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Archive for June, 2014

Fiscal Doings

June 29th, 2014 at 07:34 am

**We got our $500 gift cards ordered (SW Chase reward).

Dh is still set on a $300 game system. The sales keep changing quickly so he decided to get Best Buy gift cards. He can do price matching there. (Otherwise, who knows where to best get gift cards - we won't receive them for another week).

Oh, and our printer broke and so we picked up $100 Amazon gift cards to replace our printer. It was really old, probably unfixable, and so I look forward to upgrading significantly.

Because of the printer situation we decided not to buy a second tent. We will let the kids use our nice tent in the backyard. We don't use it that much, so might as well. Too many other financial pressures at the moment.

Dh got $50 Amazon gift cards to spend on whatever; I got a $50 Kohls card. I don't have anything in mind but will just keep for future clothing needs.

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Vacation plans are firming up. Since we traveling during BM's birthday, he chose Six Flags for the day of his birthday.

In-laws seem uninterested in tagging along, surprisingly. They still have cards to charge up and so on. But, so do I. So I will go ahead and pre-buy those tickets. I *just* got my Chase Freedom card (took forever!). & so will charge up some auto insurance and Six Flags admissions. I will top that one off today. (Spend $500/get $225).

Six Flags will be around $200 for admission and parking, so I will just let the reward pay for that.

If I can remember and keep it all straight, we will use the Chase Freedom for gas on our trip. They have 5% cash back on gas, next quarter. Overall we already have a 4-card sytstem and I much prefer "ongoing rewards" than this rotating categories business. But, we are going on long drive and I have the card so might as well use it. For this one trip.

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Dh didn't get his Chase checking bonus because I forgot that his "direct deposit" had to be more than $500. I tried again. *Fingers Crossed*

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I didn't do that focus group after all. The person who called me was obviously new. She missed a question and so I did not qualify. Bummer!

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Spending:

**Paid dh's $1500 MRI bill.

**Our vacuum cleaner broke and we replaced it. I used some reward to pay for it and charged the purchase towards some other reward.

**I have to nail down dates and buy airfare for planned visit to sister (Kentucky/Ohio) in the fall. I'd probably move on that but trying to coordinate with my parents.

**BM is backpacking with my dad later next month. I suppose I am throwing that on the birthday pile. Dh was telling me something about gear or costs and I told him, "Yeah yeah, I kind of figured money was no object for that". It's a special trip and will do whatever we need to do. Dh already has some backpacking gear, my dad has some extra, and he mentioned we could rent the rest. So, I don't think it will be very much.

**Oh, and I keep forgetting. We need to replace our water heater. I am kind of being cheap and lazy on that. If it isn't broke, why fix it? BUT, it's clearly near the end of its life and when they go it isn't always pretty. So we did want to ideally fix that before we went on any vacations this year. We didn't get around to it but have some time before our other (bigger) trips.

Back from Camp

June 25th, 2014 at 01:28 pm

Just checking in. Got back from camp today and have lots of laundry to do. A shower would be nice too!

I know we have lots of new bloggers around here, so I will do a bigger update. We have an annual family tradition to go to our city's "Family Camp". Several of the cities around here own or lease campgrounds in various areas. (Near Yosemite or Tahoe). Some of our family lives in other cities so we have tried various camps throughout the years.

BUT, Camp Sac has really nice cabins and it's a lot closer. So we have come to prefer it. It's about 90 minutes from our house and 1/2 hour from our family cabin. Only about 20 minutes outside of Tahoe.

The kids get the run of the campground and various supervised activities, so the adults can rest. It is DIVINE! Especially when our kids were younger. They provide all food.

So, we just returned from our 3-night stay. We went with my nieces, SIL, my in-laws and my dad. We decided this was our 6th year at Camp Sac. I can't believe that!

I think the weather has mostly been okay the past few years, though one year the camp was buried in snow this time of year and another year they had just cleared out most the snow. THEN last year rained the *entire time*. Which this year the staff said they never remember happening before. Yeesh!

But I guess this year made up for it. *Perfect* weather.

This picture is at Lake Tahoe. Sometimes it is warm at camp but too chilly by the water to really enjoy the lake. But we were blessed with perfect lake weather yesterday.



Some of the camps are more reasonable. I'd say Camp Sac is fairly expensive. (They try to advertise it as a cheaper alternative to Disney, but WE tend to spend about as much go to Disney. It's probably cheaper than an average vacation, but is expensive if you have a very small vacation budget. Camping is certainly infinitely cheaper and we have many beautiful campsites in our state). But anyway, MIL loves to vacation with the extended family and it seems to scratch that itch for her. We may have paid the first couple of times but now she insists on covering it. I am expecting this to cost us $0. We drove a little extra but didn't have to buy food for 3 or 4 days.

I was reflecting on what special times the kids have had there. My kids may outgrow it soon enough. So we are cherishing the years that they still enjoy it.

This & That

June 20th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

**Just waiting for a few bank and credit card rewards to come through. $200 seems to be the number, of late. (I think we have racked up 5 x $200).

I am pleased to say that the Southwest Chase double dip worked. Woohoo! That will be $500 in gift cards.

Crossing my fingers that our "fake direct deposit" worked for another $200. Will find out next week.

**Kids finished school this week and so we are slipping into vacation mode. I don't think I work a full week again until they go back to school.

**The kids' birthdays are coming up in July. That whole thing has been interesting. We literally and seriously told them not to expect anything for their birthday. Which we did achieve last year (no gifts). But have failed this year. We told them that because we bought some things earlier in the year that we did not want to wait until July for.

BUT, with credit card rewards and deals, their gift pile has gotten absolutely ridiculous. At least it will be very unexpected.

We spent $50 on them. Dh saw a prepaid Moto G phone deal and picked that up. They use my old phone to play games they can't get elsewhere. So, when dh saw this deal he was very excited about it. I thought it was the perfect surprise gift. (The Moto G is much nicer, and they won't have to share the one phone as much).

Dh wants to pick up a Wii U with the gift cards. We are negotiating on that. (He seems pretty set on it so I am trying to talk him into buying it after birthdays or holding until Christmas. It seems ridiculous for birthday). We had also already agreed to pick up a tent for them, with gift cards. We saw a massive one for $100-ish and thought that it would be nice for them to have a tent for the backyard. One that we don't care if they muck up.

THEN, I am talking to MIL the other day and she tells me to tell dh she "picked up a DS2" and then quickly changed the subject. I was thinking, "Surely that is not for my kids?" So I asked him about that, and surely it *is* for my kids. Rolleyes (The in-laws are crazy on the Christmas gifts but usually don't do much for their birthdays. BUT, they are trying to rack up some travel rewards).

So that is how their "expect nothing" birthday turned into the Great Gift Extravaganza of 2014.

**Our trip with the in-laws is coming up. (Which is also a birthday gift of sorts, for the kids). I never know if these trips are going to cost us $0 or $1,000. When they invite us and insist on paying for the bulk of it. But it's been several years and we are in an infinitely better financial position than last time we planned a trip together. So we will just roll with it.

Since the in-laws are racking up credit card rewards, they already bought all the park tickets and we have our kitty daycare covered. Which is a great start. I think if I suggested they put us as authorized users on their reward credit card that they would be over the moon with us charging up all our gas and food on the trip. But, I didn't go there. As is, we can handle food and gas. & I am sure they will manage to squeeze in and pay for some of that.

Avalanche Month

June 10th, 2014 at 06:54 am

I am waiting on a $500 reward (Still crossing my fingers if this double dip will work).

I am waiting on a $200 reward.

Both of those are dh's and a little iffy. Technically we don't qualify but so many people online said this or that worked that we gave it a go.

I qualified for a focus group. It's been YEARS - I don't remember the last one I did. $85 for 2 hours. It's the day we get back from camp. We should get back pretty early and its a paid vacation day for me. So I figured I might as well get double paid. The focus group is in the late afternoon.

Indian Potatoes

June 7th, 2014 at 08:39 am

So, I came across another Indian cookbook author and have been trying out a few recipes. (I put her cookbook on my Amazon wish list - will get it for Christmas if nothing else).

But she has a bunch of recipes on her website.

I tend to fry up potatoes on the weekends and so I decided to try an Indian version today:

http://monicabhide.com/monicas-indian-express-potatoes-with-...

Different spices that ended up tasting pretty similar to our "paprikia/salt/pepper" blend. Dh said the spice was pretty subtle. I told him I had doubled the spices. I think "tripling" them will be the sweet spot for this dish. We like our spice.

What I am intrigued by is this dish: Indian Style Chili.

http://monicabhide.com/indian-style-chili-monica-style/

I still have to find a samosa recipe, for the young'un who is on a samosa kick. Just been busy with other things.

What we don't have and what I want is a good and simple Thai curry recipe. I tried one while dh and the kids were sick one week in winter. I thought it was okay and dh and the kids didn't like it. They had some flu and their tastes buds were way off. I just mentioned and dh said he liked it. I said, "That is not what I recall". Though it's possible they would like it better in good health. I think I rather scour the internet for a similar recipe with high reviews. I was healthy and the flavor was a little off to me.

So those are my two current cooking goals. To find a good and easy samosa and thai curry recipes.

P.S. Check out my last post - a good balsamic chicken recipe.

Balsamic Chicken

June 6th, 2014 at 08:04 pm

For dinner last night we had Balsamic Chicken with Broccoli couscous.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/balsamic-chicken-with-bro...

YUM!

The chicken was excellent but couscous was just okay.

More Credit Card Reward Ideas

June 3rd, 2014 at 06:50 am

I saw this today which was interesting:

Open a Bank Account With a Credit Card

http://millionmilesecrets.com/2014/06/03/fund-a-bank-account...

I saw this trick mentioned in regards to the HFCU 6% CD deal, but was too chicken to try this. Did NOT want to get stuck with a cash advance fee. It was the first time I had ever heard of opening a bank account with a credit card charge.

This post gets further into which banks accept credit cards to open accounts, and how most do not classify these as cash advances. But, if you are still a little wary, you can ask your credit card holder to set your cash advance limit to $0. So basically the transaction won't go through if it is considered a cash advance.

We have enough medical bills that I doubt we will ever do this (not scrounging for ideas to charge up credit cards). BUT, if I saw this article first, I would have opened up my last bank account with a credit card. At the least, it would have been worth $40 cash back to do so.

Some Ideas for Less Trash

June 1st, 2014 at 03:17 pm

We don't spend a lot on monthly household spending, aside from groceries. I mean, I have been told I should separate non-food purchases in tracking and so on, but I don't see the point because there isn't much to track. If we need something, we buy it.

I think a lot of it is that we try to reuse/reduce/recycle as much as possible.

We have always used cloth rags for cleaning, cloth napkins, tupperware for lunches, etc., etc. We rarely have to buy trash bags since we always have plastic bags at our disposal. & not generating much trash is also a lot of that.

Personally, I think there is always room for improvement. So I wanted to share a couple of recent improvements that I am pleased with.

Firstly, we bought a reusable mop a couple of years back. I have shared that before, but just wanted to say I am still LOVING that.

http://www.amazon.com/LIBMAN-CO-00117-Libman-Microfiber/dp/B...

Secondly, I had put silicon muffin molds on my wish list last year, to replace paper muffin cups, and received them for Christmas.

http://www.amazon.com/California-Kitchenware-Butterfield-Sil...

I had never gotten around to using them. (I made some muffins since but was admittedly too lazy to clean the reusable ones, etc., etc.). Yesterday I was cleaning up and decided to wash them, which probably helped. Since they were able to dry overnight. Versus wanting to use them and not wanting to wash them and dry them first.

I used them today and they were just awesome and so easy to clean. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I am converted. Will wash them up and they will be ready for next time. (They are also dishwasher safe but they were so easy to clean that I just hand washed them. Seemed more hassle to put them through the wash).

Thirdly, I bought these reusable water bottles about a year ago.

http://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-Refill-Reuse-20-Ounce-Bottl...

I was skeptical about the durability when I first bought because these bottles are difficult to close. I thought it would frustrate the kids and/or they would break them trying to pry them open. But, surprisingly they have been really durable. (The kids take daily with their lunch).

We should have bought these water bottles ages ago, but it seemed like we always had an endless supply of water bottles (like our parents would buy some from Costco and give us a case, or whatever). We had also bought some cheaper bigger ones a while back but they didn't last very long. These seem to be a good middle ground. & they are dishwasher safe. & the kids delight in freezing them overnight so that they have cold water on hot days.

So those are my recent "reuse" upgrades.

What do you reuse in your house? I need more ideas.