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Archive for April, 2016

April Savings

April 29th, 2016 at 06:21 am

Received $36 bank interest for the month of April.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $42 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $5 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$7 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

+$3,000 OT to savings (will fund my mortgage goal)

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 840 to Savings/Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
- 500 life insurance

{That's $6,155 total saved this month!}

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Grandma slipped me $300 for doing her taxes. I'd say we spent about $200 of that for Robot Wars and related expenses. So I just left this money in the checking account to cover expenses. Will consider all that a treat from her.

Mortgage goal is funded, thanks to OT. (I really didn't work a lot of OT this year, so was glad I made just enough for our annual mortgage goal). But as usual, I am just setting it aside for now and seeing how everything else shakes out. I will apply the $3,000 to the mortgage some time between now and 12/31.

I mentioned in my last post that we are going to spend down some of our liquidity. It's a long story. But I wanted to be clear that it's not a "spend money to spend money" kind of thing. The next step for us is hitting our mortgage hard (our only debt). The short version is that it seems to be more sensible to take care of home improvements before we start throwing large sums at the mortgage. If I have $8k to throw at the mortgage, maybe I'd rather complete some long put off home improvements with that money. On the flip side, we want to have *all* of our ducks in a row before we start throwing bigger dollars at the mortgage. I believe this is our last duck. (& if we had no ducks to tend to, then we'd be throwing some of this money at the mortgage. So I guess either way we will be spending it down).

2016 Rewards Update

April 28th, 2016 at 09:58 am

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
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$208 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*


Other Rewards:

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


I expect this to be a slow year.

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I am not sure what I will do with the $208. I charged up $500 insurance and already received a $208 statement credit (before a statement was even issued). The thing is I usually charge this bill around now (on May billing cycle) and would pay off June 1. So in the end, I don't get the benefit until June when my bill will be $208 less than usual. (In the meantime, I will probably be pre-paying this bill in May).

I'd like to just throw the $208 into our investments. But I expect I will be paying airfare in June (around $2,000). So I wouldn't be surprised if I'd rather have the $208 for that expense.

Will see...

I know I am long overdue for a blog update. Where I am at with things is work finally slowed down. Today I can breathe! I am just slowing my pace and letting it all sink in. Tomorrow I will just work a half day. The following weekend I will be able to take a 3-day weekend.

Oh, and I will have a huge savings update this weekend. Which is the flip side of being so busy. Lots of money being saved...

We are already thinking of many ways to spend down our money. Blog posts for another day. But we are moving forward with a planned home improvement. Work we did plan to do this spring or summer. It feels pressing though because it's long overdue and we are so flush with cash. The thing about home improvements is I really have no idea how much they cost. But if it's not too terrible, we are thinking of moving an unpractical wish list home improvement item up to our current to-do list. I guess the stars just seem to be aligning with that. But again, it depends how much it cost. If it's more than I expect, then it can go on the impractical wish list for another decade. Will see. I guess we may be moving it up the list significantly just long enough to get some quotes. Will see how we feel about it from there.

I am sure I will shortly have time to bore you with all of the details of all of the above. That is the short version, for now.

Yes!! Craziness to Ensue...

April 15th, 2016 at 06:53 am

I know it seemed about 99.99% certain, but I couldn't take it for granted until we got official word.

LM got into the art school! Woohoo!

We never had any grand plan, and it would have been impossible to have a grand plan since we bought our house before we had kids. In the end they both seem to be on track for very fitting schools for their individual needs (public school).

LM is a weird one because I think he'd be just as happy in a STEM program. But he's also so artistic. He is interested in pretty much every aspect of the arts. He will now get to dabble in a little bit of everything for middle school. I guess I feel like the STEM side of things we can more easily and cheaply provide. He is so blessed to get into this school, and I expect it will save me a bajillion dollars in extra-curricular type costs.

The kids' schedules next year will be CRAZY. Crazy by our standards anyway. Though their campus has often been in multiple locations, they have always had the same school/schedules. Since the main location (K-4) was walking distance from our house, we've never had to drive all over tarnation. We've just had one school to drive to.

I don't fully know what we have gotten ourselves into. I have to print out the calendars and schedules. It's just one year and then we will figure out the high school situation for BM. I think next year will be the worst of it.

Oh, and no more uniforms! We are going to arrange some kind of uniform burning celebration. Even if it's just done symbolically and we donate the uniforms, is probably more what we will do.

This school is Grades 6-12. If he likes it, he should be set until college.

Dh dropped off his acceptance yesterday but I will call today to get verbal confirmation that he is all set. Once I feel more warm and fuzzy about it we will contact his current school so they can give his spot to someone on their wait list. (Though they haven't even asked yet and may just wait for them to ask. I would think they would want to do that soon). It feels weird on some level to let it go, though aside from the convenience factor next year I don't think it really matters. There is a school just a couple of blocks away that I do not think has a waitlist. Seems to be the best option anyway if LM hates the art school. I don't know if he has a lot of other options since most the middle schools are charter schools with long wait lists. The one plain public middle school I guess, but I don't even know where the heck that is. Anyway, it feels weird to give up a spot at current school, but probably 100 times easier to do since we already have a middle schooler there. I am pretty sure LM would not like that middle school and he won't be missing much. So on some level it feels weird, but not in a "will we regret giving up an option?" kind of way. Just weird in that once he leaves he can't go back. A door closes.

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We found out the following day that it is official that BM will be taking math at the high school next year.

Okay, so that sounds too good to be true. But they seem to be done fighting us on this. Phew!

{Because of common core and curriculum changes, they dropped geometry completely from the middle school program. Though we have tons of math teachers in the family, several willing to tutor BM for free, school (with peers) is the best option and particularly for a class like geometry. I am not sure if he is taking geometry or the new common core math. Our hope was to get him into geometry so he could just get ahead of the changeover}.

So... Phew!! (Though... I will believe it when I see it?)

So now I guess we have to keep track of *three* school schedules!? Ugh. Thankfully dh is good with that stuff. Since both their schools are charter schools, they all have completely different calendars, even if all in the same school district.

As crazy as next year sounds, the one piece of the pie that sounds *perfect* is dh's job. We haven't discussed it in depth but we've discussed how he should probably keep this job next school year if we end up with a 3-school situation. They are very flexible and family friendly. (Beyond this super crazy schedule, I think he's ready to move on up to something more interesting and the opportunities seem to be there. But I think this will be a good holding spot for one more year). Everything seems to just be falling into place I guess.

I could not live my life like this, but sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do. For the short run I can do "crazy".

Credit Card Bonus

April 10th, 2016 at 08:59 am

I just signed up for the first credit card bonus (one-time) for the year. I expect it to be a slow year, but last year surprised me at the end. So... Who knows!

I got an offer to spend $500 and get $200 cash back. It's an offer that dh did late last year.

While at it, I closed his credit card for that deal.

I actually spent some time this morning evaluating if we were eligible for any bigger offers or direct deposit offers. Since dh has direct deposit for his paychecks, it opens up more rewards for us. But I didn't see anything worthwhile.

Completely striking out, I did remember that I had a direct mail offer.

Though I am kind of feeling "meh" on current offers, I don't think my work/benefit analysis has changed at all with dh working. We usually only do $200 minimum bonuses and try to maximize with the $500 bonuses. Those are all still VERY worth it. I just don't foresee getting a lot of those type offers this year.

Edited to add: Waiting to be eligible for Citi Thank You bonus again in late September 2016. Might be a $500 bonus that we can do this year.

Spring Break/Summer Break

April 3rd, 2016 at 10:55 am

Kids had two weeks off for spring break.

Almost 3 weeks. Before spring break they had a week of short days for the end of trimester and conferences. I took the gas sipper and picked them up every day on my lunch break.

First week of spring break we sent them off with our parents. Dh's parents had come up for St. Patty's day dinner. So we sent the kids home with them. We picked them up on Easter. Their summer is so short and everyone's always made other plans by then anyway. It's been good to have some forced time with grandparents and cousins. My dad took BM camping for a few days.

I barely saw dh. (Though we did have one nice date night). He just had his own things. After we made arrangements for kids, like the Friday before break, his work said he could/should take time off to be with his kids. I am sure if they were younger he could have just taken the time off. Plus it was really slow. As is, dh told them that he didn't have the kids and he did go to work. I think that week they just told him to take Friday off and he might have left early one day for a free movie. But the following week was really slow (though it was supposed to be busy?) It worked out since the kids were home. Monday through Wednesday I just drove home at lunch time to break up their day a bit and check on things. The kids can mostly take care of themselves. Thursday dh left work super early and I just happened to be having a crazy day at work and so I told him I'd just work through lunch. Then they were invited to a sleepover near my work so their friend dropped them off with me around noon on Friday and I drove them home. Dh was already home from work that day, by noon. They probably should have just told him to stay home another Friday.

It was nice the kids had the sleepover to break up the long week. We've never left them home quite that much before but it worked out to not being as much as we planned. OF course they were totally fine. It was good easing us parents into it. I don't even think we would ask our parents for help next time they have a week off. (Then again, mostly that is MIL begging to take them, since we don't need enough babysitting for her tastes. So she gets her wish for a bit).

One of the kids asked me what we were going to do for summer. They forgot dh has the summer off.

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Speaking of summer. I was technologically challenged and accidentally deleted my last post.

I think the jist of that post was that we were unable to get a free stay in D.C. this summer. Since this is the last family trip we are planning for the foreseeable future and I also don't remember the last time we paid for a hotel, we will just go with the flow.

Other than the big D.C. vacation, we are going for a very low key summer. BM had been taking summer programs at the college, but it's somewhat pricey and has always sounded way better on paper than the reality. I think he couldn't take any classes the year before last because of his Europe trip, but last year we tried again and it was pretty "meh". We did leave it that we would review the course catalog (for both kids) when it comes out, but unless something really *perfect* is offered we will just skip it.

I personally think summer should just be time to be a kid. Maybe especially because we expect our kids to be working in a couple of more years. & if we try to plan anything their short summer fill up pretty fast. So I am very happy for them to have a slow summer this year. It's something we have not achieved at all in recent years. Too many opportunities to take advantage of, usually. The year is young, so will see...

LM did love his drama camp and does want to do that again. $400 for early bird sign up. I expect extra-curricular expenses like this to dry up (or shift) as he will most likely be accepted to art/drama school. It will be interesting to see if he even wants to do drama camp next year. Hoping he can scratch more of that itch while at school anyway.

So those are summer plans.

I expect in the future summers we will try to work in some lower key vacations. Since summer will be the only time we can all co-ordinate. It would be a good time to do a Northwest road trip. & one thing I want to do is just rent a beach house or a house by Tahoe for the week. Something like that that I would rather do anyway but has been pushed aside by bigger plans. That's probably more fun to do anyway now that the kids are getting old enough to bring a friend along.

Dh and I want to do some road trips and hit the National Parks on our own. We will continue our fall break tradition without the kids. I am starting to consider the possibility that maybe we can even do some of this during this calendar year. Will see how the year shakes out. Right now it sounds pretty excessive with D.C. being way more expensive than we planned. But... I am very open to it if things go well financially this year. I can't imagine that a drive to the Grand Canyon costs that much, so I guess is why I am open to it. It just depends if we want to put it off one more year so we can do the whole big trip that we had planned to do initially. Or if I just want to get to the Grand Canyon once before I turn 40. (We had a big National Park trip planned in Fall 2013 but it got canceled with the government shutdown. Yosemite is the only National Park that I have been to).

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One more crazy thing about this summer. My eldest turns 13! I have been so future focused, thinking more about 16 or 18... It kind of took me by surprise to realize. 13!

What's crazy is that my MIL turns 70 the day after BM turns 13. It's going to take some time for me to wrap my brain around all that. I think this kind of freaks out dh and I because we both lost a grandparents around age 69. Just another reminder that our parents are getting to that age. The rest of our parents are a few years younger, but not by a lot.

Oh, that also reminds me. I really thought SIL would really want to go all out for the in-law's 40th anniversary, which is more the tradition in dh's family. We spent some years prepping financially for that and trying do plan ahead for our perceived income/taste inequality. In the end, SIL bought a $1.5 mil house just before the in-law's anniversary and couldn't be bothered to contribute one penny to that. Went the complete opposite way that I expected!! They've been pretty much "dirt broke" since. I felt kind of silly after all that. Well anyway, SIL did bring up (recently) wanting to do something big for MIL's 70th. Which I do not believe is a tradition in dh's family and threw me off. But... I also feel like that we will probably be more on the same financial page and so won't worry about it. I do think it's a good idea. Something we should probably think about more and plan more for as parents and kids get older. Probably more party throwing in our future.

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Edited to add: Kind of exhausted from the last few weeks. Probably especially since we spent all day driving and doing Easter festivities last Sunday. So not a single day off at home since the prior Sunday.

I so looked forward to a quiet day at home, but woke up with so much energy after having a really good night's rest and nothing on my plate for the day. So I asked dh to give me *5 minutes* to go through his clothes in our closet. It's mostly his professional stuff that he hasn't worn in 13 years. (& his wish is to never have to wear a tie again). But he also has piles of clothes from his mom that I know he will never wear. I don't remember what his excuse was, 10 years ago, for keeping all of it. But today he let it go very easily. He had no idea he had it or where it came from. Which is why I Wanted to be rid of it. Though the clothes were brand new and much nicer than the stuff I Remember him buying from the thrift shop 16 years ago... None of the gifted clothing were his style and clearly he never wore it. I am glad to let it go. We left it that since we have the space and he barely has any clothes otherwise, that we can just keep all of his professional clothing. But I said, "I am not keeping that if we move." He said, "Fair enough." (I suppose I should try to get him to purge some ties though, if he hates them so much).

Purged (all new with tags):

3 casual shirts (long sleeved, BM's size. But neither kid will wear long sleeves). I'd keep them for myself but I have enough clothes.

2 ties

3 work/button up shirts

6 pairs pants

Plus an old jacket. Dh made a comment a few weeks ago he didn't know he had that jacket, which is why I Wanted to go through his stuff.

P.S. We have since discussed the ties. He has maybe 6-8 ties hanging from one tie hanger. We decided to just leave it be until we are financially independent. (He'd maybe have to take a job with a nicer dress code if something happened to me, that kind of thing).

March Savings

April 1st, 2016 at 08:02 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of March.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $40 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $2 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$1,400 to Savings/Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash

{That's $4,235 total saved this month?}

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It's been rather weird and quiet on the financial front. Eventually we will get hit with some bigger bills. I have no idea why I have not gotten dh's MRI bill yet.

Of course, we saved so much by virtue of February being a short month I guess. I don't feel like it was a spectacular month on the low spend front, but these numbers say otherwise (since we pay off all February bills in March, then any March savings reflects last month's spending).

April should be a bigger savings month since I expect to receive one check for 4 months of overtime. I feel like March was a pretty lax month on the spending side of things. Probably justified a few too many treats because it was busy. But that said, all the splurging was food related. There was no retail spending this month.

Work has been really slow for dh, which I think has worked well with my busy work season. We only saved so much because it was a 3-paycheck month. I believe he had at least 3 Fridays off in March. I much rather put more of his paychecks to the mortgage or taxable investments and will re-think that since we don't seem to be on track to make as much money as we thought we would this year. I think I will leave it as is but might back his 401k down to 6% from 50% (for match) come fall when maybe he should be working more. I just have to run some tax projections and is why I figure I will let it be for now.