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Planning Something Fun

September 18th, 2016 at 03:34 pm

I hadn't really thought much about it, but I think it's probably pretty official that we are not going to do a National Park trip this year. I had wanted to see how our home repairs would price out first, but I didn't count on my child falling apart. (If we went on a trip it was going to be without the kids, but I don't think DL would go for that right now).

It's fine. I already had a good feeling that we would push that off to next year. It just popped into my head and I am thinking, "no way in heck!" We have absolutely nothing travel planned for next year, or any future years, so I am sure we will plan a nice National Park trip next year. Just MH & I. I don't know what order, but we want to do Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce/Zion and Yellowstone. That will probably keep us busy for the next 3-4 years. If we do anything with the kids it would probably just be renting a beach house or a lake house for the week, or a small road trip. It would not be a priority or wish of mine to fly anywhere.

As for my birthday, I mentioned wanting to do a weekend away near San Francisco. MH did discuss with his mom, but her timeshare did not come through on this either. !!

That kind of got pushed aside in the craziness of the last couple of weeks, but today I booked a hotel. About $500 for 2 nights (*choke choke*). But it's my 40th birthday and I wanted to splurge a bit. (It's just extra painful since we already spent thousands above our travel budget this year, and we rarely pay anything for hotels. I had to take some time to talk myself into it).

We got a beach front hotel near San Francisco.


I want to spend the day in SF doing a hike and eating at one of my favorite restaurants.


I expect that the beach will be much nicer by our hotel and we will probably drive down the coast a bit and just enjoy the food and scenery.

Blogaversary Post

September 17th, 2016 at 10:48 am

I can't believe I have been on SA for 10 years!

I am so grateful for such a supportive community. Glad to still be here 10 years later.

When I started this blog my spouse was unable to find *any* work and we were kind of having an "oh crap" moment. Is just nothing we ever expected or planned for. (That he couldn't even find a job flipping burgers... What the heck!?) We've always been very frugal and big savers, but that just forced us to try harder. It's some irony that I think it put us on a better financial path than we ever would have been otherwise.

When we both worked full-time, before kids, we had a huge savings rate. I think early on my blog was just mourning the loss of that. In the end, we are now getting back to where we were financially before kids. Income and saving rate is about the same.

Oh, and re-reading earlier entries, I was really focused on how little we were adding to our savings. I can see there was confusion in what I was putting out there. We never stopped saving for retirement or anything like that. In fact, our net worth was quite large. I was just really focused on our SAVINGS. Like our rainy day savings and liquidity. Because that is all we were really struggling with, with the loss of income. I think it came across that I thought that was the most important. It was really the least important, which is why it was what we struggled with. Everything important was given much higher priority, like funding retirement or staying out of debt.

I do think one thing I've become better at is looking at the bigger picture more than the smaller picture. I think I had a small picture focus of one area I was concerned with, when I started this blog. But over time I have stepped back and have managed the bigger picture more. I don't know when I would have made that shift otherwise, so I am grateful for the opportunity to have done that while still so young.

In 2006, our two BIG financial goals (already accomplished) had been to get into a house and to be able to stay home with our kids. We just didn't have much on our horizon after that. We had knocked a lot of big financial goals out while still very young, and didn't really have any other goals. Since joining SA we've since switched focus to retirement. If there's nothing else we are saving for, then I guess that is the next step! Our retirement plans have also been heavily influenced by watching our parents retire (during the past few years). In both cases, they worked far longer and saved far more than they needed to. Though they all retired young. & so we are taking that into consideration when formulating our own retirement plans. (& it's not *just* that. My family tends to be extreme on the savings side. As are many of my clients. I probably see a little too much of people WAY over-preparing and not taking care of their own health and not enjoying life as much as they should).

I suppose that will be our focus for the next decade. Since I do enjoy my work, it's not a retirement goal so much as a "financial independence" goal. We just want to have the financial freedom to choose if we want to work or not. & I suppose that goal is also influenced by our parents struggling so much to find work in their 50s.

We just happen to be on track to hit $1 Mil when our kids should be finishing up college. I am not comfortable dropping down from full-time work until I have a really clear picture of college plans. So I think it works out that those two goals will be hit around the same time. ($1 Mil should be plenty for us to retire on).

I've not factored cash gifts (from parents) or dh working in any of that. So... It is possible I would be willing to drop down to part-time sooner. But things never seem to go as planned and the "prepare for the worst" part of me just thinks it's good to have the mindset that I will be working full-time for another decade.

I expect that by 50 we will be financially independent. At that point we will just have to regroup. I am not planning to shift to part-time work the day I turn 50 or on the day my kid graduates college. But I think that is just the point in time where we will be running the retirement numbers and fine tuning the final plan. Retirement has been our only substantial financial goal since our kids were born, but in our 20s it was just so far away and nebulous. I think we are allowing that at age 50 it should be a lot more clear and turning into a much shorter term goal.

We also have to decide where on earth we want to live. We know we want to downsize and move. That's all we know. I suppose it depends where our kids and parents are at that time. It's important for us to be near family. I expect the "where" to impact our working/retirement plans in our 50s. We are very open to moving back towards the Bay Area. When our kids are grown, would just be a completely different animal than trying to live there when just starting out. Plus, we are considering some middle ground like moving only half way back. If we downsized into a small condo, which is our preference anyway, it shouldn't be any more expensive. Who knows in another decade, but just thinking along those lines.

As an aside, I know it's not popular to retire in an expensive region. Especially a more expensive region. Or *the* most expensive region. But our parents have retired very well with very little in expenses, and I know we can do very well. It's the last place I would ever rent or hire out care (like daycare or nursing home care $$$$$). But for our needs and spending, I am not phased. We will have to adjust our housing expectations, but we've already done that. (We didn't grow up with any housing expectations, so it's not a big mind shift for us).

When I turn 40 the end of this year, that may be a shift I do with this blog: The 10 year count down to financial independence...

Other than trying to save up as much as possible, the next 10 years seem pretty nebulous. I don't know that I know much of anything. I expect a lot of change. We've been really boring and stable since having kids, but when I look beyond their high school years we are pretty much open to anything. We don't know where we are going to live. Our kids aren't on any set college path yet. My job is very finite. MH still has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up. I have *no idea* where we will be in 10 years. I'd just like to be on very solid financial ground, and if we achieve that then the rest doesn't matter. The rest is whatever we want it to be.

Here is to the next 10 years!

Quick Update

September 15th, 2016 at 06:52 am

September has definitely not been my month. It's just been one bad thing after another. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Regardless of everything else, it's been very high stress because Drama Llama(11) is having a really rough time. There is definitely an element of mental health issues and I suspect these are just the first steps down a very long road.

For now, every thing about our "fairly easy" child is very difficult. I've never had to micromanage his homework before. (I mean, like we never help him at all or pay any attention to that because he is very responsible). He's never had problem sleeping in his own bed before. We've never had any problems leaving him for a date or whatever. Honestly, it's very deja vu to the baby years. Just tons of work and really no idea what we are doing. But figuring it as we go along. Very "one day at a time".

Given family history, none of this is a surprise. I just have no frame of reference of getting help so young, because in the past was so taboo and/or most in my family are too stubborn to get any help. (e.g. My mom got help in her 40s). I think some of it is that he isn't a stubborn type (thank goodness!) and some of it is we've always talked very openly about these things with our kids. We wouldn't want them to hold in feelings of wanting to harm themselves. He is very open to any help that we can get him.

For now, just surviving.

Credit Card Rewards Update

September 11th, 2016 at 09:57 am

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
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$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*


Other Rewards:

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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I have not gotten the $250 rewards yet, but the pickings were pretty slim on that reward card and not much I really want. Which is why we decided to pass up the $500 reward offer that we recently got from AmEx.

I had done my due diligence and checked that there were useful gift cards, but I guess the info I checked was old and they changed their offerings. This seems to be in conjunction with AmEx offering a batch of larger rewards. So they made the rewards crappier but have been offering a lot more of them.

Plus, they are being really slow to let me redeem the rewards. So I haven't even been able to order my gift cards yet. I will probably just pick up some big chain restaurant gift cards. We can get use out of those, but it will probably take us a long time to get through them.

I think I am eligible again for a Citi $500 cash bonus, so I will keep an eye out for that.

This & That

September 5th, 2016 at 11:19 am

Not doing anything exciting this weekend. I live in the house of Grump, right now. HA! MH is clearly getting stressed about going back to work. DL is okay, but we are walking on eggshells around him. I think my mood is okay but I am still stuck mostly off my feet. So we are all out of sorts on some level.

{MM is off at a sleepover, hopefully having more fun than the rest of us!}

We usually stay home on holiday weekends and avoid the crowds. But feel a little extra housebound right now.

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**Still figuring out the ropes of the new school. Weird after having both our kids in only one school for the past 8 years. They've often been in different locations, but always the same school.

I get the impression that this school leans more towards just supplying school supplies. But I've been asked for $20 for lab supplies/art supplies and $13 so that DL can write in/keep his math workbook. Oh, and $20 for a PE uniform (that he can maybe wear for a few years). {I had asked an 8th grade parent about sizing and she told me her 8th grader's first uniform was still too big. So I guess that they last}.

I have no idea what other expenses will trickle in.

**I saw that the Phantom of the Opera will be playing in our city next spring. We will try, but I doubt my kids will enjoy. DL seems way more into "being in" the theater versus "watching" the theater. Will see. If they don't enjoy this, I will give up for a while. MH and I can afford to go to twice as many musicals if we ditch the kids, so I can't say that I am that upset about it. Big Grin

But I first saw Phantom around DL's age and thought that it was pretty incredible. I guess I Want to give that experience to my kids.

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We are working on figuring out some vacations

**For our anniversary this month, we usually go to Napa since it's the only place we can generally get more last minute (free MIL timeshare). Well... We failed. MIL was able to get us a hotel in Tahoe instead. I look forward to the change and I think that part is all good. BUT, they didn't have a condo/kitchen so we will probably have to eat out mostly. Not the super cheap getaway that we are used to.

I suppose we can eat dinner before we drive up there and bring breakfast. So maybe we only go out for one lunch and one dinner? I suppose it's not a big deal. We'd go up Friday night and come home Sunday morning.

**I've finally figured out what I want to do for my 40th birthday. Kind of anything I want to do (National Parks/outdoors) is not really doable in winter. So I finally settled on just staying close to home. Rather than driving really far, I just want to keep it close. (I mean, I am sure San Diego is quite lovely in December, but it's a 7-hour drive). So... I settled on San Francisco! Thinking more to the southern tip of the city where the coast is beautiful and there are some lovely hikes, plus one of my favorite restaurants. We just don't make the time to go there like ever, so that is what I settled on. Would love to stay along the coast somewhere south of the city. I don't want to do the "hills" and "traffic" part of it all. Focusing more on the outdoors and the hiking.

MH still has to see if we can get a free timeshare stay. But since we mostly struck out this year and his mom was being difficult about it, I've already looked up some options. Thankfully it wasn't as expensive as I was envisioning. Will work it out, however it works out.

Stop Getting Mad at Your Kids for Wanting Stuff

September 5th, 2016 at 07:24 am

I suppose that minimalism and sound financials can be closely related. I've been focusing more on the minimalism side of things over time.

For me, it started when I had my children. I was clearing out one room in our house for our second child and something about the nesting instinct put me in purge mode. I had my children in my 20s, so it's been since our 20s that we've been scaling down and not trying to accumulate more stuff. I don't know that we had bought a lot at that point but we sure had a lot of crap. 10+ years later and I am still digging through the crap. I can't even imagine what this is like if you spend your 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s) accumulating the crap.

Since this all happened around the time we had kids, we have always been very 1-in and 1-out with their belongings. I think both of us would just feel too overwhelmed if we didn't stay very on top of it. When baby stuff was done it immediately left the house. Outgrown clothes are sifted out regularly.

I don't think we were quite there yet, when our second child was born. But at some point in our 30s, maybe amid all the de-cluttering, my MH and I both decided that we missed condo living. It was so much simpler and lower maintenance. What had been a lack of options in our youth (due to crazy expensive housing) eventually turned into our ideal. We personally really value our personal space and are fine with raising our kids in our current house. But the second they are grown we do plan to downsize. For the two of us, we just don't need this much space. & since we got to that point, we've been cognizant of not expanding and buying more stuff. While most Americans seem to be in an endless "more more more" mode, we are more in a "less less less" mode.

Anyway, every once in a while I come across a really great article that makes one think, and I decided to finally add a "minimalism" category to this blog. So I kind of wanted to do an overview of where we are at with that. & I should have done this a long time ago. & I thought of another article that I read recently, that I will share below.

We still have way too much stuff and I am still in the de-clutter stage. I think part of the problem for me is that I don't like to spend a lot of my time managing and organizing and cleaning my "stuff". The whole point in not having so much stuff in the first place is so that I don't have to expend energy on "stuff". & so putting all the effort and time that I need to de-clutter is just not happening for me. But we aren't planning to move for another decade and we are at a place already where we wouldn't have to get rid of anything to transition to some place like our first condo (which was half the size of our current home). I'd like to just be "moving ready" when we move, but I have a lot of time. I know we could fit into our future dream home today, but I also don't want to be sorting out junk and deciding what to keep when we move. I want that part to be done before we move again. So that is what I am working on.

My goal for the here and now is to go through all of my belongings and to pare down to what I truly want/use/need. I may be getting close. It could maybe even happen this year? Fall is when I usually get into de-clutter mode. When the weather cools and I get stuck inside more. From there, I really need to work on MH. He likes to accumulate and collect things. Like movies or video games. I am totally fine with that. I know not everyone wants to be able to carry the vast majority of their belongings in like one suitcase. I am resigned to the collections (& he does actually use them and enjoy them, which is a lot of it). But what drives me crazy is the boxes that have just been sitting around since we moved in 15 years ago. I just really want to have my own crap in order before I start leaning on him. I think my slow de-clutter is also good because the more I de-clutter the more my MH seems to subconsciously want to keep up. So he's been taking the initiative to also slowly work through his things.

Some day we will get there. I know it will probably also be a LOT easier without kids and that I may be able to more easily make our next home more of a stuff-less haven. I am resigned to a little extra chaos in the interim.

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Here is another excellent article that I came across recently:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/target/

Parents, Stop Getting Mad at Your Kids for Wanting Stuff at Target

"So I get it, our kids have stuff. Probably too much. But I think, as parents, we too often put the blame for this reality on the wrong person.

Our kids do have lots of toys and clothes and video games and crafts. But let’s remember, they aren’t the ones with the steady paychecks and they didn’t organize their last birthday party.

If there are too many toys in your playroom, you put them there—or, at the very least, you allowed them to stay.

Even worse, often times, our kids are simply following our lead. When the average American home contains 300,000 items, how upset can we really get that our kids own 238 toys? And when 33% of us can’t fit both cars in our double-garages, how unreasonable is it to assume our child will fill their art and craft drawer to overflowing?

In a society that encourages consumerism at every turn, what else should we expect? Our children are only following our lead."

"But we ought to remember that our children are watching us closely. Whether we like it or not, they are soaking up values from us as parents about how to live, how to work, how to achieve significance… and how to spend money. And if we are constantly desiring things we don’t need, why would we expect anything else from our kids?

Maybe we should stop getting mad at them for wanting things at Target… and start questioning if we really needed to be there in the first place."


I thought this was interesting in terms how it comes up sometimes with other parents how "amazing" it is that we can so no to our kids. ???

But it's not even that we can say no. They really don't even ask.

I think some of it is that we very rarely even take our kids into stores. My spouse and I would help each other enough that we wouldn't see the point in dragging our kids along to all our errands. When I do take them to a store like Target, they don't ask for stuff. IT could be the very consistent boundaries that we set early on. Like saying no to every little whim. & giving them allowances and allowing them to make their own purchase decisions. They've always been able to buy whatever their little heart desires. But they think about it a little more carefully when their resources are more finite.

I know it's no surprise that kids mimic their parents or what they see, but I am taken aback by how financially sensible my kids are. I mean, they are only 11 & 13. I couldn't even get 13yo to buy one souvenir on our last trip (with money that Grandma had slipped him).

I'd think that we are mostly raising them the same way that we were raised. But I think there's two key difference in my own childhood. My parents said no a lot. They said it too much. If someone gave me $30 for souvenirs, I expect I would have spent it in under a minute. I felt deprived. They wouldn't let me spend my own money even on something they thought was too frivolous. We let our kids make those mistakes when they were like 5 or 6, and they have learned and moved on. I also grew up in a culture of shopping. My parents didn't have a lot and they didn't buy me a lot. They weren't huge shoppers. BUT... Shopping was something we did all the time. My mom certainly took me along on all of her shopping errands. My dad would take me shopping on the weekends (generally music stores). I think it was good from a standpoint of learning to manage money. But compared to how we live in the here and now, it was a *lot* of shopping. Maybe these days we do a lot of it online and the kids just don't see it. I don't remember if I have ever taken my kids out just to browse around and buy things. I don't think we have *ever* done that?

Oh, and the average 10yo owns 238 toys? ???????? My MH is a collector and he likes to collect video games, books, and board games. I think I'd be hard pressed to come up with 238 x 2 of those items (& technically a lot of those are for us adults too). My 10yo outgrew "toys" a while ago. So MH's collections would be the bulk of his toys. But I'll have to go count later. I am curious. (I really wouldn't be surprised if we could come up with 238 if we counted every junky party favor type toy that my kids still have. I expect that they have WAY less, but let's see... They are probably due for another purge anyway. A charity is coming by tomorrow so maybe we will do a count and see if they are ready to let go of anything they didn't want to let go of last year).

Edited to add: I couldn't even get up to 100 toys between my two kids, and they do have a lot of junk. They are doing a purge of outgrown toys.

P.S. Are there any minimalist blogs that you follow? OR anything as to managing time as well? The two that I really adored have both been retired. I need to find some more inspiration.

The Benefit of Less Stuff

September 4th, 2016 at 05:58 pm

Saw a really great article about minimalism.

https://thebalancedlifeonline.com/how-getting-rid-of-my-stuf...

"I was that student in school who stays up all night studying and gets a C. That’s how I felt about my life. I was trying so hard! I felt little satisfaction, little joy, and every day was a battle for my time that I didn’t want to wake up for.

I asked other moms, friends, and people I respected if this was normal, how they managed their homes and kids, and if they felt like they enjoyed it. What I was met with was a resounding “oh yeah, I remember those days! That’s motherhood. It’ll be okay and you’ll get through it.”

"After another particularly difficult day, I reflected on how I’d yelled, how I’d been the mom I never wanted to be, and how I was counting how many hours I had of peace and quiet before morning came and I had to start over."

"In that moment, I had had enough. I decided I wasn’t going to let this be my life, and this overwhelm and depression wasn’t going to rule me any longer."

"I went into the playroom – the room that was the bane of my existence. This was a room full of colorful bins, each bin full of toys. There were toys on the floor, in chests, in boxes, toys everywhere. I would send my kids in here to play and they would come out less than ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This room was pointless, and I’d had enough.

I started working through the room, making piles – keep, trash, donate. I got rid of every single toy that I felt wasn’t benefitting my kids. If it didn’t cause them to engage in constructive or imaginary play, it wasn’t staying in this house because it wasn’t worth the work it caused me. If I was going to clean up it was going to be the things that added to our lives; it was going to be only the things we needed and the things we truly loved.

When I was finished, all that remained were trains and tracks, a couple of dress up costumes, books, and blocks. The trunk of my car was overstuffed with toys to take to Goodwill, my playroom was purged, and I immediately felt lighter.

The next day my kids ran downstairs for breakfast, and as usual, I sent them into their playroom to play, curious to see if meltdowns would ensue because of what I’d done with their toys. They walked in, looked around, said something along the lines of “Hey! It’s nice and clean, Mommy! Hey! There’s my trains!” and happily started playing.

I was shocked. I stepped out of the room, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. To my surprise, my kids played in that room that day for three hours. Three hours! It wasn’t just that day either. They continued to want to be in their playroom for long amounts of time from then on. They started going outside more often, making up stories and scenarios together, playing tag, and creating art. It was as if I had unclogged their God-given gift of imagination when I got rid of their toys. "


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I'm personally in a space where I just don't understand the average American existence. I remember being surprised by how other people's houses always looked like toy stores erupted in their homes. (I mean, to the point of ridiculous). I'd strive for the complete opposite.

I still remember a childless friend complimenting us once on not having piles of toys in our main living area. That our house hadn't been over-run by children.

I think there are several factors. Our parents didn't love us with "toys" and "stuff". With space at a huge premium (growing up in San Francisco), it would never occur to me to have a whole room dedicated to toys. !!

It was never any conscious decision to have less stuff in order to make life easier. It was more just that we didn't understand all the stuff.

But I keep coming across blogs and articles that articulate some of our experiences. I suppose it's possible that our kids were less bored and more creative because we weren't drowning them in toys.

I thought this tied in well with the article I posted in my last blog post.

& read the entire article if you can. It was really interesting.

Making Space

September 3rd, 2016 at 10:11 am

MMM had a really great article (several weeks ago). It sums up our life philosophy pretty well.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/07/13/making-space-for-b...

"While others will buy an unlimited annual ski pass and ride the mountains every weekend, I’ll get a four-pack and make a single weeklong trip with my friends. Others will buy a cottage and split their time between two houses, I’m happy with one. While others will start with a cat, then have a kid, then adopt a dog, then another dog, then create second, third, and fourth kids, I’m feeling plenty busy with just my boy.

None of this is done with money in mind – it is done out of a desire for balance, free time, and a safety margin in life. By keeping our non-negotiable commitments to only 50% of our time, we leave the other 50% open for growth, self-development, and an ability to work much harder to deal with the black swan events that life inevitably serves up. While others might imagine we’re missing out on life by not stacking it up with more activities, I feel we’re allowing ourselves just the right amount of space to actually live it. And of course, the side effect this has on the money side has been very large as well."


I've been wanting to share this anyway, but couldn't help but think of this in light of the week we just had. (See last post). If my spouse has to quit his job to deal with personal stuff, then it's done. We wouldn't even think twice about it. As is, we leave enough time and space to deal with life. I doubt that quitting his job would even be necessary.

& as an aside, I think people have varying degrees of tolerance for chaos. I know my tolerance is very low. Thus I will probably never choose to have more than 2 kids. But I wanted to bring up because I think the analysis can be over-simplified a bit. MMM speaks to having only one kid. I honestly don't know if I have the personality to just have one kid. Having two kids doesn't particularly cost a lot more than having one kid (certainly not twice as much) and having two kids close in age, they mostly entertain each other. I've often felt that it's easier to have two kids than one. I am sure it depends on the age, but certainly at the age my kids are now. & yeah, I know people with many kids who are happy and in their element. Don't take MMM's comments too literally. You have to work out what works for you.

Make the time and the space for whatever it is that is most important to you.

Falling Into Place, Falling to Pieces

September 3rd, 2016 at 08:01 am

MH got his work schedule sorted out. They are working around whatever he needs. I am not surprised, but just feel better that it's all nailed down.

The final pieces (of crazy school year 16/17) are falling into place.

We've had many discussions as to pros/cons of different strategies for school drop off and pick up, and other scheduling matters, so I am glad we aren't back to square one. We were presuming a lot about his work hours in the process.

I still have to figure out what I am going to do with DL's late start Wednesdays. But I think we will play some of that by ear. I *can* drop him off early those days at school. & maybe once he makes more friends that is what he will prefer. Just hang out with his friends before school? But for now, I think I can oblige the weird start time.

MH is going to handle Wednesday minimum days for MM. It might be the most sensible otherwise to just find him a ride. But we don't want to deal with any more flakey carpools. I think it's also for the best that MH gets a (very short) break on Wednesdays.

Drama Llama started at the new school. I am not sure yet of all of the after school music options. But I guess some of the high school classes are open to the middle schoolers as an extra period, since the high school goes for an hour longer. (Their school day is long because they require a lot of art electives). So DL was offered to take a beginning orchestra class, for free, since it was a high school class. Sweet!! In the end we decided against it though. He was feeling overwhelmed and I know it was a lot of extra driving for MH, who can otherwise pick him up on the way home from the high school. So... We let that go. The opportunity will still be there in the future. That & many other opportunities. It just wasn't right for the here and now. But we had a lot of back and forth before we came to a decision on that.

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Other than that, this week has been trying. Drama Llama(11) had a very rough week.

I never expected him to have anything but an easy transition and to love the new school. I think that mostly this is true and things are going well.

But, I've been really concerned about his mental health this week. The back story on that is that mental illness runs in my family and I've always been a little concerned about DL. Maybe hyper vigilant given my family history. That said, the only feedback I've ever gotten over the years is that I over-worry. We've been complimented many times (by teachers or other parents) about how emotionally mature he is, which always throws us off. He seemed to be mellowing with age and I started to reason that *anyone* would seem emotional compared to the three of us. Maybe I wasn't being fair to him. Everything is relative and he otherwise lives in the house of Stoic.

But... with all the change and the stress, he had a mental breakdown this week. Between MH and I, I think we were able to work through it. But it's clear to me that this is not *normal*. I expect that his teen years might be very trying. *sigh*

Anyway, one of the selling points of sending him to school with a bunch of artsy teenagers is that I've heard really good things about their counseling services. (I remember thinking that we may really need the help in the future). I didn't expect to use it like the first week of school! But, it's there. We are going to start with that. I presume they would have a better idea if we should seek out further medical help or not.

I don't know much at this point. Given past history, he may shrug this off and may not have another episode like this for many years. I don't know. Or maybe we will just have to be very gentle with him for a while. He's maybe never gone through such a big change before. I am just a little more concerned now about how he will manage the hormones of teenagerhood.

Next week is a short week and I am optimistic that it will go well. Especially now that we know how he is feeling and we are being very gentle with him. Will see... (What seemed to snap him out of it was giving himself permission to be much more gentle on himself. He is being more gentle on himself as to his feelings and as to both his school workload. It's okay to feel stressed and overwhelmed and it's okay to blow off your homework when you can't mentally function).

August Savings

August 30th, 2016 at 08:42 am

Received $41 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $43 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$10 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
-900 Auto Insurance and Maintenance
-300 Staycation Spending
-165 70th Birthday Party
-100 Kids' Birthdays

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Other Snowflakes:

--I did earn $250 in gift cards but have yet to be able to redeem them.

--Dh earned $150 cash from a focus group. We invested in a used knee scooter/walker and I am hoping we can sell it next week. When we sell it we will probably buy a used violin for Drama Llama. I don't expect that to cost an entire $150. It seems more sensible to buy used than to rent. He will quickly outgrow this instrument, assuming that he even likes it and wants to stick with it.

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Kind of a boring month financially. I have some medical bills that will charge next month. Most the expenses above were for July spending. August has been more of a "stuck on the couch" month for me, and busyness with back to school.

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Update:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

This week we are taking the kids to the Doctor (well visits/shots), putting new tires on the newer car (replacing low quality stock tires before rainy season) and I got a referral for tree trimming and dead shrub removal. I am pulling a list of contractors to call but I don't know if we will get to that this week. As long as we are steadily ticking things off the list, it can wait a bit longer. Physically, I might be up to dealing with readying the house this weekend.

P.S. Also labeled this post in the *one income* category since dh had no income during June/July/August. His income is more in the "snowflake" range anyway. (If he had a larger income I don't know that I'd differentiate on or off months, but I am definitely feeling the difference without the extra breathing room). I am not even entirely sure he has a job still, so I guess that is some of it.

School Supplies

August 21st, 2016 at 09:32 am

Until now my kids have attended a K-8 charter school that provides supplies (they ask for $25 per kid, in return). I'd much rather write a $25 check than go shopping, so all sounds good to me.

Since we are getting down to the wire and given that the new school is a small charter school I thought maybe they would do the same. But I guess not. It does make sense (to bring own supplies) because it is a 6-12 school and they will be changing classrooms more often.

So here I am with a 11yo and a 13yo and I have never bought any school supplies before...

In the end I am pleased because we spent $30. & I am sure we could have gotten supplies cheaper. But as we graduate from "uniforms" and DL actually gets to pick out his clothing and his supplies, I would say at least $5 of that was splurging on some individual preferences. (Which otherwise put us in the $25 realm that we usually spend). We also just went to Target because dh had some groceries to pick up. I am sure there may be cheaper places to pick up school supplies. Or we can kind of stock up year round now that we know what is generally requested. (Dh was mentioning he sees folders for 25-cents at the electronic store).

Oh, the other nice thing about the school spending is that a lot of it was stocking up on supplies for later. With MM starting high school next year we figured we'd buy the bigger packages of school supplies.

(Oh, and I forgot the $30 included some supplies for MM's one high school class).

I've allowed MH and MM to hoard school supplies because they are useful. (& is one of those things that they like to hoard). So we did scrounge up a lot of things from supplies on hand. I found a plastic case of (working) markers that Drama Llama brought home one or two school years ago. (They don't often send home leftover supplies. I prefer that they don't, but I am glad I saved these in this case). Monkey Monkey had a stash of binders (& I have a few cast offs from work; binders are often handy). Dh had a stash of spiral notebooks. So we had a strong start. In addition to the lifetime(s) supply of pencils we seem to always have...

My Doh Moment

August 20th, 2016 at 05:40 pm

I'm at 2 weeks with a broken foot. At least 2 more weeks + a holiday weekend before I can put weight on my entire foot. Mostly using a boot but I take it off every chance I can get and it takes forever to put it on.

Someone very early on mentioned a knee scooter(?) (not sure exactly what it is called). Maybe my dad?? I can't remember now.

Anyway, yesterday dh and I were talking about all the things I probably couldn't do the next couple of weeks. Nothing huge, but it was getting frustrating enough I decided we should price out some knee scooter rentals. (I'd feel foolish if it was like $10/week and I never even looked it up!).

Anyway, that was when we had our doh moment. We always bought used baby stuff on Craigslist and sold for the same price when we were done. Just those things that are in high demand and you need for a short period of time. I've never really thought about that in terms of anything else. But the difference between owning and renting a scooter seemed pretty negligible. So the line of thinking was might as well just buy and we can sell it when we are done. From there we started to see what used options there were.

Funny enough, dh had made $150 cash from a focus group the night before. So he went out and bought one for me today. The going price seemed to be $150. I am so glad at the last minute he found one with a basket and haggled it down to $150. I think maybe we can sell for more (or at least people were asking for more). Good call since it's infinitely more useful with a basket to carry things around.

(I just checked and full price is $170 on Amazon. But factor also that would take a lot more time to get).

I LOVE it. We went to the store today (because I was feeling antsy). It's surprisingly light and I was able to lift it in and out of the car. I did some light chores today. Like going through a couple of weeks of mail (which I planned to do regardless). So much easier with the scooter. I told the kid I would make a meal tomorrow since I think it will be easier now. (Nothing big but I can't imagine cooking without my boot. Now I can just zoom around the kitchen. I suppose I haven't cooked anything in two weeks).

I wasn't particularly planning to take it to work. But I also didn't expect it to be so light. I guess will see. I might try to go without Monday and see if I go stir crazy. I could imagine it being frustrating after getting used to the extra mobility. On the flip side, I am sure using the leg and walking a bit is helpful for blood flow and so on. So maybe work would be good for some exercise. I have to climb the stairs (at home) and least once or twice a day also.

Nickname Update + Misc.

August 17th, 2016 at 03:58 pm

Okay, I hadn't updated nicknames yet because I hadn't figured it out. Maybe a little sidetracked with life...

LM told me he wanted to be a drama llama and BM never really came up with anything.

So... I renamed them to Monkey Monkey and Drama Llama.

I think it was Lucky Robin who came up with "Monkey Hubby" and I love that!

Now I just have to remember the new names. I will add their age to their initials too to keep it simple for more occasional readers.

It will probably take me a while to remember and I am sure I will use old initials once in a while.

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In other news...

I got a $50 MRI bill which I know is not right. Is usually more like $1,500. Doesn't really matter because even if they billed that wrong I am sure I will max out our deductible soon enough with foot stuff.

MH got a focus group for $150. Woohoo! It's probably been around a year since the last one. Since the gymnastics place really only takes cash, I might just use that to pay for next month. (Man, what a pain!)

That reminds me... I did get MM(13) signed up with a checking account. They printed him a debit card on the spot. I wasn't expecting that! I was able to automate his allowance.

I went a little back and forth on "reconciling bank accounts" and so on but don't know how relevant that really is in this day and age. (I don't remember the last time I had an outstanding item when it comes to personal banking? Everything clears so instantly). & pen and paper seemed so archaic. It's been over a decade since I've handled my own finances that way. But I mostly use software. Which I am sure he is more than capable of using, but felt like it was like teaching math with a calculator. Wanted him to get more used to the nuts and bolts first. I finally decided to just set up a spreadsheet so he could keep an electronic register. I think that is an appropriate solution for the here and now.

First Blanket

August 17th, 2016 at 07:46 am

Living in a warm weather climate, most the small knitting projects (scarves/gloves, that type of thing) didn't appeal to me. So I started a blanket.

I am glad I did now that I am stuck off my feet for most of this month. That said, I haven't really been in the mood to work on it. It's only in the last couple of days that I picked it up again. But I expect I will work on it more as my foot feels better.

Here is my progress so far:



I am making it for my mom or with my mom in mind (she LOVES this yarn). But if it looks too horrible I can always keep it for myself.

I actually did 2 or 3 rows before I noticed a mistake and had to start all over again. I am glad I tried again because it's gone really well since then.

If it comes out okay I will make again in a solid color. I think this blanket really shines in a solid color but it sounded kind of boring and I thought hiding the imperfections sounded like a better plan for a first blanket.

I am so relieved I have this big project. Not that I wouldn't mind being stuck on the couch reading. But it's nice to have something else to mix things up a bit.

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Today I have a seminar online, so will do that from home. I have another seminar next week. The timing is also good on those. I appreciate the days to rest my foot.

Today I am going to work through some little chores.

I am going to cancel credit card #5. I hadn't been ready to close that one but the Citi 2% card has replaced that one. I guess these cards come and go and I thought I should keep in case Citi lowers its rewards later. But... They switched my old card from an Amex to a Visa? I think. I saw on My Money Blog that they reduced the rewards on it. (I never opened up the new credit card when it came in the mail and didn't look carefully at it since am not using right now). Anyway, I have been logging in once a month to double check no charges are coming through, but this month I couldn't even log in. I guess I need to set up a new account with the new card. Said I didn't have an account. So... Yeah, I think I will just close that card and simplify. I can always re-apply later if other rewards dry up. I just hope I am not forgetting other charges. I suppose I can scan through my Quicken register. More recently I forgot that our road tolls were being charged to that card (since we don't pay tolls very often). I otherwise phased out about a year ago.

I guess we were also using this card when we buy Sketch Fest tickets. We might buy tickets to 5+ shows so we wanted to reduce the chance of our credit card being declined while vying for front row seats. (Buying several shows at once is a little suspicious, though by now we have probably established a pattern). I guess will just have to take 1% cash back on those kinds of things. (We do have 4 credit cards to charge up in those instances).

I also think that I have a one-time reward card to close.

So yeah, I guess just some minor credit card chores. Usually takes like a minute online but I expect the card I never activated and which I can't access online will take a little more time to deal with.

Edited to add: Apparently knitting is kind of the perfect activity when listening to a seminar.

Back to School

August 13th, 2016 at 08:09 am

What a Week - Part II:

Oh yeah, last week was a banner week for everyone but me.

LM had his drama showcase. We didn't ask him much about his script because wanted to be surprised. In the end, he was the star of the show. It was just GREAT! (I was definitely surprised!)

Such a fun week to see both my kids shine and be so happy pursuing their passions. They were both on Cloud 9.

Oh, and the theater is offering year round classes (new). We left it up to LM but he wanted to take a break. I think that is probably wise since he will have many opportunities at new school but we just don't know all of the "what" and the "whens" yet. Probably best to keep his schedule open. If the 6th grade drama opportunities are slim he can always take spring drama classes outside of school.

As to my foot, it's really not been bad. Feeling a LOT better and stronger every day. Stuck with the big boot for 3 more weeks. I'll have another x-ray at that time, but I tend to be a fast healer and already feel a million times better. I haven't had much pain at all.

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BM(13) went back to school this week. He's been attending his math class at the high school and all is well.

Oh, and as far as infinite details... He just realized Friday he doesn't have the books for his math class. E-mailed his teacher about that. No idea where he is supposed to get those if they aren't passed out in class. I guess we figure these things out as we go.

The high school schedule is somewhat insane. They have four different bell schedules depending on the circumstances. Best we can tell, they don't ever use the short day schedules? (If they do, we have no idea when). & then we asked his teacher to keep him in the loop as to rally days and stuff like that. BM is very responsible and is capable of keeping track of all that on his own.

I did take some time this week to sort out schedules. Since the public high school just uses the district calendar I printed it out and added some notes for the school specific calendar. Noting all the days we know have different schedules.

I put all 3 calendars up on the fridge. Dh mentioned making a master calendar, which sounds overkill and I doubt he will bother. We are both very "one thing at a time" and "cross that bridge as we come to it" types and we both usually tend to keep track of things in our minds. But you know, for the past 6 years both our kids have attended one school. This 3-school thing is beyond my brain. So I put up the three calendars to at least start wrapping my brain around them. (If we needed more organization from there, would figure something out). In the end, I think this will work for us. Except for different school start dates, they all actually have the same holidays for August and September. So at least we get to ease into things a bit. The other thing that is the same is that they all have weird schedules on Wednesdays. We haven't figured those out yet, but dh will just handle it for now. When he goes back to work we will figure out who can do what as far as driving kids to/from school at odd hours.

October is a different story with 3 different breaks. But I figure that is something we will sort out in October. Will just have to go through the calendars once every week or month. Probably a monthly look ahead as to breaks, and then probably a weekly look ahead to plan the week. Though I now know there is nothing to look at again or to think much about until October.

It's funny because being generally "organized" (I think we are good at prioritizing more than anything) I get the sense people think that we meticulously plan things. As my blog says, we over prepare and then go with the flow. There is maybe some overall planning ahead, but I think keeping things really flexible works better with life in general. As to October, dh and I haven't decided for sure if we will do a big trip without the kids. (Probably not, but I am still open to it if things change). We haven't nailed down any plans whatsoever as to the kids' breaks. But things are flexible enough that we will figure it out when we get there.

I have no idea what the back to school fuss is about, but I guess we are boring. My kids have always been early birds, so back to school is never any big adjustment for them. They don't need anything for school. They've got clothes, backpacks, lunch bags, etc. from last year. Boring, but very zen and calm. I am hoping our zen balances out some of this extra driving and schedule tracking this year.

I did send $95 to BM's school to cover supplies and field trips for the year. My feeling on LM's new school is that they probably also just ask for reimbursement. I sure hope so because it makes life easy!

I had totally forgotten that LM's new school does the whole formal PE thing. Guess I have to buy him a PE uniform. I guess they spring these things on you the week school starts? This is one of those details I had completely forgotten about. & I am sure there are things I don't even know about yet.

What a Week!

August 7th, 2016 at 07:56 am

Mostly a good news week, for everyone but me. HA!

BM(13) is taking gymnastics classes with the goal to learn how to do a back flip. I signed him up around June 1, and he gave himself a two week deadline because he is insane. (I insisted he learn in a safe environment). I didn't take him to his group class this week because wasn't expecting that he'd do much but work on his roundoff to a back handspring. But I guess coach said his roundoff sucked and he'd need some more private lesson time for that. So just had him do a tuck (flip). BM told me he did it on the first try and it was easy. *sigh* Can't believe I missed it! So... Factoring vacation, it took him about 6 weeks to get to that point. & I think coach really wanted him to do the roundoff back handspring first, which is some of it.

I don't know how far he will take it, but it seems to be the perfect sport for him. No idea why he's never taken a gymnastics class before. Probably a function of both time and money. This is the child who has had 3 extra-curriculars at once. I think he just had other priorities, and maybe I've never seen a gymnastics class that fit our budget.

It's the perfect sport for him because he is a monkey, he has no fear, and he pushes himself very hard. I think he's squarely in the "for fun" camp for now, but I wouldn't be surprised if he later wants to take it farther.

Oh, and in other BM news, he is officially enrolled in a high school math class. Woohoo! They pulled it out about 3 days before school started. Dh was starting to get so pissed. I am sure they hate him, but if anyone would ever just do their job or do what they would say. *sigh* The most frustrating 2 years ever.

I said I'd believe it when I see it. I guess this is pretty good. I am believing.

That said, it's very complicated, and I am sure we haven't thought through everything. School starts next week, so will see how it goes. Since both schools are slammed, neither has been big on details. (We had to ask what room his math class was in and who his teacher was. Doh). We did see the principal at a school event and she seriously said that BM had 8th grade math on his schedule since he should really take that class because he has never taken it. *Bangs head on wall* So yeah, there seems to be a million details to sort through yet.

Endless details aside, I feel great relief that they were able to work things out. & it was also a relief to get confirmation that he can attend the high school's last class of the day. Which is also clearly the least disruptive to his school. This will allow dh to work. He hasn't discussed with his employer at all but they seem pretty flexible. I suppose I am waiting to for dh to pin down his work schedule, when they call him back after summer. From there I will see where I fit into all of this. We have some short day stuff to figure out as to getting kids to/from school.

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LM has his drama camp and is the happiest I have ever seen him. I really and truly hope he gets even half the satisfaction from his new school. He doesn't start school for another 2 weeks.

His drama showcase is this weekend.

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Dh had another MRI and there is nothing to report. Which is good!

His Doctor's office is so on the ball it freaks us out. He went in last weekend for an MRI and they asked him to come in first thing Monday morning. O.M.G. Don't do that to people! In the end it was all good and his Doctor didn't want him to have another MRI for a year. Back to an annual schedule. Phew!

& so, though he should have another MRI in 6 months, The Doc said he didn't see the point. It's not that things look that great, but I think more given dh's specific situation.

I am relieved to financially and emotionally to skip this next January.

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So... With that MRI we probably maxed out or deductible for the year.

Which is fine since I knew we would. I think we ended up meeting with dh's Doctor on Wednesday.

& then Friday night I broke my foot!

*sigh*

It was just a stupid thing where I tripped down the last couple of steps on our stairs. Landed on my small left toes.

My next to last toe was completely floppy and making a crunching sound, and so I was certain that I broke my toe. I didn't feel like it was an emergency by any means but I could not walk on that foot at all. I called the advice nurse while dh ran to WalMart to pick up some crutches. I just couldn't move without some help. My mom's like, "They have wheelchairs at the ER. They will give you crutches". I'm just, "Mom, they are $35, and I doubt they would be free on our health plan anyway". Best $35 I ever spent?? Big Grin It's just funny how cheap or weird people get about money some time. While dh was gone, I tried to walk on my heel, or the other side of my foot, and my brain was telling me, "You can't put any weight on this foot you dummy. STOP IT!" So yeah, I was so happy to see those crutches!

Anyway, they had no appointments (all weekend) but there was an urgent care clinic open until midnight. We got there around 7pm and waited about 1.5 hours. My pinkie toe proceeded to turn purple and swell like crazy. I had to keep saying, "Yeah, that doesn't hurt at all - *that* is not the problem." Though it was certainly a symptom of the problem. Big Grin

In the end I guess I sprung the pinkie toe (which my body didn't seem to care at all about, in the grand scheme of things). The toe next to it was floppy because I broke the bone in my foot right below that toe. *sigh*

I do have a boot now and I admit this is allows for more mobility. Though I am definitely getting use out of the crutches too.

My plan is to move as little as possible this weekend. I have a Doctor appointment next week, so will go from there. It sounds like it will take at least 4 weeks to heal.

It was my left foot, so I can drive. Phew!! Considering we were about to start a really crazy school schedule, I am very grateful for that part.

My boys are taking good care of me.

Nicknames

July 31st, 2016 at 08:25 am

My kids are still "big" and "little" but it's probably just a matter of time before they are both the same size! Or... If the younger one ends up a little shorter (likely) I don't want to call him the little one his entire life. HA!

So I am trying to think of some new nicknames for this blog.

{Plus, I've never really liked the "BM" initials, you know - "bowel movement" - but just never cared quite enough to think up something else}.

I can do OM & YM for older and younger.

When I started this blog I had a small baby and a toddler. So... I guess their personalities have since emerged and evolved.

Science Monkey & Drama Monkey?

Monkey Monkey & Drama Monkey? (I swear if my older child could swing through the trees, he would. Big Grin ).

M11 & M13 to designate their age? I think that is probably the most clear for purposes of this blog. Then you don't have to remember my nicknames and you have some frame of reference as to what I am talking about.

Any other ideas?

Maybe I need a nickname for dh too. I just think "dh" is very clear and I don't really like "monkey papa" for whatever reason. Monkey Man?

Summer Doings

July 30th, 2016 at 07:31 am

**Finished with the birthdays. BM insisted on making his own cake from scratch. Spent $44 on pizzas. Just had a party at our house.

I did take BM clothes shopping. He's a beanpole so we made do with the Boys section. I expect it will be the last time. Since LM has graduated out of school uniforms and this is BM's last year, I won't be buying ahead sizes on clearance any more. I also expect their clothing choices to diverge as they surpass uniforms and find their own styles.

I am pleased with how we made out though it wasn't planned. He picked out some $5 shorts. The school shorts were reasonable and so I bought 4 pair. I just told him I'd buy a 5th pair when I know they fit well and are comfortable. Will see if 5 sets of uniform clothing will get him through the year.

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I suppose that it's nice that I am not hosting a birthday party at my house or driving 4 hours round trip this weekend. But I think I over-scheduled since we haven't had time for anything else but birthdays lately.

I told the kids we could go to the "Wipeout" pool this weekend (has inflatable obstacle courses). It's a bit of a drive and will take up a chunk of the day.

I recall pictures weren't working when we found this place last summer. Here are the obstacle courses:


Next weekend LM has his drama camp showcase and everyone wants to come up to our house for that. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

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Today we plan to get BM's new checking account set up. I expect it to make my life a little easier. I am hoping to set up electronic "direct deposits" for his allowance (which is still a whole whopping $2 per week because the kid just doesn't spend any money). He will also be able to do phone deposits. So I am hoping to be less of a middle man for his finances.

Yesterday I sorted out all the kids' birthday money and we went to the CU to withdraw their 7% interest. (Those accounts are maxed out so they aren't earning anything on the interest). I thought maybe we'd withdraw once or twice per year. But as someone who has always done 99%+ of her banking remotely, yeah, I have not bothered to go more than once per year. I admit that we were right there anyway and there was no line. It's just relative.

I sorted all of LM's money stuff with him. He's got a $20 birthday check from Florida Great Granddad. $28 of interest from other CU. $19 left from Grandma's souvenir gift money. Plus $17 piggy bank money to deposit ($11 of which was birthday money from my sister). I'll deposit the check for him while I am at the other CU tomorrow. The rest, I took the cash and will do an equivalent transfer to his savings account.

LM is up to $600 cash!

BM has a $20 birthday check from Florida Great Granddad. $35 of interest from other CU. $30 left from Grandma's souvenir gift money (because he spent $0 of it). $26 from his piggy bank.

BM is up to $900 cash!

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Last month was spendy and it was hard to justify spending any money the last week or so. I am relieved our credit cards have all closed for the month and we are on a "new month".

Yesterday dh and BM went to the movies. Dh had a free ticket and so just had to pay for BM.

My plan was to take LM to his favorite sandwich shop since I had a free sandwich coupon (in exchange for giving blood). I thought we'd do our own thing while they were at the movies, but dh moved in on our dinner. I agreed because it was right by the CU and would save me a trip to the CU on Saturday since I wanted to take both kids with me. We banked while dh ordered for us. He had a free sandwich reward thing and so we only had to pay for 2 sandwiches.

(To be clear, the kids have the 7% accounts at some other CU that we are not members of. So we are going to the other CU to set up the checking account. They both seemed to offer fairly equal terms for youth checking accounts, but my CU is walking distance from our house and I can do electronic transfers to/from kids accounts since we are all members of that CU. It wins on convenience).

We went to Togo's and their meatball sauce was kind of weird last time I had a meatball sub. Fearing the worst I haven't re-ordered for a while but I thought I would redeem my free sub sooner and meatballs was sounding really good after giving blood. So I got that in my craw. Sad to say that after 30-ish years, if not more, they changed their meatball recipe. Do NOT LIKE!! Frown I'd probably be more devastated but LM has got me on another sandwich. Oh, and I am kind of addicted to their chicken salads also. The dressing is so good, and maybe that will get me through this. That meatball sauce was just *so good* before. Maybe I can find a recipe that is close.

July Savings

July 30th, 2016 at 06:24 am

Received $39 bank interest for the month of June.

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash

Nothing was pulled out of Savings in July.

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July was kind of a crazy spendy month, but that will be funded with August income. We spent $1,500 on auto insurance, auto maintenance, auto repairs, birthdays (3), and our trip to San Francisco. I will deduct all this from short-term savings next month.

I decided to apply snowflakes to bills this month. That was my instinct last month but I stuck to the investments. This month am going to take a break since the budget needs a breather.

Snowflakes to Bills:

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

Redeemed $75 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $12 cash back on Visa/dining card.

--$20 Savings from Target Red Card

I also received a random $50 settlement claim check.

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I did round up the mortgage payment by $9 since that got us down to the next $xxx,999. I could care less about round numbers and would rather see a lower number in the thousandth place!

I just tend to round up when I make a large extra payment (one or twice per year). I guess I felt I should snowflake something this month.

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In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

P.S. Also labeled in the *one income* category since dh had no income during June or July. His income is more in the "snowflake" range anyway. (If he had a larger income I don't know that I'd differentiate on or off months, but definitely feeling the difference without the extra breathing room).

Two Birthdays Down

July 22nd, 2016 at 06:47 am

Knocked out Birthday #2 last weekend. MIL and her twin sister. We spent $165 for half the restaurant and cake bill. I've probably been to this restaurant before but I don't recall. They had excellent food at reasonable prices. The service was great and we got a lot of value for our money.

MIL's twin lives abroad, so it was pretty random that she just happened to be here for her 70th birthday. It worked out nicely.

BM's party got bumped until this weekend. It was nice to have a break in between hosting parties at our house. Though I am definitely going to be ready for a very quiet weekend (or 2 or 5) after that!

Financially, we pretty much spent nothing on LM's birthday, so I am not sweating MIL's party. We have a little extra in our short-term savings.

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Er, we *had* a little extra in our short-term savings...

We went to San Francisco mid-week. Ended up spending almost $300. Yeesh! It may have been the first time that all four of us went together. I think just one of those things we never do because it's in or backyard, so we wanted to cross that off the list. We hit the science museum, the historic penny arcade (the kids were at a good age to really enjoy it), and the sourdough shop.

That's pretty much all we have planned for summer. After the next birthday party, LM has camp for two weeks and then school starts back up. I had wanted to go to Monterey on a weekday but our schedules don't seem to be meshing. Financially I am thinking better to delay that trip anyway, though we may still do this year.

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So... I have a teenager!

We will have to sort out the kids' birthday money at some point. We do plan to get BM a checking account and a debit card.

I think both dh and I are just kind of losing sight of time. I only even thought of this due to a recent SA discussion. I am sure I had my first checking account at 13, but just hadn't gotten there with my brain, in regards to my son. When I mentioned to dh he acted like I was crazy. I told him surely he had a checking account by the time he had steady work at 14. (If not, he should have). Once it sunk in that he is *13*, he realized it's not that crazy after all.

It just doesn't seem to be registering yet.

We also did official height measurements. Most years BM has grown 2-3 inches, but this past year was a full 5 inches!

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Dh's Florida grandfather (89) is in the hospital. Details are vague. His wife doesn't want to say much and neither do dh's parents. So there's two layers of holding back information. Heck, I asked dh yesterday if he was still in the hospital and he said he didn't know.

It's likely that dh will make a trip out there. Particularly if we get any word that things look bad. But even if he gets better, he may be feeling that time is short.

More Credit Card Rewards

July 22nd, 2016 at 06:46 am

It might be another $2,500 year after all.

I got an AmEx offer for a $250 reward and then the next day dh got an offer for a $500 reward. His offer was an American Express Gold, which is generally a business card offer or has a very high fee. Is the first time I've seen it with the annual fee waived.

$250 credit card reward

July 20th, 2016 at 06:51 am

I got an offer (targeted offer) for an American Express card with a $250 reward.

Woohoo!

I should also be eligible for a $500 Citi reward in a couple of more months.

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I saw today that the wildlife encounter that we did is completely booked through 2017. I am surprised it took that long to get that booked up, but it was just a matter of time. I am so glad we squeezed it in last year.

One Birthday Down...

July 11th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

One birthday down. Two to go.

It's funny because I felt like we relaxed and splurged but in the end we spent less than usual on birthday. I think we got off easy because LM's birthday was on a Saturday and so we killed two birds with one stone. Usually we take the kids out for dinner on their birthday and then do a party on a different day. But LM has a favorite sandwich place so that is just what we did for his party. Also, though we invited several kids, only 2 were able to make it. Probably typical for a summer birthday.

I've been waiting to see how many people plan to come to BM's party before we decide what to do, but I think it will probably be similar. A couple of hours of video game time, food and cake, and then a couple of hours at the pool.

We spent $38 on lunch, which included food for BM, dh and I. So really maybe only $20-ish of that was for the party. I did "splurge" on an ice cream cake. It was labeled $26? at the grocery store and even more expensive at Baskin Robbins. But the grocery store was full price $17.99, on sale, plus a birthday coupon, so only paid $13. That was a nice surprise. (If I realized maybe I'd buy more often. In the past I have always made our own cakes; we have an ice cream cake recipe).

{So... About $33 for dinner and cake?}

We bought LM a ridiculously expensive gift a few months ago. It was an Amazon Echo, on sale. Dh had bought one for his mom for Christmas. I think just making her a guinea pig. I thought it just sounded stupid. But the kids LOVE it (& so does MIL). Is basically a smart phone in the form of a speaker. So you can ask it all sorts of questions and have it play music. & it will play some games, like Simon Says or Trivia.

I had been thinking of taking BM indoor skydiving (where you just float over a giant fan) and MIL wanted to take that gift. I was more than happy to let her take the pricey gift in exchange for not buying crap (I hope). So we told the kids the Echo was kind of more for LM and the other was more for BM, but these are all shared gifts.

Yesterday dh's parents, aunt and Grandma came over to celebrate the kids' birthdays and to take them to the indoor skydiving place. GREAT birthday gift! I never expected LM to want to go, but he did and that is why that ended up being a shared gift. I don't know who had more fun... The kids? Or the old people? So I think that really ended up being appropriate that it was a gift from the old people. (They just had the most fun. I am sure dh and I enjoyed it on some level, but didn't seem to be eating it up quite as much as everyone else).

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In other news, I did give blood this week. I haven't been a consistent donate-r, but I guess they were having a blood shortage, locally. I will try to get back on a regular schedule.

Birthdays & Knitting

July 3rd, 2016 at 06:19 am

This month is the month of birthday. We will be hosting three birthday parties this month (the third party is for MIL's 70th).

Yeah, I had forgotten about MIL's birthday, but we are going in with SIL and she seems to be in super cheap mode.

We are just winging it when it comes to our kids. Very "go with the flow". We sent out invites for LM's party next weekend but are keeping it pretty loose. Will see who can make it and make decisions from there. Was thinking of splurging on an ice cream cake but I can just pick that up during the party. We don't do party favors - I hate all that junk and clutter. So yeah, I am really not planning to do much to prepare.

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With dh working, I am not feeling like we need to pinch pennies quite as much as last year (with all the big splurges).

We are planning a mid-week trip to San Francisco in July. We were going to do a weekday trip to Monterey in August but I am not sure if we can get that to work out. Maybe that would be something to do in October. The kids don't have the same break but I think they at least had one weekday off together in October.

In addition, dh and I have a couple of weekends away planned. That is more motivated by MIL having tons of timeshare points to use up. Is not anything we plan to spend money on. These trips will be later - our anniversary and my 40th birthday.

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So... Everyone in my house has been jumping into some new skills and classes.

I went a little back and forth on this. I was feeling inspired. But I also do feel like I have plenty on my plate as is. In the end I am glad I decided to take on a new skill myself. I took all that inspiration to finally learn how to knit. I am glad I just bit the bullet because it is really something that can be done during otherwise down time. In the end I don't feel like this has taken away from anything else.

Though I am sure you can mostly learn this skill online for free, I ended up picking up a book with 50 squares to knit. IT didn't even have any reviews and I picked it up on a gut feel. But I am LOVING it. Have mostly been told that knitting a blanket or something like that would be too tedious at this point and to keep it small. So this has been kind of perfect to practice and to build up skills.

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely learned online from Youtube. Since I got my needles and yarn first (Michael's) I kind of started with that. Then I have to look up all the stitches online because yeah, it's hard to learn from a book. But between the two, I am happy with this method of learning.

Honestly, I feel kind of silly for not doing this sooner. One of those things I had been putting off for a very long time.

Edited to add: Saw some tote bags to knit, which seems the easiest/most practical so far. Making a note to self since I'm not quite ready for that yet.

June Savings

July 2nd, 2016 at 05:29 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of June.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $182 cash back on Citi card. (Lots of travel expenses this month)

Redeemed $20 cash back on Visa/dining card. (More travel expenses)

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$6 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$2,000 Airfare (Entire vacation budget)
- 725 Dentist (3)
- 20 Vet (shots)

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More spending than saving this month. Pulled the following amounts from long-term savings:

-$1,300 MRI
-$2,700 8th Grade Trip
-$3,000 Family DC Trip

It probably won't get much better. In July we will work on some big home improvements.

I suppose for this month it should be called "June Spending".

Final Vacation Post

June 28th, 2016 at 07:13 am



I think I got it all figured out.

$2k airfare is already paid for + will pay off $3k of the trip today (with mid-June paycheck).

Not sure on the last $373. I have $125 left in grocery budget this month. (Not sure why I don't have more left, since we were gone two full weeks, but it is what it is. It was a good month to go over).

So... Subtracting $125 extra leaves about $250 to come up with. I was thinking of funding the rest with credit card rewards (should be a LOT this month). But with the stock market down I think I will stay the course and invest credit card rewards this month.

I may change my mind once I pay the July bills. I have not done so yet but will do so today. I usually leave a little float to work with and as long as I have the cash, I will just leave the investments as usual and use up some float.

In addition to the above, we did spend $65 on gas. Since gas was significantly cheaper back east I will just absorb that with our monthly gas budget. (Monthly gas usage was very average).

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We did end up going to family camp the day after we got back from DC. It was too much. I'd say that the sleep I got Sunday night was on par with sleeping in the airport. I was planning to come home after dinner on Monday but quickly changed my mind to leave after lunch. Really ready just to go HOME.

LM had a little freak out himself. I think he was just overly exhausted and feeling under the weather. I wish he got more sleep last night, but we've really got nothing planned the next several weeks and so he will relax and get better in his own time. (I just brought him home with me). Mental note: Never plan a big vacation right before camp again. I'd say we had no choice this year, but are looking into changing our camp week to later in summer.

I was going to do some work from home today, but feel kind of *F* it, now that I am home. & also because I have a kid with me, though he can mostly take care of himself. I do go back tomorrow.

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I did have a good breakthrough with my MIL this weekend, and some financial relief. We had bought LM a substantial birthday present ($150-ish?) before things got suddenly spendy and expensive here. We were going to offer BM, who wants *nothing*, an experience like indoor skydiving. When I brought it up though, LM chimed in that he wanted to go too. Seriously?? (Never would have guessed that in a million years).

Anyway, MIL was nagging dh about gift lists yesterday and he's trying to get her to chill out and give us some time to regroup. He won't even be home until tomorrow. But we did mention the indoor skydiving thing for whatever reason and she said she wants to pay for it. Awesome!! (Usually she is so set on piles of "stuff". So it never occurred to me that she would be open to that. I had told her that there was nothing "stuff"-wise that he wants, but I am sure I've already told her this many times before).

Phew!

We do still have to figure out something for BM. Dh and I will have to figure that out later. His birthday is in 2 weeks, so we have some time. I suppose everything else I have in mind isn't any cheaper. But we will figure something out.

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This also reminds me that MIL gave the kids $30/each to buy souvenirs in DC. In typical BM fashion, he spent $0 of that money. (We will have to transfer to his savings account). That's just kind of how he is, so I didn't think much of it.

LM on the other hand, is a bit of a shopper. But everything he liked was just too expensive. I kept telling him it was Grandma's money and to enjoy. But instead he would rant about how ridiculously expensive souvenirs are. I told dh one day, "What did we do to our kids?" He did spend $11 on a couple of things. In fact, I was delighted to see a magnet he was interested in was only $2. He was pleased with that purchase.

I guess if MIL is doing the experience thing, then no one is probably buying him the "stuff" that he wants for his birthday. So his $19 leftover can go towards whatever video game MIL usually buys him. Or maybe that will be a gift from GMIL.

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Edited to add: I did pay all the July bills and I did seem to have enough float. So I won't sweat coming up with the last $250. (I'll probably just put the $250 back into checking once dh gets his next paycheck in September).

I will also say that we are still at peak liquidity, even after paying for two big vacations. Phew!

Back from Vacay

June 25th, 2016 at 05:50 pm

We got back from our DC trip this morning. Phew!

Was having trouble finding flights when we switched from October to June. I picked a flight from our home airport (right by our house) because it was the cheapest AND the most convenient, but I can't tell you how close I was to canceling that flight because we only had a 45 minute layover on the way back. That said, we were flying back Friday and knew we'd have the weekend to get back if need be. Dh and I discussed splitting up to get home, if need be. (& we can usually get home quickly in these cases because we could divert to SFO or San Jose and maybe even get a ride from family, which we have done in the past when a flight was canceled). I was more pushing for the direct flight from SFO, but dh talked me into keeping the "short layover" tickets and not having to deal with all that driving. We did leave on the last day of school and it would have been a lot.

In the end, the short layover was not the problem. Most California airports have curfews and the problem was more that our flight was the "last flight of the night". Our flight got delayed and we missed our connection (but it was a couple of hour delay so we'd miss no matter what, like pretty much everyone on our plane). So we spent the night in the airport (too late to bother leaving and coming back) and got the first flight out. Since I kind of expected the worst all along I guess it was better than I thought it would be. (At least we all got on the same flight, to our home city).

We flew American Airlines, which I don't think I ever have as an adult. Usually United is cheapest from our airports. I will probably avoid AA in the future. I can't tell you how many flights they had delayed or canceled due to missing crew. ???

Oh... & it took us 3 hours to get to the airport in Baltimore. 45 mile drive. We had such a late flight we just planned to get there several hours early. Thankfully security had no line. (Probably because everyone was stuck in traffic). But yeah, it was quite an ordeal to get home.

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The kids were good sports. LM is maturing considerably, so, phew! I have a picture of him scowling in front of the first Wright brothers plane. (Day 2, he was not in a good mood). But apparently nothing else was quite as boring as the air and space museum. Wink

{It helped that we bought that small laptop. & that day he was so bored he came up with a novel he wanted to write, so we packed the laptop for all our long drives and I think that went a long way to appease him. We had 4 days in the middle of mostly driving. He's 10 and his writing is incredible. As long as he has an outlet, I guess he is good}.

We were able to hit 23 or so museums and landmarks.

I hadn't been to DC since 1999. One of the tours we got was for the Library of Congress. Which is a newer thing that they are giving tours (they moved all the people working there to another building and so had more room for tourists and so on). So we just went with it because it was one of our congressional tours. On the first day actually, but was a highlight of our trip. The building is just magnificent. & we did also get to see Thomas Jefferson's library (which was the start of the government's library. Was told there he sold to them at a discount out of the kindness of his heart, and to start a government library, but learned at Monticello he sold to pay debts. Never found out why he was in debt up to his eyeballs. I am inspired to do a lot of American history reading now).

Actually, we did good on the first and last day. We checked our of our hotel Friday and went to the secondary air and space museum (a huge airplane hangar about 45 miles out, opened more recently also) and we only had about 2 hours but that was pretty incredible.

We did go to Philly and the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall was a first for me too. (LM LOVED the Benjamin Franklin museum. I think it was like $4 admission and was really well done. Another trip highlight, as were all the things we hadn't really planned too much ahead).

We did have time to go to Hershey. Spent way too much money there but I think the rest of us (other than dh) needed some more goofy time. (We had gone back and forth a few times if we would bother, but we ended up having time).

We did also make it out to Colonial Williamsburg. Which happened to be the day that it poured rain in DC, so we were very charmed on the weather front. (I was dreading the heat and humidity, but we lucked out. Some of it was good luck. I think otherwise Florida scarred me and that's like my idea of heat and humidity. Which is 10 times worse than any weather we experienced on this trip. & to be clear, I've only been to Florida in October. I could not even begin to imagine what a Florida summer is like).

Other highlights were getting to see some original works of art from DaVinci, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, etc. Saw some famous pieces of art. Of course, it was fun to explore and find other gems. They also had an incredible photograph gallery. They really encouraged taking pictures at most the museums and the white house, etc. (Though could not take any pictures inside any historic homes). So I will definitely share some pictures later.

We barely made a dent in the art museums. They were just so ginormous.

Of course, our Capitol tour was during the sit-in. The line for the House gallery was hours long and my husband stood in line for hours just to get in after they took a break. Ugh! I didn't want to waste my last day in D.C. in line and BM is going back in the spring. So we left it at that. Of course, dh had wanted to go join the protestors the day before but no one was there (we split for a while). While he was in line seeing nothing, while we are the Capitol the following day, we went outside where all the action was. So dh got the short end of the stick there. Everyone had left by the time he came outside. He never saw any protestors though he was at the Capitol both days. (The big crowds seemed to swell later at night, looking at the news later).

Which reminds me, we got to our Congressperson's office early enough, for Capitol tour, that we were chatting with the staff for a while. Dh is just beside himself about this sit-in and was asking what we could do. (Since he seemed to be missing the protests). They re-iterated to call your congresspeople and to make your voice heard. Said they had never gotten so many calls (this young staff person said this, speaking to his time there) and they take phone calls very seriously. So passing that along as a FYI. Last time we went to DC we did meet with our congressperson. This time we really didn't bother (we've met her several times in our city) and she was at the sit-in anyway so it would have been canceled I presume. But it was still an experience all the same. It was good for the kids to see.

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I added up our total Friday a.m. and I think our spending was getting close to $3,500 for our trip (everything but flights). So grand total around $5,500. By far our most expensive family vacation. Though most the tours and museums we did do were free, we did have to pay for a hotel room, which we usually do not. (In the end, in-laws timeshare had nothing near D.C. They were trying to tell us that most people just stay 1 hour away!? No thanks!?)

Since I also paid for BM's DC trip for next year, I guess this year's vacation spending is going to be in line with last year's "year of splurge." Really and truly though, not planning any more family vacations after this. SO HAPPY to be done with flying for the foreseeable future.

I would like to throw $3k from our savings to pay off our expenses this month. (Will do this next week, cash flowing from my paycheck the money that would have gone to savings). I am hoping to cash flow the last $500 or so with credit card rewards and grocery savings on the home front (not buying groceries for 10 days or so). Will see how close to $3,000 I can get.

I think as to the trip, everything but flight home went as well as it could have. I really dislike traveling, but I have a really hard time with jet lag and so on. I am very scheduled and in tune with my body, so I just can never really get over the travel and get lag to actually enjoy. Probably why I enjoy smaller trips. I really thought I was insane to agree to a red eye flight out and was really dreading that part. For whatever reason, I seem to handle these things better with age. Seems counter-intuitive I guess. Maybe once you have a newborn, a one night with no sleep is no biggie. & since that went 10 times better than I ever though it would, I was pretty mellow about being stuck in the airport last night. I'll get a good sleep tonight and my body will slowly adjust back to normalcy. I am sure I will feel miserable for a few days, but I think it's just relative.

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As I look forward to being done with flights and crazy expensive vacations (from our frame of reference), my MIL wants to plan a big trip next year. By itself it is a very generous offer. But it's my MIL and it's a whole thing. Will see...

Dh will probably also go to Florida for his Grandfather's 90th, but we've known that for a while and are just expecting to pay for one cheap-ish airline ticket. Florida in fall has been historically cheap and he will be going with his parents. We know they have time-shares there since we have used them multiple times.

My dream vacation at this point is some National Park road trips with dh. Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are the biggies that we want to do. Maybe 3 or 4 trips I can think of that we want to start doing without the kids. I think this will keep us busy for a while.

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Getting back to reality...

Kids' birthdays are right around the corner and no plans have been made. They both have bigger groups of friends this year and are asking for proper parties. (Usually we have the energy to let them invite one friend over). We will probably oblige. So probably two busy weekends ahead.

Dh should have another MRI soon. I don't expect any news. It will be another years or so before I expect any news. His Doctor is eager to see any potential progress though. He agreed to limit to 2x per year since we have a high deductible plan. Doesn't really matter since MRIs would be free after first two (after deductible maxed) but they do the contrast dye thing and dh doesn't really want any more MRIs than necessary. We always joke how the dye is worse than the brain tumor itself. Seriously, lord knows what that stuff does to your body and they are injecting a lot into his system. But anyway, I expect we will collectively hold our breath a bit until that is done. Always worrying about bad news. (Bad news would be more surgery).

Reminds me, I was shocked to learn that (George) Gershwin died of a brain tumor at age 38. Had no idea. That one kind of knocked me for a loop. They had a Gershwin exhibit at the Library of Congress. (I had no idea he had a brain tumor or that he passed so young).

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I'll try to share some pictures tomorrow a.m. Any costs breakdown will have to wait for a few more days.

Gearing Up for Vacation

June 7th, 2016 at 09:08 am

Dh is officially off work for the summer. His work is always very vague on seasonal schedule (I guess it just depends how things are going). So he mentioned the kids get off school in a couple of weeks and they said that was fine. That his last day could be their last day. Then a few days later Corporate came down and said all the seasonal employees were off work as of last Friday. (If he hadn't of asked ahead of time, I don't know that we would know that was unusual. It seemed they expected to keep seasonal employees until late June; our kids still have a couple of weeks of school).

I am sure dh will enjoy the extra time off!

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This month I am paying off crazy big bills. I paid off the credit cards on the 1st. $5k to one card. Included airfare for our trip, plus some reimbursed professional expenses.

Since I can't go into vacation with a $5k+ credit card balance. Just... can't... do it... I expect to pull $4k from savings this week to pay off the school trip and MRI bill. (I had charged in June to give me some flexibility to pay off. But it's just going to drive me crazy in the interim).

When I get back from vacation I will receive a $3k paycheck that is entirely earmarked for savings. I am guessing I will also just throw that at the credit card to offset our own trip expenses. So maybe three big payments this month. (I would otherwise pay off on the first, so it just means paying down a few days early).

I have not added up trip expenses at all and I don't want to. I expect we will spend more than $3k. I just don't even want to know. I want to enjoy our time. We initially expected to travel in a more off time and to have more flexibility for cheaper airfare. We also initially expected a free hotel room. So our super frugal trip has ended up going in the opposite direction. But we have the money so it just is what it is. Kind of a last hoorah since we aren't planning any more big travel with the kids. I don't remember the last time I paid for a hotel more than a night or two. Probably not since I have been married. & I don't know when I will ever fly my kids (with us) anywhere again. So is a lot of why I am just letting it go.

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I will have two weeks of vacation this month. Our DC trip was literally the only time we could mesh our schedules all year. *sigh* (Which is a huge reason we are done traveling with kids). So we leave on the last day of school and get back the day before our annual family camp trip.

All else being equal, I'd probably just go to camp. It's VERY relaxing and I imagine our DC trip is the kind of vacation that I will need a vacation from. But... I don't want to board my cat extra days and I don't want to leave him home alone 3 nights after boarding him for like 10 days. Plus, I would really like to preserve some vacation for other things. (The last time I took two weeks off was... Never? Maybe my honeymoon? Particularly with kids, I like to be free to take days off here and there as things come up). We've left it that I might just drive up for two days. Would give me two whole days. I am happy with that, as long as I can drive back while it's still light.

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So I got word back that we are confirmed for a white house tour and the Capitol Building tour. Woohoo! (We applied right around the 3 month mark deadline and wasn't sure we'd get in with our last minute trip changes).

Reminds about one cool thing about BM's class trip. One of his classmates parents works at the Capitol and she had arranged a "behind the scenes" type tour this year and will do the same next year. So that's some extra perk that he will get on this other trip.

Bills, Bills, and More Bills

May 30th, 2016 at 08:12 am

The tide has definitely turned. The quiet tide where we barely spent any money this year.

I don't even know where to begin.

**BM seems pretty certain he wants to go on the school DC trip. Since we don't want to do payments, it turns out we probably have to pay for that around June 1. (Okay, my planning was REALLY bad on that. Never occurred to me that we'd have to pay that a full year ahead of time).

**Last week I got dh's MRI bill (from January). Of course!

{The MRI bill and school trip stuff is $4,000 total. Plan is to charge up in June so that I don't have to pay until July}.

**I did buy our own Washington D.C. airfare this month.

**Dh got that phone deal he couldn't resist. Which is chump change compared to all this.

**We picked up an extravagant birthday gift for LM because it was on sale. I think it was around $160. Will save for July birthday. (This was before any of the above).

**Both dh and BM are taking classes this month for some unique passions. Will have to touch more on that later. Kind of curious to see how both pan out a bit more before I blog about them. Dh spent $125 and BM spent $40, this month.

**This week I saw that one of dh's favorite bands is playing regionally. First show in 7 years. It's not until October but tix go on sale this week.

**I did see a groupon for the local water park and was tempted, but decided we had spent more than enough money this month. (Thinking for BM's birthday, but other deals will come around).

To this point it's been fine. But if anything else comes up...

MRI aside, it's all fun stuff at least.

Edited to add: Decided to nix the concert. It was really expensive. Which I probably wouldn't have thought twice about before all the big surprise bills this week. Dh just happened to bring up last night (since I had told him not to spend more money this month?) and I Said, "Well... I do think the tickets are kind of ridiculously expensive." We just hadn't seen each other all week to discuss and kind of assumed the other *really* wanted to go. But we discussed it and decided we didn't want to pay for a ridiculously expensive concert. Just a reminder how extra money gets blown when things are hectic and assumptions are made. {Without BM's trip we would have gotten the tickets and enjoyed. But it was just re-discussing after $4k in bills fell out of the sky. It quickly fell down the priority scale}.

All of that said, we are still at "peak liquidity". & probably will still be there after all this sorts out. I can live with that.

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As a frugal win, I did cut LM's hair. He doesn't have much hair and dh was complaining that his last haircut took like 5 minutes, if that. I didn't care because I get him a $10 haircut once every 12 months or so and lord knows BM and I always get our money's worth (tons of hair, takes a long time to cut). I told dh, "Trust me, it evens out." But in the end I decided to give it a whirl. Worst case is I muck it up and pay someone to fix it. It turned out way better than I ever thought it would. I had cut their hair when they were preschool age but was nothing I would subject them to once they hit school age. I think it was pretty obvious I cut their hair and wasn't that great at it. But I guess LM has super easy hair for the moment. So I am glad I gave it a try.

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In other spending, dh did also buy a laptop this weekend. He thinks it will help with his writing. After watching computer reviews and sales for a while, he was able to pick up a small laptop for $200.

I'm personally happy to have a much smaller laptop to take on our upcoming vacation. I am glad he found a deal before our trip.

I think mostly dh wants to take his writing with him everywhere so that he can take more advantage of down time. I don't think upcoming "down time galore" was his motivation but I expect he will be getting a lot of use from the laptop.

May Savings

May 30th, 2016 at 06:52 am

Received $42 bank interest for the month of May.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $70 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $5 cash back on Visa/dining card.

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

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Also, redeemed $208 Barclay card one-time bonus.

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 230 to Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$400 Drama Camp (summer)

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As to dh's paycheck, I turned off the 401k mid-month. I think because we had so many bills coming up. (I don't remember exactly why I turned it off when I did). So we put 50% to 401k first half of the month, and that's it. I used his check to cash flow some of the May/June craziness. Turns out he will only get one paycheck in June so I am so glad I did that. I'll turn the 401k back up to 50% as necessary for tax purposes. Taxes were the only reason we put so much into his 401k, but in the meantime my OT was not as much as usual and his work has been slow, so don't need to put so much in the 401k. (Is not a financial priority at all, to fund his 401k, since we have more than enough saved for long-term retirement). So I will see where we are at in the Fall and what is more efficient. If we can use his fall paychecks to pay for some of BM's class trip, that would be great. At some point I know I will have to put 50% into his 401k again(maybe October - December, or something like that. He has the summer off).

The savings drain will be pretty big for the next two months. Will pay for BM's class trip and our vacation. Oh, and I got dh's MRI bill too. That's $8k+ right there. Fun Fun!


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