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Archive for February, 2020

Ting - Verizon

February 27th, 2020 at 01:31 am

It's official. Ting is on the Verizon network now.

See blog link for how it works:

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Here is my referral link if you end up signing up:
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FWIW, I've never seen cheaper cell service than Ting. The customer service is far superior to any large cell carrier we have ever had. YMMV, depending on your cell phone usage.

Gift Card Balances Feb 2020 (Digging Out)

February 22nd, 2020 at 08:40 pm

$50 Barnes & Noble
$20 x 6 Target

$100 Regal

$50 Cracker Barrel
$50 Olive Garden
$25 Chili's
$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Birthday Gift)

$50 Kohls (Christmas Gift)
$ 50 x 3 Target

Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.


This is the "Digging Out" edition of "Gift Card Balance" Updates.

Because... I was cleaning up and found a gift card I apparently completely forgot about. It was received the end of 2017 (just before life became endlessly insane). So yeah, that makes sense.

Edited to add: Ended up finding a second gift card today. MH had been asking me about the B&N gift card and I told him, "That's old, there's nothing on it."

I am too careful to just toss them, so I did double check. But I was really shocked that either card had a balance on them still. That was a nice $75 find today.

I am documenting now so that I don't forget again.


February 16th, 2020 at 01:50 pm

Yesterday was a day of finding things to make my life easier.

I just happened to see in the morning that DL's school was doing e-waste collections. If nothing else, we still had MM's old car stereo (the one that came with the car he inherited) and it's pretty big and bulky. So I figured I would drop that off. I also had a shoebox full of stuff (the older stuff, Best Buy probably wouldn't take). Hell froze over and MH let me recycle my first two smart phones. (He likes to hoard things, I've already asked a few times before. So I Was absolutely shocked when he said he had wiped the data and he was ready to let them go). MH also came up with another box. Some old mice, an old car stereo, some watches, a remote control car, and lots of computer cables. Stuff like that.

They took everything. That was so easy! We already started a box for next time. If we have something big and bulky we will take it over to Best Buy, but for all the little things that add up this is a much easier alternative.

We still have the old HDTV. I am waiting for my (newly divorced) friend to pick it up. She is starting over from scratch so is appreciative of the hand-me-down.

I did sell an item last week for $15. I had been trying to sell for maybe 6 months, but finally got it sold.

I did freecycle 6 empty cat litter buckets last week.

I had also just happened to take in all of our old batteries (several years worth) to the community center last week. It's where my aerobics class is but I stopped going for a few years and then I kept forgetting to take the batteries. It wasn't a separate trip so I guess it's just good I got it done, but we could have dropped those off at the school yesterday if we still had them.

A charity is coming by next week. I always have a perpetual bag of outgrown clothes and other items we no longer want or need.

That I remembered the batteries or dealt with the cat litter buckets, I think is a good sign. That I have the mental capacity to deal with any of that whatsoever... I've mostly dug from under 2018/2019. Phew!

The overall bigger picture is that I took an 8-hour professional class last weekend. (After it got delayed twice. Because of course...). The exciting thing about this is that it was my last big class for all of the rest of 2020. Woohoo! Maybe it sounds like extra punishment to push ahead so far after digging out, but I Was using the momentum, my "unlimited class pass" expires in May, and... If life continues anything like it has been the past two years, I don't take the calm and quiet weekends for granted. I scramble to get things done, because otherwise they never get done.

That feels so good. & probably explains how I have any mental energy whatsoever to deal with anything else.

I ended up being a couple of weekends later than planned, but my plan was for a do-nothing February. Not that I will literally do nothing, but just wanted to get all the nasty chores behind me and then slow down and take a breather.

I am kicking off the do-nothing "1/2 February" with a long 4-day weekend. A very well needed break. I don't mind doing some chores this weekend and focusing energy on the house. IT's just going to be more of a "doing what I feel like doing" kind of weekend, with no big commitments. I am also happy to just be doing current chores and not worrying about playing catch up.

Toiletry Purchases

February 15th, 2020 at 04:08 pm

Walgreens just totally blew my mind.

I think because we have a Walgreens very close to our home (really the only store within reasonable walking distance), I've just always gone there for convenience. It's not like it's a big deal to stop by on the way home and pick up a couple of things. (Though I otherwise tend to spend about -0- hours of my time "running errands").

I had an email today about a Walgreens coupon. I know I needed to pick up some feminine products and I had so many coupons at this point I just started throwing them in an online cart to see how the coupons sorted out.

Well, it sorted out to saving about $15. With FREE shipping. What!?

Once I applied all the coupons, it wasn't free (shipping) any longer, but I knew I needed some deoderant and could restock the toothpaste, so I picked up a few more "needs". The total savings ended up being $18 between sales and coupons. With free shipping.

MH already nagged me about carbon footprint, yadda yadda. I honestly don't give a flip. But it's probably rare that I will ever stock up on so much stuff anyway. For this order, I most definitely don't give a flip.

We don't buy anything in "bulk", but I will generally purchase two of every toiletry item just to lessen my trips to the store. (Buying two of everything and using sparingly, this might only mean one store visit every 6 months, if that even).

This probably explains why I have never been more strategic in this area. The other reason is my feminine product spending has always been very low. The exception has been since around 2017 when my hormones went whacked. Now I buy a *lot* of feminine products. Or at least a lot compared to any frame of reference that I have. It's probably wise to shop more carefully with coupons and so on. This just happened during a (rare) more high income time in my life so I haven't really bothered. But today Walgreens blew my mind and I feel silly for not doing this all along. (I look up coupons sometimes and stock up when there's deals, but clearly I could be doing better with this and all of our toiletry purchases).

Walgreens also makes it *so easy* to use manufacturer coupons online.

January Savings

February 9th, 2020 at 02:26 pm

Received $70 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (back to 6% with the new year, but it pays out a month behind, thus $0 for now)
--Redeemed $99 cash back on Citi card
--Redeemed $21 cash back on dining/gas card

Other snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $12 cash back on Amazon Prime card
+ $ 5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $137 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:

Snowball to Savings:
+$415 Side Income

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)
+ $100 extra to mortgage

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,500 to cash (Bumped up for 2020)
-$ 837 Home Insurance
-$ 160 Dentist
-$ 120 Prepay school lunch

TOTAL: $2,070 Deposited to Cash and Investments


Only one paycheck this month. Literally, because my prior check had been advanced 12/31. MH is also off work. Thus, lower 401k #s this month.

Cash/Interest will be on the higher side until we fund our IRAs. It never makes any sense to decide until the year is over. Will start transferring the $12k to our IRAs (for 2019) once we finalize our 2019 tax return. (Until then, I don't have final #s of what we can contribute to tax-deductible Traditional IRAs; the difference will go to ROTH IRAs.)

Of course, I am always a month behind because these numbers reflect January Income minus December spending (December spending charged and paid off January 1). So when I sit down and enter all my income/expenses for the next month, I already know how the next month will shake out. Because spending is already fairly locked in.

Ugh, February is ugly! Spent way too much money in January. I have side income coming in (if I get it billed), MH should have one small paycheck (for at least 2 days) and I have cash out my ears. I know MH picked up a few Christmas things his mom reimbursed him for. & we treated the whole fam out to dinner again (another student concert for DL) and someone slipped us cash. Got some cash gifts for Christmas ($20 here and there). Plus, I sold a treadmill for $250 cash. This was before I got sick, so might have been November. We were going to turn around and buy a newer (used) instrument for DL. But then I got sick and it fell off my radar. I may keep the $250 on hand for that, but I have so much cash piling up otherwise it's past time to make a deposit. I will cobble together the extra money and make February work (and will zero out deposits versus expenses).

I am just going to roll with it this month and hope for a better February (spending). I know the problem is probably that our budget is way too tight. But we rolled with it so much last year I just left it that way. I just added some significant breathing room with my raise, so figured if we were muddling along without the raise, will do fine without. This just works for our personalities, we rather err on the side of over-saving. Better to save $500 and then have to pull out $100 if we were too aggressive. I will give it a couple of more months to see how things shake out. It may be too too tight, and we will adjust if necessary.

Edited to add: MH has one more paycheck than I realized, in February. He is paid bi-weekly and I got confused on the weeks. He just received a paycheck for $12. 😂 But will be a bigger one in two weeks. I am going to go ahead and change my numbers, and do our deposit to investments for January. If nothing else, I have *cash* to cover that.

Gift card Balances Jan 2020

February 3rd, 2020 at 01:36 pm

Just tracking gift cards.

$ 20 x 6 Target

$100 Regal

$50 Cracker Barrel
$50 Olive Garden
$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Birthday Gift)

$50 Kohls (Christmas Gift)
$ 50 x 4 Target

Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.


We've actually been using up some gift cards. Re-gifted a movie gift card and got through some restaurant gift cards.

Crazy, but Less Crazy?

February 2nd, 2020 at 06:51 pm

What a week!

I will start with last weekend. We had our weekend away in Napa and it was lovely. We ended up using our Ruth Chris gift card the Friday before we went out of town. We did one fancy dinner out (Napa), as planned.

The highlight of our weekend was a 3-hour hike we did last Sunday. It was *amazing* and we didn't see a single other soul on the trail. A hidden gem, for sure. These are just a couple of pictures, or a small fraction of the views we saw.

Recent Post:
I can't tell you what I am doing with this latest reset. Crossing my fingers that the tornado around me loses some steam? I'm trying to be more assertive with work hours? But... this only works when everyone isn't out with some emergency or other.

This last week:
My employee was at the hospital all day Monday and thought she would likely undergo emergency surgery. So the work/life balance went down the tubes last week, between that and deadlines.

It only went downhill from there.
--Work Drama (including my other employee being MIA)
--Friend's divorce drama (horrible and exhausting)
--More work emergencies** (a spouse in hospital)
--Sudden death of a childhood/family friend who was 40 (flu/asthma?)

**Have I ever mentioned I work for a very small employer? Yeesh!

Honestly, it was kind of low on the "crazy scale" of late. Because in the past I really didn't mean to be cryptic but it was all happening faster than I could ever remember or process. I ended up having a mostly quiet weekend (this time) and so I can share at all some of the insanity. Which makes it one of the calmer crazy weeks of last two years.

My employee is doing fine. For now. So that is the best news I have right now.

Ting (Cell) Update

February 2nd, 2020 at 05:20 am

If you hadn't heard, Ting is adding the Verizon network. They initially had the Sprint network, and then added T-Mobile at some point. Later this year it will be all three networks.

They don't have a date yet, but I will pass along if I hear. I just read that they want to roll out the Verizon option early this year.

It's nice to have the multiple options. At current I am on the Sprint network and MH is on the T-Mobile network. I will probably want to switch over to Verizon. This way, when we travel, we have better coverage. It's a neat perk that we aren't locked into all having to be on the same cell network.

I haven't otherwise done a cell/Ting update in a while. Not much to report. My mom dropped off of our plan. We had been going in 50/50 with my parents, for a while. But when we added our kids, I was just having my parents reimburse me $144 per year for their two lines ($6/month/each). We were using most the data/minutes and it wasn't worth tracking once we got so lopsided. Then my mom dropped out mid-2019 so I didn't ask them for any reimbursements last year. Will just cover my dad's cell phone ($6/month, plus some occasional extra travel expenses).

I just looked through the past several months and we've been paying $80 most months. That works out to $16 per month per line.

If you haven't heard of Ting, it's a no-contract, no-commitment cell service. You only pay for what you use. We just pay the $6/line and then we pool all of our data/texts/minutes, which are charged in addition.

We have been using Ting since 2013. They have been exceptional.

My Ting Referral Code:

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Joined a New Gym

February 1st, 2020 at 06:44 pm

I think we've always been fairly balanced and there's been an element of "cashing in past frugality" throughout my entire blog. Heck, my husband staying home with kids is probably the epitome of that. But I also think that set us backwards (you know, cutting our income in half) and so maybe it *feels* like it more these days that we are cashing in. There is definitely more to cash in, these days.

I think I am done working OT (for the rest of my life), so that is pretty sweet.

I am still loving my car, which has been a significant step up from any prior car we have owned.

Just some examples.

& now one more...

I personally *love* the gym and actually go to the gym. But... Our old gym went out of business and transferred me to a really horrible gym. I ended up dropping my membership last year. But... even the prior gym I had made some concessions for a gym that actually would fit my budget.

Because I had taken such a large pay cut, I did not feel that I could seriously join another gym last year. I have been going to my aerobics classes ($2.50 per class) and I never feel stronger than when I go to those classes regularly. (It's more of an aerobics/yoga/calisthenics class; the stretching is really key for me). I also purchased a heavy duty (used) elliptical machine. It's a long story, but haven't really used much. It may be too harsh on my knees. I have been really really careful because once I hurt my knee then I am down and have to start all over. I am already in "start over" mode with being so sick the end of last year. I was out at least 4 weeks that I could not work out at all. So, no idea if I will ever use or keep elliptical. It sounds more ideal but the really good ones are very large and expensive. I don't know if I will ever be happy with a home version. This was my giving it a try.

In the end, DL(14) is really into weights and working out. He has a pull up bar and some weights and he seems very happy with that. In fact, I think I mentioned the gym to him a few weeks ago (I don't remember why). & he was kind of just, "I am not a gym person." Maybe being a little too cheap and stingy. But apparently he started thinking about it and had a change of heart. I told MH that I was fine with it. That MM(16) started doing gymnastics around the same age, which is roughly $100 per month. So I threw out $100/month budget. Thinking that the adults might have to join also and just being open minded to giving him a comparable "gift". Not that I expected it to end up being that much.

MH and DL have been shopping around the gyms. But some of them don't even allow kids at all. Planet Fitness is silly for someone who wants to do big heavy weights (we just got one in the past few months, too bad because that one is probably more my style). We are getting a 24 Hour Fitness soon and so the gym we joined may be a placeholder until 24 Hour opens up. But the only thing that worked at all was a smaller regional gym that is fairly high end. They have *all* the amenities. Talk about a complete 180. Definitely the fanciest gym I have ever belonged to. I guess DL(14) had good timing, with all the January deals.

Oh yeah, but I have to back up. I really thought he would just join a more discount gym, at first. Some of the kids' friends were really pushing that they join the gym we ended up with. My initial reaction? UGH! For one, the sticker price is totally insane. (But no one actually pays that). These are people who are all in major financial messes. So this is why my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. I really did not think we would end up there.

But we did, because that's what works for us now. DL(14) is in heaven. I told MH I loved the gym and I am not picky. As long as they have ellipticals that work, is all I really care about. So he was a little nervous to sign up without me seeing it, but he did it. We all went over there last Sunday, to check it out. It was definitely a good choice. It's *January* and I didn't have any trouble finding a machine. So I think I am good. My needs are very basic.

MM(16) did not want to join. Fair enough, he runs 50+ miles per week with track.

We ended up paying about $85/month for the three of us. We chose this gym specifically because they allow minors to attend (and join?) without adults. It was also the only one that a minor could join that he liked at all.

When the friends were pushing and that was where we ended up, all I could think was I glad we saved our dollars in the past. This might be just a few years (max) that we enjoy the amenities of the larger gym. But we are more able to do that because it's not something we "expected" that we must have for the past 20 years.

In the end I think this is probably a zero net change to our budget because MM(16) has no time for gymnastics whatsoever with his current school/sports schedule. So it may just be that I move the gymnastic dollars over to the gym dollars. Just shifting things around a bit.

Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention, this is how DL(14) is dealing with his mental health ups and downs. Working out has helped him tremendously. It's really the only thing that seems to be helping him.

Also, I am glad my son knows that this is most definitely a "want"; he was doing very fine without.