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Archive for October, 2022

Gift Card Balances Oct 2022

October 23rd, 2022 at 03:56 pm



$50 Hotel Coupon




$50  Regal

$50  Art House Theater




$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$25 Chili's

$ 25 x 1 Jamba Juice (Gifts)




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

$25  Kohls Gift Card (DL Christmas Gift)




$25  Starbucks


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

We just got through a restaurant gift card from 2017!  

We've been discussing for several months at this point, but finally used that Chili's gift card.  

Yeah, the *one* thing I wanted to buy more breathing room in our budget for was more "dates" and eating out with the hubby.  Which...  Has gone nowhere.  We did a couple of nice meals early in the year and then decided it just wasn't our thing.  The grass looked greener, I guess?  But once I made it a priority and put it in the budget, neither of us were interested.

So this is why we have talked about using up this gift card finally, since summer.  & sounded more promising when MH told me there is a Chili's in our neighborhood. Must be new?  After all that, we went to the Bay Area yesterday and just didn't want to spend money (not full meals out x2 money).  I grabbed the gift card just in case.  It worked out perfectly because we got a late start home and decided to just stop and eat, to break up the drive.  There was a Chili's at the half way point.

We made out pretty well.  The grand total was $6 (including tax) for a steak dinner, 1/3 of a beer, and an appetizer/main course/margarita special that MH ordred.  I got the last of the beer (they ran out) so they just gave it to me for free.  A 1/2 glass probably would have been ideal for me, so I just went with it.  Lord knows I wouldn't have wanted another full glass of (another) beer, in addition to the 1/3 glass.  Because we spent so little on the meal, I tipped generously.  We also had enough leftovers to feed DL when we got home.

I am not sure where we are at with movie gift cards.  We might have used up the art house gift card.  & I think MH ended up buying a second $50 Regal gift card, but I don't remember for sure.   MH has an unlimited Regal movie pass, and earns more points than I would ever use for free tickets, so he gets through the movie gift cards very slowly. 

As the year wraps up, trying to get through the retail cards.  I just have been using the Target gift cards when I do online orders.  Which is usually toiletries and really boring stuff, but I did treat myself to a monkey sweatshirt the other day. 

& I lucked out with Kohls.  I noticed the jeans I had were getting kind of sad (a pair that I didn't expect to be coming apart already).  So I popped online and my jeans were on sale for $20.  I gave DL(17) $25 cash for the Kohls gift card last Christmas, but had yet to use the gift card.

Jamba Juice, I was going every week during early summer but I guess I got bored with it.  I don't know.  I got through one $25 gift card and have another one for next summer.


College Updates

October 18th, 2022 at 02:27 am

We did a $80 grocery run when we dropped off MM(19) at college.  After the first 30 days, his credit card cycle closed with $70 in grocery costs.  Will see how it shakes out during the next few months.  But I would be happy to keep it at $200/month or lower.  This sounds like it might work out.   

CA state funding came through and I have a better idea of real tuition costs this year.  First, the state is raising middle class funding over the next few years.  I've heard our $2K grant would probably go up to $3K this year.  It ended up being $3,400.  Woohoo!  & might be more next year?

Even better, the CA money is now showing up for all 4 years.  Initially he had so many credits they labeled him as a sophomore last year and only was showing 3 years of grants.  I am sure that was probably right.  Some majors can get out in 2-3 years if you start with a lot of credits.  But that's just not going to be the case for his engineering degree.  So I don't know what to think, but now it's showing up for all 4 years.  So that's +$3K I really was not expecting.

We've whittled the cost of MM(19)'s degree (tuition) down to $14,500. 

Edit:  MM and his girlfriend are each cooking a meal once a week, and then leftovers are carrying them through.  It sounds like girlfriend may be doing even more cooking/baking (she loves to cook) and I think I will try to buy her a grocery gift card for Christmas.  She just refuses money (any time we have offered her reimbursements for gas, food, anything).  So I am trying to figure out how to put some money back in her pocket. 

& I mean, that's just the big food effort.  MM(19) loves baked potatoes (cheap/easy) and told us he was buying some frozen meals.  If he went straight from home to college/apartment, I would not expect that at all.  But I guess he can tolerate some of the frozen meals when the alternative is (terrible/expensive) campus food.  It's all relative.

Sep '22 Savings

October 15th, 2022 at 03:25 pm

Received $70 bank interest for the month of September.

Received $180 I Bond interest for the month of September.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $49 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $84 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $12 on dining out/gas card 


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $7 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

+ $65 Dividends


TOTAL: $217 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$930 MH Income

-$150 Grocery Budget Overage

-$230 Misc Over-Spending 

-$  50 Gas (Kids' car, DL practice driving)

-$100 To Friend in Need (came up last minute)

-$100 AP Test Fee


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)


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

+$1,500 to cash

-$  486 Airfare

-$  286 Annual Vet Visit

-$  220 Running Shoes for DL

-$    78 Pest Control


TOTAL: $2,997 Deposited to Cash and Investments


Hybrid Miles Driven September:  760

Fuel Costs: $25 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven September: 1,300

Fuel Costs: $19 (home) + $17 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)


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

Note:  Home charging rates are higher during summer months.

We did 500 miles of free charging this month.  Electrify America is going through some upgrade and has been free for weeks now.  It was just a nice surprise (to us) when we drove MM(19) back to college.

Driving will probably be more next month.  Planning a drive up to Washington.

Side note:  Gas is $6/gallon here.  We are saving hundreds of dollars on fuel every month.


Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in August will be paid off September 1 and reflected in my September 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 August spending & September savings.

August spending was...  Blech!  

We are personally very insulated from inflation.  My best guess is that with our higher prices (HCOLA), we just aren't experiencing inflation the way most in the US are.  This is coupled with generally not being spenders (& not buying gas, etc.).  So...  Inflation is not a factor in our grocery blown budget this month.  MM(19) was home more, MH was sick and didn't grocery shop for about 2 weeks.  I did the best I could but I know I am not as efficient as the master.  In addition, I stocked up on things.  Off the top of my head, I bought hairspray, toothpaste, and laundry detergent.  Enough to last another year or so.  (Not much of a stocker upper, but generally buy 2x anything I purchase for myself.  Just to go to the store less.  A large laundry detergent box will last us a year.  I bought 4 cans of hairspray because it was on sale.  DL goes through hairspray quickly.)  I just lump all household spending like this in our 'grocery' budget.  

Edit to add:  A lot of our food is produced in our state, so I expect this is also a lot of it. 

{This is just to-date.  Obviously, rising fuel prices affects prices on everything and ask me again in another few months.  To-date, I have nothing to contribute to the inflation conversation.}

That does remind me, some of our spending this month was buying gas, with our -$0- gas budget.  Should just be one-off for a couple of months.  DL(17) will take over gas car expenses when he gets his license (very soon).

We've completely exhausted our Misc. short-term savings.  Will have to just pull from MH's income the rest of the year.  Like the gas, it's one-off and so I am just rolling with it.  I won't be adjusting our budget.  MM(19) is taking over most of his expenses (that would have gone under misc. short-term) and this is the last year we will have high school expenses for DL(17).  Ugh.  He's doing *3* band classes and a vocal class so we will be spending a ton on concert tickets this school year.  So that might get a little crazy, but also should be very one-off.  (We always buy tickets for the grandparents, etc.)

Edited to add: Apparently we will pay for a couple of AP classes for DL(17), but again, very one-off.  I dodged a bullet.  MM(19) took a bajillion tests.  Several AP classes every year, ACT, SAT, PSAT, IB, etc.  His school paid for everything.  I think it's $100 for the one AP test.  DL(17) isn't going to bother with the SAT or ACT.   So it sounds like it will just be the two AP tests.  & even that's kind of random.  No idea why on earth he wanted to take calculus this year.  He takes more after his dad/brother I guess.  But he's never going to use that in the future.  & is generally opposed to unnecessary work.  So this is why I am just finding out (senior year) that his school does not cover AP tests.  

Heck, we've completely exhausted short-term funds, except for property taxes and insurance.  Will pay taxes in November.  & I guess we still also have funds left in our vacation (short term) bucket.  

Misc. spending was doing some crowd funding (more paying it forward) and buying some games and accessories for the new VR.

I was hoping to kick off the airfare another month, but it squeaked by on the last day of the credit card cutoff.  It doesn't matter.  But psychologically, expected a bigger cash boost this month.

I just noticed that we have exhausted the 6% cash back on our grocery card.  Hit the cap for the year.  Will switch over to our dining/gas card which pays 3% back on groceries.  I usually just pull those cards out of our wallet for the last quarter of the year.  (Would never remember, otherwise).

I already balanced out October.  Was a -$0- month on the savings side (cash savings/my salary).  But I will have MH's income, 401K contributions, credit card rewards, bank & I Bond interest, etc.  Off the top of my head, might be a +$2K month.   It was just mid term/short term was a wash with what I put in and took out.  

And then...  November.  Ugh!  MH just replaced his phone.  We will have a lot of travel expenses (Arizona + Oregon).  Oh, and I just charged my life insurance that went up x4 because I turned 45.  All of that...  Plus paying *cash* for college and property taxes.  November will be very ugly.  

That said, we are making good progress.  Big picture, things are chugging along just fine.  Just dealing with a lot of one-off expenses right now.  

Note:  The rumor is that our CA college grant should have posted this week.  I will talk to MM(19) about it this weekend.  November is going to be ugly no matter what, but this will make it slightly less ugly.  The planner in me will be happy to know what our *real* tuition costs are for this school year.  Finally...

Quiet Day

October 9th, 2022 at 11:32 pm

MH took DL(17) to a concert last night. 

MH and I are going back and forth on Napa plans.  Was planning to do a big dinner there.  But when talking about it Friday, MH told me he was making gnocchi for dinner and butternut squash soup for dinner this weekend.  & he already made some salsa.  I told him at some point that nevermind, didn't see the point of eating out.  Next month is going to be crazy expensive (including this month's charges) and we are eating *very well* at home.  Napa is generally over-rated and over-priced.

That's pretty much where we were at, but then yesterday we discussed we should just eat there, otherwise we need to eat dinner at 4:00.  I suppose we can flip a coin later.  I am starting to think we should just pack a picnic.  This might be the middle ground that we need.

We are being just as wishy washy about the Oregon trip.  But MH was just told by someone else that the Oregon film festival was one of the best they have been to.  Ugh!  (I find this doubtful, given the logistics.)  We are talking maybe $300 for gas and hotels.  I think we will probably just go/drive.  

Oh yeah, but my coworker will be there at the same time for a wedding and told me it was the time for peak foliage/fall colors.  So I guess there's that.  Lord knows we won't have time to stop anywhere.  But we can enjoy the view along the way.

Not even going to bother to try with the electric car.  Maybe we should.  Apparently the EA chargers are all still free.  That would be quite a score, getting a free 1,100 miles.  We don't want our first big electric road trip to be on such a time crunch.  I am sure it's doable, we just don't want to bother with it. 

Edit to add:  We went to Napa and ended up eating out ($$$$).  The food was very good.  We went to a film festival; watched a documentary.  Oh yeah, MH had bought tickets but then they ended up being free.  So that was a nice surprise.  (The film maker gave us 2 tickets and MH was able to request a refund).

I had noticed that MH did a mid-week $100 grocery run.  I asked if he was going shopping today.  He said he had bought through the next week.  I suppose that we will talk to MM(19) today and get an idea about how much he is spending.  He should have 3 weeks of grocery spending behind him.  Will need to figure out how to reimburse him.  & will get an idea how much he is spending.  

I am taking a communications class at work.  I am sure it's the kind of thing that sounds terrible re: the corporate world.  But it's a very chill thing in my 5-person office.  100% optional, and can do on company time.  My boss is an excellent teacher/trainer and so that is also a lot of it.   I expect this is the only class that will interest me; he wants to start doing one or two a year.  But I don't know, will see how it goes.  I could totally see him doing a personal finance class for employees.  I don't know what else he has in mind.  

After a couple of very long weeks, I should have a breather today.  Phew!  

Butternut squash is in the crockpot and it smells divine.  


October 5th, 2022 at 03:02 pm

It's a miracle, but I didn't have to back out of or cancel the trip!  So many last minute canceled trips in recent years.  So I am mostly in disbelief that we pulled it off.

The trip was very pleasant.  We loved Tucson.  Apparently, sunny (no clouds) and 90F degrees (forecasted) every day means some random rain and thunder just about every day.  That was a pleasant surprise.  Here in California, sunny and no clouds means sunny and no clouds.  😁  

This was the film festival to go to.  It took place in a large movie theater, which was very promising and seemed less hokey than most of the other (very small) Festivals that we have attended.  In the end, MH's 11am time slot (Sunday) was not well attended.  Nothing really was well attended (more than 10-15 people).  But the venue was so nice and the movies were higher quality than most of the festivals we have gone to so far.  The people running it are very ambitious (want to get very big) and were *so* nice.  So though the turnout was not large, the size was kind of workable as far as getting to know everyone.  MH made a lot of connections and got more out of this than any of the other festivals.  For example, the Oregon festival coming up, they network *before* they show the movies (not as useful).  It goes very late and it's in a drive-in.  Doesn't sound like much opportunity to chat afterwards.  At first MH admitted that clearly that one is not worth it.  But...  Then he made so many connections here, including several people telling him that this other festival has a really good reputation.  One of them who won a bunch of awards in Tucson couldn't get into that festival, etc.  So MH changed his tune in the end.  I think he's still undecided and we will probably just drive (to save ~$800).  Airline tickets keep getting more and more expensive.

& later, MH told me he wanted to go back to this festival next year.  So do I!  I had so much fun.

So that was a very unexpected outcome.  It could have just been really hokey, no one showing up, etc.  If that was the case, we would have just enjoyed the area.

The in-laws' timeshare properties can be hit and miss sometimes, but this one was really nice.  We had a little casita, right next to the National Park.  When we first walked in I told MH it was a mansion.  The place was just huge.  It was a one bedroom apartment.  Just, very big.  We didn't spend much time there, but would have been nice to just sit on the shaded patio and enjoy the view.

The other striking thing was the low cost of everything.  I guess we generally don't travel to lower cost places.  In recent years, it's been London, LA, Hawaii, DC.  So it was refreshing going somewhere so inexpensive.  Gas was probably about 1/3 of what we estimated.  The gas car we got came up with a surprising 40mpg average for our 530 miles of driving.  (We flew into Phoenix and drove the 2 hours to Tucson).  With gas costing half as much, we spent about $50 of the $150 I had imagined we'd spend.  & I knew gas would probably be cheaper there, but didn't realize how much cheaper.  In contrast, gas hit $7/gallon here at home.  We paid half that much in Arizona.

Side note:  If I lived in Arizona, we'd probably eat out all the time and we'd drive a gas car.  Location matters.  

Oh yeah, and one last thing.  I was really irritated re: super cheapie airfare, at first.  When I tried to get our seats at check-in (24 hours before flight).  I've just heard so many horror stories in recent years.  & the last few times we flew there was no room for our baggage, etc.  So I was really pleasantly surprised.  We flew American Airlines on one of their newer planes.  I refused to pay extra money to pick some random middle seat, when we couldn't sit next to each other anyway.  In the end, they did do a good job putting us close together (which cost no extra).  & the newer plane had ample overhead storage space for basically everyone to carry on a bag.  The seats and leg room was more than I remember (I haven't flown domestic in 6+ years).  So I quickly changed my tune.  Oh yeah, and after all that, the person next to me never showed up (full flight) so we got to sit together on the way in.  & I got an aisle seat on the way back.  Didn't get to sit next to MH on the way back, but he was just one row ahead and it was a short flight.  Probably best flight experience I've had, in a long time.  That was unexpected.

Anyway, I just wanted to do a quick estimate of the cost of the trip and see where we are at.  I can already see we went over our 2022 vacation budget, and have some expenses pending.  But it came out to about what I expected.  We had $1,130 left of our vacation budget.

Spending in Tucson...

$486 Flights

$429 Car Rental

$50 Airport Parking

$78 Film Festival

$275 Food

$50 Gas

$60 Museums

$70 National Parks (was only $25 but MH bought a very expensive hat, and I forgot lip balm)

We decided to retire the Florida ball caps we picked up at WalMart or Walgreens?  10+ years ago and figured we'd just buy hats there.  I found one for $5 at Wal Mart but MH ended up picking up a $40 hat at the National Park.  He wanted something nicer and wanted to support the National Park.  (He also burns very easily and wanted to cover his ears/neck and get a more wide brimmed hat.  I don't burn, in contrast.)

In addition to the above, we spent $50 on groceries (including sunblock, which was probably smart because was cheaper there anyway.)  & we spent $25 clothing.  The hat was cheap but I picked up some other clothing while I was there.  Will absorb these purchases in our regular monthly budget.

Total 'vacation' spending  = $1,500

So our overage is $370 and we are now considering an Oregon trip.  But this is very 'you only live once' and I thought we might spend many thousands this year (if MH had gotten into more festivals).  I am very fine with it.  We have ~$1,000 coming to us from the State.  Can pull from MH's income in the meantime, and his parents always gives us large amounts of money at the end of the year.  It's well covered.  I'd prefer to use the State inflation relief money, to cover extra travel this year, but not sure we will get it before 2023.

I wanted to see roughly where we are at. 

I leave you with some pictures.

Near Saguaro East National Park ~ we did a cave tour here, but the view was amazing

Saguaro West National Park

Saguaro East National Park (cactus + moon)

Saguaro East National Park