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Archive for February, 2021

Gift Card Balances Feb 2021

February 25th, 2021 at 02:22 pm



$50 Barnes & Noble (we always gift these to FIL)




$100 Regal




$50 Cracker Barrel

$50 Olive Garden

$25 Chili's

$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Birthday Gift)




$ 100 x 1 Target (Emailed/paper gift cards)

$20 Target gift card (loaded to online account)

$24 Kohls credits ($20 + $4), in wallet

$ 75 Kohls ($50 + $25)

$50 Bed Bath & Beyond (for college dorm)


Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I guess I have nothing to add or change.

I bought a lightweight stick vacuum at Target, using up the last of the gift cards I had loaded to my online account.

I was a little thrown off that we had used *all* of our gift cards.  Until I remembered it was so much I didn't want to load it all to our online account.  

So I just remembered to check, and we still have $300 paper/emailed gift cards.  Which I no doubt noted in this post (last time) that these were paper gift cards, so that I would not forget.

Phew!  I am going to hang on to that $300 for college/dorm type expenses.  That was always the plan, which was why I was thrown off when I thought I had spent it all.

We had also talked about sending this last gift card to FIL but never did.  It can be a belated birthday gift.  Probably rather just give it to him and get it out of our hair.  


Starting to Feel Real

February 24th, 2021 at 02:47 pm

My baby is going away to college.  😭

Yeah, that was always the plan.  But this year is the *worst* to apply for college.  The colleges that MM has applied to have all had record numbers of applications this year (I read one college had 30% more applications than last year).  Also, they are holding spots for 'pandemic gap year'.

We were 99.99% sure he should be able to get into our alma mater.  It's an under-rated college that is impossible to beat from a cost/benefit standpoint.  It costs nothing, and is where all the Silicon Valley companies recruit from.  But this year is so weird, I have been thinking it's good we never looked down our nose at community college.

So yesterday morning when I woke up, MH told me, "Our baby is going away to college!"  I didn't know what that meant.  He told me he officially was accepted to our alma mater.  That he has somewhere to go.

It turns out he had also been accepted at the other State University that he applied for, just didn't realize until late the next day.  That is exciting because it has a much lower acceptance rate.  This was also the only school he applied for that is not in a high-cost region, so while their fees are a little higher than our alma mater, I expect that to be offset by their lower dorm costs and generally lower cost of housing in that region.

Yeah, when MM told me last night that he had more news, I couldn't even fathom what college he might have heard from.  Their official acceptance date was April 1, and everyone is pushing back their acceptance dates.  I was most definitely not expecting to hear back from two colleges this week!

This week is just notice of acceptance, with details to follow.  But I have enough information to share.

Tuition and fees at our alma mater:  $31,000.  <---  That is total for 4 years (sticker price)

In addition, there is a state grant that I believe was $2K per year.  & MM is a kid who will get some scholarships.  I'd be surprised if we paid more than $15K?

This is precisely why we have never set aside any large dollars specifically for college. 

Community college was very much on the table for the UC route (the more expensive public colleges in our state).   They *beg* their kids to go the community college route and mostly no one listens.  This would have kept the cost at about $30K for a UC degree, if MM did first two years at community college (and likely also would be reduced by grants and scholarships).  I share because MM did not end up applying to any UCs and so we are not seriously considering community college at this point. 

We've got about 6 weeks to see how the private colleges shake out.  Maybe 7 weeks for that and financial aid.


January Wrap Up

February 20th, 2021 at 03:11 pm

Tracking spending (in blog) did help, it was a good way to get back into a blogging habit.  But having a calm month was probably the most of it.

That said, now I just want to take a break.  If life is calm whatsoever, I have a million things to catch up on.  So I may end up going the opposite way this month.

{I probably started this blog post 2+ weeks ago.  Clearly I went the opposite way; have not posted much.}

I do have January sum up of spending:



This is our 'variable' spending I guess, that I tracked daily in my blog.

In January 2020 we spent $152 on auto fuel (mostly gas), versus the $26 we spent last month.

In January 2021 we did receive 100 free miles of fuel, for the electric vehicle.  



We seem to be having a unicorn month with the grocery spending, having only spent $475 on groceries (done shopping for the month).  January was weird.  Two months of this is extra weird. ($900 is more our monthly spending level)  I wouldn't be surprised if MH ends up with a $400 grocery run (for just 10 days).  At some point, there's going to be a stocking up of something more expensive.  

The only other thing of note is that we did some extra spending with unemployment money.  I think I came up with $400-$500 already spent for the first half of this month (includes that hard drive, which didn't ship/charge until February).  Mostly MH supporting musicians/comedians with online concerts and investing in his movie making passions.  Which he was doing anyway, but is where he is redirecting his time and energy during this period of unemployment and pandemic.

We did receive my final side income check ($500) and $1800 of unemployment income.  It's all going to savings (February) because we pay all bills the first of the month.  February is done, so everything rolling in this month will get saved.  But will probably reduce this $500 (extra spending) or whatever it ends up being, from next month's unemployment checks.

I personally could care less about eating out and the kids seem fine.  (We never ate out much to begin with, is probably normal for the kids to go months without eating out).  But I recognize that I am not the one cooking dinner every night.  I brought up to MH the other day, reminded him I had some Christmas cash for a dinner out.  He told me it wasn't financial, he was just being COVID cautious.  I think he decided to order out this weekend.   

I do think that some of it is that we never did take-out or delivery before (with the exception of pizza) and we all feel, "Meh, we weren't missing anything."  Cold and soggy food, and always some mistake with the order.  Literally, we are only ordering from and supporting our favorite restaurant at this point.  Home cooking is so much better.  Already kind of felt that way but could find something redeeming (sometimes) eating out at a restaurant.  If the alternative is take-out, we'd rather just make our own meals.  Heck, I think MH is just ordering from this restaurant to be nice and to support them.  I don't get the sense it is something he is overly looking forward to.  He had plans this weekend and already asked me to cook dinner all weekend, so it's not like eating out is his only way to get a night off from cooking.  (I made dinner 3 nights this week, but it was an unusual week).



February 13th, 2021 at 03:55 pm

I think it's official that we hit $1 mil.  !!

It feels...  extremely anti-climactic and I don't feel at all like celebrating.  But... I think it's just that it took so long (a decade) to recover from the last recession and to get back to $500K after hitting it the first time.  It's not like we are in a sunshine and roses situation right now (the world as a whole).  So I think it's mostly hard for me to find much meaning in it.

I am sure just the overall state of things is not helping.  If we could plan some extravagant weekend away to celebrate, we might.

Will see how the year shakes out and if we can still boast $1 mil when we are in a more celebratory mood.

Then...  I noticed we hit another big goal!  This one I am more excited about.

I will back up a bit.  In 2014? we made a goal to have $500K in retirement funds by age 45.  This was a super aggressive goal.  What amazes me is that how often just thinking the goal is 90% of the battle.  It puts weight on it, you believe it is possible, your subconscious takes over.  Honestly, I didn't fully believe in this goal but I did think it was possible we could reach $450K retirement funds + $50K taxable investments (earmarked for retirement).  <---- It's this goal we have reached.  Currently $465k+$35K.  Because it was the combining of two amounts, I didn't even notice when we crossed the $500K mark.  

Since forming that goal in 2014: MH found a job, we received some substantial cash gifts and the market has been on an incredible bull run.  Surpassing this goal and making it early feels like sheer luck.  

I am not ready to check off this goal.  I have two more years to make the 'age 45' timeframe of this goal.  I now think it's plausible that we can literally hit $500K in retirement funds by then.  So will keep working towards that.

I am also reluctant to make any new goals while in college limbo.  It will be another couple of months before we have more clarity on the next 4 years.  


I did take yesterday off from work. 

2020 was supposed to be my first year (in 20-ish years) without a busy tax season.  Then 2020 went to hell.  So...  We try again?

Dec/Jan will always be crazy.  I just needed a break.

MH and I went on a pretty light hike close to home.  It was *amazing*.  It was only 1 mile to a waterfall.  We walk about 2 miles every day, and so wasn't ready to just turn around and go home.  We kept walking past the waterfall.  It had rained like crazy the night before and was pretty muddy.  I told MH, "I just wish there was somewhere we could just sit and enjoy the view for a while," not expecting that to pan out.  Turned the corner and there was a picnic bench.  !!  The view was amazing so we just sat there for probably an hour.  

{This was not *the* view, but was a view from the hike}

January 31

February 7th, 2021 at 02:03 pm

January 31


Dinner:  Chili (slow cooker, tried a new recipe)

Odometer update (January):

Hybrid: 300 miles

Electric: 575 miles

I probably roughly split the cars 50/50 for commute, plus we had an emergency out-of-town trip earlier in the month.

MM(17) seems to be resuming normal driving.  They are having track practice every day, so is same as when he drove to school every day.  I asked him to let me know his odometer number.

I did end up discovering a useful way to utilize audiobooks.  I had the energy to tackle a very neglected kitchen.  Was just about to start scrubbing when I decided I wanted to listen to my book.  I think I would actually clean once in a while if I had an audiobook to listen to.  


January 30

February 2nd, 2021 at 04:02 pm

January 30

$10 Online Concert/Show

Dinner:  Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers was a second time in the Instant Pot.  We love this recipe, but we can't figure out how to get the rice cooked.  This was try #2.  MH is just going to use cooked rice for the filling next time.  The peppers just come out so perfect.  I bet it tastes even better without uncooked rice.  😉

Reading another article about unemployment fraud and surprise tax statements, I asked MH to pull up his tax statement.  It's not ready yet, but we saw that his checks had been issued.  In the past we received a pile of checks literally the next day after he cleared a road block.  This was Friday, and he had called on Wednesday?  Not arrived yet but figured they'd be in the mail likely Saturday.

Yup, checks received today.  Roadblocks all clear.  Again.

I will front load mortgage goal for the year (I updated sidebar).  The rest went into savings.  Should get another $2,000-ish next week, which will top off our 2020 IRA funding.

I budgeted/planned for -$0- unemployment this year (and truly expected $0), so this money will all just be gravy.  MH's income would have gone to fund 2021 IRAs if he had a job, so that will be our next savings goal with extra funds.  Will also probably receive some stimulus to that end.  I expect the combo of the two will replace MH's very small income, this year.

MH bought a couple of livestream tickets the last couple of days.