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October Savings

November 3rd, 2019 at 07:15 am

Received $70 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes:
--Redeemed $39 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $133 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $18 cash back on dining/gas/grocery card.

Other snowflakes:
$ 5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

{Note: Did not put snowflakes to investments this month,applied to large expenditure}

401k Contributions/Match:
+$750

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 900 MH Paychecks
+$ 100 MH Focus Group
+$ 265 Self-employment income

TOTAL: $1,265 snowballs to savings

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 3,700 Orthodontist**

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 460 Car Insurance
-$ 260 Electricity^ (for prior year, electric car)
-$ 190 Misc.
-$ 120 Prepay school lunch

TOTAL: -$695 Net
(Invested +$750, -$1,445 from cash)


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^Electricity expenditure ~ we have balanced billing and so though we added an electric car to our household we haven't really been paying for it. Had a $260 accumulation I could have spread over next 12 months, but I just wanted to pay it off and be done. I didn't want to spend the next 12 months paying for the last 12 months of car charging.

Prediction from last month:
October should be a good money month.

Things went as predicted. We would have had +$3,000 to savings/investments if it wasn't for another orthodontist surprise. (More Below). & to be clear, I am in "significantly reduced salary" mode.

Unfortunately, November will not be any prettier. I just pulled $5,500-ish out of savings so that I can get property taxes covered for the next year. I am paying a little early and pre-paying. This goes in the "simplicity" category. Don't want to think about it for another 12 months.

**Most of the Citi card reward was due to charging some orthodontist expenses to a credit card. It was very out of nowhere, so I immediately pulled from savings and just paid it off. (This is what we had decided to do for LM, but MH just presumed we'd come to the same conclusion with kid #2. He didn't even talk to me about it! Just came home to, "I spent $4,000 today.") MM went in for a consult and he was recommended a similar treatment plan to his brother. I think it's probably where we would have ended up but I was just dumbfounded that MH didn't discuss with me. (I think this is just a side effect of us both being so run down by life at the moment). On the flip side, he was in such a hurry to pay, he whipped out the credit card. That's good because I got about $75 cash back to offset the cost. Wish I had known for DL's braces. All their fine print was that there was a fee for credit card. Just another reminder that it never hurts to ask! I swear, fine print is usually optional, from my experience. When it comes to bigger purchases.

I had been planning to spend around $12,000 on braces this year (expected scenario) and we are up to about $8,000 so far. So, it was kind of *shrugs* in the end. It probably helped that I was being very cognizant this was precisely why we had so much extra cash and everything has been pretty zen lately. We over-prepared, as we tend to do.

I just threw all the credit card rewards (this month) to offset the ortho costs.

October was some crazy month from hell, as they all are any more. So honestly, this was probably the most boring thing that happened. In fact, that was a "calm" week. I remember thinking it was sad that waiting for MH's MRI results and getting a surprise $4,000 bill is what I consider calm.

& there is more. Now, MM(16) is being referred to jaw surgery. The saving grace is I have two boys. The surgery I had at 16, they don't do until 20s for boys. Because they are still growing. DL(14) has my same jaw and was referred to surgery at age 23? That is very grey area with "cosmetic surgery for medical reasons" and not sure how that will shake out. I don't know what the heck MM(16)'s deal is but it's not the same. I believe they said age 26 for MM. But, the Ortho did happen to mention that our insurance had never turned down covering this particular surgery (if he referred). So that was a nice heads up. Regardless, both cans are getting kicked *way* down the road. It really really sucks that they both have to deal with this, but I don't have any room whatsoever in my brain (right now) for "things that may or may not happen in another 10 years."

September Savings

October 6th, 2019 at 07:07 am

Received $73 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $53 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $56 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $8 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 3 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
$ 20 Citi Price Rewind
$150 Dividend

TOTAL: $290 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 210 Car Maintenance (new battery/oil change)
-$ 160 Misc. Purchase MH (disability related)
-$ 70 Misc. Purchase MH

TOTAL: $2,573 deposited to cash and investments

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I don't think that things could be any more financially mellow. I am experiencing the reward of working my butt off earlier in the year. Phew!

October should be a good money month. MH received a 12%+ raise (minimum wage increase) and was asked to work more hours. It's becoming more obvious that we should just use his income to fund our IRAs. But 2019 is well covered so we will probably start that in 2020. I also have about $500 in side work to bill, so we will have a few snowballs to add to savings.

Anyway, I can tell you that money has been entirely in the background through all of this, but it's just even moreso right now. We had a lot of big expenses earlier in the year, but it's just a little slice of quiet and calm right now.

Note to Self: Grocery Rewards

October 5th, 2019 at 05:04 pm

Trying to jot down the grocery rewards plan because I completely lost that post.

Our American Express card caps grocery rewards at the $6,000 per year spending level. It looks like they are calculating this from January 1 of every new year.

In the end, we hit $5,950 already for this year. We are switching to our credit union card (3% cash back on groceries) for the rest of the calendar year.

I do buy $5 here and there, and actually spent about $30 today at the grocery store. So I will keep the American Express in my wallet and will see if the cutoff happens where I think it will. If I am off by some $5 purchase it's not as a huge of a deal as losing rewards on a $150 purchase.

Plan for 2019:

**Switch to credit union card (3% cash back groceries) for rest of year.

Will just pull the American Express cards out of our wallets.

Plan for 2020:

**Use Chase Freedom for 5% grocery quarter

It looks like the Chase Freedom card has 5% back one quarter per year. I was going to do this anyway, but it just works out that apparently we need the reward for exactly one quarter.

I had gotten the Chase card intending it to be a card just for MM(16). But it is what it is. I have the card and might as well use the grocery benefit.

Note re: Teen Credit Card

When looking up some other grocery rewards or strategies I noticed that there are a lot of new cards that offer 3%? cash back for the first year. The catch is that these cards don't offer a sign up bonus. I wanted to remember this because it might be a good strategy to apply for one of these cards for MM around his next birthday. Then he can just use it for one year and he should be able to more easily get his own credit card when he turns 18. (I am personally not going to sign up for a higher reward if it expires after just one year, but just makes more sense for someone who was going to change cards in one year anyway).

Note re: American Express

While typing all this out, I remembered that I got rejected for an American Express card that I tried to apply for, re: grocery rewards. American Express changed their terms to some very loose "can deny rewards at any time for any reason" language. I will be cautious doing any new rewards cards with them, but I guess it's somewhat moot if they are just going to reject me.

Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019

October 3rd, 2019 at 05:59 pm

2019 TALLY:

$550 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
-----------
$700 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:
$ 29 Citi Price rewinds (RIP)

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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I posted earlier that I was reminded to do some price rewinds, when price matching a wedding gift. Citi had a "Price Rewind" where you could just enter a purchase and they would check 60 days for lower prices. It was *awesome*. Unfortunately, today is the last day they are offering this perk.

We had a few big purchases during the last few months. I always put bigger purchases in because you never know when a price will drop, and it's the biggest bang for your buck.

In the end, we didn't get any money back on the big purchases (no surprise) but I found a smaller purchase that had been done (in a time of chaos) and that I knew was ridiculous. So I will get $20 back. In addition, we had received $9 back when we bought our washer/dryer earlier this year, so I need to add that to my year-to-date tally. Total $29 in price rewinds for the year. There won't be any more because this reward is dead.

MM(16) also should be getting a $150 bonus for the credit card I signed him up for. He has not gotten the reward yet because he spent -$0- during the last billing cycle. But he has since gotten gas and hit the spending level for the bonus. I presume that he will probably have his gas covered for the next 4 or 5 months. I am not adding this reward to my tally because he is using it for his own spending/bills.

I don't foresee doing any other one-time bonuses this year. But... you never know when an irresistible deal might pop up.

***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 late fees or interest.***

July Savings

October 3rd, 2019 at 05:57 pm

Received $75 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Mortgage:
--Redeemed $47 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $66 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $15 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to Mortgage:
$ 3 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
$39 rounded up mortgage payment

TOTAL: $170 snowflakes to mortgage

401k Contributions/Match:
+$600

Snowball to Savings:
-0- {No side income this month}

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-0-

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 280 Car Stereo for MM(16)
-$ 265 Car Insurance for MM(16)
-$ 220 Vacation Expense (brought friend to camp)
-$ 130 Amazon Prime
-$ 120 Dentist

TOTAL: $1,780 deposited to cash and investments

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This is more of a June sum up (on the spending side), since we mostly charge everything and pay off the following month.

From last month:
June went pretty well. It was a very low spend month. Without all the stress and extra income, we just fell back on our old habits (which is living on a shoestring). It's an easy default for us.

It was the first month of my new salary reality ($1,000 less per month), without any side income or additional income. June went very well and we were still able to hit aggressive savings goals. I wish I could say July went so well, but I sat down and went through the books for July today (I always pay everything the first of the month) and July was pretty ugly. It was a "death by a thousand cuts" month, though I think we did pretty well considering. Just not sure if I will have anything to add to (cash) savings next month. It will be a bit of a breakeven month. I expect August (spending) to be more like June. Maybe more low key since the kids will be back at school for the entire month. We are also done with vacations, birthdays, etc.

Our dining out rewards were also clearly insane. I had about $200 in spending (kids' birthdays) that were reimbursed by other people. Plus a lot of vacation eating out, etc. Our grocery bill was actually quite reasonable. (Probably not reasonable enough, considering MM was mostly gone for 8 days. But was much better than other summer months. Phew!)

401k contributions dropped a bit since it was just my income/contributions this month.

Short-term spending was very kid-centric. We paid final expenses on car (before handing it over to MM on his birthday). As a birthday present, we got him a new car stereo with bluetooth. We also paid for DL to invite a friend along to camp. (Which is no big deal because most years MIL insists on paying for us. Just paying it forward).

I did decide to throw all my snowflakes to the mortgage this month. I expect this may likely be the "last hoorah" with our mortgage. I had been paying down an extra $3k per month (OT money) to keep payoff within 30 years of original mortgage. (We've refied several times as interest rates drop, but never felt comfortable with a shorter mortgage term with the volatile economy in our lower-cost locale). I am no longer getting paid OT and so don't have that extra money to throw at the mortgage. MH's income will probably fund IRAs this year (bigger priority). I put a placeholder on my sidebar, but as more time passes and there's no windfall to cover it, it seems less likely I will pay any extra on our mortgage again. So, why the extra payment today? Completely psychological. It's a year or two later than I expected, but we finally dropped below the $150k mark. I had to throw the extra $170 this month to get there. It feels good. Having a $14X,XXX mortgage, feels extraordinary for this California girl.

We've absolutely never hit our mortgage hard. Never more than $20 here or there, or the "extra $3k per year after I cut the monthly payments down by $7,500 per year" kind of thing. Still paying far less than when we started (at 8%). So throwing the extra $3k per year was throwing it a bone, and making sure we don't have a mortgage for more than 30 years But it all seems pretty moot at this point. We are only planning to stay in our home 5-ish more years. We will never pay off before we sell. & we plan to downsize into a home we can pay cash for. Our bigger goal right now is to save up a down payment for our next home. It would be our preference to buy our next home before we sell this one. It just keeps things more flexible and will allow us to jump when we find the right home.

This is also compounded by this whole "kid starting college in 2 years" thing. There will also be cash hoarding in prep for that. I don't know how much I can succeed on either of these fronts (down payment, college costs) with my salary, but MH is looking for full-time work to that end. If he starts bringing home $2k-$3k every single month, we are just going to start hoarding cash. We will never live up to a second income. We will use it to buy a house (again) or pay for a temporary expense like college.

Anyway, I feel much better about this after having reached this psychological milestone. It's easier to just let it go. Will be happy to have an under $150k mortgage for a few years, and then will be done with the only debt we have ever had.

Edited to add:
I suppose I officially reached cash savings goal for 2019. It's not that exciting, because it depends on what comes up the rest of the year (that might drain cash) and I still need to come up with IRA money. I mean, I have $12k cash for our 2019 IRAs, but that was all saved from second income. I need to start meaningfully saving for 2020 and forward. Trying to get ahead of the curve as much as possible, until we get our income back to where it was.

May Savings

October 3rd, 2019 at 05:52 pm

Received $60 bank interest for the month of May.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $36 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $88 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 10 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $144 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,000 MH Paychecks
+$3,200 April/May self-employment income

TOTAL: $4,200 snowballs to savings

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 4,000 Orthodontist (*fingers crossed, this is it?)
-$ 260 Summer college tour for MM (school trip)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$1,000 Beach Vacation
-$ 555 Dentist/Medical
-$ 70 Misc.

TOTAL: $1,169 deposited to cash and investments

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We paid cash for school trip this summer, 4 days/3 nights touring several colleges. $260 is an incredible deal. (The school is also covering all the costs of AP, ACT, SAT tests, etc., which I mentioned recently. I am feeling very spoiled on this front right now).

That reminds me too, MM can also take community college classes for free the next two years (junior/senior year of high school).

*As to Ortho costs, that's still another post for another day. It's almost comical how many canceled ortho appointments we had before we had this quote. Yeesh! We had one ortho decide to retire after booking a consult appointment. I think we majorly dodged a bullet! The good news is that though DL(13) completely inherited my mess, he was only recommended 18 months of ortho, versus the 5+ years or whatever hell I was put through. I never in a million years expected him to end up on the lower end of time/cost. MM(15) was told his situation is just cosmetic but no other reasons to have braces; he is not interested. I was planning for the worst case, which I thought was very likely. (To be fair, we already invested $3k-ish in preventative ortho work for MM, when he was very young. It seems to have paid off).

It's not quite so simple. No cause to overly celebrate yet. MM(15) is being monitored for a new problem and may need (relatively minor?) surgery.

We were told up front that DL(13) need major jaw surgery, which I had already assumed. I was not surprised and is one reason why we chose this ortho. He was very up front about it. I had the same surgery at 16. We didn't discuss the reasons for waiting but I think it's because boys stop growing several years later than girls. We are looking at age 20 for him, or 7 years down the road. They are going to do the braces in an attempt to prevent surgery. I am not holding my breath, but appreciate the effort. It's either this or "wear braces forever" so it's not a purely cosmetic surgery, but I doubt it will be covered by insurance. Overall, I could see that one coming from a mile away and don't feel much financial stress about it. But kicking the can down the road for 7 years sounds nice, of course. So that's a quick sum up of everything ortho. We decided to just pay cash (for braces) due to the short treatment, the smaller dollar amount (much smaller than we were expecting for two kids), and probably mostly because of the significant tax break we get for paying cash this year, in addition to cash discount. I am relieved, because it was my very strong preference to pay cash up front.

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June 1 is it. I've managed to kick the can down the road for 8 months, but it's time to accept my lower salary. Unfortunately, the timing hits with MH's summer off work.

June savings update will be similarly nasty, but without all the extra income. I have a $5,000 credit card bill (May charges) that I paid off the first of June. There was probably about $1,000 that ended up being reimbursed by employer (phew) and most the rest was vacation expenses. Plus some medical bills, school lunches for several months, and DMV/insurance on the kids' car.

I did not save all of our side income this month. Well, I suppose I did in a sense. But mostly I was doing a major reset on all things financial. No more, "I have an extra $2,000 coming in this month, and I am completely exhausted, so who cares about $50 here and there."

Where we are at:

Still have 12 months of expenses liquid. Which is very easy peasy with three jobs, but will be more of a challenge with just the one.

I have about $10,000 set aside for 2019 IRAs. Just depends what other big expenses come up this year. Not adding to savings in any long-term meaningful away. Is more "keep afloat level" at this point. I am speaking to just my salary. I realize that I probably have to shift back to letting MH fund IRAs. Which is probably okay with combo of pay cut and work retirement plan (I am able to contribute about 10%, even with reduced salary). Funding IRAs is a very stubborn "live far below our means" goal, and I think is still pretty doable. In the short run, I probably have 2019/2020 covered. In the long run, I am due bonuses/raises (soon) and MH will be looking for more work.

I left enough side income in the checkbook to zero out our checking balance (no projected negative). Mortgage is technically pre-paid by two months. When things are not tight at all, I pay before the end of the month. In addition, am paid ahead one full month. (Other than that, I one million times more rather pay down principal, but I like the buffer of being one month ahead). I am going into June 1 with all bills paid far ahead (still have built-in 6 week emergency fund in that regard). Mortgage paid two months ahead. Credit card balances all zero (as they always are the first of every month). It was mostly knocking the mortgage back to "before the end of the month" to get us started this summer with as much buffer as possible. It would be my preference not to use any of this buffer this summer, but we will have drastically reduced income from what we have gotten used to the past few years. & I have absolutely no plans whatsoever to reduce our savings goals. Will see how it goes.

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I am so late getting to this post. So... How is June going so far?

Dining out is at $20 for the month, with the month 1/3 over. I suppose we have done well with the reset. Gas should go down significantly without work/school (MH kids). I think we may be able to rein in adult grocery spending a bit (without all the stress spending). The big splurge so far this month was $4 at Home Depot to get a couple of house keys made for the kids. MM(15) needed a key, and I just made a copy for when DL needs a key eventually. June should be pretty easy as we will be out of town a few days with all expenses covered.

Life is good. I've been "busy", but the vast majority of it has been family time and self care.

April Savings

October 3rd, 2019 at 05:49 pm

Received $72 bank interest for the month of April.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $42 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $33 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $12 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 12 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
$ 1 Rounded Up

TOTAL: $100 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 800 MH Paychecks
+$2,000 March self-employment income (received April)

TOTAL: $2,800 snowballs to savings

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 2,365 Medical Expenses
-$11,000 Fund IRAs 2018

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 720 Auto Insurance
-$ 500 Life Insurance
-$ 300 Dentist
-$ 294 DMV (Auto Registration)

TOTAL: $1,443 deposited to cash and investments

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Last month's commentary:

Still just hoarding cash. Second job is winding down (I hope). I have $3k medical bills coming up, want to pay cash for braces this year (x2), have to cover all my professional expenses going forward, etc., etc. Just hoarding cash for all that, and preparing for a big income drop this summer.

Second job is definitely winding down. I am hoping to deposit another $3,000-ish in the next couple of months. But I am only working two more weeks for old/forever employer. I am cramming on deadlines this weekend and then it's just running up as much hours as I can to pay for braces. The work is there, since their workload is far beyond their capacity at this point. It just depends on my motivation. Which has mostly been wavering, but I have a dollar figure for braces. I am paying cash up front this week. So this is my renewed motivation. Is another post for another day, but it feels good to have more clarity on that situation and to cross a large financial goal off my list.

Last net worth update:
Net worth is up about $40,000 for the year. Or about 2/3 of our annual goal. Most of that is stock market recovery from end of last year.

Net worth is up $60,000 for the year, which is my goal. I am feeling pretty good about dropping second income at this point.

The reduced salary at my new job has little to do with our forward financial progress and is more shifting things around. I've traded $11,500 cash (used to fund IRAs) for $7,500 in retirement benefits. I only need to come up with $4,000 net to be whole. So while I am bracing for significantly less cash in June, I don't expect any change to big picture goals.

Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019

April 6th, 2019 at 07:39 am

2019 TALLY:

$540 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
-----------
$690 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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I just saw that the points posted for my latest one-time bonus.

Citi has significantly better gift card rewards than the last time I did this. Will probably pick up some Target and Kohls gift cards, in addition to some movie theater gift cards. Then a handful of dining out gift cards so we can go out and enjoy a bit this summer. All of this will help us immensely during our "income gap". Which I expect to be during the summer months when MH is not working.

I will probably try again for a Chase bonus. I was denied the last time I tried, though I didn't have anywhere near the "5 credit card apps" or whatever they were denying for. But I only applied for one card this year and last year. It's worth a try.

On the flip side, I told MH that I think this is my last big push. We really relied on this extra money to help us through lower income periods and periods of lower bank interest, but I just don't see continuing to do the same bank bonuses over and over and over again. The ongoing rewards and cash back for everyday purchases, those I have done my entire life and don't intend to stop. But I can see wanting to juggle less bonuses and one-time reward cards, for the long term. Will see...


***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 late fees or interest.***