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Archive for January, 2017

Long Week

January 31st, 2017 at 03:55 am

**Last Sunday I took DL(11) to the art museum. We have a membership but I don't know if I have ever eaten in their cafe. In the end they had small salads for $4 and the food was *really* good. It's kind of perfect because he is hard to get there, but once he was there he had a blast. Now I know that I can bribe him with food.

**MH got called to work in Monday (I don't think they've ever called him last minute like that before) and I ended up having to pick up MM for his high school math class. I think it's the first time all year I've had to sign him out of school for that. I have taken him to math a few times, when he otherwise had the day off or maybe if he got out of his other school early.

Just 4 more months of this madness!

**Last week we went to three shows in San Francisco. It was a LOT. We drove there three days in a row. But we had a great time.

One of them was a show I had been wanting to go to for a long time, where random people volunteer to read from their childhood/teen diaries. Absolutely hilarious. Another was an Adult Swim show panel that we took the kids too. We had front row and center for all the shows. In the past the talent has been uncomfortable with kids in the audience, for more plain vanilla shows (like on network TV). Guess they wanted to curse but there were so many kids in the audience. I didn't know what to expect, but in this case they chose to completely ignore us. Phew! They have to figure either we know what we are getting into, or that we are just clueless. Wink We were the only weirdos that brought kids to that one. DL(11) is hard to please, but he actually really enjoyed it. The third show was a podcast; MH found some friends to go with him. Which is *amazing* because everyone is always so broke and busy. Especially on a week night. We had forgotten that we bought the tickets, figuring we'd just cover them. They reimbursed him the night of the show, so that probably covers most of our costs for the week (tolls and eating out). Had totally forgotten that we even paid for all those tickets, so that was nice.

We took the train when it was just 1-2 of us, to help with our sanity. It maybe saved a few bucks when MH went with his friends, and definitely cost more for two of us. But sanity is priceless. (& I mean, we still had to drive an hour to get to the train, but the last few miles is the worst of the drive).

**On Saturday we went to visit MH's parents after the show. His dad's birthday is this week and we gave him a $50 gift certificate (which was a free credit card reward).

**MH went to a free game night last night. Trying to mix up the frugal with the not-so-frugal...

**Our kids were getting cell service in the reverse order. But in the end I don't think DL(11) ever used, and then suddenly MM(13) wanted to hang with his friends after school. His school seems in the middle nowhere, but I guess is a reasonable walk from the library. Several of his friends wait for their parents there every day, but he's only free on short days. So we have just been giving him DL's phone on those days. MH brought it up and I admitted he'd probably want his own phone for the DC trip too. The problem is that his existing phone is not compatible with Ting. So MH picked him up a new phone this weekend. $100-ish. We didn't necessarily have time to wait for the usual deals we get. But MH told him we'd just cover it; he could pay for the difference if he wanted more. Being Mr. McFrugal, he didn't want anything more.

We need a SIM card, so we have yet to activate. But we are just going to give him DL's phone # and turn off the cell service on DL's phone. If DL decides tomorrow he wants to hang with his friends after school, we can turn it back on. So it seems best to just wait until he *really* starts using it. I still expect that they will both be using cell service by next school year and have already included that in our budget.

I leave you with a picture of a sunset:

January Savings

January 29th, 2017 at 03:42 pm

Received $41 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $5 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $90 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$4 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,120 insurance (various)
-$ 200 dentist
-$ 100 school lunches (for rest of school year)

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All of the expenses above were December charges that we paid off in January. So this wraps up 2016.

Not much to report for January. MH had no income this month.

Taxes

January 22nd, 2017 at 03:30 pm

Finished our taxes yesterday.

I have the financial records to complete taxes on January 1, generally, but was waiting for investment 1099s (the only info I can't calculate on my own). I got an e-mail that those were ready on Friday.

I also haven't seen a pay stub for MH in months (got locked out of his online account) so will just wait to file until we get his W-2. I otherwise probably wouldn't even wait for the W-2. I expect I know his gross pay within a few pennies or a dollar, but would rather it all match 100%. We do not withhold any income taxes from his check, so that is some of why I don't really need his pay stubs. As long as the direct deposits are what I would expect them to be.

{I am totally fine with filing taxes before I have W-2s or 1099s, when I have any financial records whatsoever. It's just that I am flying pretty blind with MH's income}.

With MH working all year, we bumped up our "taxable income" from $46,000 to $48,000. We are still nowhere near the next tax bracket of 25%.

But, MH's income is being taxed around 30%. Taxes are complex.

In the end, we'd owe $1,400 if we did ROTH IRAs, or we get $1,000 back if we do Traditional IRAs. Total tax savings of $2,400. We can't max out the Traditional IRAs because of MH's work retirement plan. But rounding a bit, we can put $5,000 into his Traditional IRAs and $500 into his ROTH. I will hold off funding those until I get his W-2 and finalize everything. I already knew I could max out my Traditional IRA and did fund that already. We will do the Traditional IRAs and will invest the tax savings, per sidebar goals. (I expect for 2017 that MH won't be able to put nearly as much into Traditional IRA).

When I get the 1k refund I will just throw it at our investments. Not entirely sure how I will come up with the other $1,400. I think I will probably just fund that part when I get my OT check.

When we first started doing this it was like "$2,500 tax refund" for Traditional IRA or "no taxes due" for ROTH contributions. I did it this way because we were really in "flip a coin" territory, and I did want to just invest the difference. I'd say we are still somewhat in "flip a coin" territory, but also I am just covering MH's income taxes from my paycheck. I will just leave it be, for now. I expect everything to change, tax-wise, anyway. So we can re-evaluate from there. For now, this works, and still gives us some room to go either way.

Doings

January 19th, 2017 at 01:42 pm

**MH got called into work next week, but then gets two weeks off.

This works out for the best. I don't think he could have worked much this week. This week DL(11) has finals. CRAZY schedule.

We are going to have to take DL out to celebrate. He easily gets all As, without much effort. But... this semester I think he was lucky to pass all of his classes. PHEW! I know he's never had to work so hard. I am just feeling so much *relief* that we made it. The year started out very rocky. He's really done exceptional, given all he has had to deal with.

**MH's birthday is this week. I almost forgot in the work chaos.

We don't exchange gifts. I discussed with the kids, and they just wanted to give their daddy HUGS and home-made fudge. I said I thought that sounded perfect.

He already bought himself a sous vide (precision cooker). It's a long story, but he bought one for his parents for Christmas, and ended up with two. Was supposed to return the other one to Amazon but he seems to have a hang up about paying $10 postage to get a $40 refund. Don't ask me! He is way smarter than that.

I think *I* realized he wasn't going to return it before he did. He was struggling subconsciously with it. & he kept trying to make justifications to keep it. I finally said, "Happy Birthday". Moving on...

That was weeks ago, and he has yet to use it. (Still having some internal struggle about it). Thankfully some meat went on sale and he gave it a try this week. We've been eating like KINGS. I'd say we are accomplished cooks and eat very well, but probably limit ourselves on the meat side to the cheap cuts we grew up with and are familiar with. So this is expanding our horizons considerably. (MH has been salivating over this contraption since his friend cooked him dinner with one several years ago).

He made some seared tuna earlier this week. It turned out more cooked than he preferred. & he generally doesn't eat fish, but I guess is just more picky about it. He told us he over-cooked it. I said if it was any less cooked I'd be putting mine in the microwave. But maybe he will refine us a bit. Wink I thought it was *perfect*

Last night we had pork chops. I don't even know if I have ever had pork chops before. But it was *perfection*

I could get used to this. & it's nice to mix it up a bit and to try new things.

**In other fanciness, we went to the movies on Tuesday night. We got a new theater with the fancy reclining seats. The tickets are $6.50 on Tuesdays. I think our theater bumped up their tickets to $6.25 on Tuesday nights (cheap night) so there isn't any big difference.

MH had been a few times, and I just told him I wanted to check it out.

We agreed that Tuesday night is our movie night. At this theater. From now on! Used to be weekend matinees. Or you can stand in line and get there early on Tuesday nights (by our house). Or... you can just reserve your seats online and show up after the commercials/previews ,and sit in luxury. For an extra quarter per ticket. SOLD!

(MH had seen Star Wars at this theater on opening night. It's the first time he didn't have to wait in line for a Star Wars movie. Worked out because the weather was bad that night. He just reasoned he'd rather just reserve seats ahead of time. Few seemed to think of the option, but the new theater had just opened. Next time might not be quite so easy).

Yes!

January 17th, 2017 at 02:12 pm

Yes!

I did an update yesterday with where my head was at with our 2017 goals and budget.

I *know* my employer would pay me more if he could. But given the economics... He told me some years back that I Was the only one in the office getting raises (for several years). I had *no idea*. It was just some weird circumstance of being the youngest in the office but having most of the responsibility. I figured that was a warning of some sort, so have not even expected a raise for the past 2-3 years.

Fast forward to this year. We have a big software conversion, and we are getting really down to the wire. I had to work crazy OT the past couple of months just to get it done before the old software expires. I am actually feeling pretty happy and refreshed because it's January and I am knee deep in the fun part of my job. & the bulk of that software stuff is over. PHEW!

Usually my employer is more open with me, but today he didn't say much. Maybe that's a good sign. Usually he says something along the lines of pulling out of his income to be fair to me. Today all he said was he was giving me a 3% raise. (I don't have any indication that economics are better. I am guessing no speech just because he didn't have to apologize for not being able to do more). & he knew and appreciated how hard I was working. I think I just kind of needed that. Of all years to pull it out, this was the year to do so. I have been working SO HARD.

I *know* I am appreciated at my job, but it's nicer to be appreciated with a raise. Big Grin

(I don't even think it was a bigger raise than usual, percentage-wise, but dollar wise it just feels like more!).

In the end, the raise will just cover our increased expenses for the year, and will allow me to cover MM's gymnastics classes. Just perfect! It was actually kind of crazy because I already went through our expenses a couple of weeks ago and updated for all the little utility increases in recent years. (I don't know that I have been that *exact* lately, just knowing it all seemed to balance in the checkbook). I decided to pull $20/month out of my check for taxes, without looking at the budget. It's just what we needed to do for taxes. & when I plugged my new net check into our "budget" sheet" it was within $1 of our monthly expenses. Seriously! I told MH you would think I PLANNED that. The reality is I got "just enough raise", net of taxes, to not have to rejigger anything. Couldn't have planned it better if I tried.

So, I just threw up some goals in my sidebar. They are basically the same as last year. Still aiming to save 30% of my income. I rounded up investment goal a bit to keep it an even 30% of gross income.

This will get me through April and then I may re-jigger a bit. I get my OT pay in April, and then MH starts the busy season of his work in September. So it just works out to do a tax and goal evaluation every 4 months or so. I need to manage our taxes a bit more, with MH working.

Budget Update

January 16th, 2017 at 06:05 pm

No idea on the income side yet, for 2017 (Both MH and I find out this month if we get raises).

So I am just fine tuning the expense side of things. Many years we have had some expenses go up while others go down, but this seems to be one of those "expenses just going up" kind of years.

Monthly Increases:

Gymnastics $100 (added luxury splurge)
Health Insurance: $40
Cell Phones: $35
HOA $11
Internet: $10
Total: $196

Notes:

I did evaluate groceries and we spent about the same both of the last two years, so I think those expenses are leveling off. Phew! (Then again, MM(13) now considers 3 potatoes a single serving; I am not overly confident in the staying power of our current grocery budget). But, for now...

Cell phones: We added a line ($6/month) and I changed our budget since we are covering my parents' cell expenses.

HOA went up. We've been incredibly lucky. The bill has generally never gone up (in 15 years!) The more recent HOA boards have started updating common areas, which I think is reasonable, and some study came back that we were under-funded for something or other (long-term). This is definitely the biggest increase we have ever had, but was probably a one-off type increase.

Internet went up and MH is peeved. We are biding our time for cheaper or maybe even free internet. Our small company got bought out by a bigger one, so I know that was a lot of my husband feeling disgruntled. It's like the third time that has happened to us. (But at least it wasn't Comcast this time. A medium fish swallowed the little fish). On the flip side, we do have 100mbps. As long as MH is working, he can have his insane high speed internet. We do get use/benefits from it. It's been actually saving me a lot of time on a work project, to just take home and use our super fast internet. (We may have 100mbps at work, but it gets bogged down in various ways).

Gymnastics: They only take cash and I have been mostly been funding by selling stuff around the house. I suppose more than that, have just been funding from MH's income. I realized last fall that I never put this in our budget. Something wasn't quite adding up right, until I realized. But I've just been winging it because I didn't have any room for this expense. So... I would like to work this into our budget, which is basically how we allocate *my* salary. I don't know if we will be able to. Plan B is I will allocate MH's salary for this expense. Looking back at 2016, I think that $100/month should be ample. I am okay with MH's income funding "splurges that we can't otherwise justify". I don't want to just wing it again, for this year. It was an expenses we added middle of 2016 and that I didn't give a whole lot of thought, beyond "MH is working and we can swing it."

On the flip side, DL(11) is giving me a bit of a financial reprieve. His first class at art school was a visual arts class, which would have been the lowest on his list of interests. But he LOVED it and he has been working hard on his drawing. I kept telling him he could just take more art classes later, but he felt intimidated by how much talent some of the kids have. I don't mind buying him classes now to get his confidence up, and he can't even take any (free) electives this year anyway. That will come later. But for whatever reason I procrastinated on getting him enrolled in the single drawing class I could find. (I am not a procrastinator usually). By the time the first day of class rolled around I brought it up and said I could try to get him signed up, but he seemed no longer interested at that point. Phew! He is very protective of his free time (which is why I think this art school is so important for him; will give him LOTS of exposure during school, without cutting into his "time to be a kid"). But he also later told me he felt like he had caught up to the other kids. He is practicing and improving on his own time. (If he changes his mind later, we can cover with MH's income, or money from grandparents).

So...

If we don't get any raises, what ever will we do? I actually have $200/month going into investments. It was a placeholder for past raises that we didn't *need*. So I feel very *shrugs* about any scenario at this point. We have been investing the $200/month mostly with funding college in mind. & I mean, we already have enough money to get both kids through college (in a bare minimum kind of way). So this is just extra that allows our kids more options. Either way, it's just gravy.

I will find out today what I have to work with. Then I Can work on figuring out our goals for 2017.

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Edited to add: After getting multiple comments focusing on income (on other blog posts too), I felt it was worth clarifying. This is how we manage our expenses. If I was getting a 50% raise tomorrow, I would still go through this exercise. Keeping expenses down is probably the most important factor, as to early retirement. So, I am just sharing my thought process on the expense side of things. It is very "Money Mustache". I don't care if we double our income tomorrow. If we can find a cheaper internet alternative, we will find a cheaper internet alternative.

The income side is important too, but is rather divorced from the "expense" side, for me.

Trying to Stay Dry

January 11th, 2017 at 01:52 pm

After the "worst drought in recorded history", I heard on the radio this past week that we were on track for the "wettest winter in recorded history." (Or something along those lines). It would be enough to wipe out the years-long drought.

So... You can't win!

Anyway, we are in the midst of some huge storms. Was just reading an article how they opened the flood gates to release water. They don't do this lightly. They are letting go of precious water, and won't be able to close the gates again until the water recedes.

We are okay, for now, but we could use a break in the rain. It's supposed to rain for a couple of more days, and all the (MANY) rivers are getting very high and are being closely monitored.

Edited to add: I started to type this out yesterday. Last night I Was woken up around midnight to the most *insane* rain. It was raining several inches per hour. (If I hadn't of laid there for a while, taking some time to get my bearings, I might have thought that the river was roaring down our street. Of course, I got up to be sure it was *just* the rain). Seriously?! The storm went out with a BANG! It was very calm after that; the storm gutters were clear and able to handle the deluge. More rain today and tomorrow.

Doings

January 8th, 2017 at 02:35 pm

With MH home for the winter, you'd think the school stuff would be easier, but it seems more complicated. He took three trips to get kids to/from school one day last week. & the high school is still on break! I am looking more and more forward to putting this crazy schedule behind us. The kids will have two completely different calendars next year, but their schools are close together and they mostly start and finish school at the same time. Except for holidays and minimum days and stuff like that, we can just pick up and drop off kids literally on the way to/from our jobs. It sounds very nice!

----------------------------------------------------

MH ended up buying me a very small computer. He kept seeing sales in the $100 range. This is an incredible deal if you already have all the accessories. But I haven't had a desktop since I've been displaced by kids. So... $500 later. The motivation was not "minimalism" but I am LOVING it from that standpoint. The computer is about the size of the original roku? (Or how I recall the original roku to have been). It just hangs off the back of the monitor. & I told MH several times that I did not need speakers. He did not believe me, so he ended up getting me a monitor with built-in speakers. So it looks like I just have a monitor/keyboard/mouse. We got it set up in our bedroom, for now. Glad it is so compact, because I might want to move downstairs in the summer.

We also ended up buying a couple of office chairs off of Craigslist. It felt like quite a splurge, because the vast majority of the chairs in our house were free. From all sorts of random people. Everyone is always giving away chairs. We found two new chairs (retails $100/each) that we paid $40/each for. So far, we are happy with those. MM(13) Wasn't happy with the free used chair he had (it sounds like he has been rough on it over the years), so I got him a chair also. We had an extra desk laying around, for me, but I didn't have a chair. Thus, the purchase of two chairs.

----------------------------------------------------

MH went to a concert in San Francisco this past week. It sounded pretty incredible, but I just didn't think I could get away from work.

We have tickets to three more shows this month in SF, for the Comedy Sketchfest. We toned it down this year, based on show offerings and my work schedule. There's other shows we'd love to go to but are mid-week or just aren't practical at all.

I've been able to slow down and catch my breath for the last week or so. But will be slammed with deadlines for the rest of the month.

It's a stormy weekend and we are stuck indoors. We have watched a couple of movies (MH gets free movie rentals somehow). I am reading a library book.

2016 Final Rewards Tally

January 2nd, 2017 at 02:34 pm

2016 TALLY:

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

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

$41 Citi Price Rewinds

Ongoing rewards (through 12/31):

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

+$355 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$97 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$92 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

+$788 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments. Also, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

Grand Total = $1,906

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us since we don't use debit cards and don't have direct deposits (the usual hoops that you have to jump through). & the hassle factor is significantly more than it is with the credit card bonuses. Thus, we did not do a single bank bonus this year. I think this might just be where we land with MH working and not needing the extra boost so much.

All of the big bonuses we had been doing with the credit cards (doing the same $500 over and over, between 3 credit cards) have completely dried up. We did okay because our expenses were very high in 2016. But is not generally *how* I Want to earn my credit card rewards. Wink

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585
Year 2016 = $1,906

Total 6 Years = $17,188
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

Financial Updates - 2016 Year End

January 1st, 2017 at 10:01 pm

I think this is my last post for the day. I am getting to all my financial updates, since I have time today.

We did really well on net worth for 2016. Up $60,000 for the year. Our goal was to increase net worth by $42,000.

We paid down the mortgage by $8,000. The rest of our net worth gain was investments.

Home Equity is at $250,000.

Cash/Investments have surpassed the $300k mark.

I don't know if I have ever said specifically, but I have a very comfortable emergency fund for next job transition. (It's been a BIG goal for me, and we made it!)

ROTH IRAs and Traditional IRAs seem to be about 50/50, as to their balances. We do not contribute to ROTHs given our current tax situation. But we heavily funded the ROTHs while my spouse was not working (low tax rates). I would guess that the Traditional IRAs will pull ahead in 2017, since we are contributing to those.

Our savings rate was 30% in 2016. 25% of our income went to long-term investments and retirement. The other 5% went to cash savings.

If we paid off our mortgage, we'd be debt free and we would have $150,000 in investments. We'd have to cash out our ROTHs, cash, and taxable investments to do this. We could leave college money and Traditional IRAs intact. I suppose it's feasible (for the first time ever), but not wise. I don't think we would seriously consider this unless our mortgage was in the $50k range. & we wouldn't cash out our ROTHs to pay off our mortgage. So we have a ways to go. I just know that we will ponder more as this number gets bigger.

Our household income hit six figures for the first time. I am just counting "salary" for this purpose. I really thought we had an income around $100k last we both worked full-time. But it turns out we had peaked at $99,000 (per old tax records). This year our salary income was something like $100,200. We just squeaked by. So I guess that is kind of an exciting milestone. Of course, our income is kind of the same as it has been. I just did the math, and once you figure how much less OT I worked and how much less money we made in side hustles, economically we made the same amount in both 2015 and 2016. So while pretty much everyone generally reacts like we are suddenly "made of money" with MH working, it's more as I expected: We are the same financially either way. We've just replaced some side hustle income with wages. & the wages are WAY less efficient, of course, but the motivation has been for resume and "future employment" versus more immediate financial gain.

---------------------------------------------------

My long-term goal has been to get to a point where our net worth increases by our expenses every year. I figured if we could do this in our 40s that we would consider "financial independence" at 50.

Of course, this would be an average of a $60k increase per year, since our annual spending is at the $60k level. But I am fine with aiming for $50k since this will probably be a more reasonable expense level when our mortgage is paid off (and kids are grown). Also, if we can achieve these net worth gains, I know they will just grow with time, as investments compound. All this to say, my goal for the next 5 years or so will be to grow our net worth by $50k per year. In 5 years I will probably re-evaluate and hope to push that goal up to $60k or $70k per year. Maybe averaging $60k per year, for this next decade.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2017:

Cash: Increase $5,000
Mortgage: Paydown $8,000
Investments: Contribute $9,000
Retirement: Contribute $15,000
Investment Returns: $13,000 (would need 4% gain)
TOTAL INCREASE: $50,000

Of course, it also seems likely that the value of our house will increase significantly next year. It's been rather stagnate for a few years, but things are starting to take off in recent months. It looks like a $60k net worth increase is feasible, factoring home equity gains. OF course, almost anything is feasible. I don't get too hung up in the "year over year" changes, as I am more concerned about the next decade as a whole. But this is just what I am starting with.

I had said that maybe I would change my blog focus to "countdown to financial independence" when I turn 40 (last month). But... It's still too far away and nebulous with way too many moving parts. So I am laying out our more long-term plan. I feel that there are way too many unknowns to start a countdown at this point. It's just a very loose plan, for now.

The loose plan will be to get our kids through college, to have $1 mil in investments, and to downsize into a paid-for home (smaller than what we have now, and lower maintenance). We should be able to achieve this in 10 years.

2016 Goal Update

January 1st, 2017 at 09:43 pm

I am copying and pasting sidebar, to memorialize in my blog. Brief Commentary below.

2016 Goals

**Financial**

[X]$11,000 to IRAs 2016 (MAX)
...($10,850 @ 12/1/16)
...$10,800 savings;$50 credit card rewards
...We save $900/month

[X]$5,000 to savings
...($5,287 @ 12/1/16)
...We save $300/month, plus interest.
...Topping off with snowballs

[ ]$7,500 to investments
...($7,000 @ 12/31/16)
...$2,416 from monthly contributions; $2,084 snowflakes; $2,500 tax savings
...We save $200/month, plus snowflakes
...Will also invest tax savings when contribute to Traditional IRAs

[X]$3,000 to mortgage
...($3,100 @ 12/31/16)
...$3k per year to pay off in 15 years (from last refi); also ensures that we pay more principal than interest
...Funded with overtime

----------------------------------------------------

Note: Savings goal ended up with a little extra to top off the IRAs, so the IRA goal was met.

2016 was fairly similar to 2015. I just fell short of investment goal by about $500. (Same thing happened in the prior year).

I am VERY happy with how the year shook out. We also had about $6,000 in unexpected vacation expenses. So it does not bother me that we fell a little short of our financial goals.

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Edited to add, because I forgot this one:

[/]50% of dh's income to 401k
...This is the max that he can contribute

We did 50% for most of the year, but not all year. We did what we needed to do for our taxes. Otherwise, I *much* rather put that money towards our mortgage or keep some of it liquid for college. So I do not consider this a goal fail. We ended up putting about 1/3 of dh's salary into 401k. We also put 1/3 into MM(13)'s school DC trip, which I think we only entertained seriously because MH was working. If you want to know why we did not achieve 50%, that is the obvious answer. But lack of tax motivation (at year end) was also part of the equation.

December Savings

January 1st, 2017 at 08:11 pm

Received $41 bank interest for the month of December.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $95 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $10 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$15 Savings from Target Red Card
--$ 5 American Express Credit
--$ 1 Citi Price Rewind

In addition, I added $16 to investments to get up to a total of $7,000 contributions for the year. I fell short of my goal, but figured I could round up $16 to make it even.

Other snowflakes:
--$85 Craigslist sale

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$143 Auto Expense
-$470 Dentist/Ortho

Short-term savings was otherwise drained for the year so I pulled the following out of mid-term savings:

-$500 computer expenses (MM)
-$250 Sketchfest tickets (3 shows)


2016 Spending & 2017 Vacation Plans

January 1st, 2017 at 02:45 pm

In the end, it looks like we spent within $90 of what we spent in 2015, for total household spending. I mentioned in my last post that we are VERY consistent.

{Edited to add: Um... The kids owe me like $60 for Christmas gifts that they bought. MH was settling up with them yesterday. Once I settle up with them, I think our spending will be within $30 of the prior year. That is just CRAZY!}

Here are top 5 expenses and bottom 5 expenses for last 2 years:


NOTE: Edited to Top 6, to capture big expenses. All other expenses were $2,000 or below.

I highlighted the vacation spending because we aren't big vacation spenders and these are very one-off type expenses. Our annual budget is only $2,000 for vacation, and is more in the realm of what I foresee spending the next several years.

On the mortgage, we made an extra payment (or two?) versus last year. We should be under the $7,000 mark on mortgage interest in the future. This is one of those expenses that is snowballing downward very rapidly.

Auto expenses include repairs/maintenance, insurance, registration, fuel. (We pay cash for cars; no car payments). You might presume that our auto expenses were down because we now have a newer vehicle. But our repair spending in 2016 was $0 on our 2005 minivan. In contrast, the 2013 vehicle needed a new battery and new tires. (We replaced the crappy/cheap stock tires, and the battery died prematurely).

{I do have details on the autos, and I also track expenses per vehicle. For 2016: $1944 fuel, $1800 insurance, $278 registration, $803 repairs/maintenance}.

Medical expenses are insane, but our insurance has covered almost seven figures in medical procedures for my husband (before age 40). So, at least I know we get our money's worth, and it's very important for us to have high quality insurance. I am sure given different circumstances we would have just gone "cheap". It's been our biggest expense for several years, so is nothing new. It's been our biggest challenge with *one income* living, but we live so far below our means that we have been able to deal with it. But I know it's so glaring that I should address.

**I have not included income taxes because is not a big expense for us.**

The interesting thing about our lowest expenses is that it tends to be our more luxury spending. I am sure I have said it a million times before, but will say it again. We don't do without. We just are careful and rein in costs, and shop around. & prioritize what is the most important. So most of our "luxury" type spending ends up towards the bottom.

The only reason we paid any childcare in 2015 is that our carpools were flakey and they'd forget to pick up our kids (and their own kids too). *sigh* Our attitude for 2016 was to just take care of it ourselves. I am sure this is reflected in additional driving (A LOT), but gas has generally been cheaper this year.

Haircuts went up substantially because MM(13) is suddenly interested in a short hairstyle.

Vet care - we learned that our vet is cheap when it comes to shots.

I did notice that our telephone expenses (not listed) more than doubled. It was one of the more noticeable changes, since everything else was so consistent. We just didn't get as many Ting referrals (discounts) in 2016. So we paid $300 for landline + cell phone service for 2015. We paid closer to $700 in 2016. This included adding cell service for DL(11) the last couple of months. Both years we just paid for my parents during the last 6 months of the year. We are going to add MM(13) to cell plan this summer. So, should be an additional $144 per year, for the long run, with the two new lines. (It's only $6/month to add a line to Ting). I don't expect the kids will use much data/texting. They've had smart phones for years, so they are used to seeking out free wifi. I think we will probably just cover this bill for my parents. We used to split 50/50, but now it's going to be more 66/33. & we seem to use more data which is why we just tell my parents not to reimburse us for the second half of the year. Maybe I should just ask them to cover their $144 per year for the additional lines. As long as their usage remains low, we will just cover the rest. I think this sounds like a good compromise, since I don't know that we need to be subsidizing my parents' phone bills. But maybe $144 is a good compromise where we don't have to try to divide the bill as it gets more complicated. That's just their obvious "share" of the bill. You pay per line and then it's a flat amount for all the data, text and minutes that you use for that month (as a group). Even the first line is just $6/month.

I expect our total expenses to be about the same for the next couple of years. We have some home maintenance ($$$$) to tend to. Starting to talk braces for both kids. So stuff like that will probably replace our recent vacation spending. These are things we also want to take care of while our income is high and before our kids start college.

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While discussing vacation spending, I want to jot down some notes on that.

2017 Vacation Plans:

I really want to do a National Park vacation. It will have to be without the kids. Aiming for fall. I am thinking more frugal road trip. I don't even know if we'd spend $500 on something like this. So it's like my "Dream vacation" for the moment, but is nothing that is a big financial drain. Grand Canyon is at the top of the list.

MH has plans to go to Florida for his Grandpa's 90th birthday. It's in the fall; the kids and I won't be able to go. So it just works out. (I do not want to go, so it really works out!) That will be with his family, so I expect our only expense will be airfare, which should not be much.

My dad was making plans to river raft down the grand canyon with my son. He told me on Thanksgiving that he would cover the costs and would expect us to pay for airfare. I think that's fine and reasonable. (Though our vacation spending has been insane, I have just been trying to go with the flow, not knowing how this trip would shake out. Time like this, with Grandparents, is just too priceless). As our parents get more financially comfortable, they invite us on trips less often that they expect *us* to pay for. (They also give us more cash, which we set aside for these type things. Is why I often say that "the Grandparents are paying for it," whether they realize or not). Since it was domestic, I just went with it. In the end the trip sounds quite expensive (more than I would have thought), but I believe that my dad will follow through on paying for it. Anyway, we weren't sure if it might be too late to reserve for summer and I mentioned that MM(13) will get out of school the following year on May 31st. No more of this crazy "short summer" stuff, for him. So my dad told me yesterday that the more he thought about it the more appealing it sounded June 1 versus mid-July. It would be just so crazy hot in July. I think it's probably best all around to push that off. MM has his big school DC trip this spring. So this will space out his big trips a bit. Heck, maybe I will try to tag along if they wait another year. I just couldn't even think about it with my broken foot. That gives me time to save up too. (If this seems feasible, I suppose that MH and I would consider visiting Yellowstone instead, in 2017. We will start making decisions this summer).