Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating My Birthday

My birthday was a few days ago and I just got done celebrating  it with free stuff!  A couple of years ago when we first moved here and we had very little money, I was looking for ways to celebrate our birthdays on the cheap.  I went online and found a website similar to this one and promptly signed up for a bunch of birthday freebies at local restaurants.

A week or so ago my email box was flooded with coupons for free stuff!  While there were a few we couldn't use (like Dennys where you get a free meal only on your birthday and we were traveling at the time with nary a Dennys in sight) or didn't want to use (buy one get one free deals are kind of meh), we did end up sharing the following free (yummy) items from some great restaurants:

...a pizza from Grimaldies

...a scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robbins

...a milkshake from Del Taco

...and a breakfast from IHop

What a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vacation Wrap-Up (Part 3 of 3)

And here's a final wrap up of our vacation...mostly random musings...

  • This vacation allowed me to knock two more goals off of my annual goal list--visiting San Francisco and visiting my family.
  • We each took a small suitcase and a small backpack with us (both were easily carried onto the plane so we didn't have to pay to check baggage) and we still had a bunch of clothes that we didn't wear!
  • Airport USOs are awesome!  This is such a great service for military members.  Free everything: coffee, food, info, bag check, shower facilities sometimes, wi fi, computers to use, bunk rooms sometimes, etc.  And the volunteer staff are wonderful as well.
  • I will definitely want to go back and see more of San Francisco.  I am a bit disappointed that the BART system doesn't have a day pass like many city transit systems.  You have to pay per trip which can really rack up the charges!
  • Going back to visit our home town was kind of bittersweet.  We were happy to see friends we hadn't seen in ages, less happy that as everyone is getting older (most of our friends are in their 60s and 70s) they are also getting sicker and dying (one friend has stage 4 lung cancer, one has stage 4 colon cancer, another friend will soon go on permanent dialysis, and when I asked another person we ran into at the buffet how his wife was he said she died unexpectedly a couple of months ago...all of this happened in ONE DAY!  At this point I pretty much didn't want to hear from anyone else unless they were young and healthy.  Sad).
  • After a week of grey, rainy Washington weather I was SO HAPPY to get back to the hot, sunny weather of Las Vegas.  Should I become wealthy, however, I think it would be nice to have a summer home in Washington and live there only for June, July, and August when the weather is much more pleasant.
  • Due to all of the wet weather, the myriad shades of green and profusion of flowers everywhere are a bright spot (pun intended) in an often dismal place.
  • My friend's "adopted" two year old grandson (no relation but she makes a better grandma than most) cracked me up.  I asked him what the dog says (he barks), I asked him what a pig says (he oinked), then I asked him what the cat says and he scrunched up his face and hissed.  Seems the cat has learned to stay out of his way since he learned how to walk.
  • I can literally tolerate my family about once a year, for a day at most (fortunately my friend understands this so we stay with her when we are in town).  I have no idea how my classy grandmother and well educated, hard working great aunts and uncles ended up with a family legacy that is more a mix of Teen Mom/Honey Boo Boo/Duck Dynasty (minus the money) than anything else.  
  • I didn't realize how enmeshed we were in our small town until every single place we went (buffet, casino, mall, restaurants) people came up to ask how we've been.  I miss that sense of community here in Las Vegas.
Now that our vacation is done, I am NOT SPENDING ANY MONEY until fall.  I want to work, work, work all summer and save up a lot of money for a really great vacation in the fall (hopefully a trip to the East Coast, a volksmarch festival, a cruise, and a trip to the UK followed by a trip to Asia).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Some Vacation Pix (Part 2 of 3)

Here's some pictures from our recent vacation to San Francisco and Washington State.  I'll post more pix over at my other blog as well.

San Francisco was wonderful!  The weather was perfect and so was the clam chowder!

There seemed to be a lot of churches in San Francisco...

And cable cars too...

Seattle was grey and rainy as usual...

But it makes for some beautiful flowers...

This is my $3.00 backpack from the Goodwill (from now I am checking out Goodwills in every city we visit!)...

And a picture of my sister's fat cat...

If you ever go to Kingston, Washington at the ferry entrance, you must try their crepes...

And the Seattle train station which dates to 1910 is absolutely gorgeous...

Financial Report: San Francisco and Washington (Part 1 of 3)

We had a wonderful trip last week!  We flew from Las Vegas to San Francisco, spent the day in San Francisco then flew to Seattle, took a ferry to the Kitsap Peninsula, visited there for a couple of days, came back to Seattle, took the train to Portland where we stayed for a couple of days, then flew home to Las Vegas.

The finances (costs for both of us):

  • Flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco $184.00
  • Flight from San Francisco to Seattle $140.00
  • Train from Seattle to Portland $61.05
  • Flight from Portland to Las Vegas $230.00

We spent the day in San Francisco and it was wonderful!  We dropped our bags at the USO (its like a very fancy lounge at the airport for military and retired military members) and got a bunch of tourist info from the guy at the desk there.  We hopped on the BART train for the trip into downtown San Francisco, got off in Chinatown, then walked down to Fisherman's Wharf.  At Fisherman's Wharf we had to try some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl (yummy) which is kind of a San Francisco classic, then we took a cable car back up to Chinatown.  We ate lunch in Chinatown (both yummy and cheap), then took the BART train back to the airport.  We hung out a bit at the USO before our flight left and chatted with the volunteer staff there who were great!  Total spent in San Francisco: $79.10 (for BART train, cable car ride, and food)

Next we were off to Seattle where we took the lite rail from the airport to the ferry then took the ferry to the Kitsap Peninsula where we stayed with hubby's cousin who had just visited us in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.  Total spent on transportation: $14.50

The next day we hit some of our favorite places including the most amazing crepe place ($17.67), hubby played poker with some of his old poker buddies while I met up with a friend for lunch ($21.11), we stopped by the $1 Store to buy treats for my friend's kids ($7.75), meandered by the Goodwill where I found a brand new Sherpani backpack for $3.03, and then met up with a bunch of friends for a wonderful buffet at the Suquamish Casino ($5 for tip, they paid for dinner).

Thursday we were off again!  I picked up a hot chocolate at my favorite coffee place for $3.35 then paid $4 for the city bus to get to the ferry.  The ferry was free on the return trip to Seattle, and we had a great lunch at one of our favorite Chinese places (Harbor City dim sum...as usual it was a half hour wait just to get in the door) for $29.58.  I picked up a bottle of water for $1.95 then we hopped on the Amtrak to head south.

On Friday I spent the day working at my friend's office then we were invited to dinner with my sisters (which, surprise, I got to pay for...$120.00!).

Saturday was our final day of vacation.  We went to a buffet ($27.11) for our big family reunion where I saw family members I hadn't seen for 30+ years!  We also gave $20 to a niece to pay for her dinner, then picked up candy at the $1 Store ($2.00) before we caught our plane back to Las Vegas.

What saved us a lot of money was staying with friends and relatives in each place plus they gave us cars to use while we were there so no hotel costs and no rental car costs saved us a lot of money.  We spent a crazy amount of money on restaurants which was fine because we pretty much expected this as mostly what we do when we vacation is eat out.  We also got a couple of nice discounts because I asked for hubby's senior discount on things like the train and ferry.

Total spent on our trip: $971.20

In order to keep this post less than 500 inches long, I will post pictures of our trip in the next blog post...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Need to Stop Shopping!

We are getting ready for our trip and I have been doing way too much shopping!  Among our purchases:

  • Hubby pulled out his (very old) netbook that he uses for traveling and it was SO SLOW that I decided he needed a new travel computer.  A tablet would be kind of hard for him to manage because he plays a lot of poker online so he ended up with a small ChromeBook which he loves (and was very cheap at under $200).  The Chrome Book was SO SIMPLE that he loves it.  He doesn't really do anything on computers besides watch Netflix and play poker so a computer with only a couple of buttons to click on works great for him.
  • I did get a $500+ refund when I returned the new computer I bought hubby last week.  I thought a big 17" laptop would be great for him as he tends to watch Netflix and play poker at the same time so more screen space seemed like it would be a good idea.  However,the computer came with Windows 8 which he absolutely hated and told me to return it.  So now he will just keep his 15" laptop until a better operating system comes out.
  • I got (yet another) new tablet.  I had a 7" tablet a few months ago but since it was just barely bigger than my cell phone it wasn't all that useful so I sold it on Craigslist (at a $30 loss from what I originally purchased it for).  But for traveling I decided I would rather carry a tablet that my 14" laptop.  So I did a ton of research (as usual) and found that while a nice Galaxy Tab Pro 12" or a Surface Pro would be wonderful, it would also be very expensive (at $600+).  So for $279 I got a 10" Asus Memo tablet which had many hundreds of very positive reviews.  I need to buy a blue tooth keyboard and mouse for it (via Amazon which is much cheaper than in stores) and I will be all set for traveling with a very lightweight but still very functional computer/tablet.
  • I need some black shoes for my WSOP work.  Last year I spent about $10 on a cheap pair from Payless which actually worked fine (they were comfortable but since they were plastic-ish tennis shoes the smelled pretty badly after eight hours of work).  So now I am looking at getting some more expensive New Balance shoes (like this) made specifically for walking which I will be able to use both for work and for my distance walking.  *Speaking of which I have walked six miles a day for the past four days and hope to keep it up until we go on vacation*
Bottom line: after our trip I am definitely going on a spending fast until about July.  The month of May should be pretty quiet around here and I figure that while I am working during the month of June I will be too busy to go shopping.  I need to start saving money instead of spending it!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Interesting Day Today

Kind of an interesting/unusual day today...

  • I walked six miles today.  I am going to my family reunion in a couple of weeks and I'm feeling fat and frumpy so I figured I would walk six miles a day until we leave in 10 days which would give me 60 miles of walking for the month (at least) and hopefully a firmer body!
  • I bought hubby a new computer today.  He has a 15" laptop but each night he both watches Netflix and plays poker on it at the same time so I figured a bigger screen would be helpful.  Unfortunately it has Windows 8.1 on it instead of Windows 7 and he was not happy.  Not happy at all.  There will be a bit of learning curve with it but he said he is too old to mess with new things.  I told him it was the wave of the future and he needs to figure it out.  At this point it is debatable whether he will figure it out or send it back to the store.
  • Something is eating my chard.  I'm not sure what it is but all of the chard leave have a bunch of small holes in them.  :(
  • For some reason all of my contacts in Google disappeared!!!  I have no idea where they went but I need them so I went back to Yahoo mail which I have used for years (and which I left in a snit to GMail because their mail system was down for four days).  Now to input all of my contact again.  Ugh.
  • My love/hate relationship with Tumblr continues (I've had like a dozen Tumblr blogs over the years which I have set up then eventually delete).  So I've started another one...let's see how long this lasts...
I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What A Week...An Update

Seems like all I have been doing on this blog lately is posting quick updates a couple times a week but it has been hectic around here so, here is yet again another update...

  1. My little garden is growing!  See photo above ^
  2. We thought we would take a nice day trip to Laughlin.  Driving ourselves would cost around $50 in gas since it is 200 miles round trip so I found this tour place online and booked our trip.  We figured that for $32 for both of us, offset by the $20 meal voucher it would be a nice, cheap day trip.  Then after I booked the trip I read these reviews and was a bit disheartened.  We then got ourselves up early and took ourselves to the appointed place to meet the bus and...no one showed up.  I called when the bus was a half hour late and the lady said they had cancelled the trip.  Of course they didn't contact me and tell me this.  I told her I wanted my money back and now I am waiting....and waiting.  Oddly enough, the next day I found another website that offers the same tour through the same company for $5 per person and includes meal vouchers as well.  I'm deciding now if, once my money is refunded, we try this same company but at a much better price.  
  3. I am doing A LOT of work for my friend this month which makes me very happy.  I also can't wait until WSOP starts.  I am eager to make MONEY!
  4. Hubby's cousin called today in a panic because her hot water tank died.  There was water everywhere (not a good thing when she is in a second floor condo) so we helped her clean up then took her to the home store to get a new hot water tank and found someone to hook it up for her.  We then ran home, checked out some "how to get the sediment out of your hot water tank and extend its life" videos on YouTube and drained the sediment out of our hot water tank in hopes of extending its life and not having a hot water tank crisis like she did.  eeekkkk
  5. Yesterday at the Goodwill (half off senior day of course) hubby found a great deal on a Magic Sing.  It's a requirement in Filipino families that you have a high tech karaoke system so we, of course have one (and spent over $500 for it some years ago!).  The karaoke system he found was priced at $25 so we grabbed it (obviously no one there knew what it was or the price would have been much higher).  We brought it home, tested it, found that it works great, and then packed it up to send to his son who lives in the Philippines (they will be overjoyed at receiving such a nice system).
  6.  Our Washington trip has been set.  We (more like I) decided that hubby is going with me AND I will be able to knock off two on my annual goals (see sidebar) along the way.  We will fly from Vegas to San Francisco, spend the day there, then fly to Seattle where we will stay for a few days (and hopefully get to the San Juan Islands this time).  We will then take the train or bus to Portland and attend my family reunion before heading back to Vegas.  Then I promised hubby no more trips until the fall when we go to Asia or Europe (hopefully both depending on how much I make this summer).
  7. Here's some great links to check out: here, here, and here.
  8. Since I have been doing so much work for my friend, she is going to get me a complete MS Office Pro suite of software (I am using the starter Word and Excel programs that came with my computer which aren't so great) at Tech Soup.  This is a great place to get super low low prices on software if you are with a non profit.  Yippee!
  9. I read this post on Barb's blog and know exactly how she is feeling.  My blog too has kind of become more about me me me and less about being a money blog.  It was great to track how our money habits have changed for the better over the years but these days our money habits are so ingrained that I often don't feel like I have much more to write about.
  10. I walked only 39 miles in March which leaves me to walk 824 more miles this year to reach my goal.