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Counting Down the Days!

May 17th, 2017 at 07:49 am

MH only has to drive MM(13) between schools for 5 more days. Woohoo! We are ALL beyond ready to put this school year behind us.

Yesterday was payday. All the bills were paid already (we just pay all the cash bills and credit cards off on the 1st of every month). Both our checks are going to savings. $3,800. This includes a $100 price match MH got on his big TV purchase.

Still VERY busy at work. Thus, a short update.

More on the Common Data Set (College)

May 9th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

I had wanted to share the common data set as to starting to nail down actual college costs (versus just picking numbers out of the air).

{See last post}.

But of course, if you've been looking up this information, you see that there is loads of other useful information in these reports.

I was just poking around a bit today and found a series of interesting articles on the subject:

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/tag/common-data-set/

Enjoy!

I think that for myself, none of this is terribly useful until my kids start nailing down where they might want to go to college. Wink

The Cost of College

May 7th, 2017 at 06:47 am

I get the sense from college conversations that many are just making stabs in the air as to the actual cost of college.

It's actually kind of ironic because I know many people seem to think I am crazy when I talk actual costs. But the reality is that I have been tracking actual costs and real numbers. That is what we are planning for.

That said, it's apparently been a while so I will adjust my projections today. With a kid starting high school this fall, I will probably make it an annual thing to update actual costs. Should probably start keeping a closer eye on it, as to planning ahead.

So... I heard this tidbit about a decade ago? Every (4-year) college provides a "common data set" report on their website, for every school year. There is a lot of information in these reports, but includes a clear and concise summary of actual tuition + fees that students pay. They also share room and board costs, the cost of books and supplies, etc.

When I first heard this, I looked up my alma mater. My alma mater had this information going back to the years I attended, so I looked through those numbers and I will say that this is really good information.

Confident in the usefulness of the numbers, I started to track public school costs in our state. This is probably easy for us because we live in a large state with so many excellent college choices. So this is all I am bothering to track, for now. & of course, I presume we can narrow down as kids get older and start to zero in on what they might want to study or where they want to go to school.

In a recent college post, I did throw out $20k as the number I have been using to estimate the cost of 4 years of college. I don't remember the last time I looked up the numbers, and was clearly rounding. But as of today, I will revise to $30k. Per information below.

For me personally, I am leaving out room and board, and the cost of books and supplies. Kids need room and board regardless, and dorm living is not a requirement to go to college. I figure at the very least they can pay for their own books and supplies, so I am not going to worry about that part.

So I took the tuition and fees for the 4-year public college, and multiplied by 4 (years). Tuition + fees = $29,762. I will just round up to $30k. & of course I know that costs will increase in the next few years. But I have those years to adjust and save more. For now, I am going to take some time to wrap my brain around this new $30k estimate.



The costs above are from my alma mater. It's probably hard to come up with a better cost/benefit scenario as to college. This is in the middle of Silicon Valley. Location location location.

We have another public option. The UC (University of CA) system:



That comes up to about $14,000 per year, tuition and fees. I would presume community college first 2 years (cost pennies). Rounding up, that's $30,000.

So I know that planning for $30,000 will buy my kids a lot of options.

{Over the years, it's worked out that both options cost about the same}.

As an aside, our community colleges cost $46 per unit. I would just budget -0- as to saving ahead for community college. We can cash flow any community college costs.

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I mentioned in earlier post that in-laws were giving us money (annual gifts) for college. We have $40,000 saved already, from these gifts. I'd like to get this up to $60,000 ($30k x 2) to cover a full degree for each of our kids. It seems we are well on track with that. I don't need *all* that money before they start college, but looks like we most likely will, with future gifts and investment gains.

We would like to match this sum, to buy our kids more options and/or maybe cover room and board.

For now, we have $20,000 saved up. We are saving $8,000 per year. This puts us well on track to match their gift money before they start college. We will make $60k our new "college savings" goal.

I know costs will increase and we will have to increase our goals over time. The nice things is we have time. We don't have to have all this money saved up before they even start college. I think knowing this and planning for future increases is why I Feel rather *shrugs* about adjusting my estimates.

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Edited to add: Based on comments below, I wanted to edit to clarify a bit.

The colleges I cut and pasted above have very low on-campus living rates. There are several excellent public colleges in the region we grew up in. These are areas we know very well. Also, my kids *can* live at home and get a perfectly wonderful college degree. Rent/dorms is just not a necessary cost of college, for us.

Much Better!

May 6th, 2017 at 08:57 am

I had a long overdue day off, and feel very rested now. Phew!

Thursday night we went to DL(11)'s school open house. His (art) school is always just so much fun. They had musical performances going on everywhere and we also saw an art exhibit. They also had food trucks, so we splurged a bit on some food.

Yesterday I did a bit of running around since both kids got off at odd hours. But we got the pool to ourselves in the afternoon. I don't know that we generally go quite this early in the year, but it's been HOT. Yesterday ended up being quite pleasant.



This is our neighborhood pool, two blocks from our house.

Now we are just counting down the days until "school crazy" ends. Only two more weeks, for this crazy math schedule. Hard to believe that it's just two more weeks!

I have another picture to share. We were over by the old Tower (movie) Theater and it just looked very pretty (lighting) so I snapped a picture. The theater was built in 1938. It is where we went to see that free movie during spring break.



& across the street from that is the used book/movie/video game store. We stopped by because DL wanted a video game. It was $60 full price. $40 at the used shop. $32 with coupon. He spent his own money.

I am not planning to do much this weekend. MH is going to make us watch some movies. In turn, I will probably drag him to the art museum.

Real Estate Update

May 6th, 2017 at 06:51 am

Our house value has been rather stagnant for 3-4 years at this point. When we moved here (2001) so many people were moving up from So Cal and Bay Area, for the more affordable housing. At the time, the median house price in the Bay Area was $500k. (We thought *that* was absurd). Now? $1 mil! $1 mil-ish, if you just want to buy a small starter home.

& so I have been wondering why things are so stagnant here. I know that was really instrumental in the housing bubble, regionally. Not that we need another housing bubble, but I would expect a little more growth. I guess I have mixed feelings about it all. I do like that housing is more in line with wages and people are being more prudent.

In the end, I saw an article last week that so many people are moving here that we should be building an extra 2,000 homes per year. So I guess it's happening. I just haven't seen it so much myself, and home prices seem to be left in check.

I also got a flyer from a local real estate agent and it listed that a 3-bedroom house (down the street) sold for $450,000. What in the heck!? I figured that must have been a typo or it must have been one of the bigger houses which have been selling at that price point, but I looked it up out of curiosity. Indeed, the largest home model on our block and the smallest home model just both sold for the same price. WOW!

I have to back up a bit though. It's funny when I look back and some of the most ridiculous splurges in our family have ended up being the best long-term investments. & it's not like these purchases were made with any regard to long-term investments or making money. It was just about ridiculous splurging. So, our home is the perfect example of this. We changed cities to lower our housing costs by 70%. The housing seemed so cheap to us, that we decided we would buy a home with space for a movie theater. In the end, the price was an even trade for our Bay Area condo. (We didn't even spend any more money to get the theater space).

The sole purpose of this purchase was "ridiculous splurge". The End. But, we ended up only paying pennies for the extra space. The reason is because land is so expensive here that land is the primary driving cost of housing. If you buy a larger two story house, it's not going to cost a lot more. I've said before, but our first floor cost $130 per square foot. The second floor only cost $35 per square foot. Seriously!

We did buy new construction, which is a lot of why we got such a substantial discount on our home. On the open market, our house had never fetched less than a $100,000 premium over the smaller models, so this was obviously an immediate financial gain we received for going bigger. & of course, bigger was better during the boom. At the peak, our home could fetch an additional $200,000 over the single story homes.

As our house prices have stagnated, I have noticed the trend of increasing values of smaller homes. It's clear that people are buying what they can actually afford, and maybe even embracing that more is not always better.

For the most part, we weren't planning to sell for another 6 years minimum, so it will be interesting to see where things head. A lot can change in 6 years. I expect the market to eventually adjust and allow some benefit for bigger homes, even if it's just a very small premium. I expect that we will see some movement on our home value this summer. Will see.

The other interesting thing is that our house is still a solid $200,000 below the housing bubble peak. The peak is nothing I expect to get back to before we sell. It was pretty absurd in our region. But it just hit me that the single stories in our neighborhood have hit peak levels. Amazing!

Another College Post

May 5th, 2017 at 11:04 am

I had a couple of other (college) posts I wanted to get to (and I will eventually) but saw an interesting article today from the NY Times:

As College Deadlines Near, Families Wonder What They Can Pay

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/your-money/paying-for-col...

"The colleges talk a good game about affordability. But once the teenagers do their part and gain admission, their families get lowball offers for aid and are daunted by the debt they would have to take on to make the numbers work."

& re: free college in New York:

"Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University professor of higher education and sociology, and author of “Paying the Price,” worries about the New York program and the assumptions that many overly optimistic students may make. Data suggests that at least 20 percent of students who are financially eligible at first will end up leaving the state and having their grants turn into debt."

I think a lot of this is moot for us, having access to many high quality and affordable colleges. But, I've always been skeptical of the private school/aid route because it seemed like there is a lot that could go wrong (that would mean ending up in piles of debt). & of course, I don't see anyone talking about this, but this is just what I was thinking. You know, what if you take some kind of aid, lock in a college, and then lose the aid for some reason? So I was intrigued to see that my concerns aren't unfounded. At the end of the day, there's some value to just taking the low sticker price and not worrying about keeping your aids and scholarships. I share because I know this will weigh heavily in our own college decisions.

Regardless of your perspective or opinions, it's an interesting article.

April Savings

April 29th, 2017 at 07:30 am

Received $35 bank interest for the month of April.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $65 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$20 Savings from Target Red Card (made a big purchase)
--$40 Insurance refund

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$500

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

+$3,000 OT to savings (will fund my mortgage goal)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,000 airfare London
-$ 500 life insurance
-$ 400 Drama Camp

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I had a CD mature this month, so a little less interest income. Since we do want to replace our vehicle, I think I will keep this CD money in our savings account. There is that, and I am also just completely exhausted with work. Maybe in a month or two it will sound appealing at all to jump through hoops to earn more interest. For now, I am over it. (Now that I think about it, I haven't done one of those since MH was unemployed. We've had this "nice and simple" CD for 22 months. Though my exhaustion speaks more to my work situation than his. So we will see in another few months).

I had a complete DOH moment today. American Express is really finicky with their gas rewards. They often don't give rewards for gas stations they clearly label as "fuel" on their statements. ??? I has a DOH moment today as I recalled we might have gas rewards on other cards. We do! In the end, we can get 3% back on our CU Visa. It will take me a while to remember, but MH is really good at keeping track of all this madness. I'd rather use our credit union than the big banks, any day. So this is good.

My last entry I mentioned OT status, so nothing new there. I don't know when I will literally transfer the $3k to our mortgage. Maybe soon, since I also have all this cash that had been tied up in a CD. I just need some time before I tie up money indefinitely. I will put it to the mortgage sometime between now and January 1.

From short-term savings, I paid off the London airfare. I did also fund drama camp, apparently a full month earlier than last year. Drama Llama LOVES his drama camp.

Neither kid was interested at all in other summer classes. We didn't push it. I think us parents just need a break. We will have a very lazy low-spend summer. It sounds absolutely divine!

OT Update

April 24th, 2017 at 06:09 am

**Work has been totally crazy and will be for a while. On the plus side, I did get my annual OT payout.

I do have $3,000 to throw at the mortgage, which is my minimum annual OT goal.

**I did also pay off the TV with my OT check.

My husband was so aggravated with the store he bought the TV from. He had negotiated at several stores, trying to see how much wiggle room he could get on price. & settled on one store that we buy most our electronics from. Since he was haggling, they told him to just buy it on an installment plan. Not the right thing to say to my husband. He was PISSED. He told me about that later. He said, "Who on earth buys a TV on credit?!" Um, just about everyone?? He just has no clue. He's a "debt = hair on fire emergency" type, so he was just completely dumbfounded by the suggestion, and aggravated that they were trying to sell him a payment plan to "save money." Rolleyes

{In case I wasn't clear, their whole sales pitch was, "Who cares how much it cost? Just throw it on credit!"}

Even though I am well aware that most people put this kind of stuff on credit, I suppose it often doesn't register. I wondered aloud in a recent blog post why people would pay full retail price for these type things. When wondering that, I Was presuming everyone pays cash. It's not always front of mind how "weird" we are. I guess it makes a little more sense if I step back and realize that most these sales are made on credit.

Whittling Down Expenses

April 16th, 2017 at 07:13 am

**I've already got the new TV set up with Citi price rewind. They check prices for 60 days and will refund for any price changes that are found online.

Not holding my breath, but might be able to whittle down the price a bit.

**MH insists he will sell our old TV, but I am skeptical. If he does, we will have a few hundred dollars to apply towards the TV purchase. Will see...

**I am also working on whittling down travel expenses. I finished spending $3,000 on the new card. I have $460 (reward) to apply to travel expenses, as a result. The rewards posted as soon as the last charge hit. I don't want to apply that to our hotel because the hotel is refundable. I don't know if the bus tours will count as "Travel expenses" for this reward. But they look to be non-refundable, so I like the idea of getting those expenses paid for by the credit card. (Then, if for any reason we cancel our trip or plans change, we aren't out any cash). We plan to start booking our tours next month and will apply the reward however we can. If nothing else, we can apply to our hotel, if we do it within so many days.

{We didn't put the TV on the new card. We booked our hotel, since the card had no foreign fees. I paid a month of health insurance, and I had a $400 professional dues payment that I will get reimbursed from my employer. That got us right to about $3,000}.

**Managing Big Purchases:

Overall, our regular (small) vacation budget will cover the hotel and airfare, so will just pull from short-term savings. Then as we book tours, we will just pay with rewards. I don't otherwise need to come up with the money for the rest, until after we get back. Mostly expecting to pay for food and transportation while we are there. No other "big" expenses planned.

As to the TV purchase, MH also picked up a compatible video player. It was $250. I should receive a check from his Grandma today (she INSISTS, for doing her taxes). That will mostly be a wash. I should also get my annual "OT" check tomorrow, and I will just pay off the TV at that time. Is where the money will come from. (If for whatever reason I don't receive an OT Payout this year, we have the cash. Just to be clear that we aren't relying on money not received yet. I would have preferred the sale extended to tomorrow and we could pick up after I know how much money I will receive. But that would be too nice and easy!).

**MH did also pick up some used HD movies, with store credit. This is motivating him to clear out old video games and movies. (Which he generally does anyway; sells old ones to pay for newer ones. But I appreciate the extra motivation since he is selling more than usual). He was pleased because he found Planet Earth II on sale, and was able to pay with store credit. (Planet Earth II is absolutely amazing!)

Spring Break & A Splurge

April 13th, 2017 at 10:21 pm

No spring break for me. I am looking forward to April 15th, as to lessening my work load a wee bit. But it's going to be pretty busy for another 2 months or so. *sigh* It's probably optimistic to think that I will get a breather at all.

But, the kids have spring break. MM(13) is on the east coast right now. He will be back today and has two full weeks off of school. Other than this super big trip, he's just going to have to chill out at home.

DL(11) is spending the week with grandparents. With him, it just depends on the day. I wouldn't have been surprised if he refused to go or if he came home early. But he was super excited about being gone all week and spending time with extended family. Is nothing I would have ever guessed in a million years. But, I guess he really enjoyed his last couple of spring breaks (alone with grandparents). & he was in a super good mood the day he left. So, phew!

MH also has a couple of days off of work. I am sure he has been sulking at home a bit because I am so busy.

In the end we did go to a free advanced movie screening. MH goes on average about once a week, but I've never gone without the kids. I have just gone to a couple of animated/family movies on the weekends. You have to get there so early that it's not really ideal on a weeknight, and means leaving the kids several hours. In addition, they don't want you using your phones at all (though I'd want to be reachable if the kids needed anything). So it's just complicated.

Anyway, when I went to the other two screenings it was a very cool experience. Just a really cool crowd. I thought maybe it was the kind of adults who wanted to see kids movies so didn't think too much about it. Just that it was a really fun crowd. But Tuesday night we saw Gifted (which is way better than I expected it would be - I had low expectations). & it was the same kind of crowd. I don't know what it is, but they attract a happy crowd. So it was a really fun night.

Last night, MH made a nice dinner for just the two of us.

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MH did also buy a new TV while the kids were gone. I'd say the stars aligned, with a sale. Actually, we were talking about it and then it went on sale even further after we decided mostly against it. So I changed my mind. I am hopeful that this ends the revolving door of TVs. It's frustrating because my hubby has exhaustively researched every HDTV we have owned, but they have all been pieces of crap. This one is a high-end TV at the same price point (prices are endlessly dropping) and is a different kind of display, so we are hopeful about it. I suppose I was pushing for it because of the price. I don't want to spend more on something we aren't happy with. I can live with this one if it ends up in the "another piece of crap" pile.

They were clearing out last year's models. It amazes me that people would pay 2-3 times as much for something because they couldn't wait 12 months for the price to drop. ??? & I mean, paying full price would have been absurd. There's a couple of electronics purchases I recall my husband doing in the past where he was sure the sales price was a typo. The prices were so unbelievably low. I share because this is how you have your cake and eat it too.

2017 is shaping up to be a year of "taking advantage of opportunities," on the spending front.

This & That

April 2nd, 2017 at 11:47 am

**I am expecting to fund our Europe trip with the extra OT I earned this year. I will see how that shakes out later this month. (Our regular vacation budget will cover the airfare + hotel, so I am just thinking to the rest, which should not be as much).

**That reminds me, MH is going to Florida this fall for his grandfather's 90th birthday. I really thought we'd cover the flight but he'd probably have a free room and not have to rent a car. In the end, his parents have some miles and just want to buy him his flight. So that's turning out to be even cheaper than I expected.

**Today I was recalling that MH had broached the subject of replacing DL(11)'s computer. Whenever he told me that (months ago?) I said, "Let's talk about this in April." It had just popped into my head, but MH seemed very "meh" about it when I brought it up today. So don't know what is up with that. Will talk about it more later. Might be another expense on the horizon.

**MM(13) leaves on his class DC/NYC trip next week. It was crazy expensive, but the plus side is everything should be covered. His grandparents gave him probably $100 already for souvenirs he won't be buying. (He is not a shopper, at all). So it doesn't sounds like we need to provide him with any cash.

{We paid for this trip about 9 months ago}.

**MM(13) is very hard on his e-reader. He has my old Nook, but after putting a zillion hours into that thing, it's starting to have issues. MH just told me he saw that Kindles were on sale (25% off) and he picked one up for MM. He had some Amazon credits, so was only $30 out of pocket. I thought he was thinking to the trip, which didn't sound so smart. The old Nook is use-able, and might as well take something we don't care if gets lost or damaged. But he told me he was thinking of holding onto the Kindle for MM's birthday. If he needs it sooner, then we can surprise him.

March Savings

April 2nd, 2017 at 08:09 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of March.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $53 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $0 cash back on Visa/dining card.
(Didn't eat out)

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$4 Savings from Target Red Card

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
$1,000

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
- 280 Auto Insurance
- 140 cell phone for MM
- 100 car maintenance

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Other Snowflakes:
--$25 Focus Group

I didn't invest this snowflake; I donated it to DL's school.

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MH's work has been slow, which is nice because my work has been *completely insane*.

I still needed to get $1,400 "tax savings" over to our investments. For now, I am just hoarding MH's paycheck to that end. I have $1,000 to throw at that today and will probably have $400 in another couple of weeks.

It probably works out that I will get that funded by April 15th. Around then I should get my OT for the year and we will have to look at our tax situation and figure out the rest of the year.

College

March 29th, 2017 at 07:52 am

I figured I should start a "college" category in my blog. Still got a ways to go, but it's creeping up on us.

The *big picture* is that no one in my family has ever borrowed for college, so the road to a debt-free college is crystal clear to me. & I don't mean at all from a wealth/means standpoint. I put myself through college. Putting my kids through college should be infinitely easier, in comparison. They will have significantly more options than we had. It also probably helps to live in a state with abundant and affordable college choices.

Some of the ways that we expect to keep college costs down:

--Saving money ahead of time for college
--Scholarships
--MH working more while kids are in college
--Possibly finding an employer who will chip in with college costs
--Kids working in high school/college, even if just during summers
--Thinking outside the box as to housing (which is important with the high housing costs here)
--Mostly considering public colleges
--Community college (this is really what all the regional public colleges prefer these days, getting first two years done at CC, so motivation is more than just saving money)

Certainly not meant to be an all inclusive list, but in general sums up how we stayed out of college debt.

My husband and I actually had completely opposite college experience. Our parents were both opposite extremes, and so we seem to end up meeting in the middle. We both agree that we expect the kids to work significantly during high school and college, that our own financial health comes first, and that we don't want to borrow a penny for college. We don't want them to graduate with any student loan debt. We are willing to help our kids in any way we can as long as we are within these parameters.

I'd say that when our eldest was ages 0-10 that college was not on our radar at all. Part of the reason is that in-laws were providing college money. They gift the kids $1k per year, each, since birth. Initially they invested with their super pricey broker (load funds + ridiculous advisory fees) but for whatever reason they gave us the money to manage in recent years. Which means the money is actually growing instead of being eaten away by fees. Phew! At this point we are quickly closing in on $40k, which would cover two public college degrees, and allows for future price increases as they continue to receive gift money.

We personally have not tied up this money in college type funds because we don't have any incentive to. We would rather have free use of the money. We don't have a big enough income, but I do have enough tax knowledge, to not bother with 529 plans or other college savings options. To be clear, we are not paying any taxes on these investment gains. So we don't need the trade-off of extra hoops to jump through for tax breaks that we don't need.

Along the same lines, MH and I both used our "college money" for a home down payment instead. In a state where college cost pennies and housing costs are sky high, I think it seems very likely our kids will experience the same. So I don't want to be penalized for tying up their gift money for college when they more likely will use it for post-college housing. Ideally, we'd actually really like to pay it forward and save this in-law money to give them as a lump sum *after* college. I don't know if we will be able to swing it, but this is what we would like to do. & if we can't, we definitely want to do something like this for our grandkids. (I think if it was not for the in-law money, this would just be a "pay it forward to grandkids" goal).

Anyway, the "generous in-law situation" sums up ages 0-10 with our kids. Between that and the low cost of college here, and my hubby's prolonged unemployment, it just hasn't been on our financial radar at all.

That said, we have in the past put ridiculous percentages of our income into ROTHs knowing that we could use that money for college. I can't say it would have been our financial priority to tie up *all* our money in retirement funds, otherwise. So I am sure for a while that was our college strategy, and I did discuss in this blog during those times.

In 2014 we were in a position to start putting money away into taxable investment accounts again (in addition to fully funding IRAs). I guess college is the only goal at this point, besides retirement. Though I don't consider this *all* to be college money, it is certainly accessible if we need it for college. We are putting away about $7,500 per year. I think matching the in-law college money is a good place to start. It probably works out too that we will probably get there in another couple of years. At that point we may just back off and figure that $40,000/each is a phenomenal start. I think we'd probably most likely just focus on cash flowing the rest (if there is anything left to cash flow).

Since I worked my way through college, I think the idea of MH working + kids working seems easiest on some level (would be a LOT of cash that we could put towards college). But, I think the "saving ahead" is important just because you never know. Relying on future income streams is a little outside of my comfort zone. So while some part of me thinks that "cash flowing with several jobs" is really the most obvious and the easiest, we always have a Plan A + Plan B + Plan C, etc.

Edited to add: I didn't mention financial aid. With the high wage/low college cost combo, regionally, I don't expect it to come up. I know it's infinitely more complicated than that, but that's just the short answer. It will be a better use of our energy to seek out scholarships that aren't based on need.

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In other news, I am sure I have discussed in the past about MH thinking of returning to college. I mentioned in my blog several years ago that nothing about the timing was right. With the economy in particular, it seemed like a particularly poor time to invest any money into a degree.

Today, things are lining up to make a lot more sense on this front. So I know it's something we will discuss more seriously as to the next two school years. I will have to leave that for my next post on the college topic.

Death

March 26th, 2017 at 05:51 pm

We had a tragic death in our family last week. Suicide.

For all the mood disorders in my family, this is the first "successful" suicide I am aware of, in any of our families.

Is not anyone I was close to, but my family is very large and far away. Probably closest to my age (a little younger) and someone I clicked with more than most in my family.

Way too young and way too soon.

I haven't dealt much at all with death. But I saw today they were collecting money for the kids' college funds (in lieu of flowers). I am sure it is not expected at all, but I will send $50. We are in a place in our lives where I wouldn't think twice about sending money in this cases. & it really is just an "in lieu of flowers" thing. (It's not random asking for money, which my family would probably never do).

Since I don't think I've ever written a check for a funeral before, I was going to ask about the proper amount, but I think I am at peace with this. We weren't close enough to warrant a bigger amount, and I know this family doesn't need the money, so all of that factors into my decision. (He was single and his parents are in a financial position to handle a *very* unexpected funeral).

Sad to say this may be my first check of this nature, but unfortunately not the last. (Well, I'd be happy if this was the last suicide I ever have to hear about, but death itself seems pretty inevitable).

Fiscal Chores, Low-Spend March

March 26th, 2017 at 09:30 am

**I had a 1.5% CD mature at my credit union. It just so happened they were offering a 1.6% CD, so I rolled it over into a new 1.6% CD.

I have another CD that matures next month.

**I didn't expect to find such a good (CD) rate at the same institution (or anywhere), so I had already planned to fund MH's IRA (2016) when that money was freed up. Since that had been the plan for so long, I just funded that this week. Will just have some extra cash tied up until next month.

**ThriftyRay's post reminds me that our very simple calendar system has worked very well for this year. We decided just to put all three school calendars on the fridge and to plan ahead every week and month. I personally forget things if they are not in front of my face (I need visual organization and don't like to hide things away). & it didn't seem it was really worth it to try to merge those all into some kind of electronic record. It would have just mucked up our calendar so much that it would have rendered it useless. I guess I like "simple" and I like "visual".

So, though next year will be MUCH simpler, will just stick with this method. We will still have two different schools for the foreseeable future.

**March seems to be our natural low-spend month. When we are both so busy (work) we seem to just fall into frugal routines and habits. You would think more convenience spending, but we just don't seem to do that. It's crazy how little we spent this month. Pretty much no recreational spending whatsoever. & not that we haven't gone out at all. We had a nice St. Patty's dinner at our house (tradition), hosted my parents one weekend, and have several other activities. Next week or two we have a couple of free events. & I want to get to the art museum (free to visit) once things settle down a bit.

I cooked a salmon dinner (new recipe) at home last night. MH stumbled upon a good grean bean recipe. I mostly do not like green beans, but these are incredibly good. So good, I requested that he make those to go along with the salmon.

Travel Credit Card Decision

March 26th, 2017 at 08:04 am

I ended up applying for the Capital One Venture card that Buendia recommended. I didn't get much input here, and didn't have a lot of time to look into it, but it seemed probably the best card for our purposes.

When the credit card arrives, we will book our hotel. We haven't decided anything but seem to have infinite options. I think it is most likely that we will rent an apartment with a kitchen. It's just so cheap right now with the favorable exchange rates.

This credit card has no fee for the first year. We will close the card before the year is over. If we like the card and it is useful, it is something to keep in mind for the future, especially for a less impromptu trip.

I just want a card without foreign transaction fees. It looks like we may also be able to get a $400 travel credit, which I am not sure is going to be very useful in our situation. But, if it works, we will save $400.

For now, I just want to get the credit card so that we can finalize a hotel.

Travel Abroad Credit Cards?

March 21st, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Does anyone have any credit cards they recommend for using in the UK? Hear of any sign up bonuses lately?

We have a credit union credit card that has no foreign fees. In addition, we get 3% back on dining out, which would probably be our primary expenses while we are out of the country. So we are good to go already. But, I wouldn't mind having a backup credit card while we travel.

Chase Sapphire: We both opened and closed this one several times for the cash bonus, so I doubt we could get this card. I was denied the last time I tried. But if we are charging up hotels and excursions, I wouldn't mind paying -0- foreign fees and working towards a bonus. It's been long enough it would be worth a try.

Barclay Arrival Plus: The rewards don't seem useful on this card, but it might be nice to have a chip+pin card in a pinch. I also saw feedback though that their fraud department was over-zealous and this card was denied too often. So I guess I am curious about any feedback. If we only use it in a pinch, I'd want it to work in a pinch. (This one has an annual fee after the first year, but we wouldn't keep the card for more than a year).

Any other cards to consider?

This & That

March 19th, 2017 at 12:08 pm

**Since MH has never been to Europe, and London probably topped our list of "future travels", we are shifting gears and planning a Europe vacation, quite suddenly. I'd say otherwise it was something we were thinking about in 5+ years. But the thing about travel not being a huge priority for us is we don't want to save for a long time and spend a lot of money on *one* trip. But if we can easily afford it, then it's not a big commitment and we will take advantage.

Hotel and airfare will most likely be covered by our meager vacation budget. (Hard to believe!)

I was already on track to match my highest OT payout this spring, so will have some extra monies to throw at this trip. (I don't expect this to change our sidebar goals at all). For the most part we would be fine with walking around and enjoying the museums, and using the public transport. But since I doubt we will ever go to Europe again, I also feel we should just do the big stuff too. We are thinking of an excursion to Paris, for example.

I seem to travel abroad once every 10 years. MH mentioned my passport. I thought I might squeak by, but apparently it expires 2 months before we are planning our trip. I will renew ASAP. (I don't know when I ever would have thought of that, but I am knee deep in work).

**MH was teased about a $500 focus group. !! But he didn't make the cut. Bummer!

**DL(11) is selecting his electives for next school year. How exciting! He just had to take "a little bit of everything" for this year (art school). He wants to focus on drama and music, next school year.

**MM(13) was accepted into the Honors program at the high school. We never had any doubt that he would be. But... It also looks like he may get back on track with his math. I am so happy that something seems to be going very right on the math front!

We need to find out more, but it looks promising that he will be able to get into Trig next year.

---------------------------------------------------

Edit to add: I spotted London airfare for $504 per person (after taxes and fees) today, for our preferred August dates. Our flights are booked!

Need HELP with London Trip!

March 14th, 2017 at 08:33 pm

Just wanted to throw out another request for any hotel recommendations in London.

We are probably going to go the end of August. We figured it would save us money and be infinitely easier if MH did not have to request time off work. He is off work in August. I did not think it was wise to be gone when the kids start school (or too early in the school year) but the kids start August 9th this year. UGH! Totally insane! But I guess it works in this instance.

So we looked up school calendars and perused hotel and airfare in August. It was the same as Ocotober/November. Unreal! We will probably get airfare and hotel under $2,000. Tail end of August and/or early September. We are going without the kids, if you hadn't realized.

I'd buy airfare today, but MH wanted to wait and make sure we are taking a proper number of days to do everything. I think 10 days is probably about my limit though. Should be fine. Obviously we won't be able to do EVERYTHING. Big Grin

I also wanted to request any must-sees. What are all the things we should really do? Trying to make sure we have enough days to hit the highlights. I am guessing this may very likely be the last time we ever go to Europe, so I guess also keep that in mind. (We both very much dislike longer travels and flying abroad).

Thanks in advance!

UK Peeps!

March 4th, 2017 at 08:41 am

Do you have any idea why roundtrip tickets, non-stop to London, are $500 from the west coast?? Right now, for tickets in October. British Airways.

My husband told me that his co-worker mentioned and I thought it was just a credit card rewards thing. Didn't think too much about it. But I just spent one minute on google flights and it's for reals! (Just to say, you don't have to look very hard to find).

For reference, I've absolutely never priced tickets to Europe and have no idea how prices generally fluctuate.

I've often chose vacation destinations solely based on incredible airfare deals. So... The odds that we will go to Englad in October?? Looking very high at the moment. Big Grin Just curious what is up with that. Don't know how quickly we should jump on it.

If you have any hotel recommendations, I guess that might be useful too.

------------------------------------------------

Edited to add: I guess I am slow to get the memo since international flights aren't on my radar *at all*.

http://www.wendyperrin.com/airfare-deals-to-europe-are-excel...

I've seen articles going back about 9 months, so am not going to rush out and buy airfare today. But I think that we will seriously consider a fall trip.

February Savings

March 1st, 2017 at 07:57 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of February.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $74 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $5 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$8 Savings from Target Red Card

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$20 Citi Price Rewinds (price match for computer parts)
--rounded up $3

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$365

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
+ 260 insurance refund
-$1,342 Insurance (various)
-$1,200 Auto Repairs
-$ 90 dentist
-$ 95 Windows OS (for new computer)
-$ 50 Professional Fee

Edited to add: I later realized that I forgot to update short-term expenses paid out this month. It was a spendy month! (I hadn't realized or particularly thought about it because most of these expenses were charged around Jan. 1 and paid off Feb. 1. But I include in February because that is when I transfer the funds out of my savings account).

-----------------------------------------------------

One of the insurance bills that I paid was my disability insurance. In the past I have had a $4,200/month benefit without having to have a certain income. I can "up" this to $5,000 monthly benefit now. I really should make this a priority.

I noticed that our gas rewards aren't calculating correctly, so will have to keep an eye on that.

I did receive $1,000 tax refund and have yet to literally deposit that into our investments. It works out because we usually charge health insurance around the 29th, but it went through a few days early with the short month. We actually didn't have any big bills on our credit card this month, but the health insurance was charged twice (1st and 28th). So I will just use the $1,000 to float that. Will put it to investments in April. Just kind of worked out in an easy peasy kind of way.

I am still in a groove where I just pay all the (cash) bills on the first of the month, which includes paying off all prior month credit card charges. Then I don't have to think about it again for another month. (I am just not into automating things. I have to look over things carefully, and this may also be largely driven by not having direct deposit. Lord knows when I actually get my paycheck sometimes, like if we are on a vacation).

March and April are big savings months for us. MH is back at work & all my OT gets paid out in a lump sum every April. Plus, we are just both super busy with work, so we aren't spending money. It is always interesting to see how those months shake out. But then we generally relax and enjoy the rest of the year.

I do have a CD maturing mid-month and will have to figure out what to do with that. I've seen some good options, but will just depend what's available when I get access to the cash. I'll let you know what I find.

Update

February 26th, 2017 at 10:08 am

I know I have been MIA for a while. The rain/snow has been insane here. My parents and us (100 miles apart) both were on the verge of evacuation. Them moreso than us (there was a random flash flood a little too close to their home). We are about 35 miles from that big dam in California. So we have both had a little too much excitement this month.

The snow pack in the mountains was almost non-existent, but there's been enough snow this winter that the snow pack is 200% of normal now. I saw that camp (already completely snowed under) was getting another 4 feet of snow this week? If we can even go to camp (late June) we might be bringing our sleds.

March will probably be tense.

I've also dug my way out of a (work) avalanche. Phew!! There's another one not far behind at all (and a few immediately after that one), but I am taking a day to just relax. Catch my breath.

Doings

February 13th, 2017 at 12:55 pm

**On Friday we had a DIVINE lunch. We had a $50 gift card (credit card reward) for Ruth Chris. We had just planned to go for lunch sometime, but it's rarely open for lunch. So... At some point I put it on our calendar when we had a free Friday.

O.M.G. SO good. We spent about $20 out of pocket for an appetizer, a burger, a lunch special (steak/shrimp), and one dessert. No drinks, just water. I told MH I wouldn't mind going back for lunch for a birthday or something like that. Lunch prices were reasonable. I only got the appetizer because I wanted to spend our gift card. I had forgotten about dessert.

**Sunday we took the kids to the movies, at the fancy theater. We had a gift card, so we spent $12 cash.

**MH officially enrolled MM(13) for high school. It's probably a bit early, but MH has ants in his pants about it. He's been butting heads with the current administration so much on the math issue, that I think he is just ready to move on to greener pastures. I don't know that I am quite so optimistic. This is probably the only regular public school that either of our kids will ever attend. I can see pluses and minuses with the public high school, but probably more minuses (versus the charter schools).

{DL(11) is already enrolled in a charter school that is grades 6 through 12. About this time last year we had no idea where each kid would end up, so it's nice to have their high school paths somewhat set}.

I suppose everyone is also looking forward to ditching school uniforms. I haven't bought MM(13) any new uniform clothing since the summer. It's going to be close. He just has to fit for 4 more months! I usually buy more liberally since he always handed down all his uniform clothing. But now it's just him, and not for very long. Will see...

**MH returned to work today. THANK GOODNESS!

It's not been too bad, since the kids had so much time off in December and MH did end up working 9 days already this year. But... My 10 minute commute can sometimes be a *1 hour* commute when I have to take both kids to school. What a pain! I asked MH just to take DL to school on Friday, for my sanity.

I don't see why I'd ever have to take both kids to school again (this school year). Phew! Next year will be much better. Both their schools will be close together and we will be done with the "out of the way" school.

{When MH works, he just drops DL off on the way, just down the street from his job. MM's school is on the way to my office, with a 15-minute detour. It's all the driving in-between and often getting stuck at DL's school at the *worst time possible* that makes it so insane}.

Pizza

February 4th, 2017 at 01:22 pm

I have no idea why not, but I had never made pizza before. I don't know if that's entirely true since MH has some pizza recipes, but I guess I mean more traditional type pizza.

We are die hard Round Table Pizza fans. Between that and home cooking most our meals, we do NOT do cheap pizza. If the kids have a party we order Round Table. We've got comments about that over the years. I don't know what to say other than I am not going to buy my kids disgusting pizza on their special day. Wink

Round Table always has $5-off coupons that we use. So it's always been something we can squeeze into our budget if we want pizza. In addition, our grocery store had the BEST fresh take & bake pizzas. For something like $10. So we would often serve those pizzas for parties or if we had people over. They stopped carrying those 2-3 years ago. We've tried some others but they just aren't very good.

Every year I try to add at least one or two different dishes that I have never tried before (or different foods that I have never cooked before). For whatever reason I've been thinking about pizza recently and how we really just need to make our own. Since we've never found a suitable replacement for our take-and-bake.

& so that is what I did this weekend. I am happy to say that I nailed it! I choose a pizza sauce recipe that was 5 stars on the internet and everyone was raving about. Doesn't mean much, but I figured I'd start with that. In the end, I think it was very similar to Round Table's zesty red sauce. It's not exactly the same, but I think it's a suitable substitute. (That was a nice surprise!) I had enough for two pizzas and the second one came out kind of perfect. I cooked it for an extra minute so that it cooked more thoroughly.



I just bought pre-made dough. What is surprising to me is how *filling* it was. I only had a couple of small pieces and I was totally good. The kids otherwise finished off two small-ish pizzas, but they agreed that it seemed really filling.

I do want to make my own dough in the future. I just wanted to do it in steps. Get the sauce and everything else right, and then I can work on the dough in the future.

MH mostly can't stand pepperoni pizza, so next time I will ask him what kind of toppings he wants. I just wanted to start with something simple.

I am salivating just thinking about how it must taste with fresh dough. We will make future lunch and dinner guests VERY happy. Everyone always raved about the store-bought pizza. Since mostly no one cooks these days, everyone thinks we are like gourmet chefs. So I can only imagine their reaction to this pizza. & it was SO EASY!

P.S. I'd add the sauce recipe but the link doesn't seem to be working today. I will check it again later.

Long Week

January 30th, 2017 at 07:55 pm

**Last Sunday I took DL(11) to the art museum. We have a membership but I don't know if I have ever eaten in their cafe. In the end they had small salads for $4 and the food was *really* good. It's kind of perfect because he is hard to get there, but once he was there he had a blast. Now I know that I can bribe him with food.

**MH got called to work in Monday (I don't think they've ever called him last minute like that before) and I ended up having to pick up MM for his high school math class. I think it's the first time all year I've had to sign him out of school for that. I have taken him to math a few times, when he otherwise had the day off or maybe if he got out of his other school early.

Just 4 more months of this madness!

**Last week we went to three shows in San Francisco. It was a LOT. We drove there three days in a row. But we had a great time.

One of them was a show I had been wanting to go to for a long time, where random people volunteer to read from their childhood/teen diaries. Absolutely hilarious. Another was an Adult Swim show panel that we took the kids too. We had front row and center for all the shows. In the past the talent has been uncomfortable with kids in the audience, for more plain vanilla shows (like on network TV). Guess they wanted to curse but there were so many kids in the audience. I didn't know what to expect, but in this case they chose to completely ignore us. Phew! They have to figure either we know what we are getting into, or that we are just clueless. Wink We were the only weirdos that brought kids to that one. DL(11) is hard to please, but he actually really enjoyed it. The third show was a podcast; MH found some friends to go with him. Which is *amazing* because everyone is always so broke and busy. Especially on a week night. We had forgotten that we bought the tickets, figuring we'd just cover them. They reimbursed him the night of the show, so that probably covers most of our costs for the week (tolls and eating out). Had totally forgotten that we even paid for all those tickets, so that was nice.

We took the train when it was just 1-2 of us, to help with our sanity. It maybe saved a few bucks when MH went with his friends, and definitely cost more for two of us. But sanity is priceless. (& I mean, we still had to drive an hour to get to the train, but the last few miles is the worst of the drive).

**On Saturday we went to visit MH's parents after the show. His dad's birthday is this week and we gave him a $50 gift certificate (which was a free credit card reward).

**MH went to a free game night last night. Trying to mix up the frugal with the not-so-frugal...

**Our kids were getting cell service in the reverse order. But in the end I don't think DL(11) ever used, and then suddenly MM(13) wanted to hang with his friends after school. His school seems in the middle nowhere, but I guess is a reasonable walk from the library. Several of his friends wait for their parents there every day, but he's only free on short days. So we have just been giving him DL's phone on those days. MH brought it up and I admitted he'd probably want his own phone for the DC trip too. The problem is that his existing phone is not compatible with Ting. So MH picked him up a new phone this weekend. $100-ish. We didn't necessarily have time to wait for the usual deals we get. But MH told him we'd just cover it; he could pay for the difference if he wanted more. Being Mr. McFrugal, he didn't want anything more.

We need a SIM card, so we have yet to activate. But we are just going to give him DL's phone # and turn off the cell service on DL's phone. If DL decides tomorrow he wants to hang with his friends after school, we can turn it back on. So it seems best to just wait until he *really* starts using it. I still expect that they will both be using cell service by next school year and have already included that in our budget.

I leave you with a picture of a sunset:

January Savings

January 29th, 2017 at 07:42 am

Received $41 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $5 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $90 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$4 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,120 insurance (various)
-$ 200 dentist
-$ 100 school lunches (for rest of school year)

-----------------------------------------------------

All of the expenses above were December charges that we paid off in January. So this wraps up 2016.

Not much to report for January. MH had no income this month.

Taxes

January 22nd, 2017 at 07:30 am

Finished our taxes yesterday.

I have the financial records to complete taxes on January 1, generally, but was waiting for investment 1099s (the only info I can't calculate on my own). I got an e-mail that those were ready on Friday.

I also haven't seen a pay stub for MH in months (got locked out of his online account) so will just wait to file until we get his W-2. I otherwise probably wouldn't even wait for the W-2. I expect I know his gross pay within a few pennies or a dollar, but would rather it all match 100%. We do not withhold any income taxes from his check, so that is some of why I don't really need his pay stubs. As long as the direct deposits are what I would expect them to be.

{I am totally fine with filing taxes before I have W-2s or 1099s, when I have any financial records whatsoever. It's just that I am flying pretty blind with MH's income}.

With MH working all year, we bumped up our "taxable income" from $46,000 to $48,000. We are still nowhere near the next tax bracket of 25%.

But, MH's income is being taxed around 30%. Taxes are complex.

In the end, we'd owe $1,400 if we did ROTH IRAs, or we get $1,000 back if we do Traditional IRAs. Total tax savings of $2,400. We can't max out the Traditional IRAs because of MH's work retirement plan. But rounding a bit, we can put $5,000 into his Traditional IRAs and $500 into his ROTH. I will hold off funding those until I get his W-2 and finalize everything. I already knew I could max out my Traditional IRA and did fund that already. We will do the Traditional IRAs and will invest the tax savings, per sidebar goals. (I expect for 2017 that MH won't be able to put nearly as much into Traditional IRA).

When I get the 1k refund I will just throw it at our investments. Not entirely sure how I will come up with the other $1,400. I think I will probably just fund that part when I get my OT check.

When we first started doing this it was like "$2,500 tax refund" for Traditional IRA or "no taxes due" for ROTH contributions. I did it this way because we were really in "flip a coin" territory, and I did want to just invest the difference. I'd say we are still somewhat in "flip a coin" territory, but also I am just covering MH's income taxes from my paycheck. I will just leave it be, for now. I expect everything to change, tax-wise, anyway. So we can re-evaluate from there. For now, this works, and still gives us some room to go either way.

Doings

January 19th, 2017 at 05:42 am

**MH got called into work next week, but then gets two weeks off.

This works out for the best. I don't think he could have worked much this week. This week DL(11) has finals. CRAZY schedule.

We are going to have to take DL out to celebrate. He easily gets all As, without much effort. But... this semester I think he was lucky to pass all of his classes. PHEW! I know he's never had to work so hard. I am just feeling so much *relief* that we made it. The year started out very rocky. He's really done exceptional, given all he has had to deal with.

**MH's birthday is this week. I almost forgot in the work chaos.

We don't exchange gifts. I discussed with the kids, and they just wanted to give their daddy HUGS and home-made fudge. I said I thought that sounded perfect.

He already bought himself a sous vide (precision cooker). It's a long story, but he bought one for his parents for Christmas, and ended up with two. Was supposed to return the other one to Amazon but he seems to have a hang up about paying $10 postage to get a $40 refund. Don't ask me! He is way smarter than that.

I think *I* realized he wasn't going to return it before he did. He was struggling subconsciously with it. & he kept trying to make justifications to keep it. I finally said, "Happy Birthday". Moving on...

That was weeks ago, and he has yet to use it. (Still having some internal struggle about it). Thankfully some meat went on sale and he gave it a try this week. We've been eating like KINGS. I'd say we are accomplished cooks and eat very well, but probably limit ourselves on the meat side to the cheap cuts we grew up with and are familiar with. So this is expanding our horizons considerably. (MH has been salivating over this contraption since his friend cooked him dinner with one several years ago).

He made some seared tuna earlier this week. It turned out more cooked than he preferred. & he generally doesn't eat fish, but I guess is just more picky about it. He told us he over-cooked it. I said if it was any less cooked I'd be putting mine in the microwave. But maybe he will refine us a bit. Wink I thought it was *perfect*

Last night we had pork chops. I don't even know if I have ever had pork chops before. But it was *perfection*

I could get used to this. & it's nice to mix it up a bit and to try new things.

**In other fanciness, we went to the movies on Tuesday night. We got a new theater with the fancy reclining seats. The tickets are $6.50 on Tuesdays. I think our theater bumped up their tickets to $6.25 on Tuesday nights (cheap night) so there isn't any big difference.

MH had been a few times, and I just told him I wanted to check it out.

We agreed that Tuesday night is our movie night. At this theater. From now on! Used to be weekend matinees. Or you can stand in line and get there early on Tuesday nights (by our house). Or... you can just reserve your seats online and show up after the commercials/previews ,and sit in luxury. For an extra quarter per ticket. SOLD!

(MH had seen Star Wars at this theater on opening night. It's the first time he didn't have to wait in line for a Star Wars movie. Worked out because the weather was bad that night. He just reasoned he'd rather just reserve seats ahead of time. Few seemed to think of the option, but the new theater had just opened. Next time might not be quite so easy).

Yes!

January 17th, 2017 at 06:12 am

Yes!

I did an update yesterday with where my head was at with our 2017 goals and budget.

I *know* my employer would pay me more if he could. But given the economics... He told me some years back that I Was the only one in the office getting raises (for several years). I had *no idea*. It was just some weird circumstance of being the youngest in the office but having most of the responsibility. I figured that was a warning of some sort, so have not even expected a raise for the past 2-3 years.

Fast forward to this year. We have a big software conversion, and we are getting really down to the wire. I had to work crazy OT the past couple of months just to get it done before the old software expires. I am actually feeling pretty happy and refreshed because it's January and I am knee deep in the fun part of my job. & the bulk of that software stuff is over. PHEW!

Usually my employer is more open with me, but today he didn't say much. Maybe that's a good sign. Usually he says something along the lines of pulling out of his income to be fair to me. Today all he said was he was giving me a 3% raise. (I don't have any indication that economics are better. I am guessing no speech just because he didn't have to apologize for not being able to do more). & he knew and appreciated how hard I was working. I think I just kind of needed that. Of all years to pull it out, this was the year to do so. I have been working SO HARD.

I *know* I am appreciated at my job, but it's nicer to be appreciated with a raise. Big Grin

(I don't even think it was a bigger raise than usual, percentage-wise, but dollar wise it just feels like more!).

In the end, the raise will just cover our increased expenses for the year, and will allow me to cover MM's gymnastics classes. Just perfect! It was actually kind of crazy because I already went through our expenses a couple of weeks ago and updated for all the little utility increases in recent years. (I don't know that I have been that *exact* lately, just knowing it all seemed to balance in the checkbook). I decided to pull $20/month out of my check for taxes, without looking at the budget. It's just what we needed to do for taxes. & when I plugged my new net check into our "budget" sheet" it was within $1 of our monthly expenses. Seriously! I told MH you would think I PLANNED that. The reality is I got "just enough raise", net of taxes, to not have to rejigger anything. Couldn't have planned it better if I tried.

So, I just threw up some goals in my sidebar. They are basically the same as last year. Still aiming to save 30% of my income. I rounded up investment goal a bit to keep it an even 30% of gross income.

This will get me through April and then I may re-jigger a bit. I get my OT pay in April, and then MH starts the busy season of his work in September. So it just works out to do a tax and goal evaluation every 4 months or so. I need to manage our taxes a bit more, with MH working.

Budget Update

January 16th, 2017 at 10:05 am

No idea on the income side yet, for 2017 (Both MH and I find out this month if we get raises).

So I am just fine tuning the expense side of things. Many years we have had some expenses go up while others go down, but this seems to be one of those "expenses just going up" kind of years.

Monthly Increases:

Gymnastics $100 (added luxury splurge)
Health Insurance: $40
Cell Phones: $35
HOA $11
Internet: $10
Total: $196

Notes:

I did evaluate groceries and we spent about the same both of the last two years, so I think those expenses are leveling off. Phew! (Then again, MM(13) now considers 3 potatoes a single serving; I am not overly confident in the staying power of our current grocery budget). But, for now...

Cell phones: We added a line ($6/month) and I changed our budget since we are covering my parents' cell expenses.

HOA went up. We've been incredibly lucky. The bill has generally never gone up (in 15 years!) The more recent HOA boards have started updating common areas, which I think is reasonable, and some study came back that we were under-funded for something or other (long-term). This is definitely the biggest increase we have ever had, but was probably a one-off type increase.

Internet went up and MH is peeved. We are biding our time for cheaper or maybe even free internet. Our small company got bought out by a bigger one, so I know that was a lot of my husband feeling disgruntled. It's like the third time that has happened to us. (But at least it wasn't Comcast this time. A medium fish swallowed the little fish). On the flip side, we do have 100mbps. As long as MH is working, he can have his insane high speed internet. We do get use/benefits from it. It's been actually saving me a lot of time on a work project, to just take home and use our super fast internet. (We may have 100mbps at work, but it gets bogged down in various ways).

Gymnastics: They only take cash and I have been mostly been funding by selling stuff around the house. I suppose more than that, have just been funding from MH's income. I realized last fall that I never put this in our budget. Something wasn't quite adding up right, until I realized. But I've just been winging it because I didn't have any room for this expense. So... I would like to work this into our budget, which is basically how we allocate *my* salary. I don't know if we will be able to. Plan B is I will allocate MH's salary for this expense. Looking back at 2016, I think that $100/month should be ample. I am okay with MH's income funding "splurges that we can't otherwise justify". I don't want to just wing it again, for this year. It was an expenses we added middle of 2016 and that I didn't give a whole lot of thought, beyond "MH is working and we can swing it."

On the flip side, DL(11) is giving me a bit of a financial reprieve. His first class at art school was a visual arts class, which would have been the lowest on his list of interests. But he LOVED it and he has been working hard on his drawing. I kept telling him he could just take more art classes later, but he felt intimidated by how much talent some of the kids have. I don't mind buying him classes now to get his confidence up, and he can't even take any (free) electives this year anyway. That will come later. But for whatever reason I procrastinated on getting him enrolled in the single drawing class I could find. (I am not a procrastinator usually). By the time the first day of class rolled around I brought it up and said I could try to get him signed up, but he seemed no longer interested at that point. Phew! He is very protective of his free time (which is why I think this art school is so important for him; will give him LOTS of exposure during school, without cutting into his "time to be a kid"). But he also later told me he felt like he had caught up to the other kids. He is practicing and improving on his own time. (If he changes his mind later, we can cover with MH's income, or money from grandparents).

So...

If we don't get any raises, what ever will we do? I actually have $200/month going into investments. It was a placeholder for past raises that we didn't *need*. So I feel very *shrugs* about any scenario at this point. We have been investing the $200/month mostly with funding college in mind. & I mean, we already have enough money to get both kids through college (in a bare minimum kind of way). So this is just extra that allows our kids more options. Either way, it's just gravy.

I will find out today what I have to work with. Then I Can work on figuring out our goals for 2017.

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Edited to add: After getting multiple comments focusing on income (on other blog posts too), I felt it was worth clarifying. This is how we manage our expenses. If I was getting a 50% raise tomorrow, I would still go through this exercise. Keeping expenses down is probably the most important factor, as to early retirement. So, I am just sharing my thought process on the expense side of things. It is very "Money Mustache". I don't care if we double our income tomorrow. If we can find a cheaper internet alternative, we will find a cheaper internet alternative.

The income side is important too, but is rather divorced from the "expense" side, for me.


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