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July 16

July 17th, 2018 at 08:10 pm

July 16
$81 Groceries
$12 Indian Grocer
$50 Sushi (birthday) lunch
$18 Amazon
Dinner: Chicken Satay

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Not much to report for Monday. MH took the kids out for their birthday sushi lunch.

MH did the grocery shopping for the week.

MH picked up some Amazon Prime Day deals (some power strips and charging cables that we needed).

MM(15) did hand me $40 cash to deposit into his bank account. $20 from in-laws. $20 he just found in his bag (???). It might have been $20 I gave him for something or other (or I wonder if my dad gave it to him for spending money on their river trip). But, whatever. Finders Keepers. He did also receive $20 from his great-grandfather. His cash balance is up to $1,250 and he is due for a study visit (medical study that pays well) so he will probably get up to $1,500 soon.

If DL received any cash, he hasn't told me. I am sure he got the same $20 from MIL, and he does have a $20 check from the great-grandfather.

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One In, One Out

I did choose a shirt to pull out of my closet. It was one I bought for a couple of dollars last year (patriotic). When I pulled it out to wear it around July 4th it was too itchy. (It seems that clothing is getting more soft over time, so this feels like sandpaper). Anyway, I should have just thrown it in the donation pile at that time. But I made sure to do so when I brought home my new shirt. & I did offer it to the kids first, but no one wanted it.

I put MM's old shoes in the trash today.

July 15, Crazy Errand Day

July 17th, 2018 at 06:34 am

July 15
$10 Gymnastics
$ 2 Target
$50 Birthday Dinner
$22 shoes (will probably return)
$28 Kohls
$22 Groceries
$47 Fuel (minivan)
Dinner: ~out~

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Sunday was pretty exhausting. I am starting to regain some strength and probably was overly ambitious on the chore front. By 5pm I was pretty much done and ready to go to bed. I am sure the heat didn't help.

It was MM's birthday. He had his gymnastics class and he was thrilled because it ran long (extra 1/2 hour).

I got a lot of errands in. I was going to take DL shoe shopping but he was in a mood and refused to go. which was probably for the best, because he would have freaked if he knew we'd be waiting 1.5 hours for his brother. His feet are roughly the same size as mine, so I shoe shopped for him.

There is some expensive shoe store right by gymnastics and Target, but they have good clearance prices. So I perused over there. I checked the size 12s and would bring MM back if there was anything I thought he might like, but the pickings were slim. I found a $20 pair of flip flops for DL. DL told me at some point plain black was fine, but I have yet to find anything. Until today. With tax, spent $22.

Ran to Payless because DL is perfectly happy with his tennis/every day shoes but they are falling apart. Was just going to buy the next size up. All the shoes in his size were all mostly brown/black and they had few tennis shoes anyway. Wondering how big they make that particular shoe since it does look more "little kid", but he's up to size 9. Anyway, it's best he tries them on. MH said he would take him shoe shopping this week. It's been a battle (to get him to go to the store to try on shoes), so I will let MH fight that battle.

I drove past Target on my way back to pick up MM and thought I'd get him an icee. I sometimes do that, but usually we share a small. I thought, I will surprise him with a large icee. Wouldn't you know, they were out of everything but small? *sigh* (I did get him the small. Was better than nothing, and he told me it was refreshing).

At this point I am only about 1/2 way done with errands. I took MM to Kohls after his class. They have an abundance of extra wide shoes in stock and I had some gift cards (I got for the purpose of buying the kids shoes). I actually found a cheaper pair of flip flops for DL and MM found a pair also. (They both have sad flip slops that are too small. Mostly they just refuse to go shopping). Those were $15 each. I grabbed a shirt from the men's section. (It just caught my eye when we walked by, and was on sale for $10). MM found a pair of tennis shoes for $55. His shoes were 12 months old, which isn't bad for a growing boy/man. In the end, that was all $28 cash (after gift cards), which I Was pleased with.

MM was telling me how the kids at school like to brag about how expensive their shoes are and how many they have. He just thinks it's dumb. He's telling me from an, "I don't understand people" standpoint. Welcome to the club. (This is a teenager who didn't want anything for his birthday. He's really extreme in the other direction).

After that we went to the grocery store to get fuel and groceries. I had a '50-cent off per gallon' coupon from MH's big grocery run the prior weekend.

We stopped by the grocery store because I wanted to pick up some eggs. I was going to make deviled eggs for the kids, but ended up being too exhausted in the end. I don't even remember what else we got. MM wanted some string cheese and I picked up some deli meat. Probably some other odds and ends.

MM chose Mongolian BBQ for his birthday dinner.

Though we spent a lot of money this weekend, I am overall pleased with the spending. I think in most cases we got more than we paid for.

I think I mentioned before, neither kid wanted to do a birthday party. They both just chose lots of eating out, instead. I think we got off easy!

July 14, Long Day

July 17th, 2018 at 06:05 am

July 14
$32 Fuel
$18 Water Park (parking/locker)
$ 4 @7-11 (snack)
$30 Birthday Gift
Dinner: leftovers

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Saturday was a long day. We decided to pick up the kids because I wanted to visit the water park in our parents' city. (It is significantly nicer than the one here, as I recalled). Plus, the weather was *perfect*. 20-30 degrees cooler than our July weather.

I guess I should say, original plan was for the in-laws to bring the kids to us. But it was better for us to just switch that around.

We tried to get there at opening, but failed. We got a late start and had to pick up the kids first. The water park looked crazy crowded but in the end most the lines were pretty short. We stayed 2 hours, as planned. I think that worked out pretty well, even though we missed the first/less crowded hour. DL was in a mood and didn't talk to us the entire time. But anyway, given all of the above, I think it went as well as could be. I got enough slides in to feel like I got my money's worth.

Did I mention that it was the month of birthday? MH wanted to get his mom a birthday present, so got her a gift card. He tried to consult me, but my family isn't much into birthdays. I balked at $40, accordingly. So he went with $30. (Usually his sister takes the lead and they go in together. Or we plan ahead and have free gift cards).

Before that, we did fill up the gas sipper with gas (we have a cheapie gas station by our home). We did end up driving 250 miles round trip.

After the water park we had lunch with the in-laws. MIL made lunch for us.

After that, everyone was pretty tired and ready to go home, but we wanted to see my parents for at least an hour. Usually MH handles the drive home (which is often much later; he is the night owl) but he was wiped. I was also pretty wiped, but I probably had slept more the night before. Anyway, I was fine with driving as long as we got home before dark. I also needed some caffeine and calories to stay awake, so I did a stop at 7-11. I don't remember the last time I did that, but was worth being more alert for the drive home.

We probably left the house around 8am and got home around 8pm.

Friday the 13th

July 15th, 2018 at 07:25 am

July 13
-No Spend-
Dinner: leftovers

Phew! Thankfully Friday the 13th was peaceful. It was one heck of a week. The black cloud/crazy insanity seemed to let up for maybe a month at work but then returned. It was just one thing after another this past week. My co-worker's wife finally had her brain tumor removed (LONG Story), my "old employer" had a bad fall, and we had a crazy driver fly through our parking lot and hit a fence. Just a typical week in the year 2018. Seriously!

MH did take our newer car in for a couple of recall repairs. I honestly don't remember ever doing this before. I think we have just been lucky. For some reason I was thinking this was the first car we ever brought the dealer brand directly from the dealer, and that they probably had better records. No idea why I was thinking that because after thinking about it, we bought our prior two cars from their respective dealerships. Duh. I think we were close to pulling the trigger on completely different make cars, so I just forgot. We've only ever bought used cars. Other than these 3 new-ish cars, all the rest of our cars were bought 10+ years old from private parties. I think that explains most of our lack of recalls over the years. (It's only 10 of 25 driving years that we've had newer vehicles).

Anyway, we had one recall and MH tried to make an appointment and they were super annoying. Like he had to get on some mail list and they couldn't fit it in for 4 months!? I don't know. We've only found dealerships to be super irritating. I avoid if at all possible. So MH just got pissed off and gave up. I think the second recall notice was more important. I don't know all the details, but he was able to schedule ASAP.

So, he took care of that Friday. In the end, the timing worked pretty well for us. We are going on a 2000 mile road trip next month and I hadn't thought too much about it. I'd like to think I would have double checked the tires and so on. But in the end, the dealership said we need to urgently replace all tires and some brakes. Anyway, I totally take this with a grain of salt and definitely will not get the work done at the dealership ($$$$$). But I did look up the tires and they are near the end of their warranty. The only work we've ever done on this (5 year old) car is to replace tires, so I think it's reasonable it needs brake work. MH will take care of that with our mechanic this week.

The public TV station that MH volunteers for usually has a really nice appreciation dinner every spring, but they skipped it this year. In the end, MH was mailed tickets to the fair and a free parking pass. I'd probably just give them away (nothing appeals about going to the crowded fair during the hottest weeks of the year. UGH!) But this works out pretty well. Our water park is inside the fairgrounds, which is just annoying. With our season passes we have free fair entry (which you need to get into the water park during the fair), and we also have a lot of free passes to bring friends. BUT, the fair is for the next two weeks, and after that the kids are back at school. MM wanted to invite a few friends on a weekday but it just wasn't going to work. It was going to be super crowded and annoying, and we'd have to pay to get them into the fairgrounds. But I told him we now have two fair passes and a free parking pass so go crazy.

The kids were still with grandparents and MH was working on a movie set until the wee hours (volunteering), so I had a very quiet evening to myself.

July 11-12, This & That

July 13th, 2018 at 11:35 am

Feeling caught up now...

July 11
$10 Lunch
$10 Gymnastics class
$26 Target (Groceries)
$66 Hanes
Dinner:Tortellini

July 12
$1 Donut
Dinner: leftovers

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Thursday (12th) was a pretty quiet day. I treated myself to a donut for breakfast. MH met his parents half way (about 60 miles) and dropped off the kids. They wanted to do spend some time with them and celebrate their birthdays.

Wednesday was a bit busier and spendier.

I went out to lunch with one of my co-workers.

MM(15) had gymnastics class. He missed all the other (July) classes due to birthday festivities and other plans, but he usually tries to go twice per week.

MH took him over to his class and grabbed some groceries at Target while he waited for him.

I got my travel reward credit card and charged it up. I was telling MH I was short $13 (I had medical bills and insurance bills to easily get to the bonus). Anyway, DUH. I usually prepay some health insurance ahead (to get these bigger spend bonuses) but just didn't have to this time. I would have pre-paid $13 (adding onto the July payment) if I had thought of it. In the end, I had noticed some holes in my socks and did some shopping on Hanes.com. I will have to check the last time I bought socks/underwear. (I don't remember off the top of my head). They had some big sale and free shipping and so I picked up a couple of other items, in addition to ordering new underwear. I just threw it on the travel card to be done with the reward.

{I will have to do a separate credit card reward post later}.

Oh, and I remembered to check the men's socks for pricing differences. In this case, the pricing was the same either way.

Edited to add: I didn't note buying any socks since 2015. I am not sure how accurate that info is. I can see that being a small enough purchase to not really bother with (going out of my way to correctly categorize).

July 10

July 13th, 2018 at 10:40 am

July 10
$75 Medical
$35 Fuel
$15 Groceries (forgot tomato sauce!)
$9 Walgreens (Groceries)
Dinner: Burritos

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Paid $75 for a medical appointment today. We will definitely max out our deductible this year (which we usually do anyway; my husband has an ongoing medical issue). But this year seems to be my year to rack up medical bills. I've had three ultrasounds already and probably will have two more in the next month. (I'd say 3 entirely different medical reasons, though two may be related). It's just been one of those years.

My test results were good (PHEW!) and was a huge relief, but I have another ultrasound scheduled to follow up and to be on the safe side.

MH was supposed to have his annual MRI this week but it was rescheduled. What I expected to be a high-stress medical week ended up being low-stress. Phew!

I took the 'gas sipper' to my medical appointment but the car was about out of gas. I stopped at a really cheap gas station neat the hospital and near my work. That worked out well.

I stopped by Walgreens for a soda afterwards and picked up granola bars on sale. This is my office breakfast/snack stash.

MH planned to make an "ingredients already on hand" kind of dinner, but didn't realize until the last minute that we had no tomato sauce. Ice cream was on sale, so he stocked up on that too. (I just took care of dinner. Is an old family recipe I can make in my sleep, so wasn't phased with dinner being thrown at me as I walked in the door. Otherwise I may have preferred to turn around and go to the store for him instead).

MH attended a free acting seminar. This is some group at a local for-profit college. They have some really useful film making programs and so on. In this case, he thought the seminar could be relevant to screenwriting and the speaker was DL's teacher from the art school. He's very involved in the local film making community and MH was figuring it wasn't the worst thing to get more face time with this person.

July 9, Two Teenagers!

July 13th, 2018 at 09:28 am

July 9
$7 Game
$26 Lunch (Deli + Bakery)
$61 Dinner (Indian Cafe)
Dinner: ~Out~

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

MH found a Game Stop? gift card and picked up a VR game. (I believe this was a birthday gift to MM one full year ago and that we gave him the cash value in exchange for the card). Just a coincidence that MH happened to find or remember about it this week.

My youngest turned 13! Ack!

I think it's pretty certain at this point that MM(15) is the easiest kid on the planet and is never going to be much of a *teenager*. His brother will make up for it. He's been very *teenager* already for two years. Wink

DL(13) didn't want to do anything for his birthday but eat out a lot. MH took the kids out to their favorite deli and stopped by the bakery next door ($2 for 5 pastries?).

For dinner we took him to his favorite Indian Cafe. We were all very happy to have an excuse to eat there. MH left some huge tip that was way out of character. Is not a restaurant (with servers). He told me he wants them to stay in business. Yeah, because handing them a $10 bill twice a year will keep them in business. Wink It's just funny because it was so out of character. & it added significantly to our spending on this day, so is worth noting.

I need to remember to get DL(13) set up with a checking account. There is no rush except that I can automate his allowance when we get this set up. I am very happy about this because it makes our lives simpler.

Edited to add: In the end, DL grew 5 inches this past year. I was surprised. His brother did the same from age 12-13. That is just crazy!

July 8

July 13th, 2018 at 09:26 am

I've been jotting down spending, which is good because I am behind... I will do a few posts today to catch up.

July 8
$33 Groceries
Dinner: Indian Chicken Makhani (crockpot)

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

Not much to report for Sunday.

MH did some grocery shopping and picked up some treats for DL (his birthday is Monday). Because he seemed to have a few dinners already planned and the kids will be gone half the week, I joked that he didn't need to get (more) groceries this week. Right? ... He actually said that might be the case. So might even out a bit from the monster grocery run last weekend. It is what it is. This is the only full month the kids will mostly be home. We usually get more of a reprieve with school lunches. Last month MM was fed for like half the month while he was gone. School starts pretty early in August. So it's mostly this month that I need to feed two teen boys *all month* from the grocery budget.

We watched Titanic, which felt like it took all day. (It did, between that and catching up on the Unspooled podcast). There aren't too many LONG movies, thankfully. I did remember to watch this one in our home movie theater. I usually don't like to utilize and rather just watch a movie on our comfy couch. But since this is more intellectual movie watching than "just for fun" movie watching, I guess I want to get the full experience. I told MH to remind me in the future (as we go through the Top 100 movie list), because I will never remember. Unless it's something epic. It was definitely the right choice to watch Titanic on the big screen with the premium sound.

Next: 2001 Space Odyssey

July 7, Mostly Quiet

July 9th, 2018 at 12:31 pm

July 7
$28 Groceries
Dinner: Sloppy Joes

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

In the morning MM volunteered at the animal shelter. It's been more than a year but I've actually never made it out to the library over there before. It's a long drive to the shelter and not worth driving home in between, but usually can find some errands to run. Anyway, today I was able to sit in the car and listen to podcasts and read for about an hour until the library opened. But it was too hot to sit in the car (for 2 full hours) and I had nothing else to do. I went to the library and it was packed! I swear I saw like 30 people in there. But no one was sitting in the cushy chairs they had (about 6 that I saw?) so I sat and read (my library ebook) for a while. The library is only about 2 miles from the shelter, so it's just perfect.

It's nice to see so many people utilizing the library.

On the way home I picked up some groceries. I noticed we were out of milk yesterday, and I wanted to pick up a few other things. I planned to pick up a pound of meat, but it was on sale if you buy more in bulk so I just bought 3 pounds. Same for the pasta I bought.

So... I get home and there is already milk in the fridge. Ack! No idea where it came from. Even worse, I accidentally bought the brand milk. (I don't buy milk very much). I was so focused on getting the correct fat content, that I forgot to look at the price (they all look the same to me). So that was a fail. (MH told me he would make some pudding, and I did use some of the milk to whip up some more pasta, so maybe we will get through it).

The kids were off at a birthday party and MH was working on a movie shoot (it's all volunteer but they do get fed well). So they were all taken care of for dinner. I didn't see much food in the fridge so decided to just make some sloppy joes (old family recipe). It will be nice to have some leftovers.

For the birthday party, it was rather last minute but I had already stocked up on Target gift cards when they were on sale around Christmas time. MM also picked up some food treat for his friend, while we were at the grocery store.

This is DL's best friend who shares the same birthday. I think this is some of why DL is kind of "meh" on the birthday front. Other people's houses/parties are always more fun. Wink

In the end the kids ended up staying at their friend's house overnight (which didn't surprise me at all). So it was a very quiet night in my house.

July 5 & 6, Feeling Blah

July 9th, 2018 at 12:29 pm

July 5
$8 Groceries
$12 Indian Grocer
Dinner: Fiesta Chicken Burritos (crockpot)

July 6
$2 Lunch out
$40 Games (4 Party Packs)
Dinner: Cheeseburger Pasta

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

For lunch Thursday, I was feeling kind of ill and nothing sounded good, so just picked up a sandwich at the grocery store. In the end, I didn't like it much. While there I picked up some other groceries (fresh baked bread). I guess MH also picked up some groceries for some meal he hasn't made yet. (Our grocery store is high end and has very fresh food, but the sandwich was a strange bread and they barely put any mayo on it. It was just very dry and not jiving with me).

I ate out again Friday, same deal. The only thing that sounded good to me was a BK burger, and I had to drive about 10 miles (home) to find a decent BK. It was just a bad week. (I spent far more on gas than I did on the burger).

Friday night was DL's night to choose/cook dinner. Cheeseburger Pasta (sort of a casserole) is his favorite meal.

MH participates in some game night group and one time they did some electronic games. I remember MH telling me about it, where you put it up on the big screen somehow, but then everyone can participate with their phones. Anyway, he saw some deal Friday, $40 for something like 20 games. So we tried out the games last night and we had a blast. In this case, he bought them for the playstation and we were able to play along with our cell phones. I am guessing we will end up with just a few favorites, but it's nice to be able to try such a wide variety of games. & because my husband is a bit of a game collector (board games), I told him I appreciated the electronic/non-clutter version.

July 3-4, Pink Tax

July 7th, 2018 at 07:34 am

July 3
$10 pet license renewal
Dinner: Thai chicken

It was MM's night to make dinner. The kids love their dinner nights because they get to choose what to make.

I do have to take my cat to the vet to get his shots updated (usually around $20). I suppose I may have a deadline with the license renewal, but was already planning to update his shots so that we can board him while we do our road trip.

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July 4
$35 Birthday Gifts for MM
Dinner: Steak & Baked Potatoes

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

I mentioned in a recent post that MM didn't want anything for his birthday.

We had played bananagrams at SIL's house and MM seemed to be way into it. So I thought that would at least give him something to open on his birthday. The gift is not necessary, but we have quite a game stash and it wouldn't hurt to add that one to the collection.

In the end, MH also picked up a signed CD from MM's favorite band. They will sign it if you pre-order, something like that. Was another $20. (We won't get it for a couple of months, but can tell him that it is coming).

We did nothing for the holiday, but the kids went to a friend's house where there was a fireworks extravaganza. Definitely not anything I would spend my money on (I think setting off fireworks in our climate/region is completely dumb and insane, but it's what people do. So the kids' youth will be full of pyromania. We are happy to sit it out now that they are old enough to go off on their own. In addition, MH is hard of hearing so he just does not enjoy on any level).

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I saw this video the other day and it was amazing:

https://www.facebook.com/dearalyne/videos/194488441235252/

I've not paid too much attention to the "pink tax" talks because I don't even buy most female products to begin with.

Well, this video starts talking about razors. I've never bought the female razors because I just didn't like them. I don't know if price factored. Maybe. (I made this decision like 20 years ago, so I don't remember). & I do sometimes buy men's clothing. I have more man-sized feet, if nothing else.

Anyway, I watched the video and it blew my mind. I really need to start thinking more carefully about everything I buy. I don't even like pink! So why would I pay a premium to buy something pink? I told MH that I was embarrassed that I recently bought a big old thing of pink shaving cream. I feel somewhat *shrugs* about it because was a luxury I never purchased during our one-income years (just used soap or shampoo) and the one large bottle of shaving cream will probably last me something like 5 years. Wink I will survive for paying that few extra dollars. I can see that I should probably stop buying girly foo foo deoderant. I just think it's good to be mindful and will think more carefully through these things as I make future purchases.

July 2

July 7th, 2018 at 07:21 am

July 2
$6 lunch
$27 birthday gift (DL)
$60 Flea meds
$173 groceries
Dinner: Crockpot Chili

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

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Not a frugal day, whatsoever. MH and MM did go to a free movie screening.

**I've been eating out lunch more with co-workers, which I mostly had not done since one-income years. I think mostly they used to eat at the same place every day and it was expensive. I'd maybe go once in a blue moon. Now they mostly eat junk food (??) after that place shut down? (I probably feel the opposite now, that I don't want to eat junk).

Anyway, with all the upheaval at work, there have been a lot of lunches out. On the flip side, my one lunch buddy has been busy and MH has been busy so I am just moving my lunch dollars over to be more work focused. I mostly join them for $2 tacos on Tuesday. But my co-worker had been gone on a long trip and I wanted to hear all about it yesterday.

**I did also order some flea meds online. That's a new thing. I've never battled fleas with indoor pets before. *sigh*

When I got home, the fridge was pretty bare, so I presumed MH did a light grocery run. HA! $173 is probably the biggest grocery run I have ever seen. I have no idea what he stocked up on. But this is the one full month the kids are home and I am sure he stocked up on food and bought some extra food/treats.

**MH also picked up a birthday gift for DL. He has been asking for a pull up bar.

Usually it seems we don't plan much for the kids' birthdays and then something more extravagant always seems to come up last minute.

Will see... For now, we have about 5 days until birthday #1 and both kids are saying they don't want anything and they don't want to do anything for their birthdays. Both their birthdays are next week.

In the end, DL did ask for a pull up bar specifically. MH never wants anything and so we usually aim more for experiences for him. I have been thinking that we will take him rock climbing. He LOVES climbing and maybe it's time we get him some more opportunities on that front. At the least, will take him once, but might think about getting him more of a membership or into classes.

MM = Monkey Monkey. It's just not been a priority to-date, but I can't imagine anything he would want more than more opportunities to do some sort of rock climbing.

**I've got DL's passport in hand already. It only took 2 weeks. I had been dreading that chore, but in the end our city had opened up a new passport center (since the last time we needed passports) that is open 6 days per week. Phew!

I did not get MM's passport renewed, because if we can wait until he is 16 then he won't have to renew in person after that.

**I haven't done any credit card rewards (one-time bonuses) this year because it's been so much chaos.

In the end, we are planning a very simple/frugal road trip for the end of this month. It's only in the last week or so, as it seems to be coming together, that I thought I should try to get the cost down with rewards. I'd be more inclined to save that for a bigger and more expensive trip, but am realizing I am not planning any big/expensive trips in the foreseeable future. & who knows if this reward will even be around in another few years? So, might as well take advantage.

We used the Capital One Venture card for our Europe trip last year, and that seems to be the best bet for a road trip. Will have $500 of our hotel expenses paid for. So I made sure to apply for that card on Monday and should receive it any day. The other reason I chose this card is because it will work with the more last minute plans.

July 1

July 2nd, 2018 at 06:06 pm

July 1
$10 Parking @ Water Park
$0 Movies
$0 Library books
Dinner: Parmesan Pasta & Mediterranean Salad

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

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For whatever reason, was thinking of tracking spending this month (er, sharing in the blogs. I always track spending). Life has been crazed and I don't even remember why I was thinking that, except for maybe a bit of a reset.

I didn't even realize it was UFM month. I guess that is extra motivation.

{I don't generally participate in UFM and don't want to upset our delicate balance. But the way I participate is by sharing our spending. I will put some kind of disclaimer on my posts}.

I am also putting these in the "one-income" category since MH doesn't work during the summer months.

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I had bought premium season passes to our local water park around the time of Black Friday. About 50% off current prices.

The catch is that we had to process our season passes at this location, and ideally before the Fair starts. (I personally bought my season pass more for another location).

So we took care of that yesterday. It was a pretty horrible trip for us adults (especially because I wasn't feeling well and it was crazy hot). But, the kids had fun. (We maybe stood in lines for an hour, and then the kids spent an hour on the slides. It wasn't that crowded but they were just that inefficient. Security was slow. Season passes were slow. Ugh). I could see MH being more moody about the whole thing, since he is the one who will be taking the kids on weekdays and generally doesn't do *sun*, but he seemed impressed with how cheap the passes were. (The way to his heart is through a good deal?).

I also ended up getting a free meal while we were there. MH got me something because I was so miserable, and we thought it might help. So we went through all the coupons we got (x4) and I chose whatever was cheap. (I mean, it's all junkie food I wasn't that enthralled with to begin with). In the end, they refused to let MH pay. HA! Told him he had some kind of meal card. He argued with them a bit, but then figured he doesn't know what the heck I bought. I told him 100% I did not buy or get any meal cards. So he decided to go check with customer service and see what the heck. Because if our meals were really supposed to be free then he was getting the kids some free food.

I guess it's early in the season. Everything was just kind of very slow and was chaos. In the end, we were not supposed to get a free meal. Wink The free food put us in a better mood though.

After that, I slept for several hours. I just hadn't been feeling well, and have some other medical issues in addition to having some kind of bug yesterday.

When I woke up, I was craving some pasta recipe I saw online earlier. We had everything on hand (though our fridge was mostly bare otherwise). I asked MH what he was planning to make for dinner, and it was actually something similar. He was fine with me taking over dinner. Everyone liked it. I didn't have a quick/easy creamy pasta dish before. Now I have one:

https://damndelicious.net/2014/10/11/one-pot-garlic-parmesan...

Other than that, I've been reading. I might have to finish my library (ebook) tonight. It's due back any second.

We watched the French Connection last night. That one was pretty weird. Every movie we watch leads to like 5 more movies to watch. Anyway, MH told me I had to watch the commentary track. I think he bought this one at the used store ($0 cash out of pocket ~ used his credit). We didn't realize until after that it was based on a true story. Anyway, there are not enough hours in the day and I have had to let it all go. But maybe I can squeeze in this one commentary. Especially because I got like a 10 day break from the movies and I have Wednesday off work.

Titanic is next on the list, which is one of my favorite movies. Probably one of the very few I have actually seen.

I want to do a more general update too. Will see... I think overall less chaos this week. Except for my medical stuff, everything is kind of calm right now. (Knock on wood).

Checking In

January 23rd, 2018 at 06:47 am

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

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

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

Note: Grocery budget covers household/pet food and litter

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

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

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

Other Spending:

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

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

Other doings:

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

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

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

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

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

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

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

Jan 15 & 16

January 18th, 2018 at 06:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raise, Taxes

January 16th, 2018 at 05:53 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 12 Spending

January 14th, 2018 at 09:52 pm

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

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

Used 25-cent gas coupon at gas station.

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

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

January 11, Almost to Vacation!

January 12th, 2018 at 10:19 am

January 11
$16 Networking
Dinner: crockpot chili

MH went to a fundraiser for a (new to him) independent film group he is trying to get involved with. My first impression would be he hasn't jived with them in the way he has with other film crews. BUT, to be fair, they haven't done any filming yet! I think working together probably creates some bonding. (I think they are going to film this summer; probably bigger budget than anything MH has worked on before).

Any other week we probably would have gone out and enjoyed, together. It sounded really fun actually. Was a late night out with various forms of entertainment. But as is, I usually go out -0- nights and I already had two other commitments this week. AND I had to ready the house for in-laws (because I had no time otherwise).

Since MH didn't expect to know anyone and doesn't do loud (he can't follow conversations in loud environments because of his hearing loss), he really expected to show up buy a ticket, and come home. He just wanted to show his support. By 9pm or so he wasn't home; we went to bed. In the end, he ran into someone he knew (outside of this group) and he enjoyed himself and stayed for a few hours. I am glad, because I was really thinking he shouldn't bother. He was generally exhausted and dreading the whole thing when he left the house.

I'd probably have no idea how much he spent, because he paid cash. But, he told me this morning he spent $16 on admission and a beer.

Work was slow this week and I just soaked it in. I evaluated my OT and decided I don't even need to cram in many hours this tax season (because worked so many OT hours already, that will be paid out in April). For the long run, not entirely sure how it will shake out and will aim for more hours so I don't fall behind on workload. BUT, decided to not work more than 40 hours this week. (Which means I only had to work until noon today). We have our Napa weekend away, starting tonight.

Most of my angst/busy-ness this week is put on myself for trying to give MH this weekend away. I look forward to RELAXING the next two days.

Weekend plans: One expensive dinner out and two different "free" events. (We aren't wine drinkers; we go to Napa for the scenery and peace).

January 10, Night Out

January 11th, 2018 at 06:20 am

January 10
$4 Taco Bell Lunch
Dinner: leftovers

My go-to lunch in a pinch is generally in the $2 range, ordering off the dollar menus. (Is what I would order regardless).

Soda/treats are fine, but generally relegated to the grocery store (where the cost is significantly less). In this case, I ran out of soda (more bad planning) and so I just got some soda when I ran out for lunch. I did remember to ask for no ice. The hard part is remembering. The worst is paying $2 for a bucket of ice and a wee bit of a soda. Big Grin I also only generally order soda from Taco Bell because their small sizes are actually small. In this case, I chose Taco Bell because it's the only place I know to get any decent food near my work. Most everywhere else has shut down (or should). I am sure there are hundreds of eateries, but the very few I frequent are all terrible and have generally gone out of business. I just use this as extra motivation not to eat out.

MH and I did a late night out last night. I remember doing this once before without a babysitter (probably even later at night) and DL(12) was kind of sad about it. It must have been more than 18 months ago, because I can't imagine doing that once he had his depression/anxiety issues last school year. Anyway, we told the kids we'd be home by 10:30 probably, and that they'd have to put themselves to bed. I think MM was very *shrugs* about this last time, and he is a "falls asleep when his head hits the pillow" type, so he was snoring by the time we got home at 10pm. DL was reading in bed, but was very *shrugs* about the whole thing. I suppose we are getting to a space where we can more seriously go out on a school night and whoop it up. Woohoo! For us, would be very rare. I am not a night owl at all.

We went to a special movie screening. We had planned to pay full price. The movie pass was not supposed to apply to this showing, but in the end they took it! I then thought we were going to pay $12.50 (for my ticket). I hadn't realized MH used up the movie gift card (for my ticket). So less spending than I thought. They were advertising all the classic movie special events they do and so on. I told MH, "We should go to some of those, if your ticket is free." He agreed.

January 9, Bad Planning

January 10th, 2018 at 12:14 pm

January 9
$24 Groceries
Dinner: Saag Paneer (Indian cheese & spinach)

We had a school PTA meeting. So I didn't have any down time at all.

MH went to the grocery store; $10 of that was at the Indian grocer.

MH did tell me that he got on the guest list for one of the podcasts that he watches. We haven't 100% decided if we will go, but will be in the area this weekend. We went once before and it was entertaining. He mentioned how he was thinking it would be free entertainment (and he wanted to go regardless). I think it's just a perfect example of how there are many very interesting and fun things to do that don't necessarily cost money. (Or at the least, don't cost much).

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Today I am suffering from bad planning.

The kids always start school late on Wednesday, BUT they had the last couple of weeks off AND they didn't start late the Wednesday before that.

So... Today I was felling "meh" with all the food on hand and thinking I'd just come home for lunch. Decided I'd just pick up DL at lunch time, and give MH a break from the constant back and forth to/from schools. Then I could take more time to scrounge up some lunch at home.

My kids are very responsible and I don't generally have to wake them up. But everyone was asleep around 7am so I woke the kids up. After I awoke DL I realized it's about 15 minutes early for him. (I so rarely wake him up I don't remember, but sometimes he flips out if he is awoken early). He was in a chill mood, so, PHEW! I woke up MM and he tells me, "It's Wednesday." Ah yes, it is!

I'm already in "go to work" mode though, so I wake up MH and ask him if he will take the kids to school. He is fine with it. But I said I'd pick up DL at lunch, in exchange. He said, "At 2:30?!" Okay, no I will not do that! Back to the drawing board. (I'd be handling all this if MH was working this week, but since he's home I hadn't even bothered to look at the schedule).

I remembered I was in the middle of some tedious project at work that I could just work on from home. Kind of perfect, really. I told him "Plan B: I will take MM to school (like always) but I will pick up DL tomorrow at lunch." I then got an hour of work in and all was well.

I just felt dumb when I was driving to work, because this week was so rushed in general and I had no time to finish the chores I wanted to do. So I had a "DOH" moment that I really should have used the morning time to tend to chores. I was just thrown so completely offguard by the whole thing. So that is how I made my life more complicated than it has to be.

We will all get back into our groove next week.

January 8, Quiet & Relaxing

January 9th, 2018 at 07:07 am

January 8
$10 Gymnastics
Dinner: Falafels

MH used his movie pass today. He's not used very much because he just hasn't had time. The movie was free. I asked him if he had any free screenings to go to. He said there was one this week, but we have plans every night pretty much. He usually goes to the advanced screenings a couple of times a week. So I wouldn't be surprised if he just started going to regular movies 2-3 weeks instead. But the advanced screenings are fun, and by far the better deal if the kids and I ever want to go too.

Work was so quiet and calm. It has been constantly crazed for the past month or so. I am used to more quiet days than crazy days, in general.

I got confirmation that insurance issue is squared away with mortgage holder. Phew! That was just the icing on the cake and it feels like a load had been lifted off my shoulders (between that and work settling down a bit). Don't get me wrong, it's a horrible deadline month and these new W2/1099 deadlines are entirely impossible. But I just feel like I can slow down and breathe this week. Panic can resume next week.

When I came home, MH was in a similar mood. He was thrilled he had time to go to the movies!

P.S. I've noticed in the past that MH's menu planning seemed to be more themed. Chicken one week. Lots of beef another week. Then a vegetarian week. I think it's subconscious. Anyway, I didn't notice that so much this time until now. Last 3 meals were non-meat?? (I made the sloppy joes, last minute, so was not part of the meal plan at all).

January 7, Baking & Cleaning

January 9th, 2018 at 06:59 am

January 7
$110 Weekly Grocery Run
Dinner: Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu & Coconut Rice

MH was going to go to the grocery store during the week, but noticed we were out of shower cleaner. So he ran to the store Sunday. We don't always hit $100, but when we do we get a 25-cent gas coupon. I will probably have MH use that coupon because we are driving out of town the next two weekends.

Sunday was just a big chore day. We took down the Christmas Tree. I cleaned up the house. It all seemed easier than I was envisioning, but then I remembered I wanted to clean up the upstairs (since in-laws will be staying here next weekend). Then I remember why it's so overwhelming. I otherwise never have the whole house tidy at once. It's been way too busy and MH reminded me I already have 2 commitments this week (& I was sitting out a third, before I even remembered the second commitment).

I did not clean the whole house, but I got through the bare minimum. Tried to leave a reasonable amount of housework for the two weeknights I have free this week.

Sunday we also did several loads of laundry. The kids did their own, but I did two loads of kitchen towels and cleaning rags.

The good thing is I got through my baking queue. Phew! I had picked up some ingredients on Christmas Eve, to bake. I probably would have had time to bake on Christmas, but there was the complicated factor of guests with strict diets and in the end I didn't get to it. Sunday I baked up a second batch of chocolate chip cookies and a new pumpkin bread recipe I wanted to try. I have enough pumpkin left for my other pumpkin bread recipe, so I guess I have added one more bake to my queue. (This is a super easy/fast recipe; can whip up any weeknight).

DL(12) has finals and short days all week; thankfully MH is home to handle that.

January 6, Smart Thermostat

January 7th, 2018 at 09:03 am

January 6:
$100 Smart Thermostat
$44 Groceries
$35 Fuel
$30 MH allowance (movies)
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Asian Salad

In addition, $10 was spent at Target (cat food) but MH did a return for me ($17.50?).

MM(14) volunteered at the animal shelter. I have been 100% taking him (since summer) but knew I would pass the baton to MH during tax season. I know MH ran to Target (while waiting) and the used book/music store (where he has credit to spend if he bought anything).

That reminds me, MH picked up some board game at the library. He is a bit of a game hoarder so I am ecstatic about that!

I decided to fill up the van (used coupon, saving $8). I *may* squeak by with this gas tank for the rest of the month. (Or at least for this credit card cycle. Probably not for the calendar month). Since the kids had devoured the sourdough bread in mere minutes, I decided to go pick up some more bread and get some gas. In the end I decided to make lunch and picked up a few other things (needed more butter and some bleached flour for baking). I did pick up pistachios because they were on sale. They only seem to sell ground hamburger in 2-3 pound packages these days, so I bought more than I needed.

Comment I made on January 1:
I don't see why we would spend much this month.

Reality:
I forgot that this is a chore month for MH. So I guess there will be lots of spending on that front.
Dental appointments, Doctor appointments, oil changes, etc.

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Did you notice the $100 thermostat purchase?

What a day!!

Upstairs thermostat has been on the fritz for a while. It DIED when I touched it the other night. Because we have two zones for out HVAC system, it's not particularly critical. (Which is probably why we haven't fixed it before). Honestly, the downstairs zone heats most the house and all the heat wafts up to our bedroom. & the kids don't particularly even like it when I turn on the heat upstairs (they prefer the cold). So, it's not critical, but we had a very short window that my dad could maybe help us (before he went out of town for a while). So we decided to attempt to fix it and arranged for him to come up today if we needed help. (It is probably the coldest month of the year and could get uncomfortable if we couldn't turn on the upstairs heat. Not critical, but not ideal either).

In the end it was a very frustrating all-day endeavor, but we figured it out.

MH took the opportunity to price out a Smart Thermostat. It had to be something he could just pick up in person. We settled on a $100 model at Target that is not sold in stores. MH went over to a regional electronic store that price matches. That way he could just pick it up that day at the best price he found.

{While there, he bought some movies on deep discount; the first allowance spending of the year}.

In the end, the new thermostat was just as dead. We were really darn close (more than once) to just calling our HVAC repair guy and not even bothering my dad with this. It seemed we had a much bigger problem.

I said to MH at some point, "It seems to me the problem must be on the other end of the wires." He is the smart engineering one and I am the polar opposite, but I guess I have lived with engineer types my whole life and they are rubbing off on me. He didn't seem to comprehend, but "the other end" meant climbing up into the attic (which is little more than a crawl space) and messing with the heater. I think he was just in denial.

Eventually he got out of denial (the more obvious it became that this is the only other obvious solution and might save us $100 if he just checked). There was some 5th wire needed for this thermostat that we checked and knew we had coming out of the wall, but I guess in the end it had never been connected on the other side. Yeah, it seemed kind of obvious to me that was the problem. Something wasn't connected right. I expected maybe some other wire was loose (why we had problems at all) but in the end, all the rest of the wiring was completely fine; the old thermostat is just dead. So we feel better about just replacing it. We just happened to make life more complicated by transitioning to a thermostat that needs more wires. Up to that point, all we knew was we had two thermostats that wouldn't work at all.

Much to my chagrin, at that time MH connected the 5th wire to the heater, it still wouldn't work. Which is about the time we 99.99% gave up.

MH fiddled with it one more time, and it worked!! PHEW!!

In the end, we weren't interested in the super smart thermostats, which are more expensive anyway. Our house is very well insulated and we live in a mild climate. Is significantly more comfortable and frugal for us just to use the heat/air as needed. For example, the thermostat may say 62 in the fall but may feel really comfortable (because is not that cold outside). But on a winter day the thermostat may say 70 and I might be *freezing* because I am sitting near a window. As such, I don't know that we have any predictable patterns. & turning on the heat/air while we are on the way home (geofencing?) would just be excessive and would be a huge energy waste.

That said, we do have excessive heat in the summers and we do have a pet. I feel the $100 is a bargain as to the luxury of being able to see remotely how hot the house is and being able to turn on and off the A/C to keep the house reasonable and comfortable. Would probably only use if we were out of town any length of time, but you don't know how much energy I've spent in the past worried about pets when we've vacationed during summer months.

It will also be nice to be able to control the thermostat from bed.

Will give it some time to see how much we use and like. If we love it, I am sure we will upgrade the downstairs one (this year?) but want to give it some time. While the remote app stuff is really nice, and I know I could cool some of the house off in a pinch, it would be far more useful to have this feature for the downstairs zone that provides 90% of our heating/cooling.

January 5, Glasses

January 6th, 2018 at 06:23 am

January 5:
$100 Doctor Visit
$195 Glasses
$30 Fuel
$14 ice cream scoop
Dinner: Spinach manicotti (er, lasagna) & mediterranean salad

MH improvised dinner with lasagna noodles, but it was not as good as the manicotti version. It worked in a pinch.

The ice cream scoop: We have some old/sad ice cream scooper that has apparently gone missing. (???) I personally would just use a spoon and don't see the point. But MH likes his ice cream scoop and so he ordered a very durable one that should last forever.

MM(14) had an optical appointment. (This was on the top of MH's chore list. Was waiting to get off work, and only had this week to co-ordinate with MM's school break). Yes, of course he needs glasses too. & so just like that, we went from just me to a house full of glasses wearers. (MH got glasses just a couple of months ago; DL has not had glasses very long either).

I do buy my own glasses online (for about 1/10 as much) but the kids' glasses are not as expensive and I think you have to try on and figure out what works and doesn't when it's new. For the kids, I can see always just buying in person, though I'd order online if they lost a pair or they broke.

MH bought gas with a coupon ~ 25 cents off per gallon. I have a 50-cent coupon and a minivan with an almost-empty gas tank. Would probably make my life easier to make sure that gets filled up this weekend. (We always save the bigger coupons for the bigger gas tank).

Weekend plans: work, clean house, bake. Not time for all of it, but is all the stuff I need to get done.

January 4, Fence Work

January 5th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

January 4:
$1.50 fresh baked bread
$46 can of paint
Dinner: Chicken enchilada skillet

I guess it worked out that they were out of bread the day before; sourdough was on sale for $1.50 yesterday.

We are having some of our fence replaced (more details below) and the quote did not include paint on the street side. That said, the contractor asked MH if we had any paint ~ said he'd just take care of it (in about an hour). So MH ran to Sherwin-Williams to get some HOA approved paint. MH called me after he left the house to see if I could find a color match or something. I perused Nextdoor (neighborhood social media) and told him someone had taken a piece of fence down to Home Depot to color match. Others have just asked around for extra paint, which I could do. He told me was already out of the house so whatever, but that yes these were all much smarter ways to go about it. But we were both in the "get it done" headspace, and happy to have one less chore to do.

As to the fence, I would have replaced eons ago but neighbors have been too broke and/or cheap. *sigh* In the end, we have a new neighbor on one side and we had discussed in the summer when their neighbor on the other side replaced their shared fence. They were open to it, but they have a big dog and were really put out by the whole thing, so we figured we'd revisit this month when MH has time off work. In the end, the fence blew down a couple of weeks ago. (I presume that is the opposite of Murphy? When you've already penciled in the repair?). Neighbors were happy with their contractor and took the lead. Probably more expensive than we'd go because we are in the head space of, "We've lived with a falling down fence forever at this point, and we won't even be here another 10 years." But felt it best to just "go with the flow". Just happy they agreed at all. But I am pleased with the cost/quality. It's the longest side of our fence and so was $1,100 for our half, plus $400 to replace the gate.

We have a reasonable quote to replace the back fence (by far the worst section; is currently propped up by a pole ~ I think that section blew over about a year ago). Is a smaller length of fence, so cheaper. I'd love to have a uniform fence. But no idea how that will go with neighbors. It will depend how they react. I'd probably just pay for it, but MH doesn't want to. So he has to negotiate with them, and if that doesn't work, he will have to negotiate with me. No idea how that will resolve (but probably most likely with a cheaper contractor, if at all).

We decided to leave side #3 for now. It's mostly obscured by house and bushes. Just, too many neighbors to deal with it, and more expensive than I was guessing. Will get to it eventually. I'm more open to using cheaper wood on that side since we don't "see" that side so much. & it may be that we revisit this year, but just don't have to be this month.

January 3

January 5th, 2018 at 06:58 am

January 3:
$30 Gymnastics ($10 class + $20 annual registration)
Dinner: Shepherd's Pie

We don't have as many no-spend days with MM's gymnastics class. They only accept cash payments the day of class. This is definitely new since the last time I have tracked spending. It's probably our biggest no-spend killer, but it is what it is. MM(14) LOVES tumbling.

MH told me he went to Target (grocery run). I suspect he spent less than $50 because I don't see any charges on our Target card and he finally took the $50 gift card I laid out for him several weeks ago. We just pick up specific items that are significantly cheaper than our grocery store (mostly breakfast type foods and snacks).

I ran to the grocery store after work to pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough. This is definitely one treat we have been enjoying with MH working. (Is $2 for a baguette, but those run out crazy fast and I sometimes buy other shapes/sizes). I called MH on the way home to ask if he needed anything. He asked me to check for manicotti. We had gone to *three* different grocery stores on New Year's eve looking for manicotti and could not find any. He checked Target today but didn't think they even sell it (didn't see an empty place on the shelf like everywhere else). Anyway, our usual grocery store was entirely cleared out of fresh baked sourdough and any of the other bread we usually buy (strange) and so I gave up and went to the pasta aisle. I found the manicotti signage on the bottom shelf and so had to practically crawl on the floor to make sure there really was no manicotti. No idea what that is about. MH is planning to improvise with lasagna instead. (Who knows, maybe it will be better/easier with lasagna. Stuffing those manicotti shells is a pain). I left the store without buying anything. I'd maybe pick up a bakery item, but we already have fresh baked cookies at home and I have a queue of baked goods I never had the time/energy to get to.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Got an e-mail from MIL that she finally got the Napa timeshare reserved. Woohoo! This will save us $200, and gives us a nice resort in Napa. MH is charmed, so this doesn't surprise me at all. He REALLY wanted to stay at this place. (I canceled the other reservation with the click of the button).

My dad also got a river raft trip booked, and told me he will cover 100%. So, instead of spending $500-ish this month (1/4 of our annual vacation budget) I am down to -$0- vacation spending for the month. Woohoho! We don't have any vacation plans this year, but will leave the vacation budget for now because something always seems to come up.

January 2

January 3rd, 2018 at 06:13 am

January 2
$52 Lunch
$240 Dentist
Dinner: Zuppa Toscana soup (copy cat recipe)

Note: Just tracking spending. Not attempting to cut expenses or to be uber frugal.

No sooner than I typed up my last entry, MH asked me how much he could spend on dining out. It was an unusual question (because he pretty much never eats out, and when he does he usually doesn't ask my permission). But I think this means he was listening to me grumble about paying too many bills last month. Wink He told me he wanted to treat the kids to the expensive sushi place; it's their only weekday off together (for entire winter break). I said I thought that sounded fine. He brought home an extra $500 working these extra weeks, so whatever. (It's more like the "reasonably priced all-you-can-eat sushi place," but I suppose it's relative. When I asked him how lunch was, he told me, "Expensive!")

DL had a dentist appointment. MH asked me why we hadn't moved him over to our cheapie dentist yet. I told him because I was waiting for him to outgrow the pediatric dentist. But that it is probably fine to transition him over. It will save me in the realm of $600/year to get both kids moved over. I would be more excited about this if I wasn't staring down the barrel of braces (times 2!). (He wouldn't be able to get into our dentist for months, so we kept this last pediatric dental appointment. MH has a dental appointment later this month and will take care of getting DL moved over for next time).

I was expecting to cough up airfare this month for MM's summer trip with my dad. My dad generously was going to pay thousands of dollars for a guided river trip (Grand Canyon) but wanted us to cover airfare. In the past, my parents have many times said things like this and forgotten or changed their minds. So lord knows what our financial contribution might end up being. BUT, I think they are acclimating to their (very) comfortable financial position. As such, he told me about a year ago he wanted me to cover airfare (which I think is more than fair). Yesterday I was told he is paying 100% everything. I think he means it. If he is reserving everything now, I guess that doesn't give him much space to change his mind. Unfortunately, he is looking at wait lists and didn't reserve as early as he should have. (I don't know what happened, we've been discussing this like 1.5 years already). I hope that he is able to work it out for this year.

January 1

January 2nd, 2018 at 05:07 am

I am personally not into the "no spend" month thing. I think balance is delicate and I don't see messing with the delicate balance we have achieved with our finances. Just to say why I usually sit these things out. (I could just see having a no spend month and then going hog wild the next month, and generally feeling out of whack).

That's copy and pasted from the last no spend challenge. Not sure what it is, but I way prefer the uber frugal challenge. I really like Frugalwoods, and her challenge make more sense to me. I was never a fan of the no spend challenges, in contrast. Whereas I enjoyed the blog entries during the last UFM.

That said, I still personally feel the same way about my own participation. It's been a while since I have done any spending tracking in my blog, and I will participate in that way. But I don't have any motivation to cut back our spending at all. I will just be listing daily spending.

I feel that we are infinitely more lax in our finances these days (our household W2 income was up 6% last year, or about 6% higher than it's ever been!), but we are also still very frugal and mindful of our spending. Considering the mountain of gift cards we have and MH's free movie schemes, I don't see why we would spend much this month.

January 1:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Chicken Satay, brussel sprouts
+ fresh baked chocolate chip cookies

I did book a hotel stay today. MH wanted to get away for his birthday. He didn't say this specifically, but was longing for some time away, though we had probably otherwise discussed that we had put his parents out enough with our Europe trip last summer. Anyway, it was too last minute to get a free timeshare stay anywhere we'd want to go. I found a hotel near Napa $100/night with a kitchen/suite. It's so reasonable because it's outside of Napa. It's possible that we will be able to cancel this reservation; MIL is trying to get the place we usually stay in Napa. That place was $700 for the weekend if we booked on our own. HA! The place we ended up with is a Hilton property with similar accommodations. It won't be so picturesque or "new and shiny", but that's okay. We just wanted something with a kitchen where we can mostly hole up inside and relax. Is only 10 miles from where we usually stay in Napa. Anyway, it was $0 to reserve, and I will cross my fingers that I can exchange this reservation for a free room.

Now that MH is off work, we are going to plan a Friday lunch at Ruth Christ Steakhouse. I have a gift card, but they are only open for lunch on Fridays. That will be our other planned big "splurge" for the month.

Doings, Fingers Crossed for LM

March 4th, 2016 at 07:13 pm

As to tracking spending, I petered out in the end. I found I spent way too much time online last month tracking all the minutiae. I don't mind doing it once in a while, but maybe next time I should not do this during tax season.

& of course, we always track every penny we spend but it's usually just more automated and doesn't put me into the giant time suck of the internet.

I do think it's good to share the minutiae once in a while. The last time I tracked daily expenses was April 2012. I'd say things were pretty similar except gas was way pricey in 2012 and we probably spent a lot less on groceries.

Which reminds me, my 12yo grew 3 inches in the last 7 months. !! We usually measure every 6 months, but we were a month late this time. This might explain why our grocery budget has increased from $500 to $650 monthly, in the past year or so. & I mean usually if the cost of something goes up we can compensate by changing shopping habits, but we have failed miserably the past 12-18 months. I feel better knowing we are in the thick of it.

---------------------------------------------------

**I did pay the bills for the month and paid off all the February credit card charges on the 1st. Out of sight out of mind for another month.

**I went to my first free advanced movie screening on Monday. I was initially a little cranky with having to get there so early. But in the end it was so fun! We all went to see Zootopia. Since it was an animated movie I don't know if it just brought out the "children at heart" people or what, but it was a really fun crowd. We got decent seats and were able to all 4 sit together. We weren't counting on that part, so that was just a bonus. Dh did get there a little earlier to save up a place in line. The movie was good.

**I did also get tickets for Robot Wars. It's the highlight of our year. Except that we could not go the last two years! So I am super excited about that. Is the weekend before April 15th.

I bought tickets this week because they were on sale. I got 4 tickets for $100. In the past I have gotten 5 tickets for $100. But my dad probably doesn't want to go, so it's all the same in the end for us. (In the past the family deal was 5 tickets and we'd just treat my dad).

**In super exciting kind of news, tomorrow LM has an audition for a performing arts school in our school district.

Supposedly he gets some preference if he does well in the audition. Otherwise we are just stuck with the luck of the lottery. I am only feeling optimistic because he can get some edge on the lottery.

LM needs all the luck and positive vibes he can get!

February 25 & 26

February 27th, 2016 at 07:12 am

February 25:
$38 Game purchase for LM
Dinner: Masala Baked Indian Tofu with Turmeric Rice

I also got some more free tangerines from work.

So I guess LM is being a little spoiled this month!

The kids always buy computer games off of Humble Bundle:

https://www.humblebundle.com

In the book bundle this week they had some role playing game and LM is way into that. For $25 you'd get the game (which is what it sells for on Amazon) but you also get like 20 books that go with the game. Holy Cow! I was asking LM about it because I didn't even really see dh all week (he was at the movies). But though I was initially horrified by the amount of books when I saw them on the website, LM told me they were digital. Phew!

Yeah, I totally see why dh bought that for LM. He's been wanting to set up a D&D game night for his friends and this will give him some tools to get that started. It was an opportunity purchase.

Humble Bundle is a resource we use to save tons of money. Usually it's a $5 or so purchase for whatever they want. This larger purchase was unusual. Oh, and we usually just by electronic content. The catch on this was that the game was $25 but the shipping cost $13. In this case it was worth it. Most the time the kids spend $5 here and there with their own money.

----------------------------------------------------

February 26:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Spinach-Basil Lasagna

All our credit cards have closed for the month and I have March income and bills laid out accordingly (the bulk of our March spending is to pay off February charges). I am glad we got haircuts out of the way. This maybe the most non-Murphy month I ever remember having! So even with a little splurging, it's probably the lowest spend month we have had in a long time.

Accordingly, I thought it would be fine for us to all go to the movies this weekend, but dh remembered that LM's party coincided with the Sunday matinee. & I work Saturday. So we will just push that off one more week. (It's a movie that is only playing at another theater, and it's way too expensive for us all four to pay full price for).

I do know that we have grocery spending planned for this weekend. Not sure that we have any other spending planned. Since it's a new fiscal month for us I am open to whatever.

Edited to add: Dh told me plans were coming together with friends. He will be driving 100 miles round trip tomorrow. Closer friend offered to host a BBQ (which is unusual, so will see. I had presumed they would go out). He was asked to bring beer or produce. When discussing grocery plan for the week he said he was good for 4 dinners and thought he would just get a few groceries mid-week. I'd like to get some stuff for the work week but am not prepared for the last minute change up as I head out the door for a full work day. Maybe tonight he will know what he is to bring and I can make a short grocery list, and we can just run to the store together for a few things. Other friend is broke so dh just wanted to see what he wanted to bring and he will cover the rest. He'd just bring everything (both beer and produce) but you know, doesn't want to offend his friend. We leave a fair amount of "cooking for others" in our grocery budget. So we don't blink at this kind of stuff. Usually it's more that we cook for other people in our home.


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