and my mother said it made me look like a granny – then she asked how much it was. I told her that Bella had told me that it was a $100 sweater that had been discounted to $60. My mom hurried into her room, grabbed a $100 bill, thrust it into my hands and said, Buy yourself another sweater, I’ll take this one…), plus the $53 Costco rebate check I have in my wallet – I am almost there!

So to get that last bit of cash I made a bet with Chad last night. He rolled over in bed last night saying that it was late. I said it wasn’t even 10:30. He said, IT IS SO. Wanna bet? I put $25  on the bet, and guess what? It was 10:29. I won, don’t you think?

So I am practically out the door to get this juicer, but it occurred to me today that might be able to get one used.

Now, I’m just chomping at the bit. And fussing about on the internet seeing if there are any used vita-mixes for sale…

I am so susceptible to advertising and promotions that I should just stop going into stores.

A couple days ago I was riveted to the Vita-mix stand at Costco. The guy was making a fruit smoothie, which I like to do at home, but then my eyes widened – he was throwing in entire strawberries, stem and all, whole apples, and even a pineapple barely peeled, but still with its core. The smoothie was delicious. And then he threw in more strawberries with ice and made instant strawberry sorbet. And then he made baby food that Christian gulped down ravenously – out of raw zucchini, carrot and apple. And finally he made a piping hot tortilla soup. This amazed me most, because he started with all raw ingredients and had the hot soup in our hands in 8 minutes.

I thought to myself, I HAVE TO HAVE A VITA-MIX. My monkey mind just went nuts trying to figure out how to come up with the $375.

We would eat so many more vegetables and fruit with one of these babies! We could eat more raw food and certainly I would never ever waste anything from my CSA basket again. I went home despondant – Chad had admonished me to be more “fiscally responsible” just the day before and now I was going to say that I wanted to buy a $400 juicer? I thought about just squirreling away twenties and waiting until I had enough.

And then suddenly I realized I had enough!

If I put the $200 my mom gave me at Christmas for new eye glasses (I have a perfectly good pair, but was just looking for a fresh look), plus the $100 I got for trading in the sweater my brother gave me, also at Christmas, (it was a lovely sweater, but I put it on and my mother said it made me look like a granny – then she asked how much it was. I told her that Bella had told me that it was a $100 sweater that had been discounted to $60. My mom hurried into her room, grabbed a $100 bill, thrust it into my hands and said, Buy yourself another sweater, I’ll take this one…), plus the $53 Costco rebate check I have in my wallet – I am almost there!

So to get that last bit of cash I made a bet with Chad last night. He rolled over in bed last night saying that it was late. I said it wasn’t even 10:30. He said, IT IS SO. Wanna bet? I put $25  on the bet, and guess what? It was 10:29. I won, don’t you think?

So I am practically out the door to get this juicer, but it occurred to me today that might be able to get one used.

Now, I’m just chomping at the bit. And fussing about on the internet seeing if there are any used vita-mixes for sale…

In the once widely-disdained credit cycle proposed by Hyman P. Minsky, we are currently in the panic stage of the housing/mortgage market, and interestingly, John Cassidy of The New Yorker does not blame Bush, but Fed Chief Greenspan for his decisions back in 2003 (and since then).

But as I don’t know much about economics, I’d like to just highlight a couple quotes of interest (The New Yorker; Feb 4, 2008) that raised my eyebrows over my egg burrito this morning:

“According to Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, average house prices are falling nationwide at an annual rate of more than ten per cent, something not seen since before the Second World War. This means that American households are getting poorer at a rate of more than two trillion dollars a year.”

and

“It’s hard to say exactly how falling house prices will affect the economy, but recent computer simulations carried out by Frederic Mishkin, a governor at the Fed, suggest that, for every dollar the typical American family’s housing wealth drops in a year, that family may cut its spending by up to seven cents. Nationwide, that adds up to roughly a hundred and fifty-five billion dollars…”

Makes you kinda want to stay home and not spend, doesn’t it?

For Christmas this year Bella got a new cell phone. Despite my reservations, we got her a Black Jack II with a full QWERTY keyboard and although it was web-enabled, it did not require a PDA monthly web plan like the iPhone, Blackberry, or Tilt. I had given her an unlimited messaging package ($20/month) as an allowance upgrade when we moved to Orange County from Joshua Tree, which included unlimited IMing and she had developed quite a texting network over the last six months – hence the QWERTY keyboard request.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when Bella got the phone, she was not entirely thrilled. One, it was her only gift from me, Chad , and Santa, and two, I guess she had been hoping for something even more glamorous, like Verizon’s Voyager or at the very least she’d been hoping for the Tilt. After a week of ignoring the new phone and threatening to trade it in for another, she finally charged it up and got started on it somewhere in the beginning of January. We saw right away that her gmail was coming up automatically, so we immediately took it into the AT&T store to have the web connection disabled. Turns out that you cannot disable the web and still keep the unlimited texting – and remember you get charged for every text you receive, so even if SHE stopped texting a million times a day, she could still GET a million texts a day from all her friends… so getting rid of unlimited texting was not really an option.

We settled for getting rid of all the web icons on her phone so that she wouldn’t be tempted to go online. And we sent her on her merry way with severe admonitions that she would be responsible for any errant web browsing bills.

Well, I got January’s bill not too long ago.

Bella’s portion of the bill was $946.85.

Did your heart just stop like mine did? Talk about little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.

$837 was incurred the first day the phone was turned on.

Then imagine me arguing with AT&T representatives, saying that my daughter said she’d never gone online intentionally. Well, you can imagine how that went over. I’m sure those cell phone reps hear that story more than once a day. I was assured that a high-level adjustment claim would be submitted and I would hear back from them shortly.

Ten days went by and the only AT&T calls I got were ones threatening to disconnect my service. I called back, only to discover that NO CLAIM had ever been submitted on my account. And so I started the entire process over again, this time with no small amount of fury and frustration in my voice. And this time I was told that the cheapest unlimited web data plan with unlimited texting was $50/month. And that signing up for this plan improved my chances of of getting the $946.85 knocked off my bill. So, in hopes of getting the charges reduced I threw yet more money on the problem and signed up.

And in case I haven’t mentioned it, Bella isn’t even allowed within ten feet of her Black Jack at the moment. I had her pull her SIM card and start using her old RAZR immediately.

To put not so fine a point on it, the relationship between Bella and I these last few weeks has been strained. Very strained. She, of course, denies any responsibility.

Luckily for her though, it looks like she will not be grounded the rest of her high school life. I received a text today saying that the charges have been reversed.

But to be honest, the whole situation’s been so stressful, it feels like I’ve already paid that damn bill – with buckets of anxious sweat.

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