<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Page: 2
 

Viewing the 'Just Thinking' Category

January 4, Fence Work

January 5th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 3

January 5th, 2018 at 06:58 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 2

January 3rd, 2018 at 06:13 am

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

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

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

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

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

January 1

January 2nd, 2018 at 05:07 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checking In

January 1st, 2018 at 08:53 am

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

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

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

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

FISCAL DOINGS:

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

More details later...

SOME FINANCIAL NOTES RE: IN-LAWS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I honestly think she forgot.

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

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

December Savings

January 1st, 2018 at 08:28 am

Received $50 bank interest for the month of December.

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

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

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$ 600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Credit Card Tally 2017

December 31st, 2017 at 06:56 am

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$525 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, MH)
$545 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$2,269 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:
$21 Citi Price Rewinds
$30 AmEx insurance payment rebate
$ 5 AmEx for mobile app login

Ongoing rewards (through 11/30):

+$355 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$114 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$86 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$698 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $3,578

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much. (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2017).

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585
Year 2016 = $1,906
Year 2017 = $3,578

Total 6 Years = $20,766
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. I have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade or so.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending. We treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of late fees or interest.***

At this point in my life I just pay the balances off the end of every month so that we go into each new month with -$0- credit card debt. This is really simple because there is no remembering bills or due dates or any of that. I just go in and pay them all the last day of every month. I have set all my credit cards to close for the month around the 28th of the month, so that the statement is closed by the last day of every month and every charge for the month has been posted. (I can just voluntarily pre-pay any charges that didn't make it on the statement for the last week of the month). From an accounting standpoint, anything else would drive me crazy, maybe especially since we do have so many credit cards that we use every month for rewards. This way, I just don't have to really keep track of anything and I know they will always be paid several weeks before due date. This also keeps all of our charges on a monthly cycle, which lines up with our monthly paychecks and my monthly accounting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I expect 2018 to be more like 2016, but you never know. I don't feel like we need to put as much emphasis on the credit card rewards with MH working and with interest rates (on our savings) increasing. We really relied on these to boost our income and to stretch our dollars further when MH was home with the kids. I also have something like $1,000 unused gift cards laying around, which is about $1,000 more than usual. (In the past we mostly redeemed cash back, but those are harder to come by and it seems it was mostly gift cards and travel rewards for this year). If all I can do is gift cards next year, I imagine I would probably scale back but might consider focusing on those more for charity. If I had gotten this last $500 in time for Christmas, I would have donated those gift cards.

This & That

December 10th, 2017 at 04:49 pm

Spending:

**Spent $85 on tickets for DL's vocal performance next week. I guess this is the flip side of all this free instruction. The tickets are $10 per ticket, just to see a standard school recital. But that said, it will be no ordinary school recital.

I bought some tickets for grandparents, which probably worked out because I got some group discount with offset some ridiculous ticket fees.

In the spring we might have to do the same + there will be a band performance. But again, I don't have to pay for all his drama, band, and vocal instruction. Being from that world, I know I come out FAR ahead.

**MH spent $20 on an electronic newspaper subscription. He gets lots of free movie tickets through the newspaper website rewards, but they changed it that you had to pay for a subscription. His initial reaction was, "Nevermind," but then they had some Black Friday type deal.

{He doesn't need this for most of the free movies he sees, to clarify. But for some of the movies, it's another avenue to get tickets}.

We will come out far ahead. MH already won tickets for us to see George Takei. It was part of a Speaker Series, so the only way to get tickets otherwise was to pay $600 per person for the whole series. So, $20 for THAT and a whole bunch of free movies? That is a no brainer. MH is going to try to get tickets for the next speaker in the series. I don't know the odds, but I saw a lot of people upset because they *just* wanted to see George Takei. I can't imagine very many people would be interested in the other ones. But I guess the flip side of that is they may not even have those tickets to offer. Will see...

**For Target gift cards, I bought $20 x 5 gift cards for gifts, while 10% off. We did that last year and it worked out nicely.

**Took the van in to the shop on Friday. It's been somewhat wonky the past couple of years, probably largely because we are/were between shops. Anyway, imagine my surprise that it was just a $10 repair (new radiator cap).

Clearly I have failed at shifting from "newer car" mode to "old car" mode. "Old car" mode was my first 10 years of driving; I am well trained in checking fluids and so on, but I just *never* think of it since buying new-ish cars (didn't need to look under the hood for 10+ years). I am embarrassed about how long it took me to check under the hood this time. I thought to check the oil but then I noticed the coolant was low. I feel extra aware how much money that saved me because the last two times we had coolant leaks they were far bigger repairs. Since clearly I can't remember this on my own, I will put it on my calendar to check at least once per month. As I get into that habit again, it will be more front of mind as problems arise.

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

I completed giving tree shopping.

**Bought one requested item for retail price online

**Went in person to Target to buy $100 gift card at 10% off. {I went when Target opened; no crowd or lines}.

**MH picked up about $75 worth of books for $2.50.

Dropped all of this off while MM was volunteering at the shelter. Phew!

Glad to cross that off my list with little effort, because I will be working a billion hours this month. Is why I don't generally participate in these things. This was early enough that I could pull it off.

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

Money Mustache had a timely post on charitable gift giving. He mentioned The Life You Can Save

The mission of The Life You Can Save is to help change the culture of giving in affluent countries while dramatically raising annual donations to highly impactful nonprofits that reduce suffering and premature death for people living in extreme poverty.

The website lists charities where you can have the most impact. We are considering these charities for our charitable gift. (I think we have mostly narrowed down, but have not finalized yet).

Gift Card Balances December 2017

December 3rd, 2017 at 10:02 am

Just tracking my gift cards. Not *all* credit card rewards, but most of them are.


GIFTS:
------
$100 Benihana ($50x2) **SPRING 2018?**
$ 20 x5 Target


MOVIES:
--------

RESTAURANTS:
------------
$50 California Pizza Kitchen **Ecard**
$75 Chili's
$50 Olive Garden
$50 Seasons 52
$100 P.F. Chang's


RETAIL:
---------
$100 Staples ($50x2)**School supplies next summer?**
$100 REI **For MM's rafting trip supplies**
$200 Home Depot ($50x4)
$75 Kohls ($50 + $25) **to replace kids' shoes?**


Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards

Frugal Doings

December 2nd, 2017 at 04:15 pm



That's a $4 flower bouquet that I bought the day before Thanksgiving. I just took the picture, it still looks gorgeous. I love treats like this. Just a reminder of "thinking outside the box" versus "doing without".

Which I guess is the theme of my post today.

{In this case, our high end grocery store sells very fresh flowers at a great price. In warmer months, the farmers market works too}.

MIL asked MH to pick up some discounted books for her. There was a specific box set one of my nieces wanted. MH gets 1/2 off? & these books are already 1/2 off? Anyway, he didn't even know, but I guess there was a set on the "damaged" shelf because it lacked shrink wrap. It was otherwise pristine. When he tried to buy one from the "new" shelf, his co-worker pointed that out. I believe the entire book set cost 50-cents in the end.

Since I was requested to buy books for a baby (giving tree), I asked MH to check the "damaged" shelf. & to pick up some other books too since I have to buy new in this case. In the end, he had been given a $25 "gift certificate" and didn't know when he would use it. (I can't transfer the gift certificate; I'd just donate it if I could).

I was otherwise waiting to see if Target did 10% off of their gift cards. (They are ~ woohoo!)

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

Black Friday Shopping:

I ended up ordering season passes for the local water park (was 45% off retail). This was for the premium season passes, which gives us access to the Bay Area location (we like that water park a lot more). I hadn't realized when I bought them, but the premium pass also includes free State Fair admission. I guess that's an additional perk. Going to the fair in the middle of summer is not on my list of fun things to do (and why we mostly never go). But, I am documenting in my blog so that I don't forget. Not having to pay admission x4 might tilt the scales a bit.

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

In the end, we did get free passes to see Disaster Artist. I really liked that one. The book was better, as always.

MH *finally* got his movie pass. {$10/month for basically unlimited movies in the theater}. We know it was lost in the mail about 7 weeks ago. He ended up getting (a replacement) movie pass last Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). We went to see three movies already. (I had the week off). He still earns loyalty rewards from the theater as if he paid, and so already earned a free ticket. I guess we might go back tomorrow. I will be done humoring him at that point. Just happens to be a lot of good movies out right now. I have some gift cards to cover my tickets. In the long run, will probably stick to the $6 showings. I am only entertaining going this weekend ($$$$) because I have a free ticket. Beyond that, usually he sees just about everything and tells me not to bother. I usually go to movies in the theater just a few times per year. I don't see that changing too much. Was just an unusual set of circumstances.

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

That reminds me, Thanksgiving went about as well as it could have. 90+yo Grandma used to insist on driving up at dawn to stuff the turkey. She wasn't doing so well a couple of years ago and was one reason I really wanted to drop hosting. In the end I think she switched Doctors and/or meds and is doing much better since. They did rush up last Thursday but ended up doing the stuffing separately?? I told MH to tell them NOT to come so early next year. Yeesh. (When I brought it up, he was kind of like, "Yeah, I didn't think about that.").

We went to see the art school production of Christmas Carol last night. Was a cross between that and the Nutcracker I guess, since it was a musical and they incorporated the dance company. Makes me want to see the Nutcracker. Anyway, it seemed very fitting to watch A Christmas Carol while the Senate rammed through their ridiculous tax bill. *sigh* (Republican Senate = Scrooge right now).

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

In my last post I mentioned Best Buy recycling of e-waste. I know it got buried so felt it was worth mentioning again.

E-Waste

November 30th, 2017 at 07:00 am

When we prepped the house for Thanksgiving, I noticed the "e-waste recycle" pile was getting a little out of hand. I recall taking big things in the past, but usually MH handles most of it.

Clearly he hasn't been handling it, but we drive by Best Buy once or twice a week when MM has gymnastics. So I just took care of it.

Of note, I had an external drive, some computer speakers (2 sets) and a broken car stereo face plate.

I wanted to put it out as a reminder, in case anyone has anything they can recycle. I know I have mentioned before, but it's probably been a LONG time. (Check the website, they take a lot of different kinds of things).

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/clp/recycling/pcmcat14990005002...

November Savings

November 29th, 2017 at 06:20 am

Received $49 bank interest for the month of November.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. But... Paid annual $95 fee. I will subtract $95 from snowflakes/investments.
--Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$12 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$950

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$1,850 Medical Expenses
-$1,400 Home Maintenance

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,300 to cash
-$5,300 Property Taxes
-$ 430 Life Insurance
-$ 349 Auto registration
-$ 30 Dentist

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

I mentioned in my last (monthly) post that these past two months would be a bit of a wash. Lots and lots of bills paid this month.

For the most part, all bills are paid for 2017. Any charges past this point won't be cash flowed until 2018. The only exception is if something comes up that has to be paid for in cash.

Holiday Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 07:56 am

MH just bought some concert tickets (including one for my dad). I told him that we should just cover it. Make it a Christmas present. Is the same gift he got last year (but a different band).

This is about how much thought/energy I am giving to the season. We don't celebrate in any big or materialistic way. I'll be figuring out some other gifts, but nothing I have to "plan" for or will spend much energy on. We don't save any money for Christmas, accordingly.

For us, the focus continues to be more and more on charity every year. I am still not in a place where I have any time for the Holidays. So though we generally give more time than money, there's not a lot we sign up for this time of year. It's easier for us to just write checks in the month of December. But I am taking the week off after Thanksgiving and I saw that someone needed help with a giving tree, and so I volunteered to help. Will see how it goes and if I want to do the same next year. (I've volunteered for the sorting in the past, which is probably more my thing, but this year I signed up to shop).

Other than that, we usually donate my Christmas bonus ($200). To the local food bank and the animal shelters, though it varies.

In addition, we are getting a $1,000 check (from in-laws) to donate to charities of our choice. This is a new tradition. They started last year with $500. For this year, $1,000 has been thrown out. Wow! I am SO EXCITED about this! I don't know why I find that number so mind blowing. Because it is 4 figures? I don't know. It sounds/feels like so much more than we have been able to give in the past.

Real Estate Update & Movies

November 11th, 2017 at 07:48 am

I paid the property taxes. One month early, but I don't have to think about it again for another year. & also gives plenty of time to correct if there are any problems. This is why I never pay things like the day they are due. That sounds way too stressful. Crap happens, and I still want my payment to be on time when the crap happens.

Our county stopped charging a convenience fee for paying online. AWESOME! Smart on their part. There is no way I would pay by check and send in the mail. I have been paying with e-checks. Clearly they must have less mail loss and so on, with this change. Our mail here is TERRIBLE. I forgot this was one reason I had started paying just once per year. I don't care if the fee was $5. It was worth it to get my payment where it needed to be in a timely fashion. It had been a $1.50 fee, and now I never have to pay it again.

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

I mentioned recently that our specific home model seems to rarely go up for sale, but one was for sale (and remodeled so beautifully in a black/white theme, which I guess is "in" these days. Seeing that more and more).

A second one just sold for the same price (around $490k). & I just saw a "coming soon" sign on our neighbor's house. NO WAY! So pretty much those models rarely go up for sale, but now three in a row...

I think all are immaculately kept and remodeled to the hilt. The third one, you can just tell from the care they've done to their tiny front yard and all the enhancements they have added, which most don't bother with. That said, historically people have not paid premiums for those things in the areas we have lived. & real estate generally moves upwards. So if they fetch a similar price, is just what I will use for net worth. I think things will stagnate around $499k for a while and I think is somewhat reasonable (though definitely getting into bubble territory). The local economy is better (A LOT) than the entire 17 years we have lived here, but it's not like people make that much money. The single story home are at peak level and are selling for $400k - $450k. If the median wage in our city is something like $50k, clearly this is ridiculous. Maybe some part of me just hopes things settle down a bit (and this isn't really Bubble 2.0). But bubble aside, it also takes time for people to wrap their brains around buying a house for 5xx,xxx. It will take a while, but $500k to $599k won't take as long. The demand for local housing currently far outstrips supply, but people also seem to be favoring smaller homes and more reasonable budgets. My co-worker even told me that new home models were more small and efficient, versus the grandiose/wasted space/GIANT kitchens and master suites of the 2001 era when we bought our house. I like to hear that, that there is some sanity on this front. Everything was so grandiose during the bubble.

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

We went to another free movie screening. It was a screening of The Room, which if you have not heard of it is the "worst movie ever made."

The reason for the screening was because of a release of a movie about the making of The Room. The new movie is called the Disaster Artist. MH got a free shirt and won a book for the new movie. (They often have merch at these things, which drives me crazy because he hoards weird crap). But he will wear a shirt and read/sell a book, so I guess it was good merch. (I donated a couple of free movie shirts recently without telling him. He insisted I take them, the kids didn't want them. I finally donated them. I don't need a closet full of free shirts. It just gets to the point of ridiculous).

Anyway...

O.M.G. If you ever hear of a showing of The Room, I recommend. I *almost* didn't go because it was two movies in one week and I have been pretty slammed at work. I wasn't expecting much because it was one of those things where I thought I saw the highlights so many times already. I am well aware of the movie, the bad script, the bad acting, and some of the ridiculous scenes.

I was wrong.

First, every second of the movie is so BAD it is hilarious. I thought I Was going to die laughing the first 5 minutes. At some point I guess you adjust (so that you don't die laughing). Okay, every detail is BAD. Every line, every actor, every screen frame, EVERYTHING. I had no idea it was non-stop funny.

In addition to that, it has a cult following like Rocky Horror. So this is a very interactive movie. It was hilarious on its own, and hilarious to laugh with a crowd, but this just brings it to a whole other level.

I started reading the book MH won (Disaster Artist) and it is fascinating. I can see everything behind the scenes was just as bad as on screen. I have absolutely no time to read a book right now, but I can see the value in reading it with the movie still fresh in my mind. Anyway, I think the Disaster Artist movie releases the week after next. I entered to win tickets. I don't know if the tickets will be available through the usual channels. If they are, MH will find a way to get tickets.

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

This reminds me, one of MH's co-workers is a film student. Is the only other person MH knows who is cheap enough and interested enough to see ALL the free movies. Anyway, film student was doing some project in one of his classes and needed a script. Asked if he could use one of MH's scripts he had read. For the class, they are going through the pre-production process. (Most the other groups already had scripts, but for whatever reason no one in his group had a script for this project). The feedback has been, "Forget making this movie. Why doesn't he SELL it?" Aw, youthful idealism. Wink

But I think this is some of why MH is, "Of course you can use my script!" You never know who is going to be the right person (or meet the right person) somewhere down the road. Beyond that, they sound very cute and idealistic. Big Grin But I think the ego stroking is good in the here and now, amidst all the rejection. You need some motivation to keep trying. He's still writing scripts and trying.


Gravy Raise

November 9th, 2017 at 12:25 pm

I know I have said in the past that living in a high cost region has several advantages. Most of it was more region specific advantages, but some of it is directly related to the higher cost of living.

On the higher cost side, if the second income is pure gravy, the gravy is bigger. (Because wages are higher).

We seem to be experiencing this right now. MH received a 3% raise this year. (His raise last year already corrected for minimum wage increase January 2018). His pay was going to be something like $xx.5875. Seriously!? This was driving me crazy because I always just calculate his check (he gets paid before we get his pay stub).

Then, while he was in Florida his last paycheck hit and it was all wrong. For the first time in two years, it was not right. But it was to his favor. He always gets his pay before his pay stub so I had to wait to figure it out. On his pay stub, which I could see a few days later, they had given him an 8% raise instead. But he had already received the weird pay rate for one pay period. I figured it was a mistake.

Anyway, MH had a chance to bring it up this week and he was told by his supervisor that he thinks the manager gave him the raise. He confirmed that today. They gave him a nice raise, and no one bothered to tell him. {I told MH that from my experience pretty much no one looks at their pay stub. So, most people wouldn't even notice. I can't believe they didn't tell him}.

This is a nice surprise! The gravy is getting bigger. Oh, and it is a nice round amount that is easy to remember. I like that part too.

When I initially said the gravy is bigger in our high cost region, I was thinking that he could easily find a job making $50k or $60k per year. Is more what I was getting at, when I said this several years ago. But this works too. (Working very seasonal/part-time/minimum-wage for now, for reference. But is also definitely more than it would be in most areas of the country).

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

We went to a free movie (advanced screening) on Tuesday night. MH really wanted to take me because it had really good reviews. In the end, it was a small turnout. We were running a little late and got stuck in a lot of traffic, but it worked out because there wasn't a long line. The movie was Ladybird. It was really good. This was definitely a fun one to see at a screening because the movie was set in Sacramento and was filmed here.

Usually MH feels a compulsiveness to see everything, and he sees a lot of crap. But I will say that there were some really good movies this year. It seems more than usual.

October Savings

November 5th, 2017 at 10:43 am

Received $52 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.
--Redeemed $61 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $7 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
--rounded up $2 for an even $100 snowflake deposit

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$1,200

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$300 Trombone purchase

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,300 to cash
-$ 85 museum membership (renewal)
-$ 275 auto insurance

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

I think this month will end up being the polar opposite of next month. I literally deposited $4,300 into savings/investments this month. We save about $4,000 in a month that MH works and that we don't have any one-off expenses. (Rare, because there's usually some non-monthly expenses). But I am also replenishing savings for pre-paying some big expenses for credit card rewards.

Next month: We've already racked up $4,000 in medical bills and home repairs (and includes some smaller expenses). Will pay property taxes for the year, so that's $9,000 outflow right there.

This is the 4th year that I am just pre-paying property taxes, by paying it all up front (the second installment is not due until April). This is just done from a simplicity standpoint. If interest rates ever rise I guess I can re-evaluate, but I think we are building enough wealth at this point in our lives that I'd prefer simplicity over a little extra bank interest. But I probably only feel that way because interest rates are only 1%.

This & That

November 3rd, 2017 at 10:53 am

Mortgage Update: Officially into the 150s. Woohoo!

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

This weekend will be SPENDY! We have an unofficial reunion with the group MH and I worked with when we met. The last time I recall seeing any of them was when MM(14) was an infant. It has been a while.

Anyway, they chose an expensive Bay Area buffet, but my kids are looking forward to all the food. At least I get my money's worth with them. Wink

We also have an expensive outing planned with my SIL and her kids. I haven't heard any details and need to e-mail her. I *think* we have plans. (I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't make reservations, but honestly the kids just want to hang together. As long as they have a little time for us is all I care about. SIL wanted to plan a big to-do).

Busy weekend! Should be fun, but tiring.

I don't know how much of it is regional, but with housing so expensive people seem to be waiting until 40 to have kids. Just to say that MH and I have by far the oldest kids in that work group (we may be the youngest people with the oldest kids). They are going to freak when they see our 14-year-old (who is such a mini-me of his father).

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

On the first night that MH was out of town (last week) I saw that PF Chang's had a free sushi night. I also had a free gift card, so I took the kids out. We had never been before.

O.M.G.

There was no minimum purchase and I really just thought they would bring us each like one free piece of sushi. When we ordered, the look on our waiter's face said otherwise. I tried to clarify with him but we just weren't communicating well. BUT... My kids could eat a horse, so I just let it go. The kids and I looked at each other like, "We are getting SO MUCH sushi," after he took our order. "Are we getting SO MUCH sushi!? I think we are!" & we did. We ordered an appetizer, two entrees, 2 plates of sushi, and 3 FREE pieces of sushi! So they brought us out 5 plates of sushi. It was totally hilarious. In another situation I would have corrected our order, but I wanted to use my gift card and I knew the kids would eat it. So we just let them bring us tons of food. (We spent $15 cash for all that).

In the end, we brought home a lot of MM's rice dinner because it was enough to feed an army. I brought home my dinner. It was a small serving, but it was way too much for me and everyone was full by then. The rest was devoured.

I already put the free sushi day on my calendar for next year. The food was surprisingly good.

It was enjoyable because no one seemed to know about it and the place was not packed at all.

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

In other news, I saw that our school district is desperate for teachers (though they already pay VERY well). As a result, they are offering to pay for credential, plus monthly stipend while earning credential, plus a $5k or $10k bonus (depending if you hit certain marks).

Seriously!

This is something we have discussed endlessly over the years, for MH. The last he seriously considered was 17 years ago when the city we were living is was issuing emergency teaching credentials.

In contrast, this is a WAY better deal! Wow! A full teaching credential, plus all that cash to boot?

It's complicated. Though in most regards I think this would be his dream job, he has very low tolerance for bureaucracy, and I think that's what we have decided over the years. All his family are teachers and his mom has like always forbid him to ever become a teacher (because she knew he wanted to at some point). So it's a whole thing. Either of those things by itself, maybe he could work through it, but together is a lot.

With a deal like this, I don't think there's anything to lose. I doubt he will go down this route, but I share in the offchance he does. & also to say that there are always opportunities if you keep your eyes and ear open.

For now, he's been out of town and we hadn't really discussed. I Was kind of surprised he didn't say, "NO thanks." It's maybe piqued his interest.

Edited to add: I since saw that another school district is paying subs $500/day (during possible teacher strike). & several teaching job posting on a job board I joined on Facebook. I've not seen any "teacher" postings whatsoever in the past, but I guess there is a lot going on. I had a chance to talk to MH about it. I think his gut feeling is it's not really for him, but he told me it was hard for him to pass up opportunities. I think we both tend to be that way anyway, but maybe extra so for someone who struggled so hard in the job market for so long.

Florida Trip

November 1st, 2017 at 09:55 am

MH is back from Florida. He was gone for 5 days, to celebrate his Grandfather's birthday. He really wishes we had gone with him, but I am really happy I didn't have to deal with all that travel. Phew!

The entire cost of the trip? $25!

I initially thought we were going to cover airfare, but his parents had miles and wanted to cover it.

I figured he'd treat for something while there. On Sunday I checked the credit cards and it was clear he hadn't spent anything and probably wouldn't. I figured he was the baby of the family and no one would let him pay for anything. That is what he confirmed. (Said everyone was fighting over the dining out bills and he wasn't interested in joining the fray). So I thought he might spend $100 or $200, but in the end it was $25 for two airport meals. That is all.

That said... His relatives were there from Australia and we are seriously considering going to Australia next summer. Will see. (I think they are near Brisbane/Gold Coast). I told him everyone is going to think I am totally full of crap. I do NOT want to travel. Really and truly. It's just complicated because we have family all over the world, and our parents love to travel. Even if it is generally not how we want to spend our own time and money, we are probably a little too "go with the flow."

& so that is how a $25 trip to Orlando might cost me several thousand dollars. Wink

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

Halloween was a real bore at our house. MH was majorly jet lagged and I had to work. I've got two seminars this week and weekend plans, and just really no other time I could get some of this work done.

Anyway, my kids the last few years have had absolutely no interest in Halloween, but then often get swayed at the last minute. I've just kept some old costumes (Whatever still fits, like masks) and they like to dig through and mix and match to come up with weird costumes. In the end, the kids were invited to a fun friend's house where they dressed up as zombies and scared the neighborhood kids. That was really perfect because I had forgot it was Halloween when I made plans to bring work home. But by then the kids were already gone and the house was quiet. They had a blast, MH got a long nap, and I got some work done. Phew!

Credit Card Rewards Update

October 31st, 2017 at 06:09 am

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, MH)
$525 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$2,224 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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

MH got a $250 reward offer from AmEx. I tracked down the $500 offer link and applied for that one instead.

This is a LOT for us. I am not a big churner and have probably never opened 4 cards in one year for just one of us. Yeesh. I will probably lay off and not do any rewards for him next year.

{This level of credit card churning has absolutely no effect on our credit scores. Hell would freeze over before we ever carried a balance on a credit card}.

As to credit score, which is a question that I get a lot, we have 100% on-time payments and 10 years of good credit on our reports (even if the accounts have been closed). That's clearly about 90% of OUR credit score. No one knows exactly how it all works. About the only think I have ever noticed that impacts our score is utilization ratio. Like when I made a big purchase on our Target card and totally forgot it only had a $500 limit. (So we ended up with a very high utilization on one card). I mean, it probably never would have occurred to me in the first place. It dinged our score for a bit, but maybe just for a month or two. Nothing we couldn't overcome and I am talking maybe it went from 840 to 820. I'd consider this "no effect" since anything above 750 is an excellent credit score. This is something that didn't amount to a hill of beans in the long run. But as someone who needs a good credit score for her job, I will be cautious about utilization ratios in the future. As to most the rest, the only thing I really care about is paying my bills on time.

Since we have mostly never borrowed for anything and this credit card reward extravaganza is a more recent phenomenon, we have way below average # of cards/credit lines on our credit reports. (I think that's CRAZY!! Lord knows we have opened tons of credit cards in the last 8 years or so. How are we below average?!). So it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future. But that's something that doesn't affect our score because we are at or below average. (P.S. I guess our willingness to close our credit cards is also a lot of this. Stuff older than 10 years completely drops off, so maybe we've already reached a bit of a peak.
If I apply for 4 new cards next year but 4 old cards completely drop off my credit report, it's hard to increase this number much at this point).

Closing credit cards and having only a year or two of open credit doesn't amount to a hill of beans, for us. My theory was since good credit stays on your report for 10 years that clearly that counts for something. I've since seen this theory confirmed, in the years since I figured this out on my own. This is why I have never given a flip about keeping old cards open. That is WAY too complicated for me, to keep track of open cards. (I felt this way when I opened one credit card every few years or so. So it never occurred to me to keep open all of these cards. No Way!). We close all accounts we are not using.

Anyway, so those are some notes on that front. With this $500 reward, we are on track for our second best year ever. About $3,500 in rewards. Year #1 was 2011, which was more than $4,000. (That was the year that Chase had a $1,000 cash bonus. Crazy!)

This & That

October 15th, 2017 at 03:30 pm

**The tax season from hell is officially over. (10/15 is the last of the income tax deadlines.) I am EXHAUSTED. I think I may have enough down time to take a week off in December (the week I couldn't take off last year, so I have an extra week this year). Will see. Still in the middle of another monster project, though the end is in sight.

(I am usually not so busy in September/October, and probably would generally consider May through November to be pretty relaxed at work, but it's just been one of those years!)

**On the home front, hell froze over and MH finally discarded his professional wardrobe. It was mostly bought used and hasn't been worn in 15 years. We had last left it that he could keep it but I was NOT moving with that stuff that he was obviously never going to wear. This was our compromise.

In the end, he asked me to take him shopping for more casual clothes (he wanted help) and he was open to purging his closet after we went shopping. I thought he mean some of his more casual clothing, but he went through it *all* and admitted most of it was not in great condition after sitting in a closet for 15 years.

In the process, I took some time to purge my side of the closet too. My problem was not with his quantity of clothing, but with the fact he was NEVER going to wear it. So when he purged like 90% of his barely existent wardrobe, I felt like I should make an effort on my side of the closet. I was surprised how much stuff I had to purge and the shirts I forgotten I had, etc. Ugh. I can use improvement on my 1-in/1-out rule.

**I also *finally* got through our photos. The problem is my (4-year-old) phone has a burst mode for taking photos. I LOVE this feature, but the downside is I end up with massive amounts of photos.

It was my goal to download and backup photos before our London trip. There were two big vacations in particular that I never backed up. (They were automatically backed up in google, but we have a more extensive backup system in place, and I had never added those photos to MH's more secure backup). I was trying to use London as a motivational deadline, but I had too much to do and was having technological difficulties. Anyway, on one day a couple of weekends ago I made some strides on this. I seemed to stumble upon a more efficient way to get everything downloaded. So I spent all day and just got it done. Finally! Backed up London, and probably all the big vacations we took in the past 4 years. I think the hard part was deleting the endless duplicates.

**Other than being busy on the chore side of things, it's been a very spendy month.

We finally replaced our hot water heater. It was making some strange noises, and was definitely time. We were planning to be more proactive in 2015 but the labor costs to install were more than we expected. I got a lower quote this time around, and am happy to cross this off my list.

For a while now, I've also had it in my craw to pick up some glasses in person. The last pair of glasses I purchased were $10 on Zenni. They are absolutely *awesome*. Is my second pair I've ordered online? But I never got proper measurements for my pupils and I thought I saved enough on glasses the last several years that I could probably splurge on a new pair and try on in person. Sounded like a nice luxury.

Was it worth it? Not sure. I wasn't enthralled with the selection and ended up getting glasses more very functional but nothing as cute as I have been getting on Zenni. I could let it go as there is nothing wrong with practical glasses. The only complaint about the $10 pair was that they were a little heavy. Which I guess I will make note of for the future (Zenni certainly sells very light glasses. I had just never bought such heavy glasses before, so hadn't thought to check the weight).

Whereas Zenni charged me a whole whopping $5 for their anti-glare coating, my HMO charged me $90. So that's going to be the deciding factor. I have had problems with night driving. If the $90 clears that up for me, then it's a no-brainer and definitely worth it. But if I don't notice any difference on the glare, then I am probably just going to stick to Zenni in the future. (I am guessing I won't notice any difference).

Today I ordered some prescription sunglasses online, $30.

My timing is probably pretty terrible on this front. I have been thinking about doing this for a while, but what motivated me to make an eye appointment last week is that MH (who has been talking about this quite a while) decided to go ahead and make an eye appointment for himself. Never wore glasses, but can feel his eye sight worsening. He wanted me to go with him to help him pick out glasses, and I told him was fine since I need to have a check up myself.

In the end he feels his near-sight is worsening but they told him he needs everyday/distance eyewear. Strange as it sounds, it seems to be helping.

They actually upsold him to a $350 pair of glasses, but they were a pair like I had before which I really liked and were very high quality. (I wore for maybe 6+ years). So I told him to just go for it.

I went for titanium (wanting to go much lighter) and paid $250 for mine.

So yeah, though I planned for a while to do a splurge for myself, wasn't planning to make it a double splurge. Makes it a little harder to digest.

So that sums up some big spending.

**In other news, the kids have been really clicking with their cousins and I have been making an effort to get them together. My impression is that SIL is far too busy for us, so I was really surprised when I requested a more last minute get together and she obliged. (I figured I'd try, but wasn't expecting much). So I have to give her credit. She wanted to go do something ridiculously expensive, next time, and told me they had no free weekends for the rest of the year. So that is the flip side of it. They do over-book and tend to flake on our standing annual traditions. But I mentioned we'd be in town one weekend and she is making that work too. Which is nice because though I am doing *all* the driving (I guess it comes with the territory of being the ones who moved), I appreciate not having to take any extra trips. We had a 3-day weekend last weekend, and then if we can kill two birds with one stone next time... That works.

For last weekend, MH had some movie plans and some volunteer commitments, so I just took the kids on my own. It was a nice little day trip.

**UGH! I accidentally cut and paste over my last post. It was about the wild fires in our state. They suck and it's horrible. We are far away and unaffected. I think that sums it up. I mentioned the wind was crazy yesterday and not helping, but it seems to have died down, so maybe they can get these fires under control.

September Savings

September 30th, 2017 at 07:44 am

Received $53 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.
--Redeemed $30 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card
--$115 dividends reinvested

Snowballs (not invested):
--$200 cash from credit card reward
--$1,025 gift cards received (cc rewards)

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$250

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-1,000 Europe trip
-3,000 to fund mortgage goal ($$ came from OT)

MH paycheck:
-$340 to Europe trip

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,300 to cash
-$ 325 van repair/maintenance
-$ 240 school lunches (partial year)
-$ 183 Medical expenses
-$ 150 Vet

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

MH is back at work after summer off. I just set his 401k back to 50%. Could use more in accessible investments, but I think our taxes are going to be pretty ugly this year. I couldn't change it before first (very small) paycheck, which is fine since I wanted to use towards trip expenses anyway. But will just go aggressive at 50% for the rest of the year.

We did buy a musical instrument that I wanted to fund with MH's check, but nothing else is on the horizon. (We charged this in September, so will pay for it in October). I think we are kind of on pull back mode (on spending) after extravagant trip to Europe.

September was a work month for us. MH is getting back into the swing, and I was SLAMMED at work. So it was more reminiscent of tax season when we don't really have time to spend money. Making lots of money, but no time to spend. I guess this was compounded by the credit card reward windfalls. It was a big income month.

I mentioned in a prior post that I felt confident enough with our cash/expected expenses to fund mortgage goal. This is OT money I deposited in April and that I transferred to our mortgage this month. (If nothing else, wanted to see how Europe trip shook out before tying up all that cash).

Low Spend September

September 24th, 2017 at 09:15 am

I am still trying to get over the hump at work. UGH.

Last weekend we were out of town for some family stuff. So it's been a little extra busy. Other than that, MH is back at work and we are just getting back into the swing of things.

I sat down and looked at all the bills today. September has been very low spend. I guess what I mean is I entered all the October bills (including September charges). I try to eyeball it all mid-month and make sure our cash flow for the following month is in the green. I also set up all the cash bills to pay on the first. I have enough float to cover so just set those up today.

I think it's some combo of not feeling much need to splurge after such a BIG vacay. Also, being thrown back into work. MH started back at work when we got back. This is reminiscent of our *busy* months (Jan - April) when we make extra money but are also too busy to do much else. It's not THAT busy, but feels busy after summer break.

That said, we did have some splurges. We spent $60 the Friday before last at the art school's talent show (fundraiser). AMAZING! A lot of these kids are professional level already. So I've never seen a talent show like it. I'd say at least 1/3 of the songs were original composition. It was just awesome on every level.

The other thing is that today is our 17th wedding anniversary. We have been together for 22 years. We aren't big on splurging or making a big deal about most things, but I guess our anniversary is one exception. We know we are blessed to have something VERY special. GMIL gave us $40 cash, and we are going to have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants today. & then just walk around downtown afterwards, which is kind of our standing Sunday date. (It's been a while because it's been too hot or too busy, but when we have quiet weekends we just sneak away and enjoy some quiet time). We are still in a bit of a "honeymoon" stage since it's not been very long we can just leave without getting a babysitter. Plus the more we do it, the less I worry about the kids. It's AWESOME!

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

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that we did have one big splurge this month. We bought a used trombone for DL. I am very pleased with that purchase. The music store that we like and trust only had a $600 model. We just started there figuring this might be more than we wanted to pay. We were planning to shop around a bit. When it was clear we weren't going to rent or buy, they dropped the price by 50%! That was the price range we were looking for ($300) so we just took it because we very much trusted the quality. Saved us a lot of time and shopping around. I mean, I expected to pay that much on Craigslist and to have no idea what we were getting. So I am very pleased with this purchase.

The idea would be to sell it for the same price when we are done. (I don't foresee him sticking with trombone very long. He more wants to learn all the instruments, and has the support system to do so at this school. But if I am wrong, we would want to upgrade. I guess either way, is a bit of a temporary/starter instrument).

Moral of the story: Sticker price means nothing.

Another Credit Cards Reward Update

September 18th, 2017 at 12:34 pm

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$525 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$1,724 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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

I guess this is the flip side of managing several credit card rewards at once. It's raining rewards!

I received $500 gift cards and $200 cash in the last week or so.

Yesterday my American Express reward points showed up online. My initial feeling was getting the $250 reward last year was not very useful as it was only dining out cards. But we ended up enjoying more than I thought we would. It took us like 6 months to get through $250, but we enjoyed.

That said, if I found $250 in dining cards difficult to figure out how to use wisely, then $500 is definitely harder. I figured we'd gift most the excess but I realized yesterday the Cheesecake Factory cost way too many points, so scratched that as a gift card idea for my dad. At the end MH looked at the options and said he could use Home Depot for small things around the house (goes there to get light bulbs if nothing else) and Staples for school supplies next year.

So, we chose:

$100 Benihana (Birthday gift for my dad, we will take him and my mom out).

$100 California Pizza Kitchen (can treat the kids once or twice)

$50 Barnes & Noble (gift for FIL)
$50 Ruth Chris Steakhouse (lunch date for us)

Starting to grasp at straws:
$50 Staples
$50 Home Depot
$50 P.F. Chang's (??? never been here)
$50 seasons 52 (restaurant)

The thing that sucks is managing all these gift cards, but we will figure it out. (I usually do just SIMPLE rewards that don't require much energy.
We aren't stockpilers in general. Just is more work. I guess also we don't have any systems in place to manage this level of gift cards).

I wish we could have found a nice gift for MH's parents. But we struck out (none of the free gift cards or anything they would really love) and MH is not being helpful. In the end, I decided to just send them $100 as a thank you for watching our kids for 10 days. Want them to treat themselves to something nice.

In other gifty-ness, MH received a $5 Starbucks gift card at work. I gave it to to a co-worker who is always very appreciative. (We don't drink coffee and so we always re-gift Starbucks gift cards).

On the credit card reward front, I was briefly dreaming of a trip to Hawaii. I have gotten more comfortable with the (super easy) travel rewards and was thinking we could do a mostly free trip to Kauai. Maybe next year? I have a weakness for Hawaii. For all the air travel that I don't care for, Hawaii is the one exception. Plus, if it's FREE, why not? I don't want to spend a lot on travel these next years as we save up for college, but this would be far below our minimal travel/vacation budget.

It was only a brief thought because the childcare would be tricky. I wouldn't mind taking the kids, except our only option would be the peak of summer. Which wouldn't be enjoyable at all. So I think we have to put it on the back burner. I tentatively brought it up to MH but talked myself out of it in the end. He was open to it but just surprised I would want to go at all. I told him we have been normalizing all this big travel, and he reminded me how happy I seemed to not want to go ANYWHERE next year. I think I need a year off just to have a quiet year at home. It's moot because it would be a lot to ask right now and not sure my kids would go for it. If we wait until Fall 2019 at least our older child should be driving. Will give everyone some time and space before we plan another adults-only trip. So yeah, thinking one quiet year off and then maybe considering a big trip to Hawaii. I am thinking I could probably cover airfare and car rental with credit card rewards. We can get a free hotel through in-laws. You see why it would be such an inexpensive trip.

August Savings

September 1st, 2017 at 05:12 am

Received $55 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $45 cash back on Citi card.

Other snowflakes:
--$15 (sold old sleeping bag on Craigslist; kids outgrew) ~ I set this money aside to pay for gymnastics (it's cash only)

--Redeemed $11 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card. Since this was mostly trip expenses I just applied this snowflake to our trip.

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
- 600 auto insurance
- 400 kids' birthdays ($200 x 2)
- 305 dentist (cleanings x2 + chipped tooth)
- 120 van repairs

In addition, we pulled the following from mid-term savings:

- 215 Plumbing repairs
- 200 new pots and pans (couldn't cover after all this murphy)
- 150 fix car stereo**

{Note: MH has no wages during summer months}.

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

**I'd generally pull this from short-term savings (car repairs) but we've maxed out our repair fund already this year. Which is unusual, but we do have an older vehicle that didn't need *any* work last year. It makes sense from a multi-year view, but is exceeding our annual allotment. This is why we have other savings.

I'd probably cover something like pots and pans from short-term savings, but it's also fairly maxed out at this point. I still have some space remaining for insurance, dentist and property taxes, but the misc. and the car repair portions have been spent. I need to leave enough cash for the more fixed expenses I know of.

As far as Murphy goes around here, this was somewhat muted, but just a lot of little annoying things.

As an aside, I am always bemused when someone talks about keeping their old cars and doing without modern conveniences like blue tooth. Like it's either/or. Seriously?? You can keep OLD cars and update them with modern technology. Wink In another situation I might have replaced the car stereo, but the stereo is not very old and the vehicle is 12 years old. We figured it made the most sense just to replace the face plate on the stereo, which solved all of our problems. If I thought I'd keep this vehicle another 10 years, it might have been worth investing in a new stereo system.

I don't know where we stand on the Murphy front. I've already had more problems with the van upon our return from our trip. *sigh* We've not been home long, but hopefully things settle down a bit.

Technically trip expenses will sort out in October, but I think I will start transferring money and paying off expenses today. Travel rewards card is not due until October, but I have the cash and I just want to get everything paid off and accounted for.

See last post for Europe trip details. (I just realized this post covered that one up).

Europe Trip

August 31st, 2017 at 11:50 am

I had a rough estimate in my head that we would spend about 100 GBP per day, or about $1,500 total incidental spending (with some rounding up and pre-trip purchases). Though I wasn't going into this trip with a super frugal mindset. Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so if it cost more then it cost more.

I mentioned in my last post that we were never very hungry. We also pre-paid some tours which included food, so between all that we kept food down to $50 per day. (That's $25/each for three meals a day. Though we certainly splurged on some nice meals out, for the most part the food was much less expensive than I imagined. We also pretty much never buy drinks out, but it was reasonable enough and part of the culture that we did buy drinks with most our bigger meals. Lord knows we could have spent a LOT less if we really wanted to).

My accounting is still somewhat rough at this point, but we paid for the airfare and hotel long ago with our regular vacation budget. All of the tours were paid for with credit card rewards and snowflakes. The rest came out to about $1,200: transportation (Tube), Bus, Theater tickets, admissions, tips, and last minute tour change. Not bad considering that we were at about $1,100 before the last minute change.

I was planning to take $1,000 from savings and then throw MH's first paycheck back ($500) towards the trip. In the end I might lean more on his paycheck and would only have to pull $700 from savings? Will see how it pans out. My checkbook is a total mess right now because I am doing like three BIG credit card rewards at once. So I may just have to pull $1,000 anyway to make it all balance. In the meantime I come up with roughly $1,200 cash + credit spending during trip and this seems to be close to my spreadsheet. ($1,200 spending would be for *everything* except the flight and hotel).

Here's the cost breakdown:


$1,929 per person! Our flight was non-stop and the room rates were so good that we didn't even look at anything with less than 5-star reviews. Our hotel was REALLY nice. Nothing we'd ever splurged for before (paying cash). We did pre-pay because the exchange rate was SO LOW when we booked (it was a refundable rate though). In the end this saved us about $50. Exchange rate was 1.25 when we paid (a historical low) and 1.29 during most the trip.

My parents live right by the airport. We garaged our car at the in-laws house (since they were at our house). In-laws handled kids/pet/house so we didn't have any of those type expenses to worry about. I do usually pull from grocery/gas budget when we travel but we had to drive 250 miles or so to/from airport and left a fridge full of food for everyone and so I can't say we saved any money on those fronts. Lord knows what the electric bill will be like. In-laws are super frugal but they aren't used to our heat.

This is what we accomplished on our trip:

Tower of London @ opening. Our hotel was near here the Tower and MH had the last minute idea to just go there at opening. It was not crowded at all so that was our MO for the trip. So this is a lot of how we were able to get some off-peak time in. In contrast, the in-laws had skipped the crown jewels (when they were in London) because the line was too long. There was no line when went.

Some random shop front:


Hop On Hop Off Bus



We were pretty lazy this first day and only got off the bus for Hyde Park. LOVED it and had a lovely lunch there.


Westminster Abbey @opening ~ beat the crowds and had the cutest tour guide.

National (Art) Gallery **FREE

British Museum (we did this over 2 days) **FREE
We did a free foot tour from some unaffiliated group, which was okay and we did pay a tip for that.

Our hotel had a restaurant and had free drinks/free concert one night. It was the night before Paris so we didn't stay long, but it was neat that we could enjoy some of the concert. We frantically did laundry during the concert (had a washer in our room).

One day in Paris: river cruise, lunch @ Eiffel Tower, and 2 hours at the Louvre.



On Day 7 I decided to sleep in and have a nice brunch @ St. James park. MH wanted to fit in all the free museums he could find. I can see this now as I piece together our itinerary. After getting a very late start and enjoying a leisurely lunch... We went to a free art museum (it had some Roman ruins in the basement), Churchill War Rooms (er, not free), Museum of London, etc. At the Museum of London I parked myself in the cafe with food and wifi, while MH looked around.

We did a free walking "ghost" tour that night. I was surprised MH wanted to do that and it was pretty dumb. But we saw some really neat parts of the city so I did tip the guy. Definitely was worth it from that angle. (I would totally like a ghost tour, but just don't think it was the best tour. MH usually just makes fun of me that I would like a ghost tour, so no idea why he thought it was a good idea. Big Grin ).

I loved St. Bartholomew:


Dover Castle & Canterbury Cathedral (free tour; paid for with rewards). I really loved Dover Castle and we were able to hear the pipe organs in the Cathedral. WOW!

On our last "free" day we went back to British Museum. We went to the Globe to pick up show tickets but unexpectedly their museum was closed. Frown We walked by the Tate and MH didn't want to go in because it cost money. He peeked inside and I guess it was free after all. It worked out kind of perfect because we had time to kill and were pretty tired on this day. (I think we did a million steps at Dover, so yeah. I am remembering why we were so beat this day and not wanting to walk even to the Tube). The Tate had really great views of the city on the top floor. They did ask for donations and I let go of some of my change since I thought the museum and the view was worth something, and we were trying to spend down our cash so we wouldn't have to exchange any. We saw some Picasso, Warhol, Pollock, Salvador Dali, etc. A very unexpected treat!

We saw Much Ado About Nothing that night and it was awesome. Really a neat experience in the old Shakespeare theater. You could pay just 2 GBP (I believe?) to stand in the middle of the theater, but we knew better than that and spent over $100 for some really good seats. (I just knew we wouldn't be up to standing for a few hours!) So that was money well spent.

I mentioned in my last post that we had booked a Stonehenge/Avebury tour, but they canceled it rather last minute. MIL (who is very pushy) was very pushy that we must see Windsor! So when frantically trying to find our way to Stonehenge, I noticed an available (albeit pricey) tour that started at Windsor first thing in morning. I was sure Windsor was lovely but all the reviews were pretty meh re: summer crowds. But we decided if we could do Windor first maybe it wouldn't be so bad. (It wasn't bad, but it didn't do much for me. Maybe expectations too high after MIL went on and on and on about us not going. By then we had seem a million old castles, right?).

Windsor Castle


Stonehenge we knew we'd love it or hate it. It was a really hot/sunny day when we went. I LOVED it. It is just a bunch of rocks, but it was neat to see up close.



We ended that day eating in an old pub. Someone took MH's dinner (mis-ordered or something) and so he waited forever for his food while I waited forever for the bathroom. But they had some of the Harry Potter movie locations in this little town and it was definitely worth a stop. So yeah, we squeezed a lot in that we weren't planning to.



Oh, and we just used wifi so didn't have any phone charges at all. Were able to call and text the kids over wifi. (Mostly hotel wifi, but most of the museums, buses and the Eurostar had free wifi so we had a fair amount of phone access).

We REALLY lucked out with the weather. It was mostly cloudy and never really rained. Very mild. We had a little bit of sun during the second half of the trip.

Home Sweet Home

August 31st, 2017 at 05:17 am

So glad to be home! We survived our trip to Europe.

I think overall things went as smooth as could be. Phew!

We did have a huge flight delay on our way home. I am starting to think that is our jinx. This seems to happen more often than not to us, that our flights home are canceled or delayed. Anyway, accordingly (since we are so used to canceled flights), and not knowing how up we'd be for the 100-mile drive home, we didn't expect to get home until today anyway. So maybe that part wasn't very "smooth" but we were pretty mellow about it.

The only other trip hiccup was that our tour for Stonehenge/Avebury was canceled. We got this news late one night when we got back to the hotel. Ack! We were relieved that we were easily able to book a last minute Stonehenge tour. Phew! But I am bummed that we had to skip Avebury. Neither of us had any desire whatsoever to drive abroad or to pay for a more private tour, so we just let it go. (Our tour was apparently the only bus tour to Avebury, and they had some "technical difficulties").

That whole thing is going to be a bit of a mess because we paid for it with a reward credit card (with rewards). I didn't do much today but I did spend a few minutes making sure that getting a refund for that tour doesn't mess up our rewards. It looks like it should be okay but I just don't know how they will hash it all out. We will get a cash refund, but they are going to have to realize we never actually paid any cash for that trip which means they will probably refund us in rewards. & then I can just apply to other travel expenses we booked on that card. We are lucky that it will probably work out. For most credit rewards I just book the bare minimum for the reward but in this case we had booked some tours up (spent more than minimum for reward) and we have some new travel spending to offset these rewards. They count the tube expense and the new bus tour as "travel expenses" that we can pay with rewards. So it should all work out, but I just don't know exactly how. First things first, still waiting for our refund. (I actually applied all our rewards for tours because they were non-refundable. So yeah, I never expected any scenario where we would get a refund. I tried to be smart about it, but it is what it is).

I think we kept the entire trip to $2,000 per person, which is incredible! I will do an accounting and share some pictures later. Maybe tomorrow. (In the end I started typing this around 9am yesterday but crashed for the rest of the day. We did get back home about 1am on Wednesday morning. Just woke up and it is early Thursday now).

I am always in awe of other big city public transportation, but London takes the cake. We pretty much just did the Tube but I don't remember ever waiting more than like 1 minute for a train. We were really lucky and seemed to miss all the crowds. & everyone warned me that we would walk so much, but we really didn't. The transport is *everywhere*. For comparison we did DC last year mostly on their subway and that was a LOT of walking. The stations just aren't as close together. The Tube cost about half as much as DC subway did.

I just think it's all relative. The other thing is I really didn't find London to be that expensive, but I am from San Francisco. So, just more relativity. I thought the transport was insane cheap, and the food was much more reasonable than I had expected. & then all the museums are mostly free, so what else is there? Even the hotel was much cheaper than I would have expected for London. Our flights were cheap too, but that is what motivated the entire trip in the first place.

All this to say that we had a very pleasant/frugal-ish holiday.

(We would mostly never travel during summer and I thought we were probably insane, but we somehow seemed to miss a lot of the crowds. For example, when we went to Parliament there was a huge mass going towards Westminster Abbey and so on. Even MH was super annoyed I wanted to walk along the canal first, but NO ONE WAS THERE and we had the entire place to ourselves. Unreal! So we seemed to luck into some off-peak somehow throughout the trip).

On the flip side, there are a lot of reasons I don't particularly care for traveling. But one of the biggest is that I just don't deal with it well physically. On this trip I think I did pretty well with the sleeping, but I absolutely never adjusted to the time change otherwise. I thought we planned bad when we made big dinner reservations on our second full day there. We both just picked at our food and it was just really bad planning. But now 10 days later I can't say I would have done any better on our last day. I LOVE to eat and so I was really bummed that I mostly felt like crap the whole time and couldn't even enjoy any food. I picked at food the *entire* time and I know this is some of why we ended up spending very little on food. We also had a kitchen/apartment which helped to keep our costs down. I suppose this part was harder than usual for me since we expected this to be a bit more of a culinary trip.

I am hoping the adjustment is easier on the US side, since I never really adjusted to the time zone anyway.

I think I could have packed lighter if I put more effort into it, but overall we are super light packers. I noticed this a lot particularly on our Paris trip. We went on a tour because we wanted to see *everything* that we could in one day. That was one day our weirdness really shone through because someone had lost her luggage (on her flight) and everyone was going on and on about that. Yeah, it sounds horrible, but I don't understand why you'd need to check baggage in the first place. I don't know what other people pack. We really keep it to the essentials. (Everyone else had clearly checked bags as they went on and on how they kept some stuff on their carry on and made sure not to check this or that).

I *really* appreciated this when we got home. I swear it took me like 5 minutes to unpack. We did all the laundry when we woke up. I don't know if I've ever packed so light before for such a big trip and so I really noticed what a non-event it was to unpack. (Mostly dumping my suitcase into a laundry basket). I admittedly still have to sort through toiletries but that is about it.

It was on the same trip, Paris, that most the tour group skipped the Louvre in favor of shopping. Seriously!? I do not get people! The Louvre was just amazing. We only had a couple of hours there, which is just sad. (We maybe saw 0.001% of the museum?) But was definitely better than not seeing it at all. Big Grin So glad we went.

I just can not fathom going to the Louvre to shop. I am sure many can not fathom going to Paris and not shopping. I am well aware that we are the weird ones.

I will post later more about the trip, pictures, and cost breakdown.

Oh, and we toyed with the idea of seeing An American in Paris. We decided not to go. One day when I saw a bunch of advertisements I told MH I wanted to see that one back at home some time. Wouldn't you know it? Went through the mail yesterday a.m. (also very light because we do most things electronically) and it's one of the musicals they will do in our city next spring! The tickets go on sale January and so I told MH that's my birthday/Christmas.

I don't go back to work until Tuesday, thank goodness! Glad I can squeeze in some quiet down time at home. It is long overdue. I was dreading even getting kids to/from school but that just seems silly now. I can take them (since MH is not a morning person) and he can deal with the afternoon insanity like he always does. I guess that's maybe 1/2 hour commitment for a couple of days. I will survive. Wink We may go grocery shopping today, but we had left a ton of food for the kids and in-laws and still have some left. MH starts back work on Tuesday (the end of his summer break). I forget how easy this is when we are both home.

Computer Update

August 13th, 2017 at 03:53 pm

Post from January:

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.

To be clear, we just put the computer in our bedroom. I just used MM's old desk.

In the end, I have surprisingly not needed to move downstairs. I recall that we *never* used the upstairs A/C until we had kids. Now I remember why. All the cool air (and heat in the winter) seems to float up our bedroom. So it's been okay.

I realized that I never showed any pictures of my tiny computer:

This is the computer, just hanging off the back of the monitor:



Back to School Spending

August 13th, 2017 at 08:45 am

I think we have made it through the Back to School spending.

Drama Llama (7th Grade)
-----------------------

$20 new clothing and lunch box
$20 art supplies (donation requested)
$15 lab fees (donation requested)
$15 music books
$120 lunch (Funded the max, for about 1/2 of the year)

Well, I am clearly getting off easy with this one. His PE clothes still fit from last year and should last through next year also.

He also has free use of a school instrument, for band, but we will probably re-evaluate at some point. For now, will give it some time to see if he sticks with it.


Monkey Monkey (9th Grade)
-------------------------

$40 running shoes
$40 ASB sticker (covers PE clothes)
$90 graphing calculator
$120 lunch (Funded the max, for about 1/2 of the year)

I suppose there will probably be track uniforms. He isn't sure if he will stick with fall track, so will see.

I thought to check the shoes in stock at Kohls because I have been buying men's double wide shoes for myself (online). Anyway, we got him a really good pair of shoes. These are the kind of shoes I'd buy him anyway because he is very athletic. (He has WIDE feet like his mother, but these seem better stocked for men). We've never really found a good place to buy him shoes before. Kohls? Who knew!

We otherwise spent $35 on school supplies (to cover both kids). That's about $14 of MH's super frugal shopping (he got a lot) and $20 of that was a last minute run to Walgreens (after my last post). MM needed a combination lock, which I couldn't find anywhere else (in my sphere of fast/convenient). But Walgreens had much better folders and we also bought several of those.

MM hasn't bought much school lunch in recent years because he never liked the quality of the food at his location for the past couple of years. He did end up buying at the high school on Friday and said it was good and large portions. If the portion sizes are appropriate for him (a BIG eater) then the school lunch is a steal and will encourage him to buy a lot this year. In fact, I was funding their lunches thinking maybe 2-3 days per week buying, when I came up on the maximum I could fund. So anyway, I just did the max that I could. Will see how long that it lasts. You have to pay a fee every time you fund, so I had gotten in the habit of just doing twice per year. I think I have always prepaid ahead, regardless. Makes life more simple.

Being Thankful for Our Abundance

August 12th, 2017 at 07:44 am

I came across this beautiful article today:

GIVE ME GRATITUDE OR GIVE ME DEBT

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/11/give-liberty-give-debt/

"Recently I posted a picture of myself in my kitchen, and I immediately started receiving generous messages from people wanting to help me “update” it. Along with their messages came pictures of how my kitchen could look, if I’d just put some effort and money into it."

"You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.

This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke. Sweet Jesus. Thank you, precious kitchen.

Inside my refrigerator is FOOD. Healthy food that so many parents would give anything to be able to feed their children. Not me. When this food runs out, I’ll just jump in my car to get more. It’s ludicrous, really. It’s like my family hits the lottery every freaking morning."

"Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more. So maybe freeing ourselves just a little from the Tyranny of Trend is a women’s issue – because we certainly aren’t going to get much world changing done if we spend all of our time and money on wardrobe and kitchen changing."


I will say that gratitude is an important ingredient to living debt-free. I am often bemused by the "sacrifice" people project on to our choices. We are so incredibly blessed, so the bemoaning of our very minor sacrifices always sounds so melodramatic to me. We will survive. Wink We've always been very blessed. We haven't always had the latest and greatest, but we've always had everything we needed and then some.

Back to School

August 9th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

My kids go back to school today. It's just random that they both start back on the same day.

MM(14) starts high school. He has a full load of AP and Honors classes, and is joining the track team.

This will be the first year that either of my kids attend a regular public school (they've only attended public charter schools), but this school looks to be a great fit for MM.

MM is still doing gymnastics. I am relieved he can keep that with his schedule. He probably would have chosen gymnastics over track, if he had to choose between the two. (Will see how he feels after track practice in the peak of the heat today. He will have about 3 hours to refuel before gymnastics. I do also expect it to cost $$$$$$$$$ to feed him with track practice every day).

DL(12) gets to start diving into art school a bit more. He will have 2 or 3 art periods this year. We still need to sort his schedule out and make some decisions. The year-round elective he got was vocal training. I expect that he will also be learning an instrument this year. & on top of that he gets a semester of visual arts and a semester of drama. The instruments is more extra class/extra time or will be utilizing their very low cost and convenient private after school lessons. That's the part we have to figure out. It may all be too much and he may do nothing, but that might free up his schedule to do the school musical. Regardless, he has MANY opportunities, and a lot more this year than he had last year.

Back to School Spending has been pretty light. The kids are both out of uniforms now but neither seems to need any clothes. I think MM will eventually but I don't think it's the worst to get used to non-uniform school first (before buying more clothes). I don't remember buying DL any clothes since he graduated out of uniforms over a year ago. I maybe spent $20 buying him a few shirts and some shorts, since he was outgrowing some. But mostly seems rich in hand-me-downs still.

This is the first year we have to buy school supplies for MM, but last year was the first year for DL and so we had some things on hand already. Our spending was very small on this front. MH also shopped around sales, like composition books for a quarter each.

I think the regular public high school is going to be more careful about asking for money (since it's not really allowed in our state). But, will see. I know DL's public charter school will "require" $20 here and there for more specialized art supplies and science lab fees. I don't mind that at all. I don't want to shop for specialized art supplies. But once that stuff starts to roll in I will tally it up. I will tally all of the above, but it's just not going to amount to much. (Well, as to school supplies and clothes. I will have some other bigger expenditures. Might even add a band instrument to the list).


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>