Home > Archive: October, 2023

Archive for October, 2023

Grocery Rewards

October 30th, 2023 at 02:26 pm

I presumed that we'd hit our 6% grocery reward cap about now.  Usually we switch to another credit card the last quarter of the year.  But apparently our grocery spending is down.  That is probably because MM(20) was gone most of the summer and DL(18) was paid for room/board at his summer job.

I am just wrapping up the month and noticed that we got a full 6% last weekend, on grocery run.   Doing the math, and it looks like we can probably squeeze out one more grocery run at 6%.  Have about $150 left to earn 6% cash back.

After that, will switch to another card that gives us 3% back on groceries.


Sept '23 Savings

October 24th, 2023 at 01:48 pm

Received $111 bank interest 

Received $240 I Bond interest 


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $40 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $138 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $26 cash back on dining out/gas card 


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $16 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases usually, plus college apartment purchases this month)


TOTAL: $0 Snowflakes to Investments

Note:  Was a high snowflake month re: big spending, but I also chose to skip putting all these snowflakes to investments.  I usually skip one month per year.  There's always some month that's just too crazy and could use the extra cash. 


401k Contributions/Match:



Snowball to Savings/Investments:

+$550  MH Income


Savings (from my paycheck):

+$  450 to investments

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


Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$1,200  Vacation Expenses (LA/Central Coast)

-$1,050  Hybrid Tires & new door handle kids' car

-$   185  DL College Expenses (parking)


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

+$1,500 to cash

-$    450 Dentist (x3)


TOTAL: $1,520 Deposited to Cash & Investments


Note:  Also pulled $850 October rent from 'college savings' and $500 (new mattress) from 'college savings'.


Hybrid Miles Driven:  1,411 (811 electric + 600 gas miles)

Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 1,131

Note:  I decided it was useful to track total miles driven in my blog.  I expect to just track total miles driven, for my own personal records.  Will eventually get recorded in my financial software and this number will help me to calculate fuel costs.  

I don't expect much commentary in the future, but it was a very high miles month.  I did drive the hybrid 600 miles re: MM(20) college drop off.  We chose the faster gas option for the quick one-day trip.  We drove the EV To LA in August and MH drove to the Bay Area 3? times in September.  So we also figured we'd give the EV a break and put some miles on my car.


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.

I was so confused about that dining out/gas reward.  I was sure it was a mistake or some mystery $10 had been added to the reward.  But today I took the time to calculate and it was correct.  Had a lot of vacation expenses on September statement that were August expenses I already paid.  I was thinking, "How does $450 x 3% = $26?!"  

Thankfully, MH is back at work. 

It was an extremely spendy months (details that will sort out in my October update).  Ugh.

Not feeling confident re: sidebar savings goal.  Spending more than we are saving, re: mid-term expenses (the last couple of months).  I am not deducting any college expenses re: this goal (in my sidebar). The point of this goal is to cover college expenses.  So if I save $10K this year and spend $10K on college expenses, I'd consider that a goal met.  What's interesting is I got DL's college expenses dialed in ($1,500 per year) and am just pulling MM's college expenses from other savings/investment buckets.  But I will continue to keep this $10K goal.  There's the 'crap happens' factor.  Still saving up for MM's next round of ortho and surgery.  Still saving up for the college stuff that isn't nailed down yet.  & feeling behind on home maintenance reserves, while all this money is earmarked for college.  Oh yeah, and medical bills.  That is the other reason we need to save so much cash.  Always the medical bills.

August was *very* spendy re: college bills.  (Paid ahead because financial aid hasn't sorted out yet.  Meaning that I am expecting substantial refunds that should cover next semester/quarter.)  I accidentally deleted my August summary and so I don't know if I will circle back to it.  Life would have to slow down a bit.  & unfortunately it was a monster update.  This month was kind of ho hum, but things seemed to have taken a turn for the crazy re: September spending (that will sort out in October).

I wrote the 'not feeling confident about sidebar goal' comment at the beginning of September when I already had 90% of this information and started this pot.  (I just wait for credit card rewards and MH's income to sort out, to finalize monthly summaries.  I pay the bills the first of every month so have everything else nailed down at the beginning of every month.)  MH hadn't had a paycheck in months and I was feeling the stress in that.  Things have taken a turn and I expect we will be spending down savings more aggressively than planned, this year.  But it all feels a little *shrugs* now that MH is back at work and we have extra money coming in.  30 days later I am probably thinking, "Oh, we are going to be spending the money!"  I probably entirely give up on sidebar goal at this point.  But I definitely feel more *shrugs* about it while MH has some good income months on the horizon.

It's Happening?!

October 23rd, 2023 at 02:49 pm

Just wanted to update that it looks like MH's movie will be funded!


I feel like this is just the first battle in a very long war.  

They reached 90% yesterday.  We have been willing to contribute the last $5K and talked about it a long time ago.  If $5K is the difference between grabbing hold of this opportunity and getting this movie made...  The difference between that and giving up.  It's a no brainer.  (Talking about less than 0.5% of our assets, going to a risky investment.)

We hit 90% on Saturday.  & then someone donated $1,000 later that same day?

For now, I think we are mostly in the "in shock" phase.  

There's another 10 days left on the crowd funding campaign.  Will see if we even have to contribute anything at all.  (MH has a few acquaintances who are very excited about the project and promising to contribute more than they already have.  Everyone is also telling MH that they will get a surge at the end.  Will see...)

If we squeak by without having to donate at this point, we will still probably talk about investing.  Outside of the crowd funding, which we both prefer.  Would not be subjected to all of the fees.  Plus could invest versus doing a straight gift.  Increasing our odds from 0% re: getting any of this money back.  The odds might be low, but we like the 'better than 0%' odds.

(We are reaching the minimum crowd funding goal.  The very bare minimum to get this done.  The movie will need more money.)

Also, I'd much rather make this decision about how much we are willing to invest, in another couple of months.  After year-end gifts and bonuses shake out.  It would also be nice to know if the state of CA is really giving us $11,000 for college this year.  (Have received $0, to-date.)

I do believe that if they hit their crowdfunding goal, that they will be able to leave the campaign up indefinitely.  That will help as to reaching more than just the bare minimum.

DL(18) Money Update

October 22nd, 2023 at 02:30 pm

DL(18) is my far more balanced child. 

Of course, he wasn't spending anything at all re: summer camp job.  Was just the nature of the job.

But then he came back home and started college.  His first (college) credit card bill is a gnarly $400.  I need to go through it with him and figure out what charges are for books.  We want to cover college books and supplies (as long as he doesn't have a job and is just living at home).  Can revisit if circumstances change.  I think about $115 of this is books for school.

The rest:

$130 Car Gas

$ 85 Clothing

$ 35 Eating Out (Student Union)

$ 27 Haircut

I did end up buying him new running shoes, when his extreme cheapskate genetics had a moment.  🙄  

Spending this month:

$133 Car Gas (will probably be one more fill up this credit card cycle)

$ 28 Meals Out

He planned a brunch with his new college friends.  & last weekend he had some plans with his best high school friend.  They did some kind of movie marathon and went out for coffee (to help stay awake).  I know at other times he has been taking advantage of school amenities.  When we go over that $400 bill and how much I owe him, will get a better sense if he's just eating meals in the student union or how much of that is paying for other services.  I know he sometimes play pool between classes, stuff like that.

Reminds me, he got a free 'home cooked' meal at school one night and has done other free nights out.  Like MM(20), doesn't mean he is sitting at home the rest of the time, just because he is not spending money.

He's been at college for 2 months?  He just went to the college gym for the first time, last week.  I am glad he is taking advantage of that perk.  He loves going to the gym, in general.  (Briefly joined a gym in early 2020, and then that went to heck.  In the meantime, has just been making do at home.  He mostly uses weights and a pull up bar.  In addition to running and biking.  But he is crazy fit. The gym will be really nice for him.)

I am shocked how much he is spending on gas.  His commute is only 15 miles each way, but he's chosen to stick to the city streets and back roads.  I presume that he's taking a massive hit on his mpg, not just taking the freeway.

It sounds like he is spending $1,600 just on gas, for his 9 months of commuting.  Not counting summer driving or a work commute or anything beyond his college commute.  I had to double check and triple check because that sounds so absurd.  (My commute is 10 miles longer each way.  His fuel costs 7x what I am paying for electric fuel.)   Gas sticker shock.

The economics are very different re: the car-centric college choice.  

Edited to add:  I pinned DL(18) down.  He said he had a few food purchases (just shows up as 'The Store @UU') but that a $6 charge was for scan trons.  So I guess I owe him $121 (for college books and supplies).  I revised #s above.

More eating out the first weeks of school.  He's since switched to packing lunches.  Which is interesting because he mostly refused to pack lunch during high school years.  It's different I guess when your parents aren't paying for it.  But I expect that 'having a lot more time to plan ahead' is also a factor.   

MM(20) Money Update

October 22nd, 2023 at 02:10 am

MM(20)'s mega I Bond interest expires the end of November.  Will cash out and move to his high interest savings account.  It used to be 'mega interest', but is below average these days.  & the cap is $5K (on what used to be mega interest).  I just put it on my calendar to have him open a high yield cash account when he is home for Thanksgiving break.

This reminds me, I've seen that Chevy is starting to release Bolts that they bought back during the recall.  Put in new batteries and these cars have brand new 8-year warranties.  They've been flooding the market, similar to how it was when we bought the car (we bought when they were coming off lease and flooding the market.)  The pricing is similar, at $15,000.  The kicker is that today there is a $4,000 used EV tax credit.  This could be a $11,000 car purchase, plus tax on the larger sticker price.  It's a little early and I know that it's more than MM(20) wants to spend.  But I thought he might be enticed by the very inexpensive fuel (which would probably mostly be free.) 

I wouldn't buy one of these cars before 2024, and we'd maybe miss the boat.  Why 2024?  Because dealerships will be able to advance the tax credit.  So no more wondering if uncooperative dealerships are going to figure out their crap.  $4K off the top or we walk.  & also, the new rules will be much more lax.  Many instances where you can take the credit up front and not have to pay back if you are not eligible.  I'd have to do homework on that.  There is a 20-page IRS FAQ that I have not looked at in any great detail.  But I get the jist that all is this is going to be much easier and more favorable in 2024.  I still expect dealerships to be uncooperative and mostly clueless.  But the up front tax credit will be make or break the deal for the 20yo.  Who most definitely does not want to spend $15K on a car.

I brought it up, but MM(20) told me he doesn't want a car next school year.  That's news to me!  The only thing of note that has changed is that he has a bike this year.  He may be finding that is more than enough, for transportation. 

The other big financial update is that MM(20) has committed to a 5th college year.  He was a little wishy washy about his major and changed it a couple of times.  Finally decided he just wants to double major.  So that will take 5 years.  There's some non-academic reasons also for him wanting to take 5 years.

I can very much relate.  Very different reasons, but I also had several reasons I took 5 years to finish college.  So I asked MM(20) early this calendar year if he thought he would finish in 4 years.  I was surprised when he said yes.   At that time we told him we had both taken 5 years to finish college.  I am glad we had this discussion because I want him to do it right the first time.  I think he felt like he had to finish in 4 years.  & so he started considering this other major when he had more time (I think he'd need 4.5 years to switch?)  & then after getting two major changes approved, he just got approval to just double major in both of those majors.  

Of course, I think this would have been around when he would be deciding if he wanted to do a 5th year Masters program. (Another reason I didn't just presume he'd be done in 4 years). Some of this decision is that he doesn't want to do a Masters program at all.  I am surprised, but makes it an easier sell.  If he's really going to be done with all his schooling in 5 years, this is a pretty good deal.

The tuition part is easy.  He's got just about enough cash left in his gifted college fund to cover Years 4 & 5 (when he won't be eligible for grants any longer; no tax credit that 5th year).  This is exactly what the gifted college fund is for.  To give him more options. 

As to housing, I have no idea.  It's years away and so we will keep saving.  It could be that we expect him to contribute more during that 5th year.  I just don't know how that will shake out.  It also could likely be moot.  I have two years of rent saved up for DL(18) already.  It's how it's always been with my kids.  MM(20) was the one who always wanted to do 2 or 3 extra-curriculars while DL(18) wanted to do zero.  MM wanted to go on all the big trips while DL didn't want any part of that.  MM wants to go to school 300 miles away.  DL needs a slower transition into adulthood.  It might just be the ying/yang it always is.  I've always been able to afford all this for MM because his brother is uninterested.  & so it might just be how college shakes out too.  I've got rent money saved that DL(18) might not end up using.

In the meantime, I just keep saving for these college years.  

I Bond Update

October 21st, 2023 at 11:10 pm

It looks like most of our mega interest will expire the end of November.

We've accumulated $4,000 I Bond interest that will have to pay taxes on when we cash out.  I was thinking that maybe I'd cash out half this year (December) and half next year (January).  But that if taxes were already covered and no crazy tax cliffs, might be easier to just sell this year.  But then I realized it's moot because I forgot about 1 year holding period for latest bond purchase.  & the other one (mega interest) expires in January.  So max I'd only want to cash out half in 2023 anyway.

I presumed the "tax free if used for college" part was useless (for our personal situation) and never dove much deeper than that.  But I looked at the calculations today and yeah, that is not going to help us.  All I could come up was ~$350 college expenses this year (for tuition; not covered by grants or applied to federal tax credits).   Which would be the interest on my newest bond.  That apparently I can't cash out until 1/1/24.  But anyway, as I thought it might be, both the pricipal and the interest needs to be applied for college expenses.  It's too high of a bar to make this tax-free on any meaningful level.  If I sell half the bonds, then about 1.6% of the interest will be tax-free.  (Because 1.6% of the proceeds will go to college expenses).

The only reason I have even that much in college expenses is because MM(20) took a $1,000 summer course.

I presumed we'd get these state grant refunds (for MM's first 2 junior quarters) when coming up with these numbers.  Last I heard, we should get funds (for fall quarter) the end of next week?  Not holding my breath.  Still in "will believe it when I see it" mode and am in disbelief about the dollar amount.   Until then, for all I know it was just a typo.

I was bummed that I Bond rates dropped so low because it was nice when it was just a separate bucket I didn't have to keep track of.  But duh, I remembered I used to have all this money in cash at our brokerage.  The brokerage is paying 5%+ on cash right now.  Will just move the money back there.  I just forgot that is where I had it before.  No separate tracking to worry about, it will be in its own bucket.  

While all this money has been tied up in I Bonds, I've just been tapping our cash reserves for MM(20)'s rent.  Our cash reserves don't amount to much at this point.  I will be reimbursing myself $6,000 (from I Bonds) to cover 2023 rent (July through January) and a $500 mattress purchase.  It will be nice to use 'money saved a long time ago' to start paying for some of these expenses.  The balance of this one bond (principal + mega interest) will cover MM's rent the rest of this school year.  There will be some money left over.  Especially if that money continues to earn 5%+ interest.  I suppose the interest on this money (while it's 5%+) may cover utilities.  I may be able to squeak by and have all his 2023-2024 housing covered under this one bond.  This sounds like a miracle at this point, his housing was so up in the air just 6 months ago.  But the interest was piling up so fast, I did decide to use some of this money for the mattress. 

Edited to add:  I suppose there is the benefit of state tax-free income re: I Bonds.  Is not on my radar re: very low (progressive) tax rate.

Amazing Weekend

October 10th, 2023 at 01:14 am

Fingers crossed, but I think I am out of the medical loop.  It's all been 'abundance of caution' that has never turned out to be anything.  But I had my first mammogram (ever) that was all clear the first round.  Phew!   I am shocked.  I was sure I'd have to go back this week.  Because I always do.

It was crazy for a while in 2018-2019 with all the medical appointments.  It has definitely been a step down from that.  But it's nice to take it down a step further and have the "all clear" re: everything medical.  I might have acheived this once in recent years but it did not last very long.  Fingers crossed.

This weekend was perfect and magical.  I really viewed it as more of a chore weekend, going into it.  Mostly driving down to the college to deliver a few things to MM(20).  

We drove 735 miles.  The first car charge was free, but apparently it was just a fluke.  We thought we were going to get free charging all weekend.  (Electrify America is often free on Holiday weekends.)

We spent $234 on the hotel and tickets.  I am guessing $400 with food and fuel and everything.  Probably not quite that much.  We didn't do any big meals.  But I am guessing $400-ish for the weekend.  Will tally it all up later. 

It was fleet week and we saw some jets doing a show.  Could see from the freeway on the drive down.  

I guess with DL(18) having a driver license and being more independent.  We are actually getting through some of these things we thought we would do while MM(20) was living on the central coast.

We went to this art installation.  Wasn't sure if it was going to be over hyped or what.  It was beautiful.  & we picked the perfect day to go.  The weather was absolutely perfect.   The sky was so dark (no moon) that the stars were amazing.  I saw a shooting star!

I thought it would be nice to get there before sunset.  This ended up being perfect.  It was gorgeous in the light too.  We walked the property during (a great) sunset and then we went inside to eat dinner.  Then we came out and walked more thoroughly through the lights.  We stopped a couple of times just to sit and enjoy, the view and the stars.

The next morning we headed to the beach.  There's still chatter of whales online, though clearly that all peaked the last time we were there.  (It was a day trip, I didn't know until we left, and we wouldn't have had time anyway).  So we tried, but no whales.  But we did see lots of dolphins.   

& we saw a very fast and good foil surfer.  I mean, I could watch the surfers all day.  But I barely noticed the surfers on this trip.  The dolphins stole the show.  & then MH and MM pointed out this foil surfer.  Just google it, it's the craziest thing.  It's hard to describe.  Even most the videos I found were "meh" compared to the guy we were watching.  He was just flying all over the place.  It took us a while to figure out what the heck we were even seeing. 

We took MM(20) with us to the beach and his girlfriend met us for lunch. 


MM(20) has some leadership position re: the rose float this year.  He was really eyeing these flowers at the restaurant.  I guess he has been trying to track them down.  So we learned a lot about that whole process.  I guess the school grows a lot of the flowers.  & I am sure they just have to buy some of what they need.  But this particular flower is the perfect shade for what they need and more difficult to find.  (Would take more than a season to grow).   & I guess that dyeing flowers is frowned upon.   The GF has these same flowers outside her on campus house, so they were in deep negotiations about how much MM could get away with "borrowing" flowers from her house.

Of course, the down side to this is I don't know when we will see MM(20) the rest of this year.  I actually gave him a camping mattress when we initially thought his bed would arrive some nights after he moved into his apartment.  It's only because of this that I know he has camping plans after New Years.  🙄  He mentioned it to me re: the camping mattress.  We will have to get him a round trip flight from LA for Christmas (he will only have a couple of days off).  & then I guess technically he should be free January 1st or 2nd?  But if he goes camping, we aren't going to see him much.

I really need to buckle down and make Pasadena plans.  I am very mellow about it because MM(20) stayed at the timeshare by Disneyland last year.  That was rather last minute.  I know we can find some lodging.  & I am sure we have missed the boat as to anything very convenient. But I am committing to figuring things out this weekend.  Ideally, we want to see all the floats before or after the parade.  I just don't want to deal with the peak crowd.  We briefly discussed and MM(20) insisted it's all free the night before, to see the floats up close.  I am not 100% sure if that's true, if he has access we won't have, etc.  But it's only $20 to go see all the floats afterwards.  (I just figured this out). I will be buying tickets soon, to have that insurance.   

Side note:  MM(20) will have free lodging near Pasadena.  Because he is staying and working until the parade, he will have free lodging.  Last year he left early and just went back to watch the parade.

Other than that, I am exhausted and would be happy to go *nowhere* the rest of this year.  But I have been really looking forward to the behind-the-scenes rose parade experience.  Financially, will probably be a 2024 expense.  Heck, even if I charge any of that in December, won't be paying for it until January.  Definitely a 2024 expense.  Except for these $20 tickets that I want to buy now.