<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Category: Just Thinking
 

Viewing the 'Just Thinking' Category

Summer Doings

June 23rd, 2017 at 06:53 am

For the first 10 days of summer break, we have absolutely nothing planned. It's a sweet relief after a long/trying school year.

Actually, most of our summer looks like this. We aren't big on filling up our schedule, but the kids' summers are so short and sometimes it fills up very quickly, regardless. So, we are ALL happy to have a very slow summer planned. We will break up the peace and quiet with our annual camping trip and then birthday festivities for the kids.

In addition to just soaking in the peace and quiet, we've also blown all our "fun" money on our trip abroad. So doesn't leave much else. Extra motivation to keep it low key. We have plenty of frugal/FUN things to do, and so I feel very *shrugs* about this part. For example, going to the pool or the beach.

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

MH and MM went to a free movie yesterday. We've been having a heat wave and usually they make you line up outside (for free advanced screenings). But in the end, they let them line up inside yesterday. Phew! (MH had gone to another movie on Monday and he had waited outside in the heat. It was another theater).

{The movie they saw last night was "Baby Driver". MH said it was really good and he is telling everyone because the general reaction is that the name of the movie sounds stupid, and no one's heard of it. Even among his movie friends}.

MH did make it into one free movie screening (a few weeks ago) that was really meant for college students. I didn't go because I didn't think we'd get in, and didn't want to waste my time. In the end, the movie was really good and he got tickets for a more normal (all ages) screening next week. So we are all going to see that movie.

Yeah, pretty much MH sees *every* movie before it even comes out. You see why I am not concerned about our lack of "fun money". Wink

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

Over the weekend I decided to order some shoes and swim suits.

It's mostly impossible to find shoes that fit my feet, but I found a pair that feel like sneakers and double as casual or work shoes. I bought like 3 pairs of that shoe. So I have probably been good for a while. (That was a few years ago, and I bought a couple of extra pairs that I have yet to wear).

{I was amused when someone at work complimented me this week on my shoes. I've worn them every day for YEARS. I just chuckled to myself how people don't notice these things. Realizing this, goes a long way to saving space and money}.

I am just trying to replace a flat shoe that I have, and I see the same shoe but can't find them in a wide size now. *sigh* I decided that I don't remember ever shopping flats at Zappos so I gave it a try. (Several days later, I've returned them all. A couple fit but just weren't right. One was close and I might try double wide on that brand).

For whatever reason, this reminded me that I really want to replace my swimsuit too. I don't remember when I bought it, but I know I had it 2010 when I went to Hawaii. It's fine, but starting to fray a bit. (I've tried to buy another swimsuit at some point, but have yet to find something).

Anyway, I checked Bealls of Florida and they had some suits on sale in the $10 range. Like really nice swimsuits. So I just bought up a bunch. Something will have to work. & I bought a couple of more expensive ones also. (I only plan to keep one).

So... I told MH that I had just spent $400. He didn't bat an eye. He says, "Yeah, how much are you going to return?"

Well I already returned $260 in shoes; the entire freaking order. He knows me too well. Big Grin

Edited to add: I am reviewing the June spending today. Apparently I haven't bought anything for myself since the beginning of February. Replacing worn out shoes and swimsuits, I'd probably put under "clothing" versus "personal spending". But regardless, I have spent $0 on clothing this year AND $0 for personal spending.

TV Sold!

June 14th, 2017 at 06:41 am

We sold the TV that we just replaced.

Probably could have gone about it better. MH really thought he could get $400. Which is how these things seem to go. He thinks he is going to get more and then can get kind of stubborn about it. & then he also gets emotionally attached to these things, which makes it harder. So I was skeptical, but in the end, he just wanted to be rid of it. I am relieved. He'd probably be totally fine listing it all year and waiting for the right price. But beyond that, he was more motivated than I expected him to be. (In contrast, if I have anything to sell, I just want it gone the day or week I list it. But I will admit I don't sell many high dollar items).

So... He's been trying to sell for a while at this point. We were surprised how little interest it was getting at $200, which is what we have it down to after several weeks.

This past weekend I listed a few free items on our neighborhood website. My husband is always weird about putting higher end electronics on there (just obvious that we have this type stuff or may be upgrading, and it's not anonymous at all). But for whatever reason he asks if we should just put the TV on there too. Um, YES!!

I wasn't thinking at all that people might feel more comfortable buying TVs in that manner. I saw one guy trying to sell a TV (flat screen) and no one wanted it. So anyway, I just copy and paste MH's Craigslist listing and didn't think too much about it.

Within 15 minutes, two people wanted it. Seriously! & they came right over to get it.

All else being equal, I don't even care. Just glad to be rid of it. But since I am working on coming up with $270 to fund our London trip, I could just kick myself that I didn't ask for $250.

The only other thing of value that I have to sell is an outgrown sleeping bag (of very nice quality). I washed it and was going to list it, but I noticed it had a big rip. So that one is moved to the mending pile, for now. I still plan to sell it.

In the meantime, still looking for $70 in snowflakes. The less of our regular income and savings we use now, the more we will have to spend while we are in London. So trying to keep everything we book ahead within our vacation budget, or paid for with snowballs/snowflakes. (Whatever we spend in Europe will have to come out of savings. Wasn't planning to travel abroad this year).

As to the free stuff I listed, no one wants it. I will put it on Craigslist this weekend probably.

Busy Weekend

June 13th, 2017 at 06:19 am

I found the "super secret password" to get MM(13) into the teen (animal shelter) volunteer program. Phew! (Pretty much, you had to follow on Facebook to get the info. I am lucky that I saw it). The plus side is that we (adults) don't have to volunteer alongside. I certainly wouldn't mind, but just don't want the commitment right now. The downside is that it is the farther away shelter. But if I understood correctly, it sounds like parents can drop in to help. I'd rather do that than just sit in the car and wait. I just appreciate the non-commitment way to help.

MM just really wants to help. I think it made an impression when we adopted our cat from the shelter. But in addition, we always give money to the shelters, the kids know we had adopted our prior cat from the shelter, and I've probably talked about all my past volunteering helping animals. I am thinking it's a little bit of all of the above.

Aside from getting that sorted out, we had two BBQs to attend on Saturday.

In between BBQs I got most the kids' school stuff sorted. Washed their backpacks, lunch bags, PE clothes, etc. In the past their school just provides everything. But DL started a new school this past year and we had bought supplies and a PE uniform. In the end, I put everything useable back into his backpack. I figured that was the simplest so we can find everything when school starts back up. MM just has an empty backup, in contrast.

I don't remember what we did Sunday. I feel like I just did a lot of light chores. MH made us watch Whiplash.

A charity is coming by today (the second in just 4 days). I only rounded up school uniforms (which we will no longer ever need - woohoo!) and that's all I got to. But that will work. Out of the house it goes.

MM(13) is off camping at the beach. The 8th graders' last hoorah. Tomorrow is their graduation.

Two Down, One To Go!

June 9th, 2017 at 12:17 pm

DL(11) finished up school yesterday. Phew!

Today is MM(13)'s last academic day. (It's all fluff next week: overnight field trip to the beach, and then graduation).

Last night I took down all the school calendars off the fridge. Phew!

Next year will be more simplified and efficient, though the reality is our kids will be at separate schools for their high school years. I am guessing that it will all seem like a piece of cake, after this last year. Their schools are only one mile apart from each other. The kids were initially going to get out 15 minutes apart but it seems DL's school might change that to 1/2 hour (which is overall a good change for other reasons). Whatever. We basically told them we have bent over backwards to oblige them for the past 9 years (of grade school), meaning we always pick them up right when school gets out and have never had them in any after school care (or "study hall" at DL's 6-12 school), but in turn they might have to do some "waiting around" next year. It would only make sense to drop them off and pick them up at the same time.

We are definitely going out to celebrate tonight! Taking the kids out to their favorite restaurant.

That reminds me, the teachers put on a very nice dinner for the 8th graders. Last weekend. They got a free? (or at least discounted) banquet room at the hotel down the street. (Mental note for the future: was a very nice venue). They had a DJ and a photo booth, and a catered buffet dinner. For the 8th graders and their parents only. It was very nice.

Next week will be the graduation festivities.

The only other thing of note is that MH took me to a free advanced movie screening last night. It was one we weren't expecting a big turnout for (My Cousin Rachel). BUT, we got there an hour early and barely got in! It's the first time we have ever left the kids for one of those on a weeknight. The thing is you generally have to get there an hour early (though admittedly no commercials or previews, as an offset to that extra time). & they are strict about using phones (which is rough if you want to be reachable to your kids). But the kids were totally fine. I think more often I just don't go because I am tired and not a night person.

Savings Accounts, General Updates

June 7th, 2017 at 08:26 am

MH finished up work last Friday. His summer chore list is VERY long. (Next week he is taking DL to the dentist and the optometrist, and DL will get shots too. The cars both need oil changes. We have a couple of bigger home improvement projects to get through. Not BIG, but we've mostly done nothing but painting and very basic maintenance, so they feel "big").

DL's last day of school is tomorrow. I am so relieved we made it! I haven't blogged much about his moods because he's been back to his old self. He just doesn't do middle ground well. He's either like the "perfect kid" (mature, responsible, and wise beyond his years) or the "falling apart" kid, but there's just not been much in between. Absolutely nothing to report. We've learned that he doesn't handle change well (even 100% happy/good change), particularly with the mix of pre-teen hormones. I am just a little wary about our Europe trip since we leave about 2 weeks in (school year). We wanted to give him time to get settled, but it is around the time when he fell apart last year. He will have 7 new classes and teachers, and they did actually completely change the school schedule. So it will be a lot of change, but maybe being comfortable at the new school and knowing all the kids will be enough. I don't know if he will have some of the same teachers again. That would help. I suppose for drama and art he would. & PE.

{The in-laws will watch the kids at our house, while we are in Europe, so the kids won't miss any school. Is why I worry about DL since it will be a bit of a change-up. In any normal circumstances he would be totally fine. The kids often spend time apart from us.}

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

We've mostly got through Phase 2 of Europe trip. Phase 1 was booking hotel/airfare (Purchased because crazy cheap, paid for in cash). Phase 2 is booking tours and paying for those with credit card rewards. I am surprised that I only have to come up with about $275 cash for Phase 2. We booked two long day tours, plus a day trip to Paris. Phase 3 will be food and transport while we are there, and whatever admissions we end up paying. We have 3 full days covered already, plus a few days dedicated to free museums, so I expect the bulk of the (admission type) costs to be covered already.

Total out-of-pocket so far: $2,875

I am guessing we can keep the entire trip down to $2,000 per person. This includes non-stop flights & staying in a luxurious hotel/apartment.

Since I got the cash part down to $270 for Phase 2, that reminds me that we can probably get $200 for old TV. Maybe I will work on selling some other things to come up with that last $70. I don't think we really have much, but was just thinking (the other day) that we can probably sell DL's fancy sleeping bag (outgrown). Will see what else we can come up with. Plus, MH is home, so he can spend some of that time and energy on listing and selling.

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

This reminds me, I have a bag for charity. I keep missing the charities that come around, since I had been so busy for work. The bag may have been sitting there for several months. Anyway, a charity is coming by Friday and I will be sure to set out the full bag.

Another charity is coming by Tuesday and I thought maybe I could make it a goal this weekend to come up with something for that. It just hit me today that MM(13) will be done with school uniforms this week. Woohoo! {He has to fit for *two* more days. Boy, it was getting close!} Since this was the last uniform year for either kid, is not a lot. I bought the bare minimum for this school year. & I threw some smaller/backup polo shirts into that charity bag, about a month ago. He had clearly outgrown those. But I will be sure to wash and bag up the rest this weekend. I am sure that my clothes could also use another pass. I am sure I can find something.

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

FrugalTexan mentioned Kasasa(?) bank accounts for higher interest rates. I don't know if I heard of them before, but quickly ruled out because too many hoops to jump through (direct deposit and numerous debit card transactions). But I share if you are okay with those hoops and haven't heard of it. (FT can chime in more in the comments!)

This is what I posted end of April:
I had a CD mature this month, so a little less interest income. Since we do want to replace our vehicle, I think I will keep this CD money in our savings account. There is that, and I am also just completely exhausted with work. Maybe in a month or two it will sound appealing at all to jump through hoops to earn more interest. For now, I am over it.

{The "jumping through hoops" I was thinking to was just having to open a new bank account. I didn't have the mental energy for even that. But in addition, I can generally find a very high interest rate for some of my cash; those just come with a bit more hassle}.

Because of FT's comment, she kicked my butt into gear and I looked around a bit. I came across MH's old CU offering 3% interest! (You have to live or work in that region, so I doubt it's anything that anyone else will find very useful. If you are in the Bay Area and want to know about it, just leave a comment). Since we no longer live or work there, we can still join because I knew my in-laws had an account. I had to get their account # to join. They are super peeved that the interest rate is only available to new customers!

As to jumping hoops, they won't let me set up that 3% account online so I will have to call later and see what the deal is. *sigh* {That I can't just do this online, I find super annoying. It's just becoming more of a time suck}.

Then a couple of days ago, My Money Blog did a "Best Interest Rates on Savings" post. There was some in there that I had not seen. I always like it when someone else does the work for me. Big Grin Which is probably the other reason I had been dragging my feet on this front. Anyway, I share because it is very helpful:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/best-interest-rates-on-cash-savin...

If I can't get this other 3% account to work, then I guess I will look at some of the bank accounts mentioned in this blog post.

Prisoners of Clutter

June 6th, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Interesting Article seen today:

Today’s families are prisoners of their own clutter

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2012/07/09/new-study-s...

"That sums up Boston parents’ reaction to new research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists concluding that American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."

"Managing the volume of possessions is such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevates levels of stress hormones for mothers."

"Most families rely heavily on convenience foods even though all those frozen stir-frys and pot stickers saved them only about 11 minutes per meal."

"Let’s let Katy Colthart, a social worker from Watertown, take it from here. Shopping at Target on a recent Sunday afternoon, she said with some remorse that she finds herself popping frozen chicken nuggets into the oven for dinner — even though she knows they don’t save her much time. But with a job and two young children to pick up from day care, things get hectic at the end of the day, and prepared foods give her a much-needed mental break.

“They give me the illusion of saving time and energy,” she said."


I really loved that last part. BINGO! That's how I have always felt about it, the way people act like we must spend a billion hours cooking. I always think, "It would take more time to go out." Or even if it really averages to 11 more minutes per day (to home cook), as quoted, it doesn't warrant the melodrama I get about it. I think people are just defensive about their illusion. But it makes it hard to have a realistic conversation about it. & though I see that it's not a real and true time saver to eat out, I understand the "turn off your brain and just barrel through" aspect of it. I think it's more about mental energy than time. & (mostly) no one knows how to cook, so there is also that. Maybe no idea where to begin.

It's all very correlated to lack of time. People clutter up their time just as much as they do their homes. & they speak to that in the article.

Credit Card Rewards Update

June 3rd, 2017 at 08:13 am

2017 TALLY:

$481 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$681 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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

Just doing an update to add in the $200 cash back reward.

All of the above is earmarked for travel expenses. I was able to use the Travel reward for a tour that we booked in the UK, so it looks like we can pay for all our tours that way.

I can see using this travel card again (getting one in my name) next time we plan a trip. I expect this to end up being a $500 reward (total), with the spending we plan to do in UK. (Mostly just food and public transport, but that will add up over 10 days).

DONE!

May 28th, 2017 at 10:26 am

**MM(13) had his final on Tuesday, so we are done with this 3-school nonsense. Woohoo!

It's still a little messy since he doesn't have a last period class and MH is going to pick him up early for the next few weeks. On one hand. On the other hand, it's on his way home, so maybe it's not that big of a deal. Though he gets out of work a while before MM gets out. I don't know. We hadn't discussed that part. Maybe some extra driving, but at least no more sitting around and waiting.

**I think I am over the hump on a big work project. PHEW!

I could feel it on Tuesday. I woke up crazy early and so went on a 2-mile walk around the lake. It was a billion degrees during the day, so in the evening we went to the pool (walking distance). It was just divine. Life is good.

Back to vacation lifestyle. I had failed miserably the past 9 months or so (don't remember ever being that busy, since having kids) but the rest of this year is looking up.

**The last few weekends we have gone out quite a bit. In a frugal manner. Free movies, using free gift cards, taking advantage of memberships, etc.

We used up our last dining gift card (credit card reward from last year) so I mentioned to MH that I might keep an eye out for a meager reward like that. If that's all there is, is better than nothing.

**I am so behind on posting that I guess I will just start with this weekend.

Yesterday DL had his friends over. Their plan was to work on their band, but thankfully I mentioned to have them bring their swim suits. The band thing didn't work out so well, and instead they really enjoyed their time at the pool. (DL is getting way into drumming. I've got a really old hand-me-down drum pad thing and we will probably him a fancier one for his birthday).

& MM(13) is friends with all of them, so he hung out with the younger kids yesterday.

Today both kids were invited to a BBQ (another 11yo that goes to school with MM now). I think DL has moved on, having switched school. So though it was his friend to start, I think MM will probably have more fun at the BBQ. Hopefully DL enjoys himself a wee little bit. He is way into swimming these days, so maybe he will be okay. If not for the swimming part, I could see him being cranky and bored. Will see...

That reminds me that we did discuss birthday plans. It sounds like MM is going to try to get a group of 13yos at the water park. Summer is a tough sell though. So, will see what we can do. We already discussed it. If everyone can go, it's just going to be the big kids. If everyone can not go (most likely) then DL and a mutual friend of theirs will be invited. I am hoping MM can find one or two friends who will be in town. (DL doesn't seem to care too much either way).

DL's new best friend at the new school shares his birthday. There was talk at some point of some mega birthday, but his friend sounds like he wants to bow out of that. Now his friend wants DL to have a party and he is not going to have a party? Regardless of how it works out, they will have to co-ordinate somewhat. So that they don't both have a party on the same day. For now, it seems like it will be rather low key. Just a sleepover at our house, or something like that. (Though it's way more fun to sleep at other people's houses, and that is what DL is pulling for. Sounds fine by me! He's got some time to talk his friend into it.).

I forgot to say, we always stay home big Holiday weekends. Too many crowds. We hadn't planned much of anything, but had some impromptu get-togethers. MH has a friend coming over to watch a movie, too.

P.S. I shared a couple of easy recipes in my last post, if you missed it.

Another Easy Dinner

May 28th, 2017 at 08:09 am

I am finding the recipes from Damn Delicious to be really hit and miss. But I keep trying.

So I was happy that this one turned out so well:

Chow Mein Copycat

http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/02/panda-express-chow-mein-...

Apparently it's a Panda Express copy cat. I've never eaten there, so I can't speak to any similarities to Panda Express. But this recipe is definitely a keeper. Will definitely have to double for my family. Maybe triple, for leftovers.

Oh, and I did use sesame oil instead of olive oil (a suggestion that was in the comments).

I will share again my favorite fast/easy recipe from Damn Delicious:

Korean Beef Bowl

http://damndelicious.net/2013/07/07/korean-beef-bowl/

I think it's meals like this that help with the habit of eating at home. If we crave something like this, the home cooked version is so much better tasting. If it only takes a few minutes to whip up, it's really easier/faster than going out.

I'd like to add the new chow mein recipe to my "last minute meal" rotation. It will work better if MH doesn't put it in his meal rotation (which is what he did with the Korean beef bowl). Usually the super easy (and more random last minute) stuff is more my territory.

Counting Down the Days!

May 17th, 2017 at 07:49 am

MH only has to drive MM(13) between schools for 5 more days. Woohoo! We are ALL beyond ready to put this school year behind us.

Yesterday was payday. All the bills were paid already (we just pay all the cash bills and credit cards off on the 1st of every month). Both our checks are going to savings. $3,800. This includes a $100 price match MH got on his big TV purchase.

Still VERY busy at work. Thus, a short update.

More on the Common Data Set (College)

May 9th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

I had wanted to share the common data set as to starting to nail down actual college costs (versus just picking numbers out of the air).

{See last post}.

But of course, if you've been looking up this information, you see that there is loads of other useful information in these reports.

I was just poking around a bit today and found a series of interesting articles on the subject:

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/tag/common-data-set/

Enjoy!

I think that for myself, none of this is terribly useful until my kids start nailing down where they might want to go to college. Wink

The Cost of College

May 7th, 2017 at 06:47 am

I get the sense from college conversations that many are just making stabs in the air as to the actual cost of college.

It's actually kind of ironic because I know many people seem to think I am crazy when I talk actual costs. But the reality is that I have been tracking actual costs and real numbers. That is what we are planning for.

That said, it's apparently been a while so I will adjust my projections today. With a kid starting high school this fall, I will probably make it an annual thing to update actual costs. Should probably start keeping a closer eye on it, as to planning ahead.

So... I heard this tidbit about a decade ago? Every (4-year) college provides a "common data set" report on their website, for every school year. There is a lot of information in these reports, but includes a clear and concise summary of actual tuition + fees that students pay. They also share room and board costs, the cost of books and supplies, etc.

When I first heard this, I looked up my alma mater. My alma mater had this information going back to the years I attended, so I looked through those numbers and I will say that this is really good information.

Confident in the usefulness of the numbers, I started to track public school costs in our state. This is probably easy for us because we live in a large state with so many excellent college choices. So this is all I am bothering to track, for now. & of course, I presume we can narrow down as kids get older and start to zero in on what they might want to study or where they want to go to school.

In a recent college post, I did throw out $20k as the number I have been using to estimate the cost of 4 years of college. I don't remember the last time I looked up the numbers, and was clearly rounding. But as of today, I will revise to $30k. Per information below.

For me personally, I am leaving out room and board, and the cost of books and supplies. Kids need room and board regardless, and dorm living is not a requirement to go to college. I figure at the very least they can pay for their own books and supplies, so I am not going to worry about that part.

So I took the tuition and fees for the 4-year public college, and multiplied by 4 (years). Tuition + fees = $29,762. I will just round up to $30k. & of course I know that costs will increase in the next few years. But I have those years to adjust and save more. For now, I am going to take some time to wrap my brain around this new $30k estimate.



The costs above are from my alma mater. It's probably hard to come up with a better cost/benefit scenario as to college. This is in the middle of Silicon Valley. Location location location.

We have another public option. The UC (University of CA) system:



That comes up to about $14,000 per year, tuition and fees. I would presume community college first 2 years (cost pennies). Rounding up, that's $30,000.

So I know that planning for $30,000 will buy my kids a lot of options.

{Over the years, it's worked out that both options cost about the same}.

As an aside, our community colleges cost $46 per unit. I would just budget -0- as to saving ahead for community college. We can cash flow any community college costs.

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

I mentioned in earlier post that in-laws were giving us money (annual gifts) for college. We have $40,000 saved already, from these gifts. I'd like to get this up to $60,000 ($30k x 2) to cover a full degree for each of our kids. It seems we are well on track with that. I don't need *all* that money before they start college, but looks like we most likely will, with future gifts and investment gains.

We would like to match this sum, to buy our kids more options and/or maybe cover room and board.

For now, we have $20,000 saved up. We are saving $8,000 per year. This puts us well on track to match their gift money before they start college. We will make $60k our new "college savings" goal.

I know costs will increase and we will have to increase our goals over time. The nice things is we have time. We don't have to have all this money saved up before they even start college. I think knowing this and planning for future increases is why I Feel rather *shrugs* about adjusting my estimates.

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

Edited to add: Based on comments below, I wanted to edit to clarify a bit.

The colleges I cut and pasted above have very low on-campus living rates. There are several excellent public colleges in the region we grew up in. These are areas we know very well. Also, my kids *can* live at home and earn a profitable college degree. Rent/dorms is just not a necessary cost of college, for us.

Much Better!

May 6th, 2017 at 08:57 am

I had a long overdue day off, and feel very rested now. Phew!

Thursday night we went to DL(11)'s school open house. His (art) school is always just so much fun. They had musical performances going on everywhere and we also saw an art exhibit. They also had food trucks, so we splurged a bit on some food.

Yesterday I did a bit of running around since both kids got off at odd hours. But we got the pool to ourselves in the afternoon. I don't know that we generally go quite this early in the year, but it's been HOT. Yesterday ended up being quite pleasant.



This is our neighborhood pool, two blocks from our house.

Now we are just counting down the days until "school crazy" ends. Only two more weeks, for this crazy math schedule. Hard to believe that it's just two more weeks!

I have another picture to share. We were over by the old Tower (movie) Theater and it just looked very pretty (lighting) so I snapped a picture. The theater was built in 1938. It is where we went to see that free movie during spring break.



& across the street from that is the used book/movie/video game store. We stopped by because DL wanted a video game. It was $60 full price. $40 at the used shop. $32 with coupon. He spent his own money.

I am not planning to do much this weekend. MH is going to make us watch some movies. In turn, I will probably drag him to the art museum.

Real Estate Update

May 6th, 2017 at 06:51 am

Our house value has been rather stagnant for 3-4 years at this point. When we moved here (2001) so many people were moving up from So Cal and Bay Area, for the more affordable housing. At the time, the median house price in the Bay Area was $500k. (We thought *that* was absurd). Now? $1 mil! $1 mil-ish, if you just want to buy a small starter home.

& so I have been wondering why things are so stagnant here. I know that was really instrumental in the housing bubble, regionally. Not that we need another housing bubble, but I would expect a little more growth. I guess I have mixed feelings about it all. I do like that housing is more in line with wages and people are being more prudent.

In the end, I saw an article last week that so many people are moving here that we should be building an extra 2,000 homes per year. So I guess it's happening. I just haven't seen it so much myself, and home prices seem to be left in check.

I also got a flyer from a local real estate agent and it listed that a 3-bedroom house (down the street) sold for $450,000. What in the heck!? I figured that must have been a typo or it must have been one of the bigger houses which have been selling at that price point, but I looked it up out of curiosity. Indeed, the largest home model on our block and the smallest home model just both sold for the same price. WOW!

I have to back up a bit though. It's funny when I look back and some of the most ridiculous splurges in our family have ended up being the best long-term investments. & it's not like these purchases were made with any regard to long-term investments or making money. It was just about ridiculous splurging. So, our home is the perfect example of this. We changed cities to lower our housing costs by 70%. The housing seemed so cheap to us, that we decided we would buy a home with space for a movie theater. In the end, the price was an even trade for our Bay Area condo. (We didn't even spend any more money to get the theater space).

The sole purpose of this purchase was "ridiculous splurge". The End. But, we ended up only paying pennies for the extra space. The reason is because land is so expensive here that land is the primary driving cost of housing. If you buy a larger two story house, it's not going to cost a lot more. I've said before, but our first floor cost $130 per square foot. The second floor only cost $35 per square foot. Seriously!

We did buy new construction, which is a lot of why we got such a substantial discount on our home. On the open market, our house had never fetched less than a $100,000 premium over the smaller models, so this was obviously an immediate financial gain we received for going bigger. & of course, bigger was better during the boom. At the peak, our home could fetch an additional $200,000 over the single story homes.

As our house prices have stagnated, I have noticed the trend of increasing values of smaller homes. It's clear that people are buying what they can actually afford, and maybe even embracing that more is not always better.

For the most part, we weren't planning to sell for another 6 years minimum, so it will be interesting to see where things head. A lot can change in 6 years. I expect the market to eventually adjust and allow some benefit for bigger homes, even if it's just a very small premium. I expect that we will see some movement on our home value this summer. Will see.

The other interesting thing is that our house is still a solid $200,000 below the housing bubble peak. The peak is nothing I expect to get back to before we sell. It was pretty absurd in our region. But it just hit me that the single stories in our neighborhood have hit peak levels. Amazing!

Another College Post

May 5th, 2017 at 11:04 am

I had a couple of other (college) posts I wanted to get to (and I will eventually) but saw an interesting article today from the NY Times:

As College Deadlines Near, Families Wonder What They Can Pay

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/your-money/paying-for-col...

"The colleges talk a good game about affordability. But once the teenagers do their part and gain admission, their families get lowball offers for aid and are daunted by the debt they would have to take on to make the numbers work."

& re: free college in New York:

"Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Temple University professor of higher education and sociology, and author of “Paying the Price,” worries about the New York program and the assumptions that many overly optimistic students may make. Data suggests that at least 20 percent of students who are financially eligible at first will end up leaving the state and having their grants turn into debt."

I think a lot of this is moot for us, having access to many high quality and affordable colleges. But, I've always been skeptical of the private school/aid route because it seemed like there is a lot that could go wrong (that would mean ending up in piles of debt). & of course, I don't see anyone talking about this, but this is just what I was thinking. You know, what if you take some kind of aid, lock in a college, and then lose the aid for some reason? So I was intrigued to see that my concerns aren't unfounded. At the end of the day, there's some value to just taking the low sticker price and not worrying about keeping your aids and scholarships. I share because I know this will weigh heavily in our own college decisions.

Regardless of your perspective or opinions, it's an interesting article.

April Savings

April 29th, 2017 at 07:30 am

Received $35 bank interest for the month of April.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $65 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$20 Savings from Target Red Card (made a big purchase)
--$40 Insurance refund

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$500

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

+$3,000 OT to savings (will fund my mortgage goal)

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,000 airfare London
-$ 500 life insurance
-$ 400 Drama Camp

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

I had a CD mature this month, so a little less interest income. Since we do want to replace our vehicle, I think I will keep this CD money in our savings account. There is that, and I am also just completely exhausted with work. Maybe in a month or two it will sound appealing at all to jump through hoops to earn more interest. For now, I am over it. (Now that I think about it, I haven't done one of those since MH was unemployed. We've had this "nice and simple" CD for 22 months. Though my exhaustion speaks more to my work situation than his. So we will see in another few months).

I had a complete DOH moment today. American Express is really finicky with their gas rewards. They often don't give rewards for gas stations they clearly label as "fuel" on their statements. ??? I has a DOH moment today as I recalled we might have gas rewards on other cards. We do! In the end, we can get 3% back on our CU Visa. It will take me a while to remember, but MH is really good at keeping track of all this madness. I'd rather use our credit union than the big banks, any day. So this is good.

My last entry I mentioned OT status, so nothing new there. I don't know when I will literally transfer the $3k to our mortgage. Maybe soon, since I also have all this cash that had been tied up in a CD. I just need some time before I tie up money indefinitely. I will put it to the mortgage sometime between now and January 1.

From short-term savings, I paid off the London airfare. I did also fund drama camp, apparently a full month earlier than last year. Drama Llama LOVES his drama camp.

Neither kid was interested at all in other summer classes. We didn't push it. I think us parents just need a break. We will have a very lazy low-spend summer. It sounds absolutely divine!

OT Update

April 24th, 2017 at 06:09 am

**Work has been totally crazy and will be for a while. On the plus side, I did get my annual OT payout.

I do have $3,000 to throw at the mortgage, which is my minimum annual OT goal.

**I did also pay off the TV with my OT check.

My husband was so aggravated with the store he bought the TV from. He had negotiated at several stores, trying to see how much wiggle room he could get on price. & settled on one store that we buy most our electronics from. Since he was haggling, they told him to just buy it on an installment plan. Not the right thing to say to my husband. He was PISSED. He told me about that later. He said, "Who on earth buys a TV on credit?!" Um, just about everyone?? He just has no clue. He's a "debt = hair on fire emergency" type, so he was just completely dumbfounded by the suggestion, and aggravated that they were trying to sell him a payment plan to "save money." Rolleyes

{In case I wasn't clear, their whole sales pitch was, "Who cares how much it cost? Just throw it on credit!" We chose to *care* and to negotiate the price down.}

Even though I am well aware that most people put this kind of stuff on credit, I suppose it often doesn't register. I wondered aloud in a recent blog post why people would pay full retail price for these type things. When wondering that, I Was presuming everyone pays cash. It's not always front of mind how "weird" we are. I guess it makes a little more sense if I step back and realize that most these sales are made on credit.

Whittling Down Expenses

April 16th, 2017 at 07:13 am

**I've already got the new TV set up with Citi price rewind. They check prices for 60 days and will refund for any price changes that are found online.

Not holding my breath, but might be able to whittle down the price a bit.

**MH insists he will sell our old TV, but I am skeptical. If he does, we will have a few hundred dollars to apply towards the TV purchase. Will see...

**I am also working on whittling down travel expenses. I finished spending $3,000 on the new card. I have $460 (reward) to apply to travel expenses, as a result. The rewards posted as soon as the last charge hit. I don't want to apply that to our hotel because the hotel is refundable. I don't know if the bus tours will count as "Travel expenses" for this reward. But they look to be non-refundable, so I like the idea of getting those expenses paid for by the credit card. (Then, if for any reason we cancel our trip or plans change, we aren't out any cash). We plan to start booking our tours next month and will apply the reward however we can. If nothing else, we can apply to our hotel, if we do it within so many days.

{We didn't put the TV on the new card. We booked our hotel, since the card had no foreign fees. I paid a month of health insurance, and I had a $400 professional dues payment that I will get reimbursed from my employer. That got us right to about $3,000}.

**Managing Big Purchases:

Overall, our regular (small) vacation budget will cover the hotel and airfare, so will just pull from short-term savings. Then as we book tours, we will just pay with rewards. I don't otherwise need to come up with the money for the rest, until after we get back. Mostly expecting to pay for food and transportation while we are there. No other "big" expenses planned.

As to the TV purchase, MH also picked up a compatible video player. It was $250. I should receive a check from his Grandma today (she INSISTS, for doing her taxes). That will mostly be a wash. I should also get my annual "OT" check tomorrow, and I will just pay off the TV at that time. Is where the money will come from. (If for whatever reason I don't receive an OT Payout this year, we have the cash. Just to be clear that we aren't relying on money not received yet. I would have preferred the sale extended to tomorrow and we could pick up after I know how much money I will receive. But that would be too nice and easy!).

**MH did also pick up some used HD movies, with store credit. This is motivating him to clear out old video games and movies. (Which he generally does anyway; sells old ones to pay for newer ones. But I appreciate the extra motivation since he is selling more than usual). He was pleased because he found Planet Earth II on sale, and was able to pay with store credit. (Planet Earth II is absolutely amazing!)

Spring Break & A Splurge

April 13th, 2017 at 10:21 pm

No spring break for me. I am looking forward to April 15th, as to lessening my work load a wee bit. But it's going to be pretty busy for another 2 months or so. *sigh* It's probably optimistic to think that I will get a breather at all.

But, the kids have spring break. MM(13) is on the east coast right now. He will be back today and has two full weeks off of school. Other than this super big trip, he's just going to have to chill out at home.

DL(11) is spending the week with grandparents. With him, it just depends on the day. I wouldn't have been surprised if he refused to go or if he came home early. But he was super excited about being gone all week and spending time with extended family. Is nothing I would have ever guessed in a million years. But, I guess he really enjoyed his last couple of spring breaks (alone with grandparents). & he was in a super good mood the day he left. So, phew!

MH also has a couple of days off of work. I am sure he has been sulking at home a bit because I am so busy.

In the end we did go to a free advanced movie screening. MH goes on average about once a week, but I've never gone without the kids. I have just gone to a couple of animated/family movies on the weekends. You have to get there so early that it's not really ideal on a weeknight, and means leaving the kids several hours. In addition, they don't want you using your phones at all (though I'd want to be reachable if the kids needed anything). So it's just complicated.

Anyway, when I went to the other two screenings it was a very cool experience. Just a really cool crowd. I thought maybe it was the kind of adults who wanted to see kids movies so didn't think too much about it. Just that it was a really fun crowd. But Tuesday night we saw Gifted (which is way better than I expected it would be - I had low expectations). & it was the same kind of crowd. I don't know what it is, but they attract a happy crowd. So it was a really fun night.

Last night, MH made a nice dinner for just the two of us.

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

MH did also buy a new TV while the kids were gone. I'd say the stars aligned, with a sale. Actually, we were talking about it and then it went on sale even further after we decided mostly against it. So I changed my mind. I am hopeful that this ends the revolving door of TVs. It's frustrating because my hubby has exhaustively researched every HDTV we have owned, but they have all been pieces of crap. This one is a high-end TV at the same price point (prices are endlessly dropping) and is a different kind of display, so we are hopeful about it. I suppose I was pushing for it because of the price. I don't want to spend more on something we aren't happy with. I can live with this one if it ends up in the "another piece of crap" pile.

They were clearing out last year's models. It amazes me that people would pay 2-3 times as much for something because they couldn't wait 12 months for the price to drop. ??? & I mean, paying full price would have been absurd. There's a couple of electronics purchases I recall my husband doing in the past where he was sure the sales price was a typo. The prices were so unbelievably low. I share because this is how you have your cake and eat it too.

2017 is shaping up to be a year of "taking advantage of opportunities," on the spending front.

This & That

April 2nd, 2017 at 11:47 am

**I am expecting to fund our Europe trip with the extra OT I earned this year. I will see how that shakes out later this month. (Our regular vacation budget will cover the airfare + hotel, so I am just thinking to the rest, which should not be as much).

**That reminds me, MH is going to Florida this fall for his grandfather's 90th birthday. I really thought we'd cover the flight but he'd probably have a free room and not have to rent a car. In the end, his parents have some miles and just want to buy him his flight. So that's turning out to be even cheaper than I expected.

**Today I was recalling that MH had broached the subject of replacing DL(11)'s computer. Whenever he told me that (months ago?) I said, "Let's talk about this in April." It had just popped into my head, but MH seemed very "meh" about it when I brought it up today. So don't know what is up with that. Will talk about it more later. Might be another expense on the horizon.

**MM(13) leaves on his class DC/NYC trip next week. It was crazy expensive, but the plus side is everything should be covered. His grandparents gave him probably $100 already for souvenirs he won't be buying. (He is not a shopper, at all). So it doesn't sounds like we need to provide him with any cash.

{We paid for this trip about 9 months ago}.

**MM(13) is very hard on his e-reader. He has my old Nook, but after putting a zillion hours into that thing, it's starting to have issues. MH just told me he saw that Kindles were on sale (25% off) and he picked one up for MM. He had some Amazon credits, so was only $30 out of pocket. I thought he was thinking to the trip, which didn't sound so smart. The old Nook is use-able, and might as well take something we don't care if gets lost or damaged. But he told me he was thinking of holding onto the Kindle for MM's birthday. If he needs it sooner, then we can surprise him.

March Savings

April 2nd, 2017 at 08:09 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of March.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $53 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $0 cash back on Visa/dining card.
(Didn't eat out)

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$4 Savings from Target Red Card

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
$1,000

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
- 280 Auto Insurance
- 140 cell phone for MM
- 100 car maintenance

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

Other Snowflakes:
--$25 Focus Group

I didn't invest this snowflake; I donated it to DL's school.

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

MH's work has been slow, which is nice because my work has been *completely insane*.

I still needed to get $1,400 "tax savings" over to our investments. For now, I am just hoarding MH's paycheck to that end. I have $1,000 to throw at that today and will probably have $400 in another couple of weeks.

It probably works out that I will get that funded by April 15th. Around then I should get my OT for the year and we will have to look at our tax situation and figure out the rest of the year.

College

March 29th, 2017 at 07:52 am

I figured I should start a "college" category in my blog. Still got a ways to go, but it's creeping up on us.

The *big picture* is that no one in my family has ever borrowed for college, so the road to a debt-free college is crystal clear to me. & I don't mean at all from a wealth/means standpoint. I put myself through college. Putting my kids through college should be infinitely easier, in comparison. They will have significantly more options than we had. It also probably helps to live in a state with abundant and affordable college choices.

Some of the ways that we expect to keep college costs down:

--Saving money ahead of time for college
--Scholarships
--MH working more while kids are in college
--Possibly finding an employer who will chip in with college costs
--Kids working in high school/college, even if just during summers
--Thinking outside the box as to housing (which is important with the high housing costs here)
--Mostly considering public colleges
--Community college (this is really what all the regional public colleges prefer these days, getting first two years done at CC, so motivation is more than just saving money)

Certainly not meant to be an all inclusive list, but in general sums up how we stayed out of college debt.

My husband and I actually had completely opposite college experience. Our parents were both opposite extremes, and so we seem to end up meeting in the middle. We both agree that we expect the kids to work significantly during high school and college, that our own financial health comes first, and that we don't want to borrow a penny for college. We don't want them to graduate with any student loan debt. We are willing to help our kids in any way we can as long as we are within these parameters.

I'd say that when our eldest was ages 0-10 that college was not on our radar at all. Part of the reason is that in-laws were providing college money. They gift the kids $1k per year, each, since birth. Initially they invested with their super pricey broker (load funds + ridiculous advisory fees) but for whatever reason they gave us the money to manage in recent years. Which means the money is actually growing instead of being eaten away by fees. Phew! At this point we are quickly closing in on $40k, which would cover two public college degrees, and allows for future price increases as they continue to receive gift money.

We personally have not tied up this money in college type funds because we don't have any incentive to. We would rather have free use of the money. We don't have a big enough income, but I do have enough tax knowledge, to not bother with 529 plans or other college savings options. To be clear, we are not paying any taxes on these investment gains. So we don't need the trade-off of extra hoops to jump through for tax breaks that we don't need.

Along the same lines, MH and I both used our "college money" for a home down payment instead. In a state where college cost pennies and housing costs are sky high, I think it seems very likely our kids will experience the same. So I don't want to be penalized for tying up their gift money for college when they more likely will use it for post-college housing. Ideally, we'd actually really like to pay it forward and save this in-law money to give them as a lump sum *after* college. I don't know if we will be able to swing it, but this is what we would like to do. & if we can't, we definitely want to do something like this for our grandkids. (I think if it was not for the in-law money, this would just be a "pay it forward to grandkids" goal).

Anyway, the "generous in-law situation" sums up ages 0-10 with our kids. Between that and the low cost of college here, and my hubby's prolonged unemployment, it just hasn't been on our financial radar at all.

That said, we have in the past put ridiculous percentages of our income into ROTHs knowing that we could use that money for college. I can't say it would have been our financial priority to tie up *all* our money in retirement funds, otherwise. So I am sure for a while that was our college strategy, and I did discuss in this blog during those times.

In 2014 we were in a position to start putting money away into taxable investment accounts again (in addition to fully funding IRAs). I guess college is the only goal at this point, besides retirement. Though I don't consider this *all* to be college money, it is certainly accessible if we need it for college. We are putting away about $7,500 per year. I think matching the in-law college money is a good place to start. It probably works out too that we will probably get there in another couple of years. At that point we may just back off and figure that $40,000/each is a phenomenal start. I think we'd probably most likely just focus on cash flowing the rest (if there is anything left to cash flow).

Since I worked my way through college, I think the idea of MH working + kids working seems easiest on some level (would be a LOT of cash that we could put towards college). But, I think the "saving ahead" is important just because you never know. Relying on future income streams is a little outside of my comfort zone. So while some part of me thinks that "cash flowing with several jobs" is really the most obvious and the easiest, we always have a Plan A + Plan B + Plan C, etc.

Edited to add: I didn't mention financial aid. With the high wage/low college cost combo, regionally, I don't expect it to come up. I know it's infinitely more complicated than that, but that's just the short answer. It will be a better use of our energy to seek out scholarships that aren't based on need.

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

In other news, I am sure I have discussed in the past about MH thinking of returning to college. I mentioned in my blog several years ago that nothing about the timing was right. With the economy in particular, it seemed like a particularly poor time to invest any money into a degree.

Today, things are lining up to make a lot more sense on this front. So I know it's something we will discuss more seriously as to the next two school years. I will have to leave that for my next post on the college topic.

Death

March 26th, 2017 at 05:51 pm

We had a tragic death in our family last week. Suicide.

For all the mood disorders in my family, this is the first "successful" suicide I am aware of, in any of our families.

Is not anyone I was close to, but my family is very large and far away. Probably closest to my age (a little younger) and someone I clicked with more than most in my family.

Way too young and way too soon.

I haven't dealt much at all with death. But I saw today they were collecting money for the kids' college funds (in lieu of flowers). I am sure it is not expected at all, but I will send $50. We are in a place in our lives where I wouldn't think twice about sending money in this cases. & it really is just an "in lieu of flowers" thing. (It's not random asking for money, which my family would probably never do).

Since I don't think I've ever written a check for a funeral before, I was going to ask about the proper amount, but I think I am at peace with this. We weren't close enough to warrant a bigger amount, and I know this family doesn't need the money, so all of that factors into my decision. (He was single and his parents are in a financial position to handle a *very* unexpected funeral).

Sad to say this may be my first check of this nature, but unfortunately not the last. (Well, I'd be happy if this was the last suicide I ever have to hear about, but death itself seems pretty inevitable).

Fiscal Chores, Low-Spend March

March 26th, 2017 at 09:30 am

**I had a 1.5% CD mature at my credit union. It just so happened they were offering a 1.6% CD, so I rolled it over into a new 1.6% CD.

I have another CD that matures next month.

**I didn't expect to find such a good (CD) rate at the same institution (or anywhere), so I had already planned to fund MH's IRA (2016) when that money was freed up. Since that had been the plan for so long, I just funded that this week. Will just have some extra cash tied up until next month.

**ThriftyRay's post reminds me that our very simple calendar system has worked very well for this year. We decided just to put all three school calendars on the fridge and to plan ahead every week and month. I personally forget things if they are not in front of my face (I need visual organization and don't like to hide things away). & it didn't seem it was really worth it to try to merge those all into some kind of electronic record. It would have just mucked up our calendar so much that it would have rendered it useless. I guess I like "simple" and I like "visual".

So, though next year will be MUCH simpler, will just stick with this method. We will still have two different schools for the foreseeable future.

**March seems to be our natural low-spend month. When we are both so busy (work) we seem to just fall into frugal routines and habits. You would think more convenience spending, but we just don't seem to do that. It's crazy how little we spent this month. Pretty much no recreational spending whatsoever. & not that we haven't gone out at all. We had a nice St. Patty's dinner at our house (tradition), hosted my parents one weekend, and have several other activities. Next week or two we have a couple of free events. & I want to get to the art museum (free to visit) once things settle down a bit.

I cooked a salmon dinner (new recipe) at home last night. MH stumbled upon a good grean bean recipe. I mostly do not like green beans, but these are incredibly good. So good, I requested that he make those to go along with the salmon.

Travel Abroad Credit Cards?

March 21st, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Does anyone have any credit cards they recommend for using in the UK? Hear of any sign up bonuses lately?

We have a credit union credit card that has no foreign fees. In addition, we get 3% back on dining out, which would probably be our primary expenses while we are out of the country. So we are good to go already. But, I wouldn't mind having a backup credit card while we travel.

Chase Sapphire: We both opened and closed this one several times for the cash bonus, so I doubt we could get this card. I was denied the last time I tried. But if we are charging up hotels and excursions, I wouldn't mind paying -0- foreign fees and working towards a bonus. It's been long enough it would be worth a try.

Barclay Arrival Plus: The rewards don't seem useful on this card, but it might be nice to have a chip+pin card in a pinch. I also saw feedback though that their fraud department was over-zealous and this card was denied too often. So I guess I am curious about any feedback. If we only use it in a pinch, I'd want it to work in a pinch. (This one has an annual fee after the first year, but we wouldn't keep the card for more than a year).

Any other cards to consider?

This & That

March 19th, 2017 at 12:08 pm

**Since MH has never been to Europe, and London probably topped our list of "future travels", we are shifting gears and planning a Europe vacation, quite suddenly. I'd say otherwise it was something we were thinking about in 5+ years. But the thing about travel not being a huge priority for us is we don't want to save for a long time and spend a lot of money on *one* trip. But if we can easily afford it, then it's not a big commitment and we will take advantage.

Hotel and airfare will most likely be covered by our meager vacation budget. (Hard to believe!)

I was already on track to match my highest OT payout this spring, so will have some extra monies to throw at this trip. (I don't expect this to change our sidebar goals at all). For the most part we would be fine with walking around and enjoying the museums, and using the public transport. But since I doubt we will ever go to Europe again, I also feel we should just do the big stuff too. We are thinking of an excursion to Paris, for example.

I seem to travel abroad once every 10 years. MH mentioned my passport. I thought I might squeak by, but apparently it expires 2 months before we are planning our trip. I will renew ASAP. (I don't know when I ever would have thought of that, but I am knee deep in work).

**MH was teased about a $500 focus group. !! But he didn't make the cut. Bummer!

**DL(11) is selecting his electives for next school year. How exciting! He just had to take "a little bit of everything" for this year (art school). He wants to focus on drama and music, next school year.

**MM(13) was accepted into the Honors program at the high school. We never had any doubt that he would be. But... It also looks like he may get back on track with his math. I am so happy that something seems to be going very right on the math front!

We need to find out more, but it looks promising that he will be able to get into Trig next year.

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

Edit to add: I spotted London airfare for $504 per person (after taxes and fees) today, for our preferred August dates. Our flights are booked!

Need HELP with London Trip!

March 14th, 2017 at 08:33 pm

Just wanted to throw out another request for any hotel recommendations in London.

We are probably going to go the end of August. We figured it would save us money and be infinitely easier if MH did not have to request time off work. He is off work in August. I did not think it was wise to be gone when the kids start school (or too early in the school year) but the kids start August 9th this year. UGH! Totally insane! But I guess it works in this instance.

So we looked up school calendars and perused hotel and airfare in August. It was the same as Ocotober/November. Unreal! We will probably get airfare and hotel under $2,000. Tail end of August and/or early September. We are going without the kids, if you hadn't realized.

I'd buy airfare today, but MH wanted to wait and make sure we are taking a proper number of days to do everything. I think 10 days is probably about my limit though. Should be fine. Obviously we won't be able to do EVERYTHING. Big Grin

I also wanted to request any must-sees. What are all the things we should really do? Trying to make sure we have enough days to hit the highlights. I am guessing this may very likely be the last time we ever go to Europe, so I guess also keep that in mind. (We both very much dislike longer travels and flying abroad).

Thanks in advance!

UK Peeps!

March 4th, 2017 at 08:41 am

Do you have any idea why roundtrip tickets, non-stop to London, are $500 from the west coast?? Right now, for tickets in October. British Airways.

My husband told me that his co-worker mentioned and I thought it was just a credit card rewards thing. Didn't think too much about it. But I just spent one minute on google flights and it's for reals! (Just to say, you don't have to look very hard to find).

For reference, I've absolutely never priced tickets to Europe and have no idea how prices generally fluctuate.

I've often chose vacation destinations solely based on incredible airfare deals. So... The odds that we will go to Englad in October?? Looking very high at the moment. Big Grin Just curious what is up with that. Don't know how quickly we should jump on it.

If you have any hotel recommendations, I guess that might be useful too.

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

Edited to add: I guess I am slow to get the memo since international flights aren't on my radar *at all*.

http://www.wendyperrin.com/airfare-deals-to-europe-are-excel...

I've seen articles going back about 9 months, so am not going to rush out and buy airfare today. But I think that we will seriously consider a fall trip.

February Savings

March 1st, 2017 at 07:57 am

Received $38 bank interest for the month of February.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $74 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $5 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$8 Savings from Target Red Card

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$20 Citi Price Rewinds (price match for computer parts)
--rounded up $3

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$365

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

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

+$1,300 to cash
+ 260 insurance refund
-$1,342 Insurance (various)
-$1,200 Auto Repairs
-$ 90 dentist
-$ 95 Windows OS (for new computer)
-$ 50 Professional Fee

Edited to add: I later realized that I forgot to update short-term expenses paid out this month. It was a spendy month! (I hadn't realized or particularly thought about it because most of these expenses were charged around Jan. 1 and paid off Feb. 1. But I include in February because that is when I transfer the funds out of my savings account).

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

One of the insurance bills that I paid was my disability insurance. In the past I have had a $4,200/month benefit without having to have a certain income. I can "up" this to $5,000 monthly benefit now. I really should make this a priority.

I noticed that our gas rewards aren't calculating correctly, so will have to keep an eye on that.

I did receive $1,000 tax refund and have yet to literally deposit that into our investments. It works out because we usually charge health insurance around the 29th, but it went through a few days early with the short month. We actually didn't have any big bills on our credit card this month, but the health insurance was charged twice (1st and 28th). So I will just use the $1,000 to float that. Will put it to investments in April. Just kind of worked out in an easy peasy kind of way.

I am still in a groove where I just pay all the (cash) bills on the first of the month, which includes paying off all prior month credit card charges. Then I don't have to think about it again for another month. (I am just not into automating things. I have to look over things carefully, and this may also be largely driven by not having direct deposit. Lord knows when I actually get my paycheck sometimes, like if we are on a vacation).

March and April are big savings months for us. MH is back at work & all my OT gets paid out in a lump sum every April. Plus, we are just both super busy with work, so we aren't spending money. It is always interesting to see how those months shake out. But then we generally relax and enjoy the rest of the year.

I do have a CD maturing mid-month and will have to figure out what to do with that. I've seen some good options, but will just depend what's available when I get access to the cash. I'll let you know what I find.

Update

February 26th, 2017 at 10:08 am

I know I have been MIA for a while. The rain/snow has been insane here. My parents and us (100 miles apart) both were on the verge of evacuation. Them moreso than us (there was a random flash flood a little too close to their home). We are about 35 miles from that big dam in California. So we have both had a little too much excitement this month.

The snow pack in the mountains was almost non-existent, but there's been enough snow this winter that the snow pack is 200% of normal now. I saw that camp (already completely snowed under) was getting another 4 feet of snow this week? If we can even go to camp (late June) we might be bringing our sleds.

March will probably be tense.

I've also dug my way out of a (work) avalanche. Phew!! There's another one not far behind at all (and a few immediately after that one), but I am taking a day to just relax. Catch my breath.


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>