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Archive for August, 2021

Big Financial Milestones

August 29th, 2021 at 11:49 pm

The theme continues:  Life is chaotic and difficult, but finances continue to be doing great. 

Mortgage dipped below $130K, into the 120Ks...  Woohoo!  Next year we should drop below $120K.

We also officially hit our $500K retirement goal (one year ahead of schedule).  🎉🙌🥳  Actual retirement balance is something like $505K.

I am still resisting thinking about the big picture and coming up with our next goals.  Taking a break for a year or two, still.  But we will keep on track with the goals we already had.  It's just going to take some tweaking and rethinking at some point.  In addition to waiting for more clarity re: MH's employment and DL's college situation.  At that point, we can better decide our next steps.

Goals we already had:  Want to be financially independent by the time the kids are done with college.  Will continue to max out IRAs and take my employer match, to get to this end.  (Would do this anyway probably, because it's very fiscally efficient).

So we will stay on this course.  This is a fine one-income goal.  I do not know if I can literally keep putting away 20%+ of my income into retirement funds, with just my income alone.  But I expect I can continue to do this, and pay cash for college (x2) if we do just plan to shift our taxable investments into retirement accounts.  

Gift Card Balances August 2021

August 29th, 2021 at 01:26 am



$100 Regal

$25 Fandango




$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)


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

I won 3 gift cards at a work event.  It was actually kind of funny because MH is lucky and always wins everything.  Apparently I stand a chance when I go solo.  MH was in Florida and DL(16) was working at my office at the time, so DL went with me.  I think technically he won one of those gift cards.

Two of them were Starbucks gift cards that I immediately gave to co-workers.  No one in my house likes coffee at all or shops at Starbucks.  But the Fandango card was a really nice and appropriate win.  Well, for MH.   Maybe he was really the lucky one after all.   Doesn't even need to be present to win.  Obviously I gave the gift card to him (the cinephile).  

I did a gift card update because I had new gift cards to add, and had removed a lot of gift cards with dorm shopping.

Restaurant/Food gift cards will languish for a while.  We went through them very slowly in the best of times.

Checking In

August 24th, 2021 at 01:25 pm

I posted recently that we had a dramatic week.  It's only gotten worse from there.  Ugh...

A lot of mini dramas.  But the large drama is one of the big fires in our state.  I expected last Tuesday night that our family cabin was long gone.  The cabin still stands because...  The wind has been blowing (for a whole week) in the opposite direction.  Of course, now it is looking like it will be a miracle if either the cabin or our family camp site survives.  Camp is about 30 miles away, but the fire is raging in that direction and getting very close.  I never in a million years imagined a fire so big/fast that would knock out both at the same time.  😱

I looked it up, the last big fire that threatened our cabin lasted for a month.  It seemed to drag on forever.  I don't expect to have any finality to this situation for a very long time.  

Oh yes, and the miracle did not happen, MH's movie shoot got postponed indefinitely.  His filming locations are all under threat of fire.  That's a super bummer and a huge blow to MH, but a small loss in the grand scheme of things. 

This is not the stuff I want to blog about, but I did want to touch on.  I just wanted to dive back into the minutiae and try to get back into blogging. 

Had some new dramas after starting this post, so I think I will just stop here and work on a new blog post.  I will update on fires when I have anything to update.  


College $$ Update

August 14th, 2021 at 02:35 pm

I finally got confirmation on the final piece of financial aid.  

I never expected any need-based financial aid whatsoever.  But our State has a middle class grant (if you attend a public college).  It just takes forever to process.  & the whole thing seemed very vague, but the dollar amount showed up in MM's 'financial aid' stuff this week.

This confirms free tuition for Year 1.  Woohoo!

I had actually just left it very "whatever" because I hadn't realized you had to pay tuition to get college tax credits.  So either he had free tuition or we had a college tax credit, it was going to all be the same in the end anyway.  I was guessing he'd get $2K-$4K for this State Grant. 

In the end it works out to: $6K scholarship + $2K Grant + $2K tax credit = Free Tuition Year 1.  

As to room/board...  The dining plan is a wash with what we already pay to feed that kid.  So I am not expecting to have any added expenses on this front.  

Dorms were a big question mark due to the pandemic.  They've gone back and forth if they will do full capacity and I didn't know where things landed.  Less roommates would equal more cost.  I personally would prefer less roommates and more cost.  (The dorms are far below market rent, and it's pennies more to get a solo room.  Not literally pennies, but when it comes to the market cost of housing it's just like nothing).  We were able to state that preference on the housing application.

The dorm ended up being much lower than I expected (probably went back to full capacity, after quoting us up front with 'half capacity' costs).  I had also completely forgotten about the deposit I paid with stimulus/unemployment money.  The total cost is $9,000.  He ended up with the cheapest option, and more roommates.   That does include utilities, laundry, everything.  For reference, is cheaper (substantially) than the rent I paid in San Francisco when I was 18. 

I decided to pay quarterly (this school is quarter system) because as much as I prefer to pre-pay things, there was no financial benefit to doing so.  Keeping track of a monthly bill would drive me crazy.  So quarterly will end up being the sweet spot.  First quarterly payments will be due September 1.

It works out to the following (after deposits already made):

Tuition $700 (will save this in taxes, but have to pay it up front)

Dorm $2750 

Dining $1050


Total $4,500 1st Quarter

So I will be draining $4,500 from the $12K I have set aside for College Year 1.  That looks more like $15,000 Total (for the year), but will be offsetting the $2K tuition with a tax credit.  & I expect to save $5K-ish in groceries over the next year.  So really I was estimating $12K for dorm when it only ended up being $8,500 (after funding deposit with other monies).  Which leaves a lot of cash to throw at food, if my grocery estimate is way off.  If we still have 'Year 1' money left over, that's a good start to 'Year 2'.  We will spend the next 12 months coming up with the money for Year 2. 

Our credit card bill is absurd, at $4,000 already for the month.  That's roughly $2K medical + $1,200 laptop + $500 auto insurance.  Plus regular spending.  I am going to pay off $4K-ish this week.  Was just waiting to nail down college costs before I start pulling money from savings (wanting to transfer just one lump sum).   I'd say on an average month we spend about $700 on this card.   So seeing that $4K balance like 5 days into the month...  I need to pay it down for my sanity. 

Edited to add:  Finally, I saw a tip where to figure out this CA financial aid stuff.  MM(18) had a login and so we just looked at it.  They are only rewarding him 3 years of the CA middle class grant, because he is starting technically as a sophmore.  (Which might be useful for other majors, but he can't apply any of his one bajillion credits to his engineering degree). I am writing this down here because I will never remember this.  Jotting it down for now, and will get more organized later.

Busy, Busy

August 6th, 2021 at 01:55 am

July was a crazy expensive 'low spend' month.  It did work out pretty well that we were so busy spending down buckets that we didn't spend money on anything else.  Thus the 'low spend' but expensive.  

MH and MM are back from Florida.  Pulled $365 from vacation fund to cover Florida expenses.

Movie filming is about 60% done.  Pulled $330 from film funds.  Reminds me, MH received some more donations and has raised $1,500 to-date.  One of the biggest expenses was going to be feeding 15 people for two days, but MH knows how to feed a crowd very well and cheaply.  I was hoping to just absorb in our grocery budget and that worked out pretty well.  Of course, this only worked because MH/MM were out of town for a week. 

We did the first round of "should buy way ahead of time" spending for college.  I pulled $300 from Grad gifts, for dorm expenses.  Fans in particular, sell out during fire season.  Laptop was ordered a while ago due to production delays but I got lucky and that didn't ship until August 1.

I've probably reached the peak of my savings for this year.  Will pay off the laptop charge September 1 and I just charged up some medical bills, in addition to a bunch of medical bills I paid off August 1  (more savings drain).   Credit card is already absurd for August, I just charged auto insurance. & we will probably be paying some big college expenses (room/board) this month, cash.

We did attempt to splurge on a couch/bed for DL(16).  Long story.  In the end, I found something kind of perfect in the $600 range.  I also randomly received an IRS refund.  I know what it was, but I thought I would have to amend my tax return and wait 12+ months to get this refund.  It was only as I sorted out July and reconciled everything that I realized that perfectly covers this splurge (the IRS refund was maybe $5 more than the couch).  

I was so relieved to cross that amended tax return off my To Do list.  Phew!  July was just...  Crazy.  In addition to a lot of medical appointments and all of the above, our parents were very needy last month.  It's been so calm (relatively) compared to recent hell years that I didn't think too much about it.  But as I was compiling in my blog one day (a draft I ended up tossing), I told MH, "No wonder we are exhausted."  I didn't even really appreciate why I felt so exhausted until I saw it all written down.  & this is not everything.  My employee is going through 12 weeks of medical procedures (I seem endlessly jinxed on this front; whoever I hire will mostly end up in the hospital and their life is a disaster).  That was while MH was gone so it was a really rough week covering for both MH and my employee.

So...  I scratched any half written blog posts (I give up) and thought I would just start over today.  

I was so wrong about being *shrugs* about DL getting a job in my office this summer, if he might just have to wait until next summer to get a job.  We made room for him in my office and he is loving the job.  I don't think I have ever seen that kid in a better state of mental health.  Phew!  I am so glad that it worked out.  Not only has it been good for his mental health, but it's very different than it was for MM(18).  MM 1000% wants to do math/science.  This job was just a means to an end.  For DL(16), he will be able to do a lot of career exploration in my office.   

That said, my schedule has been topsy turvy, carpooling with him during his shorter work days, and trying to keep him occupied.  I am relieved this is the last week.  DL(16) is back at school next week.   Fingers crossed, anyway.  (For his mental health, he needs to be there in person, and very much looks forward to it).  

This reminds me of the other thing, MM turned 18.  That's just been a lot of paperwork and stuff like that.  

Edited to add:  This week has been pretty dramatic.  It will be a miracle if MH can get his movie shoot finished this weekend, between COVID and all the fires.  😞  Crossing my fingers.  So close to that finish line...