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Archive for February, 2023

EV Shopping - Part II

February 26th, 2023 at 03:26 pm

First car deal ended up falling through for the in-laws.  Probably for the best.  We hadn't realized that they were still working through 2020 recalls and don't know when they would have got the new battery.  MH and I were feeling a little bad about not doing our homework on that.  We just presumed they were further along.

I really didn't know why they needed MH and was hoping they'd just go pick up a car if we found one.  MH did find a car with only 8,000 miles but it had two owners already.  I think the whole third owner thing disqualified it from the used EV tax credit.  I could have done some homework to be sure.  But...  It's moot at this point.

On Friday MH found a 2019 model with 39,000 miles.  MH's parents loved it and went to pick it up.  Phew!  

The mileage is really N/A because the car had an EV battery replacement last year and has a new 8-year warranty with the recall and battery replacement.  The car was apparently like-new (in person) and they were very happy with it.

Full price: $24,000

Net $5,000 used EV tax credit and utility rebate = $19,000 net cost.

*Still* the most expensive EV purchased by anyone I know.

I didn't notice until later, but this model didn't have the power liftgate.  But they did get the wireless charging (for phone/devices) and so have that one upgrade over our 2017 model.

They are getting their car charger installed today.  They are also the only other EV drivers I know that are hoity toity enough to get a charger installed.  It's really not necessary.  But in this case, a lot of the *why* is because FIL is slowing down and will be unable to get gas for MIL at some point.  The appeal is just being able to charge at home. (I guess MIL refuses to pump her own gas.  Now she won't have to.)

{We are hoity toity and very much enjoy the luxury of faster charging at home.}

I don't think we were much of the reason for this purchase.  I am sure it helped that they were envious of our car and we have only raved about it.  But...  If you are frugal and want an EV, what else is there?  There's cheaper EVs but they have other issues like much less range and battery degradation.  If you want a 300-mile range and want a car that will last 15+ years, there's nothing else in our price range.  I do also think they are willing to make the leap from gas car to EV because so many in the family do drive EVs.  We are not the early adopters in this family.  

{May I be so brave and open to change when I am 80 years old! 100% I needed that hybrid baby step before I was ready to take the leap.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who just makes the big leap.}

This is a very big perk for us because now we have free charging at their house.  I've been so focused on hoping that MH doesn't have to drive down there another weekend and wonder how long until they finally get a car and stop yanking MH around...  It's only as I type this out that I am, "Oh yeah!  Free charging for us!"  Which will probably be a wash if we give them free charging in return.  But will clearly be very convenient if we can just charge somewhere that we already are.  I see a lot of MH helping his parents in the near future, and the charging situation will make it logistically a lot easier.

Gifted College Funds

February 22nd, 2023 at 04:11 pm

We expected the economics to be the same for our kids as it was for us.  Cheap college.  Completely absurd post college housing costs.  We preferred to keep any "college money" for after their college years.  In the end, this is even more true for my kids.  They will pay less (than we did) for their college degrees. Housing has only gotten more absurd.

That said...  MH had the free ride but he also just lived at home during college years.  He told me he is not interested in saving MM(19)'s college fund while we pay for completely unnecessary luxury costs like housing 300 miles away.  The "Far away college" was not necessary to get him the same quality degree.  I am 100% on the same page.

For MM(19)'s freshman year I did not agree this was entirely fair, because MM received a (one-time) scholarship at this other college.  It would have cost him the same to live at home the first year.  But for this school year, I do appreciate the load off my shoulders.  Phew!   

We both want to leave some of this money for the kids, as long as they are choosing affordable degrees.  But for MM(19), it's just not going to be *all* of it.

We've been kicking the can down the road as much as possible.  Wanting to rely more on saved money when we have two kids in college at the same time.  & then all this financial aid delay during this school year.  Have been waiting for that to sort out.

But now it is time.  We agreed to cash flow MM(19)'s rent this year.  Food costs are just being carved out of our grocery budget (no new spending.)  & we will pull tuition from MM's college funds.  

The Gifted College Fund

This is a $1K annual gift from the in-laws, since birth.  MM(19) has probably received ~$20,000.  (I think one or two years might have been forgotten/skipped).  This gift has grown to $30,000 over time.  

I did give him the $1K gift for spending money this college year, but he just put this money in I Bonds (along with his earnings last year). 

In 2020 MM(19) had a big earnings year and we put $5K of this gift into a ROTH IRA.

This leaves him with $24,300 today, that is just sitting in cash.  

We paid $0 tuition last year and so we did not pull any money out from college funds.

We will pay $4,300 tuition this school year.  This works out pretty well.  I will draw this account down to $20,000, reimbursing ourselves for the $4,300 tuition.

I want to remember that with the ROTH IRA and the I Bond money, he technically still has $26,000 of this gift money left.  & he might receive another $2,000 from the in-laws during his college years ($1,000 x 2 years).

Next Year

DL(17) will most likely live at home and go to the local State college.  We will not touch his college fund.  I expect to pay ~$2,000 tuition in August and ~$2,000 tuition in January.

Note:  Will also get a $2,000 college tax credit; net cost is ~$2,000 for the year. 

We will pull MM(19)'s tuition from his college fund.  It will be $2,000 tuition in August, $2,000 tuition in November, and $2,000 tuition in February.

Note:  Will also get a $2,500 college tax credit back; net cost is $3,500 for the year.

I will cash flow the tax break, and so will pull ~$1,200 from MM's college fund every quarter.  I'd like to just reimburse ourselves every quarter, but will need more timely financial aid information in order to do that.  With two in college at the same time, I might err on just reimbursing what we actually pay and then putting back any financial aid refunds.  If it's anything like this school year was.

The above numbers presume $0 scholarships.


There's still a lot of unknowns re: next school year.

DL(17)'s situation is very cut and dry with the whole living at home thing. 

MM(19)....  Where to begin!

There is a lot that has to sort out re: housing.  He's trying to get free room/board or deeply discounted room/board re: RA position or other on-campus jobs.  He's trying to get on campus housing (as a backup plan.)   

Financial aid is supposed to be favorable with two in college.  This means nothing for DL(17) if he lives at home.  For MM...  I don't fully understand what this means.  If our "need" is $15,000, do they give us $15,000 next year?  I was going to say they've only offered us loans for negligible amounts of "need" in prior years.  But I guess to be fair, the school also knew that they were giving us scholarships and they knew the state was giving us aid.   In reality, "need" has been covered in past years. 

MM(19) might fare better with scholarships if he does demonstrate need.

I am just preparing financially re: what I do know, and any reduction in expenses will just be gravy. 

Update:  I transferred the $4,300 to our checking account and paid rent for the rest of the year.  I really enjoyed paying this expense with someone else's money.  😁  The rent bill just happened to match the $4,300 figure and I can pay it now.  I can't pay tuition until MM(19) registers for classes. 

Hybrid Maintenance

February 20th, 2023 at 03:41 pm

Both our EVs should be extraordinarily low maintenance.  But my expectations are pretty low because of the dealership factor.   With the more specialized cars and the long warranties, we are at the mercy of the dealership.  (Might need less repairs, but the repairs will cost a lot more than we've paid to our trusted independent mechanics in the past).  It is on my list to find a trusted EV mechanic at some point. I just thought we would have more time.

We've saved $1,200 this past year by not trusting the dealership.  I don't know much about cars, but I can recognize complete made up bull crap when there is nothing wrong with the car.  This hasn't left me feeling warm and fuzzy about the "if anything goes wrong with our cars" factor.  

In the end, I've seen several people complaining about this dealership in my online EV groups.  It is the worst of the worst.  For whatever reason, MH liked this dealership more than the others and had been digging in his heels a little bit.  But...  I do think they royally pissed MH off in recent months.

We drove the hybrid to San Francisco last weekend.  We stopped at the gas station by our house, on the way home, and the engine light came on.  Got an error to "service high voltage charging system", something like that, and the car would not charge.

I was relieved when I checked my online EV group.  A - the car was perfectly fine to drive.  (A very helpful Chevy EV tech had told many people this.)  B - It was most likely something very simple, like low coolant or just needing a software update.  

I was surprised when MH just booked the appointment with the other dealership in our city.  Phew!  

I quickly looked up this other dealership and saw absolutely glowing reviews in my online group.  We quickly found out why.  The service manager has the same car.  I am relieved that the service manager has the same car, because otherwise I would have questioned if they knew what they were doing.  Because the repair bill ended up being far below average for the work done.  (Which in many cases in other states or regions is because they don't have EV techs or have no idea what they are doing.  But in this case...  I have to trust they did all of the maintenance and knew what they were doing.)  

I am not ready to give my full praise to this dealership.  We paid $200 for the diagnostic.  Which made this repair at least 70% more than it would have been with our independent mechanic.  We've *never* paid a diagnostic fee before.  Not to the shop that is going to do the work we asked them to diagnose.  

But overall I am happy that we found a dealership that we could trust a wee bit more, and that it did end up being the simple fix. 

There is only one line item basically re: maintenance for our EV.  Change out the (battery and other) coolant every 150K miles.  It's the same on my hybrid but maybe a few more line items of maintenance with the hybrid.  The cars are very similar.

My first impression of this dealership was not good when they immediately started pushing "recommended maintenance."  But I quickly deduced from my online group that this is a thing and that it is in the manual.  It was also universally agreed that this was useful maintenance. So I did pull up the car manual later.  There is a footnote that you do this every 5 years or 150K miles.  I had literally never heard this before.  & this does not redeem the scammy dealership.  Never in a million years would I have thought they would sell us bullcrap while completely ignoring the actual recommended maintenance.  But the scammy dealership did exactly that.   

In the end, it was just low coolant.  The maintenance was the fix.  

Moral of the story:  We could have saved $200 (diagnostic fee) if we had realized this.  My car is 6 years old, so should have flushed out the coolant a year ago.

{To be *very* clear, scammy dealership had both our cars in the past year and failed to mention the one line item of maintenance that is recommended after 5 years.  This put both our cars at risk (of damage) and left me with a separate trip back to the dealership for repairs.  I guess MH too.  Will be a separate trip for maintenance they should have done when they last had his car.}

Instead of oil changes, the EV is going to need a $300 coolant flush every 5 years.  I can live with that.  It's the 'oil change' equivalent I guess.  

This means that our EV is also due for this service.  & that we realize we want to of course be proactive because the EV would be far less useful if we couldn't charge it.  But the EV is about 15,000 miles behind the hybrid and the battery coolant (probably the most important part) was changed out already with the battery recall.  So we are just going to wait for a more convenient time.  Will get it done this spring or summer.

Oh yeah, and the dealership told us that the brakes on the hybrid are at 95%.  No surprise.  The traditional brakes are used very little on these cars (only for hard/fast stops).  It was just the first time we had any feedback on our personal cars.  My car has 70,000 miles, for reference.  We've always heard the brakes will last the life of these cars.  

I guess it was a big car repair week for SA.

Edited to add:  I've never joined an online car group before and don't know that I would have thought to do so.  But our EV friend added me to some Volt group when we bought the Volt.  It does help to soften the blow of not having our forever trusted (gas car) advisors to turn to.  & is helpful when you completely miss the fine print.  

Second edit:  To clarify, all maintenance quotes were given without even looking our cars.  This was the stuff they were trying to sell us when we dropped off the cars.  None of this stuff is actually recommended maintenance, except this hybrid maintenance that we agreed to.

EV Shopping

February 19th, 2023 at 07:05 pm

The in-laws continue to be wishy washy.   But MH was going to meet them today (presumably) to buy a Bolt.  They had already been very wishy washy and changed their mind last minute twice, so wasn't holding my breath.

It's maybe kind of sort of done...

In the end, MH had swayed them to just buy used.  But they were being very picky (re: color) and so there was really only one good candidate today.  I feel like when we buy cars we usually go out with multiple options, so I didn't expect much.  Last time he had found 3 cars within their parameters, so that was probably more what they expected.  But I thought maybe they'd just go look at new cars if this one car was a bust.

{Reminds me, I saw a MSRP tracker, if anyone is interested.  Just some google sheet type thing where people share dealer feedback and how much they are charging over MSRP.  You can sort by city and car make/model.  I will track it down if anyone wants it.}

Found:  2020 Bolt (fully loaded) $25,000.  Net price $20,000 after federal tax credit and utility rebate.  Mileage 10,000.  

Because of the battery recall *and* very little change between 2017 and 2023 model, it seemed pointless to go new.  & mileage was kind of moot.  But for the same price range, of course "way less miles" is a plus.

When discussing, the only thing the in-laws seemed really intrigued by (re: newer models) was the wireless charging (for cell phone/devices).  I perused the car details today and the only other thing I can find is that this 2020 has a power liftgate.  It's basically our car, a lot less miles, and these two features. 

In the end, they made the purchase but they don't have the car yet.  Very long story.  We could end up with a Round 4, but for the sake of MH's time, I hope this purchase works out. 

This was a non-Chevy dealership and they didn't know about the battery recall.  So...  The in-laws want to get a charger ordered.  They need to have their garage wired to accomodate the charger (have already consulted with an electrician).  & it's plausible they may need to take the car to a Chevy dealership for the battery replacement.  They've got a few steps to go through.   I don't know where they are with the 2020 recalls.  They could be done, but I just don't know and it's something they should double check.   

It's a process, but I think they will be very happy in the end.

Edited to add:  This is by far the most expensive EV that anyone I know has purchased.  I've had some very frugal and broke friends buying EVs over the years.  For more early adopters, they cost pennies on the used market or could lease for $100/month.  Found out recently my bff picked up a Bolt.  It's a $100/month lease deal.  

MM(19) Financial Update

February 19th, 2023 at 04:38 pm

Post re: MM(19) Freshman college year:

Last year MM spent $500.  This was everything during the school year that wasn't tuition/room/board/medical.  Off the top of my head, his spending would have included school books/supplies, transportation, club dues, haircuts, clothing, dining out, entertainment, gifts, toiletries, ATM withdrawals, etc.  I did spend about $250 on bigger purchases for him, when his very liquid funds were getting low.  So I think $750 was a fair annual number ($500 + $250) and he will be very comfortable with the $1,000 next school year.  ($111 per month).

I had given MM(19) his annual $1,000 "college money" gift from in-laws.  Not really any reason to save more for his college years and felt that money would be better suited to giving him spending money during the college year.

The school year is half way over and so I was just looking at where we were at with things.  MM(19) has spent a whole whopping $350.  I have less details because I am not on his new credit card.  But would be for all of the same categories I mentioned above.  This puts his spending very on track with the prior year.

I expect that his spending the first quarter was somewhat reduced by his very busy schedule.  But...  With going to LA almost every weekend, I would expect more eating out and gas expenses.  It could just be he had no time for anything else.  He also had a job that quarter.  & this quarter he has been sick. 

MM ended up testing negative just 5 days after his first COVID positive.  Phew!  Glad that he got out of COVID jail quickly and is not impacting his classes.  He was sick for a few days and then he had asymptomatic COVID after, which meant maybe two weeks where he wasn't leaving his apartment much.  The weekend he tested positive, both his girlfriend's parents and the in-laws were visiting.  He said they brought him 6 bags of food and things.  He is very well taken care of.  & the girlfriend was bringing him several meals (might have been included in the 6 bag count).  She likes to cook.  

I guess it's been a weird quarter.  There were some days that they just had to shelter in place re: flooding.  At this point he's maybe spent half the quarter just stuck in his apartment. 

The new thing this year is groceries.  I gave MM $400 for groceries & $100 for the week he was in LA, to cover food costs.  That's for 4 months, so we are averaging $125/month food spending.  MM(19) is being *very* cheap with his food shopping, but also gets the benefit of a lot of food from his girlfriend.  

{I hadn't thought about it but he clearly spent nothing on groceries during the past few weeks?  If several people brought him food.}

This school year MM(19) received $1,100 net wages, received $201 in credit card rewards, and has received $140 interest.  The I Bond interest is just starting to kick in (9.62%). 

Edited to add:  Talked to MM(19) this weekend.  He went beach camping this weekend and will be spending next weekend in LA.  Just to be clear that his spending does not reflect a miserly existence. 

MM's spending this year is notably more "hoarding electronics".  With the private bedroom and more personal space, he is clearly starting a hoard.  He's always been a bit of a trash hoarder and did find a (broken) drone on the beach end of last year.  That would be very typical MM.  But with a little personal space and money he is starting to buy old electronics off the internet and buy a lot of stuff "because it was cheap."  The electronics is old, but for some purpose or project.  The "because it was cheap" purchases are anything you can imagine.

I just saw that our credit union is doing a 5% CD for 12 months.  I will ask MM(19) if he is interested.  He is starting to pile up more cash. 

Jan '23 Savings

February 15th, 2023 at 01:44 am

Received $94 bank interest for the month of January.

Received $246 I Bond interest for the month of January.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $36 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $96 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $21 cash back on dining out/gas card (& grocery rewards from Q4 2022)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

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


TOTAL: $160 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,300 MH Income

+$  250 MH Award Money (Script Contest)

+$1,130 College Refund 

+$1,050 State Inflation Relief

-$ 700 Stereo System + backup camera (kids' car)


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$  250 to investments

+$1,000 to cash (mid-term savings)


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

+$1,500 to cash

-$1,200 Home Insurance

-$  360 Auto Repairs (kids' gas car)

-$  210 Annual Movie Pass (Regal)

-$  175 Museum Membership


TOTAL: $4,898 Deposited to Cash and Investments



Hybrid Miles Driven:  605

Fuel Costs: $16 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 1,516

Fuel Costs: $21 (home) + $46 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

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

Lots of driving this month.  One college trip (round trip ~650 miles), one Bay Area trip (~250 miles) and then MH traveled about 140 miles roundtrip for a San Francisco trip.  He drove 70 miles and then took the train the rest of the way.

The hotel charging was expensive, $23 for a full charge.   Is more in line with gas prices.  But was worth it and very convenient to just charge up the car all the way, overnight.  The rest of the charging expenses will decrease substantially in the future, with warmer temps and more efficient EV tires.


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

I chickened out about sweeping MH's income (above $1,000) to investments.  I am struggling with feeling a little "cash poor" after that big mortgage paydown.  We just bought a second set of new tires (when the first were a bust).  We will have fence replacement expenses soon.  & while in storm/fence/tree mode, will get our trees trimmed.  There's college expenses in February, and $12,000 I need to send to IRA for 2022. 

MH did unexpectedly receive some Holiday pay (for the week after Christmas).  I suppose some of this is moot because I didn't expect that MH would bring home much in January.  That was just a nice surprise, but we are also trying to get these tires covered.  With unexpected money, ideally. 

It should just be a short term stress.  Will add back some buffer quickly, these months that MH is working.  & college expenses should be pretty minimal until August.  I am going to pull some money out of college funds, for the first time.  Tuition for the whole (academic) year, which will offset MM's last rent bill for the school year.  & the two refunds I just received from the college will be all I need to cover tuition.  Just parking the refunds until it goes back out again. 

I had written off our inflation relief check as lost/stolen.  Tried to call three weeks ago.  Was told I had to wait until January 31st to get a replacement card.  The original showed up in the mail on January 30th.  Phew!  That would have been so irritating to cancel/replace and then just have it show up the next day.  I applied to the car stereo purchase, which was the original plan.  (I don't remember if that was the original original plan, but was easy to justify the stereo upgrade knowing that this money was coming.)  I suppose that works out pretty well.  The rest, and MH's unexpected Holiday pay, should cover most of the tire purchase. 

January was clearly a big cash boost, and I do appreciate it.  MH also finally got that $250 he won a while back.

I was just updating sidebar.  I am just going to call it.  MM(19)'s first two years of college paid for in cash.  I won't send the final 2022-2023 payments over for another few weeks, but clearly we have the cash to cover it.  Extra so, if I am just applying recent college refunds and pulling from college funds.  I put this *goal* more in my sidebar as a clarification.  The feeling of it is *shrugs*.  It's less of a goal and more just how we roll.  It's also fairly official that DL(17) will be the 4th person in our household to take advantage of CSU (CA State University).  This is just solidifying my *shrugs* feelings about the cost of college. 

Gas & Other Things...

February 11th, 2023 at 04:36 pm

I got my first shocking bill re: inflation.  

I presumed that utilities would take about a year, because we do budget billing (just pay a flat amount each month.)  

So I just got an email that our budget billing was going up 33% for the gas bill.  

We've also been much more relaxed with heating over the past year or so.  So I didn't know how much was that we were using more gas, that prices went up, that the balanced billing is just catching up with reality.

In the end, our gas usage was down (compared to last year).  Could be somewhat due to weather.  It hasn't been sunny or warm at all.  In that regard, is colder than I ever remember it being.  But we've been getting less freezing temps.  The crazy storms kept temperatures a little warmer over night.

In the end, the per unit pricing had gone up dramatically on this bill.  Saw other neighbors complaining and talking about gas prices soaring. 

For now, it's an extra $25/month.  I will take it out of the 'breathing room' which is still very significant compared to what we are used to.  I had added initially an extra $200/month of breathing room.  I can live with an extra $175/month.  

{Some some neigbors complaining about bills doubling and tripling!  Same people also said they keep their heat at 72F 24/7.  I don't feel like we have been particularly energy frugal in recent years, but I guess it's relative.  We have never run the heat at night.}

In other random news...  DL(17) got his ears pierced.  So random!  MH and the kids are (were) all kind of, "Like hell I'd ever make any permanent change to my body."  Which is just how they are wired.  & so this was really out of left field. 

What I learned in the last 48 hours is that everything about my own ear piercings were wrong.  The first thing DL(17) tells me is that he is not going to Claire's to get his ears pierced.  Then I learn that you aren't supposed to use rubbing alcohol to clean the ears as they heal.  You aren't supposed to turn the earrings.  Etc., etc.  It's a wonder us older people survived our piercings. 😁

Other than that, work has been crazed.  & we went to San Francisco last weekend.  Went to the first comedy Sketchfest in 4 years.  Well, we skipped 2020 for whatever reason.  Then the last 2 years were postponed/canceled.  They did just reschedule everything for the same days/times, and so we went to the 5 shows we had paid for over a year ago.  We ate very well and had a nice time.  Might be the last time we use the free timeshare.  We paid ~$250 for the weekend.  

That reminds me, MM(19) ended up getting COVID.  After living in dorms for 1.5 years, I am surprised it took this long.  He was sick a couple of weeks ago?  Then took a test for some other reason.  I presume he is just asymptomatic and COVID wasn't what he had when he felt sick.  I am sure he tested when he was sick, just because his girlfriend's sister is immunocompromised and so he has been very cautious. (His school would only require a COVID test if he knew he was exposed.  They don't ask the kids to test every time they have the sniffles.) I guess in this case, he took a test because MIL was going to be in town visiting.  But he told me he was probably going to take a test anyway because his roommate had COVID.  I hope he continues to feel fine.  

Note re: Inflation:  Rent and (car)gas are most of what I hear people complaining about locally re: inflation.  There is a reason that we do not have these two expenses.