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Archive for December, 2021

1 More Day!

December 31st, 2021 at 03:49 pm

Our net worth is up $200K for the year.  !!

We are at the whim of the stock market.  Waiting to see how today shakes out. 

Most of these gains were real estate gains.  It had been pretty stagnate here post recession but got knocked loose this year.  & I mean, we were nowhere near peak real estate levels in 2020 but now we have surpassed the peak (that we hit in 2005).

I had been estimating +$250K but I am looking at recent real estate sales and I am going to lower my housing estimate to be more conservative.  Better to have to bump it up another $50K next year than to bump it down $50K next year.

Dec 2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

December 31st, 2021 at 03:09 pm

2021 TALLY:

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

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

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$830 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Ongoing rewards:

+$313 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$80 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$108 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$1,046 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,377

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much.  (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2021).

Year 2011 = $4,164

Year 2012 = $2,782

Year 2013 = $2,623

Year 2014 = $3,128

Year 2015 = $2,585

Year 2016 = $1,906

Year 2017 = $3,578

Year 2018 = $2,096

Year 2019 = $2,266

Year 2020 = $2,107

Year 2021 = $2,377

Total 11 Years = $29,612 ***Mostly Tax-Free Income***

Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. We have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending. We treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of fees or interest.***

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Final tally is complete!

Got a boost from charging MM's surgery this month.  So it was a bigger December boost than usual.

So close to $30K!  

Nov 2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

December 24th, 2021 at 05:54 pm

2021 TALLY (Preliminary):

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

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

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$830 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Ongoing rewards:

+$313 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$80 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$76 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$875 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,174

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much.  (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2021).

Year 2011 = $4,164

Year 2012 = $2,782

Year 2013 = $2,623

Year 2014 = $3,128

Year 2015 = $2,585

Year 2016 = $1,906

Year 2017 = $3,578

Year 2018 = $2,096

Year 2019 = $2,266

Year 2020 = $2,107

Year 2021 = $2,174

Total 11 Years = $29,409 ***Mostly Tax-Free Income***

Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. We have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending. We treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of fees or interest.***

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I am just leaving this as a placeholder.  All I need to do is add in the December rewards when I have them, for the final 2021 tally.

Note:  I really lost interest in credit card rewards this year.  The exception was an easy offer to help offset college set up costs.  I used that $800 towards a college laptop for MM(18).  

I've commented in my last couple of posts that I hope to add a little breathing room to our very tight monthly spending budget, given windfalls and raises this year.  We haven't "lived without" the prior 20 years, but it's always the credit card rewards and extras that give us that extra breathing room.  If we can squeeze that out of *my* paycheck, I might not be as inclined to seek our bigger credit card rewards.  Will see...

I suppose that I plan to do a small reward when DL(16) gets his driver's license.  Something he can offset his first 6 months of insurance with.  Because I did that for MM(18).

Of course, the monthly credit card rewards are a no-brainer.  Will probably end up being $1,500-ish this year.  We will continue to redeem these rewards and add them to our investments. 

Gift Card Balances Dec 2021

December 24th, 2021 at 03:19 pm

HOTEL:

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$50 Hotel Coupon

 

MOVIES:

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$100 Regal

$ 50 Regal

$ 10 Regal (concessions)

$50   Art House Theater

 

RESTAURANTS:

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$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$50 Olive Garden

$25 Chili's

$5   Jamba Juice (Gift)

$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Gifts)

 

RETAIL:

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

$25  Kohls Gift Card (DL Christmas Gift)

 

REGIFT:

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$25  Starbucks

 

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

Just doing an update because we got some holiday gifts.  

We've had that Regal gift card forever but I guess haven't used much during the pandemic.  MH has a Regal specific movie pass and goes to the movies several times a week.  He told me a few days ago he still had $6 left but he is taking MM(18) to the movies a lot during his break.  I should probably just cross that out, they may have already spent that last $6.  I don't think I have been to the movies since the pandemic started?  Not Regal.  We've been to the art house theater a couple of times, now that I think about it.  That gift card is more used when MH brings MM or I along.  & even with his movie pass he just gets so many points and free tickets.  I should probably buy a Regal gift card for 2022 (so I don't have to figure movie expenses from our monthly budget) or ask for that for MH's birthday.  Buying it ourselves would be a nice use of gift cash.  

I insisted that MH use that Cracker Barrel gift card in Florida but they didn't use the entire balance.  Those restaurant ones are all pre-pandemic gift cards too.  Except for jamba juice, got some new gift cards this year.  That's a "would never spend $6 of my own money on a smoothie" thing, but it's a nice gift.   There's a jamba juice right by my work and I enjoy the treat sometimes.

DL receive a Kohls gift card.  I wanted to make sure that we don't lose track of that.  Might just trade him $25 for the gift card.

We bought $300 Target cards on discount this year and I donated one already ($100).  In past years I stocked up more for dorm purchases and school supplies, but don't expect to spend much at Target this year.  They remodeled our Target and it's terrible now.  They no longer stock the groceries we were buying (mostly cat food/litter and granola bars, plus just random things that were very cheap at Target).  

Starbucks is in the regift pile (no coffee drinkers here).  

Edited to add:  MH read my mind.  He bought a Regal gift card for Christmas!  I have no idea why, because we haven't exchanged gifts in like 20 years.  It was just so weird because I was going to do that.  He got $50 (came with $10 free concessions).  I told him to just pick up another one.  Not sure that will use the concessions gift card, but whatever.  We can always regift those.   He told me he *still* has that $6 left on the $100 gift card.  That he has too many free tickets piled up so he has been using free passes for all the movies he is taking MM(18) too over the winter break.

More This & That

December 24th, 2021 at 03:13 pm

MH & I have been talking about doing some kind of weekly date night.  Eating out more sounds nice in theory, but am resistant because about 99% of our "diet" is just never eating out.  & my employer is feeding us once every week, which is already a lot (as to calories).  When you are used to eating all of your meals at home, that once per week is very noticeable. Anyway, I don't want to see movies every week, and neither of us wants to eat out every single week.  So we finally decided we should probably alternate.  & obviously could do other date things too, but those would just be our obvious preferences.  I expect a lot of the movies will mostly be watched at home (we have a large screen/home theater).  

We've been discussing because our dollars are stretching further (monthly spending budget) with just the three of us.  & it's easier to get out for a night when we don't have to cook for bottomless pit older child.  But I did also receive 5% raise for 2022 and would like to redirect some of those dollars to a more relaxed budget.  

We did receive a movie gift card and a restaurant gift card for Christmas, so that was a nice start.  

We already had plans to eat out Monday night.  Wasn't really thinking, it was at the mall.  (I'd generally not go anywhere near a store/mall the month of December).  But we decided to make a reservation and give it a try.  It worked out okay.  Used our gift card and spent $50 of our own money.  (The timing just worked out, did not know that was the gift card we were getting for Christmas and already had made plans).

On a whim, I checked the chargers at the mall, expecting that it would be difficult to park but the chargers might be open.  They had some new free chargers.  Woohoo!  There were only two and they were taken, but just want to remember for next time, when maybe the mall isn't at 100% capacity.  Chargers are just popping up everywhere.

MH's electric car got a new battery!  It's a 2017, so basically it's getting a new engine/battery and a new 8-year warranty.  We kept our last couple of cars for 14 years, so that works out pretty well (if this gives us basically a 13-year warranty).  I think the #1 question I have gotten about our electric cars is, "What if you have to spend $10,000 to replace the battery??"  I've always felt very *shrugs* about that, but some of our friends/relatives were early adopters of the Prius and other hybrids (still have those cars 25 years later) and the warranties are very good in our state.  I've said in past blog posts, YMMV in other regions.  Here, I am not concerned about it.  Of course, we chose the Volt/Bolt for our cars because they don't have the battery degradation problems that other electric cars have.  & the warranty is there for the bad luck factor (if something random goes terribly wrong). 

{The battery replacement was a recall due to fire risk.  Probably nothing wrong with it, but an abundance of caution thing.  I intend to blog more about this, one of these days}.

With the car fixed, we should be back to 100% electric driving.  I was on track to only buy 2 gallons of gas this year.  But then we had to park the EV for all the longer trips we were doing.  So maybe we can try for 2022.  Make it a 2 gallon year.

I looked at where our net worth is for the year and we are up $250K!  Will see how things shake out 12/31.  

My last post got buried, but I mentioned a life changing windfall.  & how I was having trouble really believing it or wrapping my brain around it.  For the best, because I have no idea what is going on with that.  We did receive some nice checks for Christmas, but nothing we discussed and the kids got nothing.  ???  I asked MH about it at dinner Monday night and he was on the same page.  I didn't know what was lost in translation, playing telephone, and thought he might have more clarity.  Instead, he said at some point, "We are putting $50K to the mortgage?"  ???  He corrected himself, he forgot in the moment the money was nothing we had discussed.

I asked MH if he thought they would do more in January or next year and he said, "Heck if I know."  Overall, it's for the best.  I've felt deeply uncomfortable with MIL basically taking FIL's money and passing it along.  It was clear she didn't intend to discuss with FIL.  & even if it was her money, I'd still be uncomfortable.  They need to take some time to grieve and clear their heads.  So as nice as bunch of money would have been I am very okay with things.  & probably relieved with my "too good to be true, can't count my chickens" personality.  My in-laws have never been weird like this when it comes to money (as weird as they are with everything else), but this is admittedly different and weird.  Some part of me probably expected some "weird".  

Off the top of my head, I think we will probably set aside college money for next year (is what the in-laws presume we need the money for) and will probably put $10K to the mortgage.   But MH and I will have to discuss this weekend and make our final decisions.  I want to make the large mortgage payment before the year-end.  Still, clearly a nice windfall.  With college paid for sophomore year, I expect that MH and I can cash flow everything else we were discussing.  I ended up covering wisdom tooth surgery from my bonus.  We can fund MH's movie with our money, if we aren't paying for college with our income.  We've discussed we really need to get our old mattress replaced.  (Hasn't been about money to this point, but might have been after this last year and given our dwindling cash balance, plus college bills).  If we had a mega windfall we were probably going to set aside $5K for "dream spending."  Everything else we discussed, we should be able to just cash flow.  The "dream spending" is off the table, but it's fine.  We didn't have anything short-term or immediate in mind.  & if something else comes up, we might be able to cash flow.  (We were mostly going to throw the windfall at the mortgage).

& that reminds me, we tapped into our own money for the first time, re: MH's film.  Spent about $700 paying actors and crew.  It's an insulting pittance (per person), but it's something.  We owe $350 to the editor, when the edit is done (probably in a couple of months).  Everything else is really fluff.  MH told me he maybe wanted to spend $300-ish submitting to festivals (is only $30-ish per festival).  Other things we have discussed in the past is a wrap party and/or a screening party.  & then travel dollars if it does get into any film festivals.  So really only the $350 that we have committed to and is *needed* to finish the film.  I don't know if I am paying this $700 from MH's income or the windfall, this month.  Doesn't really matter.  Like I said, the windfall is freeing up our dollars that we had been saving for college.  So I guess at the end of the day that is really windfall money.  

I think that MH's work has come back as a skeleton crew, which is why he has been so busy.  I guess they shut down the last week of the year.  Sometimes.  I know he's worked through the holidays in the past because it was so busy.  Versus the first few years were kids were younger and he took this job so that he was home with kids during school breaks.  Anyway, I don't remember him getting paid an entire week off before, but because he is working before and after, he gets a paid-for week.   Plus today and January 3rd, so that's 7 paid days?  Woohoo!  On the flip side, they are being very wishy washy if they will need him in January.  After the first week or two. 

Work is crazed for me end of year.  So I wanted to do like a short daily post and it ended up this hodge podge all over the place, like 5 days later.  But I do have the long weekend and want to get caught up on blog/financial stuff.

This & That

December 19th, 2021 at 02:35 pm

November is probably going down as one of our most expensive months ever.  I don't think that December is off to a great start, either.

I paid about $6K for second quarter college expenses.  Paid the same amount for property taxes.  We drove to the college a couple of times, MH went to Florida and bought a laptop.  Medical expenses, etc., etc.  I was just balancing everything out Dec. 1 and so it looked a little *Yikes!*  But the money Gods have been very nice to us, and so I can probably save MH's next two paychecks (December).   We always pay off the prior month charges and pay all bills the first of the month.  But I am not used to MH working and the extra income (after 18 months off work).  So the money is rolling in pretty nicely.

I got my bonus, but it's mostly going to medical expenses.  My raise (larger than usual) is going to taxes and health insurance increases.  It is what it is.  I pay all the household taxes out of my paycheck (for simplicity).  & I am coming to the realization that it's just always is how it's going to be (my raises will just go to taxes), unless I pull some taxes out of MH's paycheck.  So I am pondering that.  I can keep the simplicity if we deduct a flat dollar amount from MH checks.  That's fine, but we are also coming off of a 18-month layoff and it was nice to just pump up my paychecks with tax savings, same as we did when MH was laid off 20 years ago. Pulling taxes from MH's paycheck will remove some of that "emergency cushion".  But...  I feel like we are ready to graduate into a more relaxed budget. 

Before I realized that my raise would mostly go to taxes**, I was pondering increasing our misc./total spending for the first time ever.  I will have to ponder some more.  If it doesn't pan out, fair enough.  This year has been our most expensive medical year, in addition to paying cash for college.  It might just not be the right time.  I feel so close...  But not quite there yet.  

**Not sure on this yet.  Depends on what they do with the child tax credit next year and why I didn't realize at first that my raise would likely just end up going to taxes.  It seems kind of moot because DL(16) will 100% age out the following year, if not next year.  So I need to start financially and mentally preparing for that big tax increase.  

MM(18) had wisdom tooth surgery this week.  Was not on my radar whatsoever because I have zero wisdom teeth (and MH never needed any removed).  That will eat up most of my bonus.  What was left, will cover our SF weekend in January.  We have a free hotel and my bonus will cover all the shows (SF Sketchfest).  Will have some Christmas/Birthday money to cover parking/meals that weekend. 

Other travels:  Dropped MM(18) off at his college last last last weekend.  (Okay, this post is taking me forever to publish).  We never travel during busy/Holiday times and just weren't thinking.  Had planned more of a leisurely weekend but eventually realized we just had to get out of there and home ASAP.  So we left pretty early Sunday morning.  I think it still worked out pretty well.  We tried a more reasonably priced hotel and went out for a really nice dinner Saturday night.  We were able to beat most of the traffic.  & we did get gas first thing when we got to MM's college town, so that we wouldn't forget.  😉

{That is probably the last gas trip we will take to the college.  Phew!  Our recall number came up and so we get a new EV battery next week.  In the meantime, we've had to limit charging due to risk of fire.  After the fix, should be a useable long road trip car again; can charge and discharge all we want.  Extra bonus: the newer batteries are bigger so we will also get a longer range with this fix.  Merry Christmas to us!}

MH ended up going to Florida to help settle his Grandfather's estate.  He's not the executor, so don't ask me...  ???  Just a weird toxic MIL thing.  By itself, no big deal.  But just the usual over-reliance on MH and no concept that he has a job/family.  & I mean, he's trying to get back to work after 18 months off but it's just been one thing after another.  In the end, MH was able to change to an earlier flight home.  Phew!   

I personally didn't expect to be so knee deep in (estate) details so soon.  Silly me!  I forget why I am always knee deep in everyone's estates.  If nothing else, I will get the tax questions.  But even with friends, they usually deep dive with me because they know I will understand, in addition to wanting financial guidance.  So between that and MH helping with the details, we were both thrown head first into everything.  

I gather that FIL didn't expect to inherit anything (due to a second marriage) and that he is surprised by the size of the estate.  My MIL is being very weird about the whole thing, doesn't want any of the money, wants to pass it all on ASAP to kids and Grandkids.  I'd prefer that they slow down and give it some time.  

I don't really know what any of this means, but it's been thrown out that they want to do the max gift to everyone in my family.  $30K per person, though I wouldn't expect that until 2022.  & I know the gift limits are going up next year, but that buys the in-laws some wiggle room to also do the usual gifts (e.g. the $1K per year/each they have been giving the kids for college). 

Getting into the nitty gritty is another post for another day.  The obvious is the mortgage.  It was our gut feeling as to what to do with our money and it was still the obvious when circling back to long-term goals/plans.  For me personally, I just find it impossible to believe.  & MH is grieving, so there will be more in depth conversations about it all when the money is in hand.  For now...  Yeah, my mind just can not compute.  It's just that past large financial wins have always fallen through at the last minute. MH's family has always been very generous as opposed to my money hoarding family (we both will meet somewhere in the middle when it comes to our own kids.  Seriously, can our parents be any more opposite??).  Though MH's parents are generous, this is the first time they've had a large windfall.  So this does not compute at all for me and I will believe it when I see it.  But at some point I will do a more in depth post of our current financial position and our thought process on the windfall.

In the short run, all I have left in cash is our emergency funds.  (I just peeked to see exactly where we were at.  6-month emergency fund + $33?  That's where we are at).  + probably $1,000 MH's paychecks this month (no further expenses to pay until January).  Plus some Christmas money.  Will see...  MH's work is busy (way busier than I realistically expected) so that is another windfall of sorts.  I don't feel financially stressed whatsoever, because we are saving so much.  Cash is dwindling because it was such an expensive medical year.  

So there's that.  But then I received a $100 check for my birthday (from my parents) and I couldn't even fathom what on earth to do with that.  I ended up donating to a homeless family. 

Obviously, the financial wins currently far outweight the financial challenges.  I guess that sums it up pretty well.

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I don't have much to say about Christmas.  Our focus this time of year is charity (versus consumerism).  Time flies.  I was looking up in my blog and this is the 5th year that the in-laws gave us $1,000 to donate.  I would have guessed maybe the third year.   But it's the 5th year!

I hadn't looked at things yet, where we donated everything to last year.  But looking through prior Christmas posts, I forgot we also came up with about $500 last year.  *sigh*  Wasn't on my radar at all with mega medical expenses and paying cash for college, etc.  But I can see that I will probably use $500 of the windfall to do that.  I will want to donate to a lot of the usual places:  DL's school, food banks, animal shelters, etc.  

(Usually I earmark some of my bonus for charity, but just didn't have any bonus money left after paying for the surgery).  

We actually were able to donate a $500-ish piece of furniture (misdelivered, we paid -$0-) to that homeless family and I had a new pillow & blanket that I gave them.  (They just got into an apartment).  Based on dollars/value alone I would feel good about things, but I don't want to skip some of the charities that we always donate to.  The list seems to just be getting longer every year.

MH found out that someone who helped with his movie passed away.  😞  He's taking his $250 (1/4 of $1,000) to give to this person's chosen charity and a scholarship fund in their name.  The kids haven't decided yet, where to donate.  

Stuff with MH's movie continues to be interesting.  That just reminded me.   I guess he had committed to paying everyone?  I had no idea! (I knew he wanted to, but didn't know he told everyone up front).  For reference, MH has never recieved a cent helping out with small/independent movies.  The interesting part is that he started to dole out money this week and probably roughly 1/3 the people are refusing to take payment.  ???  Told him to keep that money for applying to festivals, etc.  But I guess that's the bigger value for the actors, if the movie gets some exposure.  & like the donors for this film, there seems to be a mix of "starving artist" and "lots of money to throw around" types.  I am just used to the starving artists (and the general broke-ness of our peer group).  Though even some of the starving artists have been generous with donations.  I continue to be surprised.