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Archive for June, 2017

Summer Doings

June 23rd, 2017 at 06:53 am

For the first 10 days of summer break, we have absolutely nothing planned. It's a sweet relief after a long/trying school year.

Actually, most of our summer looks like this. We aren't big on filling up our schedule, but the kids' summers are so short and sometimes it fills up very quickly, regardless. So, we are ALL happy to have a very slow summer planned. We will break up the peace and quiet with our annual camping trip and then birthday festivities for the kids.

In addition to just soaking in the peace and quiet, we've also blown all our "fun" money on our trip abroad. So doesn't leave much else. Extra motivation to keep it low key. We have plenty of frugal/FUN things to do, and so I feel very *shrugs* about this part. For example, going to the pool or the beach.

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MH and MM went to a free movie yesterday. We've been having a heat wave and usually they make you line up outside (for free advanced screenings). But in the end, they let them line up inside yesterday. Phew! (MH had gone to another movie on Monday and he had waited outside in the heat. It was another theater).

{The movie they saw last night was "Baby Driver". MH said it was really good and he is telling everyone because the general reaction is that the name of the movie sounds stupid, and no one's heard of it. Even among his movie friends}.

MH did make it into one free movie screening (a few weeks ago) that was really meant for college students. I didn't go because I didn't think we'd get in, and didn't want to waste my time. In the end, the movie was really good and he got tickets for a more normal (all ages) screening next week. So we are all going to see that movie.

Yeah, pretty much MH sees *every* movie before it even comes out. You see why I am not concerned about our lack of "fun money". Wink

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Over the weekend I decided to order some shoes and swim suits.

It's mostly impossible to find shoes that fit my feet, but I found a pair that feel like sneakers and double as casual or work shoes. I bought like 3 pairs of that shoe. So I have probably been good for a while. (That was a few years ago, and I bought a couple of extra pairs that I have yet to wear).

{I was amused when someone at work complimented me this week on my shoes. I've worn them every day for YEARS. I just chuckled to myself how people don't notice these things. Realizing this, goes a long way to saving space and money}.

I am just trying to replace a flat shoe that I have, and I see the same shoe but can't find them in a wide size now. *sigh* I decided that I don't remember ever shopping flats at Zappos so I gave it a try. (Several days later, I've returned them all. A couple fit but just weren't right. One was close and I might try double wide on that brand).

For whatever reason, this reminded me that I really want to replace my swimsuit too. I don't remember when I bought it, but I know I had it 2010 when I went to Hawaii. It's fine, but starting to fray a bit. (I've tried to buy another swimsuit at some point, but have yet to find something).

Anyway, I checked Bealls of Florida and they had some suits on sale in the $10 range. Like really nice swimsuits. So I just bought up a bunch. Something will have to work. & I bought a couple of more expensive ones also. (I only plan to keep one).

So... I told MH that I had just spent $400. He didn't bat an eye. He says, "Yeah, how much are you going to return?"

Well I already returned $260 in shoes; the entire freaking order. He knows me too well. Big Grin

Edited to add: I am reviewing the June spending today. Apparently I haven't bought anything for myself since the beginning of February. Replacing worn out shoes and swimsuits, I'd probably put under "clothing" versus "personal spending". But regardless, I have spent $0 on clothing this year AND $0 for personal spending.

Mortgage Update

June 22nd, 2017 at 06:48 am

I think it's been a long time since I have done a mortgage update.

The short version is that our last refi was in 2012, for lower interest rate. Given the high unemployment rate here, we've not felt comfortable with a 15-year mortgage. (Well, between that and our health insurance literally going up by $1,000 per month). But we also did not want to reset the clock all over again for 30 years. So our goals with our current (30 year) mortgage have been to pay more principal than interest, and to also not have a mortgage on this house for more than 30 years total.

To that end, as long as we are well employed, we do throw an extra $3,000 per year at the mortgage. I fund with my overtime. (I think we did a bit more in the beginning to have more "principal than interest." Maybe an extra $1,000 in year 1).

We will want to shave off 10 years, so that we don't have a mortgage on this house for 40 years total.

I do have to say that these lower interest rates are absolutely amazing when it comes to mortgage amortization. Our first mortgage on our first condo was $1,500/month. We paid $1,400/month interest! (Only $100 was going to principal). We really barely paid anything down the first 10 years or so of home ownership. (We had basically the same mortgage amortization when we bought our current home).

In contrast, we've paid $40,000 off of our $200,000 mortgage, since our last refi. We are paying off about $8,000 per year, and that is just accelerating with time. So it feels like we are making some real progress. & to be clear, this is with much smaller mortgage payments. It's just that so much less of the payment goes to interest.

Current status:

We have shaved off 4 years off this loan. So that leaves 6 more years that we want to shave off. Will keep chipping away at it.

{Note: Our last $3,000 payment shaved off 7 months}

We don't have any plans to throw any (additional) extra at the mortgage. We have kids starting college in the near future and so are hoarding up cash and investments to that end. Would rather err on saving up enough for college and not having to take out any new loans.

It's all fairly moot as it is 100% likely that we will sell our house in the next decade (while still in our 40s). I am guessing it is most likely that we will sell before we ever pay off? It seems more prudent to save up the down payment for our next home. (Our plan is to downsize and pay cash for our next home. But I am guessing we will settle in our next home before sell current home. A down payment will give us more options on that front, versus having to wait to sell first).


TV Sold!

June 14th, 2017 at 06:41 am

We sold the TV that we just replaced.

Probably could have gone about it better. MH really thought he could get $400. Which is how these things seem to go. He thinks he is going to get more and then can get kind of stubborn about it. & then he also gets emotionally attached to these things, which makes it harder. So I was skeptical, but in the end, he just wanted to be rid of it. I am relieved. He'd probably be totally fine listing it all year and waiting for the right price. But beyond that, he was more motivated than I expected him to be. (In contrast, if I have anything to sell, I just want it gone the day or week I list it. But I will admit I don't sell many high dollar items).

So... He's been trying to sell for a while at this point. We were surprised how little interest it was getting at $200, which is what we have it down to after several weeks.

This past weekend I listed a few free items on our neighborhood website. My husband is always weird about putting higher end electronics on there (just obvious that we have this type stuff or may be upgrading, and it's not anonymous at all). But for whatever reason he asks if we should just put the TV on there too. Um, YES!!

I wasn't thinking at all that people might feel more comfortable buying TVs in that manner. I saw one guy trying to sell a TV (flat screen) and no one wanted it. So anyway, I just copy and paste MH's Craigslist listing and didn't think too much about it.

Within 15 minutes, two people wanted it. Seriously! & they came right over to get it.

All else being equal, I don't even care. Just glad to be rid of it. But since I am working on coming up with $270 to fund our London trip, I could just kick myself that I didn't ask for $250.

The only other thing of value that I have to sell is an outgrown sleeping bag (of very nice quality). I washed it and was going to list it, but I noticed it had a big rip. So that one is moved to the mending pile, for now. I still plan to sell it.

In the meantime, still looking for $70 in snowflakes. The less of our regular income and savings we use now, the more we will have to spend while we are in London. So trying to keep everything we book ahead within our vacation budget, or paid for with snowballs/snowflakes. (Whatever we spend in Europe will have to come out of savings. Wasn't planning to travel abroad this year).

As to the free stuff I listed, no one wants it. I will put it on Craigslist this weekend probably.

Busy Weekend

June 13th, 2017 at 06:19 am

I found the "super secret password" to get MM(13) into the teen (animal shelter) volunteer program. Phew! (Pretty much, you had to follow on Facebook to get the info. I am lucky that I saw it). The plus side is that we (adults) don't have to volunteer alongside. I certainly wouldn't mind, but just don't want the commitment right now. The downside is that it is the farther away shelter. But if I understood correctly, it sounds like parents can drop in to help. I'd rather do that than just sit in the car and wait. I just appreciate the non-commitment way to help.

MM just really wants to help. I think it made an impression when we adopted our cat from the shelter. But in addition, we always give money to the shelters, the kids know we had adopted our prior cat from the shelter, and I've probably talked about all my past volunteering helping animals. I am thinking it's a little bit of all of the above.

Aside from getting that sorted out, we had two BBQs to attend on Saturday.

In between BBQs I got most the kids' school stuff sorted. Washed their backpacks, lunch bags, PE clothes, etc. In the past their school just provides everything. But DL started a new school this past year and we had bought supplies and a PE uniform. In the end, I put everything useable back into his backpack. I figured that was the simplest so we can find everything when school starts back up. MM just has an empty backup, in contrast.

I don't remember what we did Sunday. I feel like I just did a lot of light chores. MH made us watch Whiplash.

A charity is coming by today (the second in just 4 days). I only rounded up school uniforms (which we will no longer ever need - woohoo!) and that's all I got to. But that will work. Out of the house it goes.

MM(13) is off camping at the beach. The 8th graders' last hoorah. Tomorrow is their graduation.

Two Down, One To Go!

June 9th, 2017 at 12:17 pm

DL(11) finished up school yesterday. Phew!

Today is MM(13)'s last academic day. (It's all fluff next week: overnight field trip to the beach, and then graduation).

Last night I took down all the school calendars off the fridge. Phew!

Next year will be more simplified and efficient, though the reality is our kids will be at separate schools for their high school years. I am guessing that it will all seem like a piece of cake, after this last year. Their schools are only one mile apart from each other. The kids were initially going to get out 15 minutes apart but it seems DL's school might change that to 1/2 hour (which is overall a good change for other reasons). Whatever. We basically told them we have bent over backwards to oblige them for the past 9 years (of grade school), meaning we always pick them up right when school gets out and have never had them in any after school care (or "study hall" at DL's 6-12 school), but in turn they might have to do some "waiting around" next year. It would only make sense to drop them off and pick them up at the same time.

We are definitely going out to celebrate tonight! Taking the kids out to their favorite restaurant.

That reminds me, the teachers put on a very nice dinner for the 8th graders. Last weekend. They got a free? (or at least discounted) banquet room at the hotel down the street. (Mental note for the future: was a very nice venue). They had a DJ and a photo booth, and a catered buffet dinner. For the 8th graders and their parents only. It was very nice.

Next week will be the graduation festivities.

The only other thing of note is that MH took me to a free advanced movie screening last night. It was one we weren't expecting a big turnout for (My Cousin Rachel). BUT, we got there an hour early and barely got in! It's the first time we have ever left the kids for one of those on a weeknight. The thing is you generally have to get there an hour early (though admittedly no commercials or previews, as an offset to that extra time). & they are strict about using phones (which is rough if you want to be reachable to your kids). But the kids were totally fine. I think more often I just don't go because I am tired and not a night person.

Savings Accounts, General Updates

June 7th, 2017 at 08:26 am

MH finished up work last Friday. His summer chore list is VERY long. (Next week he is taking DL to the dentist and the optometrist, and DL will get shots too. The cars both need oil changes. We have a couple of bigger home improvement projects to get through. Not BIG, but we've mostly done nothing but painting and very basic maintenance, so they feel "big").

DL's last day of school is tomorrow. I am so relieved we made it! I haven't blogged much about his moods because he's been back to his old self. He just doesn't do middle ground well. He's either like the "perfect kid" (mature, responsible, and wise beyond his years) or the "falling apart" kid, but there's just not been much in between. Absolutely nothing to report. We've learned that he doesn't handle change well (even 100% happy/good change), particularly with the mix of pre-teen hormones. I am just a little wary about our Europe trip since we leave about 2 weeks in (school year). We wanted to give him time to get settled, but it is around the time when he fell apart last year. He will have 7 new classes and teachers, and they did actually completely change the school schedule. So it will be a lot of change, but maybe being comfortable at the new school and knowing all the kids will be enough. I don't know if he will have some of the same teachers again. That would help. I suppose for drama and art he would. & PE.

{The in-laws will watch the kids at our house, while we are in Europe, so the kids won't miss any school. Is why I worry about DL since it will be a bit of a change-up. In any normal circumstances he would be totally fine. The kids often spend time apart from us.}

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We've mostly got through Phase 2 of Europe trip. Phase 1 was booking hotel/airfare (Purchased because crazy cheap, paid for in cash). Phase 2 is booking tours and paying for those with credit card rewards. I am surprised that I only have to come up with about $275 cash for Phase 2. We booked two long day tours, plus a day trip to Paris. Phase 3 will be food and transport while we are there, and whatever admissions we end up paying. We have 3 full days covered already, plus a few days dedicated to free museums, so I expect the bulk of the (admission type) costs to be covered already.

Total out-of-pocket so far: $2,875

I am guessing we can keep the entire trip down to $2,000 per person. This includes non-stop flights & staying in a luxurious hotel/apartment.

Since I got the cash part down to $270 for Phase 2, that reminds me that we can probably get $200 for old TV. Maybe I will work on selling some other things to come up with that last $70. I don't think we really have much, but was just thinking (the other day) that we can probably sell DL's fancy sleeping bag (outgrown). Will see what else we can come up with. Plus, MH is home, so he can spend some of that time and energy on listing and selling.

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This reminds me, I have a bag for charity. I keep missing the charities that come around, since I had been so busy for work. The bag may have been sitting there for several months. Anyway, a charity is coming by Friday and I will be sure to set out the full bag.

Another charity is coming by Tuesday and I thought maybe I could make it a goal this weekend to come up with something for that. It just hit me today that MM(13) will be done with school uniforms this week. Woohoo! {He has to fit for *two* more days. Boy, it was getting close!} Since this was the last uniform year for either kid, is not a lot. I bought the bare minimum for this school year. & I threw some smaller/backup polo shirts into that charity bag, about a month ago. He had clearly outgrown those. But I will be sure to wash and bag up the rest this weekend. I am sure that my clothes could also use another pass. I am sure I can find something.

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FrugalTexan mentioned Kasasa(?) bank accounts for higher interest rates. I don't know if I heard of them before, but quickly ruled out because too many hoops to jump through (direct deposit and numerous debit card transactions). But I share if you are okay with those hoops and haven't heard of it. (FT can chime in more in the comments!)

This is what I posted end of April:
I had a CD mature this month, so a little less interest income. Since we do want to replace our vehicle, I think I will keep this CD money in our savings account. There is that, and I am also just completely exhausted with work. Maybe in a month or two it will sound appealing at all to jump through hoops to earn more interest. For now, I am over it.

{The "jumping through hoops" I was thinking to was just having to open a new bank account. I didn't have the mental energy for even that. But in addition, I can generally find a very high interest rate for some of my cash; those just come with a bit more hassle}.

Because of FT's comment, she kicked my butt into gear and I looked around a bit. I came across MH's old CU offering 3% interest! (You have to live or work in that region, so I doubt it's anything that anyone else will find very useful. If you are in the Bay Area and want to know about it, just leave a comment). Since we no longer live or work there, we can still join because I knew my in-laws had an account. I had to get their account # to join. They are super peeved that the interest rate is only available to new customers!

As to jumping hoops, they won't let me set up that 3% account online so I will have to call later and see what the deal is. *sigh* {That I can't just do this online, I find super annoying. It's just becoming more of a time suck}.

Then a couple of days ago, My Money Blog did a "Best Interest Rates on Savings" post. There was some in there that I had not seen. I always like it when someone else does the work for me. Big Grin Which is probably the other reason I had been dragging my feet on this front. Anyway, I share because it is very helpful:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/best-interest-rates-on-cash-savin...

If I can't get this other 3% account to work, then I guess I will look at some of the bank accounts mentioned in this blog post.

Prisoners of Clutter

June 6th, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Interesting Article seen today:

Today’s families are prisoners of their own clutter

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2012/07/09/new-study-s...

"That sums up Boston parents’ reaction to new research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists concluding that American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."

"Managing the volume of possessions is such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevates levels of stress hormones for mothers."

"Most families rely heavily on convenience foods even though all those frozen stir-frys and pot stickers saved them only about 11 minutes per meal."

"Let’s let Katy Colthart, a social worker from Watertown, take it from here. Shopping at Target on a recent Sunday afternoon, she said with some remorse that she finds herself popping frozen chicken nuggets into the oven for dinner — even though she knows they don’t save her much time. But with a job and two young children to pick up from day care, things get hectic at the end of the day, and prepared foods give her a much-needed mental break.

“They give me the illusion of saving time and energy,” she said."


I really loved that last part. BINGO! That's how I have always felt about it, the way people act like we must spend a billion hours cooking. I always think, "It would take more time to go out." Or even if it really averages to 11 more minutes per day (to home cook), as quoted, it doesn't warrant the melodrama I get about it. I think people are just defensive about their illusion. But it makes it hard to have a realistic conversation about it. & though I see that it's not a real and true time saver to eat out, I understand the "turn off your brain and just barrel through" aspect of it. I think it's more about mental energy than time. & (mostly) no one knows how to cook, so there is also that. Maybe no idea where to begin.

It's all very correlated to lack of time. People clutter up their time just as much as they do their homes. & they speak to that in the article.

Credit Card Rewards Update

June 3rd, 2017 at 08:13 am

2017 TALLY:

$481 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
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$681 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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Just doing an update to add in the $200 cash back reward.

All of the above is earmarked for travel expenses. I was able to use the Travel reward for a tour that we booked in the UK, so it looks like we can pay for all our tours that way.

I can see using this travel card again (getting one in my name) next time we plan a trip. I expect this to end up being a $500 reward (total), with the spending we plan to do in UK. (Mostly just food and public transport, but that will add up over 10 days).