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Tax Reform?

November 16th, 2017 at 06:14 am

My thoughts on the tax reform? It appears the reform is going to hurt all families with more than 1 kid. If you had 2 kids before and took the standard deduction you had $12k standard deduction and $16k in personal exemptions for $28k. Now with the standard deduction raised to $24k but personal exemptions gone by the way side it appears to be less than the $28k the family with 2 kids had. Assuming a larger child tax credit is $600/per child for $1200 in tax credit.

It really depends on the bracket but if I had to guess most families will end up paying more in taxes with more than 2 children. The $600 tax credit won't offset the personal exemptions.

As far as the SALT I think they should keep it instead of the mortgage deduction to be fair. After all it's a double taxation. And honestly they should probably do away with the mortgage deduction period. But that's impossible with the lobby groups. I also have seen a lot of elderly people use the medical deduction and if you are in nursing home care the bills for that are astronomical and easily fufill the 10% income minimum to write off.

Something that does bother me is that estate tax going away. Seriously so $22 million tax free inheritance is not enough? And the middle class needs to give away inheritances above that tax free? And it's inherited at a step-up basis? Really those 5000 people who have enough to leave more than $22 million need the tax break?

I have to admit I'm pretty liberal. But I'm a bit stunned these tax cuts have come without really cutting the budget. That republicans are okay with increasing the deficit so much? I thought it was supposed to be cut taxes, shrink government and deficit? Seems resonable and responsible budgeting. But instead we're cutting taxes and still spending wildly?

I am curious what will pass. It'll be an interesting sell.

minivan test run

November 8th, 2017 at 07:11 pm

So I'm renting a minivan for a week. Not because I want to but on Friday I was in a fender bender with a high school senior in a parking lot. I swerved to avoid him from running his stop sign and making a left turn. Fortunately it wasn't too much damage. However I did force him to stop and call his mom. He was about to drive away. Sigh, if you have teenagers tell them that the number one thing is to call you. Don't cry and say my parents will kill me. Yes they'll be upset but I think they'd be more upset if you just drove off and didn't call them.

Luckily it wasn't too much damage. My car will be ready by Monday after a week in the shop. So I am filing through my insurance who will go after his insurance. He offered me $3000 or more to pay for all the damage off the books of insurance. I said no.

My friend later told me it was wise since he was a minor and underage not to accept going through cash.

That being said I don't like my insurance company commerce west through AAA at all. They are incompetent and slow. I didn't get the emails until Tuesday when I called for the 3rd day in a row looking for my forms and I had to email the claims worker because they couldn't get my email right. I further had called and reported everything Friday right after and they still couldn't get the paperwork in order to the shop and rental car company. I had to call and write down the claim number which was wrong by the way. Ridiculous.

This is the same company that didn't cancel my renter's insurance when we bought a house. Then didn't update my address or mail me a renewal for auto insurance because they sent it to our rental. Which boggles the mind since I prepaid to our mortgage company a year of home insurance and it would stand that cancelling our rental policy would go hand in hand? At least that's what I was told. Then updating the address I also assume was common sense wasn't. They fixed it eventually.

This is totally my fault for getting kicked off of Ameriprise for non-payment because we were traveling and I didn't get the mail until too late. However as of March 10th we are going back to Ameriprise because they are competent when handling claims.

Anyway though since we have rental car coverage I got a minivan to test run what it would be like. I have to admit I love the convenience. I won't buy a dodge caravan it's terribly uncomfortable driving. But wow it's super useful with carpooling and just picking up kids. I am definitely on board with buying one.

The only hesitation I had was waiting until next year the 2019 Subaru Ascent. But I think I want a minivan with the larger trunk. Of course I have to really consider the options.

Retirement compounding numbers

November 4th, 2017 at 12:30 am

Here are some interesting compounding numbers. I don't want to run the returns right now.

DH in 2006 started saving the maximum 401k and IRA. But he contributed to Roth IRA in 2005 In total he's saved $201,500 in 401k and $55,000 in a IRA. His total retirement savings is currently $651,693. The number break down something like this.

2005 $4,871
2006 $8,871
2007 $28,729
2008 $56,569
2009 $62,282
2010 $116,743
2011 $174,548
2012 $202,696
2013 $262,920
2014 $381,248
2015 $437,108
2016 $469,526
2017 $532,991
11/2/2017 current value $651,693 with only contributing $18,000 and we haven't saved our Roth IRA.

For me I sort of started in 2003 but my numbers are messy and I didn't have a 401k. But as of today I have $108,687.

2003 $1,604
2004 $1,650
2005 $1,523
2006 $5,797
2007 $6,055
2008 $11,247
2009 $11,964
2010 $18,810
2011 $21,820
2012 $29,829
2013 $39,922
2014 $62,515
2015 $77,467
2016 $83,467
2017 $93,054

11/2/17 current value $108,687 without $5500 2017 contribution. I have contributed $55,000. Power of compounding and staying the course? I've been boringly invested in just the stock market and nothing fancier than an index fund.

If things continue the way they are going I am going to predict we'll pass $1 million in retirement accounts in the next 18-24 months. I guess the truth is that slow and steady win the race. Probably we'd have made more investing in RE but this was pretty easy.

Keep on chugging.

basement financial update

October 24th, 2017 at 08:51 pm

Well we added a few things to the basement repair. Another $8500. That means we are up to around $60k at least? We were at $52k including all tax. And I'm pretty sure we have another change order and more money going out. This is on top of the $3700 for garage doors. So we are at least out $65k. Wow my initial $75k budget is looking pretty close to target. Also we're not finishing by Thanksgiving although they did say for sure Christmas. So my initial estimate of Christmas seems appropriate as well.

The new windows are almost all installed except for the bathroom. The contractor ordered the wrong window without frosted glass so it's on him to reorder it. I didn't do anything with the window order.

I did however score an extra 5% off my garage doors in the form of a Costco cash card because I ordered my doors 9/29/17 and on 10/2/17 the sign went from 10% cash back card to 15% for the month of October. So I called and asked for my extra 5% back. I got it and scored another $100. Which okay in the grand scheme of things isn't a lot, but it made my day.

Things that have changed during our renovations included a rotted shower in the bathroom so new framing needed entirely and a tile floor for shower instead of shower pan. Rotted supports under the stairs that needed replacing. Moving a support for the door that we didn't know was there. Opening the walls and realizing there was minimal insulation so we asked they fully insulate the house. Replacing the water heater, which we thought they knew we wanted and quoted us, they didn't but then they are doing it. Adding the cabinets to the laundry we were going to have done by someone else but they ended up doing it is the $8500. I haven't mentioned every little thing but you can see how it quickly adds us.

Of course we aren't done yet. Let's see if we can stay within the $75k I budgeted it's getting close and I'm stressing out with the timeline.

Disneyland is not for poor people

October 22nd, 2017 at 05:41 pm

Our first trip to disneyland with kids is complete. It was really fun for the kids and the Halloween decorations and ambiance was fun. They were still pretty scared of most of the rides, frightened of Pirates, haunted mansion, etc. But we did a lot of the smaller toddler rides and they like looking at different things. Two days one at California Adventure and one at Disneyland was more than enough for us adults. I think our kids could have done a day more at each park and we could have taken it easier but the taste and fun was enough. Going during the week was nice especially Thursday it wasn't busy really. Friday it was a lot busier. I will say that staying across the street was well worth it. Very convenient and just easy.

But Disneyland is not for poor people. I've heard from people say going to amusement parks are where poor people go to waste money. The comments that it's a waste of a vacation. But personally DH and I have had fun at all the disneyland locations we've been and the kids had a great time.

But interestingly it's not a cheap vacation and I really doubt any poor people are going there. Actually if I had to guess it seemed more like middle to upper middle class people in terms of income were there. The tickets alone run around $90/day per person. Let's assume you have an annual pass and live locally. Then yes it could be very cheaper fun. But the annual passes from what I can tell still are around $1000 per person.

Then assuming you aren't local you have to pay for pretty pricey hotels, we spent $200/night. Which for us is a lot considering I usually consider $100 an indulgence. Then the flights and car rentals.

But then with all these people wearing paraphanelia which on average is around $20/each piece I'd say that no way does a poor or even really a middle class family afford this vacation. Not to mention the food. For the four of us I'd say skipping breakfast and eating lunch at the park and dinner outside we spent on average $50 for lunch. The kids shared or got a kids meals but with tax and tip and bringing our drinks in. We could have brought in prebought sandwiches from the stores on the way or panera but it wasn't that much of a savings actually. Panera and even mcdonalds for the 4 of us would run around $40 and we'd have to lug stuff all morning.

So I'm curious why people think Disneyland/world/amusement park vacations are so cheap? How they seem to think the average family can afford it? How do people have this stigma about it? Personally if anything after this visit I think the foreigners visiting must be upper echelons of money from their countries, and most americans did not seem local to southern california, probably are in the top 25% of income if I had to guess. We were asked if we were locals probably because we weren't dressed up and very casual about rides. But even the couple of locals we talked to, everyone had an annual pass with maxpass upgrade, and said they had to with all their friends and families they always came with.

I know my family in southern california always used to come with us to Disneyland when we would go. My first trip was at age 5. My mom scrimped for about 3 years to go but interestingly my family was known to travel on a dime and I know my aunts and uncles helped a bit financially. A single aunt traveled and stayed in our room and my uncle paid for my grandparents and we ate outside the park across the street where we stayed. Plus back then we booked huge rack room deals with connections we had and traveled en masse. All my aunts and uncles were massive savers and extremely thrifty when traveling and still are. In my family we are totally into trying to outdo each other with the best travel deal (i've been winning a lot lately!).

But I don't think people do disney the way they used to. Before talking with friends they would talk about how their parents would also do disney on the cheap. DH hadn't gone till after we met and even then it was for a day once until now.

But disneyland is not for those on a budget. I'm still astonished how much it can cost and how people can afford it. But the truth is I think most people are in the top income %.

What do you think? I'll put up some photos later.

Visualize a plan

October 18th, 2017 at 06:50 pm

I think people wonder what they are saving for. Recently more and more friends keep saying the same thing. They don't know what they want out of life. Unhappy and not sure how to change it.

I tell them they need to sit with their partners and visualize a plan. They should write a list about what they want. Some can be short term, some can be long term.

I think people get bogged down in the tiny details and comparing themselves to others. It starts with "oh I don't have any money to save for retirement. Or it's too little." To it's impossible to save for a house, car, etc.

The first step is to sit down and write/think what's important. College for kids? Retirement? Paying off the house? Clearing credit card debt? No car payment.

Then you can look at each goal and make a plan. I will save 1% to retirement and up it every year. I will save $100/month to college. I will keep making car payments into a car fund.

Sometimes I think it's so overwhelming getting started that people throw up their hands and give up rather than just asking what is important? From that answer you can always sketch a more detailed plan.

huge variance in health insurance

October 18th, 2017 at 03:20 am

Have you noticed the large variance of health insurance people have in the US? That even if you work and have employer provided health insurance there is a huge variability for what different companies pay and offer?

I mean there is huge variability in how much you pay of the premium. There is variability in whether you have a HDHP or more traditional HMO/PPO. There is more variability in your deductible. Also even within insurance companies depending on what you buy you have different levels of providers. Meaning some plans have more providers than others. It's crazy extent that that is so much variability that until you are in the plan you really can't evaluate how good it is.

Until this job DH's medical insurance was premium. We knew that from talking with friends. Now we are definitely still good but it's not cadillac good. It's still probably covered by the company 90% and 10% us. But the coverage is not as extensive we have Aetna versus BCBS for starters. And less providers take Aetna. But we can't really evaluate much more except it seems like there are higher deductibles but we never seem to have to pay for the deductible.

Would it be worth it to decouple insurance from employment? I think it would be very fair. I'm not sure we would come out ahead considering what it would cost us to insure ourselves. However I know we would likely self-insure and buy a cheap catastrophic plan and pocked the cash from the company. Of course that's assuming the company even gave us the cash from what they are saving for paying for health insurance.

I really question if companies really would give their workers the money from not having health insurance? Do you think they would? Or would decoupling health insurance just profit companies and make workers poorer?

Christmas shopping has begun...no amazon!

October 17th, 2017 at 12:08 am

I started my christmas shopping. I bought the girls two lego advent calendars for $23 each from Walmart. I used google express and got 20% off for first order plus I also paid using my discover card for an extra 20% cash back up to $500 in spending. The max discount for the google express first order was $30 for a $150 order.

Things I ordered? I got the lego advent calendars, wipes, a new toaster oven (costco for $34.99), coffee beans, portable file box for girl scouts, and waterpik heads. Yes it was $150 on the nose.

Seriously the things I ordered were cheaper not on amazon. I don't get why people buy so much stuff from amazon when if you shop around and really look at the amazon prices it's a rip off. Plus walmart and costco both offer in store easy/free returns. Amazon you have to pay for shipping. People think it's free shipping but it's really not. They let you print a return tag but they take it out of what you paid if you look closely. It's happened to me a long time ago, so in general I never order ever from Amazon if there is a chance of a return. Besides recently it's come to my attention that the prices are so much cheaper elsewhere. But the 20% cashback from discover is what drove me to google express but I plan on using them probably entirely.

Do you most of your online shopping at amazon or elsewhere? Do you even bother to look at other websites?

3 weeks in

October 14th, 2017 at 03:25 pm

So we are 3 weeks into the renovation. I can say that because I am at the laundromat for the 3rd time and I have 2 hours of me time to write this post. DH and the kids are still sleeping and I am up in the quiet of the laundromat. Sounds crazy but it's nice.

Basement 1

Basement 2

Basement 3

Basement 4

Garage 1

Garage 2

Doesn't look like a lot has been accomplished but seriously it has.

We did make some changes and some things cropped up of course unexpectedly. The shower when torn out was completely rotted. No idea until they tore it out. Guess there was a leak or something. So the frame basically fell apart when they took it out.

There wasn't insulation behind the super thin paneling and we had to reframe the door to the laundry because we couldn't get the washer and dryer in after we put in drywall. Wasn't big enough. So the door and tile had to be redone. Lucky we found matching tile. We did manage to flow the laundry perfectly with dryer, washer, sink by flipping the door on our dryer.

The door we were moving from the garage to house had a major support beam in the way. So we are putting in new supports and still moving the door. We found live 220 wires behind the walls when they opened it up that had never been capped.

We have to figure out what to do the garage. With side loading garage door openers I don't think we have the temp lights that normally are on garage openers. So we won't have lights when we drive in. We have two lights in the garage but we'd have to jump out of the car to turn it on or leave it on. We're researching options because we are thinking of getting a sensor that can tell us if we leave the garage door open. We are also trying to iron out the mudroom we are trying to create in Garage 2 picture.

The window just came in. I am praying we are done with this project by Decemeber 21st. My parents come to town and I want it done or done enough they can stay in the basement. If not it'll be cramped. They did say thanksgiving but when has anything ever run on time? I don't have enough experience to know if they under or over estimated the time budget. I am assuming they just hire more guys if they are tight on time and need to start the next job? Or do they just start working weekends?

Is it cooking?

October 13th, 2017 at 04:22 pm

Here's an interesting thought and one I hadn't considered in a bit. Is it cooking if you buy premade foods ie from Costco, walmart, etc? I mean the already made lasanga you heat, or stuffed bell peppers, etc? You know what I mean and you make it and feed your family. It's certainly NOT cheap. But at the same time it is substantially cheaper than going out to eat or even take out. I also think it might be healthier but I could be wrong because it does taste pretty good.

Personally I keep a lot of these sort of things on hand because while we don't want to go out, we don't necessarily want to cook from scratch. This week alone it's been all premade meals. We had tomato soup from the box and baked potato soup from a can for 2 nights. Last night I bought from costco the ravioli lasagna and my kids liked it. I might have to do it again and we ate half so we the second half for dinner tonight. I mean I steam some broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini steamed as sides and we have bought bread. But I found it easier, cheaper, and faster than going out to dinner or grabbing takeout.

But I realize it's not cooking. And I can cook. I've made sauce from scratch and made pasta and bread from scratch. So it's not lack of ability. Rather I admit it's lack of desire.

I tend to keep frozen pizza, frozen dumplings, packages of noodles and pasta, cans/boxes of soup, and stuff on hand for super fast and easy meals. This methodology has kept our eating out budget way down to stuff we really want to eat.

But is it cooking? A friend asked me because she realized she cooks only trader joe's packaged meals and stuff from costco. My answer was yes. I said it'd likely be worse if you kept on buying takeout or eating out all the time.

On the weekends we're good we tend to cook sunday for the week. But on weeks we're bad we tend to do what we did this week and cobble dinners together. Sometimes I get my act together and make a slow cooker meal or pull a frozen lasagna I've made. Two weeks ago we made tacos, teriyaki skewers, stuffed bell peppers and spaghetti and meatballs because we bought costco ground beef. This week we did eat braised short ribs sunday and monday actually from scratch.

But I don't think it's wrong to use tools to help eating at home. I think people spend a lot more when they don't have these easy tools. For my family of four a meal at McD can easily hit $30. And going out for cheap noodles of the asian variety is likely $30-$35 with my oldest starting to eat like an adult! Take out chinese, thai, etc is more like $50-60. Not to mention eating somewhere even "family friendly" red robin (tradition now for us to go for birthdays, my kids love the singing) is $50 for dinner (2 adult, 2 kid meals and a beer for DH).

So yes a semi-prepared meal might be $10-20 but it often can bear leftovers. I guess my point to my friend was it still was very reasonable in the grand scheme and easier. It would be great to learn to cook from scratch. But maybe the first step would be to stop eating out so much?

How did you curb eating out? Do you ever cheat and use semi-prepared meals?

looking at cars

October 9th, 2017 at 10:02 pm

So I don't need a new car. But I want one. But more likely this will just be an exercise in thinking. Researching and contemplating new versus used and type. I'm not sure if I'm a minivan person or a big suv. I want something with 3 rows and carries more than 5 people.

Let me have it. Tell me all the pros and cons of each. What am I looking at? All minivans. I'm not sure if I should do used or new. It'll be a car we keep a long time. I haven't kept my car as long as I should. I already feel guilty contemplating getting rid of a 7 year old car. It's barely broken in.

I'm also thinking any SUV with three rows and the ones that come to mind are highlander, acura mdx, honda pilot and not sure whatever else.

This is not a new fetish but it is finally getting more serious contemplation.Tell me what you think and why certain suv or minivans are better than others. Did anything weigh into your decision? If you went used did you get a certain brand or model or just used suv or used minivan?

I should probably put this on the site.

Private school so far

October 7th, 2017 at 04:13 pm

Did I ever mention we put our younger dk2 into private school kindergarten? Well we did. It costs $15k for the year and they offered us a spot for our dk1 in second for $8k but we didn't take it.

Why?

Well having just moved we decided we would try the public school for her and its been an adjustment. We are guessing she will qualify for the gifted program next year, we vouldn't do a direct transfer in because she had only done a partial testing in kindergarten. The school district she was in does full testing in 2nd grade for 3rd unlike.e the district we moved to that does 1st for 2nd. So we decided we would try to make friends and then see how the testing goes in November. If she doesn't get in we could always move her to private or stay pug.

For our dk2 I worried it seemed unfair to pay for private school. But the truth is she's on the birthday cusp of turning 5 and immature for her age. So fair isn't equal for kids. We are doing this because academically she's ready for kindergarten but we aren't sure emotionally. Plus we decided if she has to repeat kindergarten. She could do it in public school and no knew will be the wiser.

Private school has been honestly really great so far. The class size is 12 kids and 2 teachers. Dk1Had 19 kids and 1 teacher in public. She also had no homework or in school extracurricular. Dk2 has gymnastic they walked to school next door, karate with teacher who comes in, art 3x a week while public school has it once a month, zumba, Japanese and Spanish. DDDk2had none of this.

That being said it is $15k. But it turns out to be about equal for the kids financiapreschool. DDk2had 3 years of preschool with us paying $4850, $7250, $7250 because we lived in a higher cola. But dk2 preschool was $1800 and $3000 p.us this one year of private school. So it actually balanced out financially.

Trust me i never thought we would pay or could afford private school. And right now I am considering private for both. But its a really big financial investment. But I guess we will take it year by year and situation by situation.

your thoughts and experiences?

My Macy's Nightmare

October 5th, 2017 at 04:51 am

So in August we bought a new bedroom set from Macy's to fit our new king size mattress. The total cost of the set, it was a large annual sale, was $2866.60 including a $200 delivery fee and sales tax.

So where was the headache? I tried to place the order using the gift cards I bought for 8% off on gift card granny and it worked. But I wanted to leave enough to put on a macy's credit card I opened that would allow me to get 20% back up to a maximum of $100. I figured we don't care about our credit anymore so why not.

Anyway while I could place the order it took me over 4 days to do so including calling from Asia in the crazy early morning hours to place the order because even though I opened a credit card with macy's and was approved they wouldn't let me charge on it. I was upset and asked for the 20% discount and they refused. They said I could deal with it upon getting back and before delivery.

Well I tried before September 2nd. No matter what I did they couldn't fix the issue and they said to have it delivered then worry about the payment.

So now over 1 month later it's still not resolved. You are probably going WTF. Well they've been trying to figure out what went wrong but they can't. So I got free delivery out of it back in August $200 when I placed the order.

Then they tried to deliver the parts of the mirror above the dresser and twice they didn't get the right parts. So I got it this week in the mail after 1 month. DH put it together because after waiting for delivery 2x more and still messing up we were pissed. Another $100 came off the price.

I'm still waiting for Macy's to Balance transfer the amount they charged me to the macy's card so they can retroactively give me the $100 or 20%. Seriously. I am in dispute on my CC because I had refused payment and more importantly I wasn't sure what I was being charged because I still 1 month later do not have a receipt. Yes I am not lying. I do not have a receipt showing what I bought and how much it costs.

Macy's is the worse. I mean seriously I have to wonder if it's even worth all these headaches for the discounts. I mean I probably all in am around $2230 in gift cards. So about 20% off the $2866 purchase price but the stress and headache have not been good. I was waiting to write this post until it was resolved, but I seriously can't wait. Besides the face the woman helping me says it'll still take another 10-14 business days! OMG.

I hope this is done before the end of the month.

Prestige of Job

October 1st, 2017 at 04:36 pm

I was thinking a lot about this recently even before it came up on threads. That yes people judge moms who work versus those who don't. But it's more than that. It's not gender specific but rather people also judge what you do. That what you do "should" be prestigious and have a title and sound "important" or worth it.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. My friend getting divorced started it. She said she is working full time again but is working at costco in the warehouse. But before she was more management tracked and making the same amount. But now it feels like more work and harder versus her cushy office job that paid the exact same. She also feels it's not as "prestigious" but the hours in warehouse is better than her office job. So she says mentally she knows it's better. But she has trouble wrapping her head around being a cashier versus working in the office.

Then another friend recently started working at starbucks making coffee. She said she loves the flexibility and wasn't interested in going back into business/marketing. She was done with full time and long hours. But when she told people they thought her nuts. I can only imagine even for me it's the same. Leaving a lucrative career for one less so.

I have been getting that a lot recently. That what I do is less lucrative and not full time. It's also less prestigious but I like what I do. But what's really strange? I asked my manager why he did it. And he said he gets that a lot. Asked why he doesn't go back to accounting full time. Why is he working at such a reduced salary?

He said he used to do taxes for the extra income 20 years ago. Then about 5 or 6 years ago he started taking care of his mom and quit his full time job and worked only part-time. Then she passed about 2 years ago and he hasn't had much desire or drive to go back to a 9-5 gig. He can make his bills and survive easily on the part-time work. He likes the flexibility of not coming in every day and showing up at 12 pm. He said he's not sure if he'll ever be ready to commit back to being a full time clock puncher. And yet he said a lot of people keep asking him why doesn't he get a full time job (myself included)?

Truth is that when he told me his story I got it. I realized that as a society both genders are told we have to "work" full time. We have to contribute and are expected to be working full time. It's strange to find people not working and surviving. Either because they live on less or have saved a lot. But it's unfathomable that someone (male or female) would choose to live so modestly.

DH and I have gotten it a lot. Judged by many that we have chosen to live on 1 income and that the second income we've given up has been substantial. But the lifestyle we've gotten in return we both feel is less stressful, more relaxed and more us. Even now the choice of not moving back into a more career field has been judged by others. I truly believe if i were a man i'd be judged even harsher. I think men are judged harsher about not earning the "most" they can. Women are given some leeway with kids but those without are expected to climb the ladder.

Have you noticed this? That people really judge both men and women career wise?

9/27 renovations start - too many decisions

September 29th, 2017 at 06:29 am

So i'm going to journal this so we can see how it goes. Renovations start and the signed contract was for $46k. $15k down payment $15k midway, and $15k upon completion. I just signed the garage doors for $3700 installation of 2 new doors and side openers. That's charged to Costco visa.

Right now we are trying to decide about custom cabinets and tile for the shower. We are also choosing the gas fireplace insert and I need to order a water heater. Also we took down the walls so we could move the garage entry door to the home but there is a support beam. I need to make a decision tomorrow. As well as decide where to put all our outlets we want in the garage and basement. I also need to determine if 30" walkway is enough between washer/dryer and cabinets facing them.

We started 3 days earlier than anticipated. According to our contract we are supposed to finish by Thanksgiving. Right now almost all demolition is finished. They are about to start framing.

Did I mention my DH has been traveling for a week internationally and I haven't been able to talk to him? I also finished moving everything into our storage unit without him but I ended up throwing stuff into my outback and driving his car because I don't have carseats in mine. I'm so tired I can't even do another storage run till this weekend.

And until they can put it back we don't have a washing machine and dryer. On Wednesday they couldn't move it because that morning my DK2 peed in bed and I couldn't stand it so I stripped it and immediately started the wash. They gave me a day to finish the load and I took all night to wash as many loads as possible. I was up to 1 am.

Cross your fingers we're done by Christmas my parents are coming and I need the space back as well as the laundry.

Financial Update

September 20th, 2017 at 05:20 pm

MM inspired me to check and it's been a great year 2017 financially. Our retirement savings has gone up $131k so far this year with our contributions being $11k IRA and $12k into 401k. The taxable accounts are up $97k for the year. So we are up around $228k in net worth conservatively.

I hope the year continues like gang busters. At this rate we are on track within 5 years to be FI at our crazy spending rate. We are definitely FI if we would sell the house and live in a cheaper COLA. This is how compound interest works out in people's favor. The longer and earlier you start the more you have.

success - last entry trip photos

September 19th, 2017 at 05:38 am

See below entry

Trip Photos

September 17th, 2017 at 03:31 pm

Okay I managed to resize some of the photos. I will start adding them probably in no reasonable order because I'm finding it difficult enough as is.

Asakusa Temple Daytime in tokyo.


Asakusa Temple Night


Asahi Brewery


Asahi Extra Cold


Tokyo Disneysea



Disney Sea Food (mochi ice cream and Gyoza dog)



Shinkansen (bullet train)


Kobe Beef


Kobe Cable Car, Port Tower, Zoo




Nara Deer park and Todaji Temple (day and night bon festival)




Osaka Castle, Kaiyuken (aquarium), Skybuilding


- one of world's largest


Hong Kong - Victoria Peak, Big Buddha, glass tram, buns





Hong Kong Disney


Renovations starting

September 17th, 2017 at 03:15 pm

So we start October 2nd our basement/garage remodel. We signed a contract and put down $15,000 deposit. After the drywall is up we pay another $10,000, and after all work is done we finalize our payment. Right now as it stands we are signed on for ~$47,000 to finish our garage, replace all windows, remodel our bathroom.

This does not include new garage doors which was quoted at $3700 from Costco installer or cabinetry in the laundry, family room, and garage. The cabinets in laundry we were quote $3250 from closet factory. They also quoted us $3000 for family room and mudroom/garage $3000. We haven't decided exactly what we are doing either.

We also only have a $3500 allowance for gas fireplace which could cost more with the gas line and installation. Also we have some low tile allowances so depending on what we choose we will run over.

I'm budgeting $75k for this project though right now the numbers are looking more like $65k. I figure 10% over run is to be expected and if I can stay close to that 10% I'll be happy.

Time frame we are looking at is being done they said by Thanksgiving. They have other projects they already have booked to start so they don't want to dawdle any longer than they have to. I'm nervous about anything they could find.

This is a pretty big project. We have to move everything out of the garage and basement before we start. This weekend we've been sorting what we want to put into storage and what we want to keep. We are renting a 10x10 unit drive up for $148/month with $1 rental the first month. We wanted a pod but our driveway didn't seem to have quite enough space for a pod + dumpster and deliveries. So we were forced into a storage unit. The storage of our stuff if it's 3 months should be ~$450 plus the moving truck rental.

I'm hoping to get this photo thing working then I can document the stages we got through. Another cost is our washing machine will be out of service so I'll be forced to use a laundromat eek.

Quick Trip Summary

August 31st, 2017 at 06:54 pm

So we just got back from our trip. I can't wait to post pictures. They were amazing.

Our entire trip was around $10,000 for 3 weeks - 2 weeks in Japan and 1 week in Hong Kong. The breakdown.

Tickets $2850
Hotels $1240 - my parents covered the hotels for the part we were were traveling with them except for 1 night. The total cost was $4500 for 14 days for both our rooms and theirs. So I covered the last night @ $179. Then we paid $745 for the week in Hong Kong and at the last minute we decided to do the last night @ Hong Kong Disney Hotel for $316. This is the most we've ever spent on a hotel by far. I mean $315 for 1 night. It was a little insane. We typically spend $100/night and Japan was expensive because it's Japan but we were spending around average there.

We spent $660 on tickets to Tokyo Disney Sea, Hong Kong Disney, and other attractions. We spent $1360 in cash on who knows what eating out, stuff, etc. Finally we spent $1724 on our credit cards on eating out, uber/lyft from airport, etc.

Our total spending on the trip was $7835 for 3 weeks. About 50% of what I budgeted and expected. I actually thought we'd spend between $15-20k. Even if I added in the $2250 for hotels my parents very generously gifted us, we've still be at $10,085. Which for 3 weeks isn't terrible for a family of 4 traveling for 3 weeks without cooking a single meal.

But to get away with under $8k for 3 weeks? That included all the transporation, we used trains and cabs (which is were most of the cash went), I have to say we did well.

I'll discuss it more in depth later. Can't wait to share photos. But disney in Tokyo and Hong Kong was ridiculously cheap the tickets. For us 1 day at each place we spent $222 for 4 tickets and $246 for 2 adults, 2 kids, and my FIL senior ticket. Crazy. That's the price of entry to Disneyworld and Disneyland for 2 adults. Strangely the food in the parks was CHEAP. I've been to enough parks to be surprised that they were charging like $5 for a meal which in the US runs around $10-$20.


What will you do?

August 8th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

DH and I were chit chatting in the car, seems like we always talk in the car. Probably because the kids are strapped in and can't distract us as much as in the house fighting. Maybe because we're trapped in two seats and not focused on our cell phones, cleaning, work, dealing with kids, cooking.

Anyway I asked him in 5 years at 45 or so would he retire if he could? I was running numbers and it's highly possible if not sooner. We could potentially do it now if we were willing to cut our lifestyle. But seriously 45 is not improbable.

His answer? "And do what? Why would I want to?" I said "follow your zen". His answer "I'm following my zen now. I spent a year finding my zen, moving with you, and finding my dream job. I don't need zen. I really like what I do. If I stop liking it I'll tell you again and we'll talk. Until then I'll work and be content."

I sat there stunned. Here i am on a savingadvice forum/blog, I read early retirement forums and blogs, and I'm not married to a spendthrift. I married a guy who wants to work.

He further goes on to say "LAL your dad is still working at 86! My dad is still consulting at 66. I am not sitting here at 45 doing nothing." I said "do something you like." DH "I am doing something I love. Who else plays video games pretty much all day everyday? Who gets to be a gamer and paid for it? If I had told 10 year old Mr LAL your job will be video games I'd have died laughing and kissed the ground." LAL says "okay when it stops being fun, quit." DH "okay deal."

So back to the drawing board. Seriously I don't know when or how I'll be dragging him away from work. We're about to embark tomorrow on a 3 week vacation, I'll try to post pictures but I won't have a computer just my phone so we'll see. First trip for DH in a year and he's not even sweating it. I'm dragging him away since he hates traveling. He'd rather stay at home and do nothing. Hence retirement is not his cup of tea in that sense. He doesn't want to travel and see the world.

Have you actually planned your retirement? And thought about what you would do?

Count your blessings

August 3rd, 2017 at 05:17 pm

A lot of friends recently keep complaining about their lives. Some really are in a difficult situation. But others I keep telling them to count their blessings.

Some blessings are financial. Some blessings are just life. I can't explain but I feel like often times we take for granted everything we have and don't appreciate even the smallest things.

A friend complained about not having enough money and being on a budget. I said at least you have enough to choose how to spend your money. Be happy that you can make choices.

Another friend is getting divorced. She began crying about how she's giving her children a terrible life and she's ruined their lives. That they have less than they used to. I told her to stop right there before we couldn't be friends. If she truly believes that having a single parent is a lesser life we couldn't talk anymore.

I love my mom and kiss the ground she walks on everyday for the life she gave me. I appreciate the fact I was raised with good values and morals. That she worked hard and no matter what she gave me the best life she could and I believe truly succeeded even without money. I feel my mom sacrificed so much and I understand and appreciate everything she did. And my friend needs to get over it. Yes divorce and single parenting is hard. But it's not a lesser life.

Another friend was complaining about how hard it is to pay off debt. I said appreciate that you are paying down debt. It would be worse to keep digging the hole deeper. Every dollar is another you don't owe. Yes it sucks and is slow but it's better than staying in debt. Look at the cup half full.

Another friend is panicking about buying a house. I said it'll happen. Everything happens for a reason. That have some faith.

Finally another friend we passed boxes onto, her husband quit his job and they aren't sure what they are doing except moving. I told her follow where they feel lead and it will unfold. That sometimes you are doing what you are meant to do. I really believe that.

All these people have a lot to be thankful for but to only focus on the negative is harder than realizing all the positives.

Sometimes I get stuck in that place but I slap my face and tell myself I have so much to be thankful for snap out of it. I have to always look at my awesome kids and husband, the health of our family, the lovely home, the nice weather, and that we are happy. I could easily write all the negative things happening like I haven't found a school for my DK2. I haven't settled on a contractor, when 3 haven't gotten back to me arrgh! I am spending an exorbitant amount of money right now. But instead I have to keep positive. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Are you a half empty or half full kind of person? Is it easier to complain or appreciate?

spoiled children

July 23rd, 2017 at 10:55 pm

When you think about spoiled kids you think of things like buying fancy toys, clothes, etc. But I'm starting to think there are other ways to spoil a child non-financial but that can lead to financial problems. Mostly it's the fact that it's easy to learn never being told no.

I've been watching a friend's kids a lot recently with her going through a divorce and packing. They enjoy playing with my kids. But watching them this Friday and Saturday it was hard. Friday her mom watched the kids for dinner and had to make do with what we had. It was an unexpected dinner and I didn't have anything her kids eat. They eat chicken nuggets. and that's pretty much it for real food. They eat candy and snacks and some fruits. So on Saturday she dropped them off with chicken nuggets and tortilla. I made a quesadilla for the kids and they told me they don't eat it. They didn't eat any veggies or anything else. I said there wasn't enough chicken nuggets for them to eat only that and there wasn't. She said to feed them anything because if they don't eat they wake up in the middle of the night demanding food and milk. She can't deal with it.

I get it now. She talks about having outrageous food bills and never having food. After seeing what her kids eat I get it. Everything is processed and packaged and expensive.

But real problem is that catering to every want and need I think could lead to problems. Yes it's food only but never being told no and having every whim catered to can lead to not understanding you can't have everything in life.

I tried to guide my friend to a budget. But she ignored it. That's fine but I pointed out that calling herself poverty stricken while getting $2500/month support seems a bit much. I pointed out that DH and I live on not much more a month. Yet she isn't responsible for anything but groceries, gas, and utilities. Plus she's working and making $1000/2 weeks. So it's a lot of money since she isn't paying mortgage, car, insurance of any kind. But it's hard to hear that other people live on a lot less. I pointed that out and she's like but "my kids will be deprived."

I can't help but wonder how people think kids manage when their parents make less? What happens to people who make the average?

Estimate #1 and #2 oh dear....

July 23rd, 2017 at 03:50 pm

So we put in the gas line for $700 and water pressure regulator valve for $700. I am feeling like things are crawling along. But slowly.

What we need to do is drywall/sheetrock the garage because it's a fire hazard and not up to code. The garage doors don't open and are also not up to code. The estimate from Costco for the garage doors is $3500.

Then redo the laundry room and put in new cabinets and windows and tear out the paneling.

And redo the bathroom downstairs as well.

So all new windows and paneling, moulding, trim, walls and ceiling. The ceiling is broken in multiple places. The garage is overinsulated but without the fire barrier. The rec room in the basement needs the same too.

So yes these are wants/needs. But we need to get the fire barrier up it's for our safety. It's grandfathered in since the house is 1966. But hey who wants to die in a fire? Plus the garage opener is improperly placed in the garage and could easily catch fire.

Long term fixing the windows will make it more efficient to the heat and cool the home. But the cost? We also are getting insulation put in the attic and 2 tube skylights.

So we got our first two estimates. The first estimate was completely over the top. It was $75-90k rec room, Laundry $20-30k, Bathroom $25-30k, and garage $7-10k. Meaning we were looking at low end $127k. That's ridiculous.

The second estimate has come in at $54k. I'm not sure if that's more reasonable or low. We still have two more bids coming in.

So DH is now suggesting he gets back into home repair and start to tackle some of this himself. I think we have someone do the drywall and sheetrock and moulding and then we do the cabinets and stuff ourselves. We haven't sat down yet with the estimates since we're still waiting. He's also suggested he do the fan and insulation in the attic since he's done it on our last house. He can also do the cabinets but we'll need to hire a handyman to help him since last time I did it. This time with the kids it's a lot harder to find the time.

I'm struggling because we can afford it. Should we just pay someone else to do it? Should we do some of it? Stuff we've paid so far well we've never tackled real plumbing. Not changing a flap or new seal on toilet or tightening a bolt. But valve and gas lines? I don't think we can do the garage doors ourselves either but maybe I'm wrong. And for $3500 I thought it wasn't a bad price for 2 doors, 2 openers, installation and disposal.

I always hear about how people did their renovations on the cheap. I don't understand how it can be done so cheap.

Spending free fall

July 17th, 2017 at 01:52 am

Well since we bought the house our spending has been in free fall. Not unexpected nor unplanned. It just is something that happens. Everything we knew about but it's a bit insane to see the bills. We've never spent this way and I am going to guess most people on here haven't either. Otherwise they wouldn't be on savingadvice.

So we started with a playset for the kids. That was installed from costco for $1000. It was discounted when I ordered it memorial day weekend and set up within a week. They love it. They play on it daily. I wondered whether we should do it because they will age out of it. But then decided we might as well. We've been promising it for a long time.

Got the backyard cleaned up for $1200. I'm going to try and maintain it and have spring and fall cleanups but apparently the people before us never took care of the yard in 3 years. The fruit trees are overgrown and in poor shape both neighbors and the yard guys told me. We've even got a fire pit that we've used for s'mores 4x already. The yard is fantastic. We love it. We have 2 cherry, 3 apples, 1 pear, 1 apricot, blueberry bushes and raspberry bushes. Seriously I never imagined having this opportunity.

Patio Furniture just got on Friday was $500 from Amazon. DH put it together in 2 hours and it's amazing. The deck is lovely. I had my morning tea out there.

New TV above the fireplace $600 from costco. Our last TV purchase was in 2005 when we moved to our last house. It's interesting to see how much bigger and lighter and cheaper it is now. We also bought our much wanted king mattress for $1000 from purple. We love tempurpedic. When we bought our last mattress 10 years ago a king didn't fit up the stairs and it didn't come the way it comes now. Technology has changed a lot since 2005. Can't wait to try it but we haven't got a bedframe. That's next on the list to order.

Those were our big ticket items of spending thus far and we aren't done. We're renovating our basement and garage and I'll explain with photos what's going on later and price and decisions.

I'm not sure how long we are staying in this house but it really is lovely.

Other items on our list to order is a gas grill Weber summit series $2000, new couch, dining table, bedroom sets for us and the kids, and building the closets. The kids have our old queen size beds we had and it doesn't fit in the rooms. Until we moved here we decided to just make it work and they barely played in their rooms anyway. And until recently they slept in our room a lot. Well it's time to make rooms for them and let them have a say and maybe they'll feel more adult and "their" rooms. So far we've spent $4300 and another $2000 earmarked already plus the gas line for the grill I'm seeing numbers around $1500 installation.

This is not going to be a cheap summer. But this is down the street from me. The location is to die for. Both how we live and DH gained a minimum of 1 hour a day back on his commute more like 1.5 hours a day. His commute is now 30 minute both directions instead of 1 hour and 1.5 hours. He's really enjoying it.

More photos to come.

Extra $5k x 2!

June 21st, 2017 at 03:30 pm

My friend paid me back the $5k I loaned her for her lawyer retainer. I am so excited. I figured the money gone. But she took a dividend payment from her 401k and paid me off instead. Sweet. Yes I know she should have left it in her 401k, but truthfully I told her that it's okay to tap her 401k right now. That getting divorced is more important than retirement and the situation she's in it really is. I can't explain but it's gotten so bad that if she had to cash out her entire retirement savings I would still think it's a good idea. And as it stands she just might have to do that who knows.

But the second $5k? DH got a referral bonus at work for referring someone that got hired and has been working now for 6 months. YES! Sure we saw $3300 of $5000 but hey it's better than nothing. And we certainly can use the money with our move. I think it just paid for the movers and few extras.

Nice found money!

Free Fridge

June 18th, 2017 at 11:03 pm

Did I mention we are getting a free fridge in the garage of our new house? The sellers when we saw them and bought the lawn mower and seeder (awesome) asked if we wanted it. We said sure.

I guess it depends on if we use it. I guess we'll unplug it and sell it for $25 if we don't. I am worried that we'll buy too much food. I'm not sure how to use it.

I mean I can see leaving drinks and the freezer will be nice. In fact I was contemplating buying a 1/4 of a cow or and 1/8 of a cow to start.

Like I've mentioned my DH is anti-frozen anything but I really want to try managing food better. We don't do a lot of deals because he likes things fresh. But I hate shopping so much.

This is sort of a nice experiment without costing us money to buy a freezer. I think if it works out then maybe we could switch it out to a deep freezer and forgo the fridge part?

Anyone have an extra fridge? How much do you use it?

529 versus Real Estate

June 16th, 2017 at 05:31 pm

So we're doing our ESA at $2k/year for each kid. We have mentioned adding to that around $2k/year each kid into a 529.

Right now we are positioning ourselves to be financially independent soon enough not including college. DH will be 52 and I will be 50 when our youngest goes to college. I always had it as a goal that we would be Financially independent by 45 and I think it'll happen. But realistically I think we may have to wait until age 55 for DH to "retire" so that we could cash flow college.

But reading more about investing in real estate and I think in 2 years we could save enough to perhaps consider investing in it. I wonder if it would make sense to do a rental property for each child and use that instead of 529?

There are a lot of negatives including we're starting late, they won't be paid off and the cash flow might not work. Plus we'd need at least 2 homes for each child. But I wonder if this would make sense?

I can't do it for something that generates $100/month cash flow even with the depreciation tax break. I think that means we'll have to invest in something away and be an absentee landlord to make it happen.

Plus I need DH to get on board. I know he'll be anti-real estate. So anything I find has to make a lot of financial sense.

Any thoughts or experiences? Do you think this is a good idea? This is a long term play so I think with our financial situation we need at least 2 years of stability right now and planning. I need time to research to present my report to DH about where and how we will invest and who will manage the property for us. This is not something I feel we can jump into since we'll be needing to foot most of the cash down payment, emergency fund at first.

stuff cost you a lot

June 14th, 2017 at 07:53 pm

Stuff costs a lot. I mean buying yes costs money. Sure you can save money buying it used. Thrift store or garage sale shopping. But even if you buy everything used and cheaper it's still stuff. You need somewhere to store it. You need to move it. You need to organize it.

I saw this as we are about to move and everyone asks me how the packing is going and I say it's not. I say I am throwing things out and I'm trying to organize what I have so that I don't move it. They nod and look really confused.

I say that I think I need to purge more than pay movers to move unnecessary stuff. I've got friends seriously on both sides of the spectrum. Those who buy new and have tons of stuff. They tend to have big homes and lots of space.

The idea that we are moving to a smaller house that cost more seems well ridiculous and in some ways it is. But then we also have friends who buy second hand everything but also have tons of stuff. They are in their home and paying for a storage unit for 5 years because they can't fit everything into their house but they shop all garage sales, craigslist, thrift stores. I get it they probably don't spend as much but I really question that. I mean 5 years of a storage unit?

I don't say this but I'm thinking this in my head. Either way the things in your house costs a lot. I'm not perfect, not by a long shot. I have a lot of junk in my house that I am struggling to downsize and be motivated to get rid of it.

I write this because I am panicking that we are moving into a really small house compared to what we were hoping for and I know there isn't storage. So I am trying to come to terms that I may have to purge more upon moving.

But ever item I look at and ask "does it make me happy" I tell myself it's just stuff. Yes it cost money to buy. But it costs just as much to store. And my life can't be ruled by things.

I need to live comfortably and having less stuff to fit into the house we bought is a priority. The answer is not make more money and buy a bigger house. The answer is make your space work for what you can afford. Maybe if you can't fit your stuff then stop buying things is the answer.

Today's mini goal purge 1 box from the garage. Go through it and sort what I keep and I was discard.

Wedding gift question

June 13th, 2017 at 03:02 pm

We can't unfortunately make it to my cousin's wedding. I'm not sure how much to give in "gift" value. Culturally my mom has always said you give the value of your meal if you go. This is pretty much true and usually it's cash. It also increases if family. However we aren't going.

I'm sad to not be going but with everything the way it is, we just couldn't have gone. It's a super busy time for us with moving that it wouldn't have made sense.

That being said I was thinking from their registry a $39.99 gift from bed bath and beyond with a 20% off coupon so still free shipping at $32.00. Then use a BBB gift card I bought on Giftcardgranny which I save 10% on so $22.50 for $25. And that will bring my spending to around $30? Is this ridiculously cheap? Do I seem cheap?

I know it's the thought that counts. If it were a friend I might have just sent a nice card. But I usually send gift cards to target when other relatives haven't registered.

I guess I don't want to look too cheap. But at the same time I wonder if I have to give $100-200 gift since we aren't going? UGH. I hate this social etiquette thing.


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