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October Savings

November 3rd, 2019 at 07:15 am

Received $70 bank interest for the month of October.

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

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

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

401k Contributions/Match:

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

TOTAL: $1,265 snowballs to savings

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This & That

October 9th, 2019 at 07:45 am

I did an Amazon return at Kohls the other day. I had never done that before. They gave me a 25%-off coupon for Kohls, for one transaction in-store. I was going to look around anyway so I used it.

I don't know any of the details, if you can only return certain things to Kohls or what. But it sure makes it easier to shop on Amazon.

Today I paid a handful of annual bills. When I went to pay to renew the registration on MH's car, they were trying to charge a $5 fee for using credit card. UGH. Apparently this was a change that only went into effect during the last week or so. Bummer, that I didn't pay sooner and squeak that one through. We've been spoiled. I don't remember them charging any credit card fees during the past decade or so. I haven't decided how I will pay that bill. I don't know if some of the other government agencies have followed suit and if I will find more surprises.

I honestly don't know how I am going to pay this bill now. I declined paying by echeck, but I know logically (and from personal experience) that mailing a check is far less secure. *sigh* I set it aside to flip a coin later.

MH and I are planning a somewhat impromptu getaway. We are going to LA for 2 nights (just before Thanksgiving) and then we want to stop by Hearst Castle on the way back. I suppose we can make this somewhat a "Top 100 Movie" field trip as we have been talking about it more after watching Citizen Kane. The original plan was one night in LA, but we are staying two nights for free (minimum stay with MIL's timeshare). The third night we will stay in Pismo Beach, and then we can see Hearst Castle on the way back. The extra night makes it a more slow/relaxing trip. The cost will mostly be gas and food (and one hotel night). I will probably just earmark one of MH's paychecks next month since we already maxed out our vacation budget for the year.

We will probably do a somewhat repeat trip for Spring Break, since we want to check out the one college in LA. But that trip will be with kids.

September Savings

October 6th, 2019 at 07:07 am

Received $73 bank interest for the month of September.

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

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

TOTAL: $290 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:

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

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

TOTAL: $2,573 deposited to cash and investments


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

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

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

Note to Self: Grocery Rewards

October 5th, 2019 at 05:04 pm

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

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

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

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

Plan for 2019:

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

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

Plan for 2020:

**Use Chase Freedom for 5% grocery quarter

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

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

Note re: Teen Credit Card

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

Note re: American Express

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

Sorry About That!

October 3rd, 2019 at 06:03 pm

I took ceejay's advice and grabbed the posts from this year that I wanted to keep. (Thanks Ceejay!)

{Sorry for so many posts at once.}

I think the monthly savings posts are a good snapshot. & there was *so much* going on with MM(16) this year, with driving, first credit card, college, etc. I know I lost a couple, but I was able to find the first few that I thought of. Phew!

I can't find the grocery rewards card thing that I just posted with some notes to self. But I may look again this weekend (or can just jot down some notes).


In other news, there was another very serious accident in the family last week. & more (accidents) in our circles this week. *sigh*

As to this website, it's just kind of *shrugs*, what isn't a disaster at this point...



MH won tickets to see "Dial M for Murder" at the movie theater last night. It was really fun. I don't know when we'd ever pay full price for a movie, but in this case I noticed it would have been $21. So it was nice to *win* $21. We are going another night this month (okay, so we were going to pay full price, this will help with the sticker shock I would have experienced). They are playing a bunch of Hitchcock films at a more artsy theater (MH doesn't have a membership and we don't have any gift cards). But we were going to go back later this month to watch one of the Top 100 movies.

I find it hard to believe, but we made it through the first 50 movies. I was pretty non-committal, even before everything went totally insane. So now that we made it through the first 50, I am more confident that we will actually make it through the rest. Many weeks we have watched 0 movies, sometimes we have watched 2-3 movies. The podcast we are following is going at a "one movie per week" pace. It took us 18 months to get through the first 50.


Coming Up for Air (09/08/19)

October 3rd, 2019 at 06:00 pm

I was going to say something like, "Things have been going along pretty well," but then that seems silly because they are not well at all. I think I've just reached a point of relativism. Sadly, facing some of life's biggest challenges is a point of peace and calmness for me, right now. Because that's just how life has been. Everything else has settled down a wee bit and I have any mental space whatsoever to deal with anything.

So... everything else has settled down significantly and I have been able to catch my breath. The first couple of weeks of this new state of things, I did not do much at all. & then Labor Day was a huge blessing and I was able to get caught up on some house chores. Last weekend, Saturday was dealing with very heavy family stuff. Sunday was collapsing due to mental and emotional exhaustion. But I still had Monday, and Monday ended up being quite productive. I have chores that haven't been done for YEARS at this point. So I started to tackle some of those.

I guess this gave me some good momentum. I am hitting the house chores hard this weekend. I think there is largely a feeling of, "it's now or never".

I think 16yo getting driver's license is a huge reason for this shift and a little calmness in my life. If I had to drive him everywhere he needs to be, last weekend would have been insane. MH and I actually left the kids two weekends - two weekend in a row? - to go take care of our parents. This is just something we couldn't do before, not with 16yo sports schedule. & we wouldn't have left our kids to go out of town. In this situation, maybe, but it's easier to do with a self-sufficient driver and both kids being high school age.

I am mostly of the, "I should be working and digging out, I should NOT be blogging" mode. Except it's a weekend morning, everyone is asleep, and this is usually my quiet/brain dump time. But I could probably work on some minutiae posting, going forward. I know I just also feel buried on the blog front, as with everything else. I completely give up and I realize this blog is probably going to just be a black hole void for most of 2018/2019. I really wish I could share more of what has happened, but there's just not enough hours in the day. I've not had time to process most of it, much less blog about it (which does help me process). It is what it is. A side effect of that is having no idea where to begin, as I try to jump back in.

I am already being thrown head first into the next chapter of my life. I feel like I've barely started this chapter. But the next chapter is taking on more of the parental role with my parents. Both my parents are not doing well. I think it's a little bit, "The calm before the storm." The storm has already started and has been pretty nasty at times. But I guess the best analogy I have is that I am in storm prep mode and just trying to get my life in order and take a few deep breaths so I can deal with this whatsoever.

It's been a shift in our relationship, for a while now. I remember very distinctly feeling that I worried more about my mother (the way a parent worries about a child) more than I worry about my own kids any more. This was about a year ago, in regards to my mom's physical health. I couldn't remember the exact moment, because that was just one drop in the ocean of insanity last year. But I did see in my blog that I mentioned worrying about her after she had a fall, and then my dad jetted off somewhere. That was probably it. & it seems very small right now, compared to current medical issues both my parents are having. So I am being tossed into that caregiver role in a way I hadn't really anticipated, certainly not *right now*, particularly with married/living parents.

I don't really have any answers or clarity, but will try to blog when I do. Unless I am taking care of my parents 100 miles away. You might understand why this might just fall in the black hole void.

April Savings

October 3rd, 2019 at 05:49 pm

Received $72 bank interest for the month of April.

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

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

TOTAL: $100 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:

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

TOTAL: $2,800 snowballs to savings

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

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

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

TOTAL: $1,443 deposited to cash and investments


Last month's commentary:

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

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

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

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

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