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Archive for December, 2023

Net Worth Update

December 23rd, 2023 at 04:42 pm

Our net worth was up $75K for the year, last I looked.  Anything can happen...  I only track/document on the last day of every year, so will see where we end up.

I delight in these years when spending seems a little crazy but net worth surges ahead anyway.  We've probably had more years like this since our investment gains have outpaced our contributions.  Once we hit that tipping point.  

Looking closer, it is just retirement fund gains.  Everything else has been pretty stagnant.  Retirement is up $75K.  We contributed $25K and the gains were $50K.

Otherwise, didn't make much progress re: massive expenses this year.  


Big Picture Updates

December 18th, 2023 at 12:37 am

**Retirement balance is back up to $500K+, or where it was 2 years prior.   

New retirement goal is still on pause.  Should probably circle back now that we have college sorted out.  Still feeling somewhat "meh" about it re: too many future unknowns.

**I noticed last week that our net worth was up $60K for the year.  This was before stock market spike this week.  (Now up $70K).  ~$50K is my general goal and I am happy with where we are at, but very much at the whim of the stock market.  Will see how it all lands on 12/31.

Edited to add:  I just noticed that our net worth today is at the same place it was end of 2021.  

**We paid a large chunk to the mortgage down end of 2022 and I knew we were cutting it a little close on cash.  After that, it was a crazy expensive year!  Had a lot of home repairs and car repairs, in addition to funding MH's movie, etc.

I just calculated and I kid you not I have exactly a 6 month emergency fund left at 12/31.  What???  How the heck did that happen?  I am estimating MH's income for the month (will all go to savings), but looks like we will squeak by.

I was wise to give up on investing MH's income.  I think I invested $0 of his income in 2024, after setting a goal to invest everything above $1K per month?  

We actually have a little bit of cash buffer.  DL's college owes me $2,000.  So technically we have $2K cash in addition to emergency reserves. 

**I did ask for a bigger raise and received a bigger raise.  Was going to be a 3% COLA raise year.   After bumping my pay up 20% from prior job, I would not expect anything more in the future.  (Topped out very early on at prior job and came in 'at the top' to this job.)  But...  Had a crazy health insurance increase year.  A 12% increase this year.  Have certainly had many years of worse % increases, but our health insurance is so high the dollar amount is insane.  In the "it never hurts to ask" vein, I got 6% just for asking.  (I most definitely played up the '2 in college' thing also, when I asked.)

I probably won't work out 2024 goals until January.  A big chunk of the raise will be going to taxes.  Taxes and health insurance.  So I need to dial in taxes before I work on the budget.   I have in mind what I am hoping to work out, after taxes.  Hopefully I can add $100/month to short term savings.  I will have to decrease investments (re: losing temp ortho tax break).  

I am hitting a crazy tax cliff and it could all go to taxes.  I might err on putting my bonus to 401K next year.  Things to figure out...

If I do lower investment goal (from my salary) then I may commit some of MH's income to taxable investments.  But I might wait and see how the movie stuff sorts out first.  Expecting it to be a big travel year re: movie production and film festivals. At least the weeks he is planning to go to Ohio, that will be early in the year.  We can see how we are feeling re: cash after that and what else pops up.  & of course, we can always pull money from investments if I over-invest.  But my preference is to view investments as "untouchable."  In addition to it just being silly to invest money that we need in 2024.  But if I can't hit X dollars with my salary (because of taxes) then I will commit some portion of MH's income to investments.  Probably even just $100/month would make me happy.  

**DL(18) had his last final on Thursday.  We are both in disbelief that he's aready done with his first college semester.  It was over in a blink.   I expected a more rough adjustment for DL, but it's all gone as well as could be.  & he's more of the personality of my relatives who didn't attend college, so I don't have any expectations.  As of right now, I think he might actually do this college thing?  I just wasn't so sure before, but he seems very happy.  He'd also admit this semester was over in a blink so he can probably suck it up for 4 years.

**MM(20) is off working 24/7 on the Rose parade float in LA.  He refused to fly down for Christmas and wants to spend days on the road.  🙄  That gives him one day? to be home?  I think he's aiming to be home for 2 days.  Then he's going off camping (after New Years) and won't come home again during the winter break.  Or more of what I expected during these college years.  One nice thing about not having campus housing is he can go back on his own time, and is probably a lot of why he doesn't have to come home.  

I don't know how the girlfriend is doing.  Will hear more during Christmas break.  Talked to MM last weekend and she seemed to be doing better.  Clearly he isn't that concerned. 

Bonus & Mortgage Update

December 14th, 2023 at 02:19 pm

Bonus ended up being smaller than last year.  No complaints.  I received OT (paid out as a lump sum every year) at my last job.  Was usually $5K+.  Have settled into $5K+ annual bonus at current job too.  (Usually $5K but sometimes higher.)  The nice thing is that I don't have to work any OT but still continue to get a lump sum annually.  I like the end of the year bonus re: taxes.  For now, my tax withholding is mostly non-existent and I use the bonus to settle up my taxes for the year (re: unpredictable bonus and MH's income, etc.).  But in the future when I don't have dependents and taxes are significantly higher, any bonus over-withholding will be refunded quickly when we file our taxes.

I came up with owing $1,300 tax, when revising tax projections for the year.  Which means we probably did a good job estimating taxes, and this is what I was left owing on the bonus.  (I think only $300 would have been taken out otherwise, if I didn't adjust.  Like I said, my tax withholding is mostly non-existent.)  After taxes and 401K (minimum for match) I was left with $3,000 net.

We usually never spend windfalls or bonuses.  I don't like the rule of thumb to spend X percent.  I don't need to spend money just because I receive it.  Historically we always throw at the mortgage, savings, etc.  But of course, doesn't mean we never splurge and enjoy.  We just like to divorce the unexpected money rolling in from the decision to spend it.  If the cash is piling up then we think about spending it.

But this year I spent money.  I counted my eggs before they hatched.  Was expecting some birthday/christmas money in addition.  I bought a luxurious winter jacket (love it!) and some clothes and shoes and a new electric skillet.  I don't know what else we bought (off the top of my head) but I put $570 of my bonus towards spending.   These were mostly November purchases.

Not necessarily a good thing.  I think at the end of the day I just felt too pushed to the side re: MH's movie and paying for college x2, etc., etc.  I over compensated in November (by going a little crazy on the spending), but all the extra money worked out and all is well.  & I have to admit I enjoyed it.  The prior year we paid a big chunk to the mortgage.  The year before that my entire bonus went to MM(20)'s wisdom teeth surgery.  I expect this magnified my feelings and I was delighted to do something a little more fun with some of the bonus money this year.

The rest of my bonus went to planned mortgage paydown of $2,430.  This payment shaved off 4 months and will save $1,145 interest. 

Need to come up with average of $1,500 per year to pay off mortgage in 30 years.  Still have another 18 months to shave off.

My primary goal is to reduce mortgage principal by $10K every year (going forward), but my secondary goal is to not have a mortgage (on this house) for longer than 30 years. 

I have other stretch goals in mind.  We had a mortgage on our first home for 2 years and so eventually I'd like to knock down another 2 years off and not have a mortgage at all for more than 30 years.   & of course, we'd really just like to knock the mortgage out once the kids are done with college.  

While I have two kids in college, the goal is just the extra ~$1,500 per year to continue to pay down the balance by $10K every year.  (I think technically we need to come up with $2,000 next year but then only $1,500 the year after that.  The amount is dropping down rapidly).

Current mortgage balance: $89,999  🎉🎈

Gift Card Balances December 2023

December 9th, 2023 at 03:11 am



$100 Fandango

$  20 Regal




$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$25 IHOP

$50 Seasons 52

$ 25 x 1 Jamba Juice (small balance left)

$ 15 x 1 Jamba Juice

$ 10 x 1 Jamba Juice







$25 Dutch Bros

$25 Door Dash

$10 Starbucks


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

I had a big gift card haul at work Holiday party.   

Pretty much everything is new (from work), except for the cards with the small balance left.

I am going to regift the Dutch Bros gift card to DL(18) for Christmas.  He's the only coffee drinker in my family.

Door dash is just not our thing.  We very rarely eat out and we don't do food delivery at all.  In addition to that, Door Dash costs $$$$$$$.  (Seriously,  just paid $14 for a pizza I usually pay $8 for.   I did a double take when my work ordered pizza for lunch on Friday, from a place I frequent personally.  The extra $6 was before the Door Dash fees and tip.  We could have walked to pick up the pizza, it was ridiculous.)  Like the coffee, it's just going to always be a regift thing.  I will give the Door Dash gift card to my employee.

Edited to add:  I received a Starbucks gift card later and gifted it to my other employee.

It's Official

December 3rd, 2023 at 05:52 pm

Yes, the state wants to give us $11,000 for college this year.  MM(20)'s fall quarter refund finally showed up.  I wanted to pay his winter tuition that week, so the timing worked out perfectly.

I believe it now.  It's real.

Here's an update of MM's expected college costs, with the 5th year.  He did officially get his double major approved and so 5 years is the plan.  

MM's expected net college costs:

$42,000 Tuition/fees** (4 Years)

+$10,000 5th Year Tuition/Fees 

-10,000  Tax credits

-13,000  CA middle class grants

-  6,000  Scholarship


$23,000 Net cost

**I added in MM's $1K summer school class


Of course, nothing is easy.  *sigh*

The girlfriend is still very ill.  I just looked back at texts and it's been 6 weeks since MM(20) first took her to the hospital and she was hospitalized.  She's been in and out of the hospital this whole time and they don't know what is wrong with her.  This became more apparent during Thanksgiving week when MM(20) was home and he filled us in more on what was going on (and he was probably more in the loop; the girlfriend has moved back home in our city for the meantime).  I presumed she was on the upswing but I texted her about something or the other yesterday and she told me she was having a bad day and was being put on heart meds.  Very short term, I am sure that they are starting to wonder if she can feasibly go back to school in January.   Longer term, lord knows.  😟