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Archive for October, 2017

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?