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June Savings

July 4th, 2019 at 07:20 am

Received $75 bank interest for the month of June.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $42 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $82 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $8 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $137 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

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):
-$ 570 Medical Bills

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
+$ 503 work reimbursement (for prior expenses)
-$1,315 Vacation Expenses (Yosemite Rental)
-$ 240 School Lunches (for next few months)
-$ 135 MM(15) car tag renewal
-$ 70 Misc.

TOTAL: $1,034 deposited to cash and investments

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Last post:

June 1 is it. I've managed to kick the can down the road for 8 months, but it's time to accept my lower salary. Unfortunately, the timing hits with MH's summer off work.

June savings update will be similarly nasty, but without all the extra income. I have a $5,000 credit card bill (May charges) that I paid off the first of June. There was probably about $1,000 that ended up being reimbursed by employer (phew) and most the rest was vacation expenses. Plus some medical bills, school lunches for several months, and DMV/insurance on the kids' car.


I can't remember if I posted, but my work is going to cover my professional fees (very generously) and so I received a check that covered the last 9 months or so. That was completely unexpected. (My professional expenses aren't particularly related to current job). MH also has a very small side income coming in the next couple of months. I am not entirely sure how I will allocate, but it looks like we might end up with a $200 surplus in the July checkbook (July is basically just paying for June bills; I have July pretty locked down). I expect July bills, paid in August, to be a little more out of control. So I will probably just leave the surplus to handle that. If nothing else, our grocery bill is absolutely insane with the kids home for summer. I used to joke that MH would have to get a job to help me feed teen boys, but it's no joke. I am happy to let his side income cover crazy food overages. Our grocery bills still remain #3 of our top 3 expenses (behind health insurance #1 and mortgage #2). But I can see it getting pretty neck and neck with our mortgage. The other thing in July is we have a vacation planned and it's the kids' birthdays. It will be a little crazy, but then the kids are back to school early August.

June went pretty well. It was a very low spend month. Without all the stress and extra income, we just fell back on our old habits (which is living on a shoestring). It's an easy default for us. We spent a few days at camp (expenses paid for). We took the gas car because it is more roomy, but it's good to put *some* miles on the gas car. We will also take the gas car on our Yosemite trip. MH is going to get the oil changed and the A/C recharged before that trip. So yeah, that's some more expenses for July.

Anyway, back to June. We paid for MM's auto insurance, but that will be the last time we pay for that. We are going to gas up his car, get the oil changed, get a car wash, etc., all in prep for his 16th birthday. But for his birthday he will get the bill when we add him to the insurance. So trying to be nice where we can, I guess. We've covered the expenses of the car for the first 6 months, but will pass the baton on his birthday.

MM(15) is doing work for my office this summer. The help is well needed; he's just in the right place at the right time. He will probably make about $2,000 this summer.

My old employer sent me an email offering to pay me double my last pay rate, to help them keep afloat. It was a hard pass. I would say that quitting was important for my marriage. & my health. & my sanity. I've been somewhat grateful the place is such a mess, because it would be hard to turn down the money otherwise. I think all else being equal I would probably keep the tax season work. After a month off, I don't think it would be a big deal to go back on the tax season schedule I am used to (which is only about 10 hours OT for 4 months of the year). The schedule I have had for the past 20 years... It is what I am used to, and the extra money has always been nice. But given the situation, I won't be doing any more work for them. If nothing else, I have a lot of ethical concerns about the current state of things. I have not done any professional work whatsoever since I first quit last fall, but now that it's clear they have no plans whatsoever to fix anything, it's far past time to distance myself even further from the situation.

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

Gift Card Balances, June 2019

June 16th, 2019 at 06:25 am

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


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


MOVIES:
--------
$100 Regal


RESTAURANTS:
------------
$50 Ruth Chris
$50 Cracker Barrel
$50 Olive Garden
$50 Red Robin


RETAIL:
---------
$100 Target (earmarked for groceries)
$100 Kohls (earmarked for kids' shoes)


Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.

May Savings

June 12th, 2019 at 06:52 am

Received $60 bank interest for the month of May.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $36 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $88 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 10 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $144 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,000 MH Paychecks
+$3,200 April/May self-employment income

TOTAL: $4,200 snowballs to savings

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

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 4,000 Orthodontist (*fingers crossed, this is it?)
-$ 260 Summer college tour for MM (school trip)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$1,000 Beach Vacation
-$ 555 Dentist/Medical
-$ 70 Misc.

TOTAL: $1,169 deposited to cash and investments

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We paid cash for school trip this summer, 4 days/3 nights touring several colleges. $260 is an incredible deal. (The school is also covering all the costs of AP, ACT, SAT tests, etc., which I mentioned recently. I am feeling very spoiled on this front right now).

That reminds me too, MM can also take community college classes for free the next two years (junior/senior year of high school).

*As to Ortho costs, that's still another post for another day. It's almost comical how many canceled ortho appointments we had before we had this quote. Yeesh! We had one ortho decide to retire after booking a consult appointment. I think we majorly dodged a bullet! The good news is that though DL(13) completely inherited my mess, he was only recommended 18 months of ortho, versus the 5+ years or whatever hell I was put through. I never in a million years expected him to end up on the lower end of time/cost. MM(15) was told his situation is just cosmetic but no other reasons to have braces; he is not interested. I was planning for the worst case, which I thought was very likely. (To be fair, we already invested $3k-ish in preventative ortho work for MM, when he was very young. It seems to have paid off).

It's not quite so simple. No cause to overly celebrate yet. MM(15) is being monitored for a new problem and may need (relatively minor?) surgery.

We were told up front that DL(13) need major jaw surgery, which I had already assumed. I was not surprised and is one reason why we chose this ortho. He was very up front about it. I had the same surgery at 16. We didn't discuss the reasons for waiting but I think it's because boys stop growing several years later than girls. We are looking at age 20 for him, or 7 years down the road. They are going to do the braces in an attempt to prevent surgery. I am not holding my breath, but appreciate the effort. It's either this or "wear braces forever" so it's not a purely cosmetic surgery, but I doubt it will be covered by insurance. Overall, I could see that one coming from a mile away and don't feel much financial stress about it. But kicking the can down the road for 7 years sounds nice, of course. So that's a quick sum up of everything ortho. We decided to just pay cash (for braces) due to the short treatment, the smaller dollar amount (much smaller than we were expecting for two kids), and probably mostly because of the significant tax break we get for paying cash this year, in addition to cash discount. I am relieved, because it was my very strong preference to pay cash up front.

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June 1 is it. I've managed to kick the can down the road for 8 months, but it's time to accept my lower salary. Unfortunately, the timing hits with MH's summer off work.

June savings update will be similarly nasty, but without all the extra income. I have a $5,000 credit card bill (May charges) that I paid off the first of June. There was probably about $1,000 that ended up being reimbursed by employer (phew) and most the rest was vacation expenses. Plus some medical bills, school lunches for several months, and DMV/insurance on the kids' car.

I did not save all of our side income this month. Well, I suppose I did in a sense. But mostly I was doing a major reset on all things financial. No more, "I have an extra $2,000 coming in this month, and I am completely exhausted, so who cares about $50 here and there."

Where we are at:

Still have 12 months of expenses liquid. Which is very easy peasy with three jobs, but will be more of a challenge with just the one.

I have about $10,000 set aside for 2019 IRAs. Just depends what other big expenses come up this year. Not adding to savings in any long-term meaningful away. Is more "keep afloat level" at this point. I am speaking to just my salary. I realize that I probably have to shift back to letting MH fund IRAs. Which is probably okay with combo of pay cut and work retirement plan (I am able to contribute about 10%, even with reduced salary). Funding IRAs is a very stubborn "live far below our means" goal, and I think is still pretty doable. In the short run, I probably have 2019/2020 covered. In the long run, I am due bonuses/raises (soon) and MH will be looking for more work.

I left enough side income in the checkbook to zero out our checking balance (no projected negative). Mortgage is technically pre-paid by two months. When things are not tight at all, I pay before the end of the month. In addition, am paid ahead one full month. (Other than that, I one million times more rather pay down principal, but I like the buffer of being one month ahead). I am going into June 1 with all bills paid far ahead (still have built-in 6 week emergency fund in that regard). Mortgage paid two months ahead. Credit card balances all zero (as they always are the first of every month). It was mostly knocking the mortgage back to "before the end of the month" to get us started this summer with as much buffer as possible. It would be my preference not to use any of this buffer this summer, but we will have drastically reduced income from what we have gotten used to the past few years. & I have absolutely no plans whatsoever to reduce our savings goals. Will see how it goes.

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I am so late getting to this post. So... How is June going so far?

Dining out is at $20 for the month, with the month 1/3 over. I suppose we have done well with the reset. Gas should go down significantly without work/school (MH kids). I think we may be able to rein in adult grocery spending a bit (without all the stress spending). The big splurge so far this month was $4 at Home Depot to get a couple of house keys made for the kids. MM(15) needed a key, and I just made a copy for when DL needs a key eventually. June should be pretty easy as we will be out of town a few days with all expenses covered.

Life is good. I've been "busy", but the vast majority of it has been family time and self care.

Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019

June 2nd, 2019 at 10:33 am

2019 TALLY:

$550 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
-----------
$700 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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I finally got around to redeeming our gift cards. They had a much wider selection than I expected (better than in the past).

I redeemed the following:
**$100 Target (will help cover summer groceries)
**$100 Kohls (kids both need running shoes)
**$100 Regal


Was going to get the Regal card anyway, but the Regal card was on sale so was able to get an extra $10 out of our $500+ reward. Score! We will mostly stick to the free movies/rewards, but this will buy some extra movies during the summer.

Restaurant gift cards redeemed:
**Cracker Barrel (just because we got a new one here, have only been on the East Coast otherwise)
**Red Robin
**Ruth Chris (will do a fancy date lunch)
**Seasons 52 (for date night)
**Olive Garden (we sometimes order in with my parents)

These gift cards will last us a long time, we don't eat out very much. These will easily last us the rest of this year, but I did redeem with our "reduced income summer" in mind and having more treats at our disposal.

***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.***

Reset

June 2nd, 2019 at 07:16 am

I think that yesterday was the day. Pushing the button on the life reset.

My goals for the weekend:

**Attend aerobics
**Lounge by the pool
**Do some cooking

"Awesome Admin" invited me to dinner next week. Looked on my calendar and was free every night.

This is what my life used to look like. I miss it.

{I haven't mentioned my aerobics class in a while, but it's $2.50 per class. & the class is amazing}.

I presume that I will also start working on getting the house in order. If nothing else, I have papers strewn everywhere. It's not as crazy and overwhelming as it once was, but I Was surprised to find a few stacks of paper in strange places. I think I am just not as conscious of how unorganized I am at the moment.

I suppose we will also be doing a financial reset. I was looking at our financials for this year and it was depressing that with $10k-ish side income this year (through May) we still had $10k less income for the first 5 months of this year, compared to last year. I know it's not apples to apples. But it was still depressing to see. On the flip side, I think we will easily slip back into old financial habits (super frugal). I did not watch a single old movie with MH the past 2 months, so we are diving back into our "Top 100" list now that I have time. I know that will keep us busy for at least a year, probably two years. I have been going to free movie screenings with MH, quite often. We have a museum membership we haven't been utilizing lately, we will go this month.

I think my biggest financial challenge at the moment is feeding teen boys. The one significant difference from our one-income years is that most of our cost savings was on the food/grocery side, before. MH was home and had the time to really keep a lid on those expenses. In the end, we have raised our grocery budget 60% in the last few years. It's still not enough. That in itself is bad enough but MM decided to do cross country this fall, training has already started. I don't even want to know how much food we will be buying with that. My kids already have freakish metabolisms (always have) without adding *two* sports to the mix. (MM already does gymnastics, which adds some crazy amount of calories to his diet). DL will probably follow suit. His art school does not have any sports programs of any significance, but he is way into fitness right now and may start running with his brother (while he pre-conditions for the fall).

MH is done with work for summer, so it's back to one (reduced) income and tons of food spending. It's hard to imagine what else we'd spend money on, so I guess that's the plus side. I look forward to a very relaxed summer with lots of movies (for MH) and library books (for me).

Quick Check In - Found Emojis!

May 24th, 2019 at 08:36 pm

I wrapped up Job #2 (old employer) on May 15th. Phew!

Stuff is falling off my plate, left and right. Yesterday was the last day for the high school. I can't believe I no longer have to take MM to school! We've scheduled his driving test this summer.

I will be switching to an earlier work schedule, now that I don't have the morning commitment.

I'd say that our "new normal" doesn't start until next week. I am feeling pretty overwhelmed. I would love nothing more than a quiet 3-day weekend. But my sister is flying in today from the east coast. That whole thing is emotionally exhausting, to add onto the load of emotional exhaustion I already have. But after that, maybe I can breathe at all.

Money seems to be falling from the sky this past week or two. I have an unexpected $1k in hand, and it might be a couple of more thousands of dollars over summer.

In the meantime, we paid cash for braces this month and have already replaced that money (with side income). I paid for a ridiculously expensive house rental in Yosemite. It actually fits in our modest vacation budget, but will be about 95% lodging this year (otherwise, we are just driving and enjoying nature ~ this trip and the Beach trip we did last month). Usually we plan ahead better and find better deals. A more last minute trip to Yosemite is not cheap. I am just happy we found anywhere to stay. A luxurious house is better than I had hoped for. Anyway, we usually we pinch pennies and plan more. In a year where I've had no time to plan, I am happy with throwing extra dollars at things. Though it is coming from our vacation budget, home rentals are generally non-refundable. When I received an unexpected $1k last week, I used that as motivation to just bite the bullet. The extra money insures the extra risk. & it made it easier to justify the splurge.

I tried to wash our mattress topper in the wash yesterday but it seemed to be ruined. The only other one I have is pretty sad, so I bought one online yesterday. I told MH, "You know what we really need, is a new mattress." He's kind of, "Duh," but he's been waiting for me to come around. We paid $1k-ish in 1999 and it is an absolutely amazing mattress. But I will admit it's not as comfortable as it once was. Throw that in the, "buy things half as often, keep them twice as long" strategy that applies to many different things. If it's recommended to keep a mattress for 10 years, will keep it 20. But at the 20 year mark I am fine with letting it go. I've been stubborn in the past because it was still as comfortable as the day we bought it (I couldn't imagine gambling on another mattress). MH has been wanting to replace for a while, I guess. I'd rather do anything else but mattress shopping this weekend, but it's the time to do it, with the sales. We will also replace MM(15)'s 25-year-old mattress (my old mattress) because it's far past time. He just hasn't had any complaints about it and we hadn't seen the point. But I am not buying myself a new mattress without getting him one too.

Will see... We may wimp out and put that off to the next big sale. No rush.

In other news, MM(15)'s cash was piling up ($2,000+) and so we opened up a high-yield savings account for him. The kids still both have their 7% accounts ($500 max balance). Not sure how long that will last because that CU is merging with another.

I think MM has about a gajillion expenses to figure out in the next 5-10 years, so this is just the first bridge we will cross for now. As we get more clarity on college situation and his ability to find more steady work, we can maybe start addressing more advanced areas of personal finance. But for now, the kid needs cash to pay for all the expenses of his "loaner car" that he has for the next two years. Once he's got that figured out, financial goal #2 might be saving up to buy his own car. & the cost of housing in California (renting or owning, either way) is ever looming.

Maybe not so quick after all, but I've been feeling very, "I don't even know where to begin" after mostly not blogging for several months. Those are some quick highlights.

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Did you know if you right click there is an emoji option? 🙈🙉🙊

I just accidentally found this! 😎

Electric Car - April Update

May 12th, 2019 at 06:36 am

Electricity costs: $25

1,060 Electric Miles Driven

306 kWh Used x $0.0819/kWh = $25

{306 kWh overnight electricity usage, per electric bill. This is the easiest/best approximation of how much electricity we are using to charge the car}.

Fuel Savings: $174

1,060 Miles/ 20mpg old minivan
=53 gallons of fuel

53 gallons x $3.75 = $199
{This is probably very conservative because presumes I could have gotten 3-4 gas coupons in one month}

$199 cost of commute in old minivan
-$25 cost of commute in new electric car
-----
=$174 FUEL SAVINGS

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As an aside, I had a clarifying question on my last blog post. I am just tracking the savings I am experiencing with the automobile change. Sure, I could have switched to a gas sedan, but that would have still cost money. I do not believe the cost savings would have been worth changing gas vehicles. I think mostly it's more complicated than that and we wanted to test the electric waters. The Volt was my absolute dream car (style) if money was no object. This was not a 100% financial decision.

I will say that we had wanted to trade to a more fuel efficient sedan for the last 10-ish years or so, but it never made any financial sense. Even the electric we just couldn't justify until I suddenly had a longer commute. Then the math started to make sense. I didn't run the math on a gas sedan because I didn't want a gas sedan.

Along the same lines, the $8,000 has nothing to do with electric car costs versus gas sedan costs. It's the premium we paid over our own car budget, for the car that we wanted. We were willing to make the up front investment because the fuel savings will pay for this premium. With the fuel savings, it works into our modest car budget.

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We will most likely replace our gas sedan with a Volt, in the near future. I'd say probably in the next 12 months.

I made a comment on last post that was incorrect, so I will just clarify here. We had already decided we want to pick up a second Volt. We are giving it a year (probably?) because it sounds kind of weird to put all our eggs in one basket (one car model). & so we are waiting, saving up cash, and making sure that we aren't being too rash.

I do not believe that we will be buying outside of our car budget for this second Volt. Our "forever" budget of $100/month gives us $5,000 (today) plus trade-in value of our gas sedan. Or about $15,000 cash to buy a slightly used Volt. This wouldn't change any part of our financial picture long-term except lower car maintenance and cheaper fuel. We usually would have waited at least 15 years to upgrade our car again, but spending "4 years of savings" to buy a "4 year newer car" is the same difference in the end. It doesn't affect our bottom line or big picture.

Anyway, I saw some barely used Volts in the $13k range. One year older model than mine, but same exact car. O.M.G. I'd like to continue to wait out price drops and save more cash. If it doesn't get any better than that, then clearly we just buy next spring when they come off lease and flood the market again. We generally buy our cars this time of year, because of these deals.

I mentioned offhand to MH, and he perused the cars on his own time. He came to me yesterday and he said, "Nope, that is NOT our car. They do not make our car. How on earth did we find this car?!" I think mostly we bought lower level model with premium features (just the features we would have wanted). Most notably, anything with heated seats and premium sound comes with leather seats, which MH despises. I told him I could probably live with leather seats. It wouldn't be my first choice, but I don't know that I despise them as much as he does. Depending on the color of the new car, I might be willing to take it. I've otherwise kind of been, "Don't touch my car. Get your own."

Anyway, MH Was pointing out that the cars that are more in line with our car and have the same features are still in the $20k range. Fair enough.

I expect that these are decisions we will be making in the next 6-12 months.