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Archive for February, 2007

Subbing Non-Fat Dry Milk

February 26th, 2007 at 02:40 am

I am thinking about trying to use non-fat dry milk (NFDM) in place of fresh liquid milk in more recipes. Does anyone have experience with this? In particular, are there any recipes you would caution against using it in?

I was in the process of making Corn Chowder this evening when I realized that if I used the amount of fresh skim milk called for in the recipe (2.5 cups) we wouldn't have any for breakfast in the morning. Luckily, I had a box of NFDM in the cupboard left over from a recipe that specifically called for non-hydrated milk. I mixed up 2.5 cups of rehydrated milk and proceeded with the recipe.

Neither Mr. Bean nor I noticed a difference in taste of the soup. The recipe is one I make a couple times a month, so we both are familiar with the "normal" taste. I've used the NFDM in recipes before with good results.

I don't care for the taste of NFDM for drinking, but I could definitely get in the habit of using it for recipes. When making NFDM for drinking, it's recommended to mix in advance and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours to achieve the best taste. However, in recipes I've always just mixed the amount needed and used immediately. I have not noticed a difference.

Challenge Addition

February 25th, 2007 at 06:36 am

I made $55 babysitting 5.5 hours tonight.

Old Total: $839.71
+ $ 55 babysitting
-------------------
New Total: $ 894.71

Making my $1500 goal by 6/1/07 looks feasible!

eBay Profit to add to Challenge

February 23rd, 2007 at 02:49 am

I'm adding $75.44 for 5 items I sold during the last week on eBay.

Individual profit for each item was:
$59.88
$12.32
$1.30
$1.08
$0.86

As you can see, there was quite a spread! The small items are hardly worth it, but the idea of Challenge helps to motivate me even when I know the profit won't be much.

Old Total: $764.27
+ $75.44 eBay sales
---------------------
New Total $839.71


$25 for Challenge

February 22nd, 2007 at 05:58 pm

Wednesday night babysitting $$ to add to the Challenge:

Old Total: $739.27
+ $25 babysitting
----------------------
New Total: $764.27

I mailed 5 eBay sales this morning. I'll calculate the earnings this evening and make another post to reflect the income.

Entertaining

February 19th, 2007 at 04:02 am

This quote from Amy Marcus, a recipe developer and food stylist at Vegetarian Times caught my eye in a recent issue of the magazine:

"I think that people don't enterain enough. There's nothing like going over to someone's house for a home-cooked meal."

We entertain a lot, so it's hard for me too judge what the rest of the world is doing, but in terms of just having a good time, I enjoy being with friends at home (or at their home) over going out. All of that aside, I find entertaining, even with a fairly sophisticated menu, to be less expensive (or comparable) to going out.

The party seems to linger a little longer, and people seem more willing to let their true personalities show better when they're at a home. Growing up, my parents seldom entertained. When they did, it was always a big, stressful production. Although there is a lot about my parents I hope to emulate, I try to take a more relaxed approach to entertaining and try to keep an open door policy towards guests.

Mr. Bean and I had, in my opinion, the best Valentine's Day in Bean-relationship history. It started with an unexpected day off (weather related), a nice pancake breakfast, a few hours of snowshoeing, and a homecooked lasaga for dinner. Mr. Bean was recounting to friends the next day about our pancake breakfast. Many of our friends are international students- including some who have spouses back in their home countries.

Somehow he ended up inviting a few people over for brunch today-- but then the list expanded. In total, we had 10 people from 7 countries (US, China, India, Nepal, Turkey, Germany, Argentina).

We moved the kitchen chairs out to the living room and let people help themselves buffet style to a smattering of food, including a new recipe for Gingerbread Waffles, breakfast burritos, cherry almond cake (my fave!), a rendition of Jodi from Saving Advice's granola, fresh fruit, and an array of goodies brought by friends.


(The Granola was the the only thing I took a picture of!)

Everyone stayed over 3 hours. Lots of food and 3 pots of coffee later, we were all stuffed, but it was a fantastic way to end the weekend.

Challenge Update

February 18th, 2007 at 02:40 pm

My Wednesday night babysitting job was cancelled due to bad weather, but I babysat last night and made $60.

Old Total: $679.27
+ $60 babysitting
-------------------------
New Total: $739.27

I've sold 2 things on eBay, but I'm going to wait until after I can mail them so I know the exact shipping cost.

We have 10 people coming over for brunch in a few hours-- I need to get moving!

Lucky Me! $20 investment is now $77.43

February 16th, 2007 at 04:40 pm

Sometimes you just get lucky. I need to remind myself of this situation when I start feeling down on myself for losing money on silly things-- like returning a library book late or forgetting to use a coupon. Or that $100 speeding ticket.

Back in December, I read this post at MyMoneyBlog about ShareBuilder deals. I had never purchased stock, but figured I might as well throw in $20 and give it a try.

I donít have a Costco Membership, but I was able to use some of Jonathanís advice to finagle a great deal.

This is what I did:

1.) I went to eBates.com to see if they were offering a ShareBuilder.com rebate. Although the eBate is no longer valid, at the time they were offering a $20 eBate for opening a ShareBuilder account plus a $5 eBate for new members.
NOTE: For those unfamiliar with eBates, itís a shopping portal that offers cash back if you purchase via their portal. Membership is free. If you use this link to become a member and eventually buy something, both you and I will get a $5 check.

2.) After I signed up for eBates, I followed their link to ShareBuilder. Once on the ShareBuilder site I used the coupon code ďHIGHER50Ē when opening my account and transferred $20 from my checking into the ShareBuilder account. I didnít read all the details about the HIGHER50 code, but it mentioned something about getting $50, so I figured Iíd give it a try. I knew I already had my initial investment returned (+$5) through eBates.

I wasnít ready to buy stock yet, so I just let the money sit in Sharebuilder for a few weeks while I thought about what to do next (well, OK, Iíll be honest, it was more like I let the money sit there while I put off thinking about what to do next). ShareBuilder puts the money in a money market so you can actually earn some interest while you think / procrastinate.
NOTE: HIGHER50 is expired, but I believe you can currently get a similar deal with the code SHARE50 or TVSB50

3.) I fully expected to have to pay the $4 / trade fee when I finally got around to buying stock, but in mid-January I got an email from ShareBuilder reminding me that my 2 free trades would be expiring at the end of the month. Two free trades? Who knew? I do not know how I got these 2 free trades. Maybe it was part of the HIGHER50 code, maybe it was a promo. Like I said, I think I got lucky this time around.

4.) On January 17th, I purchased 1 share of Gentiva
(GTIV) for $19.40. I was not charged a trading fee and the remaining balance ($0.60) sat in the money market.

5.) Today, I got an email from ShareBuilder informing me that the $50 from the HIGHER50 code has been placed into my ShareBuilder Money Market. I checked, sure enough it was. In addition, my 1 share of Gentiva is now worth $21.78 (+12% since I purchased it).

So in summary, my initial $20 investment turned into $77.43:

$21.78 (current value of Gentiva stock)
$25 eBate
$50.65 in ShareBuilder Money Market (includes $50 coupon code bonus + $0.60 left over from initial investment + $0.05 interest).

I plan to re-invest the $50 bonus this weekend. I donít expect to get rich with this, but itís been a fun get my feet wet and take an interest in the stock market.

Iím not going to add any of this to my $20 Challenge since technically this whole ordeal began in December.

50% off eBay Insertion fees- TODAY ONLY

February 14th, 2007 at 02:28 pm

eBay is offering 50% off insertion fees for today only.

If you're like me and stuck home in snowy weather, today is a perfect day for decluttering!

I'm trying something new with an item I'm currently selling on eBay. I listed it much lower than the anticipated selling price.

So far, 11 people are watching and one bid has been made. The auction still has ~3 days.

I tried this tactic to:
1.) save myself a little $$ on the insertion fee, and
2.) drum up interest in the item

It will be interesting to see if it works!

Better Than a Whitman Sampler...

February 14th, 2007 at 01:28 am

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently made a trip to Aldi.

In addition to having low-cost food, Aldi is a FABULOUS source for inexpensive German chocolate.

Mr. Bean will be receiving this basket for Valentine's Day. All the chocolate is from Aldi.



There's a little over 1.5 pounds of various types of chocolate. The total cost was $6.75. Once you start eating German (or Swiss, or Austrian...) chocolate, American chocolate really loses its appeal.

Let's hope he'll share some with me!

Stress

February 14th, 2007 at 12:37 am

I'm feeling stressed. I've debated whether I want to get into the details here, but basically Mr. Bean will be graduating with a Master's degree this year, I won't graduate until next (with my doctorate). The issue has been what to do while I finish up. The job opportunities in this town are severely limited for him. Should he go elsewhere while I stay here? Should I ask to spend my final thesis year away? Would I have to forfeit my stipend if I left? Would my adviser be peeved? I know the answers to some of these questions, but not all.

The odd thing is, these issues HAVE NOT been stressing me. Mr. Bean has been applying for jobs both here and elsewhere. I've felt like we have everything in order that's under our control. The rest- well, weíll just have to wait and see.

And then, I got a call from our landlord. He wants us to sign the lease for next year--even though our current lease doesnít expire until August. Such are the joys of living in a tight rental market. I love this houseóthis is the first house we first lived in as a married couple. I donít want for us to find another place to liveóbut if Iím here by myself, I probably donít need an entire houseóand if I go with him we certainly donít need any house in this town.

I explained our situation to the landlord. He said heís give us a week to decide. I know we wonít have anything figured out in a week. I reminded him that weíve been great tenants for the past 3 years. I keep the house spic and spanófinding renters will not be a problem. He wasnít persuaded. I understand where heís coming from. He has a business to run. It seems unfortunate that weíre only Ĺ way though our 1-year lease and have to make a decision already for the next year or risk losing our house.

Who's the Dummy Now?

February 13th, 2007 at 01:03 am

I sold a single 15 pound dumbbell for $3 through our local online classifeds.

Old Total: $676.27
+ $3 for dumbbell
-------------------------
New Total: $679.27

I love being active, but lifting isn't my thing. Personally, I try to AVOID lifting heavy things. But, for some reason I bought this dumbbell about 5 years ago with the intention to improve my strength.

Well, I can probably count on two hands (attached to my toothpick arms) how many times I've actually used it. Everytime I've moved I thought about how dumb I was to continue to move this dumbbell.

Well, now it's gone-- I can add $3 to my Challenge!

Geocaching

February 12th, 2007 at 01:24 am

Any Geocachers out there?



We logged 3 this afternoon!

Between being a FT doctoral student and my various odd jobs, I'm a pretty busy gal. Luckily, Mr. Bean is supportive of my choices.

Nevertheless, I like to keep Sundays open and spend time with him. He's recently really gotten into Geocaching. Aside from the initial outlay of a handheld GPS unit (~$100-150), it's a pretty frugal hobby. Itís also a great way to get outdoors and explore new trails. We don't have kids (yet), but we notice in the log books that a lot of families with kids are into it.

The GPS unit is handy for hiking, too (just make sure you don't place it on the top of your car while loading up and then drive off-- this is how we lost our first GPS unit-- doh!)


$40 to the Challenge

February 11th, 2007 at 03:08 pm

I earned $40 babysitting Saturday night-- which I'll add to the Challenge.

Old total: $636.27
+ $40 babysitting
----------------------
New Total: $676.27

I agreed to babysit for them on Valentine's Day. I hope that by making myself available and easy to schedule, I'll be the babysitter they'll always want to call.

Triple Coupons

February 10th, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Itís Triple Coupon week in my neck of the woods! Youíre allowed to triple 6 coupons (up to $1). They swipe your store bonus card to make sure you donít triple more than 6 over the course of the week. My loot is pictured below. Iím pleased with what I got for $24.53.



The store was a zooóas is to be expected on a Saturday morning. I realized once I got home that I could have had made a few different coupon decisions for a slightly better deals, but cíest la vie. I didnít want to be in the store all day.

I checked out with:

2 pounds cornmeal
2 loaves whole wheat Pepperidge Farm Bread
1 bag Nestle Chocolate Chips
2-1.75 oz packages of M&Ms
2 jars Jif Peanut Butter
1-15oz can Lite Coconut Milk
3-28-oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
2-15.5oz cans black beans
2 -15.5oz cans Chick Peas
2 jars Oretga salsa
Bananas
Organic Salad Mix
4-Pack Dannon Yogurt
1 pint Fat Free Half and Half
18 eggs
Olivo Butter Spray
Loreal Vive Shampoo (1) and Conditioner (1)
Swiffer Wet Jet Refill


When I clipped coupons this week I clipped everything and sorted them into piles of "Stuff I'd Buy" and "Stuff I Won't Buy" with the intent of sending the "Won't Buy" pile to overseas military families. The pile of coupons I wonít use was certainly larger than the pile I will use, but I have to disagree when people say they never see coupons for healthy stuff. Yes, youíll see some ice cream and M&Mís in this photo (I couldnít resist, I had a BOGO coupon and I thought the M&M's would be a nice treat for when we see movies on campus), but canned tomatoes, salsa, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, yogurt and organic salad? All these items get this nutritionistís stamp of approval and all were purchased with a coupon!

$35.21 for the Challenge

February 9th, 2007 at 03:21 pm

I made $35 babysitting last night, plus a whopping $0.21 on one of my Goodwill "What to Expect" speculative book purchases via a Half.com sale.

Since the book is heavy, I ended up paying more for shipping than I was re-imbursed. I raised the price on the remaining "What to Expect" books, but this will make them less likely to sell.

I will try listing them on our local online classifieds this weekend. That way, the buyer won't have to pay shipping and I may be able to make more profit.


Old Total: $601.06
+ $35 babysitting
+ $0.21 book sale
--------------------
New total: $636.27

January Spending Analysis

February 7th, 2007 at 02:03 am

My personal finanace goal for 2007 is to live entirely off my stipend, including paying $150 / month into my IRA. All other earnings, namely odd jobs, are to go into my high yield savings account.

After taxes, my stipend is $1338 / month.

The January expenses looked something like this:

$800 joint expenses *
$126.89 Quarterly school loan interest
$27.50 Charity
$11.33 Clothing
$40 Dining out
$10 Entertainment
$ 8 Groceries **
$46.19 Household **
$18 Medical
$9.95 Personal Care
$150 IRA contribution
--------------------------
January Expenses $1247.86

* Mr. Bean and I make the same amount of $$, so we transfer equal amounts into our joint checking account to pay joint expenses. Joint expenses include rent, groceries, car payment and car insurance, cable, meals out together, etc. He tracks the specifics of these expenses in Quicken.

** Typically these are joint expenses, but for various reasons I made some purchases with my own cash or credit card.


This leaves a + $90.14 surplus. Phew! It wonít be easy, but I think I can do this!

Aside from this surplus, I was able to put $842.49 in savings from my Personal Chef gig, babysitting, and eBay / Half sales.

I need to continue to think ahead and plan for large expenses that might ďcreepĒ up, like a weekend getaway weíre taking in March. I want to make sure that my surplus money can cover such expenses and that I donít use the ďodd jobĒ money Iíve put in savings.

February already has been a little spendy. Iíve contemplated doing a budget, but I think Iím just going to wing it for a few more months and see how things go. I tried a budget back in December. I can see how they can be very helpful to people like myself who donít have a large window of error in their spending, but I had trouble getting the categories right. Maybe after a few more months of this Iíll have it down better.

Anyway, Iím feeling positive.


The Challenge Takes a Hit!

February 6th, 2007 at 03:08 am

So much for my "selling" coupons on eBay idea. Although the auction had 2 watchers, no one bid. I'll lose $0.20 for the insertion fee.

I'm also going to subtract $1.23-- the cost of the 5 paperback books I bought at Goodwill and plan to list on Half.com for a profit. My speculative spirit is down but not out!

I picked up:

What to Expect When You're Expecting (something I've noticed on the bookshelf of all my friends with babies)
What to Expect the First Year
What to Expect the Toddler Years
The Known Word (A Pulitzer Prize winner and bestseller)
A Virtuous Woman (an Oprah Book Club selection).

I know the ďWhat to ExpectĒ series is popular with new moms. Iím contemplating grouping all three for an eBay auction, but Iíll try half.com first. If the books donít sell, I can always read them myself. Ideally, I can make a little money for the Challenge (perhaps even after reading them myself!)

Old Total: $602.49
- $0.20 eBay insertion fee
- $1.23 speculative book purchase
------------------------------------
New Total: $601.06

Can You Wash a Down Jacket at Home?

February 4th, 2007 at 08:35 pm

I went XC skiing this afternoon. Due to the freezing temps and wind I wore on top:

Long underwear
Nike Dry Fit Top
Fleece Pullover
Down Jacket
Ski Shell

I figured it was better to be too warm than too cold. BUT, I ended up feeling like I was in a green house and sweating a lot! The down jacket is smelling less than fresh. The tag doesn't give any instructions for care (weird, eh?)

I found this web page from the Dollar Stretcher on Cleaning Down Filled Items.

Does anyone have any experience or advice with this? The jacket is a Sierra Designs Nylon jacket with 85/15 Goose Down Fill. It's something I paid a resaonable (but not inconsequential) amount of money for with the intention that it would last me awhile.

I'd rather have it dry cleaned than ruin it-- but if it's no big deal to wash it myself then of course I'd rather save the $$.

What do you think?

Grocery Store Epiphany

February 4th, 2007 at 02:32 pm

Iím home alone! Mr. Bean had to go to Washington DC, so Iíll be on my own until Thursday. Of course, Iíll miss him, but thereís something fun and novel about having the place to myself!

As Iíve mentioned, we live in a small college town that is home to a very large university. Getting in and out of this town is expensive. The airport is dinky (and expensive) and the nearest Amtrak station is 30 miles away. Mr. Bean decided to go to DC by train. Since we only have 1 car, if he drove to DC I would be without a car (not the end of the world), but parking is difficult and expensive in DC, not to mention the cost of gasoline and that he hates to driveÖ.

So, yesterday we drove to this other little dinky little town 30 miles away to catch his train. Unbeknownst to us, the train was running 2 hours late. It didnít seem wise to drive the 30 miles home just to turn around and come back so we ended up going grocery shopping in the interim. It was 20 degrees outside, so I knew that any refrigerator items would be OK in the car.

I have a whole new appreciation for our grocery store.

Our town may be small and lack public transportation, but the population of students has enticed the big clean grocery stores to come.

Even though the store in the train station town was a member of the same chain I shop in my own town, it was so tiny. The produce was horrible. You couldnít fit two carts down the same aisle going in opposite direction. I was constantly moving the cart and trying to get around people. This is how cramped and stressful the store was: I DIDNíT USE A SINGLE COUPON. Yep, me the lover of (most) all things purchased with coupons, couldnít use a coupon in this store (even though they doubled up to $1) because it was so crowded, cramped, and stressful, that my autonomic nervous system had the flight instinct operating at full force.

I typically like grocery shopping. I love using coupons. I never understood how people could think coupons are a hassle. I get it now. A lot of it depends on the store.

Since the grocery trip was quicker than expected, we still had another hour until the train arrived. The only other store in this town was an Aldi. I had shopped at Aldi in college and liked it, and I loved the Aldi when I was in Germany, so we decided to go take a look (again, no Aldi in the town I currently live in).

Aldi was pretty much as I remembered it. When I have the opportunity to shop in my local spacious grocery store and use coupons (which double to $1), I donít think the Aldi prices are much better. Also, Aldiís selection is limited. I bought canned kidney beans for $0.45 each (a good price), but they didnít carry black beans or chick peasóthe other 2 types of canned beans we eat frequently. I also thought the canned diced tomatoes ($0.45-$0.49, depending on if they had chilies) were well priced so I bought 6 cans. The 100% pure Maple Syrup was a steal, but I didnít buy any since we already had 1.5 bottles at home. The canned fruit was all canned in heavy or light syrup (none packed in juice), so I passed that up. Milk was $3.08 / galóI can buy delicious milk in glass bottles at a local dairy for $2.70 / gal. The baking supplies were similar in price to a grocery store on sale, but I did bring for a package of Toll House swirled chocolate Ė caramel chipsómostly because Mr. Bean threw them in the cart! Aldi was a fun trip, but I left not feeling remorseful that there isnít one closer to us.

$60 for Challenge

February 4th, 2007 at 06:15 am

I earned $60 tonight babysitting. This family has been a great match for me-- not only do they need a babysitter 2x / week, but they stay out for 4-6 hours, making it really worth my time. Granted, it's 1 am when I get home, but it's not like if they came home at 10pm I'd then do anything else beside maybe watch TV and go to bed.

Old Total: $542.49
+ $60 babysitting
---------------------
New Total: $602.49

I'm off to bed. The house next door to ours is rented to undergraduates who are having (yet another) big party. Where do they find the energy? Luckily I'm tired enough that I'm not going to have any trouble sleeping.

Automatic Millionaire: A Book Review

February 2nd, 2007 at 03:46 pm

Some time ago, I wrote a few book reviews with the intention of adding more reviews over time. Although I've read more personal finance books, I still haven't written the reviews.

Conveniently, Trent over at The Simple Dollar has written an excellent summary echoing my exact sentiments of David Bach's The Automatic Millionaire this morning. Like Trent, the only other David Bach book I've read is Smart Couples Finish Rich, I also found the latter to be a much more informative book.

Trent is a much better writer than I, so in lieu of my own review, I'm going to refer you this post:
The Automatic Millionaire: Buy or Donít Buy?.

"I'll miss you, books!" January Challenge Summary

February 1st, 2007 at 03:41 pm

I'm adding another $3.71 to the Challenge for a book that sold on Half.com. This amount includes subtractions for Half.com commission, shipping, and cost of padded envelope.

Iím always a little sad to mail away my books. The book I mailed today was a paperback I bought this summer at Elliot Bay Book Co. while we were on vacation in Seattle. Even though the book itself could have been bought at any store in the US, it reminds me of the trip and I felt rush of nostalgia packing it up.

Iím only selling the books that I either didnít like, have 2 copies of, or know I wonít read or reference again, but I guess I still canít help but feel an attachment. This feeling is unique to selling books- I donít feel this way about any of the clothes or knickknacks Iíve sold on eBay or through Classifieds.

Oh well, Iím sure I will appreciate having fewer books the next time we move, and maybe some of the money I earn can help fund future trips and new memories.

Old Total: $ 538.78
+ half.com sale $3.71
-----------------------
New Total: $542.49

This has been a very successful Challenge month for me, as this total represents ONLY new, quantifiable earnings.

Iíll reflect some more on this in a future post, but letís say Iím feeling pleased and highly motivated with Januaryís ending balance.