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Archive for November, 2017

Holiday Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 03:56 pm

MH just bought some concert tickets (including one for my dad). I told him that we should just cover it. Make it a Christmas present. Is the same gift he got last year (but a different band).

This is about how much thought/energy I am giving to the season. We don't celebrate in any big or materialistic way. I'll be figuring out some other gifts, but nothing I have to "plan" for or will spend much energy on. We don't save any money for Christmas, accordingly.

For us, the focus continues to be more and more on charity every year. I am still not in a place where I have any time for the Holidays. So though we generally give more time than money, there's not a lot we sign up for this time of year. It's easier for us to just write checks in the month of December. But I am taking the week off after Thanksgiving and I saw that someone needed help with a giving tree, and so I volunteered to help. Will see how it goes and if I want to do the same next year. (I've volunteered for the sorting in the past, which is probably more my thing, but this year I signed up to shop).

Other than that, we usually donate my Christmas bonus ($200). To the local food bank and the animal shelters, though it varies.

In addition, we are getting a $1,000 check (from in-laws) to donate to charities of our choice. This is a new tradition. They started last year with $500. For this year, $1,000 has been thrown out. Wow! I am SO EXCITED about this! I don't know why I find that number so mind blowing. Because it is 4 figures? I don't know. It sounds/feels like so much more than we have been able to give in the past.

Real Estate Update & Movies

November 11th, 2017 at 03:48 pm

I paid the property taxes. One month early, but I don't have to think about it again for another year. & also gives plenty of time to correct if there are any problems. This is why I never pay things like the day they are due. That sounds way too stressful. Crap happens, and I still want my payment to be on time when the crap happens.

Our county stopped charging a convenience fee for paying online. AWESOME! Smart on their part. There is no way I would pay by check and send in the mail. I have been paying with e-checks. Clearly they must have less mail loss and so on, with this change. Our mail here is TERRIBLE. I forgot this was one reason I had started paying just once per year. I don't care if the fee was $5. It was worth it to get my payment where it needed to be in a timely fashion. It had been a $1.50 fee, and now I never have to pay it again.

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I mentioned recently that our specific home model seems to rarely go up for sale, but one was for sale (and remodeled so beautifully in a black/white theme, which I guess is "in" these days. Seeing that more and more).

A second one just sold for the same price (around $490k). & I just saw a "coming soon" sign on our neighbor's house. NO WAY! So pretty much those models rarely go up for sale, but now three in a row...

I think all are immaculately kept and remodeled to the hilt. The third one, you can just tell from the care they've done to their tiny front yard and all the enhancements they have added, which most don't bother with. That said, historically people have not paid premiums for those things in the areas we have lived. & real estate generally moves upwards. So if they fetch a similar price, is just what I will use for net worth. I think things will stagnate around $499k for a while and I think is somewhat reasonable (though definitely getting into bubble territory). The local economy is better (A LOT) than the entire 17 years we have lived here, but it's not like people make that much money. The single story home are at peak level and are selling for $400k - $450k. If the median wage in our city is something like $50k, clearly this is ridiculous. Maybe some part of me just hopes things settle down a bit (and this isn't really Bubble 2.0). But bubble aside, it also takes time for people to wrap their brains around buying a house for 5xx,xxx. It will take a while, but $500k to $599k won't take as long. The demand for local housing currently far outstrips supply, but people also seem to be favoring smaller homes and more reasonable budgets. My co-worker even told me that new home models were more small and efficient, versus the grandiose/wasted space/GIANT kitchens and master suites of the 2001 era when we bought our house. I like to hear that, that there is some sanity on this front. Everything was so grandiose during the bubble.

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We went to another free movie screening. It was a screening of The Room, which if you have not heard of it is the "worst movie ever made."

The reason for the screening was because of a release of a movie about the making of The Room. The new movie is called the Disaster Artist. MH got a free shirt and won a book for the new movie. (They often have merch at these things, which drives me crazy because he hoards weird crap). But he will wear a shirt and read/sell a book, so I guess it was good merch. (I donated a couple of free movie shirts recently without telling him. He insisted I take them, the kids didn't want them. I finally donated them. I don't need a closet full of free shirts. It just gets to the point of ridiculous).

Anyway...

O.M.G. If you ever hear of a showing of The Room, I recommend. I *almost* didn't go because it was two movies in one week and I have been pretty slammed at work. I wasn't expecting much because it was one of those things where I thought I saw the highlights so many times already. I am well aware of the movie, the bad script, the bad acting, and some of the ridiculous scenes.

I was wrong.

First, every second of the movie is so BAD it is hilarious. I thought I Was going to die laughing the first 5 minutes. At some point I guess you adjust (so that you don't die laughing). Okay, every detail is BAD. Every line, every actor, every screen frame, EVERYTHING. I had no idea it was non-stop funny.

In addition to that, it has a cult following like Rocky Horror. So this is a very interactive movie. It was hilarious on its own, and hilarious to laugh with a crowd, but this just brings it to a whole other level.

I started reading the book MH won (Disaster Artist) and it is fascinating. I can see everything behind the scenes was just as bad as on screen. I have absolutely no time to read a book right now, but I can see the value in reading it with the movie still fresh in my mind. Anyway, I think the Disaster Artist movie releases the week after next. I entered to win tickets. I don't know if the tickets will be available through the usual channels. If they are, MH will find a way to get tickets.

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This reminds me, one of MH's co-workers is a film student. Is the only other person MH knows who is cheap enough and interested enough to see ALL the free movies. Anyway, film student was doing some project in one of his classes and needed a script. Asked if he could use one of MH's scripts he had read. For the class, they are going through the pre-production process. (Most the other groups already had scripts, but for whatever reason no one in his group had a script for this project). The feedback has been, "Forget making this movie. Why doesn't he SELL it?" Aw, youthful idealism. Wink

But I think this is some of why MH is, "Of course you can use my script!" You never know who is going to be the right person (or meet the right person) somewhere down the road. Beyond that, they sound very cute and idealistic. Big Grin But I think the ego stroking is good in the here and now, amidst all the rejection. You need some motivation to keep trying. He's still writing scripts and trying.


Gravy Raise

November 9th, 2017 at 08:25 pm

I know I have said in the past that living in a high cost region has several advantages. Most of it was more region specific advantages, but some of it is directly related to the higher cost of living.

On the higher cost side, if the second income is pure gravy, the gravy is bigger. (Because wages are higher).

We seem to be experiencing this right now. MH received a 3% raise this year. (His raise last year already corrected for minimum wage increase January 2018). His pay was going to be something like $xx.5875. Seriously!? This was driving me crazy because I always just calculate his check (he gets paid before we get his pay stub).

Then, while he was in Florida his last paycheck hit and it was all wrong. For the first time in two years, it was not right. But it was to his favor. He always gets his pay before his pay stub so I had to wait to figure it out. On his pay stub, which I could see a few days later, they had given him an 8% raise instead. But he had already received the weird pay rate for one pay period. I figured it was a mistake.

Anyway, MH had a chance to bring it up this week and he was told by his supervisor that he thinks the manager gave him the raise. He confirmed that today. They gave him a nice raise, and no one bothered to tell him. {I told MH that from my experience pretty much no one looks at their pay stub. So, most people wouldn't even notice. I can't believe they didn't tell him}.

This is a nice surprise! The gravy is getting bigger. Oh, and it is a nice round amount that is easy to remember. I like that part too.

When I initially said the gravy is bigger in our high cost region, I was thinking that he could easily find a job making $50k or $60k per year. Is more what I was getting at, when I said this several years ago. But this works too. (Working very seasonal/part-time/minimum-wage for now, for reference. But is also definitely more than it would be in most areas of the country).

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We went to a free movie (advanced screening) on Tuesday night. MH really wanted to take me because it had really good reviews. In the end, it was a small turnout. We were running a little late and got stuck in a lot of traffic, but it worked out because there wasn't a long line. The movie was Ladybird. It was really good. This was definitely a fun one to see at a screening because the movie was set in Sacramento and was filmed here.

Usually MH feels a compulsiveness to see everything, and he sees a lot of crap. But I will say that there were some really good movies this year. It seems more than usual.

October Savings

November 5th, 2017 at 06:43 pm

Received $52 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.
--Redeemed $61 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $7 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
--rounded up $2 for an even $100 snowflake deposit

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$1,200

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):
-$300 Trombone purchase

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,300 to cash
-$ 85 museum membership (renewal)
-$ 275 auto insurance

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I think this month will end up being the polar opposite of next month. I literally deposited $4,300 into savings/investments this month. We save about $4,000 in a month that MH works and that we don't have any one-off expenses. (Rare, because there's usually some non-monthly expenses). But I am also replenishing savings for pre-paying some big expenses for credit card rewards.

Next month: We've already racked up $4,000 in medical bills and home repairs (and includes some smaller expenses). Will pay property taxes for the year, so that's $9,000 outflow right there.

This is the 4th year that I am just pre-paying property taxes, by paying it all up front (the second installment is not due until April). This is just done from a simplicity standpoint. If interest rates ever rise I guess I can re-evaluate, but I think we are building enough wealth at this point in our lives that I'd prefer simplicity over a little extra bank interest. But I probably only feel that way because interest rates are only 1%.

This & That

November 3rd, 2017 at 05:53 pm

Mortgage Update: Officially into the 150s. Woohoo!

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This weekend will be SPENDY! We have an unofficial reunion with the group MH and I worked with when we met. The last time I recall seeing any of them was when MM(14) was an infant. It has been a while.

Anyway, they chose an expensive Bay Area buffet, but my kids are looking forward to all the food. At least I get my money's worth with them. Wink

We also have an expensive outing planned with my SIL and her kids. I haven't heard any details and need to e-mail her. I *think* we have plans. (I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't make reservations, but honestly the kids just want to hang together. As long as they have a little time for us is all I care about. SIL wanted to plan a big to-do).

Busy weekend! Should be fun, but tiring.

I don't know how much of it is regional, but with housing so expensive people seem to be waiting until 40 to have kids. Just to say that MH and I have by far the oldest kids in that work group (we may be the youngest people with the oldest kids). They are going to freak when they see our 14-year-old (who is such a mini-me of his father).

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On the first night that MH was out of town (last week) I saw that PF Chang's had a free sushi night. I also had a free gift card, so I took the kids out. We had never been before.

O.M.G.

There was no minimum purchase and I really just thought they would bring us each like one free piece of sushi. When we ordered, the look on our waiter's face said otherwise. I tried to clarify with him but we just weren't communicating well. BUT... My kids could eat a horse, so I just let it go. The kids and I looked at each other like, "We are getting SO MUCH sushi," after he took our order. "Are we getting SO MUCH sushi!? I think we are!" & we did. We ordered an appetizer, two entrees, 2 plates of sushi, and 3 FREE pieces of sushi! So they brought us out 5 plates of sushi. It was totally hilarious. In another situation I would have corrected our order, but I wanted to use my gift card and I knew the kids would eat it. So we just let them bring us tons of food. (We spent $15 cash for all that).

In the end, we brought home a lot of MM's rice dinner because it was enough to feed an army. I brought home my dinner. It was a small serving, but it was way too much for me and everyone was full by then. The rest was devoured.

I already put the free sushi day on my calendar for next year. The food was surprisingly good.

It was enjoyable because no one seemed to know about it and the place was not packed at all.

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In other news, I saw that our school district is desperate for teachers (though they already pay VERY well). As a result, they are offering to pay for credential, plus monthly stipend while earning credential, plus a $5k or $10k bonus (depending if you hit certain marks).

Seriously!

This is something we have discussed endlessly over the years, for MH. The last he seriously considered was 17 years ago when the city we were living is was issuing emergency teaching credentials.

In contrast, this is a WAY better deal! Wow! A full teaching credential, plus all that cash to boot?

It's complicated. Though in most regards I think this would be his dream job, he has very low tolerance for bureaucracy, and I think that's what we have decided over the years. All his family are teachers and his mom has like always forbid him to ever become a teacher (because she knew he wanted to at some point). So it's a whole thing. Either of those things by itself, maybe he could work through it, but together is a lot.

With a deal like this, I don't think there's anything to lose. I doubt he will go down this route, but I share in the offchance he does. & also to say that there are always opportunities if you keep your eyes and ear open.

For now, he's been out of town and we hadn't really discussed. I Was kind of surprised he didn't say, "NO thanks." It's maybe piqued his interest.

Edited to add: I since saw that another school district is paying subs $500/day (during possible teacher strike). & several teaching job posting on a job board I joined on Facebook. I've not seen any "teacher" postings whatsoever in the past, but I guess there is a lot going on. I had a chance to talk to MH about it. I think his gut feeling is it's not really for him, but he told me it was hard for him to pass up opportunities. I think we both tend to be that way anyway, but maybe extra so for someone who struggled so hard in the job market for so long.

Florida Trip

November 1st, 2017 at 04:55 pm

MH is back from Florida. He was gone for 5 days, to celebrate his Grandfather's birthday. He really wishes we had gone with him, but I am really happy I didn't have to deal with all that travel. Phew!

The entire cost of the trip? $25!

I initially thought we were going to cover airfare, but his parents had miles and wanted to cover it.

I figured he'd treat for something while there. On Sunday I checked the credit cards and it was clear he hadn't spent anything and probably wouldn't. I figured he was the baby of the family and no one would let him pay for anything. That is what he confirmed. (Said everyone was fighting over the dining out bills and he wasn't interested in joining the fray). So I thought he might spend $100 or $200, but in the end it was $25 for two airport meals. That is all.

That said... His relatives were there from Australia and we are seriously considering going to Australia next summer. Will see. (I think they are near Brisbane/Gold Coast). I told him everyone is going to think I am totally full of crap. I do NOT want to travel. Really and truly. It's just complicated because we have family all over the world, and our parents love to travel. Even if it is generally not how we want to spend our own time and money, we are probably a little too "go with the flow."

& so that is how a $25 trip to Orlando might cost me several thousand dollars. Wink

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Halloween was a real bore at our house. MH was majorly jet lagged and I had to work. I've got two seminars this week and weekend plans, and just really no other time I could get some of this work done.

Anyway, my kids the last few years have had absolutely no interest in Halloween, but then often get swayed at the last minute. I've just kept some old costumes (Whatever still fits, like masks) and they like to dig through and mix and match to come up with weird costumes. In the end, the kids were invited to a fun friend's house where they dressed up as zombies and scared the neighborhood kids. That was really perfect because I had forgot it was Halloween when I made plans to bring work home. But by then the kids were already gone and the house was quiet. They had a blast, MH got a long nap, and I got some work done. Phew!