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Archive for September, 2015

End of Month Lookback

October 1st, 2015 at 03:56 am

Ugh....What can I say? I haven't looked at our investment accounts or retirement accounts until now. We'll we've lost about 10% in retirement down from 6/15/16 $575k to $520k. And we're not adding to it either this year anymore so it's a bit frustrating. Our taxable accounts are down $40k but part of that is from our investments going down $33k. $7k for a move, month long trip, deposits, and start up costs is not terrible. Of course our investments tanking is a sorry thing.

Unfortunately our burn rate needs to come down we're been spending way to much money on just getting set up again. How bad has it been? Well the utilities weren't bad this month we paid trash $52 until end of October, $59 for electric/gas, $99 to set up internet with comcast $50, downgraded our cell phones to $90/month from $130 and am waiting for the water bill. We spent $137 for the month on car gas.

So the food budget and pet budget are where we are bleeding money. We spent $203 on eating out, way too high I think. But I'm having trouble curbing my husband. He's not willing up a coffee from starbucks and wants it almost daily. Our groceries this month was $1122! OMG. Granted a lot of it was set up stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, shampoo, body wash, cleaning supplies, and basic kitchen stuff. We used up mostly everything and gave away stuff that would have been difficult to move. Also we had to buy a lot of stuff to start up the kitchen like a spice rack for $25 from costco. But honestly it was everything else that added up quickly. Canola, sesame, evoo, balsamic, red, cider, white vinegars, soy sauce, mirin, cooking wine, etc. A shopping trip to the ethnic markets we spent $100 on spices and other stuff. The cleaning supplies from costco was another $100. Moving is a lot more expensive out of town than probably people realize. I certainly didn't expect all these expenses.

Hope that we are able to curb our budget next month.

Update on life

September 29th, 2015 at 03:12 am

I realized I'm pretty bad at reading comments so I'll do a few updates.

We ALL are extremely happy to have moved. We love it here. Everything has been amazing. The house is perfect. The neighborhood is great. And we adore the weather, people, everything. I asked my DH today which city he's preferred where we've lived and he said hands down here. Something about it just strikes a chord within.

Did I mention we have a hammock in the backyard as a housewarming gift from an old neighbor? We swing it most days. The weather been great. We've had 2 sunday dinners with my nephew and a couple of friends. We've explored and enjoyed biking.

My DH plans on going back to work February 1st. He's enjoying the time off and relaxing. FWIW his old job people are on knife edge since the VP just got fired and potentially more people will be going next March. A lot of his old coworkers have called him to chat and ask about life and complain.

As for me? I've been trying to keep in touch with friends we've left behind but they haven't been very responsive. I can't help but wonder if we would have ended up drifting apart anyway this year? That people would have gotten busier and new friendships would have developed. But we are also making new friends here so perhaps it'll all work out.

Our only sad note is that our dog has lymphoma and we've started him on a modified chemotherapy. We refused surgery for his leg and chosen a less drastic chemotherapy than recommended. Having been through this once we are hoping for the best with the decision we've made. We've spent so far this month around $2k and more to come on his. I did cry in the office a little but I'm okay. I hope the kids understand. We'll need a little bit of time recover I think before we get another dog.

So I found a CC

September 29th, 2015 at 02:45 am

So I found a credit card today in the parking lot of the grocery store I was entering. I stuck it in my pocket and gave it to the cashier as I checked out.

I felt a lot of guilt because I wonder if the person who dropped it will get it back? Perhaps I should have talked to the manager? I mean I get tons of good karma with all the wallets returned to me when I lose them. So I am trying again to pass along good karma. I've returned a wallet before I found in a shopping kart to the customer service desk. But this was a smaller grocery store I don't think with a customer service so I just handed it over.

It was a bank of america card and I know I probably could have driven to a branch and given it to them. But I didn't feel like dealing with getting the kids in and out of the car.

Do you think I did enough? I am feeling really bad like I should have done more than say "Oh I found this in the parking lot."

Budgeting struggle

September 19th, 2015 at 09:34 pm

I find it impressive and amazing people can follow a budget. I struggle with organizing receipts and honestly I hate breaking them down. I hate trying to group cleaning supplies, home furnishings, clothing, etc. I mean I can do very simple stuff like groceries and eating out and gas for the car. I also can do stuff like insurance or cable or water or electric.

But tracking all the spending? I'm not sure where to put categories and receipts sometimes. I only check my restaurant receipts against the charges to make sure the tip is put on correctly. And I keep receipts of things I might return or are high value with the item.

But how do you really track it? Is it better weekly? Or month? How do you budget stockpiling groceries or cleaning supplies?

What really worked for us and I'm still getting into the rhythm is picking a number and seeing where our budget will land. I'll pick a number and see if we can stay within and if need be I'll tighten it.

Rent $2400, Electric $200, Water $100, Internet $60, Cell Phone $95, Trash $30, Gas $200, Groceries $500, Eating out $200, Misc $100. Then see if we hit these targets and adjust.

But tips for budgeting will be appreciated.

Not working and how it's going

September 19th, 2015 at 04:06 am

It's interesting living a lifestyle eschewed by Mr Money Mustache. We're not "retired" but taking a break from working. We don't have enough to retire fully and live the lifestyle we want. We probably are close especially if we moved further out from where we are and lived very frugally. But the truth is my DH isn't willing to compromise and wants to work so we will continue on the hamster wheel. We just took a short break from "work" in the traditional sense.

It's been a month but a busy month for my DH and I. Since we moved cross country most of the month was spent unpacking, organizing, and just getting settled. For the most part we are close to being done and really getting settled into a routine.

I've noticed a couple of things. We curbed the eating out which is good since it's pricey. I miss it a little but we're trying to limit it to 1-2x a week. So far it's been 1x a week. Our cooking is getting back to where it used to be pre-kids. We have more time to put effort. Also we grocery shop more and look for sales and shop the circular because we're on a tighter budget. This month so far our grocery budget has been an excessive $700 but a lot of it has to do with buying stuff like spices, condiments, flour, sugar, canola oil, olive oil, etc. Things you need to start up your kitchen. Basic goods that all add up. It really was the first 2 weeks of moving in when we bought a ton of extra groceries and we don't have a stockpile either yet going. However we're also running lean and sort of buying enough for a week worth of cooking.

However we fill gas a lot less. So far this month we've spent $77 and haven't filled since the beginning of the month. We don't have cable just internet. The deal happened to be $50/month for 100 mbps and adding cable was an extra $20. Where we were cable was an extra $5/month because the "bundle" of local channels plus hbo was $84 versus $79 for just internet.

This lifestyle is pretty relaxing. I'm not sure if either of us could last long term but knowing we have 4 months of DH not "working" I think will go by quick. He went to a info session of his bootcamp and was told he has to get up to speed on Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus. So he's taking online classes to make sure he can ace it. So these 4 months should go by fast. He was also reassured that they had a 100% placement rate after the camp.

Guess it'll be interesting watching our savings dwindle and seeing what happens. We're starting off with $80k cash, $100k invested, and $350k for a house DP. I hope we don't tap any more than the $80k or at least that's our goal.

Road Trip Spending

September 18th, 2015 at 05:50 pm

I finally got around to tallying our road trip spending. Previously I had mentioned our road trip costs for the hotel. It was not bad for 28 days of being in hotels/camping = $1832.70. Less than $100/day and less than our mortgage and utilities.

However we spent $2257.39 on eating out and groceries for the month. And absurd amount but then we were not shopping sales, and eating out many, many meals. It would have cost more to have gotten hotel rooms with kitchens since we stayed in the cheapest places.

We also spent $696.36 on activities while traveling. Things like Niagara Falls Aerocar and Maid of the Mist. We also took a ferry to Mackinac Island and boat tour of picture rock national lakefront. We also biked Mackinac island and tubed in Leavenworth WA. All in it was a great deal I think.

Finally we spent $646.32 in gas driving cross country. We put on around 5000 miles driving from east to west coast. I think that's a pretty good deal.

All in I guess we spent $5432.77 for a 28 day vacation. Not bad around the cost of our normal monthly budget to be honest. Except we had a cool adventure and lots of memories. Could we had done it more frugally? Yes. We could have camped more and probably eaten at cheaper restaurants the whole way. But overall it was a nice vacation. We cheaped out on how we camped and hotels to indulge a bit more on eating out.

But now that we've moved I'm interested in our new budget.

Utilities - lower cost of living

September 15th, 2015 at 03:00 am

The lower cost of living is SWEET. I am loving the small benefits. Yes housing is at least 25% cheaper, probably closer to 30-40% to be honest when everything is said and done. It's hard to compare because the houses are newer and need less work so where we lived a $800k home was a "fixer" that is about the same size or bigger, but needing new furnace, roof, insulation, lead paint, windows, electrical etc. I mean that this year 2 of my friends bought homes they couldn't move into without getting the electrical upgraded from Nob 2. That was $15k OOP before they moved in, besides it was a safety hazard. Both people also had to tear out bathrooms that had leaks and were rotting and are working on those projects. So though I think house are at least 25% cheaper I think it's much more.

But I can definitely see a difference in utilities however with our first electric bills. Here it is 9.5 cent/kwh, we last paid 24.8 cents/kwh where we lived. Ridiculous. If we used the same amount 921 kwh we should have paid $87.49. Instead we paid $228.40. So around 1/3 the price we paid.

Our natural gas in our new location $1.03/therm used. In our last place we were paying $1.16/therm used and this was summertime. The price in Dec/January was $1.40/therm. Being the frugal folk we only used 307 therms in the winter. So our bill was $430. Our connected neighbors who heated to 70 instead of our 60 was $1200.

Another direct comparison was our property taxes. The property tax rate of our town was $12.12/$1000 of assessed value. Here the assessed tax rate is $10.73/$1000 of assessed value. This is 12% saving on property taxes and that's direct comparison of assessed value.

I'm waiting on our water bill but previously our water bill was $18 per CCF for combined water and sewer. I'm interested in the rate we will be paying. Of course we are also paying $30/month trash service.

Add this all up with a saving of state incomes and lower food costs and I think we could potentially be looking at a lower cost of living around a solid 20%. So a 20% paycut should be fine. The question is where we will land income wise?

I also know that where we moved is not a LCOLA. It's actually pretty expensive for the US comparatively. Perhaps others will chime in about their cost of living. Do you watch what you pay? Do you know what you pay? I know when we moved from CA to the East Coast we had comparable COL. But this is the first time we've ever lived somewhere cheaper for us both. It's pretty sweet.

Switching phone companies

September 15th, 2015 at 02:38 am

We switched from Verizon to T Mobile. T Mobile is having a deal for 10 gb a line with unlimited talk and text $120 for up to 4 lines. We had three lines and a spare sim card given to us. So we decided to switch.

My BIL broke his phone and was happy to buy a new one. My DH and I ported over our old verizon phones and activated them on T mobile. T mobile also paid our early termination fees off the contract.

We were paying $190/month between three people for 3 smart phones and 10 gb of data shared. Now we are looking at $120 for 3 lines with 10 gb each. Of course my DH is interested in a new phone but me personally I'll be focusing on the cheapest smart phones since I seem to be a magnet for breaking/losing of phones. So there is NO point for me to have anything fancier than my most recent moto E for $70. Not a bad deal.

Of course my BIL just bought a note 6 and my DH will likely want something nicer soon enough. But personally this no contract and buy a phone you like I think is the best plan. I've been dying to move to cricket or pay as you go and it never made sense when I inputted how much data and minutes we've used. But this new T mobile deal is pretty sweet.

If only my parents also on T mobile would have joined our plan then 5 people for $130 would have been a steal. And no my mom refused because of control issues.

new neighborhood

September 11th, 2015 at 04:30 pm

The neighborhood we live in is great. People seem less rushed and less stressed. The houses are very middle class and if I had to guess most people are solidly middle class.

But what struck me is a lot of the phrases I'm hearing. Before we lived in a very upper income, affluent area for the country. Average house price was $1M, condos were around $500k+, so you can imagine that the average salary I think was $100k. Where we lived that was scraping by.

Now the area we've moved to the houses are running around $400-500k and it's considered one of the more affluent areas of the city we live in. Honestly expensive compared to many other suburbs. Most people here are 1 or 2 working professionals like where we lived, and I'd guess the average income is also $80-100k.

But I've heard from a lot of people that they are on a tight budget, living paycheck to paycheck, and stretching it. I don't get it.

I know where we moved from people made a lot of money, but I also know there were MANY two income professional couples trying to keep up with the Joneses. But here people don't seem to be driving Audi, Lexus, BMW, Benz. They aren't sending their kids to tons of activities that cost exorbitant amounts or hiring nannies to pick up the kids and chauffer them.

But they are talking about leasing a new Rav4, not affording activities for kids, and being paycheck to paycheck. I am surprised. I thought that they are living so much more modestly they would be saving more. But it seems that no matter what the house price, income, or area, many people aren't saving and struggling.

I thought it was mostly those who tried to keep up with the Joneses at the highest levels of income that were in trouble. Now I think that at all income levels people are trying to keep up with the "joneses" of their level.

FWIW we fit in better in the neighborhood carwise and stuff. We don't seem so frugal. But I wonder if knowing we can afford more might not encourage us to spend more?

Career Change?

September 11th, 2015 at 01:43 am

I really like where we live now and our neighbors are super nice people. Yesterday I had a very nice mom talking to me about going back to school and she said she was doing it because she wanted security for her kids.

She was in the restaurant/events planning business before and made good money. She would make around $80k she said being manager of restaurants or corporate event planning. But she gave that up after kids because the hours weren't condusive to having kids.

She loved what she did. Her husband is a head chef at a nice restaurant. She is going back to school to be an ultrasound tech but she's got 2 years of prerequisites but then 2 more years of the program. So at least 4-6 years she said. She wouldn't really be starting until her youngest was in kindergarten or 1st grade. She's in her 40s. She was debating is it worth going back to school?

She potentially thinks she could make $100k as an ultrasound technician. But she wonders is it worth doing all the schooling? Is it a wise investment? She thinks she'll get a lot of financial aid. So not much out of pocket.

But is the years of lost income worth it? I told her I'm not sure. But she should be sure she wants to be an ultrasound tech because worse case scenario is going back and not liking it. Then having wasted time and money.

What are people's thoughts on these sort of career changes?

Buying a few things

September 8th, 2015 at 09:02 pm

So we've bought a few things for the house. For the most part we've had too much furniture in some ways than too little. But we've had to buy 2 shoe racks from bed bath and beyond for $16 each. They were regular $20 each with 20% off coupon. They are great the 6 shelf stacker that is made with fabric so you can hold kid shoes without it falling through like other shoe racks.

Two bookcases one for each child. We actually sold three bookcases but my DH wasn't comfortable with either in the kids rooms. They were full size and he thought they would climb it and fall over. He also doesn't put beds by windows because he thinks they'll crash and fall through the windows. It's weird phobias that I have to humor. But we bought one bookshelf on craigslist this weekend for $20 and one at ikea for $30. I figure depending on where we move we might sell them and buy the kids a matching set at that time when we get into a final home.

We also bought a dresser for the DK2 since she's got her own room now. We had a dresser previously that was falling apart and bought over 15 years ago from IKEA as is department. Again we went to IKEA and splurged $40!

Other random stuff we are buying a new rice cooker since ours broke. Actually a friend bought it for us as a housewarming gift. And possibly the 20 spice rack from costco. It comes with 5 years of free spice refills. We got rid of our spices and condiments because it wasn't worth shipping. Besides who knows how it would have survived the move. Again all these tiny costs add up.

I'm also waiting for a coupon from Groupon because I need a couple of duvet covers and extra sheet sets. Uggh. Moving is such a pain. Our house is a wreck. There is no space to clean and vacuum and yet I'm getting antsy because I know it's dirty, but we are living with boxes and stuff out everywhere.

Waiting game for dog

September 2nd, 2015 at 09:23 pm

So the dog injured the ligament in his knee of his back leg. Prognosis? Surgery is the only way to fix it. However it's not advised because it's a rough surgery for a dog his age. One option is a lesser surgery with fishing line however again his age and condition suggest he could die on the table.

Second we are waiting for the results of his biopsy and histopathology of his skin tag. It's likely that he has lymphoma. If that is the case, because of his age and condition surgery is extremely risky. We should find out the results either Friday or next week.

Right now we are in limbo. We are pretty sure that we won't do surgery. And we won't do chemotherapy but we will do some treatment. What this means who knows. Is cost an issue? Yes and no. The surgery could be $2k-3500. Chemotherapy probably around there. But more important is the quality of his life, ie recovering from surgery and spending 6-8 weeks crated might not be ideal. Also we are unsure we would want to risk surgery and him on the table. So there are many factors at play.

Yesterday alone cost us $600 for the services rendered. I find myself struggling more with the idea that we're out of options than worrying about the financials. I can see how people easily run up pet bills. I've never tallied our chemotherapy and end of life bills on our last bichon. I know it was over $7k at that time. We did get almost 8 more months with 6 of them good with him. And we were prepared when he passed instead of his initial collapse.

This time I'm not sure.

The dog

September 1st, 2015 at 04:39 pm

So our dog hasn't been well for a couple of months. He's had a leg/joint issue and we've suspected a lymph node issue. It's confirmed today when we sent him in for teeth cleaning and the dr suggested a lymph node biopsy. He's old at least 14 potentially more. We've had him since 2006 and it's a little depressing. Since we've lost our last guy in 2010 we've only had one dog.

I'm honestly a bit nervous. If this is it I'm not ready to get another dog. But with two kids I'm not sure how willing to wait they would be for us to grieve. The first time was hard enough but we had one dog left and our lives had just changed with a new baby. So the dog of our youth (20s) was ready to say goodbye.

I don't know how I feel that we've moved again to possibly say goodbye to another family member. I know that we've changed our lives again but we got this house a lot in part for him. And I don't know if I can picture life without a dog.

Cross your fingers. But either way I know based on his age we are just counting time. We realized it as this winter and he had a lot of trouble in the snow.