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Archive for May, 2014

More Snowballs

May 31st, 2014 at 02:27 pm

I figured I better do a 2014 credit card reward tally because a lot of little things are starting to add up.

In the past I labeled this category "credit card rewards" because I had never done any "checking account rewards". But, I have been getting more "easy peasy" bank account rewards in the past couple of years. I suppose I could rename this category to "credit card and bank rewards".

I am going to do the Chase Freedom card offer. I have not done that one before.

2014 TALLY:

$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$225 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
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$1125 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$550 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)**

+$450 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 85 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 75 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Unfortunately, all of dh's rewards are kind of up in the air. The SW Chase double dip is not a guarantee and we don't have any direct deposits for his Chase checking offer, but I am trying to get around that. So fingers crossed on one or both of those.

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For May, I had $50 rewards deposited directly into my ROTH and $25 rewards deposited into our investments (ongoing rewards).

American Express Blue card shorted our rewards as they ALWAYS do. I am keeping an eye out for another rewards card to replace this one. They make it a huge hassle to even complain about it, which just adds to my frustration about this card.

Some Snowballs

May 29th, 2014 at 01:48 pm

**I received $200 from opening a Chase checking account. I already transferred that into my savings account.

**While checking dh's Southwest Chase card I saw that he was getting an online offer (to apply online) for a Chase checking account for $200 bonus. (I had scoured his spam when I got my offer; he didn't get the same offer I did).

The catch? This one is a direct deposit offer. I am printing it out and setting it aside. I saw enough stories of success with bank account transfers (in lieu of paycheck direct deposits, which is what the fine print says it should be), that we may give this one a whirl. Worst case, he doesn't get the bonus and we just close the account after a few days. Not a lot of effort to try.

Will probably just save or invest this $200.

**We need to spend $2,000 on the Southwest Chase, with hopes of being able to double dip for a $500 reward.

I already charged $950 for health insurance and yearbooks. (I try to avoid small charges on these things - less to keep track of. But, the yearbook was an unexpected expense and so I figured, "what the heck". Since I know we will get to $2k quickly).

I have a $800 charge to bill for work that will be reimbursed. So, that just leaves about $250 to come up with. I will probably just prepay some health insurance and be done with it.

**I got my 6% CD set up finally at HFCU. Like I can actually access my acounts and transfer money. It was really a PITA. I think they got overwhelmed by the number of new customers they attracted.

All of the above makes me really appreciate our local credit union. It is the best of all worlds. Way ahead of its time (have always had online bill pay and online deposits and yadda yadda, long before the big banks were able to implement for their bigger customer base). My CU's website is so intuitive and easy to use. Customer service is A+. HFCU was just kind of a mess and I was starting to regret opening the account. Maybe more of the credit union stereotype? But, now it's squared away. & as to Chase? I could only internally roll my eyes as they went over all their fees when I had to sign up in person.

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Ting Update:

With my new phone I accidentally used a big pile of data (due to some settings on the new phone). This added $7 to our bill and $3.50 to our half. I guess we will survive. Wink

Of course, the family was filled with crazy medical drama this month and I have been using minutes more than usual with my car upgraded with bluetooth. I saw my parents last weekend and told them no big deal, but if they didn't need to make calls to just cool it for the next few days. (Mostly didn't want to pay $9 for the entire tier for going over just a few minutes). But if not, whatever. But we are all four savers by nature and so we made it through. (I think this would be hard to do with different personality types, but we all cared enough to remember and to not make unnecessary calls).

In the end, we didn't go over our usual minute usage. Total bill will be around $60. $30 for our half. Not bad for a high volume minutes and data month. Ironically, this is like the first bill that we actually have to pay. By far the biggest one we have had. (We only paid $10 for the entire first 6 months). I do have a couple of referrals in the works, so will see. Maybe next month will be free.

Ting Updates

May 26th, 2014 at 02:02 pm

Ting announced last week that they now have an exchange program for non-Sprint phones.

"From May 22 to June 30, sell any of the following T-Mobile, AT&T or Verizon devices on Glyde and buy the same Sprint model, capacity and condition. We will reimburse you with a Ting credit to cover any difference between what you spend (plus fees, taxes and shipping) and what you collect.

Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4S
Apple iPhone 5
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung Galaxy S2
Samsung Galaxy S3"

"Second, if you want to upgrade to a better device (as long as it is on the Sprint network and on our whitelist), you can do that. We will just give you a credit for what it would have cost you to swap for the same exact device (plus fees, taxes and shipping) and then you’ll cover the price of the upgrade on top of that. For example, sell your Verizon iPhone 4 and buy a Sprint iPhone 5, or even a Sprint Samsung Galaxy SIII. We will credit you the difference between buying a Sprint iPhone 4 on Glyde and what you recovered selling the Verizon iPhone 5 at the recommended price plus taxes, fees and shipping. So, we will cover what a swap would have been. And you will have paid for the “upgrade”."

https://ting.com/blog/ting-your-t-mobile-att-or-verizon-ipho...

I personally not have used Glyde, BUT Ting literally credited our account for our "early termination fee" refund the day I submitted the request. They are FAST with account credits.

Here is my Ting referral code, for $25 off at sign up.

https://z181d126bt4.ting.com

Also, if you have *any* questions about the process, don't hesitate to call or e-mail Ting customer support. They are GREAT.

More Fiscal Doings and Updated Budget

May 25th, 2014 at 02:15 pm

Small Fiscal Updates

--I finally got smoothie maker replaced with a working one - dh returned non-working one for me

--I got 6% CD all set up after endless issues

--I *finally* got my full Kohls refund (from like January???)

--No new jinxes lately?

--Crossing my fingers, but signed up dh for the Southwest Chase card. It's a double dip, but it's been over two years on that one. They are more strict on the double dips. If it goes well I may apply sometime in the future. It seems to be hit and miss from reports of others. Reward is $500 in Amazon gift cards.

--I spent about $60 buying clothing for BM. Uniform pants for winter, uniform shorts, regular shorts, and a jacket, all in the next size up. I thought to shop because I unpacked all the summer/swim wear I had bought in clearance during the winter. I think that was $60 for 9 items of clothing, and the jacket was quite nice. He's fairly set for the next year. LM is rich in hand-me-downs.

--Dh's mom has been mending uniform pants into shorts, for us. Dh thought this up and is genius since the kids prefer shorts most the year anyway. & they are kind of rough on pants.

--I do have to buy a backpack for LM, and am keeping an eye out. I think August will be a better time to find a deal. (He starts 4th grade and his dinky little "since kinder" backpack is not going to cut it. 4th grade is intense at their school - lots of books).

--I was commenting the end of last year that only the electric bill was left as far as room for improvement. & I was kind of stuck on that one.

Well... We do the balanced billing because it's just so much easier. Most our bills are fixed every month and I find that easier to manage. Makes our monthly spending very predictable.

So, our electric budget billing just went from $90 to $65. Woohoo! I keep an eye on the usage and hadn't noticed anything, but after the reduction I went back and looked at past 6 months or so and noticed that we have been consistently using a little bit less electricity. I think the large swing is due to the fact that we have been over-paying for a while. There is a time lag on the billing.

We also tend to be pretty consistent and so we have never had a big adjustment either way (after several years of budget billing). So this was certainly a significant change. Will see where it ends up eventually. As we approach A/C weather, they may decide to "up" that in another 6 months or so. Particularly since this has been a really hot May (maybe a really hot summer?)

I had no idea why our bill would go down, but dh told me he thinks that his new computer is much more energy efficient, and it has a better automatic sleep mode. He has had that for about a year. I'd say most the appliances we have bought lately are supposed to be way more energy efficient, but the computer is the first one that seems to be noticeable as far as to lower electricity bills.

Fiscal Updates

May 24th, 2014 at 02:24 pm

Fiscally, things are going quite well.

*knock on wood*

Aside from saving up for our homes, we are maybe $5,000 away from the most we have ever had in savings. Which would be more than we have had saved up since having kids. I don't know the exact (peak) figure since I just track net worth every 12/31. Since my first pregnancy went so well we diverted a lot of that money into retirement that first year. So pre-kids was the peak; we were saving up for multiple maternity leaves and so on. We spent it down and redirected because we never imagined dh would be out of work 5 years later, much less 12 years later! It's been slow going to build that back up, but we are getting there.

Along the same lines, I wanted to update about a "big picture" goal. Last year we achieved more assets than debts. We've always had a positive net worth, but I mean we reached the point where we could pay off our mortgage with our savings and investments. We reached that goal in March 2013.

Where are we today? Today we could pay off our mortgage and have $50,000 left over. Woohoo! I think that's great progress for one year. (& that was with a very very expensive and trying 2013).

The next big goal for us? More in retirement savings than owed on mortgage. We are within a few thousand dollars of that milestone.

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After years of consolidating and cleaning things up, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. I am opening more accounts (two taxable investment accounts this past year) and I have to open a Traditional IRA for dh. He only has a ROTH. We had converted all of our money into ROTHs during some of our lowest income years, but I have a Traditional IRA from a work retirement plan rollover in the years since.

OF course, the kids have their 7% savings accounts and I just opened two bank accounts for bonuses. So, yeah, it feels like I am opening a LOT of accounts. I suppose that is a GOOD thing.

Maker Faire

May 19th, 2014 at 07:44 pm

I saw this on Facebook today. Don't you love it?



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We went to the Maker Faire yesterday. It was awesome.

The plan was to go for one day, and evaluate if we should go two days next year. Though two days would no doubt be absolutely exhausting, I think that is what we should aim for next year. I think if it was just us adults, the one day was good enough (there is probably a lot of overlap year to year; not because we actually got to see everything!). BUT, the kids hands-on stuff was fairly infinite and the kids just ate it up. So, for that, I think it's worthwhile to make the time and financial commitment next year. As is, there was an entire "Kids Hall" that we never even made it to.

LM had a blast with an animation station that was set up. He is talented on the artistic side, and so we will probably look into getting some software or see if there is a website that he can practice on. "Animation" is just not anything overly specific we have looked into for him, before.

He also saw his favorite video game had a booth and they gave him some freebies so he was over the moon.

BM wanted to do something that took like an hour. He is lucky his daddy had the patience and saw the value. It ended up being the highlight of his day. (If I knew it would be the highlight, of course I would have encouraged him). It was an area where they were ripping apart stuffed toys that move and make sounds. You rip it apart and then cover the electronics up with the parts left from the ones everyone else ripped apart. So he turned a bat into a snowman. Dh dubbed it "frankenfrosty".

The other hit was an area where they had just thrown around a bunch of small appliances for kids to rip apart and see what was inside. Admittedly, I don't know if my kids were into the true spirit of this. They were more into the demolition aspect of it. But BM also enjoyed from a "curiosity/how does it work?" standpoint.

SO... I talked to my dad about it and he said he had some stuff laying around that they could rip apart. (My dad grew up poor in small town Kansas and had absolutely no science mentors. BUT, he enjoyed taking things apart when he was a kid. That's really all he could do. His career ambition was to be a repairman, until he went to college and received guidance. The fact that BM Enjoyed this part so much reminded me of my dad, and I know my dad would love to show him how all this stuff actually works).

It was crazy crowded, but not to the point of non-enjoyment. & I have really low tolerance for crowds. But there just weren't that many lines or anything (except for the bathroom!). The venue was so huge and there was so much to see.

I wouldn't even know where to begin with everything we saw. Here is a cute video that gives a overview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wlw4qRJ5YZo

The giant flaming octopus reminds me of our neighbor who liked to shoot fire balls in the air. (Keep in mind the high density housing and the desert like climate. !!! CRAZY). Maybe we should just be glad he wasn't *that* ambitious. (Apparently 200 gallons of propane for the giant octopus, for the weekend). {That neighbor lost his home to foreclosure and is long gone. Surprise surprise}.

Random This & That

May 15th, 2014 at 02:27 am

**Exciting news on the cell phone front. The new Moto E was announced, at $129. (The price drops this past 6 months are crazy!).

http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/13/5712900/motorola-moto-e-re...

Moto E is not supported on Ting yet (neither is Moto G), but I will let you know when it is.

Moto E + Ting will make for some very cheap cell-phoning.

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**One of my pet peeves is loose change just sitting around (not earning interest in the bank!). I noticed a while ago dh had a bag of change laying around. He told me it was the money he found in Florida in 2012. (He found about $4 on a ride).

I was going to deposit it into the kids' accounts (free loose changing machine if it goes into their accounts) but decided that dh had more time and he could take care of it. He said, "Why don't I just take it to the grocery store change machine for an Amazon gift card?" I said, "Why don't you?" Because it's been sitting around for over 18 months and you haven't done anything with it? He is trying to drive me crazy!!

The kids take after their dad. They refused to deposit their loose change. So, dh lucked out. I told him to get the Amazon gift card. If I still see that change in a week or two, I might have to go figure that machine out myself. Finders keepers. Big Grin

**Speaking of Amazon, I received a $20 Amazon gift card for doing a survey re: my profession. Woohoo!! I am supposed to get another $20 for a phone interview. I had almost forgotten about it because it took them a week to send me the gift card. It seemed pretty legit, but I was getting skeptical after a time. But then it arrived today.

I already spent my gift card. BM is going to sleepaway camp very shortly and I wanted to get him a disposable camera for the trip. I picked up a couple of things I needed and dh recommended a game for the kids (birthday) so I could get the free shipping. I don't know if I will get the camera in time, but I tried and the camera at least will be "free".

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One more random thing. I am still definitely jinxed (I have never spent so much time in my life dealing with customer service for this or that - OMG). I think the jinx has worn off on dh. For example, I ordered a smoothie maker on his Amazon account (I don't remember why I ordered from his account, but I did) and it arrived broken. Would not work at all. By itself, whatever, but this is every single thing I have touched this year. ???

So... We had some interesting mail this weekend. A birthday card and check arrived for dh. IT was postmarked around the time of his birthday, in JANUARY. It had come to us from California, to California, via Papau New Guinea.

It was from my parents. They didn't notice because they forgot to put the check in their register. We didn't notice because my parents never give us money. So we were surprised by the card, and even more surprised by the generous ($50) check. Big Grin

But yeah, I think it's official. We both be jinxed.

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The jinx is annoying, but I can appreciate that it is just stupid little stuff.

We are holding our breath for the rest of May because it's kind of heavy on the medical front.

Sister has a big appointment early next week. I don't know where to begin with that, but if there is anything to report with that I will. For now, it just makes me anxious. She is very young, but her health is very poor due to her own choices and lack of care for her health. (It's not an addict thing, but is a lot like that). I am honestly surprised she has not had more problems, but being referred to a specialist is likely because she is developing more serious problems. I don't even know how honest she will be with us, which is a whole other thing. But she did tell us she had an appointment. *sigh*

That by itself is pretty heavy. But, in addition, for those of you who do not know, my spouse also has a brain tumor. It's relatively benign and harmless at this point (after surgical removal), but if it grows we will have to consider radiation and so on. So, he had his annual MRI this week. We will get the results at the end of the month. We are a little extra anxious this year because they were concerned it might have grown last year. (But it was too little to tell). It's the only saving grace about this type tumor. It grows really really really slow. But maybe that's bad too. Not looking forward to another "Gee, I don't know if it's growing or not" evaluation.

So I think my family and his family are all collectively holding our breaths a bit, until we get more news.

May Doings, New Project

May 10th, 2014 at 01:32 pm

Shifting from work mode to play mode, over here.

I took yesterday off, which was first weekday off since December. Having 3 days off feels like having a week off, after tax season. Big Grin

Dh and I went on a beautiful hour long hike about a 40 minute drive from our home. I just googled "easy" and this is what I came up with. It was close and it looked gorgeous, and it was indeed easy. We were rewarded with a waterfall at the end of the hike.





Afterwards, we went over to Fry's for 50 cent hot dog/soda meals. Dh picked up a blu ray on sale for $9.99. The full prices of those blu rays astound me. Yeesh! ($40 for a movie??)

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Other May doings:

**Robot Wars seems to be a no-go this year. I haven't heard anything as to what happened with that. Frown Frown Frown

So, we have plans to go to the Maker Faire this month, instead.

"Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned."

You name it, they will probably have it. I expect to have some interesting pictures to share.

**This weekend the kids have a birthday party at a rock climbing place. The place has a very reasonably priced summer camp, so we make look into that for BM. He probably needs a membership to one of these places. He is a born climber.

I also noticed the drop-in play place was open Sunday. Hard to get open play on the weekend, due to birthday parties. So, I may take the kids. It's only $7 per kid and it might as well be Disneyland, as far as they are concerned.

**For Memorial Day weekend the HOA has a BBQ and turns on the pool heat.

BM will be at camp that week with his 5th grade class. IT sounds fairly identical to the family camp we always go to in June. I think he will have a blast.

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We have a movie theater in our home. Which I have mentioned before, but probably not much the past few years. My husband is deaf in one ear, post brain tumor. & so I think this has really dampened his enjoyment of the theater room. In addition, he has since bought a couple of HDTVs (which are smaller screens but higher quality). We are also both fairly set on downsizing, so I don't think anyone here has been too upset that the theater room is not getting a lot of use. We aren't taking it with us. (Will just buy a ridiculously large TV for our new home. Which can be way more expensive than our theater setup, but will work better in a smaller space).

BUT...

Dh is getting renewed interest in utilizing the room more. I told him I was more than fine with him upgrading the projector. I know he has been unhappy with it for a long time. I did express my concerns about long-term future. But we both kind of feel if we have the space and the equipment, we might as well enjoy it. We don't plan to downsize for another 15 years or so.

So, we have a loose plan to build a platform for the seating so it is at a more ideal height. & this will allow us to add another row of more formal seating if we ever want to. For now, we have some old office chair and bean bags, which I think will work for a long time. We've been using those anyway, but more seats will work better with the back row raised. I don't think dh cares that much about additional seating aesthetics, but I will keep an eye out on Craigslist for theater seating. The only reason we ever bought theater seats in the first place was we stumbled onto an incredible deal. I am sure we can find a deal on a second row.

Before dh and I discussed it, I was kind of thinking we had really gotten pretty up to date on everything. Finished furnishing our home a couple of years back (took it very slowly over the years) and replaced most our electronics in the past year. I was thinking that really the only thing on our wish list at this point is to replace the old projector. We've agreed to probably do that after Christimas. Dh's parents have been generous lately and if he wants to take all of what they give us at Christmas, I am fine with that. Will probably work on the seating before that since it should be fairly inexpensive to build a platform.

I don't know if I fully realized how much dh has been sulking around the last 4 years, but he seems to be snapping out of it. I am so happy to see him impassioned about his movie set up again. I think financially the timing just works, too. This may have been a ridiculous splurge 2 years ago and it might be two years from now too. But for now, it works. I think his parents will likely pay for it anyway. They have been fairly generous the last couple of Christmases, with cash gifts.

We are waiting until Christmas to see what his parents give us and what kind of year we have financially. We can buy a much better projector for $1,000-ish otherwise. But holding out to potentially spend closer to $3,000 of gift money. Whatever our budget, we will make it work. A $1,000 projector will be a significant improvement.

Our home theater setup is fairly simple. It started with an inexpensive projector on a small table. That was when dh had a dream and we all thought he was a little insane. Wink

We eventually bought a screen and seating, and a new ceiling mounted projector. Around $3,000-ish for all that, but it was about 5 years into this whole movie theater thing. For the first 5 years, a blank wall and a projector and some hand-me-down couch was the setup. We have had the current set up for about 10 years.

That's the bulk of it. Dh has a surround sound setup that he bought in college. He eventually bought a fancier tuner and a blu ray player, but can watch most anything through his computer.

I share because I think it's something really important to share as far as debt free living. It has never been about deprivation for us. It has always been about being creative, and usually means having more than other people anyway. It means starting small and building up. Which is how we approach just about everything. I couldn't tell you how a $30,000 theater set up is any better than our current $3,000-ish set up. The difference would be fairly indiscernable to most. (Especially when you turn out the lights!!) Yes, our projector is outdated, but that would happen no matter how expensive we went. It's a 10-year-old projector and TV technology has blown it out of the water in that time. Dh is fairly confident that this projector will be the last one he ever buys. For this house, anyway. We may be able to swing a theater setup in a smaller space.

As an aside? Technically we paid an extra $30,000 for the room for this theater. That is not exactly frugal. It came to be when we moved to our lower cost haven. We figured we might as well splurge on that because we were saving *so much* on housing. BUT, at then end of the day, since we bought new construction we got the extra space at a deep discount. Today the extra room fetches a premium of about $100,000 over the smaller homes in the same neighborhood. I had to share because I think at the end of the day this little splurge will have been a fairly profitable investment. (It's been like that since Day 1 and was obvious we got an incredible deal on the extra space. Which is why we chose this house in the first place. The space was perfect and the price was right!).

6% Interest Deal

May 8th, 2014 at 01:30 pm

Well, I am well on my way to tripling our bank interest this year. Without any credit card rewards. Literally, just talking bank interest.

**Chase

I got a direct mail offer form Chase, that I have yet to redeem. I will probably do it this weekend. (The offer expires in July. All I have to do is open an account and I will get $200 in 10 days. The kind of offers they sell on Ebay. Fine print is I have to keep $1500 in the account for 6 months to avoid any fees and to keep the bonus. That works out to a 26% interest rate on my $1500 for 6 months. I will take it!)

So, that *doubles* the bank interest income I expect to receive this year.

**Hanscom Federal Credit Union

This one is a little more complicated, but the timing is kind of perfect for me.

The details are at My Money Blog:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/hansom-federal-cu-thrive-review.h...

Check out the referral link and read his blog post. He did a fine job summing it up.

The short explanation is that this CU is offering 6% interest for 12 months. It's called a Thrive account. It is kind of like a C.D. The max you can put into this account is $500 per month.

You need to open a savings account and keep $25 in the account to be a CU member. You need to open a checking account and keep $1 in that account, because you have to fund the Thrive account with the checking account. You can then transfer up to $500/month into the Thrive account. No minimums in the Thrive account, but there is a penalty for withdrawals. These are basically no-fee accounts.

There is a $30 sign up bonus if you use a referral. On the flip side, if you don't qualify otherwise, you have to pay $35 to join some organization, to qualify as a CU member. But these two pretty much offset. & you can potentially earn additional $30 referrals.

The interest earned on the Thrive account will be in the realm of $3,000 x 6%. Around $180 total interest. Since you have to fund it slowly throughout the year. This in effect *triples* my total bank interest for the next 12 months.

At the end of 12 months, the Thrive account is swept into your savings account, I believe, and you will get a renewal notice about interest rate. Which is otherwise about 3% right now. You then start over at $0.

If I had any doubts about the PITA factor of this account, there was an extra bonus for me. My kids have a 7% interest account that cap out at a $500 balance. My elder child is well on the way to $500. SO... I figure in one year if the interest rate on this account reverts to 3% or so, it would be an excellent place to save up kids' money. & heck, 3% isn't a bad deal for myself either. But yeah, I expect it to be a long while before the kids have $6,000 ($500 x 12). So, it might be a good place just to pool some of their savings and track it in excel or something like that.

{My kids have been REALLY motivated by the higher interest rate, but are well aware they won't earn much, anywhere, after they hit the $500 cap. So, I think this will help motivate them to keep saving}.

Minors (over age 8) can also open these Thrive accounts. I didn't look into those details.

I wish I had my referral code to share, but I don't think I will receive it before this promo ends. 6% Promo ends Saturday.

Fiscal Doings

May 3rd, 2014 at 01:19 pm

**For the first of the month I received $19 in bank interest and $100 in credit card rewards. ($50 for ROTH and $50 cash; two different cards).

**I am taking care of some fiscal chores. I finally got around to making sure I was set up as secondary custodian on kids' investment accounts. I was mostly concerned about those (real $$$). Though I guess I should look into getting dh set up as secondary custodian on their savings accounts.

**Got my first Ting bill ever! We signed up right after Thanksgiving? First 4 months were entirely free. For April, we were charged about $10. $5 of that is for our household.

Next month we will likely pay a full $26 for our half of the bill. That has been our consistent monthly usage.

**I plan to open Chase checking account this weekend. That will be a $200 reward earned in something like 10 days.

I am not sure what I will do with this reward. Might just set it aside for vacation/kitty hotel, though I don't know if that is necessary. Otherwise, will probably invest the $200. We are diverting our snowflakes into an investment account, starting this month.

**I opened a new investment account this week, for my current year raise and to divert all snowflakes to. The purpose is a supplementary unemployment fund, college savings, and mortgage paydown/retirement. Gives us a little more liquidity and flexibility for the first two purposes, but mostly expect to use it for retirement or mortgage payoff, eventually.

No firm decisions yet. If things go well we may do 50/50 mortgage paydown/investing. I think that is probably where we will eventually end up.

I guess we are all backwards. When we graduated college the IRA contribution limits were a mere $2,000 per person. But we were saving 50%+ of our income. We started out with much more money in taxable savings and investments than we could possibly put away into tax-deferred accounts. Over the years that has shifted and we have certainly tried to be very tax efficient. In the past we have also done the complete opposite. We were saving too much into retirement, but funded ROTHs anyway knowing that we can use that money for college and so on. IT ebbs and flows.

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**I think last year was a dud on the "vacation lifestyle" front, but this year is shaping up pretty nicely.

Had a few loose vacation plans fall through. (Yellowstone wedding is postponed for a year or two; National Parks don't seem to be in the cards for us).

But, several other things popped up in the meantime. Most of them involve free hotel stays and driving, and so I think I can leave most the vacation budget intact for my plans to visit my sister in Ohio in the fall. Other than that, we have a short trip planned every month for the rest of the year. The Northern California coast, the Southern California coast, Napa, Tahoe, etc.

MIL invited us to Disney. I feel a little bad for her. She wanted to do something nice for us. We could really care less about going to Disney. Even moreso though with the summer offer - hot and crowded! (Even our kids don't want to go. What did we do to our kids??? Big Grin ). I might regret it, but we are giving it a go. Trying to compromise with Lego Land, which the kids are excited about.