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March Savings

April 1st, 2016 at 08:02 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of March.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $40 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $2 cash back on Visa/dining card.

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

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$1,400 to Savings/Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash

{That's $4,235 total saved this month?}


It's been rather weird and quiet on the financial front. Eventually we will get hit with some bigger bills. I have no idea why I have not gotten dh's MRI bill yet.

Of course, we saved so much by virtue of February being a short month I guess. I don't feel like it was a spectacular month on the low spend front, but these numbers say otherwise (since we pay off all February bills in March, then any March savings reflects last month's spending).

April should be a bigger savings month since I expect to receive one check for 4 months of overtime. I feel like March was a pretty lax month on the spending side of things. Probably justified a few too many treats because it was busy. But that said, all the splurging was food related. There was no retail spending this month.

Work has been really slow for dh, which I think has worked well with my busy work season. We only saved so much because it was a 3-paycheck month. I believe he had at least 3 Fridays off in March. I much rather put more of his paychecks to the mortgage or taxable investments and will re-think that since we don't seem to be on track to make as much money as we thought we would this year. I think I will leave it as is but might back his 401k down to 6% from 50% (for match) come fall when maybe he should be working more. I just have to run some tax projections and is why I figure I will let it be for now.

February Savings

February 29th, 2016 at 06:08 am

Received $36 bank interest for the month of February.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $37 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $3 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$40 Citi Price Rewind
--$ 5 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$355 to Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
+367 Insurance rebate
-$250 Auto Insurance


March is a 3 paycheck month for dh and we already have the cash to pay all the bills (February spending) and so I expect we will be able to save $1,500 (his entire paycheck) + the $2,700 I usually save.

This is how I Was expecting to hoard up $10,000 (for car replacement) by May. I am also expecting a $4k overtime check for this tax season, in addition to the above. I will get a lump sum in April. Dh will probably match that with his job, first 5 months of the year. Then he will have summer off and I won't be working OT. So this is peak earning season for us. Taking advantage.

How has it been him working during crazy busy time? Dh working = *shrugs*. It's been really slow and he has had a lot of time off. March and April might be a different story, but it will just fly by. I can't believe it is the end of February already!


For February, dh's check was so small that I just threw it into investments. I believe it was $160 net. The rest of it went into 401k.

I expect his net to be closer to $700 for March (after 401k), and so will just add his paychecks to savings. I will probably keep throwing that into savings until summer. We have some big expenses coming up.

February 14, Using up Gift Cards

February 15th, 2016 at 06:20 am

February 14:
$117 Groceries
$12 Kohls
$ 2 amazon (TV show streaming)
Dinner: Sweet & Spicy Salmon w/Garlic Butter Rice

Dh did a grocery run Sunday.

I made out well at Kohls though I didn't find anything suitable for work. I think it was my mood. I tried on like 30 things (which is why I like Kohls so much - they are okay with you taking in piles of clothes to the dressing room). I just felt so "meh" and "ugh" about everything. Which is too bad because I actually found a lot of nice stuff in the clearance racks. I usually don't bother to go through those, but I spotted some really pretty colors and started going through it all. Then I tried it all on and said, "UGH!" In the end I picked up 3 t-shirts. Two are a little winter-y and Christmas-y (long sleeved). & I had wanted to pick up another plain black shirt. They didn't have the nicer one I had bought last time but they had a short-sleeve one that will do. I did take a picture of a couple of shirts that were not on sale and that I think I would have been happy with. I can look online later.

Anyway, the three shirts I picked up were $12 total. I think I did pretty good. I really loved the two winter-y shirts I got, so there is that. Oh, and I scored a plastic bag! I suppose I don't know what all the rules are with that. I was thinking it must have been the first retail store I have been into this year. But now that I think about it I went into Walgreens once and they were charging for plastic bags.

Dh wants to use up our movie gift card this week (going out while the kids are gone). We discussed using a restaurant gift card that we got for Christmas but decided to keep that for when we take out the kids. It will be nice to cut down the bill when it's the four of us. I think that is all we have left in gift cards right now. Well, other than a $2 Barnes & Noble gift card balance.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that I also have a $20 Target gift card from work gift exchange.
Dh is planning to use it today towards a grocery run.


Mid Month Spending Totals:

$283 Groceries
$19 Fuel
$4 TV Streaming
$209 Everything Else

That leaves $367 left for groceries and $68 left for everything else. I expect we will spend about that much on fuel for the rest of the month. & of course, we can always spend less on groceries to free up more general spending money.

We are very aggressive with paying ourselves first, and so we would never have money left over at the end of the month. Psychologically it's what works for us.

We are planning to take dh's Grandma out this next weekend though. That is such a one-off thing, as is our medical co-pay this month, that I will probably cover these things from our short-term savings. We do also save aggressively for that, which is just for non-monthly expenses during the year. So that buys us some wiggle room. Especially early in the year when we have not spent down any of that. But of course, if I can cover these things from our monthly budget I will do that. The more I can keep for more fun spending later and for the more random things that always pop up, the better.

On the flip side, we both get paid this week and we already paid all of our bills for the month. So 100% of our paychecks are going to savings. (The daily spending is put on our credit card for rewards. Will pay this month's charges off on the first of March, or the following payday).

January Savings

February 1st, 2016 at 06:19 am

Received $35 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $45 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $10 cash back on Visa/dining card. {Lots of eating out in January, with a couple of weekends out of town}

I have officially phased out 5th credit card (ROTH rewards) and so all my ongoing rewards are now just cash back. 4th credit card is Target card. I suppose I should add those savings to snowflakes too. For January it's a whole whopping $1.50 saved (I have no idea how or why we only spent $30 at Target this month. Is probably a record low. Dh manages the grocery shopping there). I'll add that to "other snowflakes".

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$25 Ting Credit
--$1.50 Savings from Target Red Card

Snowballs to investments:
--Invested $2,500 tax savings (for funding Traditional IRAs)
(Funded $1,500 with tax refund + moved $1,000 over from savings)

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$750 Various Insurance


Dh did not work this month. I received a small raise that just covers increasing expenses. So I just kept our savings goals the same as prior year.


First 4 months of year is low-spend/high-save, generally. Will hoard up cash for medical expenses (dh had an MRI this month) and some home repairs. We also want to save $10k in addition for car replacement.

Taxes Done & Goals

January 29th, 2016 at 06:06 am

I did complete our taxes. I don't really need any tax forms except some investment information. But I wasn't thinking that I didn't have dh's W2 from which I needed his employer Tax ID for e-file. So I thought that would hold us up for a while.

In the end I poked around online and found his W2.

Yes, our taxes are very simple. (I don't need W2s because neither of has any benefits, and even if we did I could figure it out from our pay stubs. I don't need any tax forms except for "qualified dividends"; is the only info I don't seem to have on my own).


We did save $2,500 doing Traditional IRAs instead of ROTHs. I will get a $1,500 tax refund that (I will invest) and already moved $1,000 over from savings to investments. The deal is if we do the Traditional IRAs then we invest the tax savings.

Edited to add: And I just noticed we already got tax refund. So will move the other $1,500 over to investments today.


For 2016 goals I just copy and pasted 2015 as a starting point. I didn't have enough information otherwise to form goals yet.

In the end I got a small cost of living raise, which just covers cost of living increases for this year (our utilities all seemed to go up suddenly and our HOA fees went up for the first time ever). So I will keep my salary goals the same. Which are the goals in my sidebar.

As to dh, he went back to work this week, post long winter break. The last thing we really want or need is more long-term retirement funds. But it is the most efficient thing to do. I Was surprised when I ran a tax projection and his income is being taxed at 30%. Yeesh! Thankfully he does have a 401k that he is already eligible for. We discussed it a while ago before I knew the taxes would be so bad and dh was leaning more towards the 401k. I was more trying to talk him out of it. After running the tax projection dh didn't want to talk about it because he is getting some MRI results next week. He just can't think "future" until he knows where his health stands. So we will enjoy his first full paycheck for the year and figure it out after that. Historically we always delay taxes and I expect that is what we will do, even if we haven't had the formal "let's do the 401k" discussion yet. I don't see either of us throwing 30% of his income down the drain. We had abandoned ROTH contributions around the 20% marginal tax mark.

We are also still very much in the 15% tax bracket; nowhere near the 25% tax bracket. But taxes aren't exactly simple. They can be pretty whacked.

What we miss more than anything is the liquidity of dh working and this doesn't do much to resolve that. But... Our parents are in a generous stage and so this is helping us to just suck it up and fund the 401k. We might get some cash gifts this year to fund more "Early retirement" funds. If we do the 401k and we hang onto some taxable investments (gifts) then that takes away from the potential mortgage avalanche. The big picture is more important to us.

Net Worth Update

January 3rd, 2016 at 05:53 am

2015 was a big year for us. We had a peak net worth of $498k in 2005, and then our net worth went down years 2006-2011. Our house lost $400,000 in value during that time, while we were saving and doing well with the rest. Housing started to turn around here in 2012. Our house is still $250,000 below the peak, but we've been increasing cash and investments over the years.

& so it seems like it took forever, but we finally did it! We surpassed $500k net worth in 2015. Moving on up!

We also made our net worth goal, which was to increase net worth by $42k (70% of expenses).

This is what I had estimated for 2015:

Cash + $5,000
Investments + $5,000
Retirement + $11,000 (Max IRAs)
Investment Returns + $14,000 (assumes 6% returns)
Mortgage Paydown + $7,000
net worth + $42,000

& here is how 2015 shook out.

2015 Actual:

Cash + $0
Car Purchase + $13,000 (Added asset to net worth)
Investments + $6,000
Retirement + $11,000 (Max IRAs)
+ $5,500 (2014 IRA)
Investment Returns + $0
Mortgage Paydown + $8,500
net worth + $44,000

I am fine with leaving this goal the same for next year. I think it will be doable. But overall, we want to start increasing our net worth by a full $60,000 per year. Even though that is 100% of our current spending, it is actually far more than I Expect that we will spend in retirement. I'd like to get to this somewhere in our early 40s. With dh working, maybe we can get there at 40. I really do expect to hit a seven figure net worth by age 50, which we will call "financial independence." I expect our 40s to be our last final push on the earned income/growing net worth stage of our lives. I expect to earn far more from our investments by the time we are 50, and in turn I expect "work" to fall down the importance scale significantly.

I am sure if we start hitting $60k annual increases early on that those amounts will increase over time with investment compounding. On the flip side, gives us some room to still make our goal with normal market fluctuations.

2016 Estimate:

Cash + $10,000 (saving to replace vehicle soon)
Investments + $10,000
Retirement + $11,000 (Max IRAs)
Investment Returns + $15,000 (assumes 6% returns)
Mortgage Paydown + $7,000
net worth + $53,000

Wow! More than I would have expected. Maybe at 40 I will just revise my goal to $50k annual net worth increases.

2015 Goal Update

January 2nd, 2016 at 06:46 am

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

2015 Goals


[X]$11,000 to IRAs 2015 (MAX)
...($11,000 @12/31/15)
...$10,850 savings;$150 credit card rewards
...We save $900/month, plus ROTH credit card rewards

[X]$5,000 to savings
...($5,000 @ 6/30/15)
...We save $300/month, plus interest
...Received an unexpected gift and so will stop tracking savings this year. Just want to have $5k cash more than last year.

[ ]$5,000 to investments
...($4,596 @ 12/31/15)
...We save $200/month, plus snowflakes

[X]$4,100 to mortgage
...($4,100 @ 12/31/15)
...$3k per year to pay off in 15 years; $3,100 *this year* will be more principal than interest!
...Funded with overtime
...Added $825 (gift) to get balance below $175,000


I am putting this under the "one income" category because these goals were based on my income alone. & dh brought in a whopping $2,000 in 2015, which was more of a snowball. I did not use any of his wages for the above goals.

We fell a little short of our investment goal. I am fine with that since I will have a tax refund to deposit in a month or so (getting us to $10k+ in taxable investments, which was more my "bigger picture" goal). Since the "big picture" is currently much better than I expected for 2016, I just can't bring myself to care that I Fell short of my 2015 goal by $400.

October Savings

November 1st, 2015 at 07:06 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $80 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $10 cash back on Visa/dining card.

{These last two were much higher than usual due to vacation expenses}.

Other snowflakes to investments:

--$12 rounding (gets us to $3k)

--$ 25 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)
**This is the final free month since we've run through our credits**

Savings (From paychecks):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
- $150 Auto registration renewal


A little commentary on our savings goals:

With dh working, I expect to increase our savings rate roughly from 30% to 40%. But I suppose we will work through that next year.

IRAs: I just happen to expect another $50 credit card reward to my ROTH and so we will get exactly to $11k max this year. It usually doesn't work out quite that perfect. I usually try to get close and just top it off end of year.

I did see that IRA limits are unchanged for 2016 so this goal will remain the same for 2016.

Investments: I am thinking of abandoning this goal. Not in a bad way though. I had intended to invest $7,500 this year.

I've yet to fund $1,400-ish from my OT. Sure we've had a splurge-y year and maybe that is a lot of it, but we have also had a very charitable year (by our own standards). I am thinking of letting this go since we have given about this much to charity. & I definitely foresee charity being a higher focus next year with dh working. For this year, we just knew a lot of people suffering a lot of hardships. A lot of stuff came up that we felt compelled to give cash to. I know next year we will probably have more means AND also switching to more cash giving as we have less time to donate. (We've been infinitely more focused on donating *time* since having kids - with lots of time and less money, but that is starting to shift the other way - probably more 50/50 in the interim).

I was also going to invest our tax refund, estimated at $2,500. I was going to invest around 12/31, since we have the cash, and reimburse our cash when we get our tax refund in early February. I am still going to invest the refund, but I am not going to count it towards this year. I will just invest it when I get the money. I was thinking the money was really saved this year, and it's true, but I'd also rather keep it simple.

I've revised my sidebar for the $2,500 (tax refund) and we can wait and see on the other $1,400. I've still got time to scrounge it up.

July Savings

August 3rd, 2015 at 05:57 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of July.

Snowflakes to investments:

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

Redeemed $50 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $2 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$ 30 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

But... Took out $800 for medical bills.

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$2,000 Hawaii airfare

June Savings

July 2nd, 2015 at 06:49 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of June.

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $1 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes:
--$200 (no piano lessons July)
--$300 sale of piccolo
--$ 30 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)

In the end, I added all the snowflakes to savings. Savings got drained a bit for the car purchase and mortgage pre-payments. So I felt all the windfalls were better used to bulk up savings a wee bit.

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

But... Took out $2,600 for summer school, medical bills, and wildlife vacation. OF course, after that drained savings further for car purchase/mortgage paydown.

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$60 Medical
-$385 Auto maintenance/repairs


Current cash position:

Still have about 8 months of expenses in the bank, so am happy with that. Plus a 9th month in taxable investments.

Upcoming known expenses:

--Medical, medical, medical

--Still have not paid anything for Hawaii yet

Doings, Snowball

June 26th, 2015 at 06:07 am

Just got back from annual camping trip in the Sierras.

Life continues to be stressful and crazy. The minor annoyances continue to pile up.

While my dad was here (we camp with my dad and in-laws) he fixed a couple of minor things around the house for us. But we found a new problem that we will have to call the gardener to fix.

Of course, we appreciated the break and our trip went smooth as could be. Phew! (A nice sea of calm in a month of crazy).


**Dh has been earning tons of google credits and amazon gift cards for whatever survey stuff he is doing. He ended up getting a new roku for $25. (Our old one has been clunky for a while but I didn't really want to spend the money. In the end he spent a whole $25 and it is 10 times better).

I suppose that is unofficially his Father's Day present.

**I sent a payment to the credit cards today. I had booked summer classes for BM, our random wildlife vacation, and had charged dh's MRI. I had charged that all in June wanting to push off actual payment to next month, BUT the credit card balances were getting kind of crazy. Plus the one card has a low limit and so I think it was best to pay it down before the end of the month.

So much for delaying those expenses...

**I had to deposit my big check in person. For whatever reason (I guess since I was very nonchalant about it) they made it available immediately. Which was nice since I received the check Saturday night and we weren't back home until yesterday. Seriously, they asked me when I NEEDED it and I shrugged. Apparently that is how you get immediate access to large sums in this day and age. (If you haven't had a large deposit lately, they usually put a hold on some of it).

So I went home and took all the money out (online). I didn't NEED it but if it was available I might as well allocate it.

**So... I went ahead and made my big mortgage payment.

Mortgage balance is now $177,999. I project that we will be at $174,999 by end of year. $169,999 by April 2016.

**I had already opened a $10,000 CD (at my credit union) for a 1.50% rate and so opened up a second one. I don't know that I felt entirely comfortable tying that much up in CDs, but... we also expect a chunk of cash in December. I am always way too cautious, anyway. Odds are we will probably never never touch this money. (I consider about $15k of our cash savings completely untouchable but for extreme emergency). Of course, the CD is easy to access and there isn't much downside if I have to raid it later.

**Money continues to rain down from the sky. I had my piccolo on consignment and apparently it sold recently. Received a $300 check in the mail yesterday. Woohoo!

I am putting this $300 into investments.

{It was in disrepair and this was a very easy route to get it sold for more than I am sure I could have gotten on my own. Certainly was far less hassle than FB and CL have been of late}.

It was funny because I swung by that area yesterday and was stuck in the heat and traffic staring at the music store for a while wondering if they would ever sell my piccolo. (It's an area that I do not frequent). The check was, at that time, on a mail truck en route to my home. Ha! (We kind of reasoned summer/fall would be a good time to sell but had left it at the store at some point in the spring. Better than gathering more dust in my closet).

**The kids just told me that they have no piano lessons next month and so the snowflakes continue to fall. That's another $200 that I will move to investments. Plus credit card rewards this month (About $90?). Plus $30 to investments since we don't have a Ting bill this month. We also have a REI dividend to cash out.

Possibly a $600+ snowball for this month.

May Savings

June 2nd, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Received $35 bank interest for the month of May.

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $37 cash back on Citi card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $50 AmEx rewards as a ROTH contribution.

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,132 for concerts/events, vet visits, medical, dental, summer class registration, printer ink, organization purchases, pirate gear for camp (pirate theme this year!) and other misc.

CRAZY month!! In May and June of last year we had -0- in non-monthly expenses. For this May I had ten different entries on my spreadsheet (as to 10 different kinds of expenses). Which is probably like more than we have ever had.

I am happy to put May behind me. It wasn't anything big but just a lot of little expenses. It was just a weird month. We are overall in a "no spend" kind of mode with our big vacations this year. (Not planning anything else all year and being more homebodies than usual). On the flip side, there is also a feeling of "doing very well financially" since we keep surpassing financial goals at a more and more rapid pace. This could be some of the spendy-ness. (It seems silly to deny some random things that came up this month).

I've noticed that "May spendy crazy" seems to have been a common theme for SA bloggers.


For June dh has a pretty busy schedule and so I will probably have lots of time to work on some more house organization and de-cluttering. It's the kind of thing that sounds so awful and boring to me, but since diving in I have gotten a bit in the *zone*. & it's probably a good redirect of energy since we won't really have any "fun" funds for the rest of the year. (Spending it all on big trips!) So my attitude has adjusted a bit and if I am stuck at home I better make the best of it. OF course, joining a group is also really motivating.

{& I wouldn't feel sorry for me. The worst case is we just lounge by the pool all summer, which is what we have been doing. Boohoo? Big Grin }.

I have more to blog about organizing and de-cluttering but honestly I've been spending less time blahblahblah and more time keeping my house in order. Maybe not a bad thing? Though I do expect to eventually get over the other side of the mountain. I don't want to spend all my time cleaning for eternity. I am enthused to make 2015 the year to get well on the other side of the mountain! & I know blogging about it will keep me motivated too. So more on all that later.

Fiscal Plans & Closing an OLD credit card

May 21st, 2015 at 01:19 pm

Payday this week. With the cash inflow I have ample cash savings + $11,000 set aside for 2015 IRAs.

I am thinking through our rough annual plan. $1,200/month to cash x 7 more months = $8,400 more to savings.

Planned Allotment:

-$1,000 Hawaii
-$2,000 Medical
-$1,000 Home Repair
-$3,100 to mortgage
-$1,200 to investments

So I guess that is roughly where we are at.

We went forward with Hawaii plan this year even though we ended up doing some bigger splurges in recent months. I figured I could probably fund with credit card rewards. As is, we haven't spent our vacation budget and that will cover airfare. Our room is free. We are setting aside a generous (& also unnecessary) $1,000 for activities. This is like the *one* super splurge-y vacation I want to take my kids on.

Anyway, I am SO glad that I went forward with this trip. It seemed a little ridiculous, earlier in the year. But I kept thinking, "How much do we really need to spend? Worst case we lounge on the beach all week??"

I have seen a couple of angles to get airline miles but I am also fine with just cash flowing, which seems to be the much easier and more likely route. Relieved to feel that we will have ample cash for a splurge-y trip.


Car replacement talks are very up in the air. May be just put off until next year. Not feeling any rush to make any decisions.

I am always amused by perceptions that aversion to car payments is just about interest. It is so much more than interest! (Maybe interest is the least of it??) Right now it seems that we just don't have a lot of motivation to jump on a car purchase. The longer we wait the more cash we will have to buy a nicer car. Paying cash seems a very strong incentive to keep cars longer. I have always felt that, but just even moreso as we are considering next car purchases.

We endlessly save up $100/month/each to replace our cars so have a rough $15,600 set aside to replace this car. $100 x 156 months. Our budget will be $10k-$15k. I don't even know that I see the point in spending more than $10k. Last time we stumbled upon a car deal for about 33% less than we planned to spend, so I am hoping for something like that to happen again!

{I guess in the past the most we have had to save up for a car was just a few years??? So it's nice to have all that time for those little amounts to add up! But also not feeling like we need to spend all of it...}.


In other random news, dh and I basically have identical credit histories except he still has his very first credit card. I don't know if I have a credit card that is any older than 2 or 3 years. If I don't use them I cancel them. Our FICO scores are identical. (Since having a mortgage, that seems to be the meat of our FICOs. 100% on-time payments and is the only other kind of credit we have had aside from "paid off monthly credit cards").

Over time I guess I thought he was hanging onto that for FICO reasons or something. I guess the truth is that he just wanted a backup card in case we were out and about and joint card did not work. Which was maybe a valid concern a while ago but today we have like 3 joint credit cards that we use often. (Chasing all those rewards!) We keep different cards in our wallets.

So anyway, he finally finally agreed to cut up that credit card and cancel it. WOOHOO! I am so happy because my fear was it getting fraudulent charges and not noticing. Or terms changing and getting hit with some fee. Just one more thing to loosely keep track of though it's probably had no activity for like a decade.

The deed is done! I shot them a quick e-mail the other day and they closed the card. The end. Goodbye 20-year-old credit card!

April Savings

May 2nd, 2015 at 07:18 am

Received $50 bank interest for the month of April.^^

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $27 cash back on Citi card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash**
+$900 to IRAs

**I did pull out $1,800-ish for Japan expenses. (All this Japan stuff had been saved up last year, so am not considering it a step backwards for this year's savings).

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$535 for Dentist/Ortho (for 3)
-$400 Summer class for LM
-$150 new glasses for LM

^^Monthly interest peaked this month. I have a 6% CD that matures this month. I can probably renew at 3% but you can only put $500/month into the CD and I have to pay a $35 annual fee to be eligible for this CU. That last part makes it not very worthwhile and it was kind of a pain anyway. (Membership was free for the first year). So I look forward to closing this account and simplifying. Between this and huge Chase checking incentives, I haven't really been paying attention to interest rates. I will probably close this account (and already closed the Chase accounts in December) and will shop around banks/CUs a bit. Probably look at what other CDs are out there right now. I don't expect much but may consider the Ally "raise your rate" CDs since we are so flush with cash. We could maybe just throw our emergency fund into that. I will check terms and pros and cons and other CDs before deciding for sure.

We have about "3 months" of emergency fund that I don't see ever using outside of an extreme emergency, so I think that money is appropriate for a CD. We haven't been this cash flush in recent years so haven't wanted to tie up much in CDs to earn a whole whopping extra 0.25%. But with our current situation it makes more sense to do that. (We also have lots of additional cash that we will not tie up in a CD).


April 17th, 2015 at 06:17 am

**I received my annual OT check yesterday. My plan was to put 20% of it to investments and $3,100 to the mortgage.

I have about just enough to do that. BUT... Hoarding cash and allocating later seems to work best for us. We also received word that we might know in October if LM needs surgery for impacted tooth. October is also our Hawaii trip. So I think we will at least hold on to the cash until that point. I've also got a lot of expenses coming up in May.

I've already paid for the Japan trip, with my regular check, so will just deposit all this to savings.

I mostly expect to follow through with original plan by 12/31. Just maybe not if LM needs an expensive procedure!


**We bought dh's mom some thank you flowers. Mostly she just gets annoyed at those kind of gestures but I think we nailed it this time. Dh had no clue what kind of flowers she would like but we apparently picked her favorite! So glad that worked out. She sent me a picture and they were gorgeous. Money well spent. (Was a, "thanks for watching my kid for 10 days," and otherwise helping with that trip).

**Dh bought a new kindle. With $200 credit card reward.

**I bought two $20 Amazon gift cards and already received $40 back from our AmEx card. (Per my last post).

I ended up just going ahead and ordering placemats. (I had bought a set of 4 and liked them, and had been wanting to order 4-8 more. To go with our new table cloth). In the end, it cost me $8 cash to buy 8 more place mats.

Dh wants to use his $20 to get the ads off the kindle but feels like it's kind of a waste. The timing couldn't be more perfect for that since he had his Kindle for a day or two, felt annoyed with the ads, and then a free $20 fell out of the sky to cover that.

**I ordered a couple of dresses and swim suits for Hawaii. I figured I might return a couple. But dress #1 came yesterday and was *perfect*. Will see how much I keep and return but is my little splurge. Gearing up for *my* big trip this year...

**We will eat well this weekend. Today dh is taking me out to lunch. It's the first lunch date we could arrange post Japan trip, but will also celebrate the end of tax season. Going to my favorite Thai restaurant.

Since my phone stopped ringing off the hook, and apparently everyone thinks I am on vacation, I am thinking of taking this weekend entirely off. I can cram next weekend if need be. It's probably how it always goes. I am stressed and worried how it will all get done... Then I have a quiet day or two at work and it all seems easy peasy. It's amazing what you can get done without a million interruptions!

**This weekend is the kids' school International Festival. It is DIVINE. Homemade meals from around the world. So yeah, we will eat well today and tomorrow.

March Savings & Doings

April 6th, 2015 at 08:12 pm

Received $45 bank interest for the month of March.

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $42 cash back on Citi card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash**
+$900 to IRAs

**I did pull out $1,100 cash for Japan airfare.

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$500 for life insurance

Short-term savings is robust right now (you might have noticed way more + than - in recent months) but that is mostly because we prepaid property taxes in December. Which leaves an extra $2,500 cash buffer or so since we've already saved up the next property tax installment (which isn't due until December).



**Life has been busy. Mostly work.

**I did finally sign up for that credit card reward. $200 cash back + free prime for one year. Should get the rewards soon.

**Mid-month I get my OT check for the year. I will also have to sort out overseas trip expenses with my dad. OT should be way more than expenses. So I am mostly just looking forward to sorting all that out. Then we can see where we are at financially and look ahead.

**The funny thing about "more money" is more choices and stress. That's the mode I am in right now. A lot of stuff is popping up on the horizon now that we have some extra money. I think it's just a matter of time -we need to think through and prioritize. But for the moment I am feeling very overwhelmed. Some of it I haven't talked over with dh yet and I know it will be better once we sit down and talk it all out. (Who knows - he may outright veto me. That would make it easy).

Our "year of splurge" is definitely over when it comes to the frivolous, but there is still a lot of less frivolous stuff to sort out. Home improvements and medical stuff.

With the extreme drought situation here we may have the opportunity to redo our front yard landscaping. (Both city and HOA approval, perhaps. Both have been very picky with the unnatural lush green lawns). We can do the back whenever but it's been more of a dream more than a priority. Talking about being able to do the front yard too and having some extra money is suddenly bumping that up to the top of our priorities. Maybe the theme for us this year is "conservation". I really want to dump the gas guzzler too.

(We've wanted a more appropriate yard, for our climate, for ages. It's just not something we really thought through before we bought our house. We didn't really know the local climate either. Since living here for a time, it's always bothered me what a water wasting city this is compared to our last city. & we met a few people who had more appropriate landscaping so kind of put it in the back of our heads that is what we really wanted. It was just I had never heard of the idea before, I guess. When we did start seeing other kinds of yards we had no money).

Anyway, I went for a walk in parents' way more water conservative (though less dry) city over the weekend and saw a lot of ripped out lawns. I am going to broach the subject with dh. At the least let's kill the backyard lawn. Why have we not done that yet??? That part is a frugal (free) step. The problem is that I perused the websites/portfolios of a few recommended landscapers. So now I am dreaming of a fancy hardscape kind of backyard. Big Grin I am sure everything I was drooling over was expensive.

Of course, maybe I should dream away. We are probably at a point where we could be rid of our gardeners. I'd love to keep them on but the most of what they do is mowing lawns. I don't know that they'd still help us with our meager yard work if we have no lawns. It is something to consider though. If we go REALLY low maintenance we would save $1,000 per year on help. Maybe this is sounding more sensible. Well, if I have to talk to dh about it and get some quotes. Our neighbors are kind of ritzy so I don't think I was looking at reasonable landscapers. (Neighborhood recommendations). It will be a little more work to seek out a deal. But, we won't know until we start getting quotes and doing more homework.

I think that is a lot of my being overwhelmed. I personally tend to estimate things high and plan for the worst. Which is good financially but maybe unnecessary stress at times. Right now I just have a lot of question marks.

February Savings

March 1st, 2015 at 08:26 am

Received $42 bank interest for the month of February.

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards to our ROTH

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs**

**2014 Maxed out in Feb. On to 2015!

I updated sidebar for all of the above.

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$515 for insurance, smog check, registration (autos)

The combination of low gas prices and putting some more wiggle room in our budget has been great! Our fuel expense was $75 lower than average last month though we made several trips to the Bay Area. Our usual strategy is to way over-save up front. Which is fine - it works very well for us. But this year our savings pace seems more realistic with our budget. OF course, I am fine with relaxing the budget because I am happy with our savings pace. (I'd say we are still pretty aggressive on the "pay ourselves first" but just not as much as the last couple of years. I still don't foresee ever having a penny left over at the end of the month to add to savings. It's relative).


An update to our free month of Amazon prime (trial): Dh got bored with the TV shows because we can pretty much get 90%+ of what we want elsewhere. (Which is what he has always said and why we have not gotten Prime before. Just that Hulu and Netlfix makes more sense for our personal tastes). Anyway, so our free trial expired yesterday I believe and now dh doesn't want to pay for it. So, phew! I may still do the free year but haven't gotten around to opening that credit card yet.

2014 Review

January 24th, 2015 at 07:15 am

I already reviewed 2014 but did not keep the entry because it had more net worth details then I'd prefer to leave up in this blog for eternity. So, I will summarize again for future reference. Nothing new here...


Cash is up $7,000. This was an easy year - was a fairly low key year compared to more recent years on the "emergency" side of things.

$5k is our annual goal. The bulk of this is to cover home repairs and car replacements.


Maxed out our IRAs. 13.25% of income.

With returns, our retirement funds were up $22,000.

Doing Traditional IRAs in 2014 netted us an extra $3k in tax savings. That extra $3k went to overseas travel plans. But in the future should be more like $2,400 refunds just due to the IRA and will boost our entire "retirement savings" to 16.25%. (We will plow the tax savings into long-term retirement savings - will just have to keep it in taxable investments).


Opened up a long-term investment account to supplement our cash and retirement savings. Contributed $3k in 2014, for an additional 3% of income. (Contributions were $150 per month, plus snowflakes, starting in May).

Kid's college money was also up $3,700.


The value of our home remained the same.


Paid down mortgage by $6,300. About $4,000 was regular payments and $2,300 was snowflakes. We had a great year for snowflakes as we weren't focusing on the mortgage in 2014. But one of the snowflakes was a $500-ish mortgage interest rebate and another was a credit card reward for a $200 check to the mortgage so it seemed appropriate to put those to the mortgage. We put all snowflakes the first 4 months of the year to the mortgage too, before we opened our investment account.

In 2015 we plan to start throwing an extra $3k per year into the mortgage. For now, all snowflakes are going into investments.


Our net worth increased by $42,000.

This was our goal, exactly. But what are the odds of that??? We are always so much at the whim of the markets.



Net worth increase $42k:

Cash + $5,000
Investments + $5,000 ($3k + $2k tax refund)
Retirement + $11,000 (Max IRAs)
Investment Returns + $14,000 (assumes 6% returns)
Mortgage Paydown + $7,000
NET WORTH + $42,000

**My "annual net worth increase" goal has been $30k for several years and this was the first year that I had bumped it up to $42k. I wonder if we can bump this up to a full 60k by the time we are age 40? The plan would be that our net worth would eventually increase by our annual spending every single year ($60k). I don't know what age that will be realistic for, but somewhere in our early 40s is what we are aiming for.

This & That

January 18th, 2015 at 08:08 am

I'll start with the minutiae because I have lots of catching up to do. This is what happens when I don't post for a week!

**I officially opened a Traditional IRA for dh yesterday. I will fund 2014 as I can. By April, of course. (We contributed to his Traditional IRA in 2-income years but converted it all to ROTHs in low-income years. Time to start his Traditional IRA from scratch, since our taxes are creeping up).

**Still waiting for investment forms to complete our taxes but hope to file this week. Refund should be about $3,200. I am going to throw that at dh's IRA and mostly be done with that. (The refund is due to funding Traditional IRAs versus ROTHs. We aim very breakeven on our taxes otherwise but this will be "flip a coin" territory for a while; to be decided for sure when we do our taxes every year).

{This $3,200 refund is his Japan trip money, as you may recall. It still is, but throwing it at the IRA will just mean less money to move around. I will keep $3,200 in savings that was earmarked for IRA. I don't know how much or when I will really need the Japan money}.

**Mr. Money Mustache blogged about his 2014 spending details and all I can say is: I BOW DOWN BEFORE HIM!

Mostly, his efficiency increase in 2014 was astounding. Whereas once I would compare our budget to his and be like, "Sure, that's where we are and will be when we cut out the mortgage and the expenses of working and yadda yadda". This year was, "Never mind. What the..."

I don't bow down to people lightly, that is for sure. But it's the only response I have to that...


The theme for 2015 seems to be "ONWARD and UPWARDS," for us. We might progress our net worth upwards from it's peak in 2005? (Depends on the markets, so lord knows). Cash is back to it's peak level. Our income is higher than it's ever been. It feels AWESOME!

I did get a raise. Woohoo! It was not a full $200 per month raise but that is what I will net after tweaking my taxes a bit.

Thank goodness for the raise because we had a lot of expenses creeping up.

--Health insurance creeped up, as it always does.

--Property taxes went up about $1k per year and so I added $100/month to our savings to cover that. (During most years our property taxes have gone down and offset other expenses, so I don't know that I have increased this monthly savings amount in like a decade??)

--I increased our grocery budget by $100/month. Which is also the first time I have ever increased that category (in like 15 years of marriage??).

So that's a lot of budget increases, for us.

I suppose that is more budget increases than raise. I lowered our cash savings by $100/month since our cash savings is robust. I split the difference and added $50/month to our long-term investments. I will move things around if we have to but I think it makes sense to shift some of the cash savings to longer term investments.

I guess overall that leaves us saving $50 less per month but I am fine with that - our savings rate is very high.

I also have a lot of buffer in the budget still. The $150/month I Was putting to long-term investments was a placeholder for my raise last year. If I can keep this at $200/month (new amount) then that is a nice buffer for future expense increases.

We also have an extra $200/month tax savings for any year we do a Traditional IRA instead of a ROTH.

That gives us a total $400/month buffer - I am holding onto this for future health insurance increases.

In addition to all the above, we have significant sources of other income. Most of which will likely go to savings. (I've been averaging $8,000 per year NET income with overtime and credit card rewards, in recent years).

& this is why our income will be so high this year. I am making a solid $15,000 LESS household income than last dh worked (my salary alone). BUT, we are also paying about $20k+ less in income taxes, so we are netting MORE with my paycheck. All the extra income just boosts our "net income" substantially. I am sure we are nowhere near our peak "gross income" level on two incomes. But on a net basis we should blow our highest income year out of the water.

**On a side note, I took a 10% cut in compensation in 2009 and so it is only this year that I am making as much money as I Was back then. With this raise, it puts me back where I left off. That is another reason for my feeling of moving onward and upwards.**

The crazy thing about the abundance this year is that there is absolutely nothing we want to buy. If I ever receive a large raise, or any raise above expenses, we wouldn't make any plans to spend it. We are very content.

After carefully planning and saving up the cash for every purchase it feels quite odd to have nothing left on our wish list. It certainly took a long time but we have made it through our entire list! (We topped it off by upgrading our phones and car stereos last year, and dh's home movie theater. The year or two before we had finished furnishing our home and replacing the old furniture that we did not like).

I mean like since the time of our very first jobs in our teens this is probably the only time we aren't saving up for something substantial and material over the long run. (Or a long list of smaller things that would take time to accumulate). It feels WEIRD!

I've personally never been a big fan of spending money on experiences. Both my hubby and I much rather buy something we can use and enjoy every day. But I will admit that maybe a lot of that has to do with being in the accumulation phase of life. I'd rather buy something I can use and enjoy and save the rest for a rainy day?

I do see our spending shifting with age and assets. If our house is furnished and our cars are new and we have everything we possibly want... That frees up a *lot* of money for other things. We are definitely throwing more dollars at vacations and shows and experiences. & it's certainly nice to be able to afford more than a budget vacation once in a while.

Fiscal Updates

April 18th, 2014 at 05:56 am

**I received my overtime for the year (paid as an annual bonus) and was able to fund a chunk of my savings. For the rest of the year all our monthly savings goes to IRAs, and my 2014 raise will go to savings. To top off those goals in my sidebar.

I can't believe how behind I feel still after last year. That said, though I would like to fund 2014 IRAs in 2014, it's not a necessity. That buys us a little buffer if crap happens.


$5,000 to savings
$ 300 to mortgage
$ 100 new kids bike

I was planning to spend more on the bike, but we just happened to find a $100 bike this week. So that worked out perfect.

Great-Grandma insists on giving me $300 for doing her taxes. I asked her not to, but I know her. Will see. This way I figure I already threw $300 to my mortgage so I really don't care either way.

If she insists, I could use $300 for summer classes for older child. I don't sweat that stuff any more. Whether they know it or not, Grandma (MIL) and Great-Grandma pay for that. BM is attending a camp with his school next month and I used Christmas money to pay for that. & I get the feeling Great-Grandma is paying for summer school...


**My gross check was about what I expected, with extra overtime on a big project last year. BUT, the net did not reflect all that extra work. UGH!! I have said that if spouse worked we wouldn't take anything more home. But, my own income seems to be entering that black hole. It's extra shocking because I am used to literally keeping 90% of my paycheck. You get used to what you get used to.

I ran a tax projection and everything looks fairly breakeven for 2014.

Our tax rate on last $10k - $15k of income is hitting about 25%. So, it looks like we will be doing Traditional IRAs this year. I like the way this works out. Our taxes are even steven if we change our mind. But if we do the Traditional I should be getting about a $2700 refund. Which will go straight back into retirement savings. (This would bring our retirement savings rate up to 18%. But, I don't know if that is all good, as we give up the ROTH contributions to do so. I think it just means we need to save more to pay for future taxes. Saving more doesn't necessarily mean much to our bottom line. Though I suppose I will probably be able to work some tax magic on the back end. When we retire).

I also checked the extra property tax deduction and that would save us about 25% too. For several reasons, will probably do this year. I just want the simplicity of one tax payment per year. But I want to make the extra payment in a year I actually get a tax benefit.

We've been doing ROTHs for so long because we haven't been paying any income taxes of any note, since spouse stopped working. But I am not personally comfortable with paying $2,700 taxes that I don't need to. Circumstances change, so we re-evaluate.

In our young 20s I Was strongly encouraged to fund ROTHs. I kind of understand it more with age. There has just never been any tax break quite like it. So when I entered the tax profession it was, "Are you crazy??? Do the ROTH!!!" BUT, we were young and starting out and paying a crapload of taxes. We chose to fund my 401k and our Traditional IRA. I am sure we could have cashed flowed the ROTHs and whatever, we were saving 50%+ of our income. Not like we NEEDED the tax break. BUT... Absolutely no regrets. When dh stopped working, we converted *everything* over to ROTHs. It was win-win. Get a big tax break up front. Convert over at a lower tax rate. So, I am pretty partial to just taking the tax break. I don't know if we will ever be able to convert again, but we do have $100,000+ working for us in our ROTHs. As Dave Ramsey would say, that will be $5 million or something in 40 years. Wink (I don't think it will ever be near that much, but it will do nothing but grow, and I am happy with that. All our aggressive investments are in the ROTHs, for sure).


Housing Update:

I guess housing has settled down here. Absolutely nothing has listed in immediate neighborhood for about 12 months. A house went for $400k last spring, which meant a 65%-ish increase over a couple of years. (Nothing new, around here. It's always a roller coaster!). But then, that was it.

SO... I saw 3 houses like ours up for sale this month and that piqued my curiosity. I just saw that one had sold for $400k. It will be interesting to see what the others go for.

Overall, I think this is a good sign. Anything much more than that is getting back into crazy bubble territory. Our house actually peaked at $650,000. Which is crazy insane. At this point, anything much more than $400k is "crazy insane". Especially given the chronic unemployment, regionally. But even in a robust economy, the local wages just don't support these kind of home prices.

So I am kind of marveling at the restraint. No huge bidding war??? Heck, the other two houses have been up a week and are still available. (Not a common sight in these parts, even when the bottom was falling out). I am hoping these are all good signs, overall. That things are settling a bit. A sellers market is good for us, but another market collapse would not be good. I am all for sustainable home prices.

Though, who knows... Bay Area real estate is crazy crazy crazy right now. & that always blows up our housing prices, because then our real estate looks super cheap compared to that. (Which is the only reason anyone ever paid $650k for a house in our own neighborhood). IT will be interesting to see how things play out this summer.

Saving Saving Saving

April 3rd, 2014 at 06:39 am

I guess this is the opposite of my last post. Big Grin

**I finally got my 2013 ROTH funded. Sent $4,950 off yesterday, after my paycheck hit the bank. I did not have to come up with the other $550 because my credit card rewards covered it (those get deposited automatically every month).

I updated sidebar.


**Grandma always *insists* on paying me $300 for doing her taxes. I am going to try to be more vocal this year about her not paying me. She owed a lot of tax. So, I will try.

But... If she insists, we will just throw it at the mortgage. I would be pleased with that. IT would put our snowflakes to $1,000-ish for the year, which is about all we came up with in 2013. So I would be very pleased with that. We don't plan to throw any snowflakes at the mortgage for the rest of the year, so it will be a nice goal to meet in April. That said, I am not really concerned with it either way. If I can talk her into not paying me, we will let it go or I will just deposit $300 from my overtime check.


**I guess it's feast or famine. I intend to hit most my "2014 savings" goal with my overtime check in 2 weeks. So, that might be $10,000 in financial goals officially hit this month (Overtime + 2013 ROTH). {I could have tallied ROTH savings month to month (have just been hoarding up cash since February 1), but I didn't really want to update my sidebar until I transferred money physically into my IRA}.

The goal for the rest of the year is to save $1300/month towards 2014 IRAs.

In addition, we will save $150/month + snowflakes and windfalls. I am going to open a "taxable" investment account for this money. I put "taxable" in quotes because our investment returns will mostly be tax-free due to our low tax bracket. We are starting small, but expecting to gain some significant momentum pretty quickly. Since our cash savings is pretty robust at this point, this should be where all our non-retirement savings goes.

This & That

January 17th, 2014 at 12:20 pm

**I can't believe it - I got a raise! My boss told me two years ago that no one else in office had gotten a raise for years. So I did not expect anything.

In the end, it was the biggest raise I have gotten in 6 years (since economy soured significantly). About 2.5%. What's even more exciting is that I had already covered health insurance increase with other cost savings, and so the raise is pure gravy. Which maybe has never happened since we have had children (our health insurance has gone up in cost 1,000% in that time). I feel like I have always just been grateful that any raise has covered our healthcare costs.

The net increase is $135 per month. With our cell phone savings, I will just round that up to $150/month and add that to our savings.

**Those that are "by the book" will be happy to know that this boosts our retirement savings rate up to 15%. (I've never particularly cared because we have been mostly saving more than we need for retirement, without saving that much. Some of it is utilizing ROTHs - no taxes later - the rest was just starting young and never contributing less than 10%).

We are already maxing out our ROTHs, and so I would like to open a taxable investment account for this money. (Which, for now, we won't be taxed on, due to low tax bracket and some simple tax management). But we are also a little behind on ROTH funding for 2013, so I think I will wait until April and see how things shake out. Honestly, I Was doing the paperwork last summer, to open a new investment account, because things were going pretty well, and then we had the "Great Murphy Year of 2013". I feel like we should be saving TONS at this point, but life seems to have other plans. IT seems silly to contribute a penny to a taxable account until our ROTHs are well funded. But I kind of feel like sometimes things never go right until I just dive in and make it happen. So, for now I will just assume we can get that started in April or May. Will see... At the least I won't open that account until 2013 ROTHs are funded.

To help get some momentum going, will probably divert all snowflakes over to this new account, for a while. Though I would like it to be a general hands-off account, it will have more purpose than retirement. $150/month is a nice match to the college money grandparents are providing ($1k per year, per child). Whatever is not used for college, will eventually go to mortgage payoff or retirement. I don't actually expect to use any of this money for college. Seems unlikely at this point, but just for a Plan B.

I am abandoning the mortgage payoff for the interim. This account will take precedence because my job is a bit up in the air, so this will help us get a good start to some "potential long term unemployment savings". I really don't expect to have to use it for that either, but just hedging our bets.

Of course, the only reason we were hitting our mortgage harder the past couple of years was due to losing equity in our house. Even at the worst, we never went below 20% equity. But it was close, and we took proactive measures. Today we are back over 50%. So, it's fallen lower as far as priorities. {I'd love to pay it off today, but have to balance wants with reality. Reality is I have to get college and employment sorted out first, and crossing my fingers this is just a giant "mortgage payoff" fund, in the end}.

Anyway, the plan is $150/month, plus snowflakes, starting around May. I'd like to be agressive with putting gifts and credit card bonuses and such in this account. Once we get some momentum going on this account, we may consider a 50/50 save/pay down mortgage type plan. Or 70/30, or whatever makes sense.


I work well under pressure. I did some major mad declutter and cleaning progress, last weekend. It generally would not be my preference to do that kind of big job in the middle of tax season, but apparently it works for me. (I never did as much as I wanted to last year because I got really bored with working and chores all the time - am used to fairly laid back summers and falls, and work was kind of busy too). So whatever, I will embrace it. Any chore I can cross off my list before, "want to relax and enjoy" time.

The problem is I got some major momentum and couldn't stop for a while. It might be okay for January and February. For March and April, I will have to slow it down and put work as a higher priority.

I had a genius idea this morning. I was thinking the downstairs was pretty decently decluttered, except for I have to sort through the piano music. I used to teach piano, and so I have hoards of materials. It just flitted across my mind this morning that I wanted to tackle that nasty chore this weekend. (Something I have just put off and off and off, otherwise). & it occured to me I could probably store a lot of that stuff digitally and be done.

I don't know why I never thought of that before!!! I've just got so many freaking photo copies of music. & part of me doesn't really want to give it up - could always be a nice side income stream. Storing stuff digitally is a good compromise, though I don't foresee "piano teaching" in my near future.

I will have to ponder that as I go through that type stuff in the house (things that can be just be kept on computers). For some things we are well ahead of the curve on that (financial records and photos and so on). But, for other things, we could use some strategizing and rethinking.

I don't expect to tackle all that music stuff this weekend, but I do hope to make a dent.


P.S. Dh just won $50 in Ting credits. One more month we won't have to pay anything (sharing Ting with my parents and will give them the benefit of the credit too). I am starting to wonder if we will pay *anything* for cell service this year. Big Grin

2013 Review

December 20th, 2013 at 06:48 am

Wow - what a mixed year it has been!

I am optimistic that the big ugly black cloud hanging over our heads since, September 2012, has moved along. It's only been about 15 months. !!! But anyway, will see... It's only been a couple of weeks of calm and so it's a bit premature to get too excited about it.

Because of this, we did terrible on our financial goals, maybe the worst ever. BUT, all our prior savings worked very hard for us, so it was a banner year for net worth and the big picture. Phew??

Anyway, I wanted to close the books on 2013 because I am SO over it! So, unless something big happens in the next two weeks, this is my final "general" commentary on 2013.

In general, we tend to make our financial goals aggressive and we tend to always meet our goals anyway. This year is a first in I ever remember failing. Spectacularly. The optimist in me is fine with that - if some years we do better than planned then it is expected to do worse in other years - it all evens out.


Cash is up $5,000 by some miracle. We try to increase by $5k every year. Actually, we had decided to hit our goals one at a time this year. It's a mixed bag. We have not particularly put any money into our ROTHs yet (had wanted them funded by 12/31, and expected to do it easy peasy). BUT, if we had, we'd just be really cash poor and stressed right now. So, I think I am happy with this approach. The ROTHs will get funded. I am just considering doing it in April to preserve cash flow and liquidity. (To be clear: We have never in our lives had a crazy expensive year like this one - so it was pretty unusual).

Our goal for 2013 was to save $10,000. We were going to splurge on a trip to Asia. That is completely out the window because we needed *all* of that money for home repairs. Which leaves me ending the year off with some stress since we were supposed to be so ahead of the curve at this point to be able to splurge on a $10k vacation. I share this to illustrate a point. I have friends who will say we never splurge big and do anything fun. BUT, you see what happens when we try. & it's not like I got caught offguard for not planning ahead. !! Instead I am thankful that we had all that cash to cover it and not dip into savings at all. On the flip side, maybe this was just the universe telling us to do something else with that money. IT was kind of an obligatory trip and our relative in Asia doesn't seem to want us to visit her anyway. So... We aren't too broken up about our change in vacation plans. Heck, I am RELIEVED because I Was never very enthused about it. (Note to Universe: Um, you could have left SOME Of that money to do something fun with though???).


We put a whopping $1,500 into our ROTHs this year, and that is all gifts and credit card rewards. I have been saving the money ($900 per month), but just putting it all into cash waiting for the hemorrhage to stop.

This is our primary goal (above basic liquidity and being able to pay cash for all of our needs) and so it will 100% get done. But, I am pushing it off until April. Mostly so I can fund the ROTH without depleting any cash (from current level). Ideally.

I can't boast a $100k balance in our ROTHs until I get them funded for 2013. So, that will have to wait until next year.

The good news is that our retirement funds are up $23,000 even though all we put in was $1,500.

Retirement milestone hit: 2 x income saved

Retirement investments are, on average, returning as much as we put in. I think that is a SWEET milestone. & also means that going forward that our investments are working harder than we are. (Note: This year was not average - obviously we earned far more than we put in).

& all of that makes this year infinitely easier to deal with!


Along the same lines, home value is up 30%. It's been an excellent year for our overall net worth.


Like all our other goals, we failed spectacularly on this one. Only added $950 (snowflakes) to the mortgage payments. Had expected to pay down an extra $4,000. (The rest went to home repairs and other emergencies).

I made the last 2013 mortgage payment in November. Don't need any more tax deductions so will pay the December payment next month (around January 1). So, I was pretty non-motivated on the snowflakes this month. Which is fine, I need to shift focus on the ROTHs. Just waiting to see where the dust settles. (I think I have some snowflakes already applied to the next mortgage payment - probably ones I earned in November since I expected to already pay the mortgage payment, otherwise).

The ending mortgage balance is $190,000-ish. I was going to go for $189,000, as the year progressed, but decided not only did I not need to make another payment this year (Waste of a tax break) but that I really needed to shift focus to ROTHs.

I am not 100% sure what I Will do for 2014. Mortgage has only been a higher priority in past year because of two reasons. 1 - Real estate values were tumbling and we risked having less than 20% equity if things continued. Which is a position I would consider an "emergency". Not an EMERGENCY emergency, but it would be worthy of some drastic measures to correct. 2 - I Thought we were more ahead of the curve and could throw more money at the mortgage.

Today we have over 50% equity (our home never dropped below 20% equity) and clearly we are not very ahead of the curve right now. Not where I Want to be. So, I think mortgage is falling off my radar for the moment as far as pressing financial goals.

BUT, I think the mortgage is ideal for snowflakes. So that is the part I am not quite sure on for 2014. It seems useless to put the snowflakes to the ROTHs because I will fund those regardless. & with anything more short-term I don't find it particularly useful or rewarding. I want to tie up those snowflakes for the long haul (retirement or mortgage). So I may just keep throwing snowflakes at the mortgage even if I am not particularly mortgage-paydown motivated otherwise, in the short run.

For 2014 I am going to focus way more on liquidity, which I think is wise given my job situation. I hesitate to say I am actually kicking the mortgage off my list of goals, because any money we save up and don't need for unemployment can eventually get thrown at the mortgage. It's more of a "better keep it just in case but mostly likely will go to the mortgage eventually," plan.


Our net worth has increased by $125,000 this year. Since our goal is to increase this by $30k per year, we have quadrupled our goal. Wow, what a year!!! (Last year was similar, but we were making up for a lot of really pathetic years with the stock market and real estate market. This year was some serious forward movement). The $30k figure is just 50% of our annual expenses. That is how much we aim to grow our net worth every single year.

So, yeah, how is that for a mixed year? I don't particularly have anything to complain about. It's always disconcerting when things REALLY don't go as planned, but I also know we had a great year financially, in the grand scheme of things.



I hadn't thought about it yet.

I think our goals will have to be:

1 - Fund 2013 ROTHs
2 - Increase cash by $5k
3 - Fund 2014 ROTHs
4 - Snowflakes to the mortgage ($1k is probably doable)
5 - Increase net worth by 40k**

**My "annual net worth increase" goal has been 30k for several years. I wonder if we can bump this up to a full 60k by the time we are age 40? The plan would be that our net worth would eventually increase by our annual spending every single year ($60k). I don't know what age that will be realistic for, but somewhere in our early 40s is what we are aiming for.

A realistic goal for now is 40k:

Mortgage paydown $ 5,000 (includes $1k snowflakes)
ROTH Contributions $11,000
Cash Savings $ 5,000
Overtime Savings $ 5,000 (to 2013 ROTH)
Investment Returns $14,000^^
TOTAL $40,000

^^Assuming average 8% return, annually

I did not include real estate because way too crazy volatile, particularly regionally. For that reason, $40k may be a conservative estimate. (I did not include additional sources of income, gifts and so on, either).

It is not surprising that we are able to increase net worth more with time - is starting to compound a bit as we move past the real estate bubble and the last stock market crash.

I don't know what a realistic timeline is to consistently increase net worth by $60k annually. I think it will largely depend on short term market fluctuations.

Most of the $10k bump from $30k to $40k "net worth increase" estimate is due to lower mortgage interest rates (faster payoff) and stock market returns on increased investments. When I first estimated annual $30k net worth goal we were probably only paying mortgage down at a rate of $3k per year and probably had less than $50k in retirement savings. Our income has been pretty stagnant in all that time. But mortgage is being paid down faster (with a smaller payment) and investment returns are 3-4 times what they were in 2007 with investment balances 3-4 times as large. Smaller mortgage payment has also increased our savings ability (more to savings).


Here is my sidebar update (putting it here for the future):

**2013 Financial Goals**

[ ]$11,000 to IRAs 2013 (MAX)
...(6,050 @ 12/31/13)
...Delaying funding to April 2014, to keep cash intact.

[X]$5,000 to savings
...(13,000 @ 12/31/13)
...Had to bump up savings due to lots of emergencies and repairs this year
...All but $5k redirected to expenses

[X]$5,000 saved for Hong Kong
...($5,000 @ 12/31/13)
...redirected to plumbing repairs

[ ]Pay more principal than interest to mortgage (+$4,000) - admittedly a pie in the sky goal
...($950 @12/31/13)
...Redirected the rest to home repairs, medical, vet bills, etc. What a Year!!

Goal savings rate = 30% of gross
(Actual savings rate = 11%? This may be our worst savings rate *ever*?)

[X]To have more cash/mutual funds than debt (mortgage)
...Goal Met as of 3/15/13!

[X]To increase net worth by $30k (or 50% expenses)
...(Up $125,000 at 12/31/13)

Big Milestones Surpassed!

May 15th, 2013 at 06:56 am

As a follow up to an earlier post on my BHAG:


I had posted about my goal to surpass $150k in retirement by age 35, which was a really huge/big/aggressive goal. So I did not beat myself up when I did not achieve at age 35. I knew I would be pretty darn close?

How close? About 5 months after turning 36. Because I achieved the goal yesterday. Well, I think that is AWESOME. Good enough for me...

If investments return 8%, than this means we are earning more than we are putting in, at this point. Since the only retirement vehicles at our disposal are the ROTHs.

I think this is why I am not feeling behind at all with the loss of work retirement plan. It was a very generous 10% contribution by employer. But it was invested conservatively for my mostly "retirement age" co-workers and eaten up by administration and investment fees. Compounding has easily taken over those contributions. Sure, another $8k per year to our retirement funds, in addition, would be awesome. But, it's just we aren't falling behind or feeling the pinch. & maybe $8k only felt like $4k with all the other factors, and we have been easily able to make that up. I appreciate that I had that extra compensation in the years we really needed it - very early on and our lowest income years (maternity leaves and such). This means our retirement was always growing very healthily and is why we were able to meet this goal.

I also just noticed that we surpassed the $200k mark on our investments. Woohoo!! $100k was surpassed some time in 2009. Which means it literally took about a decade to save $100k but only 3 years to turn $100k to $200k. $200k can turn into $400k over 10 years if we don't add another penny. The power of compounding at work. I have this large feeling that the early years were by far the hardest and that we are over that hump. This compounding stuff sure makes life easier.

I also think this is why it is hard for many to understand why my spouse has not had to work. I've said here many times that we always saved 100% of my spouse's income, which laid a nice financial foundation. Anyway, I remember someone telling me very early on that they "to each their own," but how they just could not neglect their retirement like that.

Neglect retirement? Who said anything about neglecting retirement? Big Grin

I haven't really set the next BHAG for retirement. I am thinking I should just set it to "$500k by age 45." It's about as realistic as "$150k by age 35" felt. It sounds huge, but I know it is doable. A modest rate of return and current contributions (just the ROTHs) will easily put us to $400k+. So $500k is my aggressive twist on the goal. It should be easy to remember. I think that visualization is very important - our subconscious works in ways we don't even understand.

Small Victories & Thoughts on Goals

January 17th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

**I saw a press release this week that our property taxes would go down. Some bonds were refinanced to lower interest rates (terms not extended). NOW we are talking. It's nice to get people in office who know what they are doing, and who look at reasonable ways to cut expenses. (Especially after the fiscal mess our school district has made. Stuff like this is the complete polar opposite of stupid/horrible fiscal decisions of years past).

There is hope...


What I have learned this week is that I am a horrible goal setter. LOL.

But I wanted to share in case the typical goal setting model just did not work for you.

I was thinking about talking about this anyway, in response to wino's post. But then Dave Ramsey was going on and on about the same thing, so I took this as a sign to write it down. !!


--They have to be specific and measurable, and attainable. SO agreed!

--They need a time limit. They do?

--If you DON'T write them down they will never happen. Huh??

I was flashing back to when my last employer made us set these arbitrary "5 goals per year" and I hated those stupid things with a passion. IT was such a pointless exercise. & I Was thankful to be moving and quitting before I ever had to achieve those goals. Wink So thinking about it today, it's all coming back to me, but I Am realizing fully why I hated the exercise.

I am a VERY goal oriented person, so I figured I would share my goal methods for anyone who has found all of the above to be useless.

#1 - Unless there is a specific reason or advantage to having a time limit, I do not set time limits on my goals. I think there are few goals in my life that I have set a time limit on. In general, if I put my mind to do something, I do it. (This is probably also why I have never written down a goal, aside for my SA blog).

Just as an example, our home buying goal was:

"Buy a home when we have 20% and when it makes sense."


"Buy a home in 5 years."

I think because my personality is so in the middle with the grey areas. I don't like "black and white" stuff. Doesn't account for all of life's little variables. How the heck am I supposed to know when in the long-term future when it makes the most sense to buy a house? I do know I won't even bother looking at *any* houses until I have 20% down. THEN we move on to the next step.

One thing I have ALWAYS been a stickler for in my goal setting, is small, manageable pieces. Successes are layered one on top of each other. I think this is why I like to set annual goals. I don't particularly set more long-term goals (that are very rigid and have a time limit) UNLESS I have a compelling reason to. I totally understand goals with time limits because they have to have time limits to work or make sense. But, other than that, I work better with the smaller pieces - one at a time. One year at a time. & is probably how I tend to break down bigger goals, anyway.

Some things I will likely never do: Resolve to lose weight, be the best mom and wife ever, to be high-achieveing at work, and to save half my income. All at once. HA!! I will probably also never move, get married, start a new job, and have a child, in the same year. All of the above would make my head explode. {But doing them one at a time - and layering successes and good habits on top of each other? - that works!}

One final note. I think the other reason I am not a big fan of overly long goals and time limits, is that I am very intuitive. The result is that dh and I have often made some seemingly rash decisions, based on our intuition. We are always moving in a certain direction, but the specifics always come to us at the last minute. & we go with it, because it has always served us well to just go with it. I think because we are so deliberate that people often assume we are just control freaks who plan everything into eternity. The truth is we have really often flown by the seat of our pants. But, that's not quite the same when you thought ahead and made up several back up plans.

I kind of feel this way about college. I really have no idea what college will look like for our kids, and wouldn't waste the ernergy trying to figure it all out, 8 years before my eldest is college age. BUT, I have thought about it enough, know what our options are, always talking to people with kids currently in their college for their take, etc. I think I have a plan A, B, C, D, and E on the financial side. So yeah - this is the perfect example. We are *prepared* though any and all of the specifics are about as clear as mud to us in this stage of the game. I always cringe when someone with a 1-year-old tells me how they got college figured out for their child. Down to every last detail. Where they will go to school, who pays for what, what kind of job their kids can get 20 years in the future and if it will work with their school schedule. "Yeah, good luck with that." Wink I think this is how most parents think. It drives me *crazy.* I understand why people feel so strongly about it, but I think the strong feelings over-rule common sense and logic. I think logic will be our edge. I don't have any strong feeling either way about the world ending because my kid goes to a private school versus public, if they live at home or live on campus, if they have lots of skin in the game or none. IF they work or they don't. Depends depends depends. None of these decisions are inherently bad. Depends on the individual and the circumstances. So, it's really hard for us to set concrete goals for something like college.

All this to say, you have to set goals in ways that it works for you.

Taxes Taxes Taxes

January 2nd, 2013 at 11:03 am

I have extremely mixed feelings about the tax bill that just passed in Congress. I will note the changes at the end of this post, for inquiring minds who want a quick summary.

My feelings are a little bit of "Holy heck, our taxes would have been insane" without these tax extensions. On the flip side, the tax extensions are expected to add $4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. My ire goes to why these tax cuts were ever put in the first place (during times of high spending/war, etc.). This can be seen as very political, but to me it just is what it is. We certainly wouldn't run our household in this way financially - it is totally insane.

I think a lot of it is fine temporarily with the economy in the toilet, but not sure why so much of this is being made more permanent.

As to Congress? Seriously? Like you couldn't have figured this out 30 days ago? 2 weeks ago? Life has been rendered beyond complicated for me in the tax field. I feel more sorry for software developers and the IRS, though.

I am so relieved AMT is patched and we saved that $500. Not that I have strong opposition to paying another $500 in taxes. But I Really thought Congress was going to pay lip service to middle class tax cuts while letting stealth taxes like AMT run rampant. As they have been for a long time. The fact it was going to affect us was not a good sign for the lower middle class. I am more relieved that they made a permanent patch, indexed to inflation. This should have been done about 15 years ago...


I ran some tax projections today. We are still at owing about $1,000; is what I projected early in 2012. Final number was highly dependent on medical bills for the year, which ended up as low as could be.

I ran tax projections for next year, but our software has not been updated for the very recent tax law changes. So, I refigured what it will be. Interesting to note, our taxes would have gone up $2500 this year without recent tax law changes. Add in $1500 for the payroll tax holiday ending. That is no small sum, to me. 5% of our income would have gone to increased taxes. Ouch! Dodged a bullet, for sure. We'd survive, but not sure how most people would handle it. Which is why I have so many mixed feelings... (ETA: I think more to the point - our Federal income taxes would have about *doubled* with that $2500 increase. Ouch! I think that is what bothered me more than anything. I'll agree our taxes are too low and should go up, but no matter how you slice it, it is going to be painful when it comes to pass).

Since the payroll tax holiday expires, and my withholdings are probably due for a change due to less medical deductions allowed in 2013 (Obamacare tax increase) and lower mortgage rates, I refigured my paycheck at a few different exemption levels. Decided to move my allowances down from 12 to 10. I also increased my state withholding by $20 per month.

The net effect of all this is to decrease my paycheck by $230 per month. But would have me at about breakeven for our taxes *this year.* Which means we will still owe a little next year with all the reduced deductions - is fine.

Our health insurance also went up about $75/month. So we are down about $300/month between this and taxes. I had set aside the payroll tax holiday and refinance "monthly savings" to our savings account last year, but will lose that $300/month.

This leaves my savings goals mostly as is:

--$1200/month to short-term savings. I was thinking of upping this to $1300 for property tax increases, but that will only be half the year, and I have run out of savings room anyway. Paying more income taxes and owing less later will help with just keeping our savings at $1200/month. All this money is spent within the year (mostly various insurances and taxes)

--$400/month to mid-term savings.

--Max out ROTHs, of course

--Overtime saved for China

--Extra mortgage payments will have to be snowflaked and come from other income sources. I think $4k is still very possible. Dh's folks seem very generous of late. It is also not every year that we will be saving a large sum for an overseas trip. More like "once every decade or two." So still gives us wiggle room for ever rising health insurance and ability to prepay more to the mortgage in future years, all else being equal.

--Raise? Perhaps, but doubt it will be much if anything. If so, I will put it to the ROTHs. We have been doing about $800/month. $900/month is a better clip for the new contribution limits. (It doesn't matter for this year, since I already advanced the additional $1000, but will help for next year, and is probably where any raise should go).


**I harvested some capital gains in the kids' accounts this year, since the stock market kept going up, up and up. Basically, first $1900 or so of investment income is tax-free for them, annually. I was also unsure if this would still be true for 2013 (0% capital gains rate for them, and us, in 2012).

We don't bother with the complications of 529s and such, because hell would freeze over before we actually were eligible for any financial aid, and because it is pretty darn simple at this stage in the game to keep their earnings tax-free. Our strategy can always be re-evaluated as money grows and actually starts hitting kiddie tax limits. For now, I sell high and reset the cost basis of their mutual funds. This is the first time I have ever had any motivation to do so (in about 10 years).

I checked today and they were well under the limit. They both had about $1,100 in investment income for 2012. I was checking to be sure, when projecting our taxes.


**Did you hear that California now has highest income tax bracket in the U.S. 13.3%? Ouch! A huge tax increase just went into effect on higher incomes. Thing is we already totally gouge the rich. I don't intend to ever be *that* rich, so we are okay. Our effective income tax rate for 2012 was less than 1% of my salary.

It's such a progressive tax state, that I don't have many complaints at our income level. I was thinking of tracking our sales taxes this year, out of curiosity. I don't think we pay that much because we don't consume that much. But I am curious to see real numbers. I may only have the energy to track for a month. Might be pretty tedious.

Obviously this is more painful with big purchases. So not that it never affects us - but less likely to affect us much on a day-to-day basis.

The ugliest taxes we pay are probably gasoline taxes. I should probably track those too.


Recent Federal tax changes of note:

--Top rate 39.6% (up from 35%) for individuals making $400k+ and married households with $450k+ income.

--Payroll tax holiday is gone - Social security tax goes up from 4.2% to 6.2%, starting January 1.

--AMT patch made permanent, indexed to inflation, starting 2012.

--The maximum capital gains tax will rise from 15% to 20% for individuals taxed at the 39.6% rates ($400k+ income, as noted above)

--The itemized deduction phase-out is reinstated, and personal exemption phase-out will be reinstated, but with different AGI starting thresholds (adjusted for inflation): $300,000 for married filing joint, and $250,000 for single.

--The estate tax will continue to provide an inflation-adjusted $5 million exemption (effectively $10 million for married couples) but will be applied at a higher 40% rate (up from 35% in 2012).

--The $1,000 Child Tax Credit will be extended through 2017.

The following is for 2013 only:

--No taxes on discharge of debt (e.g. foreclosure) for primary residence.

--Mortgage insurance premiums treated as deductible interest.

--college tuition deductions

--favorable business write-offs for equipment purchases, extended one year

2012 Was Prosperous

December 30th, 2012 at 07:33 am

I've already talked about all of this, but will do one final 2012 wrap up.

Net Worth

Cash: +$5,000
Investments: +$32,000
Home Value: +$65,000
Mortgage Debt: -$6,000

Total Net Worth: +$108,000

I have failed on my net worth goals the past 4 years, but this almost makes up for all those years. (Real estate had plummeted those years, only to rebound to 2007 levels in the current year). Going forward, still have a goal to increase net worth by "50% of our expenses" on an annual basis. (This year, $108,000, is almost "200% of expenses" - which covers goal for past 4 years, and makes up for some bad real estate years).

Oh, and as of today our net worth is about exactly $300,000. Depends how the stock market does on Monday...

ETA: Officially ended the year at $300k!!



Income was *awesome* this year.

--A solid $2800 in credit card rewards (tax-free)
--$6,500 overtime (it helped that no one was in the hospital this year!)
--$1,000 in amazon and craigslist sales
--smaller amounts of bank interest and focus group money
--Cash gifts galore (tax-free)

The interesting thing is that this year we surpassed our prior two-salary income level (when you count all the extra in-flows). But it is not apples to oranges in the least. You will notice how much of the extra this year was tax-free. This means we blew our "two income take-home" completely out of the water, this year. I share because the one-income thing for us has always been about "working smarter, not harder." The linear idea that we literally live on "half as much" has always been completely ridiculous.

I know we are extremely blessed to receive some nice cash gifts this year. I also know we made excellent use of the windfalls (extra payments to the mortgage, bulked up cash, sped up ROTH contributions, visited aging grandparents, etc.).



As far as the monthly expenses, we are a well-oiled machine. Money to savings first. Live on the rest. As such, there is little variability to the sum of all our monthly expenses. (There may be give and take between categories).

The less predictable expenses varied more (some come from savings, from extras, etc.). BUT, I already noted that we didn't spend any more money in 2012 than 2011. I find that fascinating since we were able to buy and do so much.

The variable expenses breakdown:

--Dining Out - spent $600 less

--Home Repairs - spent $1,000 more (versus about -0- in 2011)

--Medical - spent $2,000 less (no surgery!!)

--Misc. - spent $4,000 more
(New dishwasher, new garage door opener, a bed for LM, new couch, new smart phones, new TV - feeling the prosperity - some long overdue purchases here. I couldn't fathom buying anything large next year, in comparison, if we fulfilled several years worth of waiting and wants in 2012)

--Mortgage interest - Spent $2,000 less (thanks to lower interest rates!)

--Piano lessons - Spent $1,000 less because in-laws decided to pay all year

--Vacation - Spent $2,000 more (due to gifts, and status of aging grandparents we intended to visit)

**Consistent expenses:

--Auto (fuel, insurance maintenance)

--Groceries (almost to the penny)


--Utilities (traded cable for smart phones)

--Mortgage principal (paid same amount as last year)

--allowance, clothing, gifts, gym/aerobics, HOA, gardener, haircuts, sports, Christmas

--The rest of our misc. expenses (not big purchases) were pretty consistent. Further details: script software for dh (after he finished his first script, ironically - he used free software for his script), watches for kids, toothbrush heads, hair clips, movies, SA meetup expenses, concerts, events (robot wars), blu ray burner, camera accessories, CDs to burn, birthday party/gifts for kids, swim goggles, school supplies, pet supplies (litter boxes), piano tuning, bowling, golfland, online backups. This stuff is just all too small for its own category; largely where we put any purchases or any entertainment.

On the expense side, there is room for improvement. If we hadn't done all the extras, you see we have room to trim expenses. This year reminded me of lower income years when it seems luck went our way and we did not spend large sums on home repairs and medical bills and such. To be fair, we had an emergency room visit, a broken heater, and had to replace a dishwasher and spent a fair amount on our garage door, and I think we drove to San Jose MANY times when Grandma was in the hospital, on and on. BUT, it didn't seem to come from all sides/all year like it had been doing in recent years. Phew!! For one, it made all the difference not to miss work because one of us was having surgery! I am still working on decreasing overall spending for next year. IT's give and take because I wouldn't be surprised if we had some large vet bills and appliance replacements in 2013. But, if we don't, it could be a decent year to decrease our overall expenses.


I have no idea what to expect for 2013! I know we will be losing $130/month with the payroll tax holiday ending.

I know our income taxes will be going up, and we could possibly stuck with AMT too.

I know our health insurance and property taxes are going up significantly.

I don't know if I will receive any raise.

So, more to ponder once January shakes out. Too many unknowns in the immediate future - I hope to get some tax and salary clarification in the next week or two.

We also have absolutely *nothing* on the purchase horizon, but the cat is getting old, our cars are getting old, and so is our fridge and hot water heater. These are the predictable nearer-future expenses.

Merry Christmas Eve to Me

December 24th, 2012 at 04:20 pm

My last post was long and blah blah blah.

I had disconnected from the fact that I had a large check to deposit - which meant I could cash flow most the rest of our payments before payday (12/31).

I got an e-mail that my deposit (Christmas $$) posted. I suppose I also just figured the CU might be closed today. (I phone deposited the check late last night).


**Sent $650 to my ROTH to max out 2012. We are both officially maxed out. Woohoo!!

**Paid mortgage payment +$650.

Plan was to pay more principal than interest on our newest (refinanced) loan - partial year. Paid $5248 principal + $5245 interest. Mission accomplished.

Extra payments on new loan were $2875, year-to-date.

We paid $6,000 of principal in year 2012 (entire year). At current, regular payments are only $300/month to principal.

I do not wait for my payments to post. I know how to calculate the interest and principal. It's paid, I know the numbers; it's done!

{Next year if we add $4,000 in extra payments, more will go to principal than interest (whole year). I think this is doable. This is thanks to the lower interest rate for the entire year}.

**Payday will 90%+ go to savings. I have a couple of small bills set to pay on 12/31.

If I have the cash flow I will pay off AmEx (November charges) and send $1000 to the other AmEx for the TV purchase. Tonight. Just have to check my Quicken checkbook.

I probably do have the cash flow, because I can not send that $1k to the ROTH until January 1.


I should maybe be doing more festive things, but I am at work crunching numbers for all my clients. Figured I'd give myself some number crunching time too. Wink I am *thrilled* to get all of the above done.

Vacation Budget & Planning

September 18th, 2012 at 06:35 am

I was going to do this a few days ago, but then everything vacation was up in the air.

But since we seem back on track, here we go. I find it useful to write everything down, just so there are less surprises. & it always adds up faster than you think!

Our annual vacation budget is $1500. We usually spread it out a lot more throughout the year and do a lot more staycation type stuff. Or travel closer to home (driving). This year, we haven't done squat, so we have $1500 leftover.

I was looking at the budget last week and I think we had about $100 left over for food, so I figured we'd be tapping into other savings a bit. This is just a unique/rare trip. But, that said, I would be a lot more stressed about the food side while we are there. Because every penny over would have to come from somewhere else.

I knew the in-laws would likely give us a couple of hundred dollars (which has the added bonus that we don't have to go to the ATM - just one less chore - since we don't keep any cash with us in general, but like to have a few more dollars on hand when traveling - even if we usually just deposit most of it when we get home).

BUT, MIL gave us a generous check over the weekend - intending to pay for all the parks. Which it just about exactly will pay for. {I was not expecting anything like this, in the least!!}

I only added $500 of it to the budget, since we don't need to spend $1,000+ on food. Wink $709 left over for food is also ridiculous, but it's just the point where I am not going to stress. Whatever we have left over upon our return will go to savings/mortgage.

My first inclination was to put the $1k check to the mortgage, but I have medical bills on the horizon (could be large - I am not sure) and we have another vacation coming up in November. So I already put the $1k to the credit card (balance is a credit balance) and I will consider the parks paid for. (There is always a possibility we will not go to all these parks - someone could be sick - we may chose to chill one day - so could have even more left over for savings).



I wanted to lay out my vacation planning because I have been doing it a little bit at a time. All we really have left to do is make the arrangements for our cat and pack. !! I feel like all the hard work is done.

--Around May? we decided to go to Florida and book our airfare. Since $1500 is obviously not enough for a week in Florida, we decided to divert 5 months of savings to airfare. We have already replenished it, and by careful airfare shopping I was able to drop the figure down to "4 months of savings."

{This is the first *big* flight/trip for four that I have ever considered as a family with our own funds}.

So this is why I don't have airfare on this budget - it's done and paid for. I am trying to manage everything else that we have yet to pay for.

--Cat Care - I already checked with neighbor and a friend if they would be available to help with the cat. So I just have to finalize that. I am doing a tax return for a friend, so will probably give neighbor $30 for the help (is a teenager). My cat makes such a mess in her old age, that I bought a GIANT litter box in the hope she isn't as messy as usual. I literally scoop it every day, and am just trying to make it easier on whoever watches her. I will probably buy a second GIANT box to that end.

WE can't find any spare house keys, so dh will make a couple this week.

--Dh has been collecting quarters for tolls, and I am just rolling my eyes. Obviously extremely slow going consider how we don't even use cash for anything. Wink One of us will run to the CU and get two rolls of quarters - he finally agreed this made sense. Rolleyes

--I spent a lot of time last week considering transport options. Airport parking is the most expensive, BUT there is not savings of any note by paying for transport. So, parking wins. Convenient convenient convenient. (One option we have living so close to the airport is that several hotels in our neighborhood have parking at $2-$3 per day cheaper, but their shuttles "run every hour" and had some pretty poor reviews. So, we will pass! The shuttle/economy parking at our airport is very good- never remember waiting at all - they must run every 15 minutes. I will double check before we depart, as these things do change).

--In May or June we booked our hotel - free with MIL's timeshare points. Sometimes they have fees (usually taxes or parking). So, will see.

--On the car rental - I reserved around $130 for one week. We will probably want to add me as a driver - will pay whatever it is. I read that we do not need a transponder and that they try to tack it on anyway, so we will be vigilant about that. We will have our quarters for tolls - their transponder fee is absurd. This will be an issue in the future since apparently they are going all electronic. But I researched carefully that we do not have to have a transponder for the areas we will be driving.

We were planning to buy a booster car seat there, but I found one at Target for $15 last week (very small). I was going to put it in our luggage but not sure it will fit. At least I know $15 seats will be easy to find (I can return it and just buy a seat in ORlando). LM is 7 and very tall, so I have no problem waiting until we get to the store, or driving him to and from the airport without a booster. The car seat rental industry absolutely sucks eggs, and the car rental company charges more like $13 per DAY. Rolleyes The airline will likely make us check it, could get lost, could charge us - so I don't want to mess with our nice seats.

I have been so looking to the day where we don't deal with all this. We are 90% there. Next time will be heaven! Big Grin

--I priced all the park tickets, taxes and parking. I haven't found any discounts, because we are buying only one-day tickets. IT is what it is. Dh and I have two one-day park hoppers left over from the year 2000. So we are saving a little there. The plus is we are just buying all tix at the gate - this leaves us a lot of flexibility. IF we all get sick one day and have to skip one day, we won't be out the tickets.

--The museum and Gatorland are just big *maybes* if we are up to it. I have never been to Gatorland, so that one is probably more of a priority. It's dh's family tradition.

--Aside from gas and food, I don't see us spending anything else while we are there. GMIL gave the kids $50 for souvenirs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they keep it to spend on something more important to them (like video games). So, will see. None of us is into the "stuff."

--I got paid yesterday, so paid all the bills through mid-October. So I don't have to worry about any of that on vacation (& jiggled things around since I won't get my paycheck until we return).

--We borrowed two carry-ons from family - might only need one (for the kids). I already have one. We have never traveled "four of us" and "so long a trip" since airlines started charging for checked bags (airlines have also reduced carry-on sizes, rendering most our bags useless). I think 2 carry on luggages will probably be more than ample (we will also all carry backpacks). Our strategy is to pack 3-4 days of clothes and to do laundry mid-week. Since it's a "family visit" too, we should have plenty of down time for that. Florida = packing light clothing, so makes it easier. I picked up a couple of light exercise/water resistant type shorts at Target, on sale/clearance. It will help me immensely to pack light, and to be comfortable. It's just not the kind of clothing we have or need in our non-humid/dry climate.

So, all in all, I got some cat things to take car of, and we have to pack. Dh is going to get keys made and I will pick up some quarters. I think most the work is done!!

We don't leave for a couple of weeks. I really am the anti-procrastinator. I just want to relax and enjoy best we can. I think I have done everything that I can to that end!

Progress, Not Perfection

September 14th, 2012 at 06:31 am

I quote Lucky Robin. Big Grin

In the year 2007 I believe, I made a pretty aggressive goal to have "$150k in retirement" by age 35. I think I was thinking more like the day I turned 35, and was definitely counting some more work retirement contributions in that calculation (another $10k-$20k that I never got). & even then, this goal felt pretty "pie in the sky."

For reference, in the year 2007 I only had $55k-ish in my retirement funds.

But, for all the setbacks, and how aggressive I felt the goal was at the time, I am getting pretty darn close!!

As of yesterday, had about $135k, including cash I already have for ROTHs but did not contribute yet. I can't physically put any more money into retirement accounts (that cash maxes me out), so it is what it is. I also don't really have any other investments (aside from things that are in the kids' name - obviously not for retirement!).

& I could set aside more money "for retirement" (in taxable accounts) to meet my goal, but it doesn't make any sense considering big picture, tax considerations, etc. So I will not do that.

But, will see how the rest of the year goes. At this rate, I suppose anything is possible. 3 more months until my 36th birthday. Big Grin

& I would be willing to max out ROTHs 1/1 to meet this goal. Off by 30 days from my goal? Who gives a flip! I am at the whim of the stock market. Who cares about *perfection*? I can't beat myself up about it if the stock market takes a dive tomorrow.

I'll post again on this subject and my progress, around my birthday. Again on January 1, if need be.


Next goal? Pay off mortgage by age 45. I have no idea how - but I think even if I fail, I will be pretty darn close. What's the worst that happens? Pay it off at 46?

{Truth is, I can imagine scenarios where we pay it off in just a few years. Other scenarios it would be put off indefinitely - like prolonged job loss - but you just have to hope for the best}.

P.S. Our retirement vehicles are maxed out, so not much else to do there. To obviously be re-evaluated as economic and job factors change. But on the retirement, I do feel the *hard* part is done. Around the $100k mark, compounding really starts to take over. We can commit to max out, but other than that, I think it's prudent start hitting other financial goals. I think I am just a "one focus at a time" person - always have been. I really enjoyed hitting the mortgage hard when younger, and hitting retirement hard for a time. IT's going to be back and forth until the mortgage is gone. But I do think the *hard* part is done with both of these monsters. Big Grin Plenty of work to still do, but over the hump.


I like aggressive goals for two reasons:

1 - If you fall short, you still did pretty darn good. Big Grin

2 - I am continually amazed at what I have been able to achieve in this life. It definitely takes more than "thought." But, by the same token, "thinking it" is often 90% of the battle.

Perfect example? My spouse told me he thought we should buy a residence, in our early 20s. & I thought he was out of his flipping mind!! But, we sat down and ran the numbers, it actually made sense, and we were buying a condo just a couple of years later. I basically went from "I can never afford a home here" to "homeowner" in 2 years.

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