Life’s Certainties

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
Income taxes are due on April 15.
One of life’s certainties.

This past week I had my taxes done.  Retirement has thrown my tax habits into chaos.  I tried doing them myself, but got lost when asked for the Fair Market Value (FMV) of my pension.  Is there an FMV for a pension?  I understand the FMV of my retirement investments, but a pension?  What’s the value of that?  All things considered (including a printer that’s on the fritz), I gave up and made an appointment to have someone more professional do them.

Sadly, my favorite accountant is gone.  Last year she didn’t work because she’d had a mild stroke.  (She wanted to, but her colleagues said no.)  Since my dad worked several years after recovering from a massive stroke, I was hoping she’d be back this year.  But she did the smart thing, retiring and moving out of the area.

Income and withholding information from my working years has not translated well into retirement.  I’d thought my W-4 information transferred from  employment to retirement, but I was only half right.  When my 1099-R arrived last year, it showed no state withholding.  I paid for it big time.  But this year even my federal withholding wasn’t enough.  So now I owe double big time.

The good news is the shock propelled me to change both federal and state withholding.  The bad news is I still need to pay this year’s taxes.  The further bad news is my meager income will now be even more meager than it has been.

What’s a girl on an austere budget to do?   Reinstate the television shopping embargo.  Instead of four weeks though, let’s make it an entire month this time.  Oh heck, this calls for drastic measures—let’s make it two months.

Wish me luck!

Fall Back, Oh Prince

In lieu of a Sunday Seven this week, here are two totally separate, not even related topics.

Daylight Savings Time

Used to be I’d bitch every time we changed to or from Daylight Savings Time.  The reason for the bitching was the extra work I had to go through resetting my “smart” alarm clock.  It not only remembered the time, even through power outages, but also reset itself automatically for DST.  Except I bought it prior to Congress extending DST by four weeks.  So, instead of never having to reset my clock, I had to reset it four times a year.  Oh the irony.

Two things have changed in recent years to nullify my bitching: 1) I bought a new alarm clock that’s not smart but does have a one-button DST reset; and 2) I retired, so who cares what time I get up?   Still, it’s great to wake up refreshed at a decent hour (especially since I have morning appointments this week).

The British Royal Family

Why are we Americans so enthralled with the Royal Family?  Isn’t that what we rebelled against 230-odd years ago?  I’m just curious, since I too have my share of fascination.

Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince George pose for the Christening photo.
Britain’s most photogenic royals

Last night I was watching the Coin Collector show on HSN.  I don’t collect coins, but I find numismatics fascinating.  The most recent coin of interest is the British five-pound coin celebrating the christening of Prince George of Cambridge.  The host proclaimed she’s an “Anglophile nerd,” and was excited that Prince George was born on July 22, so close to her birthday of July 25.

I’ve got news for you, sister, close doesn’t count.  Prince William was born on my birthday (my 30th, to be exact—yes, I’m that old!).  And, I was in London at the time.

My friend and I had gone to the theatre (we’ll go with that spelling, since we’re in England).  I remember noticing there was still a bit of twilight in the sky—at 10:30 pm.  As we headed back to our hotel, we asked the cabbie if Diana had had her baby yet.  He said yes, she had a boy.   We did the appropriate oohing and aahing.  Only then did I realize it.  I turned to my friend and said “He was born on my birthday!”  And what’s extra special?  The reason for the twilight—it’s was the longest day of the year.

[Photo credit: Jason Bell/AP, via NY Daily News]

I Look Good in What I Eat

This buffalo-check shirt is spotless after havng been stained with egg yolk and red wine.
Cute shirt: 97% cotton, 3% spandex

This sweet little shirt has been through the wringer.  A few weeks ago I wore it to IHOP.  I ordered the 2x2x2 combo, eggs over easy, and…  You guessed it.  I spilled egg yolk on it.  I washed the shirt in S2O, a sheet-type laundry detergent I bought from HSN.  I rubbed the spot a little with the sheet, then threw shirt and sheet into the washer (with other clothes).

The shirt came out spotless!  But that didn’t last long.

The next time I wore it, I dribbled red wine all over the front.  Perhaps this shirt just wasn’t meant to be in my wardrobe.  But I washed it with the S2O again, again rubbing the stains a bit before throwing it all in the wash.  This is how it came out of the dryer.  Spotless!  Again!

S2O laundry sheets are available at HSN.
S2O laundry sheets: They work!

I haven’t tried S2O on all stains, but egg yolk and red wine are two particularly difficult stains to get out.  For someone who spills food on herself as often as not, S2O could be an excellent find.

And so, I present It Works!—a new category to laud those products that actually do what they say.

Sunday Seven Shopping

NaBloPoMo's theme for June 2013 is "Roots."It’s the last day of NaBloPoMo June 2013.  I made it!  ~⚛throws confetti⚛~  It’s also Sunday, and that means another Sunday Seven.

After my successful 4 week shopping embargo, I realized I hadn’t bought myself anything for my birthday.  So I lifted the embargo.  (Wouldn’t you, too, for a birthday?)  Here’s what I bought electronically.

Seven Birthday Gifts
(from me to me)

I’ve posted pictures on Pinterest and Springpad.  (I’m not sure if it was less work than posting them here, or more.)

  1. A pair of slide sandals from Zappos.  I live in slide-on shoes—sandals in the summer, clogs in the winter.
  2. A New Yorker artwork beach towel from QVC., as homage to a beach towel I received for my birthday years ago.  It was a sailboat with red sails at sunset.  I loved it!  It’s worn and threadbare, but I don’t have the heart to throw it out.  This new towel has lots of sentimental value, too, because my favorite uncle gave me a subscription to the New Yorker magazine from many years.
  3. A “painter stripe” tunic t-shirt from QVC.  Because you can never have too many t-shirts (in retirement).  Plus, it matches a turquoise pair of shorts I have.
  4. Two pairs of Bermuda shorts from QVC, one in dark denim, and one white.  But they’re too big, even though I ordered a size smaller than usual.  So they’re going back.  😦  (I’m sure I’ll find something to replace them.  😉 )
  5. A Randy Jackson timepiece (watch) from HSN.  He has some beautiful watches, and I’ve been wanting one with a white watch strap for a couple years.  And it was on sale.
  6. Those moonstone & amethyst Nicky Butler earrings I longed for at the beginning of my embargo.  They were still in my HSN “cart” when I ordered the watch.  It was meant to be:  moonstone is my birthstone, and amethyst is my mother’s.
  7. A summer weight cotton blanket and throw from HSN.  (Check the second picture for colors.)  The throw is for when I nap on the sofa (my acrylic “fluffy” being way too warm), and the blanket will be cooler than the quilt currently on the bed.

Embargos & Excuses

It’s been four weeks since the shopping embargo went into effect.   Interestingly, I’ve had fewer total temptations in the last three weeks than I had in the first week,  It may have been because I wasn’t watching as much shopping television, but I also believe I began to break a vicious cycle.  That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted.  But what tempted me wasn’t jewelry or clothes; it was skin care—products I like and use that were specially priced (i.e., on sale).  But I have a backlog of skin care products, and I’ve learned that special pricing occurs all the time.

My cat Shadow meows constantly.
Shadow:  World’s most obnoxious cat—and litter box snob.

So, I’ve been successful!  Now comes the part I have to word carefully to avoid negativity.  (Many women tend to qualify their successes, i.e., “I completed my goal, but…”  It defeats the positive self-talk we try so hard to achieve and lessens the value of our successes.)  I’ve not brought anything new into the house, with the exception of a new cat litter box.  (It was necessary because one of the cats began protesting the non-clumping litter I’d accidentally bought.)  Now I need to start getting rid of the useless items.

So I’m going to extend the shopping embargo for at least two weeks. And I’m adding the goal of removing items destined for the trash, Goodwill, Freecycle, etc.  Since I need a quantifier, how about 3 times per week?  Two trash days, and one day for Goodwill items.  And how about one Freecycle item as well?  Is that too much?  I don’t want to set myself up for failure by doing too much.  But really, that’s not very much, is it?

The Self-Imposed Shopping Embargo

One week down…

So, how am I doing with my 4-week shopping embargo?  Perhpas I should have clarified the shopping ban applies to electronic retail only; i.e., shopping channel and internet shopping.  Therefore, if the UPS man* or mailman* doesn’t deliver it, it’s fair game.  Because, if I’m willing to go out and buy it myself, it’s something I’ve thought about—and therefore not a spontaneous purchase.

* Asterisk explained:

I realize “UPS man” and “mailman” are not politically correct, but in my case, both delivery people are male.  So “man” is acceptable here.

Now that that’s been clarified, how are things going?  Well, I have been tempted, but have also been able to resist.

The new style of portable air conditioners can be rooled from room to room.
Air conditioning, now available with wheels

Temptation #1 was a portable air-conditioner, in the form of HSN’s “Today’s Special” on Memorial Day.  I’ve actually been looking at these “rolling” a/c’s  because our condo complex’s a/c cannnot be turned on until May, and we nearly always have a heat wave in April.  In fact, I have the pictured rolling a/c in my QVC “wish list.”  The HSN model appeared to be a reliable brand with a discount shipping cost.  I was able to resist because the a/c has been turned on, and my unit has been serviced.  So everything’s good to go for the coming months.

These earrings combine moonstone (my birhtstone) with amethyst (my mother's birthstone).
Oh Nicky, how you tempt me!

Temptation #2 came from my favorite jewelry designer, Nicky Butler on HSN.  He had yesterday’s “Today’s Special,”  which rarely happens because his jewelry is hand-made.  I was able to resist the “TS” ring, but he had a couple pairs of earrings I really liked on sale.   Fortunately, I’ve watched shopping TV long enough to realize there will always be something I like on sale.  Heck, maybe the items will be discounted even more in the future.  (However,  I did file away these earrings, just in case they’re still around when my shopping embargo is lifted.)

Temptation #3:  a pair of Birkenstock sandals.  I love slip-in sandals with great arch support.  My current Birks are wearing out, but I think I can hold off until next summer.  Hopefully.

… three to go.

[Photos from HSN and QVC]

The Power of Seven

Seven is my lucky number.  Or maybe it’s just a lucky number in general.  Whichever, it has personal significance for me.  Plus, it has nice alliteration when combined with “Sunday.”  I therefore present the return of …

The Sunday Seven

I started Sunday Seven nearly three years ago in an effort to blog more regularly.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  But since time is no longer a problem and I’m Starting Fresh All Over Again, it’s time for a reboot.

I wrote about my shop-oholic tendencies recently, so let’s restart with…

Seven Things Not Bought (and Money Saved)
  1. Those cute jeweled sandals at HSN:  They were on sale for $70, now they’re $80.  And blue is no longer available.
  2. Pearl & aquamarine necklace at Jewelry Television (JTV):  “Special Offer” at $88.  I’m not sure what’s “special” about the offer.
  3. Keshi pearl necklace, also at JTV:  Another “Special Offer” at $80.  In my defense, pearls are my birthstone.
  4. Vipre anti-virus software at HSN (licenses for 5 computers for the life of the computers):  $50, which is  the best price I’ve ever seen.
  5. Two MyPillow pillows from QVC:  $89 yesterday, $98 today.  Reading negative reviews saved me.
  6. Deni ice cream maker from QVC:  $30.  My pocketbook and waistline are grateful it sold out.
  7. Swim suit from Lands End:  $36 for tankini top (regularly $59), $30  for bottoms (regularly $49).  Great savings, but  by the time my shopping embargo is lifted, the suits will likely be sold out.

Grand total savings:  $474 – $492, not including shipping costs, which would take the total over $500.  Woohoo!


Well, that didn’t take long.

One of the blogs I’m incorporating here is Ms. Pack Brat.  I started it to chronicle my attempts to clean up and declutter my home.  I’m not a hoarder, per se.  It’s more that I’m too lazy to get rid of what I don’t need or use.  (There’s an element of physical labor involved, as I live on the top floor of a walk-up condo and some things are too big or heavy for me to lift and carry.)

Multiply that with being a shopping channel junkie.  I watch them for entertainment, but then I’ll see something that will (supposedly) make my life easier and more organized.  I end up with too much stuff, and a load of cardboard boxes.

When the cleaners come, they have to work around a lot of junk I haven’t removed.  This week was a little worse than usual as I’ve been on a buying jag lately:  new printer, new phones (cell and land line), new Nook, new wine glasses, clothes, yadda yadda.  So, when the cleaners left, I vowed not to buy anything (except grocery and drug related items) for four weeks.

It took less than 2 hours for temptation to strike, in the form of blue, bejeweled, adorable sandals.  Here’s the thing(s):  I have a narrow foot, which these do not come in.  And, I don’t even like thongs.  Yet, I seriously wanted to buy them.  Just because they’re so darned cute.  And on sale.

I was tempted to buy a pair of blue, bejeweled sandals that don't even fit.
Blue Thong Shoe. Sounds a song, right?

P.S.  I didn’t buy them.  🙂