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Archive for October, 2021

Another 5 Years

October 31st, 2021 at 01:25 pm

Blogaversary post from 5 years ago (well, some bits and pieces from that post):

We just happen to be on track to hit $1 Mil when our kids should be finishing up college. I am not comfortable dropping down from full-time work until I have a really clear picture of college plans. So I think it works out that those two goals will be hit around the same time. ($1 Mil will be plenty for us to retire on).

I expect that by 50 we will be financially independent. At that point we will just have to regroup. I am not planning to shift to part-time work the day I turn 50 or on the day my kid graduates college. But I think that is just the point in time where we will be running the retirement numbers and fine tuning the final plan. Retirement has been our only substantial financial goal since our kids were born, but in our 20s it was just so far away and nebulous. I think we are allowing that at age 50 it should be a lot more clear and turning into a much shorter term goal.

We also have to decide where on earth we want to live. We know we want to downsize and move. That's all we know. I suppose it depends where our kids and parents are at that time. It's important for us to be near family. I expect the "where" to impact our working/retirement plans in our 50s. 

Other than trying to save up as much as possible, the next 10 years seem pretty nebulous. I don't know that I know much of anything. I expect a lot of change. We've been really boring and stable since having kids, but when I look beyond their high school years we are pretty much open to anything. We don't know where we are going to live. Our kids aren't on any set college path yet. My job is very finite. MH still has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up. I have *no idea* where we will be in 10 years. I'd just like to be on very solid financial ground, and if we achieve that then the rest doesn't matter. The rest is whatever we want it to be.

Things have progressed pretty steadily.  I posted recently that we hit our "financial independence" number (or would likely hit the number this year), but it is kind of useless at this point with the real estate market.  We will need to revise our number upwards as real estate just gets more expensive.  The overall goal is $1 Mil + a paid-for home.   We can achieve this in the next 5 years.

The biggest thing that happened these past 5 years is that my job ended.  I hadn't searched for a job in 17 years and felt a lot of stress about it (I knew I would never stay once my employer retired).  But I knew my job was too good to leave early.  Hindsight 20/20, glad I held on to the bitter end.   I mean, until a reasonable bitter end.  It was difficult to find work/life balance I had become accustomed to and also was difficult to find anything near what I had been paid before.  But it ended up all falling into place.

With the job change, I was just very open to anything.  Mostly wanted to dip my toes to see if the grass was greener.  The grass is *way* greener.  I no longer work in tax, so I no longer work OT hours whatsoever.  I really wouldn't have been surprised if I went for a higher power higher paying job for a few years to get my kids through college (though otherwise so NOT me).  But I was able to find a much easier job with less hours, and I am happy with that shift at this point in my life.  The grass is *way* greener.  Overall compensation ended up the same, but hours/responsibilities decreased.  

We also figured out one half of the college equation.  MM(18) ended up going an extremely practical route, choosing a very low-cost public in-state college that will open up a lot of doors for him.  

DL(16), I have absolutely no clarity on that and will have to let that sort out over the next few years.  

I think the one surprise and big question mark at this point is the health of my family.  Not only is my parents' health declining rapidly (which is a possibility I hadn't thought much about, that they'd need so much help at this point in my life, as I expected in the short run that one could take care of the other).  Not only is that quickly changing, but my BIL has some mystery illness now.  I never expected my sister to still be alive, but with everyone else not doing well, it is for the first time crossing my mind that I might need to eventually be a caregiver for my sister.  I don't know the odds of that, but was nothing that had ever crossed my mind before.  I expect this "last 6 years of getting our kids through college and reaching financial independence" to become more challenging on this family/health front.  I don't know if I might have to take some time off work before crossing that finish line or how things will play out.

Crazy Week

October 30th, 2021 at 06:56 pm

What a week!

So...  After breaking the record streak of no rain.  We immediately broke the record for the most rain in one day.  ???  This caused much chaos.  There's 7 whole people in my office and 3 of them had leaks/issues.  (Our region is not prepared for that kind of weather).

I felt lucky I was able to make it to the hospital for my appointment (with all the flooding and fallen trees).  Phew!  That went as well as could have.  I've got better answers for medical problems I had this year (should be fixed now).  & I had a biopsy done that came back benign early in the week.  Phew!  

{This will be our most expensive medical year ever.  We've all had random health things this year.  Plus MH and I both have had cosmetic cyst removals/biopsies.  The icing on the cake is that MM(18) was referred for wisdom teeth removal.  All of these are extra on top of our health insurance/deductible.  But we did max out our deductible already with all our other medical stuff, so my procedure this week and MH's annual MRI should be $0 or a small co-pay}.

Oh yeah, speaking of medical...  & then MH fell.  So that's more medical stuff in addition to wondering if he'd be able to work, etc.  Just more roller coaster.  He did go to the Doctor mid-week and things seem okay as of today.  He's moving slowly and in pain but is working through it.  Nothing serious.

MH's Grandfather did end up passing early this week.   It sounds like it went about as well as these things can go.  There was time enough to say good bye but not enough time to linger/suffer.  

To be clear, my last post was more about how I am relieved I don't have to drag my entire family to the east coast (and pull MM out of college, etc.).  & most especially when I had that conversation (in the past) re: much younger kids.  Whatever MH wants/needs to do, will just take some time to sort out.  Money is no object, nothing is more important than family.  

Things Take a Turn

October 24th, 2021 at 04:13 pm

The peace was nice while it lasted.  Will take it whenever I can.  It was nice being able to post daily minutiae and not have any major drama in my life, for a few weeks.

That said, MH is out of town and I have a medical procedure next week.  The chaos is just increasing and I was feeling "meh" about getting through the rest of October with sharing daily expenses.  I guess also work has been pretty busy for MH and so we are no longer in "one income" mode.  

MH's Florida Grandfather ended up in the hospital last week.  Initially he seemed to be doing well and I wasn't overly concerned.  He turns 94 this next week, but we are used to the medical professionals under-estimating our 90-something Grandparents.  MH then talked to his parents Friday night and they said they were basically sending him home to die.  It doesn't sound like he is expected to even make it to his birthday.  But I don't know any details and presume we will get more.  They were trying to fly out yesterday (not sure if they made it with all these canceled flights).

I knew it was likely that this summer's Florida trip would be the last one, but I didn't think that MH was cutting it quite this close.

We are waiting to hear more from his parents before deciding how to proceed, but I am guessing MH is going to leave it that he will just be grateful to remember him the way he saw him (more healthy than this).  & I was wise and asked MH's family at some point about funeral expectations in his family and they were very much, "Funerals are for the living" and, "We'd rather you spend your time/money enjoying relatives while they are alive."  Today I am grateful that we already had those conversations and I am not left wondering if we will all be obligated to attend some funeral.  (Meaning, having to drag my kids and everything).   That's how my family is (not much for funerals, and never expected to attend the ones that were had thousands of miles away), but this is the only one of MH's elderly relatives who doesn't live close.  Heck, there hasn't been a death in his family the 26 years we have been together.  This is probably why I asked.

Oct 18

October 20th, 2021 at 02:34 pm

October 18

$11 Lunch

$80 Groceries

Dinner:  Leftovers


I have to preface this post with the fact that MH is a, "Hell would freeze over before I eat out" personality.  Most especially when it comes to lunch at work.

Anyway, this is what I come home to today:  A bag of chips in a brown paper bag.  MH is asleep.  I don't think he did the grocery run he had planned today (a small one).  I look on the dining card and there's a $11 charge at a Taqueria.  My presumption at this point is that he worked a *long* day, didn't make it to the store.  He was called back to work 5 hour days; has mostly been working 6 hour days.  I guess he worked longer today.

This is what I am presuming with the clues I am left with.  

{MH just woke up and confirmed my conclusion.  He just went to the grocery store.}

Groceries ended up being $80.  This is an expense to feed people on the movie set this week. Will just absorb in our grocery budget. 

So the rain yesterday broke a record 7-month dry spell? The sky was amazing today (it's bee a while since I've seen clouds?).  You can see from this picture the day had a fall vibe to it.  The red tree and the sky was just so pretty. 

Oct 16 & 17

October 20th, 2021 at 02:27 pm

October 16

$97 Groceries

$1 Movie Prop

Dinner:  Cheeseburger Pasta


MH picked up a prop at a thrift shop today.  $1 for a "creepy doll".   Might pick up a couple of other options.  The original prop was lost to the big/recent fire. 


October 17

$65 Allowance MH

$40 School Pictures

$12 Home Depot

Dinner:  Potato Soup


Spendy day.

MH purchased a weighted blanket.  He went "cheap" for proof of concept.  He might want to get a nicer one if it works for him.  He sleeps terribly and I am sure is a good investment for either him or DL(16).   I probably won't put it in the "allowance" category with my bookkeeping, but is the best way to describe it at this point.

MH did go out to lunch, met with another film backer.  In this case they wanted to make it this whole expensive double date restaurant thing.  I resisted when MH brought up a while ago.  When he mentioned again last night, I said nope.  No way.  I probably would have sucked it up if he gave me more notice.  Anyway, I don't see this charge anywhere.  Did MH have some cash or pay with venmo??  Will ask him later. 

Edited to add:  He paid cash.  He told me he had "too much cash" in his wallet.  I have no idea from where.  I told him to give it to me to deposit next time.  Yeesh.  But for today, it's a budget cheat.  I don't have to figure out how to pay for it, so whatever.  Now that I type this out, it explains better how he spent $20 on those last couple of dinners.  Probably was paying the tab and getting reimbursed cash.  (Probably anything more than $0 is "too much cash", for reference.)

On the way home MH picked up a pack of light bulbs.  One of the kitchen lights went out a few days ago.

Some strange wet stuff started falling from the sky.  MH is *freaking out* because is supposed to get this movie finished this week.  After all the COVID/fire delays.  Rain wasn't on our radar whatsoever.  Unfortunately, during the last few apocalyptic fire seasons, the rain has been very "too little too late."  So we might cancel due to rain this week and it could still be the fire apocalypse the next week.

The in-laws drove down to see MM(18) this weekend, and brought him more food.

Oh yeah, I didn't clarify when I mentioned that he is sick.  There are virtually no COVID cases on his college campus.  He is vaccinated and he hadn't been exposed, so he wasn't required to test.  But he did take a test on Thursday out of curiosity (it was easier to get a test when he felt better and wasn't blocked from going everywhere on campus).  I presumed it was negative because he did meet with his grandparents.  He confirmed today.  Everything else is going around.  The dorm plague, as they call it.  

2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

October 20th, 2021 at 01:53 pm

2021 TALLY:

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

$30 Venmo ($10 x 3 Sign Up Bonuses)



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


I don't personally have any reason to use Venmo.  I tested a free $10 bonus at some point, just for opening an account.  Was more just testing it out for MM, before he turned 18.  

MH was intrigued since money is flowing around (reimbursements and payments) for his movie project.  So he also signed up for the free $10 and has been using Venmo.  This was probably smart because one of his relatives Venmoed a Graduation cash gift for MM, when MH saw this relative in Florida.  It was very random and unexpected, but doubt he would have bothered if he couldn't just send a Venmo.  (& literally, no one has *ever* asked us to Venmo before.  Talk about timing).

I had MM(18) sign up for Venmo when he turned 18.  I just noticed that he used it for the first time (saw a withdrawal from his bank account).  I figured he'd get some utility from Venmo as a college student. 

Oct 14 & 15

October 18th, 2021 at 12:33 am

October 14

$70 Target (Groceries)

$20 MH Allowance Spending

$0 Movies

Dinner:  Leftovers


I guess my boss didn't realize I was working yesterday and is out of town Thursday through Friday.  Makes for a *very* quiet week.  👍  

MH is off seeing a "free" movie with his unlimited pass.  & he went to Target after work today.  Not sure what all he got, but probably just groceries.  We were out of cat food.

Edit:  Found the receipt later.  Dishwasher detergent, granola bars (lots on sale), cat food, soap, etc. 

& later I saw $20 spending pop up.  I will confirm with MH that it's legit, but was some sort of movie spending (which pretty much sums up all of MH's spending).  I did think, "whoa, MH is getting spendy this month."  Probably spurred by being back at work.  But I glanced at our spending for the year and we are both up to $500 of our $600 annual allowance spending.  We both seem to be on track.  I usually do little more than glance at my accounting software at the end of the year.  We have the same personal spending budget from 20+ years ago so we just subconsciously seem to be aware. 


October 15

$12 MH Allowance Spending

Dinner:  Indian Butter Chicken


Yeah, MH is definitely enjoying a little extra cash flow.  More movies.  

I couldn't remember which weeks MH gets paid (every other week), after having 18 months off.  I didn't really care enough to figure it out.  But I just had this lightbulb moment today.  I still had his paychecks set up in Quicken (it pops up every 2 weeks and I have just been clicking on "ignore").  So I peeked and payday is next week.  That's nice because I pay all the bills the first of every month.  October is done and paid for.  But he will get one October paycheck.  It won't be enough to pay for our vacation last week but it will cover most of it.  I will just send his paycheck to the credit card when it arrives, to cover vacay expenses.  

Oct 12 & 13

October 16th, 2021 at 11:54 pm

October 12

$9 Car Wash

$25 Toll Tag Refill

Dinner:  Leftovers


Today was a mixed bag.

We live in a community with a high number of retirees and self-employed.  If I want to go wait in a really long line, I do anything on a weekday.  (Sounds counter intuitive I guess, but how it has always been for me).  Today ended up being very hit and miss.  I alternated between no lines (flu shot and car wash) and excruciating waits (1 hour in a pharmacy full of sick people.  Ugh!)  The credit union (I had cash to deposit) was so crowded I just left and thought, "nevermind."  

My car badly needed a wash after 1000 miles driven in 4 days; the last trip was in the woods and on some dirt roads. 

MH is off at a concert in Oakland, with DL(16).  They found some all ages place where one of DL's favorite bands was performing.  I am trying to think of what expenses they might have.  Sounds like the parking was free.  Tickets were paid for a long time ago.

Oakland was 170 miles round trip.  That's about $4 in electric fuel.

Edited to add:  I figured there'd be a toll but it took several days to process.  I'll just put it here because it was re: the concert.  The toll was $6 but it triggered a refill on our account.  It took us 13 months to get through the last $25.


October 13


Dinner:  Chile Rellenos


MH got a free meal at work today. 

Dribs and drabs of money rained down from the sky.  I received a very small refund for MM's auto insurance.  (Kind of pitiful, if that was the "away from home" discount).  I will follow up later.  I also received $7-ish from some milk settlement.

Wednesday is my work-at-home day and DL's short day where I drive him to school.  This year he starts school at 10:30.  Work was fine.  I felt like everyone was giving me space and probably figured I was more busy than I was (after a week off).  It's always crazy busy, but I don't get a lot of emails in general.  Will see how tomorrow goes.  

MH drove about 40 miles east to work on his movie.  They were doing some voice over?  I don't know.  MH told me at some point (last week) this week would be crazy busy.  Indeed. 

Oct 10 & 11

October 16th, 2021 at 11:21 pm

October 10


Dinner:  Greek Chicken Penne


Another No Spend Day.

Things that would have been nice 10-20 years ago:  MH's cousin just made the lower-cost move to our locale.  This was always their plan, to move here when their eldest started high school.  So it wasn't pandemic or recently motivated.  But the pandemic probably made it an easier transition.  They both have kept their mega high paying Bay Area jobs, for now.  

They moved here a couple of months ago but are just finishing up their move and getting more settled.  So we went over last weekend to see their new home.  They have chickens, so we scored some fresh eggs.


October 11

$9 Groceries

$10 Donation

Dinner:  Burritos


MM(18) was radio silent over the weekend and then late Sunday told us he was sick.  I have been pretty zen about him going off to college, but *this* I am not zen about.  😔  That said, I instantly felt better because he told me his high school friend (one of his best friends) was bringing him hot tea.  She brought him meals a couple of times and he is clearly being well cared for.  Phew!  That makes it so much easier.  

I did recall that the local synagogue delivers free soup to sick college students (other parents have brought up in the parent group).  I made those arrangements on Monday.  Isn't that the nicest thing?!  I left a donation.  

I've got two days off of work.  Which is helpful, and gives me some extra time to make arrangements if he does need anything.  (I took a whole week off, but straddled weeks because DL was home last week and we both wanted some quiet time).

I was envisioning some more leisurely time off but then everything got crazy last week.  I was going to run some errands today but it was crazy windy here.  To the point I didn't want to risk damage to my car.  Decided to keep it mostly inside today.  But MH went back to work and asked me to take DL(16) to school and make dinner.  So that is how my quiet day is going.  I decided to put off some other errands until Wednesday when I am working from home (and driving DL to school).  I was able to get an appointment tomorrow to get my new glasses adjusted.  I will get my flu shot while I am there.  & if I remember, I also have a store return to do in that area.  It will be nice to kill all those birds with one stone.

Hell has frozen over and I have the house entirely to myself.  It may be the first time in 18 months!  

I did stop by the grocery store on the way home (from dropping DL off at school).  I told MH I'd rather just make burritos (an old family recipe).  MH told me we had everything on hand for that.  But later figured out that we needed tomato sauce.  I picked up some almonds for $5 (I am not sure MH knows those are on crazy sale on Mondays.  We already had two bags, but it was 50% off!)  Sunflower seeds were 60% off so I picked up some of those.  Got a few cans of tomato sauce, some sourdough bread, snacks, and some flowers.  Spent $9.  Yup, I used up the quarterly grocery store bonus/reward of $19.  That was a nice surprise!

MH asked me to cook dinner because he had a focus group.  It was $65 for about 1 hour.  Definitely a good money day.

This was the first time MH has been back to work since May 2020.  He said it was definitely a smaller crew but it was busy.  I am still not holding my breath.  Not expecting great hours or consistent work until things get more "normal". 

It ended up being a very good day.  I just needed some leisure and quiet.  I was skeptical early on how "leisurely" it would be, but a quiet house and an extra 8 hours goes a long way. 

Oct 9

October 12th, 2021 at 04:13 am

October 9


Dinner:  Burrito Bowls (chicken, black beans & rice)


First No Spend Day (NSD), this month.

We drove up to camp and spent the day cleaning cabins.  It was good to go up there, it wasn't quite the hellscape we imagined.  & at work everyone was telling me (based on their own personal fire experiences), "Will never get the smoke smell out!"  

The camp itself (all of the buildings) were spared but the sewer lines and water lines were damaged.  I guess it sounds like maybe they got that fixed (had to get fixed before winter).  They had one bathroom up and running.  Ash had blown into all of the buildings and there was smoke damage.

We volunteered to help all day.  It was not bad at all.  Just more of a thin film of ash on everything. I personally did not smell smoke.  After we had cleaned out one of the cabins and locked it up, MH went back at some point to get something.  He said it was already starting to smell smokey inside that cabin, after locking it up for maybe an hour.  But we got the sense that it will at least air out quickly. 

The region in general did smell very smokey.  On the road, we smelled a lot of smoke.  I don't know how long that will last.  It's just the lingering smell of smoke.

Holy cow, it was *cold*.  I did check the weather and we wore appropriate clothing.  Phew!  They told us when we got up there that it had snowed the day before.  The water was not useable until around noon (pipes were frozen). They are just rushing to get everything cleaned up before it gets colder.

We left camp feeling like it's feasible it will be open next summer.  Open and a pleasant experience.  

Oct 8

October 12th, 2021 at 04:09 am

October 8

$24 Dinner Out (MH)

$15 MH Allowance Spending

$12 Groceries

$21 Gas

$0 Electric Fuel

Dinner:  Sausage Sandwiches


MH had another dinner out.  I was confusing people (that I've never met).  He's meeting up with his crowd funding backers and distributing swag.  If the contribute X dollars they get a movie poster, stuff like that.

So this guy wants to hear all about how the movie is going.  MH tells him his crowd funding didn't go as well as he had hoped, but he is terrible at asking for money.  Mentions he may spend $1,000 of his own money.  This guy offers to pay for it.  !!!  Which of course just weirded MH out.  No way he is going to ask for that kind of money from anyone, much less someone he barely knows.  As he tells me this I am just, "Wait, is this the young retired guy?"  Nope, some other young guy who apparently has money to burn.

MH met this guy at a pub.  He was planning to get there early (between appointments) and had some time to kill.  So how happy was he to pull up into the parking lot to find free chargers!  I think he got about 75 miles of free charge.  

Earlier in the day, MH told me that we were dumb and that we needed gas for this weekend.  We had plans but I thought we were taking the electric car.  He also asked me what I wanted to make for dinner, since he was busy.  He ran out to get gas and groceries.

We recently rediscovered sausage sandwiches.  I used to make these all the time and then just lost track of this meal, I guess.  The kids *love* it.  We already had some sausage in the freezer but MH went to pick up some bread rolls and some other random groceries.

Oct 7

October 12th, 2021 at 03:58 am

October 7

$247 Hotel

$43 Lunch & Gelato

$11 Gas

$10 Electricity (Fuel)

Dinner:  Out


This is all vacation spending.  I am coming up with a grand total of about $450.  We had $9 left in our vacation budget for this year.  I was planning originally to just take DL(16) on this trip and to use MH's income to cover this.  It sounds like it will probably work out.  MH should be working next week.  (We have more than ample savings if MH's job falls through again).

We've stayed at this hotel a bajillion times over the years and have never had any problems.  But in this case, they didn't have our ocean view room.  They initially told us they downgraded us to a regular room and we were mostly *shrugs* about that.  Given the increased spending with bringing a third person on the trip.  But we stood around waiting for a long time, and they found us an ocean view after all.  Of course, this all seemed to come down to "lack of staff/new employee" issues, as with everything these days.  MH got the impression they were giving us a bigger discount but as far as I can tell they just dropped $10-$20 for the trouble.  But there were a few charges/credits on the credit card so I can see maybe we didn't receive the discount they were attempting to give us.  It's been a few days and it looks like $247 is what came through.  In addition, they gave us $50-off our next visit.  Which is really more than necessary for a little bit of standing around.

Of course, we had just had this whole talk on our beach walk in the morning.  It was never my intention to go back to this hotel after move-in.  It's just that DL(16) specifically wanted to stay here and it was going to a mom/son trip.  As we walked on the beach that morning MH said we should really just stay in Solvang the next time.  I told him, "Or the hotel right by the college."  Both of which would cost about half as much.  This beachfront hotel has free public parking and a lot of surfers park here.  I was telling MH, "We could always come over here for a beach walk, charge up the car, eat at our favorite resaturant."  Saves $100 for much of the same experience.  So of course, now we are tempted by that free $50.  We *may* use it during Thanksgiving break.  We've stayed there a couple of times after Thanksgiving because it was such a good deal.  & now we have the double reason of dropping MM(18) back off at school.  We don't have any firm plans on that though.  He has so many friends he can catch a ride from and the grandparents seem really keen on picking him up and doing most of the driving.  (They also want to keep him all week but clearly that is ridiculous.)  

We were able to charge our car overnight at the hotel.  Most these electricity providers just charge $10 at a time and then refill when you use your $10.  I just see a $10 charge.  I am looking it up and we spent $12 on electric charge ($6 x 2).  That was for 100 miles of range; 50 miles in Solvang and another 50 miles at the hotel. 

{We drove 800 miles total on this trip, about 150 miles on electric and 550 miles gas}.  

We did eat lunch and dessert at our favorite Pismo Beach place.  MM(18) was too busy with classes, so we didn't see him again or have to feed him.

We drove for 3 hours towards home and then took a break for MH's movie.  DL(16) and I spent some time with GMIL and then my parents.  We ate a late dinner with the in-laws and then got home around 10pm.  This became a more rushed trip when MH joined us.  I wasn't going to board my cat for this trip and we really needed to get home to take care of the cat.  Our original plan was to keep it looser and maybe stay another night.

We did stop for gas where we always used to stop, about half way home from the Bay Area.  We stopped to fill up at a 7-11.  We maybe haven't been there for a year?  I noticed some "7-Eleven" electric chargers.  They were comparable to gas prices, but I just thought that was incredibly smart.  I would 100% just stop and charge there.   

We were just cutting it close on gas (and had used up the electricity) so I asked MH to just put in two gallons.  Is what I like to keep in the car.  Electric vehicle recall aside, I never use gas any more.  2 gallons seems to be a sweet spot where I'd otherwise just get gas once per year.  (It will burn off a little gas in more extreme weather or during maintenance mode).  To explain why we only spent $11 on gas. 

This trip ended up being interesting in that I was feeling bad I just had no mental energy whatsoever to take DL(16) on any college tours.  Probably should have because it's his fall break this week.  But. So. Exhausted. with everything college.  Anyway, it worked out pretty well.  DL(16) viscerally hated absolutely everything about MM's college and dorm.  After about 5 minutes he just wanted to leave.  MH tells me this at some point.  MH and I never did the dorm thing, we somewhat understand.  We just aren't as moody and dramatic as DL(16) is. By itself, was probably a good experience to get him thinking more realistically about college.  He wants to go away (somewhere less urban and more rainy).  I highly doubt he will be up to that at 18, but also figure it's a bridge to cross in another couple of years.  A lot will change in 2 more years.

Anyway, MH's aunt was with GMIL (when we visited) and she used to work at a community college.  She goes on some community college spiel and DL(16) is intrigued.  She's also excited about the possibility of community college becoming free.  I guess that's being discussed politically.  I am just, "Um, it's already free."  Has been free in our state for a couple of years, and before that it cost pennies.  We have always been very pro community college but I can tell from this conversation that no one has ever really explained community college to DL.  He's kind of just, "I didn't know that, I didn't know that's how it worked."  Which I guess is where we failed, as clearly no other adult (in his life) is particularly pro community college.  Anyway, while MIL is like readying his room for him (he can live with her while he goes to college!) - she's a *lot* - I expect he may change his mind a few times during these next couple of years.  But I think it was a really fruitful trip in that I think he's getting more realistic about college options (re: what will actually work for him).  & he is intrigued by the middle ground of maybe going away to college in more of a "baby step" kind of way.  Up until this point, he's only been talking about going to college out-of-state. 

So I guess we got some serendipitous college exploration out of this trip.  

Oct 6

October 10th, 2021 at 01:46 pm

October 6

$68 Dinner/Food

$31 Gas

$20 Souvenirs

$4 Parking

Dinner:  Out


This is all vacation spending.  

We spent $4 parking on the college campus.  First stop was the college/dorms.  Parents eat free at the dining hall, so we figured we'd just take advantage of that.  DL(16) wasn't hungry, just had some of our food.  The food was pretty terrible, I can see why everyone is complaining about it so much.  & it's compunded by the supply chain disruptions and lack of workers, etc. 

Then...  We tried *again* to make it to Solvang.  My friend told me about it a few years ago.  She called it "Free Disneyland."  😁  It's a little Danish town.  That said, every time we try to get there, the trip is canceled!  So I wasn't holding my breath, but the third time is the charm.  Finally made it.  

Gas ended up being cheapest in Solvang.  A note for next time.  So we pretty much filled up the tank when we got there, which should be enough to get us home. 

I spent $20 on souvenirs (very rare for us) and even DL(16) spent some of his own money on a couple of things.  

We tried some food at a couple of bakeries and then went for a walk to a park and a small hike.  Killed some time since we aren't big shoppers and weren't particularly hungry.  For dinner we went to a sausage/beer place that was very good. 

We did find a reasonable place to charge the car (the parking was all free) and so we charged up enough electricity to get back to the hotel.  It was probably equivalent to gas prices, but the electric drive is just so much better overall.

After that we checked into our hotel and went for a night walk on the beach.  Eventually we had to let go of MM(18) and take him back to school. 

Oct 5

October 8th, 2021 at 03:37 pm

October 5

$27 Lunch (2)

$25 Gas

Dinner:  Leftovers


MH generally *never* eats out.  So it's a big deal that he has been out socializing/networking a bit with his film group.  He met up with a mentor of sorts for lunch.  They went to this restaurant that is getting a lot of attention in recent weeks for best mexican food in the U.S., something like that.  I texted him at some point how lunch was.  He said, "meh."   MH spent $22 on this extravagant lunch.

I felt terrible on this day but had to push through and wrap up work, and then hit the road for our trip.  Dr. Pepper is my magic "settles the stomach" food and so between that and feeling pretty terrible, I decided to just order out.  I had this thought cross my mind that I hope it wasn't a cluster.  I generally never go into stores (except very rarely), that was long before the pandemic.  MH does most the errands and grocery shopping.  So it was interesting the two times I went into a store this summer, the cashiers were walking out (of the job) both times.  !!  So that is why I had this fleeting thought that I hoped I could pick up a decent meal at Burger King.  Nope!  I am 3-0 at this point.  I went just for the Dr. Pepper basically but they didn't have any.  I was kind of flustered and asked for a coke (no coke either) and settled for the Root beer she suggested (maybe all they had).  I usually pop my burger in the microwave for a few second when I get back to work.  Ugh, it looked half burned and so unappetizing.  It was okay but wish I hadn't looked at it closer.  Hindsight 20/20, I should have abandoned ship and just gone to Taco Bell for a Dr. Pepper.  I stopped eating there though because they keep changing their menu.  I didn't think about it until afterwards.  

DL(16) is a bit of a health freak and was excited that I stopped eating fast food during the pandemic.  I assured him my "once in a blue moon 400 calorie meal" wasn't going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things.  😉  I usually just order off the value menu.  I spent $5 with the soda.

After dinner we packed up the car and headed out.  I mentioned briefly that our electric car is under recall.  The super short version is that we will get a new battery/warranty (will take a while because replacing batteries in every single Bolt).  In the meantime we are parking outside and still using the car for 99% of our driving.  We just can not take it on long road trips.  Full charges and deep discharges increase risk of battery fire.  I expect this would not affect us at all if it wasn't for the "kid at college" thing.  But we are sticking to the hybrid car for college trips, until we get either the newer software fix and/or a new battery. 

Thus, we had to put gas in the car.  !!   It's an 8 gallon gas tank, already has some gas in it, and MH got a 50-cent off coupon (per gallon).  

What we packed up for MM this trip: Some homecooked food, mail, vaccine card, binder paper, light jacket, ceramic bowl, mugs, more soap, graham crackers, nuts, string cheese, granola bars, popcorn, wheat thins, bananas.  We also delivered some fresh baked cookies and home grown apples from MIL.

We left Tuesday night but stayed with in-laws, just to break up the drive a little bit.

Gift Card Balances Oct 2021

October 8th, 2021 at 03:18 pm



$50 Hotel Coupon




$100 Regal

$50   Tower Theater




$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$50 Olive Garden

$25 Chili's

$5   Jamba Juice (Gift)

$ 25 x 3 Jamba Juice (Gifts)




$100 x 2 Target (Emailed/paper gift cards)

$25  Kohls Gift Card (DL Christmas Gift)



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

Long story, but I got a $50 credit for the beachfront hotel by MM's college.  I don't want to forget about it, so am adding it to my list.



Oct 4

October 8th, 2021 at 03:12 pm

October 4

$159 Groceries/Household

Dinner:  Crockpot Chili


I don't know what to say about grocery spending.  I asked MH if he got food for two weeks or what.  He said not much food for dinners, was mostly a lot of "little things add up."  Will see...  Was hoping for a $500 or less grocery month.  Not at this rate.

Crockpot chili was requested by the college student.  We brought him 2 (teen-sized) servings of leftovers.   Oh yeah, and some of those groceries were for the college boy.  Stocked up on some snacky food that he can keep in his dorm room.

I did also make some pumpkin bread (mostly for MM).  Was my contribution for something more home-cooked.

Edited to add:  We just went over meal planning and MH has like 7 dinners to cook.  This is 4 days after shopping *& will probably last two weeks.  Plus we were gone a few nights.  I know we will need some groceries but I think we will be set with dinner for at least another 10 days.

October 3

October 5th, 2021 at 01:21 pm

October 3

$3 Car Wash

Dinner:  Leftovers


MH was busy volunteering all day. 

I made a small list of chores.  First and foremost, I took MM's car to the car wash.  The car wash was broken last I tried.  This time I succeeded.  We moved the kids' car into the garage.  Ugh.  Super long story.  But will just say that our electric car is under recall and relegated to the outside.  (One of these days, I might get to that post).  The silver lining is we can easily garage car #3 while it is mostly unused.  There is no way we would otherwise drive the gas car or put it in the garage.  But it's just one less thing to deal with and keep track of, if we can garage it.   The car has like a rack on top and the top of the car still looked pretty dirty (the car rack clearly impeded the car wash).  I had rinsed a bunch of ash off the car (when the car wash was broken) and put it through the car wash today.  & the top of the car still looks dirty.  We will put the car outside when MM(18) is home.  Will add it to his list to wash the car when he is here.  He can reach the top of the car way more easily than I can.  (We really don't wash our cars very much, but the outside cars get so much more abuse).

I was also going to put air in the tires, but his tires were okay.  So I might also put that on MM's list when he is here.  Or whenever it's not 90F degrees.  🙄  We just put air in our (newer) car tires, because the air sensors were freaking out with the cooler mornings.  

Driving the old gas car was a painful experience.  I hated everything about it.  (My freeway acceleration and braking were more reminiscent of my "learning to drive" years.)  & I didn't even think to look at the gas tank.  I am used to my car always being charged (I plug it in every night).  I just didn't think about it.  Hopefully MM(18) left some gas in the car.  😁  (It did occur to me a few hours after I got home.  I expect I will forget to check by the next time I drive it again).  

I left this post (draft) for a couple of days and I don't remember what all I did Sunday.  Mostly a weekend of rest.

Oct 2

October 3rd, 2021 at 11:45 pm

October 2

$18 Fandango (movies)

Dinner:  Falafels


The plan today is for a NSD.  Will see how it goes.  MH has another volunteer shift today.  I certainly have no plans to leave the house.

Edited to add:  Money was spent.  See below.

We spoke to MM(18) very briefly today.  He squeezed us into his busy schedule.  My heart is very happy.  He was always so bored with school and so I am just crying tears of joy after talking to him.  The workload (very easy freshman schedule, assigned by the college) is easy and that part is probably boring to him.  But he's joining several clubs and getting a variety of hands-on engineering experience.  He was basically planning to spend the day in labs and machine shops, learning a lot today.  & was very excited about some math/physics project he is working on for one of the clubs.

We did discuss the food last week.  After seeing his food spending detail and seeing other parents complaining about "airport food prices" at the college dining halls, we told MM(18) to just eat out if it was better/cheaper.  That we'd cover it, if it saved us money overall.  So I was surprised he hadn't eaten out at all.  Anyway, we talked to him today and he told us he was figuring it out.  Was telling us he had found $3 potatoes.  & I mean, cooked/prepared potatoes in the dining hall for $3. & I am going to bring him some ceramic bowls for oatmeal, stuff like that.  He's getting a feel for what is filling and some of the better values.  I'll probably give it another week or two before I look at it again.  We have a "redo" end of October where we can change the dining plan.  But my crystal ball says he will still run out of money before the end of the quarter, and that we won't be changing his plan downwards.  We've already chosen the max dining plan.  (I figured that was a safe bet).

My trip is getting complicated with the change from 1-2 people to now 3 people.  MH had movie plans (free with his pass) to see the new James Bond movie.  We re-arranged those plans today.  Which was really irritating me for a while.  But we finally just re-arranged the puzzle pieces and got it all figured out.  Phew!  Once we figured it out, everything fell into place.  We are splurging on the hotel and dinner out (x4) one night, but that should be it.  MH used a Fandango gift card (that I won) to get a free movie ticket for himself, but he's going to the movies with his Dad (a stop on our drive home) and he picked up a ticket for his Dad.  Thus, $17 spent today.  In turn we will get a free place to stay for a night and a free meal. 


Oct 1

October 2nd, 2021 at 04:16 am

October 1  

$7 MH Allowance Spending (Patreon)

$0 Target (Groceries/Houehold)

Dinner: Leftovers


Well this will be interesting.  Because any time in the past I have recorded daily exenses in blog, our biggest spending was generally groceries and gas.  No longer feeding an athlete teenager at home, the grocery spending should change drastically.  Also, we are driving 100% electric.

I just perused the credit cards and a patreon charge posted today.  Might have been initiated another day but today is when it showed up.  That's an MH allowance thing.  

MH was planning to make dinner tonight, while at the same time complaining about people not eating leftovers.  ???  I told him I would be happy to eat leftovers (have been all week) and maybe he shouldn't cook dinner.  Still majorly adjusting and it sounds like probably some food waste in the process.  Anyway, we had that conversation in the a.m. and he decided not to cook dinner. 

MH is volunteering at the public TV station tonight.  It's the first time since the pandemic started?   They were having trouble getting volunteers so he probably over-volunteered.  But I guess it works out.  I am sure when he committed he expected to be working during the week.

Oh yeah, and MH did a Target run.  He used a gift card; about $40 remains on Target gift cards.  He picked up a couple of grocery items, some laundry detergent (will last a year?) and some cat litter.  He went yesterday because I asked him to wait until October after putting cat litter and laundry detergent on the shopping list.  Our grocery budget is $850/month but September ended up being $900.  I tried to absorb film crew food spending into our grocery budget but it was just one of those months.  

MM(18) switched to tide pods a while ago (the sport version) to get the stink out of his athlete teen boy clothes/sheets.  So I don't expect our laundry detergent usage to change.  I just mean that the family size Tide laundry detergent we usually buy and keep a year, it's still going to last a year.  Strangely, we only discovered the family size recently, versus when we had kids in cloth diapers and did laundry several times per week.  (We used a laundry service for diapers but it was still a lot of laundry!  We had to wash all the diaper covers plus babies make a lot of mess).  I can still see buying the family size when it's just the two of us.  Just so we don't have to go to the store as often.  

This & That

October 2nd, 2021 at 03:23 am

The big excitement this week is that MH received a 24%-off offer to renew his movie pass.  When "movie pass" went defunct he signed up for the Regal annual pass (truly unlimited movies).  They extended that with the pandemic and his one year pass just expired this month.  He might have ended up having that one pass for two years.  He was going to renew anyway, but jumped on the deal.  For someone who will easily go to the movies three times per week, that works out to about $1.28 per movie. 

I am not worried about one-income mode whatsoever.  MH has always saved 100% of his income.  We have always budgeted off of my income alone.  It's just that we are coming off a few very robust financial years and are used to having a lot of buffer/extra.  So it will be an adjustment as we get back into that one-income mode (without any buffer).  But as long as I have library books and MH has a movie pass, all will be fine and well.  We do also have a museum membership (reciprocal with other museums) and an electric car that costs pennies to run.  That last part makes traveling anywhere pretty easy (other museums, the beach, the mountains, etc.  Various low cost activities that weren't so low-cost when you factored the cost of gas).

Wednesday was a good money day.  MH got an focus group (about electric cars!).  It's next week? & will pay $65 cash.   I don't remember the last time either of us did a focus group.  

I was craving pizza and was surprised to see I had a free personal pizza at Round Table.  Woohoo!  It seems to work out generally buying one large pizza equates a big reward like a free personal pizza.  We had kind of made a big deal about getting a Large pizza before MM(18) left us.  But if we average one pizza out every other month, that's probably going to remain the same.  MM(18) will be back in November and December, and March.  I can probably squeeze some more free personal pizzas out of my big eater.

I dragged my feet for about 10 days but finally contacted our auto insurer to get an "away at college" discount for MM.  I don't know how much that will be but I am going to pocket the money.  MM(18) paid the full cost of the car age 16-18 (license, insurance, gas, maintenance, etc.).  I decided to pocket the insurance savings since we will be covering the insurance/registration in the meantime.  It will probably be at least a year before DL(16) gets his license.  In turn, MM(18) will continue to get free use of the car when he is home.  Should only be a week or two here and there.  He can pay for the gas.  I doubt we will pay for gas.  My gas budget is $0, we are driving 100% electric.   The 20yo gas car is *very* unappealing to drive, but we will do shorter trips to keep the car in good condition.  Which means probably just 4-mile round trips because I can't imagine where else we might drive it but the grocery store or maybe to DL's school.  

MH was told that work should pick up next month and that they will probably need him the week after next?  Not holding my breath, but that's the latest.  The silver lining is that MH can go with us to visit MM(18).  Of course, the whole point of that time off work was to give me some quiet time.  So much for that!  I have mixed feelings about it all because I was going to feel bad visiting MM(18) when MH was really the one having the harder time with him leaving.  Another adult on a road trip is not a bad thing.  Especially with my very moody teenager.  I was surprised that DL(16) even agreed to go with me (but expected very likely it would end up a solo trip, which sounded pretty divine).  

MM(18) continues to be uber frugal.  I don't know all the details but he stumbled upon a Rite Aid and got a $2 ice cream cone.  We used to do that all the time with our kids.  I am glad that could translate into a frugal find in his new locale.  As far as I can tell, that's all he spent his first 12 days of college.  

So that's a wee little bit of what has been going on the last week or so.  

I don't know if I will be able to keep up with it because it always seems to get very time consuming.  But I don't really know what October will hold on the grocery spending front and as our household changes.  So I decided between that and just diving back in with some minutiae posting, I will record daily expenses in my blog this month.  I always track every penny we spend (with accounting software) but this is just sharing in my blog.

I'd say overall our goal for October is to do a more frugal reset.  But that is offset by a trip we have planned to visit MM(18).  It is what it is, we have the savings for it, however it pans out.  & if MH's job comes back with decent work hours, then we might not care so much about a reset.  So I guess October is just a big mystery.  Will see how it plays out.  Mostly I am curious how the grocery spending shakes out and how much money I can shift to college food.  Oh yeah, and the other splurge-y thing is we are going to be dipping into savings probably to get this movie done.  Fingers crossed, anyway.  Yeah, October is kind of a crazy month, now that I think about it.  But through all that we are going to be figuring out how things shift with the smaller household.