It tools weeks of wrangling, but multiple calls and e-mails to multiple insurance companies have paid off.
Last year, my homeowner's and auto insurance premiums were:
- home: $1031
- car #1: $1233 (comprehensive)
- car #2: $630 (liability)
- total: $2894
Now, after raising deductibles and lots of relentless haggling back and forth, I've gotten them reduced to:
- home: $676
- car #1: $620 (still comprehensive!)
- car #2: $267
- total: $1563
So I just saved $1,331 per year. Not bad at all. Between this and the $2715 savings in health insurance premiums when the SO and I both switched to high-deductible health plans, and this is a good year for insurance. Probably should have done this sooner, in retrospect, but from now on, I'm gonna keep a much closer eye on the insurance bill -- because jousting with insurance agents could be way worse.
Viewing the 'Groceries & Bills' Category
It tools weeks of wrangling, but multiple calls and e-mails to multiple insurance companies have paid off.
I adore watermelon -- it is one of my favorite fruits. I'm generally not a big fan of summer (too hot, and sweating is gross), but one thing I do look forward to is watermelon.
This week, one of the loss leaders at my local Stop 'n Shop was a whole watermelon for $3.99.
I picked through the bin, tapping and weighing each one, until I found a behemoth that clocked in at 20.62 lbs.
Afterwards, I ran the math -- $3.99 / 20.62 lb = $0.19 per lb
Hee! I am very pleased with myself.
I've decided on a little holiday splurge.
I generally don't do presents, and I have a very hard time spending on myself, but this year, in celebration of my newfound indepedence, I'm going to kill two birds with one stone.
I'm going to buy Guitar Hero 2 for the SO.
But wait, there's more!
I'm getting him GH2 because... I WANT TO PLAY IT! In two-player mode! ROCK ON!!
The best part? Due to my SO's relationship with our school's computer store, he can order the game at cost from the distributor.
Which means I'll save $20-ish off the retail price of $80.
And now, I have something to look forward to!
If only the damn game weren't so popular that it's backordered till goodness knows when... Grrrr...
Something funky is going on with my gas bill, and I'm not sure what to make of it.
FYI, the gas company is Southern Connecticut gas, and the account is under my roommate's name.
It started last month, when the bill for September came in--
--as being $0.
Now since gas was obviously consumed during the month of September, it was kind of baffling. I told my roommate to call the gas company and ask, but he moaned and groaned and of course did nothing. His argument? They messed it up, they fix it themselves. The implication being--don't argue with a good thing, he'll take the free gas.
Um, okay. Not what I would do, but hey--his account, his problem, ultimately.
I surmised that the bill would probably be double for October.
Well, the bill for October just came in. It was... $3.48. Again--very, very wrong. Again, I told my roommate to call the gas company. Again, he's dragging his feet. I really can't get him to do anything that he doesn't want to do, because he is Just. That. Stubborn.
I really don't know what any of this means. I just don't want him to accidentally default on the bill and get our gas cut off or something, or slap me with half the late fee/penalty when it finally catches up to him.
Has this ever happened to anyone else?
Went shopping, as expected, on 10/28. Bought:
- mushrooms: $1.81
- eggs: $0.99
- scallions: $0.80/bunch
- tofu (2 boxes): $0.99/each
- coconut milk: $1.20/can
- green curry paste: $0.90
I made a perfectly passable Thai green curry with those last two items. Since one can of green curry paste suffices for two cans of coconut milk (I'm too wussy for the full-strength dose), that comes out to $1.65 for the curry sauce. Add in veggies for the sauce and plenty of rice to serve the curry over, and you have quite a memorable dinner for $2 - $3.
And a proper green curry at a Thai restaurant would put one back around $10 around here. And one is never sure if fish/shrimp paste gets into it. Since I'm becoming more paranoid about the vegetarianism of Thai food by the minute, this affords me valuable peace of mind, especially since I can't always get a straight answer from waitpeople.
Man, I love my HK grocery.
I hit two stores today, for the first grocery shopping trip of the month.
First, M&M Farms for produce:
- day old bread: $1.59
- buttermilk: $1.19
- bananas (7): $1.02 ($0.39/lb.)
- apples (3): $1.36 ($0.79/lb.)
- romaine (1 head): $0.99
- broccoli (2): $0.99
- onions (3 lb. bag): $0.99
- lime: $0.17
- ginger: $0.09 ($0.59/lb.)
- green beans: $0.27 ($0.99/lb.)
- bell peppers (3): $1.23 ($0.79/lb.)
- tomatoes: $2.43 ($0.99/lb.)
- spaghetti squash: $2.34 ($0.59/lb.)
Then, Costco for bulk nonperishables:
- avocadoes (5): $4.49
- diced tomatoes: ?
- crushed tomatoes: ?
- butter (4 lb.): ?
(Roommate has the receipt. I need to get it back from him.)
The spaghetti squash was a treat that I promised myself, and some of the butter is for the SO.
Total for the day was $36.08. I need to hit another store in the next few days to get eggs, tofu, mushrooms, and possibly curry paste. This can't possibly be more than $8.
If a supermarket trip is forthcoming before the end of the month, I'll be getting baby corn, barley, flour tortillas, and possibly graham crackers and pumpkin filling for a pumpkin pie. I don't necessary need any of these items, but supermarket trips are hard to come by when one is car-less and dependent on others for rides.
In any case, grocery budget is right on target. I'm trying to undershoot $60 this month to make up for last month's splurge, and it looks like I'll hit it.
I have paid for a meal out for the first time in recent memory.
The last time I remember going out was... two years ago? For a friend's birthday dinner?
If I recall, I didn't even enjoy it that much (didn't like the cuisine), but that's besides the point.
Yeah, it's been that long.
But last week, I randomly ran into a high school friend on the street. She wanted to go out to dinner, hang out, and catch up. I agreed.
So today, I spent $8 on a dinner out with her. Afterwards, I tagged along while she went to a few other meetings/events, and got free pastries, hot chocolate, and a slice of pizza.
I think it was worth it. I don't want to make a habit out of this, but she wants to learn how to cook from me, so we may have found a cheaper alternative in the future.
In any case, $8 is worth preserving (reviving?) a friendship. I am content.
So my grocery budget from yesterday that I killed...
Well, I killed it even deader now.
I think I just mentally gave up on it. I was just like, "Screw it, it's the end of the month, I have to go shopping, and I'm over budget anyway," and just went ahead and got everything that I wanted.
- buttermilk: $1.19
- grapes: $3.39 ($1.29/lb.)
- cucumbers (2): $0.41 ($0.69/lb.)
- daikon radish: $0.97 ($0.69/lb.)
- nappa: $1.97 ($0.69/lb.)
- onions (3 lb. bag): $1.49
- potatoes (5 lb. bag): $1.99
- broccoli (2 stalks): $1.29
- apples (3): $1.08 ($0.89/lb.)
- celery (1 stalk): $0.99
- bell peppers (2): $1.01 ($0.79/lb.)
- scallions (1 bunch): $0.69
- watermelon: $1.05 ($0.39/lb.)
- garlic (2 heads): $0.49 ($1.69/lb.)
- avocados (3): $0.99/each
Spent $20.94 on produce today. I did get a fair amount of food, and I should be set for weeks, but... d'oh.
$96.49 for the month of September. Budget allows for $60.
But! I am *not* shopping again until after my trip to Atlanta, 10/14 - 10/18. And we get an allowance of up to $50/day for food during those five days. And food is the only expense for which we do not need a receipt for reimbursement.
If I can keep my food expense down those five days but still get reimbursed for $250 total, I should be able to, erm, make up for this month's... indiscretions. And since breakfast is included with my hotel, I can load up on it and coast through the rest of the day.
Got to go to a proper supermarket for the first time in two months.
So I shopped like I wasn't going back for another two months. Plus, I'm entertaining the SO this weekend, so it's my turn to provide meals for two.
But I ended up going over my grocery budget for the month.
Oops. Oh well. I'll make it up next month.
Anyway, here are the goodies:
- chickpeas (5 cans): $0.50 each
- lentils (2 lb.): $0.75/lb.
- blackeye peas (1 lb.): $0.99
- all-purpose flour: $2.00
- Nestle chocolate morsels: $4.99
- all natural peanut butter: $2.00
- matzo ball soup: $1.99
- flour tortillas: $2.29
- mozzarella (2 lb.): $7.49
- day old Italian bread: $1.34
- Colgate toothpaste: $2.79
It looks like what did me in was the mozzarella--but that stuff keeps for months, and I really need the calcium. The chocolate morsels were an indulgence for chocolate chip cookies.
Oh, and the matzo ball soup, blackeye peas, and peanut butter were all impulse buys, although I refuse to feel bad about buying peanut butter. I've always liked matzo ball soup, and I wanted to try blackeye peas.
But on the bright side, the toothpaste is eligible for rebate. I just have to remember to send it in.
I still have to go shopping for scallions, cucumber, avocados, and buttermilk before this weekend. But I'm going to a different store that's cheaper for produce.
What'll be interesting during October is that I'm going to a conference. My PI is providing $50 per day for food, for five days.
I wouldn't even know what to *do* with $50 per day! People keep saying that you *need* this much, and I won't have a kitchen, but I get free breakfast at my hotel, which leaves $25 each for lunch and dinner.
We'll see how that goes.
Walked to the store, and I remembered to bring my backpack this time!
- 5 lb. sushi rice: $3.99
- 1 lb. dried shiitake mushrooms: $9.99
- potatoes: $1.04 ($0.69/lb.)
- onions: $1.40 ($0.59/lb.)
- green bell peppers: $1.19 ($0.99/lb.)
Having to carry everything for ten blocks on one's back really keeps the hands from wanderin'.
I also got $5.50 worth of nori last Friday (40 sheets). It used to be $4.50, who says inflation doesn't exist??
Grocery subtotal so far this month: $45.50.
I went to the Hong Kong Grocery today to buy some munchies.
I made a very interesting observation.
As I was browsing for noodles, I was of course looking for the best price per pound value. Certain packages were $2.60 for 2 lb.; others were $4.60 for 4 lbs. I was about to go for the latter when I happened to glance down at the lowest shelf.
There were 5 lb. packages of noodles for $3.60!
Realization dawned: they put the more expensive noodles at eye level, and hide the cheaper ones on the lowest shelf!
I wonder if other stores do the same. I have to be on the lookout for this from now on!
Thank goodness I'm short and have no compunction against squatting down to get my noodles!
Okay, now, onto the bookkeeping:
- 5 lb. bag of oriental noodles: $3.60
- daikon radish: $0.80 ($0.69/lb)
- 2 packs of tofu (18 oz.): $0.99 each
- miso (17.5 oz.): $3.60
- Shanghai bok choy: $2.18 ($0.99/lb)
- mushrooms: $1.25 ($1.89/lb)
- orange gummy balls: $3.99
That last item is for the SO--he takes me out to restaurants, I buy him weird Asian junk foods. It works out in my favor, really.
Nothing terribly interesting to report today, but in the spirit of using this blog to log all my expenses, here goes.
I went to Costco today and picked up five large avocadoes for $4.99.
I sense a sushi and miso soup day in the near future.
I wanted to get a 6 lb. bag of pretzels (for $3.49), but my roommie saw me hesitate, so he got it instead.
Great, now I'll not only be unable to buy it in the future (because we already have it), but I'll also feel guilty eating it because I didn't pay for it.
Offering to pay for half wouldn't work because I know he wouldn't accept. I've already tried with the natural gas bill--it went up significantly after I moved in because I'm the main cook in the house, so I told him I'll pay for the whole thing, or he can contribute a fixed $5 per month as his share, since that was how much he was paying before I moved in, but he wouldn't hear of it.
Maybe it's odd to be frustrated with someone else's generosity, but I do feel really bad. I like to be fair. That means splitting everything down the middle, and not taking charity. Otherwise, I feel like that is crossing the line from frugality into cheapness. But I can't stop him from spending money *for* me.
I bet lots of people would kill to have this "problem", but we've already established that I am something of a freak of nature.
Natural gas: $35.04
Cable modem: $46
Cell phone: $10 (family plan, father won't let me pay)
In exchange for living on the futon for six weeks for a total of $75, I am paying 2/3 of the utility bill for August and September. (It's a somewhat convoluted situation.)
So, I owe $106.61. I guess my guestimate of $100 for utilities was pretty accurate. I was hoping I'd overestimated. I think it'll drop next month, though.
Does running two incandescent ceiling bulbs for 6-ish hours a day, plus a desktop computer with an LCD monitor for 12 hours a day, over the course of 2 weeks, actually add up to $30 in electric bills?? Because besides my clock radio (which I need for my alarm), those are the only additions I have made to electric consumption in this household besides, like, turning the bathroom light on when I'm in it.
I'm kind of annoyed.
I'm expecting the gas bill to jump because of me (probably from $10 to $30 - $40), but I had no idea I had that big of an electrical footprint.
I tried, I really did. Because I actually have TWO OTHER COMPUTERS THAT I NEVER EVEN PLUGGED IN. Argh, this will majorly suck.
Went grocery shopping today. M&M Farms.
- corn (3 ears): $1.00
- (Huh. I seem to have misplaced my receipt. Argh. Will fill this in when/if I find it.)
- total: $9.97
This will probably be it for August. Total grocery (food) bill for this month: $62.11.
If I omitted the junk food run for the (ex-?)bf, that drops the total down to $51.40. I am pleased with myself.
I've also realized that the paperback edition of A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin is coming out in a month. Scifi/fantasy fans have been waiting for YEARS for this release. So this will be my "splurge" purchase for September. I get a 10% employee discount at the Yale bookstore, too!
Yes, collecting scifi/fantasy books is my personal expensive habit. So shoot me. I haven't indulged in a long while.
I also realized that I've wanted to read Nickel and Dimed ever since I heard about it. I'll put that on my reading list for B&N Fridays.
I finally went to the bank and asked about how to withdraw my matured Roth IRA and move it into Vanguard. I won't break any account minimums, apparently, so yay!
I also called Vanguard, and opened a Roth IRA account there. Right now, the money is earmarked for the Target Retirement 2050 Fund, but I might change it.
Tomorrow, I'm getting the check for the Roth IRA from the bank, and I will have to go to the post office to mail it to Vanguard.
If the post office loses this check, there will be hell to pay.
I also did some minor grocery shopping today, at the HK grocery.
- 2 boxes of tofu: $1.15/each
- 1 dozen eggs: $0.99
- mushrooms (at $1.89??): $1.27
- total: $4.56
All in all, not a bad day. I still have so much more to do, though. I'll feel much better once everything gets set up and settled down.
The roommie went on a Costco trip today. He had just shelled out $900 out of the $1000 in his bank account for late car taxes, got 13 gallons of premium gas at $3.49/gal, doesn't get paid for another two weeks, and decides that he had to go to Costco because he "ran out of orange juice and has nothing to drink."
So, I went with him to pick up a few items. Wasn't really planning on it, but why the heck not? I'll seize the opportunities that are presented to me.
On the way there, I asked why he couldn't wait a few more weeks until payday, and drink water like the rest of us. He replied, "It's okay, I paid for overdraft protection on my checking account."
He then proceeded to complain about the lack of music on the 6-CD changer in his car, and expressed his desire to get an iPod to hook up to his car stereo. I offhandedly said that he'll have to wait a while before he can do that. And he said, also offhandedly, "Well, I can get it on credit."
Didn't get much at Costco, only two items.
- an 8 pack (8 lbs.) of Barilla thin spaghetti - $5.89
- 6 30-oz cans of crushed tomatoes - $5.39
- total: $11.28
Costco always screws with the grocery bill beacuse the individual items cost so much more than "usual". But these two purchases should last for two months or more.
I didn't get the gallon of chickpeas for $2.29 that I wanted, though. I wasn't sure if I could open the can and freeze the leftovers.
I also stopped my roommie from spending an additional $9.99 on drinks besides the orange juice that he "needed" to buy. He laughed, and said that he'll probably thank me in a few years.
Really, I just wanted to make sure he had enough money left to pay the BILLS.
Oh, and I was particularly amused by my reasoning against purchasing a bag of potato chips. I said to myself, "The unit price on this bag of potato chips is $2.49 per lb. The unit price for the *actual* potatoes two aisles down is $2.50 for 5 lbs. Not only are the raw potatoes five times cheaper, they aren't loaded with fat, salt, and god knows what else, proving that fresh produce is not only healthier but also undeniably cheaper than heart disease and obesity-causing junk food."
Yeah! Go me! Someone hand me a cook--oh, wait, nevermind.
God, I'm such a dork.
Roommate drove to M&M Farms today, a cheap fruits and veggies place, and brought me along!
Here's the damage:
- bananas: $0.66 ($0.39/lb)
- onions (3 lb bag): $1.69
- watermelon: $1.34 ($0.39/lb)
- 2 avocadoes: $0.99/each
- poatoes (5 lb bag): $1.89
- carrots (1 lb bag): $0.50
- apples: $1.53 ($0.89/lb)
- green peppers: $0.66 ($0.79/lb)
- tomatoes: $1.70 ($0.89/lb)
- garlic: $0.27 ($1.69/lb)
This should last me at least another week, I think.
Still need to buy:
- chickpeas (to make hummus?)
- chocolate morsels (to make chocolate chip cookies!)
- pasta (buy in bulk?)
- AP flour (or wait till the bread flour I bought by accident is used up?)
- tortilla chips (if I'm making guacamole)
- broccoli (I'm addicted, and I refuse to apologize for it)
- romaine lettuce (to make salad?)
Grocery bill thus far this month: $36.30. I'm still on target for $60/mo, or about $2/day.
Went grocery shopping on Monday. Mostly because I couldn't get at my old food, which was locked in my old house, and starving is Not Good.
- Green vegetable (Chinese cabbage or watercress or something; I really should know what it is called, huh?): $2.92
- Radish: $0.54
- Sparerib sauce: $2.70
- Noodles (1 lb. package): $1.00
I got all of my food back today, so I'm good again. I'm going to start compiling my price book.
I'm moving out of my summer sublet this Friday. My roommate for my permanent housing apparently forgot this measly little detail, inconsequential as it is, when he went on vacation to Atlanta, and will not be returning until this weekend or early next week.
Being homeless this weekend = one big huge sarcastic YAY.
As a result of this little... mishap, I'll be traveling to Middletown this weekend and staying with my bf. It'll be worth the train fare.
I asked my bf if I could bring him anything from the Hong Kong grocery store near my house that sells funky junk foods that isn't available elsewhere, so he gave me a list.
(I also needed an excuse to stop procrastinating, and go on my first grocery shopping trip of the month, so I'd have something besides rice, garlic, and oatmeal to eat.)
So, off I went. Here's the final tally.
My food: $6.21
His food: $10.71
He's paid for junk food runs to this store in the past (when he was visiting me), so I'm not annoyed or anything, just amused. My purchases consisted of fruits (three bananas and a peach), vegetables (mushrooms, an avocado, scallions, and two green peppers), and a box of tofu. He requested Chinese eggplant (I got him two different varieties, totalling $1.31), and three pieces of junk food.
The moral of the story? Junk food is expensive, and I'm glad I have the discipline to rarely eat it.
I'm very happy about my peach, though. It's the little things that make me happy.