Home > Archive: September, 2015

Archive for September, 2015

Clutter Updates

September 27th, 2015 at 01:24 pm

FIRE UPDATE: After two entire weeks, relative has been allowed to return to his home. !! What an ordeal! I am sure there are some trying times ahead for him. His town is a complete disaster.


**I've never been able to take advantage of most bank account bonuses because they require "direct deposits." We did get around that for one bank account bonus that we did last year, but I was never really sure it was going to work and it depends on the bank (you can just make a transfer from some banks) and what works or doesn't is always changing. Just way too much of a PITA.

It just hit me that I no longer have to rule all those bonuses out since dh will be getting direct deposit checks. Woohoo! I'll look around what bank bonuses are out there right now and will have to remember to keep a better eye on that. I'm so used to just ignoring all those type offers.

We did get dh's direct deposit set up. I am happy that it's all online and I can just adjust his W-4 and change bank accounts (if we do some sign up bonuses) easily online. So that's another plus.



I've been meaning to do a house update. I went through the problem areas of our house and cleaned up and did some purging. Since the end of April we have been cognizant of clearing clutter every single week (no matter how little).

I can't believe it, but I am *finally* seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We've been purging for over a decade, but I guess I needed to focus more than a few weekends per year to really get the job done. I am glad all the work is paying off. !! (It's only paying off so quickly though because all of the work we have done the decade prior. Just to be clear).

So now we are entering Phase 2 of our de-cluttering. I have sold and cleaned up everything big and obvious and bulky. Phase 2 is to go through every drawer and closet and nook and cranny through our house and do one final sweep. I expect that I will still find a lot of things to purge, but since we've been through everything before I don't expect this to be an overly big job. It's just the little stuff (the easy stuff) that should be left.

My goal is to be *DONE* this year. No more of this endless de-cluttering. & I am confident about this because most of the work we did this year was the really old stuff. Going through a lot of high school stuff, for example. We've always been on top of the kids' stuff and dh and I don't buy that much stuff any more, and if we do are more likely to sell the old to afford the new, etc. So I have high hopes that “de-cluttering” won't be much of a time or energy suck in the future. We do have good habits in that regard.

Here's a list of what we have accomplished:

**Re-thought and re-organized kitchen office space and adjacent storage. (A project for next year will be to work on some kitchen organization; my problem areas are the pasta/lentils and the spices).

**Bought nicer furniture for living room and created storage space for sheet music and kids' piano lesson books. This room looks immaculate now, with no effort. I have a love-hate relationship with this solution though because I did just throw a big mess in a chest of drawers. (It looks nicer but is not any more organized). That is another future project. I'd like to eventually digitize most the sheet music but it will be a BIG project.

I suppose I've learned I'd rather "be" organized than "look" more organized. Not a solution I will apply to my whole house, but it is nice to have a tidy room with some nice and functional furniture.

**Cleaned up BM's room (which was a hoarding mess). He seems to have matured beyond his hoarding and agreed to empty most his room out, and I don't see him bringing much back in. In this case, procrastination paid. We just had no idea what to do with it. Dh wouldn't let me clear out the trash without BM's approval but he had no better ideas so we just let it sit for a few years. But I couldn't believe BM let me throw most of it out once I tackled it head on, and helped me so that it was a quick cleanup. I saved myself a lot of headache just waiting it out. Phew!

**Went through LM's room and sold the large items he had outgrown. (Sold a toy box and an easel).

**Went through my closet and got rid of bulky items. Off the top of my head we had a hamper we never use and some bulletin boards and white boards. I also got rid of a lot of frames.

I realized with this part of the purge that we no longer will be holding onto things "just in case". We have the money to buy what we need and I think this is the cause of a lot of our clutter. Which is fine since we had the room for it and made sense in lower income years, to hold onto things and accept any random hand-me-down, but no need to really hang onto some of this stuff at this point in our lives.

**I recycled lots of trophies and eyeglasses

**I had never gone through our taxes but it was getting to the point where it needed to be dealt with. So I scanned all the old years (just because I am a numbers nerd; no real need to keep them) and out of laziness will keep 10 years of paper files on hand. I had already scanned the last couple of years and will probably have less paper over time. Going forward it will be so easy to toss the oldest paper file every year, and I am already storing new years digitally. The paper file is mostly a backup, but then I also don't have to scan every single paper as I am sure there are some I didn't scan and don't need to keep forever.

{When shredding I found all sorts of other people's tax returns, that I prepared in the distant past. Those were so old I was just able to shred them all. All of the above fit in *one* box - I had no idea there was so much stuff in there and that I had so many other tax returns!}.

**I went through a big box of photos and also eliminated that box. I ended up tossing the bulk of them. I kept a handful of odd shaped keepers in a small box and put the rest in photo albums. I was planning to put them all in a flat photo album (space efficient) that I found, but didn't realize most the photos were too large. So I put them away in other photo albums, but this is another “future project” to keep in mind to consolidate more and make more space.

Like most everything, this was a "clean up the old stuff" chore as we keep all our photos digitally any more and rarely print out pictures. A future project would be to maybe purge some of the old digital pictures and create some sort of index of photos. We went digital around 2002 and it's easy to manage but I think for the long run we probably want some sort of index to find things as we won't always remember when everything happened or where so and so picture is. 10 years of pictures is one thing, but 50 years will be another story.

Shopped Without Spending Much

September 26th, 2015 at 08:27 pm

Well, today I have to control myself. The stray cat I found is going up for adoption. I am feeling surprisingly level headed today. If he went up yesterday I might have brought him home! Will see...


Today we ran the errands that piled up from a busy week.

In the morning I went to Kohls to make a return and no one was there. So it was very quick. I think even if dh does get more bogged down it doesn't really matter since I am an early bird. We can still live a very "off peak" existence. (I noticed the grocery store is open at 6am, for example. Sounds perfect to me; can do that chore on a weekday with no discernible difference to my schedule).

I did end up spending $20 (net) at Kohls while there. There was a vest jacket type thing I have been coveting for well over a year and I was able to get it for $10. I just bought the bullet and bought a few cheapie shirts to wear with it (they were so soft and pretty but general not the kind of thing I'd wear by itself because just kind of cheap and not flattering). & I remembered another shirt I have that will go great with the vest - I am sure I have others. It will significantly spice up my cold weather wardrobe. If it ever cools off...

As to the $500 in gift cards that we were planning to blow... Our external hard drive is giving us issues and dh wanted to replace his 20-year-old (or older) razor. I had thought we could get Amazon gift cards but I guess we could not. But these items were in stock at Best Buy and they also price match. So I had gotten $275 in gift cards specifically for those items and picked them up today. I paid $10 out of pocket and I put both this and my Kohls charge on my credit card that already closed for the month. We spent enough this month already, so just kicking the can down the road a month.

I had also redeemed $100 in Target gift cards which would cover a month of our grocery spending there. We discussed if we should or should not get some snack food ahead of time since it is so expensive in Hawaii, and I realize I should have just gotten $225 in Target gift cards and could have covered most of that spending (grocery spending and whatever else we nee while in Hawaii). I didn't think that far ahead, but we can use what we have left of the $100 and I am more willing to just buy snacks there if it will just be "free" anyway. (Dh for whatever reason didn't seem keen on packing food but once I get packed up I may run to Target and pick up a few items. Will at least need some food for the plane. But I will wait and see how much room we have).

We popped by Target today to buy laundry detergent and toothpaste. It was free with gift cards and we earned a $5 gift card.

{That leaves us with $125 gift cards to redeem and I am just meditating on those. I have a large purchase in mind but I want to research it more first. Target gift cards are fine if we don't think of anything else}.

I took some returns to a shoe store (all my returns were online orders that didn't fit well) and dh ended up finding some sandals for Hawaii. I need to remember to donate his old sandals (barely worn; he wasn't happy with them). His shoe purchase was a wash with my returns, so no money spent there.

The only errand we didn't end up getting to was the CU to deposit his focus group cash. I have a couple of days off next week, so we decided to just take care of it during the week. If it doesn't get done, I don't need the money right away. It's just if I forget about it, but I should have plenty of time.

Oh, and I do have one return by mail. I suppose that will actually offset all of the spending I did today. That works out pretty well thought I didn't plan that part. (It's too late to get the return for this month, but the return can then offset those purchase I made on the "next month already" credit card).

We do have to set up dh's direct deposit this weekend. That will be nice.

This & That

September 24th, 2015 at 08:11 pm

**We have a cat that is trying to adopt us. The timing couldn't be more terrible. *sigh* I did take the stray cat to the shelter and so I hope that resolves itself. If he is still up for adoption when we get back from vacation then we will probably becomes a 2-cat household. (Though dh is not a cat person, but he is also a softie). The cat is very sweet and friendly, which is good, but on the flip side he is around 5 years old and I know they can't give away adult cats. We paid $5 to adopt our beautiful Siamese because he was estimated to be about 12 months old (they lower the adoption fees on the older cats). Everyone asks if we bought him from a breeder; they clearly haven't been to the shelters recently.

So, I don't know... It's not the kind of decision I am capable of making. I just have to let it sort itself out. I think it's best if he finds another home and I hope that works out. Our impending vacation is giving me some space and logic in regards to the situation. I am sure dh appreciates it.

**Dh started his job Monday and things are going well with that. It's been a crazed week and he definitely regrets signing up for that focus group. The job is somewhat physical. It will take him some time to adjust. But I think October will be pretty low key and I expect the first week to be the hardest adjustment.

His family is completely psycho about it though. I wouldn't know where to begin with that... (I won't get into all the psycho stuff).

I am relieved that overall his parents are supportive though. It took his mom a solid decade to get over him being home with the kids (even though clearly our kids and marriage have only thrived with this arrangement, which is probably why she did eventually get over it), so I was worried she'd maybe freak out about him returning to work. I had no idea how she would react.

One of the first things they did tell dh was basically he should blow his entire income. Don't ask me! Might make for some interesting blog posts later. For reference, I'd classify his parents as frugal savers. Like I said, don't ask me!

**I commented on my last post (I think) that I wanted to fund lunch the rest of the year but could not. BM refuses to buy the school lunch food at current location but LM has been content with it. So I tried to pay the whole year and the max I could fund was only about half the year.

So like literally the day after pay school lunch for 6-ish months, LM tells me he is just buying lunch for the chocolate milk. Well, he can buy 240 chocolate milks now. HA!

It was the funniest conversation though. LM told me that the "main currency" (his words) in the lunch room is chocolate milk. I think he perceived it to be so valuable that I blew his mind when I told him he could just buy it for 50 cents. But anyway, not that I would do this, but I am tempted to just let him buy milk every day and barter his lunch. He is so fascinated by economics on some level, and so he has been really taking note of the lunch room bartering. & I am sure he could do quite well now that he knows he can just buy the milk for 50 cents.

Well I had waited 6 weeks to make sure he wasn't as disgusted by the lunch as his brother. I should have waited 6 weeks plus one day. The plan is he will no longer be buying whole lunches just to get the milk. I don't know if that means he will ever buy again. Sounds like maybe not.


September 19th, 2015 at 01:30 pm

**I mentioned in FT's blog that we had a relative who lost home in fire. He was at work when the fire started, and it happened so fast. He was not able to retrieve one single item from his home. Anyway, by some miracle the whole town was not destroyed as initially reported, and he has received photo confirmation that his house is still standing. !! He's still evacuated, one week later, so his ordeal is far from over. It's just sounding a lot more hopeful than it was a few days ago.


There's no way to transition from that, so I guess I will just jump into our own minutiae.

**Payday was this week. I transferred the entire check into savings.

I already paid all the bills around September 1, so dh's check will go into savings too. That I Was not expecting. More below...

**LM ran through his lunch money (from last year) and so I funded that today. I usually fund both kids for 6 months at a time but since BM is on lunch food boycott I thought I'd just fund LM for the rest of the year. But I guess there is a max I can contribute (per kid). It's annoying because I will probably have to fund him 3 times per year (since I am letting him buy lunch more with BM not partaking) and they do charge a fee each time. On the flip side, maybe good not to over-fund too much in case he changes his mind.

In this case, I think if I can do the max one more time that should take him through the school year.

**We have our 15th wedding anniversary this week. I don't know that we will make any plans. We had discussed not doing anything *big* because we just did our So Cal trip and we leave for Hawaii soon. I think Hawaii is it and I don't know if we will do anything otherwise. We'd usually at least meet up for lunch but dh is working all week and eating out doesn't appeal to me much with vacation right around the corner. (I just get sick of eating out so much when we are away from home).

Who knew we could sink to new levels of boring... Dh has a busy schedule this week and I don't know that we will do absolutely anything. (He's volunteering all weekend, has the focus group, and seems we had some other stuff going on).


Dh did get an official official job offer and is starting work next week. Will see how it goes.

Of course, money is raining down from the sky and he also got a big focus group next week ($125). It's been a long time, so the timing is interesting.

As to the job, the only immediate change to the schedule is that I will pick up the kids on short days. We had ditched the carpools this year because other parents are too flakey. Anyway, dh thinks I should rely on neighbor to pick up kids on short days. No thanks!! I'd rather take care of my own kids (leisurely, on my lunch hour) and not get phone calls interrupting my work day. It would happen a lot. (Don't ask me! It's epidemic).

Anyway, I look forward to the change up in schedule. I used to go home for lunch every day but then gas prices got so high and the kids were in school anyway. I should have probably done this all along, but we have just been in such "gas conserving" mode in more recent years. With gas prices a little lower I look forward to the change up in schedule. It's once a week that they have short days.

Gas Savings, Hawaii, Waiting on Job

September 13th, 2015 at 05:16 pm

I just happened to notice that a gas station close to our house has cheaper gas than Costco. Is about what we pay with our grocery coupons (even closer to our house), but we usually only get those deals for the minivan (bigger gas tank). As long as these gas prices are relatively unknown (it's a small station but I haven't seen a crowd there) we will get gas at the other station. I think it makes sense to fill up there whenever driving out of town and it's also a convenient stop on my way home from work. With dh potentially working I may take more responsibility for filling up the van on the way home sometimes, and he can use the grocery coupons on the gas sipper when he is at the grocery store. The cheap gas station is probably a little more out of his way, for the most part. Plus he is at the grocery store a lot anyway and can pay the same price there.


So... My in-laws usually slip us $1,000 when we go on bigger vacations. I kind of was expecting that for our Hawaii trip but didn't particularly want to rely on that. I didn't expect to know for sure until they took us to the airport.

BUT... Our anniversary will be before we leave and they slipped us $1,500 yesterday for our 15th wedding anniversary, since they didn't expect to see us again for a few weeks. Woohoo! I feel so much more relieved about the Hawaii trip. I'd estimate off the top of my head that we will spend $2,000 on excursions, food, and car rental and other rentals, and I think that's being generous. But I like the idea of pulling $500 out of savings (if we go hog wild) much more than potentially pulling out $2,000. So I am very happy with this turn of events.

I expect this trip to end our year of splurge. We were doing very well financially and decided to take advantage of a trip abroad that came up, but we had already planned this Hawaii trip, and dh spent a few thousand dollars upgrading his home theater. We figured this is the kind of spending we do once every 10 years or so. It was 10 years ago that we spent down some of our maternity leave savings because I had two healthy pregnancies & babies and we never needed any of the money we had saved for the worst. So I don't know if there's anything magical about every 10 years, but just seems to be how it has panned out so far. We just kind of wanted to stretch and let loose a bit before we get back to hoarding cash for my eventual job change (just lots of unknowns there) and figure we will be saving for college and paying down our mortgage and topping off our retirement in the next decade or so. We feel very "noses back to the grindstone" - or is the plan anyway after Hawaii. (& Dh and I can go to Hawaii whenever, but it's just adding the kids increases the cost significantly. It's not like we won't do anything fun. Maybe one ridiculous luxury a year is more feasible or more our style).

In the meantime, we've had an exceptional year financially. I don't know that the splurging will set us back at all. We planned all this before we knew that both our parents would give us large checks in a 12-month period (unusual and completely unexpected on both counts) and that dh would find a job.


As to the job, dh has a formal offer, but still waiting for red tape to clear. If if works out and they will work around our planned vacation, I expect he will start later this week.

I can't tell you how *perfect* this job is for our lifestyle. Or how good it sounds on paper anyway, though I am wary to get too enthused until he officially starts and we find out if it really works out for the long run.

The job is very part-time, during school hours, summers and winters off, walkable commute, no professional clothing, very low pay. The last part might not sound so nice, but it means a low-tax situation. So... Basically a job where he can actually keep most of what he makes. !! & it's so non-intrusive to the rest of our lives that I don't really expect anything to change. Will see, but it sounds workable for keeping our low key/low stress lifestyle.

Of course we will save 100% of whatever dh brings home, as we always have done.

I don't expect him to be happy with minimum wage work for the long run, but this is what he needs to move forward again. It's a step in the right direction.

My plan right now is just to put it all into savings for this year. I Expected we would spent it on Hawaii and a couple of planned appliances purchases. But now that Hawaii seems sorted out, I will just hold onto it can re-allocate whatever we need at the end of the year. This will make it easier to reach my goals of adding another $1,000-ish to the mortgage and adding $1,700 to our investments.

I don't expect that any income taxes will be withheld from his check the rest of the year; not enough income to matter.

I'd say that dh is the bigger saver of the two of us, and so I don't think he cares at all about working with no immediate personal financial benefits. BUT... I do have $500 in credit card rewards (gift cards) to redeem next week. There was nothing we particularly needed and so I had already earmarked this $500 for "fun money". I think we will both enjoy the extra psychological boost of a little extra splurging, and I think it means we will probably more likely keep every penny he makes this year. (I don't know that we will splurge it all ($500), but I just know I won't care either way).

Next year we will re-evaluate. Next year will be a bigger tax hit, and we will have to figure out how to most efficiently allocate the extra income. I don't see putting any mental effort into that until I see how the job shakes out and how we end the year financially. Will cross that bridge when we get to it. I suppose I will also know my salary for 2016 before dh returns to work after winter break. He will get a 10% raise next year due to minimum wage increasing. It's kind of good timing in that regard too. There's talk of raising minimum wage quite substantially in both our city and state. Either way will bode well for dh in the short run or for my kids when they turn 16.

Ting Deals

September 9th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Text is and Link is

I am sharing my Ting referral code because I saw a good deal for the rest of this month. $50 in credit if you sign up with a referral link.

They are also selling GSM SIM cards for $5 + free shipping, to activate a phone you already have or buy elsewhere.

Recent Ting story:

**Dh's relative recently switched to T-Mobile, though dh tried his best to sell him on Ting. Anyway, this relative is always very proud about having the fastest and latest and greatest. So, poor dh... This relative went to the family cabin with my in-laws and my "Ting" in-laws (with one Sprint and one GSM [T Mobile coverage] phone) had like 4 bars at the cabin and this relative had NO bars. !! So he called dh and discussed this with him for like an hour. ?? He wanted answers. Then MIL called him later asking all the same questions. So there went a couple of hours of his life. Of course he didn't have a clue as to why that would be. We've experienced phone antenna differences when we've had the same service, but never to quite that extent.

Of course, I am sure there are many places where the opposite might be true. But this may actually get relative to switch to Ting. I presume in-laws will take that referral though. & though it's one isolated incident, it is probably somewhere they spend a fair amount of time.

**I suppose dh and I should have compared phone service when we drove down to So Cal last week but I don't think we ever did. He's on GSM (T-Mobile network) and I am on the original Ting (Sprint network) service. We figured it's probably nice while traveling to have different services. IF we can spread out our coverage a bit that way. I don't know that we will ever travel enough to test it much. "In the middle of nowhere" is probably mostly the same either way. We didn't look when we were in the middle of nowhere.

Crazy Job News!

September 5th, 2015 at 03:14 pm

Ugh, I hate it when I don't blog much and I have a million things in my head and don't know where to begin. I have some catching up to do!

We did our So Cal trip and it was fine and lovely and lots to blog about that. It would be better if I could share pictures! But the trip went well. The short version is we got to swim with otters and pet and feed exotic animals. It was awesome! Dh had an LA meeting about his script, and it went as well as realistically expected. Nothing immediate is coming of that, but he got lots of encouragement to pursue his dream. As a realist, it's the most he hoped for. So yeah, that was one crazy trip! GOOD crazy!

I will share more later.

As to my dh's job situation, I am used to people presuming a lot and not having a clue. I married someone with a huge work ethic, who had never had any problem on the work front, who mostly saved every penny he ever made. I am always amused by the perception that I am supporting him. We wouldn't have half of what we have without his financial contributions to this marriage, and lord knows his parents are very generous and pick up a lot of the slack. & of course, I don't know if I could have married anyone else so financially supportive. Even if it's not in a traditional way at this very moment in time. But that's the thing. His current unemployment status means nothing to us as to the long run. It's just where we are at in this moment in time.

Anyway, my dh has had a rough time of it since we moved to our low-cost haven. Maybe that's the trade-off, but he's never managed one single job offer here. Since 2005-ish he's only looked for minimum wage crap work. Still. Nothing... The economy is the most of it. Overt discrimination was a lot of it early on. Over time it's gotten more complicated. With a disability that limits his working options, and not needing the money anyway, it's clearly evolved into more choice than circumstance. Even so, he'd like to work while the kids are in school, but even just a couple of years ago he couldn't get a job if his bff was hiring because 1,000 more qualified people would have applied for the same job. He's been referred to jobs or found jobs where he knew people or volunteered, but the feedback is always, "You have a hole in your resume and 1,000 other people already applied." Literally. The unemployment here is intense. & I can never get across what a star employee or volunteer he has always been.

All we can do is be blessed that we've absolutely never relied on his income and we don't need the money. My mom never worked past 25 (like dh) and we've since watched my parents retire VERY comfortably, on the early side. So over time we just let it go and move on with Plan B. Which is the irony of it all since I don't know that we ever would have been this efficient or on such an early retirement track without dh's lack of employment. We could be better off in the long run, strangely enough. OF course, Plan B is that *I* have been extremely lucky on the employment front.

With all that, I never expected 13 years of unemployment to end with a job offer basically falling out of the sky. ?!?! It's not official, but it seems pretty certain dh has a job. It's very part-time and with the school year but is absolutely *perfect* for the here and now.

Will see...

Oh I have lots more to blog about that, but I think that's all I can say until we know for sure. The past 13 years have trained us not to hold our breath. I didn't even want to blog about it, but then I couldn't not blog about it. It will probably just drive me crazy until it's official! It's just so unbelievable.

With that, I hope to have more details later about both the job and the wildlife trip.

As to the job, the pay is absolute crap and it's hardly life changing, BUT, it's the stepping stone he's needed to get back into the work force. Crossing my fingers!!

August Savings

September 3rd, 2015 at 12:56 am

Received $39 bank interest for the month of July.

Snowflakes to investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $52 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $1 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$ 30 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)
--$100 Random refund (from a developer fee paid to city like 15 years ago)

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$ 540 auto insurance
-$ 200 Back to School Expenses
-$ 160 Spending during So Cal weekend