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Archive for October, 2016

October Savings

October 30th, 2016 at 03:39 pm

Received $43 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $62 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$8 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 500 to Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$860 Auto maintenance/insurance/registration
-$280 Medical Bills
-$255 Hotel Deposit (40th Birthday)
-$185 Donations (just random stuff that came up)
- $50 School Expenses

In addition, I pulled $350 from mid-term savings to cover some tree trimming and shrub removal.

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Our fiscal year is just about over. I paid all of the November bills already. Mostly expecting any expenses this month to affect our 2016 bottom line, but anything that comes up in December will most likely be charged and paid off in 2017.

This month was pretty boring on the financial front. As planned, we funded our VR splurge with MH's income. (I've already paid off October charges, so it's paid for). The other 50% went into his 401k.

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That reminds me, I also sold the knee scooter. We had paid for it with focus group cash that MH had received the day before we bought the scooter. Since we had paid $150 for it, we just listed it for $150. it sold easily at that price. Net cost was $0 to use it.

I decided to just use that cash for MM's gymnastics, since they only take cash. This should cover him for the rest of the year (particularly with all of the holidays). I also used some of the cash for a school fundraiser. I will account for gymnastics somehow when I do the 2017 budget. But for this year I was able just to wing it.

2016 Rewards Tally

October 30th, 2016 at 03:11 pm

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
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$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

$40 Citi Price Rewind

Ongoing rewards (through 10/31):

+$50 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance charged to this card)
**PHASED OUT AND REPLACED WITH CITI 2% CARD**

+$375 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$65 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$74 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

+$628 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $1,715

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Probably one of our worst years in a long while. I expect there is some element of MH working and not needing to seek out the extra snowflakes as much. BUT... I think more to the point is our lack of eligibility for the usual cash back cards that we use. Chase won't give us any rewards.

I suppose the timing is okay since we are less reliant on rewards for extra breathing room.

One of us is eligible for a Citi Thank You reward but I even read somewhere that those are drying up. But, with the recent $500 splurge on VR, I'd really like to cover that purchase with a credit card reward. So I will continue to keep my eye out. The year is not over yet!

Some Health Updates

October 22nd, 2016 at 04:17 pm

**Really worried about my husband. He thinks he has an ulcer but it kind of came out of nowhere and knocked him off his feet. My gut feeling is that something really is not right.

Anyway, he went to the Doctor immediately and won't get ulcer test results until Monday. But in the meantime his Doctor had him do a bunch of other blood tests and his iron is crazy low. I don't know if she will contact him again before Monday, but you know, since he eats a well rounded diet, is not pregnant, is not female/menstruating, is perfectly healthy otherwise, etc. Sounds like internal bleeding. (Long-term internal bleeding??) We are prepared to take him to emergency if he exhibits any symptoms they told us to be careful about. (More severe internal bleeding symptoms were basically the reason to go to ER).

Otherwise, I suppose we find out more on Monday.

*sigh*

**In good news, DL(11) has completely snapped out of his funk. Life is back to normal.

We've not ruled out a mood disorder or something along those lines. I feel like we aren't being taken very seriously because he is so high functioning, which can be very good but can also be very bad. That's very typical in my family. (These are the type people who just randomly commit suicide "out of nowhere" because they can appear to keep it together for a long time. Just to point out why it's problematic). But we were referred to getting more professional help because the school counselor was dumbfounded by him and VERY concerned. It's just that by the time we got him into any help he was back to a range of normal. So I know that my worries are not over-blown but there's not going to be much that we can figure out or diagnose while he is in "happy land".

**In super good news... MH's Grandfather had been ill for a long time and after what seemed like a bazillion tests, they were not finding anything. I think they were just getting resigned to it being old age.

But... He snapped out of it and seems to be returning to normal. After pressing his Doctors about if he could have had some kind of virus, they finally ran some other blood tests.

You will never believe what he had. He's 89 & he had... MONO

Considering that mono almost killed me the month I turned 18... I told MH that his grandfather will live to 110. Wink I expect he had a much milder case. From what we had heard, was none of the typical symptoms. But it looks like most people get mono (or are exposed to the virus) before 30 or something like that. I guess nothing typical about it.

So I guess that's a lot of good news but some worrisome news too.

Doings

October 16th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

**MH won $75 at work. More on that below.

**MM got accepted into a study that will probably pay him $300 next month. (It's $100 per visit, and depends if he passes the first one or two screenings. If accepted, it's a 4-year study and they may randomly choose MM for follow ups later). This is an autism study.

I've said in the past that the kids don't really have anything to save up for, so am just thinking longer term. (Just different times, different circumstances. Seems I had more ways to spend money as a kid). BUT... When discussing the possibility of a study (another one that paid $200 up front) MM mentioned that he wanted a new desktop computer. We agreed to buy him a monitor and a OS (probably can get a student-priced OS) and would cover 50% of the rest. He was probably going to have to come up with $300, and then this study just fell into his lap. If the study doesn't pan out for any reason, he has the money saved already.

I am glad he is going through the ropes of a more medium purchase before he buys something like a car. He's going to build his own computer. Right now all he has is a keyboard and a mouse (that he uses with his laptop).

That's the income side of things.

On the spending side of things...

**MH had pre-ordered the PlayStation Virtual Reality system (for about $500).

It is pretty freaking AMAZING. (Seriously, it's hard to imagine this is just the bottom/intro. They are going to do amazing things with VR).

It's the kind of thing we've been paying with credit card rewards (for the past several years). So I was thinking I should probably look for a $500 reward. I know there was one I was eligible for again this month, but it looks like that particular reward has dried up, as many of the others have.

I told MH that we had a good run, but we might not be able to find big bonuses any more. (& not that they don't exist, but if we've done them 3 times already they aren't going to let us do the same bonus again).

I will of course keep an eye out, but I am not expecting much on this front. The cc rewards were a nice income stream while MH was out of work. Plan A was that we were just paying from his income anyway.

We decided that MH should use his found $75 for some games. He already spent $25 (bought the VR game that everyone is raving about the most) and is keeping the other $50 for whatever strikes his fancy between now and Christmas. Otherwise the VR system came with some demos/games and he had bought some play station credits on sale a while ago (25% off?) that he has been using.

In general, MH and the kids aren't big game spenders. But it helps when $75 falls out of the sky like the day you get your new VR system. Big Grin (Otherwise, they are filling up their Christmas wish list and will keep an eye on the used market).

Other spending has been far more boring and mundane...

I hired out someone to get our trees trimmed and to pull out dead shrubs. A LOT of work. We had never trimmed the trees (just one monster tree in the back that *really* needed to be tamed). I mean, we did minor pruning that we could do on our own, but the trees are 15 years old at this point and need more work. In the end, monster tree is still enough of a baby that they said we wouldn't need to do a big pruning for another 5 years. The shrubs that the builder had put in all died in the drought (because we couldn't water enough in summer). I think except for two trees in the front, everything else we had put in. It's a hot/dry climate in general so we always need plants that need very little water. I am pleased that everything else seems to have done well with very little water.

**Yesterday I took MM out shopping. He needed a new backpack and a new jacket.

We stopped by Ross, who had TONS of backpacks a couple of weeks ago, but had since cleared out the inventory. But we found a $20 jacket that was just about perfect. My only concern was that it was a bit bulky, as to something to just keep in a backpack (since my kids mostly refuse to wear jackets. It mostly sits in the backpack to appease the teachers who freak out about their lack of warm weather wear).

So... We went over to Target. We found a $30 backpack that he liked. (I told him not to take off the tags until he is sure everything fits).

And... We found his dream jacket. Super light and thin, just for the rain. It was something like $32. I said "whatever" because he was so pleased with it and I knew it would fit way better in his backpack. It wasn't until I got home that I even realized that jacket was on clearance. Yeesh! (Full price $45?) Since they mostly never wear their jackets I am used to just buying whatever on clearance (more in the $10 range). But with MH working and MM being a teenager, I am trying to let his taste come more into play. Thank goodness for places like Ross. & we could probably hit the thrift stores too, but it's just something I haven't done in so long (almost a decade?) with access to such cheap clearance items. I stopped shopping thrift when Target opened a store near our home. The kids' clothes is most often in the $5 range. Plus I can just order online and have it shipped free to my house. & Ross isn't too far off from that for adult clothing. But... Given our finds yesterday, I suppose we need to re-visit thrift options too.

MH has lots of time to kill (in the vicinity of Ross) while he waits for MM to finish his math class, so I will just have him return the other jacket during the week.

I didn't pick anything else up at Target. It's how I have been since we got a Target credit card. I generally would never do a store credit card and feel uncomfortable with it, but we got the cc because we do primarily grocery shopping there and the 5% off is pretty sweet. I think my reaction to that was to just avoid Target like the plague. I just didn't need any additional temptation. & so is the irony that I have probably never spent less money at Target. I mean, how many years have we had this credit card? At least a few years at this point. I no longer equate Target with hobby shopping or perusing. Just in and out with a list. & I don't think it's an overly conscious thing but it's just how my mindset shifted with the credit card.

Ross is another story. I didn't have my internal alarms turned up, and so my attitude was completely different in Ross. I fell in love with a $10 blanket that I happened to walk by. I actually resisted it the first pass, but then decided I couldn't remember the last time I bought myself something. Just $10! So I am glad I decided to splurge. (The blanket is very soft and just gorgeous).

I also found a drawstring bag (but more sturdier/higher quality) for $3 and so I just grabbed it for our re-usable bag stash. Reminds me that MH also got a free bag from work.

Weekly Minutiae

October 7th, 2016 at 01:29 pm

When I haven't been too posty, it seems best to just go back to the minutiae.

Monday doings:

**MH went to a free movie. He sees free movies about 2-3 days per week. (Advanced Screenings).

{Ironically, DL(11) was invited to a birthday party for a movie we thought they'd see Saturday with grandparents. We had left them 4 free tickets for an advanced screening. Last time we took him to an advanced screening he was invited to see that movie at a birthday party. & so it happened again! But... He had refused to go, so it works out for him. He is relieved he doesn't have to see the same movie twice in one week again. I guess that's a problem when you see everything early.}.

** Since we were gone all weekend, I thought maybe I'd offer to help MH grocery shop while we waited for MM (gymnastics class). But MH was off to the movies. So I stopped by the store to get a few things and MH went by the store Tuesday to get the rest. (I didn't have a lot of time and I don't know where everything is). We've mostly been splitting the grocery shopping 50/50 since he has been working, but I hadn't gotten any groceries since I broke my foot (2 months ago).

**MM(13) had no school Monday. Even the high school had off. I don't think we would have realized that he didn't have his high school class, but he's taken responsibility for all that (as I expected he would). So... I am glad he was paying attention.

**MH told me about a New Years concert he wanted to go to. I was open to it since it's a rare year that New Years eve falls on the weekend. Otherwise it's really hard for me to get out of work early and all I want to do is collapse (due to crazy work deadlines). So... I was open to it, but then he said there was no seating. *sigh* Considering I've been couch bound for 2 months with a broken foot... Wasn't sounding too appealing. Wouldn't sound too appealing anyway. The more I pointed out how old and decrepit I am the more he seemed to rethink his own stamina. I think it's probably for the best. We both agreed it probably sounded more fun than it would be, and good thing we did all that stuff when we were young. (He'd gone to this New Years concert several times in his teens/20s).

**Monday I helped my dad with an estate/tax situation. He is endlessly inheriting money from his "poorest" relatives. (I put poor in quotes because they certainly don't die poor). Anyway, he lost an aunt and an uncle the same week this year (brother/sister) and they had one niece doing both their estates. I have no idea how clean or messy the estates are, but I was consulted on a bit of a tax mess. I just thought that two estates at once sounded a bit overwhelming to take on. (Welcome to my future. At least my parents don't have 20+ siblings between them).

Tuesday Doings:

**I went home for lunch Tuesday and cooked lunch for MM. Just wanted to mix it up a bit. He's got no school this week, except for math class the rest of the week.

**MH got a $40 offer for doing some 20 minute online survey. Not sure how they will pay him. Was a follow up to a focus group that he did a couple of years ago.

Wednesday Doings:

**DL had a late start school day. I decided to leave MM to fend for himself since I left late that day. (No drive home to feed him lunch).

**I set up an appointment to get some shrubs removed and trees trimmed. It's long overdue. MH is busy at work and I had some time home this week and next, so I figured I'd just take care of it. What spurred me is some glowing referrals from neighbors.

**I got called about a $45 focus group but I didn't qualify for it.

Thursday Doings:

**My dad threw out some big (Grand Canyon) trips he wanted to do with my son. The first was on in February and I mentioned how my son already had a big trip planned in April and doubt he could do much but summer trips in the future. (MM doesn't have a break for the high school and my dad had the wrong week for the middle school Feb break). So he threw out a summer trip idea.

Yeah, I was thinking my parents certainly never took me anywhere and I had done more than enough for my kids, so I was just going to go to the Grand Canyon without them. Probably next year? Looks like MM(13) might beat me to it. Yeesh! (Or maybe I can go along, but it sounds a bit more than I would be up to).

I did also briefly think that we already paid for like a $3k trip in April, for MM to go to DC (plus insane amounts of vacation spending this year). But I just let it go for now. Have at least 8 months to figure it out. At least we are talking about domestic trips (much closer to home).

**I talked to a local University about 20 minutes on the phone about a study my 13yo is interested in participating in. He'd get a picture of his brain (which appeals to his nerdy side), I'd get his IQ test results, and the compensation is $500 (over 4 years). He'd get $200 up front. Fingers crossed! (If he can't get in I won't be too upset, since it seemed to be a big commitment). They are studying ADHD.

I put BM in their database and MH already signed him up for some other study (because the thought it was this one! When they called...) That one paid like a $30 gift card for 5 hours. But it appealed to MM's nerdy side too, so I am sure it's fine. I just signed him up as a normal developing child. I didn't sign up DL for the database because I wanted to wait and see if we had a mental health diagnosis for him. They are doing some studies on mood disorders and ask about a lot of different kind of brain disorders.

**The high school changed their schedule, no one told us, and so MM missed a math test today. UGH. His teacher didn't seem concerned about it. We are presuming that he will just take the test Friday. His class usually starts at 1:45-ish. (I don't know the exact time since MH handles it). We had been told it would be 1:09 on Friday? But they moved that to Thursday. When talking to the office staff they said, BTW his class started at 1:30 Friday. This is insane! So anyway, he showed up around 1:45 for a test that started at 1:09. OF course it had to be an exam day.

{They keep insisting all this is on their school calendar/website, but it's not!}

I expect this week to be the most challenging (of the year) on the 3-school front. Kind of a crazy week with schedules going in all different directions.

Friday Doings:

I took today off since both kids had off. Our original plan was to go to Monterey, but that fell through.

I hashed out a plan with the kids today. They want to hit their favorite indoor play place in the a.m. ($14 for two kids). Then we decided on a free restaurant gift card to use. I don't know if we will use the entire $50 but we can try!

I've got to run by the CU to deposit some cash.

Besides grocery runs and $14 planned spending today, we haven't spent any money this week. I think MH might be picking up a birthday gift today. DL(11) has a birthday party tomorrow; a new friend from new school.

I suppose I will be dropping off MM at school (math) after lunch. Since the traffic gets so crazy over there I left it that MH could pick him up after work.

This & That

October 3rd, 2016 at 12:59 am

**DL's mood seems to be mellowing a bit. He may be evening out, but lord knows what might set him off again.

He did get through two full weeks of school. Phew! So I think this may be a turning point. We also left him for the weekend. Which I think might backfire as I wouldn't be surprised if he is extra clingy now that we are back. But, will see. He's generally been fine on the weekends and maybe he would have been fine regardless.

He has a 5-day weekend coming up so I expect that these next two weeks will be easy peasy, in comparison. I am not entirely sure how we will handle all those days off. He may decide he is perfectly happy home alone as long as I don't make him go to work with me. Wink

We did have plans to go to Monterey Bay Aquarium on Friday, but... DL got invited to a pizza night with his besties from his old school. (Whom we know he misses very much!) I initially was very, "I don't think so," since they've gotten together a few times. But later MH read the whole e-mail and there was a twist. His favorite teacher in the world was just happening to be babysitting that night and had agreed to host the mini reunion for some of her students. O.M.G. We *then* later noticed they left out half the kids in their group, but I expect it was most likely she agreed to do this if they kept it very limited. (Though, who knows). DL still wants to go.

I can't imagine the kids will ever have another week day off together (outside of tax season or busy holidays), but... Last time we went to the aquarium was on a Sunday and it was quite pleasant at opening time. So that will be our new plan.

I am kind of stumped on what to do with the kids on Friday, since I have that day off and want to spend it with them, but MH mentioned I should take them out to lunch with one of those $50 gift cards. DL didn't want to do anything but maybe MM will have an idea of something fun to do.

I did also just get an art museum membership, which is just another idea to throw out there. Enjoy it on a quiet week day...

Edited to add: We will save $50 by buying Aquarium tickets through our credit union. We can just purchase online.

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MH & I had a nice weekend in Tahoe.

Our initial plan was just to do a super cheap getaway. But I expect that I was feeling relaxed after my September Savings post. So we splurged a bit in the end.

We left around 5:00 and traffic wasn't half (or 1/10th) as bad as we were expecting. I think we got ahead of most of the Bay Area weekend Tahoe rush. We made it about 1.5 hours in (with 1 hour to go) and then we were in dead stopped traffic for about an hour. Road construction. UGH!

Since our hotel was up a windy hill, we decided to stop for dinner around 8:00. (Not sure if there'd be any food up towards our hotel). Actually, the GPS had wanted us to turn off quite a bit earlier but we decided to look for food, on the main road, and I did notice that the alternate route wasn't adding much time.

MH had wanted to go to a stand up comedy show but I expected it was going to be far too long of a drive. But, we just happened to pass the venue (a casino) about 5 miles from our hotel. !! I said, "I think I can live with that". The 5 miles was about a 1/2 hour drive up a windy hill. When we got to the hotel we learned there was a casino shuttle, so I was sold.

It was SO COLD, and it probably snowed today after we left (per forecast). We lucked out big time in that we pretty much ran out of the show to the shuttle and only had to wait a few minutes. IT would have been a whole hour wait otherwise and I didn't really want to even sit 15 minutes outside (freezing), not really knowing when exactly the shuttle will be there.

The drive home was lovely. No construction. PHEW!

We probably spent way too much eating out, so about $200 total for the trip. We spent some on gas too, but I am sure that will be absorbed in our regular gas budget. ($20 gas)

The hotel was really nice and I think it would be a nice place to take the kids on a summer vacation. Something to keep in mind with our limited time off together and our lack of desire to do big trips. Tahoe is a little slice of heaven in our backyard. It's one of the nicer timeshares that we have stayed at, with lots of amenities. We just didn't have a kitchen, but if we plan ahead more we can get an apartment with a kitchen next time.

Credit Card Rewards Update

October 3rd, 2016 at 12:33 am

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
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$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

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

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I signed up for an AmEx offer where if we charged $25 Hulu expenses we would get a $25 credit. After I "redeemed" the offer and had MH switch Hulu to that credit card, I saw that the fine print was that it was only for new Hulu users. Since the bill had charged like the day MH switched it over, I figured it wouldn't hurt to just let it run through to $25 and see what happens.

So... imagine my surprise when I saw the $25 credit today.

I could technically do the same on my AmEx card but I will just let it go since it was a fluke..

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I finally received my $250 gift cards.

We ended up choosing 3 x $50 gift cards for restaurant chains. (I feel like it will take forever to get through these, but was the only thing we would ever even use).

We did also choose one $50 gift card as a gift for Christmas.

& we choose one $50 gift card for a fancy restaurant. We were thinking to use for our anniversary but we didn't get the card until Friday (a week too late) and we were too sick of eating out when we drove home today, or else we might have stopped for lunch at this restaurant. We will probably just do lunch there some day when MH has a weekday off. (Wouldn't be until December? Or Thanksgiving week?) Will have to remember to use it...