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Archive for May, 2021

2021 Credit Card Rewards Tally

May 22nd, 2021 at 05:07 pm

2021 TALLY:

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 



**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31


I just applied for a credit card reward.  The reward is $800 cash, minus $95 annual fee.  Plus some extra $50 grocery reward and the possibility to get an extra 25% back on some categories?  At the least, should be $750 cash back.

Edited to add:  Ended up being $800 cash back

It's a quadruple dip I did last year.  Will have MH quadruple dip this year.  Which means we will have both done this reward 4 times.

My motivation?  I was thinking about it because I was closing my Sapphire card (before another annual fee kicked in).   

But my motivation this time around is trying to come up with college money.  The scholarships are *ridiculous* this year.  Like $500 scholarships where you need three letters of recommendation and have to write an essay and spend hours on an application.  Meh.  I thought one day, "It would be easier to do a credit card reward."  Which generally work out to about $1,000 per hour of effort.

So...  I looked it up, the reward was really good, and have already gotten MH approved for this card.

I had been kind of counting on college money and scholarships to cover dorm start up costs and a laptop for MM(17).  But the scholarships have been frustrating.  The really big generous scholarship our CU does every year, they had unrealistic community service requirements during a pandemic, in my opinion.  It was $20K that we let go.  & then all these $500 ones have ridiculous requirements.  I don't think it's just us.  The school emailed us the other day that no one had applied for this or that scholarship.  It was one that wasn't too ridiculous, but MM(17) was too busy and I told him I was kind of over it anyway.  I totally understand that he didn't have the time and energy.  

I had kind of figured he'd get some money from family and maybe a scholarship from the school (he is top of his class).  But...  Then a Grandparent sent MM $20 the other day.  & then I remembered how cheap my family is.  LOL.  (That's probably $20 more than anyone from my family will send him).  So I think that was also some extra motivation to hustle.  

I do also have a $300 Target gift card.  So I figure $750 + $300 is a good start to get him all set up for school (dorm, computer, etc.).  My in-laws will give him too much money I am sure.  There is also that.  This is a good start to get costs covered, and I will consider anything else to just be gravy.

Edited to add:  Discussed later with MH and MM.  We tracked down computer specs and MH priced one out (today) at $750.  Is just what it happened to come out to.  If MM(17) wants some extra computer capabilities, he can contribute towards a more expensive computer.

Second edit:  Just saw a $1,000 reward offer on this credit card.  Yeesh!  I really missed the boat!  Could have squeezed out another $200.   MM(17) will be 18 soon but I doubt he has the credit needed for this card.  


Kid Money Update

May 22nd, 2021 at 02:12 pm

I will start with DL(15) who is more at the starting line.  

He's really dragging his feet working on his driver's license.  Which is driving MH crazy because he wants to go back to work full-time.  Anyway, DL is a personality that needs to be pushed.  It is what it is.  I think we are trying to give him a little space, but with his 16th birthday next month we are going to start pushing more.  I'd like him to start 2022 with a license.

In the meantime, I may or may not have a summer job lined up for him.  I've told my boss my kids' availability and he is considering everything.  But I just realized, only 3 more weeks of school!  So I will probably push a little bit on Monday and see if DL(15) needs to get a work permit.  It's been a little up in the air because my office is mostly being vaccine adverse (UGH).  So at first we decided DL(15) would not work in my office.  But then he was able to get the vaccine, much earlier than we ever expected.  Phew!  

It doesn't really matter, he won't have any expenses until he gets his license and needs insurance.  We won't expect him to pay gas or anything while he is still learning.  He is not doing sports and pretty much refuses to do anything extra-curricular after school.  He is the polar opposite of his brother in many ways.  So...  I think it's more likely he will probably pick up a more traditional teen job, do 16 hours per week more year round.  Something like that.  If I can get him some job experience and money at my office this summer, will make the working transition easier and give him some extra money before he turns 16.   Though I guess with the labor market, there are more jobs opening up to 15yos.

I am pulling up his financial situation to see where he is at.  He is exactly like his brother in that he is a money hoarder.  He's probably the more spendy of the two, but he has managed to save about $1,400 from his $2 per week allowance (during the last 10 years).  He may also have some generous grandparents, and a bank account that pays 7% interest.   We personally do the allowance thing from a young age so the kids learn how to manage their money well before they can get $20/hour jobs in their teen years.  (It's good to learn this before you dive head first into mega money and no expenses).  Because of the high minimum wage here, whatever, we are not paying them any allowances past age 16.  It's completely unnecessary.

I think DL(15)'s money hoarding will pay off and he can probably get away with not worrying about a job this summer.  We will just roll with it, however it works out.  Car insurance will run him about $1,000 per year, so he's going to need a job at some point.  Cars aren't cheap, best to learn that now.

My kids were gifted an old car from Grandparents.  The rule is just that they have to share.  They are welcome to a free car, but they can pay all the expenses. 

I probably haven't gotten around to posting about it, but MM(17) chose a college where he can pretty easily go car-free for 4 years.  Being a mega money hoarder, he wants to try to go carless (maybe indefinitely).  Will see.  For the first year it's pretty much impossible to have a car there, so not much choice.  DL(15) needs the car for a couple of years anyway, so it works out pretty well.  Afer that, we will re-evaluate.  If MM(17) wants a car at that point (in two years), he can probably take the car back.  & I think by then he should have enough cash to buy a much nicer/newer car, but it also seems pointless (buying a nice car) living in a college town with mostly new drivers.  

This is getting so long, I will do a separate money post re: MM and can do a rough college money post.


Electric Car Updates

May 19th, 2021 at 12:53 pm

I heard last year that there was some retroactive tax credit for installing car chargers in your home.  We amended our tax return about a year ago and just got the refund check.  With interest, was about $250.

{These retroactive tax changes are driving me crazy!!  Much to my favor, but makes it hard to plan.  Should just be grateful I no longer work in tax and that it's just my own tax returns to worry about and constantly amend.}

We also returned from our beach vacay.  The hotel we always stay at is about 10 miles past the college that MM(17) will be attending.  We already did a very rushed 2-day trip in May.  It was fine and clearly the electric car is absolutely fine for this trip (600 miles roundtrip).  But we went an entirely different way this trip and had more time to be a little more efficient and to choose less expensive chargers.  Very roughly, might have spent $40 on our first trip (with very little time or planning).  Is a $75 gas fuel trip in our gas sipper (current gas prices), and we probably got it down to $30-$35 this last time. (I will get the exact dollar amount, below).  Of course, it will be cheaper when MM(17) is at college and we can use the free college chargers.  There's also a garage near the campus with chargers, at $1 per hour.  So we will have some good options.

This time, we went an entirely different route, stopped at different chargers, etc.  Last time we didn't see another soul charging.  This time we saw a lot more people.  Strangely, the busiest charger was in the sleepy little beach town we were staying at.  I'd expect to see more people charging closer to the Bay Area?  But the beach was a good stopping point for driving down to LA.

We did stop in the Bay Area to see family on the way down, but this was the first time we decided not to also stop and charge.  It makes more sense to charge when the battery is lower.  Then it charges back up more quickly.  So we let it go (though we were stopped anyway).  There's no lack of chargers to choose from on the 101.  So we went both ways on the 101 this time (which is the same distance as coming back more inland on I-5.  I-5 currently lacks chargers).  <---& even that I think is probably moot.  It's just going to take us some time to get more comfortable with the car and how it behaves on this trip.  We seem to be perpetually over-estimating by 50 miles (always having 50 miles left when we get to our destination).  It really isn't that big of a deal to come back I-5, there's certainly more than ample chargers.  I think we just enjoyed the more choice of going the 101 route.  Probably more psychological than anything.

We spent $32 charging (out and about).  Technically $37, including charging the car up fully at home before leaving (about $5 for a full charge).  Total miles driven: 665

Plugged in at home overnight and started out with a full charge.

Stop 1, about half way (150 miles).  Stopped for lunch which was *divine*.  Stopped for 1/2 hour and gained 100 miles of range. 

Car range is roughly 240 miles.  Destination was 300 miles.  Added 100 miles on the drive, so had 40-ish miles left when we reached the hotel.  We did stop and drive around the Bay Are a bit.

We did also use free fast chargers at the rest stops, but those were purely bathroom stops we'd do anyway.  We ended up with about 70 free miles from pit stops (one stop each way).

There's two ways to play the recharge for the trip home.  You can spend some time at a slower charger or you can fast charge (most efficient from about 20% to 80%).  Or I guess a combo of both.  It was a pleasant surprise to find out that the beloved hotel I have been going to my whole life, that they had chargers!  I am guessing in the future we will get whatever free charging we can get on the college campus and can just top off at the hotel.  This time we just lucked out.  We had a couple of errands we wanted to run and those were all right next to the fast charger.  So the next day we went over there and ran errands and added 140 miles to the car.  Took about an hour, but we just charged while we were busy running into a few stores.  This charger was walking distance to the hotel and to our favorite restaurants so this will be an easy lunch stop in the future.  

The thing about the hotel charger was that it is expensive.  Electrify America chargers are roughly 1/2 the cost of gas (for our car).  The hotel slow charger was about the cost of gas.  Electricity at home is roughly 1/3 the cost of gas, for reference.  I think the charging at home and the charging at the hotel kind of offset and overall still kept our fuel costs very low.

After we got back to the hotel we just plugged in and charged (to top it off) while we lounged by the pool.  We could have just been even more lazy and left it plugged in overnight.  But at that point we just needed 60 miles.  It took about 2.5 hours to top off.  The slow chargers are nice for somewhere you will be all night (or day) anyway.

On the way home we stopped mid-way again (same place) and stopped for 45 minutes for about 130 miles.

Had 50 miles left when we got home.  It will take some time to just get used to the drive/car.  It depends so much on the terrain, how much A/C you use, etc. that we honestly weren't sure if we had enough to get home and if we may have to stop again.  But we decided we were ready to go and could always stop 5 minutes for a top off if we needed to.  *shrugs*  Of course, we expected really heavy traffic.  It wasn't so bad, but there was enough stop-and-go for us to have 50 miles left when we got home.  Without the stop-and-go I think we'd have enough left, but maybe just 20 or 30 miles.  Braking regenerates energy.

I personally find the electric car more convenient than gas for around town and for our frequent Bay Area trips (we now need less fuel stops for that trip, and is a trip we make 1-2 times per month). Before, we'd have to make sure we had a full tank before we left or stopped on the way.  We always refueled on the way home so that we had gas left for the work week.  Now we just have to make one small stop, and even that is probably just being on the safe side.  If we ever hit any traffic on that drive, stopping to fuel is not necessary.

600 mile road trip = *shrugs*  It 1000% depends on your personality.  I said to my friend, "You have to stop and eat anyway" and she looked at me like I was crazy.  Okay, sure, most our friends rather leave at 6pm on a Friday to get to LA at midnight.  That is so not us.  We always stop and picnic at the rest stops, and take our time.  As they put in more free chargers at the rest stops, that is 1000% what we will do, but what we did before anyway.  Finding out our hotel had a charger though, certainly made life easier.   & this trip we were very much just wanting to rest and recharge our batteries.  We didn't really drive anywhere else.  In the future, we may want to travel a little farther and explore.  So being able to just plug in when we get to the hotel and not think about it (just wake up the next day with a full charge), that will definitely be nice.

I am still curious about a longer road trip, but not sure when we will ever get to that.  It will be an experiment when we do.

For whatever reason, Electrify America is putting their chargers at all the outlet malls.  We stopped at so many outlet malls!  I found them to be a nice place to stop because of all the restaurants and bathrooms. 

So that is a general sum up of a longer trip.  One that will be made frequently in our future, with MM attending college over there.

There was about 5 weeks in between trips.  During this time DL(15) started going back to school full-time, in person.  MH got his wish, with just driving the car around town and seeing how far he could get.  I mean, we had a few freeway trips thrown in.  If just driving to/from school/work, MH and the kids, I expect the car will probably go 350+ miles with all the regen (from braking).  

In this case, MH drove 300 miles during these 6 weeks and did not need to recharge in between bigger road trips.

That said, he did find a free charger at a movie theater.  I think it's mostly moot because at the time our nearby theater was closed.  It has since reopened.  But he is going to some other movie with free charging today (we have a gift card).  He will get about 75 miles free charge.  It may be 30 miles roundtrip diving to get there.

It may be mostly moot in the short run (with our neighborhood theater opened up) but I guess as the free movie screenings open back up, that is where he will get use out of these free chargers.  I think MH would be in heaven.  Free car charging and FREE movies!?  What else could you ask for?  😁  The free movie screenings are all over the place.

Edited to add:  Just a reminder that every EV is *so* different.  This is one of the slower ones to charge, for reference.   I wouldn't judge current EV technology based on our car choice.  We have more time than money; our primary motivation switching to EV was to save money.  This car was the sweet spot for our personal situation.  I was just reading about all the new cars coming out that will charge roughly 200 miles in 20 minutes. 


Spending the Money

May 9th, 2021 at 01:28 pm

April Spending covered with unemployment funds:

--Some charitable contributions came up 

--College expenses ($300 for various orientations)

--Dining Out $200+ this month ~ this included a marvelous lunch out of town (our first restaurant meal in over a year and it was actually very good, some place a little different).  Also, MH is working on a film project and I ran out to get dinner two weeks in a row, in addition to feeding other people.   Just a lot of extra splurging.

--Vacation spending $600

This last splurge feels very redundant because...  MM(17) chose a college!  He's going to school 300 miles south along the coast (in paradise).  Lucky him!   So though we may go back several times this year for orientation, to get him moved in, etc.  This is my happy place and it's the only place I want to go.  I tried to come up with anything else but I just don't want to go anywhere else.  MH and I are going away for a couple of nights, to celebrate our full vaccination.  

Hotel is booked and paid for already.  Fuel will cost basically nothing (electric car).  Will splurge on some nice meals out while we enjoy the coast.

May Spending:

--I need to come up with a $1,500 housing (college dorm) deposit.  I am just going to use MH's unemployment money because it's less I will have to pull from savings later.  (I do have Year 1 costs set aside for college already, in cash).  

Edited to add:  Ended up paying this last weekend.

--Will also be booking Florida airfare (MH and the kids) for this summer.  Can probably cover 2-3 tickets with unemployment money.

MH should get two more unemployment checks, and then we are done.  If they automatically extend him again, he will stop certifying for benefits.  He will still be looking for work.  But, mostly we don't want to deal with the red tape and issues any more.  If he wants to take a month off from the job search to work on his movie or whatever, just wants to get back to things on his terms.  We kind of felt this way in January, but then everything has been smooth with unemployment since then.  Knock on wood.  With the extra $300 per week boost, sure whatever, was worth dealing with the hassles that came up.  But at this point we are both very over it.  He usually is off work during the summer months, so it seems a natural breaking point.  

So I am trying to fund as much as I can without touching savings.  Before we get back into one-income mode.   

Oh yeah, and in other random money spending, we picked out a tuxedo rental for MM(17).  His friends are doing a mini-prom, which is absolutely perfect.  He never would have been interested in regular prom.  He is a very casual dude and so I joked early on that he needed to do a full tux.  I think some because it would be so unexpected and us probably being more willing to fund that after a year of not much exciting going on.  Even MH (most definitely not a tux guy) liked the idea.  But at that point it was just talk.  Yesterday MM(17) committed and picked out a fancy tux.  Most of his friends are girls so they are all going to freak.  They are probably expecting him to show up in shorts.   

Goal Achieved, Taking a Breather

May 2nd, 2021 at 02:24 pm

Goal Achieved:  $500,000 Retirement

I feel ridiculously "retirement poor".  Because we spend so little and need so little to retire comfortably.  

Because of this, I just felt so "meh" about fomulating the next retirement goal.  I started this post earlier but then walked away to give it some thought.  I decided I've had these feelings before.  We saved 75% of our income to get into a home (San Francisco) when just starting out.  After that, we saved 50% (all of MH's income) until we had kids.  After that we took a 5 year breather to have kids.   We eventually circled back and started to think about longer term goals.  Retirement was it.  It's just not that exciting.  Might have taken us a couple of years to get into a home and a couple of years to feel ready to prepare financiall to be home with kids.  But...  Retirement is more of a decades long slog. 

So I stepped away, thought about it, and decided my feelings were similar, today.  20 years ago, I think we were just feeling very financially comfortable and wanted to enjoy the fruits of that hard work.  This time around I am feeling very burned out.  2018 & 2019 were some terrible years for me.   It's similar, but also different.  I don't think I am going to start working half as much, while I get my kids through college.  😉

I decided that I don't want to make a goal and I am going to take a breather.  It will be very relative.  A relative breather.  We were saving 20%+ to retirement after MH lost his full-time job and we had our first child.  It will be same now (20%+ to retirement).  I think a lot of our "retirement poor" is just a side effect of financial and tax efficiency.  It doesn't make any sense whatsover to give up employer match or keep money in taxable accounts (that can be moved over to ROTHs).  And...  MH is looking for a full-time job.  Has absolutely nothing to do with money.  Is more about personal fulfillment.   This breather is more about taking a break from some longer-term goals.  We are also talking about investing in some non-financial things, taking some new risks. 

I am just going to leave the "$500K retirement at age 45" goal in my sidebar.  See what the market does, and where we are in another year.  See where we are at when we are 45.

I think we are going to give it 6-24 months.  In 6 months we should have a lot more clarity on the job front (MH).  If he does find a job, maybe we just buckle down and finish saving for retirement, get our home paid off.  I don't know.  What's relevant in 2 years is that DL(15) should be making his college decisions.  All of this is a lot of limbo to sort out.  So we might want not to expend too much energy on longer term plans until this stuff starts to sort out.  

This year is going to be expensive.  I am just trying to let it go and roll with it.  We are just talking about a lot of things.  This post is too long already, so will get to these things later.

Not related to our "taking a breather feelings" whatsoever, I later saw that our home had gone up 40% in value over night.  !!  We live in a city that everyone is moving to.  

It's...  depressing.  We got priced out of the city we grew up.  Apparently we are doing the same to our kids.  It makes it really impractical (too expensive) to downsize and stay here.  It's not all bad.  It makes it more practical to move closer to our parents, if they do need more help.  We are just along for the ride.  Not planning to get off this ride for another 2 years (when DL is done with high school).  I guess this is just more limbo getting thrown into the mix.  

Yeah, it's completely absurd.  We have bought in two completely absurd markets.  I...  Don't know what this is.  It's something that has never happened before.  I saw some home sold in our neighborhood for $750K last month.  I then saw Monday morning that there were people camping out and lining up for new townhomes ($1.2 Mil) in the Bay Area.  I mentioned to my boss (I work for a home builder) and he started showing me graphs of the current market.  He's just, "This has never happened before."  The housing inventory was already non-existent before the pandemic.  So that's the fuel and throw on the fire of everyone trying to move here.  I keep seeing articles that it's also impossible to find rentals here.  

{Home construction was not labeled "essential" in our state but was labeled "essential" in our region last March, which is why work has remain very unchanged for me}.

I share because it's probably pretty likely we have hit our "financial independence" goal, with this turn of events.  {Current net worth is $1.2 Mil}.  Which is of course meaningless.  Our "financial independence" goal was $1 mil plus a paid-for condo.  It's not $600K investments + $600K home equity.  (That $200K condo is now a $400K condo, with mega property taxes).  & it's made further moot by this not being a "financial independence" goal while still supporting kids and having a mortgage.  We have to cross these other things off our list first, before we can hit "financial independence" with $1 mil.

So...  I will work on re-formulating that goal.  Again, might just step away from that for a year or two and see where this roller coaster ride ends up.  I might not formulate a new goal for another year or two.  But off the top of my head, it might be $800K investments, as a new goal.  If we expect to cash out roughly $200K when we do sell this home (and downsize).  All of this can change so dramatically based on the stock and housing markets.  It may just be a goal that needs significant re-tweaking over time.