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FUN STUFF

April 15th, 2018 at 09:32 am

I did two posts of work updates. I am ready to look forward and to talk about something else!

I kind of have no idea where we stand financially. We are definitely in "too busy to spend money" mode and in the usual "hoarding money" zone that we start every year off with. Usually MH's work is more slow in the spring but he's been busy.

Anyway, I usually eat out a bit more during my busy work season. Not a ton, but I figure if I go out one day per week it's covered by OT. Except in this case I am working more hours than ever but I am not getting compensated for the extra time. So that is the part I don't really know and am not sure of. I guess next weekend I can sort out April and see where we are at. I told MH that I don't think I have been spending any more money than usual, but it's just I am not entirely sure how to pay for the "Stress spending." If it will come out of his paycheck, or savings, or what.

In addition, I have been indulging in some bigger splurges. Definitely a feeling of "I deserve this," after months of working so hard. In this case, we don't have any vacation plans, and so might start tapping the vacation fund. It would be our "normal" to use it for treats that we can't otherwise justify, or more staycation-y type stuff. Our traveling the last few years has been unusual for us.

Splurges:

--I got front row seats to the symphony in a couple of weekends. Just DL and I are going. That was crazy expensive. If we have a great time and want to go back again in the future, we don't have to sit so close next time. Definitely a special treat.

--Robogames (robot battles) is in a couple of weekends. This is my absolutely favorite thing. It is SO FUN! So I am very excited about that. I thought we'd bring some friends and this might get expensive (if we are covering driving, lunch, dinner, tickets). But it looks like it will just be the four of us. Regardless, it will be pricey but I will pull from vacation budget or MH's paycheck. Is probably only $100 for tickets, but last time we bought some beer and food there, and we will probably want to go out for a meal or two that day.

--I got tix to see the Beach Boys in September at an awesome venue. There is a winery in the Bay Area that I've seen some great concerts at. It's maybe been 5+ years (10 years?) since we have seen any shows there. The lineup hasn't been that exciting the last couple of years that we checked. This year!? OMG! So many good shows. MH was "meh" on all the weeknight shows. Having no idea what is going on with my job, I agreed we should just stick to weekends. This left Steve Martin/Martin Short (which sold out in like 5 seconds) and the Beach Boys. I am glad I was able to get the Beach Boy tickets for the whole family.

I've also got piles of dining out gift cards to get through. Was thinking that DL and I might go to P.F. Chang's before the symphony.

I still owe my dad his birthday dinner at Benihana. We had plans in January, but the restaurant shut down that day and canceled our reservation due to "technical difficulties." Seriously! Maybe we can try again during the next few weeks. (I have gift cards for this).

It's good to have some fun stuff to look forward to.

My New Employer

April 15th, 2018 at 07:53 am

I am kind of working my way backwards through these posts, as I get everyone up to speed. This one is very SA relevant. I still want to go back and give more details on my job upheaval, but at this point I'd rather fill you in on what is going on in the here and now. When I have more time I can work backwards and fill you in.

The short version: Employer was ill: couldn't work, sold business.

I think new employer is honestly trying to be helpful by not telling us anything. They have hired on old employer for 2 years(?) which is just making everything more awkward because he has completely checked out. So is creating a vacuum of no leadership or communication. I touched on this in my last post about how unbearable this all is. But I really and truly think the situation is unique and awkward and that the new employer thinks that they are being helpful.

On the other hand, first impressions have been pretty dismal. & really, is it ever not awkward? It's got to be awkward to keep working as someone else takes over your *baby*. So, I don't know.

I honestly had no idea who was going to write my paycheck on April 1. We knew NOTHING except were told at some point (mid March) that the sale had gone through.

I'd say that around April 5 we were given HR paperwork and it came up that old employer needs to pay out PTO (which they have yet to do) through February 1. February 1 was when they decided to sell the business to this company.

This is the point when I was given direct contact with new employer. Since I have a million questions, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I am frustrated they couldn't even give us a single HR type handout?? I don't understand. They know we are busy and don't want to bother us. But this doesn't mean they can't communicate in some non time-intrusive way. So anyway, when given direct contact, and being told my PTO started with them February 1, I thought at the LEAST I wanted to know what my compensation was at the moment and how much PTO I was earning for the prior 2 months. My "new boss" (for lack of a better idea what to call her) told me that they use our hire dates with old employer and that I was accruing 4 weeks of vacation. She actually sent this e-mail to me on my worst day when I completely checked out. At first I thought, "Holy crap!" Was not expecting that. I had 3 weeks time off before, because have been here forever. But later I realized that had to include sick pay and wasn't that exciting in the end. But, will admit was better than I expected. Which is some of my feeling endlessly conflicted. Every time I am ready to quit, then I'll get some good news like this.

Anyway, this is the perfect example of our communication issues. I just want to know WTH I am being paid and compensated. But since getting all this info, I Decided to take a week off in May. I just need it for my sanity. She did tell us we can take unpaid time off for already planned vacations, and because we are getting our old PTO paid out. Which is why my other co-worker is super excited. She was part-time for 10 of 15 years and only has 2 weeks vacation, and she would gladly take unpaid off. So she is super stoked at the minute. She maybe had like 4 or 5 weeks of vacations planned this year. So she has something planned in a couple of weeks and wanted to make sure it was approved through proper channels. So she also asked about it and received info about the PTO process. Then our awesome admin asked (also trying to plan a trip) and she was given the full PTO/sick policy. This PTO is in addition to sick pay. I was not expecting that!

So we all three pretty much asked the same thing and got 3 different answers. & why on earth would you send an entire policy to one employee without giving it to everyone?

But yeah, you have to understand we haven't had a single day off since January 1. So, that is why we all have pressing PTO concerns. For me, it was more of a compensation question. I guess there are multiple reasons.

Old boss has yet to pay out PTO, and I've been too busy to even remember about that. But Monday (4/16) is our old payday and I expect we will probably be paid at that time. I did decide to take a week off in May, unpaid. I just need it for my sanity. I think I made that decision before realizing that I also get sick pay, but whatever. When I almost applied for that job last week I was kind of bummed if I got it I didn't see any way I could take any time off in between. So this is kind of my "unpaid week off in case I don't end up with any unpaid time off between jobs." In addition to just being generally long overdue for a break. & I will get the check to cover it (I am due about 40 hours of PTO from old employer).

We were also told at that time that the new employer pays the 22nd and the 7th of every month, or one week later than usual. So I otherwise won't get paid Monday. How do I feel about this? *shrugs* I am just thankful that they don't pay every two weeks. I don't think my accounting brain could handle reconciling being paid bi-weekly with all the monthly bills. It would drive me INSANE. So I am good and fine and happy.

I was planning to transfer about $5,000 into savings on Monday, the result of all this cash hoarding. In the end, I think this probably works out better for me (for the long run). I pay all my bills around the first of the month, which is usually when I get paid. Anyway, I used my 4/1 paycheck to pay bills and my plan is to use the 4/22 paycheck to pay my 5/1 bills. Then I will do all savings transfers with the 5/7 paycheck. Switching that around, and not being paid for an entire week, puts me a bit behind on my cash hoarding schedule. But, in the grand scheme of things this doesn't affect us whatsoever.

{In addition to that, I pay all my bills more when I get them than when they are due, so I would have a large buffer and could delay paying all these bills for 2-3 weeks if need be. I mostly charge everything and like to pay the cards off the first of the month so that we literally start each new month with no debt. I decided at some point to do this versus putting more cash in our emergency fund. I presume this is largely playing into my *shrugs* feeling about all of this. Essentially saving my second paycheck every month is also a lot of it. The combo of the two means I am not sweating any of this in the slightest. I also pay my mortgage one month ahead, for the same reason. It's all a built-in buffer for when life happens. This is a 4-6 week "emergency fund" in itself.}

This is a bigger company and so I was sure we would get direct deposit. WRONG! That is one thing I am disappointed about.

I am guessing we will receive some more communication before the end of April.

There was a class (one day seminar) I wanted to take in May. I have no idea if the class will be reimbursed, or I will be paid for the time out of the office. It's stuff like this I still know nothing about. I will take the class regardless.

Surviving

April 15th, 2018 at 06:01 am

The Black Cloud still remains at work. It is so beyond ridiculous that I wouldn't even know where to begin. Everyone but me seems to be in the middle of a full on crisis. & the bombs keep dropping.

Surprisingly enough, the work side of things is going pretty well. I anticipated infinite more problems. A lot of my fear (besides the sheer insanity of the workload) was spurred by having a rough tax season last year and clients NOT being understanding at all. In this case, clients have been TOO understanding. I am not aware of losing even a single client. ??? But it's been okay if they are being super understanding in the interim. & I do expect that some of these clients will move on next year, which might things more bearable. I understand why people told at the very last minute just stayed, but doesn't mean they will be back next year.

We will "Survive" though no doubt my customer service and quality of work has decreased. It's at an okay level, that I can probably live with, but would not be happy for the long run. I have no one to hand off any busy work to. Our admin was told by a doctor last weekend she should be home on bed rest for the week. She came in to work because she knew the place would fall apart without her. The workaholic in my office is super human and I have no idea how he did all the work he did. None of this is sustainable. & it's a horrible first impression re: new employer.
My old employer would have never done this to us.

But...Everything on the work side has gone pretty smooth. Phew! Lord forbid if any of our clients had any complex tax issues though. We just wouldn't have had the time to deal with it.

I haven't quit yet because I'd say most tax offices have far worse hours than I've dealt with this year. I don't mind taking my time and finding the right fit, but I doubt I Will be happy with the hours in any similar type firm. For now, I am just waiting it out. If we go back to 9-5 the rest of the year, and next year we have more of a plan and is a little less chaos, may be worth staying (more short term). Just don't know. I am job searching but am not considering similar jobs at the moment because of the hours. If my only complaint is the hours, it's realistically just going to be worse anywhere else.

As to all of the work to cover for my old boss, it was surprisingly clean and easy, and it's all DONE. As I come up on tax deadline (April 17th this year) I am just dealing with my usual flakes. I am relieved not to have any new clients in my "last minute flake" list.

What's been bad at work has been the (lack of) communication and leadership. Unbearable, really. I almost applied for a job last week. Looking back, I worked almost 70 hours this past week and no idea how I would have done it (a job interview). It's for the best that I put a pin on that. If I want to get out I really need to be more prepared when I do apply. But I had just had ENOUGH one day the prior week. I think I've been clear all along that I know this is how it ends. But I came to some 100% certainty last week that I can't keep this job.

What's making it worse is that our lowest level employee thinks she is in charge now. ??? We all ignore her, but unfortunately she keeps bossing around our awesome admin. I don't know WTF is wrong with her. Yeah, great, drive away all the awesome employees. Just what we need! But if she is kind of sort of her superior then it makes it more awkward for the admin. I talked to our awesome admin earlier this week and she was just DONE! She was in the exact head space I was the week prior. I think all else being equal she would have resigned April 1 or will resign tomorrow, but her husband just had some big life changes and wants her to find a higher paying job. Just to say her ability to just quit, has suddenly changed, financially. But she is going to end up in the hospital if she doesn't take care of herself.

MH thinks that lowest level employee is just trying to make herself relevant. Not really sure what she does and she seems more useless than usual this year. I think she's been doing a lot of work with the changeover. This is actually some of my zen as we approach April 15th, because anything important that I needed done, I routed around this person. (She keeps letting tax returns pile up in her office for days, which is driving everyone CRAZY. She's always been this way, but you know, yesterday was April 14th!). So yesterday I heard a lot of, "Where the F is the tax return I finished 10 days ago?!" going around the office. I even looked through her pile to see if any of my clients got caught up in it and none of them were mine. Phew! Glad I anticipated and worked around that mess.

I wouldn't even know where to begin, in her attempts to be "helpful". It's all the complete opposite of helpful.

In the end, my other co-worker (we are a package deal at this point) is feeling pretty optimistic and she talked me off the ledge. I am going to document my concerns though because I want to be clear and don't want to forget anything if anyone ever asks me for my input. I think the writing is clearly on the wall. But if this co-worker is positive and workaholic is super human, I can take the excellent paycheck while I figure out my next steps. I may have a good 7 months to take my time with the job search.

I feel endlessly conflicted because this was my "dream job" before. Of course it would be best and good to wait and give new employer a chance, but all first impressions have been horrible. That ship has sailed. Instead, I am just sticking around for the paycheck while I figure out my next job.

My plan for now is to switch to 9-5 mode on May 1. I have too much deadline work to get through the next two weeks. But after that, I am just putting in the bare minimum. I will also be very seriously job searching. It seems that it will take time to find something that pays so well, but if I do find something where the work/pay/hours look good, I am definitely willing to jump at this point.

{Note: Old employer only worked about 3 months of the year, and so we don't have to shoulder his workload the rest of the year. That part is done, to be clear}.

Mentally, I checked out last week. & I can walk away mid May, tying up most loose ends. So I am ready to apply for jobs.

I do also have a week off planned in May, which is good for my sanity. More on that in my next post.

Updates

March 26th, 2018 at 06:26 am

Work is still insane and covered by a black cloud. The latest is that on top of 1/2 my (very small) office being very ill or recently out on bereavement, now someone else's spouse has a brain tumor. The odds of that have to be unreal. (We did also lose an employee to brain cancer around the same time my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor).

Work situation is still the same. I know less than nothing.

--Employer has a health diagnosis and is being open about the situation with clients. *phew* I can share, but it's just another post for another day.

--I was wise not to hold my breath about sale of business. It did go through but it dragged on forever. Heard a rumor at some point it was falling through.

--In the end, the sale was complete about 9 days ago. Saying that I know "less than nothing" sums it up. I know the name of the company, and I know they don't pay OT. This was the extent of what I was told 2 months ago (& the OT, only because I asked about that specifically. & let's be clear, it's not like none of us have asked any questions since then). The only new news is that it's official they don't intend to hire anyone to help us. Though my old employer did *most* the individual (seasonal) tax work (& has been unable to work at all). We completely lack leadership or communication. I suppose the "plan" is to just pile up tax forms being mailed in and not do them and not tell clients we don't have the manpower? That seems to be the extent of the plan. We covered all the in-person appointments and had been told to this point we'd get a temp. (At the time that was first mentioned, 2 months ago, I thought that sounded like a joke. A 60-day temp to do all this work? So it just gets more ridiculous as time goes on).

--I am feeling more and more likely that I just walk out with no notice. I just don't know if I walk out when the angry clients start to mob us, when someone else quits, or when I am told I need to be working 100 hours per week. Probably some combo of all of the above. The other good employees are all on the verge of walking out.

I thought it was reasonable to wait and see with new employer, but first impressions are pretty dismal. I think it's pretty clear I never expected much more. & that was with *any* new employer, but this situation had seemed more promising. I decided this weekend that my job search should probably take precedent over keeping this job. It's moot as I wouldn't have had any time whatsoever to job search the past 2 months. But I am wrapping up my old employer's client meetings this week and at least I have time in my day if an interesting job pops up. I will start perusing job listings. I did look some in Jan/Feb but it was way too premature to walk out at that point. At this point, I am ready to start applying for other jobs. I wanted to give the new employer more than 9 days, but they need to throw us a bone.

I really don't even want to talk to about work, but that catches you up to speed.

I was going to post more but I've run out of time.

Craziness All Around

March 4th, 2018 at 06:01 am

This was our neighborhood on Monday:



For reference, I don't even own an ice scraper. So this was random, and completely terrifying to drive in. (That is all hail and ice).

I guess this pretty much sums up work too. It's hard to imagine it getting any more ridiculous. We only have 6 people. My employer carries the entire individual tax practice (er, carried) but is unable to work. This is why my workload is completely absurd right now. Another employee suddenly lost a parent and is out on leave. Another one will lose her parent any day (she's been out dealing with her mom's health issues). It would be almost comical if it wasn't all death and illness.

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I've been sick all of the past week. Probably the flu. No one in my house particularly gets sick, so to be sick for so long is a LOT. I am sure I have been under a wee bit of extra stress. I won't do anything but sleep today (I am mostly over it, but have a BIG week/month to rest up for).

My calendar had filled up last week but I had to skip pretty much everything. We had won tickets to a basketball game at the "new" arena (I haven't seen it yet). Generally not our thing, but the tickets were in a suite and we hadn't been to the newer arena, so we had wanted to go. In the end, we didn't go because I Was not up to it. So that was a bummer. Lord knows I could use a change in scenery.

The one thing I made it out to was an information night put on by the group that is conducting the autism study that MM is participating in. They served some amazing food and the whole thing was really interesting. They are about 2 years into a 5-year study. They were saying that a problem with a lot of the studies is they pull from very specific populations (like mostly choosing their participants from hospitals where people come in because they need more intervention). This is a large study, in contrast, with a more general sample size. In the end, they are finding that a lot of past study findings (smaller studies) are not statistically significant given the size and population of their study. They are also using brain imaging on the participants, with a general goal to see how brain development occurs in the normal population versus the autistic population. They have not taken their second data points yet, so they haven't made much progress yet on that part of the study, but they are already noticing distinct differences in brain function between the autistic and control groups. It is exciting to hear that they are already learning so much in the process. They did mention that they were collecting so much data that it could be used in future studies as well.

Financially, not much to report. Funneling everything into cash right now. Should know more in March or April. I already paid all the bills the first of the month (per usual) and so don't have to think about anything financial for another month. I guess the exception is I have to finish funding our IRAs for 2017. Will do so next pay day.

Updates

February 21st, 2018 at 06:10 am

I know more on the work front, though not much. The business is being sold. As is, job/salary will remain. Will I still want the job, is another question. I always presumed NO. But as MH is still figuring out his next phase, it might be worth sticking around and seeing what happens. The latest means that we can probably stick with initial 18-month timeline for MH to figure out his job situation. Phew! I am not holding my breath about anything, for now. Sale has to go through first. Things will probably remain relatively unchanged for the next year or so, if it does go through. The goal is a very slow transition. Would probably stay at the same location for a year (I believe they are signing a one year lease). The location is a dream as to commute but otherwise is HORRIBLE. So I have mixed feelings about that. I'd be happy if the first change was a new location, but I also realize that even if most any change would be closer to my home (less miles) it would also most likely be a worse/nightmare commute. This is just one of my infinite concerns and why I don't see high odds of sticking around.

The only thing I've gleamed is that the new company does not pay OT. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. They have a different bonus structure. (No idea what that bonus structure is, for now). On the flip side, our hours are literally in the bottom 1% of the industry. So I expect nothing but more hours. & if I am not getting paid for those hours... Will see.

{I did ask about OT specifically, pre-sale, because last year was CRAZED. For completely non-related reasons. & so I'd usually not have much OT racked up at this point in the year, but I was owed a lot. I inquired and employer already paid me OT through February 1. Unfortunately, in the meantime we have been asked to take on tons of extra work and I know I am no longer being paid for my time. But I also expect new company to have a lot of incentive to keep existing employees, so am just waiting to see what happens. I don't mind the job security in the interim. Tax season is already halfway over. So just another 2 months of craziness. Things should normalize after that. I don't generally work any OT May through November}.

There is still huge crap show potential, beyond anything I mentioned. I have not ruled out quitting in frustration in the interim. I think it's probably most wise to stick it out and see what happens. But I have to survive the atomic bomb that's been dropped in my office in the interim.

In the meantime, MH prefers to look for work while he can be very choosy and doesn't have tons of pressure being put on him. I don't know that he's looked much in the past couple of weeks, but my work is so crazed. I think it's more sensible to wait until April or May to more seriously pound the pavement. (I want to seriously consider all my options, but can't realistically look for any work until May. So my job searching is on hold for now).

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Financially...

We have enough reserves to have no income for 12 months. So I don't have any short-term concerns. If I have to quit tomorrow for my sanity, I would quit. Honestly, I appreciate being the type of person who would pause and feels like we don't have enough reserves. I can recognize that having too much FU money isn't ideal in a situation like this. I am conservative enough I want to see it through and realize I can survive a few months of temporary insanity. If MH had a job, I think I would just quit, and I don't know if that is really the best long-term solution. So I am appreciating my financial motivations to stay.

I have been hoarding cash ~ we are up $5,000 since January 1. Will be another $5k-ish by May now that MH is back at work (his current very part time job).

On the job search front, I'd like to talk to recruiters and get real offers in hand. My first impression of the job market is that I am *feeling* our lower cost move. When we moved here, and cut our housing expenses by 70%, I never took a pay cut (2001). In fact, my compensation increased. I guess being in a similar job market is promising, and I am sure there are some employers willing to pay more (and those are the employers I want). But as is, I feel like I am looking at a 20% pay cut. Just looking at what is out there. Which is giving me more motivation to stay put and not to sweat the loss of overtime.

If that's what we have to work with, it is what it is. We currently live on 60% of my gross salary. I'd still be able to save 20% if I took that kind of a pay cut. But I would prefer not to entertain these type of pay cuts until MH was back to work full-time. If he gets a $30k per year job, then I can take the pay cut and we'd have more income in the end. All of the above is thanks to living far below our means. $30k is more lower end/entry level. I know he could get a $50k job tomorrow if we were more desperate. (Which would increase our household income significantly, even if I took a 20% pay cut).

{To be clear, this is more "ideal" job type stuff, like my current job. This doesn't mean I couldn't make same or more if income was my bigger motivation. & maybe if I take a year to consider my options, I can probably find a lower stress job with higher pay. Just speaking to my initial impression and surprise by low salaries for comparable jobs}.

So I guess that's the long and the short of it. These are all things we have thought about, but I mostly have no answers. I just have to wait to get more answers on current job, and I have to wait to have any time whatsoever to job search and see what kind of offers I can get (considering the entire compensation package).

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Well, the bar keeps moving on the work front. *sigh* I really was looking forward to 2/28 (huge deadline) and being done with the crazy workload of the past year or so. But the bar has been moved. Now I have to survive until April 15th. If I am MIA, I am just tired of staring at a computer screen all day and I lack the down time that I usually have.

In other randomness, MH did a focus group for $300 last week. That's helped with our cash hoarding.

Spending, Taxes

February 2nd, 2018 at 05:42 am

**MH saw some noise cancelling headphones on Amazon for 90% off. He figured what the heck. In the end I guess it was a pricing mistake because they canceled the order.

**MH is still looking for the right blu ray player for the TV we bought 9 months ago. In the end he saw another "too good to be true" deal for $25. I guess this was at Walmart. In the store it didn't show the advertised price (85% off) and they seemed to think he was crazy when he inquired, but it rang up for $25.

He hadn't picked one up before because he was being crazy picky. I got the sense this had everything he wanted, but maybe also willing to settle a bit in the interim because nothing to lose at that price. In the end, it seemed to have some problems and they were out of stock by then (couldn't exchange) but he diagnosed that he needed a better cable and it seems fine now.

So I thought he was 0 for 2, but maybe this one will work out. He is going to give it some time.

**My cell phone is almost 4 years old and I was targeting all along to replace this spring (at the 4 year mark). Given work uncertainty, I asked MH yesterday to keep an eye out. I told him I probably rather get used to a new phone before I am more seriously job searching. & I'd rather buy a phone while I have a (high paying) job. So he will start looking around for me.

My phone is mostly fine but has admittedly been wonky for about 18 months. It is not secure as I am sure it is no longer receiving updates, so that is my main concern. It turns off randomly at times (but I don't use enough for it to matter). MH saved it from a "black screen of death" about a year ago. I know his tech skills have helped me to keep it the 4 years that everyone else seems to think is crazy and impossible. But even MH has been nagging me a bit as he knows I no longer receive security updates. I was dead set on 4 years because I had paid $400 for it. I can be okay with 3 years and 10 months.

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I usually file taxes early, before I have tax forms. Because I don't need the tax forms. But I peruse the tax forms as they come in and make sure they agree to my records.

In the end, my mortgage company reported that I paid more interest than I did. ??? It's the only tax form mistake I ever recall catching. I double checked their website and their monthly interest amounts (2017) matched mine, so I will ignore the tax form. It was in my favor so I won't worry about it. If it went the other way I would make sure that they correct it.

I plan to file taxes today. Our software at work hadn't been updated yet. I talked to the person in charge of that yesterday and she seemed confused, but we finally decided she was out Friday and hadn't followed up on our weekly updates. (They should get done regardless, but she usually makes sure that they are done). She got it updated ASAP when she realized we couldn't file *any* tax returns yet. It was a hectic day/week, so will just press the "send" button when I get to work today. I knew I had all sorts of tax forms in the mail (in route or sitting in mail box) and figured I better check those first.

I did well with harvesting tax gains for kids. I always strategically harvest tax gains at 0% tax rate. But this year I squeaked by with harvesting tax gains and not even having to file a tax return for them. I don't know how realistic that goal is as their investments grow, but works for now.

The Next Phase

January 27th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

We did end up eating lunch at the culinary school.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current plan:

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

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

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

Gobble Gobble

January 23rd, 2018 at 10:10 am

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

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





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

Checking In

January 23rd, 2018 at 06:47 am

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

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

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

Note: Grocery budget covers household/pet food and litter

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

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

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

Other Spending:

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

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

Other doings:

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

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

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

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

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

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

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

Jan 15 & 16

January 18th, 2018 at 06:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Wednesday

January 17th, 2018 at 07:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

Napa Weekend

January 16th, 2018 at 12:40 pm

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

Spent less than $0!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Wineries/Landscape:




The view from our hotel:


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

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

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

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

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

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

Raise, Taxes

January 16th, 2018 at 05:53 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Goal Update

January 15th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

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

2017 Goals

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

January 12 Spending

January 14th, 2018 at 09:52 pm

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

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

Used 25-cent gas coupon at gas station.

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

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

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.

Financial Updates - 2017 Year End

January 6th, 2018 at 07:55 am

We did really well on net worth for 2017. Up $95,000 for the year. Our goal was to increase net worth by $50,000.

Mortgage: -$ 8,000
Home Value: +$25,000
Investments: +$62,000
TOTAL: $95,000 Increase Net Worth


Our savings rate was 30% in 2017. 25% of our income went to long-term investments and retirement.

If we paid off our mortgage, we'd be debt free and we would have $225,000 in investments. We'd have to cash out our cash and taxable investments to do this, as well as 2/3 of our ROTHs. We could leave college money and Traditional IRAs intact. I suppose it's feasible, but not wise. I don't think we would seriously consider this unless our mortgage was in the $50k range. & we wouldn't cash out (most of) our ROTHs to pay off our mortgage. So we have a ways to go. I just know that we will ponder more as this number gets bigger.

2017 was a very good income year for us. I mentioned last year that MH's income was offset by loss of other side income and that economically we were about the same as we were before, which is what I expected. (His income is more about getting a foot back in the workforce, more than any meaningful contribution to the household). But anyway, this year we had a banner year with the credit card rewards and I made tons of OT so our income (W2) increased by 6% this year.

Last year our W2 income matched our highest (two-income) year (2001). This year was a significant improvement and some forward movement. I know we have significantly more expenses in some regards (health insurance, kids) but we are also no longer saving up frantically for a house (with real estate appreciating faster than we could ever possibly save), so I'd say this "feels" the most financially comfortable we have ever been. I suppose we also have a wee bit more assets now than we did in 2001. (Net worth isn't drastically different because of the housing bubble and crazy home equity in 2001, but our investments are 15x what they were in 2001).

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My long-term goal has been to get to a point where our net worth increases by our expenses every year. I figured if we could do this in our 40s that we would consider "financial independence" at 50.

Of course, this would be an average of a $60k increase per year, since our annual spending is at the $60k level. But I am fine with aiming for $50k since this will probably be a more reasonable expense level when our mortgage is paid off (and kids are grown). Also, if we can achieve these net worth gains, I know they will just grow with time, as investments compound. All this to say, my goal for the next 5 years or so will be to grow our net worth by $50k per year. In 5 years I will probably re-evaluate and hope to push that goal up to $60k or $70k per year. Maybe averaging $60k per year, for this next decade.

It was nice to have a strong start for Year 1!

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2018 (Year 2):

Mortgage: Paydown $8,000
Investments: Contribute $8,000
Retirement: Contribute $11,000
Investment Returns: $14,000 (would need 4% gain)
Real Estate Increase in Value: $9,000 (would need 2% appreciation)
TOTAL INCREASE: $50,000

I don't get too hung up in the "year over year" changes, as I am more concerned about the next decade as a whole. Just to say that I more than well aware that the market can go the other way (been there done that).

I've updated sidebar to reflect this 10-year plan.

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.

Checking In

January 1st, 2018 at 08:53 am

Work has been crazed. The last week of the year is always the busiest/most stressful work-week of the year for me, but was compounded this year by many different factors. I am taking this long 3-day weekend off to recover and reset. Then it's diving head first into the busy season (for the next 4 months).

MH was asked to work the prior two weeks, and there was talk of maybe this week too? He usually has 6 weeks off during winter. In the end, Friday was his last day of the season and they said they will probably need him again in three weeks (normal start time). He missed having winter break home with the kids, but they are old enough I don't know that it mattered. If they were younger, he would not have worked so long. We are so present with our kids though, I will admit it felt weird for us to be so tied up with work. During tax season (and December usually), his work is REALLY slow, and so most of the time it works out to be more yin and yang.

In addition to all that, I've been running kids all over the place. They had infinite short days at school (prior 2 weeks ~ I think because two different schools so every day one of them had a short day for this or that reason, just happened to not be the SAME days), and DL's vocal performance ended up being a 4-night commitment. Their vocal concert was absolutely amazing though, and I didn't mind some forced breaks. On Friday I picked up DL from a sleepover at 11am. Just a lot of domestic stuff that MH generally would have been handling.

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FISCAL DOINGS:

Ended the year with net worth up $95,000. !! I think that is the first time we've done that without the bulk of the gains being real estate gains. (We've done this many times before ~ six figure increases ~ with California real estate).

More details later...

SOME FINANCIAL NOTES RE: IN-LAWS:

**Was discussing timeshare with MIL. She is VERY tone deaf (her way or the highway) and her plan has always been to pass on her timeshare(s) to us though we are not interested in the slightest. Sure, free places to stay wherever is all good. But paying the annual fees and dealing with all the red tape, plus feeling obligated to use every year? No thanks!? Especially for two people who would be perfectly content to never get on an airplane.

Anyway, she is getting really disgruntled with her timeshare situation. & has made very clear she is not sticking us with that crap. I guess if you wait long enough (20 years!?) sometimes these things sort themselves out.

**MIL and FIL have decided to gift their car to MM(14) next Christmas as they are both VERY excited about this!

Again, this is one of those things that just needed time. There was talk of buying MM a car at some point, which just made me uncomfortable. They are totally the types to do that without consulting with us. I thought that might be a FUN bridge to cross eventually (NOT!). But they also have 4 grandkids very close in age and I am guessing they were getting ahead of themselves. Anyway, the latest is that they want to gift their vehicle to MM when he turns 15.5 (which is actually very helpful as it gives him a car to learn to drive on). They made clear to MH that this car is for BOTH kids. Again, is kind of what I was thinking anyway. So maybe this will resolve in a very helpful way.

{I don't remember the details, but it may be a 2005 with something like 150k miles? I think it sounds like a perfect first car for a teenager. I would happily pay for it, knowing it was well cared for. But I am not surprised they just want to give it to him}.

In my case, my parents weren't in any kind of financial situation to help me and neither were my grandparents. & I could just walk to school. I bought a car because I *wanted one* but that fell entirely on my shoulders. This situation is just very different. MM would prefer to ride his bike to school, but it's just way too dangerous. We don't have any public transport, and he knows he's not going to get any freedom on that front unless he has a car to drive. (Meanwhile, he would have preferred to just bike or take the bus for the past several years). BUT, he also has a brother that is only two years younger. MH would like to go back to work full-time, and we would put that responsibility on MM (taking his brother to school). I would rather provide a car in a situation where the car is more needed AND will make our lives easier. I was thinking that gives him two years to save up for a car and to come up with a more long-term plan. It only seems fair to offer the same to his brother. When he turns 18 and goes off to college, then his brother could use the "temp/learning" car.

I don't know how long it will last, but I will enjoy being on the same page with the in-laws. Will see how it shakes out in another year or so. I wouldn't hold my breath. But it's nice to have a plan and to be offered such a generous gift.

**On the flip side of the coin, MIL did not fund kids' college this year. No idea what that is about. MH won't ask her about it and I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole.

Is out of character for her, so I thought she might realize eventually (nieces' birthdays or Christmas). Christmas came and went with no mention, so I guess it's official the kids' college money will not be added to (2017).

I honestly think she forgot.

This doesn't change anything for us. I just share because their "college" accounts will be stagnate unless MIL starts contributing again (was $1k per year, per child). Anything we save up, we would not put in our kids' names or tie up in education funds. & I don't see making the effort to save any more than we already are.

Edited to add: The college money was just forgotten. Received in early 2018.

December Savings

January 1st, 2018 at 08:28 am

Received $50 bank interest for the month of December.

Credit card rewards:
--Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $70 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining/gas card.

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 200 to investments

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$ 600

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 500 Computer (for DL)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
-$ 720 Home Insurance
-$ 535 Disability Insurance
-$ 450 Flood Insurance
-$ 240 School Lunches (5 months x2)
-$ 215 Umbrella Insurance
-$ 115 Auto repairs
-$ 90 Dental
-$ 76 Medical

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December was a bit of a mess. Not sure what to do with that, but trying to summarize the way I usually do.

I abandoned saving anything. Not for any of the usual reasons (we didn't spend anything substantial on the holidays). But I was doing a credit card reward and paid ahead several large bills. It made my life complicated in December but I knew we'd have some extra cash inflows to offset. Usually it's just so much at the end of the year that I try to spread it out or pay bills closer to due date (though most the rest of the year I generally try to stay more ahead of the curve). So the outcome is we had a huge cash outflow in December, but I have got all the bills paid ahead and won't be cash flowing $2,000 in January and February. (I just looked at last year and saw I put off most these bills to January and even February last year).

It hurts for now, but we will quickly build up cash in the next few months.

I've been slowly getting further ahead on bills. The mortgage is paid one full month ahead. Credit cards are paid in full the end of every month. Getting these end-of-year bills tamed I think is the last stop for me. I am fully transitioned to just paying bills when I receive them (or even earlier in many cases). This is what I did in early adulthood, but with online bill pay and cutting our income in half, I would more and more just set the bills to pay on their due dates. (I liked that I could get the bill paid when I received it but could set the due date to later and utilize the float). With more means, I've been going back in the other direction. Rather than save more cash and into an emergency fund, I am giving us some space and buffer.

When sitting down and trying to get to December balanced out, I abandoned all savings for this month and used credit card rewards to cover bills. In the end I had $200 left in the checkbook, so I went back and put that $200 into investments. That was all we saved this month. We did receive enough cash for Christmas to cover the rest.

I did also throw an extra $225 at the mortgage. That was what I had decided at some point (to get below $159k), and I had enough cash to cover that.

I did also donate my work Christmas bonus ($200), per our annual tradition. I earmarked this sum entirely for the local animal shelters.

One other note: I believe that our flood insurance (FEMA) is the only bill I *have to* pay by snail mail. I initially held onto the bill because I wanted to throw it on a specific one-time credit card (for rewards) and then got lazy and ended up mailing it closer to its due date (maybe a couple of days before, but I remember it sitting here for maybe two weeks in the meantime). Wouldn't you know it? It got lost in the mail! (Which is precisely why I avoid snail mail for anything important; this is the second hugely important item to be lost in the past 2 months). Anyway, I think I got it squared away about 3 weeks later, but in the meantime my mortgage holder was freaking out I didn't have proof of insurance. & lord knows I did not enjoy going without flood insurance for 2 weeks.

So anyway, all this to say, I am paying that bill the minute I get it next year, or about 30 days earlier. Yeesh!

Big picture: I am about $1,750 short of sidebar goals for the year. (I've updated sidebar). This is equivalent to the amount we redirected to spontaneous Europe trip. I am fine and happy with how the year shook out. Our savings goals are always very aggressive, and I am okay with directing that sum to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot that 50% MH's check went into his 401k, or $600. I guess in the end we invested more than I was thinking when I typed this up.


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