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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.

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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.

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**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.

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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.

This Week, Lots of Movies

February 25th, 2016 at 08:41 am

February 22:
$2 Burger King
$10 gift card (gift)
Dinner: Tortellini

February 23:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Spaghetti Pie

February 24:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Southwest Vegetarian Bake

Monday was a bad food planning day. I had a bit of an upset tummy and all we had was spicy food in the fridge. So when perusing food to grab on the way to work none of it sounded very good. I just grabbed a quick lunch at Burger King.

Out of laziness, I did order a Target gift card online. I don't know if we will get it in time for the weekend. But when trying to talk LM into a more creative cash idea he told me he just wanted to roll up a $10 bill and tie it with a ribbon. So I suppose either way will save a trip to Target. We can just use the gift card for groceries next month, if we don't gift it.

Tuesday and Wednesday were no-spend days.

Dh got 4 free movie offers this week. Advanced Screenings. Two were on the same night, so he could only see 3. We also already have two movie nights lined up for next week. We are all going to one of the movies.

Since nothing came up last week, I think he kind of feels like he should just see them all and figure out the system. So far he has been able to get into everything by getting there one hour early. Even the more marketed and crowded ones. (Which pretty much means waiting outside 1/2 hour, sitting inside 1/2 hour, but not having any adverts or previews. We pretty much always go an hour early when we go to cheap movie nights, because they do get crowded. So it's not a big change from that except maybe standing outside a little longer than inside, with these free movie screenings). Whatever he went to yesterday was no line and wasn't crowded. For all we know there could be a dry week or two after that. So trying to get he hang of it. I am sure for the long run he will be more discerning. Plus pretty much all of these have been in our zip code, so what the heck. Nothing really lost if he showed up and the line was too long.

February 21, Monthly Summary

February 22nd, 2016 at 06:12 am

February 21:
$89 Groceries/Household
$14 Fuel for gas sipper ($1.84/gallon)
$17 Movies for 2 (LM's request)
$15 Girl Scout cookies ("gift" for niece)
$15 Birthday Gift for LM's bestie
Dinner: Salmon & Rice Pilaf

Salmon was on sale again this week so I made salmon last night for dinner. I looked up a new rice recipe. The kids could use the calories and they love fried rice or garlic butter rice (just rice with lots of butter and garlic!) But I know they ate junk all week (donuts, ice cream, eating out, etc.) and so made it more low key yesterday. I chose a rice pilaf recipe since I had all the ingredients on hand.

I did also make more pumpkin bread with leftover pumpkin. The pumpkin was a little iffy, so hopefully it turns out okay. (I Was going to make it last weekend but never got around to it).

I just consulted on birthday gifts with LM and he wanted to be a little silly. So we basically spent $15 on more of a gag gift. Will probably also pick up a $10 Target gift card to round out the gift. It is his best friend. (We just bought gift online, Amazon. Took about 5 minutes out of our day).

Edited to add: Gift already arrived, 9am this morning!

I did also just order a Target gift card online. We have free shipping with our Red Card. Will see if we get before next weekend. Would love to save a trip to Target this week. I was just thinking how nice it was to buy gifts online and how I could probably just get a gift card online too.

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It's appropriate to do a monthly summary at this point. We've never made big adjustments to our budget (try not to spend more money over time) and so kind of just subconsciously know our limits. I don't know that it's anything we overly think about. As things come up we know if we have the money for it.

But... Around the last week of the month I do sit down to pay bills and review. The reason is I have some bills due around the first of the month. & though the first is pay day for me, I don't have direct deposit. So I tend to just pay those bills with float and then pay the larger things when I actually get my check deposited. & with my bank's online bill pay I have to set these to pay a few days before they are due.

So, yesterday I set up to pay those bills. What I do is go through and enter all anticipated income and expenses in Quicken for the following month. & then I set up all the bills to be paid (which is just about $200 due on the first of the month). I won't pay off the credit cards until the month is over and I know the balance of this month's spending.

How I came out in Quicken was having -0- left for the rest of the month. (March 31 Quicken balance is -$0- once all February credit card charges are paid off). But that's not entirely accurate since our credit cards generally close on the 28th. Is more of a 28th-28th cycle and I just go with that. The calendar month tracking in my blog is not lining up with that completely. Pretty much my dining out card closes tomorrow and the gas/groceries and everything else card will close on Friday. So I pretty much have $0 until Friday. (They are closing earlier with the short month). But I also have enough float that I won't sweat it if anything comes up. Which is how we run it so tight and I say we never would have money left over at the end of the month. I have float to cover whatever random thing might come up before our credit card closes. I may have missed something, but for the moment it is literally breakeven/$0. It's just random that is where we are at.

& also, if we did have money left over at this point I'd probably make sure to take care of anything we had been putting off. If we had a little extra money left at the end of the month. Which is all the more reason we never have a surplus. There is always something.

Anyway, it's a pretty simple method to put everything into Quicken and see how much cash you have left once you pay off current credit card balances and all of next month's bills. I also put our monthly savings transfers into Quicken (pay ourselves first).

Since our credit card cycle will close in a few days, it looks like I will probably just be able to cover medical co-pay and birthday lunch with our monthly variable budget. I believe this is only the case because we had a REALLY easy month, and I am glad we got some spending out of the way in such an easy month (like haircuts and some extra trips to the movies, plus birthday lunch for Grandma). We did not have to feed our kids all week ($$$$ saved) and I don't remember the last time we spent so little on gas. ??? Never, since moving to our current city? Our gas spending included two out of town trips?!

Our monthly variable spending is $900 and our calendar month spending is $885 so far. On a calendar month basis we seem a little behind since we do have one more grocery run planned. But again, we have some float to cover that, so even if our credit cards were on a calendar month cycle I would just get groceries next weekend and not worry about it. I'd probably in that case pull $130 from short-term savings for medical co-pay and birthday lunch. We put aside extra money every month for bigger random expenses.

$900 monthly budget is generally $650 for groceries and $250 for everything else.

$885 spending 2/1 - 2/21:

$486 groceries
$ 76 fuel
$101 Eating out (includes birthday lunch)
$ 69 dh purchases
$ 12 moi purchases
$141 Other**

**Other is movies, haircuts, ebook, birthday gift, medical co-pay.

February 19 & 20

February 21st, 2016 at 05:56 am

February 19:
-0- Spending
Dinner: leftovers

Friday night I turned off work and everything and just had a quiet night at home.

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February 20:
$46 Lunch out for Grandma's Birthday
$14 Fuel for gas sipper ($1.69/gallon)
Dinner: Free dinner out

Saturday I completely blew off work, since we had plans to pick up the kids and celebrate GMIL's 91st birthday. (I will pay later...)

Taking Grandma out was priceless. We just went to a diner and she had a 20% off coupon. So we got off pretty easy. $46 for lunch. GMIL was over the moon to get us to herself.

We spent the rest of the day with dh's parents. They were pretty demanding, which is probably why we never give GMIL any time with just us and why she was so over the moon. I didn't mind going over to in-laws' house and thanking them for taking care of the kids, but they do live a bit out of the way. We ended up getting there later than expected and then dh got sucked into all their TV problems. (Lord forbid your TV is not set up right!) So we ended up staying pretty late. But we did get a free dinner out of it. Ordered some take out food.

We did see my parents for a bit too, since they had the kids and we initially picked them up from their house.

We did get gas on the way out. I forgot how little dh was driving without taking kids to school. So why he did not need gas any sooner though he did a lot of driving on Monday. We filled up the tank yesterday since we expected to drive 250 miles.

When we were at the gas station yesterday dh mentioned that we should have used up one of the 10-cent gas coupons we had piling up since he didn't have an empty tank. Our coupons have been piling up because some gas station down the street (that no one seems to know about) has been super competitive lately. We already pay "cheaper than Costco" prices at our grocery store, and so this gas station is even cheaper than that. Well, sometimes. Not this week. But when it is, our grocery coupons just pile up unused.

Anyway, I think it's good we used a "25-cent off per gallon" coupon yesterday because those are piling up too, and we did get 8 gallons. But I mentioned to dh today it would be nice if he got gas while he was at the grocery store. He can use a 10-cent off coupon and then we shouldn't need gas again until next month. We aren't really much into getting gas more often than we have to (we run the tanks to empty), BUT it is also kind of a PITA to get gas in the middle of the week any more, with him working. Thankfully he agreed. I spoke his language because he wants to use up some 10 cent coupons.

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SUNDAY

Dh will do the gas and grocery run for the week. If he wasn't working he would just wait a few days because we have enough food for the next few days. I realize we probably don't have the flexibility to save more money this month (because it's a short month, I mean). If he wasn't working he'd get groceries around Wednesday and we wouldn't need any more groceries until March. & is how we usually take advantage of a short month. Just realizing we don't really have that flexibility. Which is fine, because maybe don't need the flexibility so much with the extra income. IF we "needed" it we could certainly get groceries in the middle of the week. Just prefer not to.

As to other spending today...

LM decided he felt left out since he did not see the new Star Wars movie. (This was the peer pressure with spending the week with cousins, I guess). He was certainly invited before, on opening night, and he did not want to go then. Dh had already seen it a second time because he wanted to analyze it some more and try to see what everyone else was seeing in it. He didn't like it. But he is also obsessed with analyzing movies (& is also watching them in terms of pacing for his own movies and so on, so not just from an entertainment standpoint). I am sure he wouldn't mind picking it apart some more in terms of general film making. Or maybe he will choose to just sit back and just enjoy it. I nominated dh to take him. I said in a recent post that the kids buy their own crap and in general don't ask for much. So if the kid wants to see a movie we will take him. Especially since dh loves the movies so much and wants to get him to enjoy going to the movies. Is why he will drop everything to take him to the movies. I have not seen Star Wars but I already blew off all my chores this week and have a lot of catching up to do next week at work. & dh already dragged me to the movies this week. Just seems like a crazy time suck to me. If it was a slower time of year and I hadn't already spent hours watching movies/TV with dh already this week I'd probably just take him.

After movies and grocery spending I will see where we are at for the rest of the month. Dh wanted to take us all to some other movie today and I had already told him next week would be much better for me. I suppose financially I will see where we are at too. We can push that off another week if need be.

February 17 & 18

February 19th, 2016 at 06:41 am

February 17:
$11 Haircut (Dh)
$ 6 Pizza
Dinner: Smoky Chicken Enchilada Skillet

I've been craving pizza for a while so I caved Wednesday night. Personal Round Table Pizza. Dh does not really care for pizza. He was already making dinner when I discussed with him but I assured him I would appreciate leftovers for lunch. When I got home we did talk about the rest of the week and he told me he didn't want to eat out. So I think we don't plan to spend any money today or tomorrow (except maybe gas) but admittedly I have not asked dh what his plans are.

I have never been big on denying things I want. It's just much more reasonable to get a pizza when it's just me and I don't have to share with the kids. So I figured I would give in to the pizza lust. If the kids were here I might have just gotten pizza for lunch on a work day.

Dh got a haircut also. He needed one and had some extra time since he didn't have to rush to pick up kids after work. & he saw the new haircut place by grocery store had a sale.

We were planning to try to hit a free movie screening this week but the offers dried up. I guess the last few weeks there were just a lot. That said, we did both receive offers to a movie where they wanted parents to bring their teens. My 12yo could certainly pass for 13 (or 15), but of course we get one of those offers when we don't have kids to take along. We were more hoping for a free date night. Especially since we are more reluctant to take advantage of these when we do have the kids. Going to the movies is one thing, but you have to go wait in line early for these and don't really want to ditch the kids all evening.

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February 18:
-0- Spending
Dinner: leftovers

We didn't spend any money Thursday but I committed to buy some girl scout cookies from my niece.

The problem these days is grandparents. When you have newborns and your husband loses his job you just go with it. We've been asked to never buy anything for any of our nieces and nephews. We didn't have any money anyway, so sounded fine with us, early on. I know my in-laws are over the top, but my parents respond by pretty much doing nothing for my kids. (To-date it's absolutely never been brought up by my kids. I honestly think their impression is just that their other grandparents are over the top. They understand that is not normal, but they maybe don't realize that it's not normal that no one else feels like they can buy them anything). So, this is my family. BUT... All the nieces and nephews have two sets of grandparents who spoil them like crazy. In turn, we've been asked never to buy anything for them. I am appreciating over time how it's only one-sided for us. Thankfully my kids aren't getting two mountains of gifts for every occasion.

So when my niece asked us to buy some girl scout cookies, I was super excited to help out in some way.

Oh, and LM's best friend is having a birthday party next weekend. So we will buying a gift before then.

February 15 & 16

February 17th, 2016 at 07:03 am

February 15:
$11 Groceries (Target)
$ 7 Groceries (valentines candy clearance)
$16 Lunch out (w/co-workers)
$11 Ebook purchase
Dinner: Cashew Chicken

I'd probably put the ebook purchase as an allowance item for dh. (& I don't even remember the last time he paid for an ebook. ???). But he told me it was for the kids. They are way into some series that just had a new release yesterday. This is why I usually put this stuff in the allowance pile. I don't understand *at all*. So you can't just wait until it is at the library?? Ugh! I do know that the kids are enjoying this series so will just put under the "kid" category. We rarely buy them anything. They save up to buy most things with their own money.

Dh used up our Target gift card. Since he had the day off work and needed some cashews for his recipe he went and did a $31 grocery run. $11 after gift card. I had asked him to check out the reeses valentine candy on clearance. But he told me it was only 30% off and it had already been picked over.

Which is fine since I ran by the grocery store and got a couple of bags of candy, 50% off, on the way to work. I thought maybe I didn't get a discount on one bag but it turns out the Reeses hearts are just crazy expensive. Dh was going to price them at Target for me, just out of curiosity, but nothing good was left when he went to Target after lunch.

Dh did drive the kids half way to drop them off with his parents and I think his dad treated dh and the kids to lunch.

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February 16:
$29 Fuel for gas guzzler ($1.73 per gallon)
$ 7 Movie Theater
Dinner: Citrus Chicken

With the kids gone we decided to take advantage and have a date night. We used the last of our movie theater gift card. We went last night because it was $5 movie night at our local theater.

I don't know that we expect to spend any money during the rest of the work week. Except dh may need to refuel at some point since he drove so many miles on Monday. There are loose talks of going out to dinner one night with the kids gone, but I am kind of over all the eating out. We plan to be out all day Saturday also. Dh has not eaten out half as much as me this month so I will just leave it up to him. Whatever he wants.

The kids are having a blast with their cousins and grandparents. (Cousins just happened to have the same week off of school). Monday it was so crazy warm that they went swimming. There is a storm rolling in today and so my dad made sure to take them on a hike yesterday while the weather was still nice. I don't know what else they have planned this week.

I don't know that we usually eat such varied dinners, but it seems that we have been finding a lot of good recipes lately. The Korean Beef Bowl that I made earlier in the month is a recipe that I found recently that takes about 10 minutes to make. So it's a nice addition to my "quick meal" repertoire. Citrus chicken is an old favorite that doesn't make any leftovers when the kids are here. So it was a nice one to make for just the two of us. We did try a couple of new recipes this month. I find it hard to believe that we will repeat anything we have already made, this month (except tofu which I left out/ruined and dh wanted to make again).

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.

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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).

February 12 & 13, Valentines Day

February 14th, 2016 at 06:46 am

February 12:
$5 Groceries
$3 Lunch Out (moi)
Dinner: Spicy tofu w/coconut rice

The 12th was a day of inefficiency. Ugh!

I was just not feeling the leftovers I had at work and noticed I had run out of chicken nuggets (frozen) - which is my backup food and the only frozen food I can really stomach. I was just not feeling the food that day and ran to Taco Bell for a $3 lunch. While working 6 days a week I generally allow one day per week out but I had already eaten out once this week so I was disappointed in my planning.

Then dh asks me to pick up green onions on the way home. At least it's on the way! I believe he mentioned that he needed those Wednesday but he forgot while at the store. Very unlike him, but I will file this away under "adjusting to working". It was kind of a hectic week and this extra grocery trip shows that.

Oh, and of course while I was at the store I picked up donuts! Big Grin I maybe resisted the last 2 or 3 times I had to run to the store for dh but I only have so much willpower. Yeesh!

To sign off on an inefficient day, dh made that tofu recipe again. Since I accidentally wasted most the last batch, it just reminds me of inefficiency early in the month.

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February 13:
$45 dh allowance purchase
Dinner: Taco Rice Salad

I think dh made this dinner (BM's fave) because LM was in such a salad mood all week. It figured that LM refused to eat this dinner. He might be open to leftover salad for lunch. He was just kind of over it yesterday.

Inefficiency carried over into this day in that we had absolutely no salsa in the house. ??? We just made do. It worked, but the salad was not as good as usual. I will chalk that one up to a crazy busy week.

Dh ended up spending $45 on some annual video subscription to his favorite podcast. Is generally not anything he would waste his money on and he accordingly had to beat himself up all over it. It's early in the year and so I really don't give a flip. He's only spent $100 this year, which is within reason with our "$600 per year no questions asked" allowance spending, which works out to about $50 per month. I do think it's probably something he would not have done if he wasn't working. But is all the more reason why I don't care.

On the 13th I worked most of the day and finally had some time to read when I got home.

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

As to Valentines Day, we don't celebrate in the slightest. Though I may stop by the store tomorrow to see if I can get some candy at a discount. I was craving some chocolate/peanut butter the other day but figured I should wait until the post Holiday sales.

7th grade did not do anything for Valentines. 5th grade had a party but LM wasn't interested at all. I decided to purge all our valentines yesterday since I doubt 5th grader would change his mind next year. I couldn't find any so it looks like maybe he didn't participate last year and I already did that purge.

Today dh plans to do a weekly grocery run. That's the only spending I am aware of. I may run to Kohls if they have a sale today. I have just been waiting for a sale because I have some credits to use up, and I could always use some nicer tops for client meetings this time of year. I have more time today since will be working tomorrow.

February 10 & 11

February 13th, 2016 at 07:28 am

February 11:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Free Dinner Adults/leftovers for kids

February 10:
$15 Groceries
$19 Fuel for gas sipper ($1.75/gallon)
Dinner: Crockpot Tater Tot Casserole

On the 10th the kids had a short day and I drove them home during lunch hour. LM wanted a salad for lunch (finishing off all our lettuce) and BM was complaining that we had no white bread. I told them I'd go to the store on my way home later in the day. Wednesday is generally dh's errand day since the kids are covered, but since he had a meeting at the school I didn't expect him to run errands. In the end he picked up wheat bread, but at least he told me before I went to the store for bread also. BM will have to live with wheat bread for a while.

We stopped for groceries and gas after the science fair that night. Dh picked up a can of beans (for some recipe) and some produce while I put fuel in the car. In the end we didn't need any lettuce because dh mentioned the giant napa cabbage in the fridge was just leftovers from some recipe last week. I'll use that for salad while LM is on a salad kick.

Oh, and I got some free tangerines at work, fresh off someone's tree.

On the 11th we had dh's volunteer appreciation dinner at the public TV station. They always put on a great party with good food and everything. So we just fed the kids some leftovers before we went out.

Dh won a $25 gift card in a raffle and plans to just give it to his dad as a belated birthday gift, this weekend. (His sister planned some gift they went in together for, but dh was not enthralled with her gift plan. Wasn't something he thought his dad would actually enjoy. This is something he will enjoy).

We did also score two free re-usable bags. We put a second bag in each car. That was a very nice and useful gift.

Dh told me that his weekend plans fell through. He also told me that he wanted to go see his Grandma for her 91st birthday. I was initially more like, "Have fun!" But after discussing it a bit I might try to go along. Will leave it as a maybe, for now. I did tell him he needed to just take his Grandma out without his mother or anyone else tagging along. He agreed. I know that is something she really would enjoy. So we have tentative plans to go all the way to the Bay Area to pick up the kids at the end of the next week. Maybe we can take Grandma out after we get the kids, on the way home. Might as well take advantage of low gas prices.

February 8 & 9

February 10th, 2016 at 08:39 am

February 9:
-0- Spending
Dinner: Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

February 8:
$12 lunch out w/friend
$ 7 movie (dh allowance purchase, for his movie collection)*
Dinner: Korean Beef Bowl & Roasted Cauliflower

*Did I ever mention that my dh likes movies? Big Grin

My lunch out (Chinese) created 2 days of lunch leftovers. I might take the 2nd day of leftovers home today for dh or the kids.

We were all hoping to go to a free advanced movie screening last night but we never got an invite. Still figuring how this website works. (We've pretty much gotten invites to everything else that has been publicized). It was never a given that we'd all get in anyway, so I just looked forward to reading instead. But dh bombarded me with TV instead. We had some movie to watch that he told me expired in a few days. (A rental? I had not realized it was going to expire). So I caved since we had planned to go to the movies otherwise. We watched "All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records". I was initially feeling pretty bummed because my dad used to take me to Tower records every weekend. Is where I spent most my money as a kid. IT's how and where I learned to manage my money. (For our kids, it's apps and video games). Kind of a sad nostalgia for me, that it's all gone now. But in the end the movie was really pretty interesting and summed up a lot of what we learned in business school. Tower Records does still live on in Japan. That part I like!

We also started watching the Eugene Mirman comedy special on Netflix. I think he is now my favorite comedian. !! Definitely a good TV night. (We didn't finish the special since it was getting late, but will probably have time tonight).

Today I am not planning to spend money. Dh has a meeting with the school and then it's Science Fair night for the middle school. I think it's a "too busy to spend" kind of day and dh planned a crockpot meal.

Edited to add: Might do a grocery run today. LM has discovered "salad" and ate all of our salad. & we could probably use some bread for school lunches.

February 7

February 8th, 2016 at 06:41 am

February 7:
$135 Groceries/Household
$ 30 Haircuts (x2)
$ 2 Amazon (TV show streaming)
$ 17 Movie (Dh allowance purchase)
Dinner: Chicken Satay & Brussel Sprouts

I mostly thought February was pretty boring and we didn't have much planned. But... This week is kind of crazy! Just a lot of stuff going on.

I was also thinking that we may have the lowest gas spend month ever. We had no plans to go out of town, coupled with low gas prices. But I was wrong. Dh mentioned yesterday they were nailing down next weekend as an "out of town getting together with friends" date. (They had been planning this weekend but the Superbowl was local and they decided it was best to try another weekend). Also, since time is flying by lightning fast, we hadn't even realized the kids have a week off next week. I mean, we knew, but we didn't realize it was here already. Initially his work said they were cool with dh just taking that week off. But his mom asked if the kids had the week off and she wanted to take them. So anyway, dh and I went for a walk yesterday when we discussed this and I was wondering if he could kill two birds with one stone as to all this driving. There is a slight possibility that dh can meet his friends and parents around the halfway mark. If he meets closer to home with his friends I guess it doesn't matter so much. They have not decided where to meet, but the others live more around the halfway point. Either way we will probably only drive half way to drop off kids, but will also have to do the same to get them back, eventually.

Oh, and while the kids are gone dh wants to go to the movies. We do have a movie gift card and I have a restaurant gift card so maybe we will make use of that with the free babysitting next week.

Today I plan to spend money because I am meeting a friend for lunch.

February 6

February 7th, 2016 at 08:44 am

February 6:
-0- Spending
Dinner: leftovers

Saturday I worked all day. Dh did not make it to the grocery store.

Maybe for the best since we can combine our errands today. There is a new haircut place by the grocery store. Since BM and I both have *lots of hair* I have the feeling dh will be waiting for us. I was surprised he was open to combining this errand, accordingly. But saves us some gas in the end. We usually aren't quite this efficient.

I gave up on the two books that I was reading because they were so terrible. This does not happen much. I am pretty easy to please. That and I usually feel obligated to see a book through. With the internet, not so much. If I am agreeing with the comments about how terrible the first half of the book was, and the people who read the whole thing said it didn't get any better... I guess these days I am more willing to abandon a book that I am not getting into. But I did take some time today to refill my kindle with library e-books.

I'll catch up on some housework today but mostly plan to veg out and read.

The weather is gorgeous and I will also make sure to get a walk in today.

ccfree's post reminds me than dh and the kids watched a free movie rental last night. I wasn't up to it.

The Turkeys are Out

February 6th, 2016 at 08:16 am



I saw 20-30 turkeys while driving into work today. These guys were keeping the cars in check.

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February 5:
-0- Spending
Dinner: hobo dinner (crockpot meatloaf + potatoes)

Planned spending for the weekend:
Saturday - weekly groceries
Sunday - haircuts

BM agreed to a haircut, which happens never, so I will drag him along with me.

February 4

February 5th, 2016 at 06:40 am

February 4:
$7 Groceries
Dinner: crockpot pepper steak, pasta/sauce

Did another grocery run yesterday. I didn't realize until I got home from grocery store (the prior night) that I wasn't enthralled with dinner situation for the 4th. In the end dh picked up some hamburger and tomato sauce for me (when picking up kids from school). LM and I ate pasta with a meat and tomato sauce. I have started making double batches of this dish (recently) and some of my thinking was I needed some different leftovers for the next few days.

The plus side: Everything we picked up the past 2 days was on sale. Sometimes we just get lucky like that!

Last night dh and BM went to a free advanced screening of Deadpool. Though people had lined up since noon, they squeaked by having gotten there just one hour before the movie started. They weren't really expecting to get in but figured they would try. Movies seem to be on average about once a week (in our region). But this is the first "big" film they tried. IT was in our neighborhood which was the other reason they figured they would at least try. Didn't drive too far out of the way.

My dh was over the moon. Though overall a VERY patient man, he *has to* see movies the day they come out, often times. Which is why he waited in line all day to see Star Wars. I don't know what it is. Now he can see them EARLY and FREE! It will be like Christmas all the time for him.

I do expect that today will be no-spend.

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

In other news, dh got paid. I don't know the lead time for his company when it comes to changing 401k elections. So I figured I'd just wait for his check and then change it, hopefully for next payday. The max he can do is 50% of income. I thought I'd just do a Target Date retirement fund, which is what I do for all of dh's retirement because he isn't much into doing more than that. I keep it simple for him. But when skimming the options I was not as thrilled with the Target date funds. I decided to go more aggressive since this is just extra retirement money at this point. But didn't really like the stock mix of the longer term retirement funds. But I noticed a general stock market index with a 0.04% expense ratio and is a good fund we would not have access to otherwise. (Vanguard, of course). So I just went with that. I expect he may put in $5k this year and maybe a little bit next year. Which may end up being like 2% of our investments. Which is another reason I don't mind going more aggressive with this small sum.

To celebrate changing his 401k election to 50%, his work place was so slow that they sent him home for the rest of the week. & he already took Monday off (which they encouraged him to do expecting a slow week). So I guess this will be a pretty piddly 401k contribution, for this week.


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