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Coming up for Air

September 8th, 2019 at 07:00 am

I was going to say something like, "Things have been going along pretty well," but then that seems silly because they are not well at all. I think I've just reached a point of relativism. Sadly, facing some of life's biggest challenges is a point of peace and calmness for me, right now. Because that's just how life has been. Everything else has settled down a wee bit and I have any mental space whatsoever to deal with anything.

So... everything else has settled down significantly and I have been able to catch my breath. The first couple of weeks of this new state of things, I did not do much at all. & then Labor Day was a huge blessing and I was able to get caught up on some house chores. Last weekend, Saturday was dealing with very heavy family stuff. Sunday was collapsing due to mental and emotional exhaustion. But I still had Monday, and Monday ended up being quite productive. I have chores that haven't been done for YEARS at this point. So I started to tackle some of those.

I guess this gave me some good momentum. I am hitting the house chores hard this weekend. I think there is largely a feeling of, "it's now or never".

I think 16yo getting driver's license is a huge reason for this shift and a little calmness in my life. If I had to drive him everywhere he needs to be, last weekend would have been insane. MH and I actually left the kids two weekends - two weekend in a row? - to go take care of our parents. This is just something we couldn't do before, not with 16yo sports schedule. & we wouldn't have left our kids to go out of town. In this situation, maybe, but it's easier to do with a self-sufficient driver and both kids being high school age.

I am mostly of the, "I should be working and digging out, I should NOT be blogging" mode. Except it's a weekend morning, everyone is asleep, and this is usually my quiet/brain dump time. But I could probably work on some minutiae posting, going forward. I know I just also feel buried on the blog front, as with everything else. I completely give up and I realize this blog is probably going to just be a black hole void for most of 2018/2019. I really wish I could share more of what has happened, but there's just not enough hours in the day. I've not had time to process most of it, much less blog about it (which does help me process). It is what it is. A side effect of that is having no idea where to begin, as I try to jump back in.

I am already being thrown head first into the next chapter of my life. I feel like I've barely started this chapter. But the next chapter is taking on more of the parental role with my parents. Both my parents are not doing well. I think it's a little bit, "The calm before the storm." The storm has already started and has been pretty nasty at times. But I guess the best analogy I have is that I am in storm prep mode and just trying to get my life in order and take a few deep breaths so I can deal with this whatsoever.

It's been a shift in our relationship, for a while now. I remember very distinctly feeling that I worried more about my mother (the way a parent worries about a child) more than I worry about my own kids any more. This was about a year ago, in regards to my mom's physical health. I couldn't remember the exact moment, because that was just one drop in the ocean of insanity last year. But I did see in my blog that I mentioned worrying about her after she had a fall, and then my dad jetted off somewhere. That was probably it. & it seems very small right now, compared to current medical issues both my parents are having. So I am being tossed into that caregiver role in a way I hadn't really anticipated, certainly not *right now*, particularly with married/living parents.

I don't really have any answers or clarity, but will try to blog when I do. Unless I am taking care of my parents 100 miles away. You might understand why this might just fall in the black hole void.

August Savings

September 7th, 2019 at 09:50 pm

Received $74 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $35 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $65 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $11 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 9 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $120 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:

Snowball to Savings:
-0- {No side income this month}

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 500 Adjustment for Over-Spending**

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 475 Auto Insurance
-$ 250 Movie Theater Pass (1 year)
-$ 215 MH big purchase
-$ 145 Umbrella Insurance increase (+ teen driver)
-$ 135 Auto Repairs
-$ 100 Vet checkup/shots

TOTAL: $939 deposited to cash and investments


**I mentioned in my last (monthly) post that I didn't expect to hit savings goal in August (when paying off July expenses). This shook out in this report.

I think August was fairly low key. The kids were back in school. The exception is that MH clearly had too much time on his hands and spent a lot of money. I don't mean in a bad way, but he had a lot of big purchases in July/August. One more will show up next month. For this month, July expenses paid for in August, a regional movie theater offered a movie pass type deal. Which is exceptional for someone like MH; he paid ahead for a full year. That could be his entire entertainment budget for the year; he'd go to the movies every day. The nice thing is it's the one in our neighborhood, whereas he had been driving all over the place for free movie screenings. Will still do some of those (they can be fun) but he can afford to be much more choosy and strategic with the free movies.

One thing I hadn't thought of was that umbrella insurance would increase with adding teen driver to household.

In other randomness, we signed up for a 3% interest rate promo rate (savings account) at a credit union we used to belong to, about two years ago. I hadn't even realized that they *increased* the rate to 3.50%. That was a very nice surprise. I had not recommended this CU to MM because it had been a PITA to set up the account. But at 3.5%, I don't know. There is no commitment, it's just a regular savings account.

The "big picture" is very good right now. We already hit net worth goal for the year (probably did a while ago), but just depends how the stock market shakes out on the last day of the year. MH is back at work this month (September). I don't care whatsoever about summer being a little tight. It's the big picture that matters to me. I expected at least a bonus by now, which hasn't come to pass, but business is going very well and bonus potential is very high this year. My first raise is also right around the corner. We are quickly nearing the end of this "gap year".

As to everything else, this was my last post:

If I don't get time to post anything else, life is just very difficult right now. *sigh*

Nothing has changed on this front. I mean, it's all changed, but the challenges are constantly changing. I am working on that post, but lord knows if I will ever get to it.

Price Match

August 11th, 2019 at 10:17 am

My sorta niece (long story) is getting married next month. I am really excited about this happy occasion in a sea of very heavy bad news. I am more than ready to celebrate something happy!

The wedding is a whole other post for another day. She's far older (15 years) than the rest of my nieces and nephews (long story) but is really the first of the next generation to get married. MH has already been asked to do the wedding video and feels that is more than enough (it is). But I told him I wanted to pick up something from their registry, that they will always we remember we bought them. I know the wedding video will more than cover it, but I want to be generous with my nieces and nephews, and maybe want to contribute in my own way. So anyway, just thought of it now with MH and we picked up some personalized glasses on zola, off of their registry.

{We never really thought about it before, but holy crap, MH might get buried in wedding videos in another decade or so. He may just have to say no. If he has a full-time job, there is just no way. These are professional quality videos that take a lot of time and effort. Heck, I don't even know if he has the software to do this}.

So anyway, we pick up the $50 glasses from Zola, and I am relieved that at least the shipping is free. I am searching frantically for any coupon code I can find when I see that zola price matches. I am guessing "price match" isn't one of our super ingrained frugal habits because long ago our strategy was probably more not to buy things in the first place. It's one of those things that has entirely fallen off my radar. So I do a quick search, find the same thing for $20 Target (I don't know why, it's $50 everywhere else), and send Zola an email. If for any reason they don't give me my $30 back, I will just price match with our credit card.

I just have this DOH moment now... Price match! Why have I not price matched anything this year!? Probably because I have had no time whatsoever. But I have time now, so I am rounding up receipts.

We did two big purchases last month, so I am running them through the credit card (which has a very simple price match policy; they do all the work of even seeking out the better prices).

Side note: Already got refund from Zola, while typing this post. Score!

Time Off

August 11th, 2019 at 08:47 am

Our Yosemite trip was a success. It's only about 2.5 hours from our home, so lord knows why we only make it every 10-15 years or so. I think that will change now. We stayed in Mariposa, which was absolutely awesome. We rarely enjoy eating out (our home cooking is generally so much better), but every where we ate out was A+.

It was overall a very frugal trip, for one of the most amazing destinations in the world. BUT, we booked rather last minute and so the lodging was totally insane. Instead of spending $250/night or whatever in some hotel too far away, we did vrbo and rented a house. It was totally amazing. But bumped up our total cost to about $1,200. $1,000 of that was for the house (after taxes and fees and everything). We packed some food and packed lunches every day, to keep our costs down.

We had the quintessential Yosemite experience and even saw a bear (a little too close).

The hilltop view from the house was absolutely amazing, and the stars were also amazing at night.

I will leave you with a view of Paradise:

P.S. I did another post that is hidden by this one. Other than this nice treat, life continues to be extremely difficult.

Checking In

August 10th, 2019 at 06:43 am

Looking back on July, I really have no idea how I survived. It was just a giant ball of insanity.

I was feeling pretty frustrated just before our vacation. Felt exactly back to square one, where I had been exactly a year prior. Long story, but work was absolutely insane last month and everything else was a disaster. So pretty much, I still can't seem to move past this rut.

On top of everything else, I have been taking care of my mom. While my dad jets all over the world. He should be home in a couple of days.

On the flip side, MH wrapped up his movie shoot last week. (That's been a huge time commitment, for about 18 months). MM(16) got his driver's license and so I no longer have to take him to school. Things are heading in a better direction, but I feel like I have said that a million times already. *sigh*

But I am blogging here and I guess that's the best indicator of the "insanity factor" of my life for the moment. Since I no longer am taking MM(16) to school, and life isn't totally insane at this moment, I was able to toss my alarm clock. Phew! I otherwise hadn't used since 2005. It was driving me crazy that I had to use it, but starting a new job and working two jobs, etc., etc. Last week I was well rested, so it is done. I suppose the main point is that the school start time was much more firm than my work start time has ever been. So the last school year was driving me a little crazy. But I was also adjusting to leaving the house a full hour earlier than I had been with my prior job.

My plan long-term is to work 7:00-3:30. It sounds DIVINE.

In the end, I worked less than 40 hours this past week, and that was after a week of vacation. I think I've been able to right the work ship. It's a long story but I was able to hire someone new (someone I worked with before) and it's working out very well.

So I feel silly and overly optimistic for even thinking that August will be better. But I guess I keep trying.

Buendia's post reminded me, my kids are already back at school. I have always hated their short summers. There was no "summer" here, this year. It was over in a blink.

College Update

August 8th, 2019 at 05:27 am

Where we have been at with the college thing is that my oldest son has all the tech genes that completely skipped us. So, not only is he interested in the shortest and most practical route from Point A to Point B (typical engineer), but he also lives exactly where he needs to be to go to college. Not exactly where we live, but it's all pretty much in our backyard.

So while I am open to just about anything (within reason), MM(16) has a gazillion A+ colleges to choose from that cost pennies.

So that's mostly where I am at with things (and where I have always been).

On the flip side... MM(16) has always been an extreme outlier. When he was younger, I thought it might mean he was cut out for Ivy League. I always felt very *shrugs* about this because no one in our family (parents/us/siblings) had ever spent any significant dollars on college. & our parents have done *very well* financially over the long term. So, if one out of every 10 of us is an outlier, we have the cash to help them. For us, MH could take on a full-time job to pay cash for college. & in addition to that, our parents would be willing to help. & there's scholarships. MM has nothing but options.

MM(16) went on a tour of several colleges, a couple of weeks ago. We were curiously waiting to see how that shook out. Before that time, he had only toured our alma mater (which has been his #1 choice).

There was one obscure private college that I was glad they were going to hit on the tour. I had a friend (very similar personality) who went there, and so was just curious. I then read it is the "most expensive college in the U.S." So, of course, MM came back with this school as top contender. *sigh*

Honestly and truly, I feel pretty zen about it. If it's meant to be, we have the means to make it work. I think this sums it up pretty well. MH was worried maybe everyone was getting a little too emotional about it. I said last night, "I have the feeling MM will end up at this school, he can get it in, and it will work out. But it's not like we are going to lose any sleep over it if he doesn't get accepted." I think we all feel pretty *shrugs* about it. I just have a very good feeling about it. But you know, *boohoo* if we get to save a billion dollars and he can go to school at any of the top engineering schools in the Bay Area? Pretty much, he can't go wrong. Nothing feels very much at stake here. In fact, I don't even know if MM will choose this private school over more affordable options, if he does get accepted. He's just too logical and practical. We've already discussed that the location isn't particularly ideal. Sure, everyone there gets Bay Area internships. How useful is that when you go to school 6 hours away?

So, that is where we are at with things. It's clear as mud. Flip a coin. Our alma mater is absolutely impossible to beat as far as cost/benefit. So, does he go to school at a school that cost pennies or does he choose one of the most expensive schools? Talk about black and white! Will see...

It's been kind of funny because my husband has accused me often of being close-minded when we talk about college. ??? I always tell him I am open to anything, but come on, there's a 90%+ chance MM just goes to our alma mater. Why would we consider anything else? I guess I know my kid, his talents are the same as many in our family, and I am familiar with most the relevant schools. Even so, I am surprised how much I called it. He's interested in the all of the colleges I would have expected him to be. Some of the other colleges I didn't know much about and he wasn't interested in. So pretty much nothing new came out of this trip, except him being particularly enamored with the one school. It doesn't surprise me at all, but I also wouldn't have been surprised if he decided that was a racket and impractical.

MH has never heard of this school before, and feels kind of like the train left the station without him. We left him in the dust. I finally said, "Do you believe me now? I've always said I am open to absolutely anything." Yeesh! He believes me now. & I admit if I had never heard of the school, I'd probably not be too thrilled with this turn of events. IT's funny how the tables have turned. But for such a small school, they sure have a lot of tours. So we are loosely planning to go tour the college in the spring. We need to get MH up to speed, and lord knows I know very little about the school. We need to see it for ourselves, and ask a lot of questions.

This leads me to revelation #2. So, I am looking into other school tours. We obviously have to hit Berkeley and Stanford. Close to home, easy to tour whenever. Anyway, I am truly open to anything. I am always thrown off when "being open to living at home" or "being open to community college" is taken as the polar opposite. I've gotten so many lectures about this stuff when I've actually never seriously considered that MM would live at home for college anyway. ??? I think that is because of his tech leanings and us being generally underwhelmed by college options in our lower cost haven. Meh. Honestly, I wouldn't even send him to community college here. I think the odds that he will live at home for college are at about 0%. So... I had to laugh at myself when thinking about college tours, I didn't even think of anything local?? & then we went on a drive to Yosemite last week and we passed a billion (so it felt like) colleges I didn't know much about. It's like, "Oh yeah, there's that college and that college and that college..." & then I got home and started thinking about all these other big name tech-y colleges (that I had forgotten about when making initial list). UGH! So, I asked MH if he wanted to tour a couple of the local schools. He did, so I will add them to the list. But I told him that other than that, I Was done. If he heard of some other college that really struck his fancy, to let me know. But I think we can officially check off that we did our job as parents, if we take him on an additional 2-4 tours.

I share, because I think this illustrates why we haven't seriously considered any out-of-state colleges. We are pretty much drowning in affordable/excellent public options. This has always been a very clear trade-off to higher housing costs. I had always planned to take advantage (and we certainly did so with our own degrees too).

I guess #1, this is where we are at currently with all things college. But #2, I have to throw it out there in case I do eventually announce that my son is going to some crazy expensive private college. Because if I don't share this post, it might seem like that is coming way out of nowhere. Like with my husband, I know I have always said I am open to absolutely anything (within reason). But he didn't *get it* until last weekend. I expect it's the same in my blog.

As a refresher, these are our parameters re: college:

We both agree that we expect the kids to work significantly during high school and college, that our own financial health comes first, and that we don't want to borrow a penny for college. We don't want them to graduate with any student loan debt. We are willing to help our kids in any way we can as long as we are within these parameters.

It always strikes me kind of silly as people get really bogged down with the details. If I had a dollar for every person who told me just how their kid will go to college (where, how they will or won't work, if they will live at home or in the dorms, etc.) from like the day their child was born. This has always struck me as completely insane. Heck if I know! Depends depends depends. I've never focused on the details. It's the parameters I mentioned above that matter to me. Not mortgaging my future (or encouraging my kids to mortgage their future), and it has to make any sense whatsoever. But beyond that, I couldn't tell you any of the details. Even 2 years out, still feel very much, "It depends how it all shakes out". & of course, more opportunities always arise when you keep your options open. The second we start locking things down and being inflexible, the less options we will have. Which is why we are going to wait until it all shakes out.

In addition to that, it's been very important for us to have our kids work and save money now, because I don't know how college will shake out. It's very likely my "extreme outlier" child will not be able to work during college. Obscure private college heavily encourages summer work and internships. That would be very much in line with our values. But it's pretty clear that he probably couldn't work during the school year, at that college. I wanted to clarify because I did put "work" in there. I've never taken it for granted that our kids could work as much as we did during college. That was more, "Our kids aren't going to sit on their butts and do nothing during the summers," if nothing else. There will be always be some way to work and contribute, and that's all I mean by that.

Edited to add: To be clear, our "expected contribution" at private college is literally 10 times as much as sticker price at any public college. Unless he does very well on the academic/sports scholarship side of things, the cost of this private college will be ridiculous. It's a decision that is impossible to make until we have college acceptances and scholarships in hand. Until then, it's going to be clear as mud. Will plan for both extremes.

Teen Credit Card

August 4th, 2019 at 07:29 am

I mentioned in my last post that we got MM(16) a credit card for the convenience factor.

I was just so behind and so much I wanted to touch on, but I did want to elaborate on this today, now that I think about it a little more.

Firstly, I didn't particularly have a discussion with MM about this. The discussions have already been had, long ago. I remember my kids being genuinely horrified, when they were 8 or 10, when they learned how most people use their credit cards. I am guessing that is mostly genetic. We both come from a long line of extreme savers. I just don't think it needs to be said out loud. MM in particular is a math whiz. I don't need to explain to him why it doesn't make any sense to carry a balance on a card with a 15% interest rate.

I did tell him that I set all my cards on a monthly cycle (1st through 30th) and that I pay them off the first of every month. & suggested he get in that habit. You know, in the old days we waited for the bill to come in the mail. But this is the internet age. I told him to put it on his calendar and just be done the first of every month. It will be a good habit for him to start.

The other thing that came up is that this credit card has a 0% interest rate for 18 months? MM asked me why he didn't just borrow against the card and leverage his savings account. I told him he could do whatever he wants. But I kind of felt we were starting with the training wheels and I'd like to take them off more slowly. I think MH and I both talked some sense into him. But that's my kid. I am trying to start at A and he's already jumping ahead to Z. (I did tell him that the catch is you have to pay off within that 18 months, or they will backcharge the interest probably).

It will be the same for my other kid. MM was literally born "0 going on 5" and you throw in the math whiz factor, and that's where he is. (So he's now "16 going on 25.") My other kid? He is way way way into economics. I have often said, "I don't know if he's going to be an actor or a hedge fund manager." Literally. He's the one who was always trading his lunches for something better. It blew his mind when he realized the high value of chocolate milk in the lunch room. So he'd start trading for milk first, and then trade for something more substantial. I actually would have more expected him to leap on the 0% leverage. Is just how his mind works. So though they are very different in their underlying personalities, I think the end result is about the same.