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Archive for September, 2019

Grocery Savings

September 22nd, 2019 at 07:33 am

I spent some time looking at credit card rewards/bonuses last week, trying to pick a new credit card to supplement our current grocery rewards. Because we have maxed out current grocery rewards.

I didn't realize there were so many cards offering 3% cash back these days (in lieu of bonus). The catch is that the 3% only lasts for one year. I decided I didn't want to keep track of a 5th credit card that will be useless in 12 months. But I am keeping this in mind for MM(16) next year. Maybe when he turns 17 I can apply for one of those cards for him. He can drop it when he turns 18 and gets his own credit card. Will think about it.

I also determined that for next year our best option is probably to use the Chase Freedom card (I got for MM) to use their 5% back on groceries quarter, whenever that would be. Those rotating bonuses are definitely not for me, but if I just need to squeeze out 2-3 months of higher rewards and it's a card I already have... The key is to remember to do this, which is why I am making sure to document in my blog.

I did end up pulling the trigger and applying for a new American Express grocery card that pays 3% cash back on groceries. So we could continue to get grocery rewards in 2019 after we max out our current grocery rewards (probably in just a few weeks). It would not be worth the hassle or the 3% alone (we already have a 2% cash back card) but this card came with a $175 sign up bonus and so I pulled the trigger. When looking at the fine print it had a lot of "can deny the bonus for any reason at any time" language and refusing to pay the bonus to anyone who has opened and closed a lot of cards and manufactured spending. I since googled that is fairly new (maybe in the last 12-18 months). So I thought, "Ugh, that doesn't sound good" but figured I would try anyway. But I wasn't surprised when I was DENIED.

I will say that't probably not entirely fair. I was denied for the bonus, but they would still give the card to me. I think that is more useful than Chase's blanket denial. But without the bonus, I didn't see the point.

So I was denied and it was back to the drawing board. I wasn't really expecting anything but I supposed I should check my credit union card. Which I'd personally rather use as much as possible versus dealing with any big banks. Well, what do you know? 3% back on groceries! I suppose I disregarded this as as useless information because we had more than enough grocery rewards before. This is a nice and easy solution.

I will have to go through our statements and try to pinpoint when we hit the $6,000 per year max grocery spending on our other American Express card. At that point our cash back on that card goes from 6% to 1%. I will probably just take those cards out of our wallets and we will have to remember to use our credit union card instead. This means 3% cash back instead of 1%, through the end of the year. We've put around $5,500 groceries on that card this year (that takes me a few second to look up with my financial software) but I am just not sure exactly when American Express resets the annual clock. I need to look at their statements to figure that out.

Big Picture Update

September 21st, 2019 at 03:24 pm

Insanity Continues...

I think literally within a 1/2 hour of pushing "publish" my last blog post, my mom called me to tell me that my dad had been in an accident. My life just continues to be non-stop insanity.

The good news is my dad is okay. So far, anyway. This accident was unrelated to any health issues.

I also have another friend going through a *very* hard time. The list just keeps growing.

I started this post about a week ago. In the end, we've been having several fires. MM's school was evacuated due to a brush fire, and we saw fire crews putting out several small fires along the freeway when we drove to Monterey last weekend for a wedding. Yesterday there were three bigger fire by my home and work. We had some rain in between, but clearly not enough. I've never seen anything like it. I guess this is some new normal.

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The above may explain my absence for two weeks. It was also really busy a couple of weeks ago. It was just the week that everything seemed to be happening.

On the flip side, finances seem to mostly be in the background and are good. It's something that doesn't seem to be on my list of current challenges, and is organized enough that it doesn't need much time or energy. I don't know that I have felt "behind" on this front while the rest of life has been so overwhelming. I've mostly ignored it for months at a time, but not much I need to do on that front.

I am going to try to do a couple of more posts today.

Coming up for Air

September 8th, 2019 at 07:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August Savings

September 7th, 2019 at 09:50 pm

Received $74 bank interest for the month of August.

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

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

TOTAL: $120 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$615

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

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

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

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

TOTAL: $939 deposited to cash and investments

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

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

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

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

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

As to everything else, this was my last post:

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

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