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July 16th, 2022 at 02:21 pm

Ugh.  I accidentally deleted my last post.  User error.  It was a more in depth June EV update.  Oh well.

Note for the future:  Returned from Tahoe round trip with 80 miles left?  Something like that, if we didn't charge.  

The last week or so has been pretty rough. No time or inclination to get into it all.  But I've never gotten past this work jinx where everyone is in the hospital and their life is a cluster (5 years at this point, across multiple jobs).  I can't imagine what it's like to have well employees who show up.  My employee is on her 10th? emergency of the year (not exaggerating) and so I am scrambling to cover for her *and* replace her.  I also had a difficult weekend re: aging parents.  Compounded with extreme cheapskate.  Age + cheap is not a good combo.  

Edit to add:  Employee ended up quitting on Friday (after being out 2 weeks).  Thankfully, we already have a replacement lined up but she can't start for a couple of weeks.  & we haven't had to train anyone new since MM(18) started helping us out in 2019.  Everyone's given notice and trained the next person.  So...  I've got one or two months of extra work chaos.

They finally figured out what her current health problem is.  She needs brain surgery.  It's not good.  At least it's not a brain tumor.  My last job was all brain tumors.  Brain surgery is never good, but she sounded optimistic about the whole thing. 

I am so relieved that we already hired her replacement.  It was an easier task when we were feeling put out from her constant absences.  It quickly turned very somber and depressing. 

So...  That was one of the craziest weeks I've ever had.  But it's still nothing like 2018/2019.  If I have time to blog and share any of it, it's not as insane as most of those years were.

Ideally I'd like to get out a few shorter blog posts, but I am not holding my breath.  I'm amazed I was even able to get this one posted.

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.

Life is Slowing Down

March 15th, 2020 at 03:20 pm

Life is slowing down enough to blog.

Reminder to give blood if you are able. I am having mixed feelings about it. I hadn't given blood in a while, for health reasons. I decided to re-evaluate next week and that I may be able to give blood in this case. Not sure, but just sharing as a reminder to those who are able to give blood.

MH is currently overwhelmed with empathy for our neighbor. We don't really know them from Adam, but the wife was very pregnant. Anyway, he texted them yesterday if they needed anything from the store. They replied they were fine but the baby had just been born. !! So MH is freaking out, just trying to imagine what that must be like. Being new parents is stressful and scary enough without a pandemic. On the flip side, better to have that baby now than any later.

I mentioned in my last post that things are pretty calm here, but that we are avoiding the crowds. We live in a tight knit community and I see a lot of people reaching out to help those housebound, etc. Will see how that continues as panic levels increase.

We personally don't stockpile anything. But when I say this, I think people take it the wrong way. Just as an example, we bought an larger family size of laundry detergent for the first time last week, just because it was on sale. It might have been a week or two ago. Strangely, we have never done this before, but probably just is a factor of sales and pricing. (We did far more laundry with babies, compared to now). Anyway, I think it just happens to be timing but we seem to be well stocked, with MH buying a lot of stuff just by chance in recent weeks. Was just thinking about it more because I did laundry yesterday so was calculating how long our laundry detergent would probably last. 1 year. So we don't "stockpile" because we only bought one box. But I will admit that using things carefully and sparingly (always) most definitely factors into these things. & we've probably never before bought so many things in more family sized packaging. The kids have been eating *so much* that we have been doing that more and more the last couple of years.

I did notice we are almost out of cat litter though. If I was kind of doing this exercise throughout the day of, "How long will this last?" I had an "oh crap" moment as I realized we were about out of cat litter. Just something I hadn't thought about at all. I'll probably run to Target and pick up some when they first open today. I had been avoiding Target/crowds but don't expect it to be an issue early in the morning.

I think things are sinking in, in their own time. I had personally been planning to go to the gym this morning. Sounded like a fine idea last night. I was surprised MH balked at that a little since he just took DL(14) yesterday. But this morning I am realizing it's probably dumb and unnecessary. If MH and I are only leaving the house to go to work at this point... I would have pegged the gym as the first place to be a virus factory. But it just stands out more when you aren't really otherwise going anywhere or doing anything. So why would the *only* place that I go be the virus factory? It may be moot very soon as I imagine they will shut down soon. We've only been back in the gym a month or two, so it's not even a big change for us. I do like the more expensive ellipticals, but I have an elliptical at home. DL(14) has weights and will be fine without the gym for a while. Which is all the more reason it seemed silly to go to the gym today.

The in-laws are coming to our house for St. Patty's Day dinner today. I have mixed feelings about it. I think it's dumb that they are coming, they live 100 miles away. But MIL is gonna do what she's gonna do. If we told her she is not invited, she'd just show up anyway. Mixed feelings? I am *so* confused because MIL is the most hysterical person I have ever known. I am just glad she isn't trying to force us down into a bomb shelter, I guess. I'll take what I can get.

I feel pretty *shrugs* about work. Probably because I work in a very small office. At most, am only exposed to 7 other people on a daily basis. I personally hate working from home. Obviously will do it from the greater good. But MH I think was excited to make me stay home more and I am just, "Nope, NOT volunteering for that." But I do work from home one day per week and it won't be any big change if it comes to that. Nothing I have to make any big adjustments for.

No one else's schools had been closed as of Friday. MH was in disbelief when I told him, so I started looking up counties. Yes, there's probably 4 different counties represented by our 6 employees. Clearly there should be some bigger region-wide decision. This is just kind of silly at this point, why one school is open and the one down the street is not. I imagine that will start to sort out next week.

{I probably wasn't clear. Our kids are home indefinitely. But they are old enough, the only thing I am doing is trying to make sure they have enough food. That's the extent of the brain power I have given to that. MM is practically an adult at this point and they will both do what they need to do if school moves online or whatever happens. They usually eat so much that they pack lunch AND buy. I saw someone defensive saying online people are buying more food to feed their kids at home, and that certainly is adding to the food buying. We bought a *lot* of food this week, for that reason}.

So, will see how work shakes out next week and if we all get sent home. I'd embrace a break after the last few years I've had (my work stars have been aligned to "crazy" for a very long time) but I don't see it in the short-run. Even if we halted all construction, my workload is just infinite at this point. It may slow down or get a little quiet, but at this point I don't foresee any time off whatsoever, for myself. Most everyone else in my office will be impacted by school closures, they all have much younger kids. They are all dual-income or single moms. My kids will be available to help with babysitting if need be. Is an idea that has been thrown around. I just don't know if their schools will end up online, we are supposed to get an update today. DD(14) goes to a very small school that wants to keep things going online. MM(16) attends a very large school and I don't think they will even bother trying online. Their schools are both polar opposite extremes when it comes to size. Will see.

Back to St. Patty's day Dinner... We are soaking the corned beef in beer in the crockpot all day. Yum!

Edited to add: I was right by the gym so I drove by out of curiosity, expecting it to be empty. It was crowded this morning. Target and grocery store were both fairly empty (of people). No one wants to wake up early on a weekend, even during a panic. Except to work out?

This & That

March 7th, 2020 at 02:32 pm

Same old, same old here.

My Dad was diagnosed with cancer. The survival rate of this cancer is 97%. Along those lines, they are doing nothing to treat this cancer (for the moment). It's just such an ugly and scary word. Honestly, 90% of why I am writing this down is so that I remember. I will never otherwise remember in this sea of terrible/worse news.

Other things going on...

I booked a very cute hotel in "Little Denmark" in Southern California. We are going to mostly redo the trip I missed in the fall. The purpose of this trip, during spring break, is to visit the small private college than MM(16) is very interested in. This college tour is more for the adults, since he has already been. I wasn't exactly planning to redo the trip I missed (I ended up being too sick to go). But as we get into the details we are using the in-law timeshare first two nights (2-night minimum) and we have to keep it to 3 nights if we don't want to board our cat. So we are just booking the same trip. Otherwise I might have added a night and stayed in Pismo Beach the last night. But we both have work and need to get back anyway.

We always stay at the same property in LA. It's a few blocks from Disney. MH mentioned the place cost "pennies" as far as timeshare points. Didn't think much about that until I typed it out just now. It certainly adds a convenience factor if we have a free home base that we can use frequently near this college.

Back to heavier things, we are also planning to relive our honeymoon for our 20th Anniversary in the fall. Going to Florida and spend some time with MH's Grandfather. He is slowing down considerably and so that is why we decided to kill two birds with one stone. & so it will be some parts fun and some parts heavy.

Florida, will figure out later. MH also wants to go to a film festival in Austin in the fall. I am writing this down for the, "I will never remember this" category.

{Edited to add: I started this post a few days ago. We may start locking in super cheap airfare during this panic}.

We are so spoiled by the weather right now. It's probably a very early spring. But usually spring is a season I don't really get to experience. After working in tax for 20-ish years. Last year I was working two jobs through May, so I most definitely did not experience Spring 2019. This may be the only thing lifting my mood right now. It was 80F degrees the last few days.

Of course, the down side to the weather is we haven't had any winter slowdown whatsoever and work is crazed. Because, of course... *sigh*

I still have a ways to go, but I suppose I feel more "caught up" and in some realm of normal. I've got quite a few little things that if I could just knock out this weekend I would feel pretty good. I need to wrap up some side work (major procrastinating), mail our state tax return (saves me $20 versus e-file), freecycle a couple of more items, etc. I am going to try very hard to get through most of this list Friday so that I can enjoy my weekend.

{I failed because Friday was totally and completely insane.}

There was a coronavirus death a couple of blocks from my office. There was no one on the roads the next day. ??? I called MH and said, "Is it Saturday?" He said no. I said, "Must be Coronavirus, I don't know." Yup, Bingo. I am glad the people in my office seem to be sane. Yes, of course you should stay home if you are ill or immunocompromised, but the freeways that day were a sign of extreme panic.

Joined a New Gym

February 1st, 2020 at 06:44 pm

I think we've always been fairly balanced and there's been an element of "cashing in past frugality" throughout my entire blog. Heck, my husband staying home with kids is probably the epitome of that. But I also think that set us backwards (you know, cutting our income in half) and so maybe it *feels* like it more these days that we are cashing in. There is definitely more to cash in, these days.

I think I am done working OT (for the rest of my life), so that is pretty sweet.

I am still loving my car, which has been a significant step up from any prior car we have owned.

Just some examples.

& now one more...

I personally *love* the gym and actually go to the gym. But... Our old gym went out of business and transferred me to a really horrible gym. I ended up dropping my membership last year. But... even the prior gym I had made some concessions for a gym that actually would fit my budget.

Because I had taken such a large pay cut, I did not feel that I could seriously join another gym last year. I have been going to my aerobics classes ($2.50 per class) and I never feel stronger than when I go to those classes regularly. (It's more of an aerobics/yoga/calisthenics class; the stretching is really key for me). I also purchased a heavy duty (used) elliptical machine. It's a long story, but haven't really used much. It may be too harsh on my knees. I have been really really careful because once I hurt my knee then I am down and have to start all over. I am already in "start over" mode with being so sick the end of last year. I was out at least 4 weeks that I could not work out at all. So, no idea if I will ever use or keep elliptical. It sounds more ideal but the really good ones are very large and expensive. I don't know if I will ever be happy with a home version. This was my giving it a try.

In the end, DL(14) is really into weights and working out. He has a pull up bar and some weights and he seems very happy with that. In fact, I think I mentioned the gym to him a few weeks ago (I don't remember why). & he was kind of just, "I am not a gym person." Maybe being a little too cheap and stingy. But apparently he started thinking about it and had a change of heart. I told MH that I was fine with it. That MM(16) started doing gymnastics around the same age, which is roughly $100 per month. So I threw out $100/month budget. Thinking that the adults might have to join also and just being open minded to giving him a comparable "gift". Not that I expected it to end up being that much.

MH and DL have been shopping around the gyms. But some of them don't even allow kids at all. Planet Fitness is silly for someone who wants to do big heavy weights (we just got one in the past few months, too bad because that one is probably more my style). We are getting a 24 Hour Fitness soon and so the gym we joined may be a placeholder until 24 Hour opens up. But the only thing that worked at all was a smaller regional gym that is fairly high end. They have *all* the amenities. Talk about a complete 180. Definitely the fanciest gym I have ever belonged to. I guess DL(14) had good timing, with all the January deals.

Oh yeah, but I have to back up. I really thought he would just join a more discount gym, at first. Some of the kids' friends were really pushing that they join the gym we ended up with. My initial reaction? UGH! For one, the sticker price is totally insane. (But no one actually pays that). These are people who are all in major financial messes. So this is why my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. I really did not think we would end up there.

But we did, because that's what works for us now. DL(14) is in heaven. I told MH I loved the gym and I am not picky. As long as they have ellipticals that work, is all I really care about. So he was a little nervous to sign up without me seeing it, but he did it. We all went over there last Sunday, to check it out. It was definitely a good choice. It's *January* and I didn't have any trouble finding a machine. So I think I am good. My needs are very basic.

MM(16) did not want to join. Fair enough, he runs 50+ miles per week with track.

We ended up paying about $85/month for the three of us. We chose this gym specifically because they allow minors to attend (and join?) without adults. It was also the only one that a minor could join that he liked at all.

When the friends were pushing and that was where we ended up, all I could think was I glad we saved our dollars in the past. This might be just a few years (max) that we enjoy the amenities of the larger gym. But we are more able to do that because it's not something we "expected" that we must have for the past 20 years.

In the end I think this is probably a zero net change to our budget because MM(16) has no time for gymnastics whatsoever with his current school/sports schedule. So it may just be that I move the gymnastic dollars over to the gym dollars. Just shifting things around a bit.

Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention, this is how DL(14) is dealing with his mental health ups and downs. Working out has helped him tremendously. It's really the only thing that seems to be helping him.

Also, I am glad my son knows that this is most definitely a "want"; he was doing very fine without.

January Reset

January 19th, 2020 at 03:00 pm

Knock on wood, but the year is going well so far. More peace and quiet than I remember in *forever*.

I can't tell you what I am doing with this latest reset. Crossing my fingers that the tornado around me loses some steam? I'm trying to be more assertive with work hours? But... this only works when everyone isn't out with some emergency or other.

{I can't imagine what else I could possibly do within my realm of control. Which is why I am just at the point of crossing my fingers}.

MH has the month off, so I expect this is contributing to the peace.

I did "fire" one of my side clients. The feeling is mutual and it is all good. This leaves me with one remaining client. I am more than ready to move on and will be rid of them soon. But the workload is just about an hour a month, so I can give it a little more time. 12/31 is my hard deadline, not wanting to drag any more red tape into 2021.

Of course, *the* most exciting thing is that I am enjoying my first tax season off in 20 years. πŸŽˆπŸŽ‰πŸŽˆ I always worked several jobs in my teen/college years. Post college I have always had a busy/OT season. So... I have started semi-semi-retirement? Was a step down that I wasn't particularly planning or expecting.

A couple of weekends ago MH went to the Bay Area to help his parents with some things. I was not up to it whatsoever.

Last weekend we hosted a game night. In the spirit of trying to get out of "reactive" mode (just reacting to everything that is going on), this was our attempt to do something more proactive. When talking about it, we were pretty set on just setting a time every month with "no excuses". So when it turned out that MH already had a commitment on our first game night, I told him not to worry about it. & then I remembered why I never invite any adults anywhere, because they have to plan 90 days in advance or whatever. πŸ™„ Then MM(16) wasn't feeling well. But DL(14) pulled it through. He's definitely the most social and has always had a big group of friends. The played a lively game of Diplomacy. (I really didn't think anyone would play that with him. But the art school kids seem to embrace some of this stuff from a more theatrical standpoint). All I did was cook and clean all day Saturday (so behind on the house, and MH wasn't here to even run to the grocery store for me). But it was most definitely worth it. I enjoyed taking all that "work" energy of decades past (usually working Saturdays) and channeling it into my family and friends.

This weekend has been more of the same. I had an opportunity to do some unique charity work, so that was my big commitment this weekend. It was exhausting, but very rewarding. We also hosted all of our parents Friday night; DL(14) had another band concert. I am enjoying having the time for different things.

MH and I are going to Napa on another weekend. It sounds absolutely divine. It's such a short drive and we usually keep it very low key. Will probably do one nice dinner out and a hike. But MH's birthday is this month and I usually take off a weekend for that. So that will be more in the realm of our normal. I suppose it will be nice not having to cram and worry if I can really manage a Saturday off.

I do have a mountain of bad news, but it's sad to say that it doesn't feel like much because the pace has slowed considerably. Phew! I even made some comment a couple of days ago that 2020 was off to a much better start and MH looked at me like I was crazy. Fair enough, but these things are relative. His Grandma is very sick and we are worried about her. My Dad is going in for a biopsy next month. Etc., etc.

Edited to add: Things took a turn, back to emergency mode. We are rushing off to the Bay Area today because MH is so concerned about his Grandma. I am horrified by the idea of bothering her or bringing more germs, but it's what he needs to do so I will support him. (The kids and I will let her rest). I am still very grateful we had two weeks of calm and peace, before diving into the latest emergency. I think she will probably be fine. Her attitude has always been, "My arm is falling off? It's just a flesh wound." After hearing from "always completely hysterical in a medical situation" MIL we did skype GMIL and we both felt immensely better. She is clearly fine and shrugging it off. But we are being cautious because she is a 95yo with pneumonia.

This & That

November 4th, 2019 at 01:56 pm

Trying this again. Hoping for a slightly calmer month? Absolutely not holding my breath.

I spent most of September trying to make headway on the household/chore front, digging out of a very big hole. October I got caught up on my professional education. Phew! I was more motivated on the work/professional front, so am circling back to household chores. Plus, I suppose this one reason I despise housework. You just get to do it all over again.

My initial plan was to have a very light load in November/December, and is why I hit things so hard the last 2 months. Will see... "Very light" was clearly way too optimistic, but relatively it will be nice not to have 1,000 things To-Do + 1,000 things I am behind on. I am getting more caught up on the "life" front, in general.

The last big nasty chore on my list is to go to the DMV this week. Ugh! Maybe I will feel much better after that.

Yesterday we made butternut squash soup. Yum!

MH and MM(16) went to the movies to see JoJo Rabbit. They said it was great. It's $7 per ticket for first showings at the arthouse cinema. So they spent $14 there.

I mostly alternated between napping, major house chores, and crossing seemingly infinite little things off my list.

In other news, I asked for a 16% raise and got an okay, *shrugs*. 😁 I am so relieved that we are on the same page. It's not official/final or anything like that so I will hold off on a bigger post about it when I have more details. But I have never in my life (before) gone 13 months without a raise. Though my employer clearly compensates very generously... They skipped mid-year-bonuses, never gave me the mid-year raise we discussed last year, etc. I was starting to get really frustrated wondering if I was crazy or what. But I had my performance review and it was stellar. I had absolutely never discussed my prior salary before, so it was clearly now or never. I expected far more negotiation and just led with my prior salary. (Certainly not expecting that, as this is a much easier position, and I also have some other new compensation besides salary). My "head honcho" boss didn't skip a beat and said, "We will take care of you." & I know he takes care of his employees, so that was all I needed to hear. I feel like I am mostly out of limbo and relieved that we are all on the same page.

I am sure I could have pushed farther for a more immediate raise, but I am clearly much more concerned about the long-term than the short-term. They are also very generous with bonuses (something I have never even had before) so I get the sense that I probably created some first world problems for myself. If I potentially just turned 2019 from a "lower income year" into the "highest income year" (with all the side work I did this year to make up lost income). Will have some financial/tax planning to do when this sorts out. It will sort out this month.

Quick Update

September 15th, 2016 at 01:52 pm

September has definitely not been my month. It's just been one bad thing after another. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Regardless of everything else, it's been very high stress because Drama Llama(11) is having a really rough time. There is definitely an element of mental health issues and I suspect these are just the first steps down a very long road.

For now, every thing about our "fairly easy" child is very difficult. I've never had to micromanage his homework before. (I mean, like we never help him at all or pay any attention to that because he is very responsible). He's never had problem sleeping in his own bed before. We've never had any problems leaving him for a date or whatever. Honestly, it's very deja vu to the baby years. Just tons of work and really no idea what we are doing. But figuring it as we go along. Very "one day at a time".

Given family history, none of this is a surprise. I just have no frame of reference of getting help so young, because in the past was so taboo and/or most in my family are too stubborn to get any help. (e.g. My mom got help in her 40s). I think some of it is that he isn't a stubborn type (thank goodness!) and some of it is we've always talked very openly about these things with our kids. We wouldn't want them to hold in feelings of wanting to harm themselves. He is very open to any help that we can get him.

For now, just surviving.

Triple Dip & This & That

September 29th, 2013 at 01:36 pm

**Dh got his *triple drip* credit card and the points are already showing up for us. Wahoo! Citi - because Citi really really wants him.

I charged $1,000 to our health insurer a few days ago (which included maybe $100 for next month) and I just logged in to check the charge. The statement had closed and the points were there. Dh has to call and redeem for a check to our mortgage company. I read you can just deposit these checks to your bank - and our primary checking account is also with our mortgage holder. Nothing to lose with just trying to deposit it.

**Closed some old credit union accounts - got all our money moved around.

**Dh finally returned his old (broken) phone to Sprint. I figured he might get something. He got $10.

Reminds me, no 4G yet. Dh called to complain again (our credits ran out) and they acted like he had to call back next month. I just sent him the bill that showed that we paid full price for *last* month. So he knows when he calls back to ask for at least 2 months of credit. {I think they saw the other $10 credit and that might have confused them}. The short story is they have been telling us for 18 months that we will get 4G "any second." In the meantime, we barely get even like 1/10 their advertised speeds. It's horrid. They gave us "40% off" the last 4 months and basically said they will do that until we get 4G. But that we would have to check back after 4 months. I have been snowflaking those credits to the mortgage, and will continue to do so when the credits materialize again.


We acheived a low-spend month on the discretionary spending this month. I can't believe it's already the 29th!! It's been very "tax season" like. Working working working, earning, earning, earning - certainly no time to spend any money.

I was just peeking and we spent $136 on gas this month, and $500 on groceries. & we are done for this month. $500 is right on budget, but included a huge food stock up for our road trip (next month). So, I am pleased with that. Going under this month (stocking up ahead) buys us a little more wiggle room for next month. & November will be another easy month to scale back. Short month, and I will be working tons. We usually budget $300 for gas, but that is usually a worse case month and the only place we really have any room for misc. spending. Still, we probably usually spend around $200. Obviously the carpool is working out well and helping. We are probably driving more than last year (for school) but not a lot.

That said, everything else has completely gone to heck. Still is. It never ends this year. So I can't really boast a true "low-spend" month. Just relieved we were cheap enough to buy us some wiggle room.

We also splurged this week on a night out. It was our 13 year wedding anniversary, and we had a great night out!! A new restaurant in our neighborhood was *divine* and overall pretty reasonable, but we ended up spending way more on daycare than planned. So, a $70 night out. Which I don't think either of us would have particularly planned. But, we got saved by the bell. Grandma sent us a $70 check for our anniversary. Very nice!! Big Grin So I am definitely glad we splurged. That date always seem to be charmed for us.

We'd have probably just gone out to lunch, but we had a free hour of childcare, and if we didn't use the place we would lose our registration. Which I was fine with, but dh really wanted to go out and figured it wouldn't hurt to keep our registration there. (Though we mostly have not used the drop-in place for 2 years). We both weren't thinking - only one of the kids had a free hour - and dh had also told them they could eat there (which cost more). So, ugh. Turned into an expensive night!

Oh, but the kids need all sorts of dental work. The extra tooth that LM has and we were told is "no problem" for the last 5 or so years? *This week* an extra permanent tooth showed up on his x-rays. Oy vey!! (I don't know how rare or common that is - but they never told us that was a possibility - seems rare talking to others who had extra baby teeth. They just so confidently told us all along not to worry about it). BM also has some problems. Lots of tooth pulling, and just crossing my fingers that is all. *sigh*

Anyway, so how is that for mixed money news? It's all good and bad and seems to even out in the middle.


I didn't finish or publish this post yesterday so have more to add:

**I got a Free $10 coupon from Kohls ($10 minimum purchase) after griping I haven't gotten one in *forever.* Yay!!

**Will not be able to redeem any rewards to ROTH this month because have not been using that card at all. Our credit union is giving us 2% back for another month (& rather support the credit union and use a visa).

But, earned $40 in the CU visa (gets redeemed in January) We usually barely use the card and the rewards don't usually amount to a ton - so the "once a year redemption" is usually not a big deal. At least they ran this promotion at the end of the year...

I was able to redeem $25 on our American Express (added it to next mortgage payment).

**If I add $165-ish to our next mortgage payment, we will dip below $190k. The mortgage has been of extreme low priority because this year has been so crazy expensive (home repairs mostly). BUT, I think I can scrounge up $165 for that psychological milestone.