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Archive for May, 2013

Snowflakes

May 31st, 2013 at 06:08 pm

The month is over so I have the following snowflakes to redeem:

**$50 to ROTH (credit card reward) - I've hit $50 every month this year, and will continue. In May we charged a computer and for June I have a $1500 MRI bill due. {Otherwise mostly charge health insurance on this card}

**$50 to mortgage (credit card reward) - I changed the due date on this credit card and so it did a 2-month cycle - the rewards are generally $25/month {Gas/grocery card}

**Monthly interest (Added to savings) is in the $15 range these days

**I overpaid piano teacher in May (Memorial Day was off) and she didn't get me the piano book $$ I owed her until today. She e-mailed me, but the payment had already been sent out for June. So, I will have a $25 snowflake in August when I subtract the over-payment net of books. I will add it to the mortgage at that time. We moved the kids' lessons to Mondays and we should have more snowflakes like this. Every Monday Holiday is $40 in my pocket. {I was expecting the books to kind of offset, but forgot I am paying for two kids for lessons - which is much more than the cost of two books}.

She also told me she is taking July off. MIL pays for the kids' lessons, so I will still have a $160 check for that. I'd generally throw this at the mortgage, but I've already got a few ideas for this. Dh was asking if we should get a new graphics card for their computer hand-me-down or wait until birthday. $70. We were going to treat LM to *whatever* in July when his brother is in Europe. He may be easy to please (like, McDonalds), but this will buy him some more options. He still may be easy to please. Will see.

Oh, and my first thought was, "Wala - cat boarding money!" & then some... Which reminds me, I will have to check if they take credit cards when I tour the place tomorrow. *Please Please Please!!*

Yes, that $160 will go fast. Sorry mortgage...

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I've stayed out of the credit card fray for a while. Letting our FICOs recover and just surviving tax season, anyway.

But, I was motivated to try to pay for the new computer with credit card rewards. I found a few rewards, but when I clicked on the links none of the supposedly current bonuses were not showing on the credit card applicaitons. So I gave up last weekend. I will maybe try again next week. I have a couple of big payments due in June (MRI and summer classes), and so also why I Was thinking about it. I may bide my time for better reward options instead. I see I just missed a $500 Sapphire offer by a month or two. It will probably come back, so will wait for that one. I haven't double dipped the Citi yet. Nor the Southwest Chase cards (we could both try). We both haven't done the AmEx Gold in a few (or several) years. For now, am not going to do anything for less than $250. A $400 sapphire Chase reward plus a couple of $250 rewards would pay for the computer. So that will be my goal for this year. Though I am going to wait to try $500 + $250 OR $500 + $500.

Dh has gotten nothing from Citi but 0% balance transfer offers, for a long time. HE just got a $150 bonus offer. *yawn* Waiting for them to entice him with something better. It would be a triple dip, so isn't on the top of my radar - lots of double dips to try first.

What a Week!

May 30th, 2013 at 06:43 am

Nothing in particular; just the sum of all the parts. Tuesday was such a *Monday* at work. A Monday with a full moon. At least yesterday was quiet and I accomplished something. Yeesh.

The kids have this and that going on. Dh put together my elliptical and is now putting together his new computer. So today it looks like a computer parts store threw up in my house.

The elliptical is okay. I can see the benefits, and it is thankfully quiet, but doubt it will entice me to quit the gym. I tried... I just don't want to invest the money, man power, hassle and space to get a gym-quality machine. & I won't be happy with anything less. This is making my $15/month gym membership seem extra valuable. So for that, it is all good.

New cat is keeping us on our toes. He's mostly a well-behaved love. Especially since we have so many people and activity to occupy him. (I could see him easily being bored and in much trouble, otherwise). But, he did almost literally kill himself in the blind cords (I have the childproof cord winders and went through checking them all and installing after that incident - just glad he is okay). HE also tried to run off with our thawing chicken the other night. It was pretty frozen still so he didn't get very far with it. Rolleyes He is serving his purpose - more laughter and lighter hearts - has really helped with the mourning process of losing our pet.

This weekend I have an appointment to check out a local boarding place. Since my set point is about $0 - it is $$$$$ - but we wanted the freedom to travel if we picked up another pet, so it is what it is. The place is pretty cheap and close to home (though extremely highly rated).

He is also a total pig; eating me out of house and home - a good match for my children (boy do they all have some metabolisms! - but their energy level at least matches). Though we are going to take him to the vet re: that. I think it's possible could be sign of medical condition. I think it's a little bit of everything (Was probably neglected in the past and hoarding food, plus high energy). BUT, he also produces so much waste - I do not know if that is over-eating or if could be sign of something else going on. We've had him 30 days and he has not seemed to have gained or lost an ounce, but admittedly I am very much monitoring his food. I have still been feeding him well above average. I just wanted to make sure we weren't over-feeding him. We don't seem to be. I suppose I can relax that we are not starving him either. Because like my children, he acts starved when you only feed him 2-3 times what is recommended. Rolleyes

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I am no longer sad we missed Weird Al concert last year for bajillion dollars. We just snagged great fair concert seats for $20 per person. Now that was what I remembered paying in the past. Big Grin

The concert is the day before BM's birthday. !!

BM also got his first two college summer class choices. SO, this is his summer:

**Two weeks of Engineering Classes
**10 Days in London (MIL is taking him)
**Weird Al concert

Does he need anything else for his birthday? Um, heck no. He turns 10 this summer...

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Our own vacation plans?

**Family Camp in late June. This is why I am looking into the cat boarding right now. It's 3 nights, but the first time we have really left him any length of time, so I think it will be a good chance to try out the boarding place. We did not pay anything for camp, so I think it's reasonable to splurge on cat care.

**We are going to do another post Thanksgiving weekend in Pismo Beach with my folks. We had the most amazing time last year.

**Hadn't made any plans yet, but want to do a 9-day road trip in October, now that we aren't tied down with pet situation. Would like to see Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Vegas, Bryce Canyon, etc. I am sure we will narrow it down. Heck, we might just wing it. I LOVE road trips and it's been way too long. So it's bittersweet as to the why we are able to do it, but am really excited about this vacation. I love road trips, but except for Vegas and driving to see family in the mid-west MANY times, I have not seen any of the destinations that I mentioned. I am ready for something new and different. Cat boarding will be a must for this trip.

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The next couple of weeks should be pretty busy with school wrapping up. Summer will fly by with all the activity.

Weekend Progress

May 20th, 2013 at 06:49 am

**As far as spending...

I treated BM to dinner on Friday night since dh was gone and LM had a birthday party. He chose one of the more expensive options, but it was just the two of us. Buffet, so at least I got my money's worth.

Dh went to a concert in the Bay Area and stayed with his bff, who is moving to Chicago soon. Glad they had some time together. I believe he was planning a script writing retreat next weekend (someone else is offering a place to stay this time - just trying to get away from distractions for 24-48 hours). This past weekend dh only spent $10 on food, but his friend had owed him for concert tickets (so paid the rest of his meals - I think he also visited his folks so probably ate there too).

I didn't get to recycle those shoes yesterday because a friend took BM to the birthday party and we were supposed to pick him up. Well, they hadn't realized how far away it was, so they just stayed and brought him home. Now I have to figure out what to with these shoes!! I may make a separate trip (lunch break some day?) to be rid of the shoes. I wonder if this place is anywhere near the realm of the college - I think it is. BM has some classes there in June. My work is a wee bit closer to the place (thought not a lot).

**Next weekend I want to get the final sweep of the downstairs, and the pool should be open. So I am not really expecting to spend any money. Maybe in June we will talk about something fun - a beach trip and/or some hiking.

**Today I redeemed a groupon. It's probably been well over a year since I have. It was a boot camp kind of thing. Between that and a coupon code I received 20 classes for $34. My aerobics class is 20 classes for $50, for perspective. This would be much closer to home, so cheaper on the gas too.

The downside is that it costs almost 3 times as much (full price) as aerobics class, but without all the gas, it would be a lot more efficient. (It will cost WAY more because I only have to pay for the aerobics classes I attend - this is 5 weeks for $139). I wonder if I really like the classes if maybe I can just mix it up a bit. (I can't see paying full price all year). The plus about this boot camp is it is early morning all week (they do offer one 6pm class). I do far better in the a.m., so I like all the a.m. options.

I don't know when I Can start the class, but hopefully SOON. Ideally it whips my butt into shape and kickstarts me a bit out of my current rut, but hopefully I don't like it too much because I don't want to be swayed into paying so much for fitness. There are plenty of other options out there that are far less expensive, is all.

**I ended up not doing too much yesterday. But happy with small chunks of work. I got through about 7 drawers in the kitchen (just cleaning - nothing to declutter). Easy work, but it was something. I will try to get through some of it this week, as to not be too overwhelmed over the weekend.

I am so excited to get rid of several Goodwill bags one week from today.

Oh, and I removed child safety locks on the silverware drawer. Big Grin Safety locks because of sharp knives...

We only put these in a few strategic places, but I hear Siamese cats can get into a lot of trouble so I am going to leave the rest for now. That one was kind of annoying "we use this drawer 100 times a day" kind of thing, so I hope everyone appreciates the change.

Progress on the Downstairs De-Clutter

May 19th, 2013 at 08:19 am

**I've bagged up a lot of shoes to recycle tomorrow. Hopefully we remember to take them. Big Grin I should toss them into the car while I am thinking about it.

**I was feeling very low-energy yesterday so didn't do a whole lot. I made some fruit smoothies for an energy boost.

**Dh was out of town, so I figured a car cleaning would make sense - lots of room in the garage. I just vacuumed out the van and tossed some trash. Was not a lot, but it looks MUCH better. The kids had been hoarding packets of sugar in the back (like, restaurant packets). Rolleyes I don't know what the heck. Always interesting finds with kids.

**While in the garage a bit I cleaned up a bit. There wasn't a lot, but a few old toys to toss and little bits of trash strewn around the garage.

The strangest find? The neighborhood kid had put this cute sprinkler thing across our driveway one day and I spotted them at Walgreens for maybe $7. I was very tempted, but for whatever reason resisted. Thought maybe I would keep on eye for summer or whatever. So I am tossing a few things in the garage and I come across this sprinkler thing in our garage. I set it out and at some point the kid came by. I asked if it was his and he said no because his was another color.

Seriously!?! Where in the heck did this thing come from? I SO do not remember ever buying it.

I am relieved I had not bought a second one. Big Grin

**After all that I took a nap and made dinner and didn't get a whole lot else done.

**Oh, and dh found my MP3 player in the car. WOOT!! This should help immensely with the kitchen work. Music will make the time go faster. I am hoping to make some progress on the kitchen today - does not have to be a lot. I still have next weekend to finish the job and to beat my personal deadline.

I think I am going to scale back on the house cleaning and relax after May (upstairs in the Fall?). But I think I could probably do another run through. For example, I mentioned all the vases I have. I need to go through those and purge some, but it will easier to start with a clean slate. Right now I might have 7 or 8 bags earmarked for Goodwill (dh has a pile of books and toys and games of such, in addition to whatever I have found in the kitchen). So once those are gone and the cabinets are all scrubbed I may go through again. I am sure I passed up a lot of stuff because it was overwhelming. & this is why I every time I do this I find more stuff. I want to be more thorough this round. !! I've got all summer to be more thorough, in small chunks.

**Taking inventory of the garage: Not a lot in there, as I though. BUT, we were saving bags of soda bottles for someone or something. For the school? I don't know. We will toss into our recycle bin over the next few weeks and clear some space. In fact, maybe I should just take a load to work (we have a "recycle" dumpster). This should clear up some space for bikes and such.

**Speaking of the neighbor kids(s) - the sprinkler thing I mentioned above...

There's this new kid down the street who is 7 - an only child I suppose. I swear he comes by our house every single day with some brand new toy he wants to show off.

???

From a child standpoint, I honestly don't even understand "Keeping up with the Joneses." Some other newer neighbors have some electric scooters that BM is always riding. The next door neighbor has some cool bike thing that all the kids are always riding, and the across the street neighbor has an electric car for his live-in Grandson. So the neighborhood kids are always out riding his electric car around. This week it was walkie talkies and "slip and side" with the "new toy every day" kid.

So why would we buy anything for the kids??? Peer pressure, I guess? A feeling to contribute?

I suppose the downside will be when one day our kids breaks someone's fancy toy. But, until that day... Yesterday our house provided sprinklers and water gun water for the play time. Which means all the kids were in front of our house though we have no fancy toys to boast. I didn't think a lot about it at the time, but it is kind of funny if you think about it. Water from the faucet versus the $500 toy car. I suppose we contributed after all.

De-Cluttering and Re-Cluttering

May 18th, 2013 at 10:25 am

**BM wanted a fad toy that all the kids have at school. We said, "Sure whatever, if you want to pay for it." I don't think my kids have had very many of these lessons - they don't seem to have much of a sheep mentality. I don't know how much of that is nature versus nurture. I think a little bit of both. For example, I think by nature my spouse is a stubborn contrarian. For me, it feels very learned. I didn't have a fraction of the kids' self confidence at the tender age of 8 or 9.

Of course, LM is totally bored and uninterested in this fad, so only the elder child has caved.

**The county animal shelter takes shoes for recycling. Awesome!! It's just that it is WAY out of the way. I even tossed some shoes past weekend because lord knows when I'd be out that way again.

Well... BM has a birthday party in that area tomorrow. We will take all the remaining broken/outgrown shoes that we have. I just noticed a couple of pairs in the garage that could probably go. For the long run it will just be one more thing to remember, but we can keep a shoe stash and make the run once in a blue moon. & maybe we could find something closer to home, but I have certainly looked before.

**Just got a postcard re: charity pickup on Memorial Day. Woohoo!! I don't care who it is - they win all our crap. In addition, they were advertising for e-waste. This will save dh a trip to Best Buy. (Best Buy only takes 3 items at once?? So this might save us a few trips).

**I finally pulled the trigger on an elliptical purchase. Conferring with dh maybe saved me some hassle.

I have of course kept my eye on the used market and yadda yadda. I have been shopping for well over a year.

I think what has swayed me is the Money Mustache. I LOVE the gym membership but it's inefficient. I don't remember the last time I went - it SUCKS every January through March, at the least (all those New Years resolutions). I love the gym the rest of the year - get it all to myself. Big Grin

Anyway, two problems with the at-home elliptical:

1 - At $15/month gym membership (& I am pretty sure they will offer me a lower deal when I try to quit) it's hard to breakeven on an equipment purchase.

2 - The size and weight and monstrosity of a good piece of equipment. I really don't want to deal with it. Extra so since I am storing my parents' treadmill at the moment. I'd maybe rather have a good elliptical, but the point of the treadmill is that it is high-end and totally free. {We have plenty of room, but just thinking more long-term. The long-term downsize plan}. & seriously, some of these ellipticals are 300 pounds!! We just don't have the muscle to deal with that - even just to get it moved in.

So... I finally bit the bullet on a new unit. It's in the $300 range, but was on sale. If it's not a total piece of crap it will get good use.

I was leaning towards Amazon just because their customer service is so good. Target had same unit at same price - not entirely sure why I discounted it. So, I ran it past dh before pulling the trigger (he is out of town) and he asked what about a local store, for easier returns. I remembered I had seen it at Target.

The thing about Amazon is if I call and complain and can't ship it back I know they will refund the money. So I think was mostly why I was leaning towards Amazon. But with our Red Card it was 5% off (cheaper) and free shipping at Target. So decided dh was probably wise. Target has always has great customer service for our needs. A good second choice. I maybe saved $15 going with Target instead.

Will see... I figure worst case we return it and it's back to the drawing board. I won't quit gym until I am happy with alternatives.

Why do I like the gym so much? Safer (not going to be outside in the dark), climate controlled in winter and summer, etc. & I am no fan of running - way too hard on the body. Power walking is okay but I much prefer the elliptical.

Our gym is only 4 miles away and had the awesome benefit of childcare, so was also a big plus when the kids were younger (doesn't really mean much any more). In the meantime, I feel like they have added no less than 5 unecessary lights on the main road, and it can often take 15 minutes to drive there. It's just gotten so inefficient over the years. So why I mention the Money Mustache influence.

Anyway, maybe this will hold me over until we get a closer discount gym - one I can walk or bike to. It will probably happen eventually.

How am I paying for this? 5% of my tax season overtime will cover it. Big Grin I am not opposed to splurging. I just like to divorce the spending decisions from the income, if that makes any sense. Of course expense decisions have to be based on income and resources. BUT, I guess my point is we really avoid automatically spending windfalls. It's a-okay to just save 100% for a later time, for when a need or want arises. I think this makes for better spending decisions.

Payday

May 17th, 2013 at 07:00 am

**Payday and I only have one financial transaction to transact: Pay off main credit card (which has always been paid off monthly). That's it until next month...

I will just never get over the irony that if you clean up your financial house you don't have to think about money very much. Too often it is assumed you have to think about it all the time and obsess over it. Kind of like dieting - that's not really the best/healthiest way to do things. Change your habits, build up money for a rainy day, and it should mostly be in the background. I love numbers so obsess over it at times, but other times it's just in the background. Lately I have been in more of a "finances in the background" mood. & this is probably largely a function of things going very well financially.

Credit card bill was $3,000 because it included about $1,000 in car repairs, health insurance is $900, Paid some dues and utilities that were reimbursed, yadda yadda. Wasn't a big deal. Car repairs happen and we have savings for that.

May is half over... Nothing big on the horizon for this month. Will see. The same credit card bill has a $300 balance after payment, $200 of that being a new garbage disposal, but the utilities and health insurance will hit around the end of the month.

Yes, dh ordered the garbage disposal FINALLY. Either we will attempt to install ourselves or ask for help. Not expecting to spend any money on that. (I am quite sure my dh is capable of handling it).

Car Stereo Upgrade

May 15th, 2013 at 01:17 pm

For whatever reason dh had got it in his craw to update car stereo. Suddenly it could not wait. Supposedly we are supposed to get Sprint 4G next month, but we have all heard that before... I am sure there is some element that dh wants to utilize full potential of phone when that happens.

Anyway...

The good news is they quoted him about $20 more that it ended up costing. Or, they just tacked on the tax cost to the installation when quoting. Which made it difficult to comparison shop. He had also talked to a couple of Best Buys and they both told him totally different costs. How frustrating!

Anyway, so the grand total was $270 after taxes and installation. We saved a ton going "last year's model." Now he's got the blue tooth and yadda yadda. For the last 20-ish years we have been making do with a cassette tape adapter. (I like that it was rather "future proof." A cassette adapter goes for $7-ish these days. It carried my older vehicles through the age of CD and it carried dh's vehicle - with cassette deck - through the age of MP3 and smart phones).

The new car stereo is fair enough. We only paid $7800 for the car and it was "practically new." Two stereo upgrades in 12 years is beyond reasonable. We would like to keep the car another 5+ years, and can always pull out the stereo system for our next vehicle.

The best part? It didn't cost us a thing in the end. (Not a penny from my salary, so does not impact our savings goals).

He had $120 cash from last focus group plus $100 prepaid visa card from furniture store (refund) and we just got another $50 visa card from another focus group a couple of days ago. It's almost eery how it all just totally matches. The cash is sitting in our bank account, so I will just add $120 to next credit card payment. He charged the $120 difference for credit card rewards. I was going to pay the credit card Friday. So it is all easy peasy. They took both visa cards without a problem. Phew!! (Those things can be such pain to use at times).

The only problem I forsee is since our cars aren't particularly his/hers, I am just assuming that there is another stereo upgrade in the near future. The van has a single CD player that doesn't work, a radio, and a FM transmitter for the MP3 players and phones. That said, I am sure "anything" would be an improvement and dh would be not so set on such a higher end model for the van. Since he does mostly drive the other car, especially for longer trips.

Will see...

Big Milestones Surpassed!

May 15th, 2013 at 06:56 am

As a follow up to an earlier post on my BHAG:

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/2012/09/14/progress-not-p...

I had posted about my goal to surpass $150k in retirement by age 35, which was a really huge/big/aggressive goal. So I did not beat myself up when I did not achieve at age 35. I knew I would be pretty darn close?

How close? About 5 months after turning 36. Because I achieved the goal yesterday. Well, I think that is AWESOME. Good enough for me...

If investments return 8%, than this means we are earning more than we are putting in, at this point. Since the only retirement vehicles at our disposal are the ROTHs.

I think this is why I am not feeling behind at all with the loss of work retirement plan. It was a very generous 10% contribution by employer. But it was invested conservatively for my mostly "retirement age" co-workers and eaten up by administration and investment fees. Compounding has easily taken over those contributions. Sure, another $8k per year to our retirement funds, in addition, would be awesome. But, it's just we aren't falling behind or feeling the pinch. & maybe $8k only felt like $4k with all the other factors, and we have been easily able to make that up. I appreciate that I had that extra compensation in the years we really needed it - very early on and our lowest income years (maternity leaves and such). This means our retirement was always growing very healthily and is why we were able to meet this goal.

I also just noticed that we surpassed the $200k mark on our investments. Woohoo!! $100k was surpassed some time in 2009. Which means it literally took about a decade to save $100k but only 3 years to turn $100k to $200k. $200k can turn into $400k over 10 years if we don't add another penny. The power of compounding at work. I have this large feeling that the early years were by far the hardest and that we are over that hump. This compounding stuff sure makes life easier.

I also think this is why it is hard for many to understand why my spouse has not had to work. I've said here many times that we always saved 100% of my spouse's income, which laid a nice financial foundation. Anyway, I remember someone telling me very early on that they "to each their own," but how they just could not neglect their retirement like that.

Neglect retirement? Who said anything about neglecting retirement? Big Grin

I haven't really set the next BHAG for retirement. I am thinking I should just set it to "$500k by age 45." It's about as realistic as "$150k by age 35" felt. It sounds huge, but I know it is doable. A modest rate of return and current contributions (just the ROTHs) will easily put us to $400k+. So $500k is my aggressive twist on the goal. It should be easy to remember. I think that visualization is very important - our subconscious works in ways we don't even understand.

Doings...

May 13th, 2013 at 11:03 am

We don't really have anything big planned the next month or so, which is nice, because there seems to be a lot going on.

The kids went to a neighbor's big pool party the other day, and then BM went to a birthday sleepover. They were both just invited to another big classmate party (one each). Dh had been lazy and just grabbed some Target gift cards. He asked me if he should get more and I said, "You know, that would be $60 in one month." !! So, he will look out for some toys on clearance - something like that.

When it rains it pours. Historically most the kids' friends have summer birthdays, like they do. It can get kind of crazy. It's just the crazy started a little early this year. As for our own kids, I am thinking pretty low key birthdays this year.

Other things coming up...

Dh is going to a concert this weekend (out of town).

Next week is school open house and all this costume stuff.

The week after is our annual pool opening BBQ (woohoo - free food). Then the kids' last day of school (they always have a big BBQ).

So, we don't have much that we initiated or planned, but I think there is *plenty* to do.

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I had to share the new compartmental lunch things I got because it makes it so much easier to spice up lunch a bit.

Today's lunch...

The youngest is *loving* these pizza lunches. There is mozzarella cheese under the pepperoni. I experimented with just putting the sauce on the english muffins. I thought it was possible it would get too soggy, but I did toast it first to get it a little more crunchy. Anyway, no complaints from the youngest, so I made it a second time today:



As for BM... They both have appetites, egads, but BM seems to be worse at lunch. I put together some varied nuts, kiwi, and a ham sandwich on garlic sourdough. He then asked for eggs and pickles. I asked him to please eat the nuts last. I have no doubt he could eat it all, but they don't get a lot of time to eat. So, will be interesting to see what he had time to get through. We tend to make him double decker sandwiches to satisfy his appetite. Protein is a must.



These are also the water bottles I bought. The kids seem to really like them. So, just crossing my fingers that they hold up a while. They are rubbermaid and are real cheap at Amazon or Target. But the lids are kind of difficult to flip on and off and so I worry those will probably break first. In fact, I am surprised the kids have not complained more - but they seem happy with them.



We certainly drink our fair share of milk, soda, juice, but also see no point to send them to school with anything but water. I often comment that we *mostly* drink water, which I am sure is a huge key in our lower grocery bills.

I shared this link already as it is helpful to give lunch ideas:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/04/19/school-lunch-rou...

Her angle is "Real foods" but I am just trying for a more "less plastic/trash/disposable" angle myself. Having the proper tools makes it so much easier. I should have bought these divided containers like *four* years ago. We've always utilized these non-disposable containers, but made it harder to add more sides. Anyway, I am glad I have the tools to do so now. I also have a lot of smaller containers to utilize now - I included some ranch dressing with the kids' carrots last week. The new containers were perfect.

New Couch Sectional: $425

May 10th, 2013 at 01:32 pm

I looked up my old blog posts to see what the final "out of pocket cost" was for our 2012 Sectional Couch upgrade.

Total cost: $525
{We shopped carefully, paid with credit card rewards, and sold old couch to whittle down the actual cost}.

Well, we can bring the total down to $425. !!

We noticed some pink stains under the ottoman. We had noticed them before, but when we got the carpet cleaned and the stains did not come out, this really riled up dh. (Especially considering how filthy our carpets were and how brand new they look now and how all the other stains came out. These are probably the "newest stains" on the carpet, but they are doozies).

I feel pretty "meh" about it because it's under the ottoman and I figured these carpets are mostly toast anyway. The stains are not super obvious due to our carpet choice (which was chosen in an effort to hide pink stains because our cat was always puking up pink food). But dh wanted to go complain and ask for some financial compensation.

They readily appeased him with a $100 visa gift card. It never never never hurts to ask. I sometimes feel like a large percentage of our wealth comes from simply *asking.* & it's so beyond rare when people ever say "no!"

{When I think to all the haggling and price matching and legitimate complaining we do, and "non-refundable" refunds we have asked for, it easily adds up to *THOUSANDS* of dollars over the years. I think this is money that most people just leave on the table}.

Anyway, I informed dh he could apply the gift card to his Amazon account. (I knew this because received a visa gift card for Christmas). He seems pleased with this option.

He does want to buy a new car stereo and a new computer, and so I probably rather he use against one of those purchases. He told me that while he was out anyway he was going to do some stereo comparison shopping. So, will see...

The furniture store was really nice. We ended up at a small store. & I think one reason dh wanted to go complain was because they were right down the street. (A long drive might not have been worthwhile). In addition to the $100, they said they were complaining to the manufacturer about the colored adhesives they use on the bottom of the furniture. So, beyond getting $100, maybe we can save someone else from pink stains in the future. IT seemed like they genuinely were concerned and following up with the manufacturer.

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This has been quite a month for extra income. Big Grin

Purging and Costumes

May 8th, 2013 at 09:36 am

**First off, the 4th graders are doing a Pinoeer day this month. Send me your frugal, "make do with what you have" costume ideas, PLEASE! Big Grin I saw a local rental place for $15, but I decided that is ridiculous. I am sure worst case I can put something together for $15 (that younger child can eventually use). But I doubt we need to spend that much.

This is the year of costume. I already bought a beret earlier in the year for my little "Picasso."

**Around the same time, LM has to be a little pig. (I swear, we have never been asked to bring a costume for anything before - good grief).

Supposedly I am a very creative person (the tests say so), but it doesn't come out in an artistic creative way. I just feel so "DUH..." But I perused very briefly online and quickly came up with very many ideas. How did we survive before the internet?

Anyway, how cute is this?!?



I am so NOT artistic, but I think I can figure it out. & if not, dh can. {It just looks so simple, but so cute}.

I also stumbled onto hot pink construction paper in my decluttering efforts, and LM approved.

I had no idea I had any construction paper, so am making a mental note that we need to find a place to store all things craft for when things like this come up.

**The theme is definitely "costume." A local family is collecting Halloween costumes for homeless children. I am sometimes skeptical of these efforts, and since it is only May I am definitely skeptical. BUT, we have a couple of costumes we keep forgetting to sell at ideal time, and I am in purge mode, so consider it done. I asked dh to drop them off this week. {& yes, it would be awesome if these costumes actually ended up with homeless youth}.

We had: One Nemo costume, a Spiderman costume, Winnie the Pooh, and a karate uniform and a baseball uniform. The karate and baseball were not initially Halloween costumes, but they are long outgrown so I figured what the heck.

**That reminds me, my initial reaction was to keep the Karate uniform. Then I thought, "Wait, when was this last worn? Age 5!?!" Kind of my doh moment that my baby (& his little brother) are not 5 any more. In fact, the eldest is almost as tall as I.

**I don't know how dh lucked into this focus group, but he did one yesterday for Sony streaming products. Boy was he in his element. !! They were trying to get some feedback on a movie/music/game streaming service. Dh's input was, "Stick to the games." They want to jump into the streaming game, understandably, buy it's not like they can really compete with the likes of netflix. & as dh pointed out, he uses the Playstation network and is happy with it, but he is not buying a Playstation for every TV in his house (& obviously competing TV manufacturers will not put the Sony network on their TVs). So they have a lot of logistics to sort out.

$120... Which brings his focus group earnings to almost $500 for the month. He is probably disqualified from doing any more for a year. I think he was able to do this one because last one wasn't really a traditional focus group. They like you to do no more than one per year (though sometimes they fudge when they are desparate for participants).

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Oh, and a few things on the medical front:

1 - Dh had his annual MRI over the weekend. Holding our breaths (though at this point, no new is probably good news).

2 - A family friend is having facial nerve issues (the same nerves that my dh's brain tumor affected - face and ear). So, we are worried about him. He is unemployed, broke and has no (or crappy) health insurance. What a mess. {His net worth is probably negative, though he is in his 60s}.

3 - My mom got her first good blood test results since the flu I gave her in JANUARY. Her doctor was getting concerned about cancer and wanted her to get a CAT Scan. She was stubborn and refused, which I have very mixed feelings about. (CAT scan could have been overkill and I know there are radiation concerns with certain cancers, but I think she could have asked more about alternative tests. & lord knows when my dh's brain tumor ever would have been diagnosed without the hunch of his non-nuerologist Doctor - after two neurologists said he was 100% fine and needed no brain scan - so I really believe in Doctors' gut feelings and sometimes non-logical judgement). But since everything is back to normal, I don't think he is concerned about cancer now. Phew!!

Maybe Saved a Gajillion Dollars (Carpet) + Refi Talk

May 7th, 2013 at 06:00 am

I had to share because this seems to be one of those things where going cheap has never paid off for us (though always seems strongly encouraged by the frugies).

General rule of thumb is to only clean or replace or use up items "half as much" as recommended. Or even less. My other rule of thumb is I'd rather work (to pay someone else) than do a chore that I Can not stand. (There are plenty of chores that I don't mind and am not strongly opposed to. The list of chores I'd rather pay someone is pretty small, but makes life a lot nicer).

Carpet Cleaning...

We had someone come in and do the carpets for about $40 early on. Maybe every 2-3 years was a fine schedule. (I am sure they recommend every year).

Would I rather pay someone $40 to handle it or go through the hassle to rent out a cleaner. *no brainer*

Our carpet cleaning guy disappeared, and so we have been in carpet limbo for many many years. Saving Advice talked me into buying a carpet cleaner. Meh. I don't regret the purchase as it has come in handy (particularly in recent years) to clean up pet messes. BUT, cleaning the carpet would take probably days with this stupid thing and it's not very good (nothing at all compared to professional grade). So, I don't think it has been a useful purchase. But, hey, I got it and maybe cleaned the worst areas of the carpet once.

We were initially thinking of going petless when our cat passed, and new carpets were on the horizon. The kids had really thrashed the carpets (we were way too tired - with babies - to clean every spot as we went and deal with it at that point - a few years later and it's so overwhelming). The cat also did a doozie on the carpet in her final months.

Our family room is where most the cat/kid mess is, so it's not horrible - would just be one room to replace. We also had quite a cat mess in the other room (kept litter box in distant corner - no good non-carpet surface to keep it). I really wanted to clean that corner up ASAP but we didn't get a carpet cleaner out until this week.

This place was recommended as "reasonable" and awesome, and I checked online reviews to see "stains disappeared forever."

After being quoted to pay $150 for what we once paid $40, I was not sure on the "reasonable." One large room, a hallway, and the cat corner. Dh might have said "2 rooms and a hallway" which is a fair approximation. BUT, I had high hopes they would do a very good job, so we bit the bullet.

They came over at 10am yesterday. Dh called me around 1:00 yesterday to tell me they were still cleaning. O.M.G. {I think this speaks less to our mess and more to how thorough they were. Maybe a little of both}.

I was so pleased to come home to a house that did not *at all* smell like chemicals. They cleaned up the pet mess like new - it is sitting right now with a special enzyme treatment. The carpet looks brand new.

**The bad thing about this is I don't really see the point to clean them again for another 10 years or so. If we can abuse them like that and they can look this nice with one cleaning. Big Grin **

& the word is the carpets will stay like this. The stains won't creep back up. So, will see...

As of today, I am a convert. Screw this do-it-yourself, or cheap carpet cleaning people. Do it right and we can keep this carpet for many decades (which is also way more environmentally sound).

So, we are going to give it a few months (see how things settle) and then probably get the stairs and the upstairs carpets cleaned. (They aren't bad at all as there are no shoes or food allowed upstairs. Cat did not mess much up there). At this rate it might be $200+ to get 3 rooms and our large/open hallway done, but I think it will be money very well spent. (We have never cleaned the upstairs carpet - so it probably could use a scrub). I am crossing "carpet replacement" off our to-do list. I am crossing it off our near-term and our long-term to-do list. I doubt we will replace this carpet ever. Since we only plan to be here another 15-ish years.

So, saving that much money in the long haul makes me VERY happy. Big Grin

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In other semi-related news, the 2.75% 15-year refi is an evil temptress!! Dh and I had a long talk about it over the weekend. On some level I think we could mostly flip a coin. But, we keep coming across two sticking points when it comes to tying up all our cash in a 15-year mortgage:

1 - We strongly believe in balance. We definitely are the most relaxed we have ever been on one-income and I am reluctant to give that up. We both are. We are richer now and saving more than ever before, so it's not like we have to try as hard as when we were in our teens and 20s. (We also to this day still have less income than we did earlier on, with the one-income situation). As far as "richer" I mean we have more assets. Most our savings is getting invested and compounding since we have far less short-term savings goals and pressures.

2 - We keep coming back to the point that a 15-year mortgage would pay off our home around the time the kids graduate college. BUT, we were just starting to get to a place to *start* to save for college.

We feel like it is better to keep borrowing at 4% (which is hardly anything!) and to 100% never have to borrow again. I am not sure I want to put ourselves in a position to have to borrow (at a likely higher rate) for college. & yes, I have said many times I am not overly worried about it and that college is quite inexpensive here. But I also believe in keeping as many options open as possible. So, we both think it's probably better just to lock in a good 30-year rate for the future.

It's just hard for us to get worked up about the mortgage. We got to have somewhere to live and if we had rented this entire time we would have paid a gajillion dollars more. It's hard to get worked up about the $600/month interest we pay to live in our *dream home* in *California.* It's infinitely less interest and payments than we initially signed up for in 1999 (8.25% on first home. We were paying about $1400/month interest on a CONDO, and renting the condo would have been about $3k per month. This is why it's hard for me to freak out about our current mortgage situation. My housing "Set point" is crazy high. To rent our current home would be $2k per month).

& finally, what would my wiser financial mentors say? Keep the mortgage. Not forever, but just for now.

The reason the 2.75% is such an evil temptress is because we do expect more income and windfalls in the near future. I kind of feel like we should lock it in. BUT, we decided we don't count our eggs before they hatch. This is the most basic of financial principles that we have always followed. We will survive. I think we would survive if we refinanced too, but I think it would be unnecessary stress and pressure.

I am going to keep an eye on 25-year mortgage rates. Rates are getting low enough that it might make sense. I have to run the numbers and doubt we would do this today, but if rates stay low a while, this might be a better compromise.

Yes, I am keeping debt to stay out of debt. But I am choosing debt that has been good to us and we have never had a problem with.

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In other real estate news - I saw final sales price on recent home sale. They asked $375k and sold for $381k. Big Grin Our home will definitely be worth $400k come summer (if not already). That $381k home sold in minutes. What I am curious about is if homes will zoom past $400k. It seems like a logical tipping point (that things would slow down at $399k) BUT with these low interest rates and home buyers being so "monthly payment focused," I will not be surprised if home prices blow past $400k this summer. I don't think it's sustainable in the least, but it's where things seem to be heading. Will see...

This puts our home at 50% equity. We did not overtly discuss this point in our refinance discussions, but may be in the back of my mind. The main reason we were hitting mortgage so hard in recent years was because we were losing so much equity. Was fighting just to keep 20% equity. Was very important to us to keep that flexibility. Succeeded - saved by the bell. We bottomed out right about 20% equity, and then things bounced back in a flash. It's less pressing now. We are still paying down mortgage much faster than historically, because of lower interest rates, and mortgage chips. So it's not like we are totally ignoring it and not paying down faster at all due to large amounts of equity. We have most certainly learned that equity comes and goes - just try our best to stay ahead of the curve. This time we lucked out. (It got awfully close towards the end of the bottom!!)

Lost & Found

May 6th, 2013 at 06:39 am

**I am very sad that I can't seem to find my MP3 player. Frown These electronics are *way too small* these days!!

I will keep looking...

**I found one treat during my Saturday de-cluttering: a $100 Kohls gift card. What the... ??? Don't ask me. I am delighted I was stupid enough to lose it and forget about it, because it was a very nice surprise. Big Grin {I'd generally think that I would never find anything like that because am so overly cautious with money}.

As to where it came from? You got me!! I am sure it was a credit card reward, but I will never know why I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I will just have to enjoy it!!

I have not spent any money at Kohls in well over a year. Probably not much at all in a couple of years, with all the gift cards I had. So, I think this means I won't have to spend any money there this year either. I am hoping they still have the same pants I have been wearing for work - they are really nice but getting tired so I could use a couple of new pairs.

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**I don't think I rule much of anything out of my diet, as we just believe in moderation, BUT I am absolutely horrified by splenda and fake sugars. Especially when it comes to the kids.

So, going to the grocery store yesterday was kind of maddening. I wanted to stock up on some smoothie fixings (juice and frozen fruits) and lunch ideas for the kids.

I ended up doing like a $100 grocery run. Holy cow! So dh was helping me unpack and he pointed out the "light" juice I had gotten. *sigh* Of course it was filled with fake sugars. I will set it aside for our parents - whoever wants it. They are all way into fake sugar - fair enough that we each have a parent with diabetes. When I am old and diabetic I will probably be thankful for the fake sugar.

I told dh, "Ugh! Yeah, it was kind of maddening trying to find the "fat" and the "non-light" version of everything." & then I mindlessly grabbed some juice. Duh...

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So, today I made the kids lunch. I had got so many groceries that I told them no buying lunch this month. It's fine because dh had no plans to shop this week (he usually does a $100-ish grocery run every week). So, it just worked out.

I perused this website for ideas and kind of made a note of lunch items my kids like. BM is easy because he will pretty much eat anything. LM is more difficult, but probably less picky than most kids. These ideas can be used for adults too, to think of more lunch variety.

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/04/19/school-lunch-rou...

Today we did...

LM: DIY pepperoni pizza lunchable & pistachios

BM: turky/pepper jack sandwich + carrots/ranch dip + boiled egg + pickles

Tomorrow...

Thinking tuna sandwich plus some sides. One day this week will have to do a big salad for BM - he LOVES salad. Now I have the containers to oblige him for lunch.

As an aside, the new lunch containers did not fit into the kids' lunch boxes. BUT, I found two that did fit. Phew!! One was a Christmas present from BM for LM (bought for like $5 on clearance) and the other was one I had stocked up on at some point. It looks smaller, but is bigger. Go figure.

I was just googling lunch ideas when I ran across this website. I've seen it before because I believe this is where I got the frozen popsicle mold idea for smoothies. (They are flexible and have lids, so are GREAT for lunches). The problem with our molds was they had a gross smell, which affected the taste of the smoothies. I have read to bathe the molds in baking powder and to try again. So, I need to do that this week - will try again. If we could get the smell out, I would totally buy more molds and do DIY popscicles from here on out.

More Snowflakes

May 3rd, 2013 at 10:13 am

**Redeemed $25 credit card reward (cash) and so added $25 to next mortgage payment.

I changed the due date of groceries/gas card so that I Can charge/pay easier on a calendar month basis. I believe there was a $5 charge between closing date and the 30th, and I decided to just pay that next month. *shrugs* It doesn't really matter either way.

I should do the same with my other credit card. I kind of like the later due date. But it's not due late enough for me to consider paying with the next payday, so it probably makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. I have to pay it off well before payday, regardless. I think it would make life easier. I should just shoot them an e-mail while I am thinking about it.

I got this idea because my Visa just happens to close around the 25th of the month. I always pay off the charges from 1/1-1/30 or 1/1 - 1/31, on a monthly basis. So it was this aha moment that I could still pay off the monthly charges even if all the charges don't make the statement cutoff. This makes calendar month credit card managing infinitely easier.

The credit card companies tend to process this request by "due date." So I have to ask for an "earlier due date." I don't imagine they get that kind of request very often. Big Grin

**Tomorrow I should be able to redeem $50 credit card reward to my ROTH.

**Next week dh has a $120 focus group. In fact, today I think he was doing a follow up to last focus group (online?) for $50.

**Craigslist sales are not going well, but I am happy to donate that which we can not sell.

**I'd really like to take some time to declutter around the house. I don't expect there is much we can sell. We are way too efficient for that. Big Grin But I think there is probably some junk we can get rid of. {Who knows - will see what I find}. Dh has got a bit of the declutter bug, which is motivating me to do another run-through of my own crap. With the changing weather and nearing summer birthdays, is probably also about time for a clothing and toy purge for the kids.

This weekend maybe I should just focus on the kitchen. We should get our tupperware delivered today and there are some cabinets in the kitchen we should probably go through.

It's only the past year or so we have talked very seriously about downsizing back to a condo once the kids are grown. So I think I am going to hit the de-cluttering with that mindset, this time. From here on out, I'd like to be ready pick up and move to a condo. Tomorrow. If that is what we so choose. It's a different decluttering mindset than I had before. More extreme, I guess. Before I felt a little bit of, "Meh, we have room for all this crap, so whatever." (Actually, I think my mindset before was, "We have way less crap than everyone else," but I don't think that is good enough).

Snowflake

May 2nd, 2013 at 07:39 am

**Dh got a $5 snowflake yesterday from Craigslist (sold baby monitors). Firstly, I wouldn't have bothered for anything less than $10, but he had so much to sell I suppose it was just whatever - since he was already going through all the hassle. Secondly, yeah, the baby stuff is all LONG GONE. But those have come in handy for a long time, and I am surprised he did not want to keep them. (Particularly for when he watched movies in our theater - impossible to hear the phone or door). We actually pretty much never used the baby monitors in a traditional sense. Just more so we could hear the kids getting into trouble when they were older. I could never sleep with a baby monitor and dh witnessed that I did not need one - he told me I always woke up before the kids started crying. (I don't think I would have known this otherwise - just would have assumed they woke me up crying). So, I found them rather useless versus mother intuition. But I know dh would sometimes watch movies while the kids were napping - stuff like that. So he'd use the baby monitors so he could hear what was going on in rest of house. Otherwise our house is not *that* big or spread out.

No bites on anything else, but we will just donate whatever we can't get rid of. A few toys, puzzles, books, games. I've got a small donate pile too.

**We cleaned up the house this past weekend, so, phew.

I finished most my deadlines at work yesterday. So, today I feel a huge sigh of relief. !! This weekend will regroup and figure what I am behind on - probably have quite a to-do list at home. Same kind of feeling at work. May pause and clean up a bit today, but still piles and piles of work to do - it's all just a little less pressing.