Friday, July 29, 2011

The Budget

I like to be in control of my finances and the only way that I have found to have that control is to have a plan...better known as a budget.  People say that they try to budget but something always comes up.  It is understandable that it takes some time and practice to get the hang of making a written budget but it is also important to have an emergency fund so that when a true emergency happens, there is money to take care of it.  It is also important that if you are married that your budgeting includes your spouse so that neither feels their priorities are not being taken into account. 

The basic idea is to take the money that comes in (take home pay) and spend it all on paper--just write down all your expenses for the coming month.  It surprises many people that they will have money left over after writing down expenses.  Use that money to build the emergency fund or save for something special; I have a category for "mad money" for each of us to have some pocket money.

Being in control of our finances has allowed us to live debt free, in a paid for home, driving paid for vehicles, and have a good emergency fund.  I know that at the end of the year when property taxes, home owner's insurance, and Property Owner's Association fees come due, the money will be there to pay them because I've been saving $500 per paycheck all year long. 

There's less stress with no money fights because all is agreed on in advance.  There's less stress because expenses are planned and saved for in advance.

Wouldn't it be nice if Congress would sit down with a pad of paper and pencil, list what expected income is, budget anticipated necessary expenses, and put the remainder in a rainy day fund.  Then we wouldn't be having this national nervous breakdown over raising the debt ceiling and paying down the debt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fruited Chicken Salad

Perfect for summer lunch or dinner.

Fruited Chicken Salad

4 cups diced cooked chicken breasts ( about 6 breasts)
1 15 oz can pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 11 oz can mandarin orange section, drained
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
½ cup sliced, pitted ripe olives
½ cup chopped bell pepper (green)
2 Tablespoons sliced green onions
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 5 oz. Can chow mein noodles

In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients. Blend Mayo and mustard. Toss gently with chicken mixture. Cover and chill several hours. Just before serving, mix in chow mein noodles. Serve on lettuce leaves on chilled salad plate.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Letter to my Congressional Representative

Dear Representative Olson,
The purpose of this letter is to encourage you to support a compromise of spending cuts and revenue increases in the legislation to increase the National Debt Limit.  We think that this compromise will serve our nation better in the short term by raising the Debt Limit to avoid defaulting on our debts and in the long term by lowering our national debt.  We sincerely appreciate your best efforts in this matter.

I sent the above letter to my congressional representative this morning.  Last night President Obama asked everyone to contact their representative to let them know what we want them to do.  So I did.

I am also praying for wisdom and peace for our members of Congress and our President.

Monday, July 25, 2011

3 Books at a Time

I seldom read just one book.  I usually have 3-4 going at the same time.  3 seems about right--5 is too many and 2 is just not enough.  I take a book with me almost all the time--the optometrist kept me waiting 30 minutes which could have been aggravating if I hadn't been deep In Siberia by Colin Thubron. (In the heat these days here on the Texas Gulf Coast, Siberia doesn't seem quite so bad...)
The 3 I have going right now are:
In Siberia by Colin Thubron
A Fruitful Vine by Carrie Bender
Amish Peace by Suzanne Fisher

I also have 3 books on machine applique because I want my next quilt to be appliqued cat faces but that's another post.

On the stack to be read:
The Greater Journey by David McCullouch
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Her book Bel Canto is one of my all time favorites.)
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (I've seen the movie several times but never read the book.)

I wonder if I should get a Kindle, Nook, or tablet.  I just don't know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Drones versus Shuttles

I suppose it is just as well that the shuttle program is ending because we have no money for space exploration.  Of course, we have money for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else.  Better drones anyone?? I think I'll go bang my head against a wall for a while.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Happiest People

do not have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.

from Crystal Payne's blog Money Saving Mom.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Short History of Women by Kate Walberg

I really wish that on the Goodreads ranking system, there was one less than 1 star--say a black hole rating. This book deserves it. It is a navel-gazing introspection of 4 generations of self-centered whiners. Even the sentence structure is gratuitously obtuse; it is as if the writer tried to arrange the words in each sentence to accomodate the most commas possible. Finally, I kept waiting for some character redemption but none was forthcoming. I finished the book as an act of self-disciple. I wonder if it will count as time spent in purgatory.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Planning a trip

Planning is almost as good as the event.  I love to plan things--next season's garden, the budget, the week's menu, and a good trip--to name a few.  Do things always go as I plan?? Ha!! The wonderful thing about planning next autumn's garden is the lack of bugs and blight and deer.  The wonderful thing about planning a trip is that there is no TSA, the flight leaves on time, and luggage is never lost. Now back to reality.

We are planning a trip to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion and O.  JMM and I have seen O but DD has not.  I think I could watch O a hundred times and still be in awe.  We are planning around JMM's birthday in January.

None of us gamble but the shows and food are wonderful. 

Things to be done:
1. Airline tickets
2. Reservations for Celine
3. Reservations for O
4. Hotel reservations

Thursday, July 14, 2011


When I get upset over the state of the economy/world/government, I bake muffins.  (Here lately, we've been eating a lot of muffins...)

One of my favorites is this one:

Bran Muffins with Raisins

2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups wheat bran (Not Bran Flakes; you can get plain wheat bran at Whole Foods or other natural foods store.)
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine buttermilk, egg, oil, and honey. Stir together flour, bran, raisins, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to liquid ingredients.  Pour into oiled muffin tins and bake 15-17 minutes.

Variation: Instead of raisins, use 1 cup nuts, 1 mashed ripe banana, ½ cup chopped dates, or ½ cup peanut butter.

National Debt Ceiling

Time to pay the piper.  Funny how the people who got us into 2 wars with no thought how to pay for them other than by giving upper income folks lower taxes (hmmm), these folks are now willing to throw the country into default to get us out of debt.  No, it's not funny; it is abominable.  I keep thinking how much good we could have done with the money wasted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. How much medical care given, how many schools built, how much land restored, how many people alive and whole. What a waste.  And now it is time to pay the piper. It won't be pleasant.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quarterly Financial Update

I did the financials for the second quarter.  Retirement savings are $898K, Emergency Fund, $60K, and Net Worth $1.45M.  I am retired but JMM continues with his job for income and health insurance.  No one who knows us would have any idea that we have this much money.  Our house is paid for, our cars each have over 135,000 miles, we dress casually and inexpensively, church and home are our activity centers.

We realize that we are among the more fortunate in this country and certainly among the most fortunate on earth.  It is a responsibility to use the resources that we have been given in a wise and compassionate manner.