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Hybrid Maintenance

February 20th, 2023 at 03:41 pm

Both our EVs should be extraordinarily low maintenance.  But my expectations are pretty low because of the dealership factor.   With the more specialized cars and the long warranties, we are at the mercy of the dealership.  (Might need less repairs, but the repairs will cost a lot more than we've paid to our trusted independent mechanics in the past).  It is on my list to find a trusted EV mechanic at some point. I just thought we would have more time.

We've saved $1,200 this past year by not trusting the dealership.  I don't know much about cars, but I can recognize complete made up bull crap when there is nothing wrong with the car.  This hasn't left me feeling warm and fuzzy about the "if anything goes wrong with our cars" factor.  

In the end, I've seen several people complaining about this dealership in my online EV groups.  It is the worst of the worst.  For whatever reason, MH liked this dealership more than the others and had been digging in his heels a little bit.  But...  I do think they royally pissed MH off in recent months.

We drove the hybrid to San Francisco last weekend.  We stopped at the gas station by our house, on the way home, and the engine light came on.  Got an error to "service high voltage charging system", something like that, and the car would not charge.

I was relieved when I checked my online EV group.  A - the car was perfectly fine to drive.  (A very helpful Chevy EV tech had told many people this.)  B - It was most likely something very simple, like low coolant or just needing a software update.  

I was surprised when MH just booked the appointment with the other dealership in our city.  Phew!  

I quickly looked up this other dealership and saw absolutely glowing reviews in my online group.  We quickly found out why.  The service manager has the same car.  I am relieved that the service manager has the same car, because otherwise I would have questioned if they knew what they were doing.  Because the repair bill ended up being far below average for the work done.  (Which in many cases in other states or regions is because they don't have EV techs or have no idea what they are doing.  But in this case...  I have to trust they did all of the maintenance and knew what they were doing.)  

I am not ready to give my full praise to this dealership.  We paid $200 for the diagnostic.  Which made this repair at least 70% more than it would have been with our independent mechanic.  We've *never* paid a diagnostic fee before.  Not to the shop that is going to do the work we asked them to diagnose.  

But overall I am happy that we found a dealership that we could trust a wee bit more, and that it did end up being the simple fix. 

There is only one line item basically re: maintenance for our EV.  Change out the (battery and other) coolant every 150K miles.  It's the same on my hybrid but maybe a few more line items of maintenance with the hybrid.  The cars are very similar.

My first impression of this dealership was not good when they immediately started pushing "recommended maintenance."  But I quickly deduced from my online group that this is a thing and that it is in the manual.  It was also universally agreed that this was useful maintenance. So I did pull up the car manual later.  There is a footnote that you do this every 5 years or 150K miles.  I had literally never heard this before.  & this does not redeem the scammy dealership.  Never in a million years would I have thought they would sell us bullcrap while completely ignoring the actual recommended maintenance.  But the scammy dealership did exactly that.   

In the end, it was just low coolant.  The maintenance was the fix.  

Moral of the story:  We could have saved $200 (diagnostic fee) if we had realized this.  My car is 6 years old, so should have flushed out the coolant a year ago.

{To be *very* clear, scammy dealership had both our cars in the past year and failed to mention the one line item of maintenance that is recommended after 5 years.  This put both our cars at risk (of damage) and left me with a separate trip back to the dealership for repairs.  I guess MH too.  Will be a separate trip for maintenance they should have done when they last had his car.}

Instead of oil changes, the EV is going to need a $300 coolant flush every 5 years.  I can live with that.  It's the 'oil change' equivalent I guess.  

This means that our EV is also due for this service.  & that we realize we want to of course be proactive because the EV would be far less useful if we couldn't charge it.  But the EV is about 15,000 miles behind the hybrid and the battery coolant (probably the most important part) was changed out already with the battery recall.  So we are just going to wait for a more convenient time.  Will get it done this spring or summer.

Oh yeah, and the dealership told us that the brakes on the hybrid are at 95%.  No surprise.  The traditional brakes are used very little on these cars (only for hard/fast stops).  It was just the first time we had any feedback on our personal cars.  My car has 70,000 miles, for reference.  We've always heard the brakes will last the life of these cars.  

I guess it was a big car repair week for SA.

Edited to add:  I've never joined an online car group before and don't know that I would have thought to do so.  But our EV friend added me to some Volt group when we bought the Volt.  It does help to soften the blow of not having our forever trusted (gas car) advisors to turn to.  & is helpful when you completely miss the fine print.  

Second edit:  To clarify, all maintenance quotes were given without even looking our cars.  This was the stuff they were trying to sell us when we dropped off the cars.  None of this stuff is actually recommended maintenance, except this hybrid maintenance that we agreed to.

EV Shopping

February 19th, 2023 at 07:05 pm

The in-laws continue to be wishy washy.   But MH was going to meet them today (presumably) to buy a Bolt.  They had already been very wishy washy and changed their mind last minute twice, so wasn't holding my breath.

It's maybe kind of sort of done...

In the end, MH had swayed them to just buy used.  But they were being very picky (re: color) and so there was really only one good candidate today.  I feel like when we buy cars we usually go out with multiple options, so I didn't expect much.  Last time he had found 3 cars within their parameters, so that was probably more what they expected.  But I thought maybe they'd just go look at new cars if this one car was a bust.

{Reminds me, I saw a MSRP tracker, if anyone is interested.  Just some google sheet type thing where people share dealer feedback and how much they are charging over MSRP.  You can sort by city and car make/model.  I will track it down if anyone wants it.}

Found:  2020 Bolt (fully loaded) $25,000.  Net price $20,000 after federal tax credit and utility rebate.  Mileage 10,000.  

Because of the battery recall *and* very little change between 2017 and 2023 model, it seemed pointless to go new.  & mileage was kind of moot.  But for the same price range, of course "way less miles" is a plus.

When discussing, the only thing the in-laws seemed really intrigued by (re: newer models) was the wireless charging (for cell phone/devices).  I perused the car details today and the only other thing I can find is that this 2020 has a power liftgate.  It's basically our car, a lot less miles, and these two features. 

In the end, they made the purchase but they don't have the car yet.  Very long story.  We could end up with a Round 4, but for the sake of MH's time, I hope this purchase works out. 

This was a non-Chevy dealership and they didn't know about the battery recall.  So...  The in-laws want to get a charger ordered.  They need to have their garage wired to accomodate the charger (have already consulted with an electrician).  & it's plausible they may need to take the car to a Chevy dealership for the battery replacement.  They've got a few steps to go through.   I don't know where they are with the 2020 recalls.  They could be done, but I just don't know and it's something they should double check.   

It's a process, but I think they will be very happy in the end.

Edited to add:  This is by far the most expensive EV that anyone I know has purchased.  I've had some very frugal and broke friends buying EVs over the years.  For more early adopters, they cost pennies on the used market or could lease for $100/month.  Found out recently my bff picked up a Bolt.  It's a $100/month lease deal.  

MM(19) Financial Update

February 19th, 2023 at 04:38 pm

Post re: MM(19) Freshman college year:

Last year MM spent $500.  This was everything during the school year that wasn't tuition/room/board/medical.  Off the top of my head, his spending would have included school books/supplies, transportation, club dues, haircuts, clothing, dining out, entertainment, gifts, toiletries, ATM withdrawals, etc.  I did spend about $250 on bigger purchases for him, when his very liquid funds were getting low.  So I think $750 was a fair annual number ($500 + $250) and he will be very comfortable with the $1,000 next school year.  ($111 per month).

I had given MM(19) his annual $1,000 "college money" gift from in-laws.  Not really any reason to save more for his college years and felt that money would be better suited to giving him spending money during the college year.

The school year is half way over and so I was just looking at where we were at with things.  MM(19) has spent a whole whopping $350.  I have less details because I am not on his new credit card.  But would be for all of the same categories I mentioned above.  This puts his spending very on track with the prior year.

I expect that his spending the first quarter was somewhat reduced by his very busy schedule.  But...  With going to LA almost every weekend, I would expect more eating out and gas expenses.  It could just be he had no time for anything else.  He also had a job that quarter.  & this quarter he has been sick. 

MM ended up testing negative just 5 days after his first COVID positive.  Phew!  Glad that he got out of COVID jail quickly and is not impacting his classes.  He was sick for a few days and then he had asymptomatic COVID after, which meant maybe two weeks where he wasn't leaving his apartment much.  The weekend he tested positive, both his girlfriend's parents and the in-laws were visiting.  He said they brought him 6 bags of food and things.  He is very well taken care of.  & the girlfriend was bringing him several meals (might have been included in the 6 bag count).  She likes to cook.  

I guess it's been a weird quarter.  There were some days that they just had to shelter in place re: flooding.  At this point he's maybe spent half the quarter just stuck in his apartment. 

The new thing this year is groceries.  I gave MM $400 for groceries & $100 for the week he was in LA, to cover food costs.  That's for 4 months, so we are averaging $125/month food spending.  MM(19) is being *very* cheap with his food shopping, but also gets the benefit of a lot of food from his girlfriend.  

{I hadn't thought about it but he clearly spent nothing on groceries during the past few weeks?  If several people brought him food.}

This school year MM(19) received $1,100 net wages, received $201 in credit card rewards, and has received $140 interest.  The I Bond interest is just starting to kick in (9.62%). 

Edited to add:  Talked to MM(19) this weekend.  He went beach camping this weekend and will be spending next weekend in LA.  Just to be clear that his spending does not reflect a miserly existence. 

MM's spending this year is notably more "hoarding electronics".  With the private bedroom and more personal space, he is clearly starting a hoard.  He's always been a bit of a trash hoarder and did find a (broken) drone on the beach end of last year.  That would be very typical MM.  But with a little personal space and money he is starting to buy old electronics off the internet and buy a lot of stuff "because it was cheap."  The electronics is old, but for some purpose or project.  The "because it was cheap" purchases are anything you can imagine.

I just saw that our credit union is doing a 5% CD for 12 months.  I will ask MM(19) if he is interested.  He is starting to pile up more cash. 

Jan '23 Savings

February 15th, 2023 at 01:44 am

Received $94 bank interest for the month of January.

Received $246 I Bond interest for the month of January.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $36 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $96 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $21 cash back on dining out/gas card (& grocery rewards from Q4 2022)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $7 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)


TOTAL: $160 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,300 MH Income

+$  250 MH Award Money (Script Contest)

+$1,130 College Refund 

+$1,050 State Inflation Relief

-$ 700 Stereo System + backup camera (kids' car)


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$  250 to investments

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


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

+$1,500 to cash

-$1,200 Home Insurance

-$  360 Auto Repairs (kids' gas car)

-$  210 Annual Movie Pass (Regal)

-$  175 Museum Membership


TOTAL: $4,898 Deposited to Cash and Investments



Hybrid Miles Driven:  605

Fuel Costs: $16 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 1,516

Fuel Costs: $21 (home) + $46 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

Lots of driving this month.  One college trip (round trip ~650 miles), one Bay Area trip (~250 miles) and then MH traveled about 140 miles roundtrip for a San Francisco trip.  He drove 70 miles and then took the train the rest of the way.

The hotel charging was expensive, $23 for a full charge.   Is more in line with gas prices.  But was worth it and very convenient to just charge up the car all the way, overnight.  The rest of the charging expenses will decrease substantially in the future, with warmer temps and more efficient EV tires.


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

I chickened out about sweeping MH's income (above $1,000) to investments.  I am struggling with feeling a little "cash poor" after that big mortgage paydown.  We just bought a second set of new tires (when the first were a bust).  We will have fence replacement expenses soon.  & while in storm/fence/tree mode, will get our trees trimmed.  There's college expenses in February, and $12,000 I need to send to IRA for 2022. 

MH did unexpectedly receive some Holiday pay (for the week after Christmas).  I suppose some of this is moot because I didn't expect that MH would bring home much in January.  That was just a nice surprise, but we are also trying to get these tires covered.  With unexpected money, ideally. 

It should just be a short term stress.  Will add back some buffer quickly, these months that MH is working.  & college expenses should be pretty minimal until August.  I am going to pull some money out of college funds, for the first time.  Tuition for the whole (academic) year, which will offset MM's last rent bill for the school year.  & the two refunds I just received from the college will be all I need to cover tuition.  Just parking the refunds until it goes back out again. 

I had written off our inflation relief check as lost/stolen.  Tried to call three weeks ago.  Was told I had to wait until January 31st to get a replacement card.  The original showed up in the mail on January 30th.  Phew!  That would have been so irritating to cancel/replace and then just have it show up the next day.  I applied to the car stereo purchase, which was the original plan.  (I don't remember if that was the original original plan, but was easy to justify the stereo upgrade knowing that this money was coming.)  I suppose that works out pretty well.  The rest, and MH's unexpected Holiday pay, should cover most of the tire purchase. 

January was clearly a big cash boost, and I do appreciate it.  MH also finally got that $250 he won a while back.

I was just updating sidebar.  I am just going to call it.  MM(19)'s first two years of college paid for in cash.  I won't send the final 2022-2023 payments over for another few weeks, but clearly we have the cash to cover it.  Extra so, if I am just applying recent college refunds and pulling from college funds.  I put this *goal* more in my sidebar as a clarification.  The feeling of it is *shrugs*.  It's less of a goal and more just how we roll.  It's also fairly official that DL(17) will be the 4th person in our household to take advantage of CSU (CA State University).  This is just solidifying my *shrugs* feelings about the cost of college. 

Gas & Other Things...

February 11th, 2023 at 04:36 pm

I got my first shocking bill re: inflation.  

I presumed that utilities would take about a year, because we do budget billing (just pay a flat amount each month.)  

So I just got an email that our budget billing was going up 33% for the gas bill.  

We've also been much more relaxed with heating over the past year or so.  So I didn't know how much was that we were using more gas, that prices went up, that the balanced billing is just catching up with reality.

In the end, our gas usage was down (compared to last year).  Could be somewhat due to weather.  It hasn't been sunny or warm at all.  In that regard, is colder than I ever remember it being.  But we've been getting less freezing temps.  The crazy storms kept temperatures a little warmer over night.

In the end, the per unit pricing had gone up dramatically on this bill.  Saw other neighbors complaining and talking about gas prices soaring. 

For now, it's an extra $25/month.  I will take it out of the 'breathing room' which is still very significant compared to what we are used to.  I had added initially an extra $200/month of breathing room.  I can live with an extra $175/month.  

{Some some neigbors complaining about bills doubling and tripling!  Same people also said they keep their heat at 72F 24/7.  I don't feel like we have been particularly energy frugal in recent years, but I guess it's relative.  We have never run the heat at night.}

In other random news...  DL(17) got his ears pierced.  So random!  MH and the kids are (were) all kind of, "Like hell I'd ever make any permanent change to my body."  Which is just how they are wired.  & so this was really out of left field. 

What I learned in the last 48 hours is that everything about my own ear piercings were wrong.  The first thing DL(17) tells me is that he is not going to Claire's to get his ears pierced.  Then I learn that you aren't supposed to use rubbing alcohol to clean the ears as they heal.  You aren't supposed to turn the earrings.  Etc., etc.  It's a wonder us older people survived our piercings. 😁

Other than that, work has been crazed.  & we went to San Francisco last weekend.  Went to the first comedy Sketchfest in 4 years.  Well, we skipped 2020 for whatever reason.  Then the last 2 years were postponed/canceled.  They did just reschedule everything for the same days/times, and so we went to the 5 shows we had paid for over a year ago.  We ate very well and had a nice time.  Might be the last time we use the free timeshare.  We paid ~$250 for the weekend.  

That reminds me, MM(19) ended up getting COVID.  After living in dorms for 1.5 years, I am surprised it took this long.  He was sick a couple of weeks ago?  Then took a test for some other reason.  I presume he is just asymptomatic and COVID wasn't what he had when he felt sick.  I am sure he tested when he was sick, just because his girlfriend's sister is immunocompromised and so he has been very cautious. (His school would only require a COVID test if he knew he was exposed.  They don't ask the kids to test every time they have the sniffles.) I guess in this case, he took a test because MIL was going to be in town visiting.  But he told me he was probably going to take a test anyway because his roommate had COVID.  I hope he continues to feel fine.  

Note re: Inflation:  Rent and (car)gas are most of what I hear people complaining about locally re: inflation.  There is a reason that we do not have these two expenses.

Dec '22 Savings

January 28th, 2023 at 02:59 pm

Received $79 bank interest for the month of December.

Received $220 I Bond interest for the month of December.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $2 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $113 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $25 on dining out/gas card (+ groceries during Q4)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

+ $141 Dividends

+ $100 MH income (to meet 2022 goal)


TOTAL: $386 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,132 College Refund

+$4,000 Bonus


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

-$1,000 Auto Repairs (Kids' gas car)

-$  600 Play Station 5

-$  530 Flood Insurance

-$  270 AAA

-$  150 Holiday Break College Travel (Train + Plane)

-$  150 Gas (Rental + Kids' Car)


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

+$1,500 to cash


TOTAL: $7,367 Deposited to Cash and Investments



For Comparison:

Gas Rental Miles Driven: 220

Fuel Costs: $17

Ended up being 16 cents per mile for the rental.  Cost was 7x what I pay for electric fuel.  I am glad it ended up being such a short rental.  I thought we would be paying hundreds of dollars for gas.  I only drove the rental about half as much as I drive my car usually.  Paid for most of the gas last month.


Hybrid Miles Driven:  347

Fuel Costs: $9 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 1,071

Fuel Costs: $17 (home) + $17 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)


Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

2 Bay Area trips (Holidays)

We've mostly been using Electrify America for charging.  But I found a AAA deal for EVGo, which made the cost more comparable.  We were able to set it up so that EVGo recognizes the car.  You just plug in and it charges your credit card.  MH also wanted to try it out because his parents are buying an EV.  Wants to make it as simple as possible for them.  This time we just got it all set up.  Next time we see if it's really that easy.

It was under 50F degrees when we drove home, so the battery range took a hit.  (50F is when I really notice it on the hybrid.)  Between that and using the heat/defrost (a big energy drain) we stopped for a 100 mile charge.  Most of the time we shouldn't have to stop at all on this drive.  The range has also taken a big hit with the new tires (less efficient) but last time I only stopped to charge for 5 minutes.  & that was probably unnecessary.  Just to show what a difference winter makes.  It easily could have been over 50F degrees, and so it's not a big impact for us.  Christmas and New Years long drives might be the only time we really notice the cold impact on the EV battery.  It was a rare time that we stopped just to charge (without running errands, eating a meal, going to a movie, taking a rest on a big drive, etc.)

Christmas Day was same, with far below average temps.


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

I failed at saving MH's income this month.  If I had any time or energy I'd break it down, but it just doesn't matter to me at this point.  I did add $100 of his paycheck to investments, to top off 2022 investment goal.  I only needed $50, but rounded up.  This goal was otherwise met with credit card rewards and dividends.

Things were made worse by a last minute auto repair.  Their credit card machine wasn't working and so MH took a check to pay.  A series of random events which led to a very rare last minute cash purchase.  This is messing up my accounting!  But all else being equal it would have been a January expense (charged in December, cash sorted out in January).  So that is how I will treat it.  If I account for it now, I have to pull from mid-term savings.  Short-term savings has been $0 for a while.  In January I will be able to reset the short-term savings clock and will have cash to cover a random auto repair.  (Will reimburse the checkbook.)  I was already planning to use this last few hundred dollars to reimburse MM(19), mostly for groceries.  All these cash expenses are just throwing me off.  But it will work out if I just reimburse the checkbook, and then will have the cash to reimburse MM(19) what I owe him.  Having two ~$300 cash expenses to sort out is incredibly rare.  

It took me a minute to figure out why 401K/match was so high.  The flip side of the coin is that I will only receive one paycheck in January.  (I received 3 paychecks in December.  January 1 paycheck was paid a couple of days early.) 

I received two refunds from the college.   Finally.  (That only took 5 months for the State and the college to sort out.)  That said, the State of CA is being very slow to pay us our inflation relief check.  So now that is dragging on.  (At this point it's clearly lost/stolen, but I can not request a replacement check for another week.)

I Bond interest will bump up in future months.  I have $10K cash set aside.  Have just been waiting for January so that I can add this last $10K to the I Bonds.  I also have some 2022 I Bonds that are bumping up to a higher rate soon.  So these I Bond interest numbers will continue to increase.  I will get the $10K cash moved over ASAP so that I can get interest for the full year.  But I will take my time pondering if I want to do more.  For another $10K or $20K, I might wait closer to the last minute and see what the new interest rate will be.  (I'd park some of the kids' gifted college money in I Bonds.  This is the only reason I have so much cash for I Bonds, in the first place.  Just piling all this college cash into the I Bonds.)

January is also done for us, financially.  Paid bills January 1, and all paychecks have been received for January.  Will end the month up ~$2,700. 

Car Stuff - Part II

January 22nd, 2023 at 05:04 pm

MH's parents told him last month that they are going to buy an EV in 2023.  They are eyeing the Bolt, same car we have.

They've probably never spent more than $15K on a car.  They prefer to buy new and will probably end up in the $25K range.

I am 1000% in the "they should splurge and get what they want" head space and am happy to see them buying something a little nicer than they usually would.  But...  I don't see the point in going new for a Bolt.  They replaced all the batteries with the recall.  So the barely used ones will have just as long warranties as the new ones.  There's no improvement in range, charging speed, in anything.  It's the same car.   If anything, they are shipping them without features because of the chip shortage.  All the more reason to just buy used.

Anyway, they told MH that they would want his help buying the car.

Shortly after that, the IRS announced that they are still sorting through new EV tax credit rules and that in the meantime, the Bolt gets the full $7,500 credit.  For a few months, while they sort out all the new rules. We told the in-laws and they wanted to go car shopping January 1, given this new development.

Since then, they've been wishy washy.  MH and I pounce on a deal when we car shop, so we were ready to pounce (and was doing homework the last week of December).  This apparently freaked out the in-laws and they changed their mind.  They've since been wishy washy, with everything financial.  To the point maybe we should discourage them and they need to just take some more time before making any big financial decisions.  But I guess MH was with his parents yesterday and they said they are ready now.  So he may make the trip again next weekend, to help them buy a car.

It will be a really nice perk for us, when we can just charge at their house.  I suppose some of the last minute change of mind is they just talked to someone with a Bolt who said they can charge 30 miles overnight without a fast charger.  If they can just plug into a regular outlet in the interim, they are feeling more confident about it.  They have an older house and it will take some time and money to get a Level 2 charger installed.  

{They think they are only going to drive this car around town.  🙄  They have *no idea*.   I know they need time to warm up to it and get used to it but they aren't making any sense.  They should be able to make the roundtrip to our house without any stops.  Getting free electricity at our house would just be gravy.  When they visit the grandkids at college, they can just charge overnight at a hotel.   Or while they stop for a meal.  It would never make any sense to take their loud and 'expensive to fuel' gas cars.  I expect that they will realize this quickly, once they have the car.}

When we were talking about the January 1 buy date, I told MH I thought they should get the ball rolling.  I'd expect a stampede on January 1.

But...  I forget we live in California and the rest of the country is weird.  😁  I swear, just about everything is different.  Have been seeing in my Bolt group people complaing about it taking months to get cars.  & how some were taking advantage of car sales year-end quotas and being able to haggle, while taking delivery in 2023 (and getting tax credit) because it takes time.

MH kind of rolled his eyes at me but humored me.  I thought maybe they should go shopping that last week of December.  MH said he'd make some calls.  In California, maybe extra so in the SF Bay Area, EVs are abundantly in stock.  & so I realized this kind of worldwide and nationwide experience was N/A.

We've never bought a new car and it all sounds terrible.  All the talks about scammy add ons and mark ups and everything.  But in the land of abundant new EVs, this is more N/A.  We've narrowed down a few dealerships that aren't adding more than $500 or $1,000.  (Which will be entirely offset by Costco and military discounts that the in-laws are eligible for.)

MSRP on the 2023 Bolt was $26,500.  I saw an article at some point that they raise the prices $900, after the first of the year.  If they go new, the in-laws will probably pay ~$29,000 (includes sales tax) and will get the $7,500 Federal tax credit.  Net cost $21,500.

MH did think to check used car prices, which was wise.  I had seen that MH's car was worth $30,000.  I probably wouldn't have even bothered looking.  But used car prices dropped dramatically in December.  Phew!  We found a Bolt for $22K.  It was clear from the listing that they had initially priced it at $30K and had dropped the price down very recently. Saw others in the $22K - $24K range.  I then remembered that there was also a used EV tax credit in 2023.  That credit is $4,000.  So we were pushing the used Bolt and that's when MH's parents changed their mind.  I think they just got overwhelmed how quickly it was happening. 

So MH is just kind of, whatever, will call them next weekend and see if they are really serious.  Before he starts calling dealerships again and searching for used cars.  Will see if these cars remain well stocked with the new tax credits.

We personally never considered "new" because we don't pay enough tax to utilize the tax credit.  You have to have a $7,500 tax in the first place, to offset with a $7,500 EV credit.  I need to confirm if the in-laws even pay that much Federal income tax.  This could quickly sway the pendulum towards buying used versus new, if they can't utilize the full credit.

Car Stuff - Part I

January 22nd, 2023 at 04:12 pm

I hadn't thought much about it because "saving money" really wasn't a reason that we bought our EV.  I mean sure, it made it easier to justify financially because of all the fuel savings, but it wasn't the reason we made the switch.  Fast forward to high gas prices in 2022 and this seemed to piss off people and they misdirect their anger at EV drivers.  So have been fielding a lot of really stupid comments.  The comments peaked when gas prices peaked.  Haven't heard much lately.  Anyway, in that defensive mode, I just started thinking more and more that our car will entirely pay for itself in 5 years, with fuel savings.  As I explain to people that their truck/SUV cost more than my $17,000 used EV.  That it's not going to take 100 years to break even on the "extra I had to pay for the vehicle."

I suppose I was more focused on the splurge and the luxury of it.  But as I correct people, I am just thinking more and more that it's entirely paying for itself (very quickly) in fuel savings.

I do want to come up with some kind of tracker.  It's probably pointless because I don't care enough to put much thought or energy into it.  But I've already done the math at $4/gallon gas prices, which is where things have settled here and mostly been at.  The only rub is that we need both the hybrid and EV to save $3,000 per year on fuel.  So that is why the breakeven will only be 5 years on the EV.  I'd like to do that countdown first and then circle back to the hybrid.  (Both of these cars will entirely pay for themselves.)  It's very intertwined.  With the EV, we are able to keep all of our driving on electric.  I take the EV if I have to make a stop before/after work.  Or if I don't have time to charge the hybrid after work but have plans after stopping home.  Then I switch out the cars.  

This is another reason "fuel savings" wasn't a big motivator for this purchase.  MH mostly commutes 6 miles roundtrip.  I probably didn't anticipate how our household would just go all-electric with the EV purchase.  How much I'd switch my driving to the EV.  

On the flip side of the coin...

We are learning.  It's new technology and new things to figure out.  

MH didn't listen to me about getting OEM tires to keep 300-miles range.  He picked up some other tires and the range has been terrible.  99% of the time it just doesn't matter, but it is very noticeable on bigger trips.  He got new tires last August.  We noticed when we drove MM(19) back to school, but the car was also loaded down with stuff.  It was the first time we had moved his stuff in the EV.  

If MH were a single man, I think he's just suffer and live with his bad choice.  I've told him since that trip to just buy OEM tires.  He has to get over the sunk cost.  I've mentioned it a few times but he's really digging in his heels.

We drove MM(19) back to school a couple of weekends ago and MH finally let it go.  He told me on that drive that if someone told him he could spend $800 to increase his fuel efficiency by 20%.  I mean, duh.  It's a no brainer.  It took some time, but he's got over the sunk cost.

Pretty much the next day he got new tires on the car.  I am holding my breath a little bit because he is still being difficult about the OEM tires (harder to get) and is trying some newer electric car tires.  These EV tires came out a couple of weeks after we bought the other tires.  Talk about bad timing.  

MH did end up driving to the Bay Area yesterday, helping his parents with stuff.  It's hard to guage because temps were unusually low.  But it sounds like these tires might be the sweet spot.  A little higher quality but built for the electric car.  More quiet, and more efficient than the last tires.  

Will give it some more time.  If we are really happy with these tires, I will buy the same tires for my car this summer.  If there's still some range hit, I might just go with the OEM tires again.  (Both our cars had the same OEM tires.) 

After searching used tires on FB and Craisglist...  Ugh!  I had no idea there would be thousands of tires for sale.  This got my wheels turning.  I thought maybe we could just put the non-EV tires on the kids' car.  I just looked it up though and it's not the right size.  That is a super bummer because as I look it up, it's probably getting time to change those tires too.  We will be spending a lot of money on tires, but then should be good for a while.

Net Worth Update

January 21st, 2023 at 05:59 pm

Our net worth decreased by $65K in 2022.  This works out to $15K cash spent (college, new mattress, MH's movie and film festivals, etc.) & a $50K decrease 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 $120K to come up with in the next 4 years.  Considering that our goal was to increase net worth by $60K every year...  We are still very on track.  What goes up, most come down.  We started out this goal with some prosperous years, and of course expect to have some down years.

I am looking it up and I have $35,000 of kids' gift money sitting in investments in our name (included in our net worth).  In addition to $40K I have loosely earmarked for college.  That's $75K we may be drawing down over the next 4 years.  So it may be more realistic that we need to come up with $195K (120K + 75K) over the next 4 years, to stay on track.  

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2023:

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

Retirement: Contribute $24,000

Investment Gains: $22,000  <---Investments doing the hard work for us


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

Retirement gets a boost re: extra $1K we can contribute to IRAs in 2023 (new contribution limit), in addition to getting a raise boost.  We both do 9% to our 401K (with match), which will be a bigger dollar amount re: 2023 raises.

Overall, I am happy with things.  Our asset allocation is appropriate for our risk tolerance.  We were also able to keep our net worth at a solid seven figures.  

2022 Credit Card Rewards Tally (Final)

January 16th, 2023 at 02:28 pm

2022 TALLY:

$200 Capital One (DL credit card - used for auto insurance)

$ 30 Citi Reward (for charging hotel)

$ 15 AmEx Reward (for charging insurance)



Ongoing rewards:

+$298 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$75 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$153 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$1,032 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $1,803

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 2022).

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

Total 12 Years = $31,415 ***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.***


Honorable Mention to I Bond interest. ~$1,200 interest this year and will be more next 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 some of the reason I did not pursue more rewards.  

MM(19) did do a $200 credit card bonus this year.  But he didn't need me to co-sign his credit card.  I was not involved in that, so won't add that to the tally.  I did get DL(17) a credit card and a bonus (and helped him with the spending to get the bonus.)  Same as we did for MM, it was nice to have a $200 chunk to apply to his first big car insurance bill. 

There was also a couple of obvious small rewards that I just had to click a button and/or switch credit cards to redeem.  (I didn't seek them out, but I got an email or saw mentioned online.)

Given the low energy I put towards looking for credit card bonuses recently, it's no surprise that this was our lowest year (since tracking). 

I expect 2023 to be even lower.  With interest rates rising and mega I Bond interest, I will have less motivation to chase credit card rewards.  Also, we were both just rejected for a bigger credit card bonus.

Raise Finalized

January 15th, 2023 at 01:12 am

Received an inflation raise of 6%.  Woohoo! 

This is extra nice because we have not personally experienced an increase in our expenses.   

Extra extra nice because taxes were strangely *shrugs* on new income.  I lost a $2K tax credit in 2022 but will gain it back in 2023.  I will just leave Federal tax withholding as is.  It's a little high, but I don't want to get too used to paying less taxes.  We have nowhere to go but up.  I did bump up state tax withholding a little bit.  

After that, we are left with $400/month, which will exactly get us to the goals I was envisioning.  Weird how that works out.  I mean, it's like down to the penny.  So I don't have to touch the new (2022) "breathing room" in our budget, to meet these goals.    

I am bumping up monthly cash savings by $50/month.  Making it an even $1K contribution.  I don't foresee increasing this.  With the exception of making this a full  $1,083/month in the future.  To cover IRA contributions (from my income).   The old $12K IRA contribution limit (x2) is probably why I have that $1K/month figure in my head. 

This leaves $250/month to throw at investments.  Happens to be where we left off, and was the figure I wanted to hit this year.  If I didn't have enough raise, I would have commited a flat amount from MH's income.  

Oh yeah, and the other $100 will go to health insurance increases.  For the past ~15 years, it generally goes up $100/month, every year.  That is nothing new.  

Still taking a breather, re: longer term goals.  That said, I can tell you three things:

1 - Efficiency is too important to us.  We won't be decreasing retirement contributions, accordingly.

2 - We don't want to increase retirement contributions.  

I mean, I am okay with bumping up to the new IRA contribution limit (with MH's raise).  & will have to re-evaluate (in the future) re: #1.  Rather park our income in retirement funds than hand over to the IRS.  But other than fiscal efficiency, it's not a goal of ours to put any more away into retirement.  

It's clear after this period of "auto pilot" that we don't want to make any big changes. 

3 - This will probably put our new goal at $800K retirement funds by age 50.  Just doing the math. 

This is what I had calculated before my raise.   Extra investments (raise) doesn't move the needle much on a 5-year goal.  Fair enough.

When will I circle back and start thinking more long term?  Commit to these new retirement goals and memorialize in my sidebar?  I think I am going to wait until college shakes out this calendar year.  Let a little more limbo sort out.  I just need to give it more time.

Overall, I am very happy with things.  Being able to have more breathing room in the budget and to also be throwing a chunk into taxable investments again...  


DL College News

January 12th, 2023 at 04:04 pm

DL(17) was officially accepted into the local State college.  They give very high priority to local high school students.  I think it only took this long because their business college is impacted.  He was getting a little stressed that his less studious friends were getting immediately accepted.  So I know he is relieved that it is official.

I think there's probably a 90% chance he will stay home and go to this college.  Has been leaning that way as more of his friends are choosing to go to this college.  

This is the only college he applied to.  His first choice (was) a Bay Area community college. 

With Federal tax credits and state middle class grants, we are talking $6,000 for his 4-year tuition.  (Full sticker price is $32,000).  

This is why we did not spend decades saving up for college.  The kids also both received ~$30K from in-laws for college.  I knew this would cover a 4-year degree.  I've been basing this off of full sticker price (in-state).  Projecting future college costs (in the past) and concluding that $30K would cover tuition.  I have never counted on tax credits that come and go.  I had no idea we'd get so much middle class state aid.  So pretty much we had set aside the full sticker price but are not paying anything close to that.

2023 Goals (Updated)

January 11th, 2023 at 04:16 pm

I don't have my raise yet, and so this is what I have for now.

Same goals as last year.   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

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.  

3 - $7,000 to investments

$250 per month, plus snowflakes (credit cards rewards & dividends)

Will also sweep MH's income (over $1,000 monthly) into investments.  

4 - $2,430 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 - $13,000 to IRAs 2023 (MAX)

Will fund with MH's income


Re: Investments (#3).  We abandoned taxable investing in 2018, when my last job went to heck.  We then shifted gears to my (new) work retirement plan (putting in the minimum for match).  

We had built up investments very quickly, but I've since cashed all that out and parked in I Bonds (loosely earmarked for college expenses).  So we'd like to start over this year.  We had left off at $250/month salary contributions and so that is what I really want to do.  I don't know if I will have enough raise to cover that, but should be able to at least do half of that.

I am also thinking about sweeping MH's income into taxable investments.  Maybe anything above $1,000 in a month.  

We usually can come up with $2K per year snowflakes.  Mostly credit card rewards. 

All of the above might reasonably be +$7K to investments in 2023?  I will update when I have my raise and taxes figured out.

I need to re-evaluate short-term savings but I think I will kick the can down the road another year.  I feel like so many of these expenses should go away.  A few items re: 2022 short term savings that I don't expect in the future:  Kids' car insurance, smog check, & DMV renewal, new driver driving course, MM(19) expenses, Concert tickets (x4) for every DL band class, clothing for the kids, track shoes for the kids, etc.  Yeah, just a lot of kid expenses that I don't expect to be paying for any longer.   2022 was a weird in-between year with MM(19) mostly away at college and DL not having his driver license yet, but now DL(17) has assumed most car expenses.

This reminds me, our vacation budget will also need an overhaul.  I have our $2K vacation budget in the short term savings bucket.  We save for it monthly.  I might just leave it be.  Anything more can come from longer term savings.  At least until we figure it out and have another raise or two to refigure.  I am very happy with above goals, and would be okay with putting entire future raise (usually $50 or $100/month, if I am lucky) to an increased vacation budget.

MIL told MH that they are selling their timeshare.  ???  I have no idea what that means.  I don't think it will be that easy to unload.  But I do very much appreciate that they are wrapping it up.  Lord knows we don't want it.  But it's sad.  An end for an era.  FIL has been officially diagnosed with dementia (it was obvious) and MIL is nearing 80.  & I doubt they have used the past few years, with the pandemic and everything.

In the more distant past they considered this a gift they wanted to pass on.  I was going to not accept the timeshare if that happened.  But in recent years they seem to have waken up that it's a bit of a scam.  Or at the least, that we don't utilize enough for it to make any financial sense.

During this discussion, MIL was being super weird about money.  I share because my instinct is to just carve out some of their annual gift and add to our vacation budget.  (Letting them continue to pay for a lot of our hotel stays). But I don't know if we will even get a gift next year.  As weird as my in-laws are, they've never been too weird about money.  But right now they are all over the place.  All I can figure is that MIL is rethinking future income streams (might lose FIL's pension and social security?  Worried about future nursing home care?).  Could also be the stock market.  Probably all of the above.

I am hoping to get final raise numbers today and then I can finalize goals.

Phew!  Is the first day (in 4 days) that I haven't woken up to some catastrophe.  It's just been chaos, plus very busy at work.  I've got some 2022 wrap up posts to get to, one of these days...  But time marches on.

Edited to add:  Updated investment goal for final raise numbers.  Was just enough to cover the goals I wanted.  Phew!  Will do another post later.  

Storm Update

January 11th, 2023 at 03:47 am

Storm #5? rolled through.  I've lost count.  I think we are on storm #5.

Storm #5 would probably have been mostly uneventful.  But...  This storm was the snow geese massacre.  😞  The geese should have been ending their long migration, but crossed paths with a thunderstorm and started falling out of the sky.  

It just gets more bonkers.  

On the plus side, the flood waters are receding at MM's college and classes will resume tomorrow.  There is no rain in their forecast for a few days.  Phew!

Parade of Cyclones

January 9th, 2023 at 07:26 pm

It's only the 9th.  2023 has been exhausting so far.

I just saw a news headline that called our weather a "parade of cyclones".  I guess that sums it up pretty well.

New Year's Eve was the biggest storm we have ever had.  Power went out for 5 hours.  I don't even remember the last time we had a power outage.  A power pole line had blown over in the storm.

Another storm blew through right after that.  Not as bad, but still a lot of wind.  I think everyone was on hyper alert after first storm, but second storm did not amount to much.  Probably still a lot of downed trees and so on (as the ground became very saturated).

Between the two storms, it sounded like most in my office had downed trees and fences.

{We did lose a fence.  It was hanging by a thread, so no biggie and definitely not surprised.  Procrastination for the win.  Beats losing a newer fence.}

We had decided to take MM(19) back to school on Sunday.  I don't have any reason to pay attention to the weather.  I mean, this is extreme weather.  So I would have never looked that closely.  But my boss was paying attention to rainfall amounts re: construction.  He made a comment and we changed our plans.  Ended up dropping off MM(19) on Saturday.  It wouldn't have been my preference to make the drive on a busy Saturday.  But no one was on the road and it didn't rain.  The drive was lovely.  The weather was much nicer down south.  Phew!

Woke up Sunday and looked at my phone.  What the heck happened!?  One of the first things I saw was half of our region was without power and there was a roof in the middle of the road.  Did a tornado blow through?  It was another *crazy* wind storm.  Everyone has told me that it was completely bonkers.

We drove home 5 hours on the freeway Sunday.  It wasn't until we got to our city line that we started to see the excessive wind damage.  A billboard had been blown to shreds.  Several road signs has been knocked over.  When we got to our neighborhood, it was littered with tree branches.

This morning I saw that the pool we used to go to, the 300 pound lifeguard stand flipped over.   That's how windy it was.  

DL(17) was home during the storm.  Power was out again for 7 hours. 

Another storm blew through last night.  Now it's crazy rain.  The crazy rain we changed our travel plans for.  Like last time, I think the weather forecasters were over compensating and preparing for the worst (second storm in a row).  After seeing how localized that wind damage was (to the extreme) I felt more confident that maybe it wouldn't be so bad last night. (What are the odds that the worst of a storm hits the same place twice?)  It ended up being "nothing".  Slept through it.  No crazy wind or rain. 

We are supposed to get substantial rainfall over the next couple of days.  That is concerning, with all the water ways being so full from the first two storms.  

Today I woke up to news of all the flooding in MM(19)'s college town.   Ugh.   They are supposed to get many inches of rain with this next storm.  Classes ended up being entirely canceled, mid morning.  I am sure this was after MM(19) went to his first class.  I think they were trying to move things online, but clearly that wasn't helpful for those stranded, dealing with flood waters and power outages.  Eventually just gave up and canceled classes.  It sounds unlikely that tomorrow will be any better.  

There is nothing but rain in our forecast.   What a mess.

We are moving onto big storm #5.  I don't know if this is the last crazy storm or if there is more to come.  Or if it matters, as there is nowhere for all this rain to go.  (Doesn't have to be crazy/stormy to be too much rain, at this point.)

We were going to a film festival in Oregon this weekend.  I expect that we will cancel this trip.  We never even bothered booking the hotel, because of the weather. 

I personally wanted to cancel our beach hotel this past weekend.  Wanted to just send MM(19) back to school on the train.  But both MH and MM seemed pretty set on making the drive.  This is why we ended up just moving up our plans by one day.  I am glad we made it work, as I think to all the hotels and plans we have had to cancel already this past year.  I appreciate that we got a bit of a reprieve during all this craziness.  

Edited to add:  Flooding is getting very serious around the college.  😞  MM is fine.  It just has gotten so much more serious since I first posted this.  

Update:  MM's college got 8 inches of rain in 48 hours.  (Most of that was Monday morning).  More storms and rain to come.  I think the flash flood warning was reduced to a flood warning.  

Jan 2023 Credit Card Tally

January 9th, 2023 at 04:10 pm

2023 TALLY:

Citi Premier 80,000 Bonus points (Moi) - DENIED  

Citi Premier 80,000 Bonus points (MH) - DENIED  


We haven't done these Citi rewards in a long time.  Because the rewards are mostly gift cards, and so not as enticing.  But I was enticed today.  

Was thinking recently that we should be fair and do a credit card reward to pay for DL(17)'s college laptop (same as we did for MM).  & then I saw a good credit card reward bonus and was denied.  I tried again for MH but was also denied.  He had opened more cards more recently, so I thought it would make more sense for me to do this deal. 

I think it's fair enough.  We both maybe already did this bonus 4 times.  I am just confused because I am hearing about this deal from people who have already done this 10 times.  For that, I am confused.  But I can't be too mad about it.

I did check our credit scores, after that.  & double checked I hadn't closed a Citi card in the past 24 months, as per rules.  Yeah, I haven't opened a new card in years and certainly no Citi cards for the past 3+ years.

I wanted to document here.  Because I won't have any record of this otherwise.  I want to remind myself not to bother applying for this card again (in the near future).

Edited:  Official reasons for denial.  1 - Utilizing too little of our credit.  (That's a new one).   & 2 - Too many open credit lines.  I thought #2 might be a possibility.  We have 4 credit cards we use regularly for rewards, and then we each have a credit card we share with the kids.  So I was wondering if that 5th credit card might be pushing us over.  I never got around to decreasing the credit limit on DL's credit card.  I will make sure that is still on my to do list.  & it's also on my list to close the credit card I shared with MM(19).  He has his own credit cards now.

I don't know if #2 is a real/legit thing, or is just code for "You already did this bonus 4 times already, so we don't want you."  We don't have high credit limits on most of our cards.  Just $1K on the retail credit card and just $5K on the card I share with MM(19).

Parade Float Update

January 2nd, 2023 at 03:26 pm

I think my last post on this got buried.  Some in-progress (float) photos if you go back a few posts.

I figured I was a little biased, but just saw that the float won for most extraordinary!  

These pictures popped up re: judging yesterday afternoon.  The second picture was from MM(19).  When I saw the crowds of people at the judging, I really doubted that MM would get seats for the parade.  I mean, a bajillion people have helped to pull this off. 

What do I know?  He just sent me a text that he's on the bleachers, directly across from the TV cameras.  He didn't have to camp out all night for a spot.  I am excited that next year he is going to take me.  I just wanted to see the behind-the-scenes.  I didn't realize he'd also get front row seats to the parade.  😁



2022 Goals Met

January 2nd, 2023 at 02:16 pm

I am memorializing goals in my sidebar.  I kind of like the format I used last year, so will stick with that.

Pay cash for college 

$10K to Savings 

Final tally was $11,412.  The plan was to use this money to pay cash for college.  At the end of 2022 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.

$2K to Investments 

Funded with snowflakes.

I topped off with $100 from MH's income, to make the full $2K.

9% Income to Work Retirement Plans 

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

$12,000 to IRAs 2022 

Done.  We won't fund until we do our taxes and the year is over.  But we did end the year with an extra $12K set aside for IRAs.  This is mostly thanks to annual cash gift from in-laws.

Bonus Goal that wasn't in my sidebar:

Extra to Mortgage 

We threw my bonus and gift money ($8,000) to the mortgage to pay down the balance to $99,999.  Woohoo!

The $8,000 extra payment shaved off 1 year of payments and $4,600 interest.

Why $8,000?  I did want to hit the psychological milestone of being done with six figure debt.  But this also puts us down to a total of 32 years of mortgage on our current home.   While my bare minimum goal is to knock that down to 30 years, the recent big chunks will allow me to put the mortgage on the back burner during these college years.  I can whittle down the last two years with much smaller snowballs.  I guess my bigger goal is to not (feel the need to) throw bigger chunks to the mortgage for a while.  This goal was satisfying on many fronts.

This was just more of a hope or a wish, versus anything that we would have been able to achieve with our income.  It wasn't on my sidebar, accordingly.  

Edited to add:  We ended up funding only one IRA in 2022 ($6,000).  I used the other $6,000 for Invisalign for myself.  It was a rather last minute decision in early 2023.  I would have done this instead of the mortgage, if I had known sooner.  I wanted to reflect in goals, but as I type it out, the money was saved.  It was just redirected at the last minute. 

Parade Float

January 1st, 2023 at 12:17 am

I asked MM to get me an accounting of what I owe him for groceries.  & for Christmas, we wanted to pay for his round trip train ticket for New Year's.  He sent it to me late last night.  $42 for 30 days of groceries.  🙄  This is my kid who is $350/month to feed at home.  ??? (If anything, he's living in a more expensive region now.) Roundtrip train ticket was $88.  Was about what he paid one-way last time.  Different prices on different days, but he also found the student discount (15% off).  

To be fair, I think he charged $20 to the Target card (grocery run), he was home for Thanksgiving week, and he has spent most weekends in So Cal.

I also offered to send him ~$100 for food from mid-December through mid-January.  I didn't realize they would have so many meals covered in So Cal.  He told me he ended up only eating out 4 times?  But I just sent him the $100 anyway.  I had budgeted substantially more for his groceries.  (I had thought $100 would just be a small dent in 2 weeks of eating out.)

While I do like the idea of just sending him a flat monthly grocery dollar amount (for him to figure out and budget), I was concerned that he would spend as little as possible so that he could hoard money.  He seems to be doing this regardless, even with the flat reimbursements.  

I am looking at MM(19)'s financial records.  He made $1,100 with his campus job and saved $1,200.  This school year, to-date.  How is that possible?  He made $73 interest (includes 1 month of mega I Bond interest) and earned a $200 credit card reward.  His spending was less than the credit card reward.  While there is no lack of free things to do at his college campus, I believe his lack of spending was mostly driven by being busy and having no time.  I am just surprised that he didn't spend more.  His expenses should include a lot of meals in LA, and a lot of gas for the weekly trips.  Don't ask me.  As he gets more independent, I see less of the details.  

I did not end up getting any of MM's behind-the-scene photos, but this was the night the parade float was transported to Pasadena.  In Pasadena they spent 2 days mostly painting, I believe.  The 20th and 21st. The kids all go home for Christmas but then there's a deco week (26th - 31st) where anyone can volunteer.  This is when they add all the plants and flowers.  This is for the New Year's rose parade.   

M(19) told us that they have to be able to lower the back mushroom/snail in 60 seconds, without power.  This is for the bridges (one or two) along the parade route.  But that when the mushroom is raised up the float is 25 feet tall.  

He skipped deco week but we both want to go next year.  I thought I heard that the kids were couch surfing (last year) but that probably was for the deco week in Pasadena.  For design 'week' (the 2 weeks before Christmas) they were fed and stayed at a (free) hotel on a college campus.  Free because the hotel is owned by the So Cal college.  In Pasadena, he may need to couch surf for the deco week next year.  I'd just go for the weekend.

This year, he's going back for the parade.  I dropped him off at the train station early this a.m.  He's taking the red eye train home on Monday night.  The parade is not done on Sundays, so it will be Monday.  But he's meeting up with the girfriend (who is working on campus) and then they have a 3-hour drive from there to Pasadena.  I expect he will have some interesting photos to share.   MM thought that today was when they started adding all the flowers.  They try to do all the more dry material (e.g. seeds) first.  But they have 2-3 dumpsters full of tiny vials that they fill with water and fresh flowers.  It's hard to imagine the scale of it all. 

Edited to add:  Some pictures ended up popping up online today. 


Bunching Tax Deductions

December 30th, 2022 at 02:57 pm

For the first time ever, looks like we will just be taking the standard deduction for our taxes.  It's about $26,000.

Last year we itemized $34,000.  The obvious difference is that we had $9K in medical bills last year and has ~$0 this year (miracle of miracles.)  $9K was extreme, but $0 is a miracle.  Both were very extreme years compared to our average.   Usually we hit our $3K deductible. 

{Knock on wood.  The year isn't over so won't celebrate coming in under medical deductible until January 1.  But any medical bills that pop up this week will be 2023 expenses to figure out.}

In the future, will have less than $4K mortgage interest (woohoo!).  That's an itemized deduction that is dropping rapidly.  Property taxes and charity.  That's about it.

State/local taxes are the opposite of what most presume.  Our State income tax system is progressive, we've paid ~$0 during the years we have had kids under 18.  (Lord knows I've done tax returns for regressively taxed states, where every dollar earned is taxed, in contrast.)  Property taxes can not rise more than 2% every year (Prop 13).  

Medical is most of what we deduct.  Health insurance premiums ($$$$$$) + medical/dental/ortho expenses.  We had the usual expenses, but just no deductible and nothing extra this year.  No orthodontist, no wisdom teeth, no other medical procedures.

I was making a note to get charity/donations in before 12/31.  Particularly re: the $1,000 in law gift.  They gift us $1,000 every year to forward on to charities.  I decided that it's probably better to push that off to 2023 and to bunch deductions. 

The bigger thing I will have to consider bunching is property taxes.  I have just been paying once a year for simplicity.  Which I really really like.  Less to keep track and use brain power for.  But, interest rates were also nothing the years I have done this.  With interest rates bumping up and being able to financially benefit from bunching deductions, I will have to ponder.  Taxes aren't due again until December, and so I can make a well informed decision at that time.  If I want to delay the second installment until 2024.

The whole point of bunching deduction is that if you would consistently come in under the standard deduction, you could at least bunch some deductions every other year and itemize (more than the standard deduction).  Being so on the cusp, we might just be more likely to itemize in 2023.  If we have an average medical year.  So it's beneficial to push off deductions to next year.

I expect I will have a few years where I ponder the hassle of bunching tax deductions and give some extra brain power to that.  But I expect inflation to outpace our deductions.  I think that will happen quickly, in the next few years.

Edited to add:  Will still itemize for California, but that doesn't really mean anything. 

Quick Check In

December 23rd, 2022 at 02:41 pm

I am absolutely exhausted.  This week was a work hell week.  I was too nice and I agreed to do the in-law Christmas thing tonight (2 hours away) though I have to work today.  I regret this now.  We usually do the prior weekend.  Now that I type this out, I don't know if they were trying to plan around MM(19)'s schedule.  At the time, sounded like SIL needed to reschedule.  MM(19) got home late last night.  MH was supposed to work today too (I was feeling less alone) but he got a text last night that he gets the day off.    

It was shaping up that we were going to do in-law Christmas today, MM's girlfriend's family Christmas Eve, and then Christmas with my family on Sunday.  But I guess the girlfriend's family has COVID and so that has been canceled.  I am so relieved.  I need a very long nap.  I do feel bad though because their Thanksgiving was impacted by health problems.  They aren't having much luck this holiday season.

I also appreciate not going to two big parties right before I visit my parents.  We will bring less germs with us.


MH keeps getting raises.  He just got a third raise for the year.  He usually just gets one raise every fall (for the season).  I think they've bumped up his pay about 30% since the pandemic.

I am feeling less stressed about the new IRA max, accordingly.  Wasn't sure if we would bother with that.  But MH has enough raise to cover it.  His net pay will be roughly $13K for the year (IRA max x2).  With the latest raise, it might be more than that.  So I have already added that to my goal list.

Other than that, just waiting for my raise.  My boss was sick and is behind.  I saw preliminary numbers and he's pondering a big inflation bump.  I should have some clarity next week.  Unless something drastically changes from the preliminary numbers, I think I will be very happy with things.  

College Stuff

December 23rd, 2022 at 02:28 pm

I transferred over a whole whopping $136 to MM(19).  $78 for 30 days of groceries (???) and $58 for his one way train ticket home.  His girlfriend gave him a ride back to school after Thanksgiving break.

To be fair, he charged up ~$25 on my Target card that I just paid for.  (Might have included non-grocery expenses that I'd expect him to pay for.)  & he told me MIL bought him some groceries but he made it sound like it was only $10 or $20.  (That he didn't really need anything, the weekend she visited.)

The girlfriend is feeding him a lot.  I was planning to get her a grocery gift card for Christmas.  Because she never accepts money (for gas or anything.)  I asked MM if her parents were paying for her groceries, wondering if that wasn't very exciting gift for her.  (Though maybe I owe her parents, in that case.)  But MM(19) told me that she was getting financial aid for her groceries.  I share because I think MM(19) is greatly benefitting from her free food.

MM(19) is applying for a RA position.  Fingers crossed!  I never in a million years would have guessed one of my kids would want to be a RA.  & honestly, not even really sure what his motivation is.  He gets "free" room and board regardless (we are paying).  His ultra frugal genes are his motivation, I guess.   & I think he just wants to be more independent. Unfortunately, is going to make housing really difficult (scrambling last minute re: very impacted housing) if he doesn't get the position.  But I am feeling pretty zen about it.  I can be zen for the chance to save a bajillion dollars.  Will see...  

We did just get DL(17)'s State college application submitted.  We had the nice surprise that his high school will pay for one CSU application.  (They are trying to figure out what to do with extra pandemic funds.)  I put $70 on the credit card but should eventually get a reimbursement for that.  He is just applying to the local State college.  It would have just been a check box to apply to our alma mater too (another State college) but we missed the deadline and that ship had sailed.  I didn't realize that A - the local state college extended the deadline & B - few other CSUs seemed to do the same extension.  DL(17) has been resisting (even visiting the college), so it's not a big loss. 

Edited to add:  Already received $70 reimbursement.  That was fast.

Financial aid is sorted for MM(19).  Phew!  

I am ready to sit down and sort all things college finances for MM(19).  It's plausible he could get more scholarships this year, but if he does I'd probably just give the money back to him.  I am preceding with the info that I have to-date, which is probably accurate.

Net tuition for the year is $4,100.  I will pull that money out of MM's gifted college funds when I pay spring quarter fees.  That is about a wash with the rent that will be due.  

We hadn't touched MM's money yet.  But he had free tuition last year.  I just hadn't touched it this year yet because financial aid was so up in the air.  Now that it's sorted, I like how this year is pretty much done and paid for already.  But I expect in the future I will just reimburse ourselves as we go.

I started this post a bajillion years ago but just have been slammed with work.  I figured I'd circle back and at least get this posted.

MM(19) did make it home last night.  Phew!  He had a blast, working on the parade float.  I don't know when, but when we can all sit down and look at some of his pictures...  I will share a behind the scenes photo.  

Good News Week

December 18th, 2022 at 04:34 pm

Miracle of miracles, I got my car back!  The repairs only took 30 days.  I feel so blessed that they were able to get parts without delay.  Phew!

Work is crazy, but I took Thursday afternoon off to play musical cars. 

DL(17) ended up with a dead car battery and got a jump that fried his stereo.  *sigh*  I suppose the timing was good as can be.  The stereo had been a little finicky (we bought it for MM in 2018) and we do have a big check coming from the state any day.  We really don't mind buying something a little more reliable.  So that's his big Christmas present.  He doesn't seem to be particularly interested in the upgrades, but is happy to have his stereo back.  We got the android auto and installed a backup camera, etc.  We are just too spoiled by our newer cars at this point.  MM(19) I am sure will appreciate the upgrade, and MH and I will appreciate it when we have to drive the car.  I literally never pull into a spot I have to back out of.  I am trying to think why I would even drive the car, but I guess I was stuck with it a lot more when DL(17) was learning (when I'd drop him off at school).  On my work-from-home days I'd often take it on errands (made the most sense to run errands on the way back home).  Maybe it's moot at this point.    Overall, is probably more of a family holiday present.  

Reminds me, the odomoter rolled past 200K on the kids' car.  I personally feel pretty *shrugs* about it.  It's not the first car I've had with 200K+ miles.  Mechanically, the car should have many years of life left.   Fingers crossed.  We intended this to be more of an age 16-18yo car for both kids while they saved up money for their own cars.  With car prices being so crazy right now, I am now viewing it as an "at least through college" car for the kids.  After our mechanic has raved about the car a few times, I suppose it's a car that can last us those few extra years.

Musical cars...  Dropped off DL's car, picked up my car.  Went home got the rental and dropped that off.  On the way there, MH got a call that the stereo was ready.  We had planned to eat a leisurely dinner while we waited.  So we picked up the car and drove two cars to dinner.  Had a celebratory dinner to celebrate getting my car back, and also to celebrate some good money news that day.  

I got official word re: year end bonus.  I received a very unexpected 8% bonus this year.  Woohoo!   It's been 5% during my first few years at this company.

Net bonus should be around $4,000.  I suppose it's extra appreciated this year because I had  a big tax hit (loss of DL's child tax credit).  If not for that, I probably could have kept $6,000! It's just a one time hit.  Will have his college tax credit next year. My #1 wish list item is to pay down the mortgage.  But will have to wait and see how cash gifts sort out this month.  Reminds me, am also received $200 yesterday.  Last year my work did $200 in lieu of Christmas party.  My boss totally forgot (why they did that) and so did the $200 again this year, in addition to "employees only" Christmas party.  

I may need the bonus money to get 2022 IRAs funded.

MH and I were both in a car at some point Thursday and I told him, we are in the "It's always something" stage.  Which I think is just how it will always be with only 1.1 incomes *and* a mortgage *and* kids.  Other than hitting a big psychological milestone (with the mortgage) *and* locking it in that we only have a mortgage on this house for 30 years max...  After that, mortgage paydowns will 100% take a back seat to college expenses and home maintenance.  I'd probably want to set aside ~$20K (for HVAC replacement at some point, and other home maintenance items) before throwing bigger chunks at the mortgage again.  Then there's maybe wisdom teeth re: DL and MM 100% is going to do braces again and surgery.  $10,000 here, $10,000 there.   There's always something.

After the big news day on Thursday, MH won $250!  It was a script contest.  Nothing he was excited about or passionate about, but probably the first time he's ever received any money re: film passions.  So that is exciting.  He told me today he has no idea how/when he will get this money. 

& after all that, MM(19)'s college financial aid office got caught up.  Phew!  I really thought they went home for the holidays.  I was thinking, "Must be nice!"  But I saw rumblings online that financial aid (refunds) were showing up in kids' bank accounts.  I literally logged in to MM(19)'s bank account this morning to see if I could set up to notify me when he received deposits.  The money was already there!  Which puts them back on track.  Except that they forced us to pay tuition early (not showing a financial aid deferral for MM).  But I did just check the tuition calendar and financial aid disburses January 3rd.  Which is when they intend to refund us for over payment of winter quarter.  Fair enough.  Won't be any later than usual.  It's just that I wouldn't have paid in the money (in 2022) if they had allowed us to defer tuition payments for financial aid. 

I am really glad they sorted this out.  I was running through tax projections last weekend and was starting to get really irritated.  I didn't realize how much this would potentially impact our college tax credit next year.  If we were refunded same or more than what we paid (in 2023), that could have cost us thousands of dollars in Federal tax credits.  Which is something I hadn't thought of before.  I am really happy that they made it right, during this calendar year.  Second quarter is still messed up, but one quarter's timing right at the turn of the new of the new year...  It's a little more forgiveable.   

I am sure they had parents and students absolutely freaking out.  I expect that most at our income level would have been struggling to cover tuition they never expected to have to pay.  I presume they got a lot of pressure and is why the money is now in my bank account.

Nov '22 Savings

December 11th, 2022 at 07:49 pm

Received $73 bank interest for the month of November.

Received $180 I Bond interest for the month of November.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $2 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

   Less: $95 Annual Fee 

--Redeemed $92 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $33 on dining out/gas card (+ groceries during Q4)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

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


TOTAL: $40 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,200 MH Income


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

-$1,200 Life Insurance**

-$  580 Travel Expenses/Film Festivals

-$  400 MH new cell phone

-$  100 Web light and microphone (for film festival interviews)

-$   78 Pest Control


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

+$1,500 to cash

- $5,800 Property Taxes (cash)


TOTAL: -$3,325 Net Pulled from Cash 


Pulled from 'College Savings'

-$7,830 Tuition + Rent



For Comparison:

Gas Rental Miles Driven November: 224

Fuel Costs: $55

The rental came with 1/2 tank of gas.  Will probably spend $100+ in December. 

I am getting ~30mpg on my (freeway) work commute. 


Hybrid Miles Driven November:  276

Fuel Costs: $7 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)

This car is stuck in body shop re: early November accident


Electric (EV) Miles Driven November: 706

Fuel Costs: $13 (home) 

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)


Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

We did 25 miles of free charging this month (at the mall).

Note:  I am putting some of my commute miles on the EV.

I don't think we did any out of town driving this month?  DL(17) and I drove to the Bay Area once (for a college tour) but we took his car.


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

November is particularly ugly because I had some large *cash* expenses that I couldn't push off to December.

**Life insurance.  This is my insurance that went up 4x? for turning 45.  I need to address it.  Will either be eligible for ~1/2 rates (based on health) or will have to shop around.  Before age 45, this insurance was very inexpensive.  This is on my to do list.

Note:  Just got my LT disability renewal which didn't change much.  But reminded me I do get cash rebates on these premiums and I just looked it up.  I may get $300 back re: bigger life insurance premiums.  Obviously still need to shop around, but it's not quite as nasty as it sounds.  While going through the application and medical stuff, I am going to apply for a bigger disability benefit.  I didn't make enough income before.  & if I am going to have them pull my medical records anyway, might as well kill two birds with one stone.

Short term savings is *done* and zeroed out for the year.   I'd generally charge life insurance to short term, but I didn't plan for such a large insurance expense. 

Because there were no more short-term funds, everything else was deducted against mid-term savings.  Travel expenses above our budget, new cell phone, etc. 

MH finally invested in a ring light and a nice microphone, because he had some online interviews set up (re: film festivals).  We've been very frugal on this front (er, we've been cheap).  I think MH and DL might still be sharing a webcam.  I don't need one.  MM(19) has a webcam integrated into his college laptop.  Oh wait, we only had one webcam pre-pandemic but MH eventually bought a second once, after things settled down. DL(17) does have his own webcam now, which he does not use much.  Anyway, my point is that this purchase was very long overdue.  I am sure MH's friends and relatives appreciate that he got a light and doesn't just sit in the dark now.  😁  He's always used skype a lot, with friends and family (for past ~20 years).   He probably should have bought a light 10+ years ago.  & the microphone is just crappy on his current webcam.  MM(19) might appreciate our investment, we do skype with him a lot to keep in touch, while he is away at college.

MH did also invest in a new cell phone.  His cell phone was 4 years old.  I think this is one of the longer stretches that he has had a phone.  His last phone, I considered to be very expensive.  I personally try to stick to ~$100/year Max (willing to buy a $400 phone every 4 years).  So overall, I was happy with what MH spent, and was less than I expected.  (It's a $650 phone, but he received $250 for trading in his old phone.)

Re: tuition & rent ~ The school owes us $2,300 (CA middle class financial aid x 2 quarters) and we intend to reimburse ourselves (from college funds) $2,500 for our net tuition costs (x 2 quarters).  This leaves about $3,000 (net to cover) which was pulled from rent money that we set aside in 2021.

Financial aid office is still crazy behind and has kicked the can down the road to 2023.  Was supposed to sort out refunds in early December but gave up and is saying "January" now.  Which means of course, "We are closed for the rest of the year and will get back to it in January."  Lord knows when they will actually figure it out.  In the meantime, I still have no idea the odds that MM(19) will get any other scholarships this school year, etc.  On the plus side, will owe very little (if anything) for spring quarter.   

Looking ahead to December, I just feel very saved by the bell.  We have multiple large inflows of cash coming in.  So otherwise it was a spendy month (though we would not have gone negative, like we did in November.  No *big* expenses like property taxes and college bills).  But it will be a very flush month, with all the extra cash flow.  I will probably net $4K with my bonus, and we should get $1K from the state any day now (inflation relief).  


2022 Credit Card Rewards Tally

December 2nd, 2022 at 04:56 pm

2022 TALLY (Preliminary):

$200 Capital One (DL credit card - used for auto insurance)

$ 30 Citi Reward (for charging hotel)

$ 15 AmEx Reward (for charging insurance)



Ongoing rewards:

+$296 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$71 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$128 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$919 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $1,659

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 2022).

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 = $1,659

Total 12 Years = $31,271 ***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 am just leaving this as a placeholder.  All I need to do is add in the December rewards when I have them, for the final 2022 tally.

Honorable Mention to I Bond interest. ~$1,200 interest this year and will be more next 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 some of the reason I did not pursue more rewards.  

In addition to the I bond boost, I just am not as motivated with MH working, and with the kids making their own money and paying for more of their own expenses.  The credit card rewards made all the difference during our lower one-income years.  I feel like I say "meh" every year, that I am losing interest in these.  But...  I keep getting enticed by the easy $800 here and there.  This might be the first year I let it go.  (The year is not over it.  Will see.)  I did do a big reward (in 2021) to pay for MM(19)'s college laptop and I might to the same for DL next year.  So I can see some potential bigger rewards on the horizon.

MM(19) did do a $200 credit card bonus this year.  But he didn't need me to co-sign his credit card.  I was not involved in that, so won't add that to the tally.  I did get DL(17) a credit card and a bonus (and helped him with the spending to get the bonus.)  Same as we did for MM, it was nice to have a $200 chunk to apply to his first big car insurance bill. 

There was also a couple of obvious small rewards that I just had to click a button and/or switch credit cards to redeem.  (I didn't seek them out, but I got an email or saw mentioned online.)

Given the low energy I put towards looking for credit card bonuses recently, it's no surprise that this will be our lowest year (since tracking). 

Gift Card Balances Dec 22

December 2nd, 2022 at 02:52 pm



$50 Hotel Coupon




$50  Regal

$50  Art House Theater




$50 Seasons 52

$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$ 25 x 1 Jamba Juice (Gift)




$50 Amazon (Gift)

$50 Kohls (Gift)




$25  Starbucks


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

As Birthday/Christmas season hits our household, I have a few gift cards to add to the list.

MH was ordering movie tickets last week.  MM(19) and I were going to go to a movie with him.  (MH has an unlimited pass for himself).  I was shocked he still had credit on the movie theater gift cards.  I guess MH has earned a lot of free passes (that mostly MM(19) utilizes).  

I am going to regift the starbucks gift card to my coworker (holiday gift).  No one in my household likes coffee or starbucks.  I am sure I will get new Starbucks cards this season, for the regift pile.

We haven't stayed in our 'forever' hotel since we got MM(19) moved in his first year of college.  They tripled the prices after that (it's absurd).  It was always definitely a huge discount for what it was, but now it's gone extreme in the other direction.  I share just to say that I don't know if we will ever use this hotel discount.  If prices settle down, maybe. 

I received some new retail gift cards (gifts).  There's nothing I need/want at this point, so will just hang on to them for when something comes up.  I just did some recent Kohls shopping and I don't buy much on Amazon.  I mean, I am sure something will come up.  


November 25th, 2022 at 05:14 pm

Pre-Thanksgiving was Drama Drama Drama.   But the day ended up very nice and peaceful.

Long story short, hell froze over and MH agreed not to do Thanksgiving with his family.  Of course his mom can't let it go, so it was a lot of drama the days prior.  (I don't think he's ever missed a Thanksgiving.  They have no concept that I have a family too, that MH has his own family, etc.)  I think the worst of it was Wednesday, when I was blissfully out of town.  If I was home, MH would have been venting to me all day.

**Edited to remove my own venting.**

I wish we could have given the Holiday to my parents, but they just aren't up to it at this point.  So we decided to have a peaceful day at home.  Is what all of us wanted more than anything at that point.  But we had sent off MM(19) to his girlfriend's Holiday and they ended up inviting us.  We felt obligated to go.  Most particularly because they had for months planned a summer BBQ that we had to cancel last minute when MH had COVID.  & it turns out that they usually have a bigger Thanksgiving with family but had stayed home due to medical reasons.  So they really appreciated having more mouths to feed.

The girlfriend and the Dad are both really good cooks.  We ate very well.  They seem to be a very relaxed bunch and we really enjoyed meeting them.

I tried a new/simple cookie recipe that was amazing:

I am looking forward to the peaceful long weekend.  Nothing planned today, though we have some appetizers to eat through (that we had bought for the in law Thanksgiving.)  

This weekend will be college stuff.  Have some financial stuff to go through with MM(19).  & DL(17) is going to be applying to one college.

We toured the local State college a few weeks ago and were all very pleasantly surprised.  It's a really nice campus.  I think we've always been kind of "meh" on the local colleges, being from the Bay Area.  & I mean, they didn't have any accounting programs when we moved here.  I abandoned my Graduate degree with the move.  Lord knows we didn't see the point of studying engineering here (with all the Bay Area schools to compare).  So I booked the tour and MH and DL(17) were kind of, "Why are we here?"  Because I like back up plans for my back up plans, and wanted DL(17) to know what his options are.  We all ended up really liking the campus.  So he may just stay at home his first year of college.

I keep trying to get him to tour my alma mater (which has an amazing accounting program) but DL(17) is really resisting.  He is prickly and I honestly think he would just hate it (it's in the middle of downtown).  But he wants to study accounting and I think he needs to at least set foot there and guage how he feels about it.  If he viscerally hates it, I am totally fine with that.  But it would be nice to know for sure.  (He absolutely could not stand MM's college campus.  If he didn't have such a negative visceral reaction, I'd suggest he just goes to community college down there and room with his brother.  I suppose it is another community college he could look into, but I think the distance is a bit much for him.)

We were out of town Wednesday because we went on a tour of the community college he is interested in.  In the Bay Area.  It was also a beautiful campus.  Both these campuses are woodsy, and he likes that.  

DL(17) has been overly fixated on college costs.  I told him to let it go.  The $8K state college is only $1,500 (annual tuition) after Federal tax credits and State middle class grants.  I told him the difference was negligible (versus community college) and that is why I personally didn't bother with community college.  I can't speak for MH but I expect it was the same for him.  I told him this at the beginning of the State college tour and I think he went into it with a more open mind.  It might cost $1,500 more per year but we can afford it and that $1,500 buys a lot of amenities.  Also, I've said before, if he starts out at State he is more likely to stay there.  So bigger picture I really think it's the most bargain option for his degree.  He's more likely to just start out at home (no extra room/board) *and* he is more likely to just finish his 4-year degree at the very affordable college.  Once he has that momentum going.  

The Prior Few Weeks

November 13th, 2022 at 12:42 am

We ended up canceling our Oregon trip last minute.  Too much ice/snow for our comfort level.  Of course, we were already on the fence about this trip so that was a lot of it.  The pros/cons shifted quickly to...  "Meh"

In the "it never hurts to ask" vein, they fully refunded our very last minute cancelation for the first hotel night.  (I am not entirely sure if MH asked, or if they were just nice and offered.  I told him to at least ask for a credit for a future stay.  Re: the fine print, we were out ~$100 because did not give enough notice.)  The second hotel we canceled within an hour of the cutoff time for full refund.  So I'd say that we were out $0.

But...  MH insisted on getting gas ahead of time (which made me uncomfortable) and so now I am stuck with a full tank of gas.  $37 for the small gas tank.  I will leave it be because we are still waiting to hear back from some Oregon and LA festivals.  Or it's just enough to drive to the Bay Area (and to leave the 2 gallons I need to last me 12 months).  So will burn through it one way or another.  It literally feels like burning money; gas is so expensive here.

Edit:  MH just got into another Oregon festival but not sure if we will be able to make it during winter.  The date is TBD.

DL(17) passed his driver test!  Woohoo!  I can't believe he actually did it in 6 months (I expected he would take his sweet time).   Poor kid, though.  I think he drove in the rain *once* during his 6 month permit, and even that was probably a miracle.  So there was rain in the forecast, it is what it is.  But I kept checking the forecast and eventually the window closed to rain just at the time of his test.  It ended up raining more on the drive to the DMV, which is good and at least gave him some time to get more comfortable with how to use the wipers, etc.   It pretty much stopped raining when his test was done.  

Yeah, MM(19) had his permit from January through July, so he had a lot more weather practice.  & night practice too. The fog will probably roll in any day now and that will be a fun experience.  Things that DL(17) just gets to figure out on his own. 

Last Saturday DL(17) drove to the Bay Area, through San Francisco.  He wanted to a while ago and I was fine with it, but was just the first weekend we didn't have something going on.  We took my bff out to lunch.  She had been helping DL(17) out with a school project.  I asked if we could meet near a charger.  Apparently she also has a Bolt (I didn't know) and we met by an EVgo charger.  It ended up being $0.30 for ~100 mile charge.  ???  I still had an old credit I lost track of.   I was annoyed because the charger had a 1 hour limit.  I needed an extra 2-3 minutes to be confident I could make it home.  In the end we stopped for about 3 minutes at a charger, on the way home, so spent ~$2 on outside chargers.  I expect this stop was completely unnecessary. 

Last weekend I added DL(17) to our AAA account and also paid for the annual renewal.  I was at least smart enough to add that to his credit card.  It looks like he is ~$70 short of $200 reward on $500 spend.  I will have to keep thinking about it, if I have any smaller purchases (online).   

Edit:  I ended up charging MM's auto insurance bill.  It was ~$200.  DL(17) has already received the $200 reward to offset.  I expect we will get another ~$200 bill any day now.  Now that we have added DL(17) as a new driver.   I expect to be paying closer to $400 every 6 months (or what MM had been paying as a new driver).  MM(17) had whittled it down to $200 with his good driving and some years of experience.  He does have a 'college student away from home' discount but that has been very negligible on top of all the other discounts.  A lot of why the insurance is so low is because we only put ~1,000 miles per year on that car.  

It is on my list to fill up his gas tank one more time.  We did a week or two ago, but wanted to basically start him off with a full tank.  The old gas car is his now.  & along with that, all of the expenses.  I already told MM(19) that he is officially carless now.  (He will borrow whatever car is available, when he is home.)   

We took the car to the mechanic the day before DL's test.  I expected it needed brake work, and wanted to make sure the brakes were okay for the test, and for DL(17) afterwards.  Ended up spending ~$900.  New brakes, new battery, and new headlights.  I think the headlight went out while they had it, because we were on the way to pick it up when they noticed and changed them out.  MH was relieved because he recalled his dad telling him they were a real PITA to change out in that car.  (& also could have had to postpone his test, if he had a non-functioning headlight during rain.  Phew!)

& the weekend before, they had picked up new wiper blades for the car. 

Anyway, I've kept the $1,500/year car repair placeholder in our budget (from when we had two much older cars), while still having one very old car.  But the old car is driven so little, it's never needed any work before.  So we had four ~$0 repair years (on all of our cars).  It's no surprise that eventually the old gas car would need some work.  Big picture, we've made out pretty well.  (The car was a free hand-me-down.)

MH and I went out to celebrate DL passing his test!  (DL was exhausted and not hungry).  I am excited about not having to drive DL to school on Wednesdays any more.  I can't even fathom the time and freedom this opens up for MH, if I am so excited about getting 40 minutes of my week back.  We definitely wanted to celebrate.  The next film festival will be so much easier, not trying to coordinate who will pick up DL(17) from school, etc.  The ability to make any travel plans, ever.  Or the ability of MH to work full-time, etc.  It is a big change for us.

This morning I tried to take care of some bills and noticed that both our property taxes and flood insurance went down a little bit.  How random is that!?  I had to share the success of something getting less expensive.  I googled a bit and didn't see any explanation for reduced flood premiums.  With the property taxes, we have a lot of bonds and some of those we are graduating out of (after 20 years) and some have been refinanced, etc.  

We spoke to MM(19) once in the past 2? weeks.  He is focusing on one club/project this year, which is a joint project with a school in LA.  So he is driving down to LA most weekends.  He went a handful of times last year, but now it's every weekend.  Because he has more time to commit and he has made it his priority.  That will be a lot of spending on his part, with the fuel (shared) and buying food on the road. 

MM told me he was only $2 away from his $500 spend.  To get that $200 credit card reward.  He had also purchased concert tickets (for when he's in Santa Barbara staying with his girlfriend's family) and a one-way train ticket.  I appreciate how he just took the lead and got that taken care of.  I mean, he could have asked his cousin if he could get a ride, but he is going to LA for the weekend before Thanksgiving and just presumed everyone else would be gone when he got back.   So he bought himself a train ticket.  In addition, mostly just groceries, and he also used that credit card at the dentist, both of which I reimbursed him for already.  I will reimburse him for the train ticket.  Plan A was that his girlfriend was going to Santa Barabra for the (Thanksgiving) break.  But I guess that changed and she is able to give him a ride back to school.  To clarify the one-way ticket.  I had to ask him why he only bought a one-way ticket.  I guess plans keep changing.  For winter break, he will be in LA for a couple of weeks. It might make more sense to figure out how to get him home from LA.  It might be most cost effective to fly.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  I suppose it was a crazy week and I have also put a lot of my time to all these film festivals.  & then was out all day with DL(17) last weekend.  Now I have a quiet weekend at home and just feel overwhelmed by my to do list.  I expect some of it is also the time I am committing to my communications class.  It's not a big time commitment, but time is time.  I've mostly been doing the class on work time, but then I just feel behind at work too.  But the class is *amazing*.  I am so glad because I was reluctant to give up precious time.  I made the right choice.  I will be done in 4 weeks.

Our weather pretty much went straight from summer to winter.  Brrrrrr... 

Oct '22 Savings

November 12th, 2022 at 03:16 pm

Received $75 bank interest for the month of October.

Received $180 I Bond interest for the month of October.


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $4 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $98 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $26 on dining out/gas card (+ groceries during Q4)


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)


TOTAL: $133 Snowflakes to Investments


Snowball to Savings:

+$1,250 MH Income

-$  150 College Expenses (dorm insurance, kitchen supplies)


401k Contributions/Match:



Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)


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

+$1,500 to cash

-$  900 New Tires (EV)

-$  450 Car Insurance (hybrid)

-$  645 Travel - College Move-In

-$  535 Travel - Arizona

-$ 150 Dentist (MM)

-$   50 Password Software


TOTAL: $2,178 Deposited to Cash and Investments


Hybrid Miles Driven October:  785

Fuel Costs: $21 Electricity + $37 Gas

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven October: 1,370

Fuel Costs: $24 (home) + $8 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)


Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

Note:  Summer rates ended and we will pay lower electricit rates for next 8 months.  

We did 100 miles of free charging this month.  Free Miles Downtown (film festival)

Spent $6 charging on ~270 mile Bay Area trip.  

Spent $2 charging on 300 mile Bay Area trip.  (Used EvGo while meeting a friend for lunch. I still apparently had some old credit.)

We also drove to the Bay Area (a 3rd time) and Napa. 

Note:  Purchased gas for Oregon trip and then ended up not going.  Will have to burn through this gas at some point.  Waiting to see how other film festivals shake out.  Otherwise, will do a gas run to Bay Area at some point.  That will burn through most of the excess gas.


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.

What to say about October?  It's what I expected.  Off the top of my head, still have ~$650 left in the vacation fund; will finish zeroing out next month.  October was *the* big travel month, but most of that was charged in October and will be paid for in November.

I did see that our credit cards rewards are being upgraded on my credit union card.  At first glance the only difference I saw was that gas is going up from 3% to 4% cash back.  I don't think that will help us much.  With DL(17) taking over the gas car, I expect to only spend ~$15 on gas per year.  

I Bond rates should bump up next month.  We are still getting first 6 months of 7.12% rate.  Then will get 6 months @ 9.62%.   

Interest rates on our savings accounts continue to go up.  

Our car maintenance has been ~$0 for the past 4 years.  I had a $1,500 annual car repair placeholder that I have just kept in place because we received the kids' (20yo) gas car 4 years ago.  I figured I'd keep the same car repair maintenance placeholder.  (We used to have two older cars, but now have two newer cars under warranty, ourselves.  The two older cars would always throw off more car repair bills).  But in the end, the kids' old gas car has been extremely low maintenance.  It's a great car, but also barely driven.  I think "barely driven" is more to the point as to the very low maintenance.  & the EVs are extremely low maintenance.  

It was nice while it lasted, but this year we will have some catch up on repair bills.  We had some repairs on the old gas car (will show up next month).  & it was time to replace OEM tires on the EV, which we got 50K miles out of.  Not bad, for factory tires.  I am so confused though because my car has more miles and way more life left on the (same OEM) tires.  All I can figure is that the ~90% freeway driving is much lighter on the tires.  While MH was getting his tires changed out, I was going through tire discussions in my hybrid group and saw some opinion that should replace tires after 5 years due to the weight of the car and the thinness of the energy efficient tires.  But when I got home that day and looked carefully at the tread, I decided that is ridiculous.  I mean, I was almost ready to just switch my tires out too.  I will give it a year and spread out costs a little bit.  I can still be cautious and switch out next fall.  Both our cars are 2017 model years.  I will probably switch mine out at 75K miles.  (An extra 25K miles with all that freeway driving.  MH did buy his car more used, so maybe the prior owner was also harsh on the tires).  With MH's car, we replaced the tires about a year before we needed to.  But we didn't have any expenses for 4 years and we had a used tire on the car (to replace a flat) that was nearing the end of its life.  We just found it easier to replace all the tires and move on.

Looking ahead to November.  Ugly...  Just paid Property taxes and MH's rent for the second quarter.  Big transfers out of savings this month.  In addition to paying off some big credit card charges from prior month.  & I would pay tuition if MH Had been able to register or if financial aid office was caught up.  Will see...

I did just update sidebar.  Tentatively checked off $10K savings goal.  I do expect to fall backward this month and so won't give it a full check off.  But I think December looks promising to solidify this goal.  On the plus side, I am not pulling college money or property taxes from this bucket.  So all of this big money drain in November should mostly not affect our $10K (mid-term) savings goal. 

Edited to add:  I usually draft this post around the beginning of the month I am updating, because I have most numbers and most spending done.  So...  That was 6 weeks ago?  I did end up in a car accident this week.  Ugh!  Someone hit my car on the freeway.  Everyone is okay and that is what is important.  (& for the first time since college, the other person actually pulled over and took responsibility.)  My November numbers will be weird because I expect my car mostly to be in the shop and will have to rent a gas car.  MH will take the rental (for his 3-mile commute), to minimize gas costs.  We are going to drive this gas rental as little as possible. & the timing is good in that we don't have to spend our own gas driving DL(17) to school.  He got his license just days before my accident.  

Oh, and one of my tires was hit in the accident.  I presume the shop will replace it and then I will be left with uneven tires.  I may just bite the bullet and replace all the rest of the tires at ~67K miles.  If I wait until December, I can at least make it a 2023 expense (charge in December, paying with January 2023 budget).  I guess that whole thing I am rethinking again.  I suppose it may be optimistic to assume I can even get my car back this year.  

Gift Card Balances Oct 2022

October 23rd, 2022 at 03:56 pm



$50 Hotel Coupon




$50  Regal

$50  Art House Theater




$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$25 Chili's

$ 25 x 1 Jamba Juice (Gifts)




$100 x 2 Target (Emailed/paper gift cards)

$25  Kohls Gift Card (DL Christmas Gift)




$25  Starbucks


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

We just got through a restaurant gift card from 2017!  

We've been discussing for several months at this point, but finally used that Chili's gift card.  

Yeah, the *one* thing I wanted to buy more breathing room in our budget for was more "dates" and eating out with the hubby.  Which...  Has gone nowhere.  We did a couple of nice meals early in the year and then decided it just wasn't our thing.  The grass looked greener, I guess?  But once I made it a priority and put it in the budget, neither of us were interested.

So this is why we have talked about using up this gift card finally, since summer.  & sounded more promising when MH told me there is a Chili's in our neighborhood. Must be new?  After all that, we went to the Bay Area yesterday and just didn't want to spend money (not full meals out x2 money).  I grabbed the gift card just in case.  It worked out perfectly because we got a late start home and decided to just stop and eat, to break up the drive.  There was a Chili's at the half way point.

We made out pretty well.  The grand total was $6 (including tax) for a steak dinner, 1/3 of a beer, and an appetizer/main course/margarita special that MH ordred.  I got the last of the beer (they ran out) so they just gave it to me for free.  A 1/2 glass probably would have been ideal for me, so I just went with it.  Lord knows I wouldn't have wanted another full glass of (another) beer, in addition to the 1/3 glass.  Because we spent so little on the meal, I tipped generously.  We also had enough leftovers to feed DL when we got home.

I am not sure where we are at with movie gift cards.  We might have used up the art house gift card.  & I think MH ended up buying a second $50 Regal gift card, but I don't remember for sure.   MH has an unlimited Regal movie pass, and earns more points than I would ever use for free tickets, so he gets through the movie gift cards very slowly. 

As the year wraps up, trying to get through the retail cards.  I just have been using the Target gift cards when I do online orders.  Which is usually toiletries and really boring stuff, but I did treat myself to a monkey sweatshirt the other day. 

& I lucked out with Kohls.  I noticed the jeans I had were getting kind of sad (a pair that I didn't expect to be coming apart already).  So I popped online and my jeans were on sale for $20.  I gave DL(17) $25 cash for the Kohls gift card last Christmas, but had yet to use the gift card.

Jamba Juice, I was going every week during early summer but I guess I got bored with it.  I don't know.  I got through one $25 gift card and have another one for next summer.


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