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Archive for March, 2022

Busy Busy

March 13th, 2022 at 06:31 pm

Work is very busy right now.  

We are hosting St Patty's day dinner so things are busy at home.  MH handles all things food but I am trying to get the house in order.  I got out of my funk last weekend and got our taxes done and also started on getting the house cleaned up.  Phew!  Will spend this weekend doing the rest of the house prep.  I've probably said before but my "clean when guests come over" cleaning style hasn't worked particularly well in recent years.  Not enough guests coming over.   

MH received a $100 bonus from work, for being vaccinated.  They announced this a long time ago but I just confirmed it was in his check this past week.  The red tape took some time. 

MH also just figured out he can borrow video games from the library.  Nice!   He picked one up yesterday and it's due in 3 weeks.  

I was nice and filled up MM(18)'s car with gas.  I figured might as well before gas prices got worse.  Just had a mostly empty gas tank sitting there.  MM(18) is covering his ride home for spring break and it will be expensive reimbursing his friends for gas.  I could see him not bothering to come home but he has a job interview and several appointments (dentist/ortho, etc.).  & he will need to get his taxes done.  It's going to be quite the chore week.  

DL(16) joined/formed a band.  He only picked up guitar a few months ago but it comes very easy to him.  He's been wanting to join a band for a while so this is exciting for him.  These are kids from his art school, so they are mostly interested in writing their own music.  It sounds like more of a punk band but DL is trying to move them to more his style, whatever that is.  Loud and electric, either way.  

This is another post for another day, but DL(16) is starting to express interest in an accounting degree.   🙄  I mean, that's easy because is something that I know.  Before I would have told you *no idea*.  Maybe economics or political science.  No idea where those good schools are because everyone in my family studied math, accounting or engineering.  Or teaching.  That's about it.  We have some strong genetic tendencies. 

I roll my eyes because MH and DL are the two most creative people I have ever met (but also probably admittedly two of the most practical/responsible people I have ever met).  DL is just his mini me.   I have always been horrified how MH's family treated MH (did not value at all the arts or his creativity).  *sigh*  I had so many hopes for DL(16) with our full support.  Spending *7* years in an art school that values creativity and has college and career counseling to that end.  All that, and DL is just going to get a business degree like his father!?

I was legit horrified the first time he said this to me.  (I can't imagine him actually being happy with that career route, and I am horrified how we have failed to find any middle ground for him!)  But fair enough, there's a lot of accountants in my family and maybe he has some of those genes.  I am warming up to it.

& obviously he has a lot of time to change his mind.  Will see...  But mostly it sounds like they both took entirely different routes to the same end.  

On the college front, it's probably going to be community college.  He's always liked the idea of free college.  But as he gets closer, the more I tell him all the red tape he can skip/delay just going to community college...  He's all in.  & even this, will see...

I had this light bulb moment this past week that we are ready to buy I Bonds.  It's always been a "later" thing when we have more money.  Most likely after college and mortgage pay off.  Though as I type this out, it probably would be pretty smart to put most of our "emergency funds" in I Bonds.  (This is money we are personally never going to touch unless of a more catastrophic type emergency like job loss).  I guess something else to keep in mind.  

I am feeling a little "duh" about it because the annual max is $10K per person and we have $20K earmarked for MM's college expenses.  It was invested and is now languishing in our investment account earning probably 0.01% interest.  We just happen to have the max amount?  & why didn't I figure this out before?

At this point anything's better than sitting in investment cash account earning nothing.  I think this is perfect money to use to dip our toes into I Bonds.  It was also something we were discussing re: windfall money last year.  I understand there are educational benefits (tax free interest) but this is for MM(18) who likely won't have any tuition payments to get the tax benefit for.  

It sounds like a lot of red tape to get set up, so it's going to be a while.  Maybe in May I will have the mental energy for that, and some of why I wanted to write it down.  I also have $20K loosely set aside for DL's college, so might do another $20K next year.  (It's invested but admittedly should be moved to something more conservative soon). After that, might circle back to our emergency funds.

One last thing while I am thinking about it.  I was surprised when my friend told me her sister bought some land and a mobile home.  About $400K?  I was surprised because most her family had moved to Texas and was enjoying the lower cost of living.  Her sister works remotely (did so long before the pandemic).  Sister is early 20s.  It was shocking that she decided to stay here.

So I ask her the other day, "Did your sister move in?"  She told me no, they wouldn't let her.  What does that mean!?  Turns out the mortgage payment was 100% of her net monthly income.  She was approved for up to $625K loan on $80K income?  ???  The mortgage was $3,500 per month (for the $400K loan).  Her siblings were able to talk some sense into her and she backed out of the purchase.  It helped that there were other issues with permits and foundation.  I said, "Wow, that sounds like bubble territory."  I haven't been paying too much attention because interest rates are low and the vibe is so different than the last housing bubble here.  It may just be earlier in the cycle, before everyone completely loses their heads.  But this is all sorts of red flags crazy.  Which I guess is exactly what happens when prices are absurd and everyone get desperate.  

Feb '22 Savings

March 5th, 2022 at 05:36 pm

Received $25 bank interest for the month of February.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $37 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $85 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $6 on dining out card


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $4 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)


TOTAL: $132 Snowflakes to Investments


401k Contributions/Match:



Snowball to Savings:

+$600 MH Income


Savings (from my paycheck):

+$850 to cash (mid-term savings)


Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$5,719 College Expenses

- $500 More College Expenses

- $600 Mattress  (used MH's income towards a new mattress)


Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

+$  175 Insurance Rebate**

-$1,380 Various Insurance

-$  260 Dentist

-$  266 Annual DMV Registration (Hybrid)

-$   80 Miscellaneous


TOTAL: -$4,723 Net Withdrawn from Cash and Investments


Hybrid Miles Driven February:  704

Fuel Costs: $20 Electricity 

Note:  I'd estimate my commute at 800 miles per month.  Short month and a couple of days off.

Electric (EV) Miles Driven February: 486

Fuel Costs: $14

Note:  I don't recall any free charging this month. 

We also didn't have an opportunity yet to test out the bigger battery on a longer drive.

All charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.  

Note:  I haven't noticed any gas price changes in months.  Whenever it comes up online, I look at Gas Buddy.  I think as with many things, prices are already high here and so are slow to change.  I share because in the last day our gas prices went up 50-cents per gallon!  At the super cheapie gas stations we frequent(ed).  Last night I thought it was a typo or maybe premium gas, but the other gas station shot up 40-cents today.  So it's official, our gas prices are getting crazy now. 

Of course, I don't want to pay even $4/gallon (much less $5/gallon) for my commute, which is why we bought the hybrid in the first place.  


**Insurance rebate was for disability & life insurance through professional association.  The annual rebate was much lower than usual.  I presumed that is due to the pandemic.  I later got an email confirming this.  More life insurance claims last year.

Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in January will be paid off February 1 and reflected in my February numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings). So this update reflects January spending & February savings. 

This is mostly how it goes but I have two exceptions for this month:

1 - DMV.  Ugh!  After many many years of accepting credit card payments with no charge, they switched to charging a fee for payments.  This was before the pandemic?  Keep hoping they switch back and surprised they have not yet.  This bill is not due for a couple of months but I don't want to keep track of it, I just want to get it paid.  So I had to move money for this cash expense.  Paid in February.  Couldn't just charge it and pay it off next month.

2 - College Expenses.  Have to pay cash.  Again, could have paid later but I prefer to pay a couple of weeks early and to just pay the quarter in full (versus dealing with more frequent payments).

College Expenses: Paid for final quarter of freshman year.  This is roughly $730 tuition (will be completely offset by college tax credit) + $3K rent + $2K food. 

After that was done, MM(18) pinned me down to pay a $500 deposit for housing sophomore year.  I knew that was due soon, but thought I might have a couple of weeks of breather.  This is the only deposit I have to pay for next year?  Nothing else should be due until September. 

College Big Picture: 

A - I have money set aside to cover rent next year. 

B - Gifted funds are set aside for tuition, if needed.  Worst case sticker price is $20K for remainder of 4-year degree (tuition/fees).  MM(18) has $27K gifted funds.

C - We do also have $20K set aside to cover rent for last two years.  & we are still working towards saving college money for the next 16 months (basically spending sophomore year saving up for MM's junior year).   This is just in a "prepare for the worst" vein and our final contribution before we shift focus to DL(16)'s college expenses.

D - Waiting for scholarships & MM's summer job to sort out for more financial clarity.   

Another Note:  MH had a lot of time off work this month (just slow at work, plus some seasonal time off).    

I did throw MH's one paycheck towards the mattress; his March paychecks will pay for (most of) the rest of the mattress.  That and my raise should do it.  (I've already paid off the credit card, so technically just paying ourselves back in March).

February ended up being a really good month and will be reflected by mega savings numbers in March.  Even with the purchase of a new mattress, March should go way the other way with more savings than spending.  It was nice to enjoy some rare breathing room we put in our budget this year, so it felt a little splurge-y while also being able to keep aggressive savings goals.  I am sure the short month helped, and also just nothing really came up (by some miracle!?).  


That Was Unexpected

March 2nd, 2022 at 03:12 pm

I received a 5% raise this year, in addition to an extra week of vacation (putting my vacation time back to what I was used to at my last job).  I was more than happy with all of the above.  Certainly better than the usual 3% COLA raise.

After 20 years of January 1 raises (across multiple jobs), I certainly didn't expect a pay bump again until January.

But my boss was being silly and for whatever reason was looking at things and felt like he should have bumped me up to the next big round number.  (He felt bad about this).  ❓  So I got a $2K raise!  Woohoo!  Retroactive to January 1.

How's that for random!?

This is turning in to a "have my cake and eat it too" year.   I made the very unusual decision to lower our savings amounts and to increase our spending this year.  Increasing spending is not something we do, nor is decreasing savings.  I guess both were weird, but we lost a big tax credit this year, so I wasn't able to even add $100/month to our spending budget without decreasing savings goals.  

I'll be able to bump up savings by $100/month (with raise) and will start reflecting that in my March numbers.

This & That

March 1st, 2022 at 02:29 pm

The theme has changed:  Life is chaotic and difficult, but finances are... okay?

I hadn't commented lately and probably just wan't very conscious of how terrible things have been.  Because relatively, things have gone done a few notches and were a little easier.  Phew!  But I took a 4-day weekend last weekend and had some time to slow down and reflect.  2021 was terrible and 2022 isn't off to a great start. 

So I figured I'd copy and paste one of the other bajillion times I wrote how terrible things were going.  But all those other times it was, "Everything sucks but finances are great!!"  This time around, finances are fine/good.  Maybe both sides of the coin have been taken down a notch or two.  

Taking time to slow down and reflect was good.  I actually just retreated into my cocoon last Saturday.  Wouldn't be surprised if I ended up in bed for 3 days, but I felt so much better the next day.  Phew!  My takeaway is to completely give up on this "Reset" I have been trying for since 2018.  I am in survival mode.  It's just one foot in front of the other.  

So that's a bigger picture update.

It's not all bad.  Like I said, things have gone down a notch or two.  February ended up being productive on many fronts. 

We finally did it!  We replaced our 22yo mattress.  We went shopping a few years ago and just couldn't decide on anything.  Felt like such a big/scary purchase.  This time around we were able to be more decisive.  Anything is better than what we have, at this point.  (Maybe just weren't quite there yet, last time.  The old mattress felt like a cloud for the first 15+ years so I have dreaded trying to find something that could compare).  We doubled our budget this time because we just wanted to get it done.  & I mean, we just pulled a number out of the air that morning.  It was a starting point, we have the cash for whatever. 

We ended up buying a higher end mattress that had been returned.  60% off and was so obviously "the one".   

I personally just wanted to figure it out, make the purchase.  Didn't have any high expectations on delivery timelines with the state of the world these days.  But I guess that was also a nice perk of buying a returned mattress.  We had it delivered and set up a few hours after the purchase.  So life can move on...

February was also successful re: adding breathing room to our monthly budget.  It does work better when you have a full month of new raise (versus just 1/2 month). 

We have $125 monthly breathing room that we are just leaving more for eating out and going out.  A line item that we've never allocated this much money to, before. 

February ended up being $108; the breathing room was divine.   

**We tried a sushi place by our home that was *so good*.  (Went there for lunch when MH was not working).  It's right next to our favorite restaurant.  Which I expect is one reason we had never eaten there.  It's apparently been there forever.  *This* is what I want to get out of the breathing room, finding these places that are right under our nose.

**Mid-February we went to the art museum (free with membership) and had lunch at a bar in the old downtown by the river.  The food was "meh".  This is a reminder of why I dislike spending money on eating out.  But having the breathing room, being more relaxed about it, and this not being our 'only splurge for the month' helped.  It's going to be hit and miss; this breathing room is about the journey.

**Went to a foreign film (free with gift card)

**Went to a play

In the end, got completely unexpected good money news this week already.  So maybe I was too quick to label finances as just "okay".  Next post...