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Making a little more headway

August 22nd, 2018 at 11:09 am

I sold another little batch of stuff, this time to an antique dealer.

I got notice that I'm receiving a full refund on the blouse I'd bought for my mom on my credit card. (It didn't fit.) I paid for the return postage out of her funds.

I wrote to the developer of some software I'd bought a few months back, which turned out not to be usable on my computer. He was nice enough to send me a refund.

I cancelled my domain name registration, which was up for renewal. Back when I was trying to maintain a career, it seemed important to have a domain for my real name, and maintain a website. This was supposed to be a good idea to make sure when prospective employers google you, you have better control over what comes up on the search results. Plus, at my age, I felt it was important to show I wasn't technology-averse.

But I'm no longer looking for a job. Last year I let the web hosting lapse, but kept the vanity domain name for another year. This year I'm ready to let that go, too.

I received a $15 gift card for letting our health insurer do auto-billing to a credit card. I set that up so long ago, I'd almost forgotten about the offer. Now they've sent an email saying I can get a $50 gift card for filling out some kind of health assessment questionnaire. I guess I'll at least consider it, if the questions don't seem too intrusive.

With all these little un-budgeted bits of income and reduced expenses, I've been able to shift things around in my envelope budget in GoodBudget to fully fund my upcoming dental appointment and pay a doctor bill that came in the mail. I was almost ready to skip this dental visit and go back in the spring, if money was too tight.

Now I can concentrate on funding the Christmas envelope.


August 17th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

I have a bad habit of paying for things for my mother, and then forgetting to reimburse myself. She has never used credit cards, so it's not like I can just be an authorized user on an account of hers to purchase things.

She has the funds to pay for her own clothes, but I have to do the shopping. Things get busy, I lose track of receipts and can't reimburse myself right away, and all of a sudden months have gone by and I'm out a significant amount of money.

Sometimes I order things online that need to be returned by mail, and I fall behind on that, too. I won't get the refund until I mail an item back, which just keeps my own credit card bill higher than it needs to be.

We go out for meals once in a while, and I've been paying. It seemed only fair after years of her paying for my meal, and me leaving the tip for both of us. But I've started to feel the pinch.

Tonight I caught up on things related to the clothes shopping. I wrote myself a reimbursement check for over $88, and I have a return packed up to be mailed tomorrow morning. I should be getting a refund on that of over $30.

Tomorrow I'll figure out her share of our last meal out, and reimburse myself from a petty cash envelope I started a few months back. I've started to take a photo of the tab with my phone when we go out, so I have some sort of receipt.

I've got to keep on top of this better for my own sake. I keep up to date with paying all her other expenses, filing billing statements and receipts, etc. If anyone ever asks how I'm spending her money, I don't want there to be any question of mismanagement. But I end up shorting myself sometimes.

Day of little money tasks

August 16th, 2018 at 03:59 pm

I faxed a letter to our new mortgage company this morning, because I now distrust what I might be told over the phone. I've specified that I want a refund of our extra payment for August, rather than having it applied towards principal. The automatic payment did finally kick in, but only after I sent them a money order as instructed on the phone.

I also made a stop at Big Lots. They have a deal where you get a $5 coupon after every three visits, and it doesn't seem to matter how little you purchase each time. So whenever I'm in the area, I run in and at least check out their clearance grocery shelf. No $1 Triscuits or Archway cookies today, so I just picked up a jar of regular price capers for $1.50.

There's a Shoprite nearby so I picked up a few (sale) items my regular store was out of this week.

Mainly, I was in the area to sell a couple of old gold chains to a jewelry store for scrap value. I'm continuing to use GoodBudget (an envelope budgeting system), and it's helping me see how tight things really are. There's a DVD set my husband and I both want to get, but the money's just not there in the Misc. envelope right now. If we're going to get it, I have to find extra money somewhere. I'm not going to spend down our savings for something like that.

I need to declutter anyway. But my method in recent years has been to donate items rather than try to sell them. It's faster, and much less hassle. But right now we could use the money. I'm thinking of creating a separate new email account just to use for Craigs List for privacy reasons.


August 12th, 2018 at 02:32 pm

I've been trying Aldi versions and store brands the past month or so, and it's been working well. No really bad experiences yet. I was inspired by the Downshift Challenge at a website in the UK: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/downshift-challen...

We don't use up egg noodles very fast, but when I need to buy them, I get Pennsylvania Dutch wide noodles. It's sort of a brainless habit because we always used that brand at home. But they're going for $2.39 right now, for a 12 ounce package. It seemed a bit steep.

Today I checked at Aldi, and theirs are $1.09 for a full pound! Less than half the price and more noodles. Good grief, the cost of brand loyalty. I can't imagine there's all that much difference in noodles.

Errand planning

August 11th, 2018 at 04:01 pm

It was a rainy, stay-at-home kind of day. In between doing laundry, I spent some time today looking at Google Maps and making a spreadsheet.

I'd like to save some time and gas money by planning out my errands better. I'm terrible at remembering exactly where things are located. I'll head out to one place, and pass another one on the way where I could have gotten some business done. Except I forgot I'd be passing it so I didn't bring along what I needed. It could be mail, a bank deposit, dry cleaning, etc. Then I'll have to make a separate trip later.

If you zoom in on Google Maps, you can get really detailed info, like exactly which stores are in a shopping plaza. So I was able to make pretty comprehensive lists of businesses along certain roads, in order of when I'll be passing them, as well as notes to myself about where the turns are to get to other main roads.

We've been living here for over 20 years, so you'd think I'd know my way around by now! But it's built up a lot over the years, and it's been a long time since I bothered to update myself on everything that's nearby. For example, I found out there's an Asian ice cream place nearby that has bubble tea and rolled ice cream. I'm not going to be dropping a lot of dollars there, but it would be fun to at least try it.

Another non-action

August 7th, 2018 at 08:31 am

We have a service contract with an HVAC company which covers annual check-up, basic maintenance and priority scheduling should we have a problem.

Today was a/c check-up day, and a $135 deep cleaning was recommended. Thank goodness, my husband came inside to ask me about it before saying yes. I think what I've been saying about money worries has sunk in.

The a/c seems to be working fine, so we decided to say no for now and rethink it next spring. We do want to keep this old system going as long as possible.

Not taking an action

August 6th, 2018 at 07:09 am

It occurred to me that I might be able to save a little on a couple of ongoing prescriptions if I used a different pharmacy. I was even willing to consider getting them by mail, as long as I could still get emergency prescriptions filled locally.

So I spent some time on the Blue Cross website this morning. Based on today's pricing, the most I would save is $1 per 90-day prescription by going with the mail option. I also wouldn't save money by switching to Walmart, Sam's Club, CVS, Walgreens, or the pharmacies inside supermarkets.

The extra $8 a year I'm paying for the convenience of using the Rite Aid on the corner is worth it to me. Besides the location, I don't have to worry about the prescriptions getting delayed in the mail or being exposed to super hot or cold weather while sitting in our mailbox a long time. So I'm going to sit tight on this.

Taking Action Aug 5

August 5th, 2018 at 05:36 pm

I was playing around with budget scenarios again, and things didn't look good. I decided to cash in a CD and bring part of the proceeds into our checking account each month, until my Social Security kicks in. The early withdrawal penalty is small compared to credit card interest if I have to start carrying a balance.

Someone here or on Reddit had mentioned Goodbudget, an envelope budgeting website and app that has a free tier you can use indefinitely. Unlike YNAB, which only has a free trial. So I signed up and I've been working with it for a couple of days.

I'm only going to use it for variable expenses. I already have reminders set up in Quicken to automatically fill in the bills that are the same every month. And I'm handling food spending in the Daily Budget app.

To save some more money, I just suspended my membership with a self-improvement website which costs $29 a month. I still find it useful. But at this point, I can see it would be better to keep that money for things like upcoming doctor visit co-pays.

42 cents under budget on food :)

July 30th, 2018 at 09:34 am

I've been trying to stay under $600 a month for food for a couple of months now. I failed in June. But as of today, after one last $21.11 trip to Aldi, July looks good.

I know $600 probably sounds like a lot to some people. However the Maptitude map linked below shows average household food expenditure in NJ is $8109, or $675 a month. And the National Standards the IRS puts out (for figuring out how much delinquent taxpayers can afford to pay) says $646 for two people per month. I'll link to that page, too. And it's a lot lower than we have been spending.

Quicken tells me we averaged $718 a month from July 2017 through June 2018. It was probably higher than that because I've missed recording a lot of things during chaotic periods. Right now it says I should have $785 in cash! It's more like $50, and I'm sure a lot of that unknown spending was on food.

I've been using an app called Daily Budget on my phone. It tells me every day how much I can spend without getting too far ahead of myself during the month. It's designed to budget everything, but I'm only using it for food spending right now. It's been a big help. I found it after reading about a similar app someone came up with to help Food Stamp users spread their spending out more evenly over the month.



Stable vs. volatile household income

July 28th, 2018 at 05:32 pm

I just came across a definition of volatile vs. stable household income. Apparently if your income increases or decreases more than 25% year over a year, it's considered volatile.

I've known that our income has been all over the place since the partial lay-off at my old job in 2013, but I never really analyzed it.

No wonder I've felt uneasy, and unsure about how we can afford to live. I looked at our tax returns, and our adjusted gross income in 2017 was only about 55% of what it was in 2012. And in-between, it's gone down and up and down again. In two out of five years, the changes in income would qualify for "volatile."

I found a study where 92% of the people surveyed would prefer a more stable financial life over being a little richer. I guess I'm part of the 92%. I look forward to taking my Social Security at 62 even though the payout will be lower than it could be. The alternative is planning to use up savings and investments between now and my full retirement age, not knowing things like how the stock market will do and what emergencies might come up.



Take An Action: July 26

July 26th, 2018 at 12:31 pm

I've entered two contests this week.

Wawa had those slips again where you do a survey about your last visit, and at the end you can give your contact info to enter the survey.

Then when I was at Shoprite, I noticed a big cardboard box where they were collecting entries for some kind of BBQ sweepstakes. So I filled out one of the slips--why not? Years ago, I actually won a good-sized gift card from another supermarket sweepstakes like this. I don't think many people bother to enter, so there's a much greater chance of winning.

Take An Action: July 23

July 23rd, 2018 at 07:20 am

CB, I like your term "gap year." I'm in the middle of mine. I can't take Social Security until next year, and we're about out of liquid savings that we can withdraw without generating taxable income.

I played around in Quicken this weekend, trying out different scenarios through the end of this year. The state of our projected checking account balances made me very nervous.

After sleeping on it, I decided that the most sensible thing to do is change to monthly payments on our car and homeowners insurance. Otherwise, paying the big lump sums this fall would tap us out, and I'd end up not being able to pay our credit cards off in full each month anymore. The $1 a month service fee on the insurance is a lot less than credit card interest would be.

So, it's done. Once my Social Security kicks in, we can go back to the annual billing.

Another action I took this weekend was using up some dry milk in pancakes, to conserve fresh milk.

Take An Action: July 18

July 19th, 2018 at 10:46 am

One of the books that helped me before was the one by Jerrold Mundis about getting out of debt. I quoted it here before, back in 2005; here's the quote again:

"Fish lay thousands of eggs. Only a tiny percentage of these ever hatch--yet there are a lot of fish around. If I take ten actions and only three work, I've still made three gains I couldn't have if I'd simply sat around wishing something were different. It's taking action that counts."

Last night I read through all my old entries. It was a help to see the kinds of things I tried before to improve our situation. So I'm going to start recording the actions I'm taking this time around, for accountability and so I can go back and see it later on. Here are some things I've done over the past few days:

--Cancelled my gym membership
--Used a $5 coupon for school supplies at Staples, on two rolls of Scotch magic tape. They ended up totally free.
--Got my gas at BJ's Wholesale (cheapest near me)
--Used a $5 off $15 coupon at Big Lots on groceries. Some of the items I got were Triscuits on the clearance shelf, marked down to $1 a box.
--Ordered a pizza online to get an online-only deal.
--Downloaded some free digital magazine issues through the library
--At Walmart, took advantage of a deal on diet ginger ale. It was $1 per 2-liter bottle. Hang-tag coupons on the bottles were for $2 off when you bought 3. So each bottle cost 33 cents. Full price at Shoprite is $1.69.

Wow, I can still log in!

July 18th, 2018 at 01:02 pm

It looks like it's been almost five years since I posted here. I looked through the other blogs and it was nice to still see some names I recognize.

A lot has happened here. I'll go into details later on, but at this point my husband and I are basically retired, living on one Social Security check and one civil service pension check a month, plus a little investment income. I'm not old enough for Social Security quite yet.

I'm starting to get concerned about how much savings we're going through, so back I came to Saving Advice. Right now I'm concentrating on cutting our spending back, rather than trying to make more money. Although my mom's in Assisted Living now, taking care of her business and trying to get her house cleared out is a part-time (unpaid) job in itself.

A wild few months

March 9th, 2009 at 08:27 am

It's been about three months since my last post, and exactly one month since we went to settlement on my mother's "extra" house.

Just before Christmas, my mother got the bad intestinal bug that was going around and because of her age, she was hospitalized for it. Just as she was due to be released, I came down with it and couldn't even go to pick her up myself. Then in January we found out she had a buyer for the house, and spent the next few weeks moving and disposing of the rest of the stuff that was still in it. (Not only is she quite the packrat, we also had to clean out stuff left by the previous two owners!)

It's taken me a month to feel caught up on my own life and back to some kind of normal.

I'm really trying to get back on top of money management--after months of just buying what we needed regardless of price--and posting here is the best way I know to stay honest! So here I am.

It makes a difference

May 3rd, 2008 at 05:16 am

Yesterday as fate would have it, I walked into the supermarket behind a mother and adult daughter, and ended up in the checkout lane behind them too.

Before I left home, I looked at the store flyer, made a list, and gathered my coupons and rainchecks together. They grabbed the flyer on the way into the store, and seemed confused about which week it was even for.

We both had fairly full carts. Their total was over $100, and the cashier told them they saved $3 and something today. My total was $52.92 and my savings, as the store calculates it, were $36.58.

If I ever needed a reminder that it's worth the time to plan ahead, this was it!

Quicken-ing again

April 26th, 2008 at 04:33 am

As I mentioned here:
I gave up on Quicken for a time, after a disastrous experience with a newer version on my older computer.

Well, I'm a Quicken user again, but not in a way that would make Intuit happy! I'd gotten a rebate on the new version, and then when I sent the disk in for a refund I got the full price back. So I actually made a $20 profit there. Then, I found a new, sealed-in-the-box 2002 Deluxe version online for $15. It's exactly what I wanted--the older non-buggy version I'm used to, but with the savings goal feature I didn't have before. So basically I've netted $5 for my time, aggravation and losing almost 3 years of data.

Yeah, I know losing the data is my fault. I've never been good about backing up, and I should know better. But at least now I've discovered a way to make it painless and automatic--I have storage space with my (new) ISP and they even give you software to automatically upload your backups. I could have my Quicken data backed up as often as once an hour--but I decided on once every 24 hours.

Living in our "New Normal"

April 26th, 2008 at 04:15 am

It's been almost 7 months since DH quit his job. After 6 months of trying to be really careful money-wise, it hit me--we're in the middle of the kind of emergency you're supposed to save up against, yet we seem to be doing ok.

It doesn't look like he'll be working again anytime soon; maybe this is our New Normal for now. If so, we might as well go ahead with some purchases and home improvement stuff as long as we don't go into the red. Take our life off Hold, so to speak. Lots to report on about that.

Also, DMom was just in the hospital and life's been kind of chaotic. I think writing here again will help me keep my head together a bit, and keep me from morphing into my evil twin StressMore, living in the New Crazy.

Christmas Club blast from the past- Pix!

December 18th, 2007 at 07:48 pm

The old school Christmas Clubs must be alive and well somewhere, because I came across a banknote printer who's still selling the books. And the graphics look about the same as I remember them from the 70's!

You can see their whole product line here:

Dry cleaning and the environment

October 15th, 2007 at 01:19 pm

In honor of Blog Action Day ...

Personally, I just can't stand the way my clothes smell when I first bring them home from the dry cleaner. But there are health and environmental aspects to it, too. Did you know that California is on the way to outlawing those smelly chemicals by 2023?


For years I've been looking for a local dry cleaner who uses the C02 or silicone system, without success. Recently, though, I was happy to see that a new "green" dry cleaner was opening near our vet's office.

I'm going to use them even though it's a little out of my way, and even if they're more expensive. I usually run things through the dryer with Dry Cleaner's Secret between cleanings anyway, which is already saving me trips and money.

To find a green dry cleaner near you, try the locator links at the bottom of the above article.

Checking back in

April 1st, 2007 at 06:47 am

Gosh, I sure hope this new design is just for April Fool's Day. It's kind of weird having a guy's picture on the top of my blog!

I've been concentrating on other things lately, and let the blogging go. But I've got to start paying more attention to money again. I feel like it's been slipping through my fingers...

Let's see, our biggest financial hit recently was an emergency vet visit on a Sunday that cost $460--and the cat just turned out to have gas. (Did you know they give cats Zantac?) Today he's limping--and he's going to have to keep limping til a weekday.

Our neighbor the mechanic prefers to be paid in cash, and we both thought my car's problem was going to be an expensive one. So I took out $500 to be safe. It turned out to be much less, but it wasn't convenient to get the leftover money back into the bank right away. And so it just WENT. Since my last blog entry, I've gone through $164 in the "unaccounted for" category.

DH's boss is having a baby, and we ended up spending $56 on baby shower gifts. There was a group gift where each employee was expected to chip in $40, and then I was invited to a shower, which seemed to require an individual gift.

There's a possibility that my paycheck could actually go down this year. A new town government has come in that's decided to take away "longevity" bonuses from non-union workers. (The unionized ones would never agree to it.) That was a percentage of pay that was in every paycheck. We also don't know if we'll get much of a yearly raise or not. Usually we get the same % raise as the unionized workers, but there's no guarantee. It's possible we'd get no raise, and lose the longevity, resulting in a lower hourly rate. Keeping my fingers crossed.

On the positive side, I have not run up any debt during these little emergencies. I have two car test drives that haven't expired yet ($75), and I know of a couple of credit cards I could apply for that would give a bonus after the first purchase. It's a new month--gotta get cracking!

Well, that's the news from Lake Woebegone.

Have you ever seen this in an obituary?

February 22nd, 2007 at 12:03 pm

I never have. "In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the funeral home to defray the cost of X's funeral expenses."

This is was an elderly friend of my MIL's, not a homeless person or some poverty-stricken victim of violent crime who's been in the news. There were 23 surviving relatives listed, including two children and two brothers. The rest were grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Very sad, of course, that she didn't have enough at the end to pay for her own funeral expenses. But doesn't it seem rather tacky that such a large family is asking for help paying for it? I wonder how fancy a funeral it was. Too embarrassed to have a really simple funeral, but not too embarrassed to ask for money?

I never, never want to be in that position where someone has to ask for help paying for my funeral. I think I'd be embarrassed even if I were dead!

Resolution of weird bank problem--kind of scary

February 12th, 2007 at 07:21 am

OK, here's what the bank said happened. The other person was paying their credit card bill by phone and by mistake, put in my account number instead of theirs. It's only one number different. The $19 should be returned to my account later today.

I'm assuming it was an honest mistake. OTOH, one could assume that if someone is paying $19 on a credit card by phone, it might be because they have to make the minimum payment at the last possible minute. If someone knew they didn't have enough in their own checking account, and felt desperate, I can imagine how they might try using a slightly different account number in hopes that the other account would cover the payment, if only temporarily. Then they could just say Oops.

Kind of like when people used to mail the phone company check to the electric company and tried to pass it off as an honest mistake. (I actually read that as a suggestion in a book once!)

I'm glad it's fixed, and I'm glad it was such a small amount that it didn't make other checks or debit charges of mine bounce. BUT...

I would have thought that when someone pays by electronic check, the software would look to see if the name or address and the account number go together. But apparently not. As long as there's money in the checking account, no matter whose checking account it is, the payment will go through.

People worry about debit cards--there seems like plenty of opportunity for fraud with plain old checking accounts.

Weird bank thing!

February 10th, 2007 at 05:27 pm

In all my years of banking, this is a first.

I go to reconcile my little "spending money" account, and see a small check I didn't remember writing. I went online to see the check image--they've taken the money out of my account, but it was written on the account of another person. In fact, I haven't even used that check number yet. When I looked closely at the check image, it sure does look like the account number was the same as mine. Is it possible they mistakenly gave the same account number out to two people?

I can't imagine it is identify theft or fraud--who would bother for that amount of money? But you can be sure I'm running right over to the bank tomorrow morning.

Need some extra help? God of Wealth coin ready to go.

November 3rd, 2006 at 05:38 am

There are only a few weeks left to request your Japanese God of Wealth coin and make your wish before Jeffrey takes it back to the shrine.

Actually, I've been feeling luckier just having the coin in my house. Whether it's from the coin itself, or from being part of the great supportive network here at Saving Advice, who's to say..... If you don't want to take any chances, request your coin now. Wink PM me your name and address; first-come, first-served.

Need a review of what it's all about? Here's a link:


Dumb mistake-thank goodness for EF

August 19th, 2006 at 06:06 am

I keep my check register months ahead in Quicken, so I can see what our cash flow will look like. It looked ok to pay the property taxes early, and also pay $600 on the 0% credit card before the 20th, when I usually pay it. I was antsy to get them paid, so I did.

HOWEVER, the reason we looked so flush is that I forgot to deduct for DH's allowance, which comes out this weekend! Luckily, I can get the money out of the emergency fund and put it back on payday.

Glad I don't have to borrow money to get over this hump. But, duh! Still can't believe I messed up this badly.

I want to move near Contrary1 !

August 18th, 2006 at 08:53 am

Finally got the sewing machine opened and set up, and got ready to do what I thought was a simple sewing job. But it turned out that the back dress seam I thought had come apart, was actually fabric that gave way next to the seam.

It's kind of stretched and laddered, and doesn't line up evenly with the fabric on the other side. So I need to reinforce the whole area with seam binding, and at the same time ease that extra fabric in so I don't get puckers. It didn't go right the first time, and I've given up for the day. Next time I'll try to get any puckers high enough that they'll be covered by the jacket that goes over the dress.

If I lived near Contrary1, I could have taken the whole project to her to begin with!!! I'm sure it would come out much better. I haven't machine sewn for at least a year, and was never that good to begin with.

Not a very auspicious start, but I'm determined to start sewing regularly now that it's not so hot up here in the computer/sewing room.

I'm back; Life getting back to normal after heatwave

August 9th, 2006 at 08:06 am

I was going to write about how it's back to normal, but that would mean recalling the misery of the heat itself. And I'd rather not think about it. There are two loose ends, though--the a/c at one of my mother's houses died, and the new one still has to be installed. Also I want to get another fan for us, and we need a new hose, if I can find them on clearance.

Other than that, I'm ready to think about autumn!

Time for a little levity. :)

June 4th, 2006 at 07:05 am

Takes Flash's idea of writing to companies to a silly extreme!

Example, "Before I feed Shagwell any type of pet snacks, I personally sample them to assess their quality and flavor. After all, if I think they taste bad, what is Shagwell expected to think? I just wanted to let you know that your "Dingoroo" dog treats taste excellent" (He got $25 worth of dog treats for that letter!)

A collection of grocery lists that are kind of funny because of misspellings or an odd combination of stuff.

Have a good day!

Telecommunications costs

May 14th, 2006 at 06:11 am

Five Cent Nickel over at PFBlog just did an interesting poll on how people are connecting to the internet. Results, here: www.fivecentnickel.com/2006/05/08/money-poll-11-internet-acc...

One of the commenters said he was spending $60 a month for DirectTV, $50 a month for his cell phone, $55 a month for internet, and complained of how much technology costs. He spoke of not having a landline with dialup, as it would cost too much money.

It made me want to look at my own spending on telecommunications overall; I wondered if I was really saving money having a landline. So I reorganized my categories in Quicken, and ran a report.

This fellow is spending $1980 a year on telecommunications all together.

I am spending $862, including Netflix to keep the comparison fair.

Limited basic cable, $123
Basic landline, $265
Toll calls (phone card and Pioneer Telephone), $50
Cell phones (2), $153
Dialup internet, $55
Netflix, $216

That's a savings of $1118 a year, and I have basically the same services that he does. In fact, I feel like I'm better off because in emergency situations, if the cell doesn't work I have the landline, and vice versa. (Both cases have happened to us before.)

I'm wondering if anyone else here has added up what they're spending on telecommunications as a whole, and how much they're spending? Compared to this guy I'm doing pretty well, but how do I compare to other tightwads? Wink

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