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Archive for November, 2022

Planes, Trains, Automobiles

November 26th, 2022 at 02:54 pm

MM(19) took the train home on Monday.  Got home very late that night. 

I think he's got a week and a day left of school.  All his finals are on a Monday.  But he will stick around and then will be in LA for a couple of weeks (joint school project).   I thought he would just be couch surfing, but it turns out that the school/club will be paying for a hotel.  

I looked up Southwest and the airfare was something like $90 from LA to our backyard.  It's a no brainer.  We booked the ticket a few days ago.  I presumed the train might be the same or even a few bucks cheaper.  But time is worth something too.  I just looked it up out of curiosity and it's $102 for the super cheapie seats (no refunds).  The train ride is 14 hours.  Versus a 1 hour plane ride.

(We live right by the train and the airport, so this is all very convenient on our end.)

The project that MM(19) is working on is the tournament of roses parade.  Building a rose float.  As an engineering major he is working on some of the welding/building, electronics, etc.  

I really wanted to go this year to see the behind the scenes.  They have a big deco week where the community helps with all the final touches.  But I don't think the timing works out this year.  They aren't starting the decorating until after Christmas, which is my work hell week.  MM(19) is skipping the parade hell week for whatever reason.  But wants to go back for the day of the parade.  As he started pressing us to make plans, I was just too exhausted and still unsure of the schedule.  He pointed out that I could go New Years weekend and he has a point.  But it also sounds like the most chaotic time to go.  I wanted to see the behind the scenes.  I wasn't interested in the big crowd on New Years day.

So I told him he should take someone young and up to all this.  DL(17) or his girlfriend.  He was able to get a free timeshare stay (through MIL).  

MM(19) was just going to drive down to school to meet up with his girlfriend (who is working on campus, during the break).  They will drive together those last few hours, to LA. But his school is being an extraordinary PITA with parking and all that.  Probably for the best.  We realized that the roundtrip train would be cheaper than gas, anyway.  So might as well just do the train thing. 

MM's TA job is going well.  I think he is making $1,200 (net) for the quarter.  He did not commit to next quarter because they wanted a commitment during the first week of the job?  But he somehow got classes (without the priority registration).  He is enjoying it so much, he said he will sign up again for the spring.  He can TA 2x for this class.

Financial aid is supposed to sort out "by the end of the quarter."  Which is... Next week?  The college owes me $2,300.  I am hoping that sorts out in the next week or two.  I paid full price tuition *again* because I don't want to risk MM(19) having any problems with his classes.   By the time I post my November update, maybe I will be able to lessen the college hit by this $2,300?  Fingers crossed.  I do also plan to reimburse ourselves from MM(18)'s college funds, but just depends where the stock market is.  I don't want to do any of that until financial aid sorts out and I know what our actual cost is for this school year.

I had that New Years conversation with MM(19) before my car accident.  I really am just not in a good mental space for driving to LA right now.   I don't even know if we will have a practical vehicle for that.  So I was already kind of, "You make plans, and I need more time to figure this out."  Then things just got worse from there.

I mentioned briefly on my monthly update but didn't say much about it.  Someone hit my car on the freeway.  (They swerved to avoid hitting another car; didn't see me.)  I haven't been in an accident where the other person pulled over, since the 1990s.  Times have changed.  Within a few hours, the other insurer had already claimed responsibility (I guess it was very "open and shut") and had booked the repairs and a car rental for me.  

The damage looks relatively superficial but he did hit my back wheel and most of the side of the car is damaged.  *sigh*   This is not a simple back bumper hit (like any prior accident I have had).  I had heard enough horror stories in recent times.  From the pictures it looks so minor that I think most thought I was crazy to even stress about it.   The cost to repair ended up being... $14,000!  By any normal depreciation, my car would be toast.  But the car is worth far more than I paid for it (today) and it sounds like the insurance will repair it.  I am not holding my breath...  Just crossing my fingers that they don't find anything else.

The broke person in my office thinks that I should just take the money and buy a newer vehicle.  Most other people I know seem to be more of my thinking.  We keep our cars for 15-20 years.  The car is only 5 years old (and I *love* the car).  We just invested a fair amount in much newer/nicer cars than we have ever had before.  But the last thing I want to do is spend any more money on cars.  It was my preference not to spend a cent on a car until the kids were done with college (another ~5 years.)  I have had some extra anxiety about this in recent years with these absurd car repair costs and used car prices.  Anxiety about the "completely outside my control" factor.  & so, here we are. 

No one was hurt.  The other person's insurance is covering everything.  I guess this is as good as it gets, with these things.

The first ETA we have received is that the car will be fixed around Christmas.  I am mentally prepared that I won't get it back until the end of January.  Delays are expected. Will see...

We had just rented a Nissan Sentra in Arizona that we had liked and got 50mpg.  So I wasn't too put out by the gas rental situation.  But apparently there are no small cars to rent in our city.  Ugh.  So we ended up with a boat, but we are lucky not to have a SUV or truck honestly.  My first instinct was to be cheap and MH was just driving for his 3-mile commute.  Is really the only reason we need to drive that thing.  But I reconsidered (particularly when we received a more solid ETA).  I realize that it's probably more financially sensible to pile miles on the rental car.  I should have some extra Christmas/birthday money next month that we will just invest in car gas.  Ask me again when I have to start buying gas for a boat. 

For reference, my commute would have been about $6 per day (gas) in the Nissan Sentra.  Maybe closer to $10 per day in the large sedan?  Will see...  I haven't committed to driving it all the time.  & I have some days off work this month.  & MH might have some days off next month.  Will see how long I can stomach paying literally 10 times as much for fuel.


November 25th, 2022 at 05:14 pm

Pre-Thanksgiving was Drama Drama Drama.   But the day ended up very nice and peaceful.

Long story short, hell froze over and MH agreed not to do Thanksgiving with his family.  Of course his mom can't let it go, so it was a lot of drama the days prior.  (I don't think he's ever missed a Thanksgiving.  They have no concept that I have a family too, that MH has his own family, etc.)  I think the worst of it was Wednesday, when I was blissfully out of town.  If I was home, MH would have been venting to me all day.

**Edited to remove my own venting.**

I wish we could have given the Holiday to my parents, but they just aren't up to it at this point.  So we decided to have a peaceful day at home.  Is what all of us wanted more than anything at that point.  But we had sent off MM(19) to his girlfriend's Holiday and they ended up inviting us.  We felt obligated to go.  Most particularly because they had for months planned a summer BBQ that we had to cancel last minute when MH had COVID.  & it turns out that they usually have a bigger Thanksgiving with family but had stayed home due to medical reasons.  So they really appreciated having more mouths to feed.

The girlfriend and the Dad are both really good cooks.  We ate very well.  They seem to be a very relaxed bunch and we really enjoyed meeting them.

I tried a new/simple cookie recipe that was amazing:

I am looking forward to the peaceful long weekend.  Nothing planned today, though we have some appetizers to eat through (that we had bought for the in law Thanksgiving.)  

This weekend will be college stuff.  Have some financial stuff to go through with MM(19).  & DL(17) is going to be applying to one college.

We toured the local State college a few weeks ago and were all very pleasantly surprised.  It's a really nice campus.  I think we've always been kind of "meh" on the local colleges, being from the Bay Area.  & I mean, they didn't have any accounting programs when we moved here.  I abandoned my Graduate degree with the move.  Lord knows we didn't see the point of studying engineering here (with all the Bay Area schools to compare).  So I booked the tour and MH and DL(17) were kind of, "Why are we here?"  Because I like back up plans for my back up plans, and wanted DL(17) to know what his options are.  We all ended up really liking the campus.  So he may just stay at home his first year of college.

I keep trying to get him to tour my alma mater (which has an amazing accounting program) but DL(17) is really resisting.  He is prickly and I honestly think he would just hate it (it's in the middle of downtown).  But he wants to study accounting and I think he needs to at least set foot there and guage how he feels about it.  If he viscerally hates it, I am totally fine with that.  But it would be nice to know for sure.  (He absolutely could not stand MM's college campus.  If he didn't have such a negative visceral reaction, I'd suggest he just goes to community college down there and room with his brother.  I suppose it is another community college he could look into, but I think the distance is a bit much for him.)

We were out of town Wednesday because we went on a tour of the community college he is interested in.  In the Bay Area.  It was also a beautiful campus.  Both these campuses are woodsy, and he likes that.  

DL(17) has been overly fixated on college costs.  I told him to let it go.  The $8K state college is only $1,500 (annual tuition) after Federal tax credits and State middle class grants.  I told him the difference was negligible (versus community college) and that is why I personally didn't bother with community college.  I can't speak for MH but I expect it was the same for him.  I told him this at the beginning of the State college tour and I think he went into it with a more open mind.  It might cost $1,500 more per year but we can afford it and that $1,500 buys a lot of amenities.  Also, I've said before, if he starts out at State he is more likely to stay there.  So bigger picture I really think it's the most bargain option for his degree.  He's more likely to just start out at home (no extra room/board) *and* he is more likely to just finish his 4-year degree at the very affordable college.  Once he has that momentum going.  

The Prior Few Weeks

November 13th, 2022 at 12:42 am

We ended up canceling our Oregon trip last minute.  Too much ice/snow for our comfort level.  Of course, we were already on the fence about this trip so that was a lot of it.  The pros/cons shifted quickly to...  "Meh"

In the "it never hurts to ask" vein, they fully refunded our very last minute cancelation for the first hotel night.  (I am not entirely sure if MH asked, or if they were just nice and offered.  I told him to at least ask for a credit for a future stay.  Re: the fine print, we were out ~$100 because did not give enough notice.)  The second hotel we canceled within an hour of the cutoff time for full refund.  So I'd say that we were out $0.

But...  MH insisted on getting gas ahead of time (which made me uncomfortable) and so now I am stuck with a full tank of gas.  $37 for the small gas tank.  I will leave it be because we are still waiting to hear back from some Oregon and LA festivals.  Or it's just enough to drive to the Bay Area (and to leave the 2 gallons I need to last me 12 months).  So will burn through it one way or another.  It literally feels like burning money; gas is so expensive here.

Edit:  MH just got into another Oregon festival but not sure if we will be able to make it during winter.  The date is TBD.

DL(17) passed his driver test!  Woohoo!  I can't believe he actually did it in 6 months (I expected he would take his sweet time).   Poor kid, though.  I think he drove in the rain *once* during his 6 month permit, and even that was probably a miracle.  So there was rain in the forecast, it is what it is.  But I kept checking the forecast and eventually the window closed to rain just at the time of his test.  It ended up raining more on the drive to the DMV, which is good and at least gave him some time to get more comfortable with how to use the wipers, etc.   It pretty much stopped raining when his test was done.  

Yeah, MM(19) had his permit from January through July, so he had a lot more weather practice.  & night practice too. The fog will probably roll in any day now and that will be a fun experience.  Things that DL(17) just gets to figure out on his own. 

Last Saturday DL(17) drove to the Bay Area, through San Francisco.  He wanted to a while ago and I was fine with it, but was just the first weekend we didn't have something going on.  We took my bff out to lunch.  She had been helping DL(17) out with a school project.  I asked if we could meet near a charger.  Apparently she also has a Bolt (I didn't know) and we met by an EVgo charger.  It ended up being $0.30 for ~100 mile charge.  ???  I still had an old credit I lost track of.   I was annoyed because the charger had a 1 hour limit.  I needed an extra 2-3 minutes to be confident I could make it home.  In the end we stopped for about 3 minutes at a charger, on the way home, so spent ~$2 on outside chargers.  I expect this stop was completely unnecessary. 

Last weekend I added DL(17) to our AAA account and also paid for the annual renewal.  I was at least smart enough to add that to his credit card.  It looks like he is ~$70 short of $200 reward on $500 spend.  I will have to keep thinking about it, if I have any smaller purchases (online).   

Edit:  I ended up charging MM's auto insurance bill.  It was ~$200.  DL(17) has already received the $200 reward to offset.  I expect we will get another ~$200 bill any day now.  Now that we have added DL(17) as a new driver.   I expect to be paying closer to $400 every 6 months (or what MM had been paying as a new driver).  MM(17) had whittled it down to $200 with his good driving and some years of experience.  He does have a 'college student away from home' discount but that has been very negligible on top of all the other discounts.  A lot of why the insurance is so low is because we only put ~1,000 miles per year on that car.  

It is on my list to fill up his gas tank one more time.  We did a week or two ago, but wanted to basically start him off with a full tank.  The old gas car is his now.  & along with that, all of the expenses.  I already told MM(19) that he is officially carless now.  (He will borrow whatever car is available, when he is home.)   

We took the car to the mechanic the day before DL's test.  I expected it needed brake work, and wanted to make sure the brakes were okay for the test, and for DL(17) afterwards.  Ended up spending ~$900.  New brakes, new battery, and new headlights.  I think the headlight went out while they had it, because we were on the way to pick it up when they noticed and changed them out.  MH was relieved because he recalled his dad telling him they were a real PITA to change out in that car.  (& also could have had to postpone his test, if he had a non-functioning headlight during rain.  Phew!)

& the weekend before, they had picked up new wiper blades for the car. 

Anyway, I've kept the $1,500/year car repair placeholder in our budget (from when we had two much older cars), while still having one very old car.  But the old car is driven so little, it's never needed any work before.  So we had four ~$0 repair years (on all of our cars).  It's no surprise that eventually the old gas car would need some work.  Big picture, we've made out pretty well.  (The car was a free hand-me-down.)

MH and I went out to celebrate DL passing his test!  (DL was exhausted and not hungry).  I am excited about not having to drive DL to school on Wednesdays any more.  I can't even fathom the time and freedom this opens up for MH, if I am so excited about getting 40 minutes of my week back.  We definitely wanted to celebrate.  The next film festival will be so much easier, not trying to coordinate who will pick up DL(17) from school, etc.  The ability to make any travel plans, ever.  Or the ability of MH to work full-time, etc.  It is a big change for us.

This morning I tried to take care of some bills and noticed that both our property taxes and flood insurance went down a little bit.  How random is that!?  I had to share the success of something getting less expensive.  I googled a bit and didn't see any explanation for reduced flood premiums.  With the property taxes, we have a lot of bonds and some of those we are graduating out of (after 20 years) and some have been refinanced, etc.  

We spoke to MM(19) once in the past 2? weeks.  He is focusing on one club/project this year, which is a joint project with a school in LA.  So he is driving down to LA most weekends.  He went a handful of times last year, but now it's every weekend.  Because he has more time to commit and he has made it his priority.  That will be a lot of spending on his part, with the fuel (shared) and buying food on the road. 

MM told me he was only $2 away from his $500 spend.  To get that $200 credit card reward.  He had also purchased concert tickets (for when he's in Santa Barbara staying with his girlfriend's family) and a one-way train ticket.  I appreciate how he just took the lead and got that taken care of.  I mean, he could have asked his cousin if he could get a ride, but he is going to LA for the weekend before Thanksgiving and just presumed everyone else would be gone when he got back.   So he bought himself a train ticket.  In addition, mostly just groceries, and he also used that credit card at the dentist, both of which I reimbursed him for already.  I will reimburse him for the train ticket.  Plan A was that his girlfriend was going to Santa Barabra for the (Thanksgiving) break.  But I guess that changed and she is able to give him a ride back to school.  To clarify the one-way ticket.  I had to ask him why he only bought a one-way ticket.  I guess plans keep changing.  For winter break, he will be in LA for a couple of weeks. It might make more sense to figure out how to get him home from LA.  It might be most cost effective to fly.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  I suppose it was a crazy week and I have also put a lot of my time to all these film festivals.  & then was out all day with DL(17) last weekend.  Now I have a quiet weekend at home and just feel overwhelmed by my to do list.  I expect some of it is also the time I am committing to my communications class.  It's not a big time commitment, but time is time.  I've mostly been doing the class on work time, but then I just feel behind at work too.  But the class is *amazing*.  I am so glad because I was reluctant to give up precious time.  I made the right choice.  I will be done in 4 weeks.

Our weather pretty much went straight from summer to winter.  Brrrrrr... 

Oct '22 Savings

November 12th, 2022 at 03:16 pm

Received $75 bank interest for the month of October.

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


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $4 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $98 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $26 on dining out/gas card (+ groceries during Q4)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)


TOTAL: $133 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,250 MH Income

-$  150 College Expenses (dorm insurance, kitchen supplies)


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

-$  900 New Tires (EV)

-$  450 Car Insurance (hybrid)

-$  645 Travel - College Move-In

-$  535 Travel - Arizona

-$ 150 Dentist (MM)

-$   50 Password Software


TOTAL: $2,178 Deposited to Cash and Investments


Hybrid Miles Driven October:  785

Fuel Costs: $21 Electricity + $37 Gas

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven October: 1,370

Fuel Costs: $24 (home) + $8 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)


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

Note:  Summer rates ended and we will pay lower electricit rates for next 8 months.  

We did 100 miles of free charging this month.  Free Miles Downtown (film festival)

Spent $6 charging on ~270 mile Bay Area trip.  

Spent $2 charging on 300 mile Bay Area trip.  (Used EvGo while meeting a friend for lunch. I still apparently had some old credit.)

We also drove to the Bay Area (a 3rd time) and Napa. 

Note:  Purchased gas for Oregon trip and then ended up not going.  Will have to burn through this gas at some point.  Waiting to see how other film festivals shake out.  Otherwise, will do a gas run to Bay Area at some point.  That will burn through most of the excess gas.


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

What to say about October?  It's what I expected.  Off the top of my head, still have ~$650 left in the vacation fund; will finish zeroing out next month.  October was *the* big travel month, but most of that was charged in October and will be paid for in November.

I did see that our credit cards rewards are being upgraded on my credit union card.  At first glance the only difference I saw was that gas is going up from 3% to 4% cash back.  I don't think that will help us much.  With DL(17) taking over the gas car, I expect to only spend ~$15 on gas per year.  

I Bond rates should bump up next month.  We are still getting first 6 months of 7.12% rate.  Then will get 6 months @ 9.62%.   

Interest rates on our savings accounts continue to go up.  

Our car maintenance has been ~$0 for the past 4 years.  I had a $1,500 annual car repair placeholder that I have just kept in place because we received the kids' (20yo) gas car 4 years ago.  I figured I'd keep the same car repair maintenance placeholder.  (We used to have two older cars, but now have two newer cars under warranty, ourselves.  The two older cars would always throw off more car repair bills).  But in the end, the kids' old gas car has been extremely low maintenance.  It's a great car, but also barely driven.  I think "barely driven" is more to the point as to the very low maintenance.  & the EVs are extremely low maintenance.  

It was nice while it lasted, but this year we will have some catch up on repair bills.  We had some repairs on the old gas car (will show up next month).  & it was time to replace OEM tires on the EV, which we got 50K miles out of.  Not bad, for factory tires.  I am so confused though because my car has more miles and way more life left on the (same OEM) tires.  All I can figure is that the ~90% freeway driving is much lighter on the tires.  While MH was getting his tires changed out, I was going through tire discussions in my hybrid group and saw some opinion that should replace tires after 5 years due to the weight of the car and the thinness of the energy efficient tires.  But when I got home that day and looked carefully at the tread, I decided that is ridiculous.  I mean, I was almost ready to just switch my tires out too.  I will give it a year and spread out costs a little bit.  I can still be cautious and switch out next fall.  Both our cars are 2017 model years.  I will probably switch mine out at 75K miles.  (An extra 25K miles with all that freeway driving.  MH did buy his car more used, so maybe the prior owner was also harsh on the tires).  With MH's car, we replaced the tires about a year before we needed to.  But we didn't have any expenses for 4 years and we had a used tire on the car (to replace a flat) that was nearing the end of its life.  We just found it easier to replace all the tires and move on.

Looking ahead to November.  Ugly...  Just paid Property taxes and MH's rent for the second quarter.  Big transfers out of savings this month.  In addition to paying off some big credit card charges from prior month.  & I would pay tuition if MH Had been able to register or if financial aid office was caught up.  Will see...

I did just update sidebar.  Tentatively checked off $10K savings goal.  I do expect to fall backward this month and so won't give it a full check off.  But I think December looks promising to solidify this goal.  On the plus side, I am not pulling college money or property taxes from this bucket.  So all of this big money drain in November should mostly not affect our $10K (mid-term) savings goal. 

Edited to add:  I usually draft this post around the beginning of the month I am updating, because I have most numbers and most spending done.  So...  That was 6 weeks ago?  I did end up in a car accident this week.  Ugh!  Someone hit my car on the freeway.  Everyone is okay and that is what is important.  (& for the first time since college, the other person actually pulled over and took responsibility.)  My November numbers will be weird because I expect my car mostly to be in the shop and will have to rent a gas car.  MH will take the rental (for his 3-mile commute), to minimize gas costs.  We are going to drive this gas rental as little as possible. & the timing is good in that we don't have to spend our own gas driving DL(17) to school.  He got his license just days before my accident.  

Oh, and one of my tires was hit in the accident.  I presume the shop will replace it and then I will be left with uneven tires.  I may just bite the bullet and replace all the rest of the tires at ~67K miles.  If I wait until December, I can at least make it a 2023 expense (charge in December, paying with January 2023 budget).  I guess that whole thing I am rethinking again.  I suppose it may be optimistic to assume I can even get my car back this year.