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turning into a health blog not spending

January 14th, 2018 at 07:43 pm

So 6 months ago I had "high" cholesterol. I have been trying to avoid red meat and fried foods. It hasn't worked. I haven't also lost the weight. So I have a two fold problem.

I am still in the high zone at 205 cholesterol. I'm worried. I need to get serious about this diet and losing weight. Perhaps it won't change my cholesterol alone losing weight. I probably need to change more of my eating habits. But it's a place to start.

I have to be accountable so I might as well start here. I am going to post everything that goes into my mouth. My small goals are to lose 10 lbs in the next 6 months and get my cholesterol under 200.

If in 6 months I'm successful I'm going to get myself a treadmill. I haven't found a gym that works for our new house. But I will try to use the insanity tapes I once used and walking.

I'm also debating weighing in everyday. I do want to lose weight. I'm going to try myfitnesspal. I am not joining any weight watchers or anything special. I just have to commit to doing this.

I am going to do it.

Today I had half a donut for breakfast, samples at costco for lunch with a hot dog with a diet soda, and a salad/veggies with 4 oz of chicken alfredo I made. Yes I decided this after lunch today but still I have to make good choices.

And I can't do a crash diet like before lose 20 lbs and then gain it all back when I go back to being "real". Diets haven't worked. I've tried them all.

snowflaking success!

January 14th, 2018 at 02:49 pm

So my new floor mats? Well I have found $65 in snowflakes so far. $45 bonus at work on prepaid CC which I'll use to pay another bill. And a $20 rebate from Black friday pillows. I am debating counting coupons I use.

I also am very excited we finished Roth IRAs for 2017, 2018 and kids ESA for 2017, 2018. Very solid beginning.

Next time I am going to move the Kids ESA to the same place we have our Roth IRAs even without a bonus that I've been waiting for. Because it's a pain to have accounts all over the place. I use TD Ameritrade and they are good.

Third I am opening a savings account at our local credit union for the kids. They pay 6% for kdis accounts up to $500 and DH hates the idea of more accounts, but we just became members because they offered me 2.24% on our 4 year car loan $24k. So i figure we already have an account why not?

Besides the kids will have fun seeing a real bank book and real bank to deposit money. All the rest of their money we have online somewhere. I think they are both doing pretty well. DK1 has $28k for college and Dk2 has $18k. They also have about $2k in savings. Not too shabby. I have been talking to DK about earning money and investing.

As soon as they start babysitting I'm going to have them start to save into a Roth IRA. Right now I told my DKs anything more than $5 gift they should save 50%. Then 50% to spend

Staying Invested

January 12th, 2018 at 11:04 am

I'm curious who on this site is not investing. Or cashing in their chips now to take some of the risk off the table. I've been thinking a lot about it. We're dumping quite a bit into the market right now and I do worry it's high. This is a big topic if you can imagine in a tax office. We're all discussing whether we think the market has another year of gains. So it's on my mind.

Well I decided the other day that we're staying invested. We are sticking with the plan. I am going to put more in and hold it. I'm not going to sit in cash or buy more bonds. I will put rebalance being the beginning of the year, but I'm not going to hold back or change our aggressive stance.

What made me decide this? PS wrote that. Well as I perused our previous net worth and years of record keeping. I know we kept investing in 2007/2008 when we had less than we saved. But then it paid off gangbusters afterwards.

So now yes we have a more invested. And yes we are 10 years older. But talking with DH, he's in it for 10-15 more years. He's not planning on retiring until 15 years when our youngest should be done with college. If they lay him off that's a different story but as of right now it's in our heads he's going to work 15 more years.

That being said I think with a 15-20 year time frame of investing we risk it now. We stay in an aggressive investment strategy of 85% stocks/10% bonds and 5% cash. I don't think we cash in and take some of the returns off the table because we could miss out on more gains. My thoughts are until we are 5 years out we keep on investing aggressively. At 5 years out we switch more to preservation. And perhaps because at 5 years we can make a year to year decision to retire if the market is down maybe work 1 more year.

Do you think you'll keep on investing? Or is it better to take gains off the table?

good news in 2018

January 11th, 2018 at 12:51 pm

2018 has been good so far. Today I deposited 2017 and 2018 IRA contributions for DH and I. $5500 each for each year for $22k in contributions to our Roth IRAs.

Second it's weird but we ended 2017 a bit short of $800k and now it's powered through. We are at $810k, I think the company match came through for DH's 401k at the beginning of the year for last. And now we just contributed $22k. I wonder if I should rethink our stretch goal?

I also wrote down all our investments and I'm going to clean things up this next month.

E-File Cabinet Organization

January 10th, 2018 at 10:57 pm

So we have an electronic file cabinet. We scan in everything, keep electronic copies of all statements, all tax documents, important receipts, etc. It makes very organized every month statement of investments, checking/savings/CC, loans, etc.

But it does take quite a bit of while. I have been working 1.5 hours tonight and I'm still not done. I'm doing monthly statements pretty much for every account we have for 2017.

I already have our 1099 for Chase for our checking/mortgage documents because of this. But loading each pdf can take awhile. Then saving it and cleaning it up. Further scanning in bills that are not electronic like our water bill takes time. Also invoices or receipts for our remodel takes awhile as well.

I used to try and keep up 1x/month. Usually in the 1st week I download all credit card bills and statements and sit and make payments as well on the 1st. This usually takes 1-2 hours. I also log each payment and copy the confirmation code into an excel spreadsheet. But today I am doing all statements for investments mostly I've missed in 2017.

Then after I'm done my DH comes along and backups our electronic file cabinet, that's what we really call it, onto an external hard drive along with our photos from our phones. He also do a cloud backup as well. So we have a few different copies of everything. Included our file cabinet is scans/photos of birth certificates, passports, visa, all important documents.

I will admit has become quite time consuming. Sometimes I wonder if I should just kick it off. But it really helps us keep all bill paid on time.

What do you do

2017 earnings for me

January 6th, 2018 at 09:48 am

I made around $3200 working for the year. I'm happy. It's not a lot but it's a lot of snowflakes. Considering I did the bulk of it when my kids were in school and I paid $0 for childcare it's gravy.

I've been thinking a lot about it. I could probably go back and land a full time job of $50k starting. But I'm not sure that's the path I'm meant to go down. I like being busy. I love having adult interactions. But at the same time I like have the freedom to call in if the kids are sick. I like not bringing work home. I also like being with them.

But let's say I start now making $50k. And work another 10 years and make $80k by the end of 10 years. Not an unreasonable goal I believe. But out of the $50k the biggest savings would be the $18.5k 401k savings I manage to work at a full time job with one. So we'd save an extra $185k in 10 years. But then the rest of my income let's assume 60% ($30k would go straight to taxes). I'm in the 34% bracket or higher so $15k would go straight to federal taxes. Then assuming SS and Medicare I'm looking at another 8% gone. So working full time I will make around $10k/year to spend on after school care since I'll be working full time. That $10k will be gone with 2 kids and after school costs $500/month during the year plus the summer costs? I won't be making $18.5k savings probably closer to $15k/year.

I believe I can make around that much working part-time where I. I can make $15/hr easily and if I make $20-25/hr part-time why not? I'm thinking still of doing the CFP and going out on my own. Writing off expenses would work better.

Anyway I think having more time this year to work out the numbers of my earnings I think it still makes more sense to work part-time and flexible for less money.

new recipe goal

January 5th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

I was thinking of keeping it easy. I want to make 1 new recipe a month. I'm not the best cook and I make a lot of the same meals. My family eats very boring food.

Plus I'm trying to lose weight so I'm trying to eat more veggies. The kids eat a lot of the same veggies and aren't super adventerous with vegetables. I've felt like it's a losing battle because at least they eat broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, chinese broccoli/bok choy, bell peppers, edamame. But they aren't interested in asparagus, artichoke, snap peas, kale, spinach, etc. They also eat very boring apples/berries/watermelon, etc fruits. Sometimes they will eat a banana or pear but they aren't super into new foods.

I know it's more diverse than most of our friends but I feel like we eat a lot of the same meals. So I am going to stretch the kids and my cooking skills this year and make 1 new dish a year.

This week I am making ham bone soup. I have chicken noodle soup on for tonight after rotisserie chicken these past two nights. Tomorrow the plan is short ribs and then ham bone soup and then ham/broccoli quiche. Also clam chowder is on the agenda for dinner next week.

My other plan is to make beef broccoli at home in a slow cooker (new recipe) and twice cook pork. I've made them but I want to make something less labor intensive and I want to try slow cooking it or something. I also want to try a beef taco bake because we eat tacos about 1x every 2-3 weeks. Or switch it to fajitas?

Is there any easy meals you make that is ethnic? I do a slow cooker curry but my kids eat the same 3 curries I can make Japanese, Chicken tikka Masala, and panang. I would like to expand my repertoire.

I might make also for the first time sloppy joes something I loved growing up.

$350 car accessory -snowflake

January 3rd, 2018 at 08:39 pm

So I want weathertech floor mats for my new minivan. Very extravagent. They already put it in the trunk. But I want the rest The question is how do I buy it? Yes I can afford to buy it. But I want to not just pay for it.

I'm thinking I might try to make it a challenge and see how I can snowflake my way to it. Maybe coupon clipping? Maybe ebates? Pinecone surveys? What else could I do?

I don't want to use my paycheck. Or maybe giving myself the cost of a meal out if we skip eating out? I'm actually trying to not eat out because I want to lose weight.

Do I count borrowing books from the library? Or anything free I can snag? Or selling stuff at the consignment? What can I do to make this happen? Skipping a starbucks?

What do you consider snowflakes? My ticket savings to hawaii? Or our trip at the end of the month?

cars got me thinking

January 3rd, 2018 at 11:47 am

After we bought the cars I got to thinking about how I've changed my mindset about cars quite a bit. I have always been a buy new and keep car till it dies sort of person. But recently I've started to change. I'm wondering if it's okay to not keep a car until it dies. I am starting to think that it's worth being okay buying a car that you can afford at that moment in time for a purpose. And when that purpose is done it's okay to sell the car?

Cars are depreciating assets. So in the ideal world people would only buy used cars and keep them till they die. But that still raises the question, how used a car do you need to buy to be uber frugal? To maximize the frugality of cars, which are SUPER expensive does it have to be 10 years old and you drive it for 3-5 more years? What if it's only 1 year old and you drive it 10 mores years? Why couldn't you keep it longer?

I guess it's a sliding scale. Right? That to each person the valuation of car is what they put on it. Some would argue any used car is a deal. While myself included might argue perhaps it's gotta be at least 5-6 year old to be worth? But I did save a bit buying a 2-3 year old used car.

Reflecting back on our cars we've now had I've come to the realization that we can just make the best choice at the time we make the decicion.

My first car was a 99 toyota corolla bought for $11k including taxes/fees we sold in 2012 because my DH really wanted a car with latch and airbags. It had 150k miles and still running super strong and if my DH didn't want newer safety features I'm sure it'd still be running! We sold it for $3500. We bought a 2006 Hyundai Sonata in 2012 for $11000 taxes and fees.

He had 2000 ford focus bought new for $13k including taxes and fees we sold in 2010 because it broke down. We sold it for $2500. We bought a new subaru outback base model for $23000 including all taxes and fees.

In 2015 we sold the Hyundai Sonata for $6500 and leased a 2015 Subaru Legacy for $28k. DH wanted the car so we did it. What will happen I'm unsure.

Now in 2017 we ended it buy buying a used 2015 Sienna Minivan for $31k. We aren't selling the Subaru Outback 2010 instead we're giving it to my mom and i'll call it $7k value.

Looking back the best value of depreciation was the new Toyota Corolla for $576/year. Then the Ford Focus $1050/year deprecation, then the Sonata $1500/year. I'm not sure what our current 2 cars will end up but I've decided that you can't always make the best decision with cars.

You have to make the best decision with the information at hand. That means what sort of car do you need or want? Can you afford it? Do you think i'll serve it's purpose?

Have you reflected on all the cars you've owned? How would you judge your purchases? Wise? Unwise? Okay? Did it make you happy and serve a purpose?

Bought a minivan and 2017!

December 31st, 2017 at 10:03 am

We bought a 2015 Toyota Sienna AWD Limited minivan. I love, love, love it. I can't say how nice it is to have the space and ease of a bigger car. The car was $28k plus taxes and fees and we borrowed $24k for 4 years at 2.24%.

We are giving my mom the 2010 Subaru Outback. I do feel guilty about getting rid of a car so new, but the minivan I think will be good for 7 years. The plan is to evaluate it when it is 10 years and decide what we need at that time. My mom is getting rid of a 21 year old 1996 Toyota Avalon. And she could buy a new car but refuses so my used car is perfect. Sigh. Trust me I was trying to get her to buy a new car.

2017 wrap up. Our retirement accounts were ridiculous. We started at $626k and contributed $29k. We ended up with $790k today and approximate 21% return for the year.

We started the year with $435k taxable accounts and ended the year with $294k and $250k home equity we put down. Up $109k for the year. Guessing not as much saved as we should have but we did pay a lot of expenses this year.

Overall our NW went up $263k. Our kids have $22k and $14k in college. Plans to discuss this month pay off the car, how much for driveway/drain repairs this summer, roth IRA $11k, $20k taxes, and how much we plan on front loading the kids college.

I think we should earmark $10k per kid this year and see how the year goes. Then with the continual $2k/year per kid we could do another $10k in Jan 2019. I think this should cover 4 years of college?

whew - not at fault

December 20th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Recall the accident last month? I know I wasn't at fault but it really stressed me out a lot. I guess because we had used our insurance and paid for the deductible $500 and the overage on the rental car $250. It wasn't the money but the worry that I'd have another black mark on my record. I mean 2 years ago in January 2016 I had a car accident my fault. And DH is finally getting his record of accidents clean so we might have a reasonable car insurance.

We paid $897 for 2 drivers, 2 cars for 6 months. So we're at $1800/year for 2 30-something year old drivers. We're paying like we're teenagers. In March 2017 we were priced at $2100/year. Recall the debacle of getting kicked off Ameriprise Costco for non-payment because we didn't get our mail?

Well looking back we were at $1275 for 6 months in 8/2016 or $2550/year. You can see why I was stressing out about liability and if I had made a good decision going through insurance. Before the accident we were looking at $774 for 6 months in 2/2016.

So now I'm a little more relaxed. However I will say that Commerce insurance, the company I have through AAA is terrible and useless. It took me hours of prodding them and calling Nationawide directly to determine liability (they were the other person's insurance). Also Commerce didn't respond back to the repair shop, and they didn't fax over authorization for 3 days claiming it was due to the appraisor. Turns out because it was an authorized shop I didn't need an appraisor. Ugh.

Anyway come March 2018 I plan on shopping around not just for cost but because I don't find Commerce/AAA very helpful. My AAA insurance agent never returns my calls.

AAA started a home owners insurance in June, but didn't cancel my renters insurance and kept charging me until I argued with them in September. I was then worried they hadn't started a home owners insurance. In Spetember 2017 because they didn't cancel my renters insurance they mailed my auto insurance renewal to my old address!!!!! Only because I called to inquire did they realize their mistake and did I renew my auto policy.

I guess you can say I'm done with them. But for now I'll just wait. At least I have insurance.

2018 tax reform bill

December 17th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

I'm not entirely sure we'll get a tax cut but whatever. It is what it is.

That being said I'm sort of being pushed to buy our new to us car now this month because I think I want to capture the sales tax break since we itemize. I'm not sure how everything will shake out next year.

Is it worth it? I'm still contemplating. The only good thing is that we've been thinking about it and meaning to do it for 2 months now but haven't pulled the trigger.

I will say that I think the tax bill will have negative repercussions for charitable donations. I think less people will give. But until everything is signed I think we'll still have to see.

Holiday gifts

December 11th, 2017 at 02:30 pm

So I'm not ready yet to tell my DK that santa isn't real. I'm sure my DK1 knows but I say if you don't believe in santa you get nothing.

This year we did the lego and chocolate advent calendars. We are doing a book again, pajamas, and a toy, and stocking stuffers. They get two toys 1 from DH and myself and 1 from santa. We provide the big toy because DH wants credit and the toy from santa this year is $10 bank. We usually aim for something nice around $20 then we get gifts from family and friends and we do the stockings.

It's really cut back on what we spend, not that we ever spent much. Until we moved 3 years we spent $0 on gifts because we were always traveling every holidays to see our families. So we just brought back enough gifts that we NEVER bought the DK a gift. We had enough and they were 5 and 3 before we got a tree.

So in 2015 we got out first tree and started gifts. I mean when we traveled usually to Hawaii my mom did stockings and gifts. I bought them gifts and my family but not the DK.

Now that we're hosting it we had to buy presents from us and Santa and I realize listening to other parent HOLY MOLY how much people spend on Christmas, Hannukah, etc. A LOT. They have a lot of big ticket items.

I think for our big gifts the kids want another hatchimal (peacat and griffin). Then these books they picked and $10 pajamas from Target.

But ugh I am hating wrapping and doing the stockings. Worse yet DH turned 40 yesterday (yeah!) but I got him nothing but an apple pie (he didn't want a cake) and a card. Seriously we looked at each and again we're struggling to want something to wrap up.

I know he's supposed to "get" me tiles to attach to my keys and phone so I can find them easily. But what else?

I wonder it comes with age. There is nothing we want for that we can't and won't buy when we want it. Because we don't want much there isn't much to buy. I was going to buy him a new hockey jersey but he said , why bother? Spend money on tickets to a game maybe.

I love the feeling of christmas and new years. I love having a tree decorated by kid ornaments. I love our lights and music and just relaxing. But boy this whole present thing is a PIA.

Any tips for buying for significant others?

Holiday Cards

December 9th, 2017 at 04:12 pm

Do you do holiday cards? Do you get them? I like getting holiday cards. I like seeing my friends kids get older and hearing about their lives, especially those who we don't live by anymore.

But it's not cheap to do it. This year on groupon I bought a groupon for holiday cards from staples for $42 for 200 cards. But then there is also the cost of stamps. So probably we're spending $100 in all. I get it now why people hate doing it and say it's expensive. But I still like it.

Do you do it? Do you like getting them?

Overbudget and over time

December 1st, 2017 at 02:11 pm

Well we are officially over budget and way over time Well the timing thing is tight. The contractor told me Thanksgiving which I always thought was optimistic. Turns out I was right. As it stands we are hoping 12/20 before my parents arrive. Of course it won't be completely done the glass shower door and side won't be done. That is looking like January but hopefully everything else will be done.

We are currently framing the windows and just finished priming. We have to paint and do the tile of the fireplace and floor. Then there is still the upstairs work and attic, fan, insulation to still deal with, which I may tell them come back in January. We've got guests for the holidays and I don't think I can deal.

Budget wise we are over period. Over my "budget" not what they told me. When we started we were at $3700 for garage doors, $55k contractor, and $5k for designer and OOP. I figured we would come in around $75k. We are at $77k and not done. I knew things would come up and things would change But I was thinking 20% over was generous. I was wrong.

Things that changed? Our shower was rotted, we finished the garage, moved a door, found rot on the siding, replaced some rot and reinforcements. So our change orders are currently at $18k and we aren't done yet. Things happen when walls come down and you don't know what's behind them.

Oh well. I hope this works out okay. We are in so deep that we can't turn back now. Whatever it's worth I think if I escape under $100k I'll be happy right now. I don't think we should be that much further over I am going to guess $85k all in. But don't hold me to this. I'll continue updates and more importantly I'll post photos when it's done. I can't wait.

Tax Reform?

November 15th, 2017 at 10:14 pm

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 11:11 am

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 3rd, 2017 at 05:30 pm

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 01:51 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 10:41 am

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 11:50 am

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 17th, 2017 at 08:20 pm

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 16th, 2017 at 05:08 pm

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 08:25 am

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 09:22 am

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 03:02 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 09:13 am

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 4th, 2017 at 09:51 pm

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 09:36 am

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 28th, 2017 at 11:29 pm

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.


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