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This & That

March 1st, 2022 at 02:29 pm

The theme has changed:  Life is chaotic and difficult, but finances are... okay?

I hadn't commented lately and probably just wan't very conscious of how terrible things have been.  Because relatively, things have gone done a few notches and were a little easier.  Phew!  But I took a 4-day weekend last weekend and had some time to slow down and reflect.  2021 was terrible and 2022 isn't off to a great start. 

So I figured I'd copy and paste one of the other bajillion times I wrote how terrible things were going.  But all those other times it was, "Everything sucks but finances are great!!"  This time around, finances are fine/good.  Maybe both sides of the coin have been taken down a notch or two.  

Taking time to slow down and reflect was good.  I actually just retreated into my cocoon last Saturday.  Wouldn't be surprised if I ended up in bed for 3 days, but I felt so much better the next day.  Phew!  My takeaway is to completely give up on this "Reset" I have been trying for since 2018.  I am in survival mode.  It's just one foot in front of the other.  

So that's a bigger picture update.

It's not all bad.  Like I said, things have gone down a notch or two.  February ended up being productive on many fronts. 

We finally did it!  We replaced our 22yo mattress.  We went shopping a few years ago and just couldn't decide on anything.  Felt like such a big/scary purchase.  This time around we were able to be more decisive.  Anything is better than what we have, at this point.  (Maybe just weren't quite there yet, last time.  The old mattress felt like a cloud for the first 15+ years so I have dreaded trying to find something that could compare).  We doubled our budget this time because we just wanted to get it done.  & I mean, we just pulled a number out of the air that morning.  It was a starting point, we have the cash for whatever. 

We ended up buying a higher end mattress that had been returned.  60% off and was so obviously "the one".   

I personally just wanted to figure it out, make the purchase.  Didn't have any high expectations on delivery timelines with the state of the world these days.  But I guess that was also a nice perk of buying a returned mattress.  We had it delivered and set up a few hours after the purchase.  So life can move on...

February was also successful re: adding breathing room to our monthly budget.  It does work better when you have a full month of new raise (versus just 1/2 month). 

We have $125 monthly breathing room that we are just leaving more for eating out and going out.  A line item that we've never allocated this much money to, before. 

February ended up being $108; the breathing room was divine.   

**We tried a sushi place by our home that was *so good*.  (Went there for lunch when MH was not working).  It's right next to our favorite restaurant.  Which I expect is one reason we had never eaten there.  It's apparently been there forever.  *This* is what I want to get out of the breathing room, finding these places that are right under our nose.

**Mid-February we went to the art museum (free with membership) and had lunch at a bar in the old downtown by the river.  The food was "meh".  This is a reminder of why I dislike spending money on eating out.  But having the breathing room, being more relaxed about it, and this not being our 'only splurge for the month' helped.  It's going to be hit and miss; this breathing room is about the journey.

**Went to a foreign film (free with gift card)

**Went to a play

In the end, got completely unexpected good money news this week already.  So maybe I was too quick to label finances as just "okay".  Next post...

 

MM(18) Money Update

February 13th, 2022 at 03:42 pm

Getting through "started but not published" posts.  This is the last one.  I did a DL(16) money update about a month ago, but here is the MM(18) update.

MM(18) had a one-month job lined up that would net about $3,500.  This was last August.  It fell through but was probably for the best.  He likely would have quit with the fires and terrible outside working conditions.  He was able to make $1,500 doing temp work in my office.  An employee went on a long international vacation and he had been helping us out the prior two years.  He was the obvious go-to for a summer temp.

No one in our families had "gone away" to college, particularly for freshman year.  So we agreed that MM(18) should not work while he gets his bearings.  It was just a lot, even if he is very adaptable and I am sure he probably would have been fine. 

In the end, we have decided that working is penny wise and pound foolish.  Probably not in the ways that would be presumed.  MM(18) would have no problem working and getting all As.  But I heard it was feasible for freshman to get very high paying summer internships.  I wasn't going to hold my breath on that one.  But it's quickly becoming obvious this is true and the *why* of this is true.  MM(18) is spending his ample free time joining clubs.  He is building an electric car from scratch and also working on the engineering side of an art installation.  Those are his two major projects.   Not only is he getting very practical experience, but he's networking.  The first few weeks of college he had already met several juniors/seniors who are moving on from their internships, and attended networking events with big name companies.  So it seems pretty pointless to work during the school year for very few dollars, when he can make $15,000 over the summer (without balancing work/school).  

Current Job Situation:  ??????  Weird re: Pandemic

I copy and pasted what I wrote about DL(16).  Just because he *can* get an internship this summer, doesn't mean much.  MM(18) told us a while ago that he didn't expect he would want to get an internship this summer.  & I mean, he was presuming they would mostly be in LA or SF.  In addition to being more difficult to get as a freshman.  We are fine with that.  I honestly don't think he will ever move home again, and so it will be nice to have him home this last summer.  

This is just a completely random/new development, but MM got a lead on an internship here and has a job interview during spring break.  It's extra random because this company is right next door to mine (shares the same parking lot).  Talk about a small world. 

Anyway, with the job falling through last summer and the pandemic and everything, I expected things to be pretty tight for MM(18).  It's been made extra complicated because he's aged out of his 7%-interest account.  That was another $500 I thought he'd have access to this school year.  But though he's clearly aged out (it says so on his statements, that the interest rate is only something like 0.02%) they are still giving him 7%!  So of course he doesn't want to touch that $500 as long as he is getting mega interest.

In the end he only spent $200 his first school quarter, and the vast majority of that was finals week when he finished like on Monday and waited all week for a ride.  He gained a girlfriend and she had her car.  So they went out shopping and went out on a date (he paid for an expensive meal).  If not for that, he probably would have spent a whole whopping $100 for the quarter.

He is enjoying the all-inclusive lifestyle (and lives in paradise).  There is no lack of things to do.  He's been back for 6 weeks and the only thing he bought was books for the second quarter.  I am just checking his bank balances.  He has about $800 left.  So he roughly started the school year with $1,000 and is left with $800 to get through the next 4 months.  I think he will survive.  During school, he's just too busy to spend money.  & I am glad he splurged and enjoyed a bit when he did have some down time.  During winter break he was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery, and his high school friends seemed mostly interested in hanging at each other's houses (I expect due to several reasons.  If nothing else, never got in any habit of "going out" during the pandemic, in addition to maybe being enticed by parents who wanted more time with their kids.  MM was offered a lot of free meals).  Whatever the reasons, he didn't spend any money when he was home.  

MM(18) also has $5,500 in super high yield savings accounts.  I just know he doesn't want to touch any of that if he doesn't have to.

So the summer job thing is a big question mark at this point but he has some possibilities.

MIL usually gives the kids $1,000 per year for their college savings.  Because we are paying for tuition/room/board, I think I am probably going to give MM(18) this $1,000 to cover spending money his sophomore year.  Just some, "if you don't get a job this summer" insurance.  It seems the best use of this money at this point.   We already have funds set aside to cover his last 3 years of college (presuming worst case of no scholarships).  I'd rather utilize this $1K as "not having to work" money. 

The Electric Vehicle Recall & Fix

February 5th, 2022 at 03:40 pm

This electric vehicle recall was a roller coaster I just didn't have the time or energy to blog about.  Plus, easier to post the whole story when we have some resolution.

I also don't remember a lot of the little details and roller coaster, so maybe it's for the best.  

We bought our 2017 Bolt in summer 2020.  At some point after that, Bolts were starting to catch fire.  Probably some fires before then, but hindsight 20/20 it makes sense why those started to be a problem (more numerous) in late 2020.  Will get to that.

I distinctly remember thinking, "This can be really good or really bad."  Really bad = burning down our house (and/or starting the next CA mega fire).  Really good = getting a new battery!

Happy to come out the other end with the "really good" outcome.  

As to the roller coaster...  

They first tried to fix with a software patch but that didn't work. 

I remember it was July 2021 because MH was in Florida, when they announced that they would start just replacing batteries.  At the time, this was just 2017-2019 models.  A few days later a 2020 model caught fire.  !!!  So it quickly felt very back to square one.

I have to back up and say that if this was any other car we would have sold and moved on.  But there are no other (useful) electric models on the market in our price range.  Going back to a gas car is out of the question.  We would be miserable.  About the best compromise we came up with is maybe getting a second Volt (hybrid) for a while, until they sort this out. 

We did get into the queue a long long time ago, for GM to buy back our car.  They were crazy slow, which we were fine with.  We just wanted to be in the queue and don't know if that helped us move up the line for battery replacement.  The "buyback" was probably pretty useless.  We bought used and could do much better on the resale market right now.  We paid $17K for a car that's worth like $23K today.  The buyback would have been $17K minus some useage.  But we just wanted to be in the queue, express our concern, and didn't know if used values might falter through this mess, etc. (if GM would be the best offer to sell the car). 

Of course, we were very seriously considering investing a lot of money and trading up to a 2020.  Just to be out of this mess.  I am so relieved we didn't go that route.  (That was before we knew 2020 just had the same problems).  

I think once that 2020 blew up, GM just put all hands on deck.  It seems pretty quickly after that they really narrowed down the problem.   We were never overly concerned because the fire risk was pretty average for the 2017s.  The problem ended up being a 2-month manufacturing period of the 2019 model.  Those are something like 30 times more likely than the average gas car to catch fire.  😱  Obviously they fixed all of those first, and then are moving backwards to the oldest cars/batteries.  

The end result is a 5-year-old car with a brand new battery and a new 8-year warranty.  The new batteries are bigger and have a longer range, so we also have added more range to our car.  The EPA rating on the old battery was 240 miles of range, but we were consistently getting 260.  & I mean, mostly freeway driving (which is the least fuel efficient on electricity).  If MH just drives to work (city streets) the car might go 400 miles on one charge.  (Braking regenerates electricity, so the fuel efficiency is backwards of what you think re: gas cars.  Traffic and lights = more range).  

Old Battery = 60 kWh

New Battery = 66 kWh

That's a 10% increase in range!

Our 260-mile real (freeway) range is probably now 286 miles. 

We have not been able to really test this out because it has been unusually cold.  We were able to get 250 miles on Christmas Day (unusually cold) and it was freakishly cold the day MH drove the kids back to college (January 2) .  

December/January is our winter.  This should be more interesting the rest of the year.  & MH was able to do a Bay Area roundtrip without stopping for fuel.  He did this on January 31.  I imagine this will be much easier most of the year (with warmer temps). 

Edited to clarify:  During the recall we couldn't charge below 30% or above 90%.  So we weren't able to (easily) drive the electric vehicle to the college.  (Deep discharging and/or full charging was a risk factor with the fires).  Thus, some gas spending in 2021 that I am not expecting in 2022.  

Car Gas Spending

February 4th, 2022 at 01:04 am

In 2020 we spent $115 on car gas, for the hybrid car.   It looks like we did 4 Bay Area trips before we bought the all-electric vehicle in late Summer 2020.

After buying the electric car, I spent a whole whopping $6 on gas.  This was for a couple of gallons just to keep the hybrid in good condition.  I consider that more of a maintenance expense than a fuel expense.

I expect that 2021 would have been a $6 gas year.  We are to the point we are driving 100% electric.  But we had to put the electric car on hold for longer trips.  Which probably would have been completely N/A for us, but then we were driving MM(18) to/from college 300 miles away. 

Total household gas spending 2021:  $348 

 $29 of this was putting gas in the kids' car.  MM(18) was dragging his feet spending his own money and then MH needed the car a couple of days while his car was getting the battery swapped out.  Knowing he'd be driving the gas car to the dealership and back, etc., he just filled up the tank.  

That leaves $319 gas for the hybrid.    We spent -$0- on gas from January through August (hybrid) and then spent that $319 the last 4 months.

That's for 5 college visits (600 miles x5) & two Holiday trips to the Bay Area.  We've done plenty of Bay Area driving trips in the all-electric vehicle, but MH was getting more wary towards the end.  Technically we weren't supposed to drop below 30% battery capacity but was getting pretty close with the Bay Area trips.  It just depends how much we were driving around and visiting relatives when we were there.  

Oh yeah, and I put a couple of gallons in during the middle of summer.  The gas level in the Volt dropped below 40 miles? and the car just kept beeping at me.  But what pushed me over the edge was I had never done the remote start before and started doing that during the summer.  Don't ask me why it took 3 years to figure that out (makes 110F summer days much more bearable when you can just cool off your car first!).  So the remote start stops working one day and I quickly realize it's disabled once the fuel level is "low".  🙄  Which makes sense obviously for a gas car, but makes no sense for a car in electric mode that uses basically no energy to run the A/C.  So that is why I added some gas in the middle of summer.  

I am hoping that 2022 is a $6 gas year for our household.  

Of course, the next question is how much are we paying for electricity?  I have no idea!  I am behind on my estimates, and some of that is because we stopped charging the EV overnight (due to fire risk/recall).  & I am just behind, because of life.  I can probably extrapolate all overnight charging to my car and just try to come up with an equivalent to cover MH's miles.  But then I'd have to convert to higher daytime charging rates.  Still, it should be quick to work through the last few months, I just have too many higher priorities at the moment.  

I will share when I have those estimates.  But mostly, I had been running all my projections based on $4/gallon gas.  Which I felt was quite conservative at the time (when we bought the hybrid in 2018).  Figured gas had nowhere to go but up.  The pandemic has stalled gas going up, but clearly it is happening now.  Anyway, at $4/gallon we pay roughly 1/3 that cost (for electricity) when we charge our cars overnight.  When we pay full price while traveling, that was usually about 1/2 the cost of gas.

The college trip is quickly becoming a free drive for us, with the electric car.  So that might go from a $55 (hybrid) gas trip to a $0 electricity trip.   (Maybe $10 is you count charging up at home before and after).

We came home on the I-5 after taking MM(18) back after Thanksgiving break.  We hadn't gone that route in many months and we were surprised how many new chargers there were.  

Free chargers are popping up at all of the rest stops in our state.  There was one by the college we kept stopped at and using, but now there's several on the I-5.  

Electrify America gives away free electricity during Holiday weekends.  !!  The charging was free from something like December 22 - January 2nd.   

Before this recall detour, it was on my list to some day try a free drive down to the college.  I've seen many people posting they've done free fuel drives from Northern CA to Southern CA.  But usually the free places are kind of in weird places.  Not as convenient as just stopping and charging while you eat.  But we were up to the challenge and is something we wanted to do. Anyway, it seems kind of moot now with free chargers all over the place.  I mean, will still take advantage of the free charge, but it just won't be much of a challenge.

Edited to add:  I started this post a long time ago and just hit publish.  I will start sharing monthly car fuel spending, so it will become pretty clear how much less we are paying for electric fuel.  I did share January #s in my January post.

January '22 Savings

February 2nd, 2022 at 04:04 pm

Received $27 bank interest for the month of January.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $32 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $97 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $15 on dining out card (also used for groceries)

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $15 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $159 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$515

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$375 MH Income

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$800 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$215 Medical Expenses

-$180 Target Gift cards on Sale

 

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

+$1,500 to cash

-$1,100 Home Insurance

-$ 630 Dentist

-$ 290 Auto Insurance (Kid Car) ~ paying for this while MM(18) is away and DL is not licensed

-$  78 Pest Control

TOTAL: $883 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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

Hybrid Miles Driven January:  668 

Fuel Costs: $12 Electricity 

Note:  Extra low fuel month because this is net of $11 work auto reimbursement (for driving 19 miles).  

Electric (EV) Miles Driven January: 1,392

Fuel Costs: $20

Note:  EV includes 500 free miles.  MH was able to get free electric charging when driving MM(18) back to college after New Years (we paid for the fill up before and after, at home).  In addition, MH got 50 free miles (x2) at the movie theater. 

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

MH was able to do a roundtrip Bay Area drive without stopping to fuel.  (We got a newer/bigger battery due to recall and so the car has more range now).  I expect this will be easier the rest of the year but was cutting it close in winter.  Range is reduced in colder temps.

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

I stopped doing these updates in 2020.  I don't remember why. 

Since I am not blogging very much I decided to go back to this format.  At the least, I can do a monthly snapshot.   & I will add the driving data now that we are mostly driving electric.  With rare exceptions, we are driving all-electric at this point. 

Notes:  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, if that makes sense.

UGH, January was terrible on the spending/savings front.  But I suppose it was complicated by only receiving one paycheck in January and executing new 2021 budget with only one paycheck (of raise).  February might even out with the shorter month.  It's just a bummer we didn't utilize MH's high income month and save most of his income, but we had too many expenses.  I think I am just feeling too much squeeze.  The pendulum clearly swung after him being off work (no unemployment) for 6 months and just starting to feel like he may actually have a job this year.  So there were a lot of purchases that we felt we could do.  But on the flip side of the coin he is off work now and I don't expect any MH income for February.  I have paid bills through 2/28, presuming no extra income.  So it's a little squeeze on both ends.

We spent way too much on dining out, purchased some clothing and pet items, and also bought a set of pots and pans.  My future self will thank me though.  I probably would have bought just a couple of sauce pans, but I found a nice set for $250 and am keeping the rest for MM(18).  He will have a kitchen/apartment next school year. 

My primary goal is to hoard more cash for college.  We have next 18 months mostly covered.  But of course, want to be more ahead of the curve.  And/or have extra funds for anything else that might happen.  

Secondary goal is funding MH's movie.  It just came up over the weekend.  Will probably pay $350 to the editor this month.  As the movie wraps up, talking about doing a screening party.  Not sure how that will end up but I am encouraging MH to just go all out for that.  To-date we haven't spent any of our own money and we can probably consider the screening a gift from his grandfather.  & then there's talk of festivals and travel, but I think we can absorb a lot of that (frugally) in our (small) vacation budget. 

These are the two big things we want to hoard some cash for. 

If I seem a little blindsided by the movie (less prepared), it's been infinitely jinxed and delayed.  So it is very sudden that there's talk of wrapping it up, and will see if it does actually wrap up in the next couple of months.  🤞 

Today is payday.  Already paid the rest of the February bills (with float).  But needed my paycheck to pay off the big credit card.  We like to pay everything ahead and basically start the beginning of each month debt free.  So I will pay off that credit card right now.  I set all my credit cards to a monthly cycle and just pay them all off the first of every month.  None of this "waiting for statements and due dates" nonsense.  But the monthly credit card cycle is how I have to do it for my accountant brain.  That, and also managing multiple credit cards.  This just keeps it very simple.

Note:  Now that MM(18) has multiple credit cards, I should probably teach him this trick.  You just set the due date so that the card runs for roughly a monthly cycle.  If it closes a couple of days before the end of the month is best.  You can always prepay the charges for the last few days of days of the month.  All my credit cards close around the 28th of every month. 

Our taxes are done.  Just waiting for software updates so that I can file.

General Check In

January 23rd, 2022 at 07:24 pm

We had a San Francisco weekend planned with 5 shows, this weekend.  This was canceled a while ago.  Seemed overkill at the time, but now I am not sure I would have gone.  COVID has been rampant in our zip code and circles.  

Instead I am working and tending to long put off chores.  What a slog.  This is the complete polar opposite of what I thought I would be doing this weekend!

We had made the decision to put more breathing room into our budget and to do some more going out.  Between "crazy busy" at work and COVID and everything, all of that is on hold.   Will see how things feel in another week or two.  

MH is off work for a couple of weeks.  It's his usual winter break, but seems later this time.  I asked him if he thought he'd even be going back in two weeks.  He actually thinks so, said nothing had been canceled.  Will see...

DL(16) is starting to get college mailings.  How is that even possible!?

 

We Tried

January 22nd, 2022 at 03:36 pm

I've heard that it's virtually impossible to get life insurance after a brain tumor.  It's not cancer and it's not life threatening (while being watched/treated).  But the underwriters just lump all brain tumors basically under the worst category.  

Anyway, the standard question is if you have had treatment for a tumor the past 5 years.  Since MH's tumor is *finally* shrinking and it's been 5+ years since he has any treatment.  We tried...

Just got the denial back.  Not particularly surprised.

So thankful we had our ducks in a row so young and we have had more than ample insurance.  Like many things, we will survive and work through it.  The insurance we do have expires in 3 more years.  & we've got probably 5 more years to get kids through college.  I was just concerned about that 2-year gap, but wanted to get insurance while things were actually going well. 

Considering we lived without MH having an income at all for 13 years, I think we will survive.  😉

The reason we had life insurance in our early 20s?  Well I think a lot of it was because we had kids in our early 20s.  (Wouldn't have seen the point of life insurance when we both worked full-time and lived on only one of our incomes).   But I think probably more to the point my mom was always taking care of her sick friends.  So my childhood was skewed where I feel like everyone's parents were always dying.  & some of them did not prepare at all and really financially struggled.  Between that and crazy cheap term life insurance in our young 20s... 

I cringe how much the average person puts this off.  But I have the double whammy of the skewed childhood and a spouse who has been uninsureable since early 30s.  I just wanted to share the news/update, but now that I type it out, this is also my PSA to go buy some freaking life insurance.  (Specifically, if you have kids or people who rely on you financially). 

For us personally, we can re-evaluate in another 3 years.  When we hit that gap, we can try one more time.  I know some with this condition have gotten insurance.  I just don't know if it matters enough.  We went the easy route and it didn't work.  Will have to evaluate if we want to put more time/effort/energy into this.  Weighing the cost/benefit, etc.

 

2021 Goals Met

January 17th, 2022 at 03:49 am

I am memorializing goals in my sidebar.  Unfortunately, this site is not allowing me to just cut and paste my sidebar goals.  So whatever, will just put some in another format and type it out.  

Pay cash for college 

In the end, MM(18) followed in his parents' footsteps and chose a public college that is impossible to beat from a cost/benefit standpoint.  I always say that about my alma mater but MM(18) has chosen a similar degree/route (at a different CA State college).

I suppose we didn't have any idea where he would end up last January, but we never considered any colleges that we'd have to go into debt over.  

$12K to Savings 

Final tally was $16,000.  The plan was to use this money to pay cash for college.  At the end of 2021 we had -$0- cash plus emergency funds.  So that's about how it sorted out.  That we had just enough to cash flow college (without tapping any prior years' savings/investments). 

We probably would have fared better on this goal (with unexpected unemployment funds and stimulus, etc.) but it was a really expensive medical year.  We basically saved $25,000 but spent $9,000 on medical, which nets out to $16K saved.

I hope this makes this our worst college year.  For future years we have all of MM(18)'s college costs saved (already) and this was a really one-off medical year.  

$2K to Investments 

Funded with snowflakes.

I had been feeling very "meh" about this goal.  Probably stopped throwing our snowflakes into investments once college started.  But I do count dividends and it was a really big dividend year.  That was enough to encourage me and I threw something like $250 of our windfall to top off this goal.

$1,200 to Mortgage 

I hit this goal with a lump sum at the beginning of the year.  

We then threw an extra $12,615 with the cash gift we received end of December.  

Why $12,615?  It was an even $20K mortgage paydown for the year and left just enough windfall to cover college expenses for the next 18 months.  

The $12,615 extra payment shaved off 2 years of payments and $9,500 interest.

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 2021 ❌❓

Not sure on this one.  We sent $12K to mortgage instead.

I was very happy to get a redo.  We ended up doing 33% of my income to retirement in 2020 due to a nasty tax cliff.  Then unemployment was made tax-free retroactively and we didn't need this tax break at all.  No way I ever would have tied up so much money in 401K if I had known!  So I appreciate the redo.  Will average 21% to retirement both years, which is what is important.  Anything more than that...  Meh.  We are way too retirement heavy.

We also don't need the tax break for 2021.  Taxes ended up going way the other way in 2021.

To be re-evaluated in April.  I left it as a question mark because I just don't know.  Will see how things shake out the next 3 months.  We have until April 15th to lock in this decision.   (We are saving a lot, but MH's job is also very iffy re: pandemic surge).

Edited to add:

Also hit two longer term goals this year.  What a year!

**$500K+ in retirement funds (by age 45)

**$1 Mil+ Net Worth ✔

Note:  I didn't have a timeline for the net worth goal, it's just a nice milestone.  Retirement goal was extremely aggressive when made.  I swear that "thinking it" is 99% of the battle when it comes to goals.  Not to underscore the planning and hard work, but the aggressive goals seem to work in the subconscious background and find a way to work.

DL(16) Money Update

January 16th, 2022 at 03:53 pm

I am going through updating the kids' Quicken accounts and so can do a snapshot of where they are at.

Firstly, DL(16) is done with his allowance.  I turned it off January 1, same as I did for his brother (when he turned 16.5).  & the only reason it took that long was some miscommunication between MH and I.  Probably should have just turned it off at 15 when they had their first jobs.  

Our attitude about "allowance" is it was a tool for the kids to learn about money when they had no source of income, but we don't see the point at all in our high minimum wage state, once the kids are of working age.  We'd maybe reevaluate with this whole pandemic situation (not sure if either of my kids will be working this summer).  But...  The other part of the allowance equation is that my kids don't spend money so we basically never increased their allowance from when we started (age 5).  At the end of the day, is this $150 per year ($3 per week) going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things?  Nope!  Makes it easy to just move on.

Income/Spending:

DL(16) earned $34 interest (7% interest rate savings account)

+$156 Allowance $$

+$216 Gift Money (Birthday/Christmas)

+$1,024 Salary (very small summer job, something like 10 hours x 6 weeks) 

- $90 Payroll Taxes

-$10 Gifts

-$78 Clothing Purchases

Net Saved: $1,252

Current Job Situation:  ??????  Weird re: Pandemic

Driving Situation:  ??????  Weird re: Pandemic

DL(16) has always been the tortoise to MM(18)'s hare personality.  So I am not surprised at all he didn't get his driver's license the second he turned 16.  Mostly though he has a mental block about online school (is emotionally scarred from 2020) and he just can't deal with the online driving courses.  & absolutely no one is teaching in person (which I think may become a permanent change).  Will see...  Last we discussed, he would do the online course next summer if it's still his only option.   & we will have to lean on him pretty hard since his college plan is to go to community college in the Bay Area.  He will need a car and we will never be comfortable with that unless he has more driving experience under his belt.  That might be what motivates him, if we insist he stays at home the first year if he doesn't get some months of licensed driving experience first.

If he's not driving, he doesn't have any financial motivation to work.  Once he does get his license, he will need to pay for the insurance on the kids' car.  Insurance and tags and everything.  Fuel and oil changes.  But with the "free car" (not having to buy a car on top of that) he's well set up to cover those expenses for a while.  He needs something like $1,000/year to drive and he does have $2,500+ saved up.  I know this is a lot of our *shrugs* about just rolling with things (if we don't feel safe with him working this summer).  Both my kids are learning great/early lessons about the flexibility and benefit of all those savings.  

Assets:

$2,106 Cash

$  500  Super High Yield Savings

+$26,000 Gifted College Money

Other Notes:

I did end up just adding DL to my Target credit card because doing so had bumped up MM(18) to something like a 780 credit score.  Which I didn't know until he turned 18 and we could pull his credit report.  (The card I actually gave MM full control over and he used for all of his automobile expenses, did nothing for his credit score.  That figures!)

In this case, the Target card is actully in my wallet.  Will work on DL(16) getting some credit and learning how to manage a credit card when he has any expenses.  Which probably won't happen until he gets his driver's license. 

 

Net Worth Update 2021

January 9th, 2022 at 03:55 pm

I am just going to mix in current commentary with prior year commentary.

2020:  +$104,000

2021:  +$215,000  🤯

2020:  We paid down the mortgage by $10,000, purchased a newer vehicle, and the rest was stock market contributions and gains.

2021:  We paid down the mortgage by $20,000, cash/investments up $75,000, and the rest is real estate gains.  I mentioned in a recent post that real estate values have been pretty stagnant since the recession but skyrocketed this year.  My housing estimate is conservative and will probably bump up more next year. 

We were helped along with a $20,000 cash gift this year.  Thus the large mortgage payment.

2019: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $340,000 cash/investments. For the first time, we could do this with only cashing out about 1/2 our ROTH IRA and all of our taxable investments. It's the first time we could leave everything else intact (emergency fund, kids' college, rest of retirement, etc.). I am not tempted yet, but honestly, if I had an additional $50k in investments, we could pay off our mortgage AND leave six figures in our ROTH IRA. At that point, I would probably be tempted. Especially with just cashing out at a peak. Taking the money and running. I've always said there is a tipping point. I just have never been so close to the tipping point. If my stocks go up $100k next year, I wouldn't rule it out.

2020: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $430,000 cash/investments. 

My stocks did not go up $100K, and we have college to figure out.  If not for college literally starting this year, and being so close to our $500K retirement goal...  I don't think the tipping point will be until the mortgage is under $100K; we just aren't quite there yet.  

2021: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $530,000 cash/investments.   (Roughly $515K retirement funds + $15K cash would remain).

We discussed at length due to potential windfall (and the stock market being so high).  But college is the bigger priority at the moment.   We have lots of dollars earmarked for college "just in case".  Will hang on to that money for a few more years. (MM's college situation is pretty clear, but we still need to sort out DL's college situation.  No idea...)

Again, the tipping point won't be until somewhere below $100K.  

2020: We need our net worth to continue to increase (on average) $50k per year to reach our Financial Independence goal at age 50.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2021:

Mortgage: Paydown $8,500

Retirement: Contribute $8,500

Home Appreciation: $45,000

TOTAL INCREASE: $62,000

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

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2022:

Mortgage: Paydown $15,000

Retirement: Contribute $20,000

Investment Gains: $20,000

TOTAL INCREASE: $55,000

More 2020 Commentary: We have 6 years left on our "financial independence" goal.  We've started out so strong, that we have 6 years left to come up with $270,000.  That is $45,000 per year net worth growth that we are aiming for.  I think it's nice how it has worked out.  We expect to be saving less and possibly drawing down assets as we pay for college over the next 6 years.  $45,000 is a lower bar than we had been aiming for initially.  I expect a major push of working hard and getting college done without any debt.  But...  I am also feeling a lot of, "exceeded goals in recent years, so can chill as we get through the next few years."  The plan is to rely on our assets to do most of the work re: retirement and longer-term future.  That will be the "chill" part.

2021:  We did it!!  We hit $1 Mil net worth.    🥳🙌🎉  

According to the bottom of my sidebar, we've hit $545K of our $600K financial independence goal.  This was a 10-year goal that we have almost hit in 5 years.  (The goal was to add $600K to our net worth, doubling from $600K to $1.2 Mil).  

It will be realistic to get there in 2022.  Will see if the stock market and real estate market cooperates.

I am personally kind of happy that we didn't fully make that goal because I can just leave my sidebar as is.  Basically, I am not going to mess with it.  The new goal I am formulating in my mind (to memorialize next year) is probably going to be $800K total cash/investments, to hit financial independence goal.  This presumes that we pull $200K equity from our home when we downsize.  The old goal was $1 Mil + paid-for home.  Which will basically remain our goal.  But presuming that we pull $200K home equity to get there, will make this easier to measure while the real estate market is crazy.  

Of course, if we did hit that "+$600K financial independence" goal this year or if we hit it next year, it is meaningless at this point.  Our spending isn't going to be realistically $40K per year until our kids are self sufficient and our mortgage is paid off.  Those are the two other hurdles we have to get past for financial independence.  So I am personally not in any huge rush.  Also, to be clear, it's just about not *having to* work and that independence.  I have my absolute dream job at this point and MH misses more meaningful work and the identity that comes with that (but is still very held back by our needier child who has yet to get his driver's license yet).  I am always kind of bemused how often people finish paying for college, get their house paid off, hit these big goals and then have big career gains.  But I can see how that is probably how it is going to play out for MH and I.  That seems to be the track we are ending up on.   

Taxes (Almost) Done

January 9th, 2022 at 03:42 pm

Feeling productive today.  Got our taxes mostly done.  Is generally how I handle it.  Just get everything entered and then double check that tax forms match my records, as those forms come in.  Try to file before February.

I really miss the professional work software and how much time it saved me.  I've just been throwing tax projections into last year's software and then mentally tweaking what I know is different for the next year. It's not great but it's the most cost effective (and fast) way I can figure out how to do tax projections.

I had to share because when throwing all my numbers into tax software I was coming up with some large tax due at first.  Was kind of ignoring and figuring it would sort out as I entered more data.  Oh yeah, that extra $6K in medical expenses this year, ended up putting us massively over the standard deduction.  That did help.

Towards the end though I still had $2,000 shown due.  At the very end it was $2,001.  Did I mess thing up that bad?  Nope, I figured it out pretty quickly.  That last $2,000 was college tax credits.  Did I literally get our taxes down to the penny?  Er, down to $1?!  Holy cow!

I told MH to give me a gold star.  😁

In the end, I refined a couple of more deductions and so the taxes went down a bit.  The only estimate that remains is I threw in some investment dividends as 'taxable' and I know a lot of that will sort out to non-taxable (qualified dividends at 0% tax rate).    So that's the one thing I have to wait for to finalize.  Should get investment tax forms in 1-2 weeks.  

Quick Check In

January 3rd, 2022 at 03:29 pm

I am happy how 2021 shook our financially and have done some tax projections and updated my sidebar for 2022 goals (basically same as always).

I will delve deeper when I have some time. 

Just popped on the computer this morning to execute some rebalancing trades.  The *one* thing I had to get done before today was I usually just do a Morningstar X ray to get a snapshot of our investments and returns for the year.  I mean, it take a couple of minutes for tons of data.  But it's the only thing I really had the time and energy for, and that had to be done this weekend. 

I guess fair enough, it was also driving me crazy and I sat down to figure out my 2022 taxes so I could update my 2022 budget.  That is also what I got done.  

Now that we have the electric car back at 100%, I think it would be interesting to do a daily spending snapshot.  As we no longer have mega grocery expenses (MM) and no longer have auto gas expenses.  But I know I won't have the time for it.  February might be a better month for that.

That reminds me of our one frugal "fail".  Electrify America (EA) was entirely free during the long Holiday week.  We took advantage and got 60 free miles on Christmas Day.  & then MH drove MM(18) and his friends back to school yesterday.  I am guessing we got 400 free miles.  It would cost approximately $10 total to fill up the car at home, both before and after.  $5 per charge at home.  I don't know how often we will be driving MM(18) to/from school (not as much in the future) but it's nice to have the electric option.  Even better when it's free!

Oh yeah, the fail part...  

MH chose to stop at a place at a restaurant and he had three teenagers to feed.  When talking to him later he mentioned I might have seen the $90 restaurant bill.  😲 (Nope, I had not seen that!)  But oh well.  I am trying to go through the math in my head and that would have been a $75 drive in the gas car anyway.  Nice to be able to give everyone a ride with that kind of money, treat all the kids, and then throw a tip on top of that.  (In return, MM had also gotten a free ride home at the beginning of break).

We usually never travel at all on busy/holiday weekends.  Obviously that is changing with the "kid away at college" thing.  The chargers were really crowded this weekend, versus usually no one really there.  ???  I don't know how much is people making the extra effort for free.  MH was willing to wait 10 minutes for a charger, if it was free.  I would say we only stuck to the EA chargers because they were free.  It was crowded but there was always at least one open charger when MH reached each EA station.  

1 More Day!

December 31st, 2021 at 03:49 pm

Our net worth is up $200K for the year.  !!

We are at the whim of the stock market.  Waiting to see how today shakes out. 

Most of these gains were real estate gains.  It had been pretty stagnate here post recession but got knocked loose this year.  & I mean, we were nowhere near peak real estate levels in 2020 but now we have surpassed the peak (that we hit in 2005).

I had been estimating +$250K but I am looking at recent real estate sales and I am going to lower my housing estimate to be more conservative.  Better to have to bump it up another $50K next year than to bump it down $50K next year.

Dec 2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

December 31st, 2021 at 03:09 pm

2021 TALLY:

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

$30 Venmo ($10 x 3 Sign Up Bonuses)

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

$830 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Ongoing rewards:

+$313 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$80 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$108 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$1,046 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,377

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 2021).

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

Total 11 Years = $29,612 ***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.***

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

Final tally is complete!

Got a boost from charging MM's surgery this month.  So it was a bigger December boost than usual.

So close to $30K!  

Nov 2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

December 24th, 2021 at 05:54 pm

2021 TALLY (Preliminary):

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

$30 Venmo ($10 x 3 Sign Up Bonuses)

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

$830 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Ongoing rewards:

+$313 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$80 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$76 Visa Rewards (3% cash back restaurants/fuel).  Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$875 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the *big* expense that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,174

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 2021).

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 = $2,174

Total 11 Years = $29,409 ***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 2021 tally.

Note:  I really lost interest in credit card rewards this year.  The exception was an easy offer to help offset college set up costs.  I used that $800 towards a college laptop for MM(18).  

I've commented in my last couple of posts that I hope to add a little breathing room to our very tight monthly spending budget, given windfalls and raises this year.  We haven't "lived without" the prior 20 years, but it's always the credit card rewards and extras that give us that extra breathing room.  If we can squeeze that out of *my* paycheck, I might not be as inclined to seek our bigger credit card rewards.  Will see...

I suppose that I plan to do a small reward when DL(16) gets his driver's license.  Something he can offset his first 6 months of insurance with.  Because I did that for MM(18).

Of course, the monthly credit card rewards are a no-brainer.  Will probably end up being $1,500-ish this year.  We will continue to redeem these rewards and add them to our investments. 

Gift Card Balances Dec 2021

December 24th, 2021 at 03:19 pm

HOTEL:

--------

$50 Hotel Coupon

 

MOVIES:

--------

$100 Regal

$ 50 Regal

$ 10 Regal (concessions)

$50   Art House Theater

 

RESTAURANTS:

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

$50 Cracker Barrel (small balance left)

$50 Olive Garden

$25 Chili's

$5   Jamba Juice (Gift)

$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Gifts)

 

RETAIL:

---------

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

$25  Kohls Gift Card (DL Christmas Gift)

 

REGIFT:

---------

$25  Starbucks

 

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

Just doing an update because we got some holiday gifts.  

We've had that Regal gift card forever but I guess haven't used much during the pandemic.  MH has a Regal specific movie pass and goes to the movies several times a week.  He told me a few days ago he still had $6 left but he is taking MM(18) to the movies a lot during his break.  I should probably just cross that out, they may have already spent that last $6.  I don't think I have been to the movies since the pandemic started?  Not Regal.  We've been to the art house theater a couple of times, now that I think about it.  That gift card is more used when MH brings MM or I along.  & even with his movie pass he just gets so many points and free tickets.  I should probably buy a Regal gift card for 2022 (so I don't have to figure movie expenses from our monthly budget) or ask for that for MH's birthday.  Buying it ourselves would be a nice use of gift cash.  

I insisted that MH use that Cracker Barrel gift card in Florida but they didn't use the entire balance.  Those restaurant ones are all pre-pandemic gift cards too.  Except for jamba juice, got some new gift cards this year.  That's a "would never spend $6 of my own money on a smoothie" thing, but it's a nice gift.   There's a jamba juice right by my work and I enjoy the treat sometimes.

DL receive a Kohls gift card.  I wanted to make sure that we don't lose track of that.  Might just trade him $25 for the gift card.

We bought $300 Target cards on discount this year and I donated one already ($100).  In past years I stocked up more for dorm purchases and school supplies, but don't expect to spend much at Target this year.  They remodeled our Target and it's terrible now.  They no longer stock the groceries we were buying (mostly cat food/litter and granola bars, plus just random things that were very cheap at Target).  

Starbucks is in the regift pile (no coffee drinkers here).  

Edited to add:  MH read my mind.  He bought a Regal gift card for Christmas!  I have no idea why, because we haven't exchanged gifts in like 20 years.  It was just so weird because I was going to do that.  He got $50 (came with $10 free concessions).  I told him to just pick up another one.  Not sure that will use the concessions gift card, but whatever.  We can always regift those.   He told me he *still* has that $6 left on the $100 gift card.  That he has too many free tickets piled up so he has been using free passes for all the movies he is taking MM(18) too over the winter break.

More This & That

December 24th, 2021 at 03:13 pm

MH & I have been talking about doing some kind of weekly date night.  Eating out more sounds nice in theory, but am resistant because about 99% of our "diet" is just never eating out.  & my employer is feeding us once every week, which is already a lot (as to calories).  When you are used to eating all of your meals at home, that once per week is very noticeable. Anyway, I don't want to see movies every week, and neither of us wants to eat out every single week.  So we finally decided we should probably alternate.  & obviously could do other date things too, but those would just be our obvious preferences.  I expect a lot of the movies will mostly be watched at home (we have a large screen/home theater).  

We've been discussing because our dollars are stretching further (monthly spending budget) with just the three of us.  & it's easier to get out for a night when we don't have to cook for bottomless pit older child.  But I did also receive 5% raise for 2022 and would like to redirect some of those dollars to a more relaxed budget.  

We did receive a movie gift card and a restaurant gift card for Christmas, so that was a nice start.  

We already had plans to eat out Monday night.  Wasn't really thinking, it was at the mall.  (I'd generally not go anywhere near a store/mall the month of December).  But we decided to make a reservation and give it a try.  It worked out okay.  Used our gift card and spent $50 of our own money.  (The timing just worked out, did not know that was the gift card we were getting for Christmas and already had made plans).

On a whim, I checked the chargers at the mall, expecting that it would be difficult to park but the chargers might be open.  They had some new free chargers.  Woohoo!  There were only two and they were taken, but just want to remember for next time, when maybe the mall isn't at 100% capacity.  Chargers are just popping up everywhere.

MH's electric car got a new battery!  It's a 2017, so basically it's getting a new engine/battery and a new 8-year warranty.  We kept our last couple of cars for 14 years, so that works out pretty well (if this gives us basically a 13-year warranty).  I think the #1 question I have gotten about our electric cars is, "What if you have to spend $10,000 to replace the battery??"  I've always felt very *shrugs* about that, but some of our friends/relatives were early adopters of the Prius and other hybrids (still have those cars 25 years later) and the warranties are very good in our state.  I've said in past blog posts, YMMV in other regions.  Here, I am not concerned about it.  Of course, we chose the Volt/Bolt for our cars because they don't have the battery degradation problems that other electric cars have.  & the warranty is there for the bad luck factor (if something random goes terribly wrong). 

{The battery replacement was a recall due to fire risk.  Probably nothing wrong with it, but an abundance of caution thing.  I intend to blog more about this, one of these days}.

With the car fixed, we should be back to 100% electric driving.  I was on track to only buy 2 gallons of gas this year.  But then we had to park the EV for all the longer trips we were doing.  So maybe we can try for 2022.  Make it a 2 gallon year.

I looked at where our net worth is for the year and we are up $250K!  Will see how things shake out 12/31.  

My last post got buried, but I mentioned a life changing windfall.  & how I was having trouble really believing it or wrapping my brain around it.  For the best, because I have no idea what is going on with that.  We did receive some nice checks for Christmas, but nothing we discussed and the kids got nothing.  ???  I asked MH about it at dinner Monday night and he was on the same page.  I didn't know what was lost in translation, playing telephone, and thought he might have more clarity.  Instead, he said at some point, "We are putting $50K to the mortgage?"  ???  He corrected himself, he forgot in the moment the money was nothing we had discussed.

I asked MH if he thought they would do more in January or next year and he said, "Heck if I know."  Overall, it's for the best.  I've felt deeply uncomfortable with MIL basically taking FIL's money and passing it along.  It was clear she didn't intend to discuss with FIL.  & even if it was her money, I'd still be uncomfortable.  They need to take some time to grieve and clear their heads.  So as nice as bunch of money would have been I am very okay with things.  & probably relieved with my "too good to be true, can't count my chickens" personality.  My in-laws have never been weird like this when it comes to money (as weird as they are with everything else), but this is admittedly different and weird.  Some part of me probably expected some "weird".  

Off the top of my head, I think we will probably set aside college money for next year (is what the in-laws presume we need the money for) and will probably put $10K to the mortgage.   But MH and I will have to discuss this weekend and make our final decisions.  I want to make the large mortgage payment before the year-end.  Still, clearly a nice windfall.  With college paid for sophomore year, I expect that MH and I can cash flow everything else we were discussing.  I ended up covering wisdom tooth surgery from my bonus.  We can fund MH's movie with our money, if we aren't paying for college with our income.  We've discussed we really need to get our old mattress replaced.  (Hasn't been about money to this point, but might have been after this last year and given our dwindling cash balance, plus college bills).  If we had a mega windfall we were probably going to set aside $5K for "dream spending."  Everything else we discussed, we should be able to just cash flow.  The "dream spending" is off the table, but it's fine.  We didn't have anything short-term or immediate in mind.  & if something else comes up, we might be able to cash flow.  (We were mostly going to throw the windfall at the mortgage).

& that reminds me, we tapped into our own money for the first time, re: MH's film.  Spent about $700 paying actors and crew.  It's an insulting pittance (per person), but it's something.  We owe $350 to the editor, when the edit is done (probably in a couple of months).  Everything else is really fluff.  MH told me he maybe wanted to spend $300-ish submitting to festivals (is only $30-ish per festival).  Other things we have discussed in the past is a wrap party and/or a screening party.  & then travel dollars if it does get into any film festivals.  So really only the $350 that we have committed to and is *needed* to finish the film.  I don't know if I am paying this $700 from MH's income or the windfall, this month.  Doesn't really matter.  Like I said, the windfall is freeing up our dollars that we had been saving for college.  So I guess at the end of the day that is really windfall money.  

I think that MH's work has come back as a skeleton crew, which is why he has been so busy.  I guess they shut down the last week of the year.  Sometimes.  I know he's worked through the holidays in the past because it was so busy.  Versus the first few years were kids were younger and he took this job so that he was home with kids during school breaks.  Anyway, I don't remember him getting paid an entire week off before, but because he is working before and after, he gets a paid-for week.   Plus today and January 3rd, so that's 7 paid days?  Woohoo!  On the flip side, they are being very wishy washy if they will need him in January.  After the first week or two. 

Work is crazed for me end of year.  So I wanted to do like a short daily post and it ended up this hodge podge all over the place, like 5 days later.  But I do have the long weekend and want to get caught up on blog/financial stuff.

This & That

December 19th, 2021 at 02:35 pm

November is probably going down as one of our most expensive months ever.  I don't think that December is off to a great start, either.

I paid about $6K for second quarter college expenses.  Paid the same amount for property taxes.  We drove to the college a couple of times, MH went to Florida and bought a laptop.  Medical expenses, etc., etc.  I was just balancing everything out Dec. 1 and so it looked a little *Yikes!*  But the money Gods have been very nice to us, and so I can probably save MH's next two paychecks (December).   We always pay off the prior month charges and pay all bills the first of the month.  But I am not used to MH working and the extra income (after 18 months off work).  So the money is rolling in pretty nicely.

I got my bonus, but it's mostly going to medical expenses.  My raise (larger than usual) is going to taxes and health insurance increases.  It is what it is.  I pay all the household taxes out of my paycheck (for simplicity).  & I am coming to the realization that it's just always is how it's going to be (my raises will just go to taxes), unless I pull some taxes out of MH's paycheck.  So I am pondering that.  I can keep the simplicity if we deduct a flat dollar amount from MH checks.  That's fine, but we are also coming off of a 18-month layoff and it was nice to just pump up my paychecks with tax savings, same as we did when MH was laid off 20 years ago. Pulling taxes from MH's paycheck will remove some of that "emergency cushion".  But...  I feel like we are ready to graduate into a more relaxed budget. 

Before I realized that my raise would mostly go to taxes**, I was pondering increasing our misc./total spending for the first time ever.  I will have to ponder some more.  If it doesn't pan out, fair enough.  This year has been our most expensive medical year, in addition to paying cash for college.  It might just not be the right time.  I feel so close...  But not quite there yet.  

**Not sure on this yet.  Depends on what they do with the child tax credit next year and why I didn't realize at first that my raise would likely just end up going to taxes.  It seems kind of moot because DL(16) will 100% age out the following year, if not next year.  So I need to start financially and mentally preparing for that big tax increase.  

MM(18) had wisdom tooth surgery this week.  Was not on my radar whatsoever because I have zero wisdom teeth (and MH never needed any removed).  That will eat up most of my bonus.  What was left, will cover our SF weekend in January.  We have a free hotel and my bonus will cover all the shows (SF Sketchfest).  Will have some Christmas/Birthday money to cover parking/meals that weekend. 

Other travels:  Dropped MM(18) off at his college last last last weekend.  (Okay, this post is taking me forever to publish).  We never travel during busy/Holiday times and just weren't thinking.  Had planned more of a leisurely weekend but eventually realized we just had to get out of there and home ASAP.  So we left pretty early Sunday morning.  I think it still worked out pretty well.  We tried a more reasonably priced hotel and went out for a really nice dinner Saturday night.  We were able to beat most of the traffic.  & we did get gas first thing when we got to MM's college town, so that we wouldn't forget.  😉

{That is probably the last gas trip we will take to the college.  Phew!  Our recall number came up and so we get a new EV battery next week.  In the meantime, we've had to limit charging due to risk of fire.  After the fix, should be a useable long road trip car again; can charge and discharge all we want.  Extra bonus: the newer batteries are bigger so we will also get a longer range with this fix.  Merry Christmas to us!}

MH ended up going to Florida to help settle his Grandfather's estate.  He's not the executor, so don't ask me...  ???  Just a weird toxic MIL thing.  By itself, no big deal.  But just the usual over-reliance on MH and no concept that he has a job/family.  & I mean, he's trying to get back to work after 18 months off but it's just been one thing after another.  In the end, MH was able to change to an earlier flight home.  Phew!   

I personally didn't expect to be so knee deep in (estate) details so soon.  Silly me!  I forget why I am always knee deep in everyone's estates.  If nothing else, I will get the tax questions.  But even with friends, they usually deep dive with me because they know I will understand, in addition to wanting financial guidance.  So between that and MH helping with the details, we were both thrown head first into everything.  

I gather that FIL didn't expect to inherit anything (due to a second marriage) and that he is surprised by the size of the estate.  My MIL is being very weird about the whole thing, doesn't want any of the money, wants to pass it all on ASAP to kids and Grandkids.  I'd prefer that they slow down and give it some time.  

I don't really know what any of this means, but it's been thrown out that they want to do the max gift to everyone in my family.  $30K per person, though I wouldn't expect that until 2022.  & I know the gift limits are going up next year, but that buys the in-laws some wiggle room to also do the usual gifts (e.g. the $1K per year/each they have been giving the kids for college). 

Getting into the nitty gritty is another post for another day.  The obvious is the mortgage.  It was our gut feeling as to what to do with our money and it was still the obvious when circling back to long-term goals/plans.  For me personally, I just find it impossible to believe.  & MH is grieving, so there will be more in depth conversations about it all when the money is in hand.  For now...  Yeah, my mind just can not compute.  It's just that past large financial wins have always fallen through at the last minute. MH's family has always been very generous as opposed to my money hoarding family (we both will meet somewhere in the middle when it comes to our own kids.  Seriously, can our parents be any more opposite??).  Though MH's parents are generous, this is the first time they've had a large windfall.  So this does not compute at all for me and I will believe it when I see it.  But at some point I will do a more in depth post of our current financial position and our thought process on the windfall.

In the short run, all I have left in cash is our emergency funds.  (I just peeked to see exactly where we were at.  6-month emergency fund + $33?  That's where we are at).  + probably $1,000 MH's paychecks this month (no further expenses to pay until January).  Plus some Christmas money.  Will see...  MH's work is busy (way busier than I realistically expected) so that is another windfall of sorts.  I don't feel financially stressed whatsoever, because we are saving so much.  Cash is dwindling because it was such an expensive medical year.  

So there's that.  But then I received a $100 check for my birthday (from my parents) and I couldn't even fathom what on earth to do with that.  I ended up donating to a homeless family. 

Obviously, the financial wins currently far outweight the financial challenges.  I guess that sums it up pretty well.

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

I don't have much to say about Christmas.  Our focus this time of year is charity (versus consumerism).  Time flies.  I was looking up in my blog and this is the 5th year that the in-laws gave us $1,000 to donate.  I would have guessed maybe the third year.   But it's the 5th year!

I hadn't looked at things yet, where we donated everything to last year.  But looking through prior Christmas posts, I forgot we also came up with about $500 last year.  *sigh*  Wasn't on my radar at all with mega medical expenses and paying cash for college, etc.  But I can see that I will probably use $500 of the windfall to do that.  I will want to donate to a lot of the usual places:  DL's school, food banks, animal shelters, etc.  

(Usually I earmark some of my bonus for charity, but just didn't have any bonus money left after paying for the surgery).  

We actually were able to donate a $500-ish piece of furniture (misdelivered, we paid -$0-) to that homeless family and I had a new pillow & blanket that I gave them.  (They just got into an apartment).  Based on dollars/value alone I would feel good about things, but I don't want to skip some of the charities that we always donate to.  The list seems to just be getting longer every year.

MH found out that someone who helped with his movie passed away.  😞  He's taking his $250 (1/4 of $1,000) to give to this person's chosen charity and a scholarship fund in their name.  The kids haven't decided yet, where to donate.  

Stuff with MH's movie continues to be interesting.  That just reminded me.   I guess he had committed to paying everyone?  I had no idea! (I knew he wanted to, but didn't know he told everyone up front).  For reference, MH has never recieved a cent helping out with small/independent movies.  The interesting part is that he started to dole out money this week and probably roughly 1/3 the people are refusing to take payment.  ???  Told him to keep that money for applying to festivals, etc.  But I guess that's the bigger value for the actors, if the movie gets some exposure.  & like the donors for this film, there seems to be a mix of "starving artist" and "lots of money to throw around" types.  I am just used to the starving artists (and the general broke-ness of our peer group).  Though even some of the starving artists have been generous with donations.  I continue to be surprised. 

Oops ~ Forgot to Refuel

November 21st, 2021 at 03:44 pm

First, I just want to say that the theme here is OMG, life is crazy but money things are very very good.  This is just getting magnified (the money part).  This week was so busy I feel like I am 10 posts behind on getting caught up.  (& I am determined to get caught up, on some level.  Especially because of all the money stuff.  If I blog about nothing else, will get to the money stuff). 

Money stuff to follow in future posts...

We got MM(18) back from college.  Woohoo!  

My last post:

MM(18) is not spending any money on campus.  He is enjoying the all-inclusive lifestyle.  He's traveling to LA some weekends to work on a joint project with another college.  So he does spend some money on food on the road.  I expect he also has to contribute some to gas.  I've seen a couple of ATM and venmo withdrawals but haven't asked him about those in any detail.  I know he had some club dues to pay, and I just presume he is contributing gas when he gets rides to LA.

We get him home for Thanksgiving break, so we are excited about that. 

In the end MM(18) told me he had more cash now than when he started.  ???  I guess Grandma slipped him $40 when she visited and maybe gave him $30 for Halloween.   He had $80 of club dues to pay, but hasn't really spent any money otherwise.  (Because he withdrew the club money from the ATM, he now has all this extra/new cash).

& that reminds me, his books cost 97% less than when we were in college.  😱  For his degree, they mostly don't use books.  To be honest, the '97% less' was "this is chaos, just order new books at the book store your first quarter and we will pay for them."  That was 97% cheaper.  (MH and I didn't move out of town for college and we found it very overwhelming, getting him moved into dorms, moving 5 hours away, etc.). MH initially didn't agree that he should buy his own books, but he quickly came around, when he realized it will cost pennies.  MM(18)'s problem to figure out in the future.  He is frugal and will figure it out.  He only had to buy books for an english class.  He probably won't need to buy any for his all-science load this next quarter.  The science/math profs just give them pdfs of what they need.

I have the week off.  I was more than happy to drive to paradise to pick MM(18) up and to do the same next weekend to drop him off.  😁  

As to forgetting to refuel...  LOL.  

MH's car is still on recall (it will be a while) and isn't a useful roadtrip car in the short run.  So we are driving the hybrid on longer trips (this is pretty much our only "long trip").  We had the nicest day yesterday.  We stopped by the beach and ate lunch at our favorite little cheapie place by the beach.  The weather was perfect.  We had planned to get gas while eating but didn't pass the gas station on the way in to town.  All *3* of us promptly forgot.  MH and I 99% of the time just plug in our cars overnight to fuel (we've gone 100% electric, except for "long trips during recall").  It's no wonder we forgot.

Fast forward a few hours later and thankfully my car beeped at me and flashed the low fuel warning. !! Thank you newer/fancy car!  My first thought was literally, "But we just got fuel!"  Then quickly, "Oh....  Crap, we were going to but we didn't!"  We were about 30 miles from the next gas.  Which took a while to figure out because we had no cell service.  What I don't like about the newer cars is they just switch to "low fuel" and no longer give you an estimate.  But at that point I had about 30 miles left on gas (& surely an extra gallon of reserve above that).  & I had about 20 miles on electric left.  I had wanted to conserve it for some of the bigger hills but we let it go.  Figured it was better not to run out of gas.  😉  (The car is desgined to be driven with no electric fuel, but I think it needs *some* gas to function.  We erred on draining the electricity first).

That just added a little fun and excitement to our day.  It's been so long since I've had a gas car (er, regularly used gas), that it didn't even cross my mind that we obviously have some gas reserve.  Until I just typed this out right now!  

{Actually, now I am second guessing that last thought.  If it says "low fuel", is that the extra gallon of reserve?  I think it is, with newer cars.  I just looked it up and it's a 8.9 gallon tank.  We used 8.4 gallons.  So we were running as low on gas as we thought we were.  In the old cars, they'd go down to "empty" and you'd still have a gallon.}

In the end, we found cheaper gas anyway.  In the middle of nowhere.  It all worked out. 

Food Spending & College Update

November 13th, 2021 at 04:20 pm

When I thought that MM(18) would blow through his college dining dollars too quickly, I decided to cash out the kids' high school lunch money.  I had about $250 prepaid.  MM(18) never went back to school (in person) and so I transferred his money over to DL(16).  But he's getting free lunch indefinitely.  Initially I liked the idea to have senior year just paid for (while also having big expenses like college).  But I don't even know if DL will have to pay for lunch next year.  It took me a few tries to reach someone but just got confirmation that they are mailing me a check.  Yay!

In the meantime, MM(18) has things figured out pretty well.  The max college dining plan came with coffee and soda bonuses that seemed pretty useless (MM is not a coffee or a soda drinker).  But he figured out that he could buy food at the coffee shops and it counted as "coffee".  So he has an extra $300 to spend down.  It sounds like he will probably squeak by this first quarter.  

My very rough estimate from grocery spending at home was that MM(18) was about half of our grocery spending.  How did this shake out in October?  We spent $550 of our $850 grocery/household budget, allowing me to save $300 towards college food expenses.  I am very pleased with this first month.  That $550 included some food bought for MM(18), feeding a film crew, and also a *lot* of food waste.  We are figuring it out but it will take some time to adjust to our eating habits.  Plus, we've just been in survival mode and will continue to be for a while.

I think that $500/month will be a good estimate going forward (saving $350/month to offset college food costs).  But it will take many months to average out.

MM(18) is not spending any money on campus.  He is enjoying the all-inclusive lifestyle.  He's traveling to LA some weekends to work on a joint project with another college.  So he does spend some money on food on the road.  I expect he also has to contribute some to gas.  I've seen a couple of ATM and venmo withdrawals (from his money/accounts) but haven't asked him about those in any detail.  I know he had some club dues to pay, and I just presume he is contributing gas when he gets rides to LA.  

We get him home for Thanksgiving break, so we are excited about that.  

Another 5 Years

October 31st, 2021 at 01:25 pm

Blogaversary post from 5 years ago (well, some bits and pieces from that post):

We just happen to be on track to hit $1 Mil when our kids should be finishing up college. I am not comfortable dropping down from full-time work until I have a really clear picture of college plans. So I think it works out that those two goals will be hit around the same time. ($1 Mil will be plenty for us to retire on).

I expect that by 50 we will be financially independent. At that point we will just have to regroup. I am not planning to shift to part-time work the day I turn 50 or on the day my kid graduates college. But I think that is just the point in time where we will be running the retirement numbers and fine tuning the final plan. Retirement has been our only substantial financial goal since our kids were born, but in our 20s it was just so far away and nebulous. I think we are allowing that at age 50 it should be a lot more clear and turning into a much shorter term goal.

We also have to decide where on earth we want to live. We know we want to downsize and move. That's all we know. I suppose it depends where our kids and parents are at that time. It's important for us to be near family. I expect the "where" to impact our working/retirement plans in our 50s. 

Other than trying to save up as much as possible, the next 10 years seem pretty nebulous. I don't know that I know much of anything. I expect a lot of change. We've been really boring and stable since having kids, but when I look beyond their high school years we are pretty much open to anything. We don't know where we are going to live. Our kids aren't on any set college path yet. My job is very finite. MH still has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up. I have *no idea* where we will be in 10 years. I'd just like to be on very solid financial ground, and if we achieve that then the rest doesn't matter. The rest is whatever we want it to be.

Things have progressed pretty steadily.  I posted recently that we hit our "financial independence" number (or would likely hit the number this year), but it is kind of useless at this point with the real estate market.  We will need to revise our number upwards as real estate just gets more expensive.  The overall goal is $1 Mil + a paid-for home.   We can achieve this in the next 5 years.

The biggest thing that happened these past 5 years is that my job ended.  I hadn't searched for a job in 17 years and felt a lot of stress about it (I knew I would never stay once my employer retired).  But I knew my job was too good to leave early.  Hindsight 20/20, glad I held on to the bitter end.   I mean, until a reasonable bitter end.  It was difficult to find work/life balance I had become accustomed to and also was difficult to find anything near what I had been paid before.  But it ended up all falling into place.

With the job change, I was just very open to anything.  Mostly wanted to dip my toes to see if the grass was greener.  The grass is *way* greener.  I no longer work in tax, so I no longer work OT hours whatsoever.  I really wouldn't have been surprised if I went for a higher power higher paying job for a few years to get my kids through college (though otherwise so NOT me).  But I was able to find a much easier job with less hours, and I am happy with that shift at this point in my life.  The grass is *way* greener.  Overall compensation ended up the same, but hours/responsibilities decreased.  

We also figured out one half of the college equation.  MM(18) ended up going an extremely practical route, choosing a very low-cost public in-state college that will open up a lot of doors for him.  

DL(16), I have absolutely no clarity on that and will have to let that sort out over the next few years.  

I think the one surprise and big question mark at this point is the health of my family.  Not only is my parents' health declining rapidly (which is a possibility I hadn't thought much about, that they'd need so much help at this point in my life, as I expected in the short run that one could take care of the other).  Not only is that quickly changing, but my BIL has some mystery illness now.  I never expected my sister to still be alive, but with everyone else not doing well, it is for the first time crossing my mind that I might need to eventually be a caregiver for my sister.  I don't know the odds of that, but was nothing that had ever crossed my mind before.  I expect this "last 6 years of getting our kids through college and reaching financial independence" to become more challenging on this family/health front.  I don't know if I might have to take some time off work before crossing that finish line or how things will play out.

Crazy Week

October 30th, 2021 at 06:56 pm

What a week!

So...  After breaking the record streak of no rain.  We immediately broke the record for the most rain in one day.  ???  This caused much chaos.  There's 7 whole people in my office and 3 of them had leaks/issues.  (Our region is not prepared for that kind of weather).

I felt lucky I was able to make it to the hospital for my appointment (with all the flooding and fallen trees).  Phew!  That went as well as could have.  I've got better answers for medical problems I had this year (should be fixed now).  & I had a biopsy done that came back benign early in the week.  Phew!  

{This will be our most expensive medical year ever.  We've all had random health things this year.  Plus MH and I both have had cosmetic cyst removals/biopsies.  The icing on the cake is that MM(18) was referred for wisdom teeth removal.  All of these are extra on top of our health insurance/deductible.  But we did max out our deductible already with all our other medical stuff, so my procedure this week and MH's annual MRI should be $0 or a small co-pay}.

Oh yeah, speaking of medical...  & then MH fell.  So that's more medical stuff in addition to wondering if he'd be able to work, etc.  Just more roller coaster.  He did go to the Doctor mid-week and things seem okay as of today.  He's moving slowly and in pain but is working through it.  Nothing serious.

MH's Grandfather did end up passing early this week.   It sounds like it went about as well as these things can go.  There was time enough to say good bye but not enough time to linger/suffer.  

To be clear, my last post was more about how I am relieved I don't have to drag my entire family to the east coast (and pull MM out of college, etc.).  & most especially when I had that conversation (in the past) re: much younger kids.  Whatever MH wants/needs to do, will just take some time to sort out.  Money is no object, nothing is more important than family.  

Things Take a Turn

October 24th, 2021 at 04:13 pm

The peace was nice while it lasted.  Will take it whenever I can.  It was nice being able to post daily minutiae and not have any major drama in my life, for a few weeks.

That said, MH is out of town and I have a medical procedure next week.  The chaos is just increasing and I was feeling "meh" about getting through the rest of October with sharing daily expenses.  I guess also work has been pretty busy for MH and so we are no longer in "one income" mode.  

MH's Florida Grandfather ended up in the hospital last week.  Initially he seemed to be doing well and I wasn't overly concerned.  He turns 94 this next week, but we are used to the medical professionals under-estimating our 90-something Grandparents.  MH then talked to his parents Friday night and they said they were basically sending him home to die.  It doesn't sound like he is expected to even make it to his birthday.  But I don't know any details and presume we will get more.  They were trying to fly out yesterday (not sure if they made it with all these canceled flights).

I knew it was likely that this summer's Florida trip would be the last one, but I didn't think that MH was cutting it quite this close.

We are waiting to hear more from his parents before deciding how to proceed, but I am guessing MH is going to leave it that he will just be grateful to remember him the way he saw him (more healthy than this).  & I was wise and asked MH's family at some point about funeral expectations in his family and they were very much, "Funerals are for the living" and, "We'd rather you spend your time/money enjoying relatives while they are alive."  Today I am grateful that we already had those conversations and I am not left wondering if we will all be obligated to attend some funeral.  (Meaning, having to drag my kids and everything).   That's how my family is (not much for funerals, and never expected to attend the ones that were had thousands of miles away), but this is the only one of MH's elderly relatives who doesn't live close.  Heck, there hasn't been a death in his family the 26 years we have been together.  This is probably why I asked.

Oct 18

October 20th, 2021 at 02:34 pm

October 18

$11 Lunch

$80 Groceries

Dinner:  Leftovers

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I have to preface this post with the fact that MH is a, "Hell would freeze over before I eat out" personality.  Most especially when it comes to lunch at work.

Anyway, this is what I come home to today:  A bag of chips in a brown paper bag.  MH is asleep.  I don't think he did the grocery run he had planned today (a small one).  I look on the dining card and there's a $11 charge at a Taqueria.  My presumption at this point is that he worked a *long* day, didn't make it to the store.  He was called back to work 5 hour days; has mostly been working 6 hour days.  I guess he worked longer today.

This is what I am presuming with the clues I am left with.  

{MH just woke up and confirmed my conclusion.  He just went to the grocery store.}

Groceries ended up being $80.  This is an expense to feed people on the movie set this week. Will just absorb in our grocery budget. 

So the rain yesterday broke a record 7-month dry spell? The sky was amazing today (it's bee a while since I've seen clouds?).  You can see from this picture the day had a fall vibe to it.  The red tree and the sky was just so pretty. 

Oct 16 & 17

October 20th, 2021 at 02:27 pm

October 16

$97 Groceries

$1 Movie Prop

Dinner:  Cheeseburger Pasta

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MH picked up a prop at a thrift shop today.  $1 for a "creepy doll".   Might pick up a couple of other options.  The original prop was lost to the big/recent fire. 

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October 17

$65 Allowance MH

$40 School Pictures

$12 Home Depot

Dinner:  Potato Soup

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

Spendy day.

MH purchased a weighted blanket.  He went "cheap" for proof of concept.  He might want to get a nicer one if it works for him.  He sleeps terribly and I am sure is a good investment for either him or DL(16).   I probably won't put it in the "allowance" category with my bookkeeping, but is the best way to describe it at this point.

MH did go out to lunch, met with another film backer.  In this case they wanted to make it this whole expensive double date restaurant thing.  I resisted when MH brought up a while ago.  When he mentioned again last night, I said nope.  No way.  I probably would have sucked it up if he gave me more notice.  Anyway, I don't see this charge anywhere.  Did MH have some cash or pay with venmo??  Will ask him later. 

Edited to add:  He paid cash.  He told me he had "too much cash" in his wallet.  I have no idea from where.  I told him to give it to me to deposit next time.  Yeesh.  But for today, it's a budget cheat.  I don't have to figure out how to pay for it, so whatever.  Now that I type this out, it explains better how he spent $20 on those last couple of dinners.  Probably was paying the tab and getting reimbursed cash.  (Probably anything more than $0 is "too much cash", for reference.)

On the way home MH picked up a pack of light bulbs.  One of the kitchen lights went out a few days ago.

Some strange wet stuff started falling from the sky.  MH is *freaking out* because is supposed to get this movie finished this week.  After all the COVID/fire delays.  Rain wasn't on our radar whatsoever.  Unfortunately, during the last few apocalyptic fire seasons, the rain has been very "too little too late."  So we might cancel due to rain this week and it could still be the fire apocalypse the next week.

The in-laws drove down to see MM(18) this weekend, and brought him more food.

Oh yeah, I didn't clarify when I mentioned that he is sick.  There are virtually no COVID cases on his college campus.  He is vaccinated and he hadn't been exposed, so he wasn't required to test.  But he did take a test on Thursday out of curiosity (it was easier to get a test when he felt better and wasn't blocked from going everywhere on campus).  I presumed it was negative because he did meet with his grandparents.  He confirmed today.  Everything else is going around.  The dorm plague, as they call it.  

2021 Credit Card Reward Tally

October 20th, 2021 at 01:53 pm

2021 TALLY:

$800 Cash (Chase Sapphire Quadruple Dip, MH) 

$30 Venmo ($10 x 3 Sign Up Bonuses)

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

$830 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

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

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

I don't personally have any reason to use Venmo.  I tested a free $10 bonus at some point, just for opening an account.  Was more just testing it out for MM, before he turned 18.  

MH was intrigued since money is flowing around (reimbursements and payments) for his movie project.  So he also signed up for the free $10 and has been using Venmo.  This was probably smart because one of his relatives Venmoed a Graduation cash gift for MM, when MH saw this relative in Florida.  It was very random and unexpected, but doubt he would have bothered if he couldn't just send a Venmo.  (& literally, no one has *ever* asked us to Venmo before.  Talk about timing).

I had MM(18) sign up for Venmo when he turned 18.  I just noticed that he used it for the first time (saw a withdrawal from his bank account).  I figured he'd get some utility from Venmo as a college student. 

Oct 14 & 15

October 18th, 2021 at 12:33 am

October 14

$70 Target (Groceries)

$20 MH Allowance Spending

$0 Movies

Dinner:  Leftovers

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

I guess my boss didn't realize I was working yesterday and is out of town Thursday through Friday.  Makes for a *very* quiet week.  👍  

MH is off seeing a "free" movie with his unlimited pass.  & he went to Target after work today.  Not sure what all he got, but probably just groceries.  We were out of cat food.

Edit:  Found the receipt later.  Dishwasher detergent, granola bars (lots on sale), cat food, soap, etc. 

& later I saw $20 spending pop up.  I will confirm with MH that it's legit, but was some sort of movie spending (which pretty much sums up all of MH's spending).  I did think, "whoa, MH is getting spendy this month."  Probably spurred by being back at work.  But I glanced at our spending for the year and we are both up to $500 of our $600 annual allowance spending.  We both seem to be on track.  I usually do little more than glance at my accounting software at the end of the year.  We have the same personal spending budget from 20+ years ago so we just subconsciously seem to be aware. 

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October 15

$12 MH Allowance Spending

Dinner:  Indian Butter Chicken

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

Yeah, MH is definitely enjoying a little extra cash flow.  More movies.  

I couldn't remember which weeks MH gets paid (every other week), after having 18 months off.  I didn't really care enough to figure it out.  But I just had this lightbulb moment today.  I still had his paychecks set up in Quicken (it pops up every 2 weeks and I have just been clicking on "ignore").  So I peeked and payday is next week.  That's nice because I pay all the bills the first of every month.  October is done and paid for.  But he will get one October paycheck.  It won't be enough to pay for our vacation last week but it will cover most of it.  I will just send his paycheck to the credit card when it arrives, to cover vacay expenses.  

Oct 12 & 13

October 16th, 2021 at 11:54 pm

October 12

$9 Car Wash

$25 Toll Tag Refill

Dinner:  Leftovers

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

Today was a mixed bag.

We live in a community with a high number of retirees and self-employed.  If I want to go wait in a really long line, I do anything on a weekday.  (Sounds counter intuitive I guess, but how it has always been for me).  Today ended up being very hit and miss.  I alternated between no lines (flu shot and car wash) and excruciating waits (1 hour in a pharmacy full of sick people.  Ugh!)  The credit union (I had cash to deposit) was so crowded I just left and thought, "nevermind."  

My car badly needed a wash after 1000 miles driven in 4 days; the last trip was in the woods and on some dirt roads. 

MH is off at a concert in Oakland, with DL(16).  They found some all ages place where one of DL's favorite bands was performing.  I am trying to think of what expenses they might have.  Sounds like the parking was free.  Tickets were paid for a long time ago.

Oakland was 170 miles round trip.  That's about $4 in electric fuel.

Edited to add:  I figured there'd be a toll but it took several days to process.  I'll just put it here because it was re: the concert.  The toll was $6 but it triggered a refill on our account.  It took us 13 months to get through the last $25.

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October 13

NSD

Dinner:  Chile Rellenos

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MH got a free meal at work today. 

Dribs and drabs of money rained down from the sky.  I received a very small refund for MM's auto insurance.  (Kind of pitiful, if that was the "away from home" discount).  I will follow up later.  I also received $7-ish from some milk settlement.

Wednesday is my work-at-home day and DL's short day where I drive him to school.  This year he starts school at 10:30.  Work was fine.  I felt like everyone was giving me space and probably figured I was more busy than I was (after a week off).  It's always crazy busy, but I don't get a lot of emails in general.  Will see how tomorrow goes.  

MH drove about 40 miles east to work on his movie.  They were doing some voice over?  I don't know.  MH told me at some point (last week) this week would be crazy busy.  Indeed. 

Oct 10 & 11

October 16th, 2021 at 11:21 pm

October 10

NSD

Dinner:  Greek Chicken Penne

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Another No Spend Day.

Things that would have been nice 10-20 years ago:  MH's cousin just made the lower-cost move to our locale.  This was always their plan, to move here when their eldest started high school.  So it wasn't pandemic or recently motivated.  But the pandemic probably made it an easier transition.  They both have kept their mega high paying Bay Area jobs, for now.  

They moved here a couple of months ago but are just finishing up their move and getting more settled.  So we went over last weekend to see their new home.  They have chickens, so we scored some fresh eggs.

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October 11

$9 Groceries

$10 Donation

Dinner:  Burritos

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MM(18) was radio silent over the weekend and then late Sunday told us he was sick.  I have been pretty zen about him going off to college, but *this* I am not zen about.  😔  That said, I instantly felt better because he told me his high school friend (one of his best friends) was bringing him hot tea.  She brought him meals a couple of times and he is clearly being well cared for.  Phew!  That makes it so much easier.  

I did recall that the local synagogue delivers free soup to sick college students (other parents have brought up in the parent group).  I made those arrangements on Monday.  Isn't that the nicest thing?!  I left a donation.  

I've got two days off of work.  Which is helpful, and gives me some extra time to make arrangements if he does need anything.  (I took a whole week off, but straddled weeks because DL was home last week and we both wanted some quiet time).

I was envisioning some more leisurely time off but then everything got crazy last week.  I was going to run some errands today but it was crazy windy here.  To the point I didn't want to risk damage to my car.  Decided to keep it mostly inside today.  But MH went back to work and asked me to take DL(16) to school and make dinner.  So that is how my quiet day is going.  I decided to put off some other errands until Wednesday when I am working from home (and driving DL to school).  I was able to get an appointment tomorrow to get my new glasses adjusted.  I will get my flu shot while I am there.  & if I remember, I also have a store return to do in that area.  It will be nice to kill all those birds with one stone.

Hell has frozen over and I have the house entirely to myself.  It may be the first time in 18 months!  

I did stop by the grocery store on the way home (from dropping DL off at school).  I told MH I'd rather just make burritos (an old family recipe).  MH told me we had everything on hand for that.  But later figured out that we needed tomato sauce.  I picked up some almonds for $5 (I am not sure MH knows those are on crazy sale on Mondays.  We already had two bags, but it was 50% off!)  Sunflower seeds were 60% off so I picked up some of those.  Got a few cans of tomato sauce, some sourdough bread, snacks, and some flowers.  Spent $9.  Yup, I used up the quarterly grocery store bonus/reward of $19.  That was a nice surprise!

MH asked me to cook dinner because he had a focus group.  It was $65 for about 1 hour.  Definitely a good money day.

This was the first time MH has been back to work since May 2020.  He said it was definitely a smaller crew but it was busy.  I am still not holding my breath.  Not expecting great hours or consistent work until things get more "normal". 

It ended up being a very good day.  I just needed some leisure and quiet.  I was skeptical early on how "leisurely" it would be, but a quiet house and an extra 8 hours goes a long way. 

Oct 9

October 12th, 2021 at 04:13 am

October 9

NSD

Dinner:  Burrito Bowls (chicken, black beans & rice)

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First No Spend Day (NSD), this month.

We drove up to camp and spent the day cleaning cabins.  It was good to go up there, it wasn't quite the hellscape we imagined.  & at work everyone was telling me (based on their own personal fire experiences), "Will never get the smoke smell out!"  

The camp itself (all of the buildings) were spared but the sewer lines and water lines were damaged.  I guess it sounds like maybe they got that fixed (had to get fixed before winter).  They had one bathroom up and running.  Ash had blown into all of the buildings and there was smoke damage.

We volunteered to help all day.  It was not bad at all.  Just more of a thin film of ash on everything. I personally did not smell smoke.  After we had cleaned out one of the cabins and locked it up, MH went back at some point to get something.  He said it was already starting to smell smokey inside that cabin, after locking it up for maybe an hour.  But we got the sense that it will at least air out quickly. 

The region in general did smell very smokey.  On the road, we smelled a lot of smoke.  I don't know how long that will last.  It's just the lingering smell of smoke.

Holy cow, it was *cold*.  I did check the weather and we wore appropriate clothing.  Phew!  They told us when we got up there that it had snowed the day before.  The water was not useable until around noon (pipes were frozen). They are just rushing to get everything cleaned up before it gets colder.

We left camp feeling like it's feasible it will be open next summer.  Open and a pleasant experience.  


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