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Archive for January, 2024

2024 Goals

January 14th, 2024 at 03:03 pm

Same goals as last year, mostly.   Bumped up IRA goal to new contribution limits (thanks to MH's raises). & added a dollar figure to keep mortgage moving down by $10K per year.  

1 - Pay cash for college

It's not a "goal" to me so much as just how we do things.  But it seems so weird to everyone else, I write it down.  

This year is probably going to be very low-spend on the college front.  I think technically I will be spending $2,000 for DL's fall semester and the college owes me $2,000 for his spring semester.  No other expenses because he is living at home.  All of MM's college expenses will come from other buckets (money already saved).  

 2 - $10,000 to savings

$1,000/month, plus interest.  Topping off with snowballs.

Although we are saving more than $10,000 ($1,000 x 12 months = $12,000), I am leaving some buffer for bigger expenses.  I will count additions and subtractions to mid-term cash savings.  But I will ignore college draw downs.  The main purpose of this goal is to fund college expenses.  

Even though I don't expect to cash flow much in the way of college expenses this year, I am still saving for MM(20)'s 5th year of rent.  

3 - $7,500 to investments

$350 per month, plus snowflakes (credit cards rewards & dividends)

Topping off with snowballs and/or excess cash saved

4 - $2,025 to mortgage

Topping off with snowballs and/or excess cash saved

Keeps us on track with $10K principal paydown per year

5 - 9% of household income to work retirement plans

This is the minimum for the match; I'd otherwise rather fund IRAs. 

9% figure does include match.  

6 - $14,000 to IRAs 2023 (MAX)

Will fund with MH's income

Total retirement savings rate is 20% of household income.

7 - Small Monthly Charitable Contribution

When I added breathing room to our budget, I added something like $30/month charitable contribution.  We've always done the bigger contributions at the end of the year.  But trying to be more mindful about how the little things add up.  & wanted to add more regular gifting with the breathing room.  When I look back, we did a few more donations that we probably would not have done otherwise but...  Pretty much failed.  At the time, MH was paying so much forward with crowd funding and everything (why I kept skipping doing even more donations).  But when I look back, it's not like an extra $300 donated ($30 x 10) would have moved the needle either way.  So I am doubling down and want to be more mindful of this budget item in 2024.  I put it in my sidebar so that it will happen. 

Even though 2023 was pretty tight and we got saved by the bell (re: in-law cash gift), I still think that these goals are doable.  If we aren't spending an extra $3K here or there on medical, auto repairs, home repairs *and* vacations...   & college too.  

These are just preliminary goals at this point.  I am just guessing on the tax side of things.  I will likely have to lower some of my goals re: paying more in taxes.  I just need to do a solid tax projection first.   This is more what I am hoping I can cover, but I keep hitting a big tax cliff and so I don't know.  Might have to reduce taxable investments (and throw more to 401K) if that is the case.  I will update once I do a tax projection.  

Edited to add: I squeaked by!  Did a tax projection today and it came out exactly what I planned for.  Phew!  Pretty good for more just starting out with a number I hoped to accomplish.  I just got lucky.  It wasn't based in any real numbers and I didn't think I'd get to stretch my raise this far.  

2023 Goals Review

January 11th, 2024 at 03:33 pm

I am memorializing goals in my sidebar.  

Pay cash for college 

$10K to Savings ❌

Final tally was $4,742. 

The plan was to use this money to pay cash for college.  At the end of 2023 we had roughly -$0- cash plus emergency funds.  So that's about how it sorted out.  That we had just enough to cash flow college.

We most definitely failed at this goal.  But I just copied the commentary from last year and it still held true.  So I am happy enough to squeak by (with what we need).  Failing this goal is due to several big and unexpected expenses in 2023.  

(We did not fail enough to say no to anything that we said yes to.  As long as we had the cash, we were fine with falling short of our goal.)

$7K to Investments 

Final tally: $7,781

I did cheat a little bit on this one.  Included the $2K investment in MH's movie towards this goal.  It wasn't what I had in mind when I made the goal.  But I couldn't justify setting any more cash aside in taxable investments.  We did invest the money and will just call that a win.

9% Income to Work Retirement Plans 

MH and I both contribute the minimum for 401k match.  The 9% includes employer contributions.

$13,000 to IRAs 2023 

Done.  We won't fund until we do our taxes and the year is over.  But we did end the year with an extra $13K set aside for IRAs.  This is mostly thanks to annual cash gift from in-laws.

This year was rough but I would not have given up.  Without the gift, we probably would have taken until April to save up at last $6,000 for one IRA and probably would have just used the taxable investments to fund the second IRA.  I had diverted $6K last year (from my IRA) to Invisalign.  So I was pretty hell bent on maxing out our IRAs this year, even if it meant failing our investment goal.  I didn't want to have a retirement contribution shortfall two years in a row.

Net Worth Update

January 7th, 2024 at 05:16 pm

Our net worth increased by $90K in 2023.  This works out to $25K retirement contributions & a $65K increase in stocks.  I am depreciating our autos aggressively but that is offset by mortgage paydown.  Home values remain steady.

Re: my sidebar big picture goal, this leaves $30K to come up with in the next 3 years.  

I am looking it up and I have $32,000 of kids' gift money sitting in investments in our name (included in our net worth).  In addition to $38K I have loosely earmarked for college.  That's $70K we may be drawing down over the next 4 years.  So it may be more realistic that we need to come up with $100K (30K + 70K) over the next 3 years, to stay on track.  

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2024:

Mortgage: Paydown $10,000  <--Regular payments + $2,000

Retirement: Contribute $24,000

Investment Gains: $26,000  <---Investments doing the hard work for us


Our net worth changes never look anything like our estimate (it's rare any asset class actually has an average year). But, I go through this exercise just to make sure my goal is realistic and doable.

I am just presuming that other savings/investing and college spending will mostly be a wash.  As I type this out, just wondering aloud if I should adjust this estimate downwards.  But as I think it through, 2024 will likely be a wash.  It's going to be a much bigger college hit in 2025 or 2026.

Edited to add:  Originally reported a $85K net worth gain but significantly underestimated my 401K gains in 2023.  Holy cow!  

2023 Credit Card Rewards Tally (Final)

January 6th, 2024 at 03:19 pm

2023 TALLY:




Ongoing rewards:

+$297 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$101 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$154 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$1,261 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $1,813

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much.  (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2023).

Year 2011 = $4,164

Year 2012 = $2,782

Year 2013 = $2,623

Year 2014 = $3,128

Year 2015 = $2,585

Year 2016 = $1,906

Year 2017 = $3,578

Year 2018 = $2,096

Year 2019 = $2,266

Year 2020 = $2,107

Year 2021 = $2,377

Year 2022 = $1,803

Year 2023 = $1,813

Total 13 Years = $33,228 ***Mostly Tax-Free Income***

Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. We have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending. We treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of fees or interest.***


I guess that we are consistent.  Rewards were +/- $1 for both Visa and AmEx. 

Somehow squeaked by with slightly more rewards this year.  Even though we did no one-time bonuses.  This is just an indication that it was a spendy year. 

Honorable Mention to I Bond interest: ~$2,900 interest this year.  I won't include it because it's not a "bonus".  It's basically the equivalent to bank interest.  But it was such a boost this year, and might be why I did not pursue more rewards.  

I have already signed up for a $750 travel bonus for 2024 (in my name).  I am hoping this will offset most of our airfare re: movie shoot.  MH just booked a flight for $400.  I am also considering doing a second $750 travel reward in his name.  

Will see how things sort out in future years.  I also think we are just less interested in these bonuses with our raises in recent years.  We need less 'extra money' to fill in the gaps.  But The $750 or $1,500 will be nice during a big travel year (and with two in college and everything).  I also applied for a bigger cash bonus last year but was denied.  I suppose that's another factor.  

Rose Float Pictures

January 6th, 2024 at 03:10 pm

Here's a few pictures from MM's rose float.

After making it through work hell month (December) and jetting off for a few days...  My plan is to sleep all day today.  I have like 10 blog posts in my head (re: end of year tallies and so on) but this might be all I eke out.

At least I usually have New Years day to regroup, or a long weekend.  So I am feeling really behind and off kilter. 

Edited to add:  All of MM(20)'s winter break lodging was covered by the college, and most of the food was covered.  I think alumni take turns bringing meals to the kids, stuff like that.  He drove home for Christmas with a rose float van.  He was given the van and a gas card, in exchange for being in charge of a carpool.

Pasadena & Looking Ahead

January 5th, 2024 at 03:02 pm

We are back from our New Year's trip to Pasadena. 

The trip was mixed.  MM(20) was too busy and basically only had five minutes for us.  We had brought him some stuff from home, and so we met him at his hotel, just as he was taking off.  He did invited us to lunch with him and the group of students he was driving back to the college, but some of them had COVID and others were sick with whatever else.  We declined lunch with the sick people.

We didn't do the parade, but we went to the float showcase afterwards.  The downside is that for the most part there weren't any animations (the float operators were long gone).  But we did see one of the floats operating.  The plus side is you can get up so close and see the floats from all sides.  

I have lots of pictures to share, but will just start with a few.

MH and I had a nice dinner in a pub on New Year's eve.  We had found a free charger for the car and so just took our time.  As we thought ahead to the New Year, all I could figure was that it's going to suck.  That's my take on 2024.  Mostly thinking to health issues of various loved ones.  😔

I can see the theme is that it will be a challenging year on the health front.  This is the most obvious.  But I also think it's going to be a crazy bucket list year.  Some mix of low lows and high highs, probably.  The Pasadena New Year's thing was a magical 'once in a lifetime' way to start out the year.  Next month MH should be getting his movie made.  Those are the biggies.  But if we have any time and money left after that, we had been planning to make it to the Grand Canyon this year.  I think it's ridiculous we still have not made that work after 2013 canceled trip.  & it may very likely get pushed to the side *again*.  

On the challenging side...  GMIL's health is starting to slide.  Both our parents with cognitive decline seem to be worsening significanly in recent months. & I am probably the most beside myself about the girlfriend.  She's so young.  It sounds pretty unlikely that she can return to school this month.  The pandemic really slowed down our parents' cognitive declines.  So I have been bracing myself for some obviously rougher years, but I think this is it.  2024 is obviously going to be rough. My BIL is also still battling some mystery illness.