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This & That

March 17th, 2019 at 07:27 am

I had a post mostly typed up, but it disappeared. *sigh*

I don't even remember what the heck I had written about.

What I do remember:

I got the *all clear* on two different medical fronts last week. Woohoo! Even better, I got to enjoy this good news for more than like an hour or a day (before the next disaster).

I'd say that things have significantly settled down in the past couple of weeks. On the medical front, I have been monitored for two different issues for about 12+ months. In fact, I got the one questionable medical result the same day my old/forever employer announced he was selling the business. So all this stress has been intertwined. I know I also mentioned DL(13) for some reason (in disappearing post). I don't remember why I mentioned, but I think he has turned a good corner. I was saying that any one of these things is a huge stressor, but it's just been everything piled on top of each other. So removing potentially *three* huge stressors has been pretty awesome.

Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of people going through a *lot* of horrible crap right now. But I guess it's settled down a bit in our closest circles. I feel like I can relax and breathe.

I suppose #4 is that I got all of the clients (the ones I took on personally) transferred over to "twin" and her new firm. Phew!

I probably had a good 4 weeks to catch my breath (took time off from side work), but now I am diving into helping "old employer" for the next couple of months. It's still very "playing it all by ear" and wouldn't be surprised if it all ended tomorrow. But I think my current plan is to work another 8 weeks or so.

As to the workload, *shrugs*, I am working less hours than usual for this time of year, and I have not offered to do anything but super easy work. I've left behind 100% of the stress and responsibility. But I think I'm tired because it's been such a slog for the past 2 years or so. I was just checking the calendar, and we do have our beach weekend in 4 weeks. Which is something I could have never done at my old job (take a long weekend during April). So that will be nice. I think that will break up the next couple of months nicely.

I am getting through a lot of chores; I think I have a little more energy these days. Today I am going to get the car washed so that I can get my carpool stickers affixed to the car. (I received them a few weeks ago but just haven't made the time to deal with it). Yesterday I asked MH to mail off the kids' taxes while he was at the grocery store (also our closest postal center). Slowly but surely.

In other news, I just happened to notice that our assets have surpassed $900,000. $1 Mil hadn't been particularly on my radar before. But the $900k+ did jump out at me, as we just achieved that. I suppose that $1 Mil is our next big financial milestone. I've got a ways to go as to "net worth" with the mortgage, which is probably why I hadn't particularly noticed or thought about the "$1 Mil mark." But I think it's an exciting milestone, regardless.

Imperfect Produce

March 3rd, 2019 at 11:15 am

I signed up for Imperfect produce a couple of weeks ago and am really happy with the service so far.

This is a "farm direct" produce delivery service, but the jist is that it's a lower cost service for food that otherwise would be tossed (with the goal of reducing food waste). Because the food has minor imperfections and is not super market quality, etc. They advertise "30% below grocery store prices" for these imperfections.

First Impression = Awesome!

I don't know if they pick carefully for the first box (new customer) but the food was absolutely beautiful. I think some of it was on the smaller side, which is a lot of what their food is.

I didn't realize when I signed up that they also had snacks and other items (overstocks). We had a Nature Box subscription in the past, so it was kind of like combining our old CSA subscription with Nature Box.

The thing I like best about Imperfect Produce is that you don't have to get every single week. They have a "every other week" plan (what we signed up for). & it's very easy to skip weeks if you want to make that a "once a month" delivery. When we tried the CSA before, I think it was just too much. I am thrilled that we have two weeks to get through all this food, with Imperfect Produce. (If we don't go through it or the food doesn't last, we may consider the weekly option of a smaller box).

The kids LOVE it. DL(13) in particular has been eating through it. I think with the apples we got last week, they were a more expensive variety than we usually buy, and were just so fresh. Those were gone in a flash.

The reason I like these services is to kind of force us to try new recipes/veggies. So the "new" thing we tried was fresh snow peas. Have never bought or cooked fresh snow peas before. They were divine.

Of course, they don't deliver everywhere, but if you are interested check it out with my referral code:
[url]http://imprfct.us/l86gI[/url]

With the referral code, you get $10 off the first box.

They mostly deliver to the west coast & Texas (a handful of cities), but you can check out the map.

As for us, we have really low cost produce where we live, so I wasn't expecting much. I just put everything I would want to buy into our grocery store online shopping cart to compare prices. Some things were more expensive (much more expensive) which didn't surprise me at all. But anything we could save money on I did order through imperfect produce. On those items, our savings was about 20%. There was a $5 delivery fee, which made it a wash. But given the other benefits, I was willing to try it. I also was able to get my first order for free. So, nothing to lose as to trying it out.

I should back up a bit. If you just ignore it (don't want to do anything after you sign up), they will send you an automatic box of produce. But you can customize to your heart's content (you have a time window to do so). The whole thing was way more flexible than the last CSA we had signed up for.

February Savings

March 3rd, 2019 at 06:47 am

Received $80 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $89 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $13 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$13 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases) ~ this month included some clothing purchases

TOTAL: $165 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$730

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 0 MH Paychecks
+$2,500 December self-employment income

+$ 200 Missed prior month when moving money around - moved back into savings

TOTAL: $2,700 snowballs to savings

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

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 360 Driving School (for 15-year-old)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
+$ 210 Insurance Rebate
-$1,289 Various Insurance
-$ 175 Dentist
-$ 200 Vacation (Weekend Away)

TOTAL: $3,700 deposited to cash and investments

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

Driving school was very one-off and nothing I specifically saved for, so it comes out of the mid-term savings.

Still just hoarding cash. Second job is winding down (I hope). I have $3k medical bills coming up, want to pay cash for braces this year (x2), have to cover all my professional expenses going forward, etc., etc. Just hoarding cash for all that, and preparing for a big income drop this summer.

I don't know what happened to MH's income. I wasn't able to save any of it (around $900) which is totally ridiculous. But I am still pretty buried and it is most likely an accounting error. Either that or we over-spent something like $400 last month and $400 this month. That is more likely. I know we didn't over-spend $900 this month. Anyway, I share to explain why I saved -$0- of that, but will chalk that up to "life is chaos." Because I track our spending so closely, is why I am fine with, "I don't have time to track it down and don't care." I suppose is the flip side of working crazy hours/extra money. Our life is usually more slow/relaxed, and lots of time to pinch pennies. Life is just the polar opposite of that right now.

Brussel Sprouts

February 23rd, 2019 at 04:54 am

I don't even remember where I saw it, but I saw a recipe for brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar. I thought that sounded really good, but poked around for a more positively reviewed recipe. I found a winner:

[url]https://keviniscooking.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts-balsamic-vinegar-honey/[/url]

Yum!

In other randomness, we made it through African Queen and Duck Soup. Our weekend is busy, so I am guessing that is all we will get to. But we are getting caught up on "Top 100" movies.

Tonight we are going to the Symphony. I expected to drop expenses like this with my pay cut. Not a huge adjustment, as we were just getting to a point where we could add these kinds of expenses to our budget. But I've had so much side work, we splurged. Tonight is Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue. I am so excited!!

Checking In

February 18th, 2019 at 09:28 am

Step 2 of reset: Getting some time off!

I still am not optimistic that I won't end up knee deep in some emergency. *sigh* But... I do have the week off!

I am no longer drowning in everything, so it should be a good mix of catching up on some things and relaxing. I did basically nothing the last two days. Absolutely nothing on my plate. Catching up on some sleep and relaxation. Tomorrow I will start working through my To-Do lists. But I think I can do so at a very relaxed pace.

After 20 years of "no time off" December through April, I am also just enjoying the novelty of the time off. We also planned a long weekend at the beach, for April. Would have preferred to do mid-week, but the kids don't have any time off together except one Friday. (IT's crazy expensive, will probably be pretty crowded, and so my first impression is that I haven't been missing much. But I still really look forward to going to my special place).

As I turned my attention to my household this weekend, I decided to buy some plastic bowls to replace the old hand-me-downs we use for feeding the cat. Those things must be 30-years-old. I've never bought any cat food bowls before. They were looking pretty sad, so that was a nice and inexpensive upgrade.

I also took MM to Ross and Target Saturday for some new clothes. We did not spend much at all.

I haven't watched any movies in several weeks and I know I owe MH big time. We are still watching the "Top 100" movies. I think we got stuck on a couple of very long movies. Will probably get through Lord of the Rings today. Then we have a few super depressing movies to get through. Hopefully things pick up a bit after that.

I'd like to try to blog more, but admit it's pretty low on my priority list at this point. Will see.

Gift Card Balances Feb 2019

February 18th, 2019 at 06:44 am

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


GIFTS:
------
$ 20 x4 Target


MOVIES:
--------
$25 Regal?


RESTAURANTS:
------------


RETAIL:
---------


Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.

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

In this case, none of these are credit card rewards.

I was just thinking that we had run through all our gift cards. Not sure if someone else was talking about gift cards or why I Was thinking about it. But I haven't done any (one-time) credit card rewards in a long time. I did some easy travel one last year for our road trip, but that's about it. I didn't have any room in my brain for one more thing, that is for sure. But I was thinking about it and I have been wanting to do a specific $500 reward (gift cards) for a while. They had increased the "spending for bonus" to $4,000, so that was the other reason I have been hesitating. But I have $3,000 in medical bills due, so the timing would be good. (I usually just run up these rewards with health insurance, other big insurance bills, and medical bills).

I applied for the card and it wasn't an immediate approval, which is super weird. Will see...

January Savings

February 10th, 2019 at 09:13 am

I am reviving my "monthly savings" posts. I abandoned last year because I knew I would just be in hoarding cash mode. Not very exciting. But in the end, I didn't have time for this, so probably for the best. Going forward, I should have time to keep up with these:

Received $67 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
--$8 "Price Rewind" for washer/dryer purchase

TOTAL: $106 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$686

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 500 MH Paychecks
+$1,500 December work for old/forever employer

TOTAL: $2,000 snowballs to savings

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

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$0 No Mid-Term Expenses this month

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 800 Home Insurance

TOTAL: $4,000 deposited to cash and investments

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

I had been putting $300/month to savings and investing $250/month into taxable investments. I just combined these to "savings" for 2019. We are "retirement heavy" with more retirement space and new job situation. If nothing else, will eventually be redirecting that $250/month to our IRAs. Will abandon taxable investments, except for snowflakes.

I like to put snowflakes to either the mortgage or taxable investments, because it's a "small things add up" thing, and if we keep it in cash I have no problem not touching it, but at some point when you have an extra thousands of dollars laying around you will be tempted to spend it. So I always tie up snowflakes in things I won't touch. I am going to fund retirement regardless, so that leaves taxable investments or mortgage.

On the income front, I traded $11,500 reduced salary for $7,500 401k contributions/match and significantly reduced taxes. Just means we can fund 401k with $7,500, without reducing our cash flow at all. So I am really only short $4,000 net; $4,000 less going to retirement. I expect to easily make that up this year with raise/bonuses. (& I've already made that up with side income, but more long term I'd let to get my net salary where I left off, with just the one job).

I've also lost the OT, which we were throwing at the mortgage. So we will stop mortgage pre-payments for the short run. We may stop indefinitely. We just want to pay cash for our next home when we downsize and we have achieved that goal (we have enough equity to do so: $300,000+). But we don't want to make this move until our kids are adults and done with high school. For now, we would rather fund our IRAs, and otherwise hoard cash for college and a down payment on our next home (we expect to buy our downsize before we sell this home, the down payment will keep things more flexible). That's our plan for now, but I do expect things to change significantly in the next 5 years. It's a very loose plan, but just to explain why the mortgage will fall off our radar for a while.

We are doing well on extra cash/side income, but we also want to fund our IRAs (in addition to the above retirement savings). We have three cars now, both kids need braces, college is right around the corner, we have some home improvements to tend to, etc. Oh, and the down payment we want to work on. We are going to be in "hoard cash" mode with the extra income.

We've also already maxed out our medical deductible for the year. I don't expect this side income to really remain in our account very long.

P.S. If it isn't not obvious, our emergency funds remain entirely intact. I did not end up having any time off work, beyond what was covered by PTO owed to me.

This & That

February 9th, 2019 at 03:02 pm

I just did a shorter, "Life is still a disaster" post, because I didn't want to write a novel, and not sure if I will even have time to post this anyway.

So this is moving off that topic (I'd rather blog about anything else) and giving some other general life updates.

Overall, things should be getting better on the work front. January was pretty harsh with deadlines, and then last weekend I tried to wrap up as many clients as I could, getting them switched over to "twin" and her new firm. I've made leaps in that direction and maybe only have a few more hours of side client work. Between that and taking some time off the rest of the month, I don't expect to do any work for old/forever employer this month. There is some deadlines but I decided and told them many weeks ago that I am not participating in February deadlines. At the time, I was being choosy about the type of work I was accepting, but now I also just want to take some time off.

I will probably help them in March/April, but I won't have all these side clients in addition to that, and I am not entirely sure at this point. I will re-evaluate in another few weeks.

**MM(15) did get his driver's permit and that is going well.

**My old gym (which was totally awesome) ended up closing and transferring my membership to some really crappy gym. Ugh!

This is one of those things I have been super indecisive about. I thought very seriously about investing in an elliptical a few years back. (Okay, so I looked it up in my blog and that was *six* years ago):

The elliptical is okay. I can see the benefits, and it is thankfully quiet, but doubt it will entice me to quit the gym. I tried... I just don't want to invest the money, man power, hassle and space to get a gym-quality machine. & I won't be happy with anything less. This is making my $15/month gym membership seem extra valuable. So for that, it is all good.

I should back up and say I have bad knees, and pretty much just go to the gym to use the ellipticals. But... I just never wanted a giant piece of gym equipment. But I don't know how else to do cardio, which I *need* for my sanity.

In evaluating my current level of unhappiness, I know a key point is fixing my gym membership. I don't have a lot of options at this point, so was considering something much more expensive. Which is hard because I just took a $20,000 gross pay cut. But I was starting to think the investment would be worth it, regardless.

In the end, I decided to go for the gym equipment. I was too cheap and space conscious last time, and I probably really didn't have the means anyway. Not in a way that I wold be comfortable with. But I will probably bring in $3,000 side income this month and decided the one thing I probably should invest in is better gym equipment.

The deed is done. We went to a used equipment place today and bought a piece of equipment for about $800. It's really heavy duty/high quality (retails $4,000) new). If I am not happy with it for any reason, they will take it back the first 30 days.

In any other situation we probably would have shopped around more, but I didn't feel like I had the time. They had something exactly what I wanted. They will deliver it today. I am more than happy with that.

I know if I fix this, my mood will improve significantly. This is probably step one in my "reset": Getting some more consistent exercise.

Oh, and if you were wondering... I believe the last elliptical was in the $300 range (new) and that I gave it to MH's grandmother. Money well spent. She loves it and uses it every day. She is in her 90s.