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Archive for September, 2017

September Savings

September 30th, 2017 at 02:44 pm

Received $53 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.
--Redeemed $30 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card
--$115 dividends reinvested

Snowballs (not invested):
--$200 cash from credit card reward
--$1,025 gift cards received (cc rewards)

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$250

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-1,000 Europe trip
-3,000 to fund mortgage goal ($$ came from OT)

MH paycheck:
-$340 to Europe trip

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,300 to cash
-$ 325 van repair/maintenance
-$ 240 school lunches (partial year)
-$ 183 Medical expenses
-$ 150 Vet

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MH is back at work after summer off. I just set his 401k back to 50%. Could use more in accessible investments, but I think our taxes are going to be pretty ugly this year. I couldn't change it before first (very small) paycheck, which is fine since I wanted to use towards trip expenses anyway. But will just go aggressive at 50% for the rest of the year.

We did buy a musical instrument that I wanted to fund with MH's check, but nothing else is on the horizon. (We charged this in September, so will pay for it in October). I think we are kind of on pull back mode (on spending) after extravagant trip to Europe.

September was a work month for us. MH is getting back into the swing, and I was SLAMMED at work. So it was more reminiscent of tax season when we don't really have time to spend money. Making lots of money, but no time to spend. I guess this was compounded by the credit card reward windfalls. It was a big income month.

I mentioned in a prior post that I felt confident enough with our cash/expected expenses to fund mortgage goal. This is OT money I deposited in April and that I transferred to our mortgage this month. (If nothing else, wanted to see how Europe trip shook out before tying up all that cash).

Low Spend September

September 24th, 2017 at 04:15 pm

I am still trying to get over the hump at work. UGH.

Last weekend we were out of town for some family stuff. So it's been a little extra busy. Other than that, MH is back at work and we are just getting back into the swing of things.

I sat down and looked at all the bills today. September has been very low spend. I guess what I mean is I entered all the October bills (including September charges). I try to eyeball it all mid-month and make sure our cash flow for the following month is in the green. I also set up all the cash bills to pay on the first. I have enough float to cover so just set those up today.

I think it's some combo of not feeling much need to splurge after such a BIG vacay. Also, being thrown back into work. MH started back at work when we got back. This is reminiscent of our *busy* months (Jan - April) when we make extra money but are also too busy to do much else. It's not THAT busy, but feels busy after summer break.

That said, we did have some splurges. We spent $60 the Friday before last at the art school's talent show (fundraiser). AMAZING! A lot of these kids are professional level already. So I've never seen a talent show like it. I'd say at least 1/3 of the songs were original composition. It was just awesome on every level.

The other thing is that today is our 17th wedding anniversary. We have been together for 22 years. We aren't big on splurging or making a big deal about most things, but I guess our anniversary is one exception. We know we are blessed to have something VERY special. GMIL gave us $40 cash, and we are going to have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants today. & then just walk around downtown afterwards, which is kind of our standing Sunday date. (It's been a while because it's been too hot or too busy, but when we have quiet weekends we just sneak away and enjoy some quiet time). We are still in a bit of a "honeymoon" stage since it's not been very long we can just leave without getting a babysitter. Plus the more we do it, the less I worry about the kids. It's AWESOME!

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Edited to add: I forgot to mention that we did have one big splurge this month. We bought a used trombone for DL. I am very pleased with that purchase. The music store that we like and trust only had a $600 model. We just started there figuring this might be more than we wanted to pay. We were planning to shop around a bit. When it was clear we weren't going to rent or buy, they dropped the price by 50%! That was the price range we were looking for ($300) so we just took it because we very much trusted the quality. Saved us a lot of time and shopping around. I mean, I expected to pay that much on Craigslist and to have no idea what we were getting. So I am very pleased with this purchase.

The idea would be to sell it for the same price when we are done. (I don't foresee him sticking with trombone very long. He more wants to learn all the instruments, and has the support system to do so at this school. But if I am wrong, we would want to upgrade. I guess either way, is a bit of a temporary/starter instrument).

Moral of the story: Sticker price means nothing.

Financial Updates

September 19th, 2017 at 08:23 pm

It's too early in the year to call it (for 12/31), but we have surpassed our 2017 net worth goal. Woohoo!

As of today, Net worth is up $60,000:
--Investments up $43,000
--Home Value up $10,000
--Mortgage Down $7,000

Will see how the rest of the year shakes out.

MORTGAGE:

I went ahead and transferred my overtime monies ($3,000) to the mortgage. So I put the big "X" on my sidebar goal. I've had the cash since April, but I wanted to see how some of our home improvements shook out and how trip shook out, etc. In the end, trip was not of any significant consequence. We haven't gotten to home improvements yet, but the "biggie" will have to wait until December. That is a large cash infusion month for us, so I just let it go. (Will probably have a lot more cash before we get to it). I still don't have MH's MRI bills (all of them) but I received one and I don't have to pay it until November. So I decided I could live without this $3,000 cash through the end of the year. (I am being way super uber cautious, but that is just how I roll).

HOME VALUE:

The market has been so WEIRD. Our home value has been pretty stagnant for the past four years.

Anyway, our specific home model is more rare and rarely goes up on the market. There is one pending sale behind us that has been remodeled to the hilt. It's GORGEOUS! If we were going to live here for decades I might be tempted. I mean it's my style and I love the colors, etc. (As is, we only plan to stay another 6-10 years? Don't plan to stay in this neighborhood at all, so I guess that part makes it easy to resist).

So it will be interesting to see what that ends up selling for. They were asking about $500k. For reference, we paid $290k. $650k was the peak. Things are starting to barrel towards $500k, but that is starting to feel like bubble territory again. Higher prices are probably a direct result of a mass exodus from CRAZY expensive Bay Area (now twice expensive as when we bailed). I've been surprised how slow that is to hit, given mostly stagnant home values for so long, but as California real estate tends to go: When it hits, it hits!

Anyway, I increased our home value by $10k (up to a $450k sales price), for net worth purposes. It seems likely that I will bump this up more as the year progresses. (Will see what this particular home sells for when the sale finalizes, and then what follows after that. No one seemed particularly scared off by the high asking price; it sold in a flash).

EDITED TO ADD: FINAL SALES PRICE $10K BELOW ASKING. This is about +$35k to my current valuation of our house (450k), but I will hold off and see how this affects future sales.

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In the interest of privacy, this isn't the house. But our neighbor remodeled very high end with a black/white/grey theme. O.M.G. My favorite color is black. I guess I like black and white when it comes to home decor.

It's kind of crazy seeing my house (which is pretty much my dream house already) in this style. It looks AMAZING. But I just don't care enough to invest in this. Plus, my husband HATES dark colors and would never go for any of this. So I am sure that is also a big factor. I am saving some of the MLS pictures for future inspiration. This is the general idea:





Honestly, I couldn't even find a kitchen that compared, on the internet. They did a really nice job. Makes me wonder how much they spent (or if someone in that house is an architect or designer).

Gift Card Tally

September 19th, 2017 at 01:53 am

I mentioned in my last post that I don't have a system in place to manage all these gift cards. But I think keeping track of my blog is just the easiest.

I know it's going to take a while to get through all these. (Including gift cards that we don't expect to use for 10+ months).

GIFTS:
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$50 Cracker Barrel **PACK FOR OCTOBER TRIP**
$100 Benihana ($50x2) **DECEMBER**
$ 50 x2 Barnes & Noble **DECEMBER/JANUARY**


MOVIES:
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$25 Regal gift card


RESTAURANTS:
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$50 Ruth Chris Steakhouse
$100 California Pizza Kitchen ($50x2) **Ecard**
$50 P.F. Chang's **Ecard**
$50 seasons 52


RETAIL:
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$100 Target (for groceries, rest of 2017)
$100 Best Buy
$50 Staples **School supplies next summer?**
$50 Home Depot

Another Credit Cards Reward Update

September 18th, 2017 at 07:34 pm

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$525 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
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$1,724 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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I guess this is the flip side of managing several credit card rewards at once. It's raining rewards!

I received $500 gift cards and $200 cash in the last week or so.

Yesterday my American Express reward points showed up online. My initial feeling was getting the $250 reward last year was not very useful as it was only dining out cards. But we ended up enjoying more than I thought we would. It took us like 6 months to get through $250, but we enjoyed.

That said, if I found $250 in dining cards difficult to figure out how to use wisely, then $500 is definitely harder. I figured we'd gift most the excess but I realized yesterday the Cheesecake Factory cost way too many points, so scratched that as a gift card idea for my dad. At the end MH looked at the options and said he could use Home Depot for small things around the house (goes there to get light bulbs if nothing else) and Staples for school supplies next year.

So, we chose:

$100 Benihana (Birthday gift for my dad, we will take him and my mom out).

$100 California Pizza Kitchen (can treat the kids once or twice)

$50 Barnes & Noble (gift for FIL)
$50 Ruth Chris Steakhouse (lunch date for us)

Starting to grasp at straws:
$50 Staples
$50 Home Depot
$50 P.F. Chang's (??? never been here)
$50 seasons 52 (restaurant)

The thing that sucks is managing all these gift cards, but we will figure it out. (I usually do just SIMPLE rewards that don't require much energy.
We aren't stockpilers in general. Just is more work. I guess also we don't have any systems in place to manage this level of gift cards).

I wish we could have found a nice gift for MH's parents. But we struck out (none of the free gift cards or anything they would really love) and MH is not being helpful. In the end, I decided to just send them $100 as a thank you for watching our kids for 10 days. Want them to treat themselves to something nice.

In other gifty-ness, MH received a $5 Starbucks gift card at work. I gave it to to a co-worker who is always very appreciative. (We don't drink coffee and so we always re-gift Starbucks gift cards).

On the credit card reward front, I was briefly dreaming of a trip to Hawaii. I have gotten more comfortable with the (super easy) travel rewards and was thinking we could do a mostly free trip to Kauai. Maybe next year? I have a weakness for Hawaii. For all the air travel that I don't care for, Hawaii is the one exception. Plus, if it's FREE, why not? I don't want to spend a lot on travel these next years as we save up for college, but this would be far below our minimal travel/vacation budget.

It was only a brief thought because the childcare would be tricky. I wouldn't mind taking the kids, except our only option would be the peak of summer. Which wouldn't be enjoyable at all. So I think we have to put it on the back burner. I tentatively brought it up to MH but talked myself out of it in the end. He was open to it but just surprised I would want to go at all. I told him we have been normalizing all this big travel, and he reminded me how happy I seemed to not want to go ANYWHERE next year. I think I need a year off just to have a quiet year at home. It's moot because it would be a lot to ask right now and not sure my kids would go for it. If we wait until Fall 2019 at least our older child should be driving. Will give everyone some time and space before we plan another adults-only trip. So yeah, thinking one quiet year off and then maybe considering a big trip to Hawaii. I am thinking I could probably cover airfare and car rental with credit card rewards. We can get a free hotel through in-laws. You see why it would be such an inexpensive trip.

Credit Card Rewards Update

September 1st, 2017 at 10:34 pm

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$525 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
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$1,724 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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Today we spent some time redeeming $525 Citi gift card rewards.

Unfortunately, didn't see anything particularly useful as a Thank You gift for MH's parents. Might have to spend some cash on that. Will have to brainstorm a bit this weekend, and double check the AmEx rewards that we have coming due soon.

But MH is going to 90th birthday in Florida next month and thought a Cracker Barrel gift card would be nice for his Grandfather.

There's also some crazy deal out there where you can see unlimited movies for $10/month. ??? Doesn't sound particularly sustainable but MH is probably going to sign up for that, for as long as it lasts I guess. Yeah, he can pretty much see everything for free already, but that is a big time commitment. Anyway, so he mentioned getting a Regal gift card so that I could accompany him to some of those movies. Or the kids can. I think that's a good idea. That said, the Regal movie theater (close to our house) is not his first movie theater choice, so he didn't want any more than a $25 gift card. (For the most part, he wants to see 100 times more movies than anyone else in the household, so $25 would last us a while).

We did get a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card for his dad, like we always do. We can make that part of the Thank You, or hold back for Christmas/Birthday.

I'd otherwise like to fund the next "big" ($300 - $500) electronic purchase with this reward and I know a few ideas had been thrown around. But MH just doesn't have anything identified at the moment. So we decided to just get a $100 Best Buy gift card so that he could buy movies or whatever.

This left us $300 that we redeemed for Target gift cards. We will use for groceries and should leave a $300 budget surplus through the next three or so months. Then if something bigger comes up we should have some extra cash for it.

I updated the tally above because the actual reward ended up being $525.

I also had something like $15 to add to the travel rewards (from trip spending). I was able to apply that $15 to trip spending already.

August Savings

September 1st, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Received $55 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $45 cash back on Citi card.

Other snowflakes:
--$15 (sold old sleeping bag on Craigslist; kids outgrew) ~ I set this money aside to pay for gymnastics (it's cash only)

--Redeemed $11 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card. Since this was mostly trip expenses I just applied this snowflake to our trip.

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
- 600 auto insurance
- 400 kids' birthdays ($200 x 2)
- 305 dentist (cleanings x2 + chipped tooth)
- 120 van repairs

In addition, we pulled the following from mid-term savings:

- 215 Plumbing repairs
- 200 new pots and pans (couldn't cover after all this murphy)
- 150 fix car stereo**

{Note: MH has no wages during summer months}.

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**I'd generally pull this from short-term savings (car repairs) but we've maxed out our repair fund already this year. Which is unusual, but we do have an older vehicle that didn't need *any* work last year. It makes sense from a multi-year view, but is exceeding our annual allotment. This is why we have other savings.

I'd probably cover something like pots and pans from short-term savings, but it's also fairly maxed out at this point. I still have some space remaining for insurance, dentist and property taxes, but the misc. and the car repair portions have been spent. I need to leave enough cash for the more fixed expenses I know of.

As far as Murphy goes around here, this was somewhat muted, but just a lot of little annoying things.

As an aside, I am always bemused when someone talks about keeping their old cars and doing without modern conveniences like blue tooth. Like it's either/or. Seriously?? You can keep OLD cars and update them with modern technology. Wink In another situation I might have replaced the car stereo, but the stereo is not very old and the vehicle is 12 years old. We figured it made the most sense just to replace the face plate on the stereo, which solved all of our problems. If I thought I'd keep this vehicle another 10 years, it might have been worth investing in a new stereo system.

I don't know where we stand on the Murphy front. I've already had more problems with the van upon our return from our trip. *sigh* We've not been home long, but hopefully things settle down a bit.

Technically trip expenses will sort out in October, but I think I will start transferring money and paying off expenses today. Travel rewards card is not due until October, but I have the cash and I just want to get everything paid off and accounted for.

See last post for Europe trip details. (I just realized this post covered that one up).