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getting hearing aids

November 13th, 2019 at 11:07 am

I had another hearing test and it was determined it was borderline. So they suggested hearing aids. Because of my insurance covering it 100% I am rushing forward with it before it probably changes January 1st. Typical because who knows what is going to be covered. I am hoping to finish this by the end of the year.

I will admit it's a bit annoying that medical plans always change every year. That you only know what will be that year but next year who knows?

spending 2020 money already

November 6th, 2019 at 12:00 pm

So today I booked girl scout camp for 1 week for DK in August 2020. $25 deposit each but the camp will be $500/each including transportation and 1 overnight. They are going with a couple of friends and their first overnight away from us. So we decided to go for it. If they hate it we won't send them away. Interestingly a lot of kids in our neighborhood went last year to sleep away camp for a week and a bunch are going this year. My DK1 is not willing to try it. I figure by the time she's going into 6th maybe?

I booked a cruise in Japan in June 2020 through costco on Princess. For the four of us it's $5356 including free gratuities, shipboard credit, and free upgrade. I think we are planning on using our miles for the flights. I did find a flight to return through Hawaii on Air Asia for $168 per person and return home for $260. So that is on the table. I'm also getting the marriott bonvoy credit card for $95 and 3 nights free I want book and hope to use for our trip. I'm going to budget $10k for the trip not including the miles for airfare.

We also have a couple weeks away for 3 nights each and ~$200 so we are spending $600 for hotels 2x and I'm going to guess $200 on food each day plus gas and parking. That takes care of our trips thus far and spending for 2020.

I also booked hawaii in Feb but I had miles for that so I guess it was $40 total in fees. I also stay with family and don't rent a car so for the 6 days I'm guessing we'll spend $200/day eating out (gotta treat the parents and family so maybe more).

I have one more October/Thanksgiving trip in 2020 to plan. I am hoping to go to southeast asia. I will be out of miles but I may have points from Chase sapphire reserve that I might use for some of it. I'm hoping to come in around $10k for that trip depending on how long we go for and where. Tickets will be the cost eater. I'm hoping to stay under $4k for the four of us which will likely decide where we go.

I'm curious if these miles and free nights work out.

2034...dum dum da....

November 4th, 2019 at 02:53 pm

DK2 will finish high school in 2030. Woah typing that makes it real. I believe she'll be done (fingers crossed) in 2034. DH will be 56 turning 57 and I'll be around 55 depending on graduation date.

We have 14.5 years until we are done. I am freaked out a bit reading that. Based on the rule of 7 we should be able to double our investments 2x over. Since in theory your investments double every 7 years. By that rule we'd have a ridiculous amount of money.

I guess I feel it going by in a blink because I believe I started blogging here and on my own website in 2005. So it's been 14 years or so and my how times have changed.

If I can figure it out I should put one of those countdown days. It might freak me out though to watch it. For many of you I'm sure you are also feeling the passage of time as I read your blogs and smile. I find incredibly interesting to see how people's live have changed sometimes very rapidly. To see how much has improved often times because of this site.

Anyway I was just musing about time.

Murphy's law - the dog

October 31st, 2019 at 12:18 pm

For some reasons we get very unlucky with what we spend on our pets. Perhaps the real reason is we don't pay on the front end, we adopt dogs, so instead we pay on the back end.

Anyway last year I think I mentioned our dog we adopted in October 2018, a gorgeous standard poodle, was diagnosed with immume mediated thrombocytopenia. It's an autoimmune disease where his body attacks his platelets. We've spent a fortune this year, I'm not adding it up, on medications, and going to the vet every 1-2 weeks for blood draws to measure and see if it's being controlled.

Well it's been a year on steroids and lots of medications and it's not. The long term steroids usage is causing cyst formation and we are at a crossroads. We've been trying to lower his dosage and medications but it's not working. His platelets if they go lower he'll likely bleed out and die.

We were kicked off our pet health insurance I bought because we just bought it and had no idea about background. Anyway we'd have gone over the lifetime $10k limit probably anyway with nationwide and I'm not sure they would have covered all of this treatment. It's more for in case of injury kind of deal.

But he's a fabulous dog. He's 2.5 years old, great shape otherwise and seriously the best dog either of us have ever had. He's super well behaved, really smart. I mean ridiculously smart. DK1 teaches him trick in an hour. He can open doors with his paws. He totally gets our routines, can hear our cars up the street, and just is really a great dog. I don't know if all standard poodles are this smart, but even the dog trainer we worked with said he's EXTREMELY well adjusted, smart, and perfect.

The dog trainer we hired was used by the rescue group we got him from and he'd kept him. He'd used our dog as a training dog for other dogs who were aggressive or shy. He was so even keeled, well mannered, good size that he was perfect. We used the dog trainer so we could control him off leash with voice commands and walk perfectly. He can place easily for 60 minutes outdoors. He can walk without leash and sits in the car perfectly and can be walked by our kids.

So anyway we are at the point of having tried all medications. So the vet suggested that we remove his spleen and his cysts. The surgery will cost $5-7k. I'm a little nervous however because of his low platelet level that surgery is dangerous. This is the same scenario of what happened with our last dog that we had to put him under to remove his cracked tooth or put him down. The cysts also had a rare strain of bacterial infection because of compromised immune system.

I guess I'm just freaked out. I hope this works out. What we're hoping is to reduce his immune response and while he will be compromised without his spleen(he already is majorly immune compromised) he can reduce his medications and we can keep him at a relatively normal level and ease off of weekly blood checks. Something like 2-4 times a year.

Maybe it would have been better to buy a dog next time. But I feel guilty even from a breeder. Who knows. I'll update again in a couple weeks after we do an ultrasound to confirm we can and should do the surgery. Fingers crossed. If this works he'll have another 8-10 good years with us. He's truly been a great addition to the family. He sleeps with us and the kids and is so big and funny he climbs right in bed when we read books and love to just sleep all day.

WDW part 2

October 30th, 2019 at 12:50 pm

So then on Monday 10/14 night we checked into WDW Marriott Swan hotel. Unfortunately for us the power went out that day in half the hotel. So checking in took over 1 hour and it was a ZOO. Had we known we'd have gone to eat out before arriving at the hotel and assuming we could eat there. The restaurants were closed and we had to go to the Dolphin and it was busy.

So besides the parking how much spending did we do? We spent $64 on magic bands to make using our fastpasses easier. It really helped with the kids. I sort of wish there was a way to buy express passes for disney like Universal or buy more fast passes. I hated waiting in lines and while we mostly skipped anything with lines, because of our compressed time frame it would have been nicer to have all rides planned.

I want to add we stopped at publix and bought 8 pack of coke and 8 pack of powerade to drink in the park daily. The kids each had a bottle of powerade and water daily and we refilled. DH had cokes and I had water. This saved us on paying park prices but was only possible because we had a car to shop. If we were really frugal we'd have packed lunches daily and lots of snacks. But I felt like part of the fun was eating disney themed food.

But 10/15 we went to HS by boat and we spent $103.70 on food for the day. We mobile ordered at Docking bay 7 while doing the millenium falcon ride during EMH and it was good. The ride was awesome and we waited around 40 minutes. Other than that counter service we ate at the Epcot food stands for dinner. We made it to Epcot riding the gondolas which took around 30 minutes. Then we drove that night to AK for the River of lights show. We did Frozen, star tours, and Buzz on fast pass 2x and I snagged the River of lights on my phone. Other than that we didn't really wait in line for anything else.

On 10/16 we went to AK and took and uber round trip $22 including tips. We spent $177.54 on Food at Harambe Cafe for lunch (mobile ordered), snacks at cart, and dinner again at Epcot. We loved animal kingdom just walking around and doing a few rides. I wish we had more time to spend there. We did the Navi River, Kali Rive, and Safari bus on FP and did shows rather than wait in lines. We did dinner at epcot because I snagged FP at 6 pm for soarin. Then off to bed because we were up early for AK

The next day we went to EMH @ AK and waited 45 minutes for the flight of passage ride. We had fast passes for 10/19 but weren't sure we would do it. It was great. We ended up ubering there and back again for $25. We also took an uber from the Swan to the front of Epcot since it was our epcot day for another $10 instead of the free boat because we were running so late and about to miss our test track FP. We also did nemo and space on FP. Then we waited in our longest line probably 60 minutes for Frozen ride. I couldn't get fast passes no matter what.

Then we headed back to the hotel early around 3 pm and swam. Our meals for that day at epcot was $129.33 mostly because DH and I had I believe 3 drinks each. We also went to dinner at Todd English Blue Zoo for ~$125. It was nice. So we spent around $255 for food.

On Friday again we used uber to get to magic kingdom when they opened for EMH at 7 am. I took the uber to the contemporary hotel. It was 10.91 and worth every penny. We did the 7 dwarf train in 25 minutes, winnie the pooh, haunted mansion, it's a small world all before 8:25 FP to buzz lightyear. then while in line waiting for the train I got a reservation for breakfast at Be Our Guest at 10 am so it was our "brunch" for the day. The meal cost $109.70. It was nice but not really worth it. The kids I guess aren't huge Beauty and the Beast fans so they didn't care much about the castle or seeing everything. It was a nice break.

Then we did our splash mountain and peter pan FP and pirates and called it a day after seeing a few shows. We left the park by 2 pm because I had reservations at mama melrose's for Fantasmic dinner packages at 5 pm at HS. It took us an hour to get to our hotel after waiting for the bus. Then we took the boat to HS from the swan. If my DK could have walked to Contemporary I would have uber it back. The meal including tip was $152. Well worth it. Mostly because I couldn't get FP for the show and I liked not waiting in line for it. Plus we had a nice sit down meal and rest. The show was amazing and we loved it. It started to rain so we bought 4 WDW ponchos for $48. Turns out we needed it the next day. So our daily food total was $261.

We went back to HS to ride slinky dog at 730 am in a torrential downpour 10/19. There was NO LINE because it was POURING. I mean hurricane Norman was heading to florida. Then we rode the millenium falcon 3x in 1 hour before 9 am and the park opened and the line jumped to 90 minutes even in the rain. We checked out of the hotel and grabbed sandwiches to share for $20 in the lobby. We went to AK and rode Pandora 2x for DK1 and myself. DK2 and DH went to walmart and bought extra socks and long pants for the kids. We didn't know where the pants they wore coming was. It was in the mess of dirty laundry and our socks were soaked. So they shopped at walmart for 2 hours and we enjoyed the AK. We left by 1 pm AK and headed to tampa. We had a fabulous lunch at Ulele for $110 including tip then off to the airport for our 6 pm flight home.

All in all a fast and fun trip. All in our trip cost us $8500. Better than the $10k I was predicting. My surprise was how little we spent on food. $1400 for a week is probably less than what we spend here on food if we ate out 2x/day on average. But where we are eating out is expensive. Plus I think we tend to undereat when we travel so we don't have leftovers. We tend to at most order 3 meals because we know the kids can share and DH and I for the most part shared every meal.

Would the disney dining plan been worth it? Probably. We could have saved since it would have cost $175/day. But I'm not sure because a lot of our costs came from alcohol at Epcot. That would not have been covered I think in the entirety. But we would have had a lot of food.

But it really was a nice trip. The photos are great. I have to say I like how many group shots there are of us when usually it's just one of us taking a photo.

Orlando Trip part 1

October 29th, 2019 at 08:09 am

This a multi day post. My prior posts to may were deleted. Anyway how did our trip to Orlando WDW and Universal go? Great. Very nice we had a lot of fun but didn't obviously do everything. We plan on going back but who knows when?

So our tickets were $654 to Tampa for four people and leaving Tampa $853 for a total of $1507 for tickets. Our car rental (hyundai sonata) was $200 for the week all taxes and fees. Our parking was $28 for 1 day at universal and $25 a day at disney * 6 = $160. I filled up just before returning for $30. So $390 for the week. Did it beat the price of flying into Orlando? Yes. The orlando ticket price for red eye flights which we didn't want was around $1000 each way for 4 of us which was $500+ - $800 savings for tickets alone. The same daytime flight for us into Orlando was closer to $1200 for 4 of us negating any savings of flying into orlando and my DH wasn't about to do the red eye.

Plus the Uber between universal and WDW would have been $25 minimum, Uber to Universal $35 minimum, and Disney Swan to Orlando airport $75 minimum (not including tip, traffic, or surge pricing). So we were looking at another $150. If the prices for flying into orlando had been better I would have done that and used uber/lyft the entire time.

That being said we then paid $1551.85 for 1 night and two days park hopper at Universal staying at the Loews Royal Pacific. Worth it for many reasons. We did it to get express unlimited passes. Even though it was "low" season I don't know I could have survived without the minimal line standing.

We bought one adult and one child prepaid meal with refillable drinks for $55. We bought two Harry Potter wants (cho chung and hermonine granger) @ $55 each and a $35 wand stand. We only had 2 butter beers each day (total 4) 2 were covered as park snacks as well at 3 chocolate frogs for $33. We had dinner at Margaritaville $110. The night we arrived we spent $95 at Yard house and $8 in drinks at the airport. The second day we ate lunch at universal ~$35.

So the trip so far we were at $3582 with tickets, universal, souvenoirs, and food.

But my DK1 loved it. She spent hours playing with her wand doing magic in the Harry Potter world. The hogwarts express was amazing. It was definitely worth the park hopper passes. The train ride had different experiences going from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and the reverse. She already asked to go back again. She said please don't make me wait 2-3 years until DK2 reads all the books. So she really had a great time. I admit it was really amazing the harry potter worlds. We'll see when we go back.

Amazon Prime update

March 25th, 2019 at 08:55 am

So it's been almost 2 months since we ended amazon prime. It finished end of January 2019. Have I missed it? Not one bit. I've ordered 1x from there Natori Bra $70 (that's another topic OMG) and hands free blue tooth. Free shipping over $35.

But otherwise have I or my DH bought anything? Nope. Makes for saving money. Yes we buy stuff. We got to the store.

Like today I need toilet paper and paper towels and groceries. We bought stuff for science project for kids.

But I suspected we didn't shop much and we don't watch TV, so I guessed we didn't need prime. I was right. We haven't missed it a bit.

Shocking. But it confirms what I suspected too. That a lot of "frugal" finance people probably don't shop a ton online or in the stores. You buy things with regularity and purpose. Very little is wanted and you buy a lot of needs.

At least that's my take. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm losing money but I'm pretty sure I'm not spending by not buying and I'm coming out ahead of those who shop a lot online. Of course I'm not sure if that's because I don't shop versus shop poorly.

$4500 tax refund

March 24th, 2019 at 11:17 pm

It's been a long time since we got a tax refund. It's a bit surreal. Anyway we got back $4500. I know it was an interest free loan to uncle sam but I thought we were going to be owing so it was surprised.

Now what to do with the money? I don't have a clue. Guess just pay our bills.

I know doing taxes a lot of people were surprised both ways. Some were shocked by how much they owed. Mostly because the IRS changed the withholding tables. So people who didn't change anything owe a lot unexpectedly. Then there were those expecting to owe and getting larger than expected refunds. People who normally owe so they kept on paying.

I think all these new tax laws changes shocked people.

poor and stuck

February 10th, 2019 at 06:51 pm

So for about 3 months DH and I lived in a ghetto. I hate to use that word but I don't know how else to describe it. I found a rental online and had no idea about a new city. It was cheap and month to month, close to my work, took dogs, and we didn't have many choices. We hoped it would be short term and it was. It was pretty much our first and only time living in a city. Previously and since we never have and have made a conscious decision to live in suburbia and further out because we hate city living. I can't sleep, the noise, the closeness of people, I don't care to walk everywhere. It's not us. And while I grew up lower middle class it was more rural/small town. Never had I lived in a city like this.

But back then we were young and crazy. So we moved into a neighborhood we certainly stood out. The people were very nice. Our neighbors talked to us, more than one actually warned me to stop walking my cute white dog (bichon frise) alone even during the day. She said "you're that girl with the white dog. Everyone is talking about you. You should be over in that other neighborhood where you would fit in." This was probably true.

So I stopped walking the dog. One day across the street from us a dog was impaled on the spokes of the fence. Another time there was the home invasion, probably looking for drugs according to the landlord. It was not a safe place.

But what did I learn? Buses don't stop in poor neighborhoods. You have to jump out in front of them and wave but they just keep going. You stand under the sign and they aren't full but they keep going. There aren't many bus routes and they don't seem to run late, unlike richer/nicer neighborhoods. A lot of people are always waiting for the next bus that never shows up because it's breaking down. Funny how it's the buses to the poorer area that seem to break down more. There are less train/subway lines as well.

The gas station had a cashier behind bars and you had to prepay cash for gas. The gas was also ridiculously over priced at this small gas station versus going down the road to even the big 76 or chevron or shell in another town.

The local grocery store was still about a mile away from where we lived. The food was disgusting. It was like all the going to spoil meat, fruit, veggies from every other neighborhood had been sent there as a last stop before being thrown out. The store itself was also more run down and not as clean. It was constantly packed even though the food was more expensive than driving 15 minutes to another nicer neighborhood same chain store.

DH and I made an effort to only shop at costco 40 minutes away and grocery stores in the neighborhoods we were looking for a townhouse 20 minutes. We noticed a huge difference. But I mean realistically I wonder how many of our neighbors could afford to drive outside the neighborhood and get better food for less money? At the same time if they did they could fill up for less money since gas was about 30 cent more per gallon.

Because of this we definitely rushed a bit picking our next place than we might have. But it also 10 years later affected how we shopped for apartments. Instead of me picking a place again online, we drove into the city and rented a hotel room for 1 week. We drove around and saw all the places first. This time we decided we weren't going to take the same risk of picking a place we didn't like.

But this short experience made me realize that many people don't have the same opportunities. That people in a lot of these situations are stuck. The only thing they know are being poor. I can see an EF being helpful. But there are also these roadblocks that make it really difficult to get ahead. How do you know that driving means you can get cheaper gas and better food? That it might be cheaper to live further out in a nice neighborhood with better schools? But how to do you afford the car that won't break down and gas to get to your job? How do you know to get job in suburbia that is similar to what they have now.

But how do you change the system?

staying in poverty

February 8th, 2019 at 05:49 pm

So I have to further explain to CCF how hard it is to get out of poverty. It really is when people are always telling you no and not helping you.

So my grandfather wanted to be a engineer. His dad said no way. No money and go get a job to help support the family. Lucky for him he was born number 9 out of 13 kids. He got to finish high school. His older brother finished 6th grade and got jobs for money to help support the family. This is why I always give a $1 to every salvation army bell ringer I see. I make my kids because my grandpa always did. He got their Holiday Baskets growing up. Wearing rice bags sucked since they couldn't afford clothes, good thing hawaii was warm.

Anyway he had dreams, but the dreams were beaten down by his family who said why bother with education? Go work. You don't need to study. Make money. The example was to drink and gamble. So it wasn't exactly encouraging. So he gambled and worked and had 4 kids. Lucky for them the Ob/Gyn said Mrs C you can't afford more kids lets sterilize you. THANK GOD or my mom would have been really poor. Yeah I don't think Dr are supposed to do that and now they would be sued.

But my grandparents were fun, young, caring parents. When he went on a gambling winning streak there was money and food. That's when you pay rent, shoes, clothes, and food. They didn't have a checking account until the 1970s when all their kids had checking/savings accounts and my uncle helped them.

My uncle at age 14 went to work and started paying the bills. He took each younger sister and taught her how a checking account work. How to pay using checks, how to be frugal. He said it was something he heard about from others not within our family. The rest of the family well they weren't exactly model citizens on my grandpa's side and my grandma's side was just poor.

Her father passed shortly after she left home and left a single mother with 6 kids at home. My great grandmother needed all the kids at home to work and help her financially as she cleaned homes, museum, and took in laundry and sewing and her mom lived with her. My aunts aunts on that side also learned after leaving home from their husbands. They lived in the country so they had very little and no way to help.

So it's not like people sit there and teach you how to budget. They also don't encourage you to save money. I guess they knew but there was never enough money.

Like I said I always feel bad my mom went into debt for us to go to Disneyland. But she said she never regretted it. We took out a personal loan from the bank. I mean when she got divorced from my dad she cut up all her CC and never charged what we couldn't afford. But what we could afford was meager. The real problem was we had a hard time saving. But things got better.

But by the same token my DH came from middle class. His parents both worked but they had no idea how to navigate this country when they arrived. They worked stereotypical immigrant jobs like delivering chinese food/driving a cab, bakery/dry cleaner. Again they had no idea how to manage money but DH's uncle, the one who died, he came first and fortunately smart guy sent money home to the rest of the family and helped each of his siblings come over and figure out how money worked. DH's dad grew up in a shelter and went to boarding school because they were smart and couldn't afford to live otherwise. So it was really hard to get ahead without the one person who quickly learned how to survive. His uncle always said it was luck.

So I think we need more education programs to help people learn about having more. Otherwise all they hear is they can't do anything. They can't figure out without help how to get out of their situation. But nowadays it just seems harder than ever. Wages have stagnated. No more pensions. Instead you have to save for yourself. A lot of these low-middle income people could retire because you didn't have to save or know how to save or invest (like my mom). Instead you work 30 years and there is your retirement! Presto!

I know it's not feasible but I think pensions help lower income people by far more than higher income people who usually know how to manage.

Have you seen people able to get out of lower income levels? Have you done it? If you have, how did they do it?