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Archive for January, 2021

January 28 & 29

January 31st, 2021 at 01:48 pm

January 28

Groceries $33

Hard Drive Upgrade $163

Dinner:  Olive Garden Chicken Pasta (Instant Pot)


This is one of the better (non-soup) instant pot recipes that we have tried.  Not too dry or watery.  Came out "just right".  Was probably a million calories, but definitely a good dish for teens with high caloric needs.  

MH needed something from another store and so he did a grocery run today. 

He seemed overly confident that the unemployment office will cut him a check soon.  Just had a brief discussion about that.  I am in the "will believe it when I see it" camp.  But literally he wanted to upgrade his hard drive, changed his mind when UI was all screwed up.  Then he looked at it yesterday, the price had gone up $30 since last he tracked?  Then he looked later and the price had dropped $50.  He was telling me about that, so I figured when I saw the charge today, was why he pulled the trigger.  He told me later that the price dropped briefly for a few hours, he bought it, and then the price went back up.

We can very much afford it.  It's just his comfort level with it; he didn't want to buy it (right now) unless he knew we had extra money coming in.  He just got some random $10 refund and also had a free $50 gift card (from some electric car survey) and so the $163 he spent was net of all that.

This day was CHAOS.  It was probably this day I abandoned doing SA updates.  Yeesh!  I don't think I had a moment of peace until around 9pm.  Everyone had a tale to tell on this day.  Lots of drama.   Just a long and exhausting day.


January 29

$15 Online Concert/Show

Dinner:  Taco Rice Salad


I logged into the credit card to check spending, and there was a $90 reward to redeem.  

Also, $6 was deposited into my bank account (another monthly credit card reward).

We had't been using the grocery card (capped out annual benefit; will take a month before rewards kick in again).  & We didn't use the Target card this month (I just logged in to triple check that the balances was $0, it took roughly 15 seconds).

So...  That's the massive amount of time I spent managing rewards this month. 😉  Will invest $96 (total January rewards) some time next week.  


January 26 & 27

January 30th, 2021 at 07:18 pm

January 26

$22 Tax Software

$5 College Application Fee of some sort

$0 Target (Groceries)

Dinner:  Tortellini Soup (Instant Pot)

MH asked me if I needed anything from Target.  I thought about it this morning when going through and paying bills.  I checked and he has $80 in the Target cart, but we bought up a bunch of gift cards while on sale in December.  Will be $0 from our budget.

This would have put our grocery/household spending to $740 for the month (without the Target gift cards), or about $110 below budget.  It was just a weird month.  I do think some of the high calorie baking and deep fried fritters and stuff like that has maybe helped to keep the teen boys fed.  But... I think mostly it was how the timing worked out.  

As hospitals are less impacted and more people are vaccinated, I presume that MH will go back to grocery shopping every 10 days.  Once every two weeks is a *lot*.  He refuses to take anyone with him to get a second shopping cart and I feel bad adding anything to the grocery list (unless it is necessary).  So that might also be a lot of it.  Will probably just re-assess in another 10 days.

We had a whole whopping $12 balance on our dining out card, so I sent the payment in a couple of days ago.  & then I completely forgot and did it again today.  Doh.  At least it was just $12.  I will probably order a pizza some time in February, if things get less grim here.  A somewhat pre-paid pizza...

Groceries are done for the month probably, so paid off the grocery card.  I usually pay off the balance of our credit cards around the first every month (pay day) but I have the cash for such a low-spend month.   We enter every new month 'debt free'.  It's just my thing, I use the credit cards for convenience, but pay them off before the new month begins.  When I was younger and less wealthy, always utilized the float more.  Now I just don't care and like to make life very simple.  Could also be motivated by having too many credit cards (for rewards).  Rather than 'manage several credit cards' I just put them all on a monthly billing cycle and pay them all off the same time every month.  

Oh yeah, and I noticed that MM(17) paid off his credit card though he had charged $5 at some point for some transcripts (obviously for some college application).  I just sent the $5 payment to his card today, to make us square. 

So...  I had a big DOH moment when I entirely forgot to buy tax software this year.  I bought around Black Friday the prior couple of years.  Before that I was spoiled by 'free professional tax software' at work, for about 20 years.  Which is no doubt why they thought hadn't crossed my mind at all.  Anyway, I realized around New Years.  I had set up in camelcamelcamel last year (they only time I have ever used this website).  I was able to look back and see that prices are usually good around January 31.  I set up a price watch for the 2020 tax software and figured I'd probably be buying this weekend.

I did set it up to tell me if it dropped even one cent, but I didn't get a single email until today.  Dropped from $30 to 22.  Which was same as Black Friday pricing.  It is done. 

I did also put it on my calendar, for every future year, to remember to buy tax software on Black Friday. 


January 27


Dinner:  Thai Basil

Wow, what a night!  Crazy storm, not sure I remember a storm that powerful before.  60mph gusts in our neighborhood.  Mostly wind.  Surprised I got any sleep.

Decided to work from home and not navigate the mess.  I checked that electricity was on at work, but was told, "Just stay home, it's a mess."  Lots of fallen trees and electricity outages.  I personally wanted to get out of the house and not work from home two days in a row.  

MH was griping about me ending my "surge mode" and resuming normalcy next week, so I just finalized one more week with two days at home.  One day at home was what I was doing before the pandemic (this job) and the only thing that seems to really work well.  So I will resume that the following week (phew!).  But...  I am taking a 4-day weekend for the holiday so will just give it a couple of more weeks before I am literally in the office 4 days per week.  I'd say with all the year-end deadlines, it's been okay, but I think it's more about ergonomics and productivity than anything else.   I just feel more achy when I work at home. This day just happened to work better to be at home, for my flow.  In the middle of a giant deadline, and my employee was out sick anyway.  She's probably going to put a pile of stuff on my desk Thursday, but then I will be there to tackle it as it comes.  Wednesday I worked through my giant project without any distractions.  Phew!

{Oh yeah, and with the kids' school and everything, Wednesday is the best day to work from home.  Other days, we are stepping on each other's toes more.  DL has more of an independent study day on Wednesdays and less very loud band practice.  Wednesday was the day I chose in the before times because the kids had short days and I helped with that.  Also, just breaks up the week nicely.  I probably wasn't appreciating how hard it would be to work from home other days, until I tried it this month.  This is probably the first time this school year.  Last year, school was just kind of abandoned in March.}.

MH mentioned going for a walk later on this day.  I told him, "Meh, don't think I want to go outside today."  But I did later change my mind and figured it would be a more interesting walk than usual.  If there was anything canvas like a flag or a shade cover, it was all ripped to shreds.  All of the construction road signs had blown away.  I grabbed some winter jacket I bought in Utah 20 years ago.  Smart choice, but the zipper crumbled when I touched it.  MH thought I might have worn it to the snow once or twice.  Other than that, has just sat in the closet.  

I probably personally would never go outside in the winter.  & not like we get much winter anyway.  But...  With the gyms closed and everything, have been just suffering through it.

Saw more headlines of what a disaster our state unemployment system is.  But MH called and sat on hold for hour, and supposedly got his account all cleared.  Will see...   


January 24 & 25

January 30th, 2021 at 06:33 pm

January 24


Dinner:  Chicken  Korma (crockpot)

I think MH found this recipe for the Instant Pot but it utilized the "slow cooker" function.  So...  Why not just put it in the crockpot then?

It was *amazing*.  Only complaint:  Not enough leftovers.

I wasn't feeling great physically on this morning, and then I found out a woman I used to work with had passed away.  She was 86.  I had worked with her until she was probably about 80.  By far not the oldest person I have worked with.  But anyway, she passed away several months ago and I just found out. 

I ended up having more of a "curled up in the fetal position" kind of day. 

I just brings up a lot, the mess of illness and death that punctuated the end of that job.  Plus also brings up memories of our other co-worker that we lost to brain cancer 10 years ago.  

I snapped out of it mid afternoon and did some laundry.  Had better intentions but then didn't really do much else.  I ended up downloading some ebooks from the library.  One I could only get in audiobook format which is not my preference.  I think probably too distracting to listen to while driving, but was nice to change up my mid-day walk break.  I can maybe get into walking and audiobooks.

It has overall been so incredibly quiet and peaceful.  Really not holding my breath, but maybe feeling some optimism that I am getting out from under this black cloud.  It feels...  weird.  



January 25

Groceries: $322

MH allowance: $15 (movie?)

Dinner:  Spaghetti Pie

MH did a big grocery run.  Once every two weeks, until things settle.  Maybe one more two-week run, will see.  Or I guess, probably would wait two weeks but then can probably do a 10-day run at that point.

I almost didn't even check the credit card, because it's like been over 10 days since MH bought anything?  But it did cross my mind to check and I did see that MH had spent $15, probably on a movie.

Work was strangely calm and peaceful today.  I have some big deadlines and there's never enough hours in the day.  But...  When everything isn't constantly a disaster or an emergency and I can actually have peaceful nights and weekends...   My stress level is around a zero right now.  It's a noticeable weird shift, that I noted in my last post.  It just feels...  weird.  But good.  GOOD weird!

I did enter all my February income/bills in my electronic check register.  I have a good idea how the credit cards will sort out, with grocery spending done for the month.  Thankfully, we seemed to squeak by without any over-spending.  MH did receive a $100 check from my parents (for his birthday) which helped with his extra spending earlier in the month.  

I don't know what the odds are that MH's unemployment will sort out.  Now there's headlines that people have to pay back unemployment in our state!?  UGH!  (People who did everything the state said, but the state wasn't following Federal rules?).  I mention because am not holding my breath on any unemployment income this year and am very much in one-income mode.  Which is why I am happy that we navigated January spending so easily.


January 22 & 23

January 30th, 2021 at 06:29 pm

January 22


Dinner:  Goulash (Instant Pot)

Dinner did not turn out so well on this day.  If anything, most dinners have been too watery in the Instant Pot.  But this one went the opposite way. 

I have some days to get caught up on...



January 23

Allowance Spending (Moi): $139

Dinner:  Garlic Chicken Parmesan (Instant Pot)

Tried a new recipe, dinner was okay.

For some time I was exposed to so little advertising that most of my spending trigger (the past few years) has been SA.  Seeing people talk about purchases or things that sound interesting.  We stopped watching TV commercials 20 years ago (when we got our first DVR) and probably have our computers well equipped with ad blockers.

But alas, the social media ads are getting very creepy in a 'reading your mind' kind of way.  I expect I've made it worse during pandemic by sticking to just shopping online.  Probably didn't do much clothes shopping online before.

The other pitfall was free shipping.  I was just about to pull the trigger on a $40 purchase, and just going to eat the shipping because didn't really want or need anything else.  But thought about it more carefully and thought of some things I could use.  Couldn't find what I needed and then just ended up shopping more.  Spent $100 on clothing and jewelry.  After that I circled back to some cute shoes I saw and resisted earlier, but at least found them cheaper on Zappos.  The clothing I will most likely just donate what I don't end up liking in person.  But the shoes I will 100% return if they don't fit (they likely won't).  

{During normal times, if I do shop online I would just go return in store.  In this case, not even sure if a local brick and mortar store exists.  Have expanded my shopping horizons a bit during the pandemic, trying other stores besides just the one in my neighborhood}.

That said, this is all very typical of my spending style.  I did look it up and I haven't bought any clothing in 3 months.  If I spend $150-ish every 3 months, that's my $600 per year *blow money*.  

The line between clothing and *blow money* is probably blurry.  In this case, was 100% nothing I needed whatsoever, and so was obviously *blow money*.

Edited to add:  Shoes arrived and did not fit.  As expected.  I would pay anything pretty much, for shoes that fit my feet.  Makes my total spending $100, but won't get the return processed until next month.


Onion Fritters Recipe

January 26th, 2021 at 02:23 am

Onion Fritter recipe:

This was the easiest recipe.  So I figured I would share.

MH is really not into anything greasy or deep fried.  In that vein, I just got a small frying pan and covered the bottom of the pan with oil.  With the small pan, wasn't using tons of oil, and was never going to use as much oil as the recipe called for.   

But...  Because it was a small pan, once I filled it with onion/batter, the oil covered half the fritters anyway.  The first few came out absolutely perfect.  My husband commented on maybe turning down the heat or cooking longer on some of the later ones, because they were more doughy.  I told him it was because I was running out of oil and they were less "deep fried".  Which I knew would overall be his preference (doughy) if the alternative was just more oil.  I don't think anyone really cared, there were none left when I was done making them.


January 20 & 21

January 24th, 2021 at 11:02 pm

January 20


Dinner:  Black Bean Soup

This was an instant pot recipe that MH tried before.  I told him to put it on my list to make this week.  It was so good and so easy to throw together, I told him to just put it in the rotation every grocery run. 

It calls for dry black beans.  Takes about 1 hour to cook (getting to pressure and cooking) and probably about 1/2 hour of slow pressure release.  

The one thing I would do differently is start earlier.  Is a good recipe for a work-at-home day.



January 21


Dinner:  Loaded Bake Potato Soup (Instant Pot) & Onion Fritters

The bacon we had on hand had gone bad.  But the soup came out really good without the bacon.  

I just happened to see an onion fritter recipe that looked really good/easy.  Decided to do the second dinner thing again.  Though probably worked out as a good side with the potato soup.  I just didn't get around to making it until after dinner.

MH *loves* onions.  I have no idea why on earth I never made a recipe like this before.  It was so good and everyone went crazy for them.


January 22nd, 2021 at 02:10 pm

I just received an email that they are stopping the free car charging program we have been using.

Shouldn't be a surprise, but wasn't particularly on my radar.  Their Plan A was to actually turn it off like the week we bought our electric car.  !!  But with COVID, they extended discount and free rates.  In the end, sounds like they extended for 5 months.

This means that all the chargers on our Tahoe route are no longer free like we have gotten used to.   Bay Area chargers will no longer be discounted like we have gotten used to.  

How this changes things:

When we do these road trips, we will stop just long enough to get enough charge to get home.  We won't stop at all if we don't need to.

I expect this is a change we were heading towards regardless.  We did a Bay Area run a couple of months ago where we just stopped long enough to get home.   & I suppose is technically what we did last weekend too.

When we cross that bridge we will work through the math.  I don't remember what the cost was off the top of my head.  Maybe slightly cheaper than gas?  But if we pay roughly 1/3-1/4 the cost of gas when we charge at home, and we only need to charge up 30-ish miles to get home, then clearly we still come out ahead. 

I was also thinking this might change the playing field for a longer road trip, which we have yet to test out.  In the end, it doesn't matter because these charges were just between Monterey and Tahoe.  Any longer road trip would take us well beyond this range.  Though...  There was a fair amount of free charging opportunities for the one So Cal school that MM is considering along the coast.  I just don't know yet if that will matter at all.

I do think we hit a good sweet spot.  I know these perks are phasing out because more and more people are driving electric.  The plus side is I think we hit a better sweet spot as to number of chargers.  In fact, they just installed a fast charger right by my parents' home.  That is super convenient for us.   I expect that today we can drive wherever we want to, without worrying about infrastructure.  This is more true today than it was just 6 months ago.  & it keeps getting better. 

Edited to add:  MH pointed out we no longer have to limit ourselves to a small handful of (free) chargers, which I guess will make our life easier.  The chargers we used were never in use and were in convenient spots, so it will be interesting to see if things change.   If a few key chargers on our route are the ones we have already tried and will stick to.  We were already planning to use the not-free new charger right by my parents', so convenience was going to win out anyway.  It will be interesting to see if our preferences otherwise change.


January 21st, 2021 at 03:13 pm

Every one of our age 65+ CA relatives have received round 1 of COVID vaccine.  Woohoo!

I feel like I have to pinch myself, I must be dreaming.

The exception...  Some allergy (a flu vaccine ingredient) was incorrectly noted in my Dad's file and by the time he got that cleared up, he had to wait two weeks to get his first shot.  I am really upset about that.  He probably has the most health risk of all of them, which is why I am upset.  But I did see yesterday some headline that it could take 4 months to get through all the 65+ in our state.  It gives me some perspective.  Clearly he is still very front of the line, and I should just be grateful he was only delayed two weeks.

This was such good news, it warranted a separate blog post.

We are most definitely not out of hell yet, but there's some significant strides in a better direction this week.


January 18 & 19

January 21st, 2021 at 02:40 pm

January 18


Dinner:  pasta with sausage and artichokes

MH put the recipe away and I don't remember the formal name.  Just something he threw together on the stovetop.  

I had figured I would likely work from home on Monday, due to emergency stuff the night before.  In the end, I got home at a reasonable enough time Sunday night.  Working any less in the office just gets too complicated.  So I decided I had enough sleep to be able to go into the office.

It was nice working the Holiday.  It felt like I got more ahead instead of more behind.  Phew!  Hadn't really anticipated that, but it was strangely quiet.  It was well needed after the last few work weeks.

Hell froze over and I had the energy to get some chores done around the house after I got home.  As an early bird, the flip side is that I am pretty useless after work.  So it felt good to get some stuff done that needed to be done.

Oh yeah, and the weather was *gorgeous* today.  72F degrees at some point, I took a half hour walk in the middle of the day.  I always walk, but it felt nice to get some so much sun, and did a slightly longer walk than usual.

In the evening, I was craving pancakes (the ones I recently made were so good).  I figured my kids could use a second dinner anyway.  They did not disappoint.  The kids devoured their second dinner.  I later saw MM(17) going back for cereal and ice cream.  (& I am sure that is not all he ate, is just what I saw).  He ran 8 miles.  Which is more than he has ran in about 6 months, so I expect some major food spending in our near future.  In full training mode, he will run 8 miles most days.  That is when our grocery bill gets insane.  



January 19


Dinner:  Sausage & Kale Soup (Instant Pot)

Tried a new recipe that was an A+.  It was pretty much Zuppa Toscana without the cream.  I like it better without.  I think everyone in my house did.  It was also beans instead of potatoes, so probably quicker to throw together.


January 17, UGH

January 21st, 2021 at 02:34 pm

January 17

$12 Fast Food

$0 Fuel 

Dinner:  Chickpea Tikka Masala (Instant Pot)

January 17th = UGH!

It was such a typical 2018/2019/2020 day for me.  What sums up these years is infinite disasters and emergencies, all very up/down, but usually nothing much comes of it.  

I made a comment to MH a few weeks ago, "It's a wonder that our parents can take care of themselves at all, any more."  Which I think sums it up pretty well.

Oh but first I do have to back up.  It was probably the best day I had in *years*.  It was so calm and peaceful.  The start of the day, anyway.  I took a very long nap (smart) and tackled some very long put off chores. 

In the morning I tried a new pancake recipe which came out great.  This was motivated when cleaning off the table and finding some syrup packets from some to-go dinner probably 10 months ago.  The pancakes were great and the syrup is gone.  Phew!

Just as I was gearing up post-nap for round 2 of chores my mom called to say she was at the hospital.  Which is horrifying by itself, but during a pandemic with mostly no ICU capacity...  This was just probably some of the worst news I could imagine.  My Dad had to wait for this week of all weeks, to end up in the hospital.

But I was probably more concerned about my mom, who is diabetic and is also not comfortable with driving (nor should she be driving).  She was stuck in the hospital parking lot.  I suppose I could have found someone (or she could have) to drive her home.  But I didn't know if I my Dad would end up hospitalized, so we dropped everything to get my mom taken care of and to give her some emotional support.  Is a 2-hour drive from my city to their city.

I had recently burned off the old gas in the hybrid and only put two new gallons in the car.  We quickly decided to just take the electric car.  Would get us there faster (no stops to fuel) and there would probably be some "Waiting around" anyway.  Figured MH could charge up the car while I took care of my mom.

In the end, my Dad got released about the time we got to their city (and was fine to drive).  Plan A was probably going to be to visit with my parents while MH charged the car. 

It took us about 20 minutes to get to my parents' house, after getting the news my Dad was free, which gave MH and I some time to talk it out and clear our heads.  My Dad just had been in a COVID-filled hospital, my mom must be exhuasted, and they are literally getting their vaccines in DAYS...  I decided not to go into their house at all.  Obviously drove all that way and visited with them briefly.  Just didn't stay long or go inside their house.

We left, grabbed some fast food and stopped at a charger we have stopped at before.  This time it was free if we just reserved ahead.   We needed to eat and I appreciated the pause and time out.  It was 9pm at that point and we got home around 11pm.

I don't really know what is going on with my Dad.  He has heart problems and so overall nothing new.  They resolved pretty quickly (about 6 hours) with meds. 

{Dinner side note: MH had been in the middle of cooking dinner, so handed off to the kids to finish preparing}.

We had some other dramas on this day that made it very 2018/2019/2020. & we had many more days like this in 2019.  It's just been a little more calm on this front (2020) with my Dad home 24/7 and my mom needing less assistance from me.  MH and I have been bonding over this because in 2019 we had often been traveling together to take care of our parents.  Or when I was too buried with work stuff, MH would just go take care of all of them.  If he was helping his parents with stuff, might as well check on my parents too.  We were talking about it recently (it's a wonder they can survive on their own) because his parents were being particularly needy a few weeks ago. 


January 15 & 16

January 18th, 2021 at 02:40 pm

January 15


Dinner:  Hearty Penne Beef

MH was sad that there was no leftovers with last night's dinner (read beans and rice).  It was *10* servings.  I don't know if there was any left at lunch time, but I did see MM(17) take two *giant* bowls that night.  & it was all gone by the next night.  Both kids are going through a growth spurt, plus MM(17) is also training more for track these days.  There's some element of always feeling like we feed way more than 4 people (and have doubled most of our recipes in recent years).  But...  It's probably been kind of quiet for a few month.  Sports plus a double growth spurt is a lot.  Both kids are definitely taller this week.


January 16


Dinner:  Indian spiced lentils (crockpot)

This is a dinner that makes a lot.  MH was hopeful that maybe this meal would last more than a day.  Fingers crossed.

It's hard to guage because everything is so weird.  But...  I don't necessarily expect much change in our spending when things normalize.  Traditionally most of our day-to-day spending is gas and groceries.  With the electric cars, that just leaves groceries.  

I think the long NSD run (about a week) is more about the electric cars that anything else.  We did drive about 350 miles this month, so far.  I just charge the cars overnight, plugging them in when I get home.  (During the surge, I am commuting to work three times per week).

We are also in one-income mode.  Except early in the month when MH thought we would be getting $2K-ish in unemployment funds this month.  Since then, our spending is nothing.  One-income mode is a lot of it. 

GREAT NEWS TODAY:  I let go of my last remaining side client!  Woohoo!  It will be more official the end of January once I wrap up everything and send my final invoice.  But I think I am about 99% of the way there.  I stuck with them for 2020, mostly being too nice.  But, I had given myself a hard deadline of not helping them past 2020 accounting year.  I did not want to draw out any of that red tape into 2021.  I wrapped up their 2020 books this weekend and I can move on now.

It's been more about helping my clients through a rough patch (especially as we got passed 2019).  With our assets surpassing $1 mil and with a very good job, I have no intentions, plans or desire to work any more than the 9-5 at my day job.  This is the first time in 30 years that I can say this and it feels awesome.  Have been here kind of for a couple of years, but life has generally been insane and I guess I still had some of this side work to get rid of to make it official. 

{Age 15-45 I mostly always worked multiple jobs.  The exception was about 20 years where I had one job and a busy tax season with lots of paid OT}.  

January 14

January 17th, 2021 at 03:54 pm

January 14


Dinner:  Red Beans & Rice (Instant Pot)


This was a redo of a recipe that MH tried before.  It was too watery the first time, which has been a common Instant Pot experience.  But when talking to MH he told me he added extra water the first time because "it didn't look like enough."  I do think some recipes after that were just too watery (when recipe was followed).  But anyway, this one went better this time just following the recipe.  😁

MH is on the road to resolving his primary unemployment issue (they froze his account due to suspected identity fraud).  I don't think he could be any more boring on this front, having not moved for 20+ years, so it was pretty fast/easy to confirm his identity.  Now we wait...  In the meantime the unemployment department had another computer glitch that affected MH.  It just goes on and on and on...

We had personally decided it wasn't worth the hassle to re-apply when his last extention expired.  Is a very part-time/seasonal job (very small benefits) and it was just red tape hell last year.  But...  They just renewewed him automatically and now there is more Fed stimiluls that most definitely makes it worth the hassle.   It's been a little up/down, as it changes every five minutes if I think he will ever get these benefits.  

Yeah, MH came to me the other day and asked me for help to "reopen his claim" because they sent him a message.  We didn't rule it out because mostly nothing has ever made any sense with the unemployment office.  But it was weird enough I told MH, "I'd just give it a minute," and MH agreed.  The more we talked about it and put our heads together.  I just happened to see the next day (in the news) that was a computer glitch that they were aware of, that they were fixing, and that anyone who did "reopen their claim" just made a bigger mess.  So at least we dodged that bullet.  But now we are also waiting for the state to fix that mess too.


January 13

January 15th, 2021 at 03:07 pm

January 13


Dinner:  Chicken Fajita Subs


This is one of my favorite dinners.  It is not a new recipe.

Work was kind of absurd today.  Just a "full moon" kind of day.  Lots of drama.  

Better silver lining this day:  They bumped age 65+ to the front of the vaccine line in our state.  Right or wrong, I am selfishly very happy.  Our parents should be able to get vaccinated soon!  They have to sort out logistics of course, and all of our counties have since said, "We aren't ready yet".  But that makes me happy too because 95yo GMIL should definitely have a higher priority.  For all of them, it will be soon.

All the actual and real scientific information re: the vaccine (versus whatever random rumors are spread on the internet) are just too good to be true, honestly.  It has all sounded very promising, but I also haven't paid much attention since I felt comfortable with the safety of the vaccines.  Anyway, I saw a great talk yesterday (put on by a local science museum).  Had a lot of good information.  The light just gets brighter at the end of this tunnel.  If anyone is interested I can try to find a link.  There was still a lot of questions that remained and were addressed in this video, like how long will we need to wear masks, can we see our parents when they are vaccinated, can we still spread the disease after vaccination, when can kids get vaccinated?  The answers to most of the questions are all very promising.  


January 12

January 13th, 2021 at 02:48 pm

January 12


Dinner:  Red Thai Curry (Instant Pot)


DL(15) also made some hummus.  He tried a new recipe, it turned out really well.

I don't know what on earth is going on but, we got taken off lockdown with 9% or 10% ICU capacity.   ????  Was supposed to stay on lockdown until back above 15%.  I can't help but wonder if it's politically motivated (caving to pressure) and seems incredibly premature.  On the flip side, mostly no one is adhering to the lockdown so maybe it just doesn't matter.  It was probably more about getting people to use their brains over the Holidays, which as far as I can tell did not work whatsoever.  

Crossing my fingers that it's not just politics and they actually know something (they are going off projections, and things seem to be moving in a good direction).  

Nothing will change for us personally, it is very dire right now.   I don't want to be contributing to the stress on the healthcare system.

I saw last night that one of MM's friends was accepted to the local State college (saw this on Facebook).  Wow, that makes it all very REAL!  4 out of 5 colleges that MM(17) applied to are crazy competitive (including another State college) so I don't expect to have any news of any sort for a while.  But...  His "safety school" and the most under-rated college he applied to is our alma mater (yet another State college).  I don't know what to call it because it would also be an excellent choice and could also be his first choice.  It's more than just a safety school.  But, it is the one college where his acceptance is guaranteed and I wonder when he will get that official word.  Maybe any day now.


January 11

January 12th, 2021 at 02:23 am

January 11

$ 260  Dentist

$ 331 Groceries

Dinner: Spaghetti


Both MH and DL had dentist appointments Monday. 

MH had mostly settled on 'every 10 days' grocery runs but with the Holidays and surge is now on a "once every two weeks" buying cycle.  It was a big grocery run, but the way the timing of the runs work out this month I think it will be a low grocery month.  $330 x 2 would be $660, or well below our $850 grocery budget.  Which pretty much never happens and is why I think it's somewhat just timing.  Will see...

I glanced at 2020 and we did have a $556 month in September 2020.  I guess it happens, once in a blue moon. 

Bay Are ICU capacity dropped to about 0% on this day.  We are in hell.  Between that and planned riots in our city.  I expect the next 10 days or so to just be some sort of crazy hell.  We have way too many loved ones in the Bay Area who are not in good health.  This has always been the most obviously concering part of the pandemic.  & so here we are at rock bottom.  (Lord forbid if they need any medical care whatsoever).

Silver lining:  GMIL should be able to get her vaccine any day now.  

I think COVID hit our circles (thus far) the hardest last winter when we had no idea what was going on.  I think it's likely I had COVID in Nov 2019.  That one is a little more out there and iffy.  (I think this mostly because of the pure look of confusion on my Doctor's face.  I had also never been so sick before, and it was attacking my lungs).  For reference, we were never really that concerned when GMIL likely had COVID last January (Hindsight 20/20, very likely COVID).  I overheard MH tell her that, "Monkey Mama was 1,000 times more sick than you are right now."  We were concerned because of her age, but at the time were both kind of, "Pfffft, she will be fine."  & we appreciated that reference because MH's family is 100 miles away and they were being crazy hysterical.  It was one look at her (on skype) and kind of, "She doesn't seem THAT sick."  The hospitals were full at the time and though the plan initially was to admit her, they weren't able to.  I think that could have saved her life.  If that wasn't COVID, she most definitely would have picke up COVID (or anything else) in the hospital.  There was nothing normal about that whole thing. 

At the same time, a family friend of ours (my age) randomly dropped dead.  Hindsight 20/20, obviously COVID.   A very young (early 20s) co-worker was also deathly ill at that time, they had no idea what was wrong with her.  I didn't know if she would make it.  Everyone just presumed she had what I had, though I had literally stayed home for 3 weeks and probably was another 2-3 weeks after that before she started getting ill.  But...  Of course now we know that it COVID spreads like crazy and is mostly asymptomatic, so I suppose it could have been what I had.  

I share because what I had been thinking was that maybe that was the *worst* of it, when we had no idea what on earth is going on and how to treat it.  Things have seemed to get a lot better over the past year.  But...  Now that we are in hell, it is a reminder that winter and flu season is just going to be the worst of it.  It's unfortunately Round 2.


January 8 - 10

January 11th, 2021 at 06:11 am

January 8

January 9

January 10
$2 Birthday Gift for MH
Dinner: Chicago Pizza & Blackberry Cobbler

The kids' got a gift for MH (on Amazon).  I just ordered it and after they gave me $20 to cover the purchase, I realized there was $2 tax tacked on.  I just covered the tax, so $2 of the gift will be from me.  

MH and I don't buy each other gifts.  Haven't since we did the one-income/kids thing. 

I had some frozen blackberries left over from when I tried a new recipe for Christmas.  Decided to just make it again and use up the rest of the blackberries.  Is a very simple and delish crockpot recipe.

I am not going to go back and figure out dinners the first 9 days of the month.  But...  I generally throw in our dinners when tracking spending.

MH is planning a big grocery run tomorrow.  We discussed briefly re: what meals I wanted to make (he does 99% of the cooking).  Last two weeks was mostly new Instant Pot dinners, and it looks like that is the plan for the next two weeks.  We've been using the new Instant Pot just about every day.  Today I did some hard boiled eggs (this is probably my favorite thing about it, such a time saver).  

So...  Will be a lot of trying new recipes the rest of the month.


January 1 - 7

January 11th, 2021 at 05:31 am

January 1
$53 MH Allowance Spending
$18 Monkey Mama Allowance Spending

I ended up buying myself something on Etsy.  MH made a few purchases.

We have some "forever" personal spending budget of $600 per year (no questions asked) spending that we generally stick to.  I'd say that most of my allowance spending is clothing (when it comes to clothes I clearly don't need) and most of MH's allowance spending would be movies.  The kind of stuff that we just don't *get* about each other.  But it's a pandemic and this does not describe whatsoever our curent spending.  It was just random stuff.


January 2


January 3
$160 College Applications (Done!)
$ 22  Table Cloth 

I think I replaced a 10-year-old table cloth?  I don't know, the dining table was piled high with crap and the old plastic cover I had was thrashed.  (When I looked up on Amazon to see if I could find it and the size of the plastic cover, it was 10 years ago).  It was time for a change, but I also needed some motivation to tackle the mess.  It is done... 

I told MH I wanted to pretend it was a possibility that we would host people in our house again (soon).  


January 4
$50 Script/Movie Purchases
$25 MH Allowance

I probably would have just thrown this all under MH's allowance, but he mentioned to me the other day he got a couple of humble bundles of assets he could use for future movie productions.  MH is so cheap/frugal he pretty much never spent a penny on his movie script writing aspirations the first 10 years or so.  These days, he is still being crazy frugal, but is willing to at least spend something on it.  Humble Bundle is generally where you get a bundle of software in return for a donation (is how I understand it, or how MH and kids usually participate). 


January 5

January 6

January 7

In the end, I noticed all the charges MH was doing and was thinking he was going a little crazy.  He told me later about the movie assets, which makes sense.  He then mentioned because he had not been expecting unemployment whatsoever that yeah, felt like he had some money to blow.

In the end, they froze his benefits (due to massive fraud investigation) so lord knows...  I think that's insane because they just want to verify his identity.  You know, the guy with the same address for 20 years, and same job for past several years.  But...  I don't know, maybe someone else applied in his name.  I just feel for people who rely on this money.  Whatever, we are just along for the ride.  (They also randomly stopped his benefits last year, I couldn't tell you why or how they ever fixed it.  None of it ever made any sense.  They jiggered with his account so much, I wouldn't  be surprised if that is why his account is frozen now).


January Spending

January 11th, 2021 at 05:28 am

I think I am going to do a tracking spending month.  A little late to the table, with it already being the 10th...   But I think it's just a good way to dive back into the minutiae and to get some more regular blogging.

In the end, our 2019 spending was the same as 2020.  We are boring like that.  We did actually spent $8,000 less in 2020, but the only reason was because we paid cash for braces (x2) in 2019.   Random one-time large expenses aside, we spent the same both years.  

That said, we are just driving on electric miles these days and are mostly hunkered down (COVID surge is crazy here).  So...  It should be a lot more no-spend and/or lower spend than our usual.  

Other random things I want to jot down before diving into expenses...

DL(15) did get his braces off.  Woohoo!

MM(17) finished his college applications.

We received $50 cash (from in-laws) for Xmas, to do take out from our favorite restaurant.  The kids' also each received $50 cash.  I rounded up all the $50 today.  I haven't gone to any bank since the start of the pandemic (and probably the only reason I would ever go in the first place is to deposit cash).  But I think once this surge passes it will be worth getting some of our cash deposited.   (I just don't want to forget.  For now, I put the cash away and will probably forget about it otherwise).

2021 Goals

January 3rd, 2021 at 04:24 pm

I've already done some commentary on 2021 goals, but this is the "pretty" version.

For now, these are pre-college goals.  To be re-evaluated as college decisions sort out in the next few months.

This is also a one-income goal year, presuming that MH is unemployed and that his unemployment funds are exhausted.  (You will see with the 'lower income' tax savings that the bottom line won't change much.  Goals will remain largely unchanged from prior year).


$12,000 to savings

...($0 @ 1/31/21)

...$900/month, plus interest.

...Topping off with snowballs

Can squeeze a lot more out of my paycheck with the whole reduced income *no tax* thing.

This may be redirected to college expenses.


$1,200 to mortgage

...($0 @ 1/31/21)

...Funded with snowballs

I had mostly decided to give up any extra mortgage payments (during college years), but then I got the stimulus money (round 2) and decided to just front load this goal. 


$12,000 to IRAs 2021 (MAX)

...($0 @ 1/31/21)

...Will fund with MH's income, or by shifting taxable investments into IRAs (if MH remains unemployed)

...Will not fund until the year is over.  This is for tax and planning reasons.  I won't know what mix of Traditional/ROTH IRA we literally can contribute until we do our 2021 taxes.  In addition to that, can make a more informed decision based on our financial and tax situation for the entire year.


Last minute add:

[ ]Pay cash for college

...This is so much a given, to me.  But I realize not everyone can read my mind, and so will memorialize in my goal list.

Details to follow...   First, we need college acceptances and real #s to work through.


Net Worth Update 2020

January 2nd, 2021 at 02:10 pm

I am just going to mix in current commentary with prior year commentary.

2019: +$105,000! Wow, what a year! My money worked harder than I did this year, for sure.

2020:  +$104,000

2019: We paid down the mortgage by $9,000 and the rest was stock market contributions and gains. 

2020:  We paid down the mortgage by $10,000, purchased a newer vehicle, and the rest was stock market contributions and gains.


2019: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $340,000 cash/investments. For the first time, we could do this with only cashing out about 1/2 our ROTH IRA and all of our taxable investments. It's the first time we could leave everything else intact (emergency fund, kids' college, rest of retirement, etc.). I am not tempted yet, but honestly, if I had an additional $50k in investments, we could pay off our mortgage AND leave six figures in our ROTH IRA. At that point, I would probably be tempted. Especially with just cashing out at a peak. Taking the money and running. I've always said there is a tipping point. I just have never been so close to the tipping point. If my stocks go up $100k next year, I wouldn't rule it out.

2020: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $430,000 cash/investments. 

My stocks did not go up $100K, and we have college to figure out.  If not for college literally starting this year, and being so close to our $500K retirement goal...  I don't think the tipping point will be until the mortgage is under $100K; we just aren't quite there yet.  


2019: We need our net worth to continue to increase (on average) $50k per year to reach our Financial Independence goal at age 50.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2020:

Mortgage: Paydown $7,000

Investments: Contribute $4,000

Retirement: Contribute $21,000

Investment Returns: $18,000 (would need 4% gain)


Our net worth changes never look anything like our estimate (it's rare any asset class actually has an average year). But, I go through this exercise just to make sure my goal is realistic and doable.


Estimate Net Worth Change for 2021:

Mortgage: Paydown $8,500

Retirement: Contribute $8,500

Home Appreciation: $45,000


I am confident that we will have a home appreciation adjustment in 2021.  I did not adjust in 2020, because we've only had one home sell in our immediate neighborhood, at higher price.  I will give it some time before I update my net worth records. 

I am not going to rely on any stock market gains in 2021, to meet our goal. 

Lower retirement contributions are more realistic as MM(17) starts college.


P.S. We will likely hit the $1 mil mark with our assets this year. Just $30k to go... That will be a very exciting milestone. 

2020: DONE!  & yes, it was very exciting!  🎈🥳🎈

Not quite there with the net worth, because have the mortgage offsetting our assets.


P.S.S. Good Riddance to 2019! I wish I was more optimistic about 2020, but it's shaping up to be very difficult. I can only hope for some space whatsoever to breathe and process anything that is happening.

2020: More of the same.  Honestly, 2020 was by far the easiest year for me, of last 3 years.  Phew!  But...  What I expected to be difficult in 2020 is dealing with our parents' mental declines.  That has all kind of been put on pause during the pandemic, which means just kicking the can down the road.  Which means... I expect a very high stress and challenging 2021.  So, I once again leave a trying year without much hope for the upcoming year.

Back to the net worth commentary...

We have 6 years left on our "financial independence" goal.  We've started out so strong, that we have 6 years left to come up with $270,000.  That is $45,000 per year net worth growth that we are aiming for.  I think it's nice how it has worked out.  We expect to be saving less and possibly drawing down assets as we pay for college over the next 6 years.  $45,000 is a lower bar than we had been aiming for initially.  I expect a major push of working hard and getting college done without any debt.  But...  I am also feeling a lot of, "exceeded goals in recent years, so can chill as we get through the next few years."  The plan is to rely on our assets to do most of the work re: retirement and longer-term future.  That will be the "chill" part.

Edited to add:  Need +$25,000 to hit $1 Mil net worth in 2021!  Getting so close...

I will add this to my 2021 Financial Goals


2020 Goals Wrap Up

January 1st, 2021 at 05:06 pm

2020 Goals

$1,500 to investments

...($2,074 @ 12/31/20)

...Funded with snowflakes



STRETCH GOAL: +$3,000 mortgage

...I am moving 2018 mortgage goal here, to make up in 2020.  Will see how I feel in 2020, but right now I feel is doable.  It will also depend how college choices start to shake out end of 2020.  Definitely a 12/31 kind of decision.  



$12,000 to IRAs 2020 (MAX)

...($0 @ 12/31/20)

...Will fund with MH's income

...Will not fund until the year is over.  This is for tax and planning reasons.  I won't know what mix of Traditional/ROTH IRA we literally can contribute until we do our 2020 taxes.  In addition to that, can make a more informed decision based on our financial and tax situation for the entire year. 

...In the end, we put so much cash to mortgage, car purchase, retirement (tax avoidance) that we will most likely shift taxable investments to IRAs for 2020.  Will finalize IRA funding/source in April 2021.


We will get this done, with current cash and/or moving money from other accounts into IRAs.  Is not necessary in addition to mega 401K savings, but will move money around for the tax shelter.