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Archive for April, 2014

Some Recipes

April 26th, 2014 at 05:17 pm

This is the "mac and cheese" recipe in our house. The kids LOVE it.

Pasta with Chickpeas and Garlic Sauce

http://www.food.com/recipe/pasta-with-chickpeas-and-garlic-s...

Dh made it twice this week, so I thought to share it.

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The older child goes crazy for this one:

Taco Rice Salad

http://community.tasteofhome.com/community_forums/f/30/p/653...

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Oven Roasted Broccoli

http://www.food.com/recipe/oven-roasted-broccoli-206184

I made this one a while ago. I had forgotten about it. I am kind of "meh" on broccoli. Neutral, I guess. I tried this and it came out excellent. Funny thing is my older child keeps asking me when I will make broccoli. I guess that makes this one a keeper. (He's not a picky kid, but seriously, what 10-year-old begs for broccoli? Big Grin )

One thing I really need to work on is replacing potato chips with vegetable chips, in our house. I have been wanting to try some new recipes and experiment with that a bit. I write this down so I will remember.

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I tried a curry recipe a couple of months ago. The flavor was a little off. I think dh requested when he was sick because it sounded good. (He had the flu a couple of months back). Both BM and dh had this bug, and their taste buds were off for a while during and after. It might be worth a redo.

But I am writing this down too so that I remember to keep an eye out for curry recipes.

Just trying to expand our cooking repertoire and try new things. So, the theme for 2014 is baked veggies and curry.

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LM has been going *crazy* for samosas. I told him I would try out some filling recipes and go from there. Is basically potatoes, peas, spices (we have ample Indian spices on hand). I think actually wrapping it in dough and frying it is a bit much for me. Will see if we can just get the filling to work.

He's the picky one, but we have him pretty sold on Indian food. We could probably also use more chickpea recipes. Dh has an intense crockpot recipe that has to cook overnight on high (starts with dried chickpeas). I'd like to find a few simpler recipes with canned chickpeas.

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I felt like doing absolutely nothing today (my first free weekend off in months). I fell asleep for a few hours, so felt better about my lack of energy. I guess I just needed a good rest. Hoping to be productive tomorrow. (Don't plan to do much, but would prefer to do more than "sleep all day". Big Grin ).

Tonight I will go through the kids' clothes and move things over and purge the outgrown. Make a list if they need anything. I picked up summer stuff for BM on clearance around Christmas. So, not expecting to have to buy much for the warmer months. (Except I suppose I should keep an eye out for clearances for winter clothing).

Chase Reward + Ting

April 22nd, 2014 at 07:28 am

**I got an e-mail about a Chase reward for opening a checking account. $200 reward, and didn't seem to have all the hoops to jump through (direct deposit or debit card usage). I am skeptical because I have never seen that before, from Chase. BUT we have a branch down the street from our house. I will read all the fine print later. But if it looks like a good deal, I will have dh execute that, since he has more time. The bank ones seem to be more hassle, in general. I don't really want to deal with it, but I know dh won't mind. He can just walk over there to open the account and to close the account.

I will let you know if it's a good deal or just a direct targeted offer. For now, I am guessing the fine print will turn me off. I don't have direct deposit and we don't like using debit cards, so makes most these offers generally useless to us.

Edited: The Chase offer I got was a direct offer that I have read about in the past (can buy from ebay, etc.). I asked dh if he received it too. I haven't heard back from him. I didn't see any limits per household or anything. Unfortunately, this one is in my name and I have to deal with it. But, I also saw I could probably just open the account online. So much easier! I have to keep $1500 in the account for 6 months. That is a 25% interest rate. ($200 in 6 months). I will take it!

Unlike credit card rewards, these rewards are taxable. But still very worthwhile.

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I am getting a new phone. I need to get around to another "Ting is awesome" post and beg for another referral. I am not 100% sure if our credit balance will be applied to phone or not. But, if it is, we will have to actually pay for our cell service this month. Wink

Why I am getting a phone is a long story. But mostly the refurbished cheapie dh bought to get through when his last phone broke, has a LOT of problems. I was willing to overlook them but now that we have decided to replace it, I am realizing more problems. So, I feel good about the decision. It gave me an android to play with, and I am very happy with the android. The phone I am getting should last many many years (fingers crossed). & the troublesome android will give the kids a phone to play with and get apps on. (Apps they can't get anywhere else. They can just use it on our wifi - we will de-activate the phone service).

I was also having problems with my new vehicle blue tooth setup, but didn't realize it was problems on the phone end. We were trying to skype the kids over the weekend and I remembered I could never get the sound to work on my phone. So, it's all that stuff that's like, "Yeah, this phone is really crappy". I was willing to live with it another year. I would certainly survive. BUT it kind of defeats the purpose of my car stereo upgrade if my phone doesn't work with it half the time.

In the end, we decided to jump on buying a Moto x while it is on sale at Ting. We had been holding out for them to offer Moto g, for me. Would have cost half as much. BUT, in the end I decided I wanted more in a phone. So might as well buy it on sale.

Grandma gave me the $300 I told her not to give me, for doing her taxes. She pretty much stuffed it in my pocket and ran away. We had decided before Easter that I would replace my phone if she gave me the money. Which obviously she was going to. But, if not, we could wait. So, thanks Grandma!

This means we both paid $400-ish for our phones, in the end. BUT, we are still miles ahead financially from when we even had dumb phone cell service. It will take us 16 months to break even. Well, it would have taken 16 months, except we might already be breakeven because we have never paid Ting a single penny for first 5 months of service. So, the breakeven is even sooner. From then on, we save $50/month versus what we paid for dumb phones with no text or data.

**I have to keep telling myself this, because it does feel ridiculous to pay $800 for two phones. !!**

So anyway, I buy this phone. From Ting. & I tell dh I would like to have it by May 9th, because I am taking a three day weekend and might be a good time to play with it and get it set up. He tells me it takes 10 business days. & that even though he has the feeling that Ting is super fast, it is shipping from Canada. So it will take a while, even if they ship it out ASAP. I said that's fine. Certainly no rush and no paying for expedited shipping.

So, what's the story? We got home late Sunday night from Easter and dh ordered the phone for me. It shipped out of California, and it is due to arrive tomorrow (Wednesday). Holy cow!

So, there you have it. Ting is awesome. I haven't really been pushing Ting for those in the middle of contracts and/or having to buy new phones. But honestly, the having to pay $400 for phones even is still saving us a small fortune.

I guess this is my "Ting is awesome" post.

Here is my referral code:

https://z181d126bt4.ting.com/

$25 off for you & $25 credit for me

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One reason we were talking about phones in the first place was dh was telling me some competing $100-ish smart phones are coming out the end of this year. That will make some really nice options for Ting. We'd maybe consider getting the kids a phone like that (they can share for a while) and putting them on Ting. Not now, but when they are older.

I think a lot of more frugie folk on the fence will be jumping to Ting when that happens.

I am not going to specifically save to replace our phones, either. The prices are coming down astronomically. I don't expect it to be a big deal financially when we replace them, in several years.

Fiscal Updates

April 18th, 2014 at 05:56 am

**I received my overtime for the year (paid as an annual bonus) and was able to fund a chunk of my savings. For the rest of the year all our monthly savings goes to IRAs, and my 2014 raise will go to savings. To top off those goals in my sidebar.

I can't believe how behind I feel still after last year. That said, though I would like to fund 2014 IRAs in 2014, it's not a necessity. That buys us a little buffer if crap happens.

Bonus:

$5,000 to savings
$ 300 to mortgage
$ 100 new kids bike

I was planning to spend more on the bike, but we just happened to find a $100 bike this week. So that worked out perfect.

Great-Grandma insists on giving me $300 for doing her taxes. I asked her not to, but I know her. Will see. This way I figure I already threw $300 to my mortgage so I really don't care either way.

If she insists, I could use $300 for summer classes for older child. I don't sweat that stuff any more. Whether they know it or not, Grandma (MIL) and Great-Grandma pay for that. BM is attending a camp with his school next month and I used Christmas money to pay for that. & I get the feeling Great-Grandma is paying for summer school...

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**My gross check was about what I expected, with extra overtime on a big project last year. BUT, the net did not reflect all that extra work. UGH!! I have said that if spouse worked we wouldn't take anything more home. But, my own income seems to be entering that black hole. It's extra shocking because I am used to literally keeping 90% of my paycheck. You get used to what you get used to.

I ran a tax projection and everything looks fairly breakeven for 2014.

Our tax rate on last $10k - $15k of income is hitting about 25%. So, it looks like we will be doing Traditional IRAs this year. I like the way this works out. Our taxes are even steven if we change our mind. But if we do the Traditional I should be getting about a $2700 refund. Which will go straight back into retirement savings. (This would bring our retirement savings rate up to 18%. But, I don't know if that is all good, as we give up the ROTH contributions to do so. I think it just means we need to save more to pay for future taxes. Saving more doesn't necessarily mean much to our bottom line. Though I suppose I will probably be able to work some tax magic on the back end. When we retire).

I also checked the extra property tax deduction and that would save us about 25% too. For several reasons, will probably do this year. I just want the simplicity of one tax payment per year. But I want to make the extra payment in a year I actually get a tax benefit.

We've been doing ROTHs for so long because we haven't been paying any income taxes of any note, since spouse stopped working. But I am not personally comfortable with paying $2,700 taxes that I don't need to. Circumstances change, so we re-evaluate.

In our young 20s I Was strongly encouraged to fund ROTHs. I kind of understand it more with age. There has just never been any tax break quite like it. So when I entered the tax profession it was, "Are you crazy??? Do the ROTH!!!" BUT, we were young and starting out and paying a crapload of taxes. We chose to fund my 401k and our Traditional IRA. I am sure we could have cashed flowed the ROTHs and whatever, we were saving 50%+ of our income. Not like we NEEDED the tax break. BUT... Absolutely no regrets. When dh stopped working, we converted *everything* over to ROTHs. It was win-win. Get a big tax break up front. Convert over at a lower tax rate. So, I am pretty partial to just taking the tax break. I don't know if we will ever be able to convert again, but we do have $100,000+ working for us in our ROTHs. As Dave Ramsey would say, that will be $5 million or something in 40 years. Wink (I don't think it will ever be near that much, but it will do nothing but grow, and I am happy with that. All our aggressive investments are in the ROTHs, for sure).

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Housing Update:

I guess housing has settled down here. Absolutely nothing has listed in immediate neighborhood for about 12 months. A house went for $400k last spring, which meant a 65%-ish increase over a couple of years. (Nothing new, around here. It's always a roller coaster!). But then, that was it.

SO... I saw 3 houses like ours up for sale this month and that piqued my curiosity. I just saw that one had sold for $400k. It will be interesting to see what the others go for.

Overall, I think this is a good sign. Anything much more than that is getting back into crazy bubble territory. Our house actually peaked at $650,000. Which is crazy insane. At this point, anything much more than $400k is "crazy insane". Especially given the chronic unemployment, regionally. But even in a robust economy, the local wages just don't support these kind of home prices.

So I am kind of marveling at the restraint. No huge bidding war??? Heck, the other two houses have been up a week and are still available. (Not a common sight in these parts, even when the bottom was falling out). I am hoping these are all good signs, overall. That things are settling a bit. A sellers market is good for us, but another market collapse would not be good. I am all for sustainable home prices.

Though, who knows... Bay Area real estate is crazy crazy crazy right now. & that always blows up our housing prices, because then our real estate looks super cheap compared to that. (Which is the only reason anyone ever paid $650k for a house in our own neighborhood). IT will be interesting to see how things play out this summer.

March Snowflakes + Ting + Carpool

April 7th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

**Earned $25 credit card reward (will add to next mortgage payment).

**Earned $50 credit card reward - deposited directly into ROTH.

**American Express did mess up my rewards *AGAIN*. As they do each and every month.

BUT, I also had a mystery $25 show up in my account. ??? Never got around to complaining. So it was really and truly a mysterious $25. I just noticed my rewards balance was higher and I could redeem another $25. I even checked my spam folder to make sure I didn't miss any e-mails about a bonus reward.

So, how is that for random?

**Mortgage snowflakes totaled $85 for March:

--$25 credit card reward
--$25 mystery credit card reward
--$20 carpool savings
--$15 Internet savings
--Total $85

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I will share my Ting referral code again because I am desperate for one more month free. Big Grin

https://z181d126bt4.ting.com

We did get our March bill. My dad was traveling a lot (lots of minutes and data) and has nothing but travel plans the rest of the year. But we stayed at $53 for our combined bill. $26.50 for our half. I think that is mostly what it is going to be for the rest of the year.

We will probably owe $25-ish cash for April usage (for entire family). As our credits will be all used up with the next bill. So, if I can get one more referral, it will officially make our service *free* for the first 5 whole months.

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Our carpool is defunct because our carpool buddies divorced and returned to work full-time.

I've been eking out the $20 carpool savings anyway, for the mortgage, but I think I will stop adding that $20 this month. I think I just had the wiggle room since we have been paying nothing for cell service. Though of course I will just switch to throwing cell phone savings at the mortgage. As a placeholder for that bill. (The first few months were breaking even with contract termination fees and new phone purchase, but we are past that now).

It's just a couple of more months, and then next year will be a new year to figure out. I am overall pleased with the wear and tear and gas we saved this year already. For the most part we rarely picked up the kids by car the first 75% of the school year. So having to pick them up all the time the last part of the school year, is okay. Not very many weeks left.

Saving Saving Saving

April 3rd, 2014 at 06:39 am

I guess this is the opposite of my last post. Big Grin

**I finally got my 2013 ROTH funded. Sent $4,950 off yesterday, after my paycheck hit the bank. I did not have to come up with the other $550 because my credit card rewards covered it (those get deposited automatically every month).

I updated sidebar.

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**Grandma always *insists* on paying me $300 for doing her taxes. I am going to try to be more vocal this year about her not paying me. She owed a lot of tax. So, I will try.

But... If she insists, we will just throw it at the mortgage. I would be pleased with that. IT would put our snowflakes to $1,000-ish for the year, which is about all we came up with in 2013. So I would be very pleased with that. We don't plan to throw any snowflakes at the mortgage for the rest of the year, so it will be a nice goal to meet in April. That said, I am not really concerned with it either way. If I can talk her into not paying me, we will let it go or I will just deposit $300 from my overtime check.

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**I guess it's feast or famine. I intend to hit most my "2014 savings" goal with my overtime check in 2 weeks. So, that might be $10,000 in financial goals officially hit this month (Overtime + 2013 ROTH). {I could have tallied ROTH savings month to month (have just been hoarding up cash since February 1), but I didn't really want to update my sidebar until I transferred money physically into my IRA}.

The goal for the rest of the year is to save $1300/month towards 2014 IRAs.

In addition, we will save $150/month + snowflakes and windfalls. I am going to open a "taxable" investment account for this money. I put "taxable" in quotes because our investment returns will mostly be tax-free due to our low tax bracket. We are starting small, but expecting to gain some significant momentum pretty quickly. Since our cash savings is pretty robust at this point, this should be where all our non-retirement savings goes.