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Budget Update

January 16th, 2017 at 10:05 am

No idea on the income side yet, for 2017 (Both MH and I find out this month if we get raises).

So I am just fine tuning the expense side of things. Many years we have had some expenses go up while others go down, but this seems to be one of those "expenses just going up" kind of years.

Monthly Increases:

Gymnastics $100 (added luxury splurge)
Health Insurance: $40
Cell Phones: $35
HOA $11
Internet: $10
Total: $196

Notes:

I did evaluate groceries and we spent about the same both of the last two years, so I think those expenses are leveling off. Phew! (Then again, MM(13) now considers 3 potatoes a single serving; I am not overly confident in the staying power of our current grocery budget). But, for now...

Cell phones: We added a line ($6/month) and I changed our budget since we are covering my parents' cell expenses.

HOA went up. We've been incredibly lucky. The bill has generally never gone up (in 15 years!) The more recent HOA boards have started updating common areas, which I think is reasonable, and some study came back that we were under-funded for something or other (long-term). This is definitely the biggest increase we have ever had, but was probably a one-off type increase.

Internet went up and MH is peeved. We are biding our time for cheaper or maybe even free internet. Our small company got bought out by a bigger one, so I know that was a lot of my husband feeling disgruntled. It's like the third time that has happened to us. (But at least it wasn't Comcast this time. A medium fish swallowed the little fish). On the flip side, we do have 100mbps. As long as MH is working, he can have his insane high speed internet. We do get use/benefits from it. It's been actually saving me a lot of time on a work project, to just take home and use our super fast internet. (We may have 100mbps at work, but it gets bogged down in various ways).

Gymnastics: They only take cash and I have been mostly been funding by selling stuff around the house. I suppose more than that, have just been funding from MH's income. I realized last fall that I never put this in our budget. Something wasn't quite adding up right, until I realized. But I've just been winging it because I didn't have any room for this expense. So... I would like to work this into our budget, which is basically how we allocate *my* salary. I don't know if we will be able to. Plan B is I will allocate MH's salary for this expense. Looking back at 2016, I think that $100/month should be ample. I am okay with MH's income funding "splurges that we can't otherwise justify". I don't want to just wing it again, for this year. It was an expenses we added middle of 2016 and that I didn't give a whole lot of thought, beyond "MH is working and we can swing it."

On the flip side, DL(11) is giving me a bit of a financial reprieve. His first class at art school was a visual arts class, which would have been the lowest on his list of interests. But he LOVED it and he has been working hard on his drawing. I kept telling him he could just take more art classes later, but he felt intimidated by how much talent some of the kids have. I don't mind buying him classes now to get his confidence up, and he can't even take any (free) electives this year anyway. That will come later. But for whatever reason I procrastinated on getting him enrolled in the single drawing class I could find. (I am not a procrastinator usually). By the time the first day of class rolled around I brought it up and said I could try to get him signed up, but he seemed no longer interested at that point. Phew! He is very protective of his free time (which is why I think this art school is so important for him; will give him LOTS of exposure during school, without cutting into his "time to be a kid"). But he also later told me he felt like he had caught up to the other kids. He is practicing and improving on his own time. (If he changes his mind later, we can cover with MH's income, or money from grandparents).

So...

If we don't get any raises, what ever will we do? I actually have $200/month going into investments. It was a placeholder for past raises that we didn't *need*. So I feel very *shrugs* about any scenario at this point. We have been investing the $200/month mostly with funding college in mind. & I mean, we already have enough money to get both kids through college (in a bare minimum kind of way). So this is just extra that allows our kids more options. Either way, it's just gravy.

I will find out today what I have to work with. Then I Can work on figuring out our goals for 2017.

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Edited to add: After getting multiple comments focusing on income (on other blog posts too), I felt it was worth clarifying. This is how we manage our expenses. If I was getting a 50% raise tomorrow, I would still go through this exercise. Keeping expenses down is probably the most important factor, as to early retirement. So, I am just sharing my thought process on the expense side of things. It is very "Money Mustache". I don't care if we double our income tomorrow. If we can find a cheaper internet alternative, we will find a cheaper internet alternative.

The income side is important too, but is rather divorced from the "expense" side, for me.

Trying to Stay Dry

January 11th, 2017 at 05:52 am

After the "worst drought in recorded history", I heard on the radio this past week that we were on track for the "wettest winter in recorded history." (Or something along those lines). It would be enough to wipe out the years-long drought.

So... You can't win!

Anyway, we are in the midst of some huge storms. Was just reading an article how they opened the flood gates to release water. They don't do this lightly. They are letting go of precious water, and won't be able to close the gates again until the water recedes.

We are okay, for now, but we could use a break in the rain. It's supposed to rain for a couple of more days, and all the (MANY) rivers are getting very high and are being closely monitored.

Edited to add: I started to type this out yesterday. Last night I Was woken up around midnight to the most *insane* rain. It was raining several inches per hour. (If I hadn't of laid there for a while, taking some time to get my bearings, I might have thought that the river was roaring down our street. Of course, I got up to be sure it was *just* the rain). Seriously?! The storm went out with a BANG! It was very calm after that; the storm gutters were clear and able to handle the deluge. More rain today and tomorrow.

Doings

January 8th, 2017 at 06:35 am

With MH home for the winter, you'd think the school stuff would be easier, but it seems more complicated. He took three trips to get kids to/from school one day last week. & the high school is still on break! I am looking more and more forward to putting this crazy schedule behind us. The kids will have two completely different calendars next year, but their schools are close together and they mostly start and finish school at the same time. Except for holidays and minimum days and stuff like that, we can just pick up and drop off kids literally on the way to/from our jobs. It sounds very nice!

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MH ended up buying me a very small computer. He kept seeing sales in the $100 range. This is an incredible deal if you already have all the accessories. But I haven't had a desktop since I've been displaced by kids. So... $500 later. The motivation was not "minimalism" but I am LOVING it from that standpoint. The computer is about the size of the original roku? (Or how I recall the original roku to have been). It just hangs off the back of the monitor. & I told MH several times that I did not need speakers. He did not believe me, so he ended up getting me a monitor with built-in speakers. So it looks like I just have a monitor/keyboard/mouse. We got it set up in our bedroom, for now. Glad it is so compact, because I might want to move downstairs in the summer.

We also ended up buying a couple of office chairs off of Craigslist. It felt like quite a splurge, because the vast majority of the chairs in our house were free. From all sorts of random people. Everyone is always giving away chairs. We found two new chairs (retails $100/each) that we paid $40/each for. So far, we are happy with those. MM(13) Wasn't happy with the free used chair he had (it sounds like he has been rough on it over the years), so I got him a chair also. We had an extra desk laying around, for me, but I didn't have a chair. Thus, the purchase of two chairs.

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MH went to a concert in San Francisco this past week. It sounded pretty incredible, but I just didn't think I could get away from work.

We have tickets to three more shows this month in SF, for the Comedy Sketchfest. We toned it down this year, based on show offerings and my work schedule. There's other shows we'd love to go to but are mid-week or just aren't practical at all.

I've been able to slow down and catch my breath for the last week or so. But will be slammed with deadlines for the rest of the month.

It's a stormy weekend and we are stuck indoors. We have watched a couple of movies (MH gets free movie rentals somehow). I am reading a library book.

Financial Updates - 2016 Year End

January 1st, 2017 at 02:01 pm

I think this is my last post for the day. I am getting to all my financial updates, since I have time today.

We did really well on net worth for 2016. Up $60,000 for the year. Our goal was to increase net worth by $42,000.

We paid down the mortgage by $8,000. The rest of our net worth gain was investments.

Home Equity is at $250,000.

Cash/Investments have surpassed the $300k mark.

I don't know if I have ever said specifically, but I have a very comfortable emergency fund for next job transition. (It's been a BIG goal for me, and we made it!)

ROTH IRAs and Traditional IRAs seem to be about 50/50, as to their balances. We do not contribute to ROTHs given our current tax situation. But we heavily funded the ROTHs while my spouse was not working (low tax rates). I would guess that the Traditional IRAs will pull ahead in 2017, since we are contributing to those.

Our savings rate was 30% in 2016. 25% of our income went to long-term investments and retirement. The other 5% went to cash savings.

If we paid off our mortgage, we'd be debt free and we would have $150,000 in investments. We'd have to cash out our ROTHs, cash, and taxable investments to do this. We could leave college money and Traditional IRAs intact. I suppose it's feasible (for the first time ever), 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 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.

Our household income hit six figures for the first time. I am just counting "salary" for this purpose. I really thought we had an income around $100k last we both worked full-time. But it turns out we had peaked at $99,000 (per old tax records). This year our salary income was something like $100,200. We just squeaked by. So I guess that is kind of an exciting milestone. Of course, our income is kind of the same as it has been. I just did the math, and once you figure how much less OT I worked and how much less money we made in side hustles, economically we made the same amount in both 2015 and 2016. So while pretty much everyone generally reacts like we are suddenly "made of money" with MH working, it's more as I expected: We are the same financially either way. We've just replaced some side hustle income with wages. & the wages are WAY less efficient, of course, but the motivation has been for resume and "future employment" versus more immediate financial gain.

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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.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2017:

Cash: Increase $5,000
Mortgage: Paydown $8,000
Investments: Contribute $9,000
Retirement: Contribute $15,000
Investment Returns: $13,000 (would need 4% gain)
TOTAL INCREASE: $50,000

Of course, it also seems likely that the value of our house will increase significantly next year. It's been rather stagnate for a few years, but things are starting to take off in recent months. It looks like a $60k net worth increase is feasible, factoring home equity gains. OF course, almost anything is feasible. 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. But this is just what I am starting with.

I had said that maybe I would change my blog focus to "countdown to financial independence" when I turn 40 (last month). But... It's still too far away and nebulous with way too many moving parts. So I am laying out our more long-term plan. I feel that there are way too many unknowns to start a countdown at this point. It's just a very loose plan, for now.

The loose plan will be to get our kids through college, to have $1 mil in investments, and to downsize into a paid-for home (smaller than what we have now, and lower maintenance). We should be able to achieve this in 10 years.

December Savings

January 1st, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Received $41 bank interest for the month of December.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $95 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $10 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$15 Savings from Target Red Card
--$ 5 American Express Credit
--$ 1 Citi Price Rewind

In addition, I added $16 to investments to get up to a total of $7,000 contributions for the year. I fell short of my goal, but figured I could round up $16 to make it even.

Other snowflakes:
--$85 Craigslist sale

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
-$143 Auto Expense
-$470 Dentist/Ortho

Short-term savings was otherwise drained for the year so I pulled the following out of mid-term savings:

-$500 computer expenses (MM)
-$250 Sketchfest tickets (3 shows)


2016 Spending & 2017 Vacation Plans

January 1st, 2017 at 06:45 am

In the end, it looks like we spent within $90 of what we spent in 2015, for total household spending. I mentioned in my last post that we are VERY consistent.

{Edited to add: Um... The kids owe me like $60 for Christmas gifts that they bought. MH was settling up with them yesterday. Once I settle up with them, I think our spending will be within $30 of the prior year. That is just CRAZY!}

Here are top 5 expenses and bottom 5 expenses for last 2 years:


NOTE: Edited to Top 6, to capture big expenses. All other expenses were $2,000 or below.

I highlighted the vacation spending because we aren't big vacation spenders and these are very one-off type expenses. Our annual budget is only $2,000 for vacation, and is more in the realm of what I foresee spending the next several years.

On the mortgage, we made an extra payment (or two?) versus last year. We should be under the $7,000 mark on mortgage interest in the future. This is one of those expenses that is snowballing downward very rapidly.

Auto expenses include repairs/maintenance, insurance, registration, fuel. (We pay cash for cars; no car payments). You might presume that our auto expenses were down because we now have a newer vehicle. But our repair spending in 2016 was $0 on our 2005 minivan. In contrast, the 2013 vehicle needed a new battery and new tires. (We replaced the crappy/cheap stock tires, and the battery died prematurely).

{I do have details on the autos, and I also track expenses per vehicle. For 2016: $1944 fuel, $1800 insurance, $278 registration, $803 repairs/maintenance}.

Medical expenses are insane, but our insurance has covered almost seven figures in medical procedures for my husband (before age 40). So, at least I know we get our money's worth, and it's very important for us to have high quality insurance. I am sure given different circumstances we would have just gone "cheap". It's been our biggest expense for several years, so is nothing new. It's been our biggest challenge with *one income* living, but we live so far below our means that we have been able to deal with it. But I know it's so glaring that I should address.

**I have not included income taxes because is not a big expense for us.**

The interesting thing about our lowest expenses is that it tends to be our more luxury spending. I am sure I have said it a million times before, but will say it again. We don't do without. We just are careful and rein in costs, and shop around. & prioritize what is the most important. So most of our "luxury" type spending ends up towards the bottom.

The only reason we paid any childcare in 2015 is that our carpools were flakey and they'd forget to pick up our kids (and their own kids too). *sigh* Our attitude for 2016 was to just take care of it ourselves. I am sure this is reflected in additional driving (A LOT), but gas has generally been cheaper this year.

Haircuts went up substantially because MM(13) is suddenly interested in a short hairstyle.

Vet care - we learned that our vet is cheap when it comes to shots.

I did notice that our telephone expenses (not listed) more than doubled. It was one of the more noticeable changes, since everything else was so consistent. We just didn't get as many Ting referrals (discounts) in 2016. So we paid $300 for landline + cell phone service for 2015. We paid closer to $700 in 2016. This included adding cell service for DL(11) the last couple of months. Both years we just paid for my parents during the last 6 months of the year. We are going to add MM(13) to cell plan this summer. So, should be an additional $144 per year, for the long run, with the two new lines. (It's only $6/month to add a line to Ting). I don't expect the kids will use much data/texting. They've had smart phones for years, so they are used to seeking out free wifi. I think we will probably just cover this bill for my parents. We used to split 50/50, but now it's going to be more 66/33. & we seem to use more data which is why we just tell my parents not to reimburse us for the second half of the year. Maybe I should just ask them to cover their $144 per year for the additional lines. As long as their usage remains low, we will just cover the rest. I think this sounds like a good compromise, since I don't know that we need to be subsidizing my parents' phone bills. But maybe $144 is a good compromise where we don't have to try to divide the bill as it gets more complicated. That's just their obvious "share" of the bill. You pay per line and then it's a flat amount for all the data, text and minutes that you use for that month (as a group). Even the first line is just $6/month.

I expect our total expenses to be about the same for the next couple of years. We have some home maintenance ($$$$) to tend to. Starting to talk braces for both kids. So stuff like that will probably replace our recent vacation spending. These are things we also want to take care of while our income is high and before our kids start college.

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While discussing vacation spending, I want to jot down some notes on that.

2017 Vacation Plans:

I really want to do a National Park vacation. It will have to be without the kids. Aiming for fall. I am thinking more frugal road trip. I don't even know if we'd spend $500 on something like this. So it's like my "Dream vacation" for the moment, but is nothing that is a big financial drain. Grand Canyon is at the top of the list.

MH has plans to go to Florida for his Grandpa's 90th birthday. It's in the fall; the kids and I won't be able to go. So it just works out. (I do not want to go, so it really works out!) That will be with his family, so I expect our only expense will be airfare, which should not be much.

My dad was making plans to river raft down the grand canyon with my son. He told me on Thanksgiving that he would cover the costs and would expect us to pay for airfare. I think that's fine and reasonable. (Though our vacation spending has been insane, I have just been trying to go with the flow, not knowing how this trip would shake out. Time like this, with Grandparents, is just too priceless). As our parents get more financially comfortable, they invite us on trips less often that they expect *us* to pay for. (They also give us more cash, which we set aside for these type things. Is why I often say that "the Grandparents are paying for it," whether they realize or not). Since it was domestic, I just went with it. In the end the trip sounds quite expensive (more than I would have thought), but I believe that my dad will follow through on paying for it. Anyway, we weren't sure if it might be too late to reserve for summer and I mentioned that MM(13) will get out of school the following year on May 31st. No more of this crazy "short summer" stuff, for him. So my dad told me yesterday that the more he thought about it the more appealing it sounded June 1 versus mid-July. It would be just so crazy hot in July. I think it's probably best all around to push that off. MM has his big school DC trip this spring. So this will space out his big trips a bit. Heck, maybe I will try to tag along if they wait another year. I just couldn't even think about it with my broken foot. That gives me time to save up too. (If this seems feasible, I suppose that MH and I would consider visiting Yellowstone instead, in 2017. We will start making decisions this summer).

Checking In

December 31st, 2016 at 07:01 am

PHEW!

Survived the end-of-year work crunch. So crazy behind on everything still, and the deadlines are piling up. (Lots of new government rules and deadlines that affect me next year). It's just going to be one of those years. I Can deal because I know the *crazy* workload is only temporary. I keep telling myself that at least next week is not a deadline week. Hoping to at least feel more "caught up" before I get thrown into January deadlines. I did also decide to "turn off work" for the long weekend. I just need to regroup and spend some time with my family. I expect this is the last weekend that I will have off until May.

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MM has decided to attend his assigned high school next year, or the one closer to our house. That makes life so much easier for us. Phew! We still do have to figure out the transportation. He is VERY independent and if we lived somewhere else I'd just let him ride his bike. But it's so dangerous. For whatever reason there is no public transportation options. I want to give him his independence. But... If MH is dropping DL off at school anyway, right by his work, it makes more sense just to get MM to school safely. So I guess I am a little frustrated on the "independence" side of things. But otherwise, both their schools and MH's work are all close together, and only about 2-3 miles from our home. It should make life much easier for the long run. & they can get themselves to/from school if need be.

I guess it's relative. Some of our neighbors are choosing another charter school a couple of blocks from our house, for the convenience factor. I guess convenience is a factor for us, but not *the* biggest factor. But... I've never considered schools more than 3 miles from our house. A client was telling me this past week that her kids were choosing high schools 15 miles apart. It would have to be a really stellar school/situation (or lack of other options) for me to make a choice like that. So while I wish MM could just take the public transit to school, she made me appreciate how simplified our situation will be next year.

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On the Christmas front:

My parents were sick and so we didn't see them. Frown My dad had wanted to take us out to lunch on Christmas Day (something different). We've tentatively rescheduled for today.

I think the "no tree" thing was probably just a one year break. So I am not even looking at the sales, for smaller trees. DL(11) decided in the end that he missed the tree. I think we can oblige him next year. This year was just too crazy.

Oh, and the in-laws... Had some wins with them.

For whatever reason, MIL accepts MM(13)'s minimalism. I believe that all he received was a gift card and some cash. (Which is AMAZING!!) She can only accept that in him. She won't accept it in me. She won't listen to my SIL, whose kids drown in gifts from both sets of grandparents. (I don't know that SIL is a minimalist, but the last thing her kids need is more stuff). DL(11) collects video games and cows, and MIL seemed to delight in buying him piles of that stuff. Which is really fine. I was impressed she was able to do that while letting it go with MM. I think she just had *no idea* what on earth to get MM, honestly. (Oh, and he did get some parts for his new computer. I knew there had to be something else! But still, it was all stuff he specifically asked for and was more in the useful realm).

As to the charity gift? Meh. It was kind of over the top. I've brought up my MIL's insanity before and get all sorts of well meaning comments. But it's like, "Why not ask for cash instead?" & stuff like that. Oh, they give us cash. It has to be cash AND gifts. I guess all this to say, they didn't scale back. So now it is: cash + gifts + cash to give to charity. I know that charity is where my SIL has been trying to steer MIL. Like we have enough crap, so let's do nice things for people who actually need it. I'd say she didn't *get* it. But I do hope that it is a step in the right direction. MIL completely HATED the idea 10 years ago, so it is definitely a step in a better direction. She just didn't seem to get the memo that "less gifts" should be part of the "more charity" plan.

We did choose a charity to give $500 too ($500 from in-laws). & then we doled out my work bonus ($200) to 4 charities like we always do. Don't get me wrong. It was really nice to write a bigger check for a charity that we support. It was a WONDERFUL gift.

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I've updated my sidebar for 2016 financial goals. I'd say that 2016 went very well.

On the spending side, all I can say is that we are VERY consistent. We spent $85 more than we did last year. HA! (Can't say that we planned it that way). Some categories were the same or within a few dollars.

As to 2017, I won't know our income for another couple of weeks, so will hold off on any goals or budgets or plans until then. I expect things to mostly be the same as 2016.

I'll do some financial updates later, re: 2016.

Some Small Savings & Christmas Stuff

December 14th, 2016 at 07:53 am

**We received a $5 statement credit for checking AmEx account on mobile app.

**I bought ahead $100 of Target gift cards, 10% off. MH later asked me if we should buy up gift cards for kids' to gift for their friends' birthday parties. Smart! We bought 5 Target gift cards during 2016, so I just bought up 5 ($15) gift cards at 10% off.

We probably could/should have done the $300 max, but we already get 5% off our purchases and it is a bit of a hassle. This is the first year we even took the 10% deal.

**I did also get MM(13) switched over to our cheap dentist from the pediatric (not cheap) dentist. I expect this will save us at least $400 per year. DL(11) is not quite there yet, but probably soon.

**The saga of DL's extra tooth is finally over. Phew! We were told maybe 3 years ago that they might have to do surgery to remove it. But we have been waiting (& waiting) and it finally erupted (broke the skin) on its own, without causing too many problems. So he had that tooth yanked this week.

It's one minor win. I expect he will cost me tens of thousands of dollars for the long haul. He has all the teeth/jaw problems that I had. So... I will take any win I can get.

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**We are doing virtually nothing for Christmas.

I generally don't do much because my work is so busy. But this year is just insane busy, starting several weeks early.

I think that's compounded with us just having a crazy year in general, MH being so busy, and being on a general downward trend of Christmas spending.

The kids and I grew up in homes that didn't make a huge materialistic deal about Christmas. So... I am pretty sure that *MH* is the one that broached the subject, but we had discussed not getting the kids any gifts this year. Well, *he* did grow up in a house that made a huge deal about Christmas, so he's been very wishy washy about this. To us and the kids, he clearly has issues. As of this moment in time, we agreed to get them one "need" gift each, and some stocking stuffers (food). I think that's probably where we will land, but lord knows. (& when he said, "no gifts", I figured we'd still be doing stockings/treats, so we seem to be on the same page on that part).

As to the kids, they could care less about if we get them any gifts.

The kids also insist that they don't care about our (plastic) tree, and so we decided not to put it up this year. I don't know if this is more of a break or a more permanent decision. I would like to buy a smaller tree, but will probably let it go for this year and will shop the after-Christmas sales. We might not bother decorating at all. Lord knows I won't be around much to care either way.

Gifts I bought for my parents: a concert ticket for my dad and a charitable gift in my mom's name.

& we always take my Christmas bonus ($200) and each pick a charity to donate $50 to.

For the in-laws, we already bought a big gift, since they generally go big. MH always has some electronic toy or whatever in mind. They will give us more cash than we spend for all of Christmas, so I figure money is no object for their gift.

But... Hell has frozen over! MIL announced a week or two ago that she was going to give us $500 to give to charity. I don't think she has any idea that we already do this. In fact, I told most my friends and relatives (about 10 years ago!) that I'd rather them donate to charity than give me gifts. Everyone was very receptive to this, except my MIL. She was NOT Having it. So... I have no idea what on earth happened, but I guess it's a Christmas miracle. Big Grin (She seems to be toning it down on the gift side of things, though I never for sure until it's over. I am not holding my breath on that part. But... I just feel like she actually gets it on some level, that she would do this. Less emphasis on the stuff).

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I've spent virtually nothing this year (on myself or on retail). Since I had a few days off around my birthday, I went shopping. WAY behind on allowance spending. & not that I need to spend it all (because I won't). But I updated my wardrobe a bit.

I also found a beautiful table cloth for $30 that goes very well in our formal dining room. You never know if these things will look as good in person, but we put it up yesterday and it is just perfect! I also bought a "Christmas" table cloth and we put it over, for now. I had a couple of Christmas items stored in the china cabinet, so just put those out to anchor the table cloth (the table is over 100 inches long). & I found my Christmas tree scented candle, so we ended up with a little Christmas spirit. I set up a Christmas table for us to put our gifts on.

I had bought a very pretty table cloth (last year) which wasn't practical and I just decided to donate. I also donated a few sweaters, to make room for some new ones.

Oh, and that reminds me. MM is outgrowing his clothes like crazy. DL didn't want most of MM's old shirts, so I had a pile to donate. Plus I took out all of the "baby" hangers from their closets. I had already given MM some of my hangers for his uniform shirts, but otherwise they don't bother hanging up their clothes.

I bought an electronic toy last January that I knew I would most likely sell. I think it was $150 retail and I paid virtually nothing for it because I used credit card rewards. I sold it yesterday for $85.

We went by the school Dicken's fair briefly over the weekend. I ended up picking up a very cool tie dye shirt for myself. I didn't get her business card, and I could kick myself. She had some really neat tie dye. Very talented. If I had more Christmas shopping to do, there would have been some good gifts.

MH and I snuck in a nice lunch date. We've been doing that some on the weekends. Is unusual for us (to go out, to be spontaneous, or to even eat out). But since we didn't invite the kids, it was more of a reasonable expenditure. I had a perpetual headache and I knew it was work stress. So I decided to relax Saturday. Sunday I worked all day. I *might* take Sunday off for Christmas with MH's family. (Not sure where I will be with work and I am fighting off a cold. If I get sick at all I will need the time to catch up). & not that I'd work *all* weekend, but I just won't be able to get much done if I go out of town all day. I may need a mental health day (or physical health day) at home. I will take Christmas Day off. Otherwise it's just work work work, for me. MH's last day of work (for the season) should be Friday. So he can take care of the kids' crazy schedules. All 3 schools have completely different breaks, and 2 have weird final schedules (next week). MH will be home for a month.

November Savings

November 30th, 2016 at 05:56 am

Received $39 bank interest for the month of November.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. But... Paid annual $95 fee. I will subtract $95 from snowflakes/investments.

Redeemed $64 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$17 Savings from Target Red Card
--$40 Focus Group (survey)

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 500 to Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$200 Tahoe Weekend
-$200 Monterey Weekend
-$185 Auto Expenses
-$200 Medical
-$325 Life Insurance
-$5,400 Property Taxes

& with that, we have drained short-term savings for the year. Still choosing to pay ahead property taxes, paying just once per year for simplicity.

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

Our fiscal year should be over. I paid all of the December bills already. Mostly expecting any expenses this month to affect our 2017 bottom line. Anything that comes up in December will most likely be charged and paid off in 2017.

I will update sidebar through December since I will fund December savings tomorrow with 12/1 paycheck. It's just the investments that I do at the end of the month and it looks like I will need to top off a bit. Oh, and I don't plan to pay extra $3k to mortgage until the end of December. Just making sure no surprises come up before I part with that money.

Birthday Weekend

November 28th, 2016 at 11:20 am

This month has been a very long and trying month. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Lots of medical stuff with several family members. *sigh*

I think for now mostly everyone seems okay. Though I don't think anyone is "cured" or out of the woods. Four close relatives off the top of my head; no answers when it comes to any of them. Just random unexplained medical stuff.

Oh, and work is completely crazed. So... Yeah, that's why I haven't been bloggy.

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

It looked touch and go for a while, but thankfully I had a nice birthday weekend. MH was a little under the weather, the weather looked pretty crappy, and DL freaked out when we tried to leave him with grandparents. (Which has *never* happened before, but you know he has been having issues). But... in the end it all somehow worked out. Phew!

Our original plan was to just stay south of San Francisco. We had wanted to do a hike and have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in SF. But with the weather (very rainy on Saturday) we let it go and just stayed close to our hotel. I chose Half Moon Bay, since I wanted to stay along the coast and didn't really want to stay *in* San Francisco.

It worked out really well. We just happened to drive through that area on our one-year anniversary and there was a spectacular thunderstorm. I guess the place is just kind of magical, to us. We ended up just spending the whole weekend in Half Moon Bay, which was quite all right.

The view from our hotel room:



Given the stormy weather, we were maybe a bit too close to the ocean. Yeesh!

Saturday we were able to do a nice morning and evening walk by our hotel, between rains. It was nice.

Sunday morning we did two hikes before we headed out. The sun came out at it was gorgeous that day.

It was extra nice since it's the first hike I've been able to do post broken foot. I really couldn't walk much when we went to Tahoe last month. We couldn't even do a small hike.





MIL slipped me $200 for my birthday. We actually spent about exactly $200 on food this weekend, including ordering pizza for the kids on Friday since we seemed to have no food in the house. So I already paid off the dining credit card for the month (closes monthly on the 25th) and threw the extra $200 to cover weekend dining expenses.

There was a restaurant next to our hotel which was absolutely divine. They had live piano music and excellent food. We spent $100 there Friday night. Saturday we went to the Moss Beach Distillery. I thought it sounded familiar. I guess it is a famous haunted restaurant. It used to be a speakeasy, as was the first restaurant we ate at. Otherwise we just kept it light. Didn't even eat out Sunday since our hotel served such a substantial breakfast.

I am grateful for the relaxing weekend. Work is just going to be crazy for the foreseeable future. I was planning to take this week off, but I don't see that is going to fly. Just not enough hours in the day. (Will have an extra week of vacation next year, if I don't use my last week up this year, which will be nice).

Edited to add: My birthday isn't for a few more days, but we celebrated ahead.

This & That

November 13th, 2016 at 07:15 am

**Frugal win: We scored a $20 birthday gift for free, thanks to MH's work. The kids have a party to attend this weekend.

**MM(13) earned his first $100 from medical study. Expects $200 more this month.

MH has been using "sitting around waiting for MM" time to buy up computer parts. MM(13) wants to build a gaming computer. The medical study will pay for his half, and we are matching the other half.

**We turned on cell service for DL(11). We live in a time where parents work and people live far from their schools and no one is ever spontaneous any more. BUT... DL has made friends with two boys who live walking distance from his new school. He mentioned that if he had a cell phone he could text us when he makes more spontaneous after-school plans with his friends. I think that is just great! (I guess is more reminiscent of my own childhood).

Anyway, he already has a phone, and it's just $6/month to add him to our Ting cell plan. I expect him to only text minimally, which wouldn't otherwise increase our bill. The kids mostly use Wifi to text and call their friends, so haven't had any interest in cell service.

We did check with MM(13) and he is okay with it. We were already discussing turning on his cell service this summer (just before high school). In the meantime, his school is in the middle of nowhere, his friends don't hang out, and MH picks him up early every day. He just doesn't care that his little brother has more use for a cell phone.

**Other than that, life has been busy. Work is really hectic this month because of a software conversion. As well as a lot of other things coming down the pipe line. Otherwise this would be the slowest month of the year for me. But yeah, it's all kind of insanity right now.

I had been feeling burned out and tried to get out of hosting Thanksgiving a couple of months ago, but no one was having it. I know the peers in our family (some with very small kids) always complain about the drive/traffic and legitimately wasn't sure if 90+ Grandma was up to it. But they insisted they all wanted to be up here. (We host because we live in lower cost city and have the most space. It's definitely the most pleasant and comfortable at our house).

Anyway, the stress of the election put me over the edge. I woke up Wendesday and told MH, "I can't do this". It was just the light bulb moment that I needed. I realized most years I don't break my foot and most years my child isn't a complete basket case. & most years work is a breeze during this time of year. What I thought was more of a multi-year fatigue was probably more about this year than anything. We just do a potluck and it's not like it puts us out too much. Maybe some of it is age and I've been a little more exhausted by it the last couple of years. But I realize even when I brought up a couple of months ago that it was probably more about how exhausted I already am by this year. I just wasn't being very conscious of that aspect. But it seemed very crystal clear to me when the stress got to be too much.

I was a little wary how MH's family would react. In fact, he was supposed to talk to his mom Friday night and he couldn't reach her. & yesterday I got an e-mail about how stressed out his family is. *sigh* (There's a new baby who has been in and out of the hospital plus his Grandma's apartment has water damage from the apartment above and she is temporarily displaced. & the grandmas in that family already do all the childcare so they are just being run ragged while the mom with the 4 little kids is in the hospital with baby). Logically, you think it would be easier on them not to spend 5+ hours in the car Thanksgiving Day, but we already gave them an out and they didn't seem to want to take it. I mean, they knew there would be a new baby and that it would be hectic. So... I am relieved to say that they were absolutely ecstatic when MH talked to them. Which is so stupid. Why wouldn't they tell us that they were stressed and they wanted to keep it local for them? That's less awkward than us saying, "We decided to have it at your house instead." I suppose maybe they hadn't had their light bulb moment yet. I knew logically this would be easier for them, but they didn't seem to agree the last time we brought it up.

Phew!

October Savings

October 30th, 2016 at 08:39 am

Received $43 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $62 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

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

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 500 to Investments

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

+$1,300 to cash
-$860 Auto maintenance/insurance/registration
-$280 Medical Bills
-$255 Hotel Deposit (40th Birthday)
-$185 Donations (just random stuff that came up)
- $50 School Expenses

In addition, I pulled $350 from mid-term savings to cover some tree trimming and shrub removal.

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

Our fiscal year is just about over. I paid all of the November bills already. Mostly expecting any expenses this month to affect our 2016 bottom line, but anything that comes up in December will most likely be charged and paid off in 2017.

This month was pretty boring on the financial front. As planned, we funded our VR splurge with MH's income. (I've already paid off October charges, so it's paid for). The other 50% went into his 401k.

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

That reminds me, I also sold the knee scooter. We had paid for it with focus group cash that MH had received the day before we bought the scooter. Since we had paid $150 for it, we just listed it for $150. it sold easily at that price. Net cost was $0 to use it.

I decided to just use that cash for MM's gymnastics, since they only take cash. This should cover him for the rest of the year (particularly with all of the holidays). I also used some of the cash for a school fundraiser. I will account for gymnastics somehow when I do the 2017 budget. But for this year I was able just to wing it.

Some Health Updates

October 22nd, 2016 at 09:17 am

**Really worried about my husband. He thinks he has an ulcer but it kind of came out of nowhere and knocked him off his feet. My gut feeling is that something really is not right.

Anyway, he went to the Doctor immediately and won't get ulcer test results until Monday. But in the meantime his Doctor had him do a bunch of other blood tests and his iron is crazy low. I don't know if she will contact him again before Monday, but you know, since he eats a well rounded diet, is not pregnant, is not female/menstruating, is perfectly healthy otherwise, etc. Sounds like internal bleeding. (Long-term internal bleeding??) We are prepared to take him to emergency if he exhibits any symptoms they told us to be careful about. (More severe internal bleeding symptoms were basically the reason to go to ER).

Otherwise, I suppose we find out more on Monday.

*sigh*

**In good news, DL(11) has completely snapped out of his funk. Life is back to normal.

We've not ruled out a mood disorder or something along those lines. I feel like we aren't being taken very seriously because he is so high functioning, which can be very good but can also be very bad. That's very typical in my family. (These are the type people who just randomly commit suicide "out of nowhere" because they can appear to keep it together for a long time. Just to point out why it's problematic). But we were referred to getting more professional help because the school counselor was dumbfounded by him and VERY concerned. It's just that by the time we got him into any help he was back to a range of normal. So I know that my worries are not over-blown but there's not going to be much that we can figure out or diagnose while he is in "happy land".

**In super good news... MH's Grandfather had been ill for a long time and after what seemed like a bazillion tests, they were not finding anything. I think they were just getting resigned to it being old age.

But... He snapped out of it and seems to be returning to normal. After pressing his Doctors about if he could have had some kind of virus, they finally ran some other blood tests.

You will never believe what he had. He's 89 & he had... MONO

Considering that mono almost killed me the month I turned 18... I told MH that his grandfather will live to 110. Wink I expect he had a much milder case. From what we had heard, was none of the typical symptoms. But it looks like most people get mono (or are exposed to the virus) before 30 or something like that. I guess nothing typical about it.

So I guess that's a lot of good news but some worrisome news too.

Doings

October 16th, 2016 at 05:51 am

**MH won $75 at work. More on that below.

**MM got accepted into a study that will probably pay him $300 next month. (It's $100 per visit, and depends if he passes the first one or two screenings. If accepted, it's a 4-year study and they may randomly choose MM for follow ups later). This is an autism study.

I've said in the past that the kids don't really have anything to save up for, so am just thinking longer term. (Just different times, different circumstances. Seems I had more ways to spend money as a kid). BUT... When discussing the possibility of a study (another one that paid $200 up front) MM mentioned that he wanted a new desktop computer. We agreed to buy him a monitor and a OS (probably can get a student-priced OS) and would cover 50% of the rest. He was probably going to have to come up with $300, and then this study just fell into his lap. If the study doesn't pan out for any reason, he has the money saved already.

I am glad he is going through the ropes of a more medium purchase before he buys something like a car. He's going to build his own computer. Right now all he has is a keyboard and a mouse (that he uses with his laptop).

That's the income side of things.

On the spending side of things...

**MH had pre-ordered the PlayStation Virtual Reality system (for about $500).

It is pretty freaking AMAZING. (Seriously, it's hard to imagine this is just the bottom/intro. They are going to do amazing things with VR).

It's the kind of thing we've been paying with credit card rewards (for the past several years). So I was thinking I should probably look for a $500 reward. I know there was one I was eligible for again this month, but it looks like that particular reward has dried up, as many of the others have.

I told MH that we had a good run, but we might not be able to find big bonuses any more. (& not that they don't exist, but if we've done them 3 times already they aren't going to let us do the same bonus again).

I will of course keep an eye out, but I am not expecting much on this front. The cc rewards were a nice income stream while MH was out of work. Plan A was that we were just paying from his income anyway.

We decided that MH should use his found $75 for some games. He already spent $25 (bought the VR game that everyone is raving about the most) and is keeping the other $50 for whatever strikes his fancy between now and Christmas. Otherwise the VR system came with some demos/games and he had bought some play station credits on sale a while ago (25% off?) that he has been using.

In general, MH and the kids aren't big game spenders. But it helps when $75 falls out of the sky like the day you get your new VR system. Big Grin (Otherwise, they are filling up their Christmas wish list and will keep an eye on the used market).

Other spending has been far more boring and mundane...

I hired out someone to get our trees trimmed and to pull out dead shrubs. A LOT of work. We had never trimmed the trees (just one monster tree in the back that *really* needed to be tamed). I mean, we did minor pruning that we could do on our own, but the trees are 15 years old at this point and need more work. In the end, monster tree is still enough of a baby that they said we wouldn't need to do a big pruning for another 5 years. The shrubs that the builder had put in all died in the drought (because we couldn't water enough in summer). I think except for two trees in the front, everything else we had put in. It's a hot/dry climate in general so we always need plants that need very little water. I am pleased that everything else seems to have done well with very little water.

**Yesterday I took MM out shopping. He needed a new backpack and a new jacket.

We stopped by Ross, who had TONS of backpacks a couple of weeks ago, but had since cleared out the inventory. But we found a $20 jacket that was just about perfect. My only concern was that it was a bit bulky, as to something to just keep in a backpack (since my kids mostly refuse to wear jackets. It mostly sits in the backpack to appease the teachers who freak out about their lack of warm weather wear).

So... We went over to Target. We found a $30 backpack that he liked. (I told him not to take off the tags until he is sure everything fits).

And... We found his dream jacket. Super light and thin, just for the rain. It was something like $32. I said "whatever" because he was so pleased with it and I knew it would fit way better in his backpack. It wasn't until I got home that I even realized that jacket was on clearance. Yeesh! (Full price $45?) Since they mostly never wear their jackets I am used to just buying whatever on clearance (more in the $10 range). But with MH working and MM being a teenager, I am trying to let his taste come more into play. Thank goodness for places like Ross. & we could probably hit the thrift stores too, but it's just something I haven't done in so long (almost a decade?) with access to such cheap clearance items. I stopped shopping thrift when Target opened a store near our home. The kids' clothes is most often in the $5 range. Plus I can just order online and have it shipped free to my house. & Ross isn't too far off from that for adult clothing. But... Given our finds yesterday, I suppose we need to re-visit thrift options too.

MH has lots of time to kill (in the vicinity of Ross) while he waits for MM to finish his math class, so I will just have him return the other jacket during the week.

I didn't pick anything else up at Target. It's how I have been since we got a Target credit card. I generally would never do a store credit card and feel uncomfortable with it, but we got the cc because we do primarily grocery shopping there and the 5% off is pretty sweet. I think my reaction to that was to just avoid Target like the plague. I just didn't need any additional temptation. & so is the irony that I have probably never spent less money at Target. I mean, how many years have we had this credit card? At least a few years at this point. I no longer equate Target with hobby shopping or perusing. Just in and out with a list. & I don't think it's an overly conscious thing but it's just how my mindset shifted with the credit card.

Ross is another story. I didn't have my internal alarms turned up, and so my attitude was completely different in Ross. I fell in love with a $10 blanket that I happened to walk by. I actually resisted it the first pass, but then decided I couldn't remember the last time I bought myself something. Just $10! So I am glad I decided to splurge. (The blanket is very soft and just gorgeous).

I also found a drawstring bag (but more sturdier/higher quality) for $3 and so I just grabbed it for our re-usable bag stash. Reminds me that MH also got a free bag from work.

Weekly Minutiae

October 7th, 2016 at 06:29 am

When I haven't been too posty, it seems best to just go back to the minutiae.

Monday doings:

**MH went to a free movie. He sees free movies about 2-3 days per week. (Advanced Screenings).

{Ironically, DL(11) was invited to a birthday party for a movie we thought they'd see Saturday with grandparents. We had left them 4 free tickets for an advanced screening. Last time we took him to an advanced screening he was invited to see that movie at a birthday party. & so it happened again! But... He had refused to go, so it works out for him. He is relieved he doesn't have to see the same movie twice in one week again. I guess that's a problem when you see everything early.}.

** Since we were gone all weekend, I thought maybe I'd offer to help MH grocery shop while we waited for MM (gymnastics class). But MH was off to the movies. So I stopped by the store to get a few things and MH went by the store Tuesday to get the rest. (I didn't have a lot of time and I don't know where everything is). We've mostly been splitting the grocery shopping 50/50 since he has been working, but I hadn't gotten any groceries since I broke my foot (2 months ago).

**MM(13) had no school Monday. Even the high school had off. I don't think we would have realized that he didn't have his high school class, but he's taken responsibility for all that (as I expected he would). So... I am glad he was paying attention.

**MH told me about a New Years concert he wanted to go to. I was open to it since it's a rare year that New Years eve falls on the weekend. Otherwise it's really hard for me to get out of work early and all I want to do is collapse (due to crazy work deadlines). So... I was open to it, but then he said there was no seating. *sigh* Considering I've been couch bound for 2 months with a broken foot... Wasn't sounding too appealing. Wouldn't sound too appealing anyway. The more I pointed out how old and decrepit I am the more he seemed to rethink his own stamina. I think it's probably for the best. We both agreed it probably sounded more fun than it would be, and good thing we did all that stuff when we were young. (He'd gone to this New Years concert several times in his teens/20s).

**Monday I helped my dad with an estate/tax situation. He is endlessly inheriting money from his "poorest" relatives. (I put poor in quotes because they certainly don't die poor). Anyway, he lost an aunt and an uncle the same week this year (brother/sister) and they had one niece doing both their estates. I have no idea how clean or messy the estates are, but I was consulted on a bit of a tax mess. I just thought that two estates at once sounded a bit overwhelming to take on. (Welcome to my future. At least my parents don't have 20+ siblings between them).

Tuesday Doings:

**I went home for lunch Tuesday and cooked lunch for MM. Just wanted to mix it up a bit. He's got no school this week, except for math class the rest of the week.

**MH got a $40 offer for doing some 20 minute online survey. Not sure how they will pay him. Was a follow up to a focus group that he did a couple of years ago.

Wednesday Doings:

**DL had a late start school day. I decided to leave MM to fend for himself since I left late that day. (No drive home to feed him lunch).

**I set up an appointment to get some shrubs removed and trees trimmed. It's long overdue. MH is busy at work and I had some time home this week and next, so I figured I'd just take care of it. What spurred me is some glowing referrals from neighbors.

**I got called about a $45 focus group but I didn't qualify for it.

Thursday Doings:

**My dad threw out some big (Grand Canyon) trips he wanted to do with my son. The first was on in February and I mentioned how my son already had a big trip planned in April and doubt he could do much but summer trips in the future. (MM doesn't have a break for the high school and my dad had the wrong week for the middle school Feb break). So he threw out a summer trip idea.

Yeah, I was thinking my parents certainly never took me anywhere and I had done more than enough for my kids, so I was just going to go to the Grand Canyon without them. Probably next year? Looks like MM(13) might beat me to it. Yeesh! (Or maybe I can go along, but it sounds a bit more than I would be up to).

I did also briefly think that we already paid for like a $3k trip in April, for MM to go to DC (plus insane amounts of vacation spending this year). But I just let it go for now. Have at least 8 months to figure it out. At least we are talking about domestic trips (much closer to home).

**I talked to a local University about 20 minutes on the phone about a study my 13yo is interested in participating in. He'd get a picture of his brain (which appeals to his nerdy side), I'd get his IQ test results, and the compensation is $500 (over 4 years). He'd get $200 up front. Fingers crossed! (If he can't get in I won't be too upset, since it seemed to be a big commitment). They are studying ADHD.

I put BM in their database and MH already signed him up for some other study (because the thought it was this one! When they called...) That one paid like a $30 gift card for 5 hours. But it appealed to MM's nerdy side too, so I am sure it's fine. I just signed him up as a normal developing child. I didn't sign up DL for the database because I wanted to wait and see if we had a mental health diagnosis for him. They are doing some studies on mood disorders and ask about a lot of different kind of brain disorders.

**The high school changed their schedule, no one told us, and so MM missed a math test today. UGH. His teacher didn't seem concerned about it. We are presuming that he will just take the test Friday. His class usually starts at 1:45-ish. (I don't know the exact time since MH handles it). We had been told it would be 1:09 on Friday? But they moved that to Thursday. When talking to the office staff they said, BTW his class started at 1:30 Friday. This is insane! So anyway, he showed up around 1:45 for a test that started at 1:09. OF course it had to be an exam day.

{They keep insisting all this is on their school calendar/website, but it's not!}

I expect this week to be the most challenging (of the year) on the 3-school front. Kind of a crazy week with schedules going in all different directions.

Friday Doings:

I took today off since both kids had off. Our original plan was to go to Monterey, but that fell through.

I hashed out a plan with the kids today. They want to hit their favorite indoor play place in the a.m. ($14 for two kids). Then we decided on a free restaurant gift card to use. I don't know if we will use the entire $50 but we can try!

I've got to run by the CU to deposit some cash.

Besides grocery runs and $14 planned spending today, we haven't spent any money this week. I think MH might be picking up a birthday gift today. DL(11) has a birthday party tomorrow; a new friend from new school.

I suppose I will be dropping off MM at school (math) after lunch. Since the traffic gets so crazy over there I left it that MH could pick him up after work.

This & That

October 2nd, 2016 at 05:59 pm

**DL's mood seems to be mellowing a bit. He may be evening out, but lord knows what might set him off again.

He did get through two full weeks of school. Phew! So I think this may be a turning point. We also left him for the weekend. Which I think might backfire as I wouldn't be surprised if he is extra clingy now that we are back. But, will see. He's generally been fine on the weekends and maybe he would have been fine regardless.

He has a 5-day weekend coming up so I expect that these next two weeks will be easy peasy, in comparison. I am not entirely sure how we will handle all those days off. He may decide he is perfectly happy home alone as long as I don't make him go to work with me. Wink

We did have plans to go to Monterey Bay Aquarium on Friday, but... DL got invited to a pizza night with his besties from his old school. (Whom we know he misses very much!) I initially was very, "I don't think so," since they've gotten together a few times. But later MH read the whole e-mail and there was a twist. His favorite teacher in the world was just happening to be babysitting that night and had agreed to host the mini reunion for some of her students. O.M.G. We *then* later noticed they left out half the kids in their group, but I expect it was most likely she agreed to do this if they kept it very limited. (Though, who knows). DL still wants to go.

I can't imagine the kids will ever have another week day off together (outside of tax season or busy holidays), but... Last time we went to the aquarium was on a Sunday and it was quite pleasant at opening time. So that will be our new plan.

I am kind of stumped on what to do with the kids on Friday, since I have that day off and want to spend it with them, but MH mentioned I should take them out to lunch with one of those $50 gift cards. DL didn't want to do anything but maybe MM will have an idea of something fun to do.

I did also just get an art museum membership, which is just another idea to throw out there. Enjoy it on a quiet week day...

Edited to add: We will save $50 by buying Aquarium tickets through our credit union. We can just purchase online.

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MH & I had a nice weekend in Tahoe.

Our initial plan was just to do a super cheap getaway. But I expect that I was feeling relaxed after my September Savings post. So we splurged a bit in the end.

We left around 5:00 and traffic wasn't half (or 1/10th) as bad as we were expecting. I think we got ahead of most of the Bay Area weekend Tahoe rush. We made it about 1.5 hours in (with 1 hour to go) and then we were in dead stopped traffic for about an hour. Road construction. UGH!

Since our hotel was up a windy hill, we decided to stop for dinner around 8:00. (Not sure if there'd be any food up towards our hotel). Actually, the GPS had wanted us to turn off quite a bit earlier but we decided to look for food, on the main road, and I did notice that the alternate route wasn't adding much time.

MH had wanted to go to a stand up comedy show but I expected it was going to be far too long of a drive. But, we just happened to pass the venue (a casino) about 5 miles from our hotel. !! I said, "I think I can live with that". The 5 miles was about a 1/2 hour drive up a windy hill. When we got to the hotel we learned there was a casino shuttle, so I was sold.

It was SO COLD, and it probably snowed today after we left (per forecast). We lucked out big time in that we pretty much ran out of the show to the shuttle and only had to wait a few minutes. IT would have been a whole hour wait otherwise and I didn't really want to even sit 15 minutes outside (freezing), not really knowing when exactly the shuttle will be there.

The drive home was lovely. No construction. PHEW!

We probably spent way too much eating out, so about $200 total for the trip. We spent some on gas too, but I am sure that will be absorbed in our regular gas budget. ($20 gas)

The hotel was really nice and I think it would be a nice place to take the kids on a summer vacation. Something to keep in mind with our limited time off together and our lack of desire to do big trips. Tahoe is a little slice of heaven in our backyard. It's one of the nicer timeshares that we have stayed at, with lots of amenities. We just didn't have a kitchen, but if we plan ahead more we can get an apartment with a kitchen next time.

September Savings

September 30th, 2016 at 09:18 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $41 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$6 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

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

+$1,300 to cash
-220 school expenses
-188 Medical Expenses
-110 Large Purchase**
-90 Dentist
-40 Took kids/friends to fancy pool

**MM was going to reimburse us partially for a shared electronic purchase. I think we just forgot in the chaos. I'll check with MH on this.

Edit to add: MM reimbursed us $55 for large purchase

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Flashback:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

September Update:

No progress on this front because life is chaos right now. I don't see how/when until things settle down a bit.

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MH is back at work. He got a nice raise but is working less hours. It almost evens out, though making a little bit less.

For this month I am just putting his paychecks (3 weeks) towards replenishing our checkbook for vacation expenditures & gymnastic spending.

Next month he will put his 401k back to 50%. He's pre-ordered a VR system, which will take all of his income in October. November income will pay for the hotel on my birthday. I guess that except for the 50% 401k thing, we are just splurging his income most the rest of the year. (We have cash for these things, but we are also working on saving up for some big expenditures, so it will be nice to just cash flow our big splurges).

Until I typed this out, I thought we had maybe gotten used to the extra cash flow and were over-spending a bit. In the end, I was $750 short in the checkbook, after MH being off work for 3 months, which is easily explained by $250 vacation overage plus about $500 of gymnastic spending. Now I just feel silly. We have enough float in the checkbook so I was just kind of muddling through in the interim. I had forgotten that I hadn't otherwise planned for the gymnastic expenses.

I was expecting that MH's income would cover the kids' extra-curriculars. In the past we've covered with other windfalls or they just haven't been significant expenses. I can't say they were a big financial priority. But now we are in a better place to afford this type stuff. I think a lot of it will be moot given the kids' school changes for this year and next. So any bigger expenses will probably be rather temporary. For the next calendar year I can plan ahead better.

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Overall, I'd say that this month was chaotic. Probably too much stress spending.

More fun spending is planned for October. MH and I are going to Tahoe this weekend, and next week we are taking the kids to Monterey. (Instead of the usual big October break that we usually take advantage off, the kids have only one day off together. {Which is why we moved our DC trip up to June}. Though technically MM is skipping his math class so that we can go to Monterey during the week).

Planning Something Fun

September 18th, 2016 at 03:34 pm

I hadn't really thought much about it, but I think it's probably pretty official that we are not going to do a National Park trip this year. I had wanted to see how our home repairs would price out first, but I didn't count on my child falling apart. (If we went on a trip it was going to be without the kids, but I don't think DL would go for that right now).

It's fine. I already had a good feeling that we would push that off to next year. It just popped into my head and I am thinking, "no way in heck!" We have absolutely nothing travel planned for next year, or any future years, so I am sure we will plan a nice National Park trip next year. Just MH & I. I don't know what order, but we want to do Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce/Zion and Yellowstone. That will probably keep us busy for the next 3-4 years. If we do anything with the kids it would probably just be renting a beach house or a lake house for the week, or a small road trip. It would not be a priority or wish of mine to fly anywhere.

As for my birthday, I mentioned wanting to do a weekend away near San Francisco. MH did discuss with his mom, but her timeshare did not come through on this either. !!

That kind of got pushed aside in the craziness of the last couple of weeks, but today I booked a hotel. About $500 for 2 nights (*choke choke*). But it's my 40th birthday and I wanted to splurge a bit. (It's just extra painful since we already spent thousands above our travel budget this year, and we rarely pay anything for hotels. I had to take some time to talk myself into it).

We got a beach front hotel near San Francisco.

I want to spend the day in SF doing a hike and eating at one of my favorite restaurants.

I expect that the beach will be much nicer by our hotel and we will probably drive down the coast a bit and just enjoy the food and scenery.

Blogaversary Post

September 17th, 2016 at 10:48 am

I can't believe I have been on SA for 10 years!

I am so grateful for such a supportive community. Glad to still be here 10 years later.

When I started this blog my spouse was unable to find *any* work and we were kind of having an "oh crap" moment. Is just nothing we ever expected or planned for. (That he couldn't even find a job flipping burgers... What the heck!?) We've always been very frugal and big savers, but that just forced us to try harder. It's some irony that I think it put us on a better financial path than we ever would have been otherwise.

When we both worked full-time, before kids, we had a huge savings rate. I think early on my blog was just mourning the loss of that. In the end, we are now getting back to where we were financially before kids. Income and saving rate is about the same.

Oh, and re-reading earlier entries, I was really focused on how little we were adding to our savings. I can see there was confusion in what I was putting out there. We never stopped saving for retirement or anything like that. In fact, our net worth was quite large. I was just really focused on our SAVINGS. Like our rainy day savings and liquidity. Because that is all we were really struggling with, with the loss of income. I think it came across that I thought that was the most important. It was really the least important, which is why it was what we struggled with. Everything important was given much higher priority, like funding retirement or staying out of debt.

I do think one thing I've become better at is looking at the bigger picture more than the smaller picture. I think I had a small picture focus of one area I was concerned with, when I started this blog. But over time I have stepped back and have managed the bigger picture more. I don't know when I would have made that shift otherwise, so I am grateful for the opportunity to have done that while still so young.

In 2006, our two BIG financial goals (already accomplished) had been to get into a house and to be able to stay home with our kids. We just didn't have much on our horizon after that. We had knocked a lot of big financial goals out while still very young, and didn't really have any other goals. Since joining SA we've since switched focus to retirement. If there's nothing else we are saving for, then I guess that is the next step! Our retirement plans have also been heavily influenced by watching our parents retire (during the past few years). In both cases, they worked far longer and saved far more than they needed to. Though they all retired young. & so we are taking that into consideration when formulating our own retirement plans. (& it's not *just* that. My family tends to be extreme on the savings side. As are many of my clients. I probably see a little too much of people WAY over-preparing and not taking care of their own health and not enjoying life as much as they should).

I suppose that will be our focus for the next decade. Since I do enjoy my work, it's not a retirement goal so much as a "financial independence" goal. We just want to have the financial freedom to choose if we want to work or not. & I suppose that goal is also influenced by our parents struggling so much to find work in their 50s.

We just happen to be on track to hit $1 Mil when our kids should be finishing up college. I am not comfortable dropping down from full-time work until I have a really clear picture of college plans. So I think it works out that those two goals will be hit around the same time. ($1 Mil should be plenty for us to retire on).

I've not factored cash gifts (from parents) or dh working in any of that. So... It is possible I would be willing to drop down to part-time sooner. But things never seem to go as planned and the "prepare for the worst" part of me just thinks it's good to have the mindset that I will be working full-time for another decade.

I expect that by 50 we will be financially independent. At that point we will just have to regroup. I am not planning to shift to part-time work the day I turn 50 or on the day my kid graduates college. But I think that is just the point in time where we will be running the retirement numbers and fine tuning the final plan. Retirement has been our only substantial financial goal since our kids were born, but in our 20s it was just so far away and nebulous. I think we are allowing that at age 50 it should be a lot more clear and turning into a much shorter term goal.

We also have to decide where on earth we want to live. We know we want to downsize and move. That's all we know. I suppose it depends where our kids and parents are at that time. It's important for us to be near family. I expect the "where" to impact our working/retirement plans in our 50s. We are very open to moving back towards the Bay Area. When our kids are grown, would just be a completely different animal than trying to live there when just starting out. Plus, we are considering some middle ground like moving only half way back. If we downsized into a small condo, which is our preference anyway, it shouldn't be any more expensive. Who knows in another decade, but just thinking along those lines.

As an aside, I know it's not popular to retire in an expensive region. Especially a more expensive region. Or *the* most expensive region. But our parents have retired very well with very little in expenses, and I know we can do very well. It's the last place I would ever rent or hire out care (like daycare or nursing home care $$$$$). But for our needs and spending, I am not phased. We will have to adjust our housing expectations, but we've already done that. (We didn't grow up with any housing expectations, so it's not a big mind shift for us).

When I turn 40 the end of this year, that may be a shift I do with this blog: The 10 year count down to financial independence...

Other than trying to save up as much as possible, the next 10 years seem pretty nebulous. I don't know that I know much of anything. I expect a lot of change. We've been really boring and stable since having kids, but when I look beyond their high school years we are pretty much open to anything. We don't know where we are going to live. Our kids aren't on any set college path yet. My job is very finite. MH still has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up. I have *no idea* where we will be in 10 years. I'd just like to be on very solid financial ground, and if we achieve that then the rest doesn't matter. The rest is whatever we want it to be.

Here is to the next 10 years!

This & That

September 5th, 2016 at 11:19 am

Not doing anything exciting this weekend. I live in the house of Grump, right now. HA! MH is clearly getting stressed about going back to work. DL is okay, but we are walking on eggshells around him. I think my mood is okay but I am still stuck mostly off my feet. So we are all out of sorts on some level.

{MM is off at a sleepover, hopefully having more fun than the rest of us!}

We usually stay home on holiday weekends and avoid the crowds. But feel a little extra housebound right now.

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**Still figuring out the ropes of the new school. Weird after having both our kids in only one school for the past 8 years. They've often been in different locations, but always the same school.

I get the impression that this school leans more towards just supplying school supplies. But I've been asked for $20 for lab supplies/art supplies and $13 so that DL can write in/keep his math workbook. Oh, and $20 for a PE uniform (that he can maybe wear for a few years). {I had asked an 8th grade parent about sizing and she told me her 8th grader's first uniform was still too big. So I guess that they last}.

I have no idea what other expenses will trickle in.

**I saw that the Phantom of the Opera will be playing in our city next spring. We will try, but I doubt my kids will enjoy. DL seems way more into "being in" the theater versus "watching" the theater. Will see. If they don't enjoy this, I will give up for a while. MH and I can afford to go to twice as many musicals if we ditch the kids, so I can't say that I am that upset about it. Big Grin

But I first saw Phantom around DL's age and thought that it was pretty incredible. I guess I Want to give that experience to my kids.

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We are working on figuring out some vacations

**For our anniversary this month, we usually go to Napa since it's the only place we can generally get more last minute (free MIL timeshare). Well... We failed. MIL was able to get us a hotel in Tahoe instead. I look forward to the change and I think that part is all good. BUT, they didn't have a condo/kitchen so we will probably have to eat out mostly. Not the super cheap getaway that we are used to.

I suppose we can eat dinner before we drive up there and bring breakfast. So maybe we only go out for one lunch and one dinner? I suppose it's not a big deal. We'd go up Friday night and come home Sunday morning.

**I've finally figured out what I want to do for my 40th birthday. Kind of anything I want to do (National Parks/outdoors) is not really doable in winter. So I finally settled on just staying close to home. Rather than driving really far, I just want to keep it close. (I mean, I am sure San Diego is quite lovely in December, but it's a 7-hour drive). So... I settled on San Francisco! Thinking more to the southern tip of the city where the coast is beautiful and there are some lovely hikes, plus one of my favorite restaurants. We just don't make the time to go there like ever, so that is what I settled on. Would love to stay along the coast somewhere south of the city. I don't want to do the "hills" and "traffic" part of it all. Focusing more on the outdoors and the hiking.

MH still has to see if we can get a free timeshare stay. But since we mostly struck out this year and his mom was being difficult about it, I've already looked up some options. Thankfully it wasn't as expensive as I was envisioning. Will work it out, however it works out.

Stop Getting Mad at Your Kids for Wanting Stuff

September 5th, 2016 at 07:24 am

I suppose that minimalism and sound financials can be closely related. I've been focusing more on the minimalism side of things over time.

For me, it started when I had my children. I was clearing out one room in our house for our second child and something about the nesting instinct put me in purge mode. I had my children in my 20s, so it's been since our 20s that we've been scaling down and not trying to accumulate more stuff. I don't know that we had bought a lot at that point but we sure had a lot of crap. 10+ years later and I am still digging through the crap. I can't even imagine what this is like if you spend your 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s) accumulating the crap.

Since this all happened around the time we had kids, we have always been very 1-in and 1-out with their belongings. I think both of us would just feel too overwhelmed if we didn't stay very on top of it. When baby stuff was done it immediately left the house. Outgrown clothes are sifted out regularly.

I don't think we were quite there yet, when our second child was born. But at some point in our 30s, maybe amid all the de-cluttering, my MH and I both decided that we missed condo living. It was so much simpler and lower maintenance. What had been a lack of options in our youth (due to crazy expensive housing) eventually turned into our ideal. We personally really value our personal space and are fine with raising our kids in our current house. But the second they are grown we do plan to downsize. For the two of us, we just don't need this much space. & since we got to that point, we've been cognizant of not expanding and buying more stuff. While most Americans seem to be in an endless "more more more" mode, we are more in a "less less less" mode.

Anyway, every once in a while I come across a really great article that makes one think, and I decided to finally add a "minimalism" category to this blog. So I kind of wanted to do an overview of where we are at with that. & I should have done this a long time ago. & I thought of another article that I read recently, that I will share below.

We still have way too much stuff and I am still in the de-clutter stage. I think part of the problem for me is that I don't like to spend a lot of my time managing and organizing and cleaning my "stuff". The whole point in not having so much stuff in the first place is so that I don't have to expend energy on "stuff". & so putting all the effort and time that I need to de-clutter is just not happening for me. But we aren't planning to move for another decade and we are at a place already where we wouldn't have to get rid of anything to transition to some place like our first condo (which was half the size of our current home). I'd like to just be "moving ready" when we move, but I have a lot of time. I know we could fit into our future dream home today, but I also don't want to be sorting out junk and deciding what to keep when we move. I want that part to be done before we move again. So that is what I am working on.

My goal for the here and now is to go through all of my belongings and to pare down to what I truly want/use/need. I may be getting close. It could maybe even happen this year? Fall is when I usually get into de-clutter mode. When the weather cools and I get stuck inside more. From there, I really need to work on MH. He likes to accumulate and collect things. Like movies or video games. I am totally fine with that. I know not everyone wants to be able to carry the vast majority of their belongings in like one suitcase. I am resigned to the collections (& he does actually use them and enjoy them, which is a lot of it). But what drives me crazy is the boxes that have just been sitting around since we moved in 15 years ago. I just really want to have my own crap in order before I start leaning on him. I think my slow de-clutter is also good because the more I de-clutter the more my MH seems to subconsciously want to keep up. So he's been taking the initiative to also slowly work through his things.

Some day we will get there. I know it will probably also be a LOT easier without kids and that I may be able to more easily make our next home more of a stuff-less haven. I am resigned to a little extra chaos in the interim.

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Here is another excellent article that I came across recently:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/target/

Parents, Stop Getting Mad at Your Kids for Wanting Stuff at Target

"So I get it, our kids have stuff. Probably too much. But I think, as parents, we too often put the blame for this reality on the wrong person.

Our kids do have lots of toys and clothes and video games and crafts. But let’s remember, they aren’t the ones with the steady paychecks and they didn’t organize their last birthday party.

If there are too many toys in your playroom, you put them there—or, at the very least, you allowed them to stay.

Even worse, often times, our kids are simply following our lead. When the average American home contains 300,000 items, how upset can we really get that our kids own 238 toys? And when 33% of us can’t fit both cars in our double-garages, how unreasonable is it to assume our child will fill their art and craft drawer to overflowing?

In a society that encourages consumerism at every turn, what else should we expect? Our children are only following our lead."

"But we ought to remember that our children are watching us closely. Whether we like it or not, they are soaking up values from us as parents about how to live, how to work, how to achieve significance… and how to spend money. And if we are constantly desiring things we don’t need, why would we expect anything else from our kids?

Maybe we should stop getting mad at them for wanting things at Target… and start questioning if we really needed to be there in the first place."


I thought this was interesting in terms how it comes up sometimes with other parents how "amazing" it is that we can so no to our kids. ???

But it's not even that we can say no. They really don't even ask.

I think some of it is that we very rarely even take our kids into stores. My spouse and I would help each other enough that we wouldn't see the point in dragging our kids along to all our errands. When I do take them to a store like Target, they don't ask for stuff. IT could be the very consistent boundaries that we set early on. Like saying no to every little whim. & giving them allowances and allowing them to make their own purchase decisions. They've always been able to buy whatever their little heart desires. But they think about it a little more carefully when their resources are more finite.

I know it's no surprise that kids mimic their parents or what they see, but I am taken aback by how financially sensible my kids are. I mean, they are only 11 & 13. I couldn't even get 13yo to buy one souvenir on our last trip (with money that Grandma had slipped him).

I'd think that we are mostly raising them the same way that we were raised. But I think there's two key difference in my own childhood. My parents said no a lot. They said it too much. If someone gave me $30 for souvenirs, I expect I would have spent it in under a minute. I felt deprived. They wouldn't let me spend my own money even on something they thought was too frivolous. We let our kids make those mistakes when they were like 5 or 6, and they have learned and moved on. I also grew up in a culture of shopping. My parents didn't have a lot and they didn't buy me a lot. They weren't huge shoppers. BUT... Shopping was something we did all the time. My mom certainly took me along on all of her shopping errands. My dad would take me shopping on the weekends (generally music stores). I think it was good from a standpoint of learning to manage money. But compared to how we live in the here and now, it was a *lot* of shopping. Maybe these days we do a lot of it online and the kids just don't see it. I don't remember if I have ever taken my kids out just to browse around and buy things. I don't think we have *ever* done that?

Oh, and the average 10yo owns 238 toys? ???????? My MH is a collector and he likes to collect video games, books, and board games. I think I'd be hard pressed to come up with 238 x 2 of those items (& technically a lot of those are for us adults too). My 10yo outgrew "toys" a while ago. So MH's collections would be the bulk of his toys. But I'll have to go count later. I am curious. (I really wouldn't be surprised if we could come up with 238 if we counted every junky party favor type toy that my kids still have. I expect that they have WAY less, but let's see... They are probably due for another purge anyway. A charity is coming by tomorrow so maybe we will do a count and see if they are ready to let go of anything they didn't want to let go of last year).

Edited to add: I couldn't even get up to 100 toys between my two kids, and they do have a lot of junk. They are doing a purge of outgrown toys.

P.S. Are there any minimalist blogs that you follow? OR anything as to managing time as well? The two that I really adored have both been retired. I need to find some more inspiration.

The Benefit of Less Stuff

September 4th, 2016 at 05:58 pm

Saw a really great article about minimalism.

https://thebalancedlifeonline.com/how-getting-rid-of-my-stuf...

"I was that student in school who stays up all night studying and gets a C. That’s how I felt about my life. I was trying so hard! I felt little satisfaction, little joy, and every day was a battle for my time that I didn’t want to wake up for.

I asked other moms, friends, and people I respected if this was normal, how they managed their homes and kids, and if they felt like they enjoyed it. What I was met with was a resounding “oh yeah, I remember those days! That’s motherhood. It’ll be okay and you’ll get through it.”

"After another particularly difficult day, I reflected on how I’d yelled, how I’d been the mom I never wanted to be, and how I was counting how many hours I had of peace and quiet before morning came and I had to start over."

"In that moment, I had had enough. I decided I wasn’t going to let this be my life, and this overwhelm and depression wasn’t going to rule me any longer."

"I went into the playroom – the room that was the bane of my existence. This was a room full of colorful bins, each bin full of toys. There were toys on the floor, in chests, in boxes, toys everywhere. I would send my kids in here to play and they would come out less than ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This room was pointless, and I’d had enough.

I started working through the room, making piles – keep, trash, donate. I got rid of every single toy that I felt wasn’t benefitting my kids. If it didn’t cause them to engage in constructive or imaginary play, it wasn’t staying in this house because it wasn’t worth the work it caused me. If I was going to clean up it was going to be the things that added to our lives; it was going to be only the things we needed and the things we truly loved.

When I was finished, all that remained were trains and tracks, a couple of dress up costumes, books, and blocks. The trunk of my car was overstuffed with toys to take to Goodwill, my playroom was purged, and I immediately felt lighter.

The next day my kids ran downstairs for breakfast, and as usual, I sent them into their playroom to play, curious to see if meltdowns would ensue because of what I’d done with their toys. They walked in, looked around, said something along the lines of “Hey! It’s nice and clean, Mommy! Hey! There’s my trains!” and happily started playing.

I was shocked. I stepped out of the room, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. To my surprise, my kids played in that room that day for three hours. Three hours! It wasn’t just that day either. They continued to want to be in their playroom for long amounts of time from then on. They started going outside more often, making up stories and scenarios together, playing tag, and creating art. It was as if I had unclogged their God-given gift of imagination when I got rid of their toys. "


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I'm personally in a space where I just don't understand the average American existence. I remember being surprised by how other people's houses always looked like toy stores erupted in their homes. (I mean, to the point of ridiculous). I'd strive for the complete opposite.

I still remember a childless friend complimenting us once on not having piles of toys in our main living area. That our house hadn't been over-run by children.

I think there are several factors. Our parents didn't love us with "toys" and "stuff". With space at a huge premium (growing up in San Francisco), it would never occur to me to have a whole room dedicated to toys. !!

It was never any conscious decision to have less stuff in order to make life easier. It was more just that we didn't understand all the stuff.

But I keep coming across blogs and articles that articulate some of our experiences. I suppose it's possible that our kids were less bored and more creative because we weren't drowning them in toys.

I thought this tied in well with the article I posted in my last blog post.

& read the entire article if you can. It was really interesting.

Making Space

September 3rd, 2016 at 10:11 am

MMM had a really great article (several weeks ago). It sums up our life philosophy pretty well.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/07/13/making-space-for-b...

"While others will buy an unlimited annual ski pass and ride the mountains every weekend, I’ll get a four-pack and make a single weeklong trip with my friends. Others will buy a cottage and split their time between two houses, I’m happy with one. While others will start with a cat, then have a kid, then adopt a dog, then another dog, then create second, third, and fourth kids, I’m feeling plenty busy with just my boy.

None of this is done with money in mind – it is done out of a desire for balance, free time, and a safety margin in life. By keeping our non-negotiable commitments to only 50% of our time, we leave the other 50% open for growth, self-development, and an ability to work much harder to deal with the black swan events that life inevitably serves up. While others might imagine we’re missing out on life by not stacking it up with more activities, I feel we’re allowing ourselves just the right amount of space to actually live it. And of course, the side effect this has on the money side has been very large as well."


I've been wanting to share this anyway, but couldn't help but think of this in light of the week we just had. (See last post). If my spouse has to quit his job to deal with personal stuff, then it's done. We wouldn't even think twice about it. As is, we leave enough time and space to deal with life. I doubt that quitting his job would even be necessary.

& as an aside, I think people have varying degrees of tolerance for chaos. I know my tolerance is very low. Thus I will probably never choose to have more than 2 kids. But I wanted to bring up because I think the analysis can be over-simplified a bit. MMM speaks to having only one kid. I honestly don't know if I have the personality to just have one kid. Having two kids doesn't particularly cost a lot more than having one kid (certainly not twice as much) and having two kids close in age, they mostly entertain each other. I've often felt that it's easier to have two kids than one. I am sure it depends on the age, but certainly at the age my kids are now. & yeah, I know people with many kids who are happy and in their element. Don't take MMM's comments too literally. You have to work out what works for you.

Make the time and the space for whatever it is that is most important to you.

Falling Into Place, Falling to Pieces

September 3rd, 2016 at 08:01 am

MH got his work schedule sorted out. They are working around whatever he needs. I am not surprised, but just feel better that it's all nailed down.

The final pieces (of crazy school year 16/17) are falling into place.

We've had many discussions as to pros/cons of different strategies for school drop off and pick up, and other scheduling matters, so I am glad we aren't back to square one. We were presuming a lot about his work hours in the process.

I still have to figure out what I am going to do with DL's late start Wednesdays. But I think we will play some of that by ear. I *can* drop him off early those days at school. & maybe once he makes more friends that is what he will prefer. Just hang out with his friends before school? But for now, I think I can oblige the weird start time.

MH is going to handle Wednesday minimum days for MM. It might be the most sensible otherwise to just find him a ride. But we don't want to deal with any more flakey carpools. I think it's also for the best that MH gets a (very short) break on Wednesdays.

Drama Llama started at the new school. I am not sure yet of all of the after school music options. But I guess some of the high school classes are open to the middle schoolers as an extra period, since the high school goes for an hour longer. (Their school day is long because they require a lot of art electives). So DL was offered to take a beginning orchestra class, for free, since it was a high school class. Sweet!! In the end we decided against it though. He was feeling overwhelmed and I know it was a lot of extra driving for MH, who can otherwise pick him up on the way home from the high school. So... We let that go. The opportunity will still be there in the future. That & many other opportunities. It just wasn't right for the here and now. But we had a lot of back and forth before we came to a decision on that.

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Other than that, this week has been trying. Drama Llama(11) had a very rough week.

I never expected him to have anything but an easy transition and to love the new school. I think that mostly this is true and things are going well.

But, I've been really concerned about his mental health this week. The back story on that is that mental illness runs in my family and I've always been a little concerned about DL. Maybe hyper vigilant given my family history. That said, the only feedback I've ever gotten over the years is that I over-worry. We've been complimented many times (by teachers or other parents) about how emotionally mature he is, which always throws us off. He seemed to be mellowing with age and I started to reason that *anyone* would seem emotional compared to the three of us. Maybe I wasn't being fair to him. Everything is relative and he otherwise lives in the house of Stoic.

But... with all the change and the stress, he had a mental breakdown this week. Between MH and I, I think we were able to work through it. But it's clear to me that this is not *normal*. I expect that his teen years might be very trying. *sigh*

Anyway, one of the selling points of sending him to school with a bunch of artsy teenagers is that I've heard really good things about their counseling services. (I remember thinking that we may really need the help in the future). I didn't expect to use it like the first week of school! But, it's there. We are going to start with that. I presume they would have a better idea if we should seek out further medical help or not.

I don't know much at this point. Given past history, he may shrug this off and may not have another episode like this for many years. I don't know. Or maybe we will just have to be very gentle with him for a while. He's maybe never gone through such a big change before. I am just a little more concerned now about how he will manage the hormones of teenagerhood.

Next week is a short week and I am optimistic that it will go well. Especially now that we know how he is feeling and we are being very gentle with him. Will see... (What seemed to snap him out of it was giving himself permission to be much more gentle on himself. He is being more gentle on himself as to his feelings and as to both his school workload. It's okay to feel stressed and overwhelmed and it's okay to blow off your homework when you can't mentally function).

August Savings

August 30th, 2016 at 08:42 am

Received $41 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $43 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$10 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

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

+$1,300 to cash
-900 Auto Insurance and Maintenance
-300 Staycation Spending
-165 70th Birthday Party
-100 Kids' Birthdays

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Other Snowflakes:

--I did earn $250 in gift cards but have yet to be able to redeem them.

--Dh earned $150 cash from a focus group. We invested in a used knee scooter/walker and I am hoping we can sell it next week. When we sell it we will probably buy a used violin for Drama Llama. I don't expect that to cost an entire $150. It seems more sensible to buy used than to rent.

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Kind of a boring month financially. I have some medical bills that will charge next month. Most the expenses above were for July spending. August has been more of a "stuck on the couch" month for me, and busyness with back to school.

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Update:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

This week we are taking the kids to the Doctor (well visits/shots), putting new tires on the newer car (replacing low quality stock tires before rainy season) and I got a referral for tree trimming and dead shrub removal. I am pulling a list of contractors to call but I don't know if we will get to that this week. As long as we are steadily ticking things off the list, it can wait a bit longer. Physically, I might be up to dealing with readying the house this weekend.

P.S. Also labeled this post in the *one income* category since dh had no income during June/July/August. His income is more in the "snowflake" range anyway. (If he had a larger income I don't know that I'd differentiate on or off months, but I am definitely feeling the difference without the extra breathing room). I am not even entirely sure he has a job still, so I guess that is some of it.

School Supplies

August 21st, 2016 at 09:32 am

Until now my kids have attended a K-8 charter school that provides supplies (they ask for $25 per kid, in return). I'd much rather write a $25 check than go shopping, so all sounds good to me.

Since we are getting down to the wire and given that the new school is a small charter school I thought maybe they would do the same. But I guess not. It does make sense (to bring own supplies) because it is a 6-12 school and they will be changing classrooms more often.

So here I am with a 11yo and a 13yo and I have never bought any school supplies before...

In the end I am pleased because we spent $30. & I am sure we could have gotten supplies cheaper. But as we graduate from "uniforms" and DL actually gets to pick out his clothing and his supplies, I would say at least $5 of that was splurging on some individual preferences. (Which otherwise put us in the $25 realm that we usually spend). We also just went to Target because dh had some groceries to pick up. I am sure there may be cheaper places to pick up school supplies. Or we can kind of stock up year round now that we know what is generally requested. (Dh was mentioning he sees folders for 25-cents at the electronic store).

Oh, the other nice thing about the school spending is that a lot of it was stocking up on supplies for later. With MM starting high school next year we figured we'd buy the bigger packages of school supplies.

(Oh, and I forgot the $30 included some supplies for MM's one high school class).

I've allowed MH and MM to hoard school supplies because they are useful. (& is one of those things that they like to hoard). So we did scrounge up a lot of things from supplies on hand. I found a plastic case of (working) markers that Drama Llama brought home one or two school years ago. (They don't often send home leftover supplies. I prefer that they don't, but I am glad I saved these in this case). Monkey Monkey had a stash of binders (& I have a few cast offs from work; binders are often handy). Dh had a stash of spiral notebooks. So we had a strong start. In addition to the lifetime(s) supply of pencils we seem to always have...

My Doh Moment

August 20th, 2016 at 05:40 pm

I'm at 2 weeks with a broken foot. At least 2 more weeks + a holiday weekend before I can put weight on my entire foot. Mostly using a boot but I take it off every chance I can get and it takes forever to put it on.

Someone very early on mentioned a knee scooter(?) (not sure exactly what it is called). Maybe my dad?? I can't remember now.

Anyway, yesterday dh and I were talking about all the things I probably couldn't do the next couple of weeks. Nothing huge, but it was getting frustrating enough I decided we should price out some knee scooter rentals. (I'd feel foolish if it was like $10/week and I never even looked it up!).

Anyway, that was when we had our doh moment. We always bought used baby stuff on Craigslist and sold for the same price when we were done. Just those things that are in high demand and you need for a short period of time. I've never really thought about that in terms of anything else. But the difference between owning and renting a scooter seemed pretty negligible. So the line of thinking was might as well just buy and we can sell it when we are done. From there we started to see what used options there were.

Funny enough, dh had made $150 cash from a focus group the night before. So he went out and bought one for me today. The going price seemed to be $150. I am so glad at the last minute he found one with a basket and haggled it down to $150. I think maybe we can sell for more (or at least people were asking for more). Good call since it's infinitely more useful with a basket to carry things around.

(I just checked and full price is $170 on Amazon. But factor also that would take a lot more time to get).

I LOVE it. We went to the store today (because I was feeling antsy). It's surprisingly light and I was able to lift it in and out of the car. I did some light chores today. Like going through a couple of weeks of mail (which I planned to do regardless). So much easier with the scooter. I told the kid I would make a meal tomorrow since I think it will be easier now. (Nothing big but I can't imagine cooking without my boot. Now I can just zoom around the kitchen. I suppose I haven't cooked anything in two weeks).

I wasn't particularly planning to take it to work. But I also didn't expect it to be so light. I guess will see. I might try to go without Monday and see if I go stir crazy. I could imagine it being frustrating after getting used to the extra mobility. On the flip side, I am sure using the leg and walking a bit is helpful for blood flow and so on. So maybe work would be good for some exercise. I have to climb the stairs (at home) and least once or twice a day also.

Nickname Update + Misc.

August 17th, 2016 at 03:58 pm

Okay, I hadn't updated nicknames yet because I hadn't figured it out. Maybe a little sidetracked with life...

LM told me he wanted to be a drama llama and BM never really came up with anything.

So... I renamed them to Monkey Monkey and Drama Llama.

I think it was Lucky Robin who came up with "Monkey Hubby" and I love that!

Now I just have to remember the new names. I will add their age to their initials too to keep it simple for more occasional readers.

It will probably take me a while to remember and I am sure I will use old initials once in a while.

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In other news...

I got a $50 MRI bill which I know is not right. Is usually more like $1,500. Doesn't really matter because even if they billed that wrong I am sure I will max out our deductible soon enough with foot stuff.

MH got a focus group for $150. Woohoo! It's probably been around a year since the last one. Since the gymnastics place really only takes cash, I might just use that to pay for next month. (Man, what a pain!)

That reminds me... I did get MM(13) signed up with a checking account. They printed him a debit card on the spot. I wasn't expecting that! I was able to automate his allowance.

I went a little back and forth on "reconciling bank accounts" and so on but don't know how relevant that really is in this day and age. (I don't remember the last time I had an outstanding item when it comes to personal banking? Everything clears so instantly). & pen and paper seemed so archaic. It's been over a decade since I've handled my own finances that way. But I mostly use software. Which I am sure he is more than capable of using, but felt like it was like teaching math with a calculator. Wanted him to get more used to the nuts and bolts first. I finally decided to just set up a spreadsheet so he could keep an electronic register. I think that is an appropriate solution for the here and now.

First Blanket

August 17th, 2016 at 07:46 am

Living in a warm weather climate, most the small knitting projects (scarves/gloves, that type of thing) didn't appeal to me. So I started a blanket.

I am glad I did now that I am stuck off my feet for most of this month. That said, I haven't really been in the mood to work on it. It's only in the last couple of days that I picked it up again. But I expect I will work on it more as my foot feels better.

Here is my progress so far:



I am making it for my mom or with my mom in mind (she LOVES this yarn). But if it looks too horrible I can always keep it for myself.

I actually did 2 or 3 rows before I noticed a mistake and had to start all over again. I am glad I tried again because it's gone really well since then.

If it comes out okay I will make again in a solid color. I think this blanket really shines in a solid color but it sounded kind of boring and I thought hiding the imperfections sounded like a better plan for a first blanket.

I am so relieved I have this big project. Not that I wouldn't mind being stuck on the couch reading. But it's nice to have something else to mix things up a bit.

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Today I have a seminar online, so will do that from home. I have another seminar next week. The timing is also good on those. I appreciate the days to rest my foot.

Today I am going to work through some little chores.

I am going to cancel credit card #5. I hadn't been ready to close that one but the Citi 2% card has replaced that one. I guess these cards come and go and I thought I should keep in case Citi lowers its rewards later. But... They switched my old card from an Amex to a Visa? I think. I saw on My Money Blog that they reduced the rewards on it. (I never opened up the new credit card when it came in the mail and didn't look carefully at it since am not using right now). Anyway, I have been logging in once a month to double check no charges are coming through, but this month I couldn't even log in. I guess I need to set up a new account with the new card. Said I didn't have an account. So... Yeah, I think I will just close that card and simplify. I can always re-apply later if other rewards dry up. I just hope I am not forgetting other charges. I suppose I can scan through my Quicken register. More recently I forgot that our road tolls were being charged to that card (since we don't pay tolls very often). I otherwise phased out about a year ago.

I guess we were also using this card when we buy Sketch Fest tickets. We might buy tickets to 5+ shows so we wanted to reduce the chance of our credit card being declined while vying for front row seats. (Buying several shows at once is a little suspicious, though by now we have probably established a pattern). I guess will just have to take 1% cash back on those kinds of things. (We do have 4 credit cards to charge up in those instances).

I also think that I have a one-time reward card to close.

So yeah, I guess just some minor credit card chores. Usually takes like a minute online but I expect the card I never activated and which I can't access online will take a little more time to deal with.

Edited to add: Apparently knitting is kind of the perfect activity when listening to a seminar.

Back to School

August 13th, 2016 at 08:09 am

What a Week - Part II:

Oh yeah, last week was a banner week for everyone but me.

LM had his drama showcase. We didn't ask him much about his script because wanted to be surprised. In the end, he was the star of the show. It was just GREAT! (I was definitely surprised!)

Such a fun week to see both my kids shine and be so happy pursuing their passions. They were both on Cloud 9.

Oh, and the theater is offering year round classes (new). We left it up to LM but he wanted to take a break. I think that is probably wise since he will have many opportunities at new school but we just don't know all of the "what" and the "whens" yet. Probably best to keep his schedule open. If the 6th grade drama opportunities are slim he can always take spring drama classes outside of school.

As to my foot, it's really not been bad. Feeling a LOT better and stronger every day. Stuck with the big boot for 3 more weeks. I'll have another x-ray at that time, but I tend to be a fast healer and already feel a million times better. I haven't had much pain at all.

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BM(13) went back to school this week. He's been attending his math class at the high school and all is well.

Oh, and as far as infinite details... He just realized Friday he doesn't have the books for his math class. E-mailed his teacher about that. No idea where he is supposed to get those if they aren't passed out in class. I guess we figure these things out as we go.

The high school schedule is somewhat insane. They have four different bell schedules depending on the circumstances. Best we can tell, they don't ever use the short day schedules? (If they do, we have no idea when). & then we asked his teacher to keep him in the loop as to rally days and stuff like that. BM is very responsible and is capable of keeping track of all that on his own.

I did take some time this week to sort out schedules. Since the public high school just uses the district calendar I printed it out and added some notes for the school specific calendar. Noting all the days we know have different schedules.

I put all 3 calendars up on the fridge. Dh mentioned making a master calendar, which sounds overkill and I doubt he will bother. We are both very "one thing at a time" and "cross that bridge as we come to it" types and we both usually tend to keep track of things in our minds. But you know, for the past 6 years both our kids have attended one school. This 3-school thing is beyond my brain. So I put up the three calendars to at least start wrapping my brain around them. (If we needed more organization from there, would figure something out). In the end, I think this will work for us. Except for different school start dates, they all actually have the same holidays for August and September. So at least we get to ease into things a bit. The other thing that is the same is that they all have weird schedules on Wednesdays. We haven't figured those out yet, but dh will just handle it for now. When he goes back to work we will figure out who can do what as far as driving kids to/from school at odd hours.

October is a different story with 3 different breaks. But I figure that is something we will sort out in October. Will just have to go through the calendars once every week or month. Probably a monthly look ahead as to breaks, and then probably a weekly look ahead to plan the week. Though I now know there is nothing to look at again or to think much about until October.

It's funny because being generally "organized" (I think we are good at prioritizing more than anything) I get the sense people think that we meticulously plan things. As my blog says, we over prepare and then go with the flow. There is maybe some overall planning ahead, but I think keeping things really flexible works better with life in general. As to October, dh and I haven't decided for sure if we will do a big trip without the kids. (Probably not, but I am still open to it if things change). We haven't nailed down any plans whatsoever as to the kids' breaks. But things are flexible enough that we will figure it out when we get there.

I have no idea what the back to school fuss is about, but I guess we are boring. My kids have always been early birds, so back to school is never any big adjustment for them. They don't need anything for school. They've got clothes, backpacks, lunch bags, etc. from last year. Boring, but very zen and calm. I am hoping our zen balances out some of this extra driving and schedule tracking this year.

I did send $95 to BM's school to cover supplies and field trips for the year. My feeling on LM's new school is that they probably also just ask for reimbursement. I sure hope so because it makes life easy!

I had totally forgotten that LM's new school does the whole formal PE thing. Guess I have to buy him a PE uniform. I guess they spring these things on you the week school starts? This is one of those details I had completely forgotten about. & I am sure there are things I don't even know about yet.


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