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Archive for January, 2018

The Next Phase

January 27th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

We did end up eating lunch at the culinary school.

$30 for all that (salmon, shrimp, and steak sandwich), plus dessert.



I was surprised they were open (so early in the semester). Any other time we've gone is just like any restaurant. But it was so obviously their first day for this group of students. They all looked like deer in headlights. The second appetizer we tried to order was burned so they couldn't serve it. It added some layer of fun/amusement to the whole thing, but the food was still GREAT! We were the only ones there. Ha! I would absolutely go back on their first day, though it's all a little more smooth after that. (In the past it's been hard to get reservations; it does fill up).

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Well, it's time for me to figure out the next phase. Things at work aren't good and the writing is on the wall. My employer is *amazing* but I always knew this day would come because is a small employer of retirement age.

While I am planning for the worst case, I did initially feel like I may have some more months of job security. MH and I had decided to take our time and to be choosy. We will both be looking for work. In an ideal world, we would have had one more year! Until MM(14) is driving and the kids are more independent. (At that point MH was going to look for full-time work anyway). But I honestly never expected to have this job for so long. I am thankful that I did have it for this long, because this was really the ideal job as to raising kids. I was paid a full-time/high level salary to really work what is considered more part-time hours in my industry. At this point my kids are mostly grown. (At the least, daycare is no longer a concern at all).

I initially thought I would have more time and we decided to take this time to be choosy. Was expecting some measure of job stability through April. As of Friday, feeling more turmoil about the whole thing. I am hoping to have more clarity soon. But I have already reached out to a recruiter and identified a "dream job" of sorts that I doubt will pay very well but otherwise fits all my bullet points. I like the idea of interviewing for such an exciting job opportunity while I am in a strong negotiating position. It would be more of a stepping stone. I think we both kind of have nowhere to go but up. For MH in particular. But for me, if I step down a bit, it would be thinking to more long-term opportunities and growth.

The local economy has been pretty horrible most the years we have lived here. I am happy to say I have NEVER seen so many jobs. It's completely absurd. So though I feel some amount of post traumatic stress from MH's last layoff (2001) and MH's long-term unemployment, I do recognize that this is a completely different situation. The job outlook is good for both of us.

Financially I feel surprisingly *shrugs* about this. I suppose this is our WHY. We don't live below our means just because we like to feel deprived or whatever. Wink The way we dealt with MH's unemployment was absolutely priceless. We did not sweat at all the first 3+ years. We *shrugged* and ended up being some of the best times of our life. MH was home with me during my maternity leaves; those are some of my fondest memories. We are in a similar position now, except with substantially more assets. Money worries aren't on my mind whatsoever at this moment in time.

The only non-negotiable I have is that I want to get DL(12) through high school here (5.5 more years). That's it. His school is phenomenal. While the economy was down, I always knew I could mega commute to the Bay Area (more jobs with higher pay). Or we could sell our home and live off the proceeds for several years. Neither of these options were ideal, but it helped me to sleep well at night. I guess having my pick of jobs that may pay slightly less sounds kind of like a dream in comparison. & I am not set on that route. I am open to anything. Just to be clear. I may push myself to secure a higher paying/higher stress job with the idea that I only need to do this until MH gets some better career footing.

Financially I am *shrugs* but emotionally I am a bit of a wreck. I am mourning the loss of my job. It's been such a big part of my life for so long. Most the employees have been there longer than I have. Plus, what else in my life have I ever done for 16 years?? Holy cow! I am actually somewhat excited about the next phase and future opportunities, but I just notice it feels like dealing with a death. I am sure that part will take some time to work through.

Current plan:

This weekend I am getting a haircut (is overdue), do our taxes (while I have access to work software), updating my resume, etc.

We turned off MH's 401k contributions and will be hoarding cash like crazy.

If I go MIA for a bit, my work is CRAZED and I have a list of chores a mile long re: job searching.

Gobble Gobble

January 23rd, 2018 at 10:10 am

I should have added this to my last post, but forgot.

The turkeys usually come out in the spring. Not used to seeing them in winter. I just happened to walk by the front door (office) and saw a turkey peering in the glass door. They look HUGE when they get that close. I was on the way to the kitchen (opposite end of building), but turned around to go the other way to get my camera. By the time I got back they were moving on, but I think I startled them and the one fanned its feathers.





Probably some of the best pictures I've gotten of the office turkeys.

Checking In

January 23rd, 2018 at 06:47 am

The last time I tracked spending in my blog was a February and I noted it was way too busy. I felt *shrugs* about it during a potentially busier month (this year), during the first couple of weeks, but I think I hit a wall the middle of last week.

I always track spending (just not in my blog) and can still share some bigger picture spending:

--Grocery spending is up to $355 out of $650 for the month. We still will probably do 2 more weekly grocery runs x $100.

Note: Grocery budget covers household/pet food and litter

--Fuel is at $125 for the month. Includes two out-of-town drives so far this month. I need to fill up the van this week.

We were going to go to the Bay Area next weekend, but that's been postponed. Overall, our trade-off to moving and saving $500k-ish on home (purchase price) is some extra driving. I've not noticed it so much in recent years as we get more settled into our city and kids in particular have their own things. But we do still end up with months like this where we drive out of town every weekend. Some of it is family stuff, and some of it is still being able to take advantage of everything the Bay Area has to offer, without having to live there. & some of it is that we prefer weekend trips around the state more than longer/farther vacations (re: last weekend in Napa).

{Side note: We have two very cheap gas stations by our home; cheaper than Costco. I had stumbled across a comparably-prices gas station that I have filled up at while MM is volunteering. I drove by that gas station last night and it was $3.25 per gallon!! Versus the $2.79 by our home. I am not 100% sure but I am pretty sure that was the cheap gas station I stopped at before. I guess it is not always cheap}.

Other Spending:

$10 gymnastics
$20 Round table pizza (used $5-off coupon)

Round table raised their prices, but I guess the coupons help to offset. Oh, and we never order food delivery. In this case, I picked it up: faster and cheaper.

Other doings:

MH was sick much of last week, and probably is why I felt thrown into the void of busy.

Friday he was starting to feel better and we did go out to the movies for his birthday ($0 out-of-pocket). I believe he also went to the movie another day last week. Probably would have been more movies out if he felt better.

MH got word that he has an additional week off of work (after being stuck working 3 weeks longer than usual). Phew! Because he hadn't been feeling well and I was wary I'd end up with whatever he had, we delayed our fancy lunch out (with credit card reward). We will do that this week, since he is still available for lunch.

While we were out eating GREAT food last weekend, MH mentioned the culinary school. They have a restaurant which is DIVINE (& very cheap) but I doubt we have eaten there since MH has been working. Is only open for lunch a couple of days a week and it's a class so they need time to develop their menu and so on. I never in a million years thought they'd be open this month (new semester), but MH got reservations for this week! We will eat *very well* this week. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if this was opening week for this group of students, so I won't have high expectations).

Saturday:

I worked all day Saturday. MH took MM to the animal shelter for his volunteer shift. & then he spent the rest of the day working on some movie set. (Free labor in exchange for networking and experience).

Sunday:

MH went off to San Francisco to see a show. We paid for it last month. His one friend bailed and owes him $30-ish for the ticket (neither of us cares at all). I mean, he said he wants to pay him back, but I'd rather he did not. He's a young college student trying to get through college with no debt. MH's other friend (script writing partner) did reimburse him AND insisted on paying for MH's dinner because his birthday was last week. Other than that, MH did spend $13 taking a train, to avoid hassles/traffic and parking fees. He still had to drive one hour to the train, but this makes the other end of the trek easier.

{Between this and birthday money, I won't need to go to ATM for a while to get more gymnastics money. I pulled the last $20 out of my stash last week, but I know we both have some cash in our wallets. I only seem to need to go to the ATM once every 3 months.
This is probably more efficient because I used to always run any cash to our credit union to deposit. Now I just keep a cash stash and replenish it as needed}.

I ran kids around to friend's houses, stopped by the grocery store, and made dinner. Did some laundry, etc. Relaxed most of the day, but just busier than usual.

Jan 15 & 16

January 18th, 2018 at 06:27 am

January 15
$7 Groceries
$10 Gymnastics
Dinner: Chile Colorado Burritos

MH told me what he picked up at the grocery store Monday, but I don't remember. Maybe something for dinner? Ran out of milk? Something like that.

I just double checked all credit cards and nothing else is showing up. Resort charged (was pending before) have completely disappeared. Will keep an eye on it and see what they end up charging us.

The kids had the day off (I did not) and they played the borrowed (library) game. Is supposed to be a single-use kind of game, which is why MH borrowed it.

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January 16
$100 Groceries
$36 Allowance Purchase (MH)
Dinner: Lasagna

MH told me that instead of buying used movies (hit and miss if he can get the online codes for digital copies) he was shifting to buying new movies (on sale) and selling them. Just keeping electronic copies. (Whatever hard copy version he has been buying come with an online code to redeem a digital copy. Because most people don't utilize, he sometimes can score the code with a used movie purchase).

This is AWESOME! From a minimalist standpoint. Less storage, less space, less clutter.

He told me is cheaper anyway. Not really true considering he seems to have infinite credit to buy used movies (without spending cash). But since he's got his (practically unlimited) theater viewing down to almost no-cost, I think he feels more comfortable splurging a bit on his movie collection.

Anyway, I think he picked up 3 movies the other day (reported prior weekend in blog), and another 3 movies yesterday with birthday money (Amazon had some sale or discount). I am just throwing into the allowance category because I have no better place to put that. We don't keep strict track of that. Well, I do track it, but that's about it. I don't do anything else with it. Neither of us are big spenders.

They failed at the crazy big board game from the library, so MM and MH attempted it again yesterday (I don't think they finished). MM was back at school; DL goes back to school Wednesday.

Edited to add: I totally forgot about gymnastics on Monday. That cash spending really slips through the cracks.

Another Wednesday

January 17th, 2018 at 07:27 am

I was just starting to wake MM up for school when I thought, "Why is everyone still asleep?" Wednesday! I am surprised no one reminded me last night. Wink {I have no idea what day it is. Wednesday is a late start day for both the schools}.

During most of tax season I welcome the chance to relax and have a breather. But I took a breather over the weekend and have way too much to do. I could have planned ahead better. I can find some work to do for the next 30 minutes or whatever I end up with. Or I may just veg it away on the internet.

Today I will fund my 2017 IRA. We save up all year but it makes more sense to see how the year shakes out before deciding how to fund IRAs. I would have funded mine around 12/31, but we were having fence work done and I knew we'd need to write a couple of checks. I just left the money in the checkbook and figured I'd have the cash on payday (easier than moving money around).

I've already paid all the bills for the month (at the end of December), so this is my only payday task.

I still have no idea what MH can contribute (depends on our taxes) so will hold off on his. Will put what we can into his Traditional IRA and the rest to his ROTH IRA. Will probably do our taxes the weekend after next.

Napa Weekend

January 16th, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Weekend Spending:
$12 Groceries
$100 Dinner (Friday)
($100) Cash Gift
$100 Hotel Fees, Dining Out (Saturday)
($100) Gift
$100 Room service (Saturday)
($100 Credit)
$28 Dining Out (Sunday)
($50 Credit)

Spent less than $0!

In the end, we spent around $20-ish for the entire weekend away from home. Some of the groceries we brought back home, and the Sunday dining out was included dinner after we got home.

I didn't plan it that way, MH is just charmed like that!

{We have since received a $50 credit from the hotel. So I guess we made money?? Big Grin I edited above to reflect this credit).

We aren't a big fan of the restaurants in Napa (way over-priced and have yet to find anything that lives up to the hype), BUT we did find an excellent restaurant on a prior visit and planned to return. I expected that to really be our only expense this weekend, and so was fine with the high cost. The food was DIVINE! In the end, MH received some birthday cash to cover that.

The timeshare company and/or the resort screwed up the reservation and so we got a small hotel room instead of the suite we reserved (with full kitchen). I had no idea what on earth we'd spend the $100 credit on, that they gave us to compensate for the error. MH is smart, and figured we could order room service. It worked out since we had planned to buy some groceries and just hole up in the room most of the weekend. $100 covered brunch and dinner on Saturday.

We usually pay -$0- when we stay at timeshare properties, but some hotels have incidental fees (usually parking fees in places like San Francisco). We've stayed at this resort a few times before and I recalled they charge taxes directly to us. So we paid $60 for two nights. (Not a bad deal!) We also made sure to use up entire $100 credit and went over a bit, owing $15. Spent $25 on lunch out Saturday. All that added up to $100, but MH happened to receive a $100 birthday check (in the mail) when we got home. That worked out nicely!

{In the end, MIL was beyond peeved and found out that we can get the taxes refunded if she calls every time. They charged us because we aren't timeshare owners. We probably never mentioned to her in the past?? Anyway, she called to complain about everything and we supposedly have another $50 credit coming to us. Did I mention that MH is charmed?}.

Sunday we ate lunch at our favorite deli chain before heading home, and then I took the kids out to dinner since we had no food in the house (no one was up to running to the store AND cooking). That said, DL started to give me a laundry list of food items. I told him, "If you want me to pick it up for you, you get to order one menu item." I just didn't want some mega order and they had already eaten VERY WELL all weekend. MM(14) ordered a double whopper, which was more than half of the $11 we spent on dinner. We had some food in the house to supplement.

Some Wineries/Landscape:




The view from our hotel:


On Saturday we ended up doing a brewery tour and some beer tasting. We then went to a 2-hour podcast recording. All that was free, except we ordered an appetizer and a beer sampler while waiting for our tour. (Officially they don't do free beer tasting on the weekend, but apparently they do ply you with free beer).

I enjoyed the relaxing weekend. I won't have a full weekend or any weekday off until May. So it was nice to have such a relaxing weekend. MH was telling me that everyone seemed confused that he doesn't go to Napa for the wine. It's only an hour drive from our house, so probably the closest vacation destination we have. Tahoe is nice, but could be treacherous to get to this time of year. & it's twice as far away. Napa is where we go when we want to relax. It's just close and relaxing.

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I was not going for "uber frugal" this month at all, and would roll my eyes at the idea of our lifestyle being uber frugal. (I've lived many adult years on pennies, and we live rather extravagantly these days, compared to any frame of reference I have living in Bay Area or how I grew up).

So I am amused how the month is shaping up. MH and I have a $50 gift card for a fancy meal this week (will go on his birthday). The weekend after that we will probably take my dad to Benihana (belated birthday gift; I have a $100 gift card).

I think I will be able to redeem my last $500 credit card rewards (gift cards) this week. No idea what to even do with that! I will probably donate some.

Raise, Taxes

January 16th, 2018 at 05:53 am

Was shocked to get a raise this year. Just seemed unlikely given economics of employer. (Was a bit of a niche market that just happened to fared very well during the recession, but now we have an aging/retiring client base). There is still a weird dynamic where I am youngest in office but have surpassed some of my elders, and so have been the only one to get raises over many years. Ever since I realized this, I've not taken raises for granted. I was legitimately shocked this year.

Well, that's easy! I can take care of everything I wanted to in 2018 budget/spending plan without worrying about it.

--Health insurance went up $65/month
(Where the vast majority of my raises have gone since having kids. This year was a small increase in the grand scheme of things.)

--MM wanted to attend third weekly gymnastics class offered this year. We told him we have better things to do than to drive him over there 3 times a week (yikes!) But, that we could discuss after my work review. I am more open to it now; will have some extra funds. Will still have to find some reasonable balance.

--I wanted to bump up our short-term savings. Expenses like insurance (life, disability) are creeping up. Most especially since I turned 40. (Maybe some "leaping up" in that case). This gives us more breathing room in the budget because we use short-term savings for one-off expenses. It's a hard balancing act because if we save money we want to leave it there, and I think psychologically it might work well being a little tight. But it's starting to get a little out of balance and is stressful at the end of the year when I really haven't saved enough for all this stuff.

This breaks out to:
$5,500 property taxes
$4,300 insurance (various)
$2,000 vacation
$1,500 car maintenance
$1,200 Dental
$2,300 Misc.

The extra $1,200 to Misc. = some breathing room. Phew!

When I plugged my new salary into a paycheck calculator I came up with +$280 monthly income with a $250 monthly raise. I presumed that was because of the new tax tables. Anyway, I will do some tax projections today and figure out what to do. I barely withhold any taxes from my monthly paycheck, because I get a OT check every year that's taxed like a bonus. So while it would probably be wise to adjust my withholding with the extra windfall, I also don't see the point of letting the government hold my money all year. It may be that I just decide to put the entire difference ($80/month?) into investments. That is money I can put into tax withholding if my job situation changes.

But I will do a tax projection, make sure I am paying in enough state tax, etc. Once I figure out how much I need for taxes, I can finalize my 2018 goals.

I may just leave sidebar goals as is because they are very aggressive. Not really entirely sure I can or even want to make these goals, but aiming high seems to work well for us.

Maybe I am weird, but the more money we make the harder I find it to save 20% or 30% for long-term. I think that's probably because of taxes. But is probably also the longer we have gone without any BIG expenses. When I am not replacing cars, paying for braces (x2), funding teen drivers, and doing maintenance on a 20-year-old home, it's much easier to lock up 30% of income in retirement and other long-term funds.

Tax Notes:

--Our taxes will remain unchanged with the new tax laws. Our "taxable income" will increase substantially because we lose all of our exemptions. Which probably doesn't bode well for the long run. (For the short run, like just a couple of years, this increase is offset by child tax credits)

--That said, MH's small income is getting taxed at 15% instead of 30%. If we are shifting to a two full-time income, then the timing works out pretty well. As long as we have kids, I still pay "almost nothing" as to taxes on my income. Which is why the high tax rate on an additional few thousand dollars has been so jarring.

--Accordingly, we will probably drop the 401k contributions. We've only done for tax reasons, which annoys me, because increasing cash flow would be the motivation for this job. Will build up taxable investments instead of adding to 401k, which just makes more sense given our financial situation.

It depends how my tax projections go today. Not 100% decided, but I like that I feel less tied to the 401k.

--Will stick with the Traditional IRAs (as much as we can; MH is being phased out). Taxes are complex, and we need the Traditional IRAs to increase our itemized deductions and to lower our taxes. I believe last I calculated was a 24% savings for every dollar we put in Traditional IRA, because it increases our itemized deductions the more we can decrease AGI. So that is why. I will check today now that I have some better salary estimates to plug in. Oh, and we have to do the Traditional IRAs to keep our taxable investments tax-free. Between those two points, I don't see any ROTH contributions in our near future.

Edited to add: It was probably a bigger second income which was much more palate-able with the new tax law. Which is just interesting timing for us. I can't re-create that 15% tax rate with current income situation, so I am guessing that was a more long-term/higher income tax projection.

I ran numbers today and we save 32% for every dollar we put into 401k+Traditional IRA. Looks like we will stick with the 401k. (It's the loss of 0% investment tax rate that is tripping me up).

Federal tax withholding is surprisingly better than I remembered (withholding enough from salary to cover all taxes for year, even with lower withholding rates). But I have to send +$40/month to the state, a 50% increase. This leaves $40-ish per month for investments. I will just round up to $50.

2017 Goal Update

January 15th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

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

2017 Goals

[X]$11,000 to IRAs 2017 (MAX)
...($11,000 @ 12/31/17)
...We save $900/month

[ ]$5,000 to savings
...($4,013 @ 12/31/17)
...We save $300/month, plus interest.
...Topping off with snowballs

[ ]$8,000 to investments
...($7,236 @ 12/31/17)
...$2,200 from monthly contributions; $2,636 snowflakes/snowballs; $2,400 tax savings
...We save $200/month, plus snowflakes
...Will also invest tax savings ($2,400) when contribute to Traditional IRAs
...Will top off goal with snowballs

[X]$3,000 to mortgage
...($3,225 @12/31/17)
...$3k per year to pay off in 20 years (from last refi); also ensures that we pay more principal than interest
...Funded with overtime

In addition, we save 100% of MH's income.


My goal has been to save 100% of MH's (take-home) pay. I think that's been a little hit and miss. But probably complicated by paying all of the income taxes out of my check (though we pay 6x as much tax on his income; my salary is almost tax-free and is why there is such a substantial difference). I know we have also been using to justify some splurges. Which I am totally cool and fine with. Just don't want second income to be going towards basics like housing and groceries, insurance, etc. Don't want to get used to it. We have always used the second income for more one-off expenses and larger purchases (while primarily invested).

I will have to re-evaluate with tax law changes and all that. I'll update my sidebar when I figure it out.

As to the rest, I fell about $1,500 short of savings goals. Considering we spent about $2,000 on random last minute London trip (over and above vacation budget), I think that pretty much sums that up. Considering we easily paid $1,500 less to go in 2017 (versus any other recent years) and we can now cross that off our list, it probably all evens out in the end. Which is why we take advantage of opportunities like this.

At the end of the day, I always find it hard to sweat these things when our assets are up substantially. I am happy with how 2017 turned out.

January 12 Spending

January 14th, 2018 at 09:52 pm

January 12
$3 Donut shop
$19 Groceries
$28 gas for car
Dinner: Out of Town (separate post)

If MH told me anything about groceries, I don't remember. Too many days ago!

Used 25-cent gas coupon at gas station.

I ended up going to donut shop on Friday morning. Hadn't really thought of it, but really wanted a soda. Was thinking logically I should just go to CVS (right by MM's school). For reference, I have been driving him to this school for 5 months and have never made a stop like that. Is not a frequent thing for me. But I do sometimes stop for donuts. I decided to just grab a soda at the donut shop. Sure, a donut sounds good too. In the end, all they had was 12 oz soda cans, so not really what I wanted. But it worked in a pinch.

Buying (bakery) donuts is something no one in our house did the 13-ish years that MH was home. Is definitely a "more household income" kind of treat.