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Car/Fuel Updates

December 14th, 2019 at 01:41 pm

I was doing some financial chores this morning and was looking at our total expenses for 2019.

One thing that stood out was our decreased car spending. I am long overdue for an update.

We purchased a plug-in hybrid in Fall 2019 when I changed jobs. Was a purchase we were probably going to do anyway, but the math changed substantially when I doubled my commute. I expect most of our "it's cheaper just to keep the old minivan we don't want" was due to how little we drove in the first place. I was scheming for many many years to replace. First, just doing a lateral change, and later wanting to buy an electric car. At the end it was 13-years-old and it was time to move on. But the math just never made any sense, and then suddenly it did make sense.

Which reminds me, we are comparing 8 months of gas minivan versus 12 months of hybrid car. I wasn't even thinking of that at first. Makes the numbers more astounding.

2019: $370 Electric fuel for hybrid
This pretty much covers my commute and small weekend trips. + any small errands in the evenings. Rounds out to $30/month. My commute is 200 miles per week.

The same commute would have cost $2,000 per year in minivan fuel. The savings is no small beans.

{We try to do *any* city driving in this car, because the fuel costs pennies in stop-and-go. This is why we also use this car for most night and weekend driving}.

2019: $270 Gas fuel for hybrid
This would just be Bay Area trips. Presume we did 20 trips, that would be about $13.50 per trip. Also substantial savings here. We can do part of the trip on electric, and the car gets about 45mpg on the gas engine.

2018 (8 months): $900 fuel spent on minivan

So I saved $260. Big whoop? Saved $700 when you adjust for a full year of minivan fuel.

Nope. Actually, we drove the minivan as little as possible. It was *mostly* my commute vehicle, but lord knows I drove our gas sipper whenever I could. The few months MH doesn't work, whenever I had to drive somewhere else during the day or needed to park in a small parking lot, etc.

2018 Gas sipper Fuel: $1,563
2019 Gas sipper Fuel: $ 820

Saved $743 on that car too. So we are back to *substantial* gas savings. Even though I *doubled* my commute. Did I mention that part?

Total fuel savings: $1,443, or $120 per month.

The hard part that is hard to carve out of this is MM(16)'s driving. We did pay for his fuel the first half of 2019 and added $166 fuel to our expenses for third car (plus I am sure he drove our cars a lot while he was still learning). But anyway, he was on his own the second half of 2019 and I am sure that also decreased our fuel costs somewhat.

Conclusion: Teen Driver + electric car = significantly reduced fuel costs.

Oh, and the other thing. MH only does city driving during the week, his commute and taking kids to school. So his car is only getting 25mpg or something horrific right now. UGH! I can no longer call that car the "gas sipper". It seems silly that I ever called it that. It does get 40mpg on the freeway and is why I called it that.

Which leads to the next couple of things.

REPAIRS
We had a lucky year on the car repair front. Very Very lucky. It was or first year as a 3-car family and we probably had a record year for car repairs (almost nothing).

Hybrid car is supposed to be very very low maintenance. Night and day compared to a large gas powered vehicle. It's also a much newer vehicle and will be under warranty for a while.

2019 Repairs: -$0-
BONUS: Oil change only once every 2 years; not due for another 9 months.

MM(16) is driving his car about 200 miles per month. Thought it's a 17-year-old car, low-miles driving keeps the costs down.

2019 Repairs: -$0-
BONUS: Mechanic told us to skip 6-month oil change this year because car was driven so little. (Basically, refused to change the oil when we took it in, because did not need). He may have an oil change this month.

MH car 2019 Repairs: $385
New battery, charge A/C, oil changes, replace windshield wipers, replace brake lights.

I had actually decided to just leave our "forever car repair" budget of $1,500 per year, even though we added a third car. Didn't have any room to increase that in the first place. But just let it go because I figured 2 new cars + one really old car would even out. Most years it's been a little more lopsided where we might have a 5yo car and a 15yo car. Now we have a couple of newer cars (don't expect much in repairs first 10 years) and we have a really old car. This year clearly worked out very well, but I feel like we were also just lucky. There is always something. Even on newer cars, tired need replacing, etc.

& finally, our plan to buy a second hybrid car...

Wish list: Want to buy a second Volt. We are *that* happy with the car. Somewhat of a lateral trade, with MH's vehicle. Actually, 100% lateral trade, if you factor the money we have saved (for 5 years) to eventually replace his car. Would be more short term cash outflow, but big picture/long-term wouldn't be spending more money than we would otherwise. The only thing I can come up with is we pay extra sales tax with more frequent car trading. Which would be very easily offset by fuel savings in this situation. So maybe some of why it feels so *shrugs* financially.

Last we discussed, we are considering a second Volt or an all-electric Bolt. We haven't test drove the Bolt yet, but it seems nearly identical in many respects.

For the short run, the all-electric Bolt is a no brainer. It would more than cover all of MH's city driving and save us a bajillion (more) dollars in fuel. It also has a decent enough range for our frequent trips to Bay Area. My only hesitation is that it would be such a short term purchase. MH has been looking for work (who knows where he may end up commuting to). DL(14) only needs a ride to school for 1.5 years at this point?

We last left it that we should wait one more year. It may make more sense to gift or sell MH's old car to MM(16) if he needs it for college. That is the other big question mark right now. No idea if he will need a car for college or not. (The car he has now is shared with his brother, so it stays here when he goes off to college).

It seems moot. We spent so much of our cash on this first Volt. In this case, we are looking in the $15k range (what we had spent on our last few vehicles). The Bolts seem to be losing value faster and more in our price range. The longer we wait the cheaper this car will be. I also still have hesitation about owning two identical cars. If any problems do crop up then it's problems x2. It's just so against my nature to put all our eggs in one basket so it weirds me out a bit. For these reasons, we may go all-electric. Get a slightly different vehicle, even if it is mostly the same. For MH's commute (a few miles per day, 8 months of the year) it would really cost pennies to run that car. It won't be anywhere near the $30/month I am spending on electric fuel. The all-electric is also even more low maintenance. I really do expect to significantly decrease our fuel costs for the long run.

If MM(16) does end up needing our car and we just give it to him, I suppose this also significantly increases the amount of cash we need to come up with to buy this newer vehicle. It should be a lot more clear next fall and that gives us time to save up the cash.

Gift Card Balances Dec 2019

December 8th, 2019 at 06:59 pm

Just tracking my gift cards. Usually I have more credit card rewards, but not so much this time.

FUEL:
------
$ 20 Chevron


GIFTS:
------
$ 20 x 6 Target


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


RESTAURANTS:
------------
$50 Ruth Chris
$50 Cracker Barrel
$50 Red Robin
$50 Olive Garden
$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice


RETAIL:
---------
$ 50 x 4 Target

Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.

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

We never ended up using any of the restaurant gift cards last summer, as planned. I think we are just not "eating out" people, but is probably compounded by "kids busy with their own things."

Will get through these eventually, but may not be tempted to get more restaurant gift cards any time soon.

I did pick up $300 worth of Target gift cards today, 10% off. For several reasons, I've never did the full $300 before. But today I just bit the bullet. I always keep a stack of $20 gift cards to keep on hand for last-minute gifts. The rest, will use towards grocery purchases.

November Savings

December 8th, 2019 at 02:26 pm

Received $60 bank interest for the month of November.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (maxed out 2019 grocery rewards).
--Redeemed $59 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $30 cash back on dining/gas card; used for grocery rewards this month

Other snowflakes to Investments:
+$100 Birthday Cash**
+ $30 Surprise gift from credit union
+ $ 6 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
- $95 Annual Fee on grocery card

TOTAL: $130 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$775

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,100 MH Income
+$ 215 Self-employment income

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

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$5,750 Property Taxes
-$ 432 Disability Insurance
-$ 227 Car Registration
-$ 85 Museum Membership
-$ 50 Medical Expenses

TOTAL: -$2,314 Net
(Invested +$905, -$3,219 from cash)


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

**I decided to add my birthday cash to investments. Otherwise, I'd only have a $30 deposit, which is probably below the minimum that I can add to investments. There is absolutely nothing I want or need, so is probably the best use of Birthday money.

I was just going through the kids' accounts and saw that they also both received $10 from our credit union. Nice for them!

November was another month from hell. I was so sick that I missed work for 2+ weeks.

We had to cancel our LA trip. Well, MH went for a couple of days and MM(16) stayed home to take care of me. I feel pretty *shrugs* about it because we were maybe going to go twice in the first half of next year. I mean, it's a bummer and I had been really looking forward to the adults-only trip, but we may get a redo soon enough.

I've got a lot of friends and family going through some very tough stuff, so that is the stuff I need to tend to when I feel a little better. On top of everything else (which has been way too much), GMIL had a stroke on Thanksgiving. (I think she will be fine). There were other worse things that happened...

On the flip side of the coin, net worth is up $90k+ for the year. Finances just keep swimming along in the background. It will be interesting to see where things land 12/31.

Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019

November 30th, 2019 at 04:05 pm

2019 TALLY:

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

Other Rewards:
$ 29 Citi Price rewinds (RIP)

Ongoing rewards (through 11/30):

+$320 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$70 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$144 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$804 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,067

I usually do a tally in November because I have my Target card year-to-date and it might disappear before I look at it again. Since it's a discount, it's harder to track than the cash back rewards.

It looks like 2019 rewards will be about the same as 2018.

***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.***

This & That

November 4th, 2019 at 01:56 pm

Trying this again. Hoping for a slightly calmer month? Absolutely not holding my breath.

I spent most of September trying to make headway on the household/chore front, digging out of a very big hole. October I got caught up on my professional education. Phew! I was more motivated on the work/professional front, so am circling back to household chores. Plus, I suppose this one reason I despise housework. You just get to do it all over again.

My initial plan was to have a very light load in November/December, and is why I hit things so hard the last 2 months. Will see... "Very light" was clearly way too optimistic, but relatively it will be nice not to have 1,000 things To-Do + 1,000 things I am behind on. I am getting more caught up on the "life" front, in general.

The last big nasty chore on my list is to go to the DMV this week. Ugh! Maybe I will feel much better after that.

Yesterday we made butternut squash soup. Yum!

MH and MM(16) went to the movies to see JoJo Rabbit. They said it was great. It's $7 per ticket for first showings at the arthouse cinema. So they spent $14 there.

I mostly alternated between napping, major house chores, and crossing seemingly infinite little things off my list.

In other news, I asked for a 16% raise and got an okay, *shrugs*. 😁 I am so relieved that we are on the same page. It's not official/final or anything like that so I will hold off on a bigger post about it when I have more details. But I have never in my life (before) gone 13 months without a raise. Though my employer clearly compensates very generously... They skipped mid-year-bonuses, never gave me the mid-year raise we discussed last year, etc. I was starting to get really frustrated wondering if I was crazy or what. But I had my performance review and it was stellar. I had absolutely never discussed my prior salary before, so it was clearly now or never. I expected far more negotiation and just led with my prior salary. (Certainly not expecting that, as this is a much easier position, and I also have some other new compensation besides salary). My "head honcho" boss didn't skip a beat and said, "We will take care of you." & I know he takes care of his employees, so that was all I needed to hear. I feel like I am mostly out of limbo and relieved that we are all on the same page.

I am sure I could have pushed farther for a more immediate raise, but I am clearly much more concerned about the long-term than the short-term. They are also very generous with bonuses (something I have never even had before) so I get the sense that I probably created some first world problems for myself. If I potentially just turned 2019 from a "lower income year" into the "highest income year" (with all the side work I did this year to make up lost income). Will have some financial/tax planning to do when this sorts out. It will sort out this month.

October Savings

November 3rd, 2019 at 03:15 pm

Received $70 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes:
--Redeemed $39 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $133 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $18 cash back on dining/gas/grocery card.

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

{Note: Did not put snowflakes to investments this month,applied to large expenditure}

401k Contributions/Match:
+$750

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 900 MH Paychecks
+$ 100 MH Focus Group
+$ 265 Self-employment income

TOTAL: $1,265 snowballs to savings

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

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 3,700 Orthodontist**

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 460 Car Insurance
-$ 260 Electricity^ (for prior year, electric car)
-$ 190 Misc.
-$ 120 Prepay school lunch

TOTAL: -$695 Net
(Invested +$750, -$1,445 from cash)


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

^Electricity expenditure ~ we have balanced billing and so though we added an electric car to our household we haven't really been paying for it. Had a $260 accumulation I could have spread over next 12 months, but I just wanted to pay it off and be done. I didn't want to spend the next 12 months paying for the last 12 months of car charging.

Prediction from last month:
October should be a good money month.

Things went as predicted. We would have had +$3,000 to savings/investments if it wasn't for another orthodontist surprise. (More Below). & to be clear, I am in "significantly reduced salary" mode.

Unfortunately, November will not be any prettier. I just pulled $5,500-ish out of savings so that I can get property taxes covered for the next year. I am paying a little early and pre-paying. This goes in the "simplicity" category. Don't want to think about it for another 12 months.

**Most of the Citi card reward was due to charging some orthodontist expenses to a credit card. It was very out of nowhere, so I immediately pulled from savings and just paid it off. (This is what we had decided to do for LM, but MH just presumed we'd come to the same conclusion with kid #2. He didn't even talk to me about it! Just came home to, "I spent $4,000 today.") MM went in for a consult and he was recommended a similar treatment plan to his brother. I think it's probably where we would have ended up but I was just dumbfounded that MH didn't discuss with me. (I think this is just a side effect of us both being so run down by life at the moment). On the flip side, he was in such a hurry to pay, he whipped out the credit card. That's good because I got about $75 cash back to offset the cost. Wish I had known for DL's braces. All their fine print was that there was a fee for credit card. Just another reminder that it never hurts to ask! I swear, fine print is usually optional, from my experience. When it comes to bigger purchases.

I had been planning to spend around $12,000 on braces this year (expected scenario) and we are up to about $8,000 so far. So, it was kind of *shrugs* in the end. It probably helped that I was being very cognizant this was precisely why we had so much extra cash and everything has been pretty zen lately. We over-prepared, as we tend to do.

I just threw all the credit card rewards (this month) to offset the ortho costs.

October was some crazy month from hell, as they all are any more. So honestly, this was probably the most boring thing that happened. In fact, that was a "calm" week. I remember thinking it was sad that waiting for MH's MRI results and getting a surprise $4,000 bill is what I consider calm.

& there is more. Now, MM(16) is being referred to jaw surgery. The saving grace is I have two boys. The surgery I had at 16, they don't do until 20s for boys. Because they are still growing. DL(14) has my same jaw and was referred to surgery at age 23? That is very grey area with "cosmetic surgery for medical reasons" and not sure how that will shake out. I don't know what the heck MM(16)'s deal is but it's not the same. I believe they said age 26 for MM. But, the Ortho did happen to mention that our insurance had never turned down covering this particular surgery (if he referred). So that was a nice heads up. Regardless, both cans are getting kicked *way* down the road. It really really sucks that they both have to deal with this, but I don't have any room whatsoever in my brain (right now) for "things that may or may not happen in another 10 years."

This & That

October 9th, 2019 at 02:45 pm

I did an Amazon return at Kohls the other day. I had never done that before. They gave me a 25%-off coupon for Kohls, for one transaction in-store. I was going to look around anyway so I used it.

I don't know any of the details, if you can only return certain things to Kohls or what. But it sure makes it easier to shop on Amazon.

Today I paid a handful of annual bills. When I went to pay to renew the registration on MH's car, they were trying to charge a $5 fee for using credit card. UGH. Apparently this was a change that only went into effect during the last week or so. Bummer, that I didn't pay sooner and squeak that one through. We've been spoiled. I don't remember them charging any credit card fees during the past decade or so. I haven't decided how I will pay that bill. I don't know if some of the other government agencies have followed suit and if I will find more surprises.

I honestly don't know how I am going to pay this bill now. I declined paying by echeck, but I know logically (and from personal experience) that mailing a check is far less secure. *sigh* I set it aside to flip a coin later.

MH and I are planning a somewhat impromptu getaway. We are going to LA for 2 nights (just before Thanksgiving) and then we want to stop by Hearst Castle on the way back. I suppose we can make this somewhat a "Top 100 Movie" field trip as we have been talking about it more after watching Citizen Kane. The original plan was one night in LA, but we are staying two nights for free (minimum stay with MIL's timeshare). The third night we will stay in Pismo Beach, and then we can see Hearst Castle on the way back. The extra night makes it a more slow/relaxing trip. The cost will mostly be gas and food (and one hotel night). I will probably just earmark one of MH's paychecks next month since we already maxed out our vacation budget for the year.

We will probably do a somewhat repeat trip for Spring Break, since we want to check out the one college in LA. But that trip will be with kids.