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Movie Update - 2/20

February 21st, 2024 at 04:31 pm

Movie production expenses = $130.  Most of that was buying sympathy flowers for someone on the cast or crew.   Purchases had died off for a while but a $20 purchase showed up yesterday and MH confirmed it was for props.  

Eating out = $274

That's for 18 out of 22 days.  Well on track with the $500 gift money we allocated for food.  MH has skipped a couple of meals (due to time) and has been treated out to a few meals.

Everyone is getting tired and tensions are rising.  MH is trying to smooth things over.  That seems to be how his role is shaping up.  But as people are venting to him, they are paying for his meals.  It's not anything major but just seems to be getting worse as people are more exhausted.  

Transportation: $20

Unchanged and this is probably all that he will spend.  

Everything continues to be going pretty well on the movie set.  🤞🏼 

Total movie investment:  $6,000

We set aside $3,000 gift money to cover the hotel, airfare and all of the above.  We invested $2,000 cash.  & MH will lose ~$1,000 of wages re: time off.

As of today, feeling like it's very much worth it.  Still don't have any expectation of making any of this money back.  (Too many things would have to still go right.)  To this point, things have gone as well as could possibly be and we are feeling very happy with this investment.  If nothing else comes of it, it was an amazing opportunity.  

One More Week of Groceries

February 19th, 2024 at 02:56 pm

DL(18) baked potatoes Thursday night and I made black bean wraps on Friday night.  I made 5 wraps.  DL ate 4.  I might make again on another night.  Saturday I baked some parmesan red potatoes and ate the 1/8 cup or whatever of rice left.  That's when I realized the black bean wraps were gone.  It worked out because I wasn't that hungry and DL had Chipotle (his friend took him out).  DL ate all his curry and the fridge is getting empty.  I suppose his appetite is also ramping up.  He just wasn't hungry at all when he was sick.  As I type this out, I realize he is probably just resuming a more normal appetite.  This may be the only reason I got away with not cooking anything most of last week.

DL(18) told me he is not sick of lentils, that he doesn't care for beef, and he really loves fish.  So I decided to add salmon to the menu this week.  I told him that kind of screws up my meatloaf plan but he said he was fine with the meatloaf.  I just don't know how many leftovers of that he will eat. 

I made a grocery list.  I picked two of my favorite recipes and added lentils back to the list.  It was definitely a "turn off my brain" kind of week re: planning but also willing to dip my toe into recipes I have not made much. 

Sunday - Mini meat loaves & mashed potatoes (with horseradish and chili sauce) 

               & will cook up some hambuger patties with the third pound (to the freezer)

Monday - Thai Chicken (basically a chicken noodle salad)

Wednesday - Salmon & rice (per DL request)

Friday - Indian Spiced Lentils (for MM to eat this weekend and to take home).  & maybe black bean wraps, baked potatoes or baked cabbage

Saturday - baked potatoes or black bean wraps for lunch?  (We all have various dinner plans/parties that night)

I've got some ideas for Sunday/Monday night.  MH will be back but won't be in any shape to cook.  I might just go back to the store Wednesday to pick up the salmon and some canned food (beans and corn) for our crockpot chili.  Maybe I won't even need to grocery shop next weekend.  I will try to get us through next Monday night and then will pass the baton back to MH.

Both my kids are leaning more vegetarian over time.  I checked in with MM(20) and I was surprised he wouldn't eat the salmon.  That is new.  So I will try to have some vegetarian options for him.  We have a lot of meatless recipes but the lentils is the only thing I can come up with (off the top of my head) that makes a lot.  Enough to keep MM satiated.  If he's only going to eat one meal with us, that should suffice.  I was relieved when DL(18) told me he would welcome another batch of lentils, too.  & that is one other thing that MH will be happy to eat when he gets home Sunday.  But anyway, MM(20) will be home and grazing and constantly hungry, so will have some other filler foods if he needs.  & I just love roasted cabbage so it's a good excuse to make.  It would be way too much for just DL and I.  But with MM here, we might get through a whole head of cabbage.

Here is my grocery list for today:

The store had no Asian salads whatsoever last week, so will try again.  

I will pick up some beef if I can find the unicorn of beef on sale.  Just feeling optimistic enough to put it on the list, after last week.  If not, I won't worry about about it.  

Update:

I spent $73 at the grocery store.  It was a pretty light grocery run.  But I found more beef!  Salads were well stocked today so DL(18) will be happy.  My one splurge was some sort of red cake balls.  They were in the 50%-off Valentine section.  They looked decadent and everything else was kind of "meh" (or just too over-priced, even at 50% off).  I then quickly saw (the one package) was in the wrong place.  They were red but I guess they weren't keen on taking 50% off of those.  I decided to keep them in my cart.  I will probably just end up taking them to work.  It was $10 but I figured whatever, because I have one less mouth to feed this month.  

Totaly grocery/household spending February:  $657 out of $850 budget.  (Note:  includes some movie purchases that I have just absorbed in grocery budget.)

Really the only thing on my list is some canned beans and corn (for chili) and the salmon.  I will presume that I have $43 to spend on Wednesday.  (I don't think I will spend that much, but will see what comes up.)  That leaves $150, if I want to pick up a few more things next weekend or if MH wants to do a grocery run.  Even if MH picks up some groceries, I presume it would just be to get through 4 days (through March 1).  But I don't know what he may find lacking, when he gets home.  I can see my shopping tapering off as I am well stocked with the things that I like.

Edited to add:  I just checked the chili recipe; we have everything on hand except kidney beans.  I chose it because it's a simple crockpot recipe (that I've maybe made once or twice).  I didn't realize it was such a 'using what we already have' recipe. (Side note: the secret ingredient in this recipe is salsa).  When I checked to see if we had any kidney beans, I found a stash of granola bars.  I set out a couple of boxes that DL(18) will probably appreciate.  It wasn't on my radar because I can't eat crunchy/hard food right now (re: ortho treatment).  DL(18) didn't care enough to add to the shopping list, but he will eat them. 

2024 Credit Card Tally

February 17th, 2024 at 04:40 pm

2024 TALLY:

$766 Capital One Venture (Moi)

------------

$766 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We hit the $4K spend on this credit card and so the bonus appeared shortly after.  It took just under 2 months.  I charged two months of health insurance, one airplane ticket, and one hotel week.  I wasn't thinking about it and didn't realize the hotel would charge in smaller chunks.  It looks like they are charging one week at a time.  It just happened to be enough to hit the bonus.  I was otherwise planning to charge some car insurance.  We have a couple of more months but I wanted to earn the reward in time to pay for the hotel.

There is a $95 fee on the card, but we spent enough we earned other reward points (more than just the $750 bonus).  The other rewards so far offset the fee.  The total tally will probably be another $40, bringing the total reward closer to $800 (net) on this card.

I had applied $45 rewards to airfare.  Was able to apply $800 rewards to the $800 hotel charge.  Minus $95 fee = $750 Net.

One reason we are doing so well on movie budget/spending is that the original plan was that I was going to fly out too.  I think it's official that I will not bother.  MH might get some time off tomorrow but is otherwise working 15-hour days.  He skipped dinner the other night because he needed sleep more than food.  Anyway, tomorrow is his only day off and the weather took a cold turn in Ohio.  It's for the best.  I really need the 3-Day weekend to regroup at home.  

Note:  Edited to add $16 more rewards (re: next chunk of hotel charged)

Mid Week Grocery Shop

February 16th, 2024 at 03:32 pm

I had some time to breathe Wednesday.  🙄  Work, chores, drama.  Work, chores, drama.  That's how the weekend went, and so I completely gave up on any grocery shopping.

I got past a big work deadline Tuesday.  & I was determined to come up with a shopping list that night.  

Menu plan:  Not much planned.  I thought I'd be eating burritos for days (should get through that).  As I wrapped up for bed Tuesday night, I saw that DL(18) ate *all* the burritos.  So that's like 4 my-sized servings I don't have to get to.  Anyway, before that I was just planning to make black bean wraps on Thursday.  & maybe have DL(18) make baked potatoes on Friday.  That is still the plan.  (I ended up being too tired to do any dishes or cooking on Wednesday night.)

DL(18) is feeling a lot better, so he made a big batch of curry.   He's into some rice and beans curry thing.

Shopping List:

Pretty much everything on the list is stuff we ran out of, expired, or that DL(18) requested.  Just trying to break shopping out into smaller chunks.

& a cough suppressant for DL.  I think I forgot to write that down, was a last minute add to the list. 

I will get some muffins or something, to get us through the week.  Dr. Pepper is my thing, will grab while it is on sale.

I grabbed the mail Monday and ground beef was supposed to be on sale with a digital coupon (per sales ad) but I couldn't find this sale or coupon anywhere online.  Which is fine.  I will ask MH about that before the weekend shop.  We don't need any meat but I will buy more if it is on mega sale.  

I am looking forward to the 3-day weekend.  I can tell now that I am mostly going to give up and just keep it simple that last week.  But would like to put some more thought into grocery/meal planning next week, more than I was able to this week.

Grocery final results:  My 'smaller run' ended up being $108 (with tax).  

I could have sworn that sales prices changes Monday or Tuesday, and I checked the date on the mailer.  But it ended up confusing because some of the sales I was looking at had changed between menu planning and shopping.  MH forwarded me the sales/coupons Wednesday morning and I saw the beef deal and confirmed he had clipped that coupon.  Of course, the beef is always cleared out when it's under $3/pound.  So I got lucky that they even had any. 

I went to the bakery first and picked up some fresh sourdough and some garlic parmesan craft butter.  This seemed extremely decadent.  Because I went off list with basically my first purchase, I *felt* like I was very "off list" this shopping trip.  But I looked through the receipt and I guess that was the only thing.  It was a $7 splurge.  It's just so funny psychologically to feel like I was splurging too much, but I had MH in my head because he would never spend $5 on craft butter.  & he is wrong.  O.M.G.  It was so good...  

Oh wait, I did also pick up some yogurt.  It was on sale and it will still be on sale this weekend.  But I thought DL(18) might appreciate because he has been eating through the yogurt.  Okay, I feel better that there was something else (to make me feel like I was way off list).  I think that was it. 

I suppose next week's shop has the potential to be lighter too, because we are all stocked up through this Wednesday.  Just 3 more days to run out of more stuff, and I don't have any major cooking planned.  The theme next week will clearly be ground beef.  Was already thinking of making a 2-pound meatloaf (that makes a lot of leftovers).  Accordingly, I just put the 3 pounds of meat in the freezer.  Instead of separating it into pounds like we usually do.  So I guess I am committing to that.  I can always make some hamburger patties and freeze for later (pound #3) if the idea of cooking more meat sounds "meh".  So yeah, pretty much stocked up and have more meat than we can possibly need for the next 2 weeks.  (Still have all that chicken in the freezer, plus whatever beef MH had already bought on mega sale last month).  I might just focus on shopping for meals this weekend and can do a produce/snack run mid-week.

Off the top of my head, meatloaf on Sunday and am thinking of making Thai chicken on Monday.  (Wanted to make at least one chicken dish; this is one of my favorites).  Thursday or Friday will try to find a big vegetarian meal because MM(20) will be home this weekend.  If nothing else I can make lentils again and send him home with the leftovers.  (That ended up being so simple and YUM).  & the next Saturday and Sunday I will try to make a couple of meals that MH likes.

I think the above is more than ample.  Black bean wraps (tonight) will last us a couple of days.  Will have a lot of meat and chicken leftovers for the work week.  & then can start ramping up food when MM(20) is home and for when MH gets home.  MM will probably just eat one meal with us (Friday night).  But if I do the big batch of lentils thing, it will give him some food to take back with him.  I usually don't like everything that MH cooks and am used to eating more sandwiches and scrounging for food.  I will scale back next week.  There's always deli sandwiches or pancakes or whatever if I do not make enough meals.  We have some deli meat that we need to get through.  Not that I expect to get to any of that with all these planned leftovers, but I will err on not planning any meals Tues/Wed/Thurs.  Which I guess is the same as what we did this week.  DL(18) ended up baking potatoes on Thursday.  That can be another filler meal.  That might be a good request for next Friday night (he's got some new technique that is very good).  I'd need to get more potatoes because MM(20) thinks that 3 or 4 potatoes is a serving.  

Movie Accounting - 2/13

February 14th, 2024 at 03:36 pm

Just going through the credit cards and seeing where we are at.

I am throwing the little convenience store type purchases into 'groceries'.  A - I don't have to feed MH from grocery budget this month.  B - I have no idea if these charges or for him or for production.  Though it sounds like all of these purchases have been for the movie so far.  Total movie expenses absorbed in grocery budget = $12.

Movie production expenses = $108.  Most of that was buying sympathy flowers for someone on the cast or crew. 

Eating out = $208

That's for 11 out of 22 days.  Well on track with the $500 gift money we allocated for food.  I'd be fine if MH went over this and we had to tap grocery budget or vacation budget.  But...  MH is being cheap.  On the plus side, he told me that someone's mom is home cooking meals for the movie set, so he is pretty happy with that.  He's getting breakfast at the hotel and some sort of food most days.  I think he is very happy with the quality of food on set (he had very low expectations; doesn't care for pizza or convenience foods.)  But if he is still buying a meal out every night (at midnight), I can see that he's not happy with the quantity of food.  

Transportation: $20

MH's sister visited last weekend and apparently he paid for an Uber.  He had a day off to go out and about.  He also met my sister for dinner.  I am just realizing that my sister clearly paid for that.  Which sounds fair.  (If MH is the one paying ~$3,000 to be in their neck of the woods.)  MH won't have any time to meet them again and I am surprised my sister even showed up for the one dinner.

I think the producer insisted on picking MH up from the airport and my BIL is going to drive him back to the airport.

Hotel

MH finally got someone to take him up on the couch bed offer.  He has some actor staying with him this week.  Will see how that goes.  

I hadn't thought about it but the hotel is charging chunks over time, re: extended hotel stay.  Makes sense.  This is perfect because they charged just enough for our $750 travel reward.  The Hotel charged something like $800.  I should be able to offset with the $750 reward, before the amount is due.

At this point, I'd say we can probably manage all of the expenses with our $3K gift money + $750 credit card reward.  (Will likely pay $2K for the hotel, $500 for airfare/transportation & $500 for food).  Didn't really expect that, but am happy that spending has been so minimal.  I can probably absorb the movie expenses in our budget.  I told MH the $5 here and there was not bothering me at all and of course we can cover that (don't want to bother to try to get reimbursed with money that doesn't exist).  & I told him I was cool with the flowers if it wasn't every day.  Anyway, that $108 and whatever else, can just absorb in our grocery budget probably.  Or can just land in the 'MH is not home spending any money whatsoever' budget space.

Everything has been going pretty well on the movie set.  🤞🏼

Lord knows I don't have any time to spend money.  It's all just work, chores, drama over here.  I know I am not as efficient of a shopper/cooker and I have a lot of sick expenses for the sickie.  Picking him up some cough medicine today.  But also, I have not had time to spend $1 otherwise, so there is also that. 

February Spending & Planning

February 11th, 2024 at 08:14 pm

Overall, no idea what to expect this month.  It's going to be a weird one.

I think MH should mostly be fed on set.  Though he doesn't expect to be well fed and we presumed he would buy dinner every night at the hotel restaurant.  

In theory, I'd expect to spend less on food at home.  But we are already up to $450 spent on groceries this month.  This amount includes MM's monthly grocery allowance.  & MH did a grocery shop around the last day of January.  We had spent the January grocery budget and I think some of that was to stock up before he left, so that is also why it is so high already.  I just pushed it to February, presuming it would be a lower spend month with only 3 people to feed.

Note:  This includes $208 groceries purchased this week so far.

On Monday MH encouraged me to go to the store to pick up chicken on sale.  My first reaction was, "Like hell."  This was going to be a work hell week and I was scrambling to meet a deadline.  In addition to adding all the cooking and dishes to my plate.  But I finally decided a work break would be nice, to save a bajillion dollars. Chicken was $14 for 2.5 pounds.  Bought on sale for $5.  Bought 3 packages.  Spent $15, saved $27.  

I refused to let MH cook ahead for us.  DL(18) is the more picky one who does his own thing a lot of the time.  & MH always makes way too much food when he does that.  But he's insisting on going through the sales and clipping the electronic coupons or whatever.  I personally made my grocery list before looking at the sales, and there wasn't anything that swayed me or looked interesting.  Except I noticed we were due a free cake mix, so I picked that up.  & I guess MH will remind me if random one-day deals pop up.  He had got some email about the chicken.

Shopping List:

Notes on shopping list:  It's an unusual shopping list because I can't eat any hard food re: ortho treatment.  So it's skewed to the softer side of things.

Clearly MM(20) eats most of the bread.  We struggle not to waste bread, without him.  But anyway, all the bread was old and stale and so I started anew.   

The grocery run was $150.   I ended up picking some other produce and breakfast pastries.

Menu Plan:

With the busy work week, I just turned off my brain and went with all the stuff I can make in my sleep.  I might want to try new recipes or dig out stuff MH doesn't care for as much, during the next couple of weeks. 

I started with burritos (old family recipe) because it makes a lot of leftovers (for lunch during the week, or if I want to skip a night of cooking.)  I don't think I have ever made the crockpot lentil recipe but it makes a *lot* of leftovers. 

Note:  We don't generally eat out.  So there is no eating out expected or planned.  

Things went askew on Tuesday.  DL(18) ended up sick on Tuesday and requested a bag salad from the store.  I picked up a couple and I grabbed some popsicles while I was there.  (He had mentioned only cold food sounded good and he had a sore throat).  & I bought the smallest bottle of tylenol I could find.  It will expire before anyone uses it again.  I didn't expect DL(18) to want our use the tylenol, but it beats scrambling in the middle of the night because there's no meds in the house. 

DL(18) didn't want chow mein, and salmon no longer sounded good.  Which is fine.  I usually view a weekly menu as more of a 'food we can make' list and am not that set on the days.  Just didn't expect it to get so out of whack so quick.  I ended up making chow mein for lunch on Wednesday (had leftovers on Thursday).  & I made potatoes for dinner on Wednesday.  I ended up finding some leftover meat in the fridge I had forgotten about and that only had another couple of days left.  So I ate that with the potatoes.  DL(18) decided not to eat potatoes after telling me they sounded good.  So we had leftover potatoes on Thursday and I made a half batch of pancakes.  I thought Friday would be a good leftover day (it was) and salmon was Saturday dinner.

On Wednesday I went to the CU to deposit some cash, next to the grocery store.  There was already 10 people in line before they opened.  Nope!  I think while I was there I was going to see if I could get salmon for the weekend, or I don't remember what I was going to do.  But I just turned around and didn't bother.

Thursday I asked the sickie if anything sounded good.  He requested baby carrots, so it was drive #5 to the store.  While there I picked up the salmon and some muffins.   I usually do homemade baked goods but I am exhausted after nightly cooking and dishes, and shopping (in addition to a very busy work week.)  Also, I am not going to make baked goods for just 2, and so there is also that.  Too used to baking for a bigger crowd.  I can revisit when I have more brain power, but for now the baked goods section is a nice treat.

Note:  Tried the CU at 4pm Thursday (while there) and there was no line.  

So that's how I spent $208 this week already.   Today I will regroup and plan for a new week.  Or maybe not.  I am very behind schedule (work was too crazy) and so I may just menu plan during the week and shop on Wednesday morning.  I've got one meal left to cook and 3-4 'already have stuff on hand' meals that I was thinking about.  & then the planned lentils leftovers...  & still haven't finished food from this past week.  But I'd like to do a small grocery run on Wedneday a.m. versus a very big run next weekend.  The theme this week might just be 'getting through what we have.'  

I looked at the credit card.  I was going to say that I thought MH was too busy to spend any money.  But after radio silence for a few days, I see that he made a Walgreens and a Office Depot purchase.  I am guessing the Walgreens thing was personal (who knows) but I know the Office Depot thing was props for the movie.  I expect very little personal spending but he may be contributing here and there to movie props or whatever is needed.  They started filming on Wednesday.  

Vacation Spending & Planning

February 2nd, 2024 at 03:09 pm

I expect it to be a bigger travel year and didn't want to exhaust the travel budget with our January 1 trip.  So I decided to use MH's paycheck to cover the Pasadena trip.  I looked at the total today and we spent about $1,300.  Most of that was for the hotel.  Hotel & food.  MH should be able to cover the $1,300 with his January paychecks. 

{Edited to add:  So okay, this is taking me forever to post.  Yes, MH's January paychecks covered the Pasadena trip.}

MH is also taking some unpaid weeks off work in February, so it will be a slow start on the savings side (for 2024).

Ideally, I'd like to carve out (some of) future in-law cash gifts to offset the loss of timeshare.  (Which I guess they decided to keep?  Lord knows...).  Ideally.  But this year is one-off with MH jetting to Ohio for 3 weeks.  I set aside $3,000 of gift money to pay for the hotel and airfare.  Maybe not all of it, but should cover a chunk of the expenses. 

After setting aside the money, MH told me he had been offered a couple of free lodging options.  But with the gift, he eventually decided to go ahead and get a suite.  In the lower cost locale it was just very affordable.  Fingers crossed, but it's about $100/night for the suite and he can walk to set.  (I hope the plans don't change and he is able to save the money on transportation.)  He then has a couch to offer up if they need more room for cast or people traveling from the west coast, which it sounds like they do.   

I was initially going to support MH and would also be able to see my sister.  But my sister is being extraordinarily difficult (per usual) and MH doesn't think he will have any time for me.  Seriously, I may just show up and sit in a hotel alone for 3-4 days.  It sounds kind of pointless.  (Weather is just the icing on the cake.  I would enjoy a solo trip if not for the extreme weather.) For now, still very undecided and just keeping it loose. 

January we are doing the traditional San Francisco sketchfest thing but instead of one long weekend the shows were more spread out.  I don't think it will save us any money.  We usually just stay at a free timeshare.  We easily spent $100 on dinner and the train last Thursday for show #1.  MH received some birthday money to cover that, but we may do the same thing 3 more times. 

We usually do more staycation-y things with our vacation money, so this is relevant re: vacation spending.  I usually pull these expenses from our vacation fund. 

That's all the vacation-y stuff.

2024 has been full speed into the drama, unfortunately.

MM(20)'s roommate got off the RA waitlist, so that's a whole thing.  MM insists his roommate will pay rent the next 5 months but I am not as convinced.  I think maybe during a transitionary period, but I don't seriously expect he will continue to pay rent for the rest of the lease.

The Girlfriend's sister got COVID and ended up in the ICU.  She has a rare autoimmune disorder and was doing very poorly with that, after COVID.  Their poor parents.

The girlfriend has developed a temporary heart condition, most likely brought on by severe illness last fall.  Her long term health prognosis is good (shouldn't have any long term heart damage) but she is rendered disabled in the short run.  Mostly bed ridden.  She could be sick for months or years. 

My BIL is really struggling with this bout of COVID.  He has undiagnosed health issues, and also isn't handling COVID well.

My mom's health has taken a sudden bad turn.  

2024 is going about as I expected, but didn't realize it would start out so dramatic.  

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 $85K in 2023.  This works out to $25K retirement contributions & a $60K 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 $35K 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 $105K (35K + 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

TOTAL INCREASE: $60,000

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.

2023 Credit Card Rewards Tally (Final)

January 6th, 2024 at 03:19 pm

2023 TALLY:

-0-

------------

-$0- TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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.

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

MOVIES:

--------

$100 Fandango

$  20 Regal

 

RESTAURANTS:

------------

$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$50 IHOP

$50 Seasons 52

$ 25 x 1 Jamba Juice (small balance left)

$ 15 x 1 Jamba Juice

$ 10 x 1 Jamba Juice

 

RETAIL:

---------

 

REGIFT:

---------

$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.  😟 

 

rob62521 & Lucky Robin

November 29th, 2023 at 04:07 am

Can you login now?

My login/SA problems are all fixed now.

 

Hulu & Netflix

November 12th, 2023 at 05:56 pm

We picked up Hulu as a cable replacement when we cut the cable cord in 2012.  

It was a nice alternative because at the time Hulu had current shows and we paid the premium for no commercials.  We were paying $8.55/month.

For the most part, money is no object when it comes to streaming services.  It's MH's thing.  It's the one thing he will want to spend money on (TV and movies).  But on the flip side of the coin, we have always been wary of signing up for contracts, we limit ongoing monthly costs of any kind, etc.

I probably just presumed if MH was paying for something, that he was using it.  But I mentioned to him that I noticed that Hulu just jumped up from $14.99/month to $17.99/month.  In the "If you're cool with it" vein...  It still beats cable.  But just wanted to be sure he was aware.

MH's response:  "Oh yeah, I got an email about that.  We should probably re-evaluate what we have and what we are using."  

The cost was enough to get his attention.  I told MH, "I don't think I am watching anything on Hulu."  We went through and there wasn't anything I personally would want to keep track of.  Most of the shows I had been more into, they wrapped up and had their series finale in the last year or so.

We quickly decided that we just weren't using Hulu and that the price was steep even if there was just one or two shows we would be into.  So MH 'paused' the subscription for 12 weeks.  That was the longest he could pause it.  Our overall plan is to maybe pause Hulu for 6 months and then pause Netflix for 6 months.  But if it was just me, I could probably do without Hulu.  

I put it on my calendar.  We will evaluate in another 12 weeks.  I expect we will just pause Hulu again.

Netflix, we pretty much always had.  It replaced Blockbuster at some point (we were mailed rentals, in the old days).  I never coded this as a 'cable' expense because it was an entertainment expense that MH had always paid for.  

I do watch a lot of stuff on Netflix and want to just keep it.  But I am totally fine with the 6 months on and 6 months off plan.  The shows will still be there.

MH bought a 1-year Peacock deal at some point.  I mentioned it to him when it renewed.  Wasn't sure if anyone was really using it, at the time.  I think it just fell off his radar.  But as we hashed it out this week, I decided I've actually been using Peacock a fair amount.  It only comes out to $5/month.  I think we should keep it.

I guess the only other streaming service we are paying for is Shudder.  It's $5.99/month.  I have been coding that to MH's allowance.  I didn't realize it was a monthly subscription thing.  I just moved it over to 'Cable TV', now that I realize.  He's pondering starting and stopping that too, periodically.

For reference, old cable was $100/month.

I guess technically we are only paying $10.99/month now.  For Shudder & Peacock.

Still have Netflix, but that literally had replaced our movie rental service.  In the old old days, we had both cable and movie rentals.  But if you want to split hairs, that's another $20/month.

So I look it up, for the apples to apples.  We used to pay $30/month for both Blockbuster and Netflix.  I don't remember why.  Maybe like current streaming days, they had different offerings?  Did we stream Netflix before we left cable?  

Okay, so old cable and video rentals was $130/month.

Today, all the streaming costs $30/month.  Which was how much it cost 12 years ago when we first cut cable.

Happy to say that it hasn't gotten all wild and out of control.  I doubt we've had any discussions about this in a very long time.  It looks like we just got lax about Hulu, and probably both presumed the other was using it.

Edited to add:  We've always paid for the premium Netflix so that the kids could log in, so that we could log in when we travel or when we visit our parents, so that everyone in my household can stream at the same time, etc.  If they get weird and stingy about that, we are happy to drop down our subscription to a cheaper offering.  So far, it hasn't been an issue.

Crazy Weeks

November 12th, 2023 at 03:50 pm

The last few weeks have been crazy.

Thankfully, there has been some good crazy!  It's a nice change.  A mix of good and bad.  It beats just constant bad news.

The worst news is that MM(20)'s girlfriend has been very ill and she dropped out for the rest of this quarter.  The quarters go so fast and missing 2-3 weeks was just too much for her to catch up.  I feel so bad for her parents. They've been going through this with her sister the last 2 years.  So when the GF ended up in the ER (out of network) I thought, "I guess they know the drill."  Been there and done that.  I expect this is also why she quickly decided to drop her classes.  It was an easier decision, being already familiar with the logistics. 

The really good news is that MH's movie funded!  Woohoo!

But I suppose this means I am just signing up for more CRAZY!  Lord knows what we have gotten ourselves into.

This is just the best and the worst news.  Other things off the top of my head...

There was a brush fire (arson) just blocks from MM(20)'s apartment.  This was a few days after the GF left, so that was a dramatic week. 

Everyone at work has been sick, and so I have been covering for everyone (per usual).  But I suppose this time it was all the departments and everyone was sick.  That was a little extra.  (It's been a bad sick year, in general.) My employees are *always* sick or out with some personal drama.  I still have no idea what it's like to have well employees that show up for work.  Stress apparently works well for me because I've never been healthier.  But I am vaccinated and I don't have small kids at home.  To be fair, I was much more sickly when I had younger kids.  (I work in a young office, most have young kids.) As I type this out, lord knows what DL(18) will be bringing home from the college.  

We had a large bank fraud at work.  Due to several factors, the bank refunded us six figures after 2 days.  Phew!  (It sounds most likely it was post office fraud.  Very similar to when one of my clients had a check washing fraud incident about 15 years ago.)  

On the plus side, I did have my 5-Year work anniversary dinner.  My employer and his wife took out both MH and I.  It was probably the best and most expensive meal I have ever had.  Giving me a taste for the finer things in life. 

Oct '23 Savings

November 6th, 2023 at 02:19 pm

Received $98 bank interest 

Received $208 I Bond interest 

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

--Redeemed $128 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $10 cash back on dining out/gas card 

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $8 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $186 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$1,035

 

Snowball to Savings/Investments:

+$1,300  MH Income

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$  450 to investments

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

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$2,000 Investment in MH movie project

-$   505 Medical Bills (DL ER)

-$   657  LA Hotel (re: movie project fundraising)

-$   400  Tucson Airfare

-$   265  College Travel

-$   107  DL College Expenses

 

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

+$1,500 to cash

-$    952 Auto Insurance

-$      78  Pest Control

 

TOTAL: $813 Deposited to Cash & Investments

 

Note:  Also pulled $850 November rent from 'college savings'  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hybrid Miles Driven:  762 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 1,534

Note:  150 Free EV miles this month re: college trip and parking downtown

We drove the EV 735 miles re: college town trip & MH met up with a friend in the Bay Area.  That's all I remember off the top of my head, but was probably about 1,000 of the EV miles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Interest is going to start dropping down significantly.  Bank interest is down re: lots of expenses (and more to come).  I Bond interest will drop significantly after November.  The mega interest is expiring on those bonds.

Movie project update:  It funded!  Woohoo!  We put in $2,000 towards the end of the campaign but then it was extended for 30? days?  Because it was a Horror movie and Halloween and all that.  Not planned at all, so that was a nice surprise.  By the skin of our teeth...  As of right now, it's raised about $2K more than the minimum.  So our $2K was completely unnecessary?  But it's nice to whole thing won't get canceled if someone cancels their $500 or $1,000 contribution or whatever.  The buffer is nice.

Most definitely have not ruled out contributing more.  But I am relieved that at least that can wait for December windfalls to sort out.  (Including college financial aid, which is again delayed to December.)  In the short run, our obvious financial contribution will be travel expenses early next year, re: filming of movie in another state.  That's what we need to plan and save for.  & MH was just telling me he expects a lot more travel next year, re: this movie.  

But it's nice that we aren't scrambling to do a bigger contribution right now.

Edited to add: I think it might be happening?  Saw that both schools are disbursing state grants this week?  Fingers crossed!  Still in 'will believe it when I see it' mode.  I'd just be happy if financial aid gets sorted out before I start paying for the next quarter/semester.  In both cases, should owe nothing for the next quarter/semester.  If financial aid is applied to the next quarter/semester and we received refunds from the first quarter/semester.

Second edit:  The $7,000 state grant is showing up in MM(20)'s financial aid today.  I mean, at his college.  I will still believe it when I see it.  But that's a pretty good indication that the school has received updated numbers.  I had already heard that people were receiving refunds.  Hoping his shows up in the next couple of days.  Though really I just need it to show up Wednesday.  He told me he is registering for classes Wednesday.  So I could literally apply the refund to his tuition on Wednesday.  Will put the remainder back in his college fund.

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 02:48 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:

+$905

 

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 03:49 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 03:30 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 03:10 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 22nd, 2023 at 12:10 am

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 02:14 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.  

Travels

September 27th, 2023 at 04:32 am

Our 'last minute reasonable college move-in hotel' from last year was not so reasonable this year.  & we have stayed there a few times but I wasn't really excited about the hotel cost this September.  It would have worked in a pinch (far more reasonable than anything else).  But other than that...  Meh. 

MH keeps insisting this is a one-day trip and I keep insisting that we aren't 20 any more.  I gave in for this one time and I mostly regret it.  

All else being equal, would leave it at, "Well that sucked, but glad to save the money."  But as we were driving home I saw in the college parent group that the whales were putting on quite a show at the beach where we usually stay at our forever hotel.  Which is significant because we went on the most amazing whale watching (trip of a lifetime) some years ago and...  I wouldn't know because I puked the entire time on the boat.  So I am super bummed we didn't just spend that $200.  I could have watched whales.  From land! 

Probably not as relevant, but then later (during the week?) I saw that the ocean was glowing with bioluminescence.  I didn't even know that was a thing that far north.  I later saw that it is also a Bay Area thing.  Never heard of it when we lived there.  I presume it's a little extra spectacular right now, and probably more common down south.  But I don't know, this is what I presume based on pictures, social media chatter, and literally never hearing of this before.  

As to the biolumiescence, they call it the red tide.  Well that's going to the top of my bucket list.   The pictures are magical.

Anyway, the week before move-in was chaos.  MM(20) had disappeared the weekend prior, and then disappeared all day Monday.  We cornered him Monday night and figured things out (whatever he needed to buy).  It was more useful to ship things here and then move them in the car, but we were running out of time.  We scrambled and we got it done.  Move-in went as well as it could have.  At least we didn't hit any traffic.  

The short money summary:  MM spent about $450 on the bed tax, bike supplies (lock, helmet), a microwave, a wifi router, and some misc, items.  Used his $1K annual college gift, so has about $550 extra spending money for the rest of the year.  MH and I chipped in $500 for a mattress.  (If we didn't, he would have slept on the floor.)  It seemed most prudent just to order from a furniture store and have that delivered, but then the mattress arrived several days early.  As did several other things we shipped.  But we got it all figured out, and it was nice his bed was already there when he moved in.

While MH was on the phone with the mattress store for what felt like hours...  (While I bought up everything else).  MH found out he got into the Tucson film festival.  So he is going this weekend.  & had to scramble to figure all that out too.  The airfare was very reasonable (even though this ended up being very last minute) and so it was a no brainer.  But all the hotels were booked up that weekend (don't know what else is going on) and the hotel ended up being quite expensive.  We even tried to get a free timeshare stay but the place we stayed last time was booked up.  So this is going to be a  $1,000+ trip.  But this was by far the best film festival we went to and I still think it was worth it.  I am just relieved I didn't plan to go.  Would have been another $400 for me to fly.  

Then we started making plans to visit MM(20).  Time to find another reasonable hotel that we can book last minute.  Thinking maybe we could try something more "on the way" versus the "30 miles south" gem we found, that keeps raising their rates.  Back to the drawing board.  But I finally figured it out.  They have a very nice Motel 6 near the college.  It was $100+ cheaper than any other option, and it's in the college town (very convenient).   We are also going to an art installation while we are there.  Missed all the nature stuff so will go see the fake plastic stuff instead. All that came up to about $200 (hotel + excursion).  We got a $300 cash gift for our anniversary (and because MIL felt bad about the Tucson timeshare).  I wasn't necessarily planning to use that money for this trip, but it should cover most of our expenses.

Oh yeah, MM(20) left behind one piece of furniture (wouldn't fit with everything else) and forgot some minor things.   I don't even know if he will want the furniture re: small apartment.  But we just figured we'd do another trip and would be happy to go back on a less busy weekend.  I believe we abandoned this plan last year due to Tucson.  

It's nice to get to some of these things we thought we'd be able to do while MM(20) went to college in the area. 

I was thinking the other day that we succeeded this year re: vacation lifestyle.  It's my preference to do a lot of smaller trips and staycaytions, versus saving up big dollars for just one big trip.  My personality just wants to spread it out.  So I was pondering our success on this front in 2023 (after some years of failure on this front).  And duh...  DL(18) got his driver license.  So we can go and do whatever the heck we want.  That is the very obvious change that set things in motion.  We certainly took advantage of this freedom this year.  In the past, we probably just did more things with the kids.  & some of these awkward in-between (kid) years just coincided with a lot of other crap.

Note:  It's been a busy year and there's a lot I did not blog about.  We did some big concert weeks (that I never said much about) and things like that.

Edited to add:  Probably could have just done AirBnb in Tucson because it is a lower cost region.  MH realized too late.  (An Uber driver was telling him he had an inexpensive AirBnb.  Which was my "duh" moment.)  It's not top of mind because none of these vacation rentals have ever been reasonable in our state.  Making a note so that maybe this jogs my memory in the future.  


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